Not so local in the Big Apple |

Not so local in the Big Apple

Alison Berkley

Guess what. I’m in the Big Apple, baby! I’m doing the annual Aspen/Manhattan exchange program with my friend Denise. She’s a friend of mine who used to live in Aspen and lets me crash at her NYC pad when she’s out of town. That way I have a real room in a real apartment and can pretend I’m a local, even if everyone who sees me walking down the street can tell I am not.I’m that girl with the laminated map in one hand and the subway map in the other, all unfolded and crumpled up backwards trying to figure out which direction is up (that would be north). I’m the one whose umbrella gets blown inside out by the wind. When I’m not stumbling around fixated on the microscopic print of my map, my eyes are usually skyward. I might as well have a sign on my head that says I AM NOT FROM HERE.I have gotten better at some things. Like now I know to get out of taxis on the sidewalk side instead of into oncoming traffic and I actually ride the subway instead of blowing all my cash on cab fare and I understand that I’m going to walk until my feet are worn down to little nubs.But there are still a few things I’m not so good at.For starters, I’m lost all the time. Like, I might know the street but I probably don’t know the direction. Everyone is always telling me it’s on the northwest corner this and to head east on that and I’m going, “Excuse me, but how in the hell am I supposed to know which way is west is without the mountains?” I don’t understand how it’s possible that I have a 50-50 chance of going the right way if I’m wrong every single time. And forget about intersections – I’ll spend an hour going those six blocks it takes to find the right option by process of elimination. It’s embarrassing.Yesterday, I was on the Metro North train on my way to Tarrytown to have Thanksgiving dinner with my crazy family. You would think that would be pretty straight-forward except somehow I missed my stop. The train conductor guy was a total meanie and didn’t even notice until like four stops later.”Where are you going?” he said in this snotty tone.”Tarrytown,” I replied. “Did I miss it?””Yeah, it was like two stops ago,” he said as if I was the one who wasn’t doing my job.Of course I have like 27 bags (duh, I went shopping, hello), including a wheelie bag that weighs like 200 pounds and my pink Burton backpack with my laptop and the two dozen books and magazines I’ve accumulated over the last two weeks and my new oversized red leather hobo bag that allows me to carry way more crap than I actually need. By the time I get all my stuff organized and am able to drag my dead body bag down the aisle, the door closes and the train pulls out of the station.I start madly pushing buttons and yelling, “Hello, how do I get off this train?” at the top of my lungs. It’s New York, so no one answers me.I start walking from one car to the next, looking for the grumpy conductor man so I can yell at him. I find a different conductor guy in his little blue hat and tell him about all these horrible things that just happened to me.He looks at me with bemusement and goes, “Well, you’re going to need to get off at the next stop and take the train the other way.””Yes, I KNOW that,” I reply. “The door wouldn’t OPEN last time. I need to know which doors open and which don’t.””All the doors open.” His lip curled into a smirk. “But you better get your bags. We pull into the station at Peekskill in less than a minute.”So I start sprinting from one car to the next like a crazy person in these platform clogs that make more noise than the hooves of one of those giant horses they have in those Budweiser Christmas commercials yelling, “Get me off this train!” I start wondering if maybe I’m stuck in one of those dreams where you’re always running and never get anywhere.Other than that, I pretty much feel like a regular hipster downtown girl, hanging out on the Lower East Side (though I’ll admit I was little freaked out by the graffiti on the door and the bars on the windows at first). I’ve learned not to look for anything but to wander and let all the little treasures be revealed unexpectedly.Like I found this dive bar on Rivington called Going To The Johnsons that has $1.50 PBR tall boys. I ate world famous red velvet cupcakes with vanilla butter cream frosting at Sugar Sweet Sunshine without knowing they were famous.I spent my days writing away in the upstairs café of an organic health food store on Ludlow where the Internet was always down so I actually got work done without any distractions from friends in Aspen who are bored at work. I savored some of the best sushi rolls I have ever eaten in my life with my friend Ollie in a Japanese eatery so small there were only three chairs at the bar.I even got to feel like a real writer. I met with my agent (yes, I still have an agent) and ate lunch with my editor in the New York Times cafeteria (Yes, they let me in the building).And I wrote, watching the pages add up until my manuscript hit the triple digits at last. With that, I know I’m ready to go back to Aspen.The Princess is really, really tired. Send your Turkey Day love to Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.

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