This weekend the winds of strange blew me southwest to southern California and Mexico. My friend Dan and I decided sort of last minute to roadtrip our way to the land of tortillas (I'm really not kidding that freshly made tortillas in Mexico was responsible for about 82% of my decision to go). We left Thursday afternoon after a mad attempt to get my affairs in order.

The drive through southern Utah is one often full of great anxiety for me, mostly because of a creature my older sisters created in the late '80s to haunt and terrorize my childhood. Dear strangers, meet The First Eye.

The First Eye (TFE) is a mysterious creature whose exact purpose has never been fully explained to me. His entire anatomy consists of one giant eyeball, surrounded by 1,000 toes in a line all the way around his perimeter. That's it. No mouth. No nose. No ears. Just an eyeball with exactly 1,000 toes. As my sisters were incredibly vague about The First Eye's daily activities, hobbies, interests, etc., I assumed from ages 4 to 13 (yes, 13), that The First Eye existed solely to terrorize children. Much of this morbid assumption of traumatic motives had to do with Bob subjecting me to made-for-tv Stephen King's "IT" at age six because "it's a movie about clowns!" (Thanks to Bob I have kept a machete and rosary next to my bed and haven't slept for more than 30 minutes at a time since 1989).

The reason I associate driving through southern Utah with The First Eye is because I was first informed of its confusing existence on a drive to visit my grandparents in southern California. On said drive, my straight-faced sister Krisanda matter-of-factly drew a picture of the creature and informed me that it lived in all the caves on Earth simultaneously. For this reason, she lovingly continued, I should keep my eyes peeled as we made our way through cave territory in the Utah and Nevada deserts. She also explained to me every single fact I know about it other than its simplistic anatomy and omnipotent whereabouts:

1. The First Eye is always angry because he is always hungry as he has no mouth with which to eat.

2. The First Eye is a man.

3. The First Eye is sometimes huge and sometimes small, depending on the size of the cave in which he is dwelling. But he is always large enough to sport 1,000 toes.

4. The First Eye is always watching. I assume this is because The First Eye does not have an eyelid.

5. The First Eye has no family or friends.

6. My sisters apparently had the remarkable ability to communicate with The First Eye as they were always relaying messages from him to me.

7. The First Eye's messages to me were always very bizarrely thought provoking, yet eerily simple.

8. The First Eye is incapable of love.

9. To move around, the first eye rolls on his toes, apparently with impeccable balance.

10. All The First Eye wants in life is the ability to wear shoes. Something he will never experience.

As Dan and I made our way south, I felt each hole in the red rock staring at me until we finally rolled into a dark Nevada and continued our journey westward. Sometime during our lonely drive through the Nevada deserts we both saw something that I'm not totally sure is wholly unrelated to The First Eye, but that nonetheless took my mind completely off of him. A UFO. Yes. I'm not kidding about this. A green light high in the dark and overcast evening sky darted from horizon to horizon in two seconds and disappeared into the distance. When telling this story to others later, Dan and I both corroborated one another's recollections very effectively and energetically, finishing each other's sentences and nodding supportively and emphatically while the other one spoke. This continued rapidly for several minutes until, after finishing the story and waiting for the stunned reactions of our audience, Dan backtracked, informing the crowd in a suddenly skeptical and mocking voice, as if I was the sole crazy one and he was on their side all along, "well . . . I don't recall the light being green." When I defended myself, Dan patronizingly responded in that voice, "ok Eli. Whatever you say." while quickly making eye contact with the others. I should point out that Dan was the one who demanded we share the story in the first place before changing his tune after seeing the unimpressed eyes of our listeners. I suspect he did this in an attempt to make friends. But ironically, in that moment, he nearly lost one. Not cool, Dan. Not cool.

After visiting friends in southern California for a couple of days, my wonderful co-worker who happened to be in San Diego as well gave us a quick ride and dumped us at the border to meet my uncle and our good friend Andrea who were eagerly awaiting us on the other side, having gotten a 4 day head-start on tortilla mastication. The two days in Rosarito and La Mision were full of voice-losing karaoke, visits with sweet friends of my uncle, 10,000 tortillas, and fog. Lots and lots of fog. Unfortunately one thing that did not happen during this time was exercise. This is particularly unfortunate for my swimming lack-of-abilities as I need to learn how to swim before my quickly approaching May 5th race. After four months of regular practice, I'm sad to say that I've gone from "panicked drowning" to "calmed drowning" but I don't seem to be working my way toward "moving forward while in water." Add swimming to the list of things I'm self-conscious about. The very long list.

No The First Eye sightings on the way home, although I suspect he's gotten very good over the years at blending into his surroundings. Well, as much as a giant eyeball with 1,000 toes is able to blend into his surroundings.

~It Just Gets Stranger