“as my writing ambitions grew so did my fantasies of living in the city, in a lovely apartment with brick walls, lined with books. i’d spend my days in cafes and coffee shops, with a well-worn notebook and my laptop and the lates important book. i would attend readings and rub elbows with the writers i admired most. i’d have cocktails with the editor of the new yorker, and he would be so besotted, he’d ask to see some of my work and i would finally catch my big break.”
– roxanne gay in goodbye to all that: writers on loving and leaving new york
new york is for dreamers. artists. writers. entrepreneurs. it’s for folks who dare to hope and take a risk. and the way i see it, you’ve gotta risk big to win big. wow. that just sounded way too big business or like gambler’s talk for my comfort level. but, i sincerely mean it. of course, i mean it in much more in an artsy, wanderlust, dreamy jack kerouac “but we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies” kinda way.
and on this last day, this last morning, as i woke with my legs and feet aching from all the insane walking, i smiled and knew that i had made a few tiny magical dreams of my own come true in this city.
we got a much later start on this, our final morning in nyc, trudging down the five flights of stairs, knees and calf muscles screaming at me, and emerging onto the streets of east village after the city had already begun her waking process. many people were already out and about. in an effort to relieve the joy of traveling without a map or a plan, we just wandered the neighborhood, once again. this time, however, knowing where we were – that this-and-that little store was over here, that first avenue was a good place to find a cafe, that we turned here-or-there to pass a favorite little garden. yes, we had become alphabet city residents in just four days – completely at ease with our little neighborhood. and it felt freeing and amazing, and so right. so right, that there was a bit of sadness creeping into my heart knowing that this was our last day. but, i pushed that feeling aside, remembering to live in the present moment – and let go of the worries of the future or the memories of the past.
we wound our way through the numbered streets and lettered avenues until we reached the corner of houston st and first avenue. here, i had read about a little cafe that served great coffee – and being the fika girl/coffee columnist that i am, i needed to visit a popular, well-known coffee shop before leaving.
bluebird coffee shop is a tiny little shop just outside a subway entrance. it has a warm, urban feel to it, and i could tell immediately upon entering that locals are regulars here. we each ordered a breakfast biscuit, some coffee, and a blueberry iced tea (i think it was blueberry) to share – you gotta hydrate when in nyc. we sat down on a little wooden bench, placed our food on a tiny metal table, and watched people come and go, ordering their usuals and greeting each other as old friends do. there were all kinds of people who crossed through the doors and left with a to-go cup of coffee, and there were some who sat at the wooden bar on stools just outside the wide open window on the sidewalk, and a few who sat beside us with their computers open. it was a cramped little space, but cozy.
the coffee was delicious. hot, smooth, and strong. perfect for waking up my brain and preparing me for another day of exploring and adventuring.
just across from the coffee shop, we descended the stairs down into the tunnels that wind beneath the streets to take a train uptown. today was culture day: we were headed to the museum of modern art – MoMa. and we were both very excited. we stepped onto the train, snagged two empty seats between fellow commuters and sipped our coffee as we traveled beneath the city, knowing that we would emerge from the darkness into the light of another neighborhood – the business-driven, posh area of 5th avenue.
the weather was a bit sprinkly, so it was the perfect day to hide out in a museum – which is what everyone else thought as well. actually, after a very short wait, we planned our attack and decided to start our tour of the MoMa on the top floor and work our way down.
oh, it was amazing the things we saw: mandarin | monet | rothko | van gogh | robert mapplethorpe |
filled with inspiration inside us, and our MoMa bag filled with tiny art pieces swinging from my arm, my love and i headed towards times square again – this time to follow the advice of our new friend, shrubah. the evening before at dinner, she mentioned a place called the stardust diner, a restaurant int he heart of the times square action where the waiters and waitresses are aspiring broadway actors. they take your orders, deliver your food, and sing for you. as two lovers of broadway musicals, we knew we needed to visit this place – plus it was time for some lunch!
it was crazy in there. bright neon lights flashing, loud kitchen noises clanging in the background, people laughing, music blaring, and yes, waiters singing broadway hits – climbing on tables and chairs, walking around and teasing the customers. it was so much freaking fun. i think our lunch turned into almost a two hour entertainment break. we loved and i highly recommend it!
