For the past week, I’ve been in Long Island staying with my parents. I have to say, I’m enjoying it more than I ever have. Usually when I come out to the Island, which for those of you from the UK is about 45 minutes south east of the city (say, like an Essex), I check the LIRR return schedule an hour or so after arriving. But not this week. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a full-time desk job to commute to or any fancy events to attend; or maybe it’s because the weather has been so beautiful and my parents live on a canal and my brother lives on the beach a few towns over. Or maybe it’s because I’m not here for some big family gathering or party or occasion that makes the kitchen crowded and house abuzz. But being in a place where the birds chirping or the ocean rolling onto the shore are the loudest outdoor sounds is immensely peaceful. Despite the fact that my mother keeps asking me to write down my “schedule” so she knows my whereabouts.
For the most part, I’ve had the house (and its amazing yard) to myself during the day where I can write and read and catch up on Mad Men and what crazy absurd thing Paula Deen said. Being out here has also given me ample opportunity to continue seeing home as a new place. Mostly because of my lack of one major suburban requirement: a car.
I remember my driving days on the Island: No spot was ever close enough to my destination. I’d circle and circle — sometimes even wait until someone pulled out — so I could get the closest spot to wherever I was going. Eventually, I’d settle on something even if it meant (gasp!) walking the extra 15-feet to the Gap/Bank/Deli.
How silly this seems now. Over a decade of relying on my own two feet — even if it’s to get to public transportation — has taught me there’s no better way to really see a place than by going walkabout. No vast Australian outback needed. (Also, we can all use the exercise.)
Now, to be fair, I haven’t walked everywhere this week. I rode my bike to Weight Watchers (get this: only gained 2.6 pounds!?) and I must give credit where credit is due: My Mom has been so kind as to lend me her car when I wanted something sweet at 10p.m. and has driven me to my brother’s apartment at the beach, where I’m currently typing this from his balcony overlooking an inground pool…and the Atlantic. (Why do I live on the 5th floor of a building that faces another building again? Oh right. New York F-ing City. But I digress.)
For the most part, I’ve been fine at home without any major means of getting from A to B. At my parents house, there’s really no need to go anywhere. The pair of them are great company, the fridge is stocked, the closets are filled with toilet paper (and every other mass necessity you could think of from Costco), and the WiFi’s got full bars — what more could I need?
My brother’s house — while a bonafide retreat with ocean views and a balcony to boot — is another story. I kid you not, I almost ate a dog treat while looking for something to nibble on. He also has carrots and pickles and apple sauce and some frozen meat, but as you all know, I’ve got a voracious appetite and can’t really cook. Alas, it’s not my home from which to scavange or judge anyway, and so the other day I did something unthinkable to most suburbanites:
I walked six blocks to the main drag for a sandwich.
I really enjoyed the walk, too. First of all, Long Beach is still in the process of recovering from Superstorm Sandy (a terrible name, I might add) and it was eye-opening to see first-hand the residences that have sadly succumbed to wreckage and those that have miraculously recovered. I saw collapsed balconies and closed roads, but I also saw newly planted flowers and freshly painted decks.
Perhaps my favorite moment of my Week of Walking was on the way back from the deli, when I fell into step with a kid who had just picked up an ice cream cone from Baskin Robbins. Aside from instantly regretting having gone for the more traditional lunch choice of a turkey sandwich, I felt buoyancy in my stride and so I started to talk to him. He was walking right next to me, after all.
“That looks good,” I said.
He looked at me surreptitiously.
“It is,” he responded, still with trepidation.
“Looks like mint chocolate chip and cookies ‘n’ cream, am I right?”
I could tell he wanted to answer again. But he didn’t.
I quickly realized I was the “Stranger” in the “Don’t Talk to Strangers” directive kids his age get. (Do they still tell them to beware of white vans too?)
How silly of me, I thought.
And so that was all I got. One lick.
But it tasted sweet! It tasted like London and Israel and Slovenia! It tasted like travel because of the quench of it being part of my doing something new and out of the ordinary — even if it was a walk down the block…or six.