A Road Trip With My Good Lil Road Trip Buddy!
It was mostly great times with great old friends, but holy cow, am I in much worse shape than I have been any of the other times I have done this trip. I’m still sore and fatigued, I mean just totally wiped out and feeling feeble, threedays after getting home!
Now, I have driven up and down the East coast between North Carolina, Georgia or Alabama and New York many times. Half of them I was the only one driving. All previous times, it was just a long, sometimes boring, mostly BEAUTIFUL sort of coasting along where the worst thing that would happen was we’d sit in traffic for a while at some point, probably on 81 in Pennsylvania or near New York City. But this was 28 solid hours of defensive driving.
I have never before seen the kind of behavior I saw from other drivers up and down the East coast this week.
I like to chill out in the right lane doing the speed limit and stay a full two seconds behind the car in front of me, which I did not succeed in doing because first, the person in front of me would keep randomly hitting the brakes and dropping their speed at least 15 mph with no reason whatsoever, and second, over and over again some jerk got all the way up my tailpipe and just would not go around me! Just stayed so close behind me that I couldn’t even safely slow down if the car in front of me were to slow down. The tailgating was completely insane all the way up to New York and back. No one could stand the idea that I was leaving a safe distance between me and the car in front of me, no matter how fast I was going, and over and over again the car behind me whipped around me to the right to wedge themselves into that space (when I was in the center lane, not even in the left lane). And if I was in the left lane - because I was passing someone - the car behind me would not let me get ten feet in front of the car I was passing before they whipped around me to the right, barely squeezing between me and the car I was passing. I’d pull ahead of the car I was passing and put my blinker on to show the morons that I was GOING to get back out of the left lane, but no. Then, the car that was tailgating THEM at 75 mph would do the same thing and no one would let me get back out of the left lane so that they could zoom ahead at an insane rate of speed, unhindered.
Almost everyone was trying to go at least 90 at all times, except for those who were going ten miles below the limit… in the left lane.
Somewhere on 81, we watched a Semi truck come at 90 mph up behind a car that was doing maybe 70, and he did not slow down at all until he was five feet from that car’s rear bumper. The normally-oblivious 13-year-old in the passenger seat gasped and said, “Look out, mama!!” and I was trying to take evasive action because we were so sure that truck was going to plow into that car right in front of us. And at one point we came about three feet from rear-ending someone AND getting rear-ended at the same time at 75 mph when someone inserted themselves into the (insufficient!) space between me and the car in front of me and then that first car immediately slammed on their brakes because they saw a cop, and of course someone was already aggressively tailgating me. I was shaking hard for 200 miles.
I just don’t ever want to do that drive again if this is how things are now.
I arrived in Carmel Hamlet, NY on Friday evening and just flopped on the hot front walk of my old friends’ new home for a while. Each time I got out of the car after driving for hours, my body just refused to work at first. I was concerned folks thought I was drunk when I’d stop at rest stops, so I would make a show of trying and failing to stretch out my legs and try to make it clear I was really only incapacitated by joint pain. We ate dinner at the Carriage House restaurant in Mahopac, and if you are ever in the area, go there and spend LOTS of money. I don’t want that place to ever close. Such good food and such a beautiful, old-timey looking place.
Then it was back to Hicksville for a couple of days with family at my uncle’s ridiculous, green, flowery oasis of a home. So many of the trees in my hometown have died and not been replaced that it’s unrecognizable from the green and leafy street I grew up on, and after a month without rain, most of the grass was dead and many of the trees looked like it was October. A thunderstorm came in and we sat on the porch watching it, but they told me that this had happened over and over again for weeks. The storms always swooped up to the North and bypassed them, then “touched down” again on Long Island in Suffolk or perhaps not at all, and they remained without rain.
On Tuesday, after a leisurely morning of having breakfast and getting ready, I took a big gulp and sent my son to hang out in the old neighborhood with his two friends from elementary school, Jackson and Milo. For an hour or so I hung out with Milo’s mom, my friend Kate, and her new baby who is nine months old. Then I went to meet up with my old friends Liam and Anthony for a little while before heading to see Detra Thomas’ performance One Woman’s Journey to Love at Mary O’s Irish Pub on Avenue A. This was a performance that was made possible by, put together by, and promoted by Brandon “Humans of New York” Stanton who, separately, did his signature photo stories on both Detra and Mary O’s last year. If you haven’t read the Humans of New York stories about Mary O’s ordeal to keep her family business open through the pandemic or about Detra’s escape from the abuse of Christian fundamentalism, go find them now! They’re captivating.
