Thursday, August 10, 2017

‘It’s Not a Good Vacation Unless You Have a Pre-Trip Freak-Out!’

            I still remember those words, uttered by my then boss and current friend John so many years ago. It was his attempt to comfort me, as I freaked out about something work related prior to my vacation. What was I freaking out about? Who knows? Like most freak-outs, they seem totally legit at the time and then we feel humiliated literally minutes later as we calm down and realize what an ass we just made of ourselves. However, John was totally in support of my outburst. He attested that every good trip is preceded by some sort of meltdown. And believe it or not, I have found this to be true with every vacation I’ve taken. There’s always something that causes me to break down in the days leading up to a big trip. (Many times it involves nightmares about flying. Thank God for Xanax.) Now, as I’m days away from embarking on my two week European holiday, the question is… when is my “pre-trip freak-out” going to occur???

            Whether this freak-out will take place or not, there are certainly interesting behaviors I’m noticing as I prepare for my journey. Shopping. Why all of a sudden do I HAVE to go shopping? I have a double rod closet, an armoire AND two dressers full of clothes. Sure, some of my garments date back to when Steve Perry was still in Journey, but come on! I have PLENTY of clothes suitable for any occasion. And it’s not only outer garments I’ve been seeking.  I felt compelled to visit my beloved Victoria’s Secret. Truthfully, I’ve been publicly reaching into my shirt to not-so-discreetly pull up my bra straps for months, but why does it take a vacation for me to finally remedy the situation? (The fact that they were giving away a free rose gold tote bag with the purchase of two regularly priced bras had NOTHING to do with it, I swear!)

            Then there was the dilemma with my suitcase. This is a long vacation and I wanted to make sure I could take everything I need... and by that I mean MORE than I need. My green expandable Samsonite suitcase was twenty years old and had clearly seen better days. I thought maybe it was time for an upgrade. Little did I know how involved that upgrade was going to be. It was more dramatic than a death scene on a soap opera. Can anyone envision a 25” vs. a 28” vs. a 33” suitcase? I can’t. Even with a tape measure. So, why buy ONE suitcase when you can order THREE different suitcases in THREE different sizes online from Macy’s? (It’s free shipping and returns, after all.) Suffice it to say the 33” suitcase could have fit me inside of it. Twice. And then, when I finally thought I settled on the 28” suitcase, in swoops my mother to tell me to meet her at T.J. Maxx for a luggage sale. Oh the humanity! MORE SUITCASES!!! When all the shopping dust had cleared, I ended up with two suitcases that I probably don’t need and have justified these purchases by telling myself one of them was reduced from $340 to $40 so how could I return it? Uy.

            Now that I have my choice of suitcases, I need to start thinking about packing. I always admired my friend’s philosophy: “I just throw some shit in a bag and hope it all works out.” I’d love to be that free and easy. But free and easy just isn’t in my nature. No, I have a packing list in an Excel spreadsheet organized by category. You know those people who get somewhere and say, “Damn, I forgot to pack xxx.”  They’re always relieved when I turn to them with a big grin and say, “Don’t worry. I brought it. You can borrow some of mine.” Call me anal (I prefer meticulous) but either way it comes in handy to have me around on a trip if you forgot to pack your SPF 40 sun tan lotion!

            I’m still wondering when and IF this pre-trip freak-out is going to occur. I just worked the last thirteen days in a row with no day off so I am beyond exhausted. And when we are tired, we tend to get… well, emotional. It’s the perfect breeding ground for me to lose my shit. So far, nothing has happened, but I still have five more days. Am I going to blow a gasket in the waiter station at work, and bitch at the person who forgot to fill up the ketchup as part of their sidework? Or will I instead tell a guest what I REALLY think of how gross it is to reach a spoon into someone else’s dessert without asking first? (A cardinal sin in my book.) Stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen, and I apologize in advance to whoever is on the receiving end of my emotional frenzy. Bon voyage!

Monday, August 7, 2017

If Everyone Is Leaving, Why Am I Still Here?

