Monday, February 24, 2014

Puerto Rico

The trip to Puerto Rico, though a quick in and out, was very productive and enjoyable. Not only did I get to present on my papi's novela, one (the only woman, too!) among a distinguished panel of estudiosos of my dad's work, but we also did some mandatory sight-seeing in Old San Juan and Playa Cerro Gordo, in Dorado. I also brought back the picture above (taken in 1992 or 1993?) of my impromptu interview with Henry Kissinger at The Caribe Hilton.

I was at the hotel, in cocktail dress attire, for some event my newspaper (where I was a lowly reporter) was holding when the editor came to me to tell me Kissinger was in the hotel and I needed to find him to ask him about Puerto Rico's status. "But I don't even have a pen or paper!" I despaired to him. "Here's my pen and take this napkin," he said. "On your way, and he'll be with his wife, Nancy, who'll hate you for this, but just press on." And so I did. I'm so glad that the photographer had the presence of mind to snap this photo. Otherwise, this, like my subsequent and years-later interviews with Lech Walesa and Michail Gorbachev, would disappear into the realm of vague memory.

During our walk to Old San Juan, we were delighted to find that the Capilla del Cristo, which has a storied past (it is said to have been erected by a grateful horse rider in the 17th century whose runaway stallion was about to plunge from the top of the battlements with him astride when he prayed to the Virgin and was miraculously saved). We'd never seen it open but it was available to the public this time so we spent a few minutes admiring the Campeche paintings inside, marveling at how intact it has been conserved.

When you walk through Viejo San Juan you have to look down so as not to take a misstep on the loose cobblestones or ancient sidewalks, but you also always should look up because, if not, you miss the bluest of the blues, the Caribbean blue of the Puerto Rican sky, the actual color (not navy blue) on our national flag.

The colorful balcones and Spanish-style homes are also a sight to behold, as is the old cemetery, by the sea wall, where my dad's ashes are interred.

From there we proceeded to the Cathedral, where I always like to light a candle in my father's name (the farthest one to the right is his), and where the Virgen del Socorro, my mother's patron Virgin, is found.

Our last day there, my husband and I went to the public beach in Cerro Gordo, Dorado, his favorite one on the island and one that we used to visit a lot when we lived there.

We had a lovely visit and it was hard to leave and return to the coldest of winters on record here in Ohio. We are seriously thinking that we'll have to plan for our retirement in the island since there's no way we want to try to psychically survive living stateside with these God-forsaken winters. After all, I'm a Caribbean girl and my husband is most definitely not a cold-weather person either.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Celebrating papi's birthday

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - Today my papi would have been 77 years old. Yesterday, to celebrate his birthday, we held an activity at the university where he and my mom used to teach, and where my mom now works at the dedicated reading room that contains the books they collected during a lifetime together. The event included a six-person panel, and I presented on my father's 2004 novel, La séptima vida, while other participants presented on other of the 23 books (!!) my father published over his life.

My mom organized the event, including the pizcolabis or entremeses, which included locally made cookies, and two of the small zucchini breads my mother-in-law had sent my mom some time ago and which my mom had frozen to enjoy at a later date. They were thawed and sliced and were a hit! 

The panel was excellent (more details can be found here) with each participant presenting on one of the books. Then we had a break and returned to the Sala for a conversation that lasted until 5:30 p.m., past the time when the university offices stay open on a Friday afternoon. I know everyone wanted to continue but it was time to go so we pledged that we'd do something similar again next year, which I'm already looking forward to.

This is a quick trip here in Puerto Rico so today I'm taking advantage that I'm now done with my responsibilities (on Thursday I also visited and presented at the private high school where I taught as a substitute many years ago) to spend some much-appreciated time away from what's become the Alaskan-cold of Ohio this winter. 

We hope to visit my father's grave, in honor of his birthday, and walk around the Old City for a bit. My heart gave us some concerns on Thursday and most of the day yesterday but nothing bad enough to force an ER visit. I finally reached my doctor who advised taking one more medication so, fingers crossed, perhaps there won't be any more scares until I see the new specialist on Wednesday, once I'm back home. As always, here's to hope!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

False hopes

Pretty much all my hopes that February would be much better than January winter-wise have been continually dashed by one snowstorm after another. Indeed, it appears that January wasn't so bad at all, historically speaking. And, thankfully, we're not in Pennsylvania where storms caused disastrous pileups this past week. So I know we're fortunate, indeed.

