You can click on all this link: Flickr
The 411: New York City by Way of Iraq...
This is how it went down:
This past Thursday Night, at around 8:30 PM, I logged onto Yahoo Chat to see how my friend Mike was doing in Iraq. I hadn't "talked" to him for a few days and I was wondering what he was up to, how much coffee he'd been consuming and, most of all, when he might be arriving in the US. He's due to come home in about three weeks. I had worked all day, chaired my AA meeting and came home exhausted. I felt cold, a little down and a whole lot tired.
Once Upon a Gypsy JERK...
After chatting a few minutes and catching up with each other, Mike suggested I take a trip to NYC to visit with Katie. After all, I hadn't seen my daughter since the first part of July when she was in Raleigh and then, only for a few hours. It wasn't really a "visit" because Captain Maniacal Mike hovered over us the entire time. We didn't have any time to just be alone. It was more of a tease than anything else. We couldn't seem to find anywhere to visit without Hurley horning his way in and it was frustrating beyond belief. I found it odd at how intrusive he was during the visit. Katie just plain found it, and him, repulsive and she wasn't terribly shy about her feelings. I got the distinct feeling he intruded on our conversations because he suspected we might be discussing him and, of course, he would have been correct. The conversation would have probably played out something like this, I imagine:
Me: "So, Katie, honestly, what do you think of him?"
Katie: "Have you lost your mind?"
Me: "Just give him a chance - he's really not as weird as he appears.." (spoken in a tone that was unconvincing at best...).
Katie: "Mom, he's a fruit cake. A freak. Wake-up. Are you getting enough caffeine?"
Me: long, audible sigh...(knowing somewhere deep inside that she was absolutely right. Her radar is seldom off, but still trying to put the best spin on the top).
Of course, he wouldn't have permitted that conversation to take place in his muted and dull law library of an apartment. I guess, in retrospect, it makes sense that he would be hovering around us and monitoring every syllable of our verbal exchanges, but her eyes spoke volumes even if she didn't. I believe he truly thought he was winning her over. I knew without a doubt he wasn't even scoring positive numbers on her assessment scale.
So fast-forward to this past Thursday Night and my friend (the nice) Mike, suggested a trip. Sure, it sounded like just the thing except for one small glitch. M-O-N-E-Y. I told him it would be near to impossible to get a decently priced ticket 12 hours before a flight took off from Wilmington for La Guardia.
Nonsense, he said. He told me to "hold on just a sec". I held on and, in the meantime, Katie called to see how things were going and just to check in. I casually asked her if she had plans this weekend. No, nothing solid. I told her to hold on. So as I was holding on for Mike, Katie was holding on for me, but she didn't really know what she was actually holding on for. She just held tight.
The next dialogue on the YAHOO Chat screen was something along the lines that I could be booked on the flight leaving Wilmington THE NEXT MORNING (Friday) and return on Sunday leaving La Guardia at 6:29 PM. Would that be enough time, he queried?
I read the screen and I laughed. Literally. Out loud. I just laughed and thought to myself, "what are they putting in your coffee over there?"
Sure - but how much? Booking a flight on such short notice out of Wilmington would have to be exorbitant and impossible. He told me to hold on just a little longer. I waited. I advised Katie to wait as well but again, she had no idea what she was waiting on and I really wasn't sure myself.
The next thing I saw was an e-mail pop up that informed me I had been booked on the 10:15 AM flight out of ILM and would be arriving in NYC by N-O-O-N. "Hey," said Mike, "you and Katie can have lunch!".
Again, I said, "how much?". It seemed a reasonable thing to ask. I was told that it had been "taken care of". Period. It was done. It had been reserved. It was now a moot point. Oh and, "Susie, you need to pack. You're leaving in about 12 hours."
I was STUNNED. No, I was beyond stunned. So then I decided to stun Katie by telling her I was coming to NYC the next morning, even though I really didn't believe it myself. She became stunned and excited, and then stunned some more. OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is a joke, right? I'm thinking, we're all playing into this and it's funny, but it's not real and it's a just a joke.
More e-mails followed from Hotwire booking with my flight information. According to Hotwire, I had a seat with my name on it. This was happening! By now it was about 9:00 PM and in about 12 hours, I would be at the airport, packed and on my way to NYC. Holy heck! Just like that. This amazing man gave me the greatest gift imaginable. He sent me to see my daughter. He arranged for it to be possible to meet with my friend Glen (if he would be free that weekend) and he gave me Christmas about 6 weeks early. I didn't know what to say, what to type, what to think or what to really do by this point. He again advised, well, more along the lines of ordered me to get packed and ready because I had better not miss that flight.
I'm pretty sure he's a "fairy god-soldier" and, at 6'5", he's a formidable one. That's like a foot more formidable than me.
The next morning, I was still in a state of shock. I logged onto Yahoo and Mike asked me if I was ready? No, my clothes were being washed. I still hadn't taken my shower. He wrote back - "Go get ready! NOW!" And I did just that. But still, I had it in the back of my mind that I would get to the airport and the ruse would be up. I wasn't really going to New York City. This was a "playet", a scene from a funny movie, or maybe just a late April Fool's farce. I didn't completely buy into it at all. It was just too fast. Too surreal. Too "out there" and beyond my scope of comprehension.
But what the heck, I thought. I can play along. I called my friend Glen and asked if he would be free over the weekend for lunch or dinner so he could kick my ass for not having my outline, three chapters and formal proposal ready. He couldn't resist the chance to kick my ass into gear (with witnesses), so he said he'd find a way to meet us. A few minutes later, he called me back and told me to be sure and bring a coat.
