The Ricardo y Catalina Bar Hopping/Dancing in Mexico Pre Trip Report

Bar Hopping Tour in Ensenada - M jpgIt’s Salsa time! I love to dance so on the days I’m not out walking I’m doing a Zumba class. Also, it’s time to refresh my Salsa moves before our next cruise to Mexico. We’ve signed up for the bar hopping excursion, which will include some dancing. Such fun. Love, love, love Mexico. The place, the people, the dance, the food, the drink, the music… did I say the people?

Yes, my first Mexican “boyfriend” was in the third grade. His name was Philip something. He called me “Mrs. Something.” lol!

In the sixth grade, my square dancing partner was Guillermo (William) – in high school, he went by “Willie.”

My next Mexican “friend” Tom and I were classmates at that blessed year at Los Amigos. When my family moved to Oregon, we began to write to each other and I saw him a few times – he drove up to Oregon – I drove down to SoCal. He addressed his letters “To Kitten” and signed them “Love TomKat.” They made my mother very nervous. ūüôā

We’d planned to meet in San Francisco but he broke it off because he was becoming exclusive with somebody. I later saw him stag in the “35th High School Reunion” video but by then I was married – the first time around.

In my twenties, my Mexican friend Ray used to take me out dancing. He was an excellent dancer and taught me a few moves. What a blast we had!

Truth be told, back in the day, my mother was afraid I’d marry a Mexican (no problem for me) and the first time she saw a picture of Rich, she thought he was Mexican – lol! So now I call him Ricardo and he calls me Catalina and we dance and get to Mexico as often as we can. And when we’re at Disney World, the Mexico Pavilion in Epcot is our favorite place to hang out.

If we don’t retire in Florida, we might just retire in Mexico – a lot of expats are doing it.

(Btw, my short stories Dear Kitten and Cougars in Cabo and my novella Raining Men were inspired by those days.)

The Journey: The Road to Armageddon

To explain a little bit more about the importance of Oregon and becoming JWs, several years before we set out for Oregon, my grandmother pulled up in front of our home in Orange County and announced, “I know when Armageddon is coming!” even though the scripture says “nobody knows the day or the hour.” Nobody knew but she knew. Well, she heard it at an international assembly of JWs at their annual convention.

Later, representatives from the JW Governing Body at headquarters in New York would say after 1975 had come and gone and still no Armageddon, “Some of the brothers and sisters jumped to that conclusion.” Yes, to deny their culpability – they blamed the “brothers and sisters.” But for some reason, the “brothers and sisters” marched forward under the assumption that Armageddon in 1975 was a done deal and made life decisions accordingly.

My grandmother lived about half an hour away and she would often drop by unannounced. One Flag Day, she surprised my mother and scolded her for having a flag displayed in the front of the house – one of the neighbors had given it to us. My mother tried to escape her mother’s religion – she was even tempted to have a Christmas tree one year, but never went quite that far.

No Christmas tree or visible decorations, but she would buy and make Christmas gifts for us and we’d celebrate Christmas. This wouldn’t actually be on Christmas Day but on a day or two before to be able to deny guilt at actually celebrating Christmas should her mother drop by. My mother would wrap presents elaborately and display them in creative ways.

One year they put us in my brother’s red wagon that he’d gotten for Christmas and wheeled us out to the backyard to see my gift – a tether ball! Woo hoo! I’d become the queen of tether ball and one of my favorite things at WDW is to hit the tether ball at the boat dock at Ft. Wilderness. Two years ago we did this on Christmas Day.

Back then we’d watch Christmas programs on TV and sang Christmas carols in our home and I sang in the school choir. We had special party snacks, too. I appreciate having these memories. And when Christmas break was over, I rejoiced in being able to return to school and join in with the other kids and talk about “what I got for Christmas.”

