Archive for October, 2007

Caution: This tale is so sweet that you just might vomit a little. (Or a lot.) (Depending on the sensitivity of your gag reflex.) – Part IV

Note: This will make little sense if you have not read Part I , Part II, and Part III.

Are you La Cubana Gringa traveling to Kona, Hawaii?

I stared, wide-eyed and unblinking at the screen for quite a few moments…questioning my identity. Was that my name next to that destination!?! Because if so, THANK GOD I shaved my bikini line! But wait a minute, though…an adequately pruned bikini line depends on the bikini…which begs the question, which bikini was packed? And by whom? Oh, and did they pack my favorite skirt? And, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, did whoever packed my bag remember to pack my ceramic straightening iron?? Because if not, it was going to be ’round the clock Tina Turner and Lord knows it’s all fun and games until someone pokes an eye out on a tuft of my frizzy follicles…

The potential ramifications of 24/7 frizz must have initiated a rather lengthy inner dialogue with myself because after a few moments, Vinja, who was standing behind me, excitedly pushed the “Yes” button on the screen for me. In a whirlwind amount of time, I checked my bag, said my goodbyes, glided through security and was seated on the plane to Hawaii. I wasn’t sure what I’d done to deserve such a day of surprises but I made a mental note to find out. And then repeat it. Repeatedly.

Four hours later, I stepped off the plane into the warm, balmy Kona air. As I sat near the baggage claim area waiting for the bags to begin making their way out, I reviewed the text messages that Dochechka had sent me just before the plane departed SF…Pick up the single white courtesy phone by the information desk and the person on the other end of the line will tell you where to meet your car. Before my bag even came out, though, a gentleman walked up to me and asked, “Are you La Cubana Gringa?”

When my bag arrived, he led me to the car where he loaded it up for me and directed me to the backseat. There, card number “6” awaited me. On the front of the card was a collage of pictures of a resort-type place and on the back was another note from The Brit…

Dear La Cubana Gringa,
If everything has gone according to plan, the last place you expected to be this morning was here on the Big Island! But nevertheless, here you are…for a 4 day and 3 night relaxing anniversary celebration with me. We’ll be staying in the secluded Kona Village Resort. I hope this will be a memorable trip and I look forward to seeing you soon!
Love, The Brit

This was the first card without an instruction…which hopefully meant I’d get to see the master of this well-executed surprise soon!

Upon arrival at Kona Village, I was ushered to the reception desk where three ladies popped out excitedly from the back office… “Ohhhh…you must be La Cubana Gringa!?!?!” They adorned me with a lei, handed me a rum punch drink (and just in time…the champagne was starting to wear off!) and sent me off to our room…a beautiful bungalow surrounded on three sides by the ocean.

I entered the room and, not surprisingly, The Brit was nowhere to be found. But he’d clearly been there…the lights were dimmed, there was music playing, the balcony doors had been left ajar to allow the sound of the ocean to travel in on the breeze, and my very favorite dress had been layed out for me. On the bed, there was a note and a map…Get dressed and meet me on the beach, it said. I scrambled to get dressed and headed down to the black sand beach right next to our room. By then it was well after sunset, and on the black sand there was little, if any, light reflection. I successfully stubbed my toe on a chunk of lava rock and then nearly walked straight into the water…but after a minimal amount of foul language and a slight course adjustment, I found The Brit. He was seated at a candle lit table with a bottle of Dom Perignon and two glasses.

“That was fun!! Can we do that whole thing again?” I said jokingly as I hugged him tight. We toasted to our three years together and over champagne, we chatted about this wonderful holiday he’d planned for us both. I honestly didn’t know how he was ever going to manage to top this. I don’t think he did either!

After a short while, The Brit pointed out that we had dinner reservations to make but that he had one last gift for me back in our room. So help me god, if he had a round of triple crème brie in there, this would be perfect! I excitedly helped him gather up the candles, glasses and champagne and we headed inside. Out on the balcony, he handed me a gift box, approximately three feet wide by three feet tall, wrapped in red paper. I suspected there was a trick involved as nothing that day had been straightforward…and my instincts proved to be correct. Inside that big box was another smaller gift wrapped box…and inside that was another…and so on. Before I could even adjust my eyes long enough to see what was inside the final box, I looked over at The Brit who’d already gotten down on one knee…

“Will you marry me?” he asked.

