The Pied Piper of NYC

When I found myself publicly crying in a bar for the first time in my life as the election results were made official, I quietly excused myself so I could walk home and sob while my tears would be hidden by the nightfall.

I had lost my faith in humanity the night before.  It’s hard for me to wrap my head around someone who openly exudes such hatred and makes that behavior acceptable to be running my country.  I don’t particularly care to live in a place where people who were closeted racists, xenophobes, or homophobes can now openly make those with different values feel unwelcome.  Not to mention the rights and decisions I get to make as an independent woman (who, by the way, does support herself and climb the ladder in every job she’s ever had) get shit on.

The severe lack of poise and general experience of the man we just chose to run our country horrifies me.  I struggle to enter a new job field because I lack experience, yet someone who has no political experience whatsoever just got the highest government position available.  But again, I was more crushed that so many people felt this was acceptable.

I cried on the bus ride to the store.  I had to pick up some last minute things before my long awaited trip to New York to see two of my best friends from my college days, Sarah and Cody.  I had been so thrilled for so long, and now I wondered if I’d be able to pull myself together in time for the trip.  I texted Cody that I might just be crying in his apartment all weekend, but I’d do my best to pull myself together and not be such a sourpuss.  I also wondered about the general vibe in New York and what I’d be getting myself into.  Should I even venture out with all of this going on?

Travel tends to be my sole focus, so I decided that I needed to go.  These are the exact people I needed to surround myself with, and if anyone could bring a smile to my face, it was these two.

I arrived in New York after a 7 year hiatus, greeted by incessant honking and traffic.   I rolled up to Cody’s apartment in Harlem, and watched as a rat jumped out of a trash can and scared the bejesus out of the girl walking next to me, and thought to myself, “Welcome back.”

I met up with Cody and already felt a sense of relief.  There’s something to be said about finding friends that you can hang out with after years have passed yet you pick up as if it was only yesterday.  I dumped my stuff, and we went to take the subway to find a good wine bar (another sign of someone that knows exactly how to make me happy) and catch up.

Cody quickly pointed out the rats in the subway and said, “Look!   Your first New York rat!”  I told him sadly it was not, as I was greeted by the one emerging from the trash can moments before I reached his place.

We watched the tracks as four of them came running out.  He made the comment that he never sees that many rats, and I must be the Pied Piper because they were all gravitating to me.  I laughed, for what felt like the first time in ages, and it felt like New York and good friends were just what I needed to find myself again.

We ate a fantastic meal.  Everyone was nice, even the waiter when I wondered aloud like the classy lady I am what the hell orange wine was.  As an experienced wino, I tend not to discriminate against any kind of wine, but not having ever heard of one of them was out of my realm of knowledge.

Sarah showed up the next day to Cody’s apartment and we hit the ground running while he was at work, eating at a restaurant called Coppelia, which was to die for and had Sarah telling the waiter how much we loved him and the restaurant every time he brought us something new.

We secured tickets for Waitress after talking to a guy who said he’d find us a good deal.  Sarah asked if he knew of any other shows when it seemed dismal that all three of us would sit together, and he shrugged nonchalantly and said, “I don’t really know.  I hear Cats is good.”  But miraculously he found seats together for us at a lower price after we sat around and laughed with him for a while.

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In line to see Waitress with two of my favorite humans

That’s the thing about New York.  It doesn’t ever stop.  So while I was moping around Seattle feeling sorry for myself and others, that isn’t an option in New York.  Of all the places to find hope, it is a weird one.

New Yorkers have a reputation for being straight forward and aggressive, perhaps a little rough around the edges.  I kept pointing out how wonderful everyone was our entire trip to Sarah and Cody.  Or maybe that’s why I find it weirdly calming, having a bit of an abrasive personality myself.

“See how helpful that person was?  See how chatty people are when you strike up a conversation with them?”

This place was the antithesis of Seattle.  It was fast, chatty, and overtly friendly.  I was shocked at all of the good vibes coming our way and felt compelled to pay it forward as much as possible.

I visited Sarah’s apartment in Rhinebeck, which was a beautiful little town, particularly during this time with the trees changing colors and leaves crunching under my boots.  There was something quaint and magical about it, and it was a nice getaway from the city for a day.

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High Line Park

We stopped into CVS as my method of packing about an hour before I leave usually results in forgetting multiple important items.  I was in line to check out when she wandered off and was sorting through a bin a few feet away from me when I saw a man approach her out of the corner of my eye.

