Nashville’s First Pedestrians

Too hot for pictures in Nashville. Way too hot.

I read Eudora Welty’s “Where Is the Voice Coming From?” just before leaving for Tennessee, and it set up our new landscape perfectly.  Not really for the regional dialects or the social commentary or the geo-racial politics. Simply because of the way she describes the God damn heat. Or maybe it’s the way she just describes everything else in the story that makes you sweat. It’s sort-of a head-first-into-the-deep-fryer type of feeling. Motif of internal punishment…damned to eternal flames and gnashing of teeth? Fine, whatever, please just don’t leave me here to slow roast like this BBQ.

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You can’t win.

And it’s hot.

It looks like the town’s on fire already, wherever you go, on every street, with crape myrtle trees and mimosa trees blooming their heads off. And a thousand cops everywhere you go, almost too young to start shaving, but streaming sweat. I’m tired of cops.

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But we made it to Knoxville, too, and it was a little less hot. I brought Sylvia Townsend Warner and Janet Hobhouse, so I cooled myself with Gothic English countrysides and anxious New Yorker apartments, respectively.

Overall, I really enjoyed our Southern jaunt. The luxurious smell of savory biscuits in the morning, the eerily vacant sidewalks, the gratuitous use of mason jars and second person plural….ya’ll know what I’m talkin’ about. From the day we packed far too many light cardigans in our luggage tagged for BNA to the day we tossed our ‘what would Dolly do?’ tote bag into the overhead compartment of our flight back to SEA, I’d say we were as happy as two stuffed squirrels drinking miniature bottles of bourbon and playing cards.

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Donner, Party of Seven?

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When I was kid I thought the drive from Davis to Tahoe was just about the longest, most agonizing ride you could experience. As it turns out, the directions for the longest ride to Tahoe are as follows: Head South-East on the wrong freeway and end up in a touristy gold-mining town.  Then take a slow, windy detour to the Auburn In N’ Out. Follow the same road after making yourself sick from a mix of peanut butter pretzels, ginger beer, and Ira Glass’ ever-so-smooth, always-so-nasal voice. Stick head out window to ensure that you are still alive. Arrive, dear friend, at Tahoe to reap your reward.

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Yolo county, California

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We were just in Davis for a short while, but below are some things that happened while we were there that aren’t reflected in these photos:

More fresh eggs in the morning

Joey ate a five-year-old’s grapes

Tim’s bike tour through Davis

Michelle’s pool and an inflatable orca

Dad’s gnocci

Guadalajara in the park

Sunburns

Davis night scene??

Megan somehow planned out the rest of our trip

Lots of talk about In N Out

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“The coldest winter I ever spent…

…was my summer in San Francisco.” Thanks for the heads-up, Mark Twain. Any witticisms about the public transit?

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Actually, it was in San Francisco where Twain wrote “Jim Smiley and the Jumping Frog,” which, apparently, first catapulted him into stardom. I have my own associations with that story, specific to when I first read it at age 14. More specifically, when I was wearing spaghetti-straps like a boss and taking “hella tight” grammar classes on the Sacramento State campus in the summer.

Yes, I did use this bad boy to get me into R-rated movies in Davis.

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Anyway, enough about how amazing I was and how much of life I had figured out at 14.

What I was trying to transition to was that no number of literary jabs could keep me from loving San Francisco any less than I did when I was a teenager. I probably was as obsessed with San Francisco as much as I was with myself. She was my city upon a hill. The Golden Gate through which I saw the end to my graceless adolescence. She was beautiful, and I loved her, all of her. Her Twin Peaks, her Coit Tower, her North Beach. To me, San Francisco never left the 60s. She kept Howl in her back pocket, didn’t care what her parents said, and was BFF’s with Joni Mitchell and Hunter S. Thompson. She taught me about dim sum, Jack Kerouac, public transit, and thrift shopping for dirty shoes and tight pants. She took me to Stern Grove for the first time, bought me an Assata Shakur t-shirt, and told me she liked my poetry. She didn’t care that I was some sad, Vitamin D-deficient girl from the suburbs who just discovered Conor Oberst and therapy. She was love and love was Haight.

In many ways, San Francisco really was my first love. And, as my first boyfriend at age 14 once dramatically said after I roller-bladed (wrist guards, no helmet) to meet him on the North Davis greenbelt; “You never forget your first love.”

