A beautiful afternoon in New York is a holiday for me regardless of why I’m there. It brings back the years when I was single and living and working in the city. I remember discovering, counter to expectation, that it was possible to slow down outdoors and find a pleasant breeze on a hot day in summer. The city is quieter then than in other seasons, which is a plus in itself.
This week I was in the city as an advocate for my husband, who was scheduled for surgery. I know that sounds about as enjoyable as having toothpicks stuck in your eye, but it was fun being there, anyway. The streets in his Greenwich Village neighborhood are full of college kids in the spring; New York University and some of its dorms are nearby. Late at night we can hear them drunkenly singing as they move in gangs up University Place.
When I meandered out to find us some lunch today, I bypassed a curious hybrid of a restaurant called Jackson Hole, which — I don’t quite understand this in the context of its name — serves Indian food. It was entirely empty. A little farther up University, though, the Grey Dog was hopping. I’m an impatient sort, but (the unconscious feeling that I was on vacation slowing me to a dawdle) I went in for takeout sandwiches. Usually, I stay away from crowded, noisy restaurants, especially the “hip” kind, but this time I had no problem with the long line or the loud music, and I smiled as the servers moved to a heavy beat as they went from kitchen to table. Despite the long line, my order was ready before I had time to finish an iced cappuccino. I enjoyed being there even though I was obviously the only person around who was over the age of 35.
Isn’t that what vacations are about? Getting to new places, away from the everyday preoccupations that have become routine?
The last time I accompanied my husband to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for surgery, only about five weeks ago, he tried to convince me a day or two after the operation that I should take off on a little excursion, just for me. He suggested that I go to the Metropolitan Museum and was incredulous when I insisted that keeping him company in a hospital room felt a bit like a vacation to me already.
This time around, during our next petite sojourn at New York-Presbyterian, I’m going to take along “Villette,” a novel by Charlotte Bronte that had passed me by until recently. Its first few pages are promising. I will have to bring my laptop, but I’m planning to mostly resist the workaholic temptation to switch it on to do some editing for The Star. (Even I can’t convince myself I’m on holiday if my computer is humming.)
Okay, there are more glamorous places to get away from it all, I’ll admit.
But making the most of circumstances beyond your control is always a good idea. And, like most of us, I don’t often find myself with a good excuse to put my feet up and unplug myself from the electronics. Have you ever been out at the ocean beach on a sunny Saturday in July or August and noticed people in their bathing suits sauntering up the sand with cellphones clapped to their ears, shouting over the sound of the surf about real estate or the stock market? I have. They don’t let you do that at the hospital.