… to New York!

After a couple of rough and emotional weeks and during a much-needed phone call with my amazing friend Steven one late September night, I ended up booking tickets to go visit him in New York for early November. We had been socializing about his upcoming visit to Houston but decided it would do us both some good for me to take a trip there, too! When Steven first moved to NY after college, I went every other year to see him. It had been 4 years since my last visit though because, ya know, life gets in the way… so, a trip was long overdue (and emotionally necessary).

My first two trips to visit him had been in late November or early December and were always beyond freezing. Winter had already set in NY both times, trees were already bare, everything already frozen. Steven suggested we target a slightly earlier visit so we could go “leaf peeping” and enjoy the actual Fall season. It was the best idea he had and it was a relaxing weekend! And before you all come at me with comments: yes, Steven and I are the cutest couple of all time but we have one major thing in common… we both like men. So, enjoy our adorableness as we are! 🙂

Friday, November 2

My flight was for around noon so I woke up, finished packing (Elliott’s disapproving eyes watching the entire time), and headed over to my Dad’s house to drop Elliott off for the weekend. The poor little pup HATES seeing my suitcase. After two 4+ week trips, can I really blame him?

We arrived at my Dad’s and were greeted by him and a puppy he had found. Oy. It was clearly a house dog but there was no tag with a phone number. That little dog was playful and energetic but sure knew the word “No” when I had to stand up for Elliott since Elliott does not know how to stand up for himself. Dad and I searched for the owners for a little bit then loaded up my car so he could drive me to the airport. We brought the new dog with us so he could stop at a Vet office on his way home and check for a microchip (flash forward, we found the owner on their NextDoor app and Dad dropped the lost puppy off at his rightful home that afternoon). There was some serious traffic that forced us to drive the opposite way down an access ramp of the highway but we made it to the airport with plenty of time. I thanked my Dad approximately 100 times for watching Elliott AGAIN (and for driving me… again) and headed inside.

The flight to NY always seems to go by quickly and I arrived in what seemed like no time at all. I caught an Uber to Steven’s new apartment. He and his roommate, Uyen (who also went to High School with us but graduated a year after us), had moved to a different area of Brooklyn and I was excited to see their new place. It was around 5:30pm so traffic was a little… trafficky… but the Uber ride was short. The Uber driver was a young student and was so friendly. I am so horrible at starting conversations with strangers after the friendly initial greetings but he was really good at keeping it going. I enjoyed talking to him!

I got to Steven’s apartment shortly after he got home from work – perfect timing. He, Uyen, and Topher (his cute mini Australian Shepherd) greeted me and gave me a tour of the new place. As expected, it was perfectly decorated and totally fitting to their style. The place seemed smaller than their old one but their kitchen and bathroom were HUGE upgrades compared to the old apartment. It was lovely!

Steven and I changed and freshened up and headed to the city to meet Meghan, Steven’s co-worker, for dinner and drinks. I had purchased the most awesome trench coat and was excited to wear it! We headed to the subway and I did not even realize we had crossed into the city until Steven mentioned it days later (I assumed we were in Brooklyn still) – goes to show how much I get turned around when I am there. I can navigate the world but get to NY and always feel upside down! Our first stop was The Immigrant, a wine bar. It was a low-key place and we had a round of drinks and got to know each other. I was a little anxious about there being another person there (and someone I did not know!) but it was great. Steven is always so good at making sure everyone is included in the conversation and comfortable. I appreciate that quality about him!

After drinks, we went to dinner at John’s at 12th Street, an Italian restaurant that Steven and Uyen had raved about. Expectations were high and were 100% met. Italian is not typically my favorite type of food but I got the Chicken Parmesan and it was everything. The restaurant had been on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network so you know it was good. The portion was HUGE so I gladly shared some with Steven. The vibe there was really cool and they had these candles that had burned forever which reminded me of an old cash-only bar in downtown Houston I had visited once. This restaurant happened to be cash-only too. Must be a thing!

Dinner was amazing and once we were stuffed, we headed to one more bar for a final round of drinks at Pierre Loti. It was another wine bar and it was completely packed so our time there was short.

Steven and I headed home and obviously had a photo shoot in the subway. Obviously.

We had a few more drinks at his fabulous kitchen table and I briefly video chatted with my friend Andrew who was in Mexico for Bikram Yoga Teacher Training. I know what it is like to be there so I always make sure to answer when he called – it takes some serious support from friends and family to survive that training and he was totally there for me when I was away so I wanted to reciprocate.

