Archive for the 'from russia with love' Category

This is how behind in blogging I am: I’m still talking about New Years Eve!

Dochechka: How does this look?

[Spins around to demonstrate a brown, sparkly, backless shirt that could best be described as one part hippie, one part Saturday Night Fever.]

La Cubana Gringa: Well, if your aim is to look like Shakira, then your hips don’t lie, yo!

Dochechka: What if I’m not trying to look like Shakira and I’m just trying to look sexy on New Years Eve?

La Cubana Gringa: Then…yeah, NO.

Dochechka: Well…[genuinely pensive]…then, when am I ever going to wear this top?

La Cubana Gringa: How about next Halloween? When you dress up as Shakira?


Whatever comes or goes, I’ll be sure to put my brother next to her when it’s time to arrange the seating for the reception

Dochechka’s aunt, Mrs. Complainsalot, by and large remains true to her name: She enjoys complaining. A lot. About just about anything. Like this air? Which you’re making her breathe? It’s AGONY!!! YOU HAVE NO IDEA!!

Trust me. You just don’t.

She also likes to pontificate about how unmarried women are failures even if they’ve, say, gone to medical school and found successful jobs. Like Dochechka and me, for instance? Total losers. We couldn’t be bigger disappointments if we were stealing her jewelry and electronics to pay for our heroin addictions. (Which we’re not. We totally stopped doing that a long time ago.)

Several years ago, when I was still in medical school, she gave me the shpeal. “Doctor shmoctor!” she said, “All of zis means nothing without husband and children!” But a few months later, when she got wind of the fact that I was three months into a relationship with a surgical resident, she sat me down for a very important little chat…

“Dochechka tells me you have boyfriend?”
“He is doctor?”
“Ah…ok. He is good to you?”
“Dochechka tells me he bake cookies for you?”
“And he wash car for you?”
I had to think about this one, “Yes, he did take my truck to the car wash for me once.”
“Good. You must marry him.”
“I know! Three months! Maybe too soon! But if by 6 months, he no ask, YOU MUST TELL HIM!!”

Needless to say, she was a bit miffed when I broke it off with that guy. More than a year later, however, she had a small glimmer of hope when she found out I’d just started dating The Brit. She shared this hope with me from across the dinner table, around which approximately 15 others were sitting…

“So, my dear, when you will get married?”
“I don’t know!? Someday, I suppose.”
“Ahh, yes. Well, perhaps someday I vill come to your wedding. Or maybe I vill die first!”

It goes without saying that she’s the charming one in Dochechka’s family.

A couple years later, Mrs. Complainsalot’s son got married and she orchestrated the entire event. The Brit and I were invited along for the spectacle extravaganza. It was 40% vodka, 35% Hava Nagila, 25% cabaret dancer, and 100% appalling. Seriously, it was a fanciful, unadulterated, almost delightfully shocking display of opulence…everything was dripping with flowers and mirrors and tulle…and bubbles and confetti and caviar…and marzipan. Don’t forget the marzipan. We later found out the bride was pissed off that the 60K wedding budget that Mrs. Complainsalot set didn’t allow for exotic birds to be free flying throughout the reception hall. Which, I’m kinda glad it didn’t, because the last thing I needed in my caviar was a hot steaming load of Macaw crap.

Anywhoo, when the whole shindig was over, Mrs. Complainsalot came over to me and The Brit and said, “My wedding was good yes?”

The only answer to that question, clearly, was an enthusiastic “Yes!” We might have been killed otherwise. Either that or thrown into the pit with the cabaret dancers, whom, at that point in the evening, had changed out of their Carmen Miranda costumes into their Lederhosen outfits and were frolicking around the stage like Germans on uber-crack. One could get seriously maimed in there. You don’t believe me? Check it:



(Don’t EVEN ask me where the pimp in Zebra print fits in…I’d stopped trying to figure it all out by this point.)

“Good. Now you know what a good wedding is like for when you get married,” Mrs. Complainsalot said.

We assured her that we’d been taking pictures and extensive notes on what not to do.

So, long story short, I’ve been very much anticipating the congratulatory phone call from Mrs. Complainsalot ever since the announcement of my engagement. That phone call came today.

