Monday, May 20, 2013


Exactly 8 weeks after I returned from my NorCal spring break trip, I'm finally posting about it. School and life kind of swallowed everything there for awhile, but I knew summer would give me the space I need.

This trip is called Nooniis Do NorCal. Because my name is Noonii and my sister/best friend's name is Noonii and we were in NorCal, so that's pretty obvious. I did also get to spend a couple days in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley before seeing Noonii and setting off on our adventure. Things went like this:
Ok that doesn't explain much other than the fact that I drove all over the beautiful state of California and realized just how happy I am to call that state home, at least for the next 4 years. 

I drove up to Oakland to see my brother and he and his friends and I went to a local dive bar for some Irish car bombs, because it was St. Patrick's Day. 
We spent the rest of the night at my hotel bar in the Berkeley Marina drinking whiskey and skateboarding at the edge of the bay. I busted my hand and elbow up pretty badly, thinking I could trick like I used to when I was 13. The physical pain was something I'd needed so badly. I know how that sounds. I think that sometimes when you're an adult, you forget about the physical world because you don't interact with it the way you did as a kid, and it was just nice to be reminded that something other than love and heartbreak and other people far far away actually exists for me to break myself on. And that thing is asphalt. And it's fantastic and it stuck inside my palms for weeks after I ate shit on the street that night. 

The couple days I was in the bay area after that, I visited San Francisco. 
I photographed graffiti and walked around the neighborhood R and I had visited several months before. 
I met a friend at an all bacon restaurant called Bacon Bacon, and I ate the hell out of some bacon. They had bacon flights with eight different strips of bacon. I had a bacon chocolate chip cookie for dessert. I didn't eat bacon for three weeks after that. 
I found a giant hill in the middle of the city, and as with all giant hills I encounter, I climbed that mother fucker. It kept not ended, so I kept not stoping. Because who only climbs an epic hill half way? I ended up at the top and looked out onto all of San Francisco. I could see the Golden Gate bridge. I walked around in circles panting, looking, breathing, freezing, watching the only other person up there teach himself how to juggle with pinecones. It was incredibly peaceful. 

I spent my time in Berkeley doing yoga, relaxing in my hotel's hot tub, drinking near campus with Tiny Brother, and reading A Visit From the Goon Squad out in my hotel's courtyard.

After a final drinking session at the Hotel Durant with my brother, I drove north to Davis to see my sister in her Farmhouse. Rode bikes around Davis doing Davis things like doing to the farmer's market, running into Story Club, and drinking boba tea from a pho restaurant. Then we spent an entire night planning our three day adventure to the coast. We looked up interesting things to do in NorCal [ok fine, we looked up hipster things to do in NorCal, but we hardly found anything] and we decided to go to the following places:

Day 1: Davis to Harbin Hot Springs to Fort Bragg--

After grabbing snacks and road food at the Davis Co-Op, we drove the back country highway to Harbin Hot Springs. On the way we found many farms, even more vineyards, and this hubcap ranch, which we both clearly freaked out about and took a thousand photos of.
That's a tiny Noonii at the end of that hubcap road.
Noonii tells me this is tree grafting. And it is terrifying.
I don't have any photos of Harbin because it's a clothing optional hot springs so they don't allow photography. But the place was everything I hoped it'd be. There were 5 or 6 different pools, all of varying temperatures and with different rules. There was a normal temperature pool, two medium heat pools that allowed talking, one medium heat pool that did not allow talking, one hotter than fuck pool that you wouldn't even want to talk in if you were allowed because walking through the water was like walking through fire. Every step I took ignited my entire body, from the outside in, then from the inside out. I'd never felt that particular feeling in my life. The final pool was very cold river water that ran into this small white square of a space. We went back and forth between the hottest pool and the coldest pool a few times, and I felt things I didn't think I was capable of feeling. I felt like I'd transcended into some other place where nothing in the entire world mattered. I know how cliché that all sounds, but that's simply how I felt. Reborn. We spent part of our time at Harbin lying on the deck in the March sun, and the remainder of our time involved eating produce in wooden chairs in the middle of a giant garden surrounded by sunshine and flowers and silence. Then we took off for Fort Bragg. I'd arranged for us to stay at a place I found on airbnb. The house was owned by a man named Ted, and we stayed in the Japanese meditation room in the downstairs of what was basically a mansion that he designed himself and that rested just a few hundred feet off the Pacific shore. The waves and wind were so loud, we couldn't even hear each other, and we rested in complete silence in Ted's hot tub at midnight, listening to the sea, bellies full of sushi and sake that we got at the silliest little sushi restaurant in town.
The best part about staying with Ted was the conversation we had while drinking tea he made us after we returned from dinner. I had just gotten out of a relationship and my heart and head were a total mess, and I'd made the decision earlier that day to stop using facebook for awhile. Which, if you know me at all, you know was practically the hardest thing I've ever done. I spewed all this to Ted. He slowly opened up to Noonii and me over the course of the evening, then started asking conversational questions, then spent the rest of the night laughing at how ridiculous and crazy I am. But in a sweet, supportive way. He asked, does it hurt to be in your brain? And I answered in complete earnest, every second. After I'd finally finished explaining how facebook had rewired my synapses, Ted noticed I was out of breath from the long winded explanation, and he calmly said, exhale, Ali. And I did. And it was the most significant exhale of my life. Because I noticed it. Because I noticed what a difference it made. And because it happened at the prompting of a kind stranger, who I may never see again, whose beautiful house provided my sister and me shelter for a night while I was running away from the sudden disappearance of my future and everything I thought I knew.

