New York: Nostalgia and now

For the remainder of this week, the Passage will briefly close; I'm on holiday in New York.

From the first draft of chewy, spicy air, the first bars of salsa blasting from a cab, I'm back, full of adrenalin, curiosity, wonder. I spent part of a summer in the broke-but-blissful '60s sharing a 5th-floor walkup with a waif in fashion school and in the '80s, regularly visited a girlfriend who had a huge apartment in a hotel, with free room service. (The digs were a perk of her job.)

When I plan a trip, my inner 25 year-old starts dictating what to do, as if I'm about to enter the Tardis and catch the Dolls' last set. But returning to the city that witnessed my glory days isn't going to bring them back; eventually, I rejig the itinerary to suit my 64-year-old stamina. 

My only disappointment is that the US Navy's annual Fleet Week, when the city sparkles with sailors in whites, has been cancelled this year due to the government's budget cuts. (I swear I didn't know about the timing when we booked, but it is an especially ah, scenic week to be there. I once delayed my return home three times just to enjoy the view!)
Photo: New York Daily News 2006

My favourite NYC memory actually happened en route, in July, 1986. On my birthday, I flew in to see Hotel Girlfriend for a long weekend, a gift from Le Duc, my husband of several months.

When the flight attendant asked if I'd like something to drink, I said, "It's my birthday, I'd like a glass of champagne!" 

She said, "I'll see what I can do" and returned with a bottle of Pol Roger, which she parked at my (economy class) seat. 

"I'll never drink all this!", I protested in an insincere, demure tone. The young man beside me, busy canoodling with his girlfriend, shot me a look, as if to say Whoa, 16A, you party animal! There may have been something else in his eyes, an air of puzzled inquiry, but I was heedless in the moment.

"I hope you'll have some, too", I said, and requested two more glasses. 

Just then, the captain's Voice of God came over the PA. "Good evening, nice night in New York, 81 degrees and clear; local time is 7:50. One thing before we begin our approach, folks. I have a request for Michelle in 16B from Joel in 16C", he intoned, "Will you marry me?"

Photo by Andrew C. Mace
She shouted "Yes!", my seatmate kissed her, the plane erupted in applause, I poured more bubbly. We flew low on the descent, banking over Central Park, the city glittering in the July dusk like an open jewel box.

An hour later, I sat on Hotel Girlfriend's terrace with another glass of champagne in my hand and said, "See this? This is the last birth control pill I'm ever taking." But that's another story.

And as I leave, with a light bag and lighter heart, I'm humming the best city-nostalgia song ever, from the days when he, too, was young:


Wish I was there...I love NYC so much. Relish each moment!
Déjà Pseu said…
Enjoy your trip, and what a wonderful story! It's now been 5 years since I've been...far too long!
Anonymous said…
What a lovely piece of writing and what a journey, oh and I loved the Dolls too.
Chelsea Morning references the New York City neighbourhood (not the London district)

That flight story was spectacular, though I dearly hope proper, efficient rail service will be restored between Mtl and NYC (as well as Boston). A friend in NYC tells the story of his parents' honeymoon journey to Montréal and Québec City by rail.
What a crisp and vivid memory. Taking that very last birth control pill rings true to me too! It was the end of the party era and the beginning of the most rewarding "career" so far!

Have a delightful week Duchesse.
Come back refreshed and do take a few snapshots of the highlights. MrHB and I want to go to NY next year.
MJ said…
Have a wonderful time in my city - perhaps I'll see you on the street.
materfamilias said…
Such a fun piece of writing! I hope you'll have at least one more happy adventure in New York this week to add to your stock of stories you might eventually tell us . . . ;-)
Beth said…
What a great story, and so well told! Have a fine time in NYC; we'll be following you down there in a week.
I hope you are just returning now, as a most beautiful light has returned near 6pm after dismal, almost cold, rainy days... I was cycling with gloves near the end of May. Hope it was a bit less biting due south in NYC.

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