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new years 2022

on the last day of the year, I write from a bed at the days inn by Wyndham in Brawley, calif. Wyndham lewis keeps floating to mind, and chris's thesis, and we will see him tomorrow in Pebble beach.

the motel 6 in lost hills had stained sheets, so we turned off the lights quickly and went to bed fully clothed. the air was thick with smog and even in broad daylight the place was coated with a sickly haze. a christmas Starbucks along the 5 played just-hipster-enough music, their experiential marketing team unsettlingly exact.

there's a motel 6 in San Diego right downtown, walking distance from little Italy, a strange little yuppie neighborhood that I can't say for sure was gentrified but the scent was in the air. little puppy dog jumped in the fountain by accident and got all wet, sleek shiny black fur in the night. downtown san Diego was more built-up than I remembered, at least from 10 years ago when I attended a high school journalism convention there as a bright-eyed youth. we joked that all conventions are in San Diego, at that convention center, that we went to the Fedex in to print the visa documents that we totally ended up not needing. I returned to chocolat cremerie, and marveled at how I had been alive long enough to say I had been there 10 years ago. I remembered their balsamic vinegar - syrupy sweet, dark brown, atop fresh mozzarella and a bed of arugula. I walked around gleaming, holding an expensive-looking bouquet that Jason bought me as a surprise.

the bouquet made it all the way to mexico, crossed the border at Tijuana with ease. we lingered in traffic on our way to k38, the surf break 20 minutes south of Rosarito, where we stayed at a hippie boutique hotel nestled in the hills. a strange place, k38 - a tiny strip catering to American surfers, complete with a brewery and perhaps a couple restaurants that we were too late to catch open. a towering sculpture of Jesus, uncanny in its personhood, lords over the coast with open arms, welcoming sinners and saints alike. like Jesus, we too looked out from our precarious perch, alongside our neighbors - suspicious dogs with matted fur, construction workers, sparsely distributed vacation rentals, which felt like a character of their own, ominous white cubes guarding the slopes.

Rosarito is a town of tourism hell - every parking spot exclusivo, every hustler clamoring for your pesos. we couldn't even park - we hightailed it out of there after hitting the ATM. popotla was more our speed - a fishing village down the 1 that we hit right at sunset, by the docks of the daily catch. dogs howled from nearby rooftops as we devoured mixto tostadas by the ocean with camarónes y pescado, coconut shrimp, little crabs that we smashed open barbarically, with hefty rocks.

Puerto Nuevo is another little tourist town further down the 1, but on a seasonably warm weekend in December it was almost deserted. famous for lobster, the restaurants boast its freshness on billboards and placards outside, with paid and persistent hosts attempting to lure you in from the street. it was 30 to 2 and a dog, the odds that day in town, with all the men comically jockeying for our hard-earned money, they so badly wanted us to eat their overpriced underpriced langostera.

the 1 continues down south into mexico, although it is the same 1, just as it is the same California. little coastal towns that you weave in and out of beside staggering seaside cliffs with breathtaking sunsets, tumultuous waters of the cold winter Pacific. how strange to build a wall and say border, when the geography is the same, and maybe even the soil - how different is Napa from Valle de guadalupe, anyway? Baja California is the upside down of our California, but it was all theirs to begin with, and all the same. salsipuedes is their Big Sur - "leave if you can."

el sauzal is the start of ensenada, a suburban area about 10 minutes north of the main city. we stayed in an airbnb in the back of an italian restaurant and a yuppie coffee shop, with a a backyard full of fiending dogs. we worked from home from a deck overlooking the pacific, watching a dramatic sunset in silence every evening. in town, the historic bar andaluz claims to have invented the margarita - a war with competitor Hussong's. on margarita miércoles, they sell slushy margs in various flavors with tamarind rims for $2 a pop.

we got too drunk on mezcal at cuatro cuatros, a bougie hotel property at the start of Valle de guadalupe, chatting with the bartender Jonathan who drove us home at the end of the night, my rainbow Mercedes whistling down the 1 as I sat in the passenger seat with a plastic bag. it would be remiss to equate Valle de guadalupe with napa valley - although the peaceful vineyards, rolling hills, and culinary adventures (not just one but two opportunities to dine under a 300-year old oak tree) might lead you to do so without a second thought, the Valle is in a precarious and conspicuous phase of development that gives the whole area a certain flavor. strange geodesic domes emerge from nothingness, eager to be the next luxury boutique hotel for wealthy Mexican tourists. fields are dotted with casitas in various stages of building, some complete with rooftop fireplaces and twinkling lights, some without windows or doors. the road is unpaved and hell to drive, but the wine seems to be good.

