Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NYC: Grossness Found

While going through my COMPUTER bag, 
I came across this:
What makes this so gross, you ask?

Behold the map of Del Taco Locations:

Yup. The damn thing was in the side pocket of my bag from at LEAST Texas to NYC.
 Though I have to say I do not remember stopping at a Del Taco in Texas. 
I think this cookie was a New Mexico purchase.
Or maybe it was Arizona.
Ugh.



Monday, November 29, 2010

NYC: The Constants and Avenue B.

There are quite a few people in my life who are the constants.

I am extremely fortunate to have those constants.

Some have known me since I was an obnoxious teenager. 
Some have known me since I was in my flaky twenties. 

 I walked by a building on the corner of Avenue B and 8th Street
that is connected to two of my constants
and,
to me.

Once upon a time this was a Hebrew School that one of my dearest friends attended as a child. 

Later, when the neighborhood turned into a desolate crime-ridden wasteland, 
a College age friend moved into this building with two musician friends.  

The building is across the street from Tompkins Square Park.
I remember when my girlfriend and I who were in high school would go visit him, 
we would
RUN RUN RUN
NOT
through the park 
but
AROUND
 the park. 

Or, if you had the money, you took a cab.
That is,
if the driver would take you there.
I have mixed feelings about my memories in this building
yet this is something that I love - not only about NY 
but about the two people that share this link, 
and share knowing me, 
yet have never met. 

They, we, the city are connected.
Now, the building is Fancy Pants.

I stood outside looking at the lovely changes,  

thinking about these particular constants, 

how their lives are intertwined with this building, 

with me. 

How far the building has come. 

How far my two friends have come. 

How far I have come.












Sunday, November 28, 2010

NYC: Transportation

I am agog.

Just absolutely wide eyed.

I am that person you see on the street and say: they're not from around here.

I am that dorky tourist.

There is so much happening at once.

Cars, trucks, buses, ambulances, people, dogs, more people, cabs swerving in and out of traffic, bicyclists dodging said cabs.

My brain is on overload.

When I arrived, my friend offered to fix the settings on my camera. In the process my friend accidentally deleted all photos from Mississippi on East.

I called 17th Street Photo, a camera shop, and they told me to bring the camera in.

I went out unsure of how I was going to get there. I thought it best to hail a cab.

There were so many lanes, though - it was overwhelming. What happened to JUST lanes?  You know, just 3 or 4 lanes?

                     Cars looked like they were parked in the middle of the street:
                                    (they actually were, I later found out)
HUH?


then there was this:
The bike lane.
Yes, that would be a biker going in the wrong direction.

I flagged down a cop car, and said:
"Excuse me, May I ask you something?"
Cop: (irritated)"Yeah?"
Me: "Um, I grew up here, and I haven't been back to the city for over 10 years, and I was wondering: Do you still hail a cab the same way, I mean I see all these lanes for diffrent things, and..."
Cop: (smiling now) "Yeah, same way, that hasn't changed, it's the fucking bike lanes, I can't stand 'em and I'm a cyclist myself."
Me: "Oh, okay. Um, thanks, have a great day!"

My friend Michael had warned me about bicylcists going the wrong way in the bike lanes.
I stuck out my hand to hail a cab, and sure enough I was clocked by a cyclist going the wrong way - just on my arm.

I started laughing.

A cab pulled over. I got in.

What the hell is the video thing?
It doesn't shut up.
They take credit cards now?
OMG. WOW.

And before I know it, 
I am in a cliche taxi situation.

A Prius, yes, a PRIUS tried to cut off my taxi as we were going down 11th street.

For those of you that don't know,
11th street is a ONE LANE street.

My driver was not having it.

Here is the audio
(with me egging him on - I couldn' t help it, it was too funny - but he WAS in the right)


And then there was my dog's first taxi ride:
(note Xmas music in background)


I eventually took a bus  - but, when I got on with my exact change, the driver told me no, that I had to buy a ticket. Huh? I got off the bus, as the Bus Driver had no patience with my questions. I get it. He's on a schedule.
A 12 year old school girl helped me figure this "ticket" business.


