Why is it called the big apple? Because it's full of worms.
So here's how it happened: rather than return to my fair alma mater, up in the boonies of central New York, and finally confront not that I've left there but that I'm never coming back, I went a few hours easterly and spent my Alumni Weekend having an alternate, more intimate reunion in a much larger, much more populous place. And if any of you class of >09 are reading this, I'm sorry I didn't see you, but I had to do what I had to do.
Had I had a car, the choice would've been easy, because all I wanted to do with my fall break was drive around the hills and look at the farms and foliage and go eat Minar and stand in Lake Oneida again, but I was doomed to be a pedestrian, so I landed in Newark, bought a MetroCard, couched myself at some friends' place in Brooklyn, and it was just like Sheep in the Big City...Comes Alive!!!
And maybe there is too much city in New York City, or maybe I am too much of a sheep, but that place and I mix about as well as mud and bread - which is odd to me, considering I spent four glad months in Vienna, but those were months with many train rides into the hills, and many walks through the Wienerwald, and pretty much daily siestas in parks. So it isn't just urban-ness I don't like - it's there, and maybe it's not just there, but Williamsburg, where hipsters are as ever-present as roaches, and I mean real, utterly absurd hipsters wearing grandma windbreakers or glasses the size of windowpanes or shaved initials in a girl's hair. So I learned what I already knew, which was a theme of the whole episode: you can have New York. I don't really want it. Give me Seattle, give me San Francisco, give me D.C. or Chicago, but you can keep the Big Apple, blasphemous though that may seem. I will only make myself a permanent resident there if I have a trillion dollars, which seems to be about the amount you need to live a pretty normal life.
And naysayers, say what ye will about the South, but you gotta admit, the price is pretty nice. Plus we have an ocean. Did I mention the ocean? It is free to look at the ocean. It is also free to get in the ocean. And I love getting in things. Especially when it's free.
But what did you do in New York? What were the highlights? The lowlights? The midlights? Are we talking about hair or illumination?
The good things were these: I went out to Long Island for a night to stay with Winston and his band of a band, Ball of Flame Shoot Fire, who are incidentally very great and you should listen to them and buy their albums on iTunes, and it was a really nice reprieve from the chatter and roar of walking around Manhattan - I've never been so grateful to see green things, or be in a house with a yard and a driveway and a creepily pink basement. Also, they make me laugh, which is a skill, considering I have the sense of humor of about a three-year-old. Which none of them seem to mind. And we ate food and watched TV and sat around their back deck and tried to pet the stray cat that had wandered up - these being three of my favorite activities (eating, TV-watching, and stray-cat-befriending).
I also went out with my friend Katie, of the Western Road Trip fame, for a night of pierogies and lattes and IPAs, which was equally great. It was pretty refreshing to hear an opinion of post-AlHam life that wasn't at all related to ironic theme parties or over-involvement in campus organizations - for instance, did you know majoring in Creative Writing leads to not only none, but negative job opportunities? And how, at my school, no one told me that? Or that, you know, things cost money? And you will have to make your way regardless? We also discussed the following: dogs, haircuts, and blues dancing, which is apparently just dirty dancing to very sad music, which sounds right up my alley. Went to a snazzy Village banjo bar afterwards, where there were young dudes playing old-timey jazz that put me in mind of silent movies, and couples were swing dancing, and the bartender gave me a dirty look but I didn't care.
I also took a free boat ride around the Statue of Liberty. I always love being on a boat. Especially for free.
And here's the transition: My first few days, it was weirdly enjoyable to be acknowledged as a lady on the street, which is a weird and stilted way to say that some guy in Times Square who was asking for donations looked and me and said, "How 'bout you, beautiful? Can you spare some change for the homeless?" And I didn't have a cent on me, as usual, but I did smile, and apologize with a shrug, and went into the giant Toys-R-Us to look at the ferris wheel inside the store (I would've ridden it, but it was not free). Because he called me beautiful, which he probably didn't mean, but it was still nice to hear. Or a guy in a Starbucks saw my hokey Lonely Planet guide and asked where I was visiting from - perfectly harmless, probably just friendly, but look, it's nice to get flirted with. Or so I thought.
