Living in New York City can beat you down. About once a month I take a Saturday, and sometimes a weekend (especially in the winter), where I do not leave my apartment. I may venture up one flight of stairs to the gym, down 6 flights to the store in the lobby, down the hall to do laundry or up to the roof for some time in the sun but the very idea of conjuring up the inertia needed to venture out onto the streets causes me to retreat to my couch and search for re-runs of 90210 (thank you Soap network). Unfortunately, this isn't how I spent my weekend.
For the last several weeks I have watched July 21st slowly creep closer and closer to the present with skepticism and trepidation. My typical quick fire decision skills failed me and I remained paralyzed as to whether I would remain in the City or head down to DC. My brother had a significant event and my parents were flying out from Salt Lake for it, my other siblings were not able to make it. I was dreading it. Up until 3 pm on Friday I remained undecided and non-commital. My dad's health is not good. But he was cleared by his doctor to make the trip. How could I not take the opportunity to see him just four hours away? How could I even consider skipping a major event in my brother's life? An email from my other brother convinced me to do what I already knew I needed to do - GO!
My parent's said they would understand either way but my other brother validated my concerns and urged me to go, if for no other reason than to support my parents. I checked the train and bus schedules and hunted for car rental deals, I even looked at early Saturday morning flights. My friend was also going down for the weekend and we exchanged emails, text messages and voice messages throughout the day in an attempt to coordinate our trip schedules. I finally settled on renting a car and leaving later that evening.
I left work at 530 and made my way to the Apple store just up 5th Avenue a few blocks and patiently shuffled down the winding staircase under the giant glass Apple cube with the masses of people, mostly tourists. I picked up an ipod car adapter and wound back up to the street and strode home mentally ticking off the things I needed to do before I left to pick up the car.
I was half way home before I realized I had not only forgotten to pick up my three prescriptions that needed refilling five days ago, I failed to call them in. I altered my course and headed back toward the pharmacist cursing my decision to change to a pharmacy near my office rather than near my home. By the time I had filled two of the three prescriptions (the third, less vital, was on some sort of back order until Monday), stopped in to check out the sale at Ann Taylor Loft and was back on track for home, it was 7 o'clock. The City was getting to me. Exhausted, I called my friend to see if he would be leaving with me that night and he told me to call when I finished packing. I dawdled. I slowly pulled out two day's worth of clothes, toiletries, shoes and underwear, stopping to rest on the couch and eat carrots and hummus periodically. I was obviously not in a rush. I weighed the pros and cons of driving down late Friday night versus driving down early Saturday morning. I went down to the store to pick up some milk to make some dinner and picked up my smallest piece of luggage from my storage unit. When I returned to my apartment, Howard had called to inform me he was still tied up at work and would take the train down in the morning.
I finished my dinner, placed the items laid out on my bed into the bag and questioned whether I could make the drive. I decided to head to Newark to pick up the car and make a decision then whether I should leave in the morning. As I sat on the dingy train, leaning on my bag I closed my eyes and tried to focus on my music rather than the caucophony of voices seeping through my headphones - the baby crying across the aisle, the sharp and grating voices of conversations spoken louder than necessary and the squeals and scrapes of the train as it pulled out of Penn Station, the lights flickering on and off. I knew I needed a break from the near-constant press of humanity that is always close at hand in New York. Renting a car was the solitude I needed.
It was nearly 10 before I pulled out of the rental car parking lot at Newark airport. I followed the insistent voice of the navigation system through the maze of criss-crossing freeways leading toward the New Jersey Turnpike and on to my final destination in Maryland. I wasn't on the road an hour before each of my siblings called and one by one they joined my road trip via conference call. We talked and talked, sometimes on top of each other, laughing and joking and continuing the conversations we had started on email earlier in the afternoon. I felt like we were back in my parent's living room sprawled across a couple of couches, my feet propped on someone's lap. Jason getting his head or back rubbed, Nick telling stories trying to entertain and Erin always surprising us with the funniest comment. At various points along the drive, the road would curve west and the clouds would part to reveal an oversized crescent moon tinged a bright orange glow. It was comforting and nostalgic. The hours slipped by quickly and my mom was surprised and confused when she called to check on me to be greeted by each of her children talking me through the late night drive.