Immediately I hugged him. I might have screamed as well. Or giggled gleefully. I don’t remember. But when I finally came to my senses and composed myself, I told him that I thought he could orchestrate a more romantic proposal…and that until then, I’d consider his current one.*

And with that, he slipped a ring on my left ring finger…a beautiful ring that I will happily wear for the rest of my days. Along with it was the final card, number “7.” On the back was a note from The Brit (this one I’ll cherish to myself) and on the front was a close-up photo he’d taken of the ring. And one final quote:

“You don’t marry someone you can live with,
you marry the person who you cannot live without.”

* Just kidding. Of course I said yes immediately!


Caution: This tale is so sweet that you just might vomit a little. (Or a lot.) (Depending on the sensitivity of your gag reflex.) – Part III

Note: This will make little sense if you have not read Part I and Part II.

There, at the summit, sitting on the park bench we found my dear friend, Miss Legs For Miles. A large part of me was beginning to wonder which part of this three year anniversary celebration I was going to actually get to spend with The Brit. But the rest of me was just as excited about getting to see some of my favorite people in the same place as some of my favorite dairy products. Honestly, what more could a girl ask for?

After a champagne toast, Miss Legs For Miles, of course, handed over card number “4.” On the front was a picture of downtown San Francisco, taken from Grand View Park, with a quote: “San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality.”1 On the reverse side was yet another note from The Brit…

Dear La Cubana Gringa,
Remember this spot? It was here that we celebrated our first year together…overlooking the very city that is so near and dear to our hearts. In the year that followed, we had many an adventure…with vacations in southern Africa and Cuba. It was particularly meaningful for me to go with you to Cuba as we were able to experience the place where your family is from together. I look forward to many more adventures with you…
Love, The Brit
PS – Your next instruction is to go to the place where we celebrated our second year anniversary.

As I read this aloud, Miss Legs For Miles produced a bottle of Bucanero from her bag and said, “The Brit wanted you to have this and told me to tell you that he wishes he could be here with you right now.” Well, spank me silly and call me Susan2, when the hell WAS he going to join in?? And how the hell did he find a bottle of the very brand of Cuban beer that we drank during our trip…a product that is not sold anywhere in the states? Strange. Curious. Provocative. (And, incidentally, delicious…the beer is quite good.)

The three of us made our way back down the stairs and into the limo and we were off to Gary Danko, the restaurant where The Brit and I spent our 2nd year anniversary. Upon arrival at the restaurant front, we found Rattie who announced that, because Gary Danko does not open in the early afternoon for drinks, we should go around the corner to a local bar for a cocktail while we waited for Vinja to join us. I was beginning to think this whole thing was all a well orchestrated plan to get me so drunk that I’d pass out thus allowing all of my good friends to draw on my face with permanent marker and freeze my underwear. If so, they were getting close…I was one cocktail away from a sharpie mustache. But I wasn’t going to let them get me that easy…I had a beer instead.

We all exchanged witty banter over drinks…most of which consisted of me asking questions of either Rattie, Dochechka or Miss Legs For Miles and getting a coy “I don’t know” in reply. Grrr.

As soon as we were done, we headed back to the limo to find Vinja peering out at us from the sunroof with a glass of champagne and a strawberry. And card number “5.” Once inside the limo, we all huddled around as I opened the envelope to find out what the next step was. Honestly, at this rate, it could have been that I was supposed to summon The Invisible Swordsman3 while hanging upside down from the underside of a helicopter with nothing by nipple tassles on and I wouldn’t have been surprised. (Though I might have demanded some underwear.)

The front of card number five was a photograph of Gary Danko and a quote: “Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for dinner.”4 And on the back, yet another note…

Dear La Cubana Gringa,
I do hope you’ve been enjoying the trip down memory lane with all of our friends. We had a wonderful 2nd year anniversary celebration here at this restaurant. And in the year that followed, even more adventures in Japan, England and Hungary. And to think we’ve only just begun!
Love, The Brit
PS – Your next destination is our local hub for jetting out of the bay area!

A ha! The SF airport! FINALLY, we were going to pick up The Brit!? The limo headed airport-ward while the five of us enjoyed what was left of the strawberries, cheese and champagne. Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe it was the cheese hypnosis, but the limo driver managed to drive up to the departures zone at the airport (rather than the arrivals) without me noticing. It wasn’t until we were curbed and we all filed out of the car that I realized what was going on…I was getting on a plane!?! The limo driver came around to the back and pulled my blue suitcase out of the car and everyone ceremoniously said their goodbyes to me. When I asked if I even got to know where I was going, I was told just to go check in and find out!

