Tuesday, December 27, 2005

an open letter to the sjtf

December 27, 2005

yes, liza, i will tell you how our trip went. and i'll do it now.
for the readers' digest version, maintaining all the integrity, but none of the length and adding substantially to the humor, i give you joey herself:

...and then children, we reached mordor. How did we get there? Why were we there? and Why did the soda there cost 40 francs? These are all questions I can answer with a short anecdote entitled My Side of the Mountain ... no, no... wait... that's not it, that's definitely not it... entitled A 21-year-old road trip to Arizona: A look into the experiences of a college student in her quest to find equality.

You know as well as I do that I have never been one to advertise the fact that I know who Commander Reicher is, where Luke Skywalker grew up, or that Quark took Whoopi Goldberg's place on Deep Space Nine even though I did use "like master to patowan" in a real live academic paper this year. So when Joanna, Allison, and I reached Mordor one week ago I hesitated. But in the end, I said it, "Friends, where are we? Mordor?" Believe it or not, Hoover Dam is Mordor complete with gigantic statues and mysterious roadways.
But that is not why we ventured south. Rather, it was to see the famed-in-France Andrew Bird. To be brief it was fascinating. To be long winded, I have never seen something so amazing in my life, and watching Andrew Bird pluck his violin like a guitar and make music that is ambrosia to the ear is worth every minute, penny (thanks to our dear contributors), and any other reason why the trip could have been and was considered ridiculous. Anytime you drive with the words "Andrew Bird in Tempe" and "Full Moon" taped to your dashboard, you are bound to have a life changing experience.
I have gained a new appreciation for the road trip and for the Arizona which surprised me with it's beauty and it's smog. I give a hand to our dear friend Joanna Samuelson (who introduced me to uncle cec). Well done.
And as for the 40 francs, I have no idea. Maybe they get more French at Hoover Dam than they do soda.
Here's to the road trip,
Taylor JoAnn Johnson
and now my own, frighteningly long version:
it was a dark and frigid morning. i awoke to the sound of two alarms. i decided that ten more minutes would not cause us to miss the concert and pressed the snooze button. an hour later i awoke with a start. frantically dressed, gathered my things and opened the door to find allison about to knock. "we slept in," she said. "i know," i said. "what do we do about joey?" she asked. "i don't know," i answered. she knocked, i waited. moments later the door abruptly swung open, there stood joey as one suddenly awakened from a deep sleep. "we're late. let's go," she said.
thirteen minutes later we were on our way. unplanned, andrew bird serenaded us in the morning twilight. it was 5:45 am on wednesday the fourteenth day of december (the last month of the year) anno domini 2005.
light from the full moon lit the scene with an eerie glow. fog rested on silent fields and filled us with awe at the foreign landscape. "doesn't this just make you want to be a cowboy?" allison asked, enchanted. "no. not at all," i responded. joey chuckled and promptly fell asleep.
the hours passed, joey woke up intermittently, allison and i discussed attachment theory and relationships.
when we stopped in beaver joey offered to go sit on the giant chair and allison took a turn sleeping. joey began taking notes as we turned onto the state road.
central utah fascinates me: i never think about it. all these charming tiny towns steeped in history and with their very own city parks are only a few hours from my home, and yet i have never visited them. i highly recommend the scenic byway. in panguitch we stole some mustard. (packets)
the sun grew higher, and with it the ambient temperature. we crossed the arizona border cheering for the energy being produced, the bridge crossing and the view i never got to see. i've never been to lake powell. in page we celebrated by not wearing coats, but then we needed our jackets.
i was amazed by how much i liked arizona. i don't like nevada. the epitome of desert and ugly brown dryness. this i knew. i always associated the rest of the southwest with that same yucky feeling. but arizona is lovely. the lovely forests. wow. i had no idea. forests! i had forgotten them. the cute cacti (i really prefer to say cactuses. and really, if you think about it, we can regularize borrowed words into our own paradigm. that's totally an accepted grammatical process. we even commonly reregularize our own irregular verbs...and isn't that a folk etymology based on the -us ending anyway?), the lemon trees, the sunsets. despite the wretched pollution, things seemed nice and clean and new. i especially liked the covered pedestrian walkways that mimicked the rockin' awesome dr. seuss mountains. we spent some time being confused by the freeway system in greater phoenix (or maybe just the lack of details in the holmberg atlas?), but on the whole i was pleased. i really liked the architecture. not all of it was to my taste, but i like the fact that they care. that even the freeways should look cool. asu looks to have an excellent campus. we only saw through car windows at night (allison and joey forgot their coats in the thrill of a comfortable afternoon), but i was impressed and staunchly determined to return.
