NYC Trip, Day One (and how I got here): Lost and Found

Thanks to my amazing family, I’ll be spending the next week in New York, traveling between Brooklyn and Manhattan; the Upper East Side, down to SoHo and everywhere in between and around. I’ve been fantasizing about a trip back to The Big Apple for years now and I’m in disbelief that I’m finally here again. There’s something in the chaos of this city that has always felt like another home to me. The locals walk unnaturally fast (although I do fairly well at keeping up) and there are few smiles to be found along the sidewalks. New York is admittedly intimidating, especially for someone who spends at least 9 months of the year in a smaller college town in the Pacific Northwest where leisure and a slow pace are served to us in our morning coffee. You just can’t rest here, even if you’re sitting in plaid pjs on a blowup mattress bundled in blankets listening to Angus & Julia Stone… like I am right now. This city gets your mind racing. And that’s one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to get back here: I needed to knock myself out of my comfort zone so I can get some good thoughts streaming through my brain. I needed a fresh perspective.

Let’s take the DeLorean for a quick spin, shall we?:

I turned twenty-one on Wednesday in the speediest yet most natural of ways. I’m not sure I’ll ever get a grasp on how time works and how a matter of seconds can have such an influence on what you can do. Anyway, as any newly inducted 21-year-old, I hit the bars with full (yet very classy) force. Three nights of free alcohol, bumping music, (in)appropriate conversations, and little sleep worked me rough and raw. So you can imagine that falling asleep at 5 am and waking up 3 hours later to start packing for my trip was not the most ideal thing for the morning after. But the way I saw it, I’d have about 6 hours to sleep on the plane over to the East Coast. (More on that later..)

The original plan was to pick up Jackie around 1:30 pm and drive the two hours to Portland to arrive there before rush hour. We didn’t leave until 2:30, but we did get lucky with avoiding a headache of a traffic jam. Allie was nice enough to let me park my car at her house over Christmas Break so we were able to regroup a bit over there before heading to the airport. After a final goodbye to Padfoot (the car), Allie showed me and Jackie a bit of Portland. We stopped at Cart-topia (oh the wit!!) for some cart food. Bratwurst and ginger ale for me. I also tried some Poutine: a French Canadian dish of fresh fries smothered in gravy and topped with cheese curds. Phenomenal. My taste buds were dancing for it all.

We made a stop at Voodoo so Jackie could pick up a box to bring home to her family in New Jersey. That was my third and final Voodoo shop to visit so now I can officially say I enjoy donuts far too much. Our final food hit of the night was the Rimsky-Korsakoffee House for some tea and cider. If you’re ever in Portland, be sure to make a stop there. It’s a Victorian-style house turned coffee and dessert shop with a few surprising pranks and tricks to entertain you. Plus, the restroom is underwater. (Don’t worry. It’s just an illusion.) Rimsky-Korsakoffee perfectly mirrors that infamous Portland quirkiness. And their desserts are supposed to be amazing.

A quick drive down the freeway to the airport and we grabbed our bags and said a brief “Au revoir” to Portland. I’d never flown JetBlue before and I can’t say I’m very impressed. Not only was I unlucky enough to sit next to a very restless and unhappy toddler, the seats reclined about 3 inches back. Remember when I mentioned I’d been planning on passing out on the plane? Yeah.. That didn’t happen. The flight could have been much worse, but it was certainly not my favorite travel experience.

Arriving at JFK around 5:30 am (Eastern time), we were picked up by Jackie’s mom and they dropped me off in Brooklyn where I’m staying with a family friend for a couple of days. A blowup mattress welcomed me and my slumbers to New York until 12 in the afternoon.

When I finally braved the streets of Brooklyn, I had one thing on my mind: coffee. I found a nice little shop down the street that was beautifully filled with various cheeses, fresh bread, and a glorious selection of roasts. While I was browsing around, I noticed an adorable and enthusiastic toddler who was running around the store and asking his dad the names of different things he saw. I glanced at his father and recognized within seconds that it was Cillian Murphy. His face was covered in scruff and he was bundled up in a heavy coat and hat, but he was certainly recognizable. Interesting that something like that would happen to me within my first hour exploring.

With coffee in hand, I made my way back to the house to figure out the rest of my day, only to discover that my key didn’t work. I guess it was meant to be a “wing it” day. I managed to get myself over to Pratt Institute to check out the sculpture garden there and look over my maps. After a bit more wandering, I hopped on the subway hoping to reach the Brooklyn Bridge. Maybe I hopped off too early, maybe I’m just not city-savvy enough to read subway maps, but I never got to the bridge. I did end up in downtown Brooklyn and wandered around there for an hour or so. Back on the subway I went and walked down a few blocks to some cute restaurants. I found a cafe, grabbed a Chai, and rested my feet. On my way out I got on the phone to figure out the key situation and was instructed to take the subway into Manhattan to meet Sean with a spare key. At this point, it was dark, but I felt comfortable enough walking around in strange neighborhoods. (Always walk with purpose!) I got the key and jumped right back on the subway. I somehow managed to miss my stop and when I reached ground level I was in a very sketchy, loud, and scary area somewhere between Brooklyn and Queens. This was a test sent from whatever fates were guiding my life today: How to figure out a way back to the house with a frighteningly low cell phone battery, in the dark, in a foreign neighborhood with big guys hollering towards me and still maintain calm and collected? Not an easy task for someone with anxiety up the wazoo, but thank God for smartphones and apps or else I would have probably been in serious trouble. I can’t tell you how I managed to find the right subway entrance or how my phone didn’t quit out on me. All I remember was feeling frantic and like my heart would burst out of my chest at any minute. My hands were shaking so much I was certain that everyone around was just waiting for me to collapse on the ground in tears.

But I did make it back alive. Through the cold and the dark, I was finally able to get warm again in the safety of a locked home. Tomorrow I’m looking forward to some thrifting with an old friend and some Christmas cheer at Rockefeller. Hopefully I’ll avoid the stress of wandering alone.

All in all, I had a good day. I’m more familiar with this place I’ve just met and I was able to see some beautiful parts of Brooklyn. In retrospect, I’m surprised I didn’t have a panic attack at any point during my exploration, but I think that’s reflective of how much I’ve grown. Somehow, by some curious work of whatever god, I made it to adulthood. How avoiding anxiety indicates maturity, I can’t really explain, but I like to think they’re related. Like I said before, time is a curious thing. Life simply speeds past you and as the wise and overly-quoted Mister Bueller said, you’ve got to take some time to look around.

Until tomorrow…

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