Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The things that go wrong

An ode to a friend.


Mort was my dad's best friend at his law firm back when Dad was a working man in Toledo, Ohio. Morty was a loud man; his normal speaking voice could carry for miles without effort and bore a very strong Brooklyn accent. He was funny and boisterous and one of the kindest, most welcoming, most exuberant people you could ever hope to meet along the journey.

Mort and his two daughters were our ski vacation buddies. We took annual ski trips to Colorado together throughout my childhood and adolescence, rented pretty slopeside condos together, ate my mom's famous and appropriately dubbed "ski trip chicken" recipe at least once during our weeks in those cozy condos, sometimes twice.

Something went wrong on nearly all of those trips. It wasn't always fun in the moment but we now know the stuff that goes wrong is often the good stuff, the stuff we relish remembering all these years later, the stuff that makes us laugh, the stuff that made our time together rich and memorable. There were always botched rental car reservations, lost luggage, chaotic meandering drives trying to find elusive ski condos, serious sun poisoning resulting in unrecognizable puffy faces, tense people speaking to each other through clenched teeth as they debated who'd locked the keys in the car again. It was a rare trip indeed it all went according to plan.

I was the baby of the group by a wide margin so haven't always remembered the details of those ski trips thanks to my youth and spongy young memory brain -- plus my parents always stuck me in ski school as the rest of them cavorted around on the slopes together so I wasn't even present for most things. I'm not jealous of that at all, yes I am, very much.

But I've heard the family folkloric stories so many times, I've internalized them clearly as if I was sharp as a tack and taking notes for each and every one. For one example, "the flaming logs at Snowmass" incident. Our first night in the Snowmass slopeside condo, Mort closed the flue on the chimney when he thought he was opening it, then built a roaring fire as Mom cooked ski trip chicken in the kitchen. Mort continually and enthusiastically refilled her wine glass, proclaiming loudly, "Wine for the cook! More wine for the cook!

It didn't take long for thick black smoke to pour into the room. As the rest of us hustled our butts out of that condo, Mort lunged for the fireplace tongs. He grabbed the flaming logs one by one and dropped them off our balcony into the deep snow three floors below. It was about this time his wife called from Ohio to see how things were going. He was honest with her, and she grew alarmed.

We like to imagine the faces of the cozy skiers living below us as they soothed their aching ski muscles at the end of a long day with a glass of hot cider or mulled wine. What did they think when flaming logs began falling from the sky? They knew we were in town, that's for sure.


Sometimes our extended family joined our trips.
This is my dad, my second cousin, Mort, my aunt, Mom, one of Mort's daughters.
Where was I?
Likely face-planting in ski school. 
Dammit.

Dad likes to recount the time Mort convinced him to do "one last run" before the chairlift closed for the day. They made it back in line just in time and were the last people allowed on the chair. They high-fived. We did it! One more run!

The motor broke on the chairlift on that last trip so Dad and Mort were stuck swinging thirty feet above the ground for hours. It got cold up there. Dad began to resent Mort in that moment, the man who made him take one more run when he should have been back with us at the condo holding a steaming glass of hot cider or mulled wine by then. Ski trip chicken is an elusive far away friend when you're stuck on a chairlift.

After a few dangly hours, they saw the ski patrol run a new motor up on a snowmobile. Not too long after that, the chair lurched to life again and began slowly moving up the mountain. Dad and Mort made their way down the slope carefully with no light aside from the ambient light of a full moon. Dad says it was the most beautiful ski run of his life. Further proof that sometimes the things that go wrong are the best parts.


I'm not sure what this one was all about
but that's yours truly on the right in my '80s acid washed pegged jeans
and Mort is doing something to my head
and Dad is holding a stuffed hippo. 
Plus, so many hats. 

Mort, a Jewish man, was the biggest fan of Christmas carols you've ever met. My mom played the piano at every law firm Christmas party and Mort would stand directly over her, bellowing those tunes slightly off key with an unbridled joy never before seen at a law firm Christmas party, especially from a Jewish man. He was very hurt when a semi-professional singer joined the firm's staff and received the coveted  "FIIIIVE GOLDEN RINGS" solo on "The Twelve Days of Christmas." That had always been Mort's verse, you see.

