I always laugh when people say “I hope you enjoyed your retreat!” or “your vacation!”
I do enjoy it, all of it, but my life and my travel are almost militarily disciplined and at all times retain a pilgrimage aspect. I often fast in my way, I always walk miles. This last trip to NYC was no exception.
And it was a beautiful trip.
Why, however, did I make it? Even I don’t fully know.
Maybe my goal was simply to lay eyes on the faces of my friends: Patrick, Tim, Matthew, Anthony. Maybe it was so I could go to Mass and pray at St. Vincent Ferrer, surely one of the loveliest churches in NY, if not all of creation. Maybe it was to pay my biannual visit to the Conservancy Garden in the upper NE corner of Central Park. Maybe it was to walk the streets of Manhattan (and Queens, and Brooklyn), and to leave a little of my body and blood there, and to pray for the people and places among whom I walked.
Maybe I just had to savor a taste of the East Coat autumn.
All of this was made easier by a $213 round trip ticket and the fact that, because I write for Magnificat, I’m allowed to stay at the Dominicans’ Holy Name Building on E. 65th, around the corner from St. Vincent Ferrer, for a generously small stipend (as who but the wealthy could ever afford a Manhattan hotel for a week).
Never will I get over the miracle of travel, especially air travel. How is it possible that a person could awake in a bed on Lexington and 65th and on the same day retire for the night on a bed in Pasadena, California? I’m always super anxious, afraid I won’t make it, or something will go wrong, the upside of that being insane gratitude for every “tiny” thing that goes right. Oh, the downtown Q train showed up as promised. Oh Penn Station is still there! Oh United is going to honor the boarding pass it issued me! Et cetera.
I write from the United Lounge next to Gate 74 C at Newark’s Liberty Airport. I came early for my 1 pm flight, partly because I couldn’t bear the suspense of knowing whether or not I’d make it from downtown Manhattan, and partly because you can get free juice, coffee and food here, plus your own space more or less to work in. (My United Visa provides me with two free passes a year).
Here are the moments I’ll take home with me: after a freezing cold, blustery day in Brooklyn, first having a new head shot taken, then wandering around Prospect Park, the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden till I was shaking with cold and exhausted, stopping at the falafel truck on 65th and 3rd Avenue before returning to my room with a hot chocolate, a falafel plate with rice and salad, a warm piece of pita, and a rice pudding and DEVOURING the second best meal I had the whole week. Trembling with gratitude.
The best meal was at Morandi in the Village with my friend Tim, whose highly recommended first novel, Cornelius Sky, was published this year. The plan was for me to take him out but of course he insisted on taking me out, which I mention simply because I seem to be surrounded by people who give me 500% more than I ever seem to give them. The meal was stupendous but the meal took second place to the conversation, communion and camaraderie.
Tim is also a NYC Transit bus driver. His route begins at 72nd and Amsterdam at 5:07 on weekdays and takes him and his riders across Central Park and over to York. I met him at the beginning of his shift another day and rode over to Madison and that, too, was a huge treat.
Then there was the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum (meh), Dia Beacon, the Noguchi Museum and the Socrates Sculpture Park.
Now I’m safe home, with major jet lag, and headed to Pershing Square in downtown LA this morning for the grand opening of ice-skating season.
Last night I gave a talk at the Valley Hunt Club (!) for the Pasadena chapter of Legatus.
The fun NEVER STOPS.