And so with the winds of time shall another family, this Post-postmodern bedouin, famiglia di Schiavo pursue favor on earth. Not across wilderness on horseback, camel, neither wagon train, nor caravanned yurt one hundred or two thousand years ago, but ours today by jet airplane and automobile — crossing borders, well used passports in tow.

By far, without question, our most challenging period (Jeanette’s in particular) is to book flights, alongside reserving suitable accommodations between the middle of December and January every year. If an Airbnb space wasn’t what it was cracked up to be online and you’re with us, not willing to withstand forty-seven nights in a less than desirable rental unit, stuck somewhere terribly inconvenient, you’d bale, even though it’s December 16th, dicey at best.

Situated 1,700 miles from any respectable snowstorm, we fled Nuevo Vallarta to Puerto Vallarta by taxi, arrived fifty minutes later during the peak of this tourist trap’s busiest season. Jeanette and I took turns on the commode immediately following a breakfast attempt in Puerto Vallarta’s mercado; LouLou joined this misery, also getting Montezuma’s revenge after dinner our second night.
Christmas Eve was closing in fast, our United Airline return tickets were scheduled for February 2nd; Puerto Vallarta wasn’t cooperating, food nor hotels. Two days after arriving Mexico we (nearly in shock) landed at LAX, our original point of travel; knowing full well the forty-five days ahead would be a precarious chapter.

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If you’re OCD as I am, scoring an acceptable rental car with low mileage and leather seats is more complicated than micromanaging hotel housekeepers — whatever you do, hang on to that vehicle.

For some time we’d been trying to pencil in a road trip through the Southwest, Santa Fe, New Mexico being our easternmost point of travel. After purchasing additional clothes to keep us warmer than the Nuevo Vallarta wardrobe, we were finally ready for plan B.

Not that I’d wanna try, though anyone interested could eat off the highway in Arizona; big country, wide open sky, rugged landscape, hard to dismiss. Minutes entering New Mexico clapboard dwellings with junkyard cars appeared, sharing nearby land with haphazard billboards advertising “authentic” moccasins ahead. Twenty minutes inside New Mexico had me seriously contemplating an immediate U-turn back to pristine Arizona; instead Jeanette, LouLou and I pressed forward believing some green chile something or another might hit the spot. For all the hoopla I’d heard about Santa Fe, I didn’t see it; mountains elsewhere, Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains for example, accent Los Angeles beautifully.

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Either New Mexico’s State Police are overzealous or Santa Fe has an overabundance of drunk drivers, possibly both; nevertheless, driving on Cerrillos Road was way too nerve wracking. Santa Fe looks worked, not like Jack Nicholson nowadays, rather Nick Nolte’s 2002 mugshot. With chattering teeth amid afternoon snow flurries, we thought we’d benefit from Santa Fe’s downhome Southwestern cuisine. Our tortilla soup lunch was each accompanied by two packets of crackers: one Ritz, another Premium Saltine. A warning dear friends: Santa Fe’s holiday drunk drivers — exuberant law enforcement — endless lighted amber plastic bags attempting to replicate enchanting candle lit paper sacks of yesteryear, alongside faded for rent and sale signs and careless plating had us heading back west at dawn, leaving Piñon infused air behind — segue plan C.

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Shoppers are indeed frantic around noon on December 24th, the Venice Beach Whole Foods without exception, a complete insane asylum; our only parking option was an illegal spot two blocks away. Meanwhile back at camp Hyatt Regency, a newly renovated suite awaited us, fluffy white terrycloth robes with matching slippers and smart TV on hand. LouLou packed her Mickey Mouse Christmas calendar with miniature teddy bear to count down days inside twenty-five numbered pouches, a red velvet sequin stocking and enough festive provisions kept us satisfied until the 27th, at which time Hyatt’s rates soared, gouging New Year’s Eve party goers.

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Plan D — drive east once again to an available hotel in Vegas, preferably one with a buffet. Red Rock Resort’s buffet line is positioned on their casino perimeter, meaning if you’re standing in queue, every stitch of clothing within seconds absorbs cigarette smoke from slot players — five hour driving time to get there, bon appétit!
No pressure, just the end of 2016, a matter of days before ringing in 2017, now what? Obviously flights everywhere were still overpriced; Hawaiian islands were booked a year in advance, alongside Miami Beach. “Hey, what about San Diego? It’s only a six hour drive from here.” The last occasion we spent any extended days there was kissing my mother’s stainless steel feeling forehead minutes before an undertaker closed her coffin.

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LouLou developed a bizarre glimmer in her eye, suspecting we’d pay our respects at Jean’s crypt for the first time. Jeanette told her, “Nona isn’t there.” I asked, “Where would you prefer to envision Nona’s spirit, with us in our hearts or inside a marble wall stacked ten high, thousands more filling each wing?” During the drive over to Cypress View Mausoleum, located in a dodgy neighborhood Jean never had any reason to venture into other than depositing other lifeless bodies, I asked, “Jeanette, google how long does a corpse stay intact before no longer appearing as it did lying in rest?” After receiving this ghoulish information, thought — great, here we are thirteen years later, never before having visited this sealed crypt, which to date had gradually become nothing more than a box of bones.

Jeanette and LouLou bought some peach roses in a morbid brass vase at the reception area, promptly affixing them to Jean’s plaque upon return. While they were gone I paced awkwardly; observing one Cypress View employee atop his motorized scaffold preparing a crypt across from some grieving middle-aged woman sitting feet before her dearly departed, piped in funeral Muzak droned on.

Famiglia di Schiavo decided we should celebrate this exercise by feasting on a nostalgic Italian meal in San Diego’s Little Italy. Our only consolation was on the way out, unwrapping three imported Sperlari anice hard candies, ridding that restaurant’s foul flavor — another poor excuse for real cooking.

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