Oh to be young again, to be 20-something, to be artistic, to have dreams, to be freshly in love, to be packing up and heading off into America, on the road, in a tiny car, on a cross-country road trip of a lifetime.
Meet Rachel Younghans and Rob Brulinski. They met as roommates at the Copycat building in Baltimore. The Copycat is an old, old industrial building that’s now an artist’s haven — painters, musicians, photographers, etc.
Brulinski says, “I tried not to date my roommate, but she was just too nice.”
She’s 22, grew up on a farm in Harford County, is a recent grad of UMBC in geographic information science. She makes money as an airbrush artist at bar mitzvahs. He’s 24, from Baltimore, and a photographer who published a book about the Copycat. “I didn’t go to school,” he says. “I’m a natural born artist.”
When you are young and in love, creative and not burdened by words like resume and benefits, you have freedom, and when you have freedom, and when you are in love and creative, you come up with ideas like they did — that is, you come up with Freak Flag America.
Their Web site describes Freak Flag America thusly: “Freak Flag America is a project documenting American individuals with peculiar character: people with fiercely intense minds, with devoted expertise in esoteric interests, people of tomorrow’s folklore!”
“We want to find only in America Americans,” Brulinski says. “People who have taken advantage of what this wacky country has to offer.”
To do so, they will spend the next four months — starting Monday — driving around the country in a Toyota Yaris, visiting diners, truck stops, festivals, bus stations — anywhere they can find only in America Americans to interview, photograph, blog about and hopefully write a book about.
They are bringing a tent. They will sleep in national parks, on farms, in front yards or on couches, should anyone offer them. They are willing to accept a donated RV.
Here is a list they sent me of other things they packed: a CB radio, two Army duffel bags of clothes, six iPhone weather apps, a bottle of Fix-a-Flat, notebooks, a wireless keyboard so they can type on their iPhones, a U.S. flag (from Goodwill), four toothbrushes, 200 rolls of film, and a plush rat from IKEA.
I followed up about the plush rat.
“They sell rats at IKEA for some reason,” Brulinski says. “I bought one to bug Rachel with on the road.”
I asked, ahem, whether they might, you know, get sick of each other in the car.
“That’s a good question,” Brulinski said. “We’ve basically been together every day already. I think we can be in the car. I hope we can be in the car. We’re pretty positive.”
They see their trip as both a job and their duty.
“We really feel a lot of responsibility, and we like our role as storytellers, as historians preserving folk stories,” Younghans says.
She’s an admirer of Aesop’s Fables and Grimms’ Fairy Tales.
“Stories just retell themselves over and over throughout history,” she says. “We are a creating a book that stands as part of that — stories based on true events that still hold the value of moral stories.”
Their first stop: Cumberland.