The day Big Papi called me ‘Mami’

Tonight Boston said goodbye to one of the greatest to ever don the Red Sox uniform. David Ortiz wasn’t just a fearsome presence at the plate; he was a guy whose love of the game seemed to envelope everyone around him. He played with a passion and sense of humor you felt in the stands, and an enormity of talent that made the seemingly impossible real time and again.

And once about 10 years ago, Big Papi did something else amazing: He called me “Mami”.

We were eight hours into an interminable commercial shoot for Vitamin Water starring Ortiz and former Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher.

Perhaps you’ve seen the ad. In it, the two men are playing on a doubles badminton team presumably in the championship of a tournament in Hong Kong. It’s match point. The crowd is going crazy. Somewhere up in the rafters safely out of the shot, my dad and I are yelling and clapping on command. Again and again we break into raucous applause far out of the frame. (The Craigslist posting for extras neglected to mention that we should probably be Asian.)

We were basically the stars of the whole thing.

After eight hours of cheering and waiting and cheering and waiting, occasionally watching Urlacher or Ortiz dive for the shuttlecock or attempt a wicked spike, we broke for lunch. My dad and I saw the opportunity to end our dalliance with Hollywood, but there was just one thing I needed to do first.

“Excuse me, Papi?” I said as I waded cautiously into the Red Sox great’s conversation.

“What’s up, Mami?” David Ortiz replied.

We told him we were Bostonians, big fans. We gushed a bit ungracefully. Then we snuck out of that commercial shoot, smiles clutching our cheeks, and never looked back.

Thanks for that, Big Papi. Thanks for everything.

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I wrote this book when I was 12 (and it sorta came true)

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So, I’m hanging at my parents’ house in Boston this week, sleeping in my childhood room, sitting on the radiator in the dining room to do work and basically transforming into high school me minus the weird crushes and all-bagel diet.

I am one of those people whose rooms are still more or less how they left them. My kitchen apron from summer 2000 at Chimney Corners Camp (Yippie Ai Aides forever!) is still hung over the door. A photo collage of the Newton North gymnastics team is still on the wall. There are framed pictures of friends I haven’t seen in a very long time and a somewhat creepy double exposure photo of 16-year-old me taken by my then-boyfriend (who did not, as it turns out, become a professional photographer).

And on the bookshelf next to the bed, I just discovered a true masterpiece: I Can’t be Late!! By: Sarah Feldberg.

Yes, I am a published author. Excuse me while I update my LinkedIn profile.

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5 things to know about driving on the left in New Zealand and Australia

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Driving on the left? Terrifying—and totally worth it for views like this from McKinnon Pass on the Milford Track in New Zealand.

So, we’re back. After four weeks of honeymooning around New Zealand and Australia, Tovin and I have returned to the land of drip coffee and fog. I won’t claim we were ready to leave, but it is good to be home.

Given that we had four weeks (more on that in a future post) and didn’t fancy becoming alcoholics with skin cancer, we decided to forgo the stereotypical all-inclusive resort honeymoon in favor of a more active exploration. We biked (to a winery), hiked (the gobsmacking Milford Track in New Zealand), rode (horses in the damn ocean!), paddled (kayaks alongside baby seals) and dove (the just-as-great-as-you’ve-imagined Barrier Reef).

But by far the most nerve-wracking, risky, challenging endeavor we took on during the entire trip was this: driving on the left.

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Please, walk down the middle of the street this weekend

While the East Coast braces for winter storm Jonas Brothers and toddler-height snow accumulation, San Francisco is just laying back in the cut of perpetual dampness. Seriously, El Niño is one wet kid.

I know, I know. We need the water. Life-ending drought. Desert-inducing climate change. I know it all. And, yes, I’m eternally grateful for this year’s snow pack and the rising levels in local rivers and lakes. Thank you, clouds. Thank you, precipitation. You’ve been missed!

Still, there’s something undeniably thrilling about the collective anticipation of a really big blizzard. The rush to the grocery store, the stocking of booze, the planning of movies to watch and cookies to bake and pajamas to wear. These are good, simple pleasures.