Within moments, I found myself at the self check-in counter at United. I slipped my ID into the card reader and the screen winked back at me:

Are you La Cubana Gringa traveling to…

To be continued…

  1. Quote by Paul Kantner.
  2. I’m not entirely sure what this expression means as it’s a saying I developed long ago back when Whitney Houston came out with a song called “My name is not Susan.” I suspect that at the root of all cryptic expressions like this one is poor 80’s choreography.
  3. An obscure reference to one of my favorite comedies, The Three Amigos.
  4. Quote by Orsen Wells. (And I believe the actual quote recommends that you ask what’s for lunch, but I’m quite fond of dinner as well, so I’ll take either version.)

Caution: This tale is so sweet that you just might vomit a little. (Or a lot.) (Depending on the sensitivity of your gag reflex.) – Part II

Note: This will make little sense if you haven’t already read Part I.

I knocked on the window…and it slowly slid down to reveal Dochechka beaming at me from inside the limo. “Hello Darling!” she chirped, “Get in!!”

Considering I was expecting someone with a British accent and a Y chromosome, I was fairly surprised to see her there. Not that I wasn’t happy to see her…just a bit confused and a little overwhelmed. (An emotional cocktail, which, apparently stimulates my tear ducts.) But confusion melted into joy as I climbed in and realized that along with my very best friend in the limo, there was champagne, strawberries, and cheese. I didn’t know what the hell was going on here, but having some gouda and brie thrown my way made me significantly more docile and decidedly less likely to put up a fight. If anyone ever wanted to mug me, they wouldn’t need a gun, just a big round of triple crème brie. (Shhh. That’s between us.)

Dochechka handed me another square red envelope, this one with a number “2” on it. It was another laminated square card. On the front was a picture that was taken almost four years ago1…a photo, snapped on happenstance, of me giving The Brit my phone number at the party where we first met with Dochechka looking on in mild interest. On the back of the card (again, paraphrased)…

Dear La Cubana Gringa,
Because you were so groovy when I first met you at that house party, your grooviness stuck in my mind for a long time after your first impression. I dug you. A lot. And even though it took us a year to start officially dating, I think there was a purpose in that…we each learned a lot about ourselves during that year…and when it came round to October of 2004, there was nothing to stop us!
Love, The Brit
PS – Your next instruction is to go to the place where our relationship officially began.

This was cause for pause. What did he mean by “where our relationship officially began?” Did he mean our bed (then, his bed)…where after our first date at Foreign Cinema, after quite a few drinks, he passed out cold while kissing me?3 Or did he just mean Foreign Cinema? The limo driver solved the puzzle for me by heading towards the restaurant.  (And thank goodness for that, because I hadn’t gotten around to making the bed before I left…making it less than presentable for a romantic stop off on what was beginning to look a lot like a scavenger hunt.)

At the restaurant, Dochechka and I were seated at the same table on the outside patio where The Brit and I sat on our first date there. I kept looking around thinking The Brit was going to arrive…but he never did. Brunch, however, did arrive…and it was quite lovely. The weather was clear, sunny and warm…the food was wonderful…and the mimosas were easing some of the overwhelm. When the bill should have arrived, it didn’t.

“Your bill,” the waitress informed us, “has been taken care of. But I do have this for you.”

She handed me red envelope number “3” and then scuttled off with no further explanation. (Apparently everyone in San Francisco was in on this scheme!!) Another laminated card inside…this one with a black and white photo of the theater-like entrance to Foreign Cinema on the front and another note on the back…

Dear La Cubana Gringa,
As you sit here with Dochechka, who incidentally also enjoyed part of our first date here with us4, I hope that it brings back memories of our first dinner here. And of the many we’ve had here since with friends and family. Our first year together was pretty groovy…we jived pretty well together5 and every step of the way, I felt like we were on the same page about which direction we were heading.
Love, The Brit
PS – Your next instruction is to go to the scenic place where we celebrated our first year anniversary with a picnic.