            New York City is a transient city to a large extent. People come to the Big Apple full of dreams, ambition and wide-eyed excitement. Some are college graduates; eager to begin their adult lives in the “big city”, completely unaware their paychecks are probably not going to cover the exorbitant costs of living here. Artistic types like me flock to the city hoping to get our “big break”, and if we’re lucky, we either get it or we move on to pursue something equally satisfying. Some are here for job transfers, some come from other countries and still others come for an education. There are many reasons people come here, but what we all have in common is that we want something MORE for ourselves. And that desire crosses all racial, cultural, and religious boundaries. I mean, who DOESN’T want more? It makes our city one of the most diverse places I have ever been. There’s an energy that seems to draw people in. The problem is (if you see it as a problem that is), not everyone seems to stick around for the long haul.

            This past week I’ve had to bid farewell to two “creatures” I love, one being of the four-legged variety, i.e. a dog. Let me tell you how hard it is saying goodbye to a dog, especially when you are their dog walker.  A dog is a permanent baby of the furry kind. They are eternally innocent and loving, and unlike their human counterparts, they need you forever. Dogs don’t grow up and they can’t communicate in conventional terms, though I swear I understand everything my fur babies are trying to say! When you bid farewell to a dog, a part of you knows there’s a good chance you’ll never see them again. And unlike a human, there are no phone calls, emailing or texting. As brilliant as I think dogs are, those modes of communication are just not in their wheelhouse. Dogs solely communicate by their physical behavior, so you have to be there to see it.

            That’s not true with humans, but it’s still quite painful to say goodbye. Because as much as we have options to keep in touch, most of us New Yorkers get so bogged down by the pace of city life, we completely lose track of time. (Or maybe that’s just me.) Before you know it, it’s been months since you spoke to that friend you texted twenty times a day when you both lived in the same city. That said, I’ve done fairly well at keeping in touch with friends who have departed NYC for other places and new opportunities. And my bonds with them still remain strong. But it doesn’t mean it’s easy, and it doesn’t mean a part of me wishes these wonderful people could have remained physically at my side forever.  So saying goodbye to yet another friend who is pursuing his dreams elsewhere felt like a big blow to my gut. I thought to myself, “There goes another one.”

And as another friend rides off into the sunset, that nagging question comes back to me: What is it about me that stays? The fact that my parents are both native New Yorkers and have never left might have something to do with it. Being the Jewish-Italian girl that I am, I must admit moving away always felt like abandonment. Is it some kind of flaw that I haven’t done so?  Why don’t I strike out in search of thrilling adventures and undiscovered territories? But then I remember, I HAVE moved… it’s just of a more temporary nature, i.e. my travels. I’ve traveled. A lot. To England, France, Scotland, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and all over the Caribbean. I’ve sailed the British Virgin Islands, went white water rafting in Costa Rica and climbed Mount Olympus in Greece. I’ve toured the United States while playing Tiny Tim in a Christmas Carol. (Wanna hear me say “God bless us everyone” with a British accent? I didn’t think so.) Suffice it to say, I’ve done my fair share of seeing this wonderful world and have moved around. Movement is good. Movement is necessary to grow. But I don’t need to define WHEN those movements take place or HOW long they last.

And when I consider that I am in the city where WHAT I WANT TO DO is thriving and ever changing, it gives more evidence as to why I’m still here. In New York I can audition for Broadway or a student film. I can write my own material and produce it (and have done so on multiple occasions). The opportunity to meet newcomers and share experiences and life lessons continues to inspire me. The trick is to make sure the grind of city life doesn’t burn me out! It’s always important to maintain a sense of humor when living in NYC. How else do you survive watching someone pluck his nose hairs on the subway? (Sad, but true.) Does this mean a permanent move where I build a new home and life elsewhere is out of the question? Definitely not. But right now, as hard as it is to say goodbye to those that decide to leave the “big city”, I’m okay with accepting that this is exactly where I need to be.