              There are little kiosks and you put your money in, and the ticket pops out:

BUT, you MUST get on at the back door. 
I asked some people who takes the ticket? 
They told me: "Well if you get asked for it, you better have it."
Wait, it's based on the honor system????
WHAT city am I IN???

I got on the bus. 

I rode for over 80 blocks. 

Not once did anyone ask me for the ticket. 

NYC first night of Slumber

My first night of slumber in a home was not sound. At 5:00AM bright and early, I heard the rumblings of delivery trucks - the gnashing sounds of brakes, the thump thump thump of the wheels going over uneven streets, the chaos of the traffic outside.

OMG. I am really here.

I forgot how loud it is here.

And God it smells.

Later, my friend takes me and my dog to the East River - to the promenade? I try running. I am gasping. Is this because of two weeks behind a wheel? Or is it the density of the city that doesn't allow for air circulation? Is that EVEN possible?

How can this one island hold so much? I mean, there are hundreds and hundreds of buildings and thousands and thousands of people.

 I need to stop thinking.

PART 2 NYC: I'm REALLY here.

I am staying with a friend on Avenue C and 2nd Street.

I park the car on 4th Street between C & D. Right behind a BMW SUV. Across from me is a Saab. Up the ways a H2.

Huh?

The last time I was here, you would've been mad to park your car here. Wait, was I EVER between C&D? Ever?

When I was a teenager, this area was filled with shooting galleries.

Shooting Galleries were places that heroin junkies could go and get their drugs and needles to shoot up. At times there would be long lines of people waiting outside of these buildings.

After I unload most of my belongings,  and even though I am exhausted to the point of nauseousness, I go for a walk with my dog

Inside I am giddy with excitement. I am jumping up and down, I want to tell the people walking by how happy I am. I want to yell:

 I AM HOME!!!

But I don't.

I marvel at all of the changes.

The changes that so many said: You won't recognize it.

But I do recognize it.

You could transport all of NYC to Kansas City, and Kansas City in turn would  become NYC. 

It's not about the buildings, it's not about the cute little shops.

It's not about some monstrosity that Mr Trump has erected.

NY is  about the people.




Next: Some first impressions in photographs and thoughts.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Entering NYC: Part 1

Once again, I can't believe it - I am actually doing this.

I start to panic as I leave Columbia, MD - lack of sleep, lack of proper nutrition,  it's added up and has turned into adrenalin racing through my body - with no outlet.

I call a friend in Los Angeles - who was instrumental in aiding my exit out of LA.

He talks me through Baltimore, Delaware, we skim Pennsylvania together   and into NJ, where btw, I see my first hybrid car since Mississippi - but it wasn't a Prius, it was  a Honda Zip Car.

I stop probably 5 times with my friend staying on the phone with me -I know I should try and  eat something, knowing if I do, I will feel better.

I try to rationalize my feelings; I can turn around.

I don't need to do this.

 If I really start to freak out, I can park the car and fly back - I'll figure it out.

I have options.

Remember that, remember that.

I get out of the car in New Jersey. I walk my dog and myself. I get a sandwich at Starbucks. I breathe.

I have options.

I can always turn around.

I have my apartment in Los Angeles.

Granted there's someone in there, but I could stay at a friends.

But I've made it this far. You have to at least go in.

I have options. I don't have to do this.

This is crazy. I haven't stepped foot in NYC for over 10 years. Everyone says oh, you won't recognize it. It's changed so much. It's so expensive. It's so hard. Why? Why are you doing this?

Self doubt is creeping in.

My Father's concerned questions.

Breathe.

I call another friend - a Native New Yorker who has been my cheerleader since the first whisper of this idea. She tells me the directions I got from AAA are confusing, and gives me idiot proof directions.

I continue on.

Traffic is somewhat dense.

                                                                                
                                                          And I see it.
                                                          I see the sign:
This would be the O.M.G moment. 

There's no turning back. 