It was late so we called it an evening. It was quite possibly the first time I felt distracted and remotely happy in weeks and for a few moments, I felt like I could breathe again. I was grateful to be there and peacefully fell asleep with ease; my anxieties of life completely erased, even if temporary.

Saturday, November 3

Steven had a long day planned for us! Past visits had taken us into the city and being a part of the hustle and bustle but this time, he planned a trip upstate to an outdoor sculpture park and some wineries.

Uyen was joining us so we all got up and got ready for the day. I struggled getting out of bed in favor of snuggling with Topher just a little longer but eventually managed to get myself up. Steven and I walked to pick up the rental car from Enterprise; he had made the great decision to drive ourselves versus taking trains and cabs everywhere to get up there. It was going to be a nearly 2 hour drive so we wanted to be comfortable. The walk to Enterprise was a little longer than I anticipated and even though it was cold and incredibly windy out, I had started to warm up! Plus, I was feeling all sorts of dehydrated from the night before and was nursing a decently sized migraine. I stopped to buy water for the day to try and get ahead of any issues.

We drove back to the apartment, picked up Uyen, and started our drive. The park was in NY but we had to drive through New Jersey first and we passed some of the most amazing color trees I had ever seen. It truly was Fall.

Realizing none of us had eaten, we stopped for breakfast at Matthew’s Diner. Steven wanted a “real diner” experience and this was the best we could find along our route. It was in the town of Waldwich which we had all immediately decided was haunted. Something about it just gave a haunting feel! Brunch was decent. I think we all spent more time trying to get a good video of Steven pouring syrup onto his pumpkin pancakes than we did eating. His poor pancakes were drenched by the time we got something decent! So extra.

On our way to the diner, we had passed an amazingly vibrant red tree. As silly as it sounds, I had never seen a tree that color in my life. We circled back to find it so we could take a photo of it. I had a fabulous red leather jacket on and I wanted to get a photo with it! When we arrived back at the tree, the owner of the house was outside and giving us looks for even stopping to take a photo of it so we decided not to have a personal photo shoot. He clearly had no idea what a special tree he had!

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We arrived at Storm King Art Center shortly after 1pm. Storm King was SO cool. Uyen referred to it as a “an Instagram millennial thirst-trap” because of how gorgeous the property was and how large and beautiful the sculptures were. It was true though, there were a lot of opportunities for photo ops. If I was still on Instagram (I deleted it a few months ago), I would have been all over it.

Y’all, THE. WIND. It was so, so windy. We braved a little bit of rain on and off when we first arrived but it was mostly sunny. It was just so. unbelievably. miserably. windy. My Houston, Texas, hot-yoga-loving, self was not cut out for that. Steven had on a sweater and Uyen’s jacket did not look THAT much warmer than mine so why was I teeth-chattering cold? The property was large and we did a lot of walking so that helped warm me up as time went on, though. Whew. Had it not been so windy, I probably would not have felt like I was in a walk-in freezer so I tried to escape the wind when I could.

We walked around for a few hours, soaked up the art and fresh air, and had mini photo shoots where appropriate. It was nice to be out of the city and somewhere so peaceful. There were muddy areas that we had to battle but overall it was just a beautiful, carefree afternoon full of laughs and jokes. I would find myself getting “in my head” about little things here and there but did my best to snap back to the present moment and enjoy where I was.

Our last statue was one that everyone loved to pose under. I made a comment about doing a headstand underneath it and was encouraged to try… and try I did. I struggled to get into and fell a few times. People were watching and I was feeling nervous with their unintended pressure! Plus, it was cold. I never fully got myself into position but Steven managed to grab a snap where it LOOKED like I did, even if my pale stomach was on display and I looked a mess. People had encouraged me to keep trying but after a few attempts, I had to throw in the towel and move on.

We left Storm King after a couple of hours and headed toward Brotherhood Winery, America’s oldest winery. On our way, we passed a bridge with a gorgeous view. None of our phones could capture how breathtaking it really was. The picture on the right is CLEARLY edited to try to show its true beauty but even then, it was more magical in person.

The winery was nearby so it was a short drive to it. Uyen and I rinsed the mud off our boots in the bathroom and then we all went in to do a wine tasting. It was after 4pm so tours of the winery were no longer available but we really only wanted to be drinking wine so the doing just the wine tasting was plenty. The whole property was like a small town and very quaint. They were setting up for a wedding and I completely understood why someone would want to get married there. It was lovely (even though I have almost zero pictures of the place and only one of this one barn).

