To Tampa for Thai Donuts

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I had trouble relaxing last night and finally going to bed as I always get excited before a trip. I had cleaned the house, packed my bag, bathed my body, and talked to Caleb but didn’t get to bed until after 9:30, which is early for my regular routine but I needed to be at the San Diego Airport before my usual alarm. Sparky woke me at midnight, nails clicking on the wooden floor. I grabbed him and he stayed under the covers till after 2:30 when I woke before my phone went off.

I washed my hair and ruffled his to get Sparky out of the pocket of warmth he created so we could go on a walk at three in the morning. The houses on my street already have Christmas lights up and inflatable decorations that are going all night. I would have them on a timer, but we don’t have any decorations these days, though Caleb misses the ambiance of the soft light they provided inside. I sneak into Fallon’s house and wait with her while she finishes her oatmeal so she can give us both a ride to the airport.

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in Houston Airport: The Sentinels by Elizabeth DeLyria

I eat the grapes that I stuffed into my water bottle last night before I have to worry about what security will think because I went to bed hungry after having dinner at 4 pm. Not only is there holiday traffic today but the Navy decided to transfer a bunch of guys who are crowding the American Airlines counter. Good thing I’m flying Spirit and am sixth in line to go through the checkpoint. The agent opening the gate is friendly and full of jokes and though Fallon isn’t clocked in yet she’s there to hand me a piece of gum.

I’m the only one in the lounge for about an hour and it’s fantastic while I read and tune into the TV when it talks about rain on the west coast. A guy opens a sandwich next to me and it tells me that I’m hungry, but I forgot my other snacks. I debate getting up and check the airline website that sells muffins and BuzzBallz and I’m not about that party lifestyle so early so I slowly decide to put away my book and venture one gate away.

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reflections and lights landing in Tampa

I’m getting cold as we start to board with a 15-minute delay and I’m given the window seat and eventually the exit row too, but there seems to be some confusion as to the guy’s ability to handle the door. I thought it was an age thing, but apparently, he’s a litigation attorney and not willing to give his seat up for discrimination without an exchange of words as he attempts to get moved to the first row or be given a full refund. Turns out the attendant had to make a judgment call with the FAA on her side, but I feel bad for sitting here.

I tried to read and napped instead and woke up to a passenger in need of air with half the plane looking towards the back and a crew member carrying a portable emergency oxygen system that looked like a mini dive tank. There’s also a line for the water closet and it starts to smell like nacho farts. I’m feeling grateful I didn’t buy a drink so that I don’t have to wait in the aisle, especially as the seatbelt light comes on and the pilot asks people to return to their seats so we can land in Houston at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

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Tampa toilet technology

I wait in line for another delayed departure, but it’s no big deal considering 30 million people are traveling today and it’s only a few minutes. The flight is an hour and a half and Caleb has an hour to himself at the hotel to think about dinner and “dessert.” I sat next to another reader on the flight, title of his book One Minute Millionaire, and now we’re both napping. My neck fell asleep; a sensation I’ve not felt before and the clouds are all white and smooth as I look out my window to the water below.

The plane making contact with the ground felt like landing a soda can full of rocks and the attendant comes over the speaker to tell us to “let social media know you were 11 minutes early because you’d let them know if you were late.” We stopped at Jack and Jill Adult Superstore to find something new to play with, on the way to dinner at Lemon Grass Thai Kitchen where I got the curry and Caleb the noodles, and we ordered their donuts for a new experience.

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steamy start to an evening

We’ve never had Thai donuts, which are like loukoumades (Greek donuts), but the nuts and sauce combo come served on the side which would come in handy when we got back to the room (I spit the nut part out so it wouldn’t scratch) and got to try some Nipple Nibblers tingle balm, Belgian waffle, after watching the second half of Inglorious Basterds.

 

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Chapulines in California

 

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driving west on Highway 10

 

We were in separate cars, me following Dad down the highway at 8 am, because I had agreed to join him and Caroline on their trip to Los Angeles. They were going a day early to be ready for their concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sunday afternoon. I would’ve preferred to set the cruise control and just drive, but Dad would rather do it differently, and even though I eventually passed them we were able to meet off Exit 144 in California for a roadside snack.

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driving into downtown Los Angeles

They got to the restaurant first while I got fuel and thought they’d order the small plate of carne asada fries. We needed 2-3 more people to help us eat the pile of food that was served for just $10. We still had about two hours before getting into LA. We would meet at the parking garage near FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising) and walk to explore the small exhibit of a Napoleonic court gown and new ways of wearing jeans.

