I’m writing this on night four of the Rookie Road Trip. So far we’re on “Boyfriend” play #18, fart #9 (SBDs not included), and pee-from-laughing-too-hard #1. Now that I’ve made us seem like the most unattractive bunch of people ever, listen to these details of our lives!
The tour started on Monday at Littlefield in Brooklyn, NY. The airplanes carrying me and the Canadians (Petra, her boyfriend, and her sister) were delayed, so we were an hour late to the venue, coming straight from the airport and smelling like what I can only describe as sunshine bouquets of Meryl Streep ambrosia roses. Before I got there, Hazel, Emma, and Jenny read aloud pieces they’d written on this here ole Rooks, and Supercute! played the theme song they wrote and recorded for us way back in our first month. Once I got there I did a DIY onstage of my bitchface tutorial, throwing in an improvised “YOLO” to show that I am in touch with da kidz.
After the show, our awesome readers milled about, and I got to meet most of them. I was so psyched to learn that many of the girls I was talking to in groups had come alone and only just met each other and became friends. WOOHOO, FRIENDS.
After a staff get-together at Laia’s, we loaded the van and left in the morning for Philadelphia, stopping along the way to contemplate buying pink shirts with cosmopolitan glasses on them that said “WHO LET THE GIRLS OUT?” at a rest stop in New Jersey. I honestly don’t remember what we discussed on that first drive of our three-week-long trip, because it already feels like it’s been a month, in the best way. I hung my “Wild Heart” banner in the window and we predicted then that by the end of the trip, our van (named Greased Lightnin’ by Hazel) would be covered by glitter and crumbs.
In Philly we went to Long in the Tooth, per suggestions from readers. It turned out to be one of the best stores I’ve ever been to. They had a rad collection of records new and used, a rack of locally made zines and music, and an insanely MAGICAL bin of cheap old magazines and books that I’m used to crying over for being $40 apiece on eBay. The guy at the register asked us if some kind of event was happening and said that he’d never seen this many women in the store at the same time. The woman working there said she hadn’t seen this many women in the store ever.
Being around music helped break the ice and made it easier to bond over the same interests, and I found myself in a conversation about religion with two readers, Jamie and Julia, that suddenly got supes deep. After a little while, we all headed over to the park in Rittenhouse Square, sat in a giant camp circle, introduced ourselves, talked about fashion and feminism and Heathers vs. Party Girl (verdict: Heathers), and crafted banners. I had my portable record player, so we put on the Violent Femmes record that Anna (Petra’s sister) had just bought and let the Angela Chase song of freedom ring.
We then took a group photo that ended up looking like a cult led by Petra with all of us as her wives:
After getting some Shake Shack, we hopped back into Greased Lightnin’ and headed to Pittsburgh to sleep. It was super late and the diners were few, but we were starving. We tried Outback Steakhouse, but a woman working there closed the doors just as we walked up, causing me to plead, with watering eyes, “WHY DOES EVERYONE HATE US?!” She gave me a look of sympathy and said, “I don’t know?” There were definitely some VIPs still hanging around who we saw through the window, so eff you, Outback! Excuse me while I write on your Facebook wall like a grandparent.
We then tried Kings, who generously stayed open a little late to fill our stomachs. On the way to the bathroom I noticed a wall of Memorial Day cards. Someone had signed theirs “Knarf.” Knarf has become the mascot of our trip. Knarf is just the man. No question.
After a night of Gchatting friendly messages like “’sup bitch ;P” at Hazel from the bed right next to hers in our hotel room and staring at her till she noticed (she never did and I gave up), we took Greased Lightnin’ to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, OH. This was a smaller group, and we had a nice little room to ourselves in the back, where we discussed pressing issues such as Jeni’s delicious weird flavors, our temperamental teachers, and One Direction.
