I think you really realize you’re a grown up when you wake up on your 23rd birthday hungover from brunch the day before.
So. That happened.
Yesterday, a group of my friends reserved a brunch table at a place in midtown with a $20 all you can drink cocktail brunch. Needless to say, we got our money’s worth. The drinks were fabulous. Afterwards (like 4 hours later), we went around the corner to my friend’s new place in Hell’s Kitchen and took his pup up to the roof for some fresh air.
From there, we headed downtown to other friends’ place, where we ordered pizza and watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall. And then I made out and did just about everything except have condom-requiring sex with my ex-boyfriend/close friend. For the love. The good news is that I know both of us had a good time and neither of us really give a fuck. No regrets. Happy birthday to me. And as usual with drunken sexy shenanigans (although it’s been a while), I felt really sexy. I was really sexy. Happy birthday to me.
To be honest, I wasn’t terribly hungover this morning, and actually felt just fine. But it’s my birthday, so I wanted to figure out something to do. I spent a couple of hours lounging in bed with Franny, watching movies and trying to come up with a plan. I had a couple of ideas.
One, I could make an amazingly huge delicious meal and dessert and maybe invite L over and just enjoy the process of cooking.
Two, I could stick to my original plan, even though no one could come with me, and get on MetroNorth up to Cold Spring, on the Hudson River, for a day trip.
I brushed my hair, threw on sneakers, filled a water bottle, and Number Two it was.
I got to Cold Spring around 2pm. It was a gorgeous day—just enough of a chilly breeze to keep a light coat on, but bright sun and fresh, clean, warm spring air. I was a bit out of my league, alone in a small town I’d never been to with no real plan… but I saw on my iPhone that there was a local cemetery, about half a mile up Bank Rd. and I knew that was where to begin.
I love cemeteries because I love history, and because I love to imagine people’s stories. I can spend hours in a historic cemetery, gazing at gravestones, finding the oldest stones, the youngest deaths, the largest families. I like to trace the carvings with my fingers, clearing away dust and leaves to read the names, the ages, the dates. I say the names under my breath as I pass them, and in my mind I invent lives and stories to fill the gaps. There’s something, too, so calming and serene about a stroll through a cemetery on a lovely, sunny day. I feel quiet inside, still, respectful, and honored.
After spending some time there, I decided to head back towards town, finding myself back on Main St. after a scenic detour through a lovely residential area. I’ve never spent any time in the Hudson Valley, really. I am pretty familiar with Connecticut, and I’ve been to White Plains and other Westchester spots infrequently, and I did spend an entire summer in the Berkshires. But there was something particular about Cold Spring and the Hudson Valley landscape. The homes were sweet and simple, often a bit overgrown and lived in. And surrounding this sweet cluster of homes, gardens, trees, and buildings, were lush round hills, covered in bright green foliage. It was like Berkshires-lite, and brighter than those hills. Just gorgeous.
Main St. was clogged with antique stores, which don’t particularly call my name, but I ambled slowly enough to glance into each as I passed it. Also frequent were ice cream and coffee shops, and sweetly sunglass-ed visitors, hand in hand or pushing strollers. I felt, behind my birthday sunglasses (thanks Mom!), almost invisible among them, and it was lovely.
It was around 3:45pm, and I decided that I might as well get a bite to eat, even though it wasn’t “dinner time.” Hey, it’s my birthday, I can eat if I want to. There were a number of places to choose from, but finally I decided to not obsess over it and just go into the first place with outdoor seating that perked my attention—a place called the Cold Spring Depot. I saw they had veggie burgers, and I knew I wanted that.
I was seated in the back of the large outdoor area, a fence and a thin strip of green space separating me from the Metro North tracks I’d come up on. My waitress, an elderly woman who seemed confused by my solitariness and sweetness, was incredibly apologetic when I ordered my burger—they were out. She asked if I was a vegetarian, and I said yes, to which she responded that really, my only choice was the Portobello sandwich. “That’s fine,” I assured her, “that should be just fine.” I sipped on my Diet Coke and checked my phone for the first time in hours. I always forget, until my birthday, how good it feels to get all those random Facebook “happy birthdays” from people I literally haven’t heard from in years. There’s something really cathartic about that overflow of thought and two-second effort from people from all over my life.
I finished up and paid, and then walked next door for an ice cream cone– regular one-scoop of cookies ‘n’ cream in a cone– and then took the underpass to the river. The houses got larger and nicer as I moved towards the Hudson, fancy bed-and-breakfasts and larger streets, cars parked on the sides. Along the river, straight in front of me, jutted a large plaza with benches and an antique cannon at its center. Once I stepped onto the cobblestones, the wind knocked the lapel of my coat up into my face. I gazed around, towards where I knew West Point was, up towards Breakneck Ridge, which I still plan to hike, and across into the peaked, white waves of that Old Man Hudson River. I could barely take photos with my phone, because the wind was so brisk, and finally, decided to just head back and hop the Metro North home.
I nearly fell asleep between Croton-on-Harmon and Yankee Stadium, drifting off to a FilmSpotting podcast and the familiar rumble of the train, but managed to rouse myself to exit at Harlem-125. I hopped on the M100 bus, which let me off on Frederick Douglass. I stopped briefly off at Best Yet to grab some ingredients for the week’s lunches/dinners, and then happily drifted back into my sweet little haven.
I made a delicious Basil-Broccoli Mac-and-Cheese (thanks http://www.101cookbooks.com), vacuumed some of the cardboard residue Franny has been enjoying shredding in her spare time, washed lots of dishes (and broke a plate), and snuggled up with my sweet dear puss and a glass of water. I am beyond sleepy and ready to curl up with Fran, who is dreaming on my left arm right now.
It’s been 23 years since I was born, and some things have changed, but not much.
“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”
― William Shakespeare
“The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”
― E.E. Cummings
“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.”
― E.E. Cummings
“So what if nobody came?
I’ll have all the ice cream and tea,
And I’ll laugh with myself,
And I’ll dance with myself,
And I’ll sing, “Happy Birthday to me!”
― Shel Silverstein