Turning Around an Existential Crisis

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A few weekends ago Payam and I headed out to Las Vegas (our 2nd trip in November) for our friend Dave’s 50th birthday party. There are going to be a lot of 50th birthday parties in our friend group this year since both Payam and I are turning fifty. It’s our year, 1972 people.

I’ve always been optimistic about turning fifty. I figured I’d rock it like I’ve rocked all the other years but lately, I’ve been starting to doubt myself. I hate it.

While we did have a great time celebrating I felt sort of out of sorts the whole trip. It’s weird when you are having a good time externally but inside your head, you are listening to a running commentary of negativity. This is nothing unusual for me I just feel like documenting it because I’ve been feeling a little freer on this blog lately. (One of the perks of falling off the mainstream radar.)

I want to say it started at the ax-throwing place we went to (Ax-throwing!) but really it was already brewing before we even got there.

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Ax-throwing was a riot. Drunk people throwing axes. That seems like a disaster waiting to happen but it turned out to be really fun and mostly safe if you follow all of the safety precautions, which I did of course. My anxiety loves to follow rules. I was terrible at ax-throwing like I am at every sport. Dave, Erika, and Payam racked up fifty or more hits each and several bullseyes while I managed to make the ax to the target a big whopping three times. I was pathetic. Everyone made fun of me and said I threw an ax like I was giving it to the target. If a herd of zombies was chasing me it was like I was saying, “Here Zombies, have an ax from your good buddy!” But it was all in good fun and when I did actually make contact with the wooden target my friends cheered me on like nobody’s business. We can’t all be athletes. At least some of us can draw. Heh.

Of course, the entire time I was berating myself internally with a barrage of insults about my weight and old-lady skin and how hard it was to bend down every time to pick up the ax I’d thrown. It’s pretty amazing that I could keep a smile on my face and fake it while a full-on war was being fought inside me. We took photos which I hated of course because I could not see past the width of my shoulders and the stockiness of my legs but I smiled and pretended everything was fine.

Please know that this is not me fishing for compliments. I’m just being pathetic. I know better than most how to fix this sort of thing.  Pain is a signal that things are not right. It’s time to fix some things.

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But back to our Vegas story: We stayed in a nice (and super clean) timeshare that belonged to my friend, Erika’s parents that just happened to be right next to, get this: A rodeo!  Of course, Payam and I went exploring. How could we not?  We watched some bulls bucking around and being lassoed by real cowboys and we found a western wear gift expo going on in a large ballroom. We are not country-western-wear types but we got a real kick out of walking around the booths looking at all the crazy things. Belt buckles the size of your head, bedazzled camouflaged dresses, stiff wrangler jeans, hats of all shapes and sizes. It was a hoot but we stood out like liberals at Trump pep rally.

Payam put on a cowboy hat as a joke but it suited him so well I made him buy it. Then I found this sort of edgy, rock and roll black suede fringe jacket and before we knew it we were a hundred dollars lighter. When in Rome, right? When else am I going to come across a suede black fringe rock and roll jacket?! No pictures yet, it got so smokey from the casino I immediately put it in the dry-cleaning bag and haven’t touched it since. But soon I’ll break it out. It’s going to be one of those fun crazy fashion moments I can just tell.

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Meanwhile back at the ranch, I mean timeshare, my existential crisis hung on. I tried taking photos of myself to see if I really looked as bad as I thought I did. This is a fun game I play with myself all the time. I call it: Narcism.  Except instead of thinking I’m so great and I don’t care what everyone else thinks of me, I think I’m not great at all and I care about EVERYTHING anyone thinks about me. It’s a vicious circle of doom and gloom.

I should have been basking in the dry sunshine of Vegas and loving my little mini-vacation from kids and life but no, I was wallowing in self-pity. Hard eye roll.

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Even when we got back from Vegas I was still walking around in a cloud of negativity. Everything is ugly and I hate everything! But you know what happens when I get like this? I realize I need to make some changes.

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When we got back home I decided to stop drinking for the 47th time and cut my calories by a third. I hate to share this because every time I start on a path like this, I always fall back to my old ways and eat my words. But it’s still good to try, right? Is it good to share? I don’t know. Let’s just hope not that many people read this post.  I’m just going to say: No promises. No lofty goals. Just day by day.

On day two of my new regimen, Bug and I had pizza and I bought a cheesecake bun from this new little cafe I found. I love a new mom-and-pop cafe. I wanted Bug to try it for me and I thought I’d live through her vicariously but then I had a bite. Half the cheesecake later…I was still “trying it” you know, just to make sure.

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I’m going to slide another story in here before I finish up my existential crisis thread. Cody still stinks from the skunk. It’s terrible. There’s an odor that wafts up from him when he stands next to you and it breaks my heart because he is so cute and loveable but it’s impossible to pet him with this wretched smell that lingers and lingers and lingers! You have to wash your hands constantly.

I researched local dog baths and found one that lets you bathe your dog for fourteen bucks! What a deal! Paying a groomer to de-skunk your dog costs $200. So off to the bark bath we went.

