Sundays are made for certain things. Recovery from Saturdays, first and foremost, and coffee always, and sometimes eggs and sometimes pancakes and usually, for me, an attempt to focus on what I’m meant to be up to in the following week.
This week will be a particularly weird one for many reasons, but the largest of which is that it’s the last week of August. Summer is apparently already over though I barely remember it starting, and what that means is that both of my best random-adventure-having friends are leaving me for grad school. Pete (of “I will climb mountains with you but never let you cuddle lion cubs ever” fame) will be back in January, and he’s already talking about the things we’ll do then like the four months between us are just an extended pause. Christiana, on the other hand, makes a point of never promising to return when she leaves, mostly because she probably won’t.
I deal with their departures in three ways: first, I tell myself that both D.C. and Boston are very excellent and easy places to visit. Second, I remember how much I really like to write letters, and I make promises to myself that the writing of letters will in fact make distance way more fun than proximity. (Christiana gets an entire tiny notebook devoted to this task; Pete will only be receiving letters about all of the delicious sandwiches I eat while he’s gone. Being friends with me is kind of weird.) Third, I start working on my own itineraries in my head.
Itinerary #1: Cape Cod, I am ready for you like nothing else. Vacation starts in my brain the minute I leave my office this Wednesday, and I’ll be waking up very early on Thursday morning and loading my bike and my sneakers and my summer dresses into Brendan’s car and head for the beach, where all of our friends will already be waiting for us. There will be a sailboat. I will probably fall out of the sailboat. And then there will be a wedding, starring two of the most fun, genuine, and smart people I have the pleasure of knowing. I can’t wait.
Itinerary #2: Tomorrow morning I will start cracking on a mid-September business trip to the left coast. These sorts of trips always serve as reminders of why I am lucky to be able to speak with conviction about my day job; they also make me temporarily forget why I live on the East Coast as I get immensely, immensely excited when I’m in viewing distance of mountains and/or the Pacific Ocean. It might be work, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an adventure.
Itinerary #3: Here is what I have really been thinking about all day. After nine years of me encouraging him to do exactly this, my friend Matt is moving to Malta. In the back of my head, I am wondering if I could swing a trip there in the spring for my 30th birthday. I am sure that I could write a blockbuster book about it called “Eat Swim Hug”, as Matt is quite an excellent hugger, he never stops eating, and he’s also guru-esque in the sense that he sends me astrological charts and messages at 3am that say things like “screw people! they’re just like everybody else!”
In conclusion, Sundays are all about dreaming. And a shitload of Otis Redding.
More or less perfect.
1. Whenever I am less than 100%, my friend Pete likes to ask me constructive questions like “What can I do to help?” and “How can I make you happy?”
The last time he asked me this question, I had a very clear answer: “I would like a lion cub.”
“For to cuddle.”
Now, Pete assures me that he has researched this online and it is not possible for him to procure me a lion cub for to cuddle. The problem is that I know how to use Google Images, and if you enter the words “Lion Cub”, there come up an awful lot of pictures of people cuddling lion cubs.
Including Shakira. And guess what, Peter? Her hips do not lie.
SHE JUST LOOKS SO HAPPY.
Sometimes you get to typing very speedily and it sounds so lovely on your keyboard and you feel good because sentences are coming out of your brain and you’re winning at words! And then the computer or the internet or some dark force eats up all the words and you’re left staring at the same place you started from and you think that you really quite liked the way they came together the first time around and you’re not sure you can recreate that or would rather make the effort and try than, say, catch up on Mad Men or eat some sticky toffee.
It is the point at which we’re meant to say “press forth and continue!” but come on, sometimes technology stinks.
What are other familes like?
Just wanted to let you know that we had a terrific time last night. What a great show ~ they rocked! I am now a Paramore fan. We had the best time and also got really, really drunk! I also just emailed the guy who hooked us up with the tickets and thanked him too. Love you lots! Mom”
I keep reading books about great companies lately and I’m not sure why; it started with Let My People Go Surfing because I’m enamored of Patagonia as a brand and as a place, and then someone mentioned the Zappos book in passing and I realized I should read it.
What these books - and others I am fond of, such as Rework - tend to have in common is a certain irreverence about them that just makes people all excited. There’s a good passage in Delivering Happiness that speaks to this:
“I think when people say they dread going into work on Monday morning, it’s because they know they are leaving a piece of themselves at home. Why not see what happens when you challenge your employees to bring all of their talents to their job and reward them not for doing it just like everyone else, but for pushing the envelope, being adventurous, creative, and open-minded, and trying new things?”
