Home.

Over the past couple of months I’ve been out globetrotting and living the life of a rock star as I’m generally wont to do, shopping, and wining and dining in some swanky joints and thinking I’m pretty swell. But after all that time on the road, this is what I realize (in a ruby-slippers sort of way): there’s no place like home.

This no-roots, nomadic, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants-er never thought she would say it, but there is a time when it’s time to park the suitcase and go back to living out of drawers. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a lot of exhilarating experiences, that people shouldn’t travel or that I’m personally through with it. I think we, especially I, should do a lot of it. I’m merely singing the praises of the home front. It’s not an either/or. I mean, for how many people could it really be an either/or? Think about it: home or travel? I know a lot of people who get ankle-shackled at home full-time, but not too many people have the option of full-time travel and no home. Seems glamorous, perhaps, but it wears on you.

We need to have a place where things are a little predictable, or where we can at least predict the unpredictability of it. When I order a cappuccino, I can imagine it won’t be too great (unless I’m at Aroma, click HERE), but ‘middling’ has fairly defined boundaries. I’m less likely to come down with a case of raging food poisoning (but Mexican sushi two days in a row was probably tempting the fates a bit), the entire national train system doesn’t strike at inopportune moments (grazie Italia), and I can cuss people out, or get cussed out (good to be back in Philly) in a shared language.

And without wanting to get too gooshy, I found I missed my ‘home fries’ in ways I didn’t expect. I missed the people I walk through life with. When I got “taken for a ride” by a Mexico City cab driver I didn’t have anyone to listen sympathetically to my rant. When I was blown away with enchantment at the Peggy Guggenheim museum in Venice, I didn’t have my art buddy to share it with. No UFC fight night, no Sunday ritual, no emergency coffee meet-ups. When I was lonely I was, well, alone. And certainly there was a real lack of people to laugh at my stories.

It’s not a big and flashy ecstasy, perhaps, but when I find myself in a place where I can say there isn’t someplace I would rather be, then I’d say I’ve found a delight.

Smock.

Smock, smock, smock, smock, smock. I love that word. I love saying it aloud—give it a try. Your lips make a fun popping sound. Enjoy yourself for a moment.

Tonight as I was pulling my laundry out of the dryer, I grabbed one of my white button-downs by the collar in order to give it a good shake. This is my no-iron solution. Just give those shirts a good, firm, snap of the wrist and bank the half hour you spend dinging around with the ironing board.

So just as I was giving the shirt my customary thrashing, “rip!” A two-inch tear manifested along the back of the collar. “Oh real nice, J.Crew,” I thought to myself. “Sixteen years is all you can give me? Psssh.” But immediately, in uncharacteristic fashion, my grumble turned to vision: “Now this can be my smock.”

You are thinking, no doubt, what on earth do you need a smock for? What does anyone outside of first grade need a smock for? Some future finger-painting plans, perhaps? Well, maybe. Just maybe. Maybe we’d all be a little better off if we spent a little more time finger-painting and a little less time frying our brains in front of some screen. As I sit in front of ‘some screen’ right now, I believe it might be true.

Do you remember your own smock? Probably one of your dad’s old shirts that hung in the art room of your elementary school with your name written on it with a Sharpie, followed by the initial of your last name. I can’t remember my smock or where I got it. My dad was a bricklayer so he didn’t have any old dress shirts. But I do remember art days and I remember my art teacher with the wild hair who let us explore and create and be artists, without telling us we were doing anything wrong. If I wanted my clay bear sculpture to have teeny little arms and teeny little legs and a teeny little head and bright red lips and a big ol’ body, then that was okay. The next year my younger sister, in classic younger sister form, set out to reproduce my famous she-bear and created some messed-up monstrosity that only an art teacher (or a mother) could love. Amen to it. There was no judgment there.

But then something happened and we got older and there were no more smocks because there was no more messy, creative exploration that threated to soil one’s clothes.

