We started our luna de miel with a missed connection in Atlanta. There were tears–there were many tears. But they dried when the dude at Delta’s customer service counter upgraded our seats to First Class on the last flight of the day leaving for San Jose, Costa Rica. The subsequent eight-hour layover resulted in our first Atlanta 12-step meeting. My husband insisted on getting a good start on our photo-journalism tour of Central America with an airport picture for posterity:
We made it to San Jose in roughly five hours. The internet did not come with us. Though Waze was available every now and again, we felt supremely confident that we could mesh our Rosetta Stone and Kitchen Spanish-speaking skills to ask for directions if we needed them–WHEN we needed them. I’ll spare you the details of our trip from Hertz rental cars to the phantom toll booth peaje de fantasma where we were forced to drive backward on a one-way highway. I don’t know why I didn’t hit “avoid tolls” on Waze, because here in Los Estados Unidos, I firmly believe highway tolls are unconstitutional. I refuse to pay them in dollars or colones. My stubborn streak forced us to learn the word and deeper meaning of “change” in Spanish: cambio. We had to, considering we only had a $100 bill to pay a $2 toll. Lady Luck would have come to visit the teller if we chose to surrender to our own ignorance.
The policia took pity on us, too. Our language barrier resulted in a telephone call to the b&b bungalow we reserved for the night. Two ex pats from Germany–a retired couple–answered the call in sleepy tones, asking if it was John on the line. The officers thought this whole thing was hilarious, but neither we nor the Germans found a phone call from the police in the middle of the night amusing. We followed the police van for a few minutes through Altenas, arriving at Apartmentos Altenas. The couple showed us to our bungalow, all the while explaining our late-night intrusion gave them no time to prepare for us as they typically would have. All things considered, it was perfect.
When I asked the husband proprietor how long he and his bride have been married, he replied, “150 years.” I knew right then that my being a directionless wonder, leading my new husband down one-way highways to avoid tolls at all costs, got us exactly where we needed to be. This humble and intelligent couple not only cooked us desayuno the next morning, they told us all about their journey from Germany to Costa Rica while giving us a tour of the property. They showed us this elaborate garden with a homemade irrigation/mini-drip mechanism, where they grew vegetables alongside exotic herbs. The only word I remembered was Bohnenkraut, meaning Summer Savory. Smells like oregano, taste bitter like something else (I’m not the cook here, John is). Evidently it’s a German must-have, akin to cilantro for Costa Rica. An herb I despise but also wish I loved because IT IS IN MF EVERYTHING.
We were sad to say goodbye to this place. But we had three-point-something hours more to drive through weaving mountain roads with the ever-present possibility of mudslides and/or detours. Not to mention the abundance of stray dogs who don’t seem to mind oncoming traffic. We learned the hard way that stopping for puppies is not welcomed, though hazard lights are; that motorcyclists care little for their own safety or for ours.
The best part of our trip was the free coffee with a view. Another impossibly generous couple offered us coffee and dulce de leche on a mountaintop perch. We literally sat with our heads in the clouds watching the winds take shape … bosque nuboso.
Our first resort stay was one of the prettiest and loneliest places I’ve ever visited. We stayed at El Establo, where the Pizotes outnumbered humans 2:1. The Hydrangeas everywhere balanced the flora and fauna considerably, though.
Monteverde, turns out, is a city/town/province that is enormously influenced by Quakers. We were psyched to know this mini-colony has a Friends Meeting House. Too bad we showed up for a scheduled meeting that Wednesday to an empty wooden play house. Empty of 12-steppers, that is. We read to each other from the literature out loud while two actors practiced stage direction and lighting for an upcoming Halloween-themed production. It was weird, but it was enough to keep us sober and pleasant enough.
The Monteverde leg of our trip was designed for us to “explore” the area. We got lost a lot. That’s what helped us transmute our sense of panic and doom to wanderlust and an electrical humility. John drove us using 4-wheel drive down and up every calle. The roads were rife with pendejos, but the locals were incredibly gracious and warm. We ate olla de carne and casado at places like Sabor Tico and Tico y Rico; drank coffee at Cafe Besos, Stella’s Bakery and Choco Cafe. The air smelled like chocolate and coffee. The rain was barely chilly or obstructive. The nights were clear and quiet. We may have stumbled over our spanish words a bit, but the locals continued to speak to us in the most charming and calming way. Not much was lost in translation.
