this is what 45 is

[This post is in no way an invitation for the god of ridiculous blog coincidences to shoot a tragic foot situation my way.]

When I was a little kid, I heard a story about someone working in a factory who put their hand where they shouldn’t and all four fingers were chopped off. Only the person didn’t know right away because their brain hadn’t processed the information–instead, they saw four bloody, severed fingers and thought, “Huh. That’s weird. Where did those fing–HOLY FUCK!”

I used to think about that story a lot because, for years, I had a nagging fear I’d lose a finger or toe and be forever relegated to the freak show. When you’re still in your first decade, losing part of your physical being seems like the ultimate horror, followed closely by a boy seeing your panties during co-ed square dancing in the cafeteria, which they made you do whenever it rained and you couldn’t have recess outside. You’re too inexperienced with the world to know there are much, much worse things you can–and will–go through.

Let’s fast forward to today. I was doing a bit of yard work, trimming the hedges (not a euphemism) with freshly sharpened hedge trimmers. I cut the stuff down, it fell on the ground, I dragged it over to the yard waste can, then I chopped it into smaller pieces where it lay so I could fit the maximum amount possible in the can.

I was wearing flip flops, of course, and as I made fast work of the debris, it occurred to me that if I wasn’t careful, I might chop off a toe instead of cutting through a branch. And unlike the effect it would have had in my childhood, that thought wasn’t scary. Sure, it would hurt like hell and probably bleed a lot, but other than getting a great blog post out of it and maybe eating some sympathy ice cream, it wouldn’t have a major impact on my day-to-day, my foot modeling career never having taken off.

Tomorrow I turn 45. For most of us, by the time you reach that age you’ve seen some shit, man, and come out the other side. Battered, bruised, a bit gravity-ravaged–but still kicking. Those childhood fears are mostly inconsequential–except for the thing under the bed. That one is still quite healthy.

So I wonder–if I get to be an old lady–what will I think about the things I worry about today?

this duck says "just relax"

this bird says: just relax, baby, and ride with the tide–and maybe wear real shoes when gardening

recent goings on

P1030183

gazebo on the coastal trail in Pacific Grove

heading north

heading north

P1030569

Soberanes Point Trail, Garrapata State Park, Big Sur – the trail is narrow, with copious wildflowers and poison oak brushing against your legs – glad I was wearing jeans

P1030554

further down the trail – I also saw a dead dolphin that had washed up on the rocks and was being…taken care of by three birds

here's the Pacific Grove version of that same shot

here’s the Pacific Grove version of that same shot

P1030405

sunset in PG

P1030451

some friends rented a house on a vineyard in Sonoma County for the week, so we drove up north for a visit

P1030448

I love living on the coast, but there’s a lot to recommend the beauty of wine country – plus, I like the product

P1030437

standing next to the house, looking down at Lake Sonoma

IMG_5972

we saw Robert Cray at Golden State Theater in Monterey a few weeks ago – the great thing about seeing shows out here is it’s easy to get good seats if you’re on top of things – this is from my seat in the third row, and we’re in the same row for Drive-By Truckers in April

IMG_5952

the Golden State Theater lobby

when you can't go to the Tex-Mex, you bring the Tex-Mex to you - old school cheese enchiladas with chile gravy (not pictured)

when you can’t go to the Tex-Mex, you bring the Tex-Mex to you – old school cheese enchiladas with chili gravy (not pictured)

P1030287

this dog wants to appear grumpy, but his fashionable neckwear belies his whimsical side (also, it’s March and PG still hasn’t taken down the Christmas lights)

IMG_6115

PG chardonnay, now available at a Trader Joe’s near you (and only $5.99)

P1030220

if this guy hadn’t been buried in his hand computer, he might have noticed the incredibly large turkey vulture taking off right next to him

one year ago today

We rolled into Pacific Grove around 3:30PM. We didn’t have a place to live, and our worldly possessions were on a trailer somewhere between here and Texas. But we had each other and our dogs and it was good.

