Travel-Log

Because in my recent travels I have been logging miles, and hours, and words, and laughs, and meals. When we last left each other, I had just enjoyed a delightful birthday party Saturday night in the West Orange yard of my dear friend, circe. Well, Sunday came and off I went to visit my New Jersey church family at First Baptist Church of Madison. So much love to Rev. Dunn, Fonda, Mary, Eddie, Jackie, Evelin, Rochelle, Jessica, Natasha, Mrs. Brewster, et al! Evelin and I then enjoyed brunch afterwards wherein I ordered the chicken and waffles.

Monday I taught my last-minute class assignment for Bard Early College: U.S. History 1960s to the Present. Funny thing, that’s my life span. Guess I’m made for the job. Monday night I headed to Newark’s Ironbound for a dinner meeting with the Newark-Scott Cultural and Civic Foundation, at Forno’s of Spain on Ferry Street. Many of us were meeting for the first time in person as we continued our discussions and plans around ensuring that the legacy of Madam Louise Scott, as well as other African-American philanthropists and entrepreneurs, remains at the forefront of Newark’s history — and American History writ large. (Here is our Facebook page — please follow! https://www.facebook.com/newarkscottccf/ Plus there was sangria, and July birthdays and retirements were also celebrated. What a treat. After a vast paella dinner I waddled over to the long, marble bar to meet a wonderful friend for black sambuca and espresso. Thanks for finishing your laundry in time, Mary!

Tuesday, Evelin was kind enough to fetch me once more so we could have lunch with Miss Lottie, the most senior member of First Baptist Church, at age ninety-two. Lottie is one of a handful of women who truly inspire me. She is smart, and funny, and full of faith. We got BLTs and talked everything from church politics to banana pudding. Tuesday night my kids came back over to West Orange and we cooked dinner together and then had a sleepover. Jake made sweet potato gnocchi — from scratch.

Wednesday had me teaching again. Then I went to visit my friend Tammy who hosted me and our way-back friend Donna, who came all the way from Georgia! We drank Chardonnay while Tammy’s wonderful husband Rich cooked up the most delicious spicy chicken tacos for us. I mean who says I have to forego Mexican food just because I came East? We sat outside in their lovely garden (because finally it was not one million degrees outside! I mean was it always this humid out here?!). I returned home, full as usual, and so happy to have caught up with my friends. By this time I had received temporary custody of my son’s elderly Mazda, whose climate control consists of rolling down all the windows and driving very fast. But it saved me from spending major amounts of cash on a rental — have you seen the prices lately?!

Thursday may have been the second major highlight of the trip, my party being the first. Of course they both involved my children. On a warehouse rooftop garden, in Long Island City, I had the pleasure of attending a poetry and performance event organized by my amazing daughter, Kayla. All sorts of young people were there, many whom I call friends. The West Coast was well represented, as a lot of folks apparently make annual summer pilgrimages from the Pacific Ocean over to the Atlantic side. There were gorgeous poetry readings — my daughter’s included — and awesome performances by other artists. I even got to read spontaneously, a short piece I had come across in a literary journal I brought with me for the ride on New Jersey Transit. It was called “The Poets,” by Moroccan writer Mohamed Choukri. It’s an allegory about a society vanquishing its artists, a cautionary tale that no one in this group actually needed to hear.

We stayed late that night on the rooftop, drinking beer and eating — you guessed it — tacos. My son and I finally made it back to his apartment only to awake too few hours later for our prospective jobs. And oh, how worthwhile that loss of sleep had been. That next night I was out once again. This time in Montclair, a town which barely resembles the sleepy burg I moved to from Manhattan in 1990. Naomi (my comrade-in-arms from grad school) and I circled the whole of Montclair before finally finding a parking spot in downtown. The parking space chose our destination, not the other way around. A couple of frosés later we called it a night.

Saturday had me heading back to the city. The day started right out of a scene from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. I was John Candy! Bus didn’t show, mercurial heat and humidity and then a rainstorm kept me damp most of the day… But I hiked to the Upper East Side to visit my ninety-two year old aunt who just kept saying in disbelief, “Do you know I am 92?” She is looking good, even if she doesn’t think so. After that I was off to Chelsea having been invited by my friends Mark and Robert for what turned out to be one of the most perfectly cooked pieces of salmon I have ever had! (I’ll never make it myself again). More crazy travel ensued — I think the transportation authorities are as out of practice as we travelers are. Finally made it home sometime after two a.m. I think I just sort of stayed on West Coast time during my whole visit.

Sunday was right out of a movie montage. I headed to Jersey City again where I met up with both kids and we walked, and ate pizza, and got ices, and lay on the grass at the Hoboken waterfront. The past rainstorms had broken the smarminess of the air, and it was simply a perfect time to walk the day away. Back to Jake’s apartment for some refreshments and a quick change before returning to the neighborhood for oysters and cocktails. Jersey City. Sunday night. Happenin’!

Last night my son came over and cooked for me: black beans and beet greens that people would give up a limb for if they could. I mean, delicious. Fried yucca and plantains to accompany. Wow. We did some more transporting, once he found a free charging station for his new electric car. And yes, every time I get in The Electric Slide plays in my head. Because of the important work he is doing as a union organizer he had to get up way before dawn cracked today, so we said our goodbyes last night, reluctantly. I am never okay saying goodbye to my kids; they are a major reason I am so happy in this life.

Today I am washing sheets as I put the finishing touches on this 2-day late blog. (I am sure you understand). God-willing, my flight does not get cancelled this time and I get home in due course to my bright, sunny apartment and my fluffy, white cat. (I really miss Skittles and I don’t care who knows it)! This trip was a marker for me of many sorts: the first major travel since the pandemic hit, and the first time as a visitor in a place I lived for so very long. And it is a nice place to visit — but I wouldn’t want to live here, anymore. My heart is in my new home and I am excited to return. And all these wonderful people I have seen over the last 10 days just need to come visit me in LA! It’s a great place to visit, too. Here’s to living where you land.

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