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The Fifth Element inspired fashion

We walk around downtown for two hours exploring the streets that Dad used to wander in his youth with a camera and curiosity at the same odd people found today – filming, sleeping, screaming, and dancing, etc. We take the Angels Flight funicular railway, all 298 feet of it, down to South Hill Street. The track was opened in 1901 and has been closed from ’69 to ’96 for redevelopment, 2001 to ’10 for a fatal injury, June to July 2011 for wheel replacement, and 2013 to ’17 for a minor derailment. The original cars, Olivet and Sinai, are still in use today.

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Angels Flight

Across the street is the Grand Central Market, a gathering hub for restaurants since 1917, and a place where plenty of people come to eat; which is why Dad finds it difficult to believe that I have not been here before. I let him know that I’ve spent more time exploring the beaches and mountains of LA county and have probably seen more of downtown San Francisco than I have of a city that is only a two-hour drive, on a good day, away from home. I should change that.

 

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inside the Bradbury

 

The Bradbury Building is open and inside I learn that it was built in 1893 and designed by George Wyman and Sumner Hunt. The film Blade Runner from 1982 is the advertised attraction here, but this beautiful landmark with a skylit atrium at five-stories high has provided the backdrop for over 30 movies since 1942 and remains the oldest commercial building in Los Angeles.

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Another historical landmark, the Million Dollar Theater, opened with the premiere of The Silent Man in 1918 as one of the earliest and largest cinemas with over 2,300 seats to include Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. as guests. The detailed stucco design was based on the Churrigueresque style popular in Spain until 1750 and the façade of bison heads and girls strumming instruments was also a Spanish influence representing the arts.

 

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California Plaza

 

We drove to Guelaguetza Restaurante where they serve Oaxacan fare and are known for their varieties of mole, but that wasn’t the focus of tonight’s menu. I took Sparky out for a three-second walk while the car was parked via valet which is a great deal for $5 and two hours of parking in Koreatown since I could’ve spent 30 minutes looking for a $16 spot over a half mile away.

 

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wall art on S. Grand Ave., AT&T Switching Center

 

Caroline and I ordered horchata con tuna (not the fish, but with pieces of prickly pear and nuts) to sip on while we waited on our appetizer of chapulines — sautéed grasshoppers with jalapeños, onions, and tomatoes. They come in two taco shell bowls, generously over full, with a side of Oaxacan cheese, sliced avocados, and warm tortillas wrapped in groups of four. Caroline wants to be embarrassed for playing the touristy role as Dad takes out his phone flashlight to capture this moment with his other camera.

 

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cups of chapulines

 

I take one masa flour (main ingredient hominy) tortilla and wait my turn to grab a spoonful of tiny Sphenarium, the young of the most ancient, from the Triassic period, group of chewing herbivorous insects, that will help provide my protein intake for the evening. I take a bite and try not to focus on the baby bugs or their legs getting stuck in my teeth as I mentally agree to finish this handheld taco. Dad wants to know if I’ll have more while Caroline is busy spooning them into her mouth.

Next to arrive is the sampler platter with cups of mole: negro, rojo, coloradito, and estofado; all with shredded chicken and served with two cups of rice and a large 14″ tortilla. I will put a scoop of each on my small plate and try a slice of the tlayuda tortilla, an Oaxacan-style pizza, topped with a pork-rind paste (pig skin), black bean paste, queso fresco (raw cow’s milk), cabbage, tasajo (thinly sliced grilled beef), cecina (dry, salted beef), chorizo (pork meat and fat), and Oaxaca cheese. This will be the most meat and dairy I’ve had together in a long time, but I’m caught up in the moment.

The band had started and on Saturday nights it’s three guys on marimba with a percussionist and a vocalist that add to the background ambiance without drowning out the voices of the people you’re sitting with. The night was young as we had yet to try the Oaxaca dessert sampler of a blueberry tamale, rice pudding, cheese flan, and nicuatole (corn gelatin with milk and walnuts). I took my coffee to go at 7 pm so that I could get on the road and they could catch up with a local friend.

I stopped before getting on the highway to let Sparky out and am thankful for the coffee cup, as I poured the beverage into my reusable tumbler, as a post-dinner catcher. I’m open to trying new things, but this meal didn’t agree with me and I would spend half the ride home feeling their legs on my tongue again. The thought of it, along with the smell that had Sparky interested, was gross enough and I was sick again when I got home at 9 pm. I showered and washed the dog and went to bed around 11.