I think that’s kind of a really nice thing to say. And maybe if I had my own company and was working on the rules of my company culture, the first one would be this: Be irreverent. Because taking yourself too seriously is kind of a serious problem and it’s actually really hard to have good ideas if you’re walking around talking quite seriously about how brilliant your ideas are.
Anyway, back to thinking about mountains.
“Flynn! There’s an accordion down here! I will love you forever if you learn how to play it!”
I’m 29 years old; it’s very difficult for me to confess things I’ve never told anyone before. Yet, here is one: I’d never been hiking until yesterday.
As someone who walks everywhere and spends most days hoping and wishing that someone will send her an IM, text, email, or smoke signal asking her to go on an adventure, this seems weirdly shameful. Two of my friends have become great adventure-planners this summer, and I’ve listened to them both talk about hikes as the simplest outdoorsy thing we can accomplish. All the while, I’ve been slightly worried that I can’t hack it. Just how hard is this “hiking” business?
Here is what I think about when I think about “hiking”: Trail mix, first and foremost. Timberland boots. Cargo pants. Walking sticks. And, most importantly, very steep hills, mostly of the “cliff” variety. It’s just mountain climbing without all the gear, right?
I figured I’d better find out, and in accordance with both my fear of embarrassment and a continued trend towards solitude I’ve cultivated this week, I made plans with myself to go hiking in a place that I can get to on foot: Palisades Park, New Jersey. Because I get lost just about everywhere I go, I mapped out my route via the NJ Palisades site on Saturday morning before I headed out. Feeling ambitious, I picked one of the “moderate” hikes mapped on the site. The park website has this to say regarding such a hike:
“A “moderate +” rating means that the hike is over 5 miles long or includes some challenging slopes.)…adults should be in good shape and relatively confident of their hiking abilities if they wish to attempt these hikes.”
I cheerfully took this to mean that I was probably going to die, so I packed an extra granola bar just in case.
After congenially acquiesing to invite one of my adventurous friends along with me and agreeing to meet up with him in the park, I set off on the solitary portion of my journey over the George Washington Bridge. The GW happens to be the sort of bridge that makes the Brooklyn + Manhattan Bridges look like wimpy little babies. It’s gigantic. It’s also one of the most popular bridges in the country to commit suicide from, which makes sense because nothing looks more inviting on a hot summer day in NYC than the sparkling waters of the Hudson.
The GW is also curious in that the transition it offers is obvious and immediate: with it, you travel across a state line. To your left, there’s a spectacular view of the sprawling city you’ve come accustomed to; the skyline was designed to be impressive even on your millionth viewing. To your right, however, there’s a wall of craggy rocks decorated with bushy greenery. Up here, New Jersey is a glorified cliff, and the way the bridge is built makes it look like you’re going to slam directly into it.
Which is more or less exactly what happens: The bridge’s exit spits you out at a steel staircase, which dumps you rather unceremoniously into the woods. There are two trail paths and a vague sign letting you know how far away you are from a few vague destinations. The crickets and the birds are almost deafening from the start, and all of a sudden, there you are: NATURE.
It took me approximately five minutes to realize why I’ve never been hiking before. I grew up in the woods with a series of Native American trails behind my house; every afternoon, I’d take a walk in the woods after school and sort my very important thoughts about boys and algebra. Apparently, “hiking’ is simply a word for “walking in the woods”, and since I know how to do that, all of my fears disappeared.
By the time Brendan met up with me on the trail an hour later, I’d dodged a couple of mean-looking wild turkeys, attempted to telepathically make friends with people on some fancy-looking yachts in the Hudson, and was on my merry way down a staircase to a waterfall. I’d also manged to more or less ignore my Blackberry for well over an hour, which seemed like a remarkably important thing.
From there, the trail led us down a number of stairs, and I scrambled up a hill or two to stand on large rocks and yell “I’m the king of the castle!” while staring out over the water. The Long Path in Palisades Park is a flat, woodsy walk, and the Carpenter’s Trail is where things actually start to get interesting (and you run into the waterfall.) Still, we were a good four miles in by the time we got to the Boat Basin and devoured a couple of ice cream sandwiches, and I didn’t feel particularly tired.
That changed somewhat when we hit the Great Stairs, described by the park website as the most difficult and steep portion of any of their recommended hikes. Still, at the end of the day, stairs are stairs, and I felt slightly disappointed that I tackled them in mere mortal running shoes and my own weak leg muscles. I was tired, sure, but challenged? Not as much.
Still, there’s something magical about walking from the city into the woods, and even more so about returning: I got a second wind as I hit the GW on the return home, and the city somehow looked even more sparkly after having escaped it for a day. This seemed particularly remarkable considering that all the trip cost me was $1.75 for an ice cream sandwich.
[Pictures to follow.]