What to never do when you’re 8 months pregnant and suffering from The Waddle?
Go to New York City.
Which is exactly what I did.
It was the one week we had at home after a long autumn tour, right before we went on a long Christmas tour, and what did I decide to do with that precious home time? Go to NYC with my husband for a jazz gig he had with a friend of ours at Feinstein’s 54 Below.
We were going to have the unique local NYC Experience. Which sounds super fun when you are a suburb girl like me. I had booked an Air B&B in Brooklyn, we were going to ride the subway in and out of town and walk to and from the subway. Public transportation here we come!
So we all land in Newark NJ. It is freezing and I have no coat that fits over my belly except a cheap polyester maternity one that only barely fits and doesn’t work at all against the elements. So I opt for a big fuzzy stretchy sweater instead. Also maternity pants like to slowly sink down as you walk. So, between, holding my coat closed and pulling my pants up, I’m quite hindered. Then, in the spirit of the Local Experience, we endure 4 hours of: walking forever to a shuttle, jiggling along in the shuttle, waiting forever for a train, riding the train standing up, and finally arriving in the City.
The bustle overwhelms me. Cars, bicycles, policeman on horses and pedestrians whizzing past, construction zones everywhere, snow bunched up on the sidewalks. At this point I am one exhausted pregnant lady. We duck into a pizza place and shiver in the warmth of a plastic booth at the back.
Then out into the cold again to find the subway for Brooklyn. Praise God for iPhones. My legs almost give out under me after running down 2 flights of stairs and then having to run up 3 flights of stairs in another place. Thankfully there’s a courtesy habit to let pregnant women sit down on the subway, so I get to sit down as the car whooshes away, lay my head back, and doze while surrounded by our luggage plus James’s 2 guitars, pedal board, backpack.
Why can’t James play the flute or something? 😰
The Brooklyn neighborhood is picturesque, almost like My Fair Lady with a modern twist. I see townhouses with kids playing on the front stoop and loving mothers peering out the door at them, and then other stoops that are full of junk and have dogs sniffing around. A fragrant, freezing, ravishing breeze tunnels through the street.
Finding our Brooklyn townhouse, we walk up the front stoop, unlock three doors with three different keys (the same entrance) then climb up an ancient narrow stairway to an ancient flat that was supposed to be 2 bedrooms but is actually a bedroom, a closet, and a sleeper sofa in the living room. It’s a cute, quirky, tiny place, with uneven floors, sagging roof, antique plumbing, and a hot plate that takes 30 minutes to heat up. My Zillow app estimates that it would rent out at $3000 a month. The guys go on a hunt for groceries and come back, having spent $40 and gotten a carton of eggs, turkey bacon, and a jug of milk. They’ve also found a ridiculously good taco stand and I steal the rest of James’s tacos. Pregnant wife privilege. 🙌🏻
After sleeping like the dead, James and I wake up and work our way into the City for a rehearsal. The area of Feinstein’s 54 Below is really cool, with old buildings, incredible coffee shops, and my former favorite: Le Pain Quotidien (my new favorite is named ‘Bibble and Sip’ and is really amazing…except I've heard of another place called the Blue Bottle which may replace it in my affections). I go to this French bakery with my journal and iPhone to wait till the guys are done rehearsing. I get a quinoa kale bowl and a yummy pastry (balance 🙏🏻) and some coffee and tea (more balance 💆🏻) and somehow find my bill to be $40.
This, plus the fact that every time we ride the subway it’s $5, and the money for groceries, tacos, and pizza yesterday, starts to weigh on my mind. I journal amidst the French commotion and try to make my drinks last, until James comes back and we go on an exploration of Greenwich Village. It is really cold, so we go into a coffee shop and get more coffee and an earl grey muffin. I do some math in my head and find that we’re probably averaging $100 a day in travel and food expenses.
I’m very thankful for my excessively arched pillowy tennis shoes by the end of the day. The show is that night, with great jazz music in an underground dive where I am the only pregnant lady around. And then we ride the subway back home in the dark.
Next day is Fun Day. No rehearsals, no gigs, just having fun in NYC!
So it’s 10am, we’ve had no coffee, and we must first go down a bunch of stairs and then go up a bunch of stairs to get to a train that never arrives. After 40 minutes of standing around, people start trying to find alternate routes. Except those trains never arrive either. So finally after going up and down a million flights of stairs to different trains, we go back to the original train just in time for it to actually come. But a call from James’s mom also tells us that there was a foiled terrorist attack in Times Square this morning. Is it all connected? We will never know.
So, arrived at 52nd street. Let’s have fun! Except that we’ve already spent most of our money. But it’s also James’s birthday. What to do? And it’s really cold and we’re tired of walking and taxis are not an option… so… we go to multiple coffee shops until we find one with a seat to stay in. Everywhere we go is full of people. ‘Eleanor Rigby’ runs in my head. All these people, all disconnected. And we never actually find a coffee shop we can sit down in. So we go to an ancient bookshop that has incredible relics from thousands of years ago and buy James a hardback Didache for $10 and have it wrapped as a ‘brown paper package tied up with string’. At this point we’ve walked so much that I’m about to die, hyperventilate, or throw up. So James chivalrously insists we get a taxi to 5th Avenue Barnes & Noble in a desperate attempt to find a place to sit down in heating.
Then I insist we have a nice birthday dinner, so we go to Carmine’s at 4pm since we skipped lunch and can’t afford supper and get the best lasagna and chocolate cake ever.
And so our time in NYC ends. The next day we make our way two hours via sidewalk, bus and subway to LaGuardia.
By the time we arrive in Nashville I am ready to cry over the amazing blessing of owning a car and whizzing down wide clean highways in heated padded chairs. Of seeing green grass and healthy trees. There is no loneliness and no cold. It's home.
It’s also Thanksgiving Day, and my extremely large family has an extremely large feast prepared. Except poor James has a stomach virus.
But hey, I’m eating for two! Except nobody tells you to do that anymore. 😭