Thursday, August 26, 2004

Got up early in Gainsville, ready to make the drive to Orlando to see Johanna (from 2002 South America trip) and catch my flight to Houston. I was very excited to see Johanna (for many reasons) but alas, it wasn't meant to be...she had a conflict with work and couldn't make it. Dave dropped me off at the airport and I was officially on my way back to H-town.

I can't stop saying this, but it just amazes me how nice and clean everything is here. The Orlando airport was really nice, although I think they just remodeled a lot of it. One nice thing of note was being in the magazine shop and seeing all the magazines in English. It seems like a stupid thing to mention, but it did stick out in my mind...I guess because it's one of those everyday background things that you don't think much about until it changes. I picked up a Maxim (alright, I have trashy mags again!) for a whopping 5 dollars and sat down to enjoy some mindless reading.

The flight to Houston went without incident and I arrived just before 7. Tony picked me up...the first time we had seen each other since October of 2002 since he went to Spain. It didn't seem like so much time had passed, but it was good to see my friend again. We went to the Vaca's apartment as she had decided to prepare dinner for us. It was also good to see her again. (quick background: I met Erika in July of 2002...she's from Colombia and at the time had only been in Houston for a short time. Shortly after that she and Tony began dating)

They had some pretty shocking news for me...on Monday they had gotten MARRIED!!! It is just as shocking as it sounds...I mean, we are talking about one of my best friends here. Neither of them had mentioned anything to me and I wasn't sure what to say or feel. I guess my initial feeling (besides being shocked) was that I was a little offended that they didn't wait for me or tell me about it beforehand. Tony and I are pretty close for it not to be something we discussed ahead of time, and I especially would have liked to be present. Now, they only did a civil wedding, with no ceremony, and that is the reason they made no big production of it (they plan to do that in Bogota next year) but I still would have liked to be part of it...not only because Tony and I are great friends, but so are Erika and I...PLUS I was the one who introduced them. Anyway, I imagine many other friends of theirs might have the same feeling.

So as if the fact that they had gotten married wasn't enough, that wasn't the only piece of news...and the other was pretty guessable...Erika is pregnant. Obviously their getting married had something to do with the pregnancy (although it’s a bit more complicated than it seems on the surface)...which I think is sort of makes talking about everything a little difficult, but those are the facts.

It was weird for me to see my friend in such a different light suddenly...married and about to have a child. I guess that out of all my friends, Tony seemed to be one person who I didn't see as ready to move on to the next level just yet. Of course, I haven't seen him for almost 2 years and a lot can change, but we still talked quite often...I just didn't see it coming. Over the next several days we talked about the whole thing pretty extensively. I guess I was wondering most if he was afraid...I mean, I certainly would be. But I remember he told me that he felt like he was ready. I think that's great. I have to say though, at times during the 5 days I was there, it did seem like he was ready...but at other times it didn't. Maybe he's not even sure himself...I mean, a LOT of things are about to change for him. I guess that it probably will take some time to adjust...but who can ever really be completely prepared for those aspects of life...becoming a father and suddenly having a family. It is a lot to take on.

We left the Vaca’s and headed for Beso, (where we were supposed to be meeting up with everyone), but made a pit stop to see my friend Kim who is a bartender at a place called Berryhill. Kim used to work at La Strada (that’s where we met) and actually has an interesting story from the past couple years. She left Houston back in early 2003 to go work on a cruiseship in the Carribean (something I have considered doing). She said it wasn’t as glamorous as it might seem and after four months she couldn’t take it anymore. After that she ended up running a bar in Key West for several months...but said it wasn’t her thing and decided to come back to Houston. I guess it was a cool little story to hear about...her tale was not much unlike my own, except she stayed a little closer to home. I think it’s great what she did though.

Anyway, we finally made it to “Beso” around 9. There were only a couple people there early on but I ended up seeing a TON of people. Good lord, I forgot how many super hot friends I have in Houston! It was hard to get a chance to talk to everyone but atleast I got to see them and it was a very good time. We ended up doing a little bar hopping...man, how Houston has changed. We went to four different bars that night...and I had never heard of ANY of them. The night ended in a solid H-town tradition though...Anthony, Tony and I all went to Mai’s for a bite. It’s good to be back in H-town.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Somehow I let Tony convince me to get up early to go biking in Smythville (an hour and a half away, near Austin). It took us awhile to get everything together, but we finally hit the road around 10 or so. We finally got there at almost noon. The trail head is basically in the middle of nowhere and there is nothing around except for this small saloon that also serves food. We went in the place to pay for using the trails, passing by a few people who were there eating lunch. On the way out, I look over at one of the tables and it turns out to be this girl I KNOW from BCM...Ashby. Of all the craziest places to run into someone I know on my FIRST FULL DAY back in Houston, this had to be number one! It was cool to see her again...turned out she was doing a post-doc near there.