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How an 8-year-old experiences travel abroad

Failed to meet a princess, but I did score a pic with this handsome fellow.

Failed to meet a princess, but I did score a pic with this handsome fellow.

When I was 8 years old, I desperately wanted to go to Disney World.

My classmates with grandparents in Florida had been, and I was pretty sure it was where they kept all the princesses. My grandparents lived in Chicago, and my folks were the kind of people who prided themselves on weathering Boston winters and not running off somewhere beachy like the rest of those heat-seeking wimps. Amusement parks were not their idea of amusing, so when I calmly suggested Disney for our summer vacation, they deftly announced they’d leave the decision to me.

“We can go to Disney World,” my parents said, “or we can go to England, where there are real princesses, and real castles, and real crowns.”

I imagined myself bumping into a real, actual princess just hanging around an open-to-the-public castle popular with American tourists. We’d instantly become besties. She’d probably even give me a crown of some sort of scepter to take home as a souvenir.

“England?” I answered.

I was reminded of that trip to London and Scotland recently when my parents sent me the diary I kept during our vacation. It was my first travel journal, scrawled on a pad of lined paper, with lots of misspellings and astute observations such as, “In England the License plates are diffrent along with the accents,” and “Covent Gardens was next. It is NOT a garden.”

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Most of the entries are really just an accounting of what I ate during the day, (which, to be fair, is still how I recount my days), but in between the many meals of chicken and chips, were glimpses of a kid feeling the pull of travel for the first time. From the crown jewels and tomb rubbings to escaped cows and a really deep well, virtually everything I encountered was an eye-widening experience. Meeting a dog named Merlin was worthy of note. Taking a train was a big deal. Even getting a pillow and blanket on the airplane earned some enthusiastic punctuation. (In fact, I loved the hair wrap I got in London so much that I left it in for an entire year—Mom, how did you allow this?—until the string finally gave up the following summer at camp, and I was left with one long, crusty dread.)

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I remember there being stressful moments during that trip, but not a single one is mentioned in the journal. Maybe I left them out on purpose. Maybe they just seemed less important than the thrilling newness of it all.

I never did make it to Disney World. While it’s probably a perfectly lovely place, I’m guessing they don’t have hidden escape stairs for priests, or potbellied pigs who like a good scratch, or the Aberdeen soccer team, practicing where a girl and her dad can just stand and watch for a while.

Good thing my parents left that decision to me. I think I made the right choice.

But where will they pee? The highs and lows of the wedding home stretch

I have Biggie Smalls in my head right now, except when he says “notorious” the word in my head is “victorious.” In fact, if the lyrics to this track weren’t so heavy on f-bombs and “gettin’ head on the beach,” I might dance down the aisle to it this Saturday, when I finally get to marry the bearded man I’ve been in love with for the past 8 years.

Today has been a good day. Last week, not so much. It started on Wednesday when I crossed the wedding liquor order off my to-do list, then decided to take my BevMo wine-tasting buzz to Ross Dress for Less for a little accessory shopping. There I was, browsing cheap cardigans, when the port-a-potty vendor I’d booked three months earlier called to cancel just 10 days before our 120 guests would potentially be peeing in the woods of Berkeley, California. I stammered something into the phone then hung up feeling dazed. The sweater aisle at Ross is no place to receive bad news.

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Home sweet saga: Apartment hunting in the Bay Area—Part 3(!)

Note: This is definitely not the view from our new apartment.

Note: This is definitely not the view from our new apartment.

It is a rite of passage, a hazing ritual, a bonding experience. Welcome to the Bay Area. Good luck finding somewhere to live.

For months, Tovin and I have been hunting for an apartment and sharing our struggles with friends, acquaintances and total strangers. Almost invariably our jaunty, “Still looking for a place to live,” has been met with sympathetic murmurs if not outright commiseration. Some people share their own tales of woe, like the college friend whose wife saw 21 apartments before finding a place in the Dogpatch. Some pepper us with questions, marveling at the insanity of studio rents from the comfort of a rent-controlled spot they leased 18 years ago. Our housing saga became my go-to icebreaker for meeting new people. After a while I felt like I’d unlocked some sort of secret San Francisco handshake.

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