My New York trip started out with a bit of a hiccup. On Monday before we left (we were to arrive on Friday), I went to double check on information for our Airbnb. We had booked the perfect place – in Brooklyn but not too far of a ride to the Javitt’s Center, where we were going to BookCon. It was bright and clean, with enough room for four people to sleep and access to the rooftop with a distant view of Manhattan. We booked it in – I believe – early April. We got a great deal. It was exactly the place I wanted to stay in.
And then, as I discovered upon opening up my e-mail, it was cancelled. There was some kind of mishap with my credit card, and the second payment I had set up didn’t go through. After many panicked calls to Airbnb, a very nice customer service representative who apologized profusely and gave me a nice coupon, and a lot of frantic searching on my phone, I booked a new place in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Not as nice, further away from Manhattan, but somewhere to sleep.
I breathed in and out and I told myself, this is just a minor setback. By Friday – I had decided: my intention for this trip is to just accept things as they are. To go with the flow. To work on not experiencing disappointment in my trip by dropping all of my expectations. To just enjoy what happens and accept things as they come.
I think that perhaps, the universe heard me and decided to test my commitment to this.
We arrived to New York early Friday morning, straight off an overnight bus ride from Pittsburgh. I was sore, drowsy, and really determined to have a good day anyway. One block away from the bus stop, I caught my toe on the curb and fell on my face. So it goes, I thought. It was funny. No big deal.
We wanted to go to a local bagel place to have a good “New York” breakfast, but when Kammi and I walked up to the counter, we could not figure out how to order. Kammi asked for a plain bagel with cream cheese and the woman said something about the bagels being in the oven and turned around to walk away. We did not end up ordering food at this restaurant because we could not figure out how.
Instead, we ended up at Pret a Manger, and killed an hour or two of time while we ate breakfast and changed out of our bus clothes. By the time we made it to our Airbnb, we were pretty exhausted. But we couldn’t check in for another two hours, so we dropped our bags off and went to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Everything was beautiful, but we were hot and tired, and by the time we got to the other side we didn’t have the energy to find a good place to eat. And right in front of us was a Wendy’s.
Yes, folks, my first real meal on my first trip to New York City was Wendy’s. I know, I know. I’m terrible.
After heading back to our Airbnb, we crashed for a few hours and then met our friend Krissy at The Strand in Manhattan. We browsed the stacks for awhile and I bought myself a Hemingway (it was one I didn’t have and it was $9!) By the time we left, it was around 8PM and we were charged with finding something to do for dinner. We found a place a few blocks away and put in our name. Thirty minute wait, they said. Sure, that didn’t sound too bad.
And then, due to a variety of reasons, we sat down for dinner at 9:30. At which point, I was so tired that I could not even keep my eyes open and barely even wanted to eat dinner anymore. But I did, and it was delicious, and my friends are wonderful and I love spending time with them, and shortly thereafter we went back to the AirBnb and fell asleep.
And we woke up Saturday and it was day one of Bookcon.
My friend Cassie and I did not arrive early as our other friends did, so we did not wait in the lines that lead into the show floor. That’s right, around 8AM, you can start lining up to be the first people into the show floor at BookCon. I was very confused about what these lines were for until I got there and felt no need to get into them. Instead, we waited until the doors opened at 10AM and walked straight through the gates and into the madness. I went to AWP, a writer’s conference, in 2016, and so I thought I had an idea of what to expect. I wildly misjudged the situation. People were waiting in lines snaked back and forth along the aisles and I had to break through line after line to get from one place to the next. Everyone seemed hopped up on something that I did not have access to. And also, they seemed to know a lot of things that I did not.
Cassie and I left the show floor pretty quickly, not exactly sure how to do what everyone else was doing. We got into line to meet Mari Andrew, who just came out with a really wonderful new book. She signed my book and was in general a lovely person. She thought my name was Macy due to some bad handwriting on a sticky note and was so nice about figuring out how to change it to Mary. I was thankful because I never know what to say at signings and the misspelling of my name gave me something for us both to laugh about.
From there, I basically decided to wander the show floor, which was just as overwhelming as the first time. I don’t know why, but I did NOT expect so many lines. I figured out eventually that people were waiting in line either for free books from publishers or to spin prize wheels and get free stuff. So I decided, I’ll just join the crowd. I started to get into random lines, with no idea what I was waiting for.
