brooklyn, brooklyn take me in
So, I've spent my entire Thanksgiving weekend watching Woody Allen movies and thinking about NYC; both the city that Allen loves and makes an important character in nearly all his films, and my own experiences in October. I keep waiting for the right words to find me to accurately share what I felt and saw during my trip, but I'm afraid I'll forget all of the special moments (and meals!) while I'm waiting.
Here are the moments I don't want to forget:
- Four hours of turbulence, a flight attendant who thought he was James Brown, and zero sleep is not worth the $40 I saved to take that damn red eye flight. Although, it may be worth the long overdue realization that I'm no longer 17 and I seriously need to start embracing my need for sleep and time (and age) appropriate air travel.
- My sweet Polish taxi driver pressed the tip money I gave him back into my hand and whispered, "For the memories!" as he left me on a dark, rainy corner in Brooklyn.
- I'll never forget walking down Em's block with my head and stomach swimming, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted as I dragged my suitcase behind me. I looked up to see her sleepy face smiling from her apartment doorway. It had been over 7 years since I'd seen her and yet I knew we'd be alright.
- Her apartment is beautiful, smells good, and she made me peppermint tea in a pretty little mug. We're going to be better than alright.
-When someone tells you to go to Hanco's for a Vietnamese sandwich, you do it. Even after you read the ingredient list and have a hard time wrapping your brain around pate and some sort of weird fried Vietnamese ham and pork topped with cilantro and shredded carrots - just get it. Make sure it's with medium spicy sauce and an almond bubble tea, find a crowded table, and proceed to repeatedly tell everyone around you how unbelievably delicious your sandwich is. Oh, and cry a little, because honestly? You just can't help yourself.
- I spent an entire afternoon in the Park Slope Community Bookstore with giant piles of M.F.K. Fisher, Samuel Beckett, and John Updike. Flipping through cookbooks, old childhood favorites, and poetry for hours in a quiet corner of this bookshop felt like a sweet gift, a welcome surprise.
- I found messages of peace tucked in windows, hidden gardens, and on the side of giant skyscrapers.
- Colson's Patisserie has fantastic pear almond tarts and tiny apricot rugelach.
- Prospect Park is beautiful in the rain. I spent a few hours walking around the ponds and riding trails, watching families have picnics and people out walking their dogs.
- When the rain kicked it up a notch, I ducked into a French coffee shop, Couleur Cafe, and spent a few hours eating soup and a croissant, humming along to Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline, and feeling lucky to be in my own life.
- SoHo is a bit overrated and feels like an over-sized, outdoor mall; though I did enjoy browsing Pearl River and bought a few paper balloons for the kids, MUJI for the famous NYC blocks and black pens, and Purl Soho to feel all the gorgeous yarn and take a peek at what projects creative New Yorkers are working on.
- Little Havana is some real good Cuban food, but if I ever make it back I'll probably just order 3 sides of their black beans and die a happy woman.
- Washington Square Park was full of people, street performers, and old men trying to hustle us to play chess.
- While we were walking out of the park it started to pour. Em and I both tried to crouch under my tiny, cheap umbrella as we ran to the closest pastry shop. My jeans were soaked all the way to my knees. We picked out some tiramisu, a fruit tart, a soy latte, and the world's richest hot chocolate, and hid in the back for the better part of the afternoon. We talked about everything and laughed about how easy it was to be together.
- One night we stayed up until 2 am (!?!) gossiping like teenagers, rehashing our lives since high school and the choices we've made that led us to the lives we're currently living, and wondering what the future holds for us next. Twenty-five feels like a big deal for us, we both agreed, but for different reasons. Did I mention that all we had for dinner was really, really good cheese?
- Sometimes it's the weekend and none of the trains are going to Williamsburg, so you have to give up your dreams of the Brooklyn Flea Market. But Katz's is an excellent alternative, especially if you get the pastrami Rueben with fresh pickles and a root beer.
- The only downside to eating 1/4 lb. of pastrami was that when we made it to Chelsea Market I didn't have enough room for a lobster roll from The Lobster Place. I'm still a little sad about it.
- Murray's Bagels is a great place to grab a window seat and watch the Chelsea crowd parade by.
- A late-night mani-pedi was just the thing for my tired, pregnant, blistered feet. It was made forever memorable by the complimentary and hilarious horoscope readings done by the nail tech's best friend. Things got real personal up in there.
- Taking the train to Grand Central Station and having Sunday brunch at Pershing Square is a very fancy thing to do.
- New York Public Library is a beautiful building, and probably my favorite part of Sunday. I was able to see Jack Kerouac's journals and handwriting, Ezra Pound's notes on an original T.S. Eliot poem, and Virginia Woolf's typewriter.
- Eating treats from Magnolia Bakery outside Rockefeller Center is surreal. I kept hoping I'd catch a glimpse of Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art made me want to read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler again. Please tell me you read and loved that book as a child too? I ended up getting separated from Emily and Tyler for most of the afternoon, but enjoyed the modern photography exhibits, seeing Georgia O'Keeffe's work in person, and checking out the Greek statuary. I ended up on the roof, resting my feet and enjoying the view of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline until closing time.
- Emily and I wandered around Central Park until dark. We talked about the foresight it takes to preserve and create something so beautiful and necessary, and hoped that our generation would have done the same. We bumped into a Le Pain Quotidien and shared a pain au chocolat. I thought of Bri. All happy memories of farmers markets and pastries, sunshine and new beginnings.
-We ended our evening with a late dinner at Fonda. I almost died over the incredibly spicy and delicious guacamole and devoured my Pork Adobo. Remember when I was a vegetarian? Yeah, me neither. Our dinner was long and full of good conversation - we both couldn't believe everything that had happened in the past 4 days was all because we both have blogs. We decided that this world is a crazy place full of good, solid people, and we just need to keep holding on and reaching out to the people we care about most.
- I spent the last few hours of my trip in Brooklyn. We took the train to Williamsburg and did a little shopping at Catbird and Brook Farm General Store, where I bought a stuffed goose for the new babe. We stopped in a used bookshop on our way back to the subway, and couldn't for the life of us figure out their weird assortment of books. I did manage find a copy of Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping to take on the flight home, and it felt like a good omen.
- My flight was quiet and uneventful (totally worth the cheap ticket price, I'd like to add), and I had plenty of time for thinking and writing. What I thought about most was the sad email I wrote to Emily in August, telling her about my unexpected pregnancy, the rough months I'd struggled trying to find where I was supposed to fit in my own life, my role as wife and mother, and finding myself doubting everything that had once defined me. Her response was simple and kind, Come to New York. We'll drink bubble tea and look at brownstones. We'll eat really great food and look at beautiful things and have picnics in the park. Come to New York when you are ready. I can't tell you how much that sweet email meant to me, how many times I read her words, or how much I needed someone to offer a way for me to step out of the mess I found myself in. I responded immediately, "How's the 13th?" and bought my tickets the next day.
In the month since I've been home, I've been busy with Halloween costumes, turkey and pie baking, and holiday planning. It seems that I've just jumped head first back into my very busy, very domestic life. But in the quiet moments that I have had to think back and remember my trip to NYC, I always think of it as a deep breath, a small pause, a step back from my everyday life.
Sometimes you just have to get out of town. Sometimes all you have to do is look at pretty things and eat good food and have someone else take care of you for a while. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath, put your life on hold, remember who you are and what really, truly defines you, and let go of all the rest.