Vacation – All I Ever Wanted

It’s a bit after 6 AM here in La Paz, and the sun is not yet up, but I’m dressed and ready for coffee. The kind with caffeine. The kind my parents no longer drink, but do actually possess. Thank God.

They left so many nice touches throughout their house and the casita where we’re staying though. They made sure there was scary orange soda for Fuzzy, bought 10 non-strawberry yogurts for me, and a box of Oregon chai, as well as box of Tazo chai teabags. Ira even tasted the mayo for me yesterday when I said it smelled weird.

Yes, my stepfather was willing to risk food poisoning on my behalf.
(The mayo was rancid.)

That’s pretty sweet.

But then there are the things they didn’t have because they just don’t use them – like milk. I’d asked for non-fat but all they could find was 2%. Or the fact that the 3/4 cups of sugar I needed to make snickerdoodles for them last night (Ira admits to eating three but I made four dozen and there are less than two dozen left and there are only four of us) wiped out the supply from the big house and the casita, so Ira went into town to buy more, and (complained about trans fats) but bought a small jar of peanut butter for Fuzzy and me anyway.

Yesterday, I had a manicure, pedicure, and brow wax in my mother’s house. Her stylist, Tere’, is married to one of Ira’s co-workers at CIB and she comes to her clients. Total cost in MXP $360. Total cost in USD $36. Actually less because the exchange rate right now is almost 11 pesos to the dollar, though informally, among friends you generally just do 10. It would have cost easily $120 for all that at Aveda…probably more.

For a while yesterday, I sat in my mother’s 1950’s retro plastic lounge chair on the sun-warmed deck and watched a snowy egret in the surf. I went inside to get my camera, but something spooked it. Sunrise brings fleets of pelicans. They’re so graceful when flying, it’s hard to believe they’re almost as tall as me.

Last night we decorated my mother’s 10-foot tree, and discovered that she is in serious need of more shiny ornaments, so today we’re trekking into town to buy more. If the wind relaxes, there will be a bonfire on the beach tonight. If not, we’ll just light the gas firepit on the deck and drink port while we watch the sun set.

It really is gorgeous here, very peaceful. Internet’s a bit wiggy, but I can live with that.

Noche de Paz

You have to seriously earn the ability to visit my parents.

Oh, the flight into LAX was fine. Our bags were moved for us, we learned that there’s a shuttle that stays inside the secure zone so you don’t have to go through security again even if you’re changing airlines and terminals, and boarding of our plane to La Paz from LA took place on schedule.

If you can call it a plane. It was one of those Embraer things that are essentially a school bus with wings. We’re talking “makes an MD-80 look spacious” here. And there was rain and suchlike in SoCal so the flight was fairly choppy. I already was over tired (we got up at 2:48 to make our morning flight from DFW) and a little nauseous, and this sent me over the edge.

Still it was only a two hour flight. And they gave me free Sun Chips. I love the Sun Chips.

We arrived on time, and please understand. I was expecting stairs. I mean, I used to live in San Jose, CA, where stairs are usual. I was not expecting a quarter mile walk from the airplane to the airport, where our flight of folks mingled with the folks from the American and Alaska flights that all arrived at precisely the same moment (we’d all left LAX together as well.)

I was expecting customs to be chaotic. I was not expecting, stressed out service dogs who also had to walk the quarter-mile from the plane, and I was not expecting ONE luggage carousel (at least our plane was first, if the farthest away), and I was not expecting customs to involve, not just trekking toward the light that determines if they glance through your bag, but first a conveyor belt/scanner thing of the type generally used when CHECKING bags.

Oh, and, we got the red light.
Thankfully our customs agent looked through two bags (barely) and didn’t open the big one full of presents.
“You can go,” she said. “Feliz Navidad.”

We thanked her, and wished her a Merry Christmas, too.

My parents were waiting. It took fifteen minutes to get out of the parking lot, and another fifteen to get to their house. We were given homemade stew and a tour, and we handed off the non-Christmas present portion of our shopping extravaganza. Then my parents went out to bribe an official, but that’s another story.

At present, I’m sitting on the deck, watching the lights of the La Paz malacon on the other side of the bay, and listening to the ocean lap at the sand. The pool lights are slowly cycling through their rainbow of colors, between me and the ocean, and the glow is giving me enough lights to type by.

Paz means “peace” in Spanish.

One of my favorite Christmas songs begins, in the local vernacular:

Noche de paz
Noche de amor

English speaking types know it better as “Silent Night.”

But in whichever language you choose, I will, tonight, sleep in heavenly peace.

Christmas Past: 1977

We lived in Georgetown, CO that year. I was seven, and had never lived in a small town before.

