Saturday, November 6, 2010

A tourist in my home town

I thought I might die right then, right there, on 38th Street and Seventh Avenue.

All right, not die, but collapse under the weight of my over-packed luggage, maybe, and no one in the stream of people would have noticed.

But to go back, for a second. Friday started remarkably well. In typical fashion, I had over-booked; silly, perhaps, but another sign of normalcy. Thursday had started the overbooking. I had yoga at 5:30 and book group at 8. (We were reading two beautifully written books, Lucy Grealy's "Autobiography of a Face" and a companion book, her friend Ann Patchett's "Truth and Beauty." ) I needed to pack for my New York trip the next day, and I am terrible at packing, so I shouldn't have gone, but it had been long-planned, so I went.

That meant I was up packing until 1 a.m. I had (over) committed to tennis in Enfield at 9 the next morning, but I really wanted to do it because it would be a chance to play instead of just practicing. My plan was to have breakfast after that and then proceed to Jim's house down the road in Enfield. Jim had agreed to drive me to the New Haven, Conn. train station, where I would take Amtrak into Penn Station for a weekend with high school friends.

Tennis was terrific. We were eight women rotating in round robin style. I recognized one woman who had had a brain tumor two years ago. She had chemo and radiation and then returned to tennis about a year ago. We chatted briefly, and she told me not to come back too quickly. She had made this mistake, vomiting behind the curtain and then returning to the court to finish the match. Another tennis nut. We gave each other a little fist pump and went out to play.

When I got to Jim's, he asked how I was going to carry all the stuff I was toting: a suitcase on wheels, a computer, an old nylon tote bag filled with odds and ends, plus a jacket and a coat. I shrugged off the question and said I would manage.

I am used to driving all the way in. I would load the car, go directly to my parents' apartment, put on my parking radar and usually find a spot right in front of the house. I have places to stay, but this time I was playing the role of a tourist in my hometown, staying at a Marriott in Times Square with Emily, Tami and Nancy. I know Times Square, but it shocked my system to drag luggage through it instead of simply parking and unloading in the saner world of upper Fifth Avenue where I grew up.

I got off the train at Penn Station and didn't have the sense to take the subway one stop to get closer to the Marriott. Instead I lugged everything up the escalators and was ejected with the crowds into Seventh Avenue and 36th Street.

My bags were heavy, and I kept dropping one or the other. I had to repeatedly stop to regroup, changing hands, picking everything up and rebalancing. It was getting a little hard to breathe. I thought the throng might run me over. In addition to the regular craziness, it is the weekend of the New York Marathon, attracting not only the runners but also spectators.

I tried to get a cab. Impossible. They were all full or off-duty. And I didn't stand a chance of dashing to one of the few that were available.

I flashed back to the time when, as a young teenager, I was lost in Penn Station. Crying, I called my father on a pay phone, and he calmed me down and told me how to get out.

I wanted to call my father, and he would drive down through all the traffic and rescue me. I had to do it by myself. Miraculously, I thought, I got to the humongous hotel at 45th and Seventh. I went up to the registration desk at the hotel and tried to explain to the agent that my friend, Emily, had booked the room and I really needed to get in. She shook her head and said I couldn't go up until Emily arrived. I just stood there.

Behind me, miracle of miracles, I heard Emily saying, "I'm here, I'm here." Her plane from Pittsburgh had landed and she had taken a cab to the hotel. I showered her with so much love and gratitude that I was embarrassing her and had to stop.

When we got to our room on the 35th floor, I dropped all my stuff, lay down on the floor and put my legs up the wall. When the other two came later, they had the same kind of story to tell, so at least I didn't feel alone.

The rest of the weekend went beautifully. We had dinner Friday at a nice restaurant, and then on Saturday took two trains down to the lower east side and the Tenement Museum, which offers tours of 97 Orchard St., built in 1863. We took a tour taking us through several apartments recreating the lives of working class immigrants. We also ate at the famous Katz' deli, where I had an overflowing Reuben.

We came back uptown, rested briefly and then had dinner at Joe Allen's Restaurant, a staple of the theater district. We followed that with an off-Broadway play, "Love, Loss and What I Wore" by Nora Ephron.

It was a good choice. Five women told stories both funny and poignant tied into what they wore at the time. The snapshots from women's lives covered marriage, divorce and mother-daughter relationships plus trends such as the paper dress (to which we all nodded) and topics such as the color black, your closet (a disaster) and your purse (another disaster).

It gave us plenty to talk about when we got back to the hotel.

I love seeing high school friends, who are like family.

Let's hope the golden glow will last while I drag all my stuff out of here. I am staying one more night, spending it at my cousin Jeanne's. I might unload some of the extra weight there and plan on seeing it some other time...or not.


donna said...

Wow, two travelin' weekends in a row! Love Nora Ephron. I read that she has a new book out and that her neck is in worse shape than ever. Ha! Glad you had fun! You go girl!!!

Ann said...

Wow! I nearly killed myself hauling an overstuffed duffle bag, backpack, and purse across a rain soaked parking lot to get to my hotel last week. That being said, I cannot imagine hauling all of those things down the streets of New York! Glad you made your weekend and hope you had a blast. Rest up and I look forward to your next post.