we did a tiny bit of shopping – because, it’s a must, right? and then met up with jonas and peter, lina’s brother & cousin. in the middle of times square at rush hour, we stood on the sidewalk planning our next move for our final evening in new york city. it had to be good. but, we’d had enough of all of the flashy, crazy, touristy stuff. so, a cab back to the funky, arts, eclectic alphabet city was the plan. only, there were no cabs to be found. ok, there were some cabs, but they were all full. rush hour cab hailing is a tough job. lina and i stood in the street, on different corners, doing our best. any other time it had worked like a charm, but there were no empty cabs any-freaking-where.
so, the subway was plan b. the subway when everyone and their mother and grandmother and entire extended family are all trying to get home at the same time. but, it was easy. a little (under-exhaggeration) crowded, but an experience. we got separated, but we all got off at the right place, so we survived. whew.
happy hour anyone? it was the perfect time to grab something cold to drink after emerging from the hot and crowded subway. we walked up first avenue and just turned into a bar, of which i don’t remember the name. apparently, we chose well, because within 15 minutes it was packed.
as we sat, the four of us discussed the trip and the city and our feelings of love for new york. but, we were excited about traveling down to north carolina. to asheville. home – for me and lina. at least the four of us still had 5 days of fun together in a completely different kind of place.we were all yearning for a bit of nature and the funky vibe of asheville. the consensus was that we were excited to be moving on, and yet, heartbroken to be leaving new york at the same time….
but, we still had dinner at the sidewalk cafe to look forward to – an east village fave hangout for locals. a landmark on the corner of avenue a and 6th street. during our cozy, early-ish dinner, i received a text from our apartment’s host who asked how we were and if we’d had fun. he then suggested that we close out our evening at a bar just around the corner from the apartment, the wayland. and then, he told us that we just had to try the garden variety margarita – or the veggie margarita for short. (i just loved our host – so full of great tips and suggestions).
so we walked there, made our way through the crowd and up to the bar, and ordered 4 veggie margaritas. it was interesting. different. strong alcohol content, so much so that lina and i pushed the rest of ours off onto peter and jonas. thanks, boys.
the place was packed, the music was loud, but we cozied up next to a counter by the window. after we toasted to an amazing trip together, i took a moment to myself and stared outside, the lights of the night twinkling. there were people hailing cabs, others walking, but always lots of action. i noticed the street sign just outside the window, which read avenue c – the sign that now made me feel at home. i soaked in that moment. and wondered what it would be like the next time i returned…
around midnight, lina and i had packed and organized our bags, ordered the car to pick us up in the morning, and snuggled under the covers of our 5th floor alphabet city apartment for one last time. i listened to the dogs barking, the sirens wailing, the people talking and laughing – the now familiar noises of the city and i let the sounds lull me to sleep.
in the morning, our car was right on time. i ran around the corner to the local mexican restaurant to leave the keys to the apartment, then slid into the backseat of the car joining lina, who was already there all safely buckled in. we chatted with the driver for just a bit, but i wanted silence. as we pulled away from the apartment building and turned the corner from our numbered street onto avenue c, i bid farewell to this journey to the city of dreams and adventure, already anticipating the next one.
our trip home was smooth, but delayed. we met up with jonas and peter at the airport in charlotte and then the second adventure together began. neither of them had been to asheville before, so lina and i were very excited to show them all the best in and around asheville – so much to do! and i knew they were going to love it.
after the 2 hour drive from charlotte (my car was at the airport) up to the north carolina mountains, we rolled our suitcases and bags into our building, up the elevator, and welcomed ourselves and our guests home. a few of us grabbed quick showers – that felt sooooo good – and then we headed out to eat with my parents and brother.
that’s right, there was no time to rest. we went right into tourist mode, asheville style, with dinner at the asheville brewing company downtown. plus, it was the beginning of asheville’s beer week – so we had to go to a local brewery for dinner to celebrate. and celebrate we did.
inside i celebrated everything – our trip to nyc. the fact that i get to live in asheville. swedish family. my family. love. laughter. adventures. dreams. i looked around at everyone gathered round that table, then i looked around the familiar asheville sights around me, and i gave thanks for this beautiful, crazy, difficult, quirky, amazing life.