January 2023 Part Two (Jan 10-Jan 15)

January 10 – It all disappears… like Vegas in the rain…

Tuesday morning I woke up early and started making myself breakfast before I ventured outside. Good thing, too, since the alarm was on and even though the folks had left me a note with the code on it, I didn’t see it (and even if I had, I had no idea how to use the alarm system. So, thankfully, mom got up, helped me find the various things I needed to finish making my eggs and coffee and then showed me how to turn off the alarm so I could venture out back to get started with what was my main purpose for this trip.

The shed was a disaster. Boxes and tubs were everywhere and I had been given a mandate by Rasa to get rid of as much as possible. This is one of the many reasons Rasa and I make a good team. See, I come from a long line of packrats and so I keep everything. Seriously. Everything. I live by the motto “I might need it at some point in the future.”

Rasa, on the other hand, will throw out anything which doesn’t have a definite, and immediate, purpose. Yes, she indulges me and my Lego minifig collections and various knick-knacks, but for her, these are just things to dust. This has lead to interesting conversations where I’ll say something like “wouldn’t it be cool to get a motorhome and just live in it and travel?” To which she, who until recently only had one mug she used for every conceivable beverage, would respond “No. I want a house with lots of room.” And then, just for fun, she’d point out the multitude of bookshelves holding my books and just raise her eyebrows questioningly, silently voicing the “and where would you put all of these?” part.

So, yeah. There I was, on my own, being entrusted to get rid of stuff I no longer needed. To be fair I knew a lot of it wasn’t needed, various appliances and furniture pieces could go (and some of it had gone before I ever got there). But at the same time, there were certain things I knew I wanted to save (and some I wanted to bring back with me). This was the thing – The idea was to reorganize my stuff, including artwork and valuable books, into an easy to see pile which, when the time was right, could easily be delineated and shipped over to wherever our permanent home would be.

Some of the first things I discovered were old boxes of comic books and CDs. I knew most of these could be passed along so I brought them inside to await further processing. That was when mom pointed out that she was going off to play Mahjong with her “girls” and offered me use of her car if I dropped her off. She could get a ride home. I agreed (although I probably should have waited, as we’ll see soon).

I loaded my stuff into the car, dropped mom at her game, and made my way down to the new location of Alternate Reality Comics. I’ve been a patron there for years, even from Lithuania. If there’s a physical book I want, I always order it from Ralph. So I took my comics (and a couple of Lithuanian souvenirs I’d brought for him) and we had a nice visit. I left with a new T-shirt and he had some decent comics he’ll hopefully make a profit from.

My next stop was Zia, which, conveniently, was just down the street.

I dropped off my CDs but didn’t want to hang out in the store while they figured out what, if anything, they wanted to buy, so I headed off in the now heavy rain to try and find some lunch. Gotta say, it was weird to be driving in Vegas. It was weird to be in Vegas in general, and we’ll get back to that, but driving was especially weird. I don’t really drive much at home these days since driving is Rasa’s happy place. Generally, I actually prefer to walk if I have somewhere to be. I can listen to my books, get my steps in, and just have a nice liminal space between home and wherever I need to be. But I can do that in Kaunas. I can also take public transport if needed. Not in Vegas. Vegas is too spread out. But it had been more than five years since I’d been back and things in Vegas change rapidly. So driving, in the rain, not knowing where I was or where I was going, finding a McDonalds to have lunch seemed like an oasis, a life preserver thrown out at just the right time. It also got me out of the rain for a little while.

Evidently it wasn’t long enough though. By the time I got back to Zia, they were still going through my box, so I ended up sitting in the car, reading for another half hour until they were able to make me an offer (they offer 30% more if you take it in store credit, and if I lived there that might have been an option, but NO I needed to get rid of stuff, not bring more back!)

When all was said and done, I had a few extra bucks in my pocket, a few less items to worry about packing and it had all taken me less than the three hours mom was playing her game. So I called and asked if she’d like me to come and pick her up. She would.