And it’s been good. An experience, as it was intended to be. After going home in December and then returning to this little house, it finally felt like we live here and aren’t on some weird vacation that includes jobs and our furniture.

And we’re in the place but still not of it. I knew this on Saturday as I stood in the checkout line at Safeway behind a nicely dressed old lady with a handful of coupons. The checker was either stoned or a monk because the last coupon wouldn’t scan and the line was backing up, but she wasn’t flustered or concerned. Or rushed. Over and over, the checker slowly punched something onto the tiny screen–perhaps she was writing in her blog–and over and over the coupon was denied. After finally consulting with another, less zen, checker, a solution was found.

And the old lady in the fancy clothes and expensive shoes asked, “Are you sure you got the one that was a dollar off Tide?” The checker wasn’t sure. She scrolled through the transaction. Back and forth. Slowly. I watched the line with the dollar off Tide move up and down the screen, unseen, as she and the old lady talked about how computers slow everything down these days. A year ago, I would have been tempted to point it out to them. Like an asshole. But this time I kept my mouth shut and tried to ride with the Tide. So, progress. And miles to go.

And still we rise.

P1020699

Inspiration Point | Palo Corona Regional Park | Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

 

turning the camera around

As of yesterday, we’re a month away from the one-year anniversary of our arrival in Pacific Grove. Since I haven’t really shown much of the town we live in beyond the bit that lies along the coast, I’m going to share some snaps I’ve taken recently. Pardon the image quality–most of these shots were taken from a moving car or while on a walk (and also moving) or through a window. One of these days I’ll take my real camera along and stand still whilst pressing the button.

we'll start at the ocean and work our way inland - this is the beach at Lover's Point - the water is usually upper 50s, but there are always a few brave souls who go in without wet suits

this is the beach at Lover’s Point – the water is usually upper 50s, but there are always a few brave souls who go in without wet suits – the mound of rocks in the background is the point, which used to be called Lovers of Jesus Point because this town was originally a Methodist retreat camp

the beach from a slightly different angle

the beach from a slightly different angle – Monterey Bay Aquarium is just around that point in the background – the very large yellow house on the right is now a bed and breakfast called Seven Gables Inn – in the morning, the smell of bacon can be enjoyed up to a block away from this place – since change isn’t allowed much around here (with all the good and bad that entails), most huge homes like this have become places to spend the night

moving inland a bit

beyond the stately old homes, regular houses run the gamut here, from 800 square foot adobes

ljkkj

to 1,100 square foot bungalows (this one houses Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, a super cool organization that finds homes for senior dogs in shelters and dogs whose guardians can no longer take care of them)

asdfd

to places with multiple stories – some have dolphins hanging around on the porch

asdfd

others have dozens of teddy bears staring out the window…and their eyes appear to move with you when you pass by…either pleading for you to free them or calculating how big a leap they’d have to take to reach your throat with their teeth

asdfd

the abundant deer are hell on your flowers, but they add a nice touch to your yard

asdf

there are cool, funky touches here and there – this place is currently for sale (see link below for more views of the property)

asdfdsf

most lots are just a tiny bit bigger than the houses that sit on them – we’re lucky to have a triple lot–one lot for the house, one lot for the garage (rare around here) and one lot for the dog poop – my office is in the back, so I’m less than 20 feet from the house behind us – it’s some kind of Air B&B  situation, with different people renting it each weekend – when they stand on the upstairs deck to gaze at the ocean, they leave a nice creepy shadow on our garage, which is a good reminder that I should close the curtain or put some pants on

asdf

trees trees everywhere – also, even though this home is large and lovely, check out how tiny the lot is

lkj;lj

this is the widest street in Pacific Grove – look at all that traffic

asdf

same shot, with fog rolling in –  it creeps up from the coast and circles you in a damp embrace – when it’s thick, it gives you an odd (and not entirely unwelcome) feeling of solitude – this is where the sidewalk ends

asdfdsf

downtown is a five-minute walk from our house – lots of places to eat, a movie theater, antique shops – the usual small town downtown suspects – the speed limit is 15 mph through here, unlike the rest of town which is a brisk 25 mph

asdfsdf

it’s shots like this that bring out the Amity Island aspect of this place – doesn’t that look like foreshadowing?

