A Juice Cleanse Taught Me That You Can Never Go Home Again
My Mom and I had never tried a juice cleanse before. On the road, with no bathrooms — seems like a great time to dive in! My family has lived in San Diego, California since the late 1940s when my grandfather was stationed there with the Navy. After his Naval career was over he and my grandmother did not move back to the South after experiencing the freedom, sunny days and beaches of “America’s Finest City.” My mother and her four siblings were raised in San Diego, as well as their progeny. Most never left.
As an adult, I made my way to Idaho to seek a quieter life. When they retired, my Mom and step-father followed. We liked our adopted home but, at the core we were Californians and, before long we became nostalgic for snarled traffic, an In-N-Out Burger Double-Double, a decent carne asada burrito and outrageous home prices. So, every year my Mom and I would make a pilgrimage to the homeland with empty suitcases, unrealistic expectations and Ativan.
With every passing year my former home becomes more unrecognizable. The skyline has more high rise apartment buildings, the San Diego Padres uniforms are no longer brown and yellow, and where did all of these people come from?
As my Mom and I checked out of our hotel in San Diego on Sunday morning after a few days of shopping and reminiscing, we tried our first juice of the cleanse — Vanilla Almond Protein which promised to “keep your mind clear.” It didn’t taste too bad, but after drinking it along with the recommended twelve ounces of water, the only thing clear to me was that I had to pee. My Mom and I had a full slate of activities planned — visiting various family members and friends, driving by our old haunts and other getting the band back together stuff. We had planned to head over to the house of one of my Mom’s former work colleagues, but my triangulations with Google Maps confirmed that my bladder was not going to make it. So, we ducked into a Starbucks, pretended to order something and then slipped one by one to the bathroom. We didn’t feel particularly bad because my Mom conservatively spends $200 per month at Starbucks in Boise. But here, we are just interlopers who didn’t buy anything. Isn’t this Starbucks goodwill and karma geographically transferrable?
Kale, Spinach and Other Green Stuff
Next up — a “green” juice that tasted . . . green. We felt energized by the San Diego sun, celery and kale, so we headed to some familiar stores that we don’t have in Idaho. We drive to where they were, where they have always been. But they are gone — replaced by a Whole Foods and Cricket Wireless store. But I don’t have time to be disappointed because the green juice and aloe vera water have kicked in. I must pee now! I scan my mental map Terminator style — what bathroom are we closest to? I got it! — My Aunt Linda. I know she will be happy to see us. Unannounced, we ring the doorbell and she is surprised? Excited? Annoyed?
My side of the conversation goes like this, “Hi! So nice to see you after so long. How have you been? . . . Do you mind if I use the bathroom?” My Mom glares at me as I peel my thighs from the plastic covered floral damask sofa and head to the bathroom. I beat her to it! We catch up a little bit with my aunt, but the conversation feels forced. Did we just use her for a bathroom? Would we have stopped at all if we didn’t need to pee?
Beets, Tires & Dirt
On our way to our next stop, we can’t help but feel a bit disconnected from the family and personal landmarks of our ancestral home. Is anyone happy to see us? Does it matter that we’re there? Will it matter when we’re gone? My grandparents are all dead now, along with various aunts, uncles and cousins. The younger generation has their own lives and don’t necessarily care about visiting with us “old-timers.”
We drink our next juice that tastes like dirt, bike tires and beets . . . in that order. Surely our next stop will boost our mood. We drive to another aunt’s house — my mother’s sister. The aunt who years ago asked my Mom what to do after she backed over her family cat, Snowball — twice. The aunt who, when I was a teenager, gave me my first piece of expensive jewelry, smuggled me rolled tacos with guacamole from Gold Star Tamale Company, and quietly tucked a key to her house into my hand when I was fighting with my step-father. Whenever I wanted to ruminate about something bizarre that made sense to my teenage brain, I talked to her for hours.