Mort passed away from cancer a few years ago. It was a huge loss for my parents, one they grieved to their cores. Someone like Mort can't leave the Earth and his absence not be felt profoundly. There was only one of him, and that is a gross understatement.

Mort requested his ashes be spread in three locations, three places that held great significance in his life and ultimately became three of his happiest chapters. The first was Coney Island, where he spent an idyllic free range childhood. The second was at the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, where Mort defeated a lifelong fear of heights when he climbed it with my dad and one of his daughters about fifteen years ago. The third was right here in my backyard, in Olympic National Park, where Mort spent a few weeks with the Student Conservation Association at the age of 16, clearing trails and rebuilding Humes Ranch, a historical cabin off the beaten path.

Mort's two daughters carried out his wishes at Coney Island and on top of Half Dome in the past couple years. For the third and final stop at Olympic National Park, Mort's family invited my parents to join for the five mile hike out to Humes Ranch. My parents accepted with gratitude and I immediately decided the kids and I would join, too. We were eager to reunite with our old family friends, recount stories of Mort, celebrate his big heart and the way he lived his life.

Our two families gathered in neighboring rental houses for a long weekend at Lake Sutherland, just outside Olympic National Park. It doesn't get much more Pacific Northwest picture perfect than Lake Sutherland in the fall. It was gorgeous and crisp and calm and kind of smug with its autumn charms.



My parents brought Lucien a slingshot,
which we now know
is a perfect gift for an eleven-year-old boy.


Mom made ski trip chicken. We refilled her wine glass often, obviously, as Mort taught us to do --





The next day we hiked out to Humes Ranch. We stopped halfway through the hike to light a candle and remember Mort and tell stories of his larger than life personality.






Dad told a story I'd never heard before. On my dad's very first day at the law firm, there was a firm meeting in which most attendees, including my dad, showed up in polished dark suits. Soon after the meeting began, Mort walked in wearing jeans and a George McGovern t-shirt. George McGovern was a liberal 1972 Presidential candidate not at all embraced at the mostly-Republican law firm but Mort didn't much mind. Dad liked Mort immediately and then they were friends. History made!

Humes Ranch --


Mort's two daughters, a son-in-law, and two beloved grandkids.



Us, minus The Loosh, who was off somewhere
being moody and pre-pubescent.
(Help me)


My parents could not be any cuter.

Our long weekend celebrating my dad's best friend got me thinking about lives well lived. About how simple it is to do it right, or at least how simple it is in theory, how simple it should be. Mort lived life enthusiastically and warmly. I doubt Mort was perfect, none of us are, but he was a good man, a good father, husband and friend. I don't think anyone can aim much higher than to be those things, and to be remembered for such things when we're gone.

If Mort could see us from wherever he is now, I know he was giddy seeing his grandkids play with his dear friend's grandkids at Humes Ranch. The four kids ran through the fields, played hide-and-go-seek, laughed their bubbly little kid laughs. I could almost see Mort beaming and hear him bellowing with enthusiastic joy. He may have also been singing Christmas carols but that's cool, we'll give him a pass on the seasonal appropriateness.

(I'm also pretty sure I heard a faint, "LET'S DO TIN PANTS," an ode to times when we would be spread out along the chairlift but Mort would let his ski run wishes be known by yelling at all of us up and down the line...)


My dad wrote a long essay that was read at Mort's memorial service. I wish I could cut and paste the whole thing here because it is a beautiful homage to friendship and shared history but in lieu of the entire thing, this is the final paragraph. It made me verclempt as hell. I hope Dad is OK with me sharing it here, I didn't ask -- hi, Dad!

"A good day of skiing has three parts: early morning is the time of elation and anticipation of the coming adventure. The air is cool, the trails awash in morning light, the body eager. Mid-day is the time of accomplishment in the heat of the day, the time for fast skiing, maybe in moguls. Late afternoon is the time for relaxing and reflection, for slowing down and really seeing and feeling the beauty of the day and the warmth, golden light and long shadows of late afternoon in the mountains - skiing as a metaphor for life. Judy and I are in the late afternoon now. Mort has passed through it, but we still see him, content in the mountains, happy with friends and family who loved him."


