A few days ago, I turned to my husband and said, "I just need to go to New York for a couple of days." Maybe it was the stress of the dance season starting again or an old college photograph. Maybe it was just one of those I'm-going-to-go-crazy-if-I-don't-get-out-of-here moments I feel every now and then in this small town, country life. I just needed to leave. So I bought a cheap bus ticket and left at 4:00 am on Saturday morning for Brooklyn to stay with one of my closest friends, Mia.
Mia and I met in ballet school twelve years ago. We share a long history, including a couple of years as roommates in our first "grown up" apartment--a run down, almost windowless place on a seedy, but colorful, block in Bushwick. We took drastically different paths in life but no matter how much time passes between our phone conversations or weekend visits, we seem to be able to pick up right where we left off. Returning to NYC felt the same. When my feet hit the pavement, it's like I never left. I go on autopilot. My pace quickens. My scowl becomes more pronounced. I feel strange wearing bright colors on the subway.
Despite an obnoxious, persistent cold, I made dance classes a priority during the weekend and managed to get into some of my former regular teachers' classes. It felt like coming home, in a way. I also spent some time wandering a few of my favorite neighborhoods, startled at how everything had remained exactly the same, but somehow different. Like, that iconic no-frills coffee place in the east village is still there, but it's now a full-service brunch cafe, complete with mimosas and sidewalk seating. That second-hand clothing store I loved in college now specializes in overpriced vintage hats no one should ever wear. On the Upper West Side, H&H Bagels is gone, but my beloved Zabar's remains. I made sure to pick up some bagels and schmear to bring home, as per tradition.
I also spent a lot more time in Brooklyn on this trip than I have on most of my recent visits. I never particularly took to most neighborhoods in the Borough, preferring the less trendy but more affordable and quieter westernmost blocks of Washington Heights where we lived our married years in the city. Mia lives in Williamsburg, a hip neighborhood that's enjoyed great gentrification over the past fifteen years. I often refer to it as a "hipster playground" and stick out like a sore thumb with my conventional clothes and lack of over sized glasses. Where you find hipsters, you also find good vegan food. I ate a lot of it. It was delicious. I get the Williamsburg love now, sort of.
My trip was brief--just one night. I hated to leave. I still often feel like I didn't give life in the city enough of a chance. I feel like there's still more I should do there, like our time together is unfinished. As a compromise, I've decided to make weekend city trips a priority every couple of months or so. The city is a sort of home base for me, even after three years away. I need it.
While I loved the chance to get away and spend some time reconnecting with this city I love and an old friend, I was happy to return to my sweet son and husband. Somethings are worth leaving for.