after that side note, i return to the narrative. we made excellent time the whole way. a note of trivia: joanna can drive from provo to flagstaff on one hour of sleep. that's our little secret. i am proud of it, but i don't really want to explain it to my mother. once we got to flagstaff a number of things happened all of a sudden: we got cell phone service at last, my sister called, my legs gave out and i finally felt the strain. we decided to switch. as al was writing her paper, joey and i traded the driving. looking for a good place to pull over, i chose a side road. unfortunately, this side road was the entrance to a koa. i was at a bit of a loss, but joey told me to continue, the sign said to register first, but we didn't want to stay, we just needed somewhere where i could stretch. so we pulled through and into a site. we hopped out and began our travel yoga. then we saw an interesting looking fellow, who didn't seem the slightest bit pleased to see us. as he approached, the forcedly loud conversation took this tone: "well, we best be on our way." "everybody in." "let's get in and get out." we jumped in the car, squealed away (not really: dirt roads, but makes a better story.)
joey took the wheel. and a bullet bike took her tail. we discussed the uncanny and unnerving powers of the cia and other government agencies, and got on the 17 which would take us to phoenix and our final destination.
filled with excitement and expectations, we traded the ineffective low for christmas music, and i fell in love. it didn't and doesn't make sense, but it was a lovely place. black canyon city. we stopped for gas. i can't tell what it had that other small towns don't but it will always be special to me. it was so warm. we drove with the windows down. the old men in the cubicle (i don't know what it's called.) discussed the shocking lack of sweet rolls in _________ and what measures ought to be taken to bring this impropriety to the attention of the proprietors.
once in phoenix we stopped by our place of lodging. a mansion, to say the least. it was enormous. we had a guest room, a guest bed, a guest bathroom, a guest entrance, not to mention decoration towels AND real towels. the children were adorable. kindly let me help them lose at foosball and showed us their pool and tennis court. i got to be the jail guard. i'm happy to say i put all of them in jail.
we had too much fun and only had time to find the restaurant, but not to eat. we got to tempe. and to the concert. here our paths diverge.
i left them there in the cold, offering my jacket. i went out into the wide world. the bridges were lined with lights. the streets were lined with lights AND people. it was beautiful. what a happy place tempe is. the cute firehouse number 6 with its cheerful lights, the bridge with santa and his reindeer, the three wise men on what i call the montjuic of tempe. i decided that mill avenue was the ramblas of tempe. have you been to barcelona? you should go. it's beautiful. but if you can't make it yet, check out mill ave in december. i confidently followed my prepared directions to the public library, in awe of the large, well lit street signs and the happy atmosphere. i talked the librarian into letting me use a computer even though i didn't have a card. nothing of worth or consequence. i got a text message telling me that they were in and close to the stage. i found myself a julia alvarez book in spanish (which is ironic because even though she's from the dr, she always writes in english and in my carib. lit. class yo! was the only thing we read in english.) and set myself down to read. only then did i feel tired, but i didn't sleep. i kept on reading. i got through page 28 before i had to get up and walk around. i timed it perfectly. i left the library at 8:30, did some exploring and was passing the theater when joey called to tell me andrew bird had finished.
i coyly convinced them that they were too tired, hungry and satisfied to stay for nickel creek and i picked them up and we went to don josé. we closed it down. they literally sat and watched us eat so they could lock up. the kitty paid. --i forgot to mention my triumph: the kitty. you see, i started out by referring to the send joey to tempe jar as the kitty, but my comrades were skeptical. finally they gave in and began to call it the kitty, all the while maintaining that you can't call a stash of money a "kitty". it was not until friday that i was vindicated. (special thanks to my sister for the definition via phone that proved me right.) but if jimmy stewart can call it a kitty, i can. (see the cab scene following the wedding of george bailey and mary hatch in it's a wonderful life)-- and i recklessly forced them back to tempe to show them what i had discovered in my exploring. they were kind enough to ooh and aww, but they were too tired. joey was singing in her sleep as we returned home to the tanner's.
the next morning was relaxed. for me, at least. al got up at 6 or 7 to work on her paper. we ate, chatted, packed up and left. we were at ikea by 11. not bad, considering we'd planned to get there at 9. but we were wiser than we knew to be laid back; ikea opened at 10. we started off with the showrooms. and a good omen: the cd holders i had been pining for since i spent a week in indiana in the summer were in the first display. i used my handy-dandy ikea pencil and ikea paper to jot down the name and we moved on. it was almost too much, but right as we lost our strength, there was the ikea restaurant. (not to be confused with the ikea bistro which is downstairs and serves hotdogs.) we were 1/2 an hour too early for the lunch specials, but it was ok, because i got the 99 cent cous-cous meal. (not to mention lingonberry juice and a SWEET chocolate cheesecake.) we headed on down to shop, picked up some goodies (including a rockin' awesome dining room/kitchen/coffee/homework/projector holder table and christmas presents for my mom, sister and self) and headed out.