We went inside and unfortunately got stuck behind a large group of girls. I say girls because even though they were of age to be doing a wine tasting, they acted and seemed like children. They all looked and dressed the same, it was kind of funny. We hoped to avoid being in their group but did not get lucky and ended up at the same counter as them. We positioned ourselves as far from them as we could get, ha.

The guy running the wine tasting was great. He was knowledgeable and funny and we enjoyed his company. He clearly did not like the group of girls either – they talked while he talked and constantly asked him to repeat himself. Whether true or not, he told us he was pouring us and the rest of the group more than he was them. I appreciated the little token of gratitude. We asked questions and learned a lot about wines and the history of the winery. I remember nothing… ha. That is what happens when I do not take notes for my blog!

We had 15 wines to taste so each flight, we would each try to get one of the 3 options and then try each other’s. I have never been a fan of white wine and I do not think that has changed. I also tried Honey Meade for the first time – also not a fan. I did try a chocolate liquor though and that was absolutely amazing; significantly more delicious than I expected. I liked a lot of the reds they had to offer but I like a red, so that was expected! It was a fun time! The only ever wine tasting I had done was in Italy and I was not a wine drinker at that time so this experience was definitely different in that I was more open to trying everything.

We decided to go to another nearby winery, Palaia Winery. The vibe there was VERY different. We could hear a party going on as soon as we parked and opened the car doors. It was much more of a dive-bar-type and “cool” environment. We did their wine tasting and I am sorry to say that I really did not enjoy any of their wines. I loved the place, but the wines were all… not for me. Not my taste. I cannot speak for Steven or Uyen but I downed my glasses just to get rid of them, not because I enjoyed them. If we did not have such a long drive back to the city, we probably would have stayed there longer and joined the piano bar crowd on the patio but we decided to be responsible and start heading back to the city.

It was a looooooooooooong drive back to their apartment. We were all exhausted and traffic was a mess. We entertained ourselves though and made it back safely!

The plan was to go to dinner so Uyen made a reservation at a restaurant for around 9pm. Uyen and Steven left to go get a bottle of wine and during their short trip, I managed to fall asleep… oops. My head had been hurting all day so it was only a matter of time, really. When they got back, they suggested we order-in instead and I was 100% on board with that idea! We ordered some delicious Chinese food. They shared wine and I stuck to water – Steven and I were taking a Bikram Yoga class the next day and I knew I needed to start hydrating.

We ate and hung out for awhile. It had been a long day and we were all completely spent. We started to watch “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” on Netflix; Steven made it about 15 minutes in before he left to go to bed but Uyen and I finished the movie because if you have not seen the movie, it is fantastic and worth watching no matter how tired you are! Once it was over, we both headed to sleep. I was out instantly.

Sunday, December 4

It was a wonderfully slow morning. Steven had to get up to walk Topher and return the rental car but I slept in. My body was sore so in preparation for yoga that afternoon, I started stretching in bed… but I kept falling back asleep. Eventually, we all got going and decided to go to brunch. It was impossible to get to the place they originally picked because so many streets were blocked by the New York City Marathon! We changed plans but took a quick break outside (the weather was perfect!) to watch the runners at the mile 12 marker. So many flashbacks of my half marathon came rushing back… I watched them in awe, cheering them on at their almost halfway mark. It was unbelievable how many runners there were; they kept coming and coming and coming!

After awhile, it was time to eat. We went to Cherry Point for brunch since that was the place we were originally going to have dinner at the night before. I passed on the morning drinks, still preparing for yoga, but the food was amazing! My avocado toast… so bougie.

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We parted ways with Uyen and went to get Topher to take him to the dog park to enjoy the weather. Topher has SO much energy and definitely knew where we were going because he was very excited the entire walk. Once we arrived, he ran around like a mad-dog. Elliott is not a real dog because when I take him to dog parks, he sits next to me. Topher, however, was born for dog parks. The park was small and grass-less but it was full – there were plenty of dogs for Topher to play with and boy, did he try to play with them all. He would bring us gross tennis balls and just beg for us to throw them. I did not want to touch it so I kicked it like a soccer ball and he would take off, searching for it in the leaves. If it ever got mixed up with other tennis balls, he would look for the perfect one and bring it back. It was adorable. Topher is a real dog! I loved watching him play. We walked across the street to meet up with Steven’s friend who also had a dog so that they could meet and play. His dog was more like Elliott – reserved and unsure about the whole ‘dog park’ thing. Dog personalities are so fascinating.

