You'll hear more about BlogHer tomorrow because, in case you hadn't noticed, I've yet to tell you about the food! Today, however, I wanted to tell you about the other parts of my trip, the ones that didn't center around the conference. I extended my stay through late Monday evening to soak up as much of the city as possible and to see some of my friends. As I've mentioned before, this was my first trip back to my former home since we've moved. I knew it would be emotional. I was prepared to finally get some closure, to say goodbye to New York. I hoped that, somehow, I'd fit in well enough to fake it as a local for the five days I was in town.
Thank God for surprises.
I expected to burst into tears when I saw the skyline from the air. Instead, I was engrossed in conversation with another Alabama blogger and was only able to catch a quick glimpse. Once we were on the ground, I went into autopilot mode, grabbing my bag, catching a cab, going to Kitty's apartment to change, then hopping on the subway and riding to Kitty's midtown office to meet her for lunch. I was shocked that it all still seemed so normal, like I'd just done it yesterday. Things have certainly changed since I moved (Helloooo, Times Square is now for pedestrians!), but I was immediately in the zone of city life.
When I wasn't at the Hilton for BlogHer, Kitty and I spent time on her couch catching me up on episodes of True Blood. We were ecstatic to be able to watch Design Star together on Sunday instead of having to discuss it over the phone or via email. We had dinner on Friday at my favorite diner, the Applejack Diner, where the staff still remembered me as "the girl who came in every Tuesday for a year to eat cheese fries." (I know you covet my title.)
On Sunday, we met a group of former Cornellians for brunch down on St. Mark's. Memories and laughs were shared by the dozen, stories and hugs were exchanged, knowing smiles were given as we all shook our heads at how much more grown up we are since last time we were all together.
After brunch, Kitty and I headed up to the Lincoln Center area, my old stomping grounds. I worked at Lincoln Center 2 of the 4 years I was in the city and the area around the theatre has always been one of my favorite parts of NYC. We took the train up to 72nd Street so that we could walk downtown. As we walked, I looked into the shops and restaurant windows and felt complete comfort wash over me. I felt completely myself, like my body was more awake than it had been in a long while. I told Kitty, "This is good. I feel like I'm getting closure." She laughed at me and said, "Tell me what you feel." I told her, "I feel like I'm home." She said, "You are. Whether you live here or not, whenever you're here, you'll be home. It doesn't matter how long you stay away, this place will always welcome you back. You don't need no stinkin' closure!"
Kitty is very wise.
We passed the restaurant where I spent the majority of my dinner breaks, the Starbuck's that always screwed up my lattes and my favorite pizza joint, Francesco's.
After strolling by Lincoln Center, we headed to Columbus Circle to browse around Borders for no other reason than that's what we have always done when we've found ourselves in that part of town.
On Monday, I woke up early and headed to my old neighborhood.
Good ol' 30th Avenue. I was shocked to find our block exactly as I'd left it. Seriously, I think the only thing that's changed is that we no longer live there. The people in the bakery were the same ones who served us croissants every Saturday morning (and yes, I did have one), the same old men sipped espresso on the corner benches, and our favorite car service was still there:
I ducked into our favorite Italian deli, where they asked, "where you been?" Um, we moved, yo. I came out with a quart and a half of their Balsamic Ravioli Salad, packed in dry ice and ready for the trip back to Alabama. Needless to say, my husband was very happy when I got home. I was able to get a photo of the door to our apartment building for Dean's baby book and to walk past all my old haunts on the way back to the subway. Even though I walked that path hundreds of times before Dean was ever even a blip on the radar, my most prominent memory of that path to the train was the day I walked it in labor, unknowingly taking my last train ride before meeting my son.
Speaking of meeting people's sons, after a lovely lunch at Serendipity, Kitty and I went to Brooklyn to see Qui and his adorable son, Sam. (Qui's wife Abby was working and I'm totally bummed I didn't get to see her.)
Sam just turned one and baby boys who have just turned one are some of my favorite people in the whole world. It was so cool to see Qui as a dad. He's a natural at it and Sam is just wonderful. I must say, it was quite surreal to sit around talking about toddler nutrition and diaper rashes with the guy who used to sit up with me until 4am goofing off and drinking coffee. (Good grief, what would we do to have back all those hours we could have been sleeping? Answer: Not a single thing.)
Qui and I met at freshman orientation and became fast friends. That means we've been friends for FIFTEEN YEARS. That's a lot of years, y'all. You know how it feels to put on your favorite sweatshirt for the first time when the weather turns cool each year? That's how Qui makes me feel. Whenever we're together it's comfortable, easy and wonderfully familiar, even now that we're all grown up.
My flight didn't leave until almost 10pm on Monday, so Kitty and I were able to squeeze in dinner with my friend Betsy. Betsy and I are near-famous for our lunch dates. Due to our work schedules, we often went months without seeing each other, so when we were finally able to get together, we'd have lunch--for 6 hours. Unfortunately, dinner could only last about an hour this time, as I had to head to LaGuardia.
I said a hard goodbye to Kitty, headed to the airport, where I experienced the quickest trip ever through security, and got myself a frappuccino. We boarded the plane and I had a window seat alone. I watched the lights of the city shrink below me and I finally let myself cry. I wasn't crying the tears I thought I'd be crying, though. Instead of tears of sadness upon saying goodbye to the city I once inhabited with my mind, body and spirit, the city chock-full of some of my favorite people and places, I was crying tears of joy because the city had welcomed me back with open arms and made me feel as comfortable as the day I left. I know now that no matter how much time passes between visits, NYC will always feel like home.