succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Travel Perfectionism

I should elaborate just a smidge on what I mean by my and Mom's perfectionist tendencies. What I mean is that Mom is already stressing over the possibility of getting back to the States post-trip, finding out about some awesome tourist thing we didn't do (say, taking a helicopter tour of Everest) and being so racked with regret as to essentially undo any enjoyment of the trip. I'm on board with the motivation that Nepal is incredibly far away, and if one is going to travel that far, one should get out and do some exploring. But I'm also on board with the idea that simply being there is going to be awesome and anything else is just icing. I tried to propose this perspective to Mom - it hadn't occurred to her, but I think over the next three months I might be able to bring her around to it.

I'm trying to be sympathetic - this trip means my Mom is leaving her Mom, who she moved up to assisted living near their house in WV a couple of years ago, for a rather extended period of time. Which stresses both of them out. Mom is an only child and views leaving Grandma as an extremely high price to pay, so her perspective on this trip is that she has to wring every possible experience out of it, to make the emotional cost worth it. I say that's a lot of pressure to put on one little trip.


I've been riding public transportation to and from work lately (90 minutes to two hours one way) so I've been reading. A lot.

I finished Without You, and while I respect what Rapp is trying to do here (the honest display of imperfections is pretty classic therapy behavior) it's the sort of book that only a huge, huge fan could love. It made me a little squirmy - I think I prefer knowing less about the people whose work I admire.

Next up was Open Veins of Latin America, by Eduardo Galeano. I picked up a free copy somewhat randomly, then found out that Chavez gave a copy to Obama. Neat! I have to confess, not won over by this one. I think it was mainly the style - I have a hard time treating something written in passionate, flowery prose as historically accurate and reliable. Unfair, I know. And Galeano is certainly an amazing writer. But I think this wasn't the source for me to learn about the horrific history of Latin America. On the other hand, when I mentioned to my boss that I was having a hard time turning off my skepticism while reading this one, he said that was the right impulse and to keep my skeptic dial turned to high. I'm currently too ignorant of Latin American history to offer much constructive criticism on that front. Maybe in another year or two...

On the flight back from Bogota I turned back to my kindle and started The Sanctuary, by Raymond Khoury. Another pure popcorn novel, as usual, involving secret societies, and, this time, the quest for immortality. Entertaining enough - chase scenes, fights, exotic locales. The usual.

Next up was The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau, a kids/young adult novel, featuring the standard early-teen hero and heroine and adults who range from villains to well-intended but useless to a few who are all right but marginal. This one actually hooked me enough to keep me up past my bedtime, though I have to say the ending was somewhat unsatisfying. I'll probably invest in the rest of the series...eventually.

Most recently I devoured DMZ Volume I, by Brian Wood (thanks Boing Boing!) - a most excellent graphic novel set in Manhattan, which has become a no man's land in the midst of an American civil war. Told from the perspective of a photography intern turned full fledged journalist, lots of good commentary on the current state of society, media, etc. They're up to volume 7, all of which I eventually plan on purchasing, preferably from my friendly neighborhood Geen Apple Books, just as soon as my feet can take me there.

Technically I've also been reading The Pragmatic Programmer, but that's psuedo-for-work, so, meh.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


I don't feel like I've been working all that hard/all that many hours, but somehow, I haven't had the time/energy to post anything here. Which I guess is a good thing, with a new job, right? To be, evidently, working like a crazy person, but not necessarily feel like it? Anyway, that's the story I'm telling myself.

So, Mom and Dad arrive tomorrow! For Dad's 60th Birthday/Retirement California Wine Country Extravaganza! Cue the music and balloons! Actually, hold the music and balloons - because it's a surprise! Shhhh....obviously, Dad now knows he's boarding a plane in the morning headed to SF, but beyond that, he's totally in the dark. About which Mom and I have been giggling for months. (she's in on the secret) Right. So Mom and Dad arrive tomorrow afternoon. Friday we hang out in the city as long as they please, then I drive them up to Napa. Saturday I drive back up to Napa to spend the day riding bikes through wine country with them (I know, oh woe is me and my tough life). Sunday, I wake up at dawn and fly to Atlanta for a friend's wedding. Monday, I wake up, again at dawn, fly back to SF, drive back to Napa, and pick up Mom and Dad. Tuesday I take them back to the airport, then head back to work. Whew!

I know, crazy. But the thing is, you can re-schedule neither a 60th birthday, nor a wedding. And it's possible to do both. A little nutty, perhaps, but when have you known me not to want my cake and eat it too?

In other family and travel news, we have booked our tickets to Nepal! I officially leave the weekend after Thanksgiving, and travel via DC and Seoul to Kathmandu. Yes, because I hate the planet, I am flying east, across the country, to meet my family in DC, then back west to Asia. Look - flying makes me nervous, and if I'm going to spend 14+ hours in a little metal tube over an ocean I'm going to be sitting next to my mommy, ok? At least for the outward bound trip. On the way back I get to do the reverse (Kathmandu, Seoul, DC, SF) all by my lonesome. And on my birthday!

Already many of the lessons of Ireland are coming back to me - something about traveling always throws a lot of my family baggage into relief. For example, Mom is already stressing about our itinerary and whether she'll get to do everything she wants. The control freak and perfectionist aspects of her personality feel so...familiar. I definitely fall into a lot of the same traps - I try to appreciate where I am when I'm there, but, for example, I definitely got all cranky in Bogota when I thought I was going to miss out on the chance to pick up some local gifts for the family*. And again in DC when my perfect schedule, timed to the hour, got thrown out the window. I like to think that I recognize when these buttons are being pushed and I'm being unreasonably cranky and that I try to snap out of these moods as quickly as possible. But it is so clear that I get this particular trait from Mom. The good, and bad, news is that she triggers the exact opposite response in me - the crankier and more controlling she gets the more lalala everything is lovely and I'm just so happy to be here! I get.

Also, apparently, she and my brother already had a fight about when we need to leave for the airport in Seoul (we get a one night layover, with the price of a hotel and transportation to/from the airport included in the ticket). Already! We don't leave until after Thanksgiving! Nevermind the way far in advance bickering, we're all adults, perfectly capable of managing our own transportation. Yes, it would be ridiculous, but Mom, brother, and I could all head to the airport whenever we damn well pleased, at three distinct times if we felt like it! Besides, he's the one with a wedding and a (potentially pissed off, if he screwed up the travel plans) bride to get to. That's his problem, not ours.

Right. Making the mental note now to work hard to avoid being go-between and managing relationship between Mom and brother. We are all adults. I think that will make a nice mantra for this particular trip (even if we don't all act like it).

*this is not at all altruistic - growing up, my aunt was always (and continues to be) the cool relative who travels to awesome and random foreign locales. Her gifts are always unique and traditionally come with little yellow post-it notes telling the story of where this particular item came from. I'm very much looking forward to becoming the newest family member to give really cool gifts with excellent accompanying stories at holidays.