New York, it’s been good.

As many words as I’ve written on this blog trying to express my joy in this city, I feel like it’s nowhere near enough. Because there’s so much I didn’t write about.

All the people who are so damn unafraid to be themselves.  

How can you not be happy looking at this

Getting on the train at Grand Central station, travelling for an hour through warm valleys with the sun glinting off the river, to hike to the top of a mountain near Cold Spring and Beacon; throwing off sweaty clothes at the bottom, to swim in the Hudson River. My friend and I watching in dismay from the water, our mouths opening in horrified slow motion, as a small dog – its owner chilling casually with a beer- cocks its leg and pees lavishly over my pile of clothes. Trying to wash my shirt out in the river with my friend dying with laughter at how much I was sulking. Cold beer in a pub garden by the train tracks, and icecream cones on the way home. Breakneck Ridge was the best workout; Bull Hill was the most beautiful and special.

One of the walks near Beacon and Cold Spring : Bull Hill, then the Northgate ruins in the forest

Nights of pulling five hours of solid dancing to heart-thudding techno; at dimly lit warehouse parties, or at two of the best nightclubs in New York, a few blocks from my house. (And the lovely people I met who danced with me as regularly as they could, thanks guys!).

The beautiful architecture. My heart belongs to the Chrysler building and to brownstone Brooklyn buildings equally. 

 Chysler Building 

My local deli, with the chatty staff who make me unbearably calorific breakfasts when I am hungover. 

The Frick Collection, I think you have won my heart as the most enjoyable gallery experience. (Beating MOMA for sure). With a special mention to the Earth Room for being exactly what it sounds like, and somehow still being astonishing.

My wonderful climbing group; this bunch of spectacularly special people, from all professions and sectors, smart and funny and warm; all with the same crazy understanding of what fun is made of. You see a big high thing, and you climb up it. You rip a hole in your hand, you cover it in tape and you climb up it again. A terrible hangover will feel better, if you climb up the big thing and rip a hole in your hand and then have a beer afterwards. Rock and Ice crew: I will miss you. Tear it up outdoors this summer, guys. (Come visit the UK; we have some decent climbing . It will rain, but trust me, wet clothes adds to the satisfaction of climbing the 5.10. Which you’ll have to call a 6b, just to warn you.)

  

The nights I’ve spent at my desk, eyes awake and mind burning only on adrenaline; writing a presentation or a statement I have to deliver in front of insanely important people. Then the next day having someone say to me “Thank you so much, that was really interesting.” I’ve overreached myself to an extraordinary degree this year; and it nearly broke me, but it didn’t in the end, so I guess somehow I win. 

All you crazy fuckers on the subway. 

The amazing women I have met; climbing chicks ( <3) and the inspirational and supportive bunch of women that is the Coterie. Thank you for your warmth and support and laughter through the tough stuff. I’ve realised as a result of knowing you all, how much more there is to learn – and how much further it is possible to reach.

Central Park in the snow. 

  

Stand-up comedy in Union Hall, Brooklyn; watching the Moth at Housing Works bookstore (real life stories, told to a live audience); the exhilarating immersive theatre ride that is Sleep No More; the strange experience that is watching the Book of Mormon when one works in the international development sector and finds it funny but also sorta not-funny. (In the end I decided it was too expensive to be funny.) 

I’m getting on a plane on the 20th, and I can’t quite believe it. 

Bristol, I’m ready to start seeing you…but, we’ll have to take it slow, I’m kind of getting over someone. 

From the top of the Rockefeller Centre at sunset

From a friend’s rooftop right before watching Fourth of July fireworks

  

   

The Cloisters Museum and Fort Tryon Park

Today I woke up with a terrible cold. After blundering around the sleep-funnel back and forth for a while, I decided that I couldn’t stand staying in bed when it was so sunny outside, even if I had to suffer for it later.

