Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

Posts Tagged ‘road trips

no moss

with one comment

the secret

don’t worry, nobody has the
beautiful lady, not really, and
nobody has the strange and
hidden power, nobody is exceptional or wonderful or
magic, they only seem to be.
it’s all a trick, an in, a con,
don’t buy it, don’t believe it. the world is packed with
billions of people whose lives
and deaths are useless and
when one of these jumps up
and the light of history shines
upon them, forget it, it’s not what it seems, it’s just
another act to fool the fools again.

there are no strong men, there
are no beautiful women.
at least, you can die knowing
and you will have
the only possible

— Charles Bukowski

Greetings from our nation’s capitol. I was here just a few weeks back – first for a wonderful Liberty Fund conference on Hayek, then to work from an office and visit friends and quake with terror at the Thundersnow!. I went back to my parent’s house in Cincinnati for a few days, and then just narrowly missed Chicago’s Great Blizzard, arriving there the Friday after the storm to find my friends, of course, building an igloo. I stayed in Chicago for nine days, and upon returning once again to Cincinnati I figured, “Why stop?” So last week I threw together the framework for a NorthSouthEastWest, 1.5-month bout of itinerantism. Nomadism. Vagabondness. Call it what you will (just not “transient train hopping;” that phrase has gotten me in trouble before during a Teach for America job interview). I hitched a ride with some family down to Washington, D.C. for a few days. I’ll be Amtrak-ing from here down to New Orleans, then hitting up Los Angeles and possibly other cities in California, followed by Chicago and Panama City Beach, Florida. All of these locations have been chosen because of proximity to friends, with the exception of New Orleans, where I have just long wanted to go and never been. In some places, I may be working on some Exciting! Things! with friends. In others, I may just sunbathe. And work, of course. I’m lucky to have a job I can perform from wherever.

So, that’s happening. I have been twittering my rules for nomadism, which have so far included:

Step 1 // Buy a bigger suitcase.
Step 2 // Buy a fancy DSLR camera
Step 2.5 // Learn to use fancy DSLR camera…
Step 3 // Come up with pretentious name for travels. I like saying this is my ‘Bukowski phase’
Step 4 // Hitch a ride with a cowboy. Otherwise known as my Uncle Bruce. http://ygrog.com/gyf6vwbj
Step 5 // Love affair (duh)
Step 6 // Good friends with futon, tofu stir-fry, Lambic. And a sun-porch.

I assume there will be more. Along with pictures of skylines. I’ve already been taking a lot of pictures of skylines. And I promise a travel-worthy March mix soon…

But really, what I want to do in this post is link to this and this. Two pieces by Ann Friedman, about her own recent travels.

See, I have also driven cross-country from West to East. Twice. Once to New York, once to Washington. I made both of these trips, which I remember as pretty unremarkable (which is to say I don’t remember much about them at all), with other people. I have gone West when I’m seeking greatness, and East when I’m feeling resignation. West is possibility, East is inevitability. West is risky, East is safe. It’s not that I’ve been unhappy on the East Coast. I have found great friends and professional success there, too. But going West always seems to mean moving toward something new and wonderful. I realize this is just a narrative I’ve imposed on the series of choices I’ve made, but it also feels true in some objective sense.

Well. We’ll see.

Extremely Dangerous Tree

It's all sorts of dangerous out here.


Written by Elizabeth

February 23, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Curio: 2/11/11

with 2 comments

Everything this man posts, I want to be my life. Why am I not around this firepit? Why don’t I know this guy with the goggles? I own a buckskin hat, but why have I never placed a large feather in the side of it? Why don’t I own a VW Van? Or have a wolf tattoo? Why, my god, have I never visited the South?
[As a soundtrack while checking out Refueled’s blog, you may want to listen to the Woodsist ‘Welcome Home/Diggin’ the Universe’ LP, which I’m just first hearing this week. There are Cure and Grateful Dead covers! It’s amazing in that Chocolate Bobka ‘Sunday Morning Brunch’-y way. I’m also very much enjoying Woodsist’s newest, the White Fence ‘Is Growing Faith’ LP.]
There are, of course, times when this nearly becomes one’s life. These photos. I had a lot of moments like these this past August and September, ambling about California shooting a western and road-tripping with friends in and out of the goddamn cobras. I am telling you all of this about California mostly so I can link to a project just finished by my friend Jackie, documenting another goddamn cobras roadtrip, the summer before last (I was, somewhat regretfully, not on this trip, as I was between D.C. and Brooklyn that August with a month-long layover in Ohio),  when a group of these Brooklyn kids drove out to Boulder, Colorado, and back.