qwe

there’s only one barbecue joint – they don’t really “do” BBQ out here – or queso – or kolaches – which is why James and I should open a food truck that serves BBQ, queso and kolaches – get some Texas fusion up in this B

asdfd

this is the Jacksons’ house – Mrs. Jackson has an eye disorder that is taking her ability to see everything but the brightest of colors, so Mr. Jackson went about decorating the house for her so she could always find her way home – we saw this place when we came out here on our scouting trip before we moved, and its existence made me think this town is alright – I’ll take some better pictures of this place soon and post them here (it’s much more vibrant than this photo would suggest)

the good thing about so much moisture in the air? rainbows - or, in this case, double rainbows

double rainbow, man

Links
The house with amazing stonework that’s for sale
Peace of Mind Dog Rescue
Wiki history of Pacific Grove

when the sun goes down, I think of Charles Bukowski

photo taken by Steve Jackson outside a coffee shop in Amsterdam

photo taken by Steve Jackson outside a coffee shop in Amsterdam

I like to imagine what he might think about the world today. Not that I knew the guy, it’s just an interesting exercise. I thought of him this morning for reasons I’ll get to in a minute.

I have a couple of CDs of his readings–Poems and Insults and Solid Citizen–recorded in what sound like dive bars. The audience is drunk, so’s he, and there’s a palpable danger in the room. Like he could set the place on fire or someone could run up to the stage and punch him in the face at any moment.

Maybe because he wrote about people who don’t always get to see themselves in poems and stories. Drunks, jailbirds, blue collar workers who aren’t living some academic’s version of the “stolid American working the land,” ugly women, uglier men, gamblers, fighters, poor people. That’s who his audience was. They came to see themselves and revel in all their glory and grotesqueness.

Though Bukowski wrote a few things about writing, he mostly wrote about the struggle of living. About working for the post office or begging money off some pock-marked woman he met in a dark bar on a sunny LA afternoon. He didn’t write about sitting at his typewriter, waiting for the words to come. When given the opportunity to meet “important” writers of his day, he generally said no thanks (only with a few expletives thrown in). I’ve quoted him here before: I disliked them all immediately, sitting around acting clever and superior. They nullified each other. The worst thing for a writer is to know another writer, and worse than that, to know a number of other writers. Like flies on the same turd.

I thought of him, and specifically that quote, today when I read a post in a playwriting forum about someone weeping when they killed off a character. “I cried for hours!” a commenter said in reference to their own experience. Another said, “That’s how you know you’ve written a great character!” It was a circle jerk of people smelling their own intellectual farts, and I wanted Buk to show up and tell them all to stop writing about writing (like flies on the same turd) and actually do some fucking writing.

This sort of thing goes on there all the time. “Does anyone else ever find when you’re writing a play that it just veers off in a direction you didn’t expect?” No, fancy writer, you’re the only person who’s ever experienced that. We’ll just go ahead and send the Tony to your house now.

I can’t even imagine Bukowski in the same room with some of these people. I’d wager his whiskey shits were more dramatic than their plays are. Mine, too. Plays, that is.

Writing is a solitary experience, so I understand the need some people have to reach out and talk about it. I need to stick to groups that discuss dogs or hamburgers or national parks. I’d happily read about someone shedding a tear after taking their new puppy to Yosemite and  grilling up some burgers. “Does anyone ever have that moment when the sun is just about to set and you’re a little buzzed and it feels like you’re connected somehow to the past but firmly in the present and you weep for the beauty of it all?” Yes, my friend. Yes.

