Hello New York.
On Thursday in a Newark Liberty International Airport terminal, I got to do something pretty rare in this day and age – I got to meet a friend at the gate as she stepped off of an airplane. My dear Jessie’s flight from Nebraska arrived very close to my flight from Chicago, and so I stayed inside the security area so that we could have that Hollywood airport moment. It was completely worth the ride from home to O’Hare that can only be compared to the rental car scene in Days of Thunder. (“Let me outta the cah, Cole! Let me outta the cah!”)
Yes, internet. I misled you. I spent three entire days keeping a secret from Twitter and Facebook and most of my friends, so that I could surprise 20+ internet people at a party in New Jersey.
But first, the Ooops Sisters descended on NYC for some bonding. Left to right in the above photo is Mare (one of my favorite reader/commenters), Jessie and Amy. We are in Times Square and that is the third shot fired with my new Canon 50mm lens from B&H.
Me: Where are we headed?
Mare: Your camera store. Unless that’s a metaphysical question, in which case – personal growth.
We had lunch at Artisanal. Amy took this photo of the table, which I think explains it all.
We did an afternoon drive-by of the Statue of Liberty on the Staten Island Ferry so that Jessie could get pictures of her “lady in the water”.
She also got mugged by a bird. It wasn’t this bird. But he held her at beakpoint. It was bad.
As we were waiting to board the ferry, we were standing next to the Saw Lady, who was playing “My Heart Will Go On” on her saw. I was standing behind a woman wearing leather pants, carrying a grocery bag full of aloe. I thought, man, I wish I could tweet right now without giving away my location. Because, really. What’s a better time to tweet than while boarding a boat to the tune of the Titanic theme on a saw, standing on line behind the leather pants aloe lady?
Oh, I don’t know. How about an hour later when she sat down on the subway directly across from me? Jessie took that photo. She really loves riding the subway.
“Don’t make eye contact with people or lick things on the subway! Don’t drink random beers you find on the street! Mare’s rules are so hard!” -Jessie
We caught 30 Rockefeller Center at sunset. It was pretty cool.
And then some.
In fact, while taking this picture, for just a few seconds, I didn’t completely detest the Bank of America building. Talk about personal growth! I’m owning up to my fleeting lack of contempt for that monstrosity.
Post-30 Rock, I got to catch up with Jenny!, my most favorite part of NYC, for dinner at a Silver Spurs and the story of how Matt Lauer shops in the Big K on Long Island, and the Boyz II Men breakdown that is obviously required to describe such a thing.
On Saturday, we took a detour on the way to Princeton in order to stop in Sandy Hook so that Jessie could see the ocean.
As we crossed the last bridge and the ocean became visible, Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin'” came on the radio and my heart . . . oh . . . oh, my heart.
I spent some time staring. Thinking about flying, jumping, falling, landing, swimming, struggling, surfacing. Remembering. Existing on the earth and in my mind peacefully and simultaneously. The last time I stood on a beach in New Jersey, I knew what I had to do. It took me far too long to do it. This time, there was no message of urgency, no ache, no decision to be made that I was avoiding. There is just a limitless expanse of horizon stretching out ahead. God, there’s so much out there, it’s terrifying. But I embrace it wholeheartedly.
I didn’t set out to be a surprise guest at this event for any reason other than uncertainty. I have spent almost an entire year wondering where my life would be next week. I don’t say yes to much, I’ve just not been saying no (even when that sends a wholly unintended message . . . ) But once the plan appeared to be a solid one, once I got myself to the east coast, the four of us tried to be pretty careful about not blowing the lid off of it.
Mare: Let’s make a list of who will be there tonight.
Mare: You can’t be on the list. People can’t know you’re coming.
Me: It’s a paper list. It’s not on the internet.
Mare: But I’ll have the list with me and people might see it.
Me: But by the time people see you, they will see me, because I WILL BE WITH YOU.
Mare: I’m NOT MESSING THIS UP.
For the record, the list got lost. So it’s a good thing I wasn’t on it.
The party was pretty amazing. I have a few photos from it that will remain forever on my hard drive, banned from the internet, and if there is a God out there, the photos and video that everyone else has of me will suffer a similar fate. No photo can properly convey the emotions I was facing when Mare told me the story that made me curl up in the fetal position on the floor, so I could have just left my camera at home.
At around 2 am, when Jessie, Manisha and I were the last soldiers standing, I was on a couch in the hotel lobby and it was just music and laughter and talking. “You’re So Vain” played and then “Come On Get Higher” started (it was the original, but I like the Sugarland version better) and Manisha and I were talking and I was softly singing to myself.
I miss the sound of your voice
The loudest thing in my head
And I ache to remember
All the violent sweet perfect words that you said
And that’s when I responded to a text message that I probably wouldn’t have answered on any other night, in any other room, with any other people, under any other condition. But I was feeling open to the possibilities of pretty much anything at that moment, safe in that net that only a few people in my life can provide me. If I were the person who received that response, I’d send Matt Nathanson, the makers of Yuengling, and my friend Manisha a thank you card posthaste.
The night never really came to a close for Jessie and me, though we did eventually have to bid a goodnight to Manisha. Then we went to McDonalds.
And let me tell you, there is nothing that will prepare you more for some Sunday morning GTL than a Coach bag full of McNuggets at 4 am in Jersey. Just ask this guy.
It was a real . . . Situation . . . we had on our hands. And god bless him for never growing tired of the guido jokes.
On Sunday afternoon, Jessie and I sat side-by-side in EWR. She departed from gate 26 and I departed from Gate 25, only two minutes separating our departure times. We sat facing the window, watching our planes taxi up and park next to each other. As I buckled my safety belt and turned off my cell phone, I watched her airplane pull away from the gate and turn towards the same runway I was on. I loved knowing I was sharing the sky with her again.
As I descended in Chicago in turbulent heavy cloud cover, I had my face to the window, waiting for the spires of Sears and Hancock and Trump to show themselves through the clouds, and it never happened. By the time the clouds cleared, I had already landed. Sometimes it just works that way.