After about an hour or so, Steven and I needed to go home to get ready for yoga. We dropped Topher off and packed our things and started the trek. My Bikram Bestie from teacher training, Lidia, teaches at a studio in Brooklyn but it was an hour from Steven’s apartment! The hour actually went by really quickly which was odd considering how excited and eager I was to see Lidia. I had not seen her since January when she visited me so I was ready to give her a hug and especially ready and excited to take her class for the first time!

Once we arrived in Bay Ridge, it felt like we were in a totally different area (besides the fact that we were, indeed, in a totally different area). It was still Brooklyn but felt like a different city! The vibe was just different in a way I cannot really explain. We walked a few blocks to Lidia’s studio and she greeted us excitedly at the door! We hugged and hugged and hugged some more. I introduced her to Steven (who, by the way, was taking his FIRST Bikram Yoga class!) and she showed us around the studio. He and I went to the basement to change and get ready for class then went back upstairs to set up our mats. She had told us where the ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ spots in the room were and Steven chose a cooler spot – I allowed it since it was his first class! Hehe. Lidia’s class was amazing. It was not what I expected at all from her but I loved it and she kicked our butts, just like Bikram taught us. She is such a good teacher and I could tell the students love her, how could they not? She was so compassionate, encouraging, and cute! I loved it. I loved getting to finally take her class and seeing her again!

Steven did great and survived, even enjoyed the class himself and that made me happy. I never know how someone will feel when I bring them to class and I always secretly hope they love it as much as I do so I was glad he had a good experience. We waited for the room to clear out after class and then of course, took a million photos.

Once everyone else left, Lidia joined in with us!

We cleaned up and then headed to dinner nearby.

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Lidia picked the place, Cebu Brooklyn, and it was delicious! The restaurant was massive and the vibe inside was really cool. Lidia said the place looks totally different during the day but at night with the lights dimmed, it was nice. We had a few rounds of drinks and did family-style dinner; ordered several things and split. It was great catching up with Lidia and talking yoga but unlike Steven, I am not very good at keeping everyone “in the loop” during conversations. I tried, though! I am sure he felt left out during our yoga moments but Steven is also good at actively participating so maybe it was not as bad for him as my head made it out to be. When yogis get together, it is tough to NOT discuss yoga!

Steven and I had a long commute so we said our goodbyes and started the journey back home. We were both exhausted but also sad that the weekend was coming to an end.

Monday, December 5

Monday was a travel day! Steven had to leave for work as I was getting up. I was out the door an hour later and headed back to the airport to go home. I was sad on my way to the airport because I missed Steven already! The weekend was packed full of fun but did not seem long enough; it never does, right?

I had time to waste at the airport so I got something to eat, chatted with my dad, and watched Netflix. Steven and I still texted all morning about how sad we both were and I sent him this photo: airport vibes.

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The flight home was uneventful. It is always bittersweet coming home. The Uber ride to my Dad’s house was long but I was happy to see Elliott and snuggle him!

I am so happy Steven suggested I take a visit up there. Not only was it long overdue, it was just good timing. Steven and I have been such good friends for years and as all friendships go, there are times of closeness and times of distance. We have never been distant but I have felt especially close with him in the weeks leading up to (and after, since I am writing this a month late). His support, friendship, understanding, and compassion during a difficult and trying time in my life has been more than I could ever want from a friend and I am truly grateful for him. I have plenty of friends and family that have shown similar support and love to me right now (and I am forever grateful) but Steven has a deep understanding in a way I do not think many others could completely relate, and I have relied heavily on him. I love that we have maintained such a beautiful friendship over the last 10 years and that we can travel and vacation together so well. I look forward to many, many more trips in our future!

The trip was needed and while I enjoyed it, there were random moments that were tough for me; little reminders here and there (the Wasco sign I saw walking to Enterprise on Saturday nearly took the wind out of me) that triggered the feelings of sadness, pain, and loneliness that I was trying to escape but I pushed on and tried to put those feelings behind me. I did not want Steven, Uyen, or Lidia to notice my little struggles. As I thought about writing this blog post back during the trip, it sounded so depressing even though I was having a good vacation. As I actually put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard?) now, I remember those feelings but feel less hindered and paralyzed by them and with the clouds lifted, recall the trip in a much happier, positive way and for that, I am thankful. I only want to remember the good.

Until next time,

Jillian

 

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