Spanish Words I Learned Watching “Philadelphia” at the Gym

  • lesiones (same meaning, but pronounced lee-see-oh-nehs)
  • sida (aids — it was such an epiphany today when I finally figured that out)
  • funerales (funerals, pronounced few-neh-rah-less)
  • tribunal (trial)
  • odio (hate)
  • temor (fear)
  • protesto (as in “Objection!” to a judge)
  • Sr senoria (your honor)

Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you sort of know what it’s about just by reading my little list.

Philadelphia, while not exactly inspiring me to exercise harder, is at least a good movie. This is rare, since my gym likes playing AXN, a shitty movie channel that seems to air a disproportionate amount of sad and bad movies.

Last week at the gym I watched the downright terrible Beyond Borders, where my least-favorite-actress Angelina Jolie goes to Africa and Cambodia to save starving children. The silver lining: It’s at least got Clive Owen, in it, too. And he does inspire one to exercise.

I Can Never Sign My Name the Same Way. What’s the Trick?

I do not understand the whole concept of handwritten signatures — that people are supposed to sign their name exactly the same way every single time.

I have never been able to sign my name the say way, ever. In my entire life.

And boy, this inability to sign my name all matchy-matchy is really biting me in the ass these days. In Mexico, having a consistently perfect signature is like having a brain: if you don’t have one, you’re screwed.

After we tried to open up a bank account here in Mexico, I couldn’t sign the forms exactly like my passport. So our local bank branch sent an employee to our house to make me do it right. I practiced hundreds of times in one hour, signing, signing, signing. This ridiculous exercise fills up 10 pages of a notebook, my maniacal attempts to conform.

But no, I couldn’t do it. Each time, it was a little different. Signature 1 was entirely different from Signature 100, no matter how hard I concentrated. I’m sure Senor Banco Persona thought I was insane. (I might be? Is this a sign of insanity?)

Now we’re facing our visa renewals, and I’m having the same problem. How lame would it be to get booted out of the country because I can’t sign my name exactly the same as I did on my visa form last year? (That’s a joke, but I am worried.)

So, is there some special trick to this? Did I miss this class in school? Why can’t companies/governments just demand thumbprints or retina scans or anything but a signature?

Soy Pragmática? If You Say So

Last night during Spanish tutoring, as we discussed which personality traits we inherited from our parents, our teacher called me pragmatic. A snippet (based on what I remember was said, not exactly what was said, grammar-freaks):

Claudia: Tu eres pragmatica.
Joy: (beaming, although she’s never been really sure what that word means, in either language) Si?
Claudia: Claro, siempre quieres saber funciona algo. Una vez que sabes los hechos, estás muy bien, incluso si los no tienen sentido. Brendan, mientras, es argumentativo.
Joy: (nodding effusively) Es verdad!

Claudia went on to explain that being argumentative wasn’t bad, just different than being pragmatic. And then she asked why Brendan wasn’t un abogado (lawyer). Typical, he distracted her by making a joke about avocados. And I corrected him, since aguacate is one of my favorite words to say (second to cacahuate, peanuts).

Ni modo, Claudia is the second teacher to label me pragmatic. The first time was way back in 11th grade, when Mr. Addison, my computer science teacher, noticed how I took to learning DOS, a barebones-interface operating system for IBMs. Once I learned the rules of DOS, I was fine, unlike many of my fellow students, who never did get “DIR.” I also was one of the few females in the class, which tells you something.

I remember going home and looking up the word “pragmatic” and feeling underwhelmed, and a little confused. Was it a compliment? A sign of future greatness? Or just, you know, a fact about who I am?

That’s the problem with being pragmatic, I guess. It’s hard to see beyond the facts. I know this much: He said I was pragmatic, but what does that really mean?

However, I like to think this “pragmatic sensibility of mine” has something to do with my career as a journalist (“just the facts, ma’am”) my almost frighteningly amazing sense of direction (“the four cardinal directions don’t change”) my tendency to make grocery lists (“milk, coffee, something sugary/frozen”) and my atheism (needs no explanation).

Oh, and that I scored in the 98th percentile on the GRE in the analysis section (we’re not going to mention my other two scores. Ahem.) That’s the section with questions like this:

A father is three times as old as his son. After fifteen years the father will be twice as old as his son’s age at that time. Hence the father’s present age is

  1. 36
  2. 42
  3. 45
  4. 48
  5. None of the above

I sailed through that section, thinking it was, get this: fun. To go easy on all of you, I picked one of the easier questions. De nada.

(Answer: C.)

It also explains why I am good at puzzles. Life is a puzzle, too, but I’m still sorting through it. And people, well, I’ll never understand them.

