I felt like David Tennant at the end of his run on Doctor Who, saying goodbye to everyone I’d ever met in my 32 years in New York.
32 years. 32 years in one place. Yowza. While it’s amazing that I’ve left, it’s equally amazing to think that someone with my wanderlusty soul stayed in any one place that long. Then again, New York is the kind of place that feels like several places even if it isn’t. Going from one borough to another can feel like traveling over oceans.
Yet, leave I did. Not before saying myriad goodbyes to all my wonderful friends and family. I can’t even begin to tell you how lucky I feel to have such quality people in my life; people I know will be there for me no matter what happens, and no matter where I happen to set up camp.
The Thursday before I left for L.A. I planned a karaoke outing so that I could participate in one of my favorite activities in NY for the last time (in a while), while also giving people a chance to come out and see me if they wanted. But not before stopping at one of my favorite places – and former haunt during my time at NYU – Panchito’s, home of great margaritas and the site of the Great Pink Bandits Caper. I went there to meet my friend Nancy, whom I was actually meeting in person for the first time that night, having talked to her for years online, since both of us wrote for Pink Raygun. We had dinner, got to know each other better, and I realized that it was a real shame that I hadn’t gotten together with her sooner! Very cool lady.
After dinner and drinks, she and I went to The Watering Hole to meet up with my other friends for karaoke. It was SUCH a good time.
First, I was surprised that certain people I wasn’t particularly expecting to show up showed up! Like my editor at Newsarama, Lucas, who kicked major karaoke ass; or Zack and his friend, Ryan, niether of whom I was expecting to see, but I’m thrilled as hell that they were there. And then, of course, there were some of my BFFS: Adam, Liz B., and Lindsay. They, along with Nancy and me, owned the bar that night. Adam decided to put in a slew of California-related songs for himself (California Dreaming, California Sun), and Liz sang me Under the Bridge, in celebration of my new home. Adam put in a surprise song for me, which turned out to be Leaving on a Jet Plane, and almost made me cry as I sang it. (However, that’s a great song for my voice!) Lindsay and Zach did an amazing duet of The Cranberries’ Dreams, and Lucas tore the house down with Mr. Big’s To Be With You. Then, Adam, Liz, and I schooled the bar in Russian history by singing Rasputin by Boney M, a song that greatly puzzled our karaoke hostess.
What made the evening totally special was the vibe in the bar. We really lucked out that night in that the crowd was amazing! Everyone was super chill, really nice, and there to have a good time. Even among those who had amazing voices (shout-out to Andy and Andy’s Dad), there was no pretention or showiness. Everyone was enthusiastic, supported each other, and cheered for everyone, whether someone could sing or not. Also, the talent at my table seemed to strike a chord with others in the bar, and Lucas and I were both asked to accompany others in their songs. It was an ideal karaoke evening. One that I was glad to share with some really good friends.
It’s a rare thing as a babysitter to care for a child who becomes more than just a babysitting charge, but your friend. For the past year, I’ve been lucky enough to be a caretaker to two really sweet, smart brothers, 7 year old Caleb, and 4 year old Toby. Caleb, whom I’d watch grow up a surprising amount in just a year, became a very special friend. We both love not only to tell stories, but to figure out how they work so that we can make them better. We’re both into stuff like comic books, Star Wars, and space, and while I introduced him to stuff like A Pup Named Scooby Doo and The Land Before Time, his love of animals was infectious, and he taught me something new every day.
We spent our last day together at the Prospect Park Zoo and on the carousel. Caleb didn’t seem to want to acknowledge the fact that I was leaving, though he knew I was, as did Toby. When we got home at the end of the day, his mom surprised me with a really sweet little party complete with brownies and ice cream, and cards that the boys made for me, complete with some really great pictures of them. As I was about to leave, their mom took pictures of me and each of the boys. Toby climbed all over me, and the picture that turned out kind of captured our whole relationship. As Caleb hugged me for a picture, I saw tears welling up in his eyes, and after the picture was taken, he quickly went back to his computer so that I wouldn’t see he was going to cry. It was all I could do not to cry myself! The boys and I will be Skyping, for sure. And if I ever do break into television, I can’t wait to become a showrunner if only so that I can give Caleb a job when he’s older. That kid’s got it.