On the way home, we made the one stop I had yet to make, which was at the Disney outlet store. Remember, back in London, when I was looking for Disney stuff for Monki? Here was the other place to look for less expensive souvenirs. The big item on the list was a new princess dress. She has several already, but being 6 or so means she’s growing at an alarming rate and what was once a floor-length gown was now more a 60s-era miniskirt. So a new princess dress was in order.

Looking around the shop, we immediately noticed a distinct lack of princess dresses. When I asked about it, I was told that Disney on Ice had just been to town and therefore, princess dresses (and any other costume) were at a premium. What they had on hand was in the one slight section of the store which wasn’t discounted or on sale (supply and demand in action) but there was an Alice in Wonderland outfit, complete with “head bandit” (what Monki calls a headband) in the “outlet” portion of the shop. They had her size and the price was about half of what we’d pay in the parks so I snatched it up.

Feeling like a good dad, and eschewing anything else in the shop, we headed home where again, we spent the rest of the evening just hanging out and watching TV.

January 11 – (emotional) death and taxes

I started Wednesday by going out for breakfast. In the short time I’d worked on the shed on Tuesday I’d actually gotten more done than I had thought and so I thought I’d accept mom and dad’s invitation to join them and some of their friends for breakfast at Blueberry Hill. One of the things I miss most about America is a good old-fashioned breakfast diner. In Vegas, outside of the casinos, Blueberry Hill is the 24-hour go-to place. It’s good for a get up and go breakfast or a late-night, after-show greasy dinner. I really wanted American pancakes so this was a great way to kill two birds with one stone.

Breakfast was nice, with some good conversation. I got to extoll the virtues of living in Europe and hear about their adventures. And I got my pancakes!

Mom and dad had driven separately since dad had a regular Wednesday routine of going to breakfast and then heading down to the airport to help some friends rebuild an airplane. Mostly, it seemed, it was just a nice way for him to stay social. But this meant that mom and I would be going home by ourselves while dad went on his Wednesday adventures. There were some packing things I needed, like a mailing tube for some artwork and some paper disk sleeves for some of the CDs and DVDs which would be coming back with me, so we stopped off at the shopping center across the street from the Blueberry Hill to pop into Walmart and Office Depot.

It was weird… when I went to pay, I completely forgot about sales tax being added to the price. Not that we don’t have sales tax in Lithuania, we do, but it’s already built into the price you see. If the tag reads €4.99 then that’s what you pay! I was ready to hand over a $5 for a $4.99 item when the price came back $5.24. It took me a second to understand what was going on. I paid it and thought that I was definitely becoming more European these days.

This was brought into even more relief later in the afternoon as I started to move things around in the shed and would need to bring them into the house for assessment. In Europe, we just don’t wear shoes in the house. Right by the front door, there’s a little staging area for putting on or taking off your shoes. In our house, it’s a piece of carpet and once you put on your shoes in order to go out, that’s it, you don’t leave the carpet to go into the house itself. Woe is you if you forget something. More than once (heck, more than ten times) Rasa or I have removed one show and hopped in our stocking feet to the bedroom or wherever to retrieve something which, for whatever reason, couldn’t be left behind.

All of which is to say that as I was bringing stuff into the house from the shed and not taking my shoes off, it was making me really uncomfortable, like dragging nails across a chalkboard every time I did it.

As I cleaned that day, though, things got weirdly emotional. While I’d gotten okay with getting rid of stuff, even stuff I liked and was sure I could have found a use for (my “research” books on oceanography or pirates or David Bowie for instance), where it got more difficult was the personal stuff. It was weird finding old birthday cards from people who are no longer in my life, people who at one point meant a great deal to me and, if the sentiment on the card was any indication, I’d meant a great deal to them as well, and yet we hadn’t spoken in decades. I realized I really didn’t need 99.99% of these things and so tossed them. Yes, there were a few I kept, putting them into a box which would head this way at some point, things which were a part of my history and that inform who I am now, but most of it… gone.

