That's What Friends Are For

Buenos Diaz! So, remember those awesome friends I touched on last week? About this one particular group of them...
It all started a couple of years ago in early December: a group of friends found themselves in San Diego on New Year’s Eve. This group of 10+ descended upon the Hilton San Diego Bayfront for a big fancy NYE celebration. After a few get-me-while-my-makeup-is-still-fresh photo shoots, bottles of 5 Hour Energy were passed around to rally the masses. The air was filled with shouts of “Dude, I only want a little bit! How about like 17 minutes worth?” or “Hey! Hit me! I need a full three hour swig!” Because once you’ve reached or are approaching the ripe ol’ age of 30, you need staying power to keep the party going till midnight.
Once adequately fueled, we entered the hip hop ballroom and got down like fools without cares or fear of camera phones and Facebook. We ate pieces of cold pizza and washed them down with tonics and liquors of choice.  At one point, someone set their drink down in the middle of the dance floor and we all danced around it Flamenco style to Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop.” Why? If you have to ask, you don’t know my friends.

Before anyone expected it to, the clock struck twelve. We went until our livers and feet allowed us to before heading to lobby where we found a giant line of people. Clearly someone was giving away some free shit, or a Kardashian or One Direction member was hosting a late-night meet and greet. Alas, no- this stupid queue that went from here to mother-effing Whoville was the line to catch a freaking cab out of this place. Neither my feet nor my spirit were prepared for this nonsense. My feet hurt. I was thirsty. I was tired. I wanted a bed.

Right when the crowd appeared to peak at both its inebriation and lack of patience, out rang like a shot in the dark, “NAAAANTS een-VEN-YAAAAAA ma-ba-GEE-chi-ba-va!!!!” A friend I’ll call Espiderman was belting out the intro to Circle of Life. You know what else? He sang the *whole* gosh damn thing. The rest of the group chimed in and at full throttle volume much to the amusement of some and the sheer and utter annoyance of countless others. Why? Again- if you have to ask…
It didn’t stop there. These weirdos transitioned seamlessly to “A Whole New World” then slid right into “Friend Like Me.” They crooned out “Part of Your World” then moved right on to “Under the Sea,” complete with some impressive onomatopoeia for the sounds of that steel drum intro. All the while a bottle of Fireball was passed around like a canteen. I tried to dodge the bottle but someone got me like one of those rude sombrero and zarape clad dudes in TJ, rudely tilting my head back and accosting my mouth and throat with cinnamon-flavored octane.

For reasons that should be obvious by now, I joined a group of these same friends down in Baja California for wine tasting in the Valle de Guadalupe for NYE 2014. A few of us headed down a day early to stay at the Rosarito Beach-adjacent home of my friend Celina’s family friend, who happens to manage 15 or so properties down in the Las Gaviotas community. The house was an amazing ranch-style home with gorgeous terra cota detail, a courtyard begging for an outdoor fiesta to be had, and views of the ocean could fool you into thinking you’d been teleported to Santorini. We dined on a delicious and simple meal of (AMAZING) beans, guacamole and quesadillas, all with locally sourced ingredients and with bottomless refills of a lovely red wine. I slept comfortably by a toasty fireplace on a very fancy air mattress with blankets aplenty. It was delightful- property managers are excellent hosts.
This courtyard tho...
 Santorini Poptla, BC, Mexico
 Hugs from Baja
The next day we headed to the wine valley and went in search of our B&B, a property out in San Antonio de las Minas. Right as we made the turn from the main drag on to the road that would lead us to our destination, it became apparent that the route to our destination involved a wet, uneven and muddy road. We braced ourselves and drove forward in Celina’s low-riding old school Lexus…
SKKRRRRRRRRR went Celina’s poor gas tank as it scraped against hard-packed dirt, reminding us that a Lexus sedan doth not an off-road vehicle make. Celi slowed to a mere roll and tried to maneuver around the uneven patches, but the weight of a driver, four passengers and all of their luggage was not helping the cause. There was only one thing left to do: lose some passengers. Imagine, if you will, the odd Chinese fire drill of sorts that ensued each time we came upon a puddle:  three of the five vehicle occupants getting out of the car then using sticks as puddle-depth measuring tools to determine which way to best navigate Celi’s car. Now throw in the appearance of some very hungry and fearless dogs that sent us running back to the vehicle every so often. Adventure time!

