There is nothing, and I mean nothing, quotidian about a trip to NYC.
Now that I have been to New York City exactly two times, I consider myself a seasoned traveler with a wealth of valuable information. Which I will now share with you.
Hold on to your seats, people. I have been studying up and gots lots to teach.
*Color coordinate your wardrobe—i.e. all browns, black, blues, etc.—and wear all your bulkiest clothes for the flight, a la a fleeing refugee.
*Plan for your children to act like devils the day prior to your trip. They, like you, are probably stressed and anxious. Expect questions such as:
What happens if the plane crashes?
What if the pilots are drunk?
What if you can’t come back because of rain?
What if you can’t come back because the power goes out?
What if you can’t find food because you can’t come home because of the rain and/or the power outage?
*At bedtime, when your baby sniffles, “Don’t go, Mama,” just kiss and hug him up real good and then say you have work to do and flee the room.
*Avoid pre-travel dreams such as, say, ones in which your husband feeds the family cats (you now have four instead of one) to the four famished tigers that are living under the truck cap that is resting in the front yard because this makes you worry that a) your kids will transform into starving wildcats while you are away, and/or b) your husband will feed your children to some tigers when you are gone.
*Wearing knee-high striped socks that clash with your skirt (but are hidden by knee-high boots) will be revealed in your (hopefully) brief foray through airport security. This can be slightly embarrassing, but there is nothing you can do about it. On the upside, the glaring patterns may distract the guards so they don’t notice the lip gloss and medicated sunblock you neglected to put into your one specified ziplock baggie.
*Find people that are new to flying, especially families with young children, and watch the heck out of them. Or, if you are new to flying, ham it up a bit, ‘kay? Airports and airplanes are in desperate need of some wacky humor.
*Make use of bathrooms at all stops. Obsessively. You don’t want to pee on the plane.
*This granola makes for a great travel breakfast.
*Never miss an opportunity to walk on the airport's express walkways. Savor the exhilarating power rush that comes from covering extra ground while exerting the normal amount of energy. If only you could be this productive in all areas of your life!
*Do not, under any circumstances whatsoever, go with the little guy with the funky accent and skanky baseball cap who appears in luggage claim and offers you a taxi. You will get a ride across the city, for sure, but it will be in a shiny, big-butt SUV with scary, undercover, black-tinted windows instead of the happy yellow cab you were excited to ride in. You will arrive (thankfully) at the hotel with a (much) lightened wallet and a sickening realization that you've been scammed. As the sick feeling gradually disappears, you will begin to get a sore spot on your forehead from a) slapping it repeatedly, and b) trying to scrub off the I AM A COUNTRY BUMPKIN sign that you never knew was there.
*When checking in, request a refrigerator be delivered to your room. They are (most likely) free of charge and then you have a place to store all the cheese you plan to buy, as well as enough leftovers to feed your family for a couple days after you return home.
*Don’t feel obligated to look down when shooting up 48 stories in a great glass elevator, an elevator which gives you a tipsy feeling at the same time it makes you crave chocolate.
*When an elevator gets stuck between floors, join your fellow conferencers in leaning on the railing and gawking at the poor dears, and thank your lucky stars you’re not in there with them.
*Just because the hotel is all sorts of fancy-schmancy, it doesn’t mean the toilet will actually work. In fact, your room toilet may only pulverize the toilet paper into little shreds instead of flushing it down. Oh yeah, the first time you flush, the sudden rush of water is so startlingly deafening that you just may involuntarily scream.
*If you want to take a picture, take it. You’ll regret not taking a shot of the lady leg lamp standing tall and proud it some apartment window, or of the giant statue of an elephant tipped upside down on its trunk.
*Commit, now and forevermore, that you will always visit Murray’s cheese shop and the Balthazar Bakery and Carmine’s, a glorious restaurant where you sit at the bar and feast from a giant platter, nay, a boat, of pasta with veal and sausage links and tennis ball-sized meatballs.
