First travel snafu: Despite being reminded multiple times by a harried TSA agent to empty our pockets, I forgot the pack of gum I had grabbed very last minute as I exited the car. The agent on the other side of the scanner that pat me down came ALL unglued. You’d think I was trying to sneak a Smith & Wesson on the plane. Geez woman, do you think I might have other things on my mind at this moment in time? Although I do appreciate her vigilance, saving our nation from one Trident product at a time.
We boarded, only to discover our seats (bought by brother Jason) weren’t together but rather one behind the other. Tery had agreed to sit behind me to ensure no one would kick me the whole time (because I really, really, really hate that), but then we realized I would be sitting with two children while their mother was across the aisle in the window seat. She was ridiculously grateful when I offered to switch, as if I’d prefer the aisle with two strange kids. You’re welcome, mom.
We prepared for takeoff, but the poor guy at the end of my row was having tray table malfunction: he dutifully put it up, only to have it flop back down again. Fortunately this went unnoticed by the cabin crew (no doubt still whispering about the terrorist who tried to sneak gum in).
We arrived in New York uneventfully, where we were smacked in the face instantly by an oppressive wall of humidity on exiting the plane. Within a few steps our clothes were clinging to us most unpleasantly. Within ten minutes we were positively desperate to find air conditioning. This is the #1 reason why I don’t want to move back — I never want to live anywhere that AC is essential for more than a few days a year. I was thankful I had prepared for this by purchasing several heavy-duty anti-frizz hair products.
We planned on a cab to get to Jason’s, but he texted that he would send a driver. This sounded very posh; Jason and David are living the dream, with dual gay male disposable incomes, first class everywhere and a penthouse apartment with a view of Manhattan.
The driver turned out to be from Uber, the new service that’s pissing off cabbies in every major city, with comparable rates but riding in a private citizen’s vehicle, decidedly less battleworn and sticky. Our driver made us hike the entire length of the terminal to the only parking lot available (large outer areas are shut down for construction), and we had precious little to chat about that whole time other than the miserable humidity.
We were very happy to get into his very nice Lincoln town car, where he turned on the AC but then rolled his window down. But the ride took only about fifteen minutes. We can tolerate almost anything for fifteen minutes.
I wasn’t kidding when I said Jason has a penthouse. It’s nice enough, but the balcony is SPECTACULAR. Around 500 square feet, with the aforementioned view of Manhattan and a full vegetable garden; if I were to live in New York, this would be the only way (of course, they also pay enough rent to get a McMansion in Colorado, without the downside of city living (which they don’t see as a downside, obvs)).
Jason cooked us what felt like a six-course meal using every option available from the garden in creative unique dishes, finishing with steak (not from the balcony) at about 11 pm. These are true city party boys. I felt like I’d never be hungry again.
The next day was still more traveling (this is why I hate vacation — seems like we spend more time getting around than actually relaxing). The boys were off to Puerto Rico (disposable incomes), and we were catching a train to Connecticut. This required another Uber ride to Grand Central.
It turns out our first driver spoiled us with his sane, law-abiding driving style. The second one committed a moving violation approximately once a block — passing a woman turning left, on the left, to swing around and go right; plowing through a crosswalk full of pedestrians; taking advantage of an arguing bus driver and motorist to cut them both off. Never have I been so happy to climb out of a car.
There’s a reason Grand Central Station has inspired its own cliché; the foot traffic will make your head spin if you’re not used to it. So many people in so much of a hurry, and no time for you to get your bearings. I blame this for the Macchiato Debacle.
I can’t stand coffee, yet crave the caffeine (and soda will never be a breakfast beverage). It’s quite the quandary. Downstairs in Grand Central is a huge, very busy coffee kiosk. We had about five minutes before our train. The pressure was incredible.
I can usually find a super sweetened option at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, but this place wasn’t so childlike tastebud-friendly. For some reason my gaze fell on the macchiato. It sounded promising, but to be sure I asked Tery if I would like it. She said yes, so I ordered.
