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,

New Year, New Me... or Same Me, but Better

Buenos Diaz! Sooooo, it's 2015. New year, new me!!!! (That was for you, CAG). That phrase always makes me laugh. I will however be totally cliché and tell you that I am indeed so flippin' excited for this year (yes, excited). Know why? I will tell you. Then I'll throw in some caveats.

There technically isn't anything magical that happens at midnight on December 31st. At the stroke of twelve just a few nights ago, I didn't lose twenty pounds or inherit a million dollars. A tall, green-eyed, full-lipped drink o'water holding a stack of books and the keys to a private jet didn't suddenly materialize to whisk me away, nor did a publishing entity ring my phone at 12:01AM to tell me they'd like to forward me a book advance and publish my first work. I didn't lose all of my insecurities, my heart wasn't suddenly free from any and all hang-ups and I still had worries and fears just like everybody else. My sore throat didn't even go away! Those things *could* happen though. Could. That little sliver of possibility is thrilling. It's sinfully delicious.

We all know it by no but I'll say it again: I quit my mother effing job! I still can't believe I've done this. I'll be around until March but then shit is getting real, so I'm officially on the job hunt for something that will help pay the bills but be more in line with my passion while I pursue my writer dreams. This is a giant deal for me. I've worked for the same company since I was an intern in college which was almost 10 years ago. Ten years! Holy hell. I'm seriously insane for doing this but nothing has ever felt so right. I don't know what the future holds but I'm excited to find out. This change is welcome and supported by the most amazing group of family and friends. I'm lucky to be able to shake things up like this, which I recognize and celebrate every chance I get. Which brings me to...

This week I was reminded of what an absolute blessing a solid network of friends is. I started the week on a high, then it got a little low in the middle when I got inside my own head a little too much and allowed myself to feel some type of way about sharks, bats and girlish things. That little low feeling didn't last though, because I am surrounded by so much love and laughter that I have no choice but to remain hopeful, positive and appreciative. I have beautiful handwritten letters to read, photos to peruse and laugh over, memories to wrap myself in and smile about. Lucky me. Lucky, lucky, lucky me.

Pero... on the flip side...

While starting a new year feels like a great thing to get excited about, let me make something clear. Yes, I am excited. I expect this will be a year of personal growth and new beginnings. However, the things I'm looking forward to aren't blessings I expect to receive passively as they fall from the sky just because the "4" at the end of the date I've written for the last 365 days is now a "5." Like I said earlier, I was the exact same person on 12:01 AM on January 1st as I was at 11:59 PM the night before. So were you!

There is a lot of promise and opportunity for fresh starts with the passing of a new year, but this restart button everyone can't wait to slam so emphatically is symbolic and not literal. If you're taking this opportunity as a jump start to better yourself, to better the world or just try a new hairstyle: awesome! I salute you. If you're expecting miracles from a fairy godmother to just start happening for you with no active effort on your part- you es crazy. Bad things do happen and sometimes its hard to shake them off. I get that. Really, I do. I've been a resident of Hang Up City. In fact, I still visit from time to time. In the last few years though, I mustered up the strength and will to finally pack up and leave that sad little hamlet. I have good days, I have bad days. I know I've grown as a person though when even on the bad days, I can look around and recognize the pack of blessings light upon my back. You can do the same, I'm willing to bet. Try to remember that and look on the bright side- for most of us, it really will all be ok.

One last piece of wisdom I will attempt to impart will be this: just like you shouldn't expect magic and miracles on New Year's Day, you also shouldn't beat yourself up with so many goals and resolutions to the point that you forget to live. This involves treading a fine line, one that I'm not always so adept at traversing. One the one hand, success and results come to those who hustle and stay on that grind. On the other hand, it's altogether too possible to set so many goals for yourself and make so many to-do lists that you lose track of time, space and the beauty of real-time experience. You forgot to look around and smell the proverbial roses because you're so wrapped up in your plans. You forget to be here because you're so focused on trying to get there.

So. I vow here and now to view the new year as a symbol but not as a crutch or as a panacea. I am pledging to get my daily exercise and eat well; but if I want to cheese or wine or chocolate with friends, I'm going to have it. I want this new career and I will strive tooth and nail to get it, but I'll be ok with rejection when I face it with the help of my support network and will not lose sight of the value that is my entire journey. I will be open and ready for love and work on being more approachable, but will still just let it happen to me when and where it needs to and not view the world through a desperate or time-sensitive lens. I will sip slowly, savor every bite, laugh harder, feel deeply and perhaps even use my eyes, ears, nose and skin instead of my iPhone to capture more memories. I vow to enjoy my life more now than perhaps I ever have just by being more present. I hope that in 2015 you will do the same- not because you have to, but just because you want to.

Gaaaah I ended a sentence with a preposition. Sometimes you need to do that.

So, about this NYE celebration and these friends of mine..... that tale will have to wait until Wednesday.

Thanks for following, for reading, for supporting my little pipe dream. Here's to 2015!