“Congratulations, my dear.”
“Thank you!”
“I am very happy for you!”
“Thank you so much, really.”
“You will have a big wedding?”
“Oh I don’t know, we’re thinking maybe 150 guests?”
“Ahh…little bit bigger than mine. Ok….when you will get married?”
“Next October?”
“You must wait one whole year? Why?”
“Well, there’s a lot of planning. And we have people coming from England…”
“Ahh, ok. I see…and the ring? It is big diamond with diamonds all around?”
“No, actually, it’s a garnet.”
“It’s what I wanted.”
“Ok. If you are happy. He is good man. I can tell! I saw him! I know these tings!”
“Yes, he is great.”
“Ok. Good. And your family?
“They’re all good.”
“Your brother?”
“Yes, he’s well. He lives in Boston.”
“I know, but he is married?”
“No, not yet.”
“He has girlfriend?”
“No…still single.”
“Maybe he is a gay.”
“I don’t think so, he’s quite fond of the ladies.”

That’s Mrs. Complainsalot-speak for “Riiiiiiiight.” It also doubles for, “This conversation is over.” But deep down, somewhere in there, I know she’s happy for me…even if she thinks my brother’s a homosexual. Oh, THE SHAME!! Surely, she’s got a cream for that or something…

The diggity down-lo on the bling bling

So now that all of you have emptied the contents of your stomach into the barf bag you just happened to have handy, wasn’t that a cute little engagement story? It was, wasn’t it. The Brit completely outdid himself on that one and he knows he did, too. Everyday he comes home from work and goes, “So, what other good things did your readers say about me? That I’m a keeper? A great catch?” Seriously, people!

Cheeky, isn’t he?!?! I swear, I think he’s enjoying the praise and honors he’s collecting from the whole proposal story more than the four days we spent in Hawaii! But it’s ok…he deserves all the accolades he’s getting. In my book, anyone who goes through all that trouble to put me in such close proximity to cheese, friends AND a private secluded beach bungalow, deserves not only mad props but also the privilege of entering into a binding contractual agreement with me that stipulates unlimited back scratching for the rest of the lives of both involved parties. (This will be on our marriage certificate, by the way.)

He done good, that Brit. And among the many things I need to give him credit for in this whole elaborate shindig of a proposal, is the covert enlisting of the efforts of my dearest Dochechka to find out what kind of ring I’d want. Well before I started harassing him about planning my thirtieth birthday, he’d already been meeting with Dochechka and planning not only my Big Three OHHH Bash but this Crazy Ass Surprise 3 Year Anniversary Scavenger Hunt a la Trip to Hawaii Marriage Proposal. (I think you’ll agree that deserved capital letters.) Right around March/April, Dochechka slipped a few sly questions in regular conversation with me about what sort of thing I’d want, you know, “should The Brit ever consult” her. I hadn’t really thought about it much ever, but man, when she asked me to brainstorm, I came up with more ideas than a scrotum has wrinkles! And immediately after my birthday was over, Dochechka and The Brit went into Top Secret Operation Find That Ring La Cubana Gringa Described To Dochechka In Diva-Like Detail. They met at jewelry shops all over San Francisco on Friday afternoons. Weekly. They searched. High and Low. A la izquierda y a la derecha. This way and that way. And they could not find what I wanted.

Probably because I wanted something so nontraditional and so NOT a diamond, that jewelers were confused. Discombobulated. Bamboozled, if you will. What sane girl does not want a diamond engagement ring? Me. And I’ll tell you why…all 8 of you (I think I picked up another reader when The Brit recently emailed my blog address to everyone he knows).

I’ve always loved a bold splash of color…particularly red. It’s my favorite color. And several years back, my Abuelita (wife to this crazy, lovable mofo and mother to my equally crazy, lovable Mamacusa) came back from a trip to Spain with a huge garnet ring. It was beautiful and MAN did I want that thing! I would admire it all the time and she took notice of it, apparently. Because the very next Christmas, she gave it to me as a gift. And when I protested (for show, of course) she said, “I would leave it to you after I’m gone, but I’d rather give it to you now so that I can see you enjoy it.” It meant the world to me that she would gift me the ring so soon after she’d gotten it for herself.

