I’m on Skype with my dad when Caleb calls to let me know he will be home late because he just got rear-ended at a red light eleven blocks from the house. He makes the bumper seem worse than it is, but as he went to grab the insurance information, the guy took off. Caleb had a name and license plate number that he would take to the police station in the morning to file a complaint. A week later and damages are $800. The shop wants to replace a bumper with a scratch on it. The support piece underneath, that may help in case of a repeat offense, is only $60.
I took Caleb to work after the report was filed on Wednesday morning, the 19th, and then drove out to El Centro to visit with his uncle Ed. I arrived at lunch time and ordered chow mein at the Lucky Chinese Restaurant, where they speak Spanish. I ate as much as I could and stuffed the rest in a box and bag for later – like multiple days and meals later. I watched some of Cowboys VS. Aliens before going to the hot tub to relax, drink beers, and meet some of the guys Ed works with until the maintenance guy kicked us out.
Ed went to work Thursday morning and I drove the four hours out to Phoenix to visit my dad. I got there at lunch time and we joined Brinn at Viet Kitchen where I ordered a papaya salad minus the shrimp and pork pieces. Back at Dad’s house I watched him kill zombies in DayZ, a new computer game released in mid-December of last year. He let me have a turn and I got upset when another player punched me in the back of the head. I let my dad ax him to death.
Then my dad, along with Brinn and Joe, his real-life and in-game friends, found a guy wandering alone. My dad asked for his shoes, and after some funny banter the guy punched my dad in the face, so Brinn shot him. The game has a huge territory and a more realistic death time – laying there with broken legs waiting to bleed out, only to throw off all your gear while a zombie beats you to death so you can respawn and start over. Soon I get bored. I walk the dogs and then start reading Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behavior.
We have pitas at Saba’s for dinner and custard from Rita’s for dessert of which I eat half of both. Then for the first time since I’ve visited here I’m able to get both of them to join me in the hot tub, once the little boy that’s splashing water gets out. And this hot tub actually bubbles, unlike the one in El Centro. Then I get shown up when the couple opts to cool off in the pool. I know what that feels like and hadn’t been too warm for too long yet. If there ever is an apocalypse I hope that we are able to relive this moment one more time.
Breakfast will be at U.S. Egg after Dad drops the wife off at work. I had woken with them, but quickly fallen back asleep, tired from a night of killing zombies and running from town-to-town via train tracks. I ordered veggie eggs Benedict and my dad talked with the manager about all the renovations taking place. Dinner will be at a little Italian place, off E. Union Hills Dr. near Marcel’s, that has become a Friday tradition for Dad and Caroline. The bruschetta is an eight-inch pizza/frybread mix topped with cherry tomatoes. I eat half of that with one of the two large ravioli I ordered.
Months ago, maybe even a year or so now, I had gleaned some cotton from the dirty roadside. I put it in a cloth bag, threw that in the closet, and forgot about it until now. Caroline would pick the leaves off and get the seeds out while I carded it and then used a puni stick to roll it off the card and get it ready for spinning on a takhli spindle – harder than it looks on YouTube, but fun to know that I could have a plant and make something from start to finish.
We continue like this for probably two hours before I’m the one who gets tired. The wire brushes I’m using are starting to cut my fingers. Caroline tells me the person who taught her told her to card like she was petting a kitten – who does that? It’s like Sadie, the woman who rode with me when I was learning how to drive. She told me to pretend like there were eggs under the gas and brake. It’s not my fault I like them scrambled, though I’m sure they wouldn’t have been any safer being hardboiled. The lesson learned was to lightly rub the brushes together, keeping the cotton on the tips – not to force the thin wires through each other and jam threads to the bottom of the bristles.
Saturday morning we are up early and Dad calls his barber for a beard trim. When he gets back, an hour later with three-fourths of it gone, we go to U.S. Egg. This morning I will split the half-and-half (part veggie skillet with egg and hash brown; and part protein pancake) with Caroline and get an English muffin toasted with butter. Dad finds one of the waitress’ boyfriends at the end of the bar to talk to about virtual reality and gives him his website address, PSOIH.com, before the guy leaves so Dad can eat his cold breakfast.
Back at the house, the ladies will work with cotton while Dad kills zombies – panting, running, and eating beans. I’d be more interested in the game if it had less of those sounds and I could run around and talk with my friends online. On my way out the door, with bags in hand, Dad starts to get the jars out that he will use to can homemade sauerkraut. It will be better once it’s a little more drained, but still tasty. As I hug Caroline I realize we really should spend more time together. When I was younger it was all about me getting in time with my dad and I will miss these moments and wish for them more often.
I arrive in El Centro later that afternoon and in time for dinner at Grasso’s – a house renovated into a restaurant. Ed and I share garlic bread and get minestrone soup and a salad before the entrée – mine was gnocchi. We call our spouses, I walk the dogs, and then we have a beer with the guys from work before flipping through channels of Leonardo DiCaprio, Dave Chappelle, and Olivia Wilde. I check on the dogs, that are sleeping in the car, and call Caleb again before going to sleep myself.
Ed has Sunday off. Breakfast for me is two banana nut muffins from the Clarion Inn, the hotel his work has him staying in for 2.5 weeks. Laundry is done at the Coin-O-Matic on Euclid, with no wait, versus the one working dryer at the hotel. From there we drive out to the dunes area and let the dogs run around while we sit in the shade. Ed throws the ball for Sparky, using the chuck-it until I let him know that a dog is dumb enough to be tired, but to continue running to save his ball from the heat and loneliness of desert we find ourselves in. I call Piggy back before she makes it over a dune and gets lost or run over.
Back in town, we have a late lunch of leftovers before I decide to spend the rest of the day between the hot tub and the chair at a table full of guys from Ed’s work. They share their apple pie liquor with me, and their Crown Royal maple, and their beers. But before that they are able to coax me into jumping into the deep end of the pool. I jumped near the ladder and climbed out immediately, but quickly sat back in the water. It felt nice and made the hot tub, at 104 degrees, feel even hotter.
There was a dinner break and Ed drove us to Roberto’s Taco Shop that serves giant burritos with sweet onions and hot sauce on the side. I thought I may have eaten half of it, but it seems it may have only been a third. Ed could tell when I’d had too much to drink and rescued me from beside the pool. I put a full Coors Light in the fridge and passed out before 9:00 pm. I had planned to leave after he did for work, but 5:30 am Monday morning was too early, so I slept until 6:50 am when he called to ask about the naked man who was seen running around last night. I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing that I don’t recall that scenario.
I stopped near Borrego Springs on the way home to take pictures of ocotillo cacti, metal sculptures, and citrus trees. I was looking for wildflowers that are supposed to be blooming in this area, especially in February and March, but I saw more flower colors from the Arizona roadside than I was having luck doing here – thanks draught. I got home around lunch, on the 24th, and when Caleb got off work I picked him up and we went to Buca di Beppo for dinner. I never gave this place much thought, but it’s neat how they walk you through the kitchen.
We shared veggie lasagna, mostly cheese, and a battered eggplant pizza – not my favorite. For dessert we had cheesecake with raspberry sauce and hazelnuts – a delicious touch to a homemade treat – something perfect to start our week together, even if I do wrap what’s left in a napkin and add it to our already full to-go bag. I should’ve taken more pictures and I should’ve brought my to-go containers, but I went and spent time with family and made memories nonetheless. I lived in the moment – and that’s what life is about.