Anyway, I wouldn't even know how or where to exit at this point.

Then I see it - 
or
 think I do:
Wait. Maybe not. I'm so confused. Maybe that's Jersey City.


 I continue on, and see confirmation:
Huh? The city lost weight. It looks anemic.

oh, right.

I guess after seeing photos and footage I thought I wouldn't be surprised by the void in the city.

I feel sad for NY. 

MY childhood NY is no longer. 

But I go on:


And then:
OMG. There are A LOT of cars.
All I'm thinking is: What lane do I get in? What is this EZ pass lane?
Don't screw up, do not get in the wrong lane, pay attention. 
You do not want angry New Yorker's yelling at you.

Then I see my first taxi! And that's why I love NY. You cannot dwell on any one thing for longer than 10 seconds. It demands your attention at all times in 50 different directions
And 
I think, my god, how much is that ride to go from Jersey to the city?
Must be a fortune.

I look to my right and I see my first graffiti'd car!
YES! 
I am DEFINITELY NY adjacent. 
Now, THAT is something you do NOT see in LA. 
In LA, cars are sacred. 
If anyone dared to spray paint your car, 
if you weren't already arrested and thrown in jail 
(and oh, yes the LAPD will do just that) 
you would be killed. 

It's just not done.

I paid the toll to the toll taker. He said to me in his thick NY accent:

"Have a nice day, sweetheart!" 

SWEETHEART! 
He called me Sweetheart! 
I started laughing. I haven't been called that in YEARS.


Have I said how I loathe tunnels?
Oh, I do. 
But, 
I didn't drive all this way to freak out in the goddamn Holland Tunnel. 
This is fine.
As we go further in, and down, all those tunnel phobia thoughts creep back in: 
What if there's an accident? 
We'll be stuck in here for hours. 
I mean how does an ambulance get in here? 
I bet it would be pandemonium. 
What if there's a leak? 
OMG what an awful way to go. 
I wonder if I get cell phone reception?
I mean, you can understand the thought process, right?

And then. 

I'm out. 

I'm in the City.

And I am in awe.












Preface to NYC: Starting to really freak out

Part 1:


I am staying at the Sheraton Hotel in Columbia, Maryland.  Aside from staying with family and friends, I have only stayed at Best Western's, La Quinta's, and Quality Inn's on this trip.

I just went out in the bitter cold to have a cigarette,  and  looked up at the hotel sign

and it hit me.

When my Mother and I moved back to New York after our stint in Texas, I was 11 years old. 

I remember we stopped in New Jersey, and spent the night. 

At a Sheraton.

I am almost my mother's age when she moved back to NYC with me.

Am I doing this for my Mother? Am I retracing her steps in hopes of reclaiming the life that she should have had?

Instead of me and my daughter, it is me and my dog.

Part 2:





NY D DAY
I am sitting in my hotel room in total denial that I have to get in the shower, walk my dog, pack the car and drive into NYC. 

I am exhausted. 

I slept 4 hours.

Originally I wanted to arrive at 11:00 AM. 

Not happening. 

I am leaving here most likely at 12:00 for arrival into NY at 4:00. Just in time for sunset.

I have freaked out on and off - mainly since Holbrook, AZ - Holbrook was where it really started to hit me that I was doing this.

BUT, the fact that I have my apartment in Los Angeles has aided me in maintaining my calm. And knowing that I have a full bottle of Xanax (untouched at this point) in the suitcase doesn't hurt either.

All psychological stuff, I know. 

Mind over whatever. Or so, I thought.


I turned on the TV to try and calm my nerves


and this is what was on:


WHAAAAAAA?

Really?
REALLY?







Part 3:

The time: 10:34 AM. The place: The Sheraton Hotel in Columbia, Maryland. Check out time: 12:00.

And that's it. I am driving to NY TODAY.

And, I am slowly starting to freak out.

I have not stepped foot in NYC in over 10 years.

TEN YEARS.

I know I won't recognize the city.

At least, that's what everyone tells me.