Listen to Mr. Bukowski read his poem Style.

Palo Corona Regional Park

entrance

Palo Corona is a fairly new park just south of Carmel – until the state builds a parking lot for it, access is limited to 13 cars a day – you have to apply for a permit 48 hours in advance to get the magic code to open the door – and you just leave your car on the shoulder of the highway (there’s plenty of space for safe parking)

ridge

Inspiration Point is at the top of this ridge – you can see the nicely paved trail cutting into the hill on the left

P1020508

there’s a porta potty behind the barn, but that’s it for facilities – unless you’re a cow – there’s lots of great facilities for cows throughout this park because it doubles as a working ranch – be ready to dodge fragrant cow patties

bunny

we were surprised to see lots of bunnies, our first since we moved to this area

squirrel

and less surprised to see lots of squirrels

foothills

looking back toward the barn/highway/ocean from the foothills – you can see how nice the trail is (because it’s really a one-lane road for the people running the ranch)

storybook

the vibe is different once you reach the trees – I always enjoy entering a heavily treed area because it usually feels like a fairy tale – even Hansel and Gretel had fun for a little while – I think Hansel got to eat butter and bacon and shit while he was fattening up in that cage

uphill

though most of the hike is pretty easy, there are stretches with a bit of an incline

valley

near the top, looking toward Carmel Valley

dropoff

CAUTION: Drop Off

Inspiration Point

the view from Inspiration Point at the top – the bit of land sticking out into the ocean on the right is Pebble Beach – our town (Pacific Grove) is just past that but not visible

P1020685

here’s that drop off

hawk

juvenile hawk

P1020725

the only house under half a million between Carmel and Big Sur (apologies to Instagram people who already heard that joke)

dirty water

Palo Corona trail ends at Animas Pond, which supposedly houses a rare frog – we didn’t see frogs or any other life forms in the stagnant water

moo

a cow, enjoying the facilities

More information about Palo Corona Regional Park can be found here.

The takeaway: Our hike was 6.2 miles total, following the Palo Corona trail to its end at Animas Pond, plus a little bit of wandering around in between. We stopped for a picnic at Inspiration Point, sitting at the picnic table under the big tree. Other than one section with a heart-pumping incline, this is an easy uphill hike with great views of Carmel, Pebble Beach and Carmel Valley. When I applied for a permit, I received a response in less than an hour, though they say you should expect to wait a couple of days. A lot of the trail is exposed to the sun, so wear sunblock.

Oh, and it’s nice to be on a Big Sur-adjacent trail and see very few people.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

sunflare

happy the rainy December has been replaced with a sunny (and warmer)  January

sunflare2

I know you’re supposed to avoid sun flares in photos, but I think these are cool–this one looks like a UFO

longview

this is Point Lobos–it’s the closest state park to our house (10 miles away) though we’ve neglected it since we moved out here-after a great 6-mile hike today, I think we’ll put this one in the regular rotation

heron

a white heron–still waiting to spot the elusive California condor

bench

okay, here’s what I want for the bench design–a bird in flight at the top and then a couple of sexy otters reclining at the bottom, only I want the otters to look like little fat polar bears, and I want them eating cookies–also, it should look like a sixth grader used a screwdriver to create the images

ridge

trees_trees_trees_trees

otter

otter

fartingsealion

hey, Murray, pull my flipper

comeon

yup

palmprint

someone left a handprint on the sky

helicopter

douchebag on the way to his weekend place in Big Sur OR crew searching for dumbass tourist who fell into the ocean (we saw a number of “special” people who hopped over the trail markers to climb out on rocks or down to the water–these are the people we hear about every couple of weeks who get swept out to the ocean because they don’t realize how strong and unpredictable the waves are out here)

whale

you have to look closely, but just to the right of center you’ll see the shadow and water spout of a whale

bird

bird

sparkles

I loved the way the silhouettes of this family looked against the blue water–thanks to the sparkles of sunshine, this turned into a much cooler photo

 

too early to start drankin’

So I guess I’ll do an end of the year post instead. Here’s some random shit I noticed this year.

