hungry hearted

serving up a healthy portion of pop culture commentary, random infatuations, and introspective ramblings

644 South Street, Philadelphia

Autumn 2004

Two Gallants - Despite What You've Been Told

Belaire - You're Not A Kid Anymore

Belle & Sebastian - Act of the Apostle II

Tokyo Police Club - Citizens of Tomorrow

The funny thing about being in towns I once called home is how I always find myself longing for the convenience of my old apartment. Then the questions: Who’s living in my house? Does the place still have mice? Did they finally refinish the inside? I find myself reevaluating the decisions I’ve made since I left, and the direction I’ve taken. I’m admittedly somewhat lost and constantly striving to figure out my approach to life. Perhaps I do belong in Philly, and maybe I’ll wander back that way one day. Who knows? Places can feel so right in windows of experience and memory tends to glorify the glitches that drove me away.

Once Kate and I finally got out that Thursday morning, I was excited to walkabout in my old city. We headed up 3rd Street and I resisted my habitual urge to turn onto South, waiting for the gentle disposition of Lombard to turn left before falling into my old ways. You see, I developed my routine long ago when I walked home daily from a legal secretary position I tolerated for a solid chunk of my city-dwelling year. The 15-block routine was my strongest resemblance to an anonymous urbanite, and my favorite part of the day (especially in autumn). I guess I walked the walk, but when it all boiled down I always felt like a fraud. In retrospect the city is no place for a lost soul, and it swallowed me up.

I slipped into autopilot as we strolled over and up towards Pine Street for antique window-shopping and over onto Walnut’s shopping district. H&M has not yet arrived in Texas, a cruel joke by all accounts. We embraced the opportunity to frugally shop, stretch our legs and run our mouths. I was pretty happy with my finds, and the warming weather. After suggesting we grab lunch from a street vender, Kate’s eyes lit up at the idea of sushi, and I of course obliged.

When Kate and I get together my tendencies to conduct myself as if I am on permanent vacation become tenfold. We basically encourage the most impractical behavior in one another. We slipped our shoes off and slid into a Japanese booth. It was nice to cool off in a dimly lit, peaceful atmosphere. We ordered our lunches and a cocktail and dug up the dirt as we analyzed our exes, caught up on our lives, and planned for the night’s festivities.

Once we walked on the outskirts of Rittenhouse Square, made a pit stop at Love Park for a photo op, and walked through Old City, I felt satisfied about my reunion with my old city. We made our way back to Joe and Johanna’s place and I popped The Last Waltz into their DVD player as we reorganized our stuff and cleaned up. Our casual pace set us up for a grueling drive back to NP. Having no choice, we pushed on through as visions of 80’s night danced in our heads.

old stomping grounds

Kate and I spent the night camping out on an air mattress in her father's construction. The lingering cold front and the drafty, uninsulated walls made getting out of bed an uncomfortable challenge. We eventually muscled through it, fearing the notorious Jersey traffic we could easily fall victim to inroute to Philly. As it was we had a three and a half hour drive ahead of us, which could easily turn into a five-hour trek with bad timing. With this looming fear I nearly killed Kate as she attempted to pack in the most unrealistic fashion imaginable.

She dumped the remaining contents of her life into her suitcase: boots, clothes, artifacts, books, blankets, tree branches (I'm not even kidding, but she'd call them, "decorative sticks," because apparently there's a difference). I don't know how I was surprised that she hadn't yet packed for her move to New Orleans. She laughed in recognition of both of our anxieties: mine, to get to Philly as soon as possible; hers, to get her shit to New Orleans.

I ridiculed her as she tossed items around and hurriedly continued to ram belongings into her bags as they reached maximum-capacity. I informed her of the 50 lb limit on checked luggage, to which she gawked at as the most retarded thing she'd ever heard. The articles formed a mountain towering above what most people would perceive as the physical limitations of a suitcase. I begged her to leave some things behind, knowing that if I kept quiet I would end up with a fair share of her crap in the back of my rental after dropping her at the airport. I was already over-packed. Kate grunted as she forcefully managed to get her suitcase somewhat closed, pack her accompanying bags and make trips to and from my car.