Cut to Saturday night. Here is what I consumed: dinner. (1) cherry 4-Loko. (1) Beam Cream, being Jim Beam mixed with cream soda. (1) Surfers on Acid shot, which I can't remember the ingredients of, but it certainly tasted better than my (at least 4) shots of Evan Williams. Plus around (5) beers. Then (1) communal Joose. Followed by (1) more beer, at least. You do the tallying.
Needless to say, you put all that shit in you, you start feeling pretty good. And not happy good. More like, "Oh we're at a bar in Williamsburg I should probably dance with this man" good. Who were these men? How was I dancing? I don't know. It was humiliating, and things only got worse.
The friends I was visiting were all very tall, as they have always been, so they take longer steps, so I tend to lag behind, so by the time I got to the door of the next bar, which seemed an insurmountable pilgrimage from the last one, especially when you keep stumbling into buildings, my friends were already well inside, toasting, cheersing, making equally ridiculous fools of themselves as I did. Here's another fact: it's very hard to use your hands when you're that drunk. So when the bouncer saw me battling the slits of my wallet to liberate my North Carolina driver's license as though it was a Rubik's Cube, he told me I couldn't come in. I said I just wanted to see my friends, I didn't want anymore to drink. He said he was sorry. So I hailed a cab, and somehow remembered the cross-streets of my friends' apartment, and rode through Brooklyn, embarrassed, but really too disoriented to think anything, except for when we stopped, and I tried to swipe my bank card because I didn't lose anything but all my cash and a good amount of my pride, but it was just as hard as getting my ID out, so the cab driver had to get in the back and do it for me, which I guess made him think it was okay to ask for a kiss, and tell me I was so beautiful, and I was so pale, just one kiss.
And I said no and got the hell out and walked away and called Rob and cried and cried and cried. It was 3:30 a.m.
My friends were fairly appalled when I told them what happened the next morning, but I just woke up grateful that I still had everything, that I'd made it home, and that something worse hadn't happened.
The funny part is, this mirrors entirely my 21st birthday in Berlin, when my friends and I went on a pub crawl and I ended up sick in a toilet stall, abandoned again. That time, someone had to put me into a cab for me, but when I got back, I was ecstatic - that was awesome holy shit what the fuck best birthday ever. There was nothing sexual at all about that night, and though it was terrifying at the time, it's pretty funny to talk about now. That night in Brooklyn had nothing funny at all about it.
Except for this: I spent the rest of my time there singing "One night in Brooklyn!" to myself, to the tune of "One Night in Bangkok." Which you can enjoy here. (It takes about a minute and a half to get going, so be patient.)
And there were other small good things - the Guggenheim (how much fun would it be to rollerblade through there?!) and the little kids interpreting the Kandinsky exhibit with crayons on the floor, the quiet, shady walk I took through brownstone Brooklyn en route to Nick's play, spending way too much money at Strand, lunch in the Hearst building where I saw Nina Garcia from Project Runway (we made magical eye contact), and I swear I saw Martin Short on the street. My friends were all welcoming, and for the most part, we had a pretty grand time.
But mainly I was ready to go when it came time to - so much so that I did the only selfish thing I'd done all week and bumped my flight to an earlier one rather than sit, stewing, in Newark.
And seeing Rob again was absolutely tremendous, and I was very nearly on the point of crying because I was so happy, and seeing our street again, our neighborhood - I had this sudden possession and love of everything.
My trip to New York was a forest fire, as Rob put it. Meant to obliterate everything and make it all new again - charred, but sprouting.
And as if it wasn't enough to come home to the fellow I'm in love with and sleep in our big comfy bed and read all my mail, Rob flips on the living room light and there is a bike. With a bow on it. For me. What kind of boyfriend buys his gal a bike?! Mine, apparently. And it was amazing, and I've been riding around the neighborhood every day since, and it makes me so unspeakably happy even though my knees feel like hell afterwards.
Whew. There's that, ladies and babies. I'm real glad to be here, alive and well and believe or not, absolutely content.