So I spun a few wheels and got a few novelty gifts. No free books.
Later, I met up with my friend Melissa and we accidentally played Friends trivia, which was nice. There is a book coming out called I’ll Be There for You all about Friends and so the author was hosting a Friends trivia game. We did not win, or even come close to winning, but we did get the first two chapters of the upcoming book.
After BookCon, Melissa and I headed back to the Airbnb = while we waited for Kammi and Cassie to get back from a signing. We meant to go out that night but for a variety of reasons ended up staying in. And I was disappointed, but only from a sense of obligation to do exciting things and never sleep while in New York City. The state of exhaustion I felt at the time probably meant I would not have survived being at a bar anyway.
Day two of Bookcon arrived and I was more prepared. Go wait in the lines to get into the conference center first. Get into the OwlCrate line so you don’t have to wait for five hours to get awesome free shit. Get in line for a free book next. Have friends that obsessively check publishers’ Twitter accounts so that you know exactly when to go to which booth to get a free book.
The next day I was much more prepared for the madness that is BookCon and I received multiple free books. Win.
I also went to a signing with Tomi Adeyemi and another with Becky Albertalli, and both authors were wonderful. I always feel so uncomfortable talking to authors during signings. For some reason can’t bring myself to say “I loved your book so much!” But both authors were so sweet and understanding of my social awkwardness.
At the end of the day, while we were all standing around trying to figure out what to do next, someone came up and told us to go to the main stage for the panel that was happening about the book and the movie The Hate U Give. We got to see the trailer for the movie which was so raw and so heartbreaking that I could not stop myself from crying. Minutes later, they asked Angie Thomas (the author) what it was like to see that for the first time and I can’t even begin to quote her response but I can tell you that I cried even more.
The actress that plays the main character Starr, Amandla Stenberg, was there and spoke more eloquently and intelligently than any nineteen year old I’ve ever met. (For the record, Sabrina Carpenter was also there and she was pretty eloquent as well). It’s been too long since I was there for me to sum up the panel in words more complicated than this: it reminded me that books matter so, so much. And Angie Thomas is my new hero and I am ashamed that I have not read this book yet. But I promise I’ll be picking it up so, so soon. And when that trailer comes out, you should most definitely watch it as soon as you can.
And thusly, BookCon ended. We looked for a restaurant closeby to eat before my friend Melissa boarded her bus back to Philadelphia nearby. It’s so nice, always, to spend time with my writerly, book loving friends. I wish I could take a trip like this with them every single weekend because it makes me so happy to laugh and listen to Kammi and Krissy nerd out over all the upcoming book releases that they are impressively knowledgeable about. It makes me so happy to talk about writing processes and the creative life over burgers. These are some of my favorite people in the world and I’m so lucky to get to spend time with them.
That night, after dropping our books off at the Airbnb, I wanted to do something New York. We didn’t have time for much, so I said, let’s go to Times Square. And we did. It started raining while we were on the train and by the time we got there it was coming down pretty hard. But there is one significant benefit to walking around Times Square in the rain: there was room to move. Since I’ve never been, I didn’t realize how crowded it normally is. But on a rainy Sunday night, there was plenty of room for pictures, plenty of room to be completely mesmerized and dumbfounded by the insanity of all those lit up billboards.
I always find that it’s the most surreal feeling to go to someplace you’ve seen in movies and TV all the time. Like – we’re so conditioned to believe that movies and TV aren’t real that it’s almost jarring to walk right up to an image of something you’ve seen over and over again. This is how I felt about New York. This is how I felt about Times Square, and about the Brooklyn bridge. It is the most lovely, bizarre feeling and I want to keep on having it again and again.
And then, at 2:00 or so, we boarded our Megabus home and we started back to Pittsburgh. And I edited my book and looked out at the beautiful scenery and felt very satisfied and calm.
My travel advice based on this trip is threefold: one, you never know what’s going to happen while travelling, and you should prepare to be surprised. You should prepare for it to be nothing you expected. And then, maybe, you’ll be ready. Two, declare to the universe that you want to learn how to go with the flow and you’ll probably get tested. Ask and you shall receive. And three, if you’re going to Bookcon next year and you want to get a lot of books, make sure you’re ready to stand in line, and make sure you use your Twitter account.
Overall, New York was great and Bookcon was great and I was tired for a week afterwards. I’m coming back for both, and next time I’ll be ready for them.
Thanks for stopping by.