In addition to the wonderful world of all things liquid, this blog also dedicated to caravans, meaning the various forms of transportation that get us from point A to point B.
Up until recently, this was my Volkswagen Beetle, a yellow 2006 that I affectionately named Caroline after the Neil Diamond song played repeatedly during my college days of day drinking on rooftops and eating a combo of Cinnamon Toast Crunch/Lucky Charms for dinner.
You may be thinking, "only weirdos name their car", and this could be true. But this Volkswagen had personality. I couldn't simply call her "car" like Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Caroline was as much a car as she was an extension of myself. She held a good portion of my life for some of my most formative years. From 16 to 25, she fueled my wanderlust and allowed me to experience teenage freedom, all while keeping me from getting trampled on a HUM-V.
If you don't see where this is going, Caroline has gone to car heaven. Or moved on to the next car life, driving around on the opposite side of the road in the UK, whatever your belief system..you get the picture. She's "gone." Regardless, the entire process has been FAR TOO DIFFICULT FOR ME so much that I am using all caps in unnecessary places and spent twenty minutes on the phone with the State Farm woman saying things like, "But you don't understand, I have a very inappropriate relationship with my car."
Caroline took me to and from my first rehearsals, Cold Stone Creamery, my AP exams, and numerous sour patch kid-sleepovers. In high school my friends and I often played the game of "go to take someone home and sit in the driveway for two hours talking about life", mainly because we were feeling-filled teenagers, and cars were some of the most sacred spaces we had. I never used Caroline for X-rated purposes (I wouldn't subject her that, and also she was really small), but she did house a pretty impressive number of make outs, especially for an awkward high schooler who was learning to tame curly hair.
She led me on my first solo road trips, including a venture out to William and Mary to visit my best friend after he graduated a year before me, and during a time where I felt very heartbroken, grown-up, and alone. Our independence blossomed as one, and together we started zipping across the Atlantic states, trying out new beaches and getting our first taste of windy salt air.
There was a brief hiatus when I went to college, but Caroline soon joined me when I realized I could stow her in my then boyfriend's off-campus parking lot. After that, she became my connection to home, serving as the thread that took me from dining hall "salad pizza" (when you build a salad on top of pizza), and back to champagne on the back porch with my mother. Caroline was, like my life at that point, somewhat stable. On one particular trip of excitement she made her way into New York City, where aforementioned boyfriend heroically put up with "my bad side" as I navigated the streets of Brooklyn. She obliged to my all adventures, be it through the rain to my parent's house for Thanksgiving, or through sketchy small towns on a Myrtle Beach road trip. When I wanted to go camping, Caroline happily obliged, trekking over the rocks like an eight-year-old barefoot and skipping through the grass.
Like a good friend, she put up with all my shit. I'm not a hoarder, but I'm not the kind of person to carry my reusable venti starbucks mug or bag of chips back inside with me every time I park the car. Sometimes I would need jewelry, a sweater, or a Twix bar at a moment's notice, and so Caroline morphed into a second bedroom (though I didn't sleep in her until January 2016). Eventually I'd clean her, but it wasn't her nature to stay empty. Like me, she grew up a collector. She liked to hold onto things, but material and not.
After college, she took me to my first post-college gig, the role as a pirate in a Renaissance Faire. For five months Caroline chilled in Manheim, PA, where she was responsible for mid-rehearsal excursions to fetch Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee and day trips out to my cousin's pool. She allowed me to pursue a hotel room romance, getting me back to 8am meetings on time as I sipped hotel room coffee and drove with the top down in 45 degree weather because I was addicted to "feeling alive."
She chilled with me for a few months while I lived with my parents, working at a local bar and wondering what the hell I was going to do with my life. Perhaps her biggest venture was out west, when I drove from Virginia to Los Angeles in a matter of ten days. Over the course of the trip she saw stormy beach weather in the Outer Banks, the crawfish-dusted coast of Louisiana, more hotel room lovin' in Texas, the Russell Stover Warehouse as we made our way up to Amarillo, the ghost town of Historic Route 66, San Diego sand dunes, and that gut-wrenching drive up the 405.
I talked a lot in my car. Secrets, swears, and the words to thousands of songs are woven deep into the fabric. She witnessed my monologues, my most intimate conversations, the time where I made myself vulnerable and uttered those terrible, familiar words: I still have feelings for you. She housed laughter, the explosion of teenage shrieks and grown-up tears.
For two years she witnessed the West Coast along my side, serving as transportation for two small boys when I took on my first job as a nanny and the official road trip vehicle for weekend trips up to wine country and into the desert. She never ran out of gas while one of our journeys, though it felt like she came pretty close. She's seen more McDonald's ice cream cones than I'd like to count, and thrived in Coachella Valley, Palmdale, and San Diego. My friends say she smelled like crayons, but I never noticed.
When I look back on her last big adventure, I can scarcely believe she made it. One of my best friends and I drove Caroline from LA to Seattle with a side mirror held on by duck tape. Her CD player stopped working, her windshield wiper broke, and her battery was less than reliable. And with all that Pacific Northwest rain, she was starting to kinda pissed. By the time we reached Eureka, she barely even started, as if she were crossing her arms and saying "fuck you, take me home." I think she wanted retire to Santa Barbara.
I could go on, but I know I'll barely scratch the surface. It's really quite simple: I love my car. I love her because she let me do what I've always wanted, which is to wander while still having a place to call my own. She gave me the space to keep the things I found most cozy and a passenger seat so that I didn't have to drive all by myself. In those moments when I wondered if what I was doing, whether that be spontaneous travels or no-reason road trips, she supported me. She didn't ask questions. I hit the pedal and she went.
It's not just the physical being of Caroline that I'm mourning, but the cramped camping trips, the empowering yet lonely drives through the Southwest, and the two-hour trips for a homecooked meal. In our last few hours together, I ran my fingers over her worn, faux-leather steering wheel and noticed how the seat had been perfectly molded into my body. We were a perfect fit.
What I will drink to honor her: A sunny punch (aka white rum, pineapple, lime, and bitters), this Monday at her unofficial memorial service at Sunny Spot, Venice. Yeah, may be kinda WEIRD to throw a party for a car, but if you want to turn your Monday into a Funday give me a shout.