Thursday, October 3, 2019

A Stop in New Mexico: September 28- October 1, 2019

Despite not having my TSA pre-check anymore (I never got around to converting it to Aisha Little), getting through security was a breeze. I had about an hour and a half to wait at my gate before they started boarding the plane, so I listened to TBTL and tried to close my eyes.  That didn't last for long–I'm not good at shutting out the world when there is so much commotion around–so instead I called Cameron to fill him in on my previous evening and travel thus far.  It wasn't until they started boarding the plane that I noticed my boarding group was "First Class"–what a treat! I've been flying Alaska almost exclusively for the past four years but I think this was my first milage member-related first class upgrade.  Too bad I'm switching over to Delta for all of my international travels.

Once on the plane, I should have used my roomy single-seat row for a nap to supplement the limited sleep from last night, but being able to watch movies on airplanes is very appealing to me.  I busied myself with the Alaska Airlines Magazine's sudoku and brain teasers until we reached the altitude where they turn on the wifi. It was about that same point in the flight where we passed by Mount Rainier. It was almost fully covered in clouds, but I saw enough definition to say I saw it. But then, as we got to the south side it fully cleared up.  Seeing that big beautiful mountain was the exact Washington farewell I was hoping to get! Partway through Isn't It Romantic the first-class flight attendant came by with breakfast.  The 'protein plate' they were serving was quite the spread: pita bread, yogurt, cheese, apple slices, grapes, almonds, some chicken slices, and what I believed to be a pumpkin spice juice.  Again–what a treat!  Now I'm very much considering paying the few extra hundred dollars to upgrade to first class for my flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam..maybe I would if I weren't currently unemployed.

I was able to get within the last ten minutes of 500 Days of Summer before we landed and unloaded the plane. I might have been able to get through the end, but I kept stopping the film to take pictures out the window at the familiar Oregon mountains and distant White Sands National Monument.  Once off the plane, I met Dad at his usual spot lounging at the bottom of the stairs, waiting to welcoming me back to the Southwest. The indoor air-conditioning and outside heat were both a little more oppressive than welcoming, but bother were a tell-tale sign that I was back in the desert. Dad took the back route on the Trans Mountain Highway and were in Las Cruces within an hour. Mom ran outside for her welcome-home hug and we headed straight in for hummus and sandwiches. It was a few minutes before I realized Kalah was under the table; this might have been the first time she ever let someone through the door without barking like mad. I guess early-afternoon is nap time for the elderly, including senile dogs.

Turns out I needed my afternoon nap that day as well.  At some point I laid down on the couch and then was woken up with a swat on my shoulder about two hours later.  Apparently, Dad was tired of sitting around the house and he wanted to go into town for a beer.  I texted Evan to meet us there and we made our way to Little Toad Creek Brewery. Las Cruces has been growing in the past few years and Main Street has a lot more venues that cater to the young college-going crowd; Little Toad is definitely one of those spots. They have an activity or live performance going on almost every night, an outdoor patio that is across from the main downtown plaza, and the epitome of microbrewery beer that is yeasty and flavorful.  I paired mine with a grilled cheese sandwich with added green chiles (because I'm in NM)–would recommend.

The living room nap wasn't enough to entice me to stay for live music, but Mom and Dad wanted to check out the new neighboring arcade- Rad Retrocade. Evan and I humored them, but we only stayed for a round of skee ball (which Mom insisted on calling "skittle ball") and some pinball (Mom played the South Park machine because she thought it looked the most fun). Evan and I made loose plans for the next day, but I was glad to be heading back home and into bed before 9:00.

Unfortunately, I did not get the long restful sleep I had hoped for.  I was sleeping in my sister's room (because mine has been turned into a bit of a man-cave) but Cara's bed is about 20 years old. I remember we bought it for our new house in Germany. It was originally bunkbeds but some point in the last decade Cara took off the top bunk so she would stop hitting her head on it. The mattress is as old as the bed frame, and after twenty years of use it has been worn down to the point where you can feel the crossbar in the center of the bed. I ended up folding a blanket over the center which added enough extra padding so that I could fall asleep. When Mom asked how I slept the next day, I told her the truth, so hopefully there are new mattresses for the next visitor. (The next night, I took the second mattress from the old top bunk and layered it under the first one.  That created a bit of a nesting effect, but it definitely improved the overall comfort level!)

Mom and I took the dog on a walk first thing Sunday morning, followed by smoothie for breakfast.   At 11:00, Evan came over so she could take me out to lunch as a birthday treat. First, we walked into Old Mesilla Plaza as I am still on the hunt for replacement earrings and I know one of my former pairs came from an artist who had her booth set up there on Sundays.  She had quite a few nice pairs, but none that I thought were as interesting as the ones I had lost. Evan did buy me a pair of turquoise studs from a different vendor.  We walked around the plaza and then back to the house. We could have walked straight to lunch but we were trying to give Evan's boyfriend time to respond to her texts and potentially meet us. He never did, so we drove to the Spotted Dog Brewery on our own. I would have like to meet Andrew, especially seeing as I helped find him on Tinder for her, but Evan didn't mind him not showing up. She's expecting to break up with him soon anyways.

