Astronomical spring

DSC00564I took this picture this afternoon at La Doug’s house upstate. This is how I feel — a bit of a happy mess, with all drawers and doors and shelves pulled open.

I’ve been in New York for almost two weeks. This winter, I’d been happily bored with L.A.’s consistently temperate climate — 75 to 85 degrees, with the occasional overcast sky and nippy breeze to make my morning jog more comfortable. So perhaps it shouldn’t have been such a surprise that I drove to LAX, sweating through an oversized cowl neck sweater, only to realize upon pulling up to the curb that I had forgotten to bring a jacket. For a two week trip to New York and Chicago. At the tail end off the most brutal winter most can remember.

Have I really been gone that long?

It’s been almost ten months since I moved, and I’m just starting to get to know L.A. But New York’s familiarity is so seductive. It feels like slipping under the sheets with the imperfect but known body of a former lover. Mr. Right Now. I can down two pints of cider, button my coat against the cold, and not get lost on my way to dinner. That’s a luxury I have yet to earn in L.A.

How thrilling to run into friends on the subway, as I have on this trip, and to speak of personal trials in hushed voices so as not to oppress everyone else’s morning commute. The sensory processing that happens on a standard train car was once overstimulating, but now feels invigorating, especially after months of working alone in my parents’ suburban home.

My friends tell me nothing has changed in my absence, but plenty always does in New York.

There are GREEN cabs now, WTF, which only serve the outer boroughs. Mind blown.

I went to the new-to-me Gotham West market on Manhattan’s 11th Ave. to meet some colleagues for lunch, where it seems all of Brooklyn has come to set up shop — Brooklyn Kitchen, the Saltie-related Little Chef, Court Street Grocers, and more. So living in a $10K/month Hell’s Kitchen condo means having Brooklyn come to you? We ate $17 bowls of rye ramen so salty to my adjusted palate that it made me grind my teeth at night.

In Duck Duck bar near the Montrose stop, nursing a pint glassful of Dark & Stormy, I could have paraphrased Wooderson’s line from Dazed and Confused: That’s what I love about these New York kids; I get older, they stay the same age.

One thing hasn’t changed — it costs a lot to live and breathe here. I took a cab from Battery Park City to Bushwick to get to a birthday party. The bridges along the FDR were like lines of can can girls in sparkly skirts preparing to kick up the waters of the East River. I was so dazzled that I missed racking up a $30 fare across the water.

Had a worth-it fancy dinner with my friend Anique at Lafayette, where we got such a cherce corner table for two in the back of the room that we assumed we had been mistaken for more important people. Over baby block-sized cubes of golden and maroon beets and crisp-grilled trout with mustard and apple, we laughed giddily about how lucky we sun state girls were to skip out before the Polar Vortex sucked out our friends’ will to live. The meal ended with a croquembouche mini-tower nested in a halo of caramel filaments, little choux heads with crunchy toupees and vanilla cream brains. Because of course it can be Christmas in Paris on a Monday night in March when you’re in New York.

Dropped $16 on two pints of ice cream at Ample Hills, because they finally had the Peppermint Pattie flavor I’ve heard so much about, and I had to try the completely ridiculous Munchies flavor, which includes, among other things, Fruity Pebbles and Ritz Crackers. I love that their ice cream is more chunk than custard, with a base that isn’t as heavily eggy as gelato or as aerated as soft serve. I’m thrilled that they have a cookbook coming out next month so I don’t have to fly out for a fix.

DSC00557I’m up in Germantown now, at La Doug’s house (wearing a borrowed coat). The snow on the ground makes all the pretty gingerbread houses pop, and the bare mountains against the bluebell sky feel as close as they’ve ever been. It’s such a luxury to be taking Amtrak during the day, looking out at the cobalt of the river, the sunning ducks, and the wheaty skeletons of last year’s cattails. The ice on the water is starting to break up and melt, turning streams into gushers, and the trees are all just dormant, dingy tangles. But spring is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. I’m living like a country queen here, setting the smoke alarm off while roasting a whole chicken; needling Doug and James after dinner with aggressive rounds of Anagrams; sleeping toastily under a quilt that used to be in our old living room for ten years.

New York will always be home as long as my friends are here. But I can honestly say I’m excited to get back to L.A. and get past the first page of this chapter of my life. Two halves of my starfish heart are regenerating from the rift by growing whole in separate places.

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