Still onward we went, only partially convinced that we hadn’t been sold a bill of goods. We drove for some time, proceeding semi-confidently only because of the occasional 8 ½ X 11 signs nailed to some fence or tree stump assuring us that the property was indeed still ahead. The terrain was rough and there just didn’t appear to be anything remotely resembling a bed and breakfast nearby, to the point where we half-kiddingly joked that an abandoned warehouse, a dilapidated shack or a Fisher Price playhouse by the side of the road might be our illustrious place of lodging.

We did eventually arrive and met up with the other 10 or so of our friends. Soon after checking in, we hopped on a shuttle en route to wine country, and though the number of stops was limited due to New Year’s Eve winery closures, a good time was had. I mean, with that many people and wine flowing freely, we were going to enjoy ourselves one way or another. I knew this when we were poured some Grenache and someone in our group said, “St. Grenache is a dog, right? Like what Lassie was!”
Really ready.
Remember us? La Gitana y La Bookworm
Celi enjoying a snack of Takis with her red wine, trying most unsuccessfully to convince my friend Leandra that this constitutes a delectable wine pairing.

"Quick, Vane! Before someone sees me!"
All the Single ladies.
After the wine tasting, we shuttled back to the B&B for a dinner prepared by the staff, which started around 6pm and was intended to stretch out course by course through midnight. We ate the soup appetizer and main dish but at 9pm ran out of enough patience to sit and wait around for dessert or midnight. We went back to our rooms for a little while and some of us made it back downstairs later for a toast and/or bachata dance-off at midnight. Several members of our group went on to stage yet another Disney Sing Along in the property’s communal dining room. I held on till around 12:30 before throwing in the towel.
It suddenly hit me that it was cold. SO cold. So gosh-damn bloody COLD! Colder weather than the property manager was prepared for, the kind of cold that made me, the girl who hates sleeping in bulky clothing, go to bed wearing leggings, two pairs of socks, a sports bra, a thermal top, and my big USC sweatshirt with the hood pulled so tight over my face that I looked like Kenny from South Park. I covered even my head with the blankets when I realized I could see my breath if I left my face exposed. When the girl I was sharing a bed with finally came to bed at 3am once she was all partied out, I thanked sweet baby Jesus for the gift of body heat. If she’d asked me to cuddle, I probably would have. Warmth is warmth, yo.

The next day, we all roused slowly but surely (I of course was up at 5:45 am reading on my Kindle) and enjoyed a delicious, made-from-scratch breakfast before parting ways. My friends were kind enough to get me back stateside by noon so that I could book it to the airport to hop a jet to Vegas where my girl Karina and I saw the second to last show of our boo Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience Tour. Oooh child, that man can sang! I danced sexy in my seat to that little but of “Don’t Hold the Wall,” swayed in an emo haze at the outro to Love Stoned, screamed out “Yeeeeesssss!” to “My Love” (I STILL love that choreography) and closed my eyes and vibed to my beloved “Until the End of Time.” Karina and I sang our faces off the whole night and loved every minute off. JT can get it.

 V + K

Go 'head, be gone with it.

I caught a flight at 7am the next morning back to San Diego, which means that when all was said and done, I was in Vegas for about 12 hours, the same amount of sleep I’d had in a span of four days. Exhaustion is an understatement, but I’d do it again tomorrow. The lesson here is not to take yourself too seriously. These friends of mine are spread across the continental US but come together at random just when I might need to lighten up. They break up my tendency to overthink things and slap me in the face with some fun. They force me to delight in and appreciate the awesomeness that comes with laughing out loud and not giving a smooth f#%k about how you look to the world as long as you’re enjoying yourself. They also build me up and remind me how loved and supported I am at every hour of the day, I am so thankful for each and every one of these crazies. They’re the shit.