AMITY BEFORE A HURRICANE
Hurricane Irene tried to ruin my Goodbye Weekend, but while she did force people to work a little harder to get to me, she certainly didn’t prevent them. I reserved a table at Amity Hall for some low-key drinks to give people (what I thought was) one last chance to see me. Again, I was stunned and touched by certain people’s appearances. Janna and Jill, the geek girls with the mostest, turned out despite the fact that one was coming all the way from NJ, and the other was getting ready to leave for Westchester to ride out the storm with her parents. Jill also had her boyfriend, Brad, in tow, and he’s a very cool dude. Priscilla, a fellow Whedonista, came out, and she’s going to be joining me in L.A. as of November, which pleases me no end! Adam and Liz came out again for a second evening in a row of goodbye partying, and we were joined by my BFF, Robin, and my friends Evan, Josh, Sam, and Kelly. There were drinks and much hurricane chatter, but most importantly, there was oodles of love. I adore these people. I adore all the people in my life. Again, I am so lucky.
So here I was on Saturday morning thinking that my goodbye parties were behind me, and that all I had to do before hunkering down for Hurricane Irene was go to a final meeting of the Studio Square Table, the semi-monthly writing workshop I do with Adam, Alex, and Jean. I’d read the excerpt of Adam’s story that we were going to be talking about, hauled my stuff from Fresh Meadows (where I’d been staying with Robin) to Astoria (where I’d be staying with Liz and Alex until I left), managed to get on the LAST SUBWAY RUNNING THAT DAY, and walked in the rain to where we were supposed to be meeting. Normally, we meet at Studio Square – hence the name of our writing group – but since it was closed, I was told that we were instead meeting at Five Napkin Burger just up the street. When I arrived, I looked in the windows to see where the writing group was, and instead saw a long table at which sat most of my very best friends!
I was absolutely floored. Apparently, Jean had come up with the idea for a surprise going-away party for me back in JUNE, and the gang had been working on making it happen ever since. Adam and Liz B were there for the THIRD consecutive day of goodbying, along with Robin, who was there for her second, and so many people that I thought I’d missed and wouldn’t have the chance to say goodbye to before leaving! Molly (along with her roomies, both writers who were really cool), Jean, Katie L, Jean, Katie B, Liz M, Liz B, Matt, Alex, and Brian were all there to see me off and wish me well.
And then, I cried. It didn’t hit me until I sat down at that table that I was actually, honestly-and-truly leaving. For months, I hadn’t really allowed myself to acknowledge that I was going to miss everyone, or rather, I was so busy making arrangements and getting things in order that I never gave myself time to acknowledge it. But I did that day, and I was a bawling mess for a hot second. But then there were amazing burgers, and even more amazing Irish Car Bomb cupcakes Robin made, and then I felt better.
What was extra, super-sweet was that the party wasn’t the only surprise. Everyone in attendance had written me a letter telling me how they felt about me and my leaving, and I was handed a stack of envelopes and instructed not to read them until I was on the plane to L.A. But that wasn’t all! After we ate, a bunch of us went back to Liz and Alex’s place, where I was presented with an awesome Snapfish album of pictures of me and all my NY friends, and a wonderful tribute DVD made by Matt, with an assist from Alex, that had me both laughing hysterically, and crying. It was just too much. I don’t know what I did to deserve such an amazing crop of friends, but I’m glad I did it!
What’s crazy is that you often don’t really know what you mean to people until some grand occasion prompts them to say how they feel about you. The Monday before I left, I had a last night at Uno’s with Joanna, one of my BFFs since I was 6. Uno’s has been the place that she and I always go to eat and to share. She’s one of those people that, no matter how long it’s been since we’ve talked last, it always feels as if no time has passed. Not only that, but she always seems to be going through the same emotional/spiritual changes I’m going through at the exact same time. It’s as if we’re psychically linked or something. The night before I left, I went to Citi Field for the first time with Robin, the biggest Mets fan I know, and saw a game. A perfect last night outing in NYC. That same night, Robin, Liz M, and Alex presented me with a Writer’s Survival Kit for L.A. that included two blank books, a bouquet of pens, and a brand new laptop they’d chipped in to get, and which I needed desperately. I’m writing this blog post on it now. On the day of my departure, I had breakfast with Adam, Liz, and Lindsay. It was hard saying goodbye to those three in particular, especially since we’d spent the better part of 7 years living together. I had lunch with Dayna, a friend I’ve had since college and my first roommate after I graduated from NYU. It was great to see her, and it’s crazy to see how far we’ve come in the 10 years since college. (TEN YEARS SINCE COLLEGE?!)
I did read those letters I received on the plane, reading three of them while the plane was on the ground, and the rest when it was up in the air. They all moved me and surprised me. Each of them talked about things that they appreciated about me that I didn’t even know I did! Qualities I didn’t even know I possessed until these people who know me better than anyone held a mirror up and showed me just how special I am. I was grateful. Just before my plane took off, I looked out the window, and there was a rainbow set against the NYC skyline. As tears sprung to my eyes, and the plane lifted off, I read Alex’s words:
Don’t piss on nobody on that plane.
I love my friends.
PART 2: Family.