August was and is a busy month for me, and a large portion of that busyness was completely self-imposed. Fortunately, it’s also been an exciting month, and a productive one –– I finished the “summer portion” of my research on trans, disabled digital identity, the draft of what I hope will become a published article. Along with other writerly-pursuits, I’ve been continuously paring down my wardrobe, both in anticipation of school starting, and in order to make space for new-to-me clothes. I am absurdly attached to old clothes, some of which are the age of a fourth grader by now, even if I never wear them. Sometimes, it’s about the memories I have associated with an article, but more often it’s the what if that haunts the back of my head. What if, someday, I want to wear this? What if (and this is often the case for old clothes, especially from small, now-defunct indie shops) I can never find this again? So, I continue saving-up clothing I haven’t put on in years, afraid to regret getting rid of something in the future.
This summer, I’ve gotten quite a bit better at putting clothes in consignment bags and setting them free. I’ve started moving things first from my closet to a bag in a different closet, to test if there’s anything there I miss. Probably 75% of time time, I forget about the bag, and once I happen to remember its existence I usually can’t recall what’s in it. That’s how I know I’m ready to donate the bag’s contents, and I force myself not to peek inside before I bid the clothes farewell. Cleaning, organizing, curating, these constitute journey whose cost is always a degree of loss and fear. That feels so melodramatic to say, but given how many times I’ve stood in front of my closet, arguing with myself, it seems appropriate.
Cleaning, organizing, curating, these constitute journey whose cost is always a degree of loss and fear.
In the middle of the month, my mom and I went to New York City. This was another journey that required us to sit with fear; though from Connecticut, I had never been to the city before and she had only been once, decades ago. I had been pushing to go for a while, frustrated that despite my proximity to NYC (all told less than four hours away) I seem to have been the only person never to have gone. I found the perfect reason to go when I decided to book a tattoo appointment by an artist in Brooklyn*. We planned our long-weekend trip around that date.
We arrived at Grand Central Station on a Sunday, and stayed at a hotel a less-than-ten-minute walk from the station. Self-conscious about looking like a tourist, which I was, I took no pictures in Grand Central. The sheer size of the station was unexpected, as was the beauty of its ceiling, as was the sheer variety of stores and restaurants / food shops located inside it. It was a massive mall with trains in it. The mall is dead, but this hybrid megamall-airport thing catapulted me into, like, an alternate-reality version of 2005. (Except, with painfully-contemporary presidential memorabilia on full display.)
Rife as it is with trump-toupée toilet brushes, Grand Central is also home to at least one excellent restaurant, which I’ve spent the past twenty minutes Googling in order to find. It’s called Tartinery, and my mom and I spent the entirety of our meal there speaking animatedly about how good said meal was.
Here’s what I got, except I made the bold and delicious choice to substitute tofu instead of the vastly-inferior almonds:
[We both shared a powerfully delicious fruit salad, the freshness of which was a huge surprise to both of us. Kiwi! Sweet, and in the Northeast!]
Here’s what my mom got, which she also highly recommends. (And for those of you wondering, while she eats a very low-meat diet, she isn’t a vegan or even a vegetarian. Just a fan of avocado.)
On the same day, we also visited the U.N., whose bizarre security check process was essentially a poor man’s TSA search, but with fewer signs explaining where exactly we were supposed to go. Inside, I was impressed by its capacity to simultaneously document unspeakable suffering and actively promote capitalism, praising the potential for u.s. empire as a force of liberation. That said, given that I usually prefer to experience fiction textually, I may not be the best judge of the place.
The following day took us to the New York Public Library and left both of us sorely disappointed. First, though, was the profound pleasure of breakfast at the hotel, which we took while looking (through a window) over a balcony. Afterward, when seats were empty outside, we walked onto the balcony to beyond-perfect weather. The food was good, and much of it was served on slabs instead of plates. I don’t remember if there were actually mason jars, but they were there in spirit; it was that kind of place.
Anyway, the library! It was a maze of open-mouthed tourists. There was no reason not to have expected this, given its lobby, complete with a gift shop that literally spilled out from its original location. Not to mention, the library has an initialism –– NYPL –– that can be said and in and of itself be understood. My expectations, and I think my mother’s too, were far too high. The areas that I wanted to see were fenced off exclusively for students and scholars, understandable when the world wants to tour your home base.
The need to prohibit public access to particular areas became even more apparent as I watched fellow visitors’ behavior in ostensibly “quiet” spaces. It’s a shame that a library so rich with information, opportunity, and the commitment all libraries share: to manifest the fundamental right to knowledge and the right to read, for free, regardless of social status, that every person has. Although the library did sell attractive “Knowledge is Power” tote bags (one of which I, a [self-aware] hypocrite, purchased) it was very clearly an attraction, an exhibit, far less of a library than my naïve brain anticipated.
Later that day was my tattoo. I was to get a custom piece with Julia (official site here) of Moonrise Tattoo. The studio was teeny, incredibly cozy, and well-decorated. I fell head-over-heels with my design the minute Julia showed it to me: as I requested, she made me a two-headed lamb inspired by the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary myth, which told of sheep that grew from flora. Not only does the myth refuse the line between “flora” and “fauna,” it also fuses the strange and the gentle. I amplified this by giving my lamb(s) two heads: reflecting, too, the rhizomatic growth of the plant the myth may be based upon. There is no singular root, no singular route; only connection.
Julia integrated the branches of my lamb’s plant beautifully with the branches surrounding my stained glass half-sleeve, done by Amanda. She worked quickly, too, so although some parts (those closest to the bone, such as the leaves that reached near my elbow) were painful enough for me to grit my teeth, I was fortunate not to have to sit in it for too long!
By our third and final day in NYC, I was ready to leave, and also ready to strike a CUNY off of my list of potential-graduate-schools. We rolled back into Grand Central and took a fairly early train back to Connecticut; by the time we got here, it was raining and we were more than ready to be home. I had a wonderful time, but I’m just not suited to live in the city long-term, especially one as chaotic as this one. Now, though, I’m not so scared of going, of the looming specter of “New York City” as something I must be unprepared for. To cheesily tie us back into the intro to this post, it functioned as a way to shed old discomforts, to make way for the new, and to give me a fixed point in time at which I can mark the start of summer’s closing.
This was initially going to be an ill-advised one-day trip to the city, to the tattoo studio, and back home, which, like capitalism, would have been miserable in theory and in practice. It turned into a lovely weekend event that also managed to stir up my desire to return to MHC, which has grown ever since. And, after the hectic six days ahead of me, I’ll be back!
*Which, incidentally, shares a name with my hometown, from which I’m now typing this post!