Day 2: Fort Bragg & Glass Beach to Petaluma & Lagunitas to Sebastopol--

We spent the next day exploring Fort Bragg, which included a delicious breakfast in town at a Wizard of Oz themed restaurant, shopping at small town shops, buying socks and scarves, pretending we could afford art we'd never buy, talking with shop owners about events we'd never make it to, returning to Ted's to write him a note of thanks, a visit to the tattoo museum that we really only went to because we saw on the internet that they had real tattooed human skin stripped from a human body, but they didn't, and finally, a visit to glass beach, which is a beach filled with small bits of sea glass because the town used to dump their garbage in the ocean without realizing that garbage would pound itself back on shore for the next 100 years, transforming the shore, the rocks, the water itself. Consequences. Sometimes it's so hard to see the big picture that you actually build an entire beach of glass, leaving beauty and the remnants of destruction in your wake. 
We took turn writing sentences and I wrote "this beach
has a giant beautiful ghost on it" under the photo
Ted had pasted onto the page.
I lay on that glass and yelled to Noonii, this is the best day of my life! Because a beach like that was literally a dream come true. We were warned not to take any glass from the beach, but we are collectors, and of course we took a little something, as a reminder, to remember how to not be careless. 
Post Glass Beach, we drove down the 1, through the redwoods to Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma. 
We consumed a flight of 16 beers with the help of some friends we made there. The seating was mostly outdoors. There was a live band. We had a wonderful conversation. The kind you can only have with someone who has known you for 10 years and who has seen you through every terrible thing that's ever happened to you. We each awkwardly half-yelled "help!" when the other went to the restroom, hoping our baby bird like cries would attract people to our table who would help us consume our 16 beers. I don't even like beer. The things we do for the people we love...
Drove from Petaluma to nearby Sebastopol at 10pm after Lagunitas kicked us out. Stayed in a hotel with this carpet.

Day 3: Sebastopol to Pt. Reyes to Davis--

Slept like babies. Woke up at check out time and had an even more amazing breakfast than the breakfast in Fort Bragg at a local place in town. Then we wandered Sebastopol and had all sorts of conversations with all sorts of people. In particular, we spent a lot of time in a shop that sells rocks talking to an older gentleman who was hunched over and had a monocle around his neck so that he could investigate the rocks he was selling to... we no one except for us. We didn't actually buy any rocks. We just each put 50 cents into a machine that spit out little plastic containers that had tiny rocks in them. He told us what each rock was and what it meant. Fortune telling through geology. We loved him.
We took off north back up the 1 a litte ways to find a beach my parents had visited a few months previous when we came to NorCal for Thanksgiving. I don't think we found the exact beach, but we found a place that had "goat" in the name, so I knew we were where we should be. We spent the whole afternoon walking the shore, investigating the brightly colored rocks, collecting them, laying on a towel in the not-quite-spring sun. I'm going to caption the following photos the way I captioned them when I posted them on instagram at the time, because I was in a very particular frame of mind that day that'd be hard to capture otherwise this long after the trip.
we found some tree bones 
wooden sea webs. mazes. mazes to trap salted wind.
seaside vandals
blind beach
bone fort for dead things made of wood
you're not thinking this through
of course I'm thinking this through. I've driven so far I've driven 100,000
 miles since I  was 16 I've driven past your house every day in
Texas in Oregon in states you haven't loved yet.
In this place with this hole in a rock out at sea, I am looking for the goat
because I am a goat now. I always have been.
There have never been any goats here. Only whales and their wooden
relatives.
Don't be ridiculous. There is no difference between the desert & the sea.
But of course I only came here looking for you.
We left. Drove to Pt. Reyes, our pockets heavy with colored stones from the sea. We listened to "California One" as we headed south down.. well.. CA 1. We got lost more than twice. Ended up in Petaluma again before passing through Pt. Reyes to find our intended destination, The Marshall Store, closed. We obsessed about how gorgeous California is. How happy we are that it's our shared home. How we still have so much to explore. How everything about it feels right. How we ended up there together for a reason.
We had to seek oysters elsewhere. Found a restaurant in Pt. Reyes Station. Made friends with locals and the bar tender. At oysters. I ate a salad so fresh, a lady bub crawled out of it while I was only half way through. We decided it meant good luck. We were wrong but couldn't have known that then.
Our drive back to Davis was a late night one. Quiet. I sang along to the saddest songs I could have possibly played while Noonii slept or didn't sleep in the passenger seat. I left Davis the next morning after a pancake breakfast. My trip home included a lot of This American Life, a lot of farm land, a lot of tears and confusion, a lot of intense resolve.
The light and the clouds choked the moon as I drove into Los Angeles County.
I spent the next week wearing the sweatshirt I bought in San Francisco. I always need that kind of comfort when Noonii and I part ways.

2 comments:

iwantmythunder said...

I love the black and white editing you did with the beach photos noonii! Also I'm so glad your green sunny pasture photos actually came out because mine got all washed out by the sun and I was really upset. I'm going to make that shit my cover photo background.

Ali Rachel Pearl said...

Thanks, Noonles! Those black and white ones are actually the hipstamatic app. I think my point and shoot does a better job with sun than my iPhone.