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Day 19: Sometimes I Dream in Farsi

Las Vegas was nice.

We hit a Denny's on the way. That's a good way to start.

Aaron and I had pancakes. They weren't as good as pancakes in LA, but they weren't bad.

Then, we kept on all the way to Vegas and went straight to Noah Cicero.

He talked about how him and I met and the weird serendipity of friendships and circles that came about after I agreed to make a film of his novella The Human War.

"I met Loren and Jake, and I went to Korea, and now I'm here. That wouldn't have happened without you making the film and meeting you."

We chatted for a good long while.

I could tell people were getting restless, so we let it die after a couple hours, and we headed to our hotel and decided to have Mediterranean food.

This was my first time walking Vegas without being on the strip. It's an interesting city. It actually reminds me of parts of Daejeon, Korea. They had this rooftop to protect folks from the Sun, but there were all these images broadcast over it. I pointed up to the ceiling and said how much it was like Korea, and Aaron laughed.

"Haaaa," he said. "Yeah."

Then we just took in the spectacle of everything. People barely dressed, and I'm not sure why, tourists with ice cream cones, folks holding beers and standing next to stages, where a band is performing covers, and droves and droves of people looking and eating and talking.

"I like being around people," Noah announced. "I love this."

I could see how it was really stimulating. People from all over the country and world. It was almost like a zoo for human beings. It reminded me of the story of those hamsters that are given drugs and two sets of cages: one with lots of cages and hamster friends and another without any nice spinning wheels or friends. The hamsters with the nice cages and lots of friends didn't take any of the drugs from the water dispenser, while the lonely hamster got hooked on whatever drug they were testing.

I figure if I were a hamster in Las Vegas, I'd probably be engaged with the stimulation of my hamster friends. It's very unlike Los Angeles, where everyone is spread out. But it does feel like Hollywood Boulevard, or other types of tourist type centers of the world.

When we walked back to the hotel, we only gambled about $40. All of us were too tired from all the driving and called it an early night. We also knew we had to film the next day early in the morning. Meina was heading back to Philadelphia as soon as we got to LA, so we picked a spot right outside of Vegas and set-up the cameras at a rest stop.

Then, her and I chatted about the experience of going on the road trip. I told her that I cared for her and wished her the best on her journey with going back to college and all that. That it was nice to do this adventure with her, but I'd be okay with not seeing her for three years.

"I mean," I said. "You're great, but, after this, we don't need to do this again for at least three years."

That cracked her up.

Then we talked about how exhausting it was to explain ourselves to people. The same conversation in a loop: "Where are you from? What does that name mean? What's it like being in America? What do you think about what's going on in Iran?"

It gets very tiring to have the same conversation, where you have to represent an entire country when you just want your coffee at the Starbuck's -- or wherever you happen to be when people decide they want a history lesson just because they notice you look different.

I'm pretty sure I cried talking about that. I'm all over the place really.

Once I got to LA, and Meina went off back to Philly, I spoke to my therapist here, and she said the trauma I blocked with the barber when I was nine, plus the cop pulling me over, Meina crying about that, and then some of my friends not being empathetic to my experience, were all further traumas. She said I'd jump around the grieving process.

"You'll go from sadness to anger to feeling vulnerable. You'll just hop around these things, until you don't. So just let yourself go through it."

That made me feel better. At least I knew it was normal to have this reaction.

Tomorrow, Aaron and I film one of our friends and her two sons for the film. They are supposed to be my mom and I at different ages. I'm curious how it'll go.

Oh, I also got a haircut yesterday. It was so nice. I went to my favorite place on Melrose that I've been going to since 2005. Vous Hair Salon. Yanni owns it, and she wasn't there yesterday, but Angel called me and said to come on through. That was nice. Her and I chatted about the film, and she loved it, and gave me advice about how to deal with things. Then we talked about how open Yanni was.

"I remember," Angel said, "when I first came to cut hair here. I told her I was transexual, and she wanted to know what I looked like all done up. Because I wasn't wearing any make-up -- because that's how I used to be back then -- I'd only do this at night. So, I showed a picture of me done up, and she was like, 'Oh, come to work like that!'"

"Yeah," I said. "Yanni is great like that. She's so open. That's why I've been coming here for so long. I never felt like I'd be turned away."

"Well, we love you. I always tell Yanni when you come in -- what a nice guy you are. I mean, you just change the whole atmosphere in the place."

"That's funny," I said. "It's just being here that makes me feel like I can be myself."

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