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Wait. Was he breaking up with me?

I guess it’s just you and me again, SF.

Sometimes a Great Notion

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I first read Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, one of my all-time favorite novels, just after I moved to Seattle in 2007. It wasn’t easy. The reading, the dreaming, the living. But, looking back on it, Kesey’s depiction of the Pacific Northwest (specifically Oregon) was the perfect introduction to my new geography. I, too, dreamed of moss covering my eyelids in my sleep. I, too, watched rust appear on metal objects even though I couldn’t remember ever seeing rain. Yes, that lumber-cutting, slumber-abbreviating, log-chipping, calf-rearing, Hank’s bell-ringing, bootless book I assume was both only ever written and read in the dark got me good.

Of course, I wasn’t wading through any rivers or hauling lumber or even sleeping under the stars. I was eating trail mix in a dorm room and tossing textbooks up to my top bunk and passing out without remembering to remove my glasses. But at night–and in the mornings when the sun took its sweet time to rise–I thought I knew exactly what he meant.

I was reminded of Kesey’s novel when we passed through Oregon and stopped to visit my brother, Tim, in Ashland. Sometimes because of the scenery, but more often because of Kesey’s braided narratives; the swift switching of first person between characters done so seamlessly you lose yourself in a melange of thoughts and voices that eventually become one tired, restless mind in the wilderness.

Years from now, looking back on this trip, I don’t expect any of us to remember who said what. Llama Del Ray or fairy ponds? Pot-holed, backwards truck rides into town? I don’t know. But I am fairly confident we will recall how we all felt, in this place, in this time, all braided and bound up together in Ashland with Tim.

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“Look…Reality is greater than the sum of its parts, also a damn sight holier. And the lives of such stuff as dreams are made of may be rounded with a sleep but they are not tied neatly with a red bow. Truth doesn’t run on time like a commuter train, though time may run on truth. And the Scenes Gone By and the Scenes to Come flow blending together in the sea-green deep while Now spreads in circles on the surface. So don’t sweat it. For focus simply move a few inches back or forward. And once more…look.”

– Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion

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I confess I do believe in Nabokov

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Awkwardly ashamed and a little sad that I have not written in so long, I have decided that I need to share that Nabokov has kept turning up in my life in unlikely ways recently. I’ve twisted his name about in my brain and found myself bringing up lines from his novels or snippets of things I’ve heard about his (to me, eccentric, exhilarating) life in otherwise unremarkable conversations. In the ways that I may sometimes even force his name or works into a conversation, it has come to remind me of the first signs of a school crush. So, I thought there may be no better place to write out a bit in his memory than through this aptly titled blog. I also realized that I never formally introduced Nabokov into this blog at all, despite the name. So, here is an excerpt from his memoir, Speak, Memory. About four years ago, while reading Speak, Memory for the first time, I underlined most of the words and phrases in this paragraph before just circling the entire section and scribbling a dark exclamation point in the margin. I’m holding the same copy that I received as a gift four years ago, and read almost entirely while pacing in my bright, empty dorm room in Germany. With the exception of more markings and wear, it’s still the same light, smooth-to-the touch tomb that I can only assume will always evoke the very same unable-to-sit-down-while-reading enchantment every time I remember to pull it from the shelf.

“I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip. And the highest enjoyment of timelessness- in a landscape selected at random- is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern- to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.”

Brooklyn is my neighborhood

Carson McCullers wrote a cute, brief essay on Brooklyn that was published in Vogue in 1941. Since I’m sure absolutely nothing has changed in Brooklyn or even New York in general since then, I thought I’d share a piece in honor of Mia’s new home, and, more importantly, give me a taste of something to look forward to when I visit in August.

“Miss Kate is a good woman,” this competitor said to me. “But she dislikes washing herself. So she only bathes once a year, when it is summer. I expect she’s just abut the dirtiest woman in Brooklyn.” His voice as he said this was not at all malicious; rather, there was in it a quality of wondering pride. That is one of the things I love best about Brooklyn. Every one is not expected to be exactly like every one else.

I could have quoted Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but I think McCullers is one of the few authors Mia and I both read and liked, so it seems a little more apt. Now, onto the photo montage of the home and memories Mia left in Seattle. This is gonna be better than a mixtape! There are so many pictures of Mia on this blog!