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Youthful Penumbra

There’s a joy to youth that if not learned how to develop into adult enjoyment will continue with frivolity and narcissism – as children are wont to do.

A great playwright once said that “If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.” I’ve been copying what people around me do, even when I didn’t want to be like them because I wasn’t given permission to be different as a kid – don’t ask questions in school and don’t bring that knowledge home or encourage that behavior through books in the house or trips to the library.

My stepdad worried that I’d end up a pregnant teenager, but that usually happens to the uneducated or unmotivated in positive situations. I had a goal and a drive to stand out; a passion I didn’t want squashed by other people or the systems they were in – school, military, family. At some point, I let the sheep mentality take over that I was on the right path, even if it meant not developing myself while still checking things off my to-do list so that I could fit in on some level.

I’m encouraged to see others breaking out of society’s shell of conformity, of hating self and fearing the other. I too want to walk that trail again of exploration but with an increased vigor to grow along the way. Children learn so much but adults are burnt out on their lives and the lessons go unnoticed until offspring turn to drugs and other crutches to aid their disabilities because our society hasn’t been taught how to strive and cope in the utopia of freedom that is our present.

There is rarely a decent and strong role model that is willing to be honest with someone on all fronts whether for personal preservation or to uphold their public image. People come from a place of fear and shame and so they act on that to hurt others, not fully realizing the vicious cycle. What would you tell your twelve-year-old self? I would tell her to be honest with herself in all things and to practice the passion she wants to grow with new habits.

Life seems like forever but is also fleeting. I would tell her to slow down and be pickier about who she chooses to interact with. Decide who you are, in the many roles you will play, and be sure to be present every day for yourself and all the other species you share this planet with.

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Roadtrip Hump Day

Not every road trip has to be long, exciting, or life-changing. Sometimes you just need to escape the city or your surroundings and give your brain the peace that being behind the wheel brings, especially for those who love being close to someone else.

Each journey has a destination and today’s would be Chengdu Restaurant in Chandler. Dad drove us east to explore; not so much the road we’ve both been on before, multiple times, but to go into the depths of our minds. We made it to Superior where we were able to talk with Kathy again, this time about old buildings and the hidden trail to the old tunnel that we decided against walking along in 55* weather with the wind we’d forgotten about while inside.

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walking into Chengdu

An hour later, and after letting me take a peek at the options before closing the pages, Dad is ordering by the numbers from the not-typical-American menu so that lunch will be a surprise, which I prefer as it alleviates the anxiety of choosing for myself. It wasn’t so much the tofu, gyoza, chicken, or cabbage that was new but the mala sauce (a combination of Sichuan pepper and other spices with oil that causes numbing) that brought the unfamiliar sensation to lunch.

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chicken knuckles and peppers

I take a bite and then two wondering if my tongue is going numb. Dad said it would feel like pins and needles, as when an arm or leg falls asleep, once I add water. For me, it’s a snap, crackle, pop which tickles and sets this moment in my memory. A few more bites and another sip of water makes my tongue feel like it’s licking an AA battery except for the feeling rolls over my tongue.

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tofu and cabbage with mala

We continue the conversation at home and it’s productive and educational but exhausting. There’s no manual for growing up, which is hard to do; no guidebook with a bullet point list of steps to take, so there’s not a defined way of knowing you’ve made it. We’re in a coffee shop now, a bit of a reprieve from our in-depth discussion that took up most of the daylight hours. Learning about Moshkovitz yeast sending spears into a beetle’s belly sent me on a tangent of self-discovery as I advance to the next stage of life.

Q&A: What do you need to vent about?

These moments aren’t age related or limited to one event – marriage, hiring/firing, death – but come at times when not expected – a book, a bottle, or a boss who doesn’t care about your dreams or bills. I’ve recently had some revelations of my own and am attempting to handle them in a new way. Since I was a child I’ve been told that I’m beautiful, smart, and perfect – and that was the mistake. This isn’t about body acceptance, but about responsibility for my actions or lack thereof.

I thought growing out of my teens was also getting me away from the effects of a sometimes painful childhood and I realized how lucky I was compared to children in this country and families in war-torn areas. I thought I had moved on and forgiven the people who had influenced my youth but people are built slowly and it takes time to create or destroy a personality. On the outside, I had made up excuses to absolve all guilty persons, but those instincts were there on the inside and I lived in a narcissistic bubble of my own happiness, at the cost of that for others. I hurt those closest to me and actually neglected my best interest.