The evening was wonderful and the performance truly amazing. Detra has a beautiful voice, an astonishing story, and a great sense of humor. I choked up and got a little misty, I laughed, and everyone I spoke with was so friendly that even though I had gone there alone it was like being among old friends. The dinner that came with the ticket price was noncompliant with my diet, but I’d been strict for a week or two to try to make up for it* because I knew it would be phenomenal and friends, it was. Mary O’Halloran’s homemade Shepherd’s Pie and her Irish soda bread scones with blackberry jam, and a glass of Cannonball Cabernet. I thought I had died and awakened in heaven just in time for dinner.
I used to go to Mary O’s often when I lived in NYC. My old friend Ryan had all his parties besides the summer time barbecue there, and I liked the Chicken Pot Pie so much I’d meet friends there for dinner when I could find an excuse. I had no childcare, and my friends would try to amuse my son, but he would end up getting bored and restless. Mary would tell him that some of her kids were downstairs playing video games, and he should go down there and play with them. I have this photo that Bill took of me and my son at one of the tables in the front of the bar one cold evening, and a while after he died I noticed I could see him in a reflection in the photo, so I cherish that photo now.
It takes a very special kind of person to bring people together the way that Detra, Mary, and Brandon Stanton clearly do. I see a remarkable human being in each of these people.
According to my photos app, this photo was taken December 12, 2018
Wednesday was court day. I did alright in spite of my completely dry mouth, pounding heart, relentless trembling and dizziness. Anxiety is crippling.
I was back here at home for two days when I got a letter saying they’d dismissed the case. Apparently your landlords texting you multiple times to tell you they will give you back your security deposit isn’t good enough.
On Thursday, we were getting ready to pick up Milo, Kate and her baby from the train station, and go to Tobay Beach. At lunchtime we stood in the sun out in the front yard, facing north, and watching lightning bolts come down out of an iron gray sky. The thunder came rumbling leisurely along after a long pause. We watched the radar and saw how once again, the storms came up and over the city and around Nassau County. I looked up. The literal dividing LINE between thunderstorm and cloudless clear blue sky passed from East to West, directly over the house. An ocean breeze was blowing and keeping the hot and humid sponge of a day comfortable. How I miss that smell in my new mountain life.
When we got to the beach it was closed at first. The clouds had, of course, picked our planned day at the beach to come any further South than Uncle B’s house! When we got back, I said ‘you’re welcome’ to my uncle for the rain they’d gotten. At the beach the tide was high, the surf was dangerously rough and muddy-looking, and the dark clouds actually came all the way down to the South shore to block the sun for a little while, but we didn’t see any lightning or hear any thunder. After the magic moment of 4:20 pm, they reopened the beach and we all had a lovely time after that with Kate laying in the sun and me laying in the shade. At one point some people came and sat behind us and I thought, “Oh no, they’re playing music, great.” but it turned out to be Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits so instead they noticed me rockin’ out with my air piano to The Ballad of Billy The Kid.
The heat was just incredible the whole week, and I made some New Yorkers laugh by telling how often people in Alabama ask me how I’m handling the heat and humidity, as a transplant from New York.
“Have you BEEN to New York City?” and I would gesture around me. Guaranteed laughs.
On the way back, my wonderful boyfriend Brian told me that he wanted me to get really good sleep and that I should use his credit card and get us a better hotel than the Motel 6 that I usually stay at. It was so great. It was Comfort Inn, not the Waldorf Astoria, but the entire facility was so much nicer, it felt cleaner, the beds were comfier, there were luggage carts so we didn’t have to make three trips, the air conditioner was so much quieter, the shower head pressure was great, and we got to swim in a pool for an hour before we went to bed! I’m sure that last part both tired us out so we’d sleep better and helped me stretch and bend more so that I’d hurt less. It was so great that my newly-minted teenager spontaneously announced that he was going to have to remember to tell Brian a BIG thank you when we got home.
On the second day of our trip home, I needed to stop for dinner a little early because my left shoulder, my right hip and my back had just become TOO MUCH. So we stopped in a town I’ve never stopped in - Marion, Virginia - and found a funky local joint called The Wooden Pickle. It’s just the kind of place I like to find, and it was so close to the interstate, in a nice little historic Main Street just right off of 81. Well, my decreased ability to drive long hours really paid off this time because the food was INCREDIBLE. Just delicious. I had never thought to dip sweet potato fries in BBQ sauce - a taste sensation! Good classic rock playlist on when we were in there. I’ve added it to my list of places to stop during future interstate travels. Heck I might just plan the first day of my trip around lunch or dinner in Marion, VA next time, it was that good. Another place I’d like to see be successful so that they always stay open.
Now I’m cozy at home for two days, and once I recover from my vacation, I need to get back to drawing and painting!
* Please know that I am not on a weight loss "diet", I am on a medical diet to manage an autoimmune disorder, so straying from my diet enough can bring real internal damage. Often when I mention my diet, folks assume I’m on this diet to stay thin or something, but the reality is that I’m clinically underweight as a result of the damage my disease has done.