This was a very big weekend for Glen. He became a father. The family adopted a red, miniature poodle who is now known as "Sunny". In the time I've known Glen (a little over a year), he's moved away from Manhattan to the SUBURBS, visited Disney World, became a home owner in the 'burbs, and now commutes back into Manhattan. Talk about a year of transformations for this wonderful man. But domesticity hasn't changed him a bit - he's still the best nut EVER and how sweet it was to see him and collect a hug. He's actually taking off this week to settle the new family member in (8 week old puppy) so his official excuse for not being able to do anything this week will be..."I have a new dog. Deal with it.". I respect that. I'm just glad he could fit me into his calendar and drive into the City on a day he didn't have to be there. Thank you, Glen.
Glen treated Katie, John and me to an amazing lunch at Arte Cafe on 73rd Street right off Columbus Avenue. It was scrumptious. He demanded I eat dessert as well. It was fabulous. And then he said, "When will I see you again...you know, with your WORK ready to be submitted." Everyone looked at me for a response People at neighboring tables probably chuckled to themselves.... I came up with one. By the final week of January, I am to return to NYC with three chapters, an outline and formal proposal in hand to pass over to Glen's hands. Then, we shook hands on it. Katie and John served as witnesses. I have my work cut out for me. Now I'm REALLY stunned. But I am pleased and I've got no place to run. There were witnesses. Tough, New York witnesses. I'm a demure (smile) southerner. I don't stand a chance should I not produce.
It was so fantastic seeing my Katie, visiting with John, catching up with Glen, hanging in NYC with Katie all day on Saturday, catching a movie with her at the Paris Theatre, and just being in her space. Precious time. It was the best ever. It was so sweet to see Glen again and have him with us at lunch and he's so animated and hyper and the man doesn't even drink caffeine - I can't imagine how he would operate on stimulants! It was the best lunch ever. I'm going to keep my promise and honor my commitment and come through. I gave my word. I meant it. Plus, they will kill me if I don't.
But I just have to say, that Mike Skierski is one heckuva man. Mike, you will never know what this weekend did for me on so many levels. You gave me family time, friend time, professional time and "walking in NY time" with people I love so much. Thank you for that from the bottom of my heart. You had better find the time to let me show you around my corner of the coast when you get out of Iraq in a few weeks. I owe you a huge hug and a big kiss. You rock, Mike. You are amazing and generous and every other positive adjective I could possibly think of and then, it wouldn't be enough to express how much this entire weekend colored my world. I just love your heart. You're simply incredible.
So, that's what I've been up to these past few days. It was a whirlwind trip and you can see the photos if you click this hyperlink: Flickr. I'm just so very grateful for all of it. I loved spending time with John and Katie in their beautiful Upper West Side apartment. I was treated like a queen.
Ok, maybe not exactly like a "queen". It is, after all, Katie we're talking about here. Katie wouldn't treat "The Queen" like a queen so I may have embellished just a bit on that point. But, on a positive note, she didn't slap me around or beat me up, and I believe that says a lot and I was pretty impressed. Actually, she was so oddly domestic that I barely recognized that facet of her, but as much as it pains me to say it, NYC obviously agrees with her. She was shining and happy and it showed and that speaks volumes. She was my Katie and she was just as I'd expect. I adore her. She's a tough nut, but in a good way. She may well have even mellowed just a bit.
Big Yellow Taxi...How to Hail a Cab NY-Style, By Way of the South
One incident that stands out from this trip involves her hailing a cab for me when I was ready to leave for the airport on Sunday. This is when it was confirmed for me that she truly was a genuine New Yorker. She stepped out onto the street where she lives and within about two minutes, a cab slowed down and she stepped over and opened the door. I was standing back (as instructed) and sipping the last of my ginger peach iced tea. I am, it should be noted, very southern and a couple of days in New York can't change that. So the cab driver sees the suitcase and before Katie could say anything, he indelicately "shared" that he wasn't going to the airport. She fixed him with "a look" and said, "Then get out of here. We need a cab that will go where we need it to go. Go on! Get!", and she waved her hand away with a flourish.
I just stood back and watched and laughed so hard! It was such a "Seinfeld" encounter and so very "Katie". She was basically saying, "So don't waste my time you idiot. Get off my street! What? You're still here? Be gone with you!". It was classic. Where this child gets it, I have no clue. But I laughed. The cab driver, not so much. I don't think he laughed.
After that, she announced we would walk a few steps to the corner and stand on Columbus where there would be better prospects. She found one instantly, but before she hailed that one, she said, "Let me hug you now. They don't like to wait and so let me tell you goodbye before one stops.". We hugged and it was just so wonderful and no, I didn't cry. I smiled. I kissed her on the cheek and I felt so much pride at that moment for this young lady who I have admired and have been intrigued by since she burst into this world on August 26, 1983. She fascinates me. There are moments still, twenty-four years and some change after the fact, that I still can't believe I am her mother, but I am just so pleased to say that I am. It is a most proud admission I make.
In a couple of minutes, she had found another cab and this one didn't give her any flak and I was relieved for him and for me! We hugged again, but this time, very fast. I climbed in the yellow taxi and she closed the door and she waited until he drove away. I watched her walk back down the street where she lives, and I was so grateful that I had been afforded the privilege and gift of spending two wonderful days with her in "her" town because it was then I knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Manhattan truly was "her town".
Not Quite Random, But An Act of Gentle Kindness...
And then, there is Mike in Iraq who made it all impossibly possible.
Knowing there are people in this world who so generously extend a not-so-random act of kindness just blows me away. I don't know how to thank him adequately, but I'll figure something out. I know it sounds redundant but what can I say to a man who just up and orders a ticket like that? Thank you Mike.
More later - I'm exhausted! It was freezing in NYC. We saw snow this morning before setting out to meet up with Glen. I mean, it was bone-chilling frigid (to me). Katie had me walking all over that city and my feet are practically numb, but it was worth every single step.