I also found more comics and CDs – see, I told you I should have waited. The comics it was okay since these were ones I wanted to keep anyway, but the CDs would need to be dealt with. Thankfully, there was another Zia up on this side of town so that could be handled on Thursday… I thought as I uncomfortably brought them into the house to sort per the directions I had received the day before.

By the time it got dark and I couldn’t work anymore, I knew I’d be able to finish up on Thursday. So I spent the rest of the evening helping mom with a presentation she was going to be making for her business marketing group early the next morning. A presentation I had promised to log in for as a show of support.

January 12 – The return of the prodigal…and scoring goals!

Big day today. It started with mom’s presentation at her business association meeting. This is something she does every Thursday morning at an ungodly early hour where folks talk about what they can offer and then the various other folks in the group will recommend them if and when the opportunity arises. Often, they’ll use the services themselves, too. Case in point was on Tuesday, as mom and I were driving to the Disney Outlet store, she took a phone call from someone else in the group wanting to book a vacation   (mom’s specialty).

The idea of these presentations is that you are not only selling your services, but also yourself. This way, there are personal connections so when the referrals come they’re not simply “I know this person who does this” but instead it’s more of a “I have a friend who can hook you up and they’ll make sure to treat you fairly.” Ultimately, it’s a trust thing. And even though there was no way I was going to join the group, it was nice to be there to support her. I’d done it once before from home in Lithuania, but at least there I didn’t have to get up for a 7am video call!

When it was over, we had errands to run. First up, getting the next two boxes of CDS to Zia, which we did. With the promise that they would have an offer for us later in the day. Next up was getting to the bank to take care of some paperwork. One of the fun things about my family is that they take their banking seriously. Walking in, everyone knew them by name, made the correct assumption who I might be, and then joined in the haranguing I had been getting since I arrived for not bringing the rest of the family with me.

While we were dealing with that stuff, who should show up but Faye… with Bailey. This was a surprise because Bailey was supposed to be in Israel for another few days, despite the fact that today was his 24th birthday. There was much rejoicing!

It almost changed some plans, though, as Faye had gotten us tickets to see the Golden Knights play that night (courtesy of and much thanks to Robin and Brian Slipock). I’d been looking forward to the game but with Bailey’s birthday, the dinner planned for Sunday night might be moved. Bailey himself nixed that plan, imploring us to go since he’d be too tired to celebrate.

Faye and I made plans for her to come pick me up later that day and I went back to the house to finish my task of organizing the shed. It all came together nicely in the end and when the time comes, it should be fairly easy to pack up and ship over. One nice side effect though, was I found a few things I could give Bailey for his birthday, including one of my favorite pairs of shorts.

These shorts had been a gift from my old POP buddy Crash Carlucci and I loved them. I knew they had to be in a box somewhere and when I found them, I was determined they would be one of the things I would bring back home with me. But when Bailey came back, and I saw him, I knew the shorts needed a new home. I wasn’t much older than he was when I got them and they really needed to be passed on to someone who would wear and appreciate them.

The passing of the torch…

Bless you, my nephew. May they serve you in good stead as they served me.

With the shed done, dad and I headed off to Zia to see what they had to say. They were just finishing up, so we had a few minutes to wander around. I very nearly bought a David Bowie Monopoly set, but I was strong and when they offered me the cash/credit choice, I dutifully said cash. And again I walked out with full pockets and about half of the discs I had dropped off. Not bad for things which had been sitting in storage for more than a decade.

By then, it was time for Faye to come get me for the game.

I was grateful she had gotten tickets because there was no way I could have afforded them on my own. Back 20 years ago, when I was a student at Cal State Dominguez Hills, I would often head down to the Pond/Honda Center in Anaheim, where the Ducks play, after class if there was a game on. I could do my homework at a fast food joint and get a cheap ticket for nosebleed seats for $20 or so. Often, I could move down to the first level during the third period, having scouted where they’re empty seats. All in all it was a great way to spend an evening. Here, those nosebleed seats were going for close to a $100 or more. Even the parking was $30.

