New York City in a fall rain. It was all kinds of dreamy, just like you'd imagine. A last minute project came up for work, and before I knew it my boss was asking me to fly out that weekend. A perfect last minute adventure to a strange city. I got in at dusk, with fog blanketing the plane so I couldn't see out the window. I pointed to a stack of skyscrapers I could barely make out and asked the man next to me "is that it?!" He laughed and replied "No sweetie - THAT's it", pointing further right to what I hadn't seen - a massive skyline rising in the horizon. San Francisco is tiny in comparison.
I stepped outside and my wide eyes must have given me away as an unsuspecting tourist. A man came up and asked me "Taxi?" I should not have said yes, but I did and he led me away from the line of waiting yellow cabs to a parking lot across the street, where he threw my bag in the trunk of a plain black car. I hesitated fearfully until I saw what seemed to be an official looking plaque on the back of the seat. "Hurry up!" he barked so I got in against my better judgement. He waited until we had left the airport to tell me it was going to be $100 to my hotel. Swindled is better than kidnapped, I suppose. Although I did spend most of the first 30 minutes daydreaming about a scenario where I had to roll out of a car on the freeway.
The cab driver turned out to be super nice in the end, and gave me quite a welcome to the city. As we started to approach the skyline I had seen in the distance he muttered his first words - "uh oh". Not comforting. "What is it?" "See that?" He pointed to a massive string of cars getting closer, leading straight to the skyline, which was now almost above us. "That's about 30, 40 minutes of traffic. Welcome to New York." I sighed. He glanced at me in the rearview mirror. "But, I can get us to the tunnel in 5 minutes." I laughed.
So I did. He raced around side streets, wasting a precious minute and a half at a red light. With 30 seconds on the clock, we zipped around cars on a one way alley in the right hand gutter, barely missing parked cars. Within five minutes we were in the tunnel, with the 10 cars we had cut off honking angrily. It was amazing.
I sank into work almost immediately, and the first day flew by in a blur. I walked to the office on fifth, cutting through madison square garden. I stared up at monumental buildings I'd only ever seen on tv. I wore heels and all black and ordered weird coffee and it was amazing.
But the best came on Tuesday when Ryan flew out to meet me. I was staying with my friend Caitlyn for the rest of the week and we'd caught a cab to Brooklyn with Chelsea to see the city twinkle in all it's brillance when suddenly he was there, walking across the dock and picking me up. The girls were delighted. I felt my heart flip a little. We found a pub to squeeze into with all my luggage and laughed the night away.
Caitlin's apartment was just how you'd want an apartment in Queens to be. Up a narrow flight of stairs and into a charming two bedroom, three if you count the living room they'd converted. I sat on the floor in the tiny kitchen, staring out the window at the lights.They made me feel right at home with the way they effortlessly welcomed me into their space.
Ryan walked me to the subway each morning and rode into work with me, dropping me off with a promise to explore after I got off. We found our way to Times Square, Broadway, Top of the Rock - and topped it off with a carriage ride through Central Park in a dusky cloud of rain, snuggled up under a blanket with our heads together.
I have to wonder if the sparkle ever dulls. If the sirens and the chatter from below keep you up at night. If you avoid the main parts of town and glare at people taking pictures of the Empire State Building. In many ways, there's the idea of New York, which is not really New York - they've just done a very good job of selling it to you.
But that doesn't mean I can't run around like a child at Christmas, taking those pictures and grinning from ear to ear.