Sarah is in the kitchen making roast chicken. Reza is on the couch, scrolling through social media. Jon Hopkins’ Recovery is on the needle. I can hardly contain my happiness.

I’ll write a bit more later about the craziness of the last week, but today? This is an important day and it’s been absolutely amazing.

 

Shit, that was a long title. *shrug*

Wow, ok, where to begin. Reza is currently laying in her bedroom under the ceiling fan being a teenager stroking her social media. Honestly, I don’t mind. It keeps her connected to her friends and some of the things she’s said to them about how cool this trip has been? Well, that’s the heartwarming feedback I know she’ll never directly provide. And you know what? That’s ok, too. It’s the end result that matters.

Reza fell asleep at about 7:00 PM last night (Eastern Time, mind you) and slept until about 8:00 this morning when I not-so-cunningly woke her up to say, hey, let’s get the fuck out of dodge? Travel days, yo. Let’s get to them. So, we drove from Chichén Itzá and the Mayaland Bungalows (which I can’t recommend more; they were super rad in all the ways! Thanks Jason and Eryc!) (More on that in a bit, by the way) down walls, and I mean, absolute walls of thick Mexican jungle on either side of the two-lane highway that got us to Playa del Carmen earlier today. In some places, there was a bit of canopy over the highway itself and I just kept thinking about what it was like for people on horseback or on foot to travel these roads: The peril from every direction means you gotta really want it. I was having a hard time finding the right music though, but found a companion in Fear Inoculum (the track, not the album) which hit at the perfect moment as we came closer to the Caribbean and the storm clouds noticed our arrival.

…. Just like the parking people did. Holy shit, ok, so if you read this and you ever decide to go to Tulum, the ruins themselves, pay attention because this shit was some crazy-ass bullshittery and I don’t want this to happen to you.

So the GPS was sending us to the center of the town of Tulum itself, but I couldn’t imagine what I’d want to see there, being that the focal point is on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, so no. Reroute. We’re cruising down the street, avoiding pedestrians, trucks hauling God-Knows-What, and turn onto the street that leads to the entrance of the ruins, when, I’m not kidding, no less than nine different parking attendants, each with their own red plastic flag waving hysterically, fucking screaming at me like I was offending their religion in some way. My first thought was that I had turned down a forbidden street, that I’d missed a sign saying that cars weren’t allowed, or that I was literally going to be the cause of the Mayan apocalypse. No joke. It was fucking terrifying.

I froze. The one guy I finally asked what I needed to do, he motioned me over to an empty space on the curb and then, with his official Tulum guide name tag and speech that he wasn’t about to sell me a time share, sicked Christina on me to give me my options about the three types of tours I was able to purchase. I was fucking incensed. I was cool about her pitch, ’cause I honesty wanted to know my options, but god dammit, if I didn’t almost hit a few of these guys (and girls) with the car, give my child a heart attack, and almost make the entire experience bitter and joyless.

The ruins themselves didn’t have the impact on me that Chichén Itzá did for a number of reasons, first and foremost the highly-monetized and tourist-trap feel of the space. I imagine a number of years ago it wasn’t quite like that, but the tourists who completely ignored the ropes and signs to go sit on the steps of an ancient building or stand at the edge of a cliff like a dumbass soaked it all up with their selfie sticks and influencer poses and I felt diffused. Even the boat ride out on the sea – fucking gorgeous waters, mind you – seemed contrived when you saw the literal dozens of boats out on the reef with tourists by the, well, boatload, pockmarking the teal and tan of shallow water out away from the shoreline. I had no desire to be sequestered with people I could only imagine didn’t give a shit about the history or majesty of the place and only wanted that picture of themselves in their aviators and flat-bills for their Snapchat profile. It bummed me out, so much so, that Reza and I got caught up in the shuffle of each spot that had a glorious photographic opportunity with little to no regard for the reason why we were there.

I told Reza that it was the people that threw me off. She agreed. We both thought that a sunrise expedition inside Tulum would be spectacular, if for nothing but the fact that you might be able to reach out and touch the space, the energy, void of modern trappings that deflect the spiritual waves, forcing care only on toward the ones crashing on the beach below. The sad part is that I didn’t hear that kind of experience as an option. I hope that changes. It felt like a caged jaguar, once imposing, once beautiful, now, a shell of mind and body, simply existing as a reason to point and crow. It deserves better.

___

Later this evening… oh my fucking god I was hangry with a Capital Fucking H. Reza ate a leftover cheeseburger I picked up for her while she was sleeping last night on the way down here. Me? Fucking hostess donuts. I was starving for real, adult food. Lightheaded, pissy, and exceptionally annoyed, we went to the beach for a bit so she could play in the water. I wish I could have enjoyed that moment a bit more; I know I seemed like a stick in the mud, but dude. (Note to self: Be more upbeat tomorrow. End this trip on a positive note, not a sad bastard downer.)

I found a greek joint that served gyros and the standard fare, but in traditional JC fashion went to the restaurant right next door, ’cause I couldn’t see the signs that were only facing the road. It wasn’t until we sat down did I realize that we were in the wrong spot. Reza knew that asking me to leave and go over there was a bad idea so we managed and frankly, the octopus dish I had was nicely done. Her Lobster Spaghetti though? She wasn’t a fan. Tomorrow, we need to do something more traditional that she’ll chomp and love. After legitimately drinking three fucking bottles of sparkling water, two bread baskets, and an entire appetizer of raw fish – oh, can’t forget the baked fish complimentary apps they gave us – I was finally ready to call myself human again. God damn, that was rough!

So back we came to our AirBnb, which doesn’t hold a candle to Mayaland. How could it? (I promise, more on that later.) We squeezed the car into the parking space that would prevent me from having to figure out how the fuck I was gonna find enough change to keep from getting a parking ticket and came upstairs.

Yeah. Tough day. Tomorrow will be better and I hope more fun for the girl. No doubt she had fun today, but when Dad is in a bad mood, it radiates and I can’t have that tomorrow. I guess if I took up the offers provided by no less than four different street hawkers in a 20 minute span offering weed and cocaine, that might change my perspective? Jesus Fucking Christ. Blew me away.

Speaking of blowing me away. I need to write about Mayaland and Chichén Itzá. But I’m gonna save that for a bit later. Maybe tonight, but a different post. It’s chill time.

 

Reza, of course, is still asleep. The question is whether she’s still in the hammock. I’mma find out as soon as I’m done here.

A few months back, right at the nadir of my personal relationship with her, I decided that, should she be amenable, we should take a trip together, something that only she and I could experience. I hate to say it was a bonding opportunity, but that’s exactly what it is and was meant to be at the time. But where to go?

Enter Tomb Raider.

We both played the latest Tomb Raider game, and while she finished it before I did, we were both rather captivated and thought, shit, why not there? Mexico is close, it won’t cost a grip of cash, and if she’s even remotely interested in archeological places, then strike while the iron is hot and get her down there right the fuck away. So, voila. Here we are. We landed yesterday.

As I told Ivonne after we landed, Mexican flights are … different. It dawned on me on the way down that this was the first inter-country flight I’d taken outside of the United States. Most other flights have been from the US to somewhere or somewhere back to the US, but never like this and whoa. It’s a trip. Not a bad one, mind you, ’cause opening yourself to new experiences kinda the point of all this but definitely, well, new. No sense of personal space (Reza was sure to comment on this a couple times), none of the passenger protocol we enjoy – holy shit the amount of trash and garbage left on the floor of the plane; everyone immediately making sure their seat backs were not in an upright position; pulling and kicking and tugging and jostling the backs of seats – are employed on a Mexican airline and none of that is derogatory. We are, despite the fact that we spit on each other over the color of our blood, so pampered in the United States. I needed that reminder, and frankly, I think Reza did too.

We crossed the Border Express from Otay Mesa into the Tijuana airport which was pretty fucking rad and convenient, even if you forget to print out your entrance documentation at the counter. Thankfully, we had our passports (Dude. Talk about under the wire for Rez… that shit came with three days to spare. That’s some Indiana Jones biz, right there!) and a quick swipe, a few keystrokes, and boom: Across the bridge, through Customs, through the Volaris bag check line, and kicking it by the gate with a couple hours to spare. It was pretty awesome watching her come back from the bathroom, this almost-adult being goofy and silly and drawing as much attention to herself as she can without getting in trouble for it. She fell asleep on my shoulder a few times during the flight. She held my arm a few times – once on the landing, once just because she could – and I was reminded that these moments, the small ones in-between the monuments, are the heart of the matter.

We waited forever to get our bags here in Cancun and I felt bad that we weren’t driving out to Playa del Carmen today; the kid sitting next to us needed a ride out that way and I totally would have done it, but I was not only waiting for our bag to come off the carousel but I had no idea where the rental car place was. Turns out, thanks to the Payless Rental Car guy who called them for me but then had his kindness repaid by me not taking them up on their offer of a much cheaper option, the Enterprise location is way off airport. I didn’t realize this, but, now I’m educated. The look on their faces though, when the Enterprise shuttle showed up before their did… it never pays to be kind when you’re a salesman.

We made it to our AirBnB relatively quickly. It’s a small space with two rooms and an aforementioned hammock in the master bedroom which, clearly, Reza had to have. The place doesn’t overlook the beach, nor is it going to win any awards for comfort, but it’s quiet, it’s safe, it’s close to most everything, it seems, as evidenced by the fact that we were able to find a taco shop open at midnight in the Hotel Zone about five minutes from here. We were fucking hangry.  Well, almost. Me. I was almost hangry. She was cool. I was … yeah. Anyway.

Food, a quick Oxxo stop with nothing to show for it, and then back to the hotel to settle in and enjoy being three hours ahead of California time once again. I need a Starbucks like whoa… OH! The coffee cups are legit and I’m totally buying all of them. Well, the ones of the places I’ve been, anyway. None of that cheating bullshit.

So now, I’m sitting at this little dining table with the round green placemats, glancing at an overcast sky settling on top of pre-thunderstorm humidity that can’t help but be slightly oppressive, about to wake up Sleeping Beauty back there. It’s time to get on the road: Chichén Itzá awaits.

 

Yeah, so things are, as is typical, good in places, not-so-good in others.

I’m back from visiting Sarah; got back in Sunday night. That flight isn’t so bad anymore, but I don’t remember it being a full six hours to get back to the West Coast. That shit is like international travel business in that, if you’re on a plane for six, you might as well stick it out for another four and go someplace exotic. I mean, why not?

Word to the wise, though: If you’re gonna book flights for that long, don’t sit in a bulkhead seat. That’d be Row 6, right outside of First Class on Alaska flights.

Reza and I did a bit of hunting for a Christmas tree last night and, believe it or not, couldn’t find a decent janky tree on the lot. The one guy at the lot behind the Observatory on University told us that the SDFD came by a day or so ago and picked out the jankiest tree they could find. Both Reza and I were simultaneously glad and disappointed that someone else is going for the chonk. Booooo, we say. Boooo. But janky trees needs homes, too! Who are we to demand that we get the pick of the litter?

So, we ended up at the Mission Valley Christmas Tree Extravaganza lot which had all the typical Noble, Douglas, and Marked Up Beyond Belief trees that will take more maintenance to keep alive for three weeks than the cost of the tree itself. I am undaunted, however, ’cause I plan on doing some deco tonight and tomorrow to get all up in the Christmas spirit. I wanted to get some garland for my fireplace and the columns between the rooms in my house, but that’s some expensive shit. I think I’ll just wrap them with lights instead.

I’m gonna get Reza a Samsung Chromebook for Christmas, but that’ll be the only “big” gift. This year we’re going to focus on the thoughtful rather than the expensive; she’s at the age where she understands that money isn’t unlimited and both her mom and I feel that with this being the first Christmas post-split, we have an opportunity to instill in her a bit more appreciation for the holiday itself rather than the consumerism behind it. Here’s to hoping it’s a stepping stone to a deeper connection between us.

Looks like I’m in monthly maintenance mode with my therapist now, which is a really good thing for me. I have been able to consistently say, for the past few months or so, that my personal and emotional trajectory has been pointing upward. Sure, there are bumps in the road, but in general, things are going the direction I desire and I’m learning the ways to keep that momentum going. I’m pretty proud of myself, if I’m being honest about it. I’ve done a ton of work and it’s paying off.

Honesty with yourself is harder than it sounds. I have a love/hate relationship with personal truth, as I tend to kick my own ass when I don’t act in accordance with that truth. I have (well, had) a habit of acting counter to my needs to please others; making decisive efforts to avoid that type of thinking is fucking hard, man. But there’s a different type of sadness inside, though, when you address the difficult questions and remain honest with yourself, compared to the layer of personal disappointment I feel when I both avoid the truth and capitulate to prevent that truth from seeing the light of day. It’s a cleaner pain, standing in the light of your own needs.

Visiting Sarah this time around was different in a lot of ways. The reality of our situation is that, because we don’t live close to each other, we’re able to manufacture a reality that doesn’t encompass the whole. I think we’re both struggling with the concept of that reality right now – how real it is, what the future holds, and what comes next. We’re both very much anchored to our current lives – where we live and why – and there’s no short or long-term visibility into how that might change. On one hand, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the moment and letting it fulfill you in ways that you require. On the other, you have to step back and determine if that’s sustainable. We’re struggling with the sustainability part right now and that’s natural. It’s not fun, but it’s part of the process. As shitty as it is to work through that difficulty, I’d rather do it with an honest perspective of my own needs and abilities rather than promise something I can’t deliver: The fact is that we don’t know how we can pull this off long-term without a clear path forward. She told me this morning she doesn’t do well with the unknown. She’s not alone.

So, we’ll see where this lands. I think we’re both good at addressing the hard questions and figuring out what we need to do. Fuck, I wish she lived here. It wouldn’t solve all problems, surely, but it’d address the biggest one, the only one that seems to be in our way.

Alright. I gotta get to work. Gotta call vendors, get people paid, all that fun stuff.

_____

Evening Update –

Reza had to work through some personal friendship issues today and it was pretty heartbreaking to watch. I tried to support her as best I could, listening, letting her vent, giving her that shoulder to cry on. Just being Dad.

She just sat down to finish watching the movie she stopped last night and said, furtively, “It’s no secret that our relationship has been pretty shitty, but I feel we’ve had a breakthrough.” I asked her if she meant this friend that hurt her. She said no, she meant me. “I feel that I can trust you with details about my personal life, so… yeah.”

I thanked her, trying to keep my cool, but inside? Fireworks.

 

My new office chair arrived today. Reza asked about how much it cost and I lied to her, told her it was cheaper than it actually was. She’s been very money conscious lately and the last thing I wanted her to do was to compare and contrast against the space her mom is in. Not that it’s bad, don’t get me wrong. Ivonne lives in a cute little apartment in mid-city by the airport, but she’s in a space of transition right now and that has Reza a bit on edge. I project a bit of what I think she might be feeling onto the situation, I admit, but I don’t think that allaying her fears is a bad thing right now.

I’m heading to New Hampshire tomorrow for a long weekend; I’ll be back Sunday. I don’t get to go out there as often as I’d like, but we try to make the most of it when I’m there, Sarah and me. I have to get up at 6:00 and I think I’m done packing, but I’ve gotta do the dishes real quick, ’cause the last thing I wanna come home to is a sink full of five-day-old unwashed bowls. No thanks.

But, I’m heading to the tundra. They got a couple feet of snow the last few days, so it’s straight up Winter Wonderland steez. I’m in.

I got my last assignment submitted for my Intermediate Creative Writing class today. The one thing that bummed me out about this class was the lack of legit critique. I get it – you want to build a community where peer feedback becomes your signposts – but let’s be honest, some of these people couldn’t write themselves out of a paper bag, Anne Rice style. You won’t remember the details when you look back on this, but this one chick straight up wrote the worst romance novel bullshittery you’d ever read. It was absolutely, insanely awesome. I gotta give her props for writing what she wanted. You go, crazy romance lady.

I still don’t think you write about a woman’s love handles, but that’s just me.

I finished the last few episodes of Parks and Rec tonight and why the hell did that show fuck me up the way it did? The last season was funny as shit, but damn, with the feels. Fuck. I’ve been pretty sensitive the last couple days but it’s legit a good show and got me in the strings.

I sent Stats the vox demo of a track we’re working on. I’m not convinced he’s into it or that I think its the right direction for that music, to be honest. Can it be better? Am I psyching myself out that it’s not? I hate this part of the creative process, when you can’t help but shit on it. I guarantee, though, that if I sat on it for a year, went back and listened to it, I’d wonder why the fuck I didn’t do anything with it. So, sit on it, homie – just for a few days – and get back and finish it. You’ve got a great thing going here and this might be your last chance. Make it happen.

It was a bit gloomy today. Six packs of tortillas to bring to East Coast friends couldn’t lift the clouds, but they have a way of parting just when you need them to.

Reza went to bed on her own tonight. I checked in on her at about 10 and she was passed the fuck out. Getting up early, lots of Physical Education (she won’t stop bitching about her knees! ahahahahahah) and comfort can do that to a kid. She’s going to her mom’s tomorrow, though, and I’m not gonna lie, I get real used to having her around. I went through a real transition phase where I was embracing the solo time, and that’s not a bad thing. I needed to get my head on straight. I’m gonna miss her when I’m gone, but I’ll have her for a couple days when I get home. I’ll be glad when we do this week-on-week-off schedule; just means I won’t be home alone by myself as much ’cause I’ll be able to travel for work. For the time being, anyway. But we went clothes shopping the other day and I dunno man, time is flying. It’s going to fast and you can’t keep up and as hard as you try she’s getting older and she’s not going to need us anymore.

Maybe that’s the thing. I always knew I’d be a good dad, but not the let’s-go-build-a-treehouse or …

I have a lot of regrets. Let’s just leave it at that for now.

Anyway, back to today. It was a good day, looking back. I got everything done I needed to do, I’m taking off to see my girl tomorrow, Reza is comfortably asleep in her room and I’m a really lucky person, believe it or not.

I think the end of this month is gonna be hard. I should have expected it, but it just kinda hit me out of the blue. It took years for me to get to the point that late March didn’t turn me into a werewolf and I’m afraid this one – this series of years, I mean – is gonna be just as bad. No telling, really, until it’s over.

I’m just feeling especially nostalgic and wistful. I miss Iceland. I stood on top of that promontory overlooking the glacier and it was just me, so small, so infantile next to the overwhelming brilliance of this blue river of ice. I felt so small, so alone, so alive.

This doesn’t feel like a depression, though. This feels different. Like an especially difficult day of molting.

 

Last night we played, I think, the final act.

I gave it everything I had.

I am annihilated.

 

 

I’m feeling down and shit is starting to sink in a bit.  Not that the plight is dire, just that somewhere an ego is bruised and I wonder if I’m going to make the same choices.  I’m terrified of that.

___

I lost my job in 2010.  Reza was almost four.  It was a particularly formative period that was marred by the self-doubt, immaturity,  and rationalizations of the man in her life who swore to be her supporter and protector.  (I’m getting a bit down on myself, but it’s ok, I gotta work through this.)  Instead, I drank a lot.  I piddled away trying to learn how to make music.  In fact, heh, the irony is not lost on me:  Just the other night, I was listening to a re-recording of a song I wrote during that year and a half, a song about her.  Ivonne teased me, asking me how often I listen to myself; it was a small green sprout from a land where crops are just starting to be sown again.  It felt nice.  But I digress.

I’ve spent the last day and a half fielding messages from previous coworkers and members of my team, all incredulous.  I haven’t the heart to tell them that I face crippling self-doubt that I may have deserved this, even though I know in my heart of hearts that there was no way to avoid this particular fate.  None.  That’s not hubris or assuaging of one’s ego, that’s the bare truth, naked to all eyes. I knew this was coming.  Still, I question.  What could I have done better?

I know those answers.  And when I look back on this in a few years, from a different place, it’ll be enough to know that I didn’t want to give what it would have taken to keep this job because I know now what I knew then, that it wouldn’t be worth that effort, not for this ignominious end.  Does that mean I’m weighing my family’s future against my own work ethic?  If so, how do I prove to myself – and to them – that my innate nature was correct?

These coworkers, these work friends, my team.  They wore black to work today in solidarity.  For me.  That meant a lot.  It was a small gesture and it’ll be forgotten in time, but for today, for tomorrow, when the leadership group will sit in that banal training room and be told the company line, it will be more than a bit vindicative that there will be a portion that will have questioned the wisdom of this move.  Seeds will have been planted; others will take root.  Others still will bloom and float away.  All in their own time.

But this fantasy, this not-so-secret desire for martyrdom needs to stay here, on these pages.  The real world awaits, outside the greenhouse of that toxic garden – and I find myself, for the first time in a long time, ready and willing to accept what will come.  The question is whether I will squander the same opportunity I once had… or will I own this moment.

____

I have a healthy fear of relapse.  I think about it in waves.  Sometimes it’ll be on my mind for two or three days, then weeks will go by before I can recall the last time I thought about having a drink.  I haven’t thought about it at all through this, except to remember what I did last time.  I feel a lot of shame for that.  But I’m not that person anymore and I won’t torture myself to recall my shitty behavior – but I wasn’t much of a dad then, nor a husband.  I was so self centered, so able and willing to wallow in my false sense of indignation, and if it didn’t feed those destructive animals, it wasn’t worth my time.

I’ve wanted to tell Ivonne how much I regret taking that stance back then; it really wasn’t that long ago, but it seems like a different life.  But I’m holding the space that we both need right now to continue to sow our seeds.  I think she knows, and I think there’s a real part of her that, while she remembers what it was like, isn’t worried that it’ll become that again.  I’m more than thankful for that.  Had this happened two years ago, different story.  Fuck, I’m glad it didn’t.

But without that chemical layer to hide under, I face harder and harsher realities than self-aggrandizing notions of doing what needs to be done to support my family, thinking that’s the measure of my part, my role – to check the box and kick back playing video games.  That’s not how this works.  That’s not how being a human works.  I clearly see the crossroads in front of us, in front of me, the opportunity to peer into the distance – away from the fog of instant gratification – to see the long game.  Which direction does happiness lie?  What are my options?  What do I want?

Because of that, I have a healthy fear of relapsing into ennui, of mailing it in once again and expecting a medal for minimum effort.  I want to work hard toward fulfillment and growth, toward the moment when I can look back with confidence and security that, while I was just as imperfect as the humans next to me, I did the right things, the good things, and I’ve made the right choices – regardless of what they are.  Because make no mistake, future me, all the choices in front of you are good ones.  Right ones.  Because you fear.  Don’t forget that.

The next brick in this structure is the one that becomes the cornerstone to that which will become your legacy, your mark on the world, the moment when you can look at your wrinkled face and thinning hair with the confidence of a life well lived.  We must, at some point, be willing to embrace the possibility of success, when success is defined only as making the journey.  Step.  Just… just step.  There you go.  One more.  Then another.  See, they build on each other and they become a path, a compass heading, a place of newness, growth, and self-actualization.  This is the time to grasp what that should be in order to be satisfied in the journey.  Because, don’t kid yourself:  The road you are about to travel, no matter which route you choose, will not have been the one you expected.

____

I don’t feel so down anymore.

____

I told my oldest friend how much he means to me today.  I needed to say it.  He needed to hear it.  I walked into the kitchen and wept.