I love my family. I also like them most of the time. We travel often and laugh a lot and live a comfortable life. But we’re not immune to stressors. My wife and I recently argued over who does the dishes more often. It was so goofy that even the kids mocked us. Maybe we were tired from school and work. I don’t know…I blame eggs. One can only scrape pans of egg remnants so many times before he stares at my wife like, “You just gon’ use the pan and leave it in the sink like this?”
The tiff reinforced what we’ve known for and practiced for years: We are better partners and parents if we take time for ourselves. One way to do that is to travel alone every now and then. So as the (co-)head of the household, I decided to make a solo trip to my old San Diego stumbling grounds.
After arriving in “Daygo,” I rented the Kia featured in the hamster commercial and went straight to the mall. I’m not big on shopping, but wanted a new outfit to match my first barbershop cut in six months. One big problem: I couldn’t figure out what to buy. I have three or four go-to outfits. Anything that deviates from that makes me confused. I bought a jacket from Gap. It looked like the old Members Only jackets, which I wore around the year Michael Jackson’s hair caught on fire. (Before 9/11, Michael On Fire was my 9/11.) I guess they’re back in style, or maybe not since it was marked 50 percent off.
With time to kill before my good friend/host got off work, I went to loiter at my second alma mater, San Diego State University. I hoped to visit a couple of my former professors, but it was 3 p.m. on the last day of school before spring break. There were a few students around. I felt like one of those guys who doesn’t actually go to the college but hangs out on campus to hand out party flyers.
After a car nap, I caught up with my friends and “pre-gamed” before checking out hip-hop night at a dive bar. It’s funny. Once you have kids you get one of two responses from friends and family when showing up alone: 1) A deflated “Oh…just you?” or 2) An enthusiastic “Man, you’re coming alone!” My friends in San Diego expressed the latter.
It was just like the old days, except some of us needed Schedule II substances to stay awake. We retired for the night after three bars and tens of beers. Well I retired. Two of the guys stayed up talking till daylight as I slept on the couch with the covers pulled over my head, occasionally waking from non-REM sleep to add my two cents. There we are below. I actually don’t know those three guys on the left, but I’m sure they’re cool, too.
The next day I met my old professor-roommate-friend for lunch at In-N-Out (great burgers, terrrrible fries). He and I agree on many things but also challenge each other’s views. He’s prone to asking “Why?” and then following up with a dismissive “Oh…” Then, as someone who’s game for debate, I better explain my position. It keeps me sharp. For what? I don’t know. Facebook debates, I guess. We carried on for about an hour and then I went to a coffee shop to meet with some of my fellow Espacio Migrante board members.
Espacio Migrante provides shelter and other resources for migrants in Tijuana, many of whom were deported from the U.S. or denied entry after That Guy In The White House ended protected status for Haitians and other groups. We discussed fundraising and program planning and it felt good to be with members of The Resistance who do much more than post memes.
I was two days into my three-day when I hit a wall. I’m used to being around my family and the allure of semi-loneliness expired within 48 hours. Man, I missed my jiggly wife and wild kids. They sent pictures and we spoke on the phone, but I felt like I was missing out on breaking up fights and hearing random facts from kids. “Dada, did you know John F. Kennedy was the same tall as you?” Another night of friends and alcohol would provide a band-aid solution.
This last night at the bar was more subdued than the night before. The big surprise was that my friend Will, also married with three kids, made it out for a second time. My other friend Matt was like, “Man, you sure Wifey isn’t gonna be mad at us?” He assured us she wouldn’t, but best believe his ass wasn’t out till 7:00 a.m. like the night before.
Like most of our bar nights, we stood near the dance floor to drink and talk. An Asian girl wearing tight jeans and Chucks, short, about nipple high to me, came near, waiting on me to say something. She was young, too young to even remember 9/11, let alone Michael Jackson getting his hair burned off. I’m married; of course I kept to myself. But the ego boost was appreciated, as I thought my Mandingo appeal had waned through the years.
My last day in So Cal ended with a quick trip to Orange County to see my older brother, and later that afternoon, a walk across the border to Tijuana for ceviche, street tacos, and liquor.
After a four-hour flight on the infamous Frontier Airlines, I returned home refreshed and well-received. I was more attentive to the kids. They again seemed more interesting than whatever nonsense was on Facebook. My sex drive was reinvigorated and my refractory period reduced. Most importantly, there was no egg residue in the sink. I reminded my wife that she was due for a trip.