She Sleeps

Passengers silently applaud. I sleep like one who has been drugged (I’ve had a busy day!) and wake up like a bear coming out of hibernation.

Not Susan. She wakes like a double-shot expresso. makes a date with sushi guy, hoists her carry-on on her head like a sherpa and she’s off she goes, wiggling between bodies.

“Coming through. Woman in desperate need of coffee.”

“Never saw this woman before in my life,” I explain to no one in particular.

Stewardess doesn’t even care anymore. She has been self-medicating in the galley.

Since we are being met by no one, Susan decides to skip the Airport Shower, a technique she has perfected all over the world and one she will gladly demonstrate to anyone in the Restroom.

“10 minutes, a large zip lock bag with small shampoo–which doubles as body wash, 2 wet wash clothes (one for washing, one for rinsing,) one hand towel for drying, a toothbrush, some makeup and a change of clothes, stored in the top of your carry on…..Tatum–You are runway perfect, ready  to be enfolded into the arms of your waiting beloved.” Who has now been waiting for hours. Washroom attendants in Mexico always applaud the transformation from hound dog to Top Dog!

But since this is a special occasion–our first trip to San Francisco, she declares it a holiday and we head for the fanciest sea food restaurant in the airport. I am so hungry, I can barely drag my backpack.. “Table by the window, garçon!”

I order the prima vera. She orders a salad.

“Be right back.” and she’s off again.

Just enough time for a quick smoke before dinner. Now to Susan a quick smoke is nothing more than stepping out to the sidewalk. No big deal. Does not matter to her, if she steps across borders to do so. As has been demonstrated in London, Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Israel. Why would anybody take their passport or boarding pass just to have a cigarette??

My prima vera arrives. It is hot and spicy and the aroma drifts off the plate. I am drooling. But where is susan? My Mama taught me well; one waits for your dinner companion.

Cell phone rings. “O, would you mind bringing my passport to the security line?”

Mind? I have no Visa at this point. Trying very hard to keep the low profile. Custom official glares at me, “What?”

“Could you please give this passport to that funny little woman, who is jumping up and down in the back of the line?”

“Let me have it.” But ah, 10 strides and he is smiling as he gives it to Susan, almost bowing. She does bring out the gallant in strangers.

Back to the prima vera, which no longer wafts aroma and is looking a little green.

Cell phone: “Oh dear, now they want my boarding pass.” I slink up to the security gate, hoping for a different guard. No, Mr. Grumpy grabs the boarding pass and then delivers to Madam on a silver platter.

“Oh, thank you. You are so kind.” she purrs.

Prima Vera has now congealed into a pile of soggy pasta.

Back she comes. Ah, maybe there is hope, yet. BUT it is just a drive-by.

“Gotta get some postcards,’ she announces as she passes the table on her way to the bookstore.

I gnaw on a cold dinner roll.

“Isn’t this lovely. So romantic. Dinner in San Francisco. Here I got you a magnet of a cable car to remember this time together.”

Is Susan two? No. A two-year-old would be easier to control; perhaps a leash or a muzzle.

“Dessert?” she asks brightly.

No, this is a two-year-old who acts with all the authority of a world leader and the wit of a stand-up comedian. A cross between a pit-bull and I Love Lucy, with a shot of Southern Comfort to ease the discomfort.

And yet, and yet, adorable. Impossible not to love for she is an innocent. Flitting through life on her own terms and enjoying every moment and engaging, engaging, engaging everyone in this marvelous adventure. You have only two choices: get on-board or plant two feet firmly in the boredom of the ordinary. And having such a wonderful time, who wouldn’t want to join her?

And you don’t even have time to make that choice, because she is off again.

“Just need to recharge the cell phone. This nice young man (who would like to sell her a cell phone) is charmed into charging it for free.”

And oops, we’re late for the plane for Guadalajara. I pack my door-stop prima vera in a doggy bag.

“Adjoining seats?”


As I recall, Susan does not cause an international incident on this flight. Too busy sorting out the number of children her newly-wed seat mates should have.

“I’ve never seen this woman before in my life!” I tell no one in particular.

However……as we are taking off, I receive a text from my good friend, D, who poor thing is all alone in Puerto Vallarta on his birthday and feeling blue. Oh, oh.

“Welcome to Guadalajara!” says the sign.

“Like it? Good. Now on the bus for Puerto Vallarta.”

