I cannot TELL you how amazing the last four days were… I’m going to do such a feeble job in this blog that I’m embarrassed, in advance, at my own inadequacy. But here goes.
The best four consecutive days I’ve had since the cruise last summer.
Friday morning I flew into JFK and went to the hotel, dropped off my bag, and met up with Jenn. Jenn had actually been in upstate New York for a week, and had come down to the city to meet up with me… and while there, had coffee with her cousin Tony. She was insistent that I had to meet Cousin Tony, and for good reason: the man is a freakin’ CHARACTER. We instantly hit it off, sitting on either side of Jenn at the bar attached to the Modern Museum of Art, crackin’ jokes at her expense. Good times.
In short order, two people showed up at the bar… Whitney, from New Mexico (one of my two London traveling companions last year), asked the hostess if there was a table reserved under my name. Standing behind her, Jason Green from Charlotte thought to himself, “There can’t be that many people with that name at this bar…” and followed her over to me. The first interstate connection! The five of us sat/stood at the bar, trying Rick-the-Bