Los Recién Casados (The Honeymooners)

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:

Corn on the ceiling
I don’t get it. Was the peach bad company?

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.

Apartamentos Atenas

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 Bohnenkrautmeaning 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.

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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.

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PerchedOur 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.

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Pizote

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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. CR39

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.

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So brilliant by design, this hike was, that we ended it at the mouth of las cascadas.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Pura Vida,

The Honeymooners

xx

 

 

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To LA, With Love

I am three weeks into my personal odyssey and I am already itching to come home. I miss you, Los Angeles! The entire point of me being in Virginia is to exhume my finances in order to address them, while also seeking therapy for the shoddy status of my alcoholic brain. I know these things to be true, yet I “forget” them on a second-by-second basis. The God’s-honest truth is that this transition has me feeling like a newcomer again.

It isn’t easy being an adult in my childhood home. All amends have been made, so my mother and I are left with each other as our new and improved selves. My mother is retired, working here or there on freelance writing gigs. I am also writing at home, which makes for an odd pairing. Coffee percolates constantly around here, as do our tempers. The internet goes down every five to 10 minutes, depending on the weather and/or our moods. (Bite me, Verizon internet services). It rains and thunders every other day; our temperaments follow a similar pattern. My mother and I are essentially the same person a few decades apart. I have been living alone in my own dorm rooms, studios and one-bedroom apartments for 12 years. My mother has lived alone in our house for almost that exact amount of time. Naturally, we each have our own ideas about what domestic life looks like for us. I benefit from her practice of self-care, including home-cooked meals, decent bed times and frequent walks around the neighborhood. I broke my habit of LA breakfasts consisting of gummy bears and cold brew coffee in exchange for freshly-made egg, tomato and avocado sandwiches. I am tickled to see that I can learn how to take care of myself from the mother I once pushed away. I have much to learn, Mama-san.

Yet, I pine for the mean streets of LA. I am used to cars whizzing by at all hours of the day and night, interrupting my train of thought. I miss wildly gesticulating when all of those cars don’t yield to pedestrians like me. I got spoiled by the balmy 70-degree temperatures (with the largely overrated 100 million degree summer heat). I long for the mobility I had with Uber at my beck and call. I took for granted the extensive meeting roster, totaling about 3,000 meetings daily in the city. The meetings out here are rife with wisdom and old age, though I am the youngest member of every group by at least 20 years. On my way home from a meeting two days ago, we passed by a duck-crossing sign in Hopewell. The most exciting thing next to that were train tracks. Toto, I don’t think we are in Africa anymore.

My financial ducks are in a row, but not enough to cross any kind of stable road. All signs lead to recovery, though. I live in my mom’s house rent-free. I pay my way by cooking every now and again, washing dishes and trying to corral my petulance. I hold out hope that I will be self-supporting soon enough to return to my friends, my boyfriend and all the trendies on Sunset Boulevard. I see my new therapist this coming Monday for two hours of self-referencing bullshit—at least my mom won’t have to hear it anymore. I’ve made calls to a couple of AA women for some awkward chit chat. I will see my family and friends from VA Beach, Richmond and DC in the next couple of weeks. The scales are tipping in my favor.

I’ve got love for you, Petersburg, don’t get me wrong. But I have several reserves of love stored up for my main hang, LA. So take it easy, babe…I’m comin for ya.

Photo courtesy of la.curbed.com

Virginia and California: My Star-Crossed Lovers

I am awaiting my flight to Vegas on a layover in the heavily populated Phoenix airport. In an attempt to be thrifty, I am hopping three flights to get to Philly where my sister and brother in law live. A man just sat down next to me talking all kinds of smack to himself. He belches a lot. I felt inspired by his crudeness which is why I am writing at this moment. Thanks, you daft random man.

I left California today for Virginia. I said that like I am cheating on the place I love more than anything in the world. There was a time when my code of conduct on travel included bridges of some sort being burned before I left. When faced with my inadequacies at any given place, I sprinted to the next best destination for an easier route. (Update: the belching king is back and someone named Tom Jones keeps ignoring his name blared over the loudspeaker. Maybe his own music would persuade him to make his flight on time). I chose to revisit Virginia for reasons completely foreign to me, none resembling the abandonment I am adept at inflicting. Thanks to my family, I saw a tiny window of opportunity to save my spirit once again. If sobriety has taught me anything worthwhile at all, it’s that rigorous honesty with self and surrender to reality are non-negotiables.

I have struggled for eight months to tread the tepid waters of brokeness in LA. With as much faith and support as a person could ever hope to receive, I met every financial setback with unyielding strength and encouragement from my friends. Our program tells us we will surely meet each other as we “trudge the road of happy destiny.” With a bit of sadness in my heart, I finally had to concede that a disproportionate amount of trudging has been the norm for a little too long. The happy comes in fits and spurts, thanks to my friends and their genius sense of humor. It’s time for me to achieve a balance and to reset.

I haven’t seen my family since I’ve gotten sober. And I couldn’t be more excited to be with them. For once, I am going toward something, rather than running away. I found my home in California, but it’s time for some southern charm. I will only be gone for a couple of months, but it already feels like an eternity has passed. Forgive my dramatic attitude; I enjoy airport histrionics, it’s kind of my thing.

I am freshly tattooed with Bowie’s likeness on my arm, so at least I can bring some LA flare to the Commenwealth. This trip, like everything else, is temporary. I pray to be of service to new AAers in VA. I will miss Los Angeles more than any place I’ve left because it is where I discovered my sobriety. I guess now is as good a time as any to exercise the 12 steps in even more dynamic ways.

Until next time,

Lucy