So there I am, walking past a massage chair in the middle of a mall in Rancho Mirage.
But before the massage chair, there was the jamba juice (medium amazing greens) in my hand...and about a third of it in my belly.
You see, the jamba juice was what I was craving for dinner, and the Westfield Mall in Rancho Mirage was the closest one.
Not that it was only going to be a jamba juice for dinner, there was also the leftover ramen from lunch with him earlier...before my journey into the dessert.
Ordering the extra noodles set me up nicely for that one.
The jamba juice was because I was just in the mood to treat myself well, knowing that noodles alone would not be enough.
Alone as I am in the desert, it would be easy to go out and indulge in an overpriced, not so good for me dining experience.
Or worse (or better depending on how I might want my emotions to taste in the moment), an even lesser good for me, underpriced meal (I'm looking at you In-N-Out).
But I want to feel better out here. It is enough to be missing her, and I know that treating myself well is the way she wants to know me when I am away...because it is the way she wants to know me when I am near.
That is why I did some yoga (a vinyasa style which she constantly disses, yet is grateful for when I do it) before heading out for the jamba juice (and hey listen, if Robek's wants to sponsor this writing, I'll change the name, although there aren't any within 25 miles of here...I checked)
She and I had hadour morning together before he and I had lunch.
That was how I began my journey into the desert.
Well actually, the journey began when I accepted a teaching position to bring a culinary arts program to adjudicated youth.
After 30 years in the kitchen, I felt it was time for me to pass on what ever kitchen wisdom I had gleaned on to...well whoever felt they needed it.
So I ended up in prison.
Teaching is hard.
Teaching felons makes teaching look easy.
I am just getting started.
There is a lot to learn.
I am a little bit lost.
And that is why I am in the desert
(I know, Jew lost in the desert...cliche, right?!)
There is a CTE (career technical educators...the flag I fly, or try under) conference with vendors and speakers and colleagues and it was recommended that I go, and it would be 3 working days not in a classroom (where I am still trying to feel like I know what I'm doing, who I'm doing it for, and how the people who asked me to do it, want it done...that's the little bit lost I was referring to) which sounded really good.
Who knows, Jews have wandered lost in the desert before and found answers...perhaps it's our power spot.
So after breakfast with her, and lunch with him, I headed off into the desert. An easy ride along the highway, that space between here and there (or here and the next here) that I have always loved. The travel between, where the only task is to head towards the next destination, feels both detached and present..a nice combination.
Checked into the hotel, I shower and change and head to the exhibitors welcoming reception.
I see no one I know..and initially nothing I can work with (not much use for a laser printer in the kitchen..or at least not in the kitchen I teach in.
But there is a small cheese and charcuterie table...and small plates...and I hadn't started craving jamba juice (remember Robek's...all this could be yours), and I know what to do there.
So I do it, and wander (in true Jew in the desert form) over to a cocktail table with one person on it, looking over the registration paperwork, and politely invite myself in.
Conversation flowed easily, teachers who've made it through the "new" are always happy to share their wisdom and experience...and I am always ready to take it in.
It is one of my best teaching tools.
After a while the one person I knew I'd know walks into the room. He (not my son this time) is the other CTE teacher at my school (he teaches construction and building), and true mentor for me.
We share a good hello, and I let him tell me what to expect, and what to look for in this conference.
I like him, and I like his approach to the environment of teaching..especially where we teach. He's been doing it long enough for me to know that he knows how to survive in this system.
After a(nother) while, he moves off to meet with a vendor he is friendly with, and I just wander around the room wondering "what is there for me here?"
And then I see it...or rather it sees me. It is a display of textbooks on all manner of technical teaching subjects.
With sales people just looking to give someone who looks lost...a sense of direction.
Yes, they had a couple of kitchen, cooking, and baking books.
My students kinda hate books.
But we start talking,and I start asking about online versions, and next thing I know there's a whole conversation about and online curriculum that I can access....and curriculum is literally the thing I know nothing about...subject matter yes, but planning and curriculum....and there it is...and there I am asking seemingly intelligent questions, and troubleshooting potential issues with bringing their program into our system..as if I have any right to know what I am talking about (because every time I speak about where I am, or what I am doing, I have to admit, I feel a little like a fraud (not afraid, but a fraud)...like what can I know after less than 3 months of students).
But what I'm hearing myself say, and how I'm hearing them respond, sounds really intelligent and professional, and for a moment, I feel like I'm getting somewhere, like I found what I was looking for here.
And the conference hasn't even officially begun.
And for a moment I can begin to taste milk and honey.
With all of the promo paperwork I could ask for, I go go over and see my teaching mentor. Like a good student, I want to show off my work.
"I found something I can use here!"
"How much does it cost?"
I tell him, and he smiles and says that will be easy to find.
And for a moment I feel like I belong in the conversation.
And then his wife shows up.
You hear the term "a force of nature" used fairly often.
I have officially felt it.
In 5 minutes of her sharing (ok maybe 7/8 minutes) her extremely well earned teaching wisdom I felt like I wished I could start this job all over again (knowing full well, that I needed to be this far down the rabbit hole to realize that I needed to see a way out...or through) or at least that there might be a way for me to get a handle on what it is I am doing.
Her husband (among others) has been great at teaching me to survive in the shark infested waters (other's words first, not mine) of education and probation...but she just gave me my first swimming lesson.
And I didn't even know I was looking for that.
I may have to cook them a dinner or two.
So after breakfast with her, lunch with him (with leftover ramen for later), a space of my own through the desert, a place of my own to unpack, a plate of my own to indulge in, a table to share, a friend to meet, an opportunity to grow in my job to explore (which I'll do with the leftover ramen after writing this), a friend to reassure me, a ...I don't even know what to call her, but whatever it is, I am grateful for, a yoga break to embody it all, a trip to get a jamba juice (that's it Robek's, you're out!), there I am...walking past a massage chair, in the middle of a Westfield mall in Rancho Mirage.
There are people sitting in other ones, but I can tell they are not "massaging". I can see the look of "I'd rather not be here, but if I have to be here, I'm gonna sit in the pseudo recliner, but I'm not gonna massage, because that would be weird, in the middle of the mall and all."
And I look at the one empty
And after all of my wandering of the day
"Maybe it's a free demo"
That was the thought that brought me over to the chair.
It wasn't free.
$1.00 for 3 minutes
$2.00 for 10 minutes
$5 for 30 minutes
So I fed the chair a dollar (probably the chair's version of an amazing green, to match my drink) and sat down.
And it was weird
And then it was wonderful
(and then it had another moment of weird as I felt a little self-conscious about sitting in the middle of the mall with my eyes close getting a really great massage from a chair, and then I decided "f*#k it! this feels waaaaaay to good right now to care what anyone else thinks, and besides, my eyes are closed...so I'll try not to smile as big as as good as I feel (and keep the "oh yeah's" internalized and enjoyed quietly...
...and then it was wonderful again)
I may need another jamba juice tomorrow
And at least $2.00