I’m in Chicago right now, where I spent last Friday night hanging out in a genuine igloo, so I’m a little bit daydreamy about the West again right now. Luckily I should be visiting California again soon …  And then, maybe, to find a home. Or a good VW van, at least …

Written by Elizabeth

February 11, 2011 at 4:52 pm

The midwest farmers’ daughters

with 3 comments

It’s impossible for me to think about California, at this point in my life, without thinking about Joan Didion. I came to Didion recently-ish—I think it must have been just a little over a year ago, I was on the verge of moving to New York and Conor told me to read Didion’s famous moving to and moving away from New York essay, “Goodbye to All That,” to which I responded:

I adored it. But I wonder—did you feel that way, when you moved to New York? I don’t. I worry I am too old, or too stubborn …

Which just shows you what a pretentious, dramatic twit I can be sometimes, because of course I got swept up in loving it here (and also just, Gawd, you know?). It’s been about one year and one month since I moved here, and I may or may not be as bad as when my then-boyfriend first moved here, moved into the McKibben lofts, and called me at my apartment in DC at 2 in the morning to tell me that the loft building across the street had started blaring and singing “Holland, 1945” by Neutral Milk Hotel, and then the residents of his building started doing it back at them, and then they were all having a Holland 1945 sing-a-long and wasn’t that just magical and New York the best? Shoot me if I ever become one of those people, I told my DC friends.

And now I live in a house with 13 other members of my creative collective, Goddamn Cobras, and make raw pies and have housemates who play in a band called Zebros in our basement.

So, there’s that.

What all of this has to do with California is that, on the official one-year anniversary of my move to New York, I was not in New York but in Ojai, California, shooting a movie and/or camping out in dried out riverbeds and forests and lagoons and farms and mountaintops and beaches. That land is incredible, let me tell you; as a lifelong midwesterner with a splash of east coast, I had no idea how beautiful California could actually be.

But what a weird little place, that state. How can a land so built on frontierism, on lone rangers and outcasts and outlaws (you see, I not so long ago finished both Didion’s first novel, Run River, and her book about California, Where I Was From, and also spent last fall and winter watching John Wayne and Sergio Leone movies, so I have these grand sort of notions about California’s founding) be so … progressive, in all the most negative senses of the word? And why doesn’t someone advertise a medical marijuana shop without using the old tropes of psychedelia? Why do the lemons in California get so big? And how the hell did Los Angeles even happen? Why are there so many car dealerships on the strip between L.A. and Santa Barbara? And how does anyone ever get anything done what with the beaches and the sunsets and the palm trees and all of that? Why did I want so badly to feel some sort of connection to a silly place that was once a different place (in my case, the first studio warehouse and lot, for Keystone Studios, opened by Mac Sennett, in what’s now Echo Park, but what does it matter—I wanted to see a Celebrity House, you know; I went looking for Mabel Normand’s Alvarado Street bungalow, I had to visit Haight-Ashbury)? And why do people in San Francisco pretend like they don’t have the worst weather? Why does California, the Idea of California, draw people, like the Idea of New York City, even still, even now—a highway not just a highway but a California Highway; a sunset a California Sunset … A weird little place, that state.

I hope to visit again sometime.


* I am now reading Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, the first Robbins book I’ve even attempted—I tend to lump him in that group of Overhyped Gen X Male Authors I Have No Interest In, like David Foster Wallace and Dave Edgars and I think Thomas Pynchon, though he is probably much older, isn’t he?—because when I was driving down the Pacific Coast Highway on my own, no radio signal, no music of any kind, no visibility much beyond my headlights, all fog and endless bridges—to be saved only by the prospect of Guadalupe, because Jables said I would Love It, only to find the most dismal, empty town, Mexican track housing, and suddenly 56 degrees when I fill up my gas a few towns later—or even during the filming of our goddamn western, when Fanny’s house was all slightly-off-key vintage upright pianos, Bearclaw banging on the keys theatrically (in his full Sheriff costume), and fresh mulberries sunshine outside bathtubs wine and toasts—which of course all made me sad because somehow nostalgia and enjoyment always hit me in reverse, well—I don’t know where it came from, didn’t know the phrase referenced a book, a song, anything at all, all the same it became a bit of a mantra, just a little bit, which is silly–it’s silly, right, okay? I know—but nonetheless it became a bit of a mantra, “even cowgirls get the blues,” that somehow cheered me up (I had been wearing these amazing cowgirl boots as a part of my film costume and now refused to take the boots, or my turquoise jewelry, or my ragged jean shorts, off, you see), so when I saw this old Tom Robbins’ paperback copy in a used bookstore in San Francisco with Rachel for four dollars and 50 cents, I had to pick it up. Even cowgirls get the blues. Only by now, I have owned the book for over two weeks, and I’ve only read ten pages.

It’s hard to like a woman with giant thumbs, and it’s hard to feel like a cowgirl in Brooklyn …