I’ve tried getting into Julie’s head to see if I can figure out why she chose this topic but I keep coming up empty. Not that she’s empty headed, not by a long shot. She has so much stuff percolating around in her brain, so many connections between this thing and that thing, that when I’m with her I can barely keep up. Take our recent road trip …
I love road trips. I think about taking one just about every time I fill up my car with gas. There is just something about taking off and leaving town that is … oh, all I can think of are ordinary words like “exciting” or “interesting”. One thing about Julie is that she can come up with the perfect word in conversation. I can do it, most of the time, when I am writing and I have time to contemplate the word, mull over options and choose the best one. But when I am in a conversation often times I struggle to find the word that conveys exactly what I am thinking. Julie doesn’t seem to have that problem.
When we were planning this road trip I was nervous, for just that very reason. I noticed during our last two visits that I have a difficult time explaining myself when I am with Julie. Maybe that’s the problem right there. Maybe I feel the need to explain more than the need to just converse. And the more I’ve learned about Julie through this project the more mundane and shallow my life seems to be in comparison, which makes it difficult to feel like I have anything of value to add to the conversation in the first place. You see my dilemma here. Long car trip with very little by way of conversational supplies.
As an aside, I did the same thing with a new friend (Hi Connie!) last year. We took a seven hour road trip to visit mutual friends and I was worried about not having enough to talk about. Uncomfortable silence when you can’t keep a conversation going can be a really painful thing, and I had not spent enough time with Connie to know what to expect. I had no idea what we were going to talk about for the seven hours there, much less the seven hours back home two days later. Fortunately for me, Connie is a talker, and an entertaining one at that. Not only did she keep the conversation going for those fourteen hours, but I am pretty sure she kept up most of the conversation while we were visiting. That trip was fun and comfortable and all of the best things about a road trip, up to and including a great visit with a lot of laughter in the middle of all of that driving.
I’m pretty sure I spent most of the drive to and from NYC being stunned by Julie’s family history. The things that she takes for granted, that were just the way things worked in her family, are so outside anything that I have experienced that, once again, all I could do is marvel that we are friends. I don’t believe that you have to be exactly alike to be friends, but our backgrounds are so radically different that it makes our friendship remarkable. And part of that for me now is wondering what I contribute to the relationship. I think I know myself pretty well, and I know what I bring to the party, so to speak, when I am friends with someone. But with Julie I am uncertain. Oh sure, every once in awhile I can cut through her meanderings and bring her back to the point that she is trying to avoid with a pointed question or observation. I get that I do that for her, but not nearly as often as she cuts through my bullshit.
Those of you who know Julie personally know what I mean. I can see it coming a mile away. I’ll be talking and she’ll get that “uh-huh” look on her face, and I’ll know that she is about to call me out. My heartbeat slows down and my whole body goes still as I wait for the “You know, Gin …” that begins a revelation of something I am being completely blind to. During the road trip I didn’t even have to see the look on her face, I swear the air in the car changed when I approached a subject that I knew was dangerous territory. And I mean dangerous in that she makes me look at things from a different angle, she draws parallels and make connections between long ago things and today. I like to think of myself as a fairly, and possibly to a fault, introspective person but when Julie brings something to my attention it’s like I haven’t spent a moment thinking about what something that I’ve done or that I accept says about me.
That was the car part of our road trip to NYC.
Sharing a hotel room with someone can be a little difficult too, or at least cause for negotiating or compromising. On other road trips with a friend (Hi Briget!) I’ve been accused, and rightfully so, of being the party pooper. Once I am tired and ready to go to sleep, that is what I want to do. You can do what you want, but I am turning out my light and going to sleep. Fortunately Briget and I have shared enough hotel rooms that we each know the other’s habits pretty well by now – one of us snores (:::cough cough her cough cough:::) – and one of us doesn’t get the concept of partying all night long. That would be party pooper me.
