Friday, March 26, 2010

The calm before the storm

My sisters and I have been planning a trip to New York for a few months now to celebrate Leigh Ann's birthday. We all love Tim Burton's artwork, and he had an exhibit at the Modern Museum of Art that we were all dying to see. We found tickets, reserved spaces at a hostel, and started packing. Our excitement about our trip had been growing like kudzu as our trip got closer and closer. Then we got word that Patrick's cancer was back. Patrick's appointments were scheduled, and it was the same week as the trip that the girls had been looking so forward to. I of course planned on skipping my trip with Becca and Leigh Ann so I could be with Patrick. I talked with him about arrangements, and he insisted that I go with the girls. He knew how much we were all looking forward to the trip, I wouldn't be able to get any of the money back, and at the hospital I was just going to have to sit around and wait for hours on end. He also said that if he was going to have to have chemo, this trip would be the last of the going and doing for a while. I felt so guilty that that I was going to be in the Big Apple having fun with my sisters while he was being poked, prodded, and scanned; but he was right.

Patrick's schedule was three day regimented blitz - fly into Houston on Tuesday, tests from 7:30am until 10:00pm on Wednesday, meet with his doctor Thursday morning, and fly home Thursday night. Mine was just the opposite - fly to NYC on Thursday, go to the MOMA on Friday, and do whatever else we wanted until we had to be on the plane on Sunday.

When I headed off to work on Tuesday, I kissed Patrick, squeezed him tightly, and told him how much I loved him. "Call me along and along so I don't worry." (and yes, that was my mother's voice coming out of my mouth). There was something I wanted to tell him, but for the life of me I couldn't remember what it was. I woke up the middle of the night and thought "Don't forget to remind him of that." Cameron gives him lots of love, and she and I load up in the car and head off. I drop her off, and then it hits me "Don't forget to get your cell phone charger." I call him to remind him, but he was already on the road. I told him to email or txt me when he got to Houston so he wouldn't use up his cell battery just in case he needed it.

Cameron and I spent Tuesday night doing girly things like packing and painting toe nails. After choir practice on Wednesday night, Cameron and I went over and picked up Becca, and we drove down to Momma's house to spend the night. (Leigh Ann met us at Momma's Thursday morning) Our flight was out of Myrtle Beach, and with Patrick gone, Cameron got to spend four days with Grandma and Grandaddy.

As we loaded up the car on Thursday morning, I couldn't help but have another twinge of guilt. Right then Patrick was more than likely sitting in a waiting room with a cotton ball taped to his arm with nobody to talk to, and I'm off to take a bite out of the Big Apple.

The flight went by very quickly. We ordered a cocktail, and I think it was just as much for the novelty than anything else. As many times as I have flown, I have never had a drink on a plane! Before we knew it we landed and headed off to our hostel. I enjoy being somewhere that public transportation is the norm. Only in the South is it uncool to take a bus or train. We got there and checked in, and what we found was not at all what we expected. We thought it was going to be three to a room which was wonderful. We found that it was really 8 to a room (3 bunk beds and a loft area) and it was mixed gender. None of this was a problem for me. All I needed was a place to sleep and keep my stuff. Becca and I had the top and bottom of one bunk receptively and Leigh Ann had the top bunk of the adjacent bed. We got settled in, and found a great Thai restaurant in Hell's Kitchen. We were all so beat that we went back and got snuggled in. The mattresses were reminiscent of a Trisket, but even that was no problem. I was in NY with two of my favorite people.

I woke up the next morning to a horrific sight. Everyone in our room was between their mid 20s to mid 30s, and mostly they from overseas. They were all beautiful people with charming accents, and interesting stories on what brought them to New York - then there was Robert. Robert was probably in his late 50s, and modesty wasn't in his rolodex. I open my eyes to see a man who's complexion reminded me of a raw Thanksgiving turkey. He was wearing nothing but very ill-fitting white briefs. He was sitting on the bunk directly across from me, and there were his man bits for the whole world to see. I was SO shocked! I rolled over just as fast as I could. I was embarrassed for me and him, but he didn't seem to mind a bit. Now if Gian, the gorgeous Italian sleeping under Leigh Ann, was half dressed, I might have said thank you; but I was looking for something to poke out my minds eye with. You (and by you I mean Rebecca) may think that is mean, but it's true.

After getting up and dressed, we headed to the MOMA for the exhibit. It was absolutely wonderful - creative, dark, revealing, and very thought provoking. (Good call Leigh Ann) After that we walked down 5th Ave and did a little shopping, and then it was off to Times Square. We looked and looked, but no sight of the Naked Cowboy. We had all intentions on taking our clothes off and taking our picture with him dressed in our new pretty underwear. He may haven't been there, or I may have been blocking out even the thought of man in tighty whities.

