Recently, we went down to NYC for a quick overnight trip.

First, we were picking up M. You’ve already heard that M’s Gap Year Phase 1 was working for the census. Originally, her Gap Year Phase 2 plan was to spend the harvest season volunteering at an organic farm as a WWOOFER. That seemed like an excellent idea. After one false start (which is its own good story that I will tell you about someday), she spoke with a friendly farmer whose farm enjoyed fabulous reviews. And then the farmer totally ghosted her. I mean, it was torturous. And then they spoke on the phone and it seemed like it was going to happen, after all. Except then he ghosted her again. For a while there, I was harboring fantasies of driving to this guy’s farmers market and confronting him because he was making my daughter–and, by extension, my whole family–so very miserable. And it also screwed up her chances of going to a different farm because she wasted time. I am still pretty bitter about it, actually.

But meanwhile, since M didn’t leave for the farm at the beginning of September as she’d planned, she made plenty of money from the census, and she spent some of it on a week-long vacation all by herself in NYC. She booked an Airbnb and rode the train down by herself, then spent a week meeting up with friends and exploring on her own. Is it a little nerve wracking waving goodbye to your teenage daughter as she heads to spend a week alone in the big city during a pandemic? Why, yes it is. But with the collapse of Phase 2 and Phase 3 a month away, she was like a caged animal. And what a great experience! She got to set her own itinerary and figure out the subway and explore. So: yay.

M’s week in NYC was ending on a Saturday, so we decided that Cute W, J, & I would drive down to pick her up. We headed south on Friday afternoon and met M for dinner before we headed to a hotel and she spent her last night in her apartment. Then the next day, we met up with my brother John and his girlfriend Olivia. They’re both artists, and John’s got a piece in an art show right now. I just looked, and twice already (here and here) I’ve talked about Picasso and my little brother’s art, but this time I took a few pictures from around the house of some of his work, which illustrates his evolution. Here’s something from art school long ago.

And then, back when M was a toddler, he stopped by our house on the way home from a landscape class he’d attended in Vermont, and he’d made so many super-fast paintings in the course of learning landscape techniques that he pulled out stacks–literally stacks–of them from the car and laid them all out on our driveway, and I snagged a couple of them.

And then he continued to evolve, so more paintings I’ve got are bigger and more abstract.

Until we get to the things he’s working on today, which are sculptural paintings/painty sculptures. So this curly blue piece is what we saw in NYC (with my brother, Olivia, Cute W, and his professor who happened to show up at that moment):

Which. . . I don’t understand nearly as easily as those pretty, pretty landscapes, but I can tell him that I like the blue color and congratulate him on the fact that he was able to create the structure he wanted without it collapsing (y’all, it was touch and go for a bit, there), and the professor who knows all about this stuff–the cultural references and artistic implications and creative problem-solving that fly over our heads–was very impressed. So, go little brother!

And I realized, here in the age of masks, I can just go ahead and show you the picture I took of the girls:

After taking in the art, we enjoyed a little outdoor dining before heading home.

It was really, really wonderful to go to New York City. Not just because we don’t go many places at all these days–although of course there’s that. But when we drove down, it happened to be a beautiful, warm Friday afternoon, and driving along the West Side Highway, there were so many people out walking and biking along the river, and sure, they were wearing masks, but it was just so lively and cheerful. Back in March, I remember seeing pictures of vast, empty streetscapes and refrigerator trucks, and I hadn’t realized that all of those images were weighing heavily on my psyche, somehow. And then Friday night, it was all just so vibrant. I mean, I know that businesses and restaurants and folks all over are suffering, but they’ve also closed so many roads to vehicles to allow for more outdoor dining, and so many restaurants had created these lovely outdoor spaces. There were so many people out having an excellent time, but still spaced out and responsible about it, and so many creative ways that different restaurants had made dining areas elegant or fun or unique. The whole atmosphere felt really alive and resilient and heartening. Which I meant to write earlier, because if you are able to go for a visit before it gets too cold, I highly recommend it. It did our hearts good. And yes, I wish I’d taken photos of all the various places, but I was keeping up with my rapidly moving family and I didn’t want to look like a dorky, gawking tourist. Although I could not restrain myself from taking a picture of breakfast from Pi Bakery, which was delicious.

I am hoping for a mild winter and plenty of those outdoor heaters and more outdoor dining for as long as possible. It was lovely.


  1. Claire

    I feel the same way about those images of NYC in March. I will never get them out of my mind, and it infuriates me that there are people living in this state who downplay the pandemic despite the warzone that occurred just 2.5 hours south of us in our own state.

  2. I honestly didn’t even realize how much it bugged me until I had new NYC images to replace them with. Although last night I saw people dining in inflatable bubbles, and I CAN’T get behind that….

  3. Claire

    Oh wow, I never heard of that. I’ll have to Google it. Anyway, I’m glad you were able to counteract the horrific images with positive ones.

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