*It is possible to walk from the top of Broadway down to Canal Street, zigzag all over the place, and then walk back up all in one afternoon, though you’ll be sore for the next couple days.
*When you wander around Anthropologie and Bloomingdale’s looking at all the price tags instead of the sale items, you will know for sure that you are a fish out of water.
*At Pearl River Market, consider buying a metal rice box, a ginger grater, a strainer, a fluffy wind-up chick, and a strand of cloth chili peppers, but then don’t. You don’t need any of it.
*Marvel at all the skinny women in skinny jeans and black leggings. And marvel even more at how it is you that you are the only woman in the whole of New York City wearing a long skirt. Congratulate yourself on your newly-discovered trend setter status and hold your head high.
*Make lots of earth-shaking observations to your long-suffering travel partner, such as:
I don't understand how people can live without grass.
How can anyone afford to live here?
Does anyone cook?
Why in the world do those crazy women insist on tripping around the city in stilettoes?
If only I could transport my children to our hotel, they would be content to sit for hours just watching the TV circus that is right outside our window.
Aren’t people’s circadian rhythms all screwed up from all this light? It’s night time and that woman just walked by with her nose is a book!
*At the conference, make a point to sit with the city folk. That way, you can grill them on the square footage of their apartments, the benefits of a doorman, zipcars, rooftop gardens, the mechanics of grocery shopping (Questions: how do families with kids carry home all the milk they’ll need for the week? Answer: Delivery service!), and the best bagel shops until one of the women you are sitting with (who also happens to be the Executive Director of the entire agency) explodes with “Do they feed you where you come from?”
*The little jars of honey on the breakfast buffet make excellent gifts for your starving wildcat children back home.
*Take every opportunity to do something, whether it be drinking a cup of coffee in the revolving restaurant at the top of the hotel, watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding on your room’s flat screen TV, or attending the church service at Time Square (mega)Church where the communion bread is the size of eye teeth and crunchy hard...
the usher allows you to take pictures and even helps you to find a good spot (because you are on the third floor, standing room only), the decor is dazzling...
the 50+ member choir belts it out something fierce, and the pastor looks like a movie actor.
*Get a real taxi. Enough said.
*When standing in line waiting for the authentic cape-clad official taxi cab hailer to hail a taxi (yellow never felt so good!), note how warm you feel—it is because of the heated lamps that are so thoughtfully located directly above your head.
*Try not to get too anxious with all the hours of sitting—in airports, on runways, and in the air. Getting frustrated never gets anyone anywhere faster.
*Call home right before your final flight so the family can rush to the airport to watch you land. It will take them the same amount of time to drive from home to the airport as it takes for you to fly from DC to the regional airport.
*Get mobbed at the gate. The car ride home will be loud and chaotic and wonderful.
*When your husband shows you a picture on his cell phone of a bird in a special cage, shriek “You took the kids to the zoo?” Be impressed that he was planning to do this all along and never told you. And now you understand why he chuckled when you recounted your weird tiger dream. He could’ve fed the kids to the zoo tigers, but didn’t. What a man.
*At home, heat up a feast of leftovers: plates piled high with pork lo mein, shrimp lo mein, vegetables, beef and broccoli, and pasta with meat ragu. Let everyone eat to their fill—there will still be enough food for the next day’s lunch and supper.
*Be intensely happy to be home. It’s the best place in the world.
P.S. The Fresh Air Fund conference was the reason for my trip.
P.P.S. Local people (and anyone living in Fresh Air territory, from Virginia up through Maine and Canada): Please, please, please, consider becoming a host for a Fresh Air Child! Last year there were not enough host families and kids were left behind. We need you!
(Also, we are searching for more local volunteers to join our team. Remuneration: lots of feel good-feelings, plus all-expense paid trips to NYC. You know you wanna.)
Back home, where the chickens roam free o'er the frosted grass and there is not a highrise in sight.