Do more of what makes you happy in 2015. It’s sometimes easier said than done, but MAN does it feel good when you pull it off.
Bookishly yours,

How I Spent My Summer (non)Vacation: July edition

Buenos Diaz!! So.. yeah. Where the heck did summer go?!? One minute all the kids and teens in the city were running from campus singing "Schooooooool's oooooout foooooor summerrrrrrrr!!!!' and the next I was standing in line at Target with a bunch of tweens buying One Direction backpacks and sparkly headbands. My commute time has doubled, the seasonal margaritas are being pulled from the menu... yep, it's official. Summer has drawn to a close.

I admit I'm nowhere near as sad about this as most people are; I am a typical girl (if I'm to believe a certain green-eyed buddy of mine) in that I love, love, love the fall. The boots and jackets come out, the weather is perfect for snuggling up with a good book or movie, and most importantly: there's a pumpkin explosion of yummy treats available at a retailer near you. Oh, and there's my birthday too. Fall = awesome, and don't you deny it.

This summer however was pretty great on my end, and I am indeed sorry to see it go. I stayed quite busy! In fact, last weekend was the first one in which I did not leave town since mid July. My suitcase was never really unpacked the entire time, it was kind of great. Allow me to try and recap it all from the slew of blog entries I have drafted and unpublished, starting with the month of July.

I kicked off July with a trip to Riverside to visit my cousin Johnny, his wife Loleta and my adorable toddler nephew Johnny Eli. So first of all- let me just clear the air here. I was raised in a Mexican household, and so to me, family structure is as follows: the people that made you are your mother and father. Any other kids they made are your siblings. Their parents are your grandparents; their siblings and sibling's spouses are your uncles and aunts (tias and tios); your tia's/tio's kids are your cousins. Eeeeeverybody else that shares a bloodline is a tia, tio, or cousin. That's it- simple. When all y'all start asking me if someone is my first, second or third cousin  and how many times removed- you've lost me. I bring this up because Johnny is my mom's cousin's son, so many of you like to point out to me that he isn't my first cousin and his son isn't my nephew. Know how I feel about that?

Johnny is my cousin, his son is my nephew. So zip it!

Back to my story: these are three of my favorite people in the world, and my little weekend trips with them are quickly becoming some of my fondest memories. Our routine is pretty standard: we play with the little one, Loleta and I might go get our nails done or else run a few quick errands, then we head back to their apartment for more toddler play before putting him to bed. Once he's slumbering peacefully, the adults share a yummy dinner and some laughs. My cousin Johnny is actually Pastor Johnny, so I admit that I was a liiiiiiittle nervous when I came up for my first visit about two years ago. I mean, I'm no heathen or anything, but there's something about being in the presence of a pastor that I think would cause many people to feel like they needed to be on their best behavior. Yeah... I relaxed about 15 minutes after walking through the door. Johnny is (still, as he was in our youth) the funniest guy, and his wife is an absolute sweetheart who I count among my closest friends. In fact I might like her better than you, Johnny. Sorry dude. And yes, they are people of God, but they're regular people! They have silly couple's arguments and watch Scandal like the rest of us. And they brought this little tyke into my life, so they're automatically awesome.

I concluded this weekend with a day trip to Temecula for wine tasting with two friends. We drank lots of wine and enjoyed a yummy lunch- perfect conclusion to a great weekend. 

