39 Hours in New York

Photo by Hugh Stevenson on Unsplash

I had the opportunity to go to New York City last weekend. I went to attend a celebration—my long-time friend Hud was marking a certain milestone birthday. Jet Blue offers a direct flight to JFK airport from New Orleans, that happened to be very reasonably priced at the time I booked it. I stayed in New Rochelle with my Sister Elizabeth, who was kind enough to offer room and board for two nights. So when you come right down to it, it would have been shameful for me not to make the trip to see old friends and get in a family visit, too.

The party was Friday evening, so I caught the 7:05 pm train from New Rochelle into Grand Central Station. I assumed it wasn’t as crowded as the train going in the opposite direction. I like riding trains, and I wish I could utilize them more often. I wonder how different my habits might be if I could commute via riding versus driving. Would I daydream as much if a train ride was an everyday thing? Because, man, do I daydream. I watch the buildings and train stops go by, and I wonder what type of stories I’d be inspired to write. “There are eight million stories in the naked city. . .”

And then, Grand Central! Talk about stories. GCT is pretty impressive. For some reason, Frankfurt’s train station (the hauptbahnhof) sticks in my memory as bigger and more impressive. But for U.S. train stations, Grand Central gets the prize. I think of all those stories intersecting.

My own story was close to intersecting, or rather, reconnecting to threads from the past. Hud’s party was a quick walk from Grand Central. Hud was one of the friends I wrote about just a few weeks ago, friends from my Los Angeles days. (He moved to New York from California several years ago). I was not the only one to make the trip to New York; I was thrilled that friends Craig and Bart also traveled to attend the party. And I met friends of Hud from his Texas A&M days that I had only ever heard about.

Several days on, I still have one overriding feeling: gratitude. A profound sense of gratitude. My Los Angeles days were a remarkable time, and I’m grateful that I still feel so connected to the friends I made while there.

I’m going to conclude with a quote from Thor: Ragnarok, which may seem like a big game of mental leap-frog, but hear me out. Central to that movie’s storyline is this quote: “Asgard’s not a place, it’s a people.” I feel that way about Los Angeles. It’s not the place, but the people, the people who populated my life who helped me understand the difference. The difference between making a living and making a life.

 

Los Angeles: The Old and New

Old: Breakfast at The Original Pantry

It’s been fifteen years since I’ve lived in Los Angeles. More than twice the time I spent making a living and making a life out there in the late ’90s and early ‘aughts.

Husband Tim and I just concluded a quick trip to Southern California, for my great nieces’ birthday celebrations (the elder turns three next week, and the younger turned one last week); and for the younger’s baptism (she does have a name, and it’s Hailey).

Tim and I stayed downtown for the first part of the trip, and I was struck by how much seemed new. During my L.A. days, I lived and worked on the west side, and did not spend much time downtown, so it all might have been new to me. Except for a few tell-tale signs:

  • The hotel we stayed in had just opened last year, and I’m pretty sure the high-rise building that housed it was also brand new
  • There were a lot of tower cranes downtown
  • Either I saw the same cement mixer truck caught in some sort of Möbius loop, or there is a fleet of mixer trucks with the same blue cab deployed all around L.A.

The Original Pantry was right around the corner from our hotel; I at least knew that diner has been around for a while. I remember going there once with friends, just to see what it was all about. I bought a coffee mug, that has been one of my go-to receptacles for go-juice in my own pantry ever since. As Tim and I waited in line to have breakfast Friday morning, I read a plaque on the wall outside, celebrating all the traditions around the place. The thing is, I never had a tradition associated with The Original Pantry. If there was any tradition, it was my friend Christine’s propensity to gather a select group of us willing to try something outside of our routine. I do miss this, and I miss Christine, too.

Since family was the reason for the trip, there wasn’t much time to catch up with old friends. I did see my friend Stacey, who I went to Greece with last fall. She’s been busy since I last saw her, she’d just purchased a home in Hollywood. There was much to catch up on; we got a quick tour of her wonderful new digs before walking to dinner at The Hearth and Hound, a “gastropub” in a spot I used to know as The Cat & Fiddle.

On balance, this trip really was about “new.” Nephew Jerry and Wife Lisa also just purchased a home; I got a tour of it, too (it’s currently gutted down to the studs, they plan to move in this summer). They’re pleased with the location and school district. . .when it comes time for little Madison (the three-year-old) and Hailey to start their schooling, they will be well-situated.

I remember, very distinctly, the reasoning and decision-making behind my choice to leave Los Angeles for New Orleans fifteen years ago. Family was a large part of it, but not the sole reason. Without going too deep, I’ll just say that I knew, on a visceral level—closer to the heart than the head—that my time for life-building in Los Angeles had come to an end. It is a wonderful thing that I am still so close to friends and family who have built vibrant, happy, lives there. I am truly grateful for that.

New: Breakfast at the hotel
Old and New: a glass of rose in the new kitchen of (long-time friend) Stacey’s newly-purchased home
New: Hailey