I was tempting fate when I signed myself and a friend up with Airbnb to stay at a “luxury chic loft in the West Village”on a recent trip to New York for Canadian Thanksgiving.
I was aiming for “excess, extravagance, magnificence,” but got, etymologically speaking, the true origin of the word luxury –“dislocated,” “wrestle,” and “strain”. The root the word “reluctance” comes from.
1. Two days before leaving, I get an email from the Airbnb host saying our apartment was cancelled. Me: “??!??” Him: “No, we *tried* to cancel but Airbnb wouldn’t let us. I just wanted you to know.” (I repeat, ?!!?!)
2. The next day he says he’s moved us to a different apartment and we’ll have to move again for the last night. Sigh.
3. On the day of departure, my flight from Toronto to NY is cancelled. Long line but rebooked. The flight is then late.
4. I get pulled aside to a back room when going through Nexus in Toronto. They yell at me for using my phone while I’m waiting (to text the Airbnb host that I’m going to be late). I hastily put it away and apologize. (Signs everywhere not to use phones that I would have seen had I not been using my phone.)
5. I pull out my doughnut to feel better. They yell at me again. I look up with maple dip crumbs on my chin. “This is your second warning! No cell phones! NO EATING! THIS. IS. NOT. A. RESTAURANT!!” (No signs this time.) I swallow both the bite of doughnut and the hot defensive words bubbling up on my lips.
6. I get called to an inquisition desk halfway down the long room. Another guy yells at me for answering 3 times that I haven’t checked bags.. even though I answered correctly all 3 times that I haven’t, in fact, checked any bags.
7. The no-food-no-phone guy comes to the back specifically to yell at me for not declaring my doughnut. The did-you-check-bags-or-not guy berates me at the same time for not having done my fingerprints correctly even though the system OK’d them.
8. I finally slink out, subdued, only to find a dead end when trying to get to my gate, F38.
9. Frustrated, I walk all the way back along the extra-long corridor and finally tackle an airport woman. Her: “Uh, your gate is F83 not F38”.
10. I sit at my gate defiantly eating the rest of my doughnut while typing on my phone!
But then I get to NY and I’ve got a fresh start. I ignore the fact that the second bed in the apartment is an air mattress, and instead luxuriate in the fact that it nests around me like a hammock as it slowly loses air over the weekend. If I lean too much to the right it tips me onto the floor. All that much easier to get up.
NY activities are plentiful and beautifully varied:
— a walk along Highline Park to Chelsea Market
— a stroll past the trendy restaurants, cafés and bakeries in Williamsburg to the Mast Brothers Chocolate Factory
— reading and people-watching in Central Park
— a successful shopping spree at the Woodbury Commons outlets, and
— “Buyer and Cellar”, a laugh-out-loud one-man play off-off-Broadway about Barbra Streisand shopping at a Caesar’s Palace-style boutique mall she has established in her own basement to display her Capitalism-run-amuk belongings. Both hilarious and a surprisingly poignant story about loneliness and connection
But when it comes right down to it, there is no luxury like walking out the door and sampling (uh, gorging on) the weight-increasing food of New York:
— oysters and scallops at Clarkson’s just off Houston
— a feast of frog legs, lobster and duck three ways at David Burke’s Townhouse on the Upper East Side
— brunch at Grey Dog in the Village, a Benny’s Bagels-type atmosphere, with a huge menu
— chicken lollipops and afternoon tea in the 34th floor lounge at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel
— true NY-style thin crust pepperoni and cheese pizza at Joe’s in the Village
— a medium rare cheeseburger and chocolate shake at the Shake Shack just past the Port Authority
— and to crown it off, the sumptuous upscale Mediterranean Ilili in Chelsea. Warm eggplant, thinly sliced cross-wise, roasted in a tamarind glaze to start; fluke carpaccio with thin red jalapeños to follow; and lobster hummus, perfectly poached lobster claws on a bed of oyster mushrooms with the smoothest, although slightly bland, hummus and mini puffed up pita balloons. Ilili is known for its Brussels sprout side dish which based on the reaction of the couple beside me was disturbingly orgasmic. More so as it became clear the couple was actually a youngish (ie my age) father and his 20-year old daughter who said “I’m so happy I’m sharing this experience with you” to each other throughout the meal.
Ultimately I do realize that simply the fact that I can fly to New York for the weekend is luxury in itself. And I appreciate that no matter what happens while you travel, if you follow the advice on the luxury chic West Village apartment’s shower curtain — Keep Calm and Carry On — you’ll thrive. Even when your return flight is cancelled by mistake and you end up sitting in the back of the plane with a broken TV.