new york, new york

A funny thing happened on my way to a business meeting.

I fell in love with New York City.

I’ve long held her in high regard for her street cred as a “real” city, her grittiness, her style. While I might hold a grudge against her for her taste in baseball teams, there’s an elegance to her that has nothing to do with Park Avenue and everything to do with her recovery from 9-11 and pizza by the slice at any hour of the day.

But with that said, New York always intimidated me.

I’m stylish by DC standards, but in New York, my clothes feel commonplace. Likewise, I’m creative and artistic in our nation’s capital, but in New York, I feel stilted and unimaginative.

That all changed on this trip, beginning with a simple subway ride.

I’ve only ever been on the New York subway with natives to hold my hand. I don’t know why I was so scared to use this system solo considering I’ve mastered public transportation in foreign cities where I don’t speak the language. But once I had my ticket in hand and some sense of assurance that I was on a train moving in the right direction, it was a piece of cake. I didn’t even mind the crazy man who sat next to me, grabbed my forearm in a friendly sort of way, and exclaimed, “take care now! It was great to see you today!” Part of me is disappointed in myself for all the long and expensive taxi rides I endured in the past out of fear of New York’s public transit.

My destination was the Upper West Side apartment belonging to my friend Margaret, who as the evening progressed, proved herself to be the mayor of her neighborhood. She knew someone everywhere we went and even managed to make a new friend. Before the night was over, the ease with which she navigated her corner of the city turned this sprawling metropolis into a small European town.

And I’m a sucker for small European towns.

I spent the time between meetings today daydreaming about when I can take Margaret up on her offer to use her apartment anytime I want. (I almost went home with her spare keys to facilitate my inevitable return.) I’m aching for a walk in Central Park on a crisp autumn day. I yearn for the solitude a city of 8 million residents can provide. I want to find a good people watching spot and sit for hours, maybe developing some characters for the novel stuck in my head. I want to master the subway and go back to Margaret’s yoga studio.

But mostly I crave a late night slice of pizza.

43 by 43

Celebrating the big 4-0 in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Thursday at Biker Barre, one of my new spin sisters mentioned that she had created a list of 40 things to do by her 40th birthday. I like a good challenge (as we all know) and I like birthdays even more (as we also all know) so while my birthday is a mere 140 days away, I have spent a great deal of time coming up with items to put on my own 43 by 43 list.

Here are the first five goals:

1. Spend my birthday not in DC. This one should be easy since I have tentative plans to be in Hawaii, but you never know what shenanigans by a lame duck Congress might tether me to my desk. I haven’t managed to be out of town on my birthday since the epic 4-0 celebration in Copenhagen, so I think it’s about time to make a December beltway escape.

2. Roast a duck. For years I have been saying that I’m going to cook a duck. This fall, I’m doing it. And I’m going to serve it with a nice Chateauneuf du Pape. Inquire within if you would like to come over for dinner that night (or shoot me the honored duck).

3. E-publish at least one short story. The one have been working on is essentially finished and its sequel is half done. I just have to have the courage to turn it over to my editor, Caitlin. (You know I have been dying to say that.)

4. Launch in an official capacity¬†Cloakroom Style, my new side business that I am finally positioned to get off the ground. It won’t replace my day job, but if I can beautify Capitol Hill, and in the process, earn extra shoe money, I will consider myself a huge success.

5. Take the boys to a city they have never visited. The obvious choice is New York City, so Colin and Jack (but Colin, especially) can finally see all 1250 feet of the Empire State Building.

Those are five rather significant goals, so the remaining 38 will have to include such pledges as don’t overreact as frequently, pick up items from the dry cleaners on time, and think before speaking (or emailing). Not that those challenges aren’t as meaningful, but they are easily (i.e. subjectively) measurable (by me) and do not require as much planning, cash or creative energy.

Except the think before speaking/emailing part. That’s going to require some serious concentration.