An IWOM Takes NYC

27 Mar

NYC2

My apologies for being away, darlings. The International Woman of Mystery has been busy. I wish I could say I was out exploring the pyramids of Egypt of skiing the Swiss Alps. Alas, it hasn’t been quite so exciting. However, I did recently take a business trip to New York City, which has left me feeling inspired.

The trip was unexpected. I got a call from one of my bosses late on a Thursday asking if I could be in the city to attend a weekend conference. At first I was a little annoyed by the last minute request, but then it occurred to me that I’ve never actually spent much time in New York. Nor had I ever traveled there alone. It seemed liked the perfect excuse to take Jenny G. on a little impromptu adventure.

I take the red eye, leaving Denver at 12:30 and arrive sometime around 6 a.m. I observe the sea of lights from the air as we make our descent and feel a rush of nerves. Having barely slept on the plane, I’m a bit frazzled. I have the day to collect myself before the conference starts. I’m in one of the most spectacular cities in the world and all I want to do is go back to bed.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been in the city, and all of my previous trips were with Mr. Poison who carefully coordinated every minute of every trip. Ensuring that we were shuttled via town car from Point A to Point B. But now it’s just me and a suitcase on wheels at JFK. I’ve always wanted to hail a cab, but decide that can wait. An International Woman of Mystery should have stellar navigation skills. I take the subway from the airport to Jamaica station, and then transfer to a train bound for station a few blocks from my hotel. In the train car I don my biggest sunglasses and let the rock of the train tracks soothe me into half sleep.

Once at my stop, I am purged out with the other passengers, onto the streets of Manhattan. There is a chill in the air and the buildings are so tall that they create a cool blanket of shade over everything. I pull my trench tighter around me and hoof it to my hotel. Politely ask the concierge if I can drop my bag. He’ll allow it and tells me I can even check in in an hour or so. Perfect. I find a quaint diner around the corner and devour my first taste of the local cuisine – a bagel and black coffee. I eat with my sunglasses still on and love the feeling of anonymity that comes with being in this glorious metropolis.

As soon as I can check in at the hotel, I do. I need a moment to recompose myself. I indulge in a quick nap and a shower. Hang my best black dress in the hotel closet and leave some cash in the safe. Fix myself some crappy hotel coffee and then I’m ready to take on the day.

Stepping out onto the street, I feel reinvigorated. Having never spent much time in this city, I haven’t got any sense of Manhattan geography. Seems like a good enough reason to go exploring. I’ve got my sunglasses, my trench and a phone with GPS. What more do I need? A brisk walk later, I find myself at the Museum of Modern Art, where I wander for a couple of hours. Deposit a couple of calling cards around the museum and then make a stealthy exit.

The next thing I know I’m in Times Square, loud and full of light. It’s pure chaos at best. I dodge tourists and comedy club promoters and decide to keep moving. I wander through Broadway, Hell’s Kitchen and Highline Park. Chelsea. The Village. Washington Square Park. It feels amazing to just be a stranger in an unfamiliar territory. I get a thrill walking at a fast clip. Pushing past the slow-walkers with a sense of purpose. But my only real purpose is just to take all of this in. I love the noise, the smells, the colors. The sensory fulfillment of it all. A quick slice of pizza fuels me through the rest of the afternoon. By evening, I’m practically delirious from a lack of sleep and endless wandering.

I place a call to Aunt Petra, who insists I come over for dinner. We eat brie and salami and drink strong tea in her tiny Village apartment. Smoking cigarette after cigarette, she tells me stories from her youth in the city. Running around with artists and traveling whenever she had spare money to do so. Sometimes, she tells me, when she had nothing better to do, she would ride the city subways and get off at whatever random stops called to her. This is how she learned her way around New York City. Young, fearless and determined. I wonder aloud if it’s too late for me to create such a brave life for myself.

“My darling,” she laughs. “It is never too late.”

I leave Aunt Petra’s sometime around 11:00 and amble back to my hotel. My sleep is choppy and dreamless. I have to be up early the next morning for my conference. Eat a quick breakfast at the hotel and am out the door. The next two days are boring and full of arduous networking. I long to be out on the city streets. I could be in Chinatown or walking the Brooklyn Bridge. Adventures for another time, I suppose.

My last day in the city, I have the afternoon to myself again. I still haven’t had a good excuse to wear my dress. A quick glance at the hotel directory informs me that I’m just steps away from the famous Russian Tea Room. It feels like a sign. Literally. What could be more international or mysterious?

I get glammed up in my hotel room before checkout. I call Aunt Petra but she doesn’t answer. I feel discouraged, but I’m not about to let traveling solo keep me from this experience. I’ve got a reservation for high tea, and I won’t cancel it. My previous mission in Denver paid off. I’m no longer nervous or ashamed to dine alone.

It’s warm on my last day in the city. I throw on a light jacket and traipse down the block to my destination. I feel a little self-conscious in my cocktail dress, mid-day. But in Manhattan, no one seems to notice or care. I fit right in. The hostess at the tea room greets me stoically and then ushers me to a small booth.

 

I spend what feels like hours basking in the opulence of this iconic space. The plush red leather booths and ornate light fixtures. Gilded trim everywhere. Every detail is unapologetic in its extravagance. The tea room is quiet on a weekday afternoon, so I bide my time. The wait staff brings me platters of tiny sandwiches and mint tea. I eat until I’m practically stuffed and then more platters arrive bearing cupcakes, scones and truffles. I’m almost afraid to ask for a to-go box, but the waiter proffers one practically on cue. I sign the check, leave a calling card in the washroom and then duck out.

My company has scheduled a shuttle to return me to the airport, but I’ve still got two hours to kill. I make my way over to Central Park, where I wander (cocktail dress and all) in quiet contemplation. Maybe it’s a lack of sleep or too much sugar, but I feel a sense of euphoria here, that I haven’t felt in months. I can’t say exactly what it means, but I know that it just feels right. How have I lived most of my life without having seen most of this? What else am I missing out on, in this big wide world?

Alas, it’s time for me to catch a plane back to Denver. The shuttle driver doesn’t bat an eye at my Holly Golightly get-up or my box of cupcakes for carry-on. I buy French Vogue at an airport newsstand and peruse the merchandise at duty-free until it’s time for takeoff.

The trip home is turbulent. I should be exhausted but once again, I can’t sleep. The energy of the city, still coursing through me. This trip has affirmed everything I’ve been feeling since I left Boston, about the need for a different life. One full of adventure and mystery. New experiences at every turn.

A year ago, I was on track for a life of marriage. Mix and mingles. Carefully-curated trips to The Cape. Children, perhaps. The eventual white picket fence in the suburbs. Some days I still wake up alone in my apartment in Denver and wonder how I found myself so far away from all of it.

But through all of this upheaval and transition, a new picture is beginning to materialize. Without all the trappings of a conventional life, the possibilities are so much more infinite. The life I could have lived is now a rapidly-fading memory. Maybe Aunt Petra is correct. Maybe it’s never too late. Maybe I’ve never felt freer.

Ciao,
Jenny G.

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2 Responses to “An IWOM Takes NYC”

  1. Jaye 03/31/2016 at 1:15 PM #

    This was one of my favorite blogs. So full of happiness, new experiences and hope.

  2. Meg 04/04/2016 at 2:59 PM #

    Adore this one!

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