My cell phone battery fell to one ominous blinking red bar and one by one my siblings dropped off the call to return to their spouses or fiance and I was left with my mom until the navigation woman's directions became more frequent and demanded my full attention. When I pulled into the hotel parking lot not long after 1 am, I was glad I had made the decision to drive down that night, rather than making the attempt to wake up before 6 on a Saturday.
Sharing a hotel room with my parents, I awoke early the next morning to the sound of a wrapper loudly crinkling despite halted attempts to keep it still. Following the rustling came an even less successful attempt by my father to quietly chew a crunchy Nature's Valley granola bar. My mom must have stirred on their bed because he loudly whispered to her "oh, am I chewing too loudly?" Exasperated I said "YES!" and my mom and I started laughing as my dad tried to explain he needed to eat with his medication at whatever ridiculously early hour it was (before 8). There was no sleeping from that point on so we opted to talk and catch up until my mom left to pick up bagels with my brother for breakfast.
I am not sure what to write about the rest of the day. It was personally difficult for me. My brother and his wife were sealed in the temple. Her parents and many of the same family and friends as those who attended their wedding were there. We felt a bit on the outside. We, meaning the parents and sibling who had once considered her brother among her closest friends. It was hard and that is all I will say.
Here is a photo of me with the happy couple. I rarely like photos of myself but I love what is going on with my hair so I had to post this.
I spent a little bit of time with my brother and our mom at his apartment. Here we are posing in our over-sized shades.
After some afternoon naptime (I wouldn't recommend taking a nap curled up on a hotel loveseat, not too comfortable), we returned to my brother's apartment for a dinner of fresh Maryland crab.
It was hard work cracking them open and peeling out the tiny morsels of flesh so Nick decided to attack one head on.
I was scheduled to leave around noon today and was ready to hit the road by 11 but needed to say goodbye to Nick and his wife. Plus I was starving and really wanted to beg a bowl of cereal off of him. We didn't go over to their place (which was conveniently located on the other side of the parking lot from our hotel) until noon and I didn't leave until it was nearly one. But before I even pulled out of the parking lot my mom called to ask me to come back. Their car had been towed. I called Howard to tell him I would be even later picking him up in Virginia and drove Nick and Meadow to the impound lot to collect their car. I spent the rest of the day in the car. First driving to Virginia to collect Howard and his new fiancee (he finally proposed last night even though the wedding is almost completely planned for September!!), then driving back through DC, then Maryland, Delaware and then the dreaded New Jersey Turnpike where 2 miles to the next rest area can literally turn into 20 minutes! This was especially tortuous considering how badly I needed to pee. Since lunch I had drunk (drank?) a bottle of water and about 16 to 20 ounces of Coke Zero. My bladder is not used to holding it! It didn't help that Howard thought it was funny to make water noises, suggest various bushes on the side of the road I could hop out and use and tell bizarre stories about how his mother made him pee in a bottle as a kid so they didn't have to stop on road trips - his fiancee said her mom made her brother do the same thing and I decided that it must be a Korean thing because thankfully my mother never made my brothers do that!
When we finally made it to the service area, there was a backup of cars in the parking lot I had to skirt around before I could stop at the entrance, jump out of the car and run in - leaving behind my purse and the keys in the ignition so Howard could find a parking spot. To my horror the line to the women's restroom was at least 10 to 12 women deep snaking out the door. Gratefully, I managed to make it to a toilet but not after a considerable amount of discomfort, for this I blame the entire state of New Jersey.
I also blame New Jersey for the backlog of cars entering the Holland Tunnel. I usually use the Lincoln Tunnel as it is a few blocks from my apartment but Howard lives downtown so I (and our trusty navigator voice) thought the Holland Tunnel was the better option. It was excruciating! We all thought we would be home by 700, maybe 8 with traffic. I didn't reach my apartment until nearly ten. TEN! I was in the car nine hours for what should have been a four hour drive. And that is how I was welcomed back by my fair city, I think I need one more weekend day to hibernate in my apartment.