We arrived at her house with excitement tinged with needing to pee. I calculated that we had enough time for general pleasantries before we needed to ask to go to the bathroom. Off the bat we had a problem. As we drove up, I saw my aunt sitting outside on her porch. This is San Diego, not West Virginia where my grandmother was born, so this is unusual and not very inviting. We talk and hug but no overtures are made to usher us inside the house. Why the chilly reception? I don’t really have time to ponder this because I am about to piss all over her front yard. Mercifully, she invites us in after about 10 minutes. I ask her if I can use the bathroom. She pauses. I panic.
She says, “Well, tree roots have gotten into the pipes so the toilets don’t work very well.” What?!?! She continues, “We’re getting it fixed in a few weeks.” A few weeks? We are at a Defcon-1 emergency level now. I don’t want to ride home on a small plane smelling like pee. She meets me at the door of the bathroom The Shining-style. She points to a small plastic container on the back of the toilet and says, “To flush you need to fill that bucket with water a few times.” I peed and then filled up the bucket twice. I jiggled the toilet handle. Nothing. I filled it up twice more and jiggled the handle. Still nothing.
My problem solving was interrupted by my Mom at the door. “Are you done in there, I’ve got to use the bathroom.” I looked into the toilet at this odd smelling and Easter egg colored pee, courtesy of my juice cleanse. I had to get this toilet to flush before anyone saw this and/or my Mom peed her pants on the orange shag carpet. I hastily filled the bucket up a few more times.
“Please work. Please work,” I repeated.
Just as I hear my Aunt at the door saying, “Is everything O.K. in there? Do you need some help?” The toilet flushed. I got out of there as soon as I could and handed my Mom the bucket. Godspeed. This was not the visit that I envisioned, but at least now we could make it to the airport without another pit stop.
We drive 30 minutes to the medieval labyrinth that is the rental car return fortress at the San Diego Airport. Pee stop. After the bumpy ride to the airport terminal on the rental car bus, we spot another bathroom. Score. We have some time before our flight, so pre-security we down our aptly-named “Citrus” juice that tastes like an orange creamsicle without the sugar, dairy or nostalgia. Neither of us need to pee, so we stride confidently towards the interminably long security line.
By the time we get to the front, I must pee so badly that the TSA agent looks oddly at my tortured smile as I hand him my drivers’ license. I’m sure he thinks I’m pinching a kilo of coke between my butt cheeks, but he lets me through. I hobble with one shoe partially on and the other untied to the bathroom just outside of security. Hallelujah. It’s only a two hour flight to Boise. Surely we can make it without needing to go pee again. Nothing is as horrible as hovering over an airplane toilet trying not to touch anything and hoping there is no turbulence. I hate airplane bathrooms so much that once I legit did not pee on a flight from Sydney to LA.
But, just prior to our descent into Boise, I couldn’t hold it any longer. This is not something that a Poise bladder control pad could handle. I had to go. So I shimmied up the single aisle of the smallest commercial aircraft in existence and closed the door to the bathroom. You know those bathrooms where everyone on the plane can hear you pee because the cabin lights are dimmed and it’s eerily quiet because everyone is asleep? We landed in Boise a few minutes later.
“Dreamy” Chocolate Almond
Safely back at home in my Idaho cocoon, I took a long shower and settled in with a book and my last juice of the day. It was a chocolate almond drink described as “dreamy” and “silky” by the juice company PR machine. “Dreamy” is a tall, handsome, rich man that holds your purse while you shop, hires a personal chef, and helps teenagers with Algebra homework. This was not it. But, after starving all day and aging my bladder by 20 years, I must admit that it did taste pretty good.
As Mr. Dreamy and I reflected on my weekend in San Diego, it occurred to me that the place that both sides of my family had called home for decades, the place where I bought my first Hello Kitty purse, learned to drive and had my heart broken, now felt foreign to me. I didn’t think it would be a problem starting a juice cleanse while visiting San Diego. Of course the place and people that I knew so well could provide me with one welcoming, familiar bathroom. I was wrong.
When is a place no longer your place?
I enjoy visiting San Diego now, but more so as a knowledgeable tourist than a long lost daughter. In my naivete, hopefulness, or longing for the past, I thought that I could conjure up my lost world and my past life on a whim — just because I had come to visit this place that has meant so much to me. But I can’t go home again and expect to find a potty in the middle of my juice cleanse. It’s not my place anymore.