Friday, September 7, 2012
Friday Faves: On Loneliness & Lox
A few weeks back we were down the cape (as they say), at our friend's parent's house yet again, for a weekend of beer and beaches and, apparently, all the delicious things we could squeeze into forty-eight or so hours. There was steak, of course. Matty also whipped up some tender, butter-drenched mussels. I set out some buffalo chicken dip around 6PM, and by 6:15, we were just about scraping the bottom with our tortilla chips. Basil from Dorchester and tomatoes from the back yard we were lounging in made for a caprese salad. There were marathon breakfasts and afternoon snacks. Chased with champagne, or beer, and a trip to the beach again. It was one of the most perfect, final summer weekends I could have asked for.
Of course, setting five twenty-something, starving, hungover individuals loose in a foreign Cape Cod supermarket on a Saturday morning is arguably one of the more chaotic things one could do, but it proved to be a great (albeit expensive) adventure. As we all wandered the aisles, I ran into my best friend's husband, Andy, by the seafood counter, as he surveyed packages of smoked salmon.
"Gettin' lox, kehd," he told me, as we all tend to lay on the Boston accent (which we normally lack) obnoxiously thick while spending the weekend on the cape.
I nodded enthusiastically. Probably a little too excited for smoked fish, but it's a thing for me. Not something I have often, and not something I necessarily crave. But when it's available, it's what I will always choose.
I think, for me, bagels with lox is a comfort food. Not because it reminds me of home. Instead, it reminds me of where I have been and where I want to go next.
You see, a bagel with lox, a tall grapefruit juice, and a cup of coffee is my room service standby. Whenever I travel, and find myself in a foreign city, in a sprawling hotel room, with just some wifi and a cell phone to keep me company; this is what I order when I wake up. And if the option exists to eat it on a balcony, you better believe I will always take it.
Before all of this, I never traveled much. I'd been up and down the eastern seaboard a few times, sure. A drunken misadventure or two to Canada in college. Countless New York visits and every corner of New England; but I was nothing closely resembling a seasoned traveler.
And then, of course, I fell in love with one of my best friends. And he was living in Los Angeles. And immediately, everything changed.
I'd flown alone once, maybe twice, as a kid. With a relative or family friend to escort me on both ends, of course. And then, in 2008, I was suddenly flying alone, across the country, with any free weekends and funds that I could find. I expected to hate every second of getting from point A to point B, but that wasn't what happened. Truth be told, I realized then that I loved traveling alone. It was somewhat exhilarating, to know I could just hop on a plane, all by my lonesome, with a duffel bag and a smile, and wake up somewhere else. And of course, at the time, it meant waking up next to the one person I simply could never get enough of. I couldn't help it, I fell in love with swapping coasts.
About a year after Matt and I began seeing each other, right around when he started to construct his grand plan to return to Boston, I started to travel for work. It started out small, with day trips on the express train to New York. Then, suddenly, I was going to Las Freaking Vegas to help coordinate a huge party that my company was throwing for our partners. The story of that trip, and the absolutely terrible traveling experience that I endured, involving sleeping on the floor of the Denver airport during what was supposed to be a forty-minute layover, is another tale for another time. But what that first, big trip symbolized held true: I was capable of being independent, finding my way, and getting home in one piece. I was proud of myself.
I remember speaking with my CEO shortly after that gruesome trip, where I barely slept for two days and and had more connecting flights than I could count.
"How'd you like it?" he asked wryly, "isn't business travel fun?"
I laughed, "totally." And then, without hesitation, I added, "anytime you need anyone, to go anywhere, count me in."
And with that, I threw my hat in the ring for business travel. Shortly thereafter, I was on a "road show" with a wireless carrier that we do business with, and found myself going from Boston, to Houston, the Phoenix, to San Diego in one week with thirty other professionals. I remember waking up in the La Jolla Marriott on the final day, after the show had finished, scheming ways to fill my day between that moment and my 8PM flight. As I searched my rental car and shopping options, I picked up the heavy hotel-room phone and pressed one. I ordered a bagel with lox, which of course came sprinkled with capers and aside a hard-boiled egg, and sat next to my sliding-glass-door-to-a-one-foot-wide-cement-"balcony" and ate breakfast. I remember an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. I had had an excellent week, meeting new people and speaking, confidently (although swiftly) about my company, our product, and our business.
Of course, there have been my fair share of moments when I've eaten breakfast in a hotel solemnly, more for necessity than enjoyment. Sometimes when I travel, especially if for an extended period of time, I grow weary with myself. There are only so many tweets and texts one can send before it becomes glaringly obvious that you are alone. And your favorite people are all somewhere else. And life is happening while you sit in a bathrobe and watch the Today show while checking your email.
The mornings that I wake up, far from home, and feel myself longing for the simplest moments at my apartment; I order lox. It's funny how breakfast can set your mood for a day. I try to give myself a moment to remember just what I am doing. A mixture of ambition and sheer luck has landed me in the majority of metropolitan areas in this here country, checking into beautiful hotels and sipping beers on layovers. I am infinitely grateful for this hand I've been dealt.
Last week, I was sick, and searching Stop and Shop desperately for something to make to console me when I returned home. I finally found myself grabbing a bagel in the bakery, and then cream cheese, and then the most expensive smoked salmon I could get my hands on, and then, finally, thankfully (I almost forgot), a jar of capers.
I came home and made myself my favorite "fancy" breakfast and proceeded to sleep off my illness for the duration of the day. All it took was one bite to remind me that I was home. But not for very long.