It was the kind of place where it was safe for us to go skating on the frozen-over baseball diamond, and walk home after dusk in the yellow glow of street lamps, without having to worry that we might be snatched from the street. We would laugh, and sing, and scare ourselves imagining horrible creatures in the shadows, but it was “good” fear, the kind that energizes the imagination, and gives you just enough of an adrenaline boost that you can walk home briskly, even though your toes are numb from skating too long in the December chill.

It was the year that my friends and I wanted leather: equestrian riding apparel like boots and tack (even if some of us didn’t own horses, we loved the smell and feel of tack), and more froufrou leather goods like designer boots from Frye and leather visors. Siobhan’s parents owned the leather goods store and we would all go hide in the back where the big coats were, and pretend it was a leather forest. Oh, the smell of new jackets: smooth leather, yes, but also buckskin (hey, this was Colorado in the seventies after all. )

I remember having to warm my poor dog’s toes to get the ice out of her matted poodle fur after walkies, and I remember sitting on the couch watching bad Christmas movies and how her white ruff made her look like she was wearing a turtleneck, and I remember her warm furry body pressing close to me in bed at night.

Mostly, though, I remember itchy mime make-up, being asked to “go steady” by Gil (who was NINE), and coming home on cold afternoons to sip cocoa in the vault-cum-office at the back of the store, where I would be lulled into sleepy bliss by the whirring of my mother’s ancient black Singer sewing machine.

Pen and Ink

I’m not sure how I managed it, but except for seven cards for which I had to track down addresses, and therefore are not already out in the mail, I finished the sending of the cards. Unless of course I don’t have your address because you texted it to my phone and I stupidly deleted it (you know who you are, oh amazing person in Montreal), or because you’ve moved and even though I lurk in your blog/journal/diary we don’t really keep in touch the way we should.

I even managed to write 20 ‘extra’ (as in over and above the names on my list) cards to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, so hopefully they’ll enjoy a bit of holiday cheer even if it takes til after the 25th to get there.

I like cards. I like the pictures on the front covers and the cheesy sentiments inside. I like the glittery envelopes (though probably should not have been writing cards with glitter in bed) and the seals and the textures. I like non-Christmas cards as much as Christmas cards, and I frequently use them for dropping notes to people. Note cards, especially, are useful when you want to keep in touch but don’t really have enough content (or time) for a long, rambling letter.

Today, if I have no other tasks, I’ll be baking cookies to leave for my dog sitter, and to take on the plane tomorrow. Oh, god, tomorrow. I’m not packed. I don’t know what to wear, I have so much to do, and my dogs keep circling the suitcases and giving me their slitty-eyed looks. The ones that say, “Yeah, Mom, we KNOW you’re abandoning us.”

At least they’ll be happy to see us in 10 days, and we’re leaving them in good hands.

Not hands like mine, that are covered in red and blue ink.


I have 500 things left to do before we leave Wednesday morning, and not enough time for any of it, and the check my mother sent to reimburse us for the $300 we spent on game systems for her computer guy’s kid still hasn’t cleared paypal, and stress is running out of me the way water runs from a Hansgrohe faucet, and my head hurts, and I feel hung over, but it’s not from alcohol. It’s from carbs.

Oh, the carbs. And the cream.

For yesterday was the Feast of the Turducken, which is a mythical southern beastie comprised of a stuffed chicken stuffed into a duck, which is in turn stuffed into a turkey. It tastes better than it sounds. Really. Also there are like six drumsticks and assorted wings, but no other bones, so the end result is the poultry equivalent of one of those caravan sandwiches that are often served as party nibbles.

The rest of the food was equally tasty: mac-n-cheese, squash-n-cheese, creamed pearl onions, cranberry sauce, whipped yams, and, in a bow to healthy eating, steamed broccoli (with ginger) and a salad. All of this was, of course, followed by pumpkin pie.

The food was excellent, if lethal, and the company was of the sort that is equally comfortable discussing the merits of mac vs. pc, high speed internet options, and trashy movies.

It was a lovely interlude.

But I still feel panicked.

I Want to Hear it Tick

I used to be very much in love with my grandfather’s watch. It wasn’t a pocket watch or anything unusual. Gold face, gold band, analog, not digital – he liked the weight of real workings inside the case, I think – wrapped around his sturdy, tanned wrist like something precious.

My thumb would brush across it sometimes, when he reached down to hold my hand, crossing a street, or walking down the beach. It would catch my attention and I’d look up at him and ask, “Let me hear it tick, Grandpop,” and he would patiently remove it from his wrist and hand it to me, and I would hold it up to my ear, and listen to the steady ticking sound.

Tonight at a dinner party I watched an old woman go from giddy to weepy, overwhelmed by friendly faces, and sad for all the things she doesn’t have, and while I completely empathize with the friend who is her house-mate, and bears the brunt of her many sour moods and bitter words, I also understand the sense of loss she probably feels every day, and can’t adequately articulate, and so gets angry and cruel.

