36 hours in new york, new york.

about a week before this adventure, dominic, my friend and husband of one of my bestest friends, emails me to ask if i would be interested in coming to new york to surprise yelena (said bestest) for her birthday. he's throwing her a surprise party in their apartment and would like to get me a plane ticket to doubly-surprise her. of course i agree. he asks about my dissertation; i tell him that it can wait for another weekend. and thank him all the times for the offer. (a note: yes, this is an ode to the nytimes "36 hours" series in its travel section.)


1. ready already.
i actually look out the window as the plane touches down at LGA, already a little nostalgic for it all. though i was in new york last summer, it feels like decades ago, and i know i won't be back until the fall. i had planned to take a bus to y+d's apartment but i am too excited and get in a cab. i text dominic, who is at murray's cheese. i am happy to meet him there (doesn't everyone love that place?), but he'll be home by the time i get there.

2. the one person.
since i am to be a surprise, i have pretty much told no one i would be in new york (except for my friends in north carolina who i have begged to watch chloe (one of them agrees) and take me to the airport, which i end up paying someone to do, and my mother, who would lose her mind if she later found out i got on a plane and she didn't know). the one person in new york who knows i'll be there is april, who i am hoping is grossly pregnant but mostly looks like she just ate a burrito (it's too soon for the giant belly anyhow). she nervously meets me at y+d's apartment and we go to mile end for lunch, consuming much of the vegetarian items on their menu.

we also venture to gristedes to pick up items for the party and i almost lose my mind because they sell tins of charles chips and mallomars, both of which i do not buy. because it's ridiculous.

3. the constant surprise.
at this point, i am mostly hanging out with dominic, cutting peppers and making barefoot contessa's onion dip, which something i promised to do (i used to make this dip if i was throwing a big party; it's always a hit and it's really important not to think about how fattening it probably is.). he gives me myriad instructions about setting out food, who is coming over, and how this will happen. i am nervous about the potential for late-arriving guests and early-arriving yelena, who is texting him to pick her up early from work. it's easter weekend and everyone's gone and it's her birthday, for christ's sake (she wasn't that demanding).

friends begin to arrive (i am a surprise each time, to varying degrees of excitement), as does the cake (and cake plate!) and strawberry shortcake decorations and streamers. we begin drinking who-knows-what. a note: we later learn that yelena does not know who strawberry shortcake is, because, well, USSR.

4. yes, yes, they are in the building.
it's all actually a surprise. she had no idea. it's insane. dominic's web of lies lead her to the apartment and we were all there with loads of drinks and foods and lots of vine-ing and cake and chatter and helium sucked from the balloons and suddenly it was 100am and friends are having very serious, very drunk conversations on marriage.


5. we've got to do our taxes.
we caffeinate. y+d go to have their taxes done (i know this is going to happen before i even arrive. moving this tax appointment would have added to the complexity of the surprise.) i need to buy jeans, as i am wearing a pair with a repaired hole in the crotch and another one forming (i blame the bike-riding), and am happy to walk around and look at people who don't look schlubby (get ahold of yourselves, UNC students) and remind myself that new york is lovely and remains the nombril du monde.

the new jeans already have bike grease on them.
6. all the merry.
we reconvene at five points because they have pitchers of bloody marys and eggs rancheros. it is at this moment that i remember that brunch in new york could probably be had as late as 300pm but in north carolina, we are lucky if anyone serves it at all (or it's worth leaving the house for).

7. not opening ceremony.
the three of us stroll around soho and its surrounding hoods, sucking down australian coffees (i had a flat white) from happy bones and looking for the next, newer opening ceremony. yelena buys a shirt that resembles a shirt she was photographed in when she was four (not to be confused with 3-year-old yelena at the top of the post).

we pass pearl + ash, a restaurant apparently named for me (y'all know yelena calls me pearl, right?).
we've barely finished brunch at this point and are thinking about dinner, but decide against this place because it's so meaty (she later reports back that it's pretty awesome if i want to consume some animals).

8. named for its hood.
part of the birthday lie was there would be a big dinner on saturday night at vinegar hill house. it was not true (ha!), but there was no reason why it didn't have to be. the only subway ride i took in my trip was to dinner and dominic even paid for my ride (he's really a catch, that guy). tracy joined us--really, it was like i had gone back in time, having dinner with these ladies on a saturday night. i can't really remember what i ate: beets, brussels sprouts, some sort of pasta something. more drinks.

by the time we left, it was late and my flight was early early. we went home and drank amaro (gifted to yelena the night before) and passed out.

9. cabbing back.
i grab a cab and head to LGA. the cabbie repeatedly calls me "princess" and makes me guess where he's from (ecuador). i am home before noon. i could've stayed camped out in y+d's living room longer, but, well, work. and i should really hammer out that dissertation already.

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