With my backseat looking like a girls' locker, we made way to Philly. I wasn't used to driving there from CT, so I nearly got us lost looping around the Bronx past the Zoo and making way through the outskirts of Manhattan across the George Washington Bridge and eventually intercepting the Garden State Parkway. I felt a slight buzz of excitement to be in a region where the geography and roads made sense to me. I'm notoriously awful with directions, but I had successfully dodged the bullet. Had we veered incorrectly and gotten deeper into NYC the snowball of traffic and consequential delays would have been catastrophic. Headache averted.

I took exit 4 off the Turnpike into Cherry Hill, an old habit I developed in what now feels like a past life, but I still prefer the cityscape entering from the Ben Franklin Bridge. I guess because I used to live in Philly it's my favorite east coast city. It's much more manageable than NYC, but still has a great pulse. I stuck with my old ways and headed down 8th St. past my old neighborhood and eventually made a left onto Christian Street. We parked around the corner from Joe and Johanna's apartment on Queen St. and walked down to their quaint side street.

Our visit was a mere two weeks before Joe and Johanna's wedding and we arrived to find Johanna writing on sand buckets, which would later be stuffed with goodies for out of town guests. She was hilarious and real as she scrambled around the kitchen telling us how crazy it is that she was about to be married. I love Johanna and her relationship with Joe, whom is absolutely impossible not to warm up to immediately, but it was refreshingly honest to see her behave nervously. I too often worry when I hear about people getting married young that they're doing it for the wrong reasons, for the dollhouse fantasy or an item to be checked off a list of accomplishments. That's not at all the case with this duo. They're the real deal.

Kate and Johanna hadn't previously met and I get a hard-on for merging groups of friends, so I let them chat as I gave Lane directions to Johanna's and nervously anticipated Brian's arrival. I was excited to see Lane. It was chaotic when we all moved out of our place in North Austin and it seemed like such a long time ago in consideration of all that's happened since. I'd forgotten just how excitable his personality is. He joined our table while us girls passed around an Eagles bong and I tried to mentally prepare myself for the nearing arrival of my ex-love.

He looked like a stranger, skinnier than usual, buzz cut and jumpy. I found myself surprisingly and overwhelmingly detached. I hadn't though that was possible for me with him. I brought him inside as he made awkward jokes. I introduced him to Lane. I immediately knew he'd likely be put off by Lane's energetic and curios charisma just because he is a guy I had recently lived with. Brian was always jealous.

I felt slightly overwhelmed trying to balance my attention between the three friends I was visiting. On the way to dinner I walked with Lane and we recapped our experiences since parting ways at the beginning of the summer. My thoughts were scattered as I walked these city streets I'd walked so many times before. I felt awkward about Brian and badly for lack of emotion. He sat next to me at dinner, but the distance between us was immeasurable. Two years ago we shared a home just a few streets away, but that night at dinner we spoke different languages.

New Wave Café has become a personal landmark in Philly. We took a table outside, I ordered mussels and a 9 Magic Hat. The mixed company balanced out the conversation flow and I was thankful Johanna and Kate had already known Brian for years, hoping that put him at some ease. That might have happened had Lane's recent breakup not turned the topic of discussion to the possibility of exes being friends. I bit my lip, refrained from commentary and ordered another beer. It was beyond my control. I used to think Brian and I would transition back into friends, but I realize it's not that easy. I realize the differences that once evened out our dynamic had attributed to the growing gap between us.