I wore that ring constantly…taking it off only when I put hand lotion on. And one day (and I’ll cut to the chase on this because it still SERIOUSLY upsets me to even write about this) I lost it. One afternoon, my senior year in college, I was sitting in my room working through some assigments in Satan’s favorite subject (biochemistry) when I went to do the thing that I usually did with the ring…you know, that little swivel it around your finger thing you do subconsciously. And it wasn’t there. I immediately panicked. (Which is quite different from what I’d do now as a mature adult: panic in a delayed fashion over a longer, more sustained period of time.) I tore my apartment apart in search of it. Which was difficult to do properly with tears streaming down my face. So I did it three times. And then I sat myself down and thought hard. Where could it be? I thought and thought and thought. And, finally, I honed in on the moment that I last had it. I’d driven up to SF in my pickup truck the day prior and I had a distinct memory of taking the ring off while driving, setting it in my lap so that I could put some hand lotion on, and then I just must have never put it back on. And, presumably, when I got out of the truck in SF, the ring fell out of my lap. It certainly wasn’t in my truck because I tore the seats out of that thing. And then I had someone else tear the seats out of it again just to be sure. It was gone.

Now, let’s, first of all, establish that I cried for three solid days about that friggin’ ring…it was the only piece of jewelry I ever owned that meant something to me. And let’s, second of all, establish that God should do the lucky person who ever found that thing a favor and NOT put them in my path…for, Lo, there would be carnage!

Anywhoo, when Dochechka discretely poked me about what I’d want in a ring, I thought, what better way to symbolize my marriage to The Brit and simultaneously resurrect the spirit of my Abuelita’s gift than to have a garnet engagement ring. And so that’s what I asked for.

After searching for and not finding the perfect thing, The Brit and Dochechka worked for several months with a jeweler to have it custom made. And, truth be told, it’s more beautiful than I could have ever designed myself…


I looked it up. Garnet is supposedly the stone of love, commitment, health and positive energy. I usually laugh at that hippie, cosmic, third moon of Jupiter rising with Your Anus Uranus in the second house kind of crap, but I wear this ring now and, just with this ring, I actually believe it. I look at it and truly feel the love and the positive energy that The Brit (and Dochechka!) put into making it for me…and the love that Abuelita gifted me when she gave me her garnet ring several years ago.

My grandmother passed away a few years ago. But, Abuelita, I hope you’re watching from up there, because I want you to see me enjoy it! (I promise I’ll watch this one a little more closely!)

Hi Dochichki!! This is your Koshichki!!

Dearest Dochechka –

I thought about throwing you a really massive, obscenely baroque birthday party at the De Young Museum with hundreds of exclusive guests (and by “exclusive guests” I mean “your drunk relatives”), perhaps a few freely flying exotic birds1, and an open bar with a small army of shirtless, chiseled waiters carrying Grey Goose Vodka-based cocktails and exclusively deep-fried hors d’oeuvres around on silver trays. I thought about it. But we all know what happened last time we went to one of those gala events.2 You ended up having about five too many cocktails, eating off of every single hors d’oeuvres tray that came your way (while exclaiming loudly: “OHMYGOD…I’VE NEVER EATEN OFF A TRAY BEFORE…I FEEL SO SPECIAL!!!”), getting a little too friendly with the dinner wait-staff and then making off with a bottle of wine from someone else’s gift bag and one of the fancy seat covers from another table. (I swear…we leave you alone for ONE SECOND!) So you’ll just have to settle for a smaller, more “intimate” party in which you can embarrass yourself among friends…and, of course, for this blog post in which I can embarrass you amongst my seven readers.

