Over the weekend, I may have made a promise to my step-mom on her birthday. I put may in italics not to be cute, but because I’m genuinely not sure there was an actual agreement. It may have just been guilt ferrets™ (Kevin Hearne) scampering about and planting false memories. “Psst, kid. Don’t forget that promise you made. Remember? She never asked ya for nothin’ for her birthday before – not gift, nor flowers, nor card. Today? Today she just asked you for a story, – a simple story, toots. You wanna be her greatest disappointment in 2021? On her birthday?? Then welch on that promise. Yeah, I didn’t think so, kid. Best you start typin’.” See? Guilt ferrets™ – who also happen to sound like Johnny down the block – y’know, the guy who runs that craps game with the perpetual cigarette hanging out of his mouth – the worst! Ferrets. Am I right?
As I’ve said before, my posts are just updates for my friends and family.
So, with that in mind – here we go – for my step-mom on (or nearish) her birthday.
Welcome to: The Big Blue Mess: Summer Edition
Mid-May, two weeks after my second Covid shot, I had vacation plans: Celebrate my best-friend’s big 0 birthday in Chicago, and celebrate another good friend’s 0 birthday in the Dominican Republic. It was a great summer to have friends with destination 0 birthdays who could also tolerate me well enough to have me along to celebrate.
In Chicago, we pretty much stuck to the tourist’s version of the city. We haunted the Inner Loop with it’s reflective bean, it’s museums, and tours. I could do a blow-by-blow, but most of it could be summed up in a postcard or any “Visit Chicago” travel ad. So, let me hit the highlight reel of favorite things:
- Bisa Butler’s incredible portraits in quilt at the Art Institute of Chicago
- The architecture tour on the Chicago River
- The spunky, super enthusiastic tour guide for the Gangsters and Ghost tour
- Three Dots and a Dash with Seth
- Amazing pizza!! (not casseroles!!!)
- Chicago-style hot dogs (I confess, I thought they were going to be absolutely disgusting and probably introduce a mouthful of wrongness into my face before being unceremoniously chucked into a trash bin. There’s so much going on there. Pickles? Relish? Onions? TOMATO?! Why? I was wrong! They weren’t just good, they were great.)
- My buddy Johnny Two Shovels and his lovely fiancée
- Walking everywhere
- The time I got to spend with my closest friend.
Chicago made me regret never leaving my comfort zone by picking up, and moving away from the safety of my state – from my town. It made me wish I could right that wrong today and take a leap (and of course, move back here almost immediately to avoid November through April because cold. Texas fact: temperatures dropping below say 42 degrees (brr) are rude, obscene and wholly unnecessary.
The trip was fantastic – something I needed.
A few weeks later, I headed to the Dominican Republic to stay at an all-inclusive resort.
A couple of years ago, if you’d asked me what my favorite type of outdoor terrain to just “be” in was, I would have started with forests, then moved on to mountains, everything else, then desert, wading in bottomless tar pits, gator-filled marshes, and finally beaches – beaches rating a bit higher than they should because I lacked the imagination to come up with anything worse than marshes before having to end with “beaches”.
In my defense, I’ve really only been around the Gulf of Mexico, and let’s face it, the Gulf is just not pretty – not where I’m from.
Then I spent a day on a beach in Honduras, which was unexpectedly lovely and actually surprisingly fun. That was followed by an afternoon on the beach in Santa Monica, and finally there I was in the Dominican Republic looking out again at the Caribbean, and all I could think was “this is idyllic – no place I’d rather be.”
There’s really no way to describe the trip that wouldn’t make me sound very privileged or very white, so I’ll leave off most of the highlight reel and say I had a lovely time at a very lovely location. I was fortunate to be invited along with great people who made me laugh so hard I snorted a few times. But were I to list the highlights, they would be a bit odd and go like this (inside jokes intertwined with genuine moments):
- The subterranean quarters beneath where Santiago’s family stayed
- Studio 54 featuring every Quentin Tarantino film. Let’s face it, nothing says Studio 54 in it’s heyday quite like QT and zero disco music – just ask Liza, Halston, and Andy W. who all famously said at one point, “…And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers…” The 70’s – putting the groove in groovy. You’re doing it right, Dominican Republic! Just how I remembered!
- The gigantic angel at 80’s night. Umm…
- The Alabamians’ drunken drawled out request, “tell us more funny stuff!!” asked of my New Zealand friend after insisting she sounded English (she doesn’t).
- Darlin’ & El Gato “the cat” meoooowwww…
- …y Mami y Papi
- The Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor – the oldest Church in the Americas
- The Covid test to re-enter the US that I’m 99% sure was not a legitimate test, but hey, I got to come back home!
- Global Entry – worth EVERY penny
Random Thoughts from the Trip
Driving through the Santo Domingo in our modern, clean and cool bus, we learned that the minimum wage is $200-$400/month and the average monthly wage is around $800/mo. Electrical wires dangled above in tangled and twisted nests. Trash littered the sides of the road as we drove on to the comfort of our compound within another compound – a playland.
When I arrived in the country, I honestly didn’t remember that we were in the country formerly known as Hispaniola, nor did I recall that it was here where Columbus first set shore in the Americas. I stood in the places where he stood, where his son later stood. No matter how you feel on the subject of Columbus and the aftermath of that “discovery” (the exploitation, the slavery, the mass genocide), you cannot deny that on that fateful day, the world changed. So for me to walk where he walked made me pause and reflect on the enormity of how one day, one simple action could change the course of the world. Over half a millennium later I stood there because of that one day, and the days that fell like dominoes thereafter.
There was something very appealing about being on this island; I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to explore. I wanted to just be.
As the Summer comes to a close and this Summer Edition wraps up, I find myself thinking about how much I miss being in this world – seeing, exploring, and discovering all the things with my people who make me a richer person.
Happy Birthday, CJ! – A post just for you. I’m glad you’re part of my world.