One final thing about our long weekend, a tone change so I can, ahem, clear this dust out of my eyes. Lucien hurt his back over that weekend on the peninsula when he flipped around on his bed and landed on the back of his neck. His neck and back were still sore a few days later so I took him to a chiropractor. Lucien has never been to a chiropractor and doesn't quite understand their treatment methods as evidenced by his alarmed, "Why are you hugging me? WHY IS THE DOCTOR HUGGING ME?" as the chiro wrapped his arms around Lucien to adjust his spine. The chiropractor laughed so hard he had to stop and wipe his eyes with his shirt.

I love that kid.

The kids and I returned to Seattle from the Olympic Peninsula via the ferry. It was a beautiful day for a ferry ride. I have loved many places in the world but I am most absolutely content to be in this one. It's so fantastically pretty up in here.




I hosted my annual Halloween parents-gone-wild fest over the weekend. I'm going to post on that ASAP but after that, November will be all about the Paris book, a NaNoWriMo tweaked once again for my non-fiction needs. It's time to confront the reality of my editor's feedback, which hurt my feelings but is likely right on the money. I'll be around.



Until we meet again, 
here's to all the great friends we meet along the journey.


More wine for the cook! *clink*
MJ

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Recycling the laundry


I wrote this post the day before the earthquake hit Mexico City. I have debated whether or not to keep it, as it obviously does not address the gravity of the present situation. I'm going to keep it for now as a farewell to our time there and also our transition home to Seattle, but obviously my heart and thoughts are much heavier than at the time of its writing. The city and its people are never far from my mind.

The photos and videos showing what happened in CDMX and its neighboring communities are heart wrenching. I'm of course grateful the kids and I were no longer there, and that Alex and all our friends still in the city are OK, but it is a sucker punch to the gut to know what has happened to so many others. The earthquake truly devastated one of the most vibrant cities on the planet, and took so much away from so many. 

The people of Mexico are strong and resilient -- my heart is with them.








I couldn't find anything my last night in Mexico City because it was all gone. All our stuff had been packed into boxes headed to Seattle by either the fast route (our air shipment) or the slow route (our truck shipment which, as of right now, I'm convinced we will never see again because it's stuck somewhere along the border.)

I couldn't find my slippers that night, nor my pajamas, nor the toothpaste. Alex went to bed before me and in my attempts not to wake him, I had only my iPhone flashlight by which to search. I ended up sleeping in the sweaty tank top I'd worn all day, foregoing my nightly face washing and using Coco's toothbrush for the tooth cleansing. Don't tell her that, she will freak.

I sat outside enjoying our view until a very late hour that last night, just taking it all in and saying my goodbyes to the big bold city for which I'd found much affection. I drew hearts on the dirty glass panels of our balcony. They won't last there long but it was comforting to leave even the smallest of marks on our Mexico home.

The four of us had eaten our last dinner out in Polanco earlier that night at a favorite neighborhood restaurant, Dulcinea. We gorged ourselves on the most tender short rib, and fried bananas with beans and cream, and buratta in a spicy tomato sauce. It rained on our walk home which was fine with us because why not splash in a few puddles when you're headed out of a place.


This was a picture we left taped to the wall for our housekeeper upon leaving.
Lucien is holding the photo we gave her of Seattle.
And you betcha Coco is scratching her armpit like a monkey in her goodbye photo.
Paulina would have it no other way. 
She loves that girl just the way she is.

The next morning, the kids and I packed up our last things and climbed into Mario's car one final time for the drive to the airport. Alex is staying in Mexico City until the beginning of October to finish his job there so he held our hands often and gave us many hugs on the drive. The kids were not willing to wait until the end of September to return home, were definitely not willing to miss the first month of school. They were itching to get home and see their friends and play with their dog and get ready for new school years and quite frankly, so was I.