But that first time you’re sharing a room with someone it can be dicey. Turns out, it wasn’t for Julie and me. We disagreed in the beginning about what we wanted in a hotel room. As we searched the internet I turned to my buddy Trip Advisor and nixed a couple of her very economical choices based on their reviews. Sorry, but mold and stinky carpets aren’t my idea of a good time. Fortunately she agreed. We ended up at a very nice place in Newark near the airport. It was a great location because we could take the hotel shuttle to the airport and from there catch a train into the city. Julie did all of the work figuring out our transportation once we got there. And I let her. I know that sounds kinda weird, but I am someone who has just a wee bit of trouble letting other people make plans for me. I didn’t double check the shuttle times or the train number we needed to be on. I had no idea what bus we needed to take once we got to the city or where we needed to wait for it. Julie had it covered.
I did add in one quick stop to see Mood, the fabric store that is featured in the tv show Project Runway. It was fun, for me, to wander around the aisles a little bit and I picked out something for my daughter to use in her sewing. It was great because I got to haggle over the price. Stupid stuff. Anyway, we ended up not quite where Julie thought we were going to be to catch the bus, so we had to walk around for a little while to figure out where to we needed to be. Julie left me in her dust. I had completely forgotten how to walk on a city street and I couldn’t keep up with her. That was embarrassing.
So we took the bus to, um, someplace, and met up with her friend Cathy. We changed our minds about where to eat lunch, and ended up at a nice little cafe in a church. We sat outside drinking coffee and talking. Let me add in here that another thing about me and road trips and other people is that I have found that I eat much more frequently than the rest of the world. During that trip with Connie to see friends I was always the one to say “It’s time to eat”. Our hostess (Hi Laura!) had set out snacks in the late afternoon which we munched on while we talked. Around 6:00 she said “oh we’ve been eating all day, do we still want to go out to dinner?” What? We had eaten a late breakfast and had an ice cream cone in addition to these snacks … and that was it! I said that I totally wanted to have dinner and, fortunately, they all agreed. Whew! My motto is “eat often and eat well.” Anyway, that morning with Julie I had taken a banana from the hotel breakfast area … and that was it! It was lunchtime and Julie and Cathy weren’t hungry yet. What is it with you people? So while they had coffee, and later on split some sort of pastry, I had a panini and it was yummy.
After that we wandered around MOMA for a little while before Cathy had to leave for another appointment. It was really fun meeting her and listening to them talk about childhood stuff. I’m usually uncomfortable meeting new people, but she was easy to be around and by the time she left I thought we could be friends. Too bad she lives in Paris.
Then it was time to meet up with Julie’s cousin, whose name, I am embarrassed to admit, has completely slipped my mind. No offense intended. We met him in Central Park, where we sat for hours while they talked. It was a beautiful day and, once again, I learned a lot about Julie’s family, more of the extended family this time. Afterwards we met up with his wife and two sons and we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. Julie and her cousin sat at one end of the table and talked. And talked. And talked. His wife and I carried on a conversation for awhile, and she was a very nice woman, but after awhile it was truly time to go. And still they talked. Julie and her cousin talked on, neither of them throwing so much as a glance down towards our end of the the table. At long last the oldest son picked up his backpack from under the table and put it on. Finally, finally, they took the hint and asked for the check. Obviously they need a lot longer to catch up!
It was an uneventful ride back to the airport and then to the hotel. I did, however, once again not double check the subway train that her cousin told us to catch. I just went down the stairs, bought a ticket, and got on the train he said would take us to where we wanted to go. Odd to some that this is a proud moment for me, but letting go of control is hard.
I did indeed leave Julie at my house the following night so that I could go to a concert with my husband. I had told her before we started the road trip that I already had the tickets, and VIP meet-n-greet ones at that, so I only felt a little weird about it. It gave her the opportunity to hang out with my daughter for the first time, so there was a definite upside to it. I must say it was not as odd as I thought it was going to be to have Julie in my house. A juxtaposition of two of my worlds so to speak. She is such a symbol of my “old life” and Chicago that I thought it would be strange to have her here, but it wasn’t. I liked showing her where I work and visually giving her a glimpse of how things turned out for me. She was there at a crucial point in my life and she helped me make decisions that led to where I am today.
So that was our road trip. After all of the hours listening to her in the car I still have no clue why she picked blue jeans as a topic. Even after 27 years of friendship I am still not sure what goes on in that head of hers. And that makes for an interesting friendship indeed.
Blue jeans. I like to wear them.