All things considered, dinner went as well as possible. Everyone got along and I felt good about the group interface. Lane headed home and Brian walked with Johanna, Kate and I to South Street where we were going to a show and he was going to join us for a drink. I walked with him and wished he would relax. I remember seeing him as someone so unaffected and collected, not this anxious humanoid walking next to me. I tried to make the most of it and told him how it felt good to be in Philly and how much I appreciate a city where you can walk just about everywhere and live in the heartbeat of it all. He told me I should move back, but laughed with condescension when I suggested he visit Austin.

We turned onto South Street where the crowds of pedestrians and bright lights invaded my senses and I wondered how I survived life two floors up from this chaotic mess. South Street is a highly concentrated geographical embodiment of a delinquent stepchild. It's loud, dirty, in your face and asking for trouble. There are fun spots and the rent was cheap given the ideal proximity to center city. It's just a stark contrast for a girl who spent her whole life between the star-filled skies and grassy lawns of the country. Maybe one of these days I'll get my shit together enough to afford the kind of life I would daydream about on streets like Pine and Walnut. Then perhaps I'd return to the city of brotherly love, but the lifestyle I'm running with presently makes Austin my match.

We neared the TLA and had a moment of absolute chaos. Used to headlining bands starting after ten in Austin, I thought we would have time to pick up our tickets, grab a drink with Brian at Manny Browns and make the show in time. Shit out of luck, Camera Obscura had started promptly at nine. Kate panicked as she heard 'Tears for Affairs' playing inside. She was complaining about missing her favorite song (mine too) in one ear, while I tried to communicate to the window cashier that we were on a list of some sort. Johanna stepped in and gave the appropriate name to match the list. As we were given our tickets, I tried to offer my attention to Brian for the last lingering moments before hugging him goodbye and being rushed inside in one huge wave of commotion. I still felt scattered and detached as we wedged ourselves inside, up to the bar, and down to the dance floor.

The venue was small and the band sounded as soft and dreamy as their studio recordings. I shuffled around doing my silly little dance, closed my eyes and let it take over my senses. God knows I didn't want to think about anything. There was way too much I could analyze and consume myself with at the moment. Fuck that. I pushed the swarming thoughts typical after an ex-encounter into the depths of my mind, and indulged in the moment. I let the sleepy Scot-pop drown out my mind's competition, sang along and danced, grateful for every minute of it. After all, it's not often that I see Kate or Johanna or get to spend time in Philly these days.

We returned to New Wave for another round of drinks before heading back to Johanna's place for some top-shelf lounging. Johanna and Joe are two of the most passionate Springsteen fans I've ever met, and Kate and I aren't too far behind. They put on a DVD of a live performance of Bruce and the E Street Band which we intently watched, making goofy comments over Bruce's sheer awesomeness.

Maybe I was just high, but I think Kate perfectly articulated the allure of Springsteen as a sex symbol. I forget her words, but basically he embodies a perfect balance of sensitivity and ruggedness and is unwaveringly passionate. He comes off as a guy intouch with his emotions and able to communicate them without losing his masculinity. It's a thin line, but he might just set the standard. I mean, isn't that what every girl wants? A guy that pours his heart and soul into his work looks like he just finished rebuilding the engine of his car and will come home all heated up and ready to go? The guy is in his sixties and still looks better than half the guys I meet.

always and forever

When I moved to Austin I didn't foresee the cultural/geographical indications that would explain a shortage of bagel shops. The same goes for pizza. There just aren't as many Jews and Italians down south. Bagel shops are a staple of life in the northeast. It took me awhile to equate a breakfast taco to the doughy deliciousness of a bagel, and I'll always be biased.

Evan picked me up at my parent's house, just like when I was a sophomore in high school and he'd come tote me around. The first car I ever drove was Evan's classic red dodge demon. The license plates read "SAY TEN," which prompted inspecting glances from anyone who got the joke. That seems like a lifetime ago.

The weather was still unseasonably cold and rainy. I layered as best as possible and leaned over my shoebox of treasures as I walked from my parent's house and got into Evan's car. I laughed as I caught sight of Evan's oversized Zack Morris cell phone, and he put a Tupperware container in my lap with broken pieces of his new entrepreneurial endeavor: Vegan O'Brien Gourmet Cookies. His chocolate chip prototype was definitely up to par.

The New Paltz Plaza had received a total facelift since the last time I'd seen it and Hot Bagels was totally revamped. I excitedly ordered a much anticipated everything bagel with veggie-tofu cream cheese (so good), grabbed a drink from the cooler, and found a booth in the back. I think Evan ordered a breakfast sandwich, which surprisingly contrasted the straight-edged, veggie-head I knew back in high school. He scrutinized my shoebox until I unveiled its contents. We laughed over the pictures and reminisced. It felt good to be home.

After breakfast Evan drove me to Hertz in Kingston to pick up my rental. Once he was satisfied that I wasn't being taken advantage of, he headed home to dive back into the growing demands of his product launch and I hopped into my 2007 KIA Sportage. It felt good to be alone. On my trip thus far events had been tightly scheduled and I'd been dependent for rides, which is something that bothers me more than it should. I realize I have a huge issue with dependency, especially with transportation, as I perceive it to ultimately limit personal freedoms.

Given my new vehicle of independence, I decided to stop into Jim's silk screening shop ( ya'll!) on my way back to NP. I walked in to find Jim prepping a screen. When I left last summer the place was barely open, so it was great to see it all up and running. I heckled Jim and Mike, took pictures and loitered around for a while as they casually worked on the day's orders.

I turned back onto Rt. 32 and called over to Justin and Diana's. I would be driving past momentarily and thought I might as well take this opportunity to make some rounds. I turned off the main road and onto the gravel path leading to a huge, old, red barn, which was divided into apartments. Coby's dad used to live in this complex, around the corner and upstairs in a huge loft apartment. About ten years ago when I was learning how to drive, I took my parent's Dodge Ram for a joyride and picked her up to accompany me in my delinquency.

I knocked as I pushed the door open and saw Justin's expression light up before he unleashed his boisterous greeting. Justin is a character like no other, which should be made clear. I plopped myself on the couch and admired my old coffee table as it sat between us. We chatted as I made myself at home and he rolled up a blunt to "do what [he] does best." I squatted down and stuck my face up against the glass walls of his aquarium and tried to recall the names I'd given his fish. Given the activities so entwined with my days spent playing college at Justin's, my memory failed me.

Diana came home and took a seat next to Justin. He lit the blunt and passed it over. We talked about NP and they brought me up to speed on current events with old friends. It was good to see Diana happily reunited with NP after our time living together in Austin. I know that it's hard to find a place that makes as much sense to a personal lifestyle as a hometown does, especially a hometown like New Paltz. Its easy to fall victim to it's allure.

I had a lot to get done before heading to Connecticut later that night so I pried myself off their couch and got back on the road. As I approached the downtown crossway I impulsively turned right. I feared that if I didn't the chaos of my trip might not allow another opportunity to drive up through the Gunks (Shawangunk Mountains). With my radio adjusted to 100.1 Radio Woodstock, I drove through the flat fields of Mountain View Farms and up around the hairpin turn. I parked at the first outlook, got out and stared at the hazy horizon. The weather left much to be desired of the view, but it was nothing I hadn't seen before. I enjoyed the effects of my high and the time alone to introspect. I hope my love affair with New Paltz never dies. It feels like every inch of that town yields volumes of nostalgia.

family values

Hungover and disheveled, I finally reached my parent's house in New Paltz four days into my trip. Since no one was home I took advantage of the opportunity to embark on a solo mission to rummage through and retrieve the items I'd listed on my flight in from Austin. I tossed my bags into what was once my bedroom but now resembled more of a second closet for my mother's growing collection of junk.

I squeezed myself between stacks of boxes and an old bookshelf in the corner, spilling the bottom shelf's photo albums out into a pile in front of me. Looking at our old family photos I felt dumbfounded. My parents were 24 yrs old when I was born, a year younger than I am now. I've always known this, but this was the first time I'd looked at these images in awhile and it just struck me differently. As I thumbed through the pages, piling my favorites next to me, I once again drifted inward.

While these pictures provide tangible memories of my childhood and hilarious proof of our collective victimization to the generally ridiculous concept of style prevalent through the 1980's and 90's (perms, shoulder pads, acid wash jeans, asymmetrical designs, etc.), I couldn't help but feel overcome with gratitude. My parents really stepped up to the responsibility of raising me despite their age and inexperience. I can't say I would do that right now, which is a humbling realization.

Satisfied with my stack of memories (and excited about the percentage of which were in Polaroid), I found a shoebox to temporarily store away my treasure. I pushed the photo albums back into their haphazard format in the family room just as my father arrived home. My mother was away for business in Boston, which allowed my father and I some necessary quality time, something we barely know how to manage. This time was different though. I could tell that my decision to move so far away had had its effect on him, making our reunion overwhelmingly honest and heartfelt, a beautiful accomplishment in our fragile relationship.

Other retrieved childhood memorabilia:

Star projector thingy
High school yearbook(s)
Photos / albums
The Bear – William Faulkner
Travels with Charlie – John Steinbeck
Grand Royal Magazine collection

I think it's necessary for me to elaborate on just how bad ass the Bushnell Star Machine really is, especially given that I received it as a gift from my uncle so long ago I can't recall. I mean, the guy on the box even has a serious Keith Hernandez moustache. This shit is for real.

Also, true to form the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal Magazine IS just as relevant in 2007 as it was in 1995. Radical.

all growns up

After a morning of deliberation over dresses, accessories and what-have-you, Kirsten and I headed down to New Paltz for Devon's wedding. Devon is the first of my high school girlfriends to tie the not, a concept I personally can't imagine at this time in my life. It's been over two years since I was involved in a relationship worthy of a title, and my lifestyle since then has become increasingly self-involved. Never the less, seeing two people so perfectly matched following their hearts is as inspiring and reassuring as a true life fairytale.

We picked up Cate in Esopus and raced down Rt. 32 towards St. Joseph's Church. The clock was ticking and a late arrival was simply not an option. As we entered St. Joe's and slid ourselves into a pew behind our fellow New Paltz High School graduates, I experienced a flashback to my childhood. In first grade I realized the majority of my friends were being raised Catholic which gave them the opportunity to leave school after lunch numerous days a week to attend religious ed. classes. By second grade I guilted my parents into signing me up and spent a fair share of time at St. Joe's until my interests deflated and I joined girl scouts instead.

Catholic churches have a way of making me feel small and insignificant with their immaculate architecture, tall ceilings and breathtaking stain glass mosaics. Perhaps that's an honest reflection to the religious values being practiced within it's structure, or a personal translation regarding my own religious affiliation.

While a Catholic wedding is certainly not in my future, I was overjoyed to witness Devon and Mike affirm their love in such a traditional atmosphere. Their personal accents accessorizing the ceremony emphasized a quaint simplicity. Appropriately, Devon looked like a delicate angel as she elegantly floated down the church aisle. I proudly watched her as she met Mike at the altar and their eyes locked as if no one else was in the room.

Following the ceremony our little group of NPHS Class of 2000 congregated outside to gush over one another and this occasion before piling into our cars and heading to Poughkeepsie for the reception. The Grandview hosted the reception and provided a beautiful balcony overlooking the Hudson River. As the sun faded the lights adorning the Poughkeepsie Bridge flickered into focus. Our group made sure to take advantage of this backdrop and an available waiter for an impromptu photo shoot, and I made sure to take notice of this vantage point as I indulged in the open bar and this festive reunion with old friends.

Being at a childhood friend's wedding is the most obvious indication of adulthood, something I avoid confrontation with at all cost. But being around the people who watched you grow up, as you watched them, really gives perspective and a reaffirming purpose to these narrow paths we diverge onto. I could easily size myself up to their pursuits and achievements, but really I'm proud of my friends who have each had the courage to find themselves and their place in this crazy world. Their strength is nothing short of inspiration and I thank them for that.

Albany, NY

My new bottle of CK Euphoria must've broken when my luggage was tossed around at JFK, drenching the entire contents of my backpack with a pungent, flowery perfume. I apologized to Kirsten as I tossed it in the back of her Nissan. We laughed as the scent wafted upfront dominating our ride.

In comparison to Austin, Albany's ethnic diversity and weathered exterior are overwhelming. Albany's architecture consists of mainly old brick and cement column-like buildings with stoops and fire ladders. This makeup, as a normalcy in most northeastern cities, is closer to my connotations of "urban". Austin feels so new and clean. The diversity seems more ghettoized into neighborhoods, leaving the downtown area very WASPy.

Kirsten's building is close to Washington Park and SUNY. It has a really neat, impressive building layout. Once you enter a secured door from the street, there's a courtyard with a cement path and stairs to different entrances for sections of the building. It creates a really quaint feeling in the midst of what can be a very loud downtown area in light of the neighboring bars and businesses.

Speaking of neighborhood ruckus, someone, somewhere was making a ridiculous scene. Either this lunatic thought he was experiencing a church revival-esque encounter with the Holy Spirit or was dangerously intoxicated. Either way, it's a fair assumption he is insane. He carried on in spurts for quite awhile before our curiosities overcame us and we geared up for an undercover walk-by. With a leashed-up Cameron (Kirsten's sassy pit bull) to insure our safety, we took it to the streets.

We lit a cigarette beyond the first gated entrance, listened up, and scanned the cold, dark streets. Nothing. Figures. We turned the corner to indulge Cameron and landed behind a pack of young thugs. Noticing the presence of three 25 yr old girls behind them (Kirsten's roommate was with us), these young hooligans talked up their game, "I just wanna…rock'em to sleep, rock'em to sleep." We held in our laughter until they faded into Washington Park.

Philmont, NY

I sat on the old refurbished wooden floor of Sarah and Brian's restored farmhouse with a Magic Hat in one hand and chopsticks in the other looking at a packed bowl in front of me. I made it. It had been one of the most trying days imaginable, but I somehow managed to find my way home.

It's funny how we slip into old habits and dynamics so organically. I lived with Sarah and Jessie my senior year of college and completely forgot the quirky harmony of our personalities. But as we sat back and lounged around in Sarah's living room it was all so familiar. We fell right into our old routine with Jessie and I in a sarcastic battle of wits and Sarah on the sidelines trying to steal our attention away from our self-indulgent game. Oh man. I was in stitches.

I awoke to the crisp, cool breeze of an autumn morning and grabbed for a hoodie as I forced myself out of bed and down the stairs following the scent of freshly brewed coffee. This is not how I remembered late summer mornings even in upstate New York. Apparently a cold front was sweeping through the region. I immediately worried about my packing selection as it consisted of mainly summery clothes based on faulty weather predictions, but oh well. Sarah and I plopped ourselves down in the living room. We drank coffee, ate freshly baked bread and played Chinese checkers as we eased into the new day.

We ventured out for a morning walk as I marveled at the mountainous horizon and felt distinct pangs of nostalgia for what was once so available in my day to day and is now missing from my view. The air felt fresh and crisp from the morning chill as it filled my lungs on our brisk walk through the park and out onto the neighborhood streets. I listened as Sarah relayed to me all the small town gossip, but I couldn't help but find myself distracted by a self-analysis that soon became a prevailing theme in my travels east.