And with that, we were back in the limo and on our way to Grand View Park. Fifteen minutes, lots of champagne, and quite a few strawberries later…we’d arrived. Dochechka grabbed a glass of champagne for herself, instructed me to bring mine, and to fill a third glass to bring with us to the top of the hill. So, with three glasses between the two of us, we climbed the 50 or so steep steps to get to the top of the park…a park that has breathtaking views of the entire north end of the city…with the Pacific Ocean, bright and blue that day, to the left, the vermillion Golden Gate Bridge directly in front, and a glittering downtown out to the right. It’s one of my favorite spots in the city, and one where The Brit and I had a lovely first year anniversary picnic.

There, at the windy summit, sitting on the park bench we found…

To be continued…

  1. We met four years ago but because I was pseudo-dating2 someone else and he was traveling so much, it took us a full year to start officially dating.
  2. Like Dating, only with a guy who is significantly less trustworthy.
  3. True story. He made up for it with molten chocolate lava cake shortly thereafter.
  4. Also a true story. Dochechka was so keen on having drinks that night after our respective dates, that she dragged the guy she was on her date with over to Foreign Cinema just to ask me why the hell I wasn’t returning my text messages about when we were meeting for drinks. Dochechka herself will tell you this was not her greatest, most shining moment…however, we laugh heartily about it now.
  5. Metaphorically speaking, of course. The Brit can’t jive to save his life.

Caution: This tale is so sweet that you just might vomit a little. (Or a lot.) (Depending on the sensitivity of your gag reflex.) – Part I in a Lord Only Knows How Many Part Series

Last Saturday, I was in my pj’s with hair a la Tina Turner (looking less than savory and a long way away from presentable, is what I’m getting at here), and tidying up the room a bit. The Brit was due back from his two week long business trip to Japan and I didn’t want the place looking like I’d forged a fourteen day campaign to completely dishevel our room. (Which, I hadn’t. Well, not technically. But seriously, where WAS that thing I’d just had a second ago??) I was about to get showered and dressed and go pick him up from the airport when Rattie and Vinja intercepted me at the door to my bedroom and handed me an envelope. A square envelope with the number “1” scrolled on the front. The “1” suggested there would be more, which was cute and sweet, and fine, well, and good and all, but I had an airport to get to and a Brit to pick up. (And probably some cheese to eat, if I could find any.) They, however, were persistent.

Rattie said, simply, “The Brit gave this to us to give to you before he left. So…you should probably open it.”

Fine. But for the love of GOD did I need a shower and a straightening iron.

I opened it. Inside the red envelope was a square, laminated card…the front had a collage of pictures of The Brit and I throughout the past (almost) three years1 of our relationship. The back had a type-written note from The Brit…a note that, for the sake of brevity, I’ll paraphrase:

Dear La Cubana Gringa,
Since you’re so groovy
2, I wanted to treat you to a surprise three year anniversary celebration just a bit early. So get ready for a day of many cards and many more surprises. And don’t worry about any of your commitments, they’ve all been taken care of. Trust me.
Love, The Brit.
PS – Your first instruction is to put on something nice and walk down to the place where we first met. And don’t be later than 11 AM!

I looked up at Rattie, confused. How was I supposed to pick him up and walk 3 blocks downhill to the house where we met at the same time? She pointed out that perhaps picking The Brit up was one of the commitments that had been taken care of. I promptly guessed she was in on something that I wasn’t.3

I rushed to the shower…quickly shaved all the right bits (as I anticipated that, in the very least, there would be cause to have a presentable pantyline)…tamed the Tina Turner right out with the straightening iron and ran down the hill. In heels. Which I would ask for applause for (it was rather difficult) except for the fact that, internally, I was whining about the possibility that I might have to walk back up the hill in them. And the fact that I was hungry. There’d better be some transportation and some sustenance involved in this little surprise, I thought, or else, SO HELP ME GOD, we just might not make it to four years!!

When I arrived at the stated location, there was a note near the door instructing me to knock on the passenger side window of the limo. The limo? I turned around. Indeed, there was a large, lengthy, black vehicle over there. I was apprehensive about approaching it, but I urged myself to follow the instructions. Besides, there might be cheese inside there…

I knocked on the window…and it slowly slid down to reveal…

To be continued…

1. On Saturday, we were a bit more than one week away from our three year anniversary.
2. Not the exact word he used, but since I’m paraphrasing and since I would very much like to be considered groovy some day, I slipped it in there.
3. Sometimes, I can be really wicked smart and put two and two together.