I was hoping for something sweet, tall and cold. I got something squat, hot, and very, very coffee flavored (picture a paper shot glass filled with swamp water with a pretty heart design in the foam). BLECH. I took one sip and immediately looked for a trash bin, which there didn’t seem to be any. I tried leaving it on a staircase post, but Tery caught up with me and salvaged it. “Why did you order it then?” she asked exasperatedly. When I tried to blame her, it turned out in the din she thought I had asked if I could get it, not SHOULD I. “I paid seven bucks for this, you aren’t just throwing it away.” Being the best mom ever, she traded me for her iced coffee, which was substantially better.
Then the very relaxing three-hour train ride to Connecticut. My favorite parts of vacation are those spent on public transportation, when nothing is expected of me and I can entertain myself.
What followed was four days with Tery’s family, a series of ups and downs with four very demanding nephews and never enough time to do anything. Six days is not nearly long enough for vacation, note to self. The good was New England’s signature humidity was being unusually merciful, enough that I thought I was misremembering how brutal it can be (it started creeping back up by the end). The bad was the first night I agreed to play Legos with the nephews, and they wanted to do nothing else, with nobody else, the rest of the time; saying no felt cruelly heartless, but I had my sanity to consider.
Tery ran a race with her godson, where we met Casey Neistat, filmmaker and YouTube sensation (Tery’s sister is obsessed with him, recognized him instantly; I have since become interested as well and wish I had also asked for a pic).
We ate at Captain Scott’s Seafood, with clam fritters and a fried clam roll so divine I was able to ignore the three-ring circus of trying to feed four young boys who either didn’t know what they liked or didn’t like any of the options, and didn’t care if their mother ever ate as long as their needs were seen to.
We went to a children’s museum with the nephews and my sister’s family, a bit of a disappointment since I was expecting the Boston Children’s Museum. If Boston is the Louvre, the Niantic Children’s Museum is…the Niantic Children’s Museum. The one highlight was a tiny puppet stage, where a strange girl would only allow one or two lines to be delivered before closing the theater (curtain)…repeatedly. I laughed my ass off, mainly at the comments of my sister and brother-in-law, but the girl thought she was a hit and did it even more. My sister’s winning joke, after six closings: “This critic says — predictable.”
We flew kites, me for the first time in my life. What they don’t tell you about kite flying is, once you get over the initial thrill of being airborne, it’s really just a lot of standing there holding the string and doing nothing.
Most of the time was just spent catching up with family and eating; I eat too much on vacation because I feel like I can never turn down a meal, not having the freedom of eating later alone if I’d rather.
All too soon we were headed back to New York, where we were due to meet my old friend for dinner so no time to stop at Jason’s. New York requires a lot of walking, which I wouldn’t mind if I wasn’t saddled with luggage for a week’s vacation.
We ate at Junior’s in Grand Central (it’s an awfully convenient meeting point), with good food and the best cheesecake in the city, according to my friend; it WAS good, and ginormous, served in slabs the size of a hardcover book. Our waitress was insanely jealous of the Playbill from Hedwig and the Angry Inch my friend nabbed for me. She wanted to go but probably wouldn’t. Living in New York and not catching Broadway shows seems as criminal as living in Colorado and never visiting the mountains (which, to be fair, is exactly what I did for 14 years), but maybe a waitress can’t afford to take in the hottest, priciest show running. Still, at least she didn’t have to add the cost of a plane ticket on top.
Back at Jason’s, I fell asleep in their hammock rocking in a gentle night breeze while the boys prepared themselves another midnight dinner. I adored that balcony, but still wouldn’t trade my relatively small town existence for it and that city.
The best part of vacation to me is coming home. The spiritualists look down on the accumulation of “stuff,” but I don’t care; I like having it around. I like knowing where everything is. I like using my own shower, sleeping in my own bed, having my whole wardrobe to choose from and not just the four outfits that fit in my luggage. I love my park and my bike and my cats. I like traveling, but there’s a reason home has its own cliché. There’s no place like it.