Saturday was filled with walking. We went to the Fashion Institute Museum, Mood Fabrics (where we all bought buttons galore), 30 Rockafeller Center where we had dirty water hotdogs for lunch, Chinatown, and we took the Staten Island Ferry at sunset to see the Statue of Liberty. It was totally breath taking. We had planed to head off to Little Italy for some authentic Italian food, but we ended up in the hood. And by in the hood, I mean we were afraid kind of hood. Once we passed two girly bars and a homeless shelter, we knew we had to get out of Dodge. Leigh Ann started to break out the map, and Becca stops her abruptly; "No Leigh Ann. They will know we don't know where we are going. There is the Empire State Building. Our hostel is on the other side of that. Walk. FAST." We hustle off as fast as we can trying hard not to look like gazelles around a waterhole full of alligators. We land in Soho, and found this great little Mexican place. We knew it was our kind of place when we saw that there was a little Chihuahua wagging it's tail at the door. Fish tacos, AMAZING guacamole, and stout margaritas completely erased the panic of Little Italy. After asking Becca's permission, we take out the map and head back to the hostel.

We had planned to go back to Rockafeller center to ice skate and to Central Park on Sunday morning. When I woke up the only thing I wanted to do was eat something and rest. It seemed like Becca and Leigh Ann felt the same way, but none of us wanted to admit it out loud at the risk of being a wet blanket on the end of the trip. As we packed up, Leigh Ann took the leap and said "Will you be totally disappointed if we don't go to the park?" Becca and I both let out a huge sigh of relief, and said "Oh my Lord, I am so glad you said that because I don't want to go either!" We set our agenda for the day. Check out, go to the airport, and hang out there for several hours (and by hang out, I mean sleep).

Becca got directions on how to get from the hostel to the airport on the cheap, and we headed off to grab brunch. We decided we would just walk toward the subway until we found something interesting. We stopped at this very cool place called the Cosmic Diner (It's on 8th Ave around 40th I think). Visualize what you see as a NY diner, this place was it - the sounds, smells, and even the waitresses that seemed a little distracted. We decided we were going to get a "New York breakfast." We asked the waitress and she said, "Well, I'm not sure really." Now if someone asked me what a traditional Southern breakfast I can give you a menu in half a second (grits with butter, eggs, bacon, country ham, and blazing hot coffee). Since there isn't a NYC breakfast, we decided to get the most Yankee food on the menu. Corned beef hash and sunny side up eggs for me, bagels and lox for Becca, and Leigh Ann got this fancy omelet with spinach. The energy in the place was great, but everyone seemed to be in a hurry. Leigh Ann kept saying "I feel like they want us to hurry up and leave because we aren't moving fast enough." We stuck true to our roots, and like true Southern ladies, we finished our meal slowly so we could enjoy it, and then we set out again.

We got to the subway station only to find that the train that we needed to take was not running. We had been told by the people at the hostel that taking a cab would be a pretty expensive way to get to the airport. We were tired, our feet hurt, our bags were getting heavier by the second. By the time I flagged down a cab, the driver could have asked for my left kidney, and I would have gladly given it to him. We were all just ready to be back in the land of sweet tea, magnolias and Spanish moss. To make a long story a little shorter (Now that I have written a mile), we hung out in the airport for a few hours of sleeping, reading, and more sleeping; then we loaded on the plane and flew home.

We got to Momma's about 10:00pm where she was waiting with chicken and dumplings and homemade blueberry cobbler. After filling up on REAL food, we hit the road. I got home about 3:00am, got Cameron out of her car seat without waking her up, quietly came in the house, and we crawled in the bed with Patrick. And just like the old adage says, there is no place like home.

Growing up in costal SC, I have been through many hurricanes over the years, and there is aways a calm before the storm. Nighttime hurricanes are always the most memorable. At dusk the sky looks like a negative, there are no sounds, and there is an electric feeling in the air. You can watch the sky and see the squalls roll in. I couldn't have imagined that the city that never sleeps would be that calm, but it was. Nighttime hurricanes are the scariest because you can't see anything. You can hear the rain beating on the windows, the trees snapping in the woods, and sometimes you will hear the droning roar of a tornado, but you cant see what is in store. All you can do is prepare - fill the tubs and pots with water, tape up the windows, bring in the animals, pull out the flashlights and have the hurricane lanterns filled with oil with their wicks trimmed.

The air is still electric as we wait to hear what the treatment plan will be. I am taping up windows, filling the tubs, and trying to keep my lamp trimmed and burning.

I can see the squalls on the horizon…

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