Desert Sun

When we got to Las Vegas, my mom wanted to tan. I felt like a fool, reclining poolside in hats and sarongs and SPF 45, putting as much distance between me and the devil sky as I could.

The image of my mother in her thirties is her on a brown beach towel, draped across an aluminum-framed plastic-laced lawn chair. I, barely five, would chastise her that skin cancer would kill her early, and she’d read in the sun.

The desert sun is not like the saccharine sun of the northeast, to be treasured in its rarity. It is not the daffodil Disney sun of the South. It is a desiccating dust like white gold, that infiltrates every crevice, even inside drawers within the house, irradiating, ultraviolet. It gets inside the mind, swirling like a desert snow globe. It leeches all water, it wrings out trees and earth and skin. It hides in the bottoms of earthenware pots, unused since last season, keeping house with silverfish, familiar and faint like last night’s dream.

When we got to Las Vegas, my mom wanted to tan. I felt like a fool, for even in my first day in the desert, I sensed the utter redundancy of tanning in this place, like reading Sartre in space, like oxygen on a plane.



Ok, ok, ok. I meant to do this forever ago, but time is money. And I am on a budget.

So! I picked up Mum at LAX, we went out to a delicious dinner with Taryn at a Japanese noodle place, and then Mum and I drove to Las Vegas. Long drive, sleepy Jos. We got lost in a Cali town called Victorville, where we drove for about 15 minutes and saw 0 gas stations and 8 liquor stores. If you have any alcoholic friends, send ’em to Victorville. Feed the addiction, remove the drunk driving problem. I think Victorville’s got it pretty well figured out. Vegas was as fake and plastic as you’ve ever heard, but we got a lovely room at a hotel about 6 blocks off the strip. Three pools, verdant green lawns, and signs above every sink and toilet that said, “Please, we’re trying to conserve water.” Hah!

Mom and I opted to spend a day lounging about by the pool, ate lunch at the Bellagio, then spent far too long trudging along the strip in incredible heat. We did, however, split a $0.99 marguerita! Livin’ large! That night we went to “O” by Cirque du Soleil, which was mind-blowing. I had to keep reminding myself to stop trying to analyse it and just be a kid in a theatrical candy store. If you have to sell your first born, if you have to give up your immortal soul, if you have to wear a pair of culottes from the Mickey Mouse Club circa 1986 for the rest of your life, it’s worth it for a Cirque show. Go see one.

The next day, we ate at the Bellagio again, this time for breakfast. Damn, expensive buffet, but damn, great food. Amazing fruit. But I digress. We re-packed the car, left Quixo’s water bowl accidentally at the curb (turns out he preferred to drink from a coffee mug, which my mother obligingly tolerated), and set off for the Grand Canyon.

The drive took forever. This will become a theme. We stopped and got a few groceries, and then realized we had drastically under-shopped, so we got more groceries. We heard the temperature was expected to be in the mid-thirties, with wind gusts of up to 35 mph. Despite fears of the two of us blowing off the rim of the canyon in our tent, we pressed on. We rode busses, walked trails, read signs, bought books and pottery, and marvelled at the massive “camp store” that could feed the pickiest eaters (vegan gluten-free nut-allergy whole food locavores), as well as outfit their entire camp. We couldn’t go into the canyon, because it was more than a day hike but we couldn’t take a dog down past the rim. The second night, we went to a talk about the history of the Hermit Road (given by Mr. Roger’s twin) just to avoid the cold. To make matters worse, Mom’s tent was mildewed, and it turns out I’m allergic to mildew. I woke up in the middle of the night on the first night fighting to breathe, with both eyes swollen almost to shut. After that, I took to sleeping in the car when we camped (until we found mildew-remover at REI in Albuquerque, which solved the problem). We woke up on the morning of our second full day at the Grand Canyon to find it had snowed and hailed the night before. The temperature had dropped to 28 degrees and the winds were gusting up to 50 miles per hour. To top it all off, Mom’s camp stove was being ornery. We had one more night at the south rim and another at the north rim still lined up, but we looked at each other that morning and said, “Bye, Grand Canyon.” So long, and thanks for all the fish.

We drove then to Sedona! GORGEOUS! Sedona, however, is about 3/4 artists and 1/4 mystic healers. Apparently there are 13 “vortexes” where one can pass into another realm. I wanted to ask, Are the vortexes discerning, or can anyone go? If you go, do you have to come back? Has anyone been lost?