Honestly, I was really surprised by how expensive everything was. I know our economy sucks, and I don’t make as much as an American, but the prices of everything was a real shocker. I certainly wasn’t going to be buying any souvenirs. Thankfully. My friend Erin has been supplying me with Knights swag from casino promotions so at least I was wearing a jersey to support the home team!

The game itself was a lot of fun. I’ve really missed live hockey. I still listen to the games when I’m up at 5am, but that’s not often and really, listening is not the same thing as seeing or, better yet, being there. There is just something about the energy in a sports arena, especially when the home team is winning. And we won!

There was, however, one piece of wonderful dialogue from the row behind us which really needs to be mentioned:

Kid: “But what if I don’t like the chicken?”

Father: “You’re eating that shit.”

Yup. Last time I was at a sporting event like this, I was single and childless. Had I heard this then, I would have laughed. Now, I still laugh, but with a much deeper understanding.

When the game was over, the crowds were hellish trying to get out, and we knew that even if we got to the car quickly, it would take forever to get out of the parking structure, so we hung out and looked out the window, just chilling and chatting.

There was a girl standing nearby, also looking out the window. Didn’t take long before she struck up a conversation of all the usual questions. Turns out this was her first time at this arena as well, and her first time at a hockey game.

“I came with my bosses,” she explained. We would later discover her name was Katie and she was from Kingston, Ontario, Canada. “They bring a group of us out.”

“What do you do for them?” I asked casually.

“I serve.”

I looked at her for a minute, letting what she had just said sink in. You could see the gears turn as she put it together.

“At a restaurant,” she said laughing, slightly uncomfortably. “I’m a server at their restaurant.”

Well, at least that was resolved. Over the course of the rest of the conversation, though, Katie from Kingston made it a point to touch my elbow or rub my arm as often as possible. I glanced at Faye to make sure she was seeing this. She was. We just rolled our eyes at each other.

When Katie’s bosses came out, we said our goodbyes and headed out ourselves.

January 13 – Taking a breather

Friday the 13th was a slow day. I’d finished the shed so I was left to my own devices. I had hoped to see some friends, but since I didn’t know how long the shed was going to take, it was difficult to make plans. And even then, some of the plans I thought I had didn’t come through for a variety of reasons. So I was open.

Mom invited me to tag along with her on a meeting with some travel clients, so I did. I wasn’t planning on actually participating in her meeting, but they were going to be in a coffee shop so I figured I could bring my work with me and get out of the house for a bit.

I was again absolutely aghast at the prices of things, including the largest biscotti I have ever seen in my life. But this is what America is, over-sized everything. What would be a large drink in Lithuania was smaller than a small in the states. But I enjoyed my hot beverage and tried to remain quiet. Of course, the clients were planning a trip to France and I was brought into the conversation to discuss my thoughts on European travel. I have confidence the trip they go on will be a huge success.

From there, really, the day was a bit lazy. Bailey felt sufficiently recovered from his travels to accept birthday greetings that night at Faye’s house so mom and I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some food supplies and then to the Chinese place to get lunch which we’d take home to eat with dad.

I also decided to use the time to do laundry. Except it turned out one of my pairs of jeans had a huge rip in the seat. Now, a few months back, as my clothes (particularly underwear and pajamas) would wear out and holes would appear, Rasa would tell Monki that I had “farted a hole” in them. If you’ve ever spent any time around a 6-year-old, you’ll know that just the mention of farting is enough to send them into paroxysms of laughter so I did what any good dad would do – I took a picture of my pants and sent it to Monki to let her know I “farted a hole” in my jeans. She died and sent me all sorts of voicemails and emojis. Mission accomplished!

