Get the Roof Out
When the girls were little and someone was fussing or just funky and we were all starting to go around the house in circles, feeling a kind of inertia encroach on everyone, sometimes we’d do what my sister always called “getting the roof out.” Getting the roof out from over them usually worked wonders–whether it meant the backyard or a walk or a drive, a playground or an ice-cream or a hike or some other destination. Where we went and what we did when we got there wasn’t really the point.
I’m thinking about this today not from a parenting perspective, though, but from a grown-up one. This past weekend, Mani and I got the roof out for the first time in months. Boston is less than two hours from Amherst, but we had not made the trip once since she moved East nearly seven months ago. We were both itching for city life, and five hours of eating our way through the Back Bay delivered, reawakening in both of us inspiration and excitement and connectedness to doing awesome things and living a big life.
Wander Around, Eat Cupcakes & Spend Imaginary Money
We drove around for maybe 10 minutes, foregoing the $38 parking garage for a spot that opened up right on the corner of Boylston and Clarendon. Vera Wang was open for another thirty minutes, and although you need an appointment to try them on, we couldn’t resist going in to look at the $5,000 wedding gowns.
From there, it was Georgetown Cupcake, where just waiting in line and debating what kinds to try made our mouths water. We considered getting a half dozen and calling it dinner, but settled instead for two to share–lavender with earl grey frosting, and double chocolate. We sat on a bench surrounded by giant red tulips and declared the existence of God based on the divine experience of every single bite, sipping the kind of latte that tasted like Europe in a cup, people-watching and baby-oohing.
Cupcakes devoured and the baby lovers that we are, we bee-lined for a baby boutique to oooooh and aaaawwww some more over the freakin’ cutest little terry cloth onesies and cashmere sweaters ever, outfitting our fictional baby and hoping our ovaries wouldn’t explode right there in the store. Then we wandered a few more blocks to rag & bone, where we spent thousands more imaginary dollars on dream outfits for ourselves.
Make Old Friends Fast
Our next stop was Lush. Glittery body powder and gorgeous bath bombs, little gifties for my girls for making me a mama–and quite possibly the most fun customer experience we have ever experienced.
Seth, a salesperson, flung himself at us exuberantly and irresistibly, asking “How come I haven’t met you guys before?!” Before we knew it, the three of us were talking a blue streak about his a capella drag quartet and his barbershop quarter’s upcoming regionals comp, why he moved from Dallas to Boston (seasons, public transportation, and the freedom to hold his boyfriend’s hand on the street), and the Mormon Church. When I announced the obvious need for a group selfie, Seth was more than happy to oblige.
We stepped back out onto Newbury Street, smelling all good from all the Lush samples, and still smiling. It had started pouring, so we huddled there for a bit and waited for the rain to subside before walking back to the car to feed the meter.
Order Something You Think You Don’t Like
“Are you getting hungry?” Mani asked me. I was, and we decided to try Snappy Sushi, which had caught our eye earlier. We were seated by the window and shared a yuzu berry cocktail while we waited for our food. If I’m a sushi amateur, Mani’s a champion, and I decided it was time to finally get on with life–which meant forgetting that I don’t like raw fish and instead eating tuna, salmon, eel, and roe, and loving every bite. (At this point, our phone batteries had died, so no more pictures, which was nice in a whole different way).
Was our evening over? Not even close. I had been determined to go to J.P. Licks, a throwback from my grad school days at Emerson. I remembered it being on the top block of Newbury Street, right before the T station. But it wasn’t there! So we went to Trident Booksellers & Cafe and giddily browsed the cards and books and knick-knacks, fantasizing about bringing our laptops and working at the coffee bar all day.
Know Your Limits
After a scoop each of ice cream (J.P. Licks had indeed moved, but not far), we figured it was probably at least 10:00pm. And while I desperately wanted to sweep Mani up and get a room at the Copley Plaza for the night, I thought of our bank account, resisted the urge, and declared myself fit to drive back to Amherst. So we returned to the car, charged up my phone, returned a missed call from Aviva to say goodnight, and drove through my old Cambridge and Somerville stomping grounds in the direction of home.
It was a great afternoon, one that left us both feeling those Life is Happening and Life is Possible and Life is Awesome feelings.
During our drive into “town,” Mani read me a couple of e-books by Johnny B. Truant. I thought about how simple he made it sound, because it actually is simple: “If you want to be awesome in this life, do awesome things.”
Trust Your Gut
We were tired in a satiated way as we headed back towards Western Mass late Saturday night. I looked at the gas gauge and realized we’d need to stop. “There’s a Mobil station right on Route 2 in Concord,” I said out loud, just as the car swerved inexplicably, followed by the unmistakable thump-thump of a flat. We made it slowly to the gas station and assessed situation: One flat tire, one spare tire, and no jack.
The first guy to approach us was creepy; he offered us a ride in his “company car,” which looked like a regular car to us, to the nearby Best Western. (We declined.) Eventually, I called AAA and was able to renew my expired membership over the phone, but they sent the service guy to Lee, New Hampshire instead of Concord, Mass. Just as I was about to end the call, a man drove up and got out of his car. He asked if we needed help, and before we had finished asking if he had a jack, he was already going back to his car to get one.
When he came back a second later, he told us he had been thirsty and decided to stop for a bottle of water, “but clearly it wasn’t the water.” Then he introduced himself as DJ Fadayz, handed us his business card, and began telling us about his work as a DJ and dance teacher who had traveled as far as China for dance battles. The tall guy in the white tank-top with the warm eyes and great smile? The real deal.
We wound up telling him we’re engaged. “Need a DJ?” he asked. “Well, as a matter of fact, we might…”
It was one of those encounters that made the whole crazy tire fiasco seem meant-to-be. And the perfect cap to our day.
Participation: The Only Prerequisite
We spent the night at a nearby hotel, though not the one the creepy dude had suggested, and drove home very, very slowly Sunday morning. We stopped at Starbucks in Leominster, home of Johnny Appleseed, and started plotting out future road trips. If we’d had such fun and met such great people in less than 24 hours, imagine what would happen if we got the roof out for further and longer.
And here’s the thing: Awesome experiences don’t come knocking on your door. They don’t happen when every day resembles the last, or when you’re stressing about work and money. They don’t send a hand-written invitation or get pissed off or give up on you if you don’t show up. There is no jury, no score card, and no umpire in the sky. Awesome and Epic simply do not exist without your participation. Nor do they tend to show up all that much when you rarely take any risks or try anything new.
No, doing Awesome Things has exactly one prerequisite: Getting the Roof Out.
How About You?
Our unexpected overnight was such a good reminder, that even a short getaway can be the perfect reset, requiring little other than a set of wheels and an appetite in every sense of the word.
As Johnny B. Truant might say: How do you make friends everywhere you go? Go places, meet people, and make friends with them.How do you like to get the roof out? What are you up to that’s awesome? When’s the last time you made fast friends with a total stranger or had a chance encounter that turned out to be anything but coincidental? Sharing stories like these is the other half of the fun.