We camped that night at Lo Lo Mai Springs Resort (click for pictures from their website), which I can’t recommend highly enough. Mom and I set up camp, changed, and left to go explore Sedona. Well, bright bulb that I am, I left my ID, my debit card, and a Visa Gift Card on top of the car when we drove off. As soon as we stopped in Sedona, I realized what I’d done. I called the campsite, and they told me they’d found two cards. I was hoping that they’d found the debit card and the ID. The gift card had about $150 on it, but I thought, “If they found all three, and they keep the gift card, fair enough – I’ll be glad just to have the two back, and they can keep the extra as a finder’s fee.” But no, they’d found the gift card and my ID – debit card at large. Mom, bless her heart, walked up to the road from the campsite and found a clue! a clue! a clue! I’d had an antiseptic wipe in the stack with the cards, and Mum saw it alongside the road. So, not daring to hope, we hopped in the car again and drove oh so slowly along the back road leading to the campsite. Maybe 200 feet down the road, Mom said, almost in disbelief, “My God, I see it.”

I am having a blessed trip. I’m not sure what I did to deserve it, but wow. Thanks, world.

After Sedona, we went to … ah, to Montezuma Castle! Montezuma was never there, contrary to the assumptions of early explorers. It was gorgeous – these beautiful cliff dwellings overlooking a flood plain with giant sycamore trees and native plants. From the castle, we made as straight a pass as we could to our next destination, the Hopi Reservation.

To be continued!

Best Car Repair Ever

Sunday night I went out to Karaoke-In-A-Box with Sean and Stephanie, to be joined later by Snoo, Colin, and Alex. Before karaoke I went to my first Japanese grocery store, and let me tell you: I could live there. The one I went to made these delicious triangles of rice with seaweed or salmon or tuna inside, and they were delicious. You know those grilled cheese gadgets that make crustless grilled cheese sandwiches? It was like that, except the cheese was fish and the toast was rice. Trust me, you’d like it. Karaoke was a blast, but then I got totally lost trying to get back to Colin’s house because apparently 42st St and 41st Ave are very different things. So are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. Who knew Mapquest could be so picky? You know what, Mapquest? … I got nothin’. I coulda used some help, is all.

The next day, the weather felt like Mary Poppins was about to drop in from the next cloud. I had a wonderful morning with Colin. We ate toasted banana soy nut butter and honey sandwiches. He showed me new music, I showed him new music, it was great. If you haven’t seen Matt and Kim’s video, “Lessons Learned,” you should. And you can find it here.

Then, at about 11 am I set off for LA. By Colin’s recommendation, I took 99 south through Modesto until it joined up with the 5 just outside LA. This was… not the best plan, although 99 upside-down is 66, which seemed to bode well. All the towns looked the same. Chowchilla was not as exciting as the name would seem to imply, although it was the beginning of a string of Number-and-a-half Avenues, which was hilarious considering there were about 3 miles between avenues, populated entirely by AG fields and rusty farm equipment. To pass 34 1/2 Avenue, drive for ten minutes, and then pass 35th Avenue almost made me wonder if I’d missed 34 5/8 Avenue, 34 7/10 Avenue, etc. I saw signs for an AG museum and a national historic site, but every time I pulled off to investigate, a second sign would inform me that the point of interest was just a short 15-mile drive from where I was already, and I said no thank you to that. Seven hours is long enough on the road. I almost got suckered into going to the Raisin Museum as well, but luckily realized it was a total sham apparently bought out by the Hilton Corporation. Thanks, Paris, but I’ve had enough of your raisins. No offense.

I have to say, I do love Visalia. It’s like the world gets pretty right before you get there, and it don’t quit ’til you’re past. It’s not the kind of place I’d like to live, though. It’s the kind of place where my Nana would live. I should suggest that to her. Nana was telling us over the holidays that, “You can’t get pork like that anymore,” meaning that pork now tastes more like chicken by design, thanks to genetic engineering and selective breeding. She reminisced about how good that pork would taste, cooked special for Christmas dinner. I’m pretty sure pork still tastes like pork in Visalia.

On Tuesday, I spent the morning in a beautiful neighborhood on Ravenswood in West Hollywood. Such amazing architecture! There was an art deco apartment I wanted, but I’d have to swear over the rest of my life’s income for a six-month lease. Taryn and I walked the walk of stars, which was a wonderful and laid-back way to spend the day. Quixo got to see his idol’s star:

Quixo and his hero

Taryn and I shopped at the crazy, Burning-Man-Mart stores down Hollywood Boulevard, and then got respectively a chili cheese dog and a cheese steak at Skooby’s Hot Dogs.

