Today was a day of many firsts…and therefore it was the best kind of day because even things that seem simple and obvious, when experienced for the very first time, are doused in glittery surprise, excitement and exoticism. Like shopping at Whilefoods for the first time, or watching a writer feverishly attack the keys of a typewriter in the subway to fulfill his paper promise of “poetry on demand”.
In fact this whole week has been a bunch of first from the very first step I took off the plane onto JKF tarmac, to my first yellow cab taxi ride with Cheralee, to our first all American diner lunch together over which we basically condensed 3 years of social narratives, future dreams, morphed personal philosophies and opinions between bites of home fries and gulps of steaming fresh coffee ( which a man with a glass jug is always hovering about dispensing liberally into my mug each time I get halfway finished). I am still amazed at how easy and fluid it is connecting with another human being you share a friendship with even after years apart. From the moment we left the Airport on Friday, where Cher traveled all the way to just to come and meet me at a ghastly early hour, till late Sunday night- it seemed as though nothing had changed and that we both just had way better stories to tell each other from time spent on our own adventures.
I ticked the rest of the afternoon by wondering about the Lower East Side, Little Italy , East Village and did some shopping at the “pharmacies” here( which was an actual experience in itself) until it was time to head out to Brooklyn for dinner. I met up with Cher under the giant glowing neon sign of a Dunkin’ Donut on Canal street and we caught the subway to Bedford station in Williamsburg where we met up with Theo ( Oliver’s brother) and Ashleigh ( Theo’s girlfriend) for drinks at “The Soft Spot”. Along the way, we weaved through a lucky packet of bars and evening spots, each more specific and alluring than the last. One promising the best fried chicken on (?) waffles in New York, the next peppered with leather-cad, tattoo laced arms clutching beers out of street-side windows alongside another oozing a dim amber glow and Frank Ocean soundtrack onto the street, afro-topped, fedoras-wearing clusters of people dotted inside and out on couches.
"The Soft Spot" was screening the Ivory Coast -Japan FiFA game on a TV in the background while I was introduced to everyone and simultaneously handed Mega Chocolate M&M’s from Theo, I had almost forgotten the World Cup was even on. We ordered drinks and I tried desperately not to appear too overwhelmed by all the energy that was bubbling around, above, on , in and throughout the entire day leading up. We had relocated to a small bistro-light strewn court yard at the back of the bar when another one of Cher’s mates- a fresh-faced beauty also by the name of Ali- joined us. She hopped in with a head full of candy floss curls, Nike sneakers on and a story spilling into the air about being day-drunk on beer and not eating a thing yet before she had even properly reached our circle. I knew we’d get on immediately. I sat for the rest of the night in amazement at the incredibly theatrical and genuinely hilarious play between the other four. It is a special thing when you are invited into the sacred space of friends that know each other intimately enough to be utterly bizarre and shameless around each other. At around 10:30pm we headed a few bars done to "The Meatball Shop" where we were eating dinner and had left our names on a list an hour prior. Upon entering the music inside the restaurant is nothing I have ever specifically heard before but it immediately reminds me of how young, exciting and unexplainably precious my youth is.
We sit at wooden tables near the back and the others tell me about the options for the night; which turn out to be basically meatballs on sandwiches, meatballs on brioche and meatballs on salad with a selection of sauces and sides; perfect! We mark our decisions with black kokis on laminated menus and hand them to the waitress who has already put in the order for our “Moscow Somethings” a drink comprising of gin, ginger-beer and lime if I remember correctly- which everyone is disappointed to discover aren’t served in beaten copper mugs as is usually the tradition. The spot is noisy, filled with groups of friends carousing, music playing and dishes clattering but I barely need to hear what is going on at the table to appreciate the interactions. Everyone is so animated and basically on form- in a highly reactionary soft of way. An american sort of way.” Are we already drunk?”, I think to myself… no. It’s such a good crowd of people being genuinely hilarious. I especially appreciate Cher and Theo’s outburst of duets, accented role plays and dance moves while waiting for our meals which come, in true American style; mega portions with all the trimmings. My beef meatballs with spicy meat sauce on salad and seasonal beg is delicious! I devour it salivating while Ali and Ashleigh tell us about a free music concert in Brooklyn the next day that they’ll both be heading to.
Once we are all stuffed and even the thought of trying to sneak in a cookie/ice cream sammich is not an option to be entertained we pay the bill and step out onto the street which is still a-buzz with activity. It’s colder out tonight than I expected it to be for New York Summer evenings but I’m assured it’s not usual as the days following seem to prove as well. Theo and Ashleigh head off- while Cher and Ali seem to perform a duolgue of hilarities for me on the street. It’s been a long and very eventful day for my first in New York and I’m satisfied that midnight means I am successfully beating the jet-lag game before it even begins! We head home and I almost get lost walking from Canal St station back to the apartment because all the crammed streets of daytime Chinatown have become a calm, quiet skeleton of themselves- wearing an almost unrecognizable guise of scarcity. I take a shower and plonk myself onto my bed, unable to close my curtains because gazing out onto New York City buildings from the 6th floor vantage point of my bedroom fills me with childish excitement.
I can’t believe I’m actually here.