There is something so honest and familiar to me about the northeast with it's crunchy country towns, mountainous back roads, and renovated farmhouses. It hurts to feel so far away from this picture of home, but I suppose the distance and my endeavors elsewhere are what allow me to appreciate it all, and I definitely do appreciate it.

When we got back to Sarah's house we browsed through her vegetable garden, a colorful assortment of tomatoes, green beans, and herbs nestled in a patch between a garage and a large inviting hammock. We plucked off ripe tomatoes and beans and tossed them in a wicker basket.

The aesthetics of her home reflects the simplicity of this small country town. It's a wonderful, calming setting, and I was glad to spend some time there at numerous points in route to various places on this trip. It's the kind of place that reminds me to slow down and appreciate the little things in life.

the bumpy road home

I was so preoccupied and lost in thought that I nearly missed my flight home altogether. Completely aloof, I entered my gate and wandered into one of the stock bookstores to grab a magazine. I felt like somewhat of a smart-ass as I picked up The New Yorker and brought it to the cashier. I buried my face in the pages, browsing through articles as I found a seat to sit and space out in. Oddly, there was no one else around. Like a direct answer to an unarticulated question, my name was announced and I was called to board my flight or lose my seat. I laughed to myself and got on board. Typical.

In route to New York I read my magazine and was especially influenced by an article on light pollution by David Owen, "Can you see the stars?" It reminded me of this star projector machine my uncle gave me when I was young and made me anxious to rummage through my old belongings back at my parents house. I drifted in thought and compiled a quick list of books, pictures, records, etc. that I wanted to find back home. My excitement and anticipation peaked and my mind switched gears from thinking of all I would miss out on in Austin while traveling back east to the nearly tangible adventures I was about to embark on.

I realized I've trained myself to emotionally detach somewhat from my past in order to focus on and enjoy the present. There is so much to love and miss about the places you grow up and the people so inevitable entwined with those settings. I mean, there's a distinctly obvious reason each of us develops a geographical comfort zone. I'm no stranger to this evocation. As I landed at JFK, I was thoroughly ecstatic to be home.

I giggled to myself at the attitude shift from Austin International to JFK. The pace is ten fold, at least. The woman on the intercom sounded nasal and dramatic, strikingly like the voice of George Castanza's mother. Hilariously refreshing. The gift shop lacked the warm burnt orange glaze I had recently familiarized myself with in exchange for NYPD hats and mugs decorated with apples. Thank God.

Of course in the true spirit of New York, I soon found myself totally screwed. My connecting flight to Albany was canceled and I was completely stranded in this overcrowded zoo. I focused on my objective and limited options as I waited three hours for my baggage to be recovered.

The delirium took over as I found myself mingling with a mixed batch of stranded travelers and somehow got lucky. I met an army girl named Jessica who had come from Germany to get married the following night. She had to get to Albany to meet her fiancés' parents that night and proceed with her wedding arrangements. We buddied up and made a pact to get to Albany any way necessary. We figured we'd take a taxi to grand central and a train the remainder of the way upstate, but were approached by another duo destined for Albany and joined forces to rent a shuttle.

It was cold outside as our ramshackle crew loaded into the airport shuttle. We drove on the outskirts of NYC into Jersey and back up into NY. I gazed upon the cityscape, passed Yankee stadium, the Toyota lot where I bought my Yaris, and counted exits on the thruway as we passed New Paltz and continued all the way up to Catskill. Each of these landmarks struck an emotional chord with me making my thoughts pretzel. Only my increasing hunger could overpower and distract my minds focus.

The shuttle left me at thruway exit 21 as requested. I stood outside Stewart's with my enormous backpack dwarfing my frame and a garment bag hanging from my arm, a spectacle no doubt. I definitely missed the dinner plans I had with Sarah & Jessie. Four hours behind schedule, it was well beyond my control. So here I was, a total goon freezing my ass off in the middle of Catskill hoping they would arrive in the next fifteen minutes before Stewart's closed.