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July 1, 2013 - Carrie Olson
When we first moved here, we were absolutely clueless. We told everyone, "Come visit us! Come visit us!" So that we could paint the town with fruit-smelling sharpies and LIVE. We didn't know. We didn't know that it would take months and months of our own exploring before we could really roll out the red carpet and act like brochure-toting tour guides.
It was only a few weeks after paying our first rent check that we had our first guest. We were super excited. I had a car back then, and we even picked him up at LaGuardia - without ever driving through NYC before. Yeah, we were smart, too. And after white-knuckling it to the airport, we showed him the sites. "This is our local Dunkin' Donuts - we drink coffee there, sometimes." That sort of thing. I would feel panicky as we headed down into the subway before visiting a museum. "I think we go downtown. I'm pretty sure we head downtown. I hope to God we go downtown." So, basically, it was fabulous.
My parents flew here about a month later. I was still the kindergartner that couldn't let go of their mom's leg on the first day of school. They came, I didn't leave their side. They left, I thought about getting a plane ticket with them. So while we had some definite places we wanted to share with them (I discovered other coffee shops besides DD), I wanted some "normal" hang out time. Mom, want to go shopping for generic things at the mall that sells basically the same things at shopping centers in Iowa? Hey Dad, I know you want to try the pubs here, but let's go to Chili's! I don't think we've had their nachos enough! I found a Panera! Let's go to a Panera! Did you notice we have a Panera, you guys have one too! Oh, sure, we showed them around - but after seeing all the homeless people sleeping in the park, I was ready for some green, green cornfields.
Some time went by. You know, the time between August and April. That time. And in that time, I got a job (or three), had to learn public transportation, survived a natural disaster, and became a bit more acclimated to my surroundings. I now had FOUR go-to coffee shops. FOUR. My best friend from grade school came from Colorado with a request for the funkier side of NYC. And while we didn't hit all the things on the list (you never do), we showed her the Brooklyn Bridge, the Villages, Soho, and CBGB (which is sadly enough now a high-end men's clothing store. Ugh.) She said it was great to have people who knew the area and could give her the non-touristy tour of NYC. Wow. That was a nice pat on the back. But even at that time, we were just starting to make our tread across the New York maps, and having A-Ha! moments when we recognized a certain street from an earlier journey.
My brother just got on a plane back to Iowa after four days of adventuring across the City. The bottoms of our shoes are worn, after venturing high and low and east. To the Mets game for a rainy day of baseball. To Coney Island to wade in the ocean. To Christopher Street to watch the Pride Parade. And for impromptu fireworks across the Hudson. There were a lot of "firsts" for us on his trip too, and it got me realizing: Even if we end up doing the same thing with our guests, it's always a new experience. I always see something different and it's just completely unfamiliar because you are making memories with other loved ones. So while my subway skills have come a long way and I no longer seek out a McDonald's to get a taste of something familiar, I'm forever being surprised by all the "firsts" I continue to experience. And look forward to all that are coming ahead. Oh, and realizing that there is nothing wrong with an obsession for Dunkin' Donuts. It's just that good.