Is it possible to wake up hungover after a day when you drank no alcohol?
What a day I had Friday! Waking up overlooking the September 11 Memorial, a sight (and a site) that holds such complex emotions, in what Kimberly and I are calling the ‘architect’s dream room’ because we have a bird’s eye view of all the construction crews working busily every day.
Then, properly kitted out in jacket and tie, a short walk past historical Trinity Church over to the New York Stock Exchange. Wall Street is different than the last time I visited, when there weren’t so many fences, or giant obstructions in the road to prevent vehicles from getting too close. Rounding the corner to see a huge banner with my company’s name and logo on the front of the building for Tableau’s IPO. Then getting to go inside for breakfast and to see our young CEO ring the opening bell, and waiting on the floor for the first public trade of our stock. Even the normally jaded among our small crew found themselves thrilled.
Back out onto the street by 11am, I would have already counted it a once-in-a-lifetime day. I took a short walk up Broadway, to connect with Kimberly, who’d been visiting a market of her own, GrowNYC’s City Hall Park Greenmarket. After we went back to the hotel to change and for me to come back to Earth a little more, we set out for our afternoon.
A short ride on the subway, which is both better and much the same since the last time I rode it, I think in the pre-MetroCard days. (No, I don’t get to New York much these days) up to 14th Street, so we could have lunch in Chelsea Market at The Green Table. That was just what I needed: wholesome, tasty food eaten slowly in a quiet space at a real sit-down table, away from the crowded, hustle-and-bustle, perch-on-a-stool wolf-it-down-while-elbowing-a-stranger that is so easy to find in Manhattan.
Because, and this is where the music cue shifts to ominous strings, wolfing it down isn’t so easy when your mouth hurts and the cancerous sores make it sharply painful to open your mouth very far. Because in my pocket pill case is an assortment of OTC analgesics and some prescription narcotics from which I have been carefully dosing myself all morning but even so I can’t escape the frequent awareness that It is There, especially when I’m eating. Pain management is an inexact science. (Though, in hindsight, I can acknowledge and salute my superior skills at compartmentalization, since at no point during the afternoon did I dwell on the blue targeting mark on my chest or any other aspect of my radiation simulation two days earlier, but I digress.) However, over the course of a restorative lunch, the ominous strings faded to a low murmur, and on we went for our adventure.
Chelsea Market had been picked strategically, because we were on our way to walk the High Line, the beautiful public park transformed out of a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on the west side of Manhattan. While we were clearly not the only design, urban planning and civic amenity fans strolling along, it was great to see that this new park is really becoming part of the urban life of its neighborhood and there were plenty of locals.
I loved it. It was a perfect day for a walk in a park, sunny and just the right temperature. And it is a beautiful park, up in the air where you can catch a breeze, and lined with lovely plantings, and full of fascinating design choices and ways in which they transformed this old, ugly, industrial relic into a wonderful civic space. We walked all the way to its current end at 30th Street, enjoying each of its changing zones. There was plenty to look at, ranging from the close detail of how they textured the concrete, to views of the surrounding buildings, the long street-scape canyons and even, at one point, a view down to the Statue of Liberty. It was great. I really enjoyed it. (Even if, for part of the walk, my cheek was burning with a feeling like the mother of all canker sores.)
Our intended destination was the big B&H Camera superstore at 34th Street. Kimberly, who has developed into a great photographer, has been dreaming of a new camera to replace and upgrade the aging and somewhat damaged one she has, and our anniversary is coming up, and well, a camera lens has glass, and crystal is the traditional gift for this anniversary and…..well, we were on our way to B&H. So we descended from the High Line at 30th Street and started walking along the city streets.
And there I was. The temperature was perfect for walking, and I thought about just how glorious a day it was, and how happy I was, and I opened my heart just a little bit wider to drink it all in, and I was crying. Walking along 30th Street in a construction zone with tears running down my face.
Kimberly sweetly steered me off the sidewalk into a little-used covered walkway where I could try and compose myself. But it was hard.
In fact, I’m crying again just writing about the experience. Because there is just too much. So much good. So much bad. All of it. All together. And it’s awesome, and it’s awful. And right now it is so packed with new and wonderful and once-in-a-lifetime moments and some of them are ones that are enviable and others are ones that are dreadful and they are all here and I am living them all and it’s life and it’s the warm sunshine and it’s lying in the radiation machine and it’s the thrill of being on the trading floor and it’s the pain and the fear when I eat, and it’s life and it’s full and I’m full and when I feel too much of it at once it leaks out and tears come streaming down my face.
And it’s not that I’m sad. I’m not crying because I’m sad, really, and they aren’t properly called tears of joy, either, because I’m in some further emotional space, where they are really just tears of life, of experience, of letting in all there is, both ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ and all the other shades of feeling.
In a minute or two of trying, I was able to turn off the water, not feel too much too deeply too quickly, and get ‘back to business’, so that we could continue on our way and I didn’t have to pass the construction workers on the street crying like a little girl. Which was good. After a block or so, we stopped at a little corner store and got ourselves something to drink, which eased the burning in my mouth. We got back to being on a normal tourist afternoon, and it was nice.
When we finally got to B&H, we were disappointed. It was Friday afternoon, you see. B&H is run by observant Hasidim, who make sure their employees can be home for Shabbat. Kimberly’s new camera would have to wait.
We took a different route back to the High Line, then walked all the way to the other end. A subway ride back to our hotel gave us a short time to regroup and dress for the company party that night, a loud event in a dim club. (I’m not a big fan of trying to socialize with people while shouting to be heard and squinting. Perhaps it’s just that I’m old enough to be able to distinguish between sensory assault and pleasure. Maybe it would have been better if the opiates on-board didn’t preclude me from drinking on the company’s tab. Whatever. We didn’t stay too long. I made a mental note to suggest to the company party planners that we make sure to have a ‘quiet room’ at our next event.)
Note: most of this post was written Saturday morning. But it wasn’t completed and posted until today, Tuesday. We crammed a bunch more NYC experience into Saturday, then flew back early Sunday, so sleep deprived, time-zone-disoriented and medicated that Sunday mostly evaporated. Monday involved showing up back at work, and for me, tidying up some loose ends before going on leave. All of which could be several blog posts, but will probably end up being this paragraph, because we have more to cover, starting today.