Over the years when watching  various programs on TV,  I would see the city skyline and it would prompt me to utilize my DVR:

I would Pause, Rewind, Freeze Frame and Slo-Mo the skyline shots so I could see how my city had transformed.

It was like studying a long lost friends face and tracing the lines of aging to see how and what had changed.

I am emotional. This whole trip has been emotional, but up to this point I have been pretty okay with my moods  and my ability to keep things in check.

I don't know how I am going to react - like I have said to family and friends along the way - I may absolutely HATE it.

I may say uh-uh.

This is NOT for me. Not at all.

Get me the fuck out of here. STAT.

I may turn around in a few weeks and head west. I don't know.

I am intimidated scared, excited, nervous, freaking out. I like to think I am like every 22 year old kid that moves to NYC from their hickety pickety town - I sometimes think that is what I needed. To come at it with fresh eyes, and a new attitude.

All I know is right now, I am schvitzing like nobody's business.

I can't find my deodorant nor my toothpaste.

I refuse to enter NY smelling.

REFUSE I TELL YOU.




              
My dog with her blanket at the hotel. 
She has NO idea what she's in for. 

Neither do I.



Trying to breathe here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Preface to NY: Columbia, Maryland: Stink Bugs & Perfume

Trying to find a place to stay between D.C. and NYC that took dogs and is affordable is no easy feat.

My friend in NY tried for over an hour scouring online looking for a place that was safe, and would take my dog and not be crazy expensive.

Baltimore apparently was out of the question - it seems Baltimore has a reputation of being not so safe. Maybe Baltimore would be alright if I stayed at the harbor, or I could stay at the airport.

My friend in Durham came to the rescue once again, and found a room for me at the Sheraton Hotel in Columbia, MD. They took dogs. They even had room service!

I was thrilled. I needed a good nights sleep, as this was it.

This is my last night before arriving in NY.

Walking into the hotel, I knew I was on the East Coast.

I could smell perfume.

I loved it.

On the West Coast, you rarely smell perfume or cologne. And if you do, all your alarms go off:

"WARNING! Alien in the midst!"

It's true! You are very suspicious - you know those nice smelling people are not from "these parts".

Anyway...

I should have been suspect when I checked in. They sent me to the "lodge" which was not part of the main hotel. I drove over, parked, and took my suitcases out only to realize there is no elevator. Clunk, clunk, clunk, clunk up the stairs. Bump bump bump over the door jams.

I walked in.

It was glorious!

There were cookies waiting for me!

Yes!!!

After two weeks of being on the road, I couldn't have been happier.


                                                   Then I started to notice little things:
Hmmm. 

I ate a cookie. 

Then I saw this:
Okay, looks like they started - or is it finishing up a renovation?

Who cares, I'm exhausted. 

All I want to do is eat and go to sleep. 

And then there was this:
Now I am annoyed.

BUT, like I said, I'm hungry and exhausted.

So, I ate some food. 

And, anyway, my dog was in heaven:


A long hot bath will do me well.


And then I saw this on the floor:
Okay, housekeeping didn't catch it. Two dead flies. Whatever.

Long hot bath ahead. Flies will not bother me.

And I walked into the bathroom and saw this above the mirror:
ACCK! What is that?!

I walked into the main room, to call the front desk and, oh look!:
Obviously, his partner in crime.

Now. it's 10:30.

They told me on the phone they were sorry. 
They could maybe move me to the room next door. 
But wait, if the bugs are here, they most likely will be next door, won't they?
Well...
They would send an engineer to the room.
I waited for 15 minutes, 
then took matters into my hands.
I captured the two living bugs, 
scooped up the two dead flies, 
placed all four of them into the oh so trendy stainless steel ice bucket, 
grabbed my dog, 
and 
walked across the compound to the main building 
and 
delivered them to the front desk.

When I returned to my room, 
the phone was ringing; 
the hotel was offering 
 to move me to the main building.

At midnight, we arrived in our new digs.

At 2:30 AM I was still up. 

Panic was setting in.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Beginnings of Fear.