The youngest girl there, Isabella, was 13, and her dad dropped her off and then waited, standing outside across the street for two hours until it was over. When he picked her up, Anaheed whispered to him, “Isabella is awesome,” and he whispered, “Isn’t she?” and then my heart died and was reincarnated as one the size of a quadruple cheeseburger that got ketchup squirted on it in a smiley face.
The group picture this time ended up looking like an old class photo:
We wanted to go to the Salvation Army afterwards but our app brought us to the Salvation Army offices, and we all felt dumb for being so dependent on technology. We instead used the time to take photos of my roller skates, which I don’t know how to use—Anaheed and Anna had to help me along like a giant baby, or the physically manifested female version of the concept behind Big. Later we each got our own 13-inch pizzas at Harvest Pizzeria due to starvation and disregard for “health,” and we arm-wrestled.
At some point a giant shadow of Jesus was cast by a cardboard cutout on the triangular church across the street, and it was sorta super eerie. Back at the hotel, I continued to cyberbully Hazel.
This morning we all wore matching red-and-white gingham like a picnic-blanket dweeb cult, and stopped at Starbucks, where a cashier I assume is named Knarf remarked, “This is some District 9-level shit.” Yes, Knarf. Yes it is.
The drive in Ohio was beautiful, with lots of woods and farms and creeks, accompanied by the Drifters and Buddy Holly. While on the highway we saw a sign for the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation and couldn’t help taking a quick detour to see what this SHRINE business was. There were a handful of beautiful churches all facing one another, and every house looked like the one from Carrie, and there was a FOUR-PERSON WATER FOUNTAIN.
Then we gals got together in our matching outfits with my record player and vinyl Carrie soundtrack while Petra took good, creepy photos, which will be up in August.
When we got to Ann Arbor we met everyone at Pinball Pete’s arcade. We broke the ice with a name game, then discussed with some readers the trials and tribulations of Rayanne Graff. Then we played games for a while, before walking several blocks to Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger to eat. It was 100 dumb degrees outside, and worse inside, and I’m sorry to our Ann Arbor visitors that we didn’t think about weather conditions or going to a place with air conditioning!
The burgers were delicious nonetheless, and we took a group photo that kind of looks like driveway photos from prom.
We road trippers and a few of Hazel’s friends then headed to a river to swim and try to not think about the leeches scene from Stand By Me. We listened to the American Graffiti soundtrack on the record player and daydreamed of Knarf.
In search of frozen yogurt, we stopped by a huge mall, but all the stores were closed, so instead we went on rides made for five-year-olds.
Back at our hotel, I made Anaheed accompany me down the hall to demand that the Canadians (Petra & her slaves) give me the food I’d bought earlier in the day, which somehow ended up in their room. We hissed and clawed at their door until Petra and Anna opened it to fling a blanket out at me. A few seconds later, they did the same with an ironing board. Then, handfuls of tampons. I think this is exactly the kind of thing Kerouac always envisioned.
I didn’t want to write this for every meet-up, because I don’t want it to get so repetitive that it sounds insincere, but seriously, thank you times a million to everyone who was able to come out, and for giving away such precious memories for our shrine. We have the best time working on Rookie, but so much of the credit for what makes it good goes to our readers, for your comments, ideas, and submissions. To get to meet and talk with the people whose opinions shape the site was really just thrilling. We were honored to hear that Rookie has meant something to people, too, and I might’ve teared up a few times? Even with the incredible community we have online, doing anything on the internet can feel like shouting into a black hole, and knowing that our site found its way to someone’s eyeballs, and meeting a bunch of strangers to talk about it with, is immensely reassuring. You’ll have to put up with a heartfelt paragraph like this from me every week, because there’s too much love I’m feelin’ right now, and it needs to be acknowledged after all these people came and acted like their best selves.
That’s another thing: no one at these get-togethers has tried to act cool or over it, people are enthusiastic and unashamedly nerdy and I love that. Remember to check the Road Trip Itinerary to see where and when to meet us next! ♦