I Have Written Another Post And It Is Only Ten Months Late
Hello my patient readers! It’s hard for me to start this up again because I feel like now that I have let it go so many months without posting, I have somehow lost my one chance to continue Local Tourist. But it turns out that there isn't a law about that! I can do whatever I want! (I am reading a book about deconstructing how we think about time that is sure to have some hearty wisdom for me to share with you all down the line).
My life has gone in a pretty different direction since I last spoke at you. I am still gay, still single, still alive, and I still have a naked cat. I am less heart broken and much more of a person. In fact, I become more of a person every day. I spent a few months working at my favorite summer program in the world. I went there as a teen, then returned as a counselor, and this time I was actually one of the bosses! This did a lot for my sense of self and reminded me that I am a good leader, which is something I had not experienced since before 2020. I was a manager and led meetings and assemblies. Can you even imagine?
So what has changed? I don’t live in Taos full-time, but it is still my base, legally and spiritually. The name of this blog has still ended up fitting nicely with my new life choices. In April, I bought a 2010 Sprinter van, and it has officially become my home! I know that it is incredibly trendy, but I think for good reason. And let me be clear: I am not doing van life in a trendy way. I see these posts and videos featuring immaculately clean vans that seem to have nothing in them. Based on my research, most people that live in vans have a single pair of jeans and a jar of oats, and that’s it.
My van looks lived in. It’s what I call “dirtbag chic.” I've got plastic toys glued to my dash, pinned-up Polaroids of all of my friends, and a free-standing toilet that keeps changing locations. Anywhere can be a bathroom!
(Photo by my dear friend Ashley, featuring my other dear friend Fred. He's the one with the mustache).
The learning curve for living in a van is mighty steep, but my love of learning has proved more powerful than my frustrations. Plus, knowing things about cars is sexy in a way that transcends sexuality and gender.
It is a shocking comfort to always have your house with you. I expected a certain amount of strange loneliness to push through, and I am certain that there is more to come, but overall, it feels nice to keep my home close, regardless of where I am. I have found a solution to my competing traits of having constant wanderlust and of being a homebody.
I can’t wait to show you all more. Though I have made several trips across the country so far, I am acutely aware of all the places I have not gotten to see yet. I’ve been scrawling notes and recording voice memos like a crazy person; I just need to get them into cohesive prose.
But for now, I have a bunch of back-dated blog posts that I will roll out shortly. I am an expert at starting things that I am very proud of that I only finish 85 percent of the way.
Here is a bit that I wrote (and never published) midway through my first cross-country trek in the van.
May 15th, 2023
Last time I ended up stranded somewhere I wrote a large chunk my ultimately successful grad school application. I was in the unique position of having to kill time in Ljubljana, Slovenia, after what was supposed to be a multi-day hike went awry. Eventually, I got sick of just walking around. So I posted up with a local beer, an open tab (not the soda, the financial thing), and a good pen. Sometimes I just need to be trapped to squeeze out the right words.
But now I am sitting in a broken car with a shitty internet connection, a citronella candle and a pad of paper in the Smoky Hill Rv Park in Junction City, Kansas. My engine started smoking on Friday evening while I was driving across the country, so I pulled of the interstate, parked in front of a house with a livid dog, and called the only mechanic that said it was still open on a Friday night at 7pm. The owner answered the phone and in a “aw, fuck it” tone and said that I could come by. He said he was waiting for someone else anyway.
“Roll down your windows and blast your heat. It will help to keep your engine cool. And come to the shop.” I did what he said and crept towards his place.
A short, older gentleman met me at the door and waved me onto the sidewalk. Against what I would have expected from most mechanics, Moody spoke to me with transparency and an assumption that I KNEW cars. Apparently my fan clutch broke because of a shortcut taken by a past mechanic. This meant that there was nothing to cool down the engine.
After his grim diagnosis (getting Mercedes parts to a small town in Kansas is a daunting ask), Moody took me inside— it was a typical mechanics office: some ironic signs on the walls about wives and work, a fridge full of ONLY Pepsi, and a few dog bones on the stained, beige carpet that lead to a bathroom with no toilet paper (clearly none of the boys that work here poop while on the clock).
