Sunday, July 10, 2005

Friday in New York

My mother only called three times before I left the house; twice by phone to remind me to pack my cellphone charger and visit the Jewish Museum in the city, and once by telepathy to make sure I peed before I got on the bus.

By then I was running late, so I flagged down a cab and some guy appeared out of nowhere, asked me where I was headed and hopped in next to me. He looked youngish and businesslike in a corporate drone/casual Friday sort of way. Three times in the five-minute ride he asked if I was headed downtown: I don’t know if he was drunk or forgetful, or not paying attention because he was nervous about something... Maybe he was on his way to a job interview. Or maybe he was carrying an 8-ball of cocaine. You never know with people.

Most of the bus ride was uneventful. For a while I was sort of hypnotized by the man in front of me, whose head was so pale and bald and perfect it looked like a fuzzy ostrich egg bobbing up and down over the top of his seat. I must have been really bored.

Then about an hour outside New York I started chatting with this darling boy across the aisle. An editor at a well-known high-brow left-wing magazine, he was the quiet cerebral type that both inspires and intimidates the hell out of me. I asked if he’d read anything good lately. (That's my old standby question when I want to look smart, like wearing black on a fat day.) For a while I nodded knowingly, but then I slipped up and snickered when he mentioned Alistair Cooke. He asked what was so funny and I looked away, muttering that he’d reminded me of something from my childhood. And just when I thought I'd spend the rest of the ride in shameful silence, he said, “Oh – you mean Alistair Cookie from Sesame Street!” and I felt much, much better. See? Even Mensans were children once.

But in the end, my insecurity got the better of me: I prattled on incessantly while the boy's expression fell from “hello, new friend!” to “my, you’re a talkative little monkey” to “oh my God, I’ve accidentally boarded the bus to hell and this woman was sent to make sure I never return.” If you’re reading this, dude, I’m sorry. Sometimes my mouth is like a runaway train. I hope you had fun at MOMA.

I met my friend D for a matinee of “Land of the Dead” (meh, save your money), then stopped by his apartment in SoHo to drop off my stuff. He’s talked about how depressing it was to move from the sunny, spacious, rent-controlled apartment he shared with his girlfriend to a 6th-floor walkup that’s half the size and twice the price. I didn’t understand what he meant until I saw it. Dank and dark, with a miniature stove, teeny misshapen living room, half-size bathtub, bathroom sink like a dentist’s office… I half-expected Elijah Wood to toddle out of the second bedroom and offer me a flagon of Hobbit ale.

By dinnertime I was too hungry to crave anything. “Come on, be decisive,” D said, “This is New York. There’s nothing you can’t get here. If you want Irish food served by deaf Mexicans, we can make that happen. We’ll call it 'O’Que?'” And thus began the giggling.

(D is always ready with a gag, I love that about him. Like when I graduated from college and he wrapped my gift in job applications from Safeway, McDonald’s and 7-Eleven. It probably took him two hours to drive around and collect all those papers, but it was worth it just to crack me up. I think that’s one reason we’ve stayed so close for so long: We both understand the difference between a token and a true gift like laughter.)

Eventually we settled on sushi at a place D promised would totally knock my socks off. And oh. my. goodness. I’ve used the phrase “like butter” in this context before, but the salmon nigiri really did taste like a pat of sweet creamy Land O Lakes.

After a stop at Tasti DLite, I’d had enough for one day. Since D is a social animal, always partying on a Friday night, I was especially proud to have him home and in his PJs by 11:00. Even better, I handed his ass to him in Gin Rummy. We stayed up reminiscing about the summer we met and the one and only the time we made out, a dozen years ago, in the front seat of his 1990 Pontiac Firebird. "Open Arms." Open beers. Good times.

Around 1:00 a.m. I fell asleep on the futon and D retired to his tiny bedroom. He left the door open in case I woke up and felt like talking.

next entry: Saturday

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