One of my aunts says to me "You've got bitten by the travel bug!" And they say, once you get bit, you never heal. The bite starts in one part of the body and begins to speckle your body as if your body were a globe and it's marking out places that you will go, or have gone before.
My first travel bug bite developed in the New York location of my body. Since then other miscellaneous bites have appeared in various locations.
I was 16 and my parents were naive enough to let me take off to the other side of the continent with weird cousin Ethel (not her real name, in fact she's not even that weird, but it's funnier this way). I had worked all summer in a sandwich shop grilling beef over a hot grill for philly cheese steak sandwiches. I had been saving my wages and anticipating a trip to the Big Apple.
Weird cousin Ethel's sister's co-worker had a daughter who worked as a social worker in Brooklyn New York and well "You should go visit my daugher. She lives in New York City!" Well, we actually took her up on that offer (even though we didn't even know this lady). So, I found myself on my first airplane ride. I sat next to an attractive Swedish guy who talked a lot. I remember actually wanting to listen to the safety instructions but he kept talking to me, so I pretended like I didn't care. I never got the opportunity to tell him that this was my first plane trip and that really, I was a bit nervous. But, the plane didn't crash and my ears didn't hurt and it was all rather uneventful.
We arrived in New York City. I couldn't believe I was really there: New York City. It was so big and the buildings were so high. It took me awhile to realize it wasn't Seattle or Portland or some other city, but New York City. Ya know, where they filmed movies like "You've Got Mail." It's kind of a big deal.
I rode the subway for the first time and did my best to pretend that I wasn't a tourist from a small town in Oregon, but a bonafied New Yorker. I don't think they believed me because when the subway took off, I was standing up and I managed to fall down on some old Indian lady's lap. She had a red dot in the middle of her wrinkled forehead and was wearing a sari. She smiled and I awkwardly apologized. I remember thinking to myself "I'm the only blond person on the subway," as I sat in a sea of Indians, African-Americans, Asians and Arabs. I had experienced diversity to a certain extent on my weekend visits to Seattle to visit relatives, but I had never experienced it New York style. In my small town of scandawhovian origin, I was never ever the only blond; everyone looks like me there. So the subway was an experience.
I do not remember that much from that trip. I do remember this man who played the same song every day at one of the subway stations that we always found ourselves at. But we never gave him money for his beautiful flute playing of "Oh Susannah."
I tried sushi for the first time. I tried tempura. I had the best Greek food that I've ever had, to this day, at some nameless restaurant nearish to Central Park (that lamb was SO tender and seared soo thinly). I drank lots of sugary coffee beverages every day, because that is what teenagers do.
We attended to the US Open and saw Pete Sampres up close (wowsas!). I conversed with a man who shaved his legs as we watched Anna Kournikova lose yet another tennis match. He asked me what I was doing later, I doubt he had any idea I was only 16. Maybe he did and he was a creep. I was too innocent to tell back then.
I watched the heads on the tennis fans move back in fourth in a rhythmic motion as they followed the ball throughout the various matches.
And of course, we walked and walked. We saw ground zero. We saw the street vendors outside of ground zero selling fakleys and rolox's.
We saw "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway and I was so blown away by the caliber of that show. Broadway was so much better than the third-rate high school plays I'd seen. We took the subway home from the show like commoners and not like regular Broadway show goers.
I saw a very stylish lady, in central Park, in a plaid skirt , boots, and a beret. She was with two kids who were playing frisbee with a yellow lab. It looked like something out of a magazine, the dog, the city in the background, the fashion. Something to remember
I went to a used bookstore and bought a F. Scott Fitzgerald book of short stories, someone had used a maple leaf to maintain their spot. I wondered where the leaf came from and if maybe it came from central park.
Eventually my week in New York City ended. I bought the t-shirt (I heart NY), I bought some red shoes that were my favorite pair of shoes that I ever owned and I bought a few trinkets to give to friends back home.
Then I arrived back in Oregon and wore my I heart NY t-shirt with pride. I began listening to songs like "New York" by Ryan Adams, "New, New York" by the Cranberries, "New York, New York" by Frank Sinatra and "New York" by U2. Do you sense a pattern? I talked about my "little town blues" and how I "wanted to be a part of New York, New York."
And that's where it all began. My first travel bug bite. Inspired by weird cousin Ethel. Naively permitted by my parents. And enthusiastically accepted by me.