Fish Tacos On The Edge of The World, Etc.
There I was: reading "White Sands" by Geoff Dyer, biting into a tube of rigatoni alla vodka, sitting on Court Street, when I felt that weird hunger to write which is half nervous anticipation, half tiny little fishes of ideas swimming to the surface, half almost-autumn wind blowing, and half magical remembrance. I felt jittery and kinda tired, asked the waiter for my pasta to go, and here I am - sitting on my couch in camp shorts, writing to y'all.
I've had a big few days; I spent seven of them in Santa Barbara with my family (e.g. drinking martinis at 2pm), two nights in LA, and the remaining leg of the trip with some beloved friends in Yosemite (hi Eileen, Maya, and Brielle!) for my birthday.
I got back to New York yesterday morning circa 8am. I took a redeye from SFO to JFK and spent most of the plane ride dreaming of my linen sheets and cursing myself for deciding to head straight into the office, while also savoring my pseudo 'devil may care, girl you having adventures and are all sorts of tired and happy' delirium.
I powered through the workday (or tried to...) and shlepped my ass home last night, collapsing into my sheets after some buttery salmon toro and a large Sapporo, the memories of California washing over me.
There are a lot of things about the trip I could dip into. The juicy, almost buoyant snap peas at Eveleigh, the heirloom tomatoes, yellower than the Beatles "Yellow Submarine". But those things are almost tangential. The real mystery is that I was seduced all over again by California. LA specifically. The endless traffic, the Meyer lemon & olive oil eggs at Jon & Vinny's, the incredible vanilla key lime pie at Republique, my mom's reaction to her first In-N-Out, the cracklings of Tupac on the rental car's speakers, the dusty flowers growing along the highway - falling over the embankments like drunk lil lovers seeking refuge in any passing cars - the peroxide blondes, the whisperings of Frank Ocean, the memories of my life there - growing into adulthood, reading "The New Yorker" in Alamo Square Park, endless cups of coffee in my apartment on Divisadero, chicken wings at Santung, dancing with the gays in the Castro, knowing that I was on the edge of the world and feeling all agitated about what the future held. Knowing it hadn't even begun, knowing it was some good shit I didn't want to end. Knowing it wouldn't last forever.
Sort of still rolling through my feelings about the place but let's skip ahead to Yosemite.
Now, in the 2+ years I lived in San Francisco, I never went to Yosemite - a real miss. So when Maya called me at 10am on a Tuesday, saying we could drink all the champagne and swim with all the black bears and eat beans on toast, I knew I had to take her up on it. And 3 weeks later, I was at Blue Bottle in Oakland with M, E, and B on my 28th - loading up on pistachio cardamom cake and cappuccinos, wondering what the fuck I had signed myself up for. Don't get me wrong - love an adventure, love an alpine lake, but I knew it would be a liiiiil grueling.
Well. Turns out it's one of the most beautiful places, otherworldly, truly. We drove to the park in Maya's god forsaken van (Hi Ophelia!) - an 100 foot long Ford without power steering that rebels against any hint of discipline. It's an incredible being, guzzling gas and taking over the highway, and we had a ball futzing with the radio and rehashing friends, lovers, and bad romances, packed in like sardines and rolling the windows down as the sun rose over the highway. We arrived at Yosemite around 2pm and spent the first day running in and out of lakes, getting lost in the Valley, marveling at Half Dome, trying to be fly like Kylie, and peeing in entirely visible places.
At the end of the first night - which also happened to be my bday - we had fish tacos on the edge of the world. At a gas station. Which gas station? you ask. The Yosemite Mobile. And its fish tacos, breakfast burritos, steak salad, and coffee have been blessed by the man himself - Mario Batali. This mobile is at 9,500 feet, overlooking the most breathtaking view, where lil babies take a nap from the altitude and weary travelers (or wannabees, hiiii) buy key chains and salivate over their cole slaw and feel like Teddy Roosevelt.
So there I sat, in the first day of my 28th year, with my three friends, marveling at the pitchers of beer, ice cold water, and opulent fish tacos and mango slaw, thinking I had kinda hit the #YYF jackpot. Not to mention that M, E, and B have embraced my blog and hashtag with such silliness and love and friendliness that it felt like something we all started together.
But the Mobile Station. It's the shit.
The next day we packed our oversize packs and headed to 10 Lakes for two nights of camping, potentially fighting with black bears, and walks through the wild. The hiking itself was incredible - flatlands turning into uphill climbs, Half Moon Meadow with packs of deer twitching their cute little ears, the scenery rising into the sky forever, forever reinforcing just how tiny we all were. We ran through the fields, assembled little salami, cheese wraps (not sure you've lived till you've eaten just-add-water hummus with rock face rising 1,000 feet above you), and drank orangey Iodine water. And of course, peeing everywhere we damn well felt like peeing. God given rights, y'all.
10 hours later we were at the foot of 10 lakes, eating just-add-water shepherd's pie, drinking whiskey, sleeping near an Alpine lake, and wondering if our bear bin would truly block out an invader. At that point I was feeling sick from the altitude and totally outside myself - my bones melting into the scenery, the feeling of rising into the air with every breath freaking me out, the gorgeousness of the crystal clear basins bringing me down. That kinda scenery just throws all your shit into chaos. It's too beautiful, too surreal, too unknown. I was drinking it in while also feeling more NY than ever before. Would a forest fire start? would a black bear try to braid my hair? would I ever feel hydrated? I ended up getting sick in the woods that night - sweet Eileen digging me a hole to puke into (this is friendship, this is 28), while also thinking I was living some real shit and was happy all the while.
On the third day, we hiked back up 10 lakes, down into the meadows, and down to the road - tearing into mango slices, drinking water furiously, and getting poisoned by the sun without even knowing it. When we finally saw Ophelia in the parking lot, I hooted and hollered, and we all hugged before I tore into some Doritos and fruit chews, so glad I had seen nature and maybe a new sliver of myself with a mystical, magical crew.
And when we got to Oakland and entered Maya's apartment to smell homemade chicken noodle soup on the stove, I smiled to myself, knowing the California magic was alive, stronger than ever before. And that I'd be back, if only to test the waters, one more time.
Something extraordinary / something real / fill my days and nights with something I can feel.