Here’s Where We’re Going for the Big 0-2

For our second wedding anniversary/7 years of companionship, we’re headed to Puerto Vallarta in August. PV is known for its natural beauty, fabulous clear waters, relaxed nightlife and thriving art scene.

I’m itching to go, but for now, here are some of my faves on Flickr:

playa puerto vallarta
Above, you’ll notice some tiny islands in the center, below the mountains on the horizon.

Here they are, closer up. Los Arcos is a great snorkeling spot, and our hotel is nearby.

PV is surrounded by mountainous jungle with rivers and waterfalls.

I’ve become a big fan of Huichol art — something I didn’t know existed a mere year ago — and PV is a hub of the psychotically colorful beaded work.

Along with great art shopping, there’s much to see on the malecon, the boardwalk lining serene Banderas Bay.

So this means, yes, I will have gone to both Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta this year. That’s what lucky girls who live in Mexico City get to do.

And with any luck, we’ll add another exotic beach locale to the list before the year’s over. Huatulco, anyone? Guayamas? Veracruz?

I Wanna See Popocatepetl, Too, Damnit

Every few weeks, I get a random email from my husband along the lines of this one, which I received a few minutes ago:

“u shud see the volcano now. so cool. huge amount of snowfall.”

I don’t know why he keeps doing this. He knows I can’t ever see the volcanoes from our apartment, but he tells me anyway, from his 12th floor office in central Mexico City.

Of course, on particularly beautifully crisp days, I can’t resist, and I ask him, unprovoked: Can you see the volcanoes??? (Pollution sometimes obscures them).

We are clearly enthralled by them. Them, yes — we have not one but two friendly neighborhood volcanoes. Only Popocatepetl (above) screams “I am a volcano, look at me.” He’s not only quite handsome, he’s also active, letting up giant plumes of smoke and ash every day. His counterpart volcano, named Iztaccíhuatl, is more subdued in appearance, and coincidentally, dormant.

I’ve seen Popo and Itza just a couple of times since we moved here, most notably on our drive from Mexico City to Cholula, which is about 90 miles smack-east from here. You have to literally drive up and over the volcanoes to get there (well OK, not exactly up and over them, but very close by).

Mexico City is already at 7,500 feet, and as you approach the volcanoes, you go up to about 10,000 feet. (Popo is an astounding 19,000 feet high). The climate swiftly changes from arid brush to pine forest. On random hairpin turns, you suddenly see the snowy summits!!! The another turn, and they’re gone…but seconds later, volcanic summits again!!!. Like this, over and over, for about 60 minutes through the volcanic pass. What a drive. Nothing like it, people.

Story Time, Boys and Girls

Beyond their natural beauty, Popo (which means “smoking mountain” in Nahuatl, the Aztec language) and Itza (which means “white woman”) are a fabulous part of Mexican lore. And, when you first see them, you understand why: They are impossible to ignore, as they loom quite intimidatingly over the Valley of Mexico.

It depends on who you ask, but basically it goes like this: Popo was an Aztec warrior, and Itza was a beautiful Aztec princess. Popo was sent away to fight, and Itza was told he died. She killed herself in agony. Popo returned to find her dead, and he too died, from grief. The gods covered them in snow and turned them into mountains.

Itza, in fact, resembles a sleeping white woman, and Popo…well, he looks like a giant volcano. I guess that’s why he’s the boy.

And now, from that myth, are fantastically cheesy renderings of the lovers on calendars, artworks, etc. Just like this.

Guilty, Guilty Pleasure: Justin Timberlake

So, among all the glorious, hedonistic activities I participated in last week (Spa Castle, pedicures, Pinkberry, BBQ at Rub, Macy’s at Herald Square, lots of Hefeweizen, cab rides in gypsy cars with tan leather seats and “Sex and the City”) I finally got to watch the DVD performance of Justin Timberlake: FutureSex/LoveSounds Tour Live at Madison Square Garden, which was recorded last summer and aired many, many times on HBO, a channel we don’t have here in Mexico City (It’s available, we just refuse to pay for it.)

Anyway, yes, I can say it out loud now: I’m a JT fan. Until last week, I was semi-closeted — only revealing my fanaticism to those I could entrust, mostly other JT fans, like Kristin my co-worker (who saw him LIVE last summer, and came to work the next day with a hoarse voice. I was broiling with envy, of course.)

As time passed, it got harder to cover up such a huge secret. It slipped out little by little, like when I swallowed my pride and I asked my poor father-in-law to Tivo it for me. No luck, he could record it on VHS, but a DVD wouldn’t work b/c of copyright protection, and we have no VCR player.