When you see your people after a long time apart, it almost makes your heart explode for the first couple of moments, then it’s like no time has passed and you settle into a delightful groove. When it’s time to leave, the tears show up to say goodbye too. It’s hard, but maybe not as hard as the first time. Maybe.

In the nine months we’ve lived in Pacific Grove, I’ve heard only one driver honk their horn. That driver was me.

I’ve spent much more time walking and much less time in San Francisco than I expected.

There are almost no bugs here.

People are very comfortable openly smoking pot in California.

The first time I went hiking by myself in Big Sur, I alternated between worrying an animal would attack me or a person would knock me on the head and steal my shit. This is a change from living in Houston when I only worried about a person knocking me on the head. Eventually I’ll only worry about animal attacks or falling to my death off the side of a mountain. (Contrary to what Kerouac’s buddy says, you can fall off a mountain.)

When you see comedy outside of Texas, you find out that comedians make fun of Houston.

Recently we were drinking wine on the porch when we heard Taps being played (at the Defense Language Institute). A storm was coming in, a “Pineapple Express” from Hawaii, and the wind was blowing a different direction than usual. The next morning, I got up early to photograph the big waves and heard Reveille. Here’s an article about PG that mentions the different things you can hear, depending on the wind. When we got back from Houston a couple of nights ago, I heard the ocean in the darkness. A fitting welcome back.

This is my favorite paragraph from a post I didn’t publish this year. It was too bitchy, if you can imagine that.
This guy had spent the weekend in Big Sur, but he hadn’t really been there. This place of respite. This untamed wilderness. This edge of the world, west of the west, final frontier. I picture him standing at one of the many breathtaking vistas, one hand holding a pre-paid cellphone fruitlessly searching for a signal, the other holding a Coors Light while he desperately tries to connect with civilization to tell them what a wonderful time he’s having getting away from it all.

Here are some accomplishments from 2014 I’d like to remember: saw my first full-length play produced; puked four times off the side of a whale watching boat; started working from home and not wearing pants; moved across the country in a fit of middle-age crazies; fell on multiple hikes in multiple parks; saw otters, seals, dolphins, whales, pelicans, sea gulls, black squirrels, hawks, one bobcat and a dog parade; learned to make kick-ass cheese enchiladas; hung out with my family in California and Texas; packed our shit so well that literally not one thing broke on the trailer ride out here; didn’t hit any of the pedestrians that walked out in front of my car like baby deer; and, finally, nine months in, am happy to report that my heart still beats a little faster every time I look at the Pacific.

Here’s to a healthy and happy–and not too bitchy–2015 for us all. See you on the other side.

Stella is ready to party

gotta go – Stella is ready to party

Jackson’s Index

Number of hours spent in the minivan we rented
to drive home for Christmas : 70

Miles driven : 4,309

Least paid for regular unleaded gas : $1.99/gallon (in Texas)

Most paid : $2.99/gallon (in California, near the airport)

Weather conditions driven through : snow, fog, rain

Most fun, yet undocumented, coincidence :
passing mile 420 on I-10 in Texas at 4:20PM

Best combination of items sold at gas station along the way : fireworks,
moccasins, ceramic dogs, dream catchers, ‘Murica t-shirts,
Dairy Queen (Butterfield Station in New Mexico)

Most bothersome vanity plate : ienvyme
(in Houston, California plates)

Number of rainbows witnessed : three, all in California

Most dramatic highway event (tie) : overturned 18-wheeler, huge fire late at night

Terrain driven through : mountains, desert, prairie, swampland

Most unexpected thing I said : “That’s a fucking camel!”
as we passed a truck hauling a trailer…with a camel inside

