I have been quiet about my latest adventures–you’re really only getting teeny bits and pieces, to be honest. And of those bits and pieces … they have only been a small smathering of all the things I intended. Now departing New York, I am scrambling to soak up a few last bits of this oozing melting pot.
I have spent many of my last few days here, ironically, doing research and writing for a body of work focused on places in Los Angeles, the city that will forever be home in my heart. I am thrilled and terrified to return. The best way I have found to describe it is: crossing a bridge without being able to see what’s on the other side. And so I am reminded of how often in life we come to meet these bridges … L.A. is so familiar, what could be unknown? My future…my place…I am not coming back the same. I have picked up along my journey bits and pieces of myself that had been scattered on the wind and across the land. My intentions, my values and my tenacity are coming home with me, renewed.
In between my furious spurts of research and writing I have managed take a few more gulps of New York life, including one more egg cream from Ray’s Candy Store–though I’ve only sampled a few–Ray’s, 2nd Ave, Gem Spa, Veselka, Junior’s–Ray’s was the first and has always been the best. My last few days in the Big Apple (why an apple?) went like this: Starting on Sunday night, had dinner at Toast with my classmate and companion Matthew. We lingered there a few good hours, discussing the future over countless cups of coffee while the strongest, heaviest summer storm (on record) pummeled the streets ceaselessly. It did not stop until Monday. I arrived back home to the apartment late with near-fatal amounts of caffeine pulsing through my veins and contorting my heart. I stayed up to work on two articles that were due Monday; midday was the requested time frame specified. I stayed up and found distraction in every moment, in between every line I typed and Google search I referenced. By 8 a.m. one of the articles had been submitted and the next was progressing. I craved Belgian fries, but my better judgement urged sleep. A nap. Three hours later I was up again. A glass of water. Some research muddled in distracted web browsing. Facebook-crastination. A muffin. A little bit of progress. Bearing that both these assignments had been L.A.-focused, my mind couldn’t help but wander to the thoughts of the places that I pined to visit again and the friends who would accompany me. I wondered about work. I wondered about how long I might stay. I registered for couchsurfing.com and got lost skimming Leagueofbikepolo.com. Five o’clock rolls around and I am weary and famished. I realized my pace of progress is next to nil. I grab my latest read, Harlan Ellison’s “Slippage,” and pedal off down to Ray’s Candy Store at Ave A and 7th St. Belgian fries and one egg cream, please. I take my repast to Tompkins Square Park and savor it all. The egg cream, the fries, the aura of TSP and the company of Ellison.
After a few chapters and a renewed sense of vigor, I headed home to complete my work before heading out to the Greenwich piano bar The Duplex, where my fellow classmates and writers, Alexis and Matthew, were joining vocal forces to perform the Phantom of the Opera duet “All I Ask of You.” After several invitations from Matthew, marked by his charmed descriptions of the not-a-gay bar, which is emblazoned with rainbow flags by the way, the chance to be a witness this one-time-only performance is what finally sold me. As it turned out, I had a blast at the piano bar. Between the three of us we were familiar with the range of Broadway tunes and pop songs performed by the handful of brave souls who held the mic.
Tuesday comes around, and my last hours are upon me. A beach trip is cancelled due to the unfulfilled promise of more rain–the gloom remained, but the clouds were exhausted. I fill the afternoon seeing, hearing, feeling the streets, occupied with all the bittersweet juices of a summer romance farewell. I drink from the punch bowl of the cityscape from the roof of the 17-story Union Square apartment building that was my summer sanctuary.
You can hardly hear the city up here, up this high, but the sight itself is loud enough. The city spread out before you all directions–sprawling to the east and tightly hugging the sky at the west–invoking lust and hope; it makes you feel lonely and limitless, permeated by incessant surge of electric energy that fills the air. Neighbors above at the west, neighbors stories below at the south edge. Tiny rooftop gardens populate the building tops, paired with bright patio chairs and tables; matchbox taxis criss-cross the asphalt streams carved between buildings, conceding to the steady rhythms of pedestrians forging through these streams in every direction; the looming clock tower; the dips and points of distant bridges.
I cooked my last dinner in New York until the wind blows me east again. Left it on sitting on the stove while I dashed out for cheesecake and one more egg cream at Junior’s in Brooklyn with Jeff. Jeff had a fancy hot chocolate with his chocolate mousse cheesecake; I washed down my meteor-sized slice of devil’s food cheesecake with a foamy egg cream. The cheesecake and chocolate combos left us with a sugar high to end all sugar highs. I’d almost consider it an overdose. Thanks for teaching me Race to the Galaxy and keep on pickling, Jeff! Jeff is a great pickler, and a pretty good polo player.
Emerged from the Q at the Union Square station and was drawn by the sounds of candid speech floating through the air, projected from a small speaker. I sit down at the edge of a dry fountain, among a group of community activists who are holding a catch-all forum for grassroots activism–a “Free Speakout,” the sign says. They say they meet Tuesdays and Thursdays in the evening at the square, though it’s my first time seeing them. The discussion moves from the challenge to find a fair trade suit, to dumpster diving and food distribution, to fighting unfair evictions and other public demonstrations. The conversation had attracted a mix of earnest young punks and Orthodox Jews, park dwellers and NYU students.
At 3 a.m. I finally got to that dinner on the stove. By 6 a.m. I was fully packed and had a brief early morning nap (now my favorite time for sleeping). By 9:30 I was in snugly packed in a cab, winding through the city to LaGuardia, with the taste of the city lingering on my lips.