Dear Diary: Great Aunt Mary and The Big Apple

I’m antsy.

It’s true.

As last year kicked my ass like you wouldn’t believe, it also gave me a crazy case of cabin fever. Pow! Biff! Bang!


I stormed into 2010 with one mission: get the hell out of Portland as often as humanly possible.

It’s not that I don’t love it here, it’s just that sometimes my gypsy blood gets the best of me. I gotta move, man. I gotta GO.

We just came back from a business-mixed-with-pleasure trip to San Jose, California. Business was done, bikes were pedaled, running commenced, camping took place. But most of all?


Like – crazy French-food-melted-fried-pasta-carb-cannoli face stuffing.

It was fucking glorious.

We stayed just long enough to start missing Portland. We got back just in time to save the garden from imminent explosion (and, incidentally, force fed ourselves one cubic ton of salad greens). We snuggled the cats, unpacked our suitcases, went to the office, got down to business.

And as religious as it is to sleep in my own bed (sweet jesus I love my bed. Have I told you about it? Good god!), I’m ready for the next departure. It’s a good thing, too, because the rocketship lifts off next Monday for a trip of slightly grander proportions than the ambling, camping-ey road trip that we just took down the coast.

Next week we hit the big time. New York City.

It’s a place that I have cherished ever since I made my first trip (solo) at 13 years old to visit my Great Aunt Mary. Making the transfer through the Chicago airport was, quite possibly, the single most terrifying experience of my life until that date.

I was hooked.

The thrill of the unknown. The possibility of getting lost and stranded in a monstrous airport.  The idea of boarding the wrong plane and ending up somewhere unintended (this is still my favorite travel daydream!)

These days the airports aren’t so daunting and most of the flights are direct so we buckle up and hold on while the world shoots by down below. When they doors open reality is shifted, the landscape is new and the air is filled with hope and energy.

Great Aunt Mary still lives in her one-bedroom co-op apartment in Harlem just as she has for more than 65 years. She’s 95 or thereabouts nowadays and fading a bit on us but, for the moment anyway, she still sits up at the breakfast table working away at NYT crosswords and looking at old pictures of her 3+ trips around the world.

She is my power animal. Her presence in the world has always reassured me that I do not need to choose the standard paths into adulthood.

New York is her city. In my mind, it belongs to no one else. Crossing the road with her walker in front of a stampede of charging taxis, she owns everything. They always stop. Always. Every time.

Traveling to her city reminds me that everything is possible.

Little old ladies not more than 5 feet tall can stop four lanes of charging traffic on Broadway. Small-town farm girls from conservative Norwegian families can move to New York City in the 1940′s by themselves, never marry, eschew children and travel the world many times over.

This year, we’ll visit her apartment but stay with a friend in the Lower East Side. I’ll eat until I pop, run until I drop and take the streets by bicycle storm.

I’ll think of the young woman who is now an old woman and imagine her coming here alone all those years ago.

I’ll be energized and inspired and feisty. The way she was.

The way she always has been.


PS: Check the Tumblr site for a more micro-bloggey immediate blow-by-blow of travels, adventures and life.

PPS: This post has been edited so as not to offend CP’s sensibilities! ;)

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  1. Caroline

    Your fucking power animal, huh? Hm. Even for me that’s a bit heavy on the ****ing!

    She does sound great. I hope you have another great time!

  2. nichole

    Hey Heidi, If you get a chance go see Million Dollar Quartet for me! My friend is in it (plays the bass) and I can’t get there to see him.

  3. obadiah

    awesome old lady….great inspiration.
    she challenged all the rules about what we could do….

  4. I fucking love new york.

    I’m going this weekend for my culture-catch-up of plays and concerts.

    My mom moved to New York at 23 from Nebraska.

    She shared her first apartment with six other room mates, most of whom where flight attendants, while she was waitressing and taking acting classes at night. I don’t think she’ll ever move back to nebraska.

    The pictures are stunning heidi, as always.


  5. You know? I love you so, so much. Always have. Always will. As much as I might sometimes miss “TOFT”, this is wayyyy better. By far. Good on you, H. *Amazed*

  6. “Little old ladies not more than 5 feet tall can stop four lanes of charging traffic on Broadway. Small-town farm girls from conservative Norwegian families can move to New York City in the 1940’s by themselves, never marry, eschew children and travel the world many times over.”

    Feel free to tell her she’s my hero.

  7. O’hare still scares the crap out of me…!

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