Last week I spent time in a former city where I resided that shall remain nameless. Why do I not speak its name? Because unlike the fair New York City, to whom I returned as a friend long departed, this city and I mutually dislike each other. In my post-adolescence, this city has become my arch nemesis in a way that cheerleaders were during my middle school years.
And in true, arch nemesis fashion, the trip was a bust from the beginning. First off, David couldn’t go back with me. Now David doesn’t despise this place quite the way I do. In fact, he makes frequent return trips to this place for work-related reasons. Sometimes he is there two or three weeks each month. He still likes this city. But for me, the whole draw for me ending up in this place the first time was because that is where David lived at the time. And this trip confirmed it. This name-withheld city sucks without David there. It is a godforsaken place where while I was in the courthouse, I couldn’t always tell the other attorneys from the loitering homeless people, because all were unwashed and wearing fleece. Grunge has been over a long time, people! It is time to put away the fleece unless you are actually on a hiking trail somewhere. On this trip, I was walking one evening to meet some friends at a location about 15 blocks away from my hotel, and about halfway there I was hit with an overwhelming feeling of nausea that made me turn around and walk back to the comfort of my hotel room. It is gross out there, people. There were the roving bands of anarchists clad in black, the signs of needle drugs on almost every corner, and enormous (I am talking 400 pounds), wheelchair-bound, neck-tattooed, tube-topped women buying nothing but extra-long Slim Jims in downtown Walgreens locations. It is the kind of place where one risks contracting hepatitis at almost any point in time. Could you expect anything more from a place where a disgusting wall of chewed up gum is an actual tourist attraction?
But I am already ahead of myself. First off, as expected, the plane trip out there was fraught with difficulties because of summer thunderstorms in the southeast. As a result, I missed my flight where I had secured a first class upgrade from ATL to SEA (the airport code is permissible), and instead got stuck on an overbooked flight that was over an hour delayed leaving Atlanta at 11 pm EST. So that put me getting into the godforsaken city at nearly 2 am. Sensing this could be a problem, I called the hotel from the Atlanta airport to tell them I would be arriving very late and indicating my approximate arrival time. So imagine my surprise when I got there, arrived at the hotel, and was told that they didn’t have a room for me. Way to roll out the red carpet, terrible city! The hotel clerk was robot-like in mannerisms and completely unsympathetic to the utter exhaustion that I felt and the fact that I didn’t have a room. It brought back fond memories of other passive-aggressive encounters that I experienced in this much beloved home of grunge rock music. No, I said that wrong. It brought me back to the rage that I felt whenever I got stuck behind another pot smoking moron driving 45 miles an hour in the LEFT LANE of I-5 on my daily commute. Hyatt at Olive 8, your overnight staff sucks. I am telling my husband to take his Hyatt Diamond Club business travel dollars only to Starwood properties in the future. They sent me across the road to the Grand Hyatt, where the manager checking me in wasn’t sure who was actually staying at her hotel, as she kept trying doors to rooms where people where in fact already resting.
So after that whole debacle, the trip had nowhere to go but up right? Well, the next afternoon, when they finally checked me into the hotel where I had my reservation, things got a little better because they gave me a pretty large suite.
The room even had a TV in the bathroom mirror which I never knew my life was missing before.
It turned out to be pretty convenient that I had a large hotel room, complete with a comfortable bathrobe, because what do you do when forced to spend time in a city that disgusts you? Of course! You spend a lot of time in the sanctity and cleanliness of your own hotel room.
Of course, outside contact was a necessity since I was in town for a work conference. That part of the trip was fine. The conference selected two programs I proposed to be presented at the conference, and because they were working in a city that treats me so nice, they scheduled both for the last day of the conference. So yes, that was pleasant, but at least it went fine.
Then, when I was needing the break from the conference, there was the convenience of my hotel being two blocks away from the Nordstrom flagship store where I could spend far too much money on the Early Access Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. And spend too much money, I certainly did. Of course, I also visited the Nordstrom Café every day for lunch and consumed too many calories by eating a lemon ricotta cookie there every day. But those cookies were the brightest spot of my day. So delicious. And that decadence seemed mild to the Alexander Wang boots that I also consumed. Yes, it is embarrassing the depths to which I will sink when trying to cheer myself up in a place I dislike. And also in my defense, it was my birthday, and in light of how terrible I feel about the age I turned and how old my body is telling me it is, I needed something like those boots to tell me I can still be a bad ass (This is particularly funny if you realize that there isn’t one single day in my life that I ever have done anything that could possibly categorize me as a “bad ass”).
The greatest highlight of the trip though, was being with people who made my time in a city I dislike better. No, David wasn’t there. I didn’t get to see Thichiot or my other Sudanese friends who were out-of-town at the time. I didn’t get to drive down to Pierce County and see all of my favorite work friends. However, I was able to see my library school friends, and so that made it all okay. We even formed a band at the Westlaw Party at the EMP Museum and let a few other librarian friends join us in song:
In this video, I seem a little more rehearsed than the others, but it’s because I had the unfair advantage of singing this song many times in my childhood using the high posts of my bed as a microphone. You see, Beauty and the Beat, by The Go Go’s was the first album that I ever owned and it was my dream to be a Go Go. I loved the album so much that when I thought the movers lost it when we moved from Mississippi to Pensacola when I was four, I made my mom by me another copy. Then we found it and we had two copies of the record. Sure, I may have liked the songs “Lust to Love” (only because we used to sing “Leslie Love” instead of the actual words as kids), “Tonite” and “This Town” more than “We Got the Beat”, but there wasn’t the option to sing those songs. So, at least in some small way, I got to live out that childhood dream before my 35th birthday, even if the EMP stage didn’t give me enough room to really do my full on Belinda Carlisle impression.
Finally, the last night of the trip, my friends attending the conference came together at Serious Pie in Seattle for a little birthday celebration for me. I am not going to lie, this past year of my life has been pretty rotten, so I can only hope that my year at 35 will be somewhat better even though every news article you read about the age 35 is depressing. Apparently, your looks are all downhill after you turn 35 in addition to your fertility. Not that I need any reminders about the latter. Yes, this isn’t a birthday that I took very well, but at least I had good friends to spend it with.
And with that, I put the lid on this return trip.