She doesn’t skip a beat. She loves Mexican buses. The seats recline. She can use her sweater as a blanket and somewhere in her bag, she finds fuzzy bus-sox (a stable for all our future adventures). Now about that TV???

Susan has a preoccupation (later we will call her preoccupations a banana. I will explain later) with the TV. She HATES them. In her time, she has thrown three of them out a second story window.

“You must destroy them completely; otherwise they make it back into the house.

Out there, the Baby Beethoven s, the Baby Einstein’s, the Baby Picasso are being anesthetized by Sesame Street. It will never do. The future of the entire civilized world rests on her tossing TV’s out the window.

I change seats and watch three movies in a row.

She squirms, she throws her legs over over the vacant seat, she exercises in the aisle. And she adores the Mexican Bus Toilet, which is about the size of half a phone booth.

“So efficient. You can pee and wash your hands at the same time.” And now the Airport Shower is perfected and modified into the Bus Shower. And sure enough, she emerges from the bus looking runway perfect into the taxi, which whisks away to All-inclusive Wonderland Hotel.

Ahhhhhh, poor, unsuspecting D welcomes her with open arms (if he had only known that within the short time period of two weeks, she would turn his entire life upside down: he lose his job, get evicted from his apartment and his mother called in on an emergency GPS rescue. We’ll save the night in the Guadalajara Jail for later.)

But no, he knows none of this. So open arms it is. He can be double her charm, when he wants to.

His Mama, who truly has tracked him down via GPS, is sitting by the pool. Plop Susan by her (that should be safe enough. A Babysitter.) and bulldoze D to the bar to explain the situation.

She’s no problem at all. Give her three boxes of tissue and an Ipod and she will roam the beaches, sobbing for lost loves for three days.

“No problem? It’s my birthday! In Puerto Vallarta! Party Time??? with my mother and now a crazy gringa?”

“We’ll leave her with your mother, drug her with margaritas and slip away.” (Did I mention, Susan does not drink. This high of hers is a natural high. Also we quickly learn to feed her no sugar. High and hyper?? No way.)

Two sips into my Mai Tai and Mama comes running to the bar.

“Susan is in the pool.”

“So….it is a swimming pool.”

“With her clothes on?”

Apparently, the bus shower was not enough. She feels the need to refresh and with Mama sitting beside her, chatting away about this and that, she quietly slips into the pool.

All security guards now ring the pool. Damn she is a good swimmer. Every time one yells at her, she dives deep, only to surface to smile sweetly, “No habla espanol.”

Eventually she tires of this game and is gently escorted up the stairs of the pool like Esther Williams. Dripping wet is no problem for Susan.

“Don’t know what all the fuss is about. My bathing costume is way more modest than that fat cow in the bikini. Do we have time to go shopping before dinner?”

We get her a room.

And dinner, oh what a dinner. five course of the finest, plus, you guessed it—entertainment…

from the time she puts her elbow in the cream, we are off and running and the stories, the stories. Mama, who understand none of the words, is peeing in her pants she’s laughing so hard and no, the waiter doesn’t mind at all, mopping up the milk, and retrieving more from the bar. ….and, and, and into the night with the stars shining above Puerto Vallarta, the sea breezes so soft and Susan, Susan is in her element–right smack in the middle of chaos and bathing in it like it was champagne.

How not to love her? She is, after all, Susan.



The plane is not even off the tarmac and it begins

My seat is one row back from hers.

Susan would not describe herself as a gigantic pain in the ass; but she is. She would not describe herself as a public menace; but she is. She would not describe herself as a force that can bring down an empire; but she can or a reason to turn a perfectly here-to-fore reasonable stewardess into a stark raving lunatic, but she can.

“My seat won’t go back”

I reach my hand through the space between the seats and push the button. Her seat catapults backwards. Her head is now in my seat-mate’s lap.


What is she dong now? Susan has a huge preoccupation about television. She hates it. She even hates the screen saver. She is taping the flight magazine on top of the screen?

My hand slowly reaches forward to push the off button of her TV.

“Oh, thanks.”

Now she is having conversation with her seat mate. I close my eyes. Bad move.

He is a sushi chef and in order to fully appreciate his sushi technique, she has moved herself onto the floor cross-legged in front of her seat to replicate a sushi kitchen. “knives here, cutting board here?”

Our virgin stewardess makes her first stab at control.

Hopeless.”Would you please return to your seat while we take off?” she purrs.

OK, Susan lies. She doesn’t move. Now all her carry-on is spread all over the floor and she is digging for her journal, her knitting, her pretend sushi knives.