In which I get probed in a bar in front of many strangers

My friend Amiroquai met me at a bar one night this past week. We had a seat and ordered some drinks, a vodka tonic for me, a beer for him. We exchanged a bit of small talk and then…

“Are you sure you want to do it here?” he asked, glancing discretely from side to side, as if to point out the other patrons in the bar that I might not have noticed.

“Since when have I ever been modest?”

“True. But here? Right now?”

“Sure! Let’s do this.”

In plain view, he pulled out his instrument, covered the end of it with a little thingamajiggy (for his protection or mine?), and stuck it inside of me. For what seemed like an eternity, he probed around.

I waited patiently for his opinion…we’d done this once before but it was under very different circumstances. Was it different this time? Better? Or Worse? Hmm, judging by his silence, most definitely worse. My patience didn’t last long…

“Well?? Did you find the hole?”

“I sure did. It’s tiny though.”

“Presumably that’s a good thing?”

“Yep. Your tympanic membrane should heal up just fine. Just give it a several weeks before you go diving again,” he said as he took his otoscope out of my ear and removed the speculum cap from the tip.

“Thanks Doc!”

It’s good to have lots of friends in the medical profession…though I very much doubt I’ll ever invite any of my Ob/Gyn friends to examine me in a bar. (Unless, of course, there’s tequila involved and then there’s NO TELLING what could happen!)

Yeah, so…it’s been a little confusing around here for the last few days

It’s been that kind of week. The kind where I’ve had my head stuck in a spreadsheet full of breast cancer research data…moving columns, deleting rows, comparing this against that, calculating things, computing stuff…and, every once in a while, shrieking “EUREKA!!!” from the top of my lungs. You know. Just to create a break in the monotony of it all.

All this computering has left me crosseyed and headachey and more than less than inspired to do anything recreational on a computer. Like write anything for this blog. Not that any of the five of you have been particularly distressed over my lack of blogging this week. Well, except for my mom. This morning I got a text message from Mamacusa that went something along the lines of: Dude! Are you alright? You haven’t been blogging! Are you trapped under a car somewhere? DO I NEED TO FLY DOWN THERE????

Thanks, Ma. I’m cool. Except for the whole being somewhat deaf in one ear on account of my perforated ear drum thing. That’s actually been kind of a bummer. And it’s certainly made communication a bit of a challenge…

Co-worker: Blah blah blah blah.
Me: What?
Co-worker: Blah blah BLAH blah!
Me: Huh?
Me: Here. Try my good ear.
Co-worker: WE GOT THE GRANT!!
Me: Lee got transplants? 1

1. While the caliber of my deafness may be somewhat exaggerated here, the getting-ness of the $500K research grant that I applied for (in concert with a few other investigators) is not at all exaggerated! Yay!

On the upside: Not brain dead. (Which is good.)

Diving did not go quite as expected this weekend. For two reasons:

Because of the recent storms, the visibility was so bad I could barely see two feet in front of me much less see Little B or the two other divers we were with. We all spent more time searching for each other out there than actually enjoying the dive. It was a bit like playing hide and go seek…only wetter, with a lot fewer clever hiding spots, and not nearly as much fun. Booo.

On the third and final attempt to make something of our dive, we descended a bit too fast for me to equalize the pressure in my ears. When my right ear popped and a cold rush of water entered my middle ear, I essentially got a free cold caloric test.1 Judging by the vertigo I experienced underwater (Hey, would you look at that!! Everyone’s spinning!! Yay!), my vestibulo-ocular reflex is in tact. My right tympanic membrane, however, is not. So, that put an end to any further plans for diving this weekend.2 Or for hearing properly out of my right ear for the next few hours. On the plus side, though, I now have the ability to spew sandy water and/or air out of my right ear! Fun party trick!

So, the weekend, to put it mildly, sucked sandy butt crack.

  1. A test often done to assess a comatose patient for brain death.
  2. And for the next several weeks while the rupture heals.


The madness featured here is mine and mine alone. It does not, in any way, reflect the madness of my employers, colleagues, patients, nutty family, or my colorful friends. The privacy of my employers, colleagues, patients, nutty family and colorful friends is sacred & deeply respected, so no names. All words Copyright © la cubana gringa, no method, just madness 2006-2010. All comments © their authors. Don't steal; it's not nice. (And my Grandfather knows people.)

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