I also remember the Johnsons across the street and their silver Christmas tree with Christmas cards strung on the wall and all of the presents underneath the tree. We’d have neighborhood Christmas parties – the kids would have their own party – we’d play Beatles records, eat popcorn, and drink kool-aid while the adults drank Screwdrivers and talked religion. The Johnsons were Lutheran and the Sylvias were Catholic, and in those moments, my mother claimed to be a Jehovah’s Witness.

When my SDad’s Catholic sister and family would come down for a visit to Disneyland, they’d ask the Sylvias where their Catholic Church was. This made an impression on me early on – how devoted my aunt was and that she went to church with the Sylvias when they were on vacation. Later, this aunt would delight in my conversion. She’d married into an Italian Catholic vineyard/winery family in the Central Valley and had embraced that life as her own.

Not long after the Armageddon announcement, my mother and SDad went on a scouting trip to Oregon. They took my younger sister with them and my brother and I stayed with my grandmother. I think my SDad might have reveled in the idea of moving away from his mother-in-law, you know the “crazy woman with the Watchtower on her head,” but when they got to Portland during work traffic he said, “It’s as bad as the traffic in Orange County–we may as well stay there.”

Plan #1 to move to Oregon failed, but they sold the house and we moved to an apartment in nearby Santa Ana just in case they should have the sudden urge to move to Oregon. In Santa Ana, I met friends I still have today and who attended our wedding. See, things work out in interesting ways.

When Plan #2 to move to Oregon also failed, we moved into another new home back in my previous school district and I rejoined my childhood classmates now in high school. And when Los Amigos was built, some of us were moved to that high school, and that’s how I was on the track to being the first graduating class.

The way to becoming a Jehovah’s Witness is that you study with another JW, attend meetings, and eventually you make that commitment by baptism. This is a special JW baptism and when I converted to mainstream Christianity, I had to get rebaptized into the Trinity to make a valid baptism.

We’d been studying with different JWs off and on for years. This was my mother’s way of soothing her mother without actually committing to it. But one day the couple studying with us as a family called and said they weren’t going to study with us anymore because we weren’t making progress. Apparently going to the Sunday talk at a circuit assembly once or twice a year wasn’t a big enough commitment.

The JWs had this new program that if you didn’t make any progress within six months, they would drop you. Aha! My mother’s plan that had been working for years had now been foiled. It was either put up or shut up. She reacted badly to the news that they were being dropped – as if they’d just received the pronouncement that they were doomed to die at Armageddon.

Actually, this was my mother’s opportunity to convince my SDad that somehow we needed to get away from that evil, materialistic Southern California. I think she said something like, “If we stay here in SoCal, K will get pregnant and M will be on drugs.” That was all he needed to hear Plan #3 was implemented and off we went to Oregon and the road to becoming JWs.

For more adventures, see “Novels” and “Short Stories.”

The Journey: The Prequel

Reflecting back on my life’s journey, from Southern California to Oregon to Northern California to Oregon to Ohio to Florida to Oregon to Las Vegas to Florida to Oregon to California… well, the common thread in all of this is Oregon. It was that first leg, San Francisco to Oregon, that began the journey of truth. But truly the journey began before then. To understand the journey, it’s important to reflect back on that very first move to Oregon when I was sixteen.

I’d just spent a fabulous year in high school. It was a brand new high school and the sophomores would be the first graduating class and, therefore, have opportunities other people didn’t have. My class would always be the upperclassmen.

I was the first editor-in-chief of the yearbook. I named the yearbook The Reflector. I acquired many skills I would use later in my publishing career. I also learned business skills when soliciting advertising for the yearbook. I learned leadership and teamwork skills as I bore most of the work but worked together with the few supporters I had.

I was placed in advanced classes in English and History and bonded with those classmates who would later advance to UCI, a school known back then for admitting the brightest students. I auditioned for a solo part in the spring program Oliver, and got it. I auditioned for the concert choir and the girl’s choir for the next year and was accepted. Yes, I had many opportunities at a younger age than most. I had so much to look forward to and my future started then. Boyfriends, college, marriage, and future kids.