I say down with it! My commitment to myself and to my mental health (there are the same, you know. I’m stressed out, not schizo.) is to put my smock to use. That means doing some art project that might get my jumper soiled. That means sticking my arms in the sleeves first-grader style, so the back is in the front and the front is in the back. It also means (probably) an expensive trip to the art store to get me some supplies. And it certainly means putting down some newspaper on the dining room table (my dad raised me right). But then it means letting myself go with it. With smock on and newspaper down, I am free to create and explore and think about the world in a new language. Sound fruity and strange? Maybe. I think it sounds delightful.

Aroma.

Israel, my love, you never cease to amaze, delight, and enchant me. If you were a man, I’d let you kiss me (if we were married). I don’t make any bones about it: I love Israeli food. I have yet to find a culture that works so brilliantly with the abundance of the earth, churning and turning it into delicious and enticing combinations that are usually good for you too. So when I was walking back to my hotel in NYC one night about three weeks ago, I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the word “Aroma” printed on the window of what appeared to be a coffee shop. What the fiddlesticks? (I said to myself) Could it be? It was. Aroma is an Israeli-owned coffee shop and eatery (I remembered it from my trip there last summer) that has now put down three establishments in the Manhattan area.

The entire menu is fabulous, but let’s get right to the point. Behold my friends, I introduce to you, the omelet sandwich. To the ordinary observer, this may seem like no big whoop, but if you have just returned from Mexico and spent the night languishing with food-poisoning- induced fever and nausea, only to have it all break sometime around 1:00am and you are lying in your NY hostel room with no ceiling, now no longer dying of fever and parasites, but rather of starvation because you were too sick to eat your dinner and Delta didn’t serve you anything more on the plane than a lousy bag of pretzels, and all you can think of is this omelet sandwich that your mom had for breakfast when you were there together on that trip three weeks ago, then you would understand what I am talking about.

Probably as I say ‘omelet sandwich’, you are picturing some greaz-y, fatty, Kraft-single-and-Canadian-bacon-filled garbage on the order of an Egg McMuffin. Halt. Remove the grease, the fabricated cheese product, the powdered eggs, and of course, the pig (this is an Israeli establishment, remember).

It goes like this: delicious, soft grain bread. Now those two things don’t usually go together, right? Grain bread is supposed to be dry, maybe a little crunchy, but certainly not moist and soft (I can’t explain it, I just go with it, moving on). Next comes your omelet (you know, eggs, no filling), lettuce, tomato, pickles (yup, you guessed it—the Israeli kind), and then a layer of cream cheese on the top slice of bread (I wouldn’t have argued at a layer of cream cheese on the bottom bread as well, but they know best). Seems simple enough, but what you have going on is a synergistic effect of magic and wonder happening all in your mouth. I could barely wait until morning.

So come 8:30am I hauled my still-sort-of-sick, but yet very hungry self over to the corner of Greene and Houston and strolled in, wiping the tiny beads of perspiration that were beginning to form on my lip. Was New York hot this morning or was it my fever kicking up again? Anyways, I got the breakfast combo—omelet sandwich and small cappuccino—and when, pray tell, does the ‘combo’ actually feature the exact two things you were planning to get? There was no paying for potatoes I didn’t want, nor any other unnecessaries like pancakes or something. Christmas morning, I tell you. I set myself in the path of an air conditioner vent and turned my settings to savor-mode.

Now I’m going to have to wax on here for a few lines about the cappuccino. I think part of the explanation for the quality of this not-as-simple-as-you-think beverage is the milk. I know it’s whole milk, and I would even venture to say maybe it’s more than whole milk, but it can’t actually be cream because that constitutes a separate drink. It has to be Israeli milk. They must import it. (For my post about the uncommon delight of Israeli dairy products, click HERE).

I will say, with no hesitation, that this is the best cappuccino in the United States (not that high of an honor, really). Now I am going to go a step further, and I might gain some enemies here, but I am going to say it is the best cappuccino on the planet. I invite you to disagree with me on this. Truly I would love to encounter a mind-blowing cappuccino closer to home. There is also something in their frothing technique which I can explain to you if you really care to know, but I’m not going to take the time to do it here since a lot of my readers aren’t even coffee drinkers and probably don’t give a C.

My regret: only ordering half a sandwich. That was ill planned, given my level of hunger. But I have found, in my thirty years of circling this globe, that we are often graced with second chances. I went back for lunch.