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Version: travel_essay 03.27.22
march 27, 2022 // radar love
in new york city, it's hard not to get swept up in the romanticism of it; the city has a certain pulse to it, a melody and a rhythm that you can't help but get sucked into. or at least, i can't. when walking through the city, my feet step hard; i let my resting bitch face speak for me, and it finally feels like it's among friends. if nyc is known for anything, it's definitely coldness—just as well for me, as it's my favorite social flavor to sit in (as my love for london will attest to).
this trip was one to mark beginnings and endings. a last minute addition to my trips of the year, one of my closest friends from memphis invited me to accompany her to the big apple. in a way, she was celebrating her divorce; in another, she was finally exploring locales on her own and without input from steamrolling companions, most notably her recent ex-husband. i, for one, hate compromising on things to do in places i've been many times (and this is, from memory, my third or fourth time visiting), but my friend is easygoing and, with her, so am i. not only do i not want to make waves, but this was also her trip, and i was grateful to be along for the ride. it was a short break, only five days after a red-eye flight across the country, but a welcome one nonetheless. i did not know having a change of scenery after three months at my new job would be such a necessary stress reliever, but it was, on top of being a marked change from previous travels.
this was, after all, my first trip since i got my new job's salary (as my birthday trip was before i got paid), so i did splurge a bit. my red-eye flight was in first class, giving me a chance to sleep in a flat position. that single-handedly saved my trip, since i would arrive at 5 a.m. the following day, and i was expected to be ready to go. since this trip was short, i needed to make sure i was starting on the right foot, and as i get older, i recognize that rest and energy are my two important factors to traveling—especially with a chronic illness.
regardless, the city was in good form, bouncing from 70-degree days and plunging into wintery nights. i was glad i brought a fleece-lined windbreaker as, on our final day, it was officially snowing for about an hour. we spent quite a bit of time huddled under awnings, avoiding the cold rain, as we bummed cigarettes from fellow drunk patrons.
i hate that this appeals to my california stoner sensibilities, but walking around the city, somehow we fell into—well, to embellish—green gold. tipsy and giggling, my friend and i were looking for a place to buy a pack of cigarettes. she, still being a bit wary of big city adventures, saw steps going down into a shop and hesitated. i, a resident of san francisco and therefore used to odd and weird buildings and entrances, curiously began to descend. if they didn't have cigarettes, they at least had red bull that i could see from the window, and my friend needed some energy in order to keep going.
there was one counter in this whole joint, and the walls were mostly bare. it looked like a boutique convenience store, with some snacks behind the counter and drink cooling machines lining the back half of the store. after paying for the red bull, i guess i gave off the right vibes.
"you girls like to smoke?" the cashier asked, a smile stretching slowly across his lips. i immediately realized we had stumbled into a makeshift dispensary. i knew new york's cannabis laws were still in flux, but recreational cannabis was legal now, that much was apparent. between the random signs highlighting cannabis delivery to manhattan in 15 minutes, the notable smell of cannabis smoke seemed to dance by our noses throughout our walks. the thing holding everyone up legally was the licensing of dispensaries, so this apparently was the grassroots fix: build it and they will come. damn the licensure.
we got edibles and a couple of pre-rolls for us to enjoy during the trip, and enjoy we sure did. i can finally cross "watch a broadway show" off my list. we had afternoon tea in lower manhattan in a LGBT-owned wizarding world-themed restaurant. (it was incredible.) we ate, and ate, and ate, 'til our bellies were full of seafood.
it's times like this that i remain grateful to the universe, for allowing me to enjoy time with my dear friend, for allowing me to experience these things before i can no longer, for nothing bad happening during my time there. i'm regaining trust in the world itself, the world around me, and i'm trying to carve my place in what's remaining as we move past the idea of pandemic (regardless of its status in truth). i am trying to live a life with calculated risk, rather than wrap myself up in a bubble of safety theatre.
i've learned that reward can only come from risk, taking leaps of faith, and trusting in yourself. learning to actually live, really live, with anxiety rather than my anxiety living my life for me.