You can't fully enjoy the current city when you're prepping to move to a different city. Your focus and energy orients towards the place you're headed as you make summer camp arrangements there, book doctor appointments and babysitters there, find a rat specialist for the rat in your basement there, schedule reunion lunch and beer dates there. I tried to enjoy the last few days of Mexico but it was a distracted kind of enjoyment. My life had already left Mexico and was way up North.

Our driver, Mario's, family showed up at the airport to say goodbye to us. I was keeping it together pretty well until I turned around and there they were, his wife and two teenage sons with big hugs and shy goodbyes for the three of us. They didn't need to come see us off -- they live far from the airport and it's a lot of driving for them -- but they wanted to. Then it was hard to keep my shit together. I shed some tears as the kids and I waved one more time and sniffled around the corner towards the security line. Seriously, how lucky we were to meet the people we met.

The kids and I landed in Seattle again and -- oh my God -- there was English everywhere. It is a wondrous thing to understand everything all around you, be it written communication or spoken. I became the creepiest, most excited eavesdropper ever, sometimes just staring directly at the poor people with my mouth hanging open. I'm so sorry your aunt is suffering from a worrisome bout of diarrhea but isn't it cool I understand every word of your gruesome details??

The following are my immediate observations at the Seattle airport before we'd even collected our luggage --

1) There is a garbage can every thirty feet. I no longer have to collect my garbage in my purse for later disposal.

2)  Mexicans are warm and polite friendly whereas Americans are more obnoxious and over-the-top friendly. In Mexico it was a "I hope you are having a nice day, SeƱora" but in the U.S. it's more of a "Well HELOOOooooOOO there, little nuggets!" The U.S. Immigration guy told the kids a couple terrible "dad jokes" as a welcome home, shook my hand so hard my shoulder nearly dislocated, then laughed so loudly he hurt my ears, which is crazy because I'm married to Alex so am used to volume.

3) There is fully stocked soap and toilet paper in all the restrooms. I may have no more need for the Ziploc bag of toilet paper nor the family-sized bottle of Purell I keep in my purse. And once finished in the bathroom stall in the U.S., you don't have to put your toilet paper in the garbage can, you can send it right down the magical pipes!

When we walked into our house late that night after a long day of emotional goodbyes and travel and terrible turbulence and a near breakdown by me because GODDAMN AIRPLANES, Natani looked surprised for a few shocked seconds, lost her mind for a few minutes, then immediately went to get her toy and dropped it at our feet with an expectant look on her face and a viciously wagging tail.

She is happy to have her kids back. It's like she can't believe they're real. She wakes them every morning for school upon my command, "Go get the kids!" by jumping on their bodies and licking their faces. She takes her job very seriously.


good doggo

Our house/pet sitters taught Natani how to play fetch and swim in Lake Washington, two things she refused to do before we departed. You'd throw a ball and she'd just grab it and run away with it, looking back over her shoulder suspiciously like, "I know you're trying to steal my ball, b*tch." And God forbid she got near water. You could almost hear her thinking, "Aww hell no" as she ran the other direction as fast as her strong muscular body could carry her.

I'm glad she swims and plays fetch now but it's also a bit taxing when I'm stuck in the yard throwing her ball for two hours while dinner burns on the stove. I say, "OK girl, that's it, I gotta go inside!" and her ears droop and her body language sags and she sighs deeply, staring at her sad ball on the ground. "OK, just one more, girl," I say then, unable to break her heart again given we just abandoned her for eight months.

....and one hour later, dinner is toast and my hand is so cramped up, I have to ask Lucien to open my refreshing sparkling can of La Croix.

The first 72 hours home were strange. I'd forgotten my house. I couldn't find things, instead grabbed for drawers roughly where they were in Mexico City. Why is the silverware now to the right of the sink when it should be to the left? Our TV remotes were also befuddling. I'd forgotten how to make our various TV components work using our arsenal of complicated clickers. The housesitters had to come back the next week to give me a lesson. That was embarrassing.