I’d been meaning to go to the Cloisters for a while- the part of the Met museum that’s way uptown and houses all the medieval artifacts and art- so in a haze of snuffles and anti-cold medicine, I made my way through the sunshine to Penn Station, and boarded the M4 bus uptown, as instructed by my guidebook.

The bus takes you along Madison Avenue, past a bunch of stores I will never shop in (Ralph Lauren, Cartier, ‘American Girl’ – dear lord, I wish I’d never found out about that one). At every stop, hundreds of elderly women, crinkly and powdered, got on, and hundreds got off. (The women got more crinkly and less powdered as we went uptown.)

The bus takes a good hour and a half to get to the Cloisters, but it’s worth it for the view of the city you get from the road. I thought about how for the entire year I’d lived here, I’d basically spent most of my time scurrying underground on the subway, like a hamster in a maze- it’s quicker, but much more boring. Now, watching the lurid shop frontages for 99 cent stores and the equally lurid frontages for designer boutiques, and the sweaty joggers and the gardeners and the screaming taxi drivers and the laughing couples in the sun from the bus window, I realised I’d been missing out on ‘being in New York’- the subway feels like a New York experience, but it’s really just another circle of hell, and I could happily do without it.

The M4 takes you all the way to the museum door, at the end of a cul-de-sac, high above the Hudson River in a pool of leafy quiet. Most people have got off by the time you get there; I was so quiet in the back of the bus all by myself that the bus driver stopped for a toilet break at the bottom of the park, thinking the bus was empty. He was just getting out of his seat when I emerged from the back of the bus, and he jumped a mile. “Damn girl! I didn’t know you was there…Mind if I go to the restroom?’

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Arizona, Arizona

I went on a road trip, from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, with a friend. We boarded the plane in New York, wearing thick down coats and gloves, and arrived to an airy, badly carpeted airport that looked like a 1990s  casino. As we stood, waiting for our bags, we shed layers and layers- the airconditioning was fighting with a sweaty, dog-like warmth.

We drove through the back streets of industrial Phoenix to pick up some camping gear. On the way, my friend became excited upon seeing the sign for a ‘Jack in the Box’ restaurant. This is a fast food chain you don’t apparently get on the East Coast, and she had heard magical tales of the food they served, which proved to be all true. They served something called a ‘Buttery Jack.’ It is a burger, literally dripping in herbed butter. She ate one and gave a positive verdict. I ordered an Oreo shake. It was so thick that sucking on the straw felt like some sort of tantric sex exercise; I could feel my pelvic floor muscles contracting, and yet the level in the cup never seemed to go down. In the end, I gave up and let it melt into a solid pile of white goo, but it didn’t increase in liquidity- it just seemed to get grubbier and sadder the more it came into contact with the air. I enjoyed it very much, but I didn’t eat again for hours, like a snake full of carrion. (I would happily return and buy another one, to be clear).

Jack in the Box pictures

Jack is watching.

The Jack in the Box advertising mascot- their answer to Ronald- is a nightmarish hulk of a man with a white mask on, who stares down from photographs on the walls with a rictus grin on his plastic face. In the picture directly above our table, he stood silently at the end of a forest path, trying to remember where he had hidden the quicklime for dissolving his latest murder victims’ remains. It was unsettling, especially because it took us nearly twenty minutes to notice the pictures; he’d been stalking us, biding his time.

We listened to twanging country music all the way to Sedona. Sedona is a sprawling modern town amidst extraordinary red rocks that look like they were left as road markers by aliens from space, the same guys who left us with Uluru. There are a lot of swanky, concrete hotels with outdoor heated jacuzzis and ice machines, and chunky, shuffling tourists looking to get their vortexes sharpened or their chakras polished or whatever it is you do with those parts of yourself. While waiting to check into our hotel, we searched online for an ‘aura photo’ to see what they looked like. It looked pretty damn muddy. I could see why the guy needed his cleansed. Unfortunately, we hadn’t made an appointment, so instead we went up to a popular overlook to watch the sunset, along with every other person in the state who knows how to use Google.

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