it was around 4. i took the wheel, joey took the map and al took a nap (actually, i'm quite sure she got back to work, but i liked the rhyme) the map led us slightly astray, i followed the signs and got us even more mixed up when the 60 (or "grand" ave) ended in a very large hole in the ground. our makeshift detour (the official one left something to be desired, aka signs.) took us through the narcissistic town of glendale, az. and maybe an hour (maybe more) later we were finally out of the city.
we took the 60 until it became 93 and took 93 right in to vegas. along the way we made some interesting observations: wikieup!!, i am perhaps the only person in the world who knows the words to that part of the middle by jimmy eat world. (we played it through several times so joey and allison could practice. too bad we were driving down dark abandoned roads cause we musta looked a sight!) and hoover dam is on the arizona/nevada border. "should we stop?" "kind of." we also discovered that hoover dam is just an alias for mordor. (but you know all about that, thanks to joey.) the only things she left out were the lady puking in the "john's" and the night of the living dead tourist group who surrounded our car SHORTLY before we made a fast get away.
now for the cream: we got directions to allison's other cousin's house, and in trying to follow them, turned on to a sort of abandoned frontage road instead of the beltway. after a bit we realized our mistake, turned around, stopped at the stop sign, waited our turn, got back on the road and turned onto the freeway. seconds later i looked at the speedometer and thought "55, i haven't gone that slow in a long time." and said, "joey, do you know what i think?" and joey said, "what do you think?" and the sirens went off. apparently in nevada 55 is 70 and i had been speeding "for a while" (think back and remember that i had JUST gotten on the freeway, so how could i have been doing ANYTHING for 'a while'?) joey helped me out and the cop finally asked, "have you ever been to prison?" i answered, "no." (wishing i could've said, "only to volunteer.") and he let us go. but he did teach us one important lesson: those little insurance cards they send you every three minutes don't increase in value like baseball cards so we shouldn't collect them. "good point." make a note.
after only one more mistake we found furnace creek road, and pulled up to the debry home. they were friendly and welcoming, gave us drinks and their oldest daughter jeramy's room. we went right to sleep, after we watched the andrew bird videos, looked at the pictures and joey contemplated the "thing", oh excuse me, "the metal loincloth from ikea without a head": "i just need to analyze this. he has a bum, one leg, and a knee." and after we discovered joey's penchant for the word "wigwam" and allison's for jumping on the air mattress while joey lay there nigh unto comatose. in the morning we were discovered by the young ones who told us of their exciting last day of school ahead and informed us that we were sisters.
the drive home was less eventful. less new, less anticipatory. the strip is nasty, and remember when i told you i didn't like nevada? as we got out into the desert i said, "oh. i hate this road. it's so boring." joey thought i said torture, and told me to imagine we were the mars rover exploring uncharted territory. instead i took to the chart and tried to tell when we entered the reservation and when we left it. we broke down (the bruschetta had already started to... ick.) and started on the junk food. the costco cookies came out, and in cedar city allison's mom bought us chips and cheetos.
we made great time home too (we left the gas station in vegas at 10 and were at the byu library by 3:30), i never slept in the car and al got her paper turned in a half hour early. not bad. not too bad at all. and that is the story of our trip to tempe.
al sends her regards and thanks.
summary: things we learned:
1-how to navigate new roads: change lanes erratically explaining, "i'm from another state. let me in. i'm from another state!"
3-i sound like my sister playing a triscut when i complain about flagstaff being on top of a mountain that keeps on being far away.
4-joey doesn't like red velvet heart-shaped pillows with hands. not even when they tell her she can bring her furniture back.
5-joey is a whiz with a phillips (-head screwdriver).
6-allison likes damn/dam puns.
7-how to properly squeegee a windshield and how to translate those skills into cleaning a guest bathroom.
8-when in rome...
9-mordor and mars are really just nevada. all the conspiracy theories were true!
10-"it just takes some time. little girl, you're in the middle of the ride, everythin, everythin'll be just fine, everythin, everythin'll be alright, all right."

and i leave you with the immortal words of taylor joAnn johnson on my lips: "c'est la vie, buenos dias."
president, send joey to tempe foundation
oh! oh! guys! i am very much an amateur, but even i can see that the andrew bird video has been getting hits from some french discussion board and i found some other cool stuff there like this. consider it a reward for having made it to the end. i just love andrew bird.