We were all a little fuzzy and out of whack. You know how sometimes you're so distracted by other things, you can't process exactly what you're doing at the moment? I was sorting laundry a few days after our return and thinking, "Is tomorrow recycling day? I don't remember which day... I'm pretty sure it's tomorrow. Yes, yes, it's tomorrow, I must get the recycling to the curb right away." I then gathered up the load of laundry I was sorting, walked over to the recycling bin and tossed it all inside.

Lucien sat nearby enjoying a snack. He watched me recycle the laundry silently, a hand holding spoon frozen halfway to his mouth. He asked slowly, "Mom, what are you doing?" and I replied, "Well son, it should be obvious I'm recycling... umm... just the clothes and stuff." Damn, he caught me being weird again.

But as for Seattle, life here is good. My country is a hot mess and my city is getting super crowded with tech people but I love it here. I love the mountains and the ocean and Mt. Rainier, the volcano that looms hazily over the city. I love watching the Seahawks with a group of screaming friends again. I love seeing my kids happy back in their schools, and most of all I love grinning at the skyline from my back porch with a proper IPA brew in my hand.

We did our crew's annual getaway a week after our return. I handled the Winnebago all by myself for the first time because Alex is still in Mexico. It went perfectly well except for the time I came within inches of backing into my best friend's minivan. I stopped in the nick of time when I heard all the screaming and saw the waving arms of my frantic comrades.


Friends since babyhood
reunited in the Pacific Northwest.
And you betcha that's a narwhal.

This year's getaway was a little edgier -- though not as scary as the wind storm year -- given all the injuries. Coco cut her foot wide open on an oyster shell on the beach plus received a goose egg on her head when she turned suddenly and ran smack into the kitchen counter. It's a good thing we have a nurse practitioner in our circle.

Two other kids also succumbed to grievous oyster shell foot injuries and all children returned home with nasty "hot tub rashes" and ear infections. Hot tubs now give us all the skeevies. I'm not sure I can climb into one with a happy heart ever again.



I'll be around the blog as often as possible in coming months but my energies are on the Paris book edits and recycling my laundry. I am also trying to remember where I store the extra batteries and light bulbs. They should be in the kitchen closet, seems obvious that's where I'd keep them, yet they're not there.







I miss nearly everything about it.
Thanks for the memories and the love, CDMX,
and it's very nice to see you again, Seattle.
MJ


PS. As you can see, Bobo was also beside himself with delight upon our return --


wake up and tell us you love us, lizard.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Adios, Chicken Pizza


This is it, the last post from Mexico City. Those eight months went way too damn fast.

The next handful of days hold transition and chaos for all of us. As sad as I am to leave Mexico, I am looking forward to being back with the Seattle crew. I am also really looking forward to squeezing my crazy dog and poking Stella the bird in the belly with a pencil (the eraser end, I'm not a monster). I'll even be happy to see Bobo the bearded dragon; he may not emote much but I'm sure he will also feel reunion joy somewhere in his lizard heart.


We're finally comin' home, girl!
(Though I suspect she stopped looking for us out that window
a long time ago.)

Let's finish this road trip. Let's do this finale. There's probably no better way to celebrate our time in Mexico than by continuing to wax nostalgic about vacation and posting a barrel full of photos of this magnificent country.

(Part One here, Part Two here, Part Three here ....)

After Merida we took a slight detour to another pueblo magico, Izamal. Izamal is also known as The Golden City (or is it The Yellow City? I don't know, tick tock, no time to research, nothing about this thing is gonna be fact checked) because every building in town is painted a bright egg yolk yellow.

Izamal also has several pyramids in the middle of its town. We visited them via horse drawn carriage from the center square. I usually refuse to entertain the idea of horse drawn carriage tours because I don't think it's very nice to make horses drag people around cities all day. Horses aren't meant to work in big cities on hot pavement with cars whizzing past them all the time. The stories of horses collapsing in Central Park from exhaustion and stress were enough for me to swear off of them forever.


But check me out, I'm Captain Hypocrite!
(our horse driver and our car driver, Mario, chatting in the front)

Alex knows my feelings on horse drawn carriage so first approached the man to discuss the care of his horse. Looking around Izamal, it's more of a quiet village than a city. There are very few cars whizzing around and at the time of our meeting him, our horse Picasso was munching on some grass and looking pretty chill indeed. I sure hope he likes the color yellow, though, because if he hates it he is living in his own personal hell.


