small town girl in the big city

there are days when you just gotta bite the bullet, fill the gas tank, and hit the road.

so, over the labor day weekend, being devoid of work or musical responsibilities, i loaded up the kids (plus dylan’s buddy robert) and we left on a combination errand run and spiritual quest…to pick up a couple of instrument purchases – and to get dylan to his personal Mecca…

…white castle.

it was the movie, no doubt about it.  but, to be fair, dylan had never been to white castle, and at sixteen, it was past time for him to get to experience that.  i mean, it’s one thing to deprive him of something like hersheypark or great adventure…but white castle?  that’s just parental cruelty.  so, with a trip to white castle dangling like the proverbial prize carrot, we loaded into the truck and took off.  first stop was just outside roselle park, NJ…then on to franklin lakes, NJ, and then into manhattan, onto the campus of NYU.

jayda undergoes an interesting transformation when she sees new york city…her eyes light up and her disposition brightens and you can see her dormant lifeforce emerge.  she most definitely has her fathers’ restless spirit, and she has that hunger to be a part of something big, to be in a place where there are real opportunities, to shake off the shackles that tie people into a small handful of predetermined paths…her current hometown offers her nothing, and she is keenly aware of this now.  it took a while for it to become apparent to her, i think…but she gets it now.

so…after finishing the three runs that we’d laid out for ourselves, we went up to the white castle on 103rd street at 2nd avenue, and dylan and robert settled in to do their damage.  jayda, being jayda, ordered practically and stepped aside.  dylan, robert and i, though..well, there was just no way that was gonna happen.  when the dust settled, we were sitting at a table with roughly FIFTY white castle nuggets of oniony deliciousness, half a dozen orders of fries, drink cups and ketchup and all the goodies…and off we went, as jayda sat uncomfortably at our table, with little choice but to bear witness to what happened next.

dylan proudly showing off his white castle receipt
dylan proudly showing off his white castle receipt

i personally don’t remember much about it, with regard to details…all i can safely say is that it was an onion-and-pickle-fueled orgy of deep fried goodness that dylan will be talking about well into adulthood.

we wiped out a solid majority of what showed up at our table, and dylan brought a bag home with him to remember the day by, but apparently he decided the next day that his memories were vivid enough without having the burgers around, and he scarfed ’em down for lunch the next day.

as we were leaving the city, though, i made the suggestion that we come back the following day and go out to liberty state park and watch the sun go down over the manhattan skyline.  i thought for sure i’d be shot down, but – to my surprise – jayda agreed to it.  she’d already spent the entirety of her only day off with me, driving around and eating greasy food in NYC, and here i was, getting a bonus day!  she had to work until 3:30, so i told her i’d pick her up after work and we’d leave whenever she was ready.

originally, she was going to bring her laptop with her and work on her homework when we got there, but she busted through a lot of it in the car…and decided once we got there that she’d just do it up the next day – “i figure that i’m both a procrastinator and an insomniac for a reason,” she said.

sept-009so we drove out interstate 78 on a picture perfect day and got off exit 14-B for liberty state park and bought ice cream and went over and took a seat on the benches…we watched the sun glisten off the buildings across the bay that made up the manhattan skyline, then watched the lights come on in slow succession as the sky went from blue to hazy gray to violet to dark…jayda and i both took pictures, with her camera and with our phones, and we reveled in the comic relief provided by some of our fellow sky-watchers.

sept-087on another perfect day some years before, i had come there with my buddy jay smalley – he had come out from the west coast for a week, and i brought him into the city to take it all in…we got somewhat shitfaced at the orange bear, playing pool and listening to music on the jukebox, we bumped into liv tyler at arlenes’ grocery when we stopped over to see my friends in aunt pat play just after liv’s boyfriends’ band…and we rode the ferry to ellis island and back, and watched the sun set against the manhattan skyline…which was, as you surely know, much different then.

sept-040it was one of those days that sticks with you long after it passes…we went back to the hotel we were staying in across the river and drank beer and watched “space ghost”, which was, at that moment, the funniest thing i’d ever seen in my life.  it hasn’t been as funny since, but it was fuckin’ hilarious then…jay fell in love with liv tyler, then with the bartender at the orange bear, then with a woman of apparent french descent at the statue of liberty.

the thing that affected jay to the extent that it did that weekend has also, i believe, taken up residence in my daughter.

sept-014she’s enamoured with new york…she wants to live there in the worst way.  as is something of a custom in her maternal lineage, though, she’s already got all her excuses all picked out as to why she can’t or shouldn’t or wouldn’t be able to or won’t…there’s a distinct lack of the reckless abandon that i’ve employed to make major decisions in my life.  perhaps her being witness to said abandon is her primary motivation to avoid it, i don’t know.  but there’s no point in dreaming if you can’t funnel your dreams into some form of personal motivation, if you won’t allow them to paint a picture of what your life could be like if you were willing to take the chance and see what happens if you create an environment for success.

the problem, i think, is that the same environment that can be a catalyst for success often provides an equal opportunity for failure…and that’s the thing that i think she dwells on at times.  yeah, it’s expensive.  yeah, it’s hard to find a place to live.  yeah, you’re going to be starting fresh in a place where you don’t know a lot of people.


if you’re only interested in known quantities, in familiarity, then the only option you really have is your current situation.

and if your current situation isn’t getting it done for you, then the unknown is the only alternative to that.

sept-025we stood there at the abandoned train station adjacent to liberty island as the sun was starting to set, looking out at the rows upon rows of empty train tracks and the signs notating what train used to leave from which track…

…and i said to her, “you wanna talk about taking a leap of faith…imagine what these people left behind, and how little they knew about what they were getting themselves into.  and not all of them made it.  not all of them stayed, and not all of them survived…but they tried.”

it’ll be interesting to see how her life unfolds over the next few years…for now, i’m just thankful that we got to spend the time together that we did over the weekend.  it’s increasingly rare, with her school and work schedule…so it’s something to be thankful for when that kind of opportunity arises.

i’ll do a little dance in my heart when she makes the call and moves to the city, though.

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