Moody invited me to sleep outside the shop for the night and reassess in the morning to triple-check that his diagnosis was correct. My lady brain was like, “Am I being an idiot by sleeping in a strangers front yard?” And then he gave me the code to his office and told me that I could use his work computer, his TV, and his bathroom. He even said that I could bring my cat inside and sleep on the couch. I could have run off with tens of thousands of dollars of computer equipment— this was the sort of sacrifice that a strange man needs to offer up to make a woman in a vulnerable situation feel safe. We were walking the plank for each other; he trusted me and I trusted him. Also he was 5’1”, so I would be in an advantageous position should he choose violence.
He gestured across the street to the Chinese restaurant. "That's my cousin." This detail seemed to be a last-ditch effort to show me that he was a staple of this small town, and that he would not jeopardize that by kidnapping me.
I spent most of that first night looking across the street at “Panda Palace” while I spoke with friends on the phone. Each call was complimented with my favorite summer drink, LONG DRINK, TASTE OF FINLAND… it’s a fancy gin based seltzer. It reminds me of Montauk and Brooklyn rooftop parties. Darwin wandered around the parking lot on his long leash, standing on the curb, leash taught, watching small town traffic. Despite his adventurous heart, I reminded him that he cannot go into the street.
The next morning, Moody opened the hood, sighed a lot, and then went to make some calls. He sat as his desk and rang some friends at different auto parts shops with a big man in a small town approach: “Sharon! Glad you picked up the phone! Our schedules have been opposites for a while. How are the kids? Well I’m calling to cash in that favor. I’ve got a young lady here that’s just passing through, and now she’s stranded because she has a broken fan clutch… Yeah, it’s a Mercedes. I’m trying to the parts here here ASAP.”
Quickest Sharon could get it here was Tuesday, maybe Monday, after calling in a few favors. All these people, using their favors for me… What expression was on my face that was eliciting such sympathy? Maybe my smudged glasses and baby cheeks are a huge asset. Maybe I remind everyone of their sister in the third grade, or of their daughter after she cries about something inane. Maybe I should thank the gods for my moon face and girlish voice, two things that I have often resented.
When I heard “Tuesday,” my initial reaction was to panic. I thought about towing my car two hours to Kansas City or Wichita and just eating the cost— or maybe I could just chance it with the broken fan and stop frequently to let my car cool down. I had been trying to get to New Jersey by mothers day to spend it with my grandma, which was still a nineteen hour drive away. I asked Moody what could happen if I chanced it, and he immediately said “explosion,” which was a reductive and catastrophic way of saying “you could blow a gasket.” Importantly, a new engine is fifteen grand. But even more importantly, Moody’s expression made me realize that he would always wonder if that one stranded girl got into a terrible accident that he didn’t prevent.
I drove my janky metal box to the Smoky Hill Rv Park. I saw a diner across the street and made my way across the multi-lane road. I read a book about sad lesbians and chatted with the woman on the cash register. It was too hot out to finish my eggs, so I took them in a box despite knowing that I would not eat the leftovers. I didn't want her to think that I didn't like them.
And now I am here, writing in long hand, stopping only to wipe sweat away with my t-shirt. After wedging himself next to a rear wheel in an attempt to cool down, Darwin finally breaks the silence:
“Where are we again?” he says with resignation in his voice.
“Junction City, Kansas.”
“Is it famous for anything?”
“One sec, I’ll google it.”
As promised, I google it.
“It was the first town to sell Coca-Cola… and then there's some other inane, random facts.”
There’s a lull in the conversation and Darwin wanders back to his water bowl. He takes a few sips.
“ I’ve never been so hot,” he says.
“You’re a naked cat. You like being hot. Your normal internal body temp is 103 degrees."
“There’s something different about this heat. It’s Wizard of Oz heat.”
“It’s only May”
“Imagine wearing graduation robes in this… It’s graduation season, right?”
“I don’t think that I can cuddle with you tonight,” he says with genuine disappointment.
“Bummer, but fair. If you change your mind my arms will be open.”
“Copy that boss… So, do we live in this van now?”
“There’s no place like home.”
“Do you think we’ll break down again?”
And we did.