Most awkward conversation : hearing about polar shifts
from the guy working the night shift at the hotel

Want to see some pictures?

with one or two exceptions, we stuck to Pilot/Flying J truck stops - clean bathrooms inside and usually a place for the dogs to use the bathroom outside - here, our minivan takes a breather

minivans may not look like much, but this B was a great road cruiser (side note: with one or two exceptions, we stuck to Pilot/Flying J truck stops – consistently clean bathrooms inside and a place for the dogs to do their business outside)

the first sign the weather might not be agreeable

we left before dawn – as the sun came up, so did the fog (not unusual where we live) – the skies cleared for a bit, but then we started to see signs the weather might not be agreeable ahead

(for my theater friends) so this is where the title came from?

so this is where that play’s title came from – we also passed Woman Hollering Creek (book by Sandra Cisneros) on I-10 near San Antonio – maybe I’ll name my next play “Have you seen THE THING?”

nuclear

Palo Verde nuclear generating station – no, that doesn’t look menacing at all

something about these things really makes me uncomfortable

something about these things makes me uncomfortable – like the blades are going to spin free and chop my head off (I like to worry about stuff)

ds

there were variations on DWI messaging by state – this was in Arizona – Texas had “Buzzed driving is drunk driving” and “Drive sober or get pulled over”

sfad

Arizona doesn’t fuck around when it comes to rain

a;slkdj

a lot of our drive looked like this

lkjh

and this

lkjh

klassy

this chick's bumper sticker should have said, "

this chick’s bumper sticker should have said, “CAUTION: Driver texting while propelling vehicle 80 MPH down highway” – it was disturbing the number of drivers who were buried in their hand computers instead of the important task of driving

transparent semi

transparent semi

I'm going to guess that the middle sign used to say "MOTEL"

I’m going to guess that the middle sign used to say “MOTEL”

a'lkj

we’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonopah – and we’re still willing

oh, Texas, don't ever change

oh, Texas, don’t ever change

asdf

there was one reason for this trip back home – to see the people we love – my niece and nephew both grew up in the 9 months since we moved – Rowan is a whiz at building things

asdf

and Molly is a tough girly-girl who loves to play, whether with marshmallow guns, Barbie dolls, a musical instrument, an iPad or a Hello Kitty used as a ball

a;lsdkjf

on the way back, we stayed at Hotel El Capitan in Van Horn – they aren’t kidding when they say it’s the sister to El Paisano in Marfa – they’re practically identical twins

;lkj

our last Texas meal was this chicken fried steak with jalapeño gravy and roasted asparagus (from the restaurant at El Capitan) – had to get it to go because our dogs need constant love and attention and won’t let us go have dinner for five minutes without them

lkj

leaving Van Horn, we were surprised to find it was snowing – my driving-in-snow experience is limited to once (in Houston), so it was a trip to drive through some fairly heavy snow on the interstate for about an hour

oiu

later that day, blue skies and sunshine in Arizona at Texas Canyon (shortly after taking this picture, I slid down the hill on my ass, unintentionally – only like 15 or 20 people saw it happen, so no biggie) (when you’re clumsy and take a tumble here and there, you learn/earn the ability to dust yourself off and hop up rather quickly, even though you scraped some skin off your palm and have a sore ass) (so, yay?)

asdf

if you ever find yourself driving through the California desert and stop for expensive gas or a trip through the General Patton Memorial Museum in Chiriaco Summit, check to see if my sticker is still there

lkj

there’s something very exciting in this picture – no, not the Sizzler billboard, look behind it – DINOSAURS – what’s funny is in a conversation with my mother, we were talking about road trips where you just drive to get there as quickly as possible versus those where you take detours along the way – I said that one day I want to go on a road trip where I can stop at a dinosaur museum if I ever run across one

