I think the best travels are the ones that make you learn something new – about the world, your home, or even yourself. My most recent excursion into Second Motherland made me realize that returning to a place you once happily called home is like meeting up with a really great ex. Here is my epiphany, down to five points.
1. You realize how much your feelings have changed.
While apart, you might idealize them a bit. The first time it you run into each other, there’s a sense of nostalgia and of ‘what could have been’; but then, hopefully, on each subsequent visit the sentiment becomes a lot more ‘it didn’t work out for a reason.’
This is how I am starting to feel about New York City. Over the last year and a half it has gone from the Place Where I Belong, to a place where I enjoy spending time but that is no longer mine. And, for someone who only a couple of years ago considered herself a NYC lifer, that has been a surprising development indeed.
2. There are some things you discover only post-breakup.
For example, I had no idea that not all food & drink establishments in New York City are open around the clock. Well, ok, there were some places on the Upper East Side that did not deliver sushi at 2 am. But I never could have imagined that a pizza joint might not be open on a Monday, period. I learned this sobering fact as I stood outside Paulie Gee’s pizzeria in Greenpoint, Brooklyn – on a Monday evening – staring at its locked doors. Considering that the only reason I came to Greenpoint was for a taste of Paulie Gee’s Hellboy, this was very disappointing indeed.
At Brouwerij Lane (a local watering hole that is home of Raven Import Co. 150+ Bottles and 19 Growler taps – just enough to help with my heartbreak) I was informed that in working-class immigrant neighborhoods like Greenpoint, Monday closings are, in fact, common. What do people do for food on Mondays if they can’t get takeout?
Well, I trekked back to Paulie Gee’s later in the week and was rewarded with some of the best pizza I have ever had. Hellboy, with its specialty hot honey, was as spicy and amazing as I’ve read, and Grapeful Dead – yup, with grapes on it – was a lovely, mild counter-balance. Totally worth the two trips to the area!
3. And then there were shared interests that got neglected because the rut of the relationship took over.
That’s why you should take advantage of your city/town/country’s unique cultural offerings. Believe it or not, but not all of my time in NYC was spent hunting down the perfect slice. My cultural activities in the city included two special exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (an amazing intersection of Impressionist painting and fashion; and important Velazquez), a visit to the Roerich gallery on the Upper West Side, and seeing two musicals – Wicked and Phantom of the Opera – on Broadway.
“Take advantage of your location” is a cliché bit of wisdom, especially for city-dwellers, but one not heeded enough. In seven years in New York I have gone to just one Broadway show. I did not even know that NYC housed the preeminent collection of paintings by a famed and important Russian artist, Nicholas Roerich. I likely have missed out on dozens, maybe hundreds, of other New York-only events that were at my fingertips, simply because I took the city for granted.
Many of us make the mistake of thinking ‘I am not going anywhere; I’ll have plenty of opportunity to do this, or see that.’ Until we’re suddenly packing for a land far away, the this and the that unseen. I am lucky that I got a chance to go back and fill in some of the gaps but in retrospect it was silly of me to not partake in these activities while living in New York. I will be sure not to err like this in Moscow.
4. It reminds you that you [probably] had your own cute, unique language that [probably] drove everyone around you insane. So you definitely don’t want to use the language you share with your new beau around your ex.
Russish is such a language. Having the benefit of working in a bilingual environment, I, apparently, have started treating Russian and English languages as interchangeable, dropping in Russian words when speaking English, and vice versa. This works just fine in Moscow, where nearly everyone I know speaks both languages. It does not work AT ALL with my friends Stateside, when I randomly switch to Russian or even use a Russian word to describe a concept – without realizing that I just changed languages. Apparently little kids in bilingual families do this a lot? Anyway, this was a new and a rather amusing experience for me. Probably not so much for my dear American friends.
5. Some of the things you did together really were great, and you it’s ok carry them onto new relationships.
For instance, Russians are missing out on the crazy fun that is Trivia Night. One of my best friends in New York used to regularly host parties where we’d play Taboo, Pictionary and many versions of Trivial Pursuit. Hours of interactive fun! I am yet to meet any Russians who engage in similar social past-time – and it is their loss.
On this trip, thanks to my bestie (and frequent editor of this blog) Jenna I got to take part in a Trivia Night at her local hangout in Connecticut.
Three rounds of Mother’s Day Edition trivia – and several pints of my favorite Bud Light – later our team…well, didn’t win, exactly, but did get a perfect score in the third (celebrity-centric, ahem) round! And then yours truly correctly answered a tie-breaking question (“What movie set what record in spring 2003?”) and voila: 2nd place finish overall!
All in all, a terrific time. Now I need to make Trivia Night happen in my local pub. I’ll keep you posted on the progress!