In reality, though, Rasa and I had already discussed picking up some jeans in the states so now it looked like as good a time as any to go and hit Old Navy to see if there were any deals to be had.

There were not. Even just a few years back, I could get a pair of jeans for $20 but now they were topping $45 and it just wasn’t worth it to buy them and lug them back with me when I could spend the same or less back home. I left Old Navy and wondered what I should do.

The shopping center I was in was where the Borders I had worked at was located back in the day, which meant that across the street was a Barnes and Noble, still open (for the time being). Strolling bookshops is one of the greatest pleasures in my life. In fact, when people in Lithuania ask me what I miss about America one of the top things on my list is a bookstore I can browse (yes, there are bookstores here, but the selection of English books is naturally quite limited and severely over-priced) so since I had the time, I headed over there to see what was on offer.

This was my first real depression of the trip. Cleaning the shed had been emotional, sure, but wandering the shelves of books, for some reason, made me sad. I wish I could put my finger on exactly why though. At first, I thought it might be because I had no room for more books at home or that there were a number of books and authors I’d never heard of, meaning I was losing touch with the communities and markets, not having the access I’d have if regular bookstore trips were part of my routines. Ultimately, I think it’s just a mark of getting older.

Eventually, I just headed home and hung out until we all went over to Faye’s to celebrate Bailey’s birthday, which was nice. I got to meet a bunch of Faye’s and Bailey’s friends and had some good American birthday cake (another thing I complain about missing in Lithuania) before we called it a night

Mom wanted a new picture of us kids together – so we obliged!

January 14 – Getting Social!

Saturday’s social calendar made up for any lack on Friday.

My first stop was to see Richard Faverty at Beckett Studios. Richard is a great friend and a phenomenal photographer. When I lived in town (if I had the time) I would often help out as a photographer assistant on various projects. I know somewhere Richard has a file of incredibly absurd photos of me which had been done as test shots over the years.

Anyway, we spent the afternoon just catching up, which was lovely. Again, and this is a constant refrain here, among the things I miss most about not living in the US is having friends who share my culture and interests. Richard was a performer himself (Professor Bubbles) and so we knew a lot of the same people and had a lot of the same reference points. I miss these types of long conversations.

We talked and made promises I hope we keep about keeping in touch and working on some creative projects together as we’d done in the past. It was just a simply comfortable afternoon.

As the afternoon wound down, I already had plans to go and meet another friend, Dori, at the hotel she was staying.

I don’t know when the last time I saw Dori was, but it could possibly have been my 40th birthday party, some 15 years ago. And even though we’ve talked since then, I certainly didn’t expect to be able to spend time with her on this trip, mostly for the simple reason she lives in Miami now. So imagine my surprise when I get a message from her that she happens to be in Vegas for a mini-vacation and had seen my post about going to the hockey game and maybe we could get together?

Of course, I said “yes.” And now here I was, driving through the rain to go grab a coffee.

Dori is an amazing dancer and creative soul (and gorgeous, but that’s the least of what makes her great) and it was so good to, again, have a chat about life and creativity and art. During the pandemic, we had talked briefly about doing some writing and we picked up that thread of the conversation, discussing why the project hadn’t happened and what was next for each of us. We talked about some of the stories we wanted to share with the world and we’re actually working on plans now to help encourage and push each other to get them done.

It also looks like she’s spending a bit more time in Europe for various reasons so I’m also hoping that she can come visit Kaunas, maybe this summer, to meet the family. It’s always so cool to introduce important people from the past to the important people of the present and future!

A few hours passed like minutes before she had to go and get ready for her evening plans so I was once again heading out into the rain, when I got a message from someone else I hadn’t seen in years.

Murray SawChuck and I had been friends pretty much since I returned to Vegas back in 2003. He’s an all around entertainer who focuses on magic and comedy and has been performing his act on the Vegas strip for more than 25 years. Over the years, our contact had fallen off but we still maintained a toehold with each other so again, it was a big surprise when he suggested coming by and hanging out for a bit.

