Hungry City

A guest post by Tink:

I didn’t visit New York City until I was 21. My first visit was with Meredith, when she was living in DC for law school. The opportunity came for us to go up to New York City for the day and we decided to make it happen, no matter that the express train ticket cost as much as my airfare!  All of my visits since have been to see Meredith.

As the years have progressed, other reasons have been thrown in too — but my New York experiences are inextricably linked with Meredith.

Meredith has taken me to the top of the Empire State Building (at 11pm in the winter-probably the only time no one waited in line to get to the top-but the view was amazing), her favorite spots in TriBeCa  when she lived there and now on the UES.  We’ve also seen the Statue of Liberty (via the Staten Island Ferry-a great way to see it), been all through SoHo, and to her great credit, and have even been to Planet Hollywood in Times Square when good friends from Los Angeles were premiering their documentary.  Mer was a sport, but in the taxi, she couldn’t help but mutter “I can’t believe I am taking a taxi to f-ing Times Square.” I love the City — the energy, the sheer number of people, the hidden spots like The Cloisters, and the not-so-hidden spots like Broadway.  However, one thing always bothered me on our visits: I was always so hungry!

When I was with Mer, we never stopped to eat. I assumed this was a New York thing and it made sense to me at the time–who had time to eat in Manhattan?  In addition, Meredith (like most New Yorkers, I assumed) did not stock the refrigerator with food, so there was no running home for a quick lunch or dinner.  There was always some Diet Coke, milk and fancy, cheese,  but not much else. That made sense to me too–after all, there are not huge, gleaming grocery stores in New York City and it sure seemed like a real pain to haul groceries home.

However, what it really came down to was that my best friend was Very Sick, and not eating, and I didn’t realize it.

During the first few visits, our days were pretty much the same–we would go until dinner without anything to eat. I didn’t say much partly because I was so distracted by the City that I didn’t realize how hungry I was, and partly because I didn’t want to be a rude guest and demand that we stop what we were doing to eat (except once, when I demanded we stop into the next place we came to because I thought I was going to pass out, which happened to be a teahouse–I gorged myself on scones and Mer had a tea).

Occasionally, we would walk by a bodega and I would ask to stop in.  But I would be so turned off by the weird smells and strange foods that I would just grab a safe, pre-packaged snack food. So, we would go all day with little to nothing to eat, and come back to Mer’s apartment.

At that point, either she would order us dinner (and I would ravenously scarf it down, hardly noticing that all Meredith was doing was picking at her plate and eating handfuls of almonds and drinking Diet Coke) or we would go out to some amazing restaurant (like Bouley or  Todd English’s now-closed, but then-delicious English is Italian) and then, Mer would eat.

Looking back now, I should have seen the signs.  Mer was so thin and always cold (she always had a sweater on, even in the humid, hot months), but I would just think back to the times she ate a full meal in front of me and not think much else about it.

On my fourth or fifth trip back, I was on the plane, JFK bound, and halfway through the flight, I thought “Shit! I forgot to pack the granola bars in my purse!” When I was packing for New York, all those times of being hungry had come back to me, and I had had the idea to bring snacks of my own this time so I wouldn’t be so darn hungry all the time.  When Mer picked me up, I was thinking of ways to suggest that we stop by a “real” grocery store on the way in to the City so I could pick up those granola bars, and that was when she told me about how Very Sick she had been, and that she was in recovery and that there something I needed to do for her this trip–eat every 3 hours with her.

I felt guilty that I hadn’t realized she was sick.  I was one of her best friends — shouldn’t I have seen it, or sensed it? But I could offer her my support now, and of course, happily eat with her every 3 hours. It was my favorite New York trip–we did all of our usual things, but this time we got to explore, together, all of the amazing culinary treats New York City had to offer, and come home to a fully stocked refrigerator where we would make dinner, crack open a bottle of wine and put our brilliant minds to work watching “Toddlers & Tiaras” –which at the end of the day, are some my favorite New York City memories.

About Tink:

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Tink is a city girl; raised in the Sierras; now based in Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband Nate.  She has been one of my best friends since our freshman year at UCLA.  We are kindred spirits in oh-so-many ways, and I am forever indebted to her for the ways in which she has been with me in the trenches.

(Throughout the month of June, I’ll be writing a series of New York-related posts, and/or inviting some friends to guest post about their New York experiences, to celebrate my eight years in New York City.)

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