I’m quick to lash out when things don’t go my way, even if that’s not always obvious, it’s hard for me to hide or lie about these issues as my body language tells another story. Mom knew way more about me and life in general than she let on. Dad encouraged my growth from day one – and then he left. I told myself that I was glad one of my parents had moved on to find ultimate happiness; even though it traumatized my early years in ways I couldn’t know and has a bearing on me now but for different reasons.

I’ve learned that good people are always learning and that even the best can make the worst mistakes, but that’s all perception. We as humans do what it takes to self-preserve and as a species are still coming to terms with what it means to deal with the package of another person for five to 50 years as we make drastic changes of our own and continue to live longer; it’s inevitable unless you choose to rot and remain unhappy together.

I tell myself that I don’t want to ask of others what I can’t do, but I’ve demanded that others serve my needs and have been blind to their pain. I want to make amends, but I can’t just apologize for my own guilt. I have to allow those people to know that I’m now aware and willing to change, even if it’s too late for “us” it will continue to be my self-improvement project for the rest of my life.

All any of us want is acceptance and love, to be understood in our many moods, and not to be judged, lied to, deceived, or hurt in any way. Though this is unavoidable, how we cope and grow is relatively up to us to decide how we let people and life events affect us, but we aren’t given the mechanisms of change so we continue down the same self-destructive path we’ve been shown from family and society and that reaffirms our belief that to be wrong and hateful is the right thing to do.

The most powerful thing you can do is to stay true to yourself and follow your heart in an optimistic light through all situations because you can’t change those around you without changing yourself and showing them through kindness what is possible. I want to choose the path of positivity, purpose, and passion. I want to be vulnerable and show emotion. I want to communicate without seeming closed off before the conversation starts. I want to control my anger and see things from another perspective.

I’ve been all talk over the years, and it has worked great in the short-term, but anyone worth knowing is worth knowing forever, all their ups and downs, their beauty and faults. I want to walk with them in honesty regardless of the outcome of our selfish choices and learn better how to live with who I really am, even with the pressures of society and media to fit a certain mold. I will make mistakes but I will own them because they help make up the threads of my being.

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Sing This, Say That

Q&A: What song could be your self-portrait? “Cars, they drove in. What came out of your butthole?” Just a sample from dad and daughter duet.

It felt nice to stand beside Dad on an anti-fatigue mat and make car alarm sounds and funny voices together and then adjust them into something else with modular knobs, patch cables, and a keyboard piano. This was our morning.

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morning selfie

We were driving to lunch and I rolled the window down on the highway to wave to a car of someone Dad knows with the same car and a very close personalized license plate but it wasn’t her. We arrived 40 minutes later to Chengdu Delight, a restaurant that’s closed on Tuesdays. I was looking forward to trying a new place but set my mind on eating whatever is nearby.

Another meal of guacamole but this one served with thin parmesan pizza crust chips. We order our vegetables — stuffed mushrooms for Dad and a skillet of broccoli and squash for me, but I’ll be taking mine to go. We don’t finish the Guaca-Tony, though we ate more than we should have, Caroline would’ve loved to have a slice brought home.

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afternoon coffee

I spend another afternoon reading. It’s easier to disconnect from the internet when I don’t bring my laptop, another reason I enjoy these little Phoenix getaways. I appreciate the conversations between the words, videos, and blips of noise that Dad is learning to create. I’m inspired that he’s taken on something that 23,000 people claim to participate in, which includes circuit benders. The cost varies from $39 to $1000 per piece so your interest can grow with the size of your wallet.

Sparky gets in his senior dog cardio while I talk with Caleb until his voice lowers from a sore throat that’s been bothering him for a week and then both of them are ready for a nap. Back inside Dad is dealing with a system update and resetting the SD card that will remove his sound-testing history and some of our musical magic. I learn a little more each time I’m here and contemplate the possibility that a duet would be doable.

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evening stick

I take Sparky out to chew on a stick before happily cuddling with him under the blankets for added warmth while Dad makes dinner. I’m still full from lunch so I will wait for Caroline to get home before finishing the soup she doesn’t eat. The 44° morning had me appreciating the golden hour (with the warmest time of day and sunset being so close together in winter) and wanting to lay in the sun and soak up its warm energy.

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