Saturday, December 19, 2015

Good Dates, Part II

It seems to be that time of year where we are all doing our best to tide ourselves over with the drunken evenings or brunches that define our friendships before we're resigned to spending time with our families for the next week or two. Fine by me.


Having mistaken the time we were to meet for dinner by a full hour, I am a half-hour late to meet SJT and my brain is falling out of my head. I am many things but a flake is not one of them, so I am instantly forgiven. Nevertheless, we meet at a different restaurant than we originally intended, one closer to a train we'll need later in the evening, but it's just as lovely. We avail ourselves of Nepali soups (dal, a lentil soup, for me and chasha thang, a shredded chicken and corn soup, for me) and sha momo (beef and herb dumplings) at Cafe Himalaya on 1st Avenue and 1st Street and make it to our next destination, an opera house in Brooklyn, in plenty of time.

I have written this before, but perhaps one of my favorite things in the world is to go to the opera with SJT. A dramaturg, opera writer, and self-described "opera queen," he affords me deep insights into an arts field I'm not the most familiar with, so even if I don't particularly enjoy the opera, I've learned so much about it that the evening is never a waste. Such was the experience we had on this jaunt to the Gowanus-ish neighborhood in the wilds of Brooklyn, where we saw an opera in English of which I didn't understand a word. First I thought it was me, that perhaps I was so dense about opera and that my ears just didn't work. Thankfully, though, this was not the case--SJT shared with me there were incredible problems with the diction in the show and I was so happy when, during intermission, he shared with me the story of what was actually going on. I did like that the company featured performers with gorgeous voices who were our age--so often, SJT tells me, there are 50-some-odd year-olds who will play teenagers just because their voices are so much more well-developed and, well, they're stars so who wouldn't want to come see them. But the younger age of the cast I think lends itself to expanding the notion of who opera can be for. Next time they just need a better director, or maybe even a dramaturg like SJT.

On the train back, we are both feeling nibbly, so we stop into one of my favorite haunts, the Olive Tree Cafe on Macdougal Street in the West Village, for babaganush and chicken wings. By the end of the evening my eyelids are drooping, but that's how you know you've had a full, and fully marvelous evening.


On a Wednesday night at around 8:45pm, I see a text from MS. "What are you doing tonight?" he says. Having just come back from yoga, I didn't really have any plans other than to shower and lope around the house in my sweatpants. I wrote this to him. It turns out his parents had tickets to a gala at the Neue Galerie, a museum of 20th century German and Austrian art. It ended at 9:30pm. Could I make it? he asked. I hemmed and hawed probably for a little too long before I said, Oh hell, I'll give it a shot. Worst comes to worst, I said to him, we'll just grab a bite and have to actually talk to each other. I threw on a cocktail dress, smeared some eyeliner on my face and raced a razor over my legs before hopping into first heels, then a coat, then a cab to hustle to the museum. I got there at 9:35 and the girls at the front door were like, "Uh, I guess you can come in..." Thanks, guys. People were in line for their coats and the bar had closed. And I didn't really care at all because I'd still get to spend time with my friend just the same. MS got his coat and we hobbled (rather, I, in heels, hobbled) over to Bocado on 87th and Lexington for late-night vittles. We dipped bread in olive oil and I tried valiantly to stab a brussel sprout with a fork but to no avail, while we chatted about dating and MS's potential move to Nashville. We ended up shutting the restaurant down, the lights turning from dim to bright as the clock reached a certain hour and we parted ways.


"Wanna see a Broadway show with me?" RaGo asked.

There are few things that I will drop all planned activities for, perhaps none more than an activity like this. I was raised going to the theatre--when I was growing up, my mother got tickets to almost any show that came through South Florida: Fiddler on the Roof, Chicago, Cabaret, Cats, you name it--but strangely, now that I live in New York, mecca of theatre that it is, I hardly ever go. I simply cannot afford the ticket prices, so I usually only go when my parents come to town because that's one of their favorite activities. But RaGo had a gift certificate to the TKTS booth in Times Square that was soon to expire, and she had been kind enough to think of me to accompany her on her theatrical sojourn for the day. I of course agreed, and we met on the TKTS line at 10am on a Sunday morning. A line had in fact already formed though the booth would not open until 11am. We were in line with many a backpacked out-of-towner, their Midwestern or Australian accents giving them away. I realize now that I may have appeared as a city dweller, as the woman behind me began asking me for recommendations while I was waiting for RaGo. This fills me with pride as I write this, and a small smile crosses my face. Anyway, once Rachel arrives we gossip and then decide what our top shows would be. It's her birthday present, and her top choice is An American in Paris which as a huge dance nerd I am more than excited to see. We luck out with a crisp, 60-degree weather day, so waiting is not an issue; though I can't imagine what it would be like in the summer or in the depths of winter. Sheesh.

Once the booth opens, we are in and out in 15 minutes, with incredible orchestra seats to a Broadway show for a relative pittance. We squeal joyfully for about a minute, then RaGo says, "Now let's get out of this hellhole." It's true, Times Square is most definitely the bane of most New Yorkers' existence, but it also allowed us to get these amazing seats at unheardof prices, so it's a give and take.

We go for coffee at Kahve in Hell's Kitchen and then brunch at the ever-delightful BarBacon, where we stuff ourselves with mimosas and bacon-laced treats like a corn torta (she) and a BLT with sunny-side up egg and avocado (me). Pleasantly filled, we then head over to the theatre and our fantastic seats therein. The choreography, by Christopher Wheeldon, is so beautiful I well up several times watching it. After intermission we just look at each other. I squeal and she goes, "I KNOW!" We are having a blast watching dance together, a sheer delight I only rarely get to share with my friends. The second half is just as swoonworthy, and I well up again, not only loving what I'm seeing but feeling honored that RaGo wanted to share this day and her birthday present with me. We hug and part ways and, feeling particularly sappy, I listen to George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" as I walk down Fifth Avenue.