After that failed, I started scouring the Mexico City Eje Central market — known for its fabulous high-quality pirated DVDs (*cough* not that we’d ever buy such a thing) — for signs of JT. No luck there, either.

So, in preparation for flying up to NYC, I had this rapturous idea: Ask Dora to put it at the top of her Netflix list. Being a JT fan, too, she had no problem fulfilling my request.




*squealing like a 12-year-old* He’s so awesome!

When the song, “My Love,” (in the video above) came on…Dora and I started singing out loud. And then when he suddenly switched to a different song – after only about 15 seconds — we screamed, simultaneously, “he’s teasing us! AGHHHH!!!” Which was followed by giggles, lots of them.

Brendan and John snorted at us. But we didn’t care, we were entranced.

….“If I wrote you a love note…would you smile at every word I wrote?”….

Note to Self: You Can Order Jugo de Sandia – What Else Do You Need?

(My delicious jugo de sandia that I had with my lunch today.)

I live in two worlds each day: My English world (work, husband, a few friends) and my Spanish world (all errands, tasks, and daily living stuff). The transition is sometimes painful (a nasty mix of Spanglish sometimes comes streaming out of my mouth, before I can stop it) and sometimes delightful (discussing muñecas with an 8-year-old in the park who fell in love with Charlie, mi cucharrito.)

I constantly beat myself up for not knowing enough Spanish, or not using it enough. I forget, often, how my day goes, how I navigate around my neighborhood listening and speaking espanol without much effort. True, it’s not very advanced stuff — I’m not discussing the government’s recent decision to freeze prices of basic food items, but I’m at least getting shit done. Con una sonrisa.

Today, I took a lunch break and did the following, all in mi mundo de español.

– Fui a la tintorería (dry cleaners) y dejé mucha ropa. (Las van a estar listas el sabado!). Yo bromé con la dueña de tintorería sobre mi nombre. (Diciendo “Joy” es imposible para los Mexicanos.)
– Hice un reservation en el restaurante
(Dude, hacer kills me. Check out all the ways you can conjugate this damn verb.)
– Retiré efectivo del ATM
– Mandé comida rapida, y mientra que esperé, leí un artículo de noticias sobre de los jitomates con salmonella y del calentamiento del planeta
– Tambien, vi un cartel en el parque sobre una fiesta “M
éxico-Israel” con comida, musica y regalitos – el proximo Domingo!

I Have Joined the SpaCastle Cult

(Photo by jiwoo)

Last Friday, Dora, Adam and I ventured into far northeastern Queens to visit “SpaCastle,” a gigantic $25 million, 60,000 square foot facility based on a traditional Korean spa — but taken to a gaudy, utterly fabulous extreme that Americans can appreciate.

It’s Las Vegas meets waterpark meets the spa. It’s hard to sum up our experience, it was so bizarre yet so incredibly hilarious and relaxing. It was the most fun I ever had in New York City, which is saying something. (Admittedly, though, I love water. Being in it, near it, water, water, water. So this is my sort of place.)

So, here we go. In 12 steps, our fantastic voyage….

Continue reading

The Fuzzbucket Is Back

One of the hardest aspects of living abroad is what to do with our much beloved dog, Charlie. Back when we lived in NYC, we traveled all over the damn place guilt-free, either with Charlie in tow, or we dropped him off at our friend Dora’s house.

But, in Mexico, it’s not easy transporting him back and forth to the U.S. for just a week’s long trip, so we take him to Hacienda Campus Canino, a “pet resort” about an hour outside of Mexico City. (Actually, he gets picked up and dropped off, which is fantastic).

Today was his third time returning from Campus Canino, and I think he’s getting used to it. Unlike the previous two times, he seemed happy and normal and not totally racked with anxiety:

Why It’s Good to Visit New York

Brenda and Dora’s smiles…

John’s goofiness, and Eileen’s tolerance/amusement…

Chrissy’s always spot-on fashion sense, and her hilarious spa stories from her extensive travels (and, while we’re at it, let’s plug Merril’s new gig programming movies at the Pacific Standard bar in Park Slope)…

“Being hot” with Adam & Dora at SpaCastle (much more on that in an upcoming post)…

Discussing all things cultural with Concetta, and meeting her awesome new man. And because like me, Connie is often “behind the lens” instead of in front of it, I’m adding her candid photography to the list, which means I actually have photos of me from a trip…but none of Connie…doh!

I love this photo (“Lord, what is she talking about now?“)

And the Connster got a great shot of our toes after a group pedicure outing (Brendan, sadly, didn’t go, but his giant toes are in the photo anyway). If we ever start a band, we’ve got our first album photo right here: