31 January 2006
self portrait tuesday #20
"open it," he said.
we were out having dinner, celebrating my 22nd birthday. I tore open the envelope and pulled out the contents. in my hands, I held beautifully handwritten details for a trip to new york city, my first trip to new york city.
"it's all worked out," he said. "we drive up the last week of january. I talked to your friend kira and she said we can crash on the floor of her dorm room. I talked to everybody at moving in the spirit and got you the week off. it's a done deal."
I couldn't really speak and even worse, could not stop with all the wide and goofy grinning. I remember saying, really? really? but we have no money... no money... REALLY?... over and over and over. and I remember thinking, oh yes. this man-- he is what they call good. in the world of good and lovely men, I have scored monumentally. see, I'd been talking about wanting to see new york for so long, about wanting to take just ONE dance class there, see just ONE show, and walk and look and walk and look some more and see and see and see. I knew he was listening but never imagined that he would put something together like this for me. I had a hard time finishing my dinner that night and thus began the counting of the seconds til the last week of january 1993.
and then that cold magnificent week finally rolled around and I swear to you, we spent every possible waking moment squeezing the juiciest juice from every single day. no time was wasted, we were always doing/seeing something. I suppose I was afraid I'd never make my way back. each night, we passed out on the wood floor of kira's tiny dorm room. completely spent, deliriously happy. we took on all the usual suspects-- the metropolitan, walked through central park and down fifth avenue, rode the elevator to the top of the empire state building, bought rosewater and fresh bread at zabar's, oohed and aahhed over the guggenheim structure, shopped for shoes on 8th street in the village, bought used books from street vendors, listened to our voices echo in the gorgeous, cavernous grand central station, wandered all over the LES and soho, bought stringy sugary ginger candy and grapefruits as big as your head in chinatown and cheesy trinkets in little italy. we hit up brooklyn too, sampled the cheesecake at junior's, drooled over the brownstones, stumbled onto spike (lee's) joint. so many hours spent walking. I took a dunham technique class at the ailey school, observed a childrens' dance class at a PS on the lower east side (part of jaques d'amboise NDI program), and saw 'jelly's last jam' on broadway.
and so on the last day of the trip, I was somewhere beyond exhausted, trying to digest every fantastic thing I had done, seen, tasted and heard lest it fall through the cracks of my overwhelmed mind. unbelievably, still giddy and hungry for more. we decided to leave the last day to fate-- loose plans to do some shopping and eat lunch at a touristy joint in little italy and then perhaps chinatown... might they be having a parade for the chinese new year? we didn't know.
some moments adhere themselves eternally to that part of your brain devoted to vivid recall: we were finishing up a late lunch at luna's when we heard the drumming and (what sounded like) explosions. I remember we paid our check quickly and ran from the restaurant down canal street to check it out. we saw the chinese dragons, shaking and moving clumsily and they were headed towards us. before I knew it, we were caught up in a wild sea of people, voices shouting and hands pushing, firecrackers popping. the hissing and cracking, it felt like they were exploding right beneath our feet. in this unfathomable swarm of people (and bright colors and dragons and noise and flags and celebrating), I felt the kind of electricity that comes from feeling fully alive (and also consumed with fear). in that moment, my eyes were opened and an insatiable lust for travel was born. it was always in me, that lover of exploration and new things, that need to switch up my geography. I'd been to japan as a teenager but this was somehow different. maybe because I was there on my own, because I was a couple years older and starting to realize that nobody hands you anything. except when they really really love you and want to make you the happiest woman in the world.
we left the next morning to make the long drive back down south. every part of my body cried out for rest and everything sounded muffled but I felt good and lived-in and worn out. a couple of days and I'd be ready for more. thankfully, there have been many many more trips back and forth, south to north. my new york now is very different than the eyes-wide-open version of 1993. I'm so thankful-- thankful for travel and always thrilled to get up and go when the doors open wide and something calls out. ava's been talking about new york so much these days. uncle von lives there and she wants to see for herself what all the hubbub is about. she sounds just like me.
so, happy chinese new year to you. happy year of the dog, y'all. more photos of the chinese new year celebration for your viewing pleasure here.
(and more self portrait tuesday personal history greatness here and here)