There is no time limit on grief.
There is nothing more beautiful than making someone smile.

Right now, I’d give anything to sit with my grandfather, and wait for him to give me his watch.
I want to hear it tick.

Sunday Morning

8:30. I wake up because a small dog has planted himself on top of my bladder, and I can’t take the pressure any more. “Zorro, sweetheart, could you move please?” I ask, and he does, though he gives me the patented “slitty-eyed look of doom” that only chihuahuas really know how to give. He will get even with me, later. So much later, in fact, that it might not be til after I come home from our trip, but he will do it.

8:55. Miss Cleo, who began the night under the covers at the end of the bed has wormed her way up to the pillows, squeezing her warm furry body between Fuzzy and me. She moves in her sleep, dreaming – chasing something – and her feet hit my lower back as she paddles them. “Cleo, move!” I mutter. She does. Barely.

I sit up in bed, turn on the laptop and try to decide if I’m in a fit state to get out of bed. I chat over Skype with Rana, at whose house we’ll be partying tonight. She’s making a terducken and a whole mess of southern creamed and fried foods. I am bringing cranberry sauce, steamed broccoli, pumpkin pie, and a veggie tray. It will be fun.

9:34. I decide this “awake” thing is over rated. I reset the alarm for 11. I go back to sleep and dream of music.

11:00. Not ready. I make a woozy Fuzzy give us one more hour on the alarm. I can’t reach. There’s a dog in the way.

11:36. I blog about it.

So what was your Sunday morning like.

The Best Conversation

I turned on NPR while I was filling the tub for my bubble back a couple of hours ago, and was delighted to find that tonight’s programming was a celebration of Storytelling. I realize that there are those who think public radio exists only to play infinite hours about business performance management and such, but they do have some really interesting entertainment programs, (mostly on weekends) and they’re not even borrowed from the BBC.

Tonight, while I soaked in hot sudsy water lightly scented with tea and jasmine, I listened to an entrancing Indian stale about frogs, guava trees, courtship and Coca-Cola, and heard the distinctive voice of Sonia Manzano reading micro-fiction written by a prisoner taking part in an adult literacy program called “All Write.” (Sonia plays the part of Maria on Sesame Street, for those who don’t recognize her name.)

I also heard the warmest storytelling voice ever, a woman named Diane Wolkstein, share a Haitian folk tale about a magic orange tree. As a result, I’m now craving oranges, but aside from that, I’m entranced with something she said: that good storytelling, because there is connection, and because there are silences, is like a conversation, “…the best conversation…” she said.

I have a great appreciation for storytellers, who are sometimes writers, and sometimes actors, and generally a bit of both, and I have an even greater appreciation of stories themselves, and not just the epics. I like the small stories. The twists and turns of every-day life.

The best conversations.


“I need a treadmill,” I informed Fuzzy the other night, when I called him in Utah. “All this cold and rain make walking outside almost impossibly uncomfortable. Zorro won’t go beyond the garage door, and we’re all antsy.”

He agreed that it would be a good idea, then teased, “But we’ll have to get two small ones for the dogs.”

I have this image of the three of us on our little treadmills, walking and watching Animal Planet (Miss Cleo likes the bird shows; Zorro prefers Meerkat Manor), nice and cozy and dry. But it’s just an image, at the moment. A fantasy.

Fuzzy agreed that I could go shopping for a treadmill when we get back from vacation, but in the meanwhile, having been cooped up inside for the better part of a week, the dogs and I are all antsy. The lightning and thunder outside aren’t helping them, but I rather like it, because as long as it’s stormy I can blame my restlessness on the weather and not the fact that I haven’t come close to being ready for this trip. Not close.

So maybe I am antsy, after all.

One More Sleep

My neighborhood is lit up like a Las Vegas hotel, and the house is decorated, and I have seventeen thousand things left to complete for work, and – how pathetic is this? – all I can think about is that tomorrow night – one more sleep from now – Fuzzy will be home.

Teasing, I asked if he missed me, and he allowed that, “The bed is too big, and there’s no Lovey in it.” But then work called him and the dogs needed to go out, and there wasn’t much to say that can’t wait til tomorrow anyway.

Most times, I don’t mind it when he has to travel on business. Most times, I use the time to indulge in endless bubble baths and eat froufrou foods he doesn’t like and write all hours of the night, but so close to Christmas, I resent this trip. We should have been spending this week wrapping presents and curling up by the fire, and watching cheesy Christmas movies, and instead, I’ve been alternately hot and freezing, and completely unfocused and stressed about our upcoming trip.

But one more sleep will bring him home, and one more sleep will find me refreshed and ready to face all the tasks as yet undone.