Then my family moved to Oregon. But it wasn’t just a move from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest that changed my life forever. The weather and culture was a big enough shock. But we also became active in my grandmother’s religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses. That changed everything!

No more singing in choirs – not allowed to sing Christmas songs. There would be no more Christmas. No more birthdays. No Halloween, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day. No more college plans. No dating–only in the context of a future marriage to another Jehovah’s Witness. Btw, women far outnumber men in the JWs so good luck with that – lol! Oh, and no saying “good luck” or “bless you” or “darn” – etc.

To jump ahead, when I left the JWs, I had much to catch up on – that first birthday, that first Christmas, college courses, etc. All of that was so triumphant but I’ll get to more of that later.

But back then, when my SoCal friends called me on my sixteenth birthday right after we arrived in Oregon and as much as I loved hearing from them, I cried afterwards. I was so depressed that I was in Oregon for such a milestone. That led to a recurring battle with depression, especially in dark climates and maybe why I love Las Vegas.

In the next few posts, I’m going to share what it was like to be a Jehovah’s Witness back then especially in rainy Oregon. Looking back, that move changed my life forever in a depressing way. But it also gave me the self-discipline to pursue a spiritual path. It was the seed planted that led me to my soul mate, my relationship with God, and the journey we would take together.

“All things work together for good” – Romans 8:28.

Next: Orange County to Oregon.

Sake Tasting

I had the privilege of sampling five sak√©s at the Sak√©One Sakery in Forest Grove, Oregon. Sak√©One is the only sak√©ry owned and operated in the United States. Why Oregon? The east side of the Oregon Cascades has the ideal water source for its purity-water being one of sak√©’s most critical ingredients.

The friendly and informative tasting room staff guided us through a flight of premium sak√©s for $3.00. You could also relax with a glass on the deck or in the garden, or purchase hand-select items from their collection of sak√© accessories. Since it’s just a short drive from our home in Portland, Oregon, and on the way to the Oregon wine country, we had been tempted to stop by several times. Finally, we couldn’t resist any longer. The five sak√©s we tasted were the Silver, Diamond, Daiginjo, G Joy, and the Coconut Lemongrass.

Each SakéOne label has recommended food pairings for each saké and I came out of this tasting noting that food pairing, to me, is crucial to the enjoyment of saké. With the right pairing, saké is simply as fabulous as pairing a Pinto Noir with Cedar Plank Salmon.

Bolstered by our new experience and feeling adventurous, we brought home small bottles of the Pearl, the G Joy, and the Coconut Lemongrass. We also purchased two chocolate bars to see how well they paired with the Coconut Lemongrass.

Inspired by our saké tastings and anxious to try out our new knowledge by pairing some saké with lunch as we were absolutely starving by this time, we asked for a restaurant recommendation. We were referred to Le Hana (, a Japanese restaurant not too far from our home.

At Le Hana, I ordered the SakéOne Sampler to pair with my Beef Bento Bowl of Ykiniku Beef with mixed green salad, 4 piece California Roll & steamed rice. The SakéOne Sampler included 3 sakés: the Pearl, the Daiginjo and the G Joy. Each saké paired impeccably with my lunch bowl. The salad hinted at spicy flavors of Thai and paired extremely well with the Pearl. The California roll was a great match with the Daiginjo and my favorite-the G Joy-paired amazingly well with the beef. It was like having a steak and a good martini. My husband had the Pork Katsu Don lunch entree paired with a Karatamva-Dokuri saké .

We wrapped up our delicious meal with a dessert of Mochi Ice Cream with Mango & Green Tea ice cream wrapped with Japanese rice cake and Japanese tea.

Later that evening we were curious how the chocolate bar paired with the Coconut Lemongrass sak√© so we had a little bedtime dessert and I must say it was a fabulous pairing. To me, the secret to sak√© is to pair it with the right food. The good news is restaurants are quite willing to help you select the right sak√© to go with your food, so don’t hesitate to talk to your server about your preferences and ask for their recommendations.