West to East and Everywhere Else—Treasuring the Journey

Recently, I returned from my first trip to New York City. Originally, I had planned to take this adventure with the man I thought I was going to be with indefinitely, perhaps even marry. I dreamed of the romantic walks up 5th Avenue, carriage rides in Central Park, and fancy dinners for two among flickering candles. But things change, and I decided that I couldn’t wait for a new Mr. Right to come along to be my chaperone, so I went anyway, leaving the fantasies of what could have been a winsome, starry-eyed trip and instead charging ahead on my own—and it was amazing.

Leading up to my trip, I’ll admit I was pretty nervous about experiencing Manhattan solo. I’m not sure why; I conquered Shanghai alone, albeit with nervous reservations. Why should New York be any scarier than a city where I don’t speak the language? It’s just that newness that grabs at your throat, makes you catch your breath while you contemplate the unknown. That was the feeling I had with New York. I knew I needed this. The unexpected can be terrifying, but also exciting. To challenge one’s self in new ways is essential to live a fulfilling life, but taking that first step sure can be scary.

New York really is different from anywhere else on earth. I was exhilarated by the exigent, no-nonsense attitude of the people there. It was a breath of fresh air, seeing people of all walks of life strolling past me in Midtown, Greenwich Village, Harlem, Little Italy, the Upper East Side, and places in between, just doing their thing, and doing it with purpose. I was struck by the difference between the feel of this place and everywhere else I’ve ever been. With a high density population and only so many subway seats to go around, the residents of NYC don’t have time for hesitation; they have somewhere to be and they are going to get there even if they have to push you out of the way to do it. Okay, that might have come off as a little melodramatic. No one yelled at me to hurry through the subway turnstile, take my bag faster from the cashier, or huffed at me in exasperation because I didn’t know what something was on the breakfast menu in the corner bodega (although they were most certainly laughing behind my back). No, the push I am referring to is more metaphorical than that. It was literally a sensation of aliveness that came over me, much like the feeling I got when I was in the Redwood Forest a few years back. In that post, I commented how the Redwoods seemed to have a personality—a peaceful, bear-hug protector type; a welcoming, long-lost relative who invites you to stay for dinner after you stopped in for a quick tea. In New York’s case, it was a You’ve got this! Go get em, girl! type of character. Even though I went to the city without much of an agenda, each day when I got up, I knew what my purpose was: to truly experience the bones of the city. I wanted to see what made this place so special, why everyone was so entranced by it. There are ballads sung about New York, poems written, love letters in all forms, all about a place. I needed to know why.

I figured it out. I found my groove in New York. Normally, I love to people-watch, but it was different—instead of combing the crowds for the odd duck to watch (and trust me, there were plenty), I took in the buildings, the artistry, the scents, the jumble of colors, loud noises and the amazing history that was evident every time I turned a corner. I walked a lot. I walked everywhere. The city made me feel different. I noticed things I don’t normally notice, my walk was different, and my whole demeanor changed. I felt inspired.

Does who we are hinge on where we are? Are the idiosyncrasies of a place so intertwined with our being that we literally morph at a molecular level when we enter a different city? I certainly felt that way in New York. I felt it enter my being and stay there. It was a little like falling in love, when you feel like you and another person are truly becoming one. And now I get it. I get why people write love letters to this place. I understand why people take such risks to move there with nothing but a suitcase and a dream. I learned that taking a leap into the unknown is totally worth it, no matter how scary. I can’t wait to experience my next adventure and see what else the universe is holding for me. My journey might not take a traditional path, but it’s all mine, and I’ll follow it with faith that it’s taking me where I’m supposed to be.

A view of the skyline from Long Island City
The skyline from Long Island City
East River Ferry heading towards the Brooklyn Bridge
East River Ferry heading towards the Brooklyn Bridge
The view walking across the Brooklyn Bridge
Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge
The view walking along the Central Park Reservoir
The view from the Central Park Reservoir

 

One last note: while much of this trip was spent alone, I did have some wonderful companions for part of the way. I want to thank Mandy, Ben, and Ruth for their time and friendship. It would not have been nearly as amazing without your presence.

A Confession Session

Last week in The Dancing Runner, I read a really fun post called Confession Session. I love Chelsea’s blog. Her writing is consistently upbeat and inspiring, particularly when it’s about two of my favorite things—running and dancing. This one, however, had a different twist and I decided to steal the idea. Here are some highlights from the past few weeks plus a couple of random facts you may not know about me. Thanks, Chelsea!