I think I spent every other weekend in July in either LA or Orange County. I kicked it off with a trip to Huntington Beach for a beach clean up. The event was organized by my job's philanthropy committee, and God love 'em for trying, pero..... all I know is I got up at 5:30am on a Saturday to drive an hour and a half and go clean a really clean freaking beach. The event included all members of my division in our Southern California group plus any significant others and children; so please, if you will, envision 150 of us trolling this beach searching for trash with all of our might, and by "searching" I mean desperately looking for something besides seaweed. We walked and walked, cursed when we thought we'd spotted some litter that turned out to be a stupid seashell, got geekishly stoked when we came across the remnants of someone's water ballloon flight and fought over the shredded pieces of latex... it got so sad that my boss's daughter suggested we ask the regular beachgoers and picnic people for their trash. I mean, we were there for a beach clean up and all I had to show for it after an hour of scavenging was a few torn water balloons, a bottle cap and a stick that I threw in to make my trash bag heavier. I knew they'd weigh all the bags at the end and broadcast how much trash we'd collected. My bag was pretty pitiful, the stick was very necessary.

In any case, the trip was well worth it as my buddy Carlos drove down from LA and met me afterwards for dinner. The countdown was on for him to leave for law school in a little over a month, I'd soon be losing my coffee buddy! See, I use to bug him to meet up with me every time I drove to or through LA, it had become a bit of a tradition that I knew I'd have to let go of soon. We'd usually meet up at the Starbucks on Western and Slauson to sit around, laugh and talk about random nonsense. He'd have a soy latte, I'd have a passion fruit tea or iced coffee; he'd crack me up with his tales of galavanting around LA with his guy crew which many of know as "the squad" and I'd vent to him about whatever family or work issue was on my mind that week. These little chat session would soon be a thing of the past, so I was glad to spend some time with him in Costa Mesa where we met up. 

Shortly after my weekend living that OC life, it was time to head up to LA for the Legends of Summer tour; I could hardly contain my excitement- JT AND Hov?!? How could I not attend? I was initially a tad peeved when I discovered the show was on a Sunday, but it worked to my benefit as I made a whole LA weekend of it; I was working in Orange County that Friday anyway, so I made the drive up to LA after wrapping up my work day and spent the evening with my BFF Daisy. I said it then and I say it now like I say all the time: I love (and miss) LA. My evening with Daisy was a great curbing of my craving. We had dinner and drinks at an adorable and hidden gem called The Second Story tucked inside the Hotel Belamar. What a great little find! I was already sold when my drinks were a)strong and b)two for one, but the amazing lighting fixtures sealed the deal for me. Pretty lights are one of my obsessions.

Anyhow, we dined on this amazing cider-brined pork chop with a side of blue cheese mashed potatoes and some delicious apple salad then headed to a cute bar that's just trendy enough to attract a couple of hipsters but not enough to make you want to slit your wrists at the so-called "LA-ness" of it all. This venue is the one I described in my last post when I revealed what a terrible wing-woman I am. Ugh. That idiot guy and his warm salty nuts are still on my nerves, and that mess happened weeks ago.

The following day I met up with Carlos once again for a bite and some chit chat. And because we're uber classy individuals, we threw in some Twisted Tea as well for entertainment (never heard of it? Look it up. Only for the grown and sexy). After some good conversation and the best eggplant ever, his cell phone went off with an important message from The Squad. The text read something like "Where you at? Roll through, there's mad bitches!" I laughed and bid him adieu shortly thereafter then curled up with a good book for the rest of the evening. I was now down to just a few weeks before his big law school departure so I was glad to see him even if only for a little while. 

The next day was spent blissfully in the warm Pasadena sun... i picked up my girl Karina and we made our way to the Rose Bowl for a pre-concert picnic on the lawn of some unlucky golf course. We picked up a couple of five dollar footlongs and some mini-bottle of Barefoot wine then soaked up some Vitamin D sitting next to my Altima couple on the grass. We hid what bottles we couldn't finish in time in our cleavage and made our way into the arena, then bought a lemonade, pounded it, and dumped the bottles' contents into the plastic cup. We sipped on our White Zin happily and impatiently waited for the show to start.

Keepin' it classy.

With our stunna shades on. Hers are a few hundred and quality, mine are crappy $8 versions and were purchased in Costa Rica by the beach. 

"It's pink lemonade, honest!"