I didn’t think much of it.  Sarah was one of my roommates in college and has the personality that people tend to gravitate to so it isn’t something out of the norm.  I heard him mutter something about Elmer’s glue and then looked over, as now my curiosity was piqued.  He said, “What’s so funny?” and I wondered why he thought I was smiling at him because I definitely was sporting my best resting bitch face.

I continued checking out and waited for Sarah to return by the exit door.  Maybe a good friend would have gone to see what was going on, but I knew she was doing her thing and would come back with a good story, so I waited it out.

Surely enough, she reappeared with a smile on her face, shrugged and stated, “He thought I worked here and asked for a recommendation for glue, so I decided to help him” as if that was the most common occurrence.

I looked at her perplexed and was crying with laughter as we left and entered a boutique.  The woman who worked there looked at us and said, “Thank God you came in here!  What was that guy’s deal?”  Turns out she was the one laughing behind me in line who he asked what was funny about the situation.  So we both sat and listened as Sarah filled in the blanks for us.

Apparently he approached Sarah (who, just for the record was wearing a Northface jacket and had a crossbody handbag on, so in no way looked like she was a CVS employee), and explained his daughter had a school project and he needed help finding glue.

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Nightcap with a view

She was waiting on me anyways and explained in improv (she has a background in theater) they are supposed to say, “Yes and” so figured it would be a good exercise.  So she, without knowing where the school supplies were, led him through the store asking what the daughter’s project was and what kind of glue he would need.

I personally could not have feigned interest in glue, so God bless her for being able to act like it’s an interesting topic of conversation.  Then she brought him to the glue section and recommended a glue stick as it was her “go to” when she needed glue.

I was dying.  Then she followed up by recommending their one hour photo services because he needed pictures developed.  He asked her name, and I can only imagine the glowing reference he gave her when he checked out and the employees had no idea what “Sarah” had helped him.  Or perhaps I should check the Yelp reviews of the Rhinebeck CVS to see if her name pops up as a glue expert.

We laughed with the lady in the boutique and took the train back into the city.  People were chatty on the train.  People were chatty on the subway.  Sarah made a friend, Robert, who had some great smelling food and was getting ready to sneak it into a movie.  He asked Cody, “which of these is your girl?” to which Sarah replied “both” ruining either of our chances to get free dinner and a movie.

I decided to forgive her for making us appear to be a weird polygamous couple because we ended up having a fantastic dinner in Brooklyn even though it wasn’t paid for by Robert.

We headed to a bar for a quick drink before we headed to the next location, and I was running my mouth about how amazing everyone had been on this trip.  I was so refreshed by the kindness of strangers and the weird yet wonderful conversations we had with them that I was convinced we had to pay it forward.

Cody found a metro card and cash on the ground, and I said it must have fallen out of the coat of a guy at the bar.  We thought about keeping it, but I was adamant, as everyone had been so kind up to this point.  It was the right thing to do.

The guy was drunk but thankful, and then looked Cody up and down.  He turned to Sarah and I and said, “I’d like to tongue punch your friend over there in the fart box.”  I wondered if I possessed the aura of a madame or something, because I don’t know why else he would be asking permission of us, as if I was about to explain Cody’s hard limits and costs to him.  I started laughing uncomfortably and we politely declined on his behalf, and I immediately was reminded that we were in New York and there is a crass attitude that exists.

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Lighting a candle (or 5) at St Patrick’s Cathedral with my aunt

They both told me we should have kept the money and maybe my newfound sunny NYC disposition should be altered a little bit.  I didn’t disagree after that.

All in all, it was an amazing trip.  I got to see an aunt and uncle of mine who I haven’t seen since last Christmas for a quick meal and a walk around the city which was awesome.  I can never get enough Lauck time in my life and it was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

I met up with another friend of mine from college and we walked around the shops in the park as I picked up little presents for Christmas and we caught up.

I walked back to Cody’s house for my last night, soaking up the perfection of the trip and the night, thinking that I was actually feeling like a happy, whole person thanks to this wonderful city.  I had a spring in my step and was feeling nostalgic and rejuvenated, ready to take on whatever life was about to dish out to me, when I felt something run into my boot.

A rat the size of a small pony scurried over my foot as I quickly screamed and jumped, causing all heads to turn my direction.  I was beginning to buy into the Pied Piper theory after all.

I listened to the sound of the construction outside of the apartment window as I went to sleep, and thought this is exactly what I needed.  Great friends.  Wonderful City.  Sidesplitting laughter. All I could do was be kind.  Pay it forward.  Stand up for what’s right.  But don’t give up faith in people quite yet.  There are some great ones out there.

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