the first night i walk in late. an all day flight and a chance pick up by my cousin at jfk, who happened to be visiting his grandmother in the hospital in long island. i had emailed him right before i got on the plane. actually i was on the plane. last minute thought: how the hell am i getting from the airport? i had no idea how i was going to make the one and a half hour trip from queens to new paltz, ny. this whole thing has been winged. i only decided to go the day before. i spent literally months going back and forth about it and eventually decided i wasn't going to go. too much money. too much hassle. the dog has no where to stay. etc. and then the day before, after much hemming and hawing, and with major cheerleading from my friends, fear gave way to excitement. i heeded the call and went with my instinct. something was telling me i just had to go. there was so much pull. and they wanted me, they actually wanted me to go. they cared. it's been a long time. so i accept their generous offer to help pay for half and i find myself pushing "buy ticket" on Orbitz. and suddenly i'm going.
so it's a weekend-long extravaganza. the first event is an informal "warm-up" at a new local bar. nice place. grown up. none of us have any memories here, so it's neutral ground. a nice touch. couches and dim lighting. good wine. a courtyard out back. of course i don't know any of this yet.
my cousin lets me out across the street and as i'm walking up, panic grips. there's a bunch of people outside. who will they be? this thing started at 7pm and it's now 9:45. it ends at 10. nothing like a late entrance. did i mention it took 3 hours to get from jfk to our tiny town in the mountains? columbus day traffic. car sick, queasy, exhausted but still excited, i approach.
to my delight the first two people i see are two of my dear friends. thank you! they are smoking cigarettes. i wonder if they still both smoke or is this just an old times sake thing?
we chat outside. then i make my entrance. all heads turn. it's a new face. i feel like the needle was just ripped off a record.
i smile and wave.
i don't know where to look. so many familiar faces coming into my line of vision from all over the room. someone is grabbing me now and giving me a big hug hello. and then another someone. and then, oh it's my first real boyfriend. a quick hug and an introduction to his lady.
the night is spent happily wandering around and talking to just about every one in the place. one person ignores me but i catch her on the way out. i want to say something to everybody. to make up for all the "i really don't give a shit about you" attitude i might have harbored in the past. i am a different, kinder person.
it's a fun night. i don't get drunk. i chat and laugh and hear stories, many of them dirty. some of them about me. i meet husbands and wives and say what i'm doing in 3 sentences like i've learned to.
the next morning, a good friend texts me and says she's going to the park. this is the second event. kids and bagels at majestic park. originally i had thought i would opt out of this one. but now i feel strangely "why not", so i throw on some clothes and we're off.
it's a warm feeling to see people with their kids. i think of how ready i am. and hope that it will happen soon.
that night is the actual "reunion". all right, but kind of a let down after such a cool first night. the drinks are expensive and there's no sit down meal, it's just apps and a bunch of small rooms so the feeling is disjointed. the music is in one room, the food in another, and nobody knows quite what to do when. i start having all these ideas about what would have been fun; a slide show comes to mind, or some old video tape or something. so many fun things we could have done! but i remind myself i wasn't even going to come to this reunion, so my director's brain can take a rest.
there is a trivia game led by our lovely class drama queen. that part is fun. but the staff is bitter. we find out they're actually closing the place and the whole thing, on their part, seems like an after-thought. there is a leak in the ceiling. no garbage can in the bathroom. they rip the food right out from under us as soon as the clock chimes 10. they want us out.
we decide collectively to go to bacchus, an old-school bar in town. everyone comes, including my brother, who happens to be in town for a giants game the next day, my sister, my niece and my cousin. it is a family affair. i feel oddly supported and delight in this feeling that i just don't get in los angeles. multi-generational family partying just doesn't happen for me out there.
some important late night conversations end the second night. things people had been needing to say got said. i end up realizing that as much as it was for me that i went back, it was for a few others too. i feel grateful to have been pulled. it seems impossibly right that i went. i can't imagine not having gone, or i can, but it would have been the wrong choice. roots are important to dig up and examine every now and again. every 20 years?
then came part two. the big apple, another whole part of my life. a huge chapter. the first one of adulthood. i drive down with my best childhood friend from first grade and her husband, who went to our high school too. we drive down and land, bam, right on to 99th and riverside. this is the first neighborhood i lived in when i came there all those years ago. there's the school i taught at, the subway i road, the streets i walked.
and then on down to a beautiful hotel i would never have imagined i'd stay at all those times i trekked passed the tic toc diner going to some audition. my husband ironically has a business trip this same weekend, and they've paid for the hotel. i meet him there and we walk the streets in search of a steak house. it feels nice to be with him in this place that had such a hand in my development.
the next day, to finish the journey we are in the east village, my old neightborhood, where i lived the most. where i loved. lived. came alive, learned a lot. crashed and burned. defined myself. discovered myself. fucked up and ate hungrily.
we meet an old friend for drinks. she was my first friend in nyc. met her in my first acting class and as it turned out we had both been theatre majors at the same college, but she was older than me so we never met. but we knew all the same people. we catch up on the five years it's been since we've seen each other. we take some awful pictures on the street and then say our good byes.
we meet another friend for dinner. we eat at angelica kitchen, the restaurant where i worked for four years. a place that most certainly changed my life. introduced me to veganism. started the turn into whom i wanted to be. finding that person.
this friend we're with now was one of my "last" friends in nyc. we worked at a different restaurant together, at the end of my time in the city. he hands me off the guitar he's been holding for me for 6 years, redefining the meaning of "would you hold this for a while". i can't believe he still has it. that's so cool.
and then in a flash it's 4 am and the alarm is sounding. and i am making my way back to jfk. i have come full circle. did it all. a recap, from roots to trunk to sprouted leaves. which blew me of course to my new life in the west.
i get home and realize i'm out of my past but not quite in my future just yet. the house we've been moving into for 2 months is still not ready, even after another bunch of big promises from the landlord before we left. disappointed is an understatement. rain storms and old things are getting ruined outside. i'm in-between two houses and i can't find anything. i want to take a shower and have a cup of tea, but the shower's in one house and the tea kettle's in the other. oh what a nice ending it would have been to have come back to a clean cozy settled home. i guess these things can't be rushed. i'm caught in between what is and what shall be.
and as i sign on to take my new course in analytical trilogy, i think of all these things and know that despite the discomfort, everything is all right. i didn't get where i am today, downstairs in my makeshift studio, in between a falling down apartment and a brand new spacious house, in a city that has been so generous to me, without some delays... these things take time. i have just recapped 20 years.
now i'm right smack at the beginning of the next 20.