Remember how I said whenever I get out of the car in Palm Springs  I am automatically 15 pounds lighter and 10 years younger?

Well, I discovered that as I drove further and further  east, this still applied. By the time I got past Texas, I was friggin' Gisele.





That is, until my friend in LA burst my bubble: Yeah, you'll be skinny until you hit NY. Then you're fat again.

But I went on - in Durham, my hair felt silky - like I haven't felt in years.

Okay, maybe I'm not Princess Fiona after all. Maybe I can walk outside without feeling like an ogre.

And tonite I hit Maryland. 

And tomorrow is it. 

New York. 

And all the ogre feelings started creeping back in. My skin is a disaster. My hair  is a mess. Do I see a grey hair?  I haven't worked out in 2 weeks. 

Ugh, my body. 

My clothes are horrid. 

Am I insane for doing this? 

Yes. 

Yes, I am. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Washington, D. C.: Simply Majestic.

By far, hands down, the BEST TEXT I have EVER received:

Let me tell you something - when you see the Pentagon, that wakes you right up, but then as you're crossing the bridge over the POTOMAC river, what you see blows you away:

The Washington Monument

and then,

The Capitol.

This was so powerful and profound. My mouth was open, and I kept saying "WOW!" "WOW!" Just like a little kid. And meanwhile I'm trying to snap out of it so I can take pictures. But I couldn't. I just couldn't - I was in AWE. Just gobsmacked.


The last time I was in Washington DC I was a kid; My father took us to President Carter's inauguration; This is what I remember: It was cold. When the motorcade went by, I missed Carter and only saw Vice President Walter Mondale.
                             And I kept seeing Vice President Mondale - over and over again.

                                At the Balls, at the store, I mean, it didn't stop.

Years later up in the Hollywood Hills, Mondale's daughter Eleanor moved down the street from my friend, and it still bugged me; made me remember how I missed President Carter that freezing day.

Though I did get to see Cher. Cher in the bathroom at one of the Balls. I got her autograph. So there.



A former co-worker from LA  who is now a happily married Washingtonian is the author of the above text -we worked together in a office that was "Mean Girls" meets "Ugly Betty" but without the wit or the style. He kept a lot of us sane during those years, and he will always, always hold a special place in my heart, and ALWAYS make me laugh. ALWAYS.

When my friend guided me in to the city he told me to park along any of the side streets such as: "e" "f" "g" etc.

The area is so quaint and adorable, filled with architectural delights at every turn.

Parking was tricky, but I finally found a spot.

When I got out of the car, I was parked in front of a stately home with a bit of fencing in front as if there were renovations going on:
Here' another angle:
And yet another one:
Why so many photos of this home undergoing a renovation?

Oh, maybe because out of ALL the parking spots in the city,
I got the second safest spot - as this is the home of the
AKA General James F. Amos

Oh, yeah.

The whole city block is patrolled by Marines.

Around the corner is Marine Housing.

Here are some Marines patrolling:
btw, I don't think I am really allowed to post their pics.

If you don't ever hear from me again, you'll know why...

While walking to see my friend I encountered this strolling down the street:
From Gun Toting Marines to Pink Fairies.

I think I like D.C.

A LOT.

After we caught up on each others lives we walked around - when I say this Neighborhood is cute, I am not exaggerating:

                                                            Now, this is a house!
                                                   LOOK how skinny it is!
                                        If you look at the upper right portion of the house,
                          you can see brick to the right - that's where the other house starts.

Then, my friend took me a few blocks to see this magnificence:
Breathtaking. 

I cannot encourage a visit to our nation's capitol enough. 
And I have to thank my Father for always instilling in me a great pride to be an American, 
and to respect and serve our country to the best of our ability.

My photo's and brief spin through the town does not do DC justice.

The city is vibrant, pulsating with electricity - really. The people there seem to just click. Every block you walk, the different cultures that are represented is astounding - it's the equivalent of living in a UN meeting - absolutely wonderful.

The architecture, the richness of the details, the history of this country all laid out before you.

Just magnificent.

Simply Majestic.