There were many frijoles, but not much touristy activity on our part. If one more effing person asked us if we were going zip lining, puede haber perdido mi mierda. We opted for hiking at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, instead.
I think our hike(s) amounted to about five miles. At one point, we paused to take a picture of this giant tree that seemed to sneeze out a glorious flurry of butterflies. Seeing sanctuaries for all of the mariposas made me remember the nickname one of the cooks at my old restaurant job gave to me, mariposa traicionera, roughly translated as “treacherous butterfly.” I still am not sure what to make of that one. Alas, the hike was brilliant.
So brilliant by design, this hike was, that we ended it at the mouth of las cascadas.
There were besos–there were many besos.
But as is our way, the fun didn’t stop at the cascades. There would be more driving. Lots more driving.
We spent four nights at El Establo, with awesome service and spotty internet. The channels were all in spanish, so we did our best to reckon with Netflix, taking it as an opportunity to watch Mindhunters (give the series a chance, it gets really good midway through the first season).
We off-roaded for our third hours-long trip, heading toward Guanacaste. The rain never stopped falling because we were in the rainy season for the region, but we kind of enjoyed it. Never were there more appropriate circumstances than these to continuously hum “I’m Only Happy When it Rains,” by Garbage. And we got miserably lost, this time to an excellent soundtrack. We anticipated no connection while driving, so I downloaded one of my favorites, The President’s Summer Playlist 2016 (PRESIDENT OBAMA IS THE ONLY PRESIDENT FROM WHOM I’D TAKE MUSICAL RECOMMENDATIONS). We stopped to ask for help reading un mapa, got some fried pork rinds and unwittingly used someone’s home toilet, mistaking their storefront for a tienda rather than a casa.We took the Pan American Highway/Route 1, where instead of stopping for stray dogs, we were halted by giant livestock.
This leg of our journey marked the first time we truly stopped taking ourselves so seriously. Up until this point, we were so wrecked from all of the travel and lost-ness. It felt wonderful to laugh at how clueless we are as a unit. We solidified what I so lovingly refer to as our travel trauma bond. In spite of the chaos that unrelentingly ratcheted up our stress levels, we have never been more kind to each other throughout our entire relationship. If we got nothing else out of our honeymoon, that alone would have been worth it.
But we did. We got massages, aromatherapy, home-cooked meals, enormous surf at la playa El Jobo, poolside beds and coconut virgin daiquiris. We felt like royals at Dreams Las Mareas. That ish was fancy.
We arrived at night, skidding into the parking lot breathless from the insane roads and parrots in our periphery. The staff greeted us with two full champagne glasses, which we promptly insisted they (kindly) get the fuck out of our faces. They didn’t really understand, and we didn’t need them to. We simply can’t afford that kind of luxury.
We ate seafood, steaks, salads and plantains aplenty. The fruit at breakfast was unlike anything I’d ever seen or tasted. There were tourists from all walks of life on their honey moons, birthday vacations and retirement trips. We felt happy, but the continuous service and attention felt uncomfortable. Not too uncomfortable, as we stayed for three nights, walking the grounds for hours and returning to our suite each night to wear our swanky plush bathrobes. We ordered room service and watched the ID channel in English. There simply is nothing better. We gifted the room service guy with our free bottle of wine. We spent too much money on getting our clothes laundered and we used the balcony Jacuzzi, but not before we thought we broke it. This was opulence at its finest.
We ended our stay with the gift of a gorgeous sunset. The next day, we schlepped through our final road trip. When we arrived at Liberia airport, I realized we left all of the beautiful souvenirs purchased at Don Juan coffee/chocolate tours in the trunk of our Kia rental. THERE WERE TEARS. Those tears quickly turned to anger then defeat. We hugged each other, then shut up. There was nothing more we could do to change the situation while lining up in zone 2 to board our plane. I cried and prayed until we were seated then greeted with Starbuck’s coffee on the flight. It’s like they knew what would settle me down.