35 is the new 25! Okay, I actually read that on a fertility blog, but it still totally applies! I had the most wonderful birthday! I turned a spry 35 last Sunday and instead of going camping like I usually do, I opted to do something a little more accessible—brunch. To make it even more fun than brunch already is, I announced a theme. The theme was tutus! My friends never disappoint me. It was tutus all around. Oh, and did I mention my restaurant of choice had $5 bottomless mimosas? Yeah, that’s a no-brainer.

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I’m a Harriette. I’ve never written about this part of my life on the blog, but it’s a big part, so it should be mentioned! This group, the Hash House Harriers, is known to be “a drinking club with a running problem.”  Basically, it is very similar to a scavenger hunt, only instead of scrabbling around town, searching for a trinket or landmark, the harriers (runners) are scavenging on a flour-marked trail for beer hidden by the hares (trail-layers). I’ve been a member for two years now, and though I cannot keep up with the FRBs (Front Running Bastards), I have just as much fun as those who get to the beers first. The group makes it a point to label everything lasciviously (when you’re new you’re a virgin; when you lay trail for the first time, you’re de-floured), and hands out tawdry names to each member when they’ve done something “stupid enough” for the pack to agree on. For example, my hash name is Tainted Trench. (I could tell you how I earned it, but then I would also have to make you come to the hash yourself to experience the full Monty!) And if you think this is just a Portland thing, think again. This group started in Malaysia by a pack of Brits who wanted to get out from under their weekend hangovers in the 1930s. These days there are Hash House Harriers coast to coast in the United States, and on every continent! Yes, there are some timid folks who think that hashing is not for them; there is a lot of shit-talking as well as actual shit-on-trail—hashers prefer to barrel through blackberries and muddy creeks rather than take the path more often traveled: the clean, paved one. However, if you can get through your mental blocks and come to peace with the fact that you may get a little scratched up, you’ll experience one of the most fun physical activities on earth, and a vast accumulation of forever friends.

I found out that my dentist is circumcised. I’m sorry! I tried (admittedly not very hard), but I couldn’t keep that one to myself. It started out as banter about what we were doing over the weekend. He said, “I’m going to Ecuador” (as one often does on the weekends), and that sparked a chat about toilets in developing countries. When we got to the dreaded squat toilet part of the conversation, it got a little hairy (har har). Now, picture me listening to his story as he is hovering over my open mouth, the table leaning precariously toward his twig and berries. He says, “So, I was in Palestine this one time, and I’ll tell you there’s no privacy in those bathrooms. The attendant kept giving me the side eye, you know, because I’m circumcised. Jews are circumcised, and it’s not good to be a Jew in Palestine!” Okay okay, I get it! He continued with a whimsical description of the toilets in Korea, but I could not get the immature giggle out of my head. It almost bubbled out; it was so close. I mean, come on, this guy is my dad’s age. Politics and adventure aside, what other reaction could I have from his story than EWWWWWWWWWWW!

Oregon Wine Country. I love wine tasting (Who doesn’t?) but don’t do it nearly enough. This past weekend some girlfriends and I found a free afternoon, and took a lovely jaunt into Oregon’s wine country. We were lucky to find a Groupon for A Blooming Hill Vineyard. There are several deals for local wineries—I highly recommend you take advantage of it! It was absolutely gorgeous, and impossible to believe that we were only a short drive from Portland. The owners were a darling couple who had converted their home into a simple yet elegant winery which overlooks their vineyard in addition to a beautiful view of distant hills and valleys.

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Bird’s the word. I would never ever call myself a bird watcher. There is one time a year, though, that I pack my picnic basket and a blanket, and I make my way to Chapman Elementary School in NW Portland to wait for dusk, and the famed Vaux swifts. Up to 35,000 swifts, the biggest migrating group in the world, create an astounding vortex as they prepare to roost each night in the chimney. It is an amazing sight that words truly cannot convey. Saturday night I grabbed a group of friends and we sat on the soccer field, observing the bird tornado and several dozen children “sledding” down the dusty hill on cardboard sleighs. It was probably the largest group of birds I’ve ever seen since I’ve been here in Portland, and it never gets old.

No sleep ’til Brooklyn (and the rest of NYC)! I’m leaving for my first trip to New York City in t-minus two weeks! I’m incredibly excited but still collecting my travel research, so help me out! Send me recommendations for things I must see, do, and experience! Tell me a route I have to run! Let me know your favorite salsa club! Suggest big city travel tips! Give me advice on public transportation! I’m all ears.

This ends the inaugural Confession Session by Becky. Feel free to use the idea for your own blog, and please, leave a link in the comment section if you do, so I and my readers can enjoy it. Have a great Monday, friends!