This weekend I got to go back to NYC. For seven hours. It sounds sort of insane because, frankly, it was. My company sponsors a bus trip every year from my home outside DC. I didn’t go last year because I was like, “Sitting on a bus for 10 hours just for half a day in New York? I’m not insane.” Evidently something has changed between last year and this year, because this year I went. So perhaps I am actually insane. I took my six year old son. So, yes, the insanity possibility remains. 

We got on a bus at 6am. We spent seven hours in NYC, and then got back on the bus. We got home at 3am. 

And I learned a few things. 

1) I still love NYC. Even though everything we did and saw was completely swamped and mobbed with people… when I lived there — the times I write about in Girlfriends of Gotham — I avoided the tourist stuff like the plague. I wouldn’t walk through Times Square if you paid me. I’d NEVER go to Rockefeller Center during the holidays. And being crowd claustrophobic, I still didn’t enjoy that stuff. But in the midst of the worst crowds I’ve ever seen and in the middle of a serious smash of humanity, I realized that I could still appreciate that particular brand of hell. There are few places in the world where people would put up with that complete redassery just to see a giant tree lit up, where people will stand in line to enter a toy store (yes, we did this to get into FAO Schwartz). And it reminded me that even though I didn’t necessarily enjoy the touristy stuff — there was a time when I got to be an insider…when I owned just the tiniest piece of everything that ROCKS about New York City.

2) My kid is a rock star. The little guy spent most of the day awash in a sea of strangers, with me gripping his hand in a deathclaw grip and dragging him past an endless parade of other people’s butts. I’m 5’9″ tall and almost always in 3-4″ heels. I can see over almost everyone. But he couldn’t see crap. He saw butts and hands and other kids looking terrified, and he handled it like a champion. Every now and then I’d hoist him up and carry him so he could see stuff (yes, I carried my 60 pound kid while wearing three and a half inch heels…I’m like that). But when I’d check in with him as I pulled him through crowds, he was completely fine. And happy. And smiling. 

3) The Spiderman show is AWESOME. We got tickets in advance, and I was SO glad we did it. If you have kids and you’re in the city, it’s totally worth it. 

4) Seeing your old life and knowing you’ll never have it again is hard. As I sat on a bus with a bunch of crazy women screaming “NYC Baby!” while we crossed the GW bridge into the city, I swallowed down my annoyance. I remember the feeling I used to have, when I entered the city at the end of a trip, the feeling I had when I was coming home to the city… it was a feeling of belonging, of pride. When I saw that skyline, I felt a surge of something incredible that I’d never felt before and haven’t felt since. NYC was the first place I ever really felt at home. And with Frank Sinatra’s line in my head, it made me feel like I could make it anywhere. On that bus, though, I had to accept that I didn’t belong anymore. I have become a tourist. New York City is like a snowglobe. Lots of people look at it and see the same things. They scurry over the glossy top of it, ogling the Empire State Building and talking about Times Square. They see the things we see on television, in movies. But they don’t see the inside. When I lived there, I was inside the globe. I got to walk the hidden side streets that tourists rarely find. I knew how to get places without getting swamped by people. I was an insider. But now I wander the hard surface of the globe with everyone else. At least when I’m there for only 7 hours on an insane bus trip. 

5) I miss my girlfriends. I was in Manhattan for four days in May to celebrate my 40th. And none of what I just said applied then. When you have enough time to delve deeper, you get to see some of that inner goodness. But for me, NYC is only ever right if I’m with my best friends — the original Girlfriends of Gotham. I look forward to our next visit to the city!