We’ve come a long way in 8 years, haven’t we? I remember way back when you first encountered me in med school, you didn’t think much of me. In fact, you thought I was loud and obnoxious.3 To my credit, though, you probably caught me in one of my less becoming moments, like when I was stretching, burping +/- scratching myself out on the lawn in between pulmonology and cardiology lecture. And I really only did that kind of shit, like, in between every lecture once in a blue moon. So, really, what were the odds? Regardless of why you got that bad first impression of me, I was tainted in your eyes from the get-go which, you later confessed to me, was of great disappointment to you because you thought I had great hair. And what a waste of great hair, right? Ahh, but the tide did turn to my favor eventually…though neither one of us can pin point the exact moment you had a change of heart. You seem to think it was something deep and meaningful I said about honesty and trust and friendship (you probably just misinterpreted one of my burps) but I think it was that jar of apricot jam I gave you from the vat I made when I was in my Crazed Phase of Relentless Jam Making.

Let’s be honest. It was the jam.

That jam was so frickin’ good, you decided we should be roommates our third year in med school. I was apprehensive because I didn’t know if my future batches of jam would live up to that which won you over, but what the hell! We were young! We were spontaneous! We engaged in lots of things that involved pants and their seats and flying by them! We were wreckless! We were wrong!

I think you and I can both agree that the year we shared an apartment constituted perhaps the darkest days of our friendship. We disagreed on a lot of things during that long year…things like how to properly store soup, what is the definition of good coffee, the importance of onions in cooking, where to keep the temperature on the thermostat, whether or not to renew our lease. I get hives just thinking about the Argumentathon that was that year of shared living quarters…honestly, we should have gotten Jerry Lewis on board, secured a toll-free hotline, solicited some sponsors and at least given the money raised to a charity or something! We could have called it FIGHT FOR THE CHILDREN!!

Of course it wasn’t all bad…for as many things as we almost bludgeoned each other’s eyes out over, there were things that drew us together. For one thing, we shared an equal interest in learning each other’s primary languages. I taught you all the important phrases one should know in Spanish and you taught me their equivalents in Russian. Take, for instance, this high-yield tid-bit we taught each other…

Spanish version: Yo quiero montarte como la caballera cochina que soy.
Russian version: Ya hochu poierzat na tiene kak griaznaya kovboika a naturie.4
English version: I want to ride you like the dirty cowgirl that I am.

Ehh? Now tell me you haven’t used THAT line at least ONCE A WEEK in your dating life? Yeah. I thought so.

There were other good things that came out of that year…mostly I think we just learned to listen to each other and understand that differences of opinion didn’t necessarily mean that one person knew better than the other. (Yeah. Right.5) Actually, what it really came down to was that you finally came to your senses and realized that I was right all along about The Importance of Onions. Seriously, for a while there, it was the onion or you…and I’m glad you finally joined me over on the more sane, savory side of the fence6, because otherwise I would have had to rethink our friendship. (Which would have been a shame because you smell a whole lot better than onions.) (Most of the time.)

Since The Divorce7, we’ve only grown. Our mutual love of shopping has strengthened our bond. Not to mention your collection of cute black tops. (Which, if I may say so, is getting a little out of hand…I think I may need to stage an Intervention soon. And by “Intervention”, I mean, “a brief afternoon spent deciding which ones you are going to give to me.”) We’re the only people I know who feel that eating and shopping should be regarded as sports that must be trained for with Olympic-caliber diligence and integrity. (We adhere to a strict NO STEROIDS policy.) (Blood doping’s ok, though.) To help with this, we’ve abandoned the widely held belief that hunger is a requirement for eating. (Bah! Child’s play!) And here we are today [allow me to pause for a moment to wipe the tear of joy from my eye]…inexplicably bound together by a mutual love of Avacado and a deep respect for Cheese. Come to think of it, our friendship goes well with croutons on a bed of baby arugula and a balsamic reduction…mmm, delicious.

Dammit. Now I’m hungry. But because I want you to let me borrow one of the birthday gifts that I’m giving you whenever I want of my love for you, I shall try to write through the hunger pains

Listen, I’m really glad that we didn’t drown in Costa Rica…that would have really put a damper on our plans to eat, shop, and save the world. Also, there would be no more we

Me: Are we hungry yet?
You: Why yes, we ARE hungry, good pick-up!!

You: I think we need to go to the bathroom.
Me: Indeed, we need to take a big dump!

Me: Do we really want to go on a second date with that guy?
You: Hmmm…good point, though we didn’t think he was entirely unpleasant, we really didn’t get a good vibe from him, did we?

