Friday, February 17, 2006
This is a story that must be told. For those who don't know, I tend to have an active imagination. When it comes to situational events, such as my 30th bday, I get into my head and create an intricate (and often lavish) story for how I'd like to see the event go. Typically, I'm way off and things don't get nearly as silly as I imagine. This time, however, the night (both of them) went pretty much how I'd envisioned and hoped.
To start off with, a few of my friends expressed surprise and a bit of dismay that I would decide to go off by myself, planning to celebrate my 30th birthday all alone in a foreign country. My thinking was that I wanted to make this bday memorable. Not that my past birthdays haven't been fun, but I wanted more of a story than a party or a night in a bar. And if I ended up celebrating it by myself, so be it.
That said, let's get to the telling. For the record, I don't plan on embellishing this story at all. I don't think it's necessary (that means the following account is all-true. At least as true as the Cano Blanco allows me to remember it).
A short set-up is necessary. While in the capital city of said country, I was sitting in one of the plazas writing in my journal and watching the scene. Two girls ended up sitting down next to me on the steps of the church and I noticed that they were speaking English. Obviously, I struck up a conversation with them and found out that they hailed from Scotland. No names were exchanged and we didn't talk all that long but an impression was made. A couple days later, half way across the country, they recognized me sitting by myself in another plaza and we got to talking again. This was 2 days before my birthday.
Now this plaza was the scene of much chaos and revelry. Live bands played nightly and it seemed as though all the tourists and locals gathered here to drink and dance and have a good time. There was a series of steps leading up to a large terrace (for lack of a better word) where a band was set up on one end, many tables and chairs sat in the middle and a bar was situated at the other end. Another series of steps led up to another landing (people sat all over these steps. They became like stadium seating at night) with another bar and more tables and chairs. I was at this top landing the night before my birthday, writing in my journal and watching the scene from on high. The girls showed up and I moved over to join them.
For those who have never traveled alone, I’ll fill you in a little bit. If you are shy and don’t try to talk to random people, you will spend your time talking to yourself and going slowly insane. Therefore, finding ways to strike up conversations with random people gets easier and easier (I think) as time goes on. Being low on shyness, it was not very hard for me to work into the conversation my impending birthday and the age I would be acquiring. They girls got much excited and as soon as midnight hit they started buying me drinks. Hearing the cause celebre, many people (mainly the guys who kept stopping by the table in an attempt to bed the girls) joined in. I was regaled with birthday wishes and much rum was shared (many Cubans carry around their own bottle of rum and a plastic cup. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper than buying drinks when out at places). It was a fun night to say the least. It went late into the night (2amish), which was only bad because I had to wake up the old guy with whom I was staying in order to be let into the house. I felt sheepish to say the least.
The following day was a good day (I allowed myself to eat multiple meals!), and very interesting (a bit too serious for this post), but I’ll skip ahead to the evenings festivities.
My intention was to make it an earlyish night as the night before had been late and excitement-filled, and I didn’t want to be a total pest to my host. Famous last words, I know.
By the time I returned to the party area, ready to ‘party’, it was after 9pm. I was a bit sluggish and sat on the steps/seats with my beer taking in the music (a large crowd had not yet gathered). My friends (K and A) arrived, hugs were administered, and additional adult beverages were purchased. As the girls were dressed nicely (I was not. Although I did have on clean underwear and my cleanest shirt!) we opted to sit at a table and not on the stairs. The only available table was right in front of the band. Knowing the dangers inherent in a table such as this, we sat down anyway. Before long, it started. A was the first to be dragged onto the floor to attempt salsa dancing. K was next. I sat and giggled all the while. There was a very very cute older couple dancing away in front of us. You could tell that they were very much in love, and couldn’t have been happier out there dancing away. Awesome to watch. It was this couple that began my woes. After we’d been sitting a while, cheering them on, the female half of the couple shimmied up to me and stuck out her hands, requesting a dance.
Now for those who know me, dancing is not my forte or something I particularly relish doing. But how could I say no to this lady? Up I went. My performance was atrocious but at least I didn’t clomp on her feet. (That night A, who was my life coach for the night, told me that perhaps this is my decade for dancing. Perhaps it is indeed)
As the night went on, I felt as though I was in a Jack Kerouac book. Have you read any of his passages about bopping around jazz joints and running around, conversations on all sides, hilarity and chaos, the craziness and hecticness of it all? That’s how this felt. The band was rocking; swarms of people were spinning and flying around the dance floor performing amazing salsa moves; the crowds were getting into the music and clapping and singing along; the beer and rum were flowing. We made new friends with an older couple and shared stories and rum and everything with them as they did everything they could to get me and K to hook up (they physically pushed our hips together to get us to grind while dancing) and wanted us to come back in the morning with 4 babies on the way…. It was insane and amazing.
It’s hard to even describe the scene in adequate detail. When we left, I felt as though we’d been literally spun out of the insanity to find ourselves down the street, panting from the melee.
During the night, a really big guy was trying his darndest to get into A’s pants, and she requested that I play her boyfriend to deter the advances. It would have worked better had he not thought me a liar. As he furiously went away, our new friend (a cop, it turns out) told us to be careful, that this guy was not exactly safe. And that none of us should walk home alone. Of course right after that he told us not to worry about anything. Not exactly reassuring. So I walked the girls home, my 2 girlfriends for the night, and as soon as they were inside I made my way home (around 2am by this time) and woke up my host and passed out.
It was a crazy and amazing night, and I couldn’t be happier that that was how I passed into a new decade in life. There was only one part of the night that did not go as I had hoped-I ended up passing out and waking up in my bed, all alone. Awww! I know, feel bad for me. Not everything can be perfect, ya know?
I wonder what I’ll do for my 40th bday….