I believe this is our final giant city sign of the trip. 
Behind us, a horsedrawn carriage, though that is not our Picasso.
If I look more closely, that horse appears to be wearing a humiliating pink hat.
Well, shit.



That is one wild pyramid.



Lucien was shat upon by a bird,
likely one who did not believe
he is an authentic tech expert forever.

There is one Mayan ruin you must see, according to the world. If you're on the Yucatan Peninsula, you must visit ye olde Chichen Itza or, for the more refined, also known as Chicken Pizza.


I did not love Chicken Pizza. I have friends who have loved this place but for me, it felt like the Disneyland of Mayan ruins. The lines forming out the front may actually make Disneyland look tame and easily accessible by comparison. Vendors are everywhere, lines snaking all over the place, millions of people standing around fanning themselves with tour bus brochures, at least half of them bused in from Cancun resorts and wearing "Official Boobie Inspector" t-shirts.

We arrived very early, aware we'd be far from alone at this most popular ruin, and were into the site within half an hour. The ruins are nice, it's true, but it's like visiting ruins as if strolling through an art museum. You can't climb anything, you can't touch anything, and your entire experience will be shared with many, many, many other people all craning their necks to look at the same thing.

Chichen Itza was one of the first Mayan ruins to be excavated and is listed as one of New 7 Wonders of the World, alongside the likes of the Great Wall of China and Macchu Picchu. I understand its significance in the history of history and that is nothing to be trifled with. Thank you for your service, Chicken Pizza, but my opinion still stands -- there are many ruins more worthy of visiting than this one. (See my best friends Palenque and Uxmal)

Chicken Pizza gets a sad rating of 2 out of 5 pyramids. 


I liked the columns, though.



They are all Official Boobie Inspectors. All of them.

I may have bitched mightily about the vendors clogging up the place but I did pick up my favorite souvenir of the entire trip at Chichen Itza from one of those very vendors. Hola again, Captain Hypocrite!

The kids saw it and said, "Mom, I'm scared" and I knew I was onto a winner --


This is all I can show now because he's nestled nicely into his packaging. 
I'll take another picture when he's hanging in his glorious new Banister Abbey location.

We weren't at Chichen Itza very long. We kind of ran through, bought my scary dude and escaped. The place was crazy by the time we left. The line for tickets was ten times longer and the parking lot was a hot mess of 50 tour buses. My advice, if you feel it's important to cross Chichen Itza off your list, is go early, run through, and run away. Buy something amazing from a vendor if you must.

We stopped at one last ruin, Ek' Balam, on our way to Cancun. It was a welcome change from Chichen Itza -- uncrowded, accessible, fun to explore, terrifying to climb. We were right back in it.


It's a small site with not a ton to do but it's adorable


The palace was impressive,
thatched roofs there to protect carvings underneath.


And we felt pretty badass at the top of a very steep
and very hot climb.
We nearly passed out, which would have been pretty bad.
You get 3.5 out of 5, Ek' Balam.

Then straight to Cancun, the town where humidity reigns and everything, including the folded clothes in your closet and your bedsheets, is moist. We parked our butts on the beach at our resort in Playa Mujeres. I have never been an enthusiastic fan of all-inclusive resorts because the cheesiness can be off the charts. But this one in Cancun had been recently visited by Seattle Mom and Irish Mom with much raving upon their return. It sounded kinda heavenly.


By the time we reached Cancun, we were burnt out on ruins and driving and posing with giant city signs and were happy to have a breather. And by "breather," of course, I mean napping on lounge chairs, drooling a little, and waking up to find a well-dressed waiter has placed a drink in your hand.

All-inclusives are full of sloth. There are many people who float around in the pool for hours on pool floats near the swim-up bar; others would stake out beach lounge chairs early in the morning then stay in them all day. I was jealous of their contentment and ability to be completely still; I'm too antsy to be still for long. I was instead a hopper; I hopped from pool to pool (there were many pools) to the beach, to the restaurants, bam bam bam I'm a resort mover and shaker.


