A little bit more of what I've been doing lately.
...Or, The One I Wish I Could Re-Do Because Teenage Ennui Made Me A Dreadful Companion
Maps found here.
I've had a couple of conversations recently with friends who used the resources of their twenties to drive cross-country. In both cases, it brought me back to a trip I took with my mom, sister, and grandparents back in the mid-nineties. We flew to Arkansas, my memories of it soaked in green and lit by fireflies. From there, we drove in my grandparents' van back to Oregon, opting to traverse the northern states with our end point fixed on the Pacific Northwest.
The van was one of those deluxe numbers, more lavish RV than fifteen-passenger youth group rig. What it lacked in mobile hotel room amenities, it more than recovered with its overt obedience to minor luxuries. There was a TV and it beamed images of questionably grainy quality into our skulls from the VHS tapes we fed into its rectangular jaw. Every square inch of the interior was swaddled in padded upholstery and the windows (themselves nestled in padded sills) had frilled curtains that recalled the trimmings of a stately southern manor. There was a ladder mounted on the rear door leading to the roof, though I never had the stones to climb it.
Across the United States we cruised, comfortably ensconced in beige velveteen, my sister and I occasionally pillaging the passenger cup holders for the hard candy stored therein. By all accounts, it was a magical road trip. Our points of interest upheld the venerable first fruits of what the U.S. has for any tourist: National parks, wildlife, geological wonders, geothermal oddities, and the very best of roadside American kitsch.
It's unfortunate, then, that this particular intersection of leisure and exploration had to sketch itself atop the convoluted map of my adolescence. I'd yet to mount an introduction between my inner joie de vivre and my outer surliness--eventually the two would meet and graft a mostly-agreeable persona whose calling card is wit. Like I said, eventually. In those early days of adolescence, however, the joyous nature of my increasingly complex and inscrutable self was effectively held captive and bullied into submission by teenage ennui. What some pass for sarcasm in their later years was instead delivered with the insolent sneer of a malcontent. I'm tempted to extend my younger self a flimsy olive branch of mercy, though, because what other than simmering rage can one expect from a girl who just found out that periods happen every month for the rest of time?
Even still, when I think back on that road trip, what slices through the haze of nostalgia are the very real--and very embarrassing--memories of what a rotten, little pill I was. Despite what from the outside looked to be complete disregard of the entire road trip enterprise, I brought along a camera to capture the memories. A budding photojournalist was I, armed to the gills with a couple rolls of Kodak 400 and a black, rectangular point and shoot. Each and every time that camera was turned on me, I rewarded the frame with a fresh and wholly inventive new way to appear utterly stupefied with boredom.
Understand: I spent the better part of that trip in an Olympian race--me vs. myself--whose ultimate reward was to accurately express the abject horror inflicted upon me by sights such as Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, and Old Faithful. To say that my expression bore a distinct frown is putting it lightly; that my forehead collapsed upon my eye sockets, in turn melting my jawline into a nebulous cloud of contempt is putting it accurately. In other words: were Pollyanna within the blast radius of my nuclear attitude, the only Glad Game she'd be playing is the one where she'd be glad when the radiation poisoning finally put her out of her misery.
Nobody died. I was just thirteen.
A rare moment of acquiescence to Give Peace a Chance. Notice also that Jody appears to be giving The Bird a chance.
While wandering through South Dakota's one and only Corn Palace, a tawdry monument of kitsch that squared off with the rivaling Enchanted World Doll Museum across the street, my only goal was to sear the memories we were creating with my molten commentary. Perhaps that hokey agricultural chateau left more of an impression on me than I on it, though--it's exactly the sort of local-yokel haunt that'd send me into breathless correspondence with my Instagram nowadays.
If anything, I was insanely privileged. Privileged to be able to enact the elaborate ruse of teenage dissidence from the beige lap of those velveteen seats. Lucky to shuttle across the Heartland with traveling companions whose memories are somewhat softer than the sharpness of my tongue. Grateful to have seen such a generous swath of America (on someone else's dime, no less). But at the time, if prizes and endorsements were given for withering glares, I'd have a gold medal and my phlegmatic visage on a Wheaties box. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there are a few moments of that trip I'd like to do again, and do better this time.
In the meantime, I submit my mea culpa in the form of photographic proof that I once wore tube socks and men's bowling shirts. I'll consider the debt settled.
Big things are coming to my little corner of the Internet. My website, my blog--the whole shebang. Since I know you regularly haunt this place to answer the ever-present, nagging question: What would Laurel do? I'll make it easy for you: I'd click below, sign up for my own newsletter,* and I'd answer the pressing third question with option C.