And a BIG thank you, to my friend, 
and to Washington, D.C. 
for giving me pause - about everything.





Monday, November 22, 2010

Richmond Virginia: Huffin' and puffin'.

After I left Durham, and was heading to D.C., I made a stop at a Mickey D's to check my directions.

When I came out of McDonald's, I looked to my right and saw this:

Pretty, right?

Now, driving across country does not allow for much exercise. I hadn't really exercised since leaving Los Angeles, so I grabbed my dog out of the car, and started running up the green "space" with her.

As I heaved and cursed myself for still smoking cigarettes, I looked to my right and saw a fairly contemporary office building.
Huh?
This was a random exit off the highway (or is it interstate? Or freeway? after 4,000 miles I still can't tell you)

There was the McDonald's and pretty much nothing else.

I continued running, huffing and puffing, and then I came upon the main entrance to the office building:


Oh. 

Message anyone?

As I got back into my car, I grabbed this pic of a YOUNG McDonald's employee on his break:
Yup, smoking. And you know the kid chows down on Mickey D's. 

Even after all this, 

as I made my way to DC thinking, damn it, but cigarettes are so cheap here, I really should pull over and buy some...

But no, I can't.  I shouldn't. 

But, they just taunt you:
I didn't stop. 

Washington D.C. was waiting.

Durham, NC: Contraband Country

Unfortunately a lot of the pics from Durham were NOT recovered. 

Durham is filled with woodsy beauty, Duke University, and a incredible medical pool to choose from.

And then there's this:

I happened to take this at a post office, but let me tell you, these signs ARE everywhere.

Durham is a Serious University Town.



Sports and Medicine. 

And I guess weapon wielding academics?

The University really is quite beautiful - I can see why this is an easy sell for academics and students alike. You could almost fake a few of the buildings for Cambridge.

Here is my dog enjoying a trail adjacent to the University:




Richard M Nixon, Class of 1937.



The real reason I stopped in Durham was to see an old friend from NY who was spending some time there at a health retreat. 

Now this is not a fancy pants kind of spa - no, no nonononononononono it is not. Think a little crunchy, a little 70's - you get the idea.

The meals are  predominantly vegan, have no sodium, no sugar and the beverages consist of filtered water, tea, and black coffee.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was at the prospect of eating some kind of non fast food. 
Most people dread coming to the retreat knowing the blandness of the food  that they will have to eat for the next few months. 

Not I. 

Behold my first meal:
Starting with upper left: Wild Rice; Kale; Split Pea Soup; Roasted Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic.

Heaven. 

And if that doesn't speak volumes about the crap I was eating on the road (MINUS Dad's, and my Aunt and Uncle's) I don't know what does.

The best part is that the people who are participating in the retreat smuggle in "contraband"  during their meals. For one, it may be Equal, another Splenda. One has a vial of perfectly aged Balsamic.  
Me? 
I went out to the parking lot grabbed a Diet Coke out of my car, crouched down and chugged some praying that I wouldn't have soda breath when I walked back in.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Douglasville, Georgia + BRAVO finally!

I was BEYOND excited when I stopped in Douglasville, Georgia. There was a Petco! a Thai Restaurant! and to be in a motel that had Bravo on the channel lineup AND there was a new episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.  !  What more could a weary TV addicted traveler want?



Far more fun to see NeNe and that crazy Phaedra on TV near their home city.



What Mother to be doesn't know the due date of her baby?? Whaa??? I know, doesn't make sense.


If you ever get bored, read Nene's tweets
She tweeted this, and I really have no idea what it means:
"I'm just telling u what these 2 eyes see & if u don't like it, u can pluck'em out & give me 2 mo babyyy"

The Best Western was nice and clean.  The Starbucks the next day was PACKED. It was nice to be in a semi cosmopolitan city after two days in the hickety pickety sticks. That's it. That's all on Douglasville. It was very pleasant.

Next  Stop: Durham, N.C. I get to see an old friend who I haven't seen in a long time! Civilization + Conversation, here I come!