Anyway, soon after that strange encounter, Tony and I hit the trails. Now, I was considerably worried seeing as I’m not in the greatest shape these days (not that I ever have been anywhere in the shape that Tony is) and I didn’t want to slow us down too much. Anyway, it was pretty tough going but I was doing okay early on...but I quickly became pretty winded and the hot sun wasn’t helping either. During one of the breaks we took something strange happened...I suddenly began to feel faint and I lost control of my motor skills...I couldn’t control my tongue to speak. It was extremely scary as soon after I lost my ability to grasp...I was pretty terrified. I thought I was going to pass out for sure...and not wake up. We were pretty deep in the woods at the time and VERY far from any sort of help. I had many thoughts running through my mind at the time...but very close to the top of the list was...”thank god I went on my trip and that I’ve done everything I ever I’ve wanted to do with my life to this point.” I was THAT scared and it was coming to having “those thoughts”. Luckily it passed after about 15 minutes or so...but we decided to head back out of the trails.

We ended up making it back to Houston without too much trouble and I didn’t have anymore incidents. We took some naps and ordered up my first “American” pizza! It was nice to have a pizza that actually had sauce and cheese on it. That night we went to this new place in midtown called “Red Door”. A very cool bar with an open air upper deck where we hung out most of the night. A big highlight was that I got to see my friend Rene, who was only back in Texas for his bachelor party (he’s getting married in October). We’ll probably never be living in the same city at the same time ever again so it was cool that we were both back in Houston at the same time.

That night Tony took off a little early and I stayed at the bar until close...which was a PAINFULLY early 2:00 a.m. This is going to take some serious adjustment...I mean, I couldn’t have been more fired up and it was already time to leave. Through a pretty random sequence of events, I ended up bringing three people back to Tony’s place to keep the party going. There was a pretty hot girl from Monterrey (that’s an oxymoron) but she ended up getting to drunk so her friend took her home. Fun night with a strange ending...looks like my life hasn’t changed much!

Saturday, August 28, 2004

We had planned to have a pool party on this day but it ended up pouring down rain all day, which sort of washed things out. We still went over to Crable’s place anyway, and had beers all day under the covered area by the pool. Only a few people showed up but it was still fun. There was actually another group of people having a party there for a birthday...and one of the guys had been to BUZIOS!! That was VERY weird because an unbelievably small number of people in this country have even heard of the place. Anyway, it was good to talk Brazil with him and his friend, but unfortunately their scope of Brazil was limited to Rio and the surrounding areas. Atleast they had Buzios...and they appreciated how great it is there. I’m sure I’ll get back there next summer.

Something worth mentioning...my friend Carol had come over to talk with me about really taking the plunge and doing something similar to what I did. She’s a French girl who is an elementary school teacher in Houston...which certainly makes her situation a bit different from mine when considering Visas and coming back to the US. It seemed to be the major thing holding her back from going for it...certainly understandable. I guess anyone who decides to leave their life behind and go traveling is forced to make difficult choices but from my experience, I can say that it’s certainly worth it...if that is what your heart is telling you to do. I’m a firm believer that things seem to work out if you put faith in yourself, but the hard part is trusting that. She makes it...I can see the traveling bug burning strong in her. Whatever happens, I’ll support her but I bring this up because I spent a lot of time over the past year with people who faced similar road blocks...but since I was already on the road and so were they, it was obvious that they had done it. This was the first time in a long time that I was talking to someone who still hadn’t made the leap...and I was reminded for the first time since I’ve been back of how the views of people here in this country (whether they are from here or not) differ from the world I was in for so long. I’m not saying one way is more right or wrong...in fact, I probably had fallen too far into the “travel or die” mentality that consumes you when you are out there. I guess I was pulled back down to earth a little after my talk with her and it made me think a lot about how being back here will affect me.

That night, I finally got to see Sunny for the first time which was great. I also got to meet his girlfriend Christy, which was really important because we had talked a lot about that relationship when he was in Brazil during Carnaval. At the time they had broken up and I could see it was tough for him...so it was great to see him happy and meet the woman who has taken his heart.

Sunny and I met up with Kalpesh that night and went out in Midtown and ended up in a random after hours place...atleast we found a place to go after 2:00!!!

The rest of my Houston visit was fun...but in hindsight was far too short. I did go to La Strada that Sunday, but it was a far cry from what it used to be. Neal and I spent a lot of time together over my days in Houston, which was also a great highlight. I also hung out with Mo (great giver of the keychain flashlight I mentioned in several journals) a couple nights. He’s still in grad school at BCM and just like just about everyone else I know can’t wait to get out of there. Makes you think...alas, that is a topic for another journal. Speaking of BCM, I did get a chance to go there but unfortunately I had to get a flight that same day and was VERY hurried and didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to. I probably should have spent another week in Houston...but my time to see people while I’m back is seriously constrained by the fact that I have no job at the moment. I need to get to Boston and find a job quickly. Houston still treated me great though, and of course will always hold a special place for me. Don’t cry for my Houston...I’ll be back...

AC

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