Yes. We do this. Unless, of course, we’re talking about your family…in which case, you’re on your own there, kid. While I do rather enjoy getting invited to the Russian Jewish weddings your peeps throw (involving cabaret dancers and more caviar than I can stuff in the Tupperware I have…WOW, would you look at that, right here conveniently located in my purse!1) and while I don’t mind taking crap from your aunt for not being married yet (I believe her exact wording was “La Cubana Gringa, perrrrhaps some day I vill go to your vedding…or maybe I vill die first!”) I’d have to draw the line at having more than one dining experience like this one with your mother. Your Mamichki, I daresay, could ruffle the feathers of even the entirely too reasonable Brit…and we all know that takes some SERIOUS feather ruffling. Perhaps even some plucking. Big ups to you for blossoming into such a beautiful, somewhat normal, Dochechka in such repetitively trying, and often borderline suicidal +/- homicidal, circumstances. Now here…take this Xanax.

I know I don’t get all mushy and sentimental as much as you do, but I want you to know that this doesn’t mean I love you any less. You should know that years ago (probably after my then-toddler sized brother smeared his crap all over our bedroom walls) I looked up to the heavens and prayed for a sister…and I sincerely believe that God (though I sometimes do wonder if Satan had a slight hand in it too) sent me you. My sister from another mister.

You are like a sister to me. In every sense of the word. Cuz sometimes I want to stay up all night swapping clothes, doing make-up and talking about boys, and other times (particularly when you want vanilla ice cream with chocolate sprinkles…no! Blueberries…no! Strawberries…no! Chocolate syrup…NO!) I want to trade you for a piece of fresh mozzarella and nice glass of wine. THAT, is sisterly love right there. You are the Ooh to my Ahh…the Yeah Huh! to my Nuh Uh!…the H to my O…the Fo Shizzle to my Nizzle…the fart, if you will, to my poo. And I know you feel the same way. And, truthfully, there is very little that beats that. There is no greater feeling than knowing that should I have needed to take you up on your offer to go with me to my latest gynecology appointment and hold my labia for me, you would have moved mountains (and possibly even skipped a meal!) to be there. Thanks. Really. You should know by now that I’d do the same for you. (Though I might bring a snack.)

So, in the now-famous words of your Mamichki (as archived in a voice mail message she left me on my 29th birthday)…Hi Dochichki!! This is your Koshichki!! Happy Birthday to you! I wish you every ting what ya wanna. Best tings in da vorld! I kiss you. Many, many, many, many times! [KISS] [KISS] [KISS] [KISS]

Happy Birthday Dochechka. You deserve it. Now run along and put some make-up on…I can’t have you runnin’ around looking like this on your birthday…

old_lady.jpg 8

Love you, hug you, kiss you,

1. We once went to a riCOCKulously opulent Russian Jewish wedding where the bride was actually a bit miffed about the fact that her mother-in-law-to-be (at the time) granted her every wish except for the one about wanting exotic birds frying freely throughout the reception hall. Since then, this has been our “marker,” if you will, of absurd decadence.
2. Dochechka and I went to a De Young Museum Fundraising Gala a few months back and we sure did get our money’s worth! Well, actually a friend’s company paid for us to go…so I guess THEY got their money’s worth. Let’s see if they ever invite US to another one of their events! (PS – If that was your bottle of wine we took, sorry.) (PPS – It was crap anyway, so you didn’t miss much.)
3.We now know that this sentiment of hers had less to do with the fact that I was too obnoxious and more to do with the fact that she was NOT YET OBNOXIOUS ENOUGH!!
4. True story. In fact, I still have those two phrases written on the dry-erase white board that Dochechka and I had up in our apartment.
5. She and I both know that I’m right 99% of the time, and that 50% of the time, I just let her THINK that she’s right. (I gotta throw her a bone every once in a while.)
6. This is just one example of how I’ve made her a more civilized person.
7. The term of endearment given to our decision to live in separate apartments after failing to live together harmoniously.
8. Dochechka once sent this image to a guy online who kept pestering her for her picture. THIS is but one fine example why we are best friends.


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.)

worldwide madness!!

blog stats