Getting Tattooed with Food Poisoning and Other Tales from Austin

Greetings from my home sweet home here in New York City, after a week that can only be described as “eventful.” I’m referring to my grand Austin adventure, originally planned as a way to start sowing seeds for a new life and instead becoming a grand ol’ vacation in Texas with my lovely G; and I’m referring to what it’s like to say goodbye to people that irrevocably changed your life just by being in it. I talk a lot about how crazy it is to realize how things change over the course of a year, or two years, or five, but this week I learned it’s crazy how things can change in just an hour – or five. But in the spirit of keeping this under 12 pages, let’s start with Austin Adventures:

We start our weekend last Friday at 4am, as I leave A’s place for a 5:45 flight from LaGuardia, stopping in Houston to switch planes before ATX, baby. The plan was to take the earliest flight out so I’d have the whole afternoon to bask in the Texas sun, go to a yoga studio, and generally enjoy my time in my second-favorite US city. Things felt *slightly* weird after boarding the plane and then not moving or hearing anything from the flight attendants for over an hour, but you know, flights can be weird. By the second hour that passed on the plane, I was getting pretty cranky. I should mention I avoid coffee before long flights and was not super thrilled with anything at that point, especially as I’d already missed my connecting flight. By 8:15 we finally had an update: everyone off the plane and maybe we’ll leave this morning. After a HUGE coffee and some airport yoga, I had a smile on my face – I wasn’t going to let a delay ruin my Austin weekend – but starting the weekend with a 5-hour delay should have been a clue that I may love Texas, but it was not about to love me back.

Friday and Saturday went off without a hitch, a perfect two days singing in the car and hanging out with G, those rare moments where we can pretend we do this all the time instead of barely once a year. I sang her Happy Birthday and we ate some of the best desserts (“manna cotta… panne cotti? Just put more in my mouth.”). G’s roommates joined us for Saturday night and we danced on Dirty Sixth among cowboys and bachelorette parties, and in the midst of getting our hair done earlier that afternoon, we hatched a plan to continue a now-tradition the next day during our Austin adventures: somewhat-spontaneous tattoos.

I woke up on Sunday morning feeling a little foggy but overall fine – I’d stuck to beer the night before and made a point to drink water so I’d be comfortable while needles pierced my skin that day. I’m an early riser and the girls were still sleeping, so I ventured down to the hotel lobby for a small breakfast of yogurt (<– that’s important) and cereal while watching an old episode of Ink Master on my computer (*how am I so cool). Eventually G and I went out for breakfast tacos, and I noticed my stomach felt…. not right. I should mention I’m not a hungover puker. Like, ever. I mean okay there have been occasions, but for the most part after heavy drinking, I get headaches and migraines, I don’t vomit. So when I started to feel my stomach churning in the middle of a delicious breakfast taco salad, I thought it was odd, but brushed it off – it had to be a hangover, right?

We went back to the hotel to lay down for a quick nap to stave off G’s hangover before heading out for spontaneous tattoo adventures. I didn’t sleep so much as toss and turn, telling myself I wasn’t about to vomit because that’s not what I do. Turns out that was what I ended up doing for the next hour – stupid hangover! Luckily, after a particularly spirited outburst of the final remnants of my breakfast in the streets of Austin while walking around to kill time before the shop opened, I miraculously felt wonderful. We spent the next few hours in the tattoo shop where we’d been two years before, chatting with the artist, reviewing the design, the familiar buzz of the machine and then just a hint of pain as I reminded myself why, in fact, I’d sworn off any more rib tattoos after the first one. As mine is larger, I was the first victim of the machine, and I watch G get two perfect arrows on her forearm with a mix of awe and excitement. And then my stomach did the familiar churn of the morning, and while her arm was saran-wrapped and instructions for healing were offered, I projectile-lost-everything-in-my-body in the shop bathroom and a nightmare night began.

I have to say, having never had food poisoning before (*and not realizing that’s what it was for a while since I was only vomiting), there really is no introduction quite like a night by yourself in a strange AirBNB in a semi-strange city, alternately wincing as you brush a fresh wound on your ribs and throwing up so violently you can’t breathe. Sadly said violent-vomiting meant my very last day in Austin, the only bright and sunny day, the one where I had two yoga studios picked out to attend and the whole city at my beck and call, was instead spent huddled on a strange bed under the air conditioning, sipping Walgreens-brand Pedialyte and watching Netflix.

I was more than grateful to get home early on Tuesday afternoon, except I knew that meant a terrible goodbye was on its way. It wasn’t the vacation I’d had planned at all – not even a little bit. But that’s exactly how my last Austin adventure went too. And really, nothing that I ever plan for Austin turns out the way I think it will. Maybe that’s the beauty of my relationship with that city: the constant reminders that life is full of little surprises, and forever is composed of nows.

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Ew.

This morning on the subway, there was someone making some really gross noises. Like, sniffling constantly, coughing into a jacket sleeve, loud nose-blowing and then trying to subtly put the tissue back in her purse before anyone noticed, kind of noises. It would be really fun if this story somehow turned into me making a friend, or making a snarky comment at said sick person, but as I’m sure you’ve surmised, that person is me. I’m using this public forum to apologize to anyone that’s been in a 10-foot radius of me in the past few days, because even if you were lucky enough to escape my germs, you certainly weren’t so lucky as to escape the noises. I’ve been fighting something since the weekend, basically surviving on lots of tea and Dayquil to keep me upright and (semi-)coherent, as I wasn’t about to call out sick from work in the first week of 2015. And yes, snot bubbles and Nyquil dreams is exactly how I envisioned starting the new year.

It’s inevitable in New York City that you’ll be sick at least once in the winter. We’re like sardines in this city, packing the subways, the sidewalks and the Starbucks to capacity constantly. Even if you’re careful to use hand sanitizer and take Emergen-C, you’re just plain not going to escape a winter cold. This now being my fifth winter here, I’ve pretty much learned that the best you can do once you feel that cold coming on is to stock up on drugs and wait it out – because even if the first cold doesn’t materialize, you can bet another one will be right behind it. I’m optimistically hoping this is my big “sick” this year, and that the rest of the season I’ll just be fighting some sniffles, but that remains to be seen: New York City winter viruses take no prisoners.

Things may be quiet here until I can fight my way through whatever’s wreaking havoc on my ability to breathe through my nose and stop accidentally coughing on strangers. Or maybe I’ll take a bunch of medicine and post something later, just to see what happens. Either way, consider this a friendly reminder to take your vitamin C and avoid the gross person on the subway for as long as possible.