Sunday morning

Brunch is my church. I visit the altar of meal combining almost every Sunday, like a devout glutton. It is the holiest of meals, as it is the time of day that I am most spiritually tranquil and physically ready to receive the communion of English muffin and mimosa.

As a faithful bruncher, I have prepared, out of my free will, a few commandments to ensure your experience is other-worldly.

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The Brunch Gospel.

Brunch with your partner

This is the way God intended brunch to be. You, your partner and 136 other people vying for a small table on the sidewalk that is dangerously close to a busy intersection without an umbrella to protect you from the unforgiving morning sun. How else will you know if your relationship can stand the test of time without experiencing a three hour wait for poached eggs?

Brunch with friends and their children

I say start them early and baptize them into the brunch lifestyle while they are still in diapers. But there are no two ways about it, brunching with friends that happen to be parents is complicated. However, with proper planning and basic knowledge of fractions, your morning-to-afternoon meal could turn out to be an okay time. The first step requires you to ascertain how many people are in your party. For example, four adults and a child is considered a party of four-and-a-half. However, if your friends happen to have two children, you must figure out their ages to come up with the proper fraction, which directly correlates to the type of chair and/or chair accessories you will need. Also, it is important to note that if your friends have twins or triplets this formula is useless. In this case, all you need are functional restraints.

Brunch with your parents

Honor your father and mother by feeding them food and drink that will give them acid reflux and spike their blood sugar levels for 48 hours. Are you feeling nostalgic for your teenage years, when you would beg your parent or guardian to drop you off two blocks from the movie theater so not to be embarrassed in front of your friends, but they didn’t listen to you and drove right up to the entrance and accidentally honked? Well, taking them to brunch is very much like that, only they will find new and creative ways to embarrass you and ruin any future visits to your favorite brunch spot.

Brunch with your younger friends

Don’t take the mimosa in vain. That is some serious champagne disguised in citrus and, no matter how “light” it feels going down, don’t let your younger friends convince you that shooting the revered breakfast drink is the best way to get your money’s worth on the unlimited drink package you just purchased. God punishes these acts harshly.

Brunch with your older friends

Do realize that brunching with your older friends will be easier than most other groups. They are less likely to flake out or over sleep and will only eat at places that take reservations because they are too grown to wait in line. That being said, you should be prepared for the inquisition that will shortly follow the waiter’s normally rhetorical, “Are there any questions about the menu?” Once the 25-minute question and answer session about items that they were never really going to order has culminated in requesting the world’s most customized Huevos Rancheros, they will spend the next 25 minutes explaining their digestive ailments as the reasoning behind their complicated order.

Brunch by yourself

The only person that notices your request for a table for one is the host/ess. To everyone else, you are completely invisible. Watch people all around you, as they fight with their spouse, entertain their children, order for their annoying parents, vomit on tables, and ask endless questions about the types of bread available. And then laugh and laugh. Just like God.

Amen.
Amen.

Nostalgia

A staple of every Cuban household was at least one Alvarez Guedes record. We had five. And my parents would play them all back-to-back. My dad on his chair, my mom sprawled out on the couch and I would watch them bend at the waist and laugh as they listened. I’d laugh too. Not at Alvarez Guedes’ jokes. I didn’t really get them. But, I’d laugh at the way my parents would burst out in cackles and tear up from the giggle attacks. My mom would laugh and clap at the same time, while my dad would repeat the punch line. If it was really funny, he wouldn’t make a sound, he’d just hold his eyes with his thumb and pointer finger, while his shoulders jiggled up and down.

I recently found those five records, among my parents’ record collection that I confiscated from my mom’s storage closet. When I returned to my apartment I too listened to them back-to-back. I finally understood the jokes and I found myself laughing out loud.

But, I still think it was much funnier to watch my parents laugh.

For those of you that don’t know him, Alvarez Guedes is a Cuban comedian with the meanest 1970’s mustache you’ve ever seen. Here’s a clip:

Oh, and if you need an English translation, here’s Alvarez Guedes’ famous Cuban-Spanish Lesson. (It starts at 1:30)

Effective communication

From a young age, I was exposed to the mental health profession through my parents – who were both accountants.

You see, my parents thought it was a great idea for me to have someone to talk to – as they refused to speak English and I refused to speak Spanish.

Luckily, the bass player in my Dad’s band was a psychiatrist, making my parents really comfortable with the idea of dropping me off at his office every Tuesday after school. The only two places in the world I could be by myself at the age of six were the bathroom (and, really, only at school) and Dr. Reyes’ office.

His waiting room smelled like something I’ve never experience before or since. If the early 1980’s had a specific smell, it would be this combination of Liquid Paper, Aqua Net and Brut that emanated from the moment you opened the door.

The waiting room didn’t have a table in the center. Just a few chairs against the wall. Masculine, leather chairs, like from a cigar bar that closed down a decade earlier. He organized magazines in a rack against a wall. And, upon walking in, I would always choose the one with the most colorful cover (The New Yorker) and thumb through it. Now thinking back I must’ve been a sight: Sitting in a psychiatrist’s office with my orthopedic shoes barely reaching over the edge of the seat, holding up The New Yorker over my face, so you can only see my Strawberry Shortcake (A.K.A “La Estrahberri”) hair clips.

I wonder if he kept any tapes of it off of his surveillance camera.

Oh, and the music. He played the best music. Jazz mostly. It was the first time I heard that style of music. I loved sitting there and listening to it with my face buried in a magazine that I was probably holding upside down. Loved it.

But that was short-lived. He would eventually open the door from the inside and call me into his office.

Inside, it was a very dark room decorated in oak, leather and books. There was a bust of a man with glasses, who later I learned was Sigmund Freud, but at the time thought it was an homage to Dr. Reyes’ grandfather.

Dr. Reyes was a heavy man with a salt and pepper beard. He spoke softly and at a slow pace. Exactly like the bass guitar he played. Get this, when he’d play with my Dad, he required a stool to sit on and everyone would make fun of him behind his back. Well, while he was playing Doctor, he would lean back into his chair, in much the same way, except his instrument was a pad and pen.

So, I’d sit there and tell him about my day. Tell him about my fear of vampires. And tell him how crappy I thought it was to be born into a family of Republicans that didn’t speak English.

I would tell him how horrible it was that my Dad would immitate a duck’s quack sound like, “Cwah, Cwah, Cwah,” instead of “Quack, Quack, Quack.” And how my Mom would make me translate everything in real time. Everything. Even inside one of those fancy elevators that would announce the floor we were on.

“Eighteenth Floor,” the automatic voice would say, making my mom look at me in panic. “Piso 18,” I’d answer.

I would search Dr. Reyes’ face for sympathy, but instead he’d scribble and scribble. Like if we were playing secretary and boss, only he would’ve been too butch to be my secretary. A nice pair of fish nets would’ve done the trick.

From the television monitor in his office I knew when our hour was up when my mom would walk into the waiting room. This was fascinating. Probably the best part of the whole appointment. And why I’m obsessed with reality TV. Dr. Reyes and I would watch my mom on TV like some weird social experiment. One time we watched her fidget and go through her purse and then, mysteriously pick up the same magazine I had just been thumbing through.

Dr. Reyes turned to me and said, “Look at that! You guys have a lot more in common that you realize.”

Reluctantly, I agreed.

Neither of us could comprehend The New Yorker.