Our arrival was the opposite of auspicious. The airport looked unusually busy as we descended through the clouds to Bogotá's bright lights but I shrugged it off and focused on getting off the plane. We'd already been traveling more than 13 hours. The aircrew announced that they had forgotten to get the Customs paperwork for us. Whatever. I rolled my eyes. Airline incompetence, we've all lived it. Then they said "Oh, and we don't have a gate so we'll be exiting onto the concourse. Normally I love exiting down stairs. It makes me feel like a celebrity or similar. Burbank is my favorite airport to arrive to for exactly that reason. I like to step out of the plane dramatically, taking an extra moment to feel the sun shine on my face and shake my hair out. It's the little things, you know.
The stairs in Bogotá were a very different Hollywood experience. I dragged myself and my small son off the plane into... chaos. It wasn't just our plane that didn't have a gate. El Dorado airport is under construction and most arriving planes were exiting without gates. The tarmac was a disaster of planes, people and busses, all sporting flashing lights. It looked like "James Bond: Behind the Scenes". Elian looked at me with wide horrified eyes. We descended from the plane into my first-ever tarmac traffic jam.
Did I mention it was raining?
All of this is to say, it didn't start so well. Colombians like to do things big, so it wasn't just a mess. It was A MESS! There is also construction all over La Septima, the principal street. I swear the first day I thought the whole city was in ruins which, yeah, not the way to start your vacation or reintroduce your son to his hometown.
Isn't this fun? I chirped to Elian as he covered his ears to drown out the jack hammers.
The thing is though that Bogotá is a beautiful city. Even with construction scarring its main streets it is impossible to resist its pristine skies, so crisp and clear after the predictably unpredictable rainstorms and it's magical mountains which rise up straight to the heavens. We had a great couple of days there, hanging out with good friends and drinking coffee every two hours because of course. It's Bogotá! In Bogotá there is always a good excuse to drink more chocolate, stay up later and laugh harder. Even the construction feels hopeful, part of the constant push to make the city better. They close all the main arteries every Sunday for family bicycling. This is a city that rallies.
I fell in love with Bogotá a long time ago. Before it gave me friends like family. Before I married Arnold and before I knew this city would give me my first-born son. I highly reccomend it to each of you. If you know what's good for you, you'll fall in love too.
If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.-Fred Rogers
One summer I worked as part of the cleaning crew at a Conference Center. In addition to myself the crew included my friend Rachel, an ex-convict and a young man with mental disabilities. Obviously Rachel and I were thought of quite highly. Despite the boys out-of-the-mainstream pedigree we had fun as a group. The ex-con taught us self-defense using magic markers in place of pocket knives and in our down time we spent the day quoting Beavis and Butthead and listening to 80s mixtapes. Ocasionally if it was super slow, we’d lock a hotel room door, crank up Welcome to the Jungle and jump on the beds.
The work however sucked. Even though I was 19 and energetic, cleaning thirty hotel rooms a day is no joke. The first bed you make is easy; but by the time you’re on the thirtieth your back aches. Wet towels are gross and heavy and people are quite frankly, disgusting. Twelve years later I still have an irrational aversion to making beds.
I’m glad though that I had that job because it taught me that there are so many service jobs that are much harder than they look. I learned to think about the line cook on his feet all day and the hotel maid whose back aches from bending over and cleaning for hours on end.
When I was cleaning hotel rooms ocasionaly people would leave us meager tips of dollar or fifty cents. We would collect these and once a week we’d buy smoothies. Smoothie day was a good day. The smoothies gave us enough to energy to jump on the beds for Welcome to the Jungle and to jam to Footloose. It wasn’t just the smoothie though, it was what they represented, that there were some people who bothered to recognize the hard work we did.
When I was in Baltimore a few weeks ago I was almost delirious from a sinus infection. Sickness always makes me both emotionally volatile and sentimental and when I walked into my hotel room to find it pristinely clean after a long work day with a splitting headache I was overcome. I walked straight back out of my room found the maid next door and blurted out somewhat bizzarely “Thank you so much for cleaning my room. You did such a good job and I really appreciate it.”