The people in that pool haven't moved for hours. 
I hope they're OK.

The resort, Finest at Playa Mujeres, was a classy joint. Beautiful place, delicious food at its many restaurants, and no Official Boobie Inspectors to be seen. The service was great and the Kids Club so entertaining, we didn't see Coco for days.

Lucien was on the older side for Kids Club so chose to go swimming all day with me. Alex was usually napping or in the resort's gym. He likes working on his body but I don't care much about my body on vacation.


Lucien and me, underwater selfie.
Nailed it.

The Loosh and I followed a baby stingray and a crab as they swam/scuttled along the sea floor. We warned two guys there was a crab directly at their feet but they just looked at us blankly and continued their conversation about the New York Giants lineup. Fine, assholes, get clamped, I tried.


One night Alex and I tried to take Lucien to the fancy formal French restaurant at the resort. We were not quite prepared for the dinner dress code requirements. Dinners at some of the restaurants are "elegant" affairs and we didn't have too much that could be considered "elegant." We were more rife with "dirty" and "sweaty" and "crunchy."

Alex kept shoving me ahead of him into restaurants because I like dresses and brought several, so I was by far the most formal of all of us even though my dresses hadn't been washed in weeks and all reeked of old sunscreen and bugspray. Alex was hoping they'd see me at a distance, register "acceptable" in their brains, then he and Lucien could slink past unnoticed.

We were worried about our outfits but we should have been worried about other things. As we walked into Le Petit Plaisir, we were stopped at the door and told the restaurant was for guests 18 and over only. We didn't know that beforehand but Alex didn't miss a beat. He immediately gestured at Lucien and said, "What, him? He is 18."

Lucien, on cue, stood on his tiptoes, dropped his voice as low as it can go for an eleven-year-old, and began discussing the U.S.'s crushing student debt problem. The lady at the door didn't budge, just shook her head at us. We dragged Lucien out as he continued moaning, "Oh no, how am I gonna pay for college, it's so expensive....."


Our last night we attended a pirate show on the beach where we learned pirates love juggling fire and resort audiences don't like to applaud. Those poor fire-juggling pirates entertained us in near silence for an hour. Awkward.

Then we came home. I love flying into Mexico City because it is a monster --


And now we're getting ready to go. The kids have been awesome in this hectic week of preparation. They've cleaned out all our rooms and filled six bags of garbage, then schlepped them down to the basement. I think they're ready to go home because I've never seen them so motivated.

Mario took Lucien to a movie two days ago to keep him entertained while I met with the movers. We are going to miss that sweet man. We will miss Paulina, too. She cried yesterday when she left. The kids gave her a gift -- a framed photograph of Seattle with a photo of them taped to the front. They wrote on it, "We're in Seattle now but we miss you and we love you."

Next time you hear from me I'll be back in Seattle, baby. I think there will be much processing of Mexico after I return to Seattle. I didn't blog here as much as I'd hoped, most likely because I was always writing about Paris. I may write more about Mexico in Seattle than I wrote about Mexico in Mexico. Then again, I get my Paris manuscript back from my editor on August 15th so I may write more about Paris in Seattle than Mexico, too. This is all very confusing.

Goodbye, beautiful CDMX. I'm going to miss you something awful.


I'm going to miss all the sidewalk cafes and restaurants
full of beautiful chatting people
across the street from bustling artisan markets.



I'm going to miss showing my kids things
like this beautiful old fountain.



I'm going to miss our fun friends.



I'll definitely miss this view from our apartment.



Coco took this one as we stood outside enjoying one of our last sunsets.
She insists on taking pics with fisheye.
She thinks it's hilarious.



I'll even miss the times we didn't do anything at all,
just sat around our mod apartment,
watching TV and playing video games.
Though I suspect we'll be doing some of that back in Seattle, too.



Bye bye, guys. It sure wasn't long but it sure was great.


Thanks for the memories, Mexico.
Adios, amigos.
MJ