Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

We’re back from five days in NYC. (Oh, N. Y. C. What is it about you? You’re big. You’re loud. You’re...frigging ridiculously cold.) We were in Queens for my stepsister’s baby shower, and threw in visits to my brothers-in-law in Manhattan on two of the days, and a quick trip to the Museum of Natural History to get in a bit of official sightseeing as well as a trip down memory lane for Mommy. (I lived across the street from the museum for a year or so, paying $600 a month—in 1987 dollars, no less—to sleep on the couch in a tiny, roach-infested one-bedroom apartment rented by my roommate, the sister of a close friend. But did I mention we were across the street from the museum? And two doors down from Columbus Blvd? And did I also mention that this was the street where they blow up the big balloons for the Thanksgiving Day Parade? It was a blast.)

There were a few trips down memory lane for me this weekend, actually. But none was as odd, as disconcerting, as my quick visit to my friend Marg, who works at ABigScienceMagazine, where I worked for almost eight years. It’s hard to describe if you didn’t live through that era with me, but those were the most intense years of my life, and my work—my friends at work in particular—made up the bulk of that intensity. I spent most of my days and nights with people from work. They were my colleagues, and my best friends. We would get out of work at 5 on Fridays, and head out for a couple of hours of drinking together. Almost none of us were married or had kids. We were all obscenely dedicated to making our magazine work, stand out, educate, make a difference. I’ve never before, and never since, seen a group of people less cynical about the jobs they do and their importance.

So it was weird to walk into the lobby of the building, almost a dozen years later, and sign in under the watchful eye of a doorman I still remembered, but who obviously didn’t remember me. It was weirder still to slide up 15 stories in an elevator completely unchanged by the passage of time, only to step out into a hallway that was half familiar, yet half utterly transformed. (Same intercom, same dirty, banged-up door on my left. But...hardwood floors in the hallway? A glass wall in front of me? Those aren’t part of my memory.

It was the same as I walked down the hall. “Omigod, they still haven’t found places for those filing cabinets,” I thought one second, and then, “Omigod, when did they paint the walls baby blue, and what WERE they thinking?” the next. Who put those weird abstract carpeting blocks in the art department? Why haven’t they taken down the artwork that they had up when I was still here? It was positively schizophrenic.

Weirdest of all, though, was the fact that I had to be introduced to people. To almost everyone I ran across, to be honest. There are four people left on this staff of 20-some that I know, and only two are friends. Used to be that not only did I know every single person on staff, but I didn’t need to use speed dial for more than half of their home phone numbers, because I knew them by heart. That office was my social hub, my social life. And it was a rich social life...don’t feel badly for me. I was busy and happy and energized. That’s probably why it was so sadly odd to be there as very much a guest. No homecoming parade for me. No familiar, smiling faces. Just a sense that I did not, very much did NOT, belong there any more. That time has passed in the real world, even if somehow I’d continued to hold that office in some sort of memory-related amber resin—petrified, still, never-changing.

In short, visiting that place weirded me out, man. I don’t think I’ll do that again any time soon.

On an only vaguely related note...Some time in the near-too-distant future, remind me to tell y’all some of the funny stories about this trip, and especially about my four-year-old, who was a complete and total pisser the entire time. Remind me to tell you about his 40-or-50-something-year-old ‘girlfriend’ from the flight over (“Where my girlfriend go? I love her very much, mommy”) and his completely out-of-the-blue obsession with the F train. (“I sad when Zaboo and Pumpkin got eat by the coyotes, Mommy. I happy when I ride on the F train.”) And remind me to tell you about Em’s much-too-insightful-for-a-7-year-old comments and questions about my 27-year-old cousin with Down’s Syndrome who attended the baby shower. (“I didn’t know if she was a grownup or a kid, but I figured out that I shouldn’t ask in front of her or I might hurt her feelings,” and “Does Lee like being the way she is, Mommy?”)

Those kids. They leave me speechless.

free hit counter