Ah, on to today. Today’s mission was to get Kaiser to transfer my prescriptions to Southern California so I can use up the last of my insurance. Yay! Three hours later, they said I should be able to pick them up tomorrow. Phew. Next mission: oil change and service for the car. I went to the Car Talk Mechanics Files website and found some rave-reviewed place, but I couldn’t find out if they had a free appointment until noon, so I called my first choice (but slightly lower rated): Wabbit Wepair: Independent V.W. Specialists. Who could resist a name like that? I called, Kent (the owner) said bring ‘er over, so I tooled off to Ventura. Cute place. Cute shops. Streets named after presidents and universities. Really, really cute girls on cruisers and skateboards. Mecca. Anyway, I mentioned that I was a musician, and Kent invited me to watch his daughter’s senior recital – she’s a jazz vocal performance major at Sacramento State. (I left with a copy of her DVD!) Then, Kent’s next client walked in. He happened to be the man who owns, and he had brought a bagel-crust pizza. If you haven’t had one, you should find one (if you can). The crust was treated like an everything bagel, and it was amazing. Kent gave us all glass-bottled cokes. Kent spent the first eleven years of his life in Brazil, and is currently letting a homeless man (“It isn’t drugs or alcohol,” Kent said. “It’s all in the head.”) live in an old VW microbus in the back of his shopyard. He rotated the tires, changed the oil, checked all the hoses and plugs, gave me his daughter’s DVD, and charged me $120. I consider it an amazing deal, given that it was my best mechanic shop experience so far. I told him I’d spread the word.

Now Taryn and I are off to the Santa Monica pier, or some sort of beachy ocean adventure, and my mom flies in tomorrow!

Day One, part two: Sol and so-longs

Well well well. Let’s see, what happened yesterday? I loaded up all my media mail packages and headed to the downtown post office only to find that the Rose parade was totally occluding access. It took me trhee tries total, but I finally found a contracted USPS location and shipped … Maybe 5? boxes to Maine. Back to Kim’s, I finished preparing the Fedex boxes and loaded them into my car. It was really fun to conference call Kim and Susan when our initial plans for lunch fell through. Executive Moving Day Josieda!

Lunch was at Sam’s For Play (I got the bumper sticker for my guitar, which it will soon sport along with an In-N-Out sticker) with Susan, Chris, the kids, Tony, and Kim. Biscuits and gravy make me think of Mel, which makes me think of chili cheese dogs, which make me think of the Snoopy Ice Rink, which makes me think of Heidi place… Ah, memories. Lunch was fun, and I got some good pictures (they’re on their way). I still didn’t quite feel the full brunt of leaving, though. Saying bye to Susan was really sad. I think that I shall never see, a thing as lovely as Susan B.

After that, Kim, Tony and I went to Fedex and shipped the rest of my packages for a whopping $250. Kinda makes you wish you’d been more selective in what you chose to ship….

Back to casa KT, where I finished packing my stuff. Kim offered to take care of the Goodwill stuff and extra food, much to my relief! I can’t get over how amazing she was to me. If you’re awesome and need a referral to an amazing friend, I can hook you up. Saying adieu to Kim was hardest. She’s been there for so many huge transitions in my life, and always with such positivity and generosity of spirit. Sometimes I wish I were a little less flibberty-gibberty and a lot more Kim, but as I keep saying: the world takes all kinds. The world needs all kinds.

Poetically, my last stop in Santa Rosa was at Colin’s mom’s house, which was the first place I ever went to in Santa Rosa. Colin and I drove from there to Marin for dinner at Sol, a Puerto Rican restaurant I love. My stomach was too upset to eat much of anything, but we had a good time (and discovered that we’d been on camera at Sol’s second location for the entirety of our meal, because we’re rockstars like that).

On the drive down to Emeryville to stay the night, I experienced a first! I’m always fearful of accidentally driving into the concrete barriers they use when redoing a road, especialy when you’re flying along at 70 mph within what feels like 6 inches of the things. The car in front of Colin ran into them! Bits of concrete the size and shape of a forearm came tumbling and ricocheting towards my windshield! The car that hit the median kept driving, but I can’t imagine what the damage must have been! Scary. Exciting. First.

Colin and I stayed up watching Firefly and then went to bed. At present, I’m getting updates on the Sharks game (Chicago won, boooooo!) and kayaking trip pictures from Kim and Susan, respectively. Quixo seems pretty mellow about being in a new place, which is reassuring. I’m waiting to hear from Sean and Stephanie about plans for her birthday dinner, and heading to the Tonga Room in San Francisco for cocktails with Colin and Snoo, following.

Don’t mind the typos in these posts; I’m updating from my iPhone. God bless technology!

I miss my friends already, and am secretly masking my sadness with frustration at waiting. Shhh, don’t tell.