the next big adventure

Edited to add: there’s a new website afoot at foxylikeaturtle.com.


Everyone wants the familiar. (Yes, people often say the opposite, that they crave the new and long for adventure and novelty. They really don’t. What we call adventure is the process of meeting the new and turning it into the known as fast as possible. We want to name the unnamed and touch the untouched so that they are no longer unnamed and untouched. No longer strange. Then we can go tell people all about what we’ve found.)

–“Here Be Monsters,” Violation, Sallie Tisdale

I guess this is the best way to share my news: below please find the first short essay of my thesis.

Foxy

I bought a van, y’all. Her name is Foxy. She began as a 1995 Chevy G20, then underwent a conversion to become a model called Gladiator. This process installed a bed, shelves and storage and additional lighting, two big comfortable captain’s chairs, and privacy shades. The interior is all polished wood-grain and leather. There’s a television, the first that I have owned; luckily, it doesn’t work. She was named Foxy by Cody and Marie, who lived in her and traveled the country for most of a year, before they sold her to another couple, Kyle and Portia. Kyle and I started our new jobs at a small-town Texas brewery together, on the same day, and we’ve become good friends. He says when they went to look at the van they knew it was meant to be, because Cody and Marie are a tall skinny white guy with glasses and a short brown girl, like Kyle and Portia. “Her name is Foxy and she loves adventure,” Cody said. And now it’s my turn. Although I am neither a tall skinny white guy with glasses nor a short brown girl, I hope she’ll treat me as well as she did them.

I am a single woman living alone with two little dogs, and I already have a serviceable Honda to drive to work and back again. I’ve never before owned two vehicles, let alone one old enough to drink. Why do I need a van? It’s a contradiction: I want a house with a yard I can fill with bird feeders and a bird bath where the hummingbirds will come to know me and visit me from one year to the next. I want stability, and a home of my own, a backyard in which to plant anew. Texas bluebonnets, forget-me-nots. Why then would I take off? I’m still struggling to explain this to myself, but I feel inside me, in the homing parts, that I can get to a place of verdant possibilities—a stable and still place to grow—only through movement.

My little rental house, my part-time brewery job, the young man I keep company with some of the time: none of these is enough to keep me in place. One year ago, I left my husband and a well-established home. My freedom and my relative homelessness have not come cheaply, and have not always been joyful. And yet here I go again: pulling up roots, because sometimes they feel like chains. Not stability, but a holding back.

Foxy is like a turtle: she is slow and steady, ready, I hope, to win the race by feats of endurance. She carries her home on her back. And she is the animal of my heart. I’ve collected turtles—not live ones—since I was a little girl, since I can’t remember when. In high school I had forty or fifty of them, one of those shortcut gifts people learn to buy. At some point I downsized this collection, culling the stuffed turtles, the chipped or cheap ones; I’m down to a dozen or so of my favorite specimens. But more downsizing will be necessary. Foxy offers approximately seventy square feet of living space; what of my life will fit?

Turtles are one of the few animals with multiple collective nouns. Such fun, collective nouns: a murder of crows, a crash of rhinoceroses, a business of ferrets. Turtles make up a bale, a turn, a nest, or a dole. I am building a nest of turtles, or a nest for myself within the turtle that is Foxy.

As the year closes, then, I’m giving up my rental and moving into a twenty-four-year-old Chevy van. I’ll drive west to a desert I love; east to the Gulf oysters I’ve missed so much; north to a litany of national parks and breweries and friends’ driveways; south to the troubled border. Here comes the next exhilarating, terrifying thing. Her name is Foxy, and she loves adventure.

Today, the last day of November, I am out of the little house and on the road. I am also returning to West Virginia, in a little under a month, for my final residency there. I will give a thesis reading, teach a graduate seminar, and graduate (pending my final thesis deposit at the beginning of February). And I will be living out of a van. So, lots of big changes around here.

What does this mean for the blog? I’m not entirely sure yet. Many aspects of my life are up in the air, and I want to honor the process and follow it. But I can’t imagine not reading books and responding to them, so I think we’re safe in some ways, at least. Posts will continue on the normal schedule through the end of this calendar year, and after that – well, we’ll learn together, won’t we.

Thanks always, friends, for being understanding and flexible with me as I grow. Drop me a comment, please, and tell me what you’d like to see happen to pagesofjulia.