Suddenly, I spotted a couple dancing and singing out of the corner of my eye. I did a slight double take when I realized who i was looking at; it was Twitch and Allison from So You Think You Can Dance making their way to their seats. This is when I learned that I can never ever ever meet a "real" celebrity. I used to think that if Mr. Liam Hemsworth, Michael Ballack or other sexy light-eyed celebrity sauntered over to me, I'd be able to keep my cool. I didn't think I'd suddenly know how to flirt and land anyone's phone number, but I thought I'd maybe pull off a flirtatious hair toss or even an effortlessly witty comment. Let me be the first to say I was dead ass wrong. WRONG. Soooo wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong aaaaall over the place. Wrong to the umpteenth power.

I dorked out so hard! when they walked by me, I reached out and clutched poor Allison's thigh like I knew her or something and blurted out some rapid-fire nonsense about me being both of their biggest fan. They smiled and thanked me graciously, but it would have been well within their rights to call in a security incident. They shook my hand and headed to their seats, and only then did I finally get it together. Did I just clutch that girl's thigh?! Did I enunciate? Why hadn't I asked for a picture?! I soon felt better and simultaneously worse when about a hundred other people figured out who they were and accosted them for photos and autographs.  I sat there outwardly criticizing these mongrels for bothering these nice people when all they wanted to do was enjoy the concert like everybody else, but inside I was jealous and chastising myself for lack of gall and abundance of awkwardness. Karina finally had enough of my sulking and grabbed my phone from me to request a picture, and her timing was impeccable as the couple had stood up from their seats and was standing in the aisle next to me indulging another fan. I apologized for my awkward behavior earlier and they were once again gracious with me and were happy to snap a pic with me. All's well that ends well, I suppose, but I learned a valuable lesson: if I ever meet any of my hardcore celebrity crushes, I WILL get arrested. Someone please bail me out. 
Thank you. Just... thank you.

The concert itself was epic, trite as that partcular description has become. I honestly questioned what the quality of the experience would be because of the venue. I've seen JT at the Staples Center and that experience left its mark on me for several weeks, but that was an enclosed venue with great acoustics, lighting and staging capabilities. This time we were en plain air and at the Rose Bowl, and while I was clearly aware that these two artists are megastars and not some indie rock band promoting their first EP, I was a little skeptical. Those fears were soon assuaged but quick! The show began once the sun went down and thus began a two hour party. My quads were on fire the next day from all the dancing and my throat was hoarse from singing (read: yelling) along to JT and Jay's greatest hits. That was possibly my favorite element of the show- I love me some Magna Carta and 20/20 but laaaaaaaawd was I happy to hear all those older jams. Their sets were intertwined so I was swaying to selections from Justified and FutureSexLoveSounds one minute then BOOM! cuts from the Blueprint albums and Reasonable Doubt. 

And if the show itself wasn't enough, the people-watching was an absolute riot. Picture a Venn diagram: in circle A we have the JT fans, in circle B we have the Jigga faithful, and then we have the overlap in the middle. It would appear that the majority of those in attendance would fall into that overlap area, but there were of course a substantial number of individuals there who were strictly As or Bs. This lead to comedy for me. I got to observe uber-glam stiletto-clad diva types dripping in jewels and eyeshadow and groups of pre-pubescent tweens all sway awkardly in place during Jay'z songs and pretend to know the words. It was like watching one of those Japanese flicks dubbed in English where the timing is jus a few seconds off, only the characters were wearing Seven jeans or "Your Boyfriend Thinks I'm Hot" t-shirts. On the opposite end of the spectrum were the packs of manly men, thug types, and husbands/boyfriends posing under the guise of being there only for Jay. Those stood up and went buck when Big Pimpin' came on and then tried soooo hard to pretend they weren't enjoying the sh*t out of My Love when Justin took back the mic. We all had a good time, even if some pretended not to. 

If I go on, this entry will become a novella, so I'll end it here. I'll leave August's shenanigans for later in the week. 

Wishing you a happy Sunday Funday and hoping my Chargers please please PLEASE pull off another win,