Introducing Sookie the Barbie Kayak

I don’t know where to start with this one.

Do I start with my first kayak, which I impulsively bought on the side of the road and shoved into my Prius C, then paddled the Potomac, the Shenandoah, Lake Anna, the Chesapeake Bay, Chincoteague Bay; knitted in, read books in, towed my niece behind; loved enough to always call her Lisa after the young woman who sold her to me?

Or do I start with the kayak that Tracy later gave me as a present, that’s pretty much the most sophisticated kayak that amazingly fits me and he worked his butt off to find—but turned out to be several levels too difficult for my on-the-road, not-taking-paddling-lessons-as-planned self?

Or should the story start later, with this very cool friend Mary, who turns out to have the exact kayak I’d been recommended (one of three kayaks in existence that might fit me and be at my skill level) and was willing to trade for my beloved Lisa?

I’ll just start.

I wrote about the drama here of deciding to sell my fancy kayak when I was in the Keys, the very place I enjoyed it the most. And then I sold that kayak in Georgia, very quickly after a long, drawn-out attempt on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace. And then I didn’t have one.

This is where the good friend comes in. I first met Mary when she pulled up to my apartment years ago in that red SUV you see above, but she had her pink kayak on the top; she was moving it from New Jersey to Virginia. (My first kayak, Lisa, is the blue one on top of her car above. See what we did?). She called her kayak, The Salmon.

”Man, that kayak is pink,” I thought when I first saw it.

I have a problem with pink, not only because it contributes to the illusion of gender as binary and not only because it infantilizes breast cancer patients, but because I am a small woman and have had to wear little-girl-sized clothes all my life, which come only in one color. You guessed it. Try dominating a meeting wearing pink eyeglasses.

Mary, however, is above such petty concerns. She hadn’t taken The Salmon out on the water in quite a while and thought she (The Salmon) might enjoy life on the road with me. At the same time, she was eyeing my beloved Lisa as a temporary substitute.

So on our final day of the Friends & Family tour, we met Mary at a small lake near her place and got into each other’s kayaks and took them for a spin.

My, your kayak is easy to handle!

said Mary.

My, your kayak is nice and stable!

said Shelly.

And suddenly Goldilocks was sleeping peacefully with a belly full of porridge that was just the right temperature.

Here we are sealing the deal at a local brewery after. Mary promises to keep Lisa’s name and send me pictures, and I promise to only slightly bastardize The Salmon’s name and send her pictures.

The name game started with Leftover Salmon, a band we both like who happens to be playing at the brewery we were at today. It’s a funny rename, yes? But it doesn’t roll off the tongue.

From Salmon came the idea of “Sushi,” then, naturally, “Sake,” which is a Japanese word for “salmon.” But then, in the course of one afternoon in the full-on sunshine, with intermittent cicada attacks and two beers and fried Brussels sprouts from the food truck, I kept getting the words ”Sushi” and ”Sake” mixed up in my mouth, and they became “Sookie,” the hero of the very clever and entertaining book and TV series, True Blood.

This is how I now have Tracy driving the Barbie Camping and Kayak Adventure Mobile.

Sookie was all about pink, while she was outwitting the vampire overlords, carefully avoiding the adoration of her werewolf boss, learning she was some kind of very powerful mind-reading fairy, and waiting tables full time at Merlotte’s bar and grill. That’s the kind of pink I can embrace.

Thank you, Mary, for my new beloved Sookie! I promise to send you photos as we explore the waterways of the U.S. together. And I know you’ll show Lisa a real good time.