Brisk air filled the jet way, the tropics were nowhere to be found. It seemed the northeast’s brutal spring was making its last stand. A two mile line awaited me as I entered the customs terminal, and what felt like an eternity elapsed as I listened to the less than compassionate line clerks squawk at cellphone usage like middle school teachers. Eventually, I was called to a booth, my internal self shamed for not having acquired Global Entry before my departure. An angsty customs agent grumbled at me as he scanned my passport and shooed me away as though my arrival was an unexpected inconvenience. Newark International hadn’t changed a bit.
Arriving to my parents’ home was an exciting but somber moment. The quiet house was missing the incessant yapping of family pet and dear friend Joey, aka Hector of Troy. He passed away during my travels and his small but ferociously friendly shoes will be difficult to ever fill. But with this sad departure came fresh life in the form of Baby Sloan, my sister’s newest clan member and expansion of my uncleship duties. As quickly as I arrived in New Jersey my mom and I were back at Newark and off to Chicago. My sister’s house was a chaotic jungle of toys, toddlers, infants, barking, and cringe worthy eating sessions involving flagrant sanitary violations, spit-up on everything, and pasta finding its way into unimaginable places. The least I could do was cook a couple of dinners to help take a little load off these well worked parents. It was amazing to see the growth of my nephew, with a 20% age increase from our last proper encounter, his light banter had turned to complete, and surprisingly aware thoughts. With young children comes an early shutdown of operations and as the day’s hustling and bustling of the Winerman household came to a close, I spent my evenings reconvening with many friends who still call the Windy City home, knocking back a few delicious Chicago brews, both the grain and bean varieties.
Back on the east coast I broke out all my old toys: Vitamix blender, cast iron skillets, a primo coffee set up, and of course my Rolls Royce thermometer: The pride and joy of my time at OXO and now an AmazingRibs.com Gold Star awarded grilling instrument (buy it HERE and leave 5 star reviews only, lest we never speak again...just kidding, but seriously...). With all the gear out and assembled I needed colors with which to paint my edible masterpieces. Costco was the first stop, and my unaccustomed mind was blown. Mega sized jars of organic peanut butter had me salivating, and I nearly fainted at the site of prime grade New York Strip slabs; feasts were coming. Whole Foods was next and I could hardly contain my excitement around the endless sea of fresh spring veggies. The wild and smelly markets of Peru and Bolivia have a special place in my heart, but I thrive within organization and there is something so soothing and cozy about a well curated and designed food outfitter.
I baked up a storm, making loaves by the half dozen and likely giving my mom flour PTSD as I laid waste to her always spotless kitchen. However, when granite countertops and proper equipment are available, one cannot simply purchase their carbs. I made fresh pasta with pesto and crispy skin salmon, lamb chops reverse seared to a perfect 130F medium rare, and massive servings of breakfast shakshuka on the weekend to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom and dad. The family ate well while I was home, waistlines suffered.
On a beautiful day the grill was fired up as my parents’ home was prepared to host a summit of this blog's most dedicated followers; my grandparents. Lifelong and steadfast supporters of my quirky antics, sharing my travels through this medium with them, and receiving their notes in return, has been one of the main motivations to keep it running. As we chowed down on an ample spread of grilled meats and smoked salmon, I got to hear their takeaways from my documentation and was able to see the type of emotions and questions that it provoked. I recounted adventures and answered lingering queries, but most of all just enjoyed spending time with them and being reassured they are following along.
As guys do, my dad and I picked up right where we left off. Friday night manhattans cleansed the palette while half speed remastered 180g vinyl spun at an oh so steady 33 and a third. A great 18 holes had me wishing I could add a set of clubs to my travel kit moving forward. I played sidekick to my mom’s aggressively packed philanthropic schedule, always starting us off with a breakfast bowl of fresh fruit and yogurt in the morning. We spent days wandering the streets of New York City from Chelsea to Bushwick binging on all my favorite treats along the way (read: Roberta’s Pizza, Van Leeuwen ice cream, Dough Donuts, Et. Al.) and as the Dolph crew is a music loving crowd, family bonding came in the form of an up close and personal Florence and the Machine concert in Brooklyn. My New York escapades lasted multiple days and deep into warm city nights. I needed a little fix of the life I had left behind, and a big dose of the friends I had not seen in too long. Drinks at my all-time favorite watering hole, Eastwood, a day of yoga, HIIT, and sauna, at Equinox (likely the least backpackery thing I had done in a long time), a trip to the Comedy Cellar marked as epic when Aziz Ansari made a surprise appearance late on a Tuesday night, and of course a visit to NYC's greatest single offering, The Lesson.
I turned my heading south to the shore, Long Beach Island, where a surf and trip to the famed Thunder Thursday gave a taste of summers past. I worked a beer fest set up crew in exchange for food and libations which lead to an eventful evening of Philadelphia gallivanting. The bus ride home from which was only made bearable by a heavenly placed La Colombe coffee that offered a lifesaving cup of cold brew for a small fee.
My time home was a whirlwind. A pedal to the metal, meet, greet, eat, and crash back into a former life. I wanted a taste of everything I had missed, and to reconnect with all those whose support has let me embark on this adventure. It was wonderful to see friends, enjoy the creature comforts of home, and above all share my adventures with family in person. But my trip isn’t over, not yet, so I restocked gear that had been worn through, patched a few holes, and reacquainted myself with my pack. Passport in hand I headed to the airport, only this time I wasn’t alone, a special guest would be accompanying Abi and I on this next leg. The fasten seatbelt sign illuminated and the plane pulled back, part two was officially underway.