Our trip to Costa Rica changed me. I am a little less fearful, and a little more willing to trust the person I am. My husband was the real MVP of the trip, thank god. If you’ve made it this far through the blog post, you’re probably almost as exhausted (if not more) than we were when we arrived home this past Monday. Thank you for reading. There is more to come, there always is.
Do you ever get that feeling that your dreams are there simply to remind you of who you are not? I do. Almost every night. For instance, when I dream that I am back in high school and on the verge of falling off of bleachers that turn into cliffs over top a New Zealand seascape, I know that I am A) well-past high school age, B) that I have never really had a huge fear of heights and C) I have only ever traveled to three different countries outside of the U.S., none of which was New Zealand. But then there is that suspicion that I am not unlike an insecure adolescent who fears yet another “jumping-off point” in my life. Anxiety haunts me in my waking hours as well as my slumber. OH, good.
There is this news, though: The Wedding Dress was Won. I found it, and then some. It took about 10 minutes after posting my blog when I walked into The Oak and discovered my dress in a lacy display of Fuck Yes. I basically live-Facebook-commented with some newly-married friends as I tried on the dress clearly meant for me. One more item checked off The List.
Back to those dreams, though. I posted this on April 7th:
Last night I dreamt that I pulled out all of my teeth while I sat on a dentist’s chair. Then I sobbed and begged for this lady dentist to give me false teeth, so she did and I was dissatisfied. Then the other dentist dude refused to make my teeth real and he turned out to be a pervert. So naturally I performed on stage in the scene from The Bodyguard with no teeth.
What if our literal dreams were actual reality? It would be madness. I’d be a toothless pop star, a would-be murder victim with a deadly fear of heights, a lesbian lover with Lady Gaga and an active alcoholic who cheats on her husband. One of these is not like the other.
In October, I will be married ::inshallah:: In one million years +, I never dreamed that could happen for me. I never dreamed it, because I never acted as if I wanted to be married. I did what it took to work this time–it will be different this time. I desperately wanted a relationship from the time I was 14/15 to my late twenties, never coming close to achieving it. Notice how I used the word “achieve.” It was something else to check off The List. I had no earthly idea what it takes to be in a loving, committed relationship. That is, if you exclude my devotion and heartache relegated only to King Alcohol. In a twisted way, drinking alcohol gave me a free pass to avoid dreaming and having nightmares–I simply passed out.
Dreaming tends to cause me heartache. For the most part, I dream about relapsing (why don’t we use “nightmare” as a verb? Like, “I nightmared about my test last night.”) Every so often, I dream of my dad. One scenario that stands out the most is when I saw him appear at the house where we grew up. He was in front of the garage puttering with some plants. He stood up to say “hi” to me, then he slowly vanished before my eyes. I woke up crying and sweating. It felt comforting to see him, but the reminder ended up costing me more than a little joy. I think I dreamt/nightmared on that one.
For me, dreaming is lying. I far prefer my associations with waking hours (when I can, at the very least, choose my own lies!). Maybe that’s why I stay true to being a night owl. But now I am sober, which means I am breathing and walking among The Living. I need sleep like the rest of us. We all know that sleep-deprivation can cause poor health, bad choices and in extreme cases, hallucinations. When I first got sober, sleep deprivation caused sleep paralysis, something you should definitely read up on (maybe when it’s light out). There is a bugged out documentary on Netflix about the phenomenon. Mine happened when I lived in my gorgeous apartment in LA that I have definitely not stopped thinking about (nether the experience nor the apartment itself, it was beautiful). I was meditating while slowly drifting off to sleep. Above my head hung the best nightlight I’ve ever had. My neighbor, Annie, gifted me with a handmade chandelier, made of woven sticks of wood, lace and twinkling lights.
Beside it, ironically, was a dream catcher. I remember feeling comfort and peace as I lay in half-sleep. My eyes fluttered, then I felt something like human hands shove me. My entire body jolted forward. I tried to get up to see who was in my room, but I could not move. I lay there panting silently, trying not to make any noise. A few seconds passed, and I realized I was not dreaming, not at all. Something pushed me because I felt its hands between my shoulder blades. I then felt what I can only describe as someone’s lips press against my back. Then it started sucking in air. GROSS. I felt in that moment I might die at an intruder’s hands. For an instant, I stayed stuck. But I summoned up courage and jumped out of my bed. When I turned around, no one was there.