*Yes, I would sign up for my own newsletter. I promise at least 10% more wit and 23% more wry social observations, and for a limited time only, 15% less cynicism.**
**And at least 100% more lying. I'll still be cynical. Don't you fret.
Posted by LD at 6:46 PM
If I had a dime for every time I was approached by some breathless potential suitor and asked, "Laurel, what is the sure-fire direct route straight into your heart?"
I'd have zero dollars. Because that's never happened.
But the answer I'd fire off if given the chance (or, let's be honest, the answer I'd like to pelt strangers with, unbidden and apropos of nothing) would be, "
Whiskey! Adventure!" Then I'd follow that up with a laundry list of exceptions: "Unless we're flying Southwest. Unless it's on the West Side. Unless it involves baseball in any way, shape, or form. Unless you tell me we're going on a light walk but it's actually a white-knuckle trek up the unforgiving side of a mountain because your base level of physical exertion is Olympian and mine is to punch the nearest person in the face."
We all have our limits. Mine are simply more nebulous than other people's.
But adventure came a-knockin' this Summer and since I literally had nothing better to do, I answered the door. (Which is more than I can say for the kids selling magazine subscriptions to pay for their
utter lack of ambition summer trip to Italy. Yeah, I see you darkening my doorway. I know you can see me watching Frasier on Netflix while simultaneously playing Settlers of Catan on my iPhone. I'm not getting up, and you're not leaving my front porch. Quite the suburban standoff we're having, isn't it? NOPE, I DON'T CARE IF YOU KNOCK TWICE. Not doing it.) One of the perks of my position as Dominant Alpha at Laurel Dailey Enterprises is the ol' Get Up & Go. Texas sounds like a fine time. New Mexico, I'd like to pay you a visit. Oregon? Sure, why not? And when the notion hits, it doesn't take much before I--you guessed it--get up and go.
I know this space has been quiet for the better part of the summer, and you'll just have to trust me when I say that there are spec-tack-yewlar things in store for the blog and beyond. There are changes coming, and unlike most change which--real talk--scares me witless while simultaneously giving me an unnecessary air of insolence that reads as my basest angry, wild animal nature, these changes are good ones. Big ones. Wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am ones.
But that's actually not what brings us together on this post today. I thought I'd check in and share some of my more recent adventures with the five of you who are still reading this blog (hi, dad!). All of these photos were taken with my trusty iPhone and appeared originally on my TOTALLY BITCHIN' INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT.
Photo by Dustin Giallanza
Photo by Dustin Giallanza
Photo by Dustin Giallanza
I saw Mono Lake for the first time while driving back from Lake Tahoe a couple of years ago. We cruised south in that relaxed sort of road trip rhythm, while I allowed my eyes to rove over the scenery from the 395. There's a hypnotic fluidity to the way the land unspools from the car window, the Eastern Sierras on a seemingly endless loop punctuated occasionally with a shift in vegetation. When I saw the shimmering disk of the lake flipped like a coin into the ground, I took a mental note: Someday, I'm coming back here.
Two years later, the tug of wanderlust set a plan in motion with my fellow up-for-anything adventurer friend, Darian. The proposal, delivered with crossed fingers over Google Chat on an otherwise dull work day, was essentially this: Are you willing to drive into the middle of nowhere with me for the weekend?
"I've driven further for less," he replied. And so a trip was born.
We recruited a rag-tag team of intrepid explorers, filled our water bottles, took advantage of Mammoth's Summer months to book a home base for the weekend, and set our compasses due North. The landscape along the Eastern Sierras is fascinatingly varied. The staggeringly tall peaks, toothed jawlines against the horizon, crept skyward until they devoured most of the view from our car windows. There are geological marvels to rival any cubist's painterly interpretation of life. The ancient bristlecone pines, at ten thousand feet, have calmly outlived any known signs of civilization on this continent. There are lakes upon lakes, verdant alpine valleys, sleepy communities, derelict shells of former residences, and more than one opportunity to sample exotic game in the form of jerky.
And then there's the lake. Mono Lake, the luminous apogee of the trip, whose mysterious tufa towers array themselves like spires in King Triton's castle. Spending a consecutive sunset and sunrise on the south shore only deepened my fascination with the place.
At the end of three exhausting days of exploration, the conclusion I drew while we left California's Gold Country in our rear view mirror was this: Someday, I'm coming back here.
All photos are sole property of Laurel Dailey, and cannot be reposted or used without permission.