We didn't have much else to do after lunch, so we drove up to Target to pick up some things and then down to Caliches for frozen custard.  Not long after we got home Mom was already ready for dinner. Her current diet discourages eating too late so dinner around 5:00 is pretty common for ol' M&D (I guess they are just trying to get a heads start on the retirement home lifestyle). Evan and I were stuffed on ice cream so between the two of us we only ate about a ladle-full of Mom's green chile potato soup. We also played a game of Scrabble and watched a terrible Netflix movie, Tall Girl–would not recommend.

Both Mom and Evan took off work on Monday.  In order to give each of them some one-on-one time, I started the day with a hike at Soledad Canyon with Mom and Kalah. It's a short hike, but a favorite since they allow dogs and sometimes there's a waterfall at the end. No such luck this time, but it was still a nice way to get out for a few hours and the road there has a lot of dips in it, which makes it feel like a roller coaster. The high school swim team used to do hikes up there, partially for the thrill of driving too fast over the bumps and dips.

Later that afternoon, Evan came by to pick me up so we could drive around Las Cruces and scope out some potential apartments for her. We took a tour of one but also stopped by two others.  While on that side of town, Evan also showed me the Sonoma Ranch neighborhoods that were her territory to appraise. Although we debated another stop at Caliches, we decided to skip it. At home, we played "Las Cruces-opoly" and had shrimp and pesto salad for dinner followed by Mom's diet-version of ice cream (frozen berries blended with coconut milk).

The last day was the sad one. Mom had to work, so we both woke up early so we could have breakfast together, a horrendously large bowl of yogurt and berries.  Of course Mom's tearfulness kept me in the same red-eyed and sniffly state, especially when she shared her memories of me as a young kid who used to wave goodbye before leaving for school. It's always hard leaving home, but especially when I don't know the next time I'll be back and that the in-between times will be distanced by eight hours of time-zone separation. She finally had to leave for work, and I felt both sad and silly waving her goodbye from the window.

Since Dad and I had the rest of the morning to ourselves, he coerced me into an hour of yoga instead of a one-mile run. Both are terrible, but I'm not sure which is worse; there was so much downward dog! Cara's old French teacher, Madame Cort, was also there so we shared pleasantries, talked about what states her two kids now live in, and I talked about the upcoming Poland trip. Talking about moving to Poland is starting to be a bit of a chore because everyone has the same questions and I have no new or interesting information to give.

To treat ourselves after our yoga torture, Dad and I drove to the Rendezvous Cafe for some French pastries.  Dad kept insisting that I needed to experience these pastries so that I could compare them to the Polish ones (although I don't think there will be many similarities between French and Polish baking). Whatever the reason, I very much enjoyed my "Parisian Bosom with hazelnut creme," as the server kept repeating, and Dad was keen on the tiramisu. We also snagged a strawberry tartlet for Evan since she was planning on stopping by for lunch. She came by around noon and we finished up the potato and green chile soup and we had our last goodbyes when she had to return to work after her lunch hour.  Rather than sit around the house waiting to leave for the airport, Dad and I packed the car and took the long route to El Paso.

We stopped by the La Llarona trail to admire how full the Rio Grande was. Dad then took us down some of his favored motor biking roads, including one that apparently goes to a "green ruby volcano mine" (Dad's words, not mine). We drove through my favorite pecan orchards, passed by the iconic Chope's Bar and Cafe in La Mesa, and then wove our way through Gadsden and Anthony before crossing onto I-5 in Texas.  Wet 'N' Wild looks like they've replaced some of their slides, which made me realize Cameron and I never went to Wild Waves other than Fright Night a few years ago.  I quite like waterparks but it's been at least five years since I've been to one.

We took another alternative route through the Franklin Mountains and got to the El Paso airport right at the time I had hoped to. Dad hugged me goodbye for my final cry of the day. The first time Dad drove me to the airport in college I sniffled the whole way there. I'm not sure if I should think of my growing resolve as encouraging (maybe it's a sign that I anticipate happiness in the times ahead) or if I should take it as a sign that I am becoming emotionally hardened to the world.  Hopefully it's the former, and hopefully there will be a day where I can get on an airplane without tearing up because crying is quite the energy suck! Again, the baggage check and security lines were easy-breezy, but this time I didn't have much time before my plane started boarding.  As there wasn't much excitement in the terminal, I pondered back on my visit. Overall, it was the typical trip to LC, NM, which means it was exactly right.
View of Mount Rainier

Frist Class Breakfast

View of the Oregon Mountains

Mom and Dad playing South Park Pinball at the Rad Retrocade 

Playing Skee Ball/"Skittleball"

Evan made a friend our walk into Mesilla

Dad's attempt at a blues song lamenting his sold motorbike 

Hike to Soledad Canyon

Hiking with Mom and Kalah

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