I later investigated this experience with my friend, Monty. He told me it might be incubus. I swore I was awake when this happened, but apparently I was only dreaming. In my life at that point, there wasn’t much difference between wake and sleep. My life was a waking nightmare and my dreams were an exhaustive necessity.
But today I feel the difference. I guess you could say that my dreams, nightmares, waking experience and ambitions don’t blur so easily these days. I don’t fear sleep because I want to wake up in the morning. I don’t fear waking because I want to be alive. I don’t fear who I lie next to because I know he’s the same man (whose name I actually know). Mostly, I don’t fear who I am, albeit she does confuse me sometimes.
There is nothing I hate more than trying on wedding dresses. And for my faithful readers, I will cut right to the chase as to why that is.
Ten Things I Hate About Wedding Dresses, The Musical (I also hate musicals)
I am a different size for LITERALLY EVERY STYLE / MAKE / MODEL OF DRESS.
The internet is a giant rabbit hole for wedding looks, i.e., Modcloth, JCrew, Pinterest, Wedding Wire, The Knot, etc., into which I’ve fallen for hours and hours.
One look at a dress and I’ve decided this HAS to be the one. Has to be. (It’s not.)
It’s almost June and I cannot stop sweating enough to zipper / button / clasp a dress.
Wedding dress material is extremely uncomfortable and impractical.
Nearly every dress I’ve tried on, on-site, requires alterations.
Alterations, I’ve discovered, cost almost as much as the dress itself (sometimes more).
Every single person has a differing opinion about what is flattering on me and what is not. By every single person, I mostly mean me.
My shoes are the only thing I have ever cared about getting right about the outfit.
The term ‘bridezilla’ actually exists, which describes me the second I walk into David’s Bridal–but only because I want to burn it to the ground in a taffeta blaze of glory.
Now I realize, dear friends, that wedding-dress shopping is most definitely a thing. Otherwise, why would there be several shows about The Quest for the Dress that most women I know watch with rapt attention? It’s an event, a group excursion. Except everyone is tired and I am fickle. Not to mention my attention span is short for shopping as-is. I just dislike any kind of shopping that is not for gifts, jewelry, perfume or books, and all of those I can get online.
Which brings me to my most favorite part of this post: photos. Lest I invite some weird curse for being seen in a white dress before the wedding, I will attempt to fly in the face of my own superstitions. Below, I have compiled a few of my favorite dress failures for your viewing pleasure. And without further ado, here are the dresses I said ‘no’ to (just not to their faces):
The Sponsor’s Dress.
This one gets me. In my high school, traditions were big. One of those traditions was to get young girls in white dresses to parade around in a cotillion-like ritual with guys and their ROTC companies. The irony is not lost on me that as a “sponsor” to my guy’s company–baking cookies and pretending to care about their chauvinistic rituals–I would actually be foreshadowing my role as a real-life sponsor to women in my 12-step program. In a panic recently, I decided to try on this dress to a). see if it still fit and b). attempt to lock down a dress without having to put forth any effort. Shit didn’t fly.
2. The ModCloth Dress
I don’t even know with this one. Even though I exchanged it for a size up, this shit just did not feel good on. Also, it felt juvenile. And the need to get a bigger size launched into effect an ego-feeding frenzy until I finally stopped trying to squeeze into the tinier version.
3. The Mommy Dress.
Because I am a sucker for nostalgia, I tried so hard to want to wear this dress. Alas, the 80’s have come and gone. I cannot wear this in good faith to fashion.
4. The $20 Dress.
I mean, it was $20.
5. The Random, Unplanned Bridal Store Drop-in Dress.
I drove around town with my mom in a fit of willingness/inspiration, which almost never happens. We stopped at a bridal store in Chester, VA, where I tried on dresses in front of someone else’s family. They oo’ed and aww’ed.
When my mom snapped this first photo, I was literally in the midst of saying, “fuck this.”
I guess the answer to this dress saga will eventually be solved. If it doesn’t happen soon, I will choose a white bathing suit and proceed with a mixture of false confidence and madness.
Needless to say, I give a resounding NO to all of the above atrocities.
More to come,
P.S. Please Google “ugly wedding dresses” immediately. You won’t be sorry you did.