“…New York, New York, it’s a hell of a town.” And it always intimidated the hell out of me. I could never make sense of it, I felt unmoored and un-me. I could never locate where I was in the city in terms of East side or West side or neighborhoods. I bought map after map and still felt like I was in a deranged upside-down world. It was alarming, because along with feeling like the biggest hick in the world, I was helpless. Last year, I got on the subway to go to an appointment, and I went up and down, up and down, never getting anywhere I recognized. I got on and off what seemed like a dozen times, at each exit puzzling over the subway map as if it were written in Chinese. I got so hysterical that I called my daughter long distance and wailed, “Where am I?! Google me! Find me!” Not my finest moment. A visit last June was easy because I was in a book expo all day and taking a cab at night back to the hotel. I skimmed New York without absorbing any of it and breathed a sigh of relief when I got home. Last week I went back on a day’s notice, a spur of the moment trip with a friend. I didn’t have time to fret myself into a frenzy beforehand. I was only going to be there two days and I had no appointments, no responsibilities, no agenda. The second day I was on my own, and before I left the hotel I started to feel the same old gray anxiety press in on me…where am I, what will I do if I get lost, where am I going, how will I get back, what if I can’t get a cab? Any other time, I would have stayed in my room or found a Starbucks and sat and read a book. But instead, I sat down and stared at the map and stared some more and suddenly all the streets fell into place as if I’d successfully worked a Rubik’s cube. I got it! I don’t know any other way to describe it. New York hadn’t been resisting me; I’d been resisting New York. There are so many times in my life when that”s how I operate. Fear of the unknown panics me, and my first instinct is to give up and run away instead of standing still and working it out. I forget that I can be smart, brave and resourceful, but this trip reminded me. Next month, I’m going back and, I swear, this time I’ll master the damn subway.