asdf

fast forward a couple of days later, and we’re driving through southern California around lunch time – we were going to get a Fatburger (since it played a part in Ice Cube’s special day, we thought we’d give it a try) (though I consider a breakfast with no hog to be missing something) – my hand computer claimed there was one about 40 miles ahead – as we exited the highway, I saw these fellows – so we made a slight detour – sadly, there was only time for pictures and no tour – you can climb inside this brontosaurus and look through little round windows

this was my favorite

the t-rex was my favorite

hhmmmm...yeah...I think this might be a trap for those of us who really like dinosaurs

robotic dinosaur museum cave – looks legit

adg

don’t tell me what to do

ASD

I’ll spare you the sentimentality, but it was great seeing our people – well worth the thousands of miles and close quarters with one dog that farts and another who has breath that can peel paint off the walls – maybe next time we’ll fly

the road

You’re driving out of California and trailing a storm, the road still wet from the rain that passed ahead of you. The backroads you take to get from your small town to the big interstate are covered in mud, having recently been under water. You feel lucky you didn’t leave a day earlier when roads might have been impassable to your rented minivan.

You hope you can stay behind the storm and that it dies out soon. It doesn’t really rain in the desert, right? Isn’t that why it’s desert? You expect endless blue skies (and maybe a bit of smog) once you reach southern California. You get not much of either.

It hits you hard once you reach Phoenix and turns into an almost blinding rain by the time you roll into that night’s destination (Tucson). After a good six hours of sleep and a hearty breakfast at Best Western’s companion restaurant, which is way better than it has to be, you continue eastward under gray skies. The dogs don’t like the rain, but they do like road trips. Maybe it’s the close accommodations, everyone within eyesight at all times. A sleepy dog opens her eyes, lifts her head, sees everyone is there, puts her head back down, dreams of little mammals.

In New Mexico, you can’t tell if you’re looking at dark storm clouds or the gray of distant mountains. Most of the time, you’re seeing both, and you again find yourself in the misty nothingness of highway spray from 18-wheelers. They barely slow for the rain and you wonder if it’s balls, experience or stupidity that keeps them moving. Maybe the desperation of an unyielding schedule and fears of no pay for late arrival.

You wait until you’ve crossed the Texas border to grab lunch at Whataburger. It’s about four miles from New Mexico in a town called Canutillo. It’s just right, exactly how you remember it, and you marvel at how taste memory is so specific and so easy to access.

As you drive the endless road that is I-10 through west Texas, you appreciate a bit of blue above. It makes it easier to snap pictures of the border patrol trucks driving up and down the barbed wire fence. Mexico is so close you can throw an empty Lone Star out the window and litter in another country. You wonder what would happen if you park on the shoulder, crawl through the fence to pee behind a bush and get stopped by the border patrol on the way back. You decide to hold it until Van Horn.

Flying J/Pilot has the cleanest bathrooms, so you plan your stops around their locations. You wonder if the pickled and preserved food in jars with homemade looking labels is made by a nearby little old lady or a huge company like Nestle or Halliburton. You can’t remember the brands from location to location, so you plan to pay more attention on the way back. Not because you want to buy any of it, but because you like the idea of locals plying their wares in big truck stops to people from far away.

When you roll into Houston, it’s raining hard and traffic is at a standstill. The familiar and expected. Within a few hours it feels as if you never left, as if the adobe house with a view of the Pacific is a sweet dream from a long afternoon nap. Familiar faces at your company party, at a gathering of friends, at your boyfriend’s mother’s house, at your favorite Tex-Mex place. Joyous reunions, promises to come visit, unwelcome allergies, welcome queso.

You can’t wait to see your family on Christmas Eve. To enjoy the comfort of Home. The excitement of your niece and nephew waiting for Santa. The soul familiarity of family. You hope to not overwhelm them with your excitement to see them (like the Abominable Snow-Man with Daffy Duck) but know they’ll forgive you if you do. Even if you call them George.

Happy holidays.

don't look behind that bush

don’t look behind that bush