Pit Stop in NYC
In week 45, I was back in NYC, spending time in my old neighborhood, visiting my old hangouts, and seeing how things have changed in a year.
First Stop: The Local Pub
The city, as it always does, had changed. Some businesses had shuttered for good, and some were just beginning to see if they could make it in the Big Apple. Luckily for me, all my favorites were still there, including my favorite pubs. My first stop had to be my favorite local watering hole.
The pub has changed in the past few years. It was taken over by a regular who everyone used to be friendly with until he went on Jeopardy and won enough money to buy the bar. He became a complete jerk, even telling someone he wanted the regulars out. He jacked the prices, bought only the most microscopic of wine glasses so no regulars can get a generous pour, and ripped the “In Memoriam” picture of our former beloved bartender, gone too soon, off the wall. What a prick.
Despite his efforts to run us out, we still go in but mostly when our favorite bartender James is there. He does his best to take care of us despite the little prick’s new authoritarian regime. Today was luckily one of his shifts so I headed down in the late afternoon sunshine and threw open the door to the dark pub. The first thing I saw was James leaning on the bar and talking to Lewis, one of the regulars while watching a big darts competition.
Thankfully, some things never change.
I hopped on a barstool and joined the conversation. While I know nothing about darts, James and Lewis educated me as we watched the World Darts Championship. That is what I love about a good pub. If the world has beaten you up a little bit, you can pop in and find a friend to pass some time with and forget your troubles. This had always been such a place for me.
Mornings with Laura
The next morning, I got up excited to head to one of my favorite happy places in NYC, Stella and Fly. Stella and Fly suits all your needs as it is a lovely cafe in the daytime that transitions into a wine bar at night. The best thing about weekday mornings is that lovely Laura works that shift.
Laura is a little ray of Colombian sunshine. No matter what life is throwing at her, she always welcomes you with a smile. She moved here from Colombia with her husband and has become one of my favorite people. When I walked into the cafe, Laura came running around from behind the counter and we just stood there in a hug while everyone in the cafe stared.
As I looked around, I noticed something was very wrong. I whispered in her ear that someone was in my corner! When I was a regular there, I sat in the corner chair up against the wall while I worked and drank Laura’s lattes. Yeah, I know I’ve been gone almost a year but hey. It’s my seat. They had even promised to save it for me. Sigh.
Laura motioned for me to sit near the register so we could chat. We were catching up when my friend Peter came in. Yay! It was usually the three of us in the mornings. On my last day in Stella almost a year ago, we wanted to celebrate and decided to make some affogatos. I ran to the C-town on the next block and bought vanilla Haagen Dazs while Laura made espressos and dragged out the amaretto.
This time we celebrated our reunion by Peter and I going to the fabulous new bakery and buying up some of the sweet and savory treats they have. Stella and Fly have gotten rid of their previous pastry supplier and we refused to eat the sub-par croissants. In full view of the security cameras, we sat and shared our delicious pizza bite and apple and cheese danishes.
How I’ve missed these two!
Business as Usual in the Diner
One of my favorite, overpriced diners in NYC is The Mansion. I used to love to come here and sit at the counter, get a greek chicken wrap and chat with the counter guy who seemed to be a fixture there. One day after my “Morning with Laura”, I headed to the Mansion to see how things had changed since I’d last been in about a year ago to the week.
When I opened the door, I still recognized most of the faces. I told the hostess I would just grab a seat at the counter. As I sat, I was happy to see my same old counter guy coming over to greet me. “Long time, no see!” he said. He asked if I wanted my usual and I confirmed the order and asked for a hot tea to go with it.
I explained that I had moved to Portugal which led us into a fun conversation over my move, how the neighborhood is changing, and how the diner stays the same. We both agreed the only thing about the diner that had changed were the prices. Wow. $25 for chicken wrap and tea is just highway robbery. However, while I sat there thinking of all the happy memories I have from this place, even the ones with my exes, I knew it was worth every penny.
A Visitor In NYC
The first time I returned to NYC last April to pick up my visa, I had only spent a few weeks in Lisbon, settling in. In my heart, NYC still felt more like my home on that trip and Lisbon was a place I was visiting. I went around the city, stopping in my usual places like nothing had changed. The faces and places were all about the same.
This time felt different.
I felt more like the visitor I am. Just any other person visiting the city and stopping in their favorite spots. On the other hand, every time I fly back to Lisbon, whether a trip home to visit Mom or back from what I always thought would be my forever home in NYC, it feels more and more like home.
I am grateful that the transition has been pretty easy outside of the challenges of learning how to get things done in a city where you don’t speak the language. Oh, and let’s not forget my pesky Incompetent Portuguese Slumlord, although it is a goal of mine.
I often think of going into Stella and Fly now and seeing someone sitting in my corner chair. Life moves one without you. It’s like a friend who left NYC before me said, “When you’re gone, you’re gone.”