But our heating bill this past month, which exceeded the previous record, does tell us that this winter has been unusually cold and snowy and yucky. Because of the bad weather, and thanks to a kind colleague who has loaned me her home, I've been staying several nights a week up near my small college on the hill. Her home is a lovely little cottage with a view to the woods and it makes me wish we had our own small "country home" up there where I could stay anytime I needed to. I have dear friends who always offer me their homes but, because of my physical and other limitations, I'm a lot less anxious when I can have a place to myself. But paying for the college inn gets expensive after a while so this is a great solution for now.

On the flutter front there have been two episodes, including one more ER run early this month, but at least the second one (while I was away from home) thankfully resolved with the emergency medication.  The great news is that, thanks to a close friend, I was able to get an appointment to see an expert at the large research hospital at OSU so I'll be doing that later this month. We had dinner recently with good friends and he was telling us of two people he knows who got treatment at OSU and are "cured." Those stories always make me feel like weeping, not only because I'm so happy for the people who had to endure this and because I yearn for similar good news, but also because I fear I may not be like them since I tend to be that "one in a million" person, and not always in a good way. Still, I'm thinking positive and hoping for the best, as usual. Hope, after all, never disappoints. It's reality that gets in the way.

The constant cold has driven Chiquita to seek any and all ways to keep warm and she now burrows into the large sofa pillows so that you can almost only see her big ears when she raises them to try to figure out what's going on (when there's anything "going on" that is, in her mind).

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to a trip to Puerto Rico next week to present on my papi's last novela at the university where he and my mom used to teach (and where she now coordinates the research room named after both of them), and to recruit for my small college on the hill at the all-girls' private high school where I substitute taught many years ago. The presentation is in celebration of my papi's birthday and my mom has organized a great panel with presentations on several of his 23 published books (!!). For someone who didn't have a Ph.D. my J.D. father was on a very productive research and publication schedule; much better than my own, that's for sure!

I also know that, after this winter of my discontent, it will do my overworked heart so much good to see some green and blues and yellows, like only my beautiful Caribbean island can do them. The warm break (both in weather and in visiting my mom) will be most welcome and, hopefully, I'll be re-energized to handle whatever the OSU expert says has to happen next with my case.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

¡Pa'trás ni pá coger impulso!

Hail February! I'm just plain glad that January is finally over and done with after it proved to be one of the coldest on record. Simply gray, frigid, windy, and depressing. Some days it was colder here than in Alaska or Iceland! One thing's for sure, I wasn't built for the sustained cold (animically or physically) and neither was my husband.

Neither is Hamlet who, ordinarily, attempts to run outside any chance he gets (he stopped being an inside-outside cat when he came home mauled one-time-too-many and the costs at the vet of putting him back together again were getting prohibitive). On one such unforgettable January 2014 day, my husband let him out so he could get a taste of what it means to live outside in this weather, and he was begging to be let back in only a few minutes later. Walking Lizzy, one of my favorite parts of the day, was halted for three whole days because there was no way to go out in subzero windchill.

But February has started much better, thankfully in the thirties, so it feels like Indian Summer around here (although everything is very much covered with a thick blanket of snow and ice).

On the home front, my electrophysiologist said this past week that having had two flutter episodes so close to the ablation likely means that it didn't work. I had a third episode last night (what it is with Fridays or Saturdays we cannot understand!) and we were on the way to the ER when the emergency med finally kicked in and we were able to return home, for which I am kneel-down-to-thank-the-Lord grateful since I hate having to go to the ER at this point. But all is well that ends well.

Ultimately, I'm focusing on the moments when I feel awesomely good and not spending too much time pity-partying over lost hopes. The doctor says we'll have to do the procedure again but it wasn't a walk in the park so I'm not sure about that. I'm going to give this a little more time and, unless it starts happening more often, then I'll see what we want to do.

At any rate, my papi always said "pa'trás ni pá coger impulso" so it's full steam ahead (without overdoing it, of course). In better news, I submitted a proposal on the intersections of race and gender in Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables for a June conference in the Berkshires that looks like it's going to rock, I've arranged to submit an essay on Julia de Burgos for an edition in honor of her centennial in the main Puerto Rican Studies journal, and I've been asked to contribute a chapter on "The South and the Caribbean" for an upcoming collection on the Southern Gothic. That'll my scholarly agenda for this year and I'm more than excited.

I'm also very grateful that my classes are going great. I have two strong groups (although the 43 students I have this semester are almost double the number of last semester) and am having a ball teaching the Latin@ Lit and Film and the American Fear classes. I had forgotten how much fun these 200-level classes can be.

Thus, other than this tell-tale heart of mine, and the ridiculously cold weather that's attacked this country, everything is better than it could be. Una de cal y una de arena, they say. And they're right.