I wish you could have seen her smile.
My point? The things you do matter. The small kindnesses you take the time to express can make a difference. Smoothie day would brighten our spirits after cleaning yet another disgusting bathroom and I like to think that my thank you put a little spring in the hotel maids step. So please, don’t ever think what you do doesn’t matter. You have so much power to make the world a better place, one small courtesy at a time.
Last week I went to LA for work. I met lots of great people at my site visits and got to hang out with some Torrie and Kat too! I also ate approximately 5 million meals. All of them were delicious. Today's Five for Friday is the LA Food edition. Put on your fat pants, your gonna gain weight just reading this post.
1. 1886 in Pasadena-I was so enamored with my drink and the company that I totally forgot to take a picture, but take my word for it, this bar is top notch. The drinks are creative without burying the licor in sugar or cream. It also has an amazing door that opens and closes with pulley weights giving it a fun speakeasy feel.
2. A/K/A in Pasadena-We had (among other things) portabello fries with truffle aioli. As they were delivered to the table my foodie in crime Katrina said "The aioli is so good, I want to drink it!" She made a drinking motion with her hand, just in case I didn't get it.
I wanted to drink the aioli too. I'll leave you to wonder whether I did, or not.
3. Square One Dining-I saw this on OhJoy!'s blog and thought, "I must eat there." Then I did. It was delicious and changed my life. The end.
4. Mozza Pizzeria-So fresh and so clean. This was reccommended by Torrie. My favorite pizza was a gorgonzola dolce that had rosemary and fingerling potatos. I never tasted the sweetness in gorgonzola dolce until I had this pizza, it was addictive. I wanted to shove my face in the whole thing but it didn't seem polite so I held back, sort of.
5. You tell me! Where do you like to eat in LA? What do I HAVE to eat next time I there? I mean in addition to the places that I already ate...
My time with Antoine didn't seem too promising in the first few minutes. He seemed to be of the polite yet detached variety drivers. A tall, handsome, middle-aged black man in a well-pressed suit he was a Baltimore native and a town car driver, in short a super-professional: the sort that answer your questions without encouraging further chat. Usually it’s my goal to have a driver become my best friend during the 15-minute drive to the airport but after having battled a wicked and plague of a cold for the past few days I wasn't really up to the task of employing my usual taxi-driver/friend-hostage tactics. I figured Antoine and I would have to settle for a normal client/driver relationship. I settled into my seat and prayed that he would take a break from texting to pay attention to driving me safely.
Then unexpectedly Antoine took ME hostage! “Why are people always trying to sell me fragrances?” he asked me apropos of nothing. “I have so many fragrances. More than 100 and people just keep trying to sell them to me like I don’t already own them!”
I mean, obviously that’s what he said. Who wouldn't start a conversation like that?
I never did ask Antoine about who these neanderthals were who kept insisting he buy fragrances, but wow, did I learn a lot about Antoine’s love for them including how many he owned (more than 100), why he was so into them (an old girlfriend felt insisted on a strict shower than fragrance schedule) and what his favorites were “Christian Dior and Creed”.
The conversation was very weird, I mean, I kept wanting to say, “Why the heck do you keep saying fragrances instead of cologne?” but instead I fed the fire, nodding appropriately and saying, “Wow, it sounds like you really love fragrances” at the appropriate moments in the conversation.
Then alarmingly he thrust his cell phone at me! “See I don’t need more fragrances.”
People, Antoine had what appeared to be a three level bar cart full of cologne bottles. And he had taken a picture of it to show people. “Antoine you weren't kidding!” I exclaimed.
“I know” he said, equally enthusiastic. “I have a lot of fragrances.”
I can’t tell you how it cheers me to know that there are so many wonderful weirdos in the world, and even better that some of that have at their disposal 100 fragrances to fill your world.