How do you replenish, renew, recharge your batteries?  A nap? A night out? Binge reading?  Watching eight seasons of your favorites guilty pleasure TV show?

I do all of those things when the time seems right, some more than others (binge reading and comfort TV are higher on the list than I really should feel comfortable admitting).  And there are other things that are more specific to me: I like to walk, but specifically I like to walk in cities.  I have friends who crave hiking or trips to the beach where they can commune with the works of Mother Nature. Me, I want to commune with architecture and the eccentric works of man.  I love watching my fellow citizens when they’re not watching me.  The bigger the city, the more complex it is, the more beauty and comedy and tragedy lurks just beneath the surface, waiting for an observer to mark it.

This past weekend I had an opportunity to go back to my home town, New York City, for a little less than 48 hours.  (Long story.  Abridged version: it’s college tours season.) When our original plan for a trip east felt apart, I decided to use the ticket and go back home for the weekend on my own.  I hadn’t been in several years.

I’m always a little afraid that I’ll go back to New York and find myself overwhelmed or intimidated.  I am pleased to report that that hasn’t happened yet: I got out of the subway and was simply home. And what did I do with this stolen 48 hours?  In fact. not much.  Talked until way too late with the dear friend who put me up.  Got acquainted with Sophie, her hamster (a truly sociable and charming little animal).  Went out the next morning, venturing from Brooklyn to Manhattan; met friends in a neighborhood I don’t know very well (always fascinating), and had a splendid lunch.  Walked through Central Park, then went downtown and had tea and pastries with more friends (including Laura Anne Gilman).  Walked around some more, as the day got colder and darker.  Eventually, sometime after nightfall, I went back to my friend’s in Brooklyn and we hung out and gabbed more.

When I left the next afternoon the sun was shining in one of those perfect cold autumn days with sky an intense robins’ egg blue.  I cannot begin to say how much I miss autumn; here in the Bay Area there are small pockets of Fall, but you have to seek them out.  Back on the subway, then onto the train to the airport, then off in a big tin can with wings, and home again.

For the paucity of razzle dazzle I crammed in to the trip, perhaps spending nearly 12 hours round trip on a plane may seem like a waste.  And I certainly got home a little time-lagged and very tired.  But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t refreshed. For me, sometimes the greatest refreshment comes, not from having big adventures, but from having a whole bunch of small ones.

So what’s a big refreshment for you?


About Madeleine E. Robins

Madeleine Robins is the author of The Stone War, Point of Honour, Petty Treason, and The Sleeping Partner (the third Sarah Tolerance mystery, available from Plus One Press). Her Regency romances, Althea, My Dear Jenny, The Heiress Companion, Lady John, and The Spanish Marriage are now available from Book View Café. Sold for Endless Rue , an historical novel set in medieval Italy, was published in May 2013 by Forge Books


Refreshment — 8 Comments

    • When I had foot surgery a few years ago I finally saw Battlestar Galactica (all in one fell swoop), rewatched the entire of The X-Files, and…I forget what else. I was off my feet for about four weeks all told; you can watch a lot of TV in that amount of time (particularly if the meds you’re on make you unsuited for doing any real work).

  1. I love New York, too. When I lived in DC, I used to take Amtrak up to visit my sister in Manhattan and I never lost the thrill of hearing the conductor say “Penn Station New York City.” Good cities energize me, as long as I don’t have to sit in traffic and have time to just wander around interesting neighborhoods.

    I despise Las Vegas, though. I was complaining about it one time and someone said it had all this energy. And I said it was fake energy. You want energy, you go to NYC. (I think of the two together because I stayed in the New York, New York, hotel in Las Vegas and it was a poor substitute for the real thing.)

  2. I find NYC a bit overwhelming–a friend claims its energy and mine do not mesh–but I love San Francisco and would go at every opportunity. Las Vegas is yuck–I would never return except I would love to see “O,” the permanent Cirque Du Soleil water show. Can I slip into town and then out again?

    Clearly I need a native guide to NYC. And time and money to return to San Francisco.

    • I live in San Francisco, and I like it, but its energy level and mine, as you say, do not mesh. (I also find SF to be full of people who work on a level of entitlement–about walking, driving, and bicycling) that drives me utterly nuts. Las Vegas is like Disneyland for a certain kind of adult (not the kind I am). I find everything about the tourist-areas fake, include “a” and “the” (to borrow from Mary McCarthy; it’s fascinating in a reptilian way, but totally not my place.

      Any time we’re both in NYC, Cat, I’d be happy to walk you around. The trick is to look forward, rather than up.

  3. I should also say that I’m one of those people who “loves NYC, but doesn’t want to live there.” Everything that’s hard about Big City life is magnified in NYC.