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I brought tomato soup in hopes that I could wash him there without him shaking tomato soup all over my bathtub but they wouldn’t let me. So I washed him in de-skunk shampoo, regular dog shampoo, conditioner, and water about a thousand times. He was such a good dog, being so patient. Sadly, when we got home I think he seemed even worse. It’s almost like I washed off the deodorizing shampoo the original groomer had put on him to mask the smell and now the skunk smell was even stronger. The really nice guy at the dog bath place told me there’s really not much you can do, it just takes time. Probably about a month.   Tomato soup is starting to look better and better.  rasta-taco-for-lunch

After I took Cody home I took Bug and her boyfriend out to lunch at Rasta Taco (my new favorite client) which is in Laguna Beach right next to the beach.

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I let the kids hit the beach while I journaled. I’ve been journaling obsessively lately and it’s helping with my mid-life crisis. I’ve not mentioned it here but I am working out regularly with a personal trainer two times a week now. It’s a huge luxury and my budget is barely fitting it but I’m starting to think it’s worth it for my mental health alone. Between that, not drinking, and trying to keep a caloric deficit going, I have hope that I will rock fifty by the time it gets here. I will. No matter what I look like I’m going to get the inside of my brain right because that is the best first step.

I know I’ll get there eventually. Thanks for having patience with me while I work this out.

Touring New York during Covid (!)

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(This post is back-dated and obviously a trip that happened before the recent flooding from Hurricane Ida. I’m praying for safety for everyone. Please let this be my tribute to the wonderful city that keeps on going during all kinds of hardships. My heart goes out to everyone that is there in the thick of it.)

We went to New York! During covid! During the worst time of year to go! In spite of all the negatives we actually really enjoyed it. In fact, we had a really good time. Of course, it would have been better if there wasn’t a pandemic going on and I wasn’t riddled with anxiety over how unsafe we were and if we weren’t there during a sweltering hot summer heatwave… but we managed and we had a great time.

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The first thing we noticed about New York as we stepped off the airplane into the passenger boarding bridge was the WALL of hot, humid air. I knew it was going to be hot and I prepared. I packed every single hot-weather outfit I have and phew, I’m glad I did. The kids were not so prepared. They packed sweatshirts, their usual. I should draw a cartoon of Joon’s fashion choices for the seasons. It would be four panels of exactly the same thing: black sweatshirts. But I digress. I made just as weird choices when I was a kid!

We immediately Ubered to our hotel in Long Island where we would spend the night and attend our first ever PERSIAN WEDDING the next day!

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First-ever to me, Bug and Joon, that is. Payam has been to Persian weddings before. He had told us the wedding would be lavish and exciting and fun but I really had no idea. We had bought and packed ball gowns in preparation for this wedding and as we got ready the next day, I kept asking Payam, “Are you sure we are not overdressed?” I was sure I’d show up and be the only one in a full-length ball gown but nope! Payam was right. Ballgowns were exactly the attire and I was not embarrassed by my floofiness at all! In fact, it was perfect.

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I love my dress! It’s giant and light and airy and I danced all night in it without a care in the world. Have I shared that I’m training for a half marathon by running 2-3 miles every other day and dancing is so easy when you are in better shape? I don’t even remember sweating in my dress, which is my usual reason for slowing down on the dance floor. I wish I had a photo of me whooping it up but maybe it’s better in my imagination than it would ever be in real life anyway.

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The girls were dressed to the nines as well, not counting Bug’s hightops Converse underneath her long pretty gown. Really, she was the most sensible one. She did have fancy high heels but since both she and Joon were attending the bride all day, those heels were ditched in minutes.06-NewYorkNewYork-dancing-the-night-away

I love this photo of Bug and Payam dancing. They are often at odds with each other as Bug transitions into adulthood and it’s really heartwarming when I see them getting along. They do get along well because they both have great senses of humor BUT they are both natural alphas so you can see how that goes when they don’t agree.

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There was drinking and dancing and so much food! The cocktail hour put Las Vegas buffets to shame with its myriad of mini foods to try.  Sliders, tiny mac and cheese bites, cheesecake, fillet mignon, a noodle bar…I can go on for days about how much food there was. I hear a large buffet is a New York thing but I wouldn’t know. And then there was a full dinner too!

I think I danced all my calories off.

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The next day we stopped at Payam’s cousin’s highrise apartment in Hudson Yard on the Westside. Wow, what a view they have. I could sit there and just stare and stare, taking in all the tiny details of life going on below.

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We spent the night there curled up on couches because of a mix-up with our hotel reservations. A little backstory: I haven’t mentioned that the Persian wedding was for Payam’s cousin. This cousin was supposed to get married in 2020 but you know how that went. Everyone (including us) bought their plane tickets and reserved their hotel rooms in 2019 only to postpone it multiple times as Covid wrecked everyone’s plans in 2020. It was such a hard year, especially for Payam’s cousin. The festivities would have been called off for good (they still got married at the courthouse) but their venue wouldn’t give them their money back so here we are in 2021 having a wedding after all!

