Its visits, like those of angels, short, and far between.
– Robert Blair
At the 9 month mark of living in México, as school came to an end and my friends had returned to their homes in San Francisco and Tlajomulco de Zuniga, I planned a few weeks of travel in the US to visit family and friends. My idea to fly the friendly skies, drive the back roads, and eat traditional dishes was deemed a success as I washed down tears with tequila, laughter with beers and memories with sweet tea.
Arriving in Sacramento to a week full of events immediately reminded me why I love this city: there’s always something to do, my friends here are fun and it’s small enough to walk around but big enough for major happenings. First, I enjoyed 2nd Saturday, where once a month, Midtown art galleries, shops and restaurants stay open late and offer specials throughout the night. After indulging in Sangria and tapas at my favorite Spanish restaurant, Tapa the World, I headed over to Spanglish Arte to view some vibrant and unique paintings by Emmanuel Archuleta.
After a quick visit to Steve and Jim at the always-fabulous PeraDice Cards & Gifts, the night ended with a 30th birthday roast for City of Vain’s Drew Boyce, held at the obscure and time-warped Pre-Flite downtown. Hosted by his girlfriend, artist Autumn Brown, Drew’s roast was rift with jabs from his friends, including witty Sacramento musician Danny Secretion.
After a weekend of gallery-hopping and friend-roasting, my amiga Valeria and I decided to taste-test the different fish taco and ceviche tostadas available in Sacramento. With the good fortune of several fantastic eateries to choose from, we compared the sabores of local taquerias including Beto’s, Garibaldi, La Fiesta and La Favorita.
After some debate, the votes for best were still undecided, although we agreed that Garibaldi’s makes a great fish taco – a flaky, non-battered filet with piquant Salsa Méxicana, shredded red and green cabbage and a soft, fresh corn tortilla. We also found that Beto’s makes a delicious tostada – plump pulpo and camarones prepared with a hint of mayonesa, juicy lime and sliced, ripe avocados spread generously on a hearty, crisp tortilla. ¡Muy rico!
On Wednesday, I was thrilled to attend the premiere Burlesque show of my eclectic and lovely friend Jenn, who wow-ed the crowd at Shenanigans, dancing on stage for two numbers in themed costumes. With help from her neighbor Dylan, Jenn wiggled and shimmed off bits of her clothing, yet still remained classy and sassy, true to the woman I believe she is. Bravo, amiga!
The weekend kicked off Friday with an outdoor show by Zombie-rock band Kill the Precedent at the free Concerts in the Park, where hipsters, locals and families mingle, dance and swill libations on the grass and concrete of Cesar Chavez Park. Saturday I attended a Dia de los Muertos jewelry workshop with artist and jeweler Lorraine Garcia of Rain’s Embellishments at Spanglish Arte. About 12 participants gathered to learn bead stringing, wire bending and end crimping to create beautiful, altar-worthy necklaces, bracelets and earrings featuring colorful skulls and flowers.
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”
― George Burns
I left for the Deep South Tour 2013 on a Wednesday, arriving in Atlanta, Georgia with a few days to relax and visit with family. As my 90-year old aunt and I looked at photos of México and talked about my dream-come-true adventure, moving there to live and teach, she piped up and told me, “Follow your dreams and you’ll never feel lost.” Just think about that one for a minute.
On Friday, after 5 hours driving from Atlanta to Charleston (with the satellite radio on the Latin Caliente channel, ¡orale!), I arrived on James Island with the windows down, sucking in the air of the sticky summer heat. My senses delighted in the heady mix of salt marsh, sweet grass and hot asphalt that is somehow strangely special to my soul. I’ve heard it said home is where your heart is, and for a wanderlust like me, my home changes lately as often as my moods. Fortunately for me, I have a variety of places to call home, if only for a few weeks or months at at time.
Visiting with family is always an unpredictable event for me; I never know who will show up or stay home. My oldest sister flew in for the week from New York to join me, my niece and my mother, and together we cooked, celebrated and cussed (not enough for a Swear Jar, but close) at home for several days.
Despite their hectic family and work schedules, I was thrilled with the friends who traveled some distance to spend time with me and made it out of the house for the few days of my travel. The visits I had were fantastic: enthusiastic, grateful reminders of real friendship, reaffirming that, no matter how different everyone’s lives may be now, some people remain consistent and true.
After a quiet and happy birthday celebration, I drove the next day to Athens, Georgia, where I last visited over 15 years ago. I met up with friends who still live there, getting together for just a short time, it was as if the years had barely passed. We laughed at old jokes, gossiped about local “celebrities” and caught up on our lives today. In under 24 hours, I was refreshed by the charms of downtown Athens and revived by the view of some favorite old haunts before hitting the road.
Returning to Atlanta for a few days brought my Tour to a complete circle, with my fantastic friends Tina and Ali hosting me in their wonderful little East Lake home. I was impressed with how the neighborhoods in Atlanta have changed: corner shops and gas stations that once sat abandoned and decrepit have been revived into amazing boutiques, charming cafés and fantastic brewpubs.
I was pleasantly surprised with the positive sense of community and eco-conscious energy. Even old favorites like Waffe House and the DeKalb County Farmer’s Market (which Tina dubbed “The Disneyland of World Foods and Produce”) seemed to have improved their business contributions to The ATL.
Neighborhoods aside, the biggest change I experienced in Atlanta was seeing Tina, who recently underwent gastric bypass surgery. In addition to becoming an online writer with hundreds of followers, Tina is now a dedicated athlete who looks and feels more incredible than ever before. Her exercise, healthy-eating habits and mentoring tips for others considering surgery, may be found on her award-winning blog, Fat Girl Dives In.
On Saturday, as I boarded my return flight to Sacramento, I reflected on my Deep South Tour 2013 with sweet memories and new perspectives, inspired by amazing places, family and friends. Recalling one of many great talks with Tina, we agreed that people create their own well-being. By simply choosing to be happy, making positive changes and – most importantly – following through, more people could live satisfying, honest lives. “We hold more power than we realize” seemed to be a recurring theme.
Although we sometimes need a wake-up call to remind us, with friends from several decades ago or new people have just met, by plane or by car, from thousands of miles away or in our own back yard: we are all capable of creating our destiny, with fish taco taste-tests and salt marsh-smells to guide us safely and swiftly along.