And Saturday night seemed a perfect time to do that.

We spent the best part of the evening catching up and, keeping with the theme of the day, talking about creative projects and life and loves and everything in between. I was finally able to meet his wife, Dani, in person (she is just lovely – and seems so perfect for him). I left with an offer to come and stay at the new house – and to bring the family next time!

I got home a bit late and headed to bed… there were quite a few social occasions coming up.

January 15 – Mockingbirds and Manias

Another social day loomed, but I took advantage of not having anything planned to actually sleep a bit late. I didn’t get out of bed until 9am!

I know!

First up on the agenda today was meeting Erin. Erin and I had known each other for years but had never actually met in person. We’d shared messages and emails and games of Words With Friends (and she’s even the one who sent me the Golden Knights swag) and yet, never had a face-to-face. My folks had met her. Lin, who I stay with in London, stayed with Erin when she was touring the US eight or nine years ago, introduced by me, and still, Erin and I had never met. Today was finally going to rectify that!

She swung by the house to pick me up at noon with plans to hit Bagelmania before dropping me off later that afternoon. It was a good plan, and mostly came to fruition. The only thing we didn’t count on was the busy-ness of Bagelmania! We spent our entire time together in the car or in line for bagels and yet we still had a blast. We talked, we laughed, we had bagels with schmear! We saw donuts shaped like poop (seriously), listened to the lounge singer parked in front of the hostess desk at the overly-crowded sit-down portion of the restaurant and greatly enjoyed our time together.

By the time we had our food in hand, it was time to get going. I had tickets to join Mom and others at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

Over the years, I’ve edited a number of pieces for David Magazine about The Smith Center but it was completed long after I left town so I’d never been there. When I had gotten town several days earlier, mom had asked if I’d like to join them for the current touring production, To Kill a Mockingbird re-envisioned by Aaron Sorkin. I’d been hearing about this production for a while and had really wanted to see it so of course I said yes – besides, the other part of this trip, aside from cleaning out the shed, the London part, was about seeing theatre. Mom and dad had season tickets for all the big touring shows coming through town and now that dad couldn’t go as much (health issues) mom was going with one of Faye’s old friends, Deanne.

Erin dropped me off outside the theatre and I ran in, hoping not to miss the curtain. It all worked out fine and I made it to my seat in time. Faye and Bailey were also there, sitting more center and a row up from where I was.

At intermission, we all met up in the lobby, which was spacious and had an outside deck for smoking (a far cry from the older London theaters, which are lovely, but a bit cramped). I finished my bagel and had a quick catch-up with Deanne and then joined her and mom in their box seats for the second act.

The show was good. A bit funnier than I expected, which made me wonder about the book, since it’s been ages since I read it. Literally. I think I was still in school the last time I leafed through those pages. I should put it on my list – maybe get the audio version, just to see how funny it is. The performances were top notch, with Atticus Finch being played by Richard Thomas. Honestly, while he was good, he wasn’t the best thing on the stage – that would be the young girl who played Scout. She was phenomenal. The script was interesting, centering more on the fallibility of Atticus rather than seeing him as the unassailable hero I remember from the book.

With the play over, we all piled into one car (all of them had met at mom and dad’s place and driven over together) and headed back to the house. I begged off dinner plans since I had one more social call to make, this time back at the same Barnes and Noble I had visited a few days prior.

I first met Meghan back when I was working at Borders with her mom. Over the years, we’ve kept up and shared tales of woe as she became a published writer and a teacher, two things I can certainly share woes about. We met in the Starbucks attached to the bookshop and closed the place down! Another two hours or so of great conversation and it certainly felt like reconnecting with parts of me I had forgotten about (the conversation was so good, in fact, I completely forgot to get a picture! – I guess this means Meghan will just have to come this way to visit!).

We said goodnight and I headed home. I had another early day coming up.

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