“Self Portrait, Houston” at Slag Glass City

Slag Glass City has graciously published a short piece of my creative nonfiction in their February 2018 issue (volume 4). Thanks for checking it out!

“Those I’ve Loved” at Word Riot

Word Riot published a short piece of my creative nonfiction in their January 2016 issue. Thanks for checking it out!


Edit: Word Riot‘s site is down. I’m not sure if it’s coming back or not, which makes me sad–not only for the sake of my own work, but for all the good stuff they’ve published over the years, and all they might have published.

I’m posting here my essay as they published it, according to my notes.


Those I’ve Loved

It all started with a little red Schwinn with 16-inch wheels. I don’t remember riding it, but there are pictures. As a teen living in a sordid shotgun house with two other bike messengers, I sold it to the man next door for $20.

Next was a boy’s black Schwinn with 24-inch wheels. I liked black better than pink.

I reclaimed Mom’s dusty maroon Nishiki road bike from the garage when I got my first job, teaching special education. Rode it to work, learned to love battling traffic on it. That’s how I met the bike messengers.

The first bike I ever bought myself was a yellow Haro mountain bike from that pawn shop on Washington Avenue that used to be so good for bikes. I broke the front shock, rode it that way for years. Eventually sold it to a bartender.

The first bike I ever bought myself new was a blue and white Redline Conquest Pro. Messengered on it, raced it, equipped it with fancy race wheels, nearly died on it when hit by a late-model white Ford F-150. Hung it on the wall for years, had it repaired and rode it some more.

I bought my first sponsored gear through my first race team, in college. I never could have otherwise afforded an Orbea road bike, Euskaltel-orange with carbon stays.

Next a red Cannondale CAAD-4, second-hand. Rode, raced, wrecked on a training ride at 29 mph. Life-Flighted. Brain injured. Will I learn to read again?

Then the Colnago, sky blue. Raced for several years on several velodromes, flew to California for the national championships (no results). My aluminum soulmate, annex to my body. It belonged to the team, so I gave it back when I switched allegiances. My fiancé tracked it down and surprised me with it as a wedding present. The team manager was happy to return it to me: he understood. I cried.

Vintage, jewel-red Univega mixte, restored by a former messenger who moved out of state. I put a basket on it for my dog. We rode together that way to my wedding.

———-

When I got my first professional job after grad school, I celebrated with a Cannondale CAAD-10 road bike, white, and another Redline Conquest Pro, black and red and white.

Cannondale’s orange Caffeine hardtail started my mountain biking career. Quickly thereafter, a Specialized Epic, through a shop where I worked for just four months. Then a blue Redline singlespeed, to get me through mud races at Rocky Hill Ranch.

Discovering 29-inch wheels: a titanium Salsa El Mariachi, custom-built with all the high-end parts. Then a Salsa Spearfish, cheaper, less exhilarating. A bright green rattle-canned singlespeed with decals that read “Ferrigno,” a little household joke. Another mud race: crashed the Ferrigno, and impaled my upper inner thigh on a tree branch. Rode back in with crotchless shorts.

There have been others. A green Schwinn road bike from the first bike shop that employed me. Another Redline, stripped for its parts. A dark red Tsunami track frame, donated to a pair of young twins. Salsa’s Casseroll, factory-recalled. A short-lived Trek T-1. The Surly Long-Haul Trucker, meant for touring, but that year I had knee surgery instead. An AMF Nimble with front basket, for the smaller dog this time. More titanium: a Salsa Warbird, for gravel racing. (A good excuse to travel, seeking gravel in an increasingly paved world.) A black Surly Karate Monkey with racks, fenders, and basket, for the city.

———-

Now, upon moving from the far South to the far North, a new bike for a new life I don’t yet love. The Santa Cruz 5010 is an epiphany, with 27.5-inch wheels, 5 inches of rear travel, a slack head tube and virtual pivot points. Beautiful orange-and-lime-green paint job, clean lines, dropper seatpost. This should fix everything.

“Where the Heart Was” at You Are Here Stories

Back to You Are Here Stories today for another short piece of my creative nonfiction writing. Thanks for checking it out! If you have comments, please consider leaving them there instead of (or in addition to) here. Many thanks.

“The Act of Inverting” at You Are Here Stories

Today I am sending you over to You Are Here Stories, for a short piece of creative nonfiction writing of *mine* that they have chosen to publish. Thanks for checking it out! If you have comments, please consider leaving them there instead of (or in addition to) here.

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