The beautiful thing is that we got to stay in the newlywed’s apartment the day after the wedding. Who does that? Really good cousins I guess. It was an amazing time catching up with the bride and groom right after the big event and then we got to wake up to that amazing view!

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The next day I woke up early to explore. How could I not?!

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While everyone else slept I got coffee with a friend (safely distanced of course) and toured The Vessel.

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The sad story of The Vessel is that it had to be closed because so many people jumped from the top to their deaths. It’s such a tragedy because this building is so beautiful. It was meant to be explored and wandered about but now all we can do is take pictures of it like the great big piece of art that it is.

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New York is full of art!

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My days are a little mixed up but we actually had walked to The Vessel as a family the night before on our way to see Times Square.

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I’m just going to gloss over how afraid I was of germs while in Times Square. I’m glad the kids got to experience it but it was nothing like the usual experience. We avoided crowds and didn’t linger.

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We still saw a lot and the kid’s eyes bugged out of their heads.  While Bug and I kind of got the creeps, Joon loved it. She thrives on being over-stimulated. She’s fallen in love with New York and plans to go to college there, which I think is awesome.

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The next day we walked The High Line. I love the High Line. I’m so glad there were so many things to do outdoors.

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It was still quite hot but there was shade and even water features to put our feet in!

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Then that night we traveled to Harlem to stay in our very own Airbnb brownstone! We were a bit hesitant to go here because we’ve heard so many stories about it being unsafe but it was actually really safe and an amazing experience. I’m so glad the girls got to see this side of New York.

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Our apartment was amazing and the pizza a block over was even more amazing. Is there any bad food in New York?

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I attempted to draw one skinny building but it took forever. If I lived here I would challenge myself to draw a building a day. I’m not the most patient sketcher so that would be a BIG challenge for me.

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Then we walked through Central Park from Harlem to The Met. That was a lot of walking! Central Park is big!

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I was happy we squeezed in a museum and it was really nice and cool to wander around looking at paintings. I realized that I could spend hours reading all the plaques but I also realized my family was NOT down for that. I made a mental note to take myself by myself to museums in the future.

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We whizzed through the Persian section and I got to check out an exhibit on women in photography through history which was pretty interesting. Then we went back to Central Park for a bike tour (my favorite!).

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Central Park is amazing. Even when it’s hot and sweaty. Actually, it’s a great way to escape the heat of the streets.

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I felt bad for the poor guy pedaling (we aren’t a light bunch, even broken up into two parties)  but it is the best way to see all the best spots with the wind blowing through our hair.

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Of course “The Friends Fountain” was a necessary stop for Joon who is a super fan of the show. She was predictably disappointed by how inaccurate the fountain was even though we all know the real one is on a set in Burbank California.

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We also got to see a snippet of the new Blues Clues being filmed. Watching something being filmed is always a fun part of visiting New York.

Then we were off to our last hotel of the great New York trip: The Citizen M!

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Payam and I stayed there when we last visited New York and I knew we had to take the kids there too. It’s such a cool way to experience downtown Manhattan. The rooms are small pods with just a bed and a window and a shower that lights up different colors depending on what mood you select on your provided Ipad. It’s all very cool. The girls got their own pod and partied all night I’m sure.

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Then the next morning we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel AND down the street at our favorite bakery cafe! You can never have too many lattes and pastries when in New York I say!

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Payam took one for the team (so we could photograph it) and ordered the pig pastry that was filled with lychee cream and green tea cake.

We did some touristy stuff and bought the obligatory souvineers.

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And then we made our way to the 911 Memorial.

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The museum was closed for Covid precautions but that didn’t matter to us. The dual reverse fountains demand reverence and we stood there for such a long time just feeling sadness and respect for the great loss that was September 11th and those buildings that fell. The fountains are like giant gaping holes where the buildings used to be and the sound of all that water rushing towards a hole in the middle that you can’t see where it goes to, it’s eery and large and sobering. I can’t think of a better way to remember such an awful thing that happened. It’s beautiful and somber, awe-inspiring. It’s also really hard to describe!

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Next to it was this great big mall structure that was also pretty awe-inspiring. We went in but it was a ghost town as everyone in New York prepared for another big lock-down.

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After that, we headed to the Staten Island ferry for the free tour of the Statue of Liberty.

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I’ve taken this ferry before when I was sixteen and my family took the great cross-country RV trip but it was special to show the kids. Payam especially appreciated it and even choked up a little. I think the Statue of Liberty always means a little more to immigrants.

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Lastly, we toured the Rockerfeller building and let the kids do a tiny bit of back-to-school shopping on Fifth Avenue with some gift money they had received just for the trip. It’s not often that you can go back-to-school shopping on Fifth Avenue in the flagship stores of your favorite stores from back home. So that was fun. And then before we knew it it was time to catch a taxi to the airport so we could fly back home in time for the kids to go to school the very next day!

That’s how we roll.