“You tell him”

July 29, 2009

I had all kinds of drama last week.

In the middle of consecutive 100°+ days, the Swedish air conditioner in my car finally succumbed to the Texas climate in the middle of traffic on the way home from work.

After a sleepless night thinking about the expensive-rattling sound my car was making (even with the air conditioner turned off), I drove the car to a repair shop near my office the following morning. The repair shop arranged for a shuttle to take me to the office while they worked on my car.

It was before 9AM but it was already a hot day. I had a headache from thinking about the repair bill that I would be paying later that afternoon. And the driver of the shuttle van that I was in seemed perfectly fine with setting his own air conditioner at somewhere between “uncomfortable” and “third-world stifling”.

So, we’re driving along and I am getting this panicky feeling when I realize that the windows in the backseat don’t open. And out of the blue, the driver asks me “have you ever been to New York”?

I immediately recalled a similarly hot, humid afternoon that we’d all spent just after Isaac and Alicia had moved into their house in New Jersey. While everyone was busy with projects worthy of an episode of “This Old House”, my mom and I escaped and took the train into NYC, just the two of us.


This was several years ago, before Tarceva and MRI’s. But mom’s energy level was never very high, and it was a very humid day so I was anticipating a short trip into the city, mainly spent searching for the next Starbucks.

As soon as we got off of the train at Penn Station, mom started to get really quiet. Her eyes were wide open and she was holding onto my arm with an iron grip while we took the escalator to the street level. New York City.

Our first destination was going to be the Guggenheim Museum. I suggested to mom that we take a taxi and I tried to act all “New Yorker-like” and hailed us a cab. I held the door open and told mom to get into the backseat first.  She looked at me and said nervously looking at the driver, “but you tell him where we’re going”. As soon as I got in the cab I told the driver “5th Avenue and 89th”…I thought that would make me sound more “local”. The guy kind of rolled his eyes and said “yeah, the Guggenheim”.

Our cab merged into the current of identical yellow sedans, like a glass of water being poured into a swimming pool. Mom and I looked around for our seatbelts. There were none. It took strength and concentration just to stabilize ourselves into the cushions of the backseat while the driver navigated through traffic as if we were in some ultra-violent video game.

I thought for sure that mom would be freaking out – but when I looked at her, mom had an ear-to-ear smile on her face. She was loving it.

Exhilarated from the taxi adventure, it was hard to dial-back the adrenaline as we entered the museum. But if you have never been to the Guggenheim, even if you aren’t into museums, you gotta go. Architecturally, it’s a work of art. But the art that is inside of it is also very unique…also it’s not an overwhelmingly large museum – it allows you to not just view the art, but actually kind of experience it.


For some reason, mom and I had stopped in front of a still-life of fruit on a table by Cezanne. I will never forget this painting. There were many, much bigger, more famous paintings all around us, but for some reason, we had stopped here. A curator walked up to us and explained that it was his favorite. He started to explain what was going on, showing us perspectives of the painting that seemed so obvious when he shared them but had been hidden just moments before. I think we ended up spending about 30 minutes in front of this one painting of peaches.

After the Guggenheim we walked along 5th Avenue, toured Central Park and had lunch at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It was an amazing day that I had forgotten about until this shuttle driver in Dallas mentioned “New York”. I told they guy, “yeah, I’ve been to New York”. My headache was gone and cool air had started streaming from the air conditioning vents of the shuttle van.


One Response to ““You tell him””

  1. Judy Espiau Says:

    Wow, this was an amazing account! You made it so real! I could just picture everything but especially your mom and you standing together infront of the peaches. I read this for the first time on your mom’s birthday. Thank you for making her and you so present and real for me on this special day. Judy

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