I’d packed in my head multiple times: two swimsuits, sundress, sunscreen, SPF 30 lip balm, etc. But a half hour before departure, I had yet to do it in reality. So I packed under duress, always a bad idea since it leads to forgetting things and arguing with one’s husband as one is heading out the door to leave the country for a week.

Things I Forgot

extra pen
tank top

Thing I Remembered

rash guard


Making Vines amuses me. Making Casey make Vines with me generates the kind of giggles that continue the rest of the day. She’s the best subject: cute, silly, totally committed to the project. We’ve traveled together several times now and I love her more each trip. She embraces adventure. She shrugs off inconveniences. She’s flexible, but not indecisive – there’s none of that protracted, maddening “What do you want to do?” back-and-forth. In other words, the perfect person to bring along on a trip.

San Francisco

An aquaintance referred to Mexico as a place where “brown people wait on white people.” I thought of that as the Asian woman scrubbed my feet and clipped my toenails before polishing them turquoise. I’m not sure if I overthink these things or don’t think about them enough – should I cancel my trip, give myself a pedicure nowhere near as skilled? I have no answers to the complex questions surrounding race, culture and class issues. I just want to take a vacation and be a good person and hoping the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Thus prettified, Casey and I ran errands – sundress shopping at Goodwill, rash guard shopping at Aqua Surf – then popped over to the Tenderloin to meet my friend Donna and her gang for a drink. Oh, the Tenderloin! My brother lived their for years, so I’m familiar with it, but wow, the level of trash and insanity still jars. But the area – while not gentrified – has grown more hip. I saw a magazine headline referring to it as “The Trendyloin,” which the 620 Jones bar bore out. We were underdressed in our hoodies, a fact that didn’t stop Mr. “I’m In High Tech Sales!” from hitting on us. Oh, San Francisco. The good, the bad, the inevitably cliché.

At some point, Casey nudged me into departing for the airport. Smart, as we were now running a bit on the late side for my flight – hers was a couple hours later. A rental car mixup delayed me getting to the flight I was already late for. My stress level shot up until I remembered all the other times I’d run late for flights and never missed them. I hugged Casey goodbye-for-now. I rushed off to hand my boarding pass over to the attendant, who alerted me to the wonderful news that for some reason I’d been unexpectedly granted a pre-approved TSA clearance, allowing me into a shorter security line that didn’t require me to take off my shoes. I made the plane.


A middle seat on a redeye flight sucks as much as one would expect.

The Houston airport will always be remembered for two things. One, it’s the first airport I’ve slept in. Two, the guy pacing the length of the gate, talking nonstop at his laptop held arm’s length in front of him. Facetiming, I suppose. His Texas accent began to run like sandpaper on sunburned skin, so I tried to pretend he was Matthew McConaughy in a movie role, but did not succeed.

At the Mexico City airport I was reminded how incredibly stupid it is to not speak Spanish. I spent money I didn’t want to on food I wasn’t hungry for because the restaurant promised wifi. The wifi did not work. No matter. The book I was reading – Jess Walters’ Beautiful Ruins – had me aching with delight and eventually I noticed the polka dots and a confident walk that meant I’d found Kj. We were both near the ends of our books, so we stretched out on the floor and finished our respective pages.

The flight from Mexico City to Manzanillo bumped along over cities that gave way to green hills and blue lagoons, ocean stretching out alongside. The puddle-jumper plane taxied down the runway and we disembarked on the tarmac outside an airport large enough for one, maybe two, gates. Just like landing in Humboldt, only warm and foreign.

We reunited with Casey, who handed us beers in the car – you can do that in Mexico! – and introduced us to Antonio, our guide for the week. Twenty minutes later, we pulled up at Joe’s house, four years of dreaming of going culminating in finally arriving.