Stewardess makes her second pass. Hmmmmmmmmm,

Subtlety does not dent Susan’s agenda. A hint at civility does not deter Susan.

Sushi chef is now fully engaged in pretend sushi prep.

Stewardess makes her third pass and appeals to ALL passengers on board. “Does anybody know this woman?”

I vigorously shake my head




Stewardess goes to take a valium.

Captain is now yelling at her for not keeping order in HIS plane and he wants to take off.

Stewardess now storms down the aisle. Yes, the passenger is indeed in her seat with seat belt. BUT all of shit has spilled onto  the floor.

“You have to put that stuff under the seat in front of you.” She is trying to sound calm.

“Make up you mind. Either I sit or store my stuff?”


I vigorously nod my head in agreement with the stewardess

Now she needs a coke, of course. Shall I slip the valium into her coke.

We take off.  I slip the valium into mine.

Continue reading

The Adventures of a Rogue Missionary

“That’s it!”I slam my fist on the table. O jumps.

“I’ve had it. No more. We move the whole damn class to Guadalajara!.”

O is the next to last student in my ESL class at the seminary. And I have just learned that he wants a ride to the airport. Now is his time to go home to Mexico. The Department of Immigration has stopped his journey to the priesthood. What is he to do? Accept that he cannot study in the USA? Fight it? Find another seminary in Mexico who will take him? Become a civilian? Get married?

And what has the Department of Immigration done to my life? I will tell you. But a little hint: Thank you, D of I, you tear down my walls of security, you light my fire, you move my ass and so begins my greatest adventure.

And with bags in hand. His heart in his throat and his self-esteem ground into the dirt. O stands in the middle of my kitchen, my chaosis. Now, his crazy English Teacher, who he does love very much, declares she is coming, too!

“I just need a ride to the airport.”

“Oh, no. I’m going.”

“But, your job, your house, your dog, your life?”

“F— it. I’m going.”

“Your credit cards. Three of them have bounced while making our plane reservations.”

“Keep talking to that credit card guy in India. He will find a way.”

“Your spiritual directors? You must ask them first.”

“I’ll call them on the way to the airport.”

Yikes, O had planned on spending the two-day air/bus trip back home, reflecting quietly, by himself, find the words to tell his Moma.

Susan is not quiet. She is not reflective. She is a tornado of activity and always sucks the entire population into the tornado. Ah, we are all seduced when we arrive at the eye of the tornado–peace, quiet, calm. Don’t believe it. she is already on the move. The next disaster is just around the corner.


“No problem” My bags and all their contents are still strung across the living room floor. The sad remains of my last trip. I have been home for 10 days. Have not unpacked. Have not slept. Have not eaten. Only thing I have done is to give the Kleenex Company a jump in the GDP. I have howled and cried, and doubled over and shaken my fist in the face of God. “WHY Why is this so hard. I do not like.”

And why have I spent 10 days, unwashed, unfed, unloved, crying my way through three boxes of tissues? Well, that’s another story that we save for another day. I am NOT the hero of that story. But I am not the victim, either. What shall we call that Chapter? Susan Loses Her Heart and Her Dignity? Susan Is Orphaned on the Dusty Streets of XXXXX and locked outside of the gate? Susan loses her mind but Padre Michael Patrick loves her anyway and takes her in.

Keep thinking of a tantalizing title, then I will tell you that story in a couple of days.

Now back to my kitchen — slamming clothes into my carry on. Yelling at the sweet guy in India, dancing around all of O’s reasonable objections.


O’s only hope is that Susan’s spiritual directors, who she respects very much and are the only people she will ever listen to, will stop this nonsense and save him from adopting this crazy gringa.

“D–?” We are driving fast to the airport. We are late, claro.


“Where are you?”

“In Rome, It’s two in the morning. What’s up?”

“I’m going to Mexico to teach my ESL class.”

“Marvelous Idea” he rolls over. No sense waking up his wife. It’s just another Susan adventure. (three months later, he still maintains loudly he never said Marvelous Idea.) He did!

Damn, thinks O. Now What? There are communities in Guadalajara. If I can just get her there, they can adopt her and I can return to my contemplative miseries.


Oh, yeah, Dog. We will drop him off at the babies on our way.

She is determined. She quickly sacrifices the dog for this project and she even likes this dog.

Into the airport. She only makes one last desperate call to you-know-who. I pretend not to notice. 

“We can get you seats together?” says the friendly stewardess.