When I feel in need of some proper relaxation I head south to visit my friend Joanna who lives near Atlanta. The journey is easy: I pick up the local M60 bus right outside my door and it up takes me through Harlem, across the Triborough Bridge into Queens, arriving at La Guardia airport 45 minutes later. A snip at $2.50. Southern cadences wafting through the departure lounge tell me it’s time to shift down a couple of gears on the stress scale.
At the other end I take the MARTA (rapid transit system) across the city where Jo meets me at North Springs. The place names have been getting steadily more evocative as the train gets further from the airport. Buckhead, Doraville, Dunwoody, Sandy Spring, culminating in the Chattahoochee river running along the bottom of Jo’s garden.
I luxuriate in the quiet and space at Jo’s house. She has prepared my room with such attention to detail – a fluffy bathrobe, an extra Alpaca blanket in case of evening chill, and a large magnifying make-up mirror – that I almost whimper with pleasure after three months of no-frills dorm life. We brought up our families together years ago and have that easy ‘ warts and all’ familiarity of old friends, picking up where we left off and catching up on gossip, family news and minor ailments. After a lazy afternoon and evening, I have my first deep sleep in ages.
Our weekend is spent with exactly the right balance of gentle shopping, trying on our purchases, the odd nap or two, a fabulous Stevie Wonder concert, a truly rib-sticking barbecued burger and trip to the cinema. Monday, relaxed and invigorated, I return to the sounds of the city.