driving across the Baja peninsula, we meandered through ojos negros (cheese country) and piedras gordas (fat rocks) en route to San Felipe. towards the end of the drive, when the sea of Cortez is just barely coming into view, there are two military checkpoints. young Mexican men wielding rifles ask you where you are going and where you are coming from, and may check your car. we escaped with our shroom trail mix intact but perhaps our egos slightly bruised. we drove straight to Punta Estrella, where the stars were bright and clear in the midnight sky, and we lay on the beach looking at Orion's Belt and the gleaming yellow mars.

San Felipe was a laid back town with tourist underpinnings - white couples (perhaps from Arizona or inland California) and Mexican youths rode ATVs across the beach, and basically everywhere. the sun sets west past the mountains, not on the ocean, which gives everything a bit of a understated moodiness to it - nothing like the vibrant and egoistic sunsets we saw in el sauzal, which were much more similar to home. we feasted on quesatacos before the ride back to Mexicali, where we were almost extorted by a cop, save for jason's brilliance, and then back on the US, for a end-of-year jaunt around the salton sea, a stormy and potentially unsafe drive to ventura, and some New Years korbel in a motel 6, half-watching the Miley Cyrus special.

happy new year!


uti hell - ant hell - packing hell. but other than that, I guess things are going well. Jason borrowed the car to get dog food, he brought back banh mis and Vietnamese coffee. farm plays the piano, its melodious keys drifting upstairs, as I hop on a google call. the living room fills with the most glorious sunlight. the packing and cleaning that I loathe and whine about, Jason helps me with, showing me that my woe is unnecessary, embarrassingly unjustified. he says he has that problem too, but he can see it more clearly in me and therefore assist. I sheepishly watch as he knocks two things off my to-do list in the 10 minutes before his meeting. he brings Nyla over for sleepovers, which means we can cuddle in the morning.


it seems to me we are improving our conflict resolution.
he says that the one piece of advice he would give to other young men entering college would be to wear collared shirts to class, to impress professors. wryly, I said "but what if the other students think you're a narc." with a grin somewhere between sheepish and sly, he offered "well, that's why you sell them weed."
a perfectly pronounced 'au revoir' as we headed separate ways down carl, on a cold December night, enough to inspire annoyance at its twee if it weren't so simply charming.
after I stomped angrily off, up stanyan, to flywheel for an impudent cappuccino, all the way back home, leaving him many steps behind, he appears at my door, tuft of golden brown hair messily peeking through the window, as I am about to hop in the shower. he says, holding my shoulders, "I got the sense you were really angry at me, and I dont want you to be." I hugged him tightly, my head to his chest.
what movie star does he look like? like a rustic heartthrob from a spaghetti western, like a handsome stranger I'd want to meet cute, maybe at a grocery store, like someone who would chew a piece of hay but make it sexy, like he said he did as a child in Guatemala.
I know spending time alone is probably good for my psyche, and for my attraction to him, but it's so hard when he just feels so good...
he says there was never a time we met and he wasn't sure we were going to meet again, I guess that's true for me too. how did I get exactly what I wanted? he can be prickly, but he is as cute as he is annoying, and he is lucky for that.
I can't wait for our Baja road trip. I am painting my life as if it is art. what more can I ask?
"The city cries when it notices you've gone 😥"...
he forgets his backpack at the Tree while we're tripping on shrooms returning from nightlife at cal academy, and we have to return to get it when we are close-ish to home. we sit on a weird truck platform tripping, waiting for his $50 uber to take us home from boiler room (lame), and a group passes us and yells at us that we are so 'the vibe.' he sits in a single-user floatie, attached to our party floatie in the murky lake of LIB, smoking a j in his lil shorts, hat, and sunglasses, speaking to no one, and I can't tell if I am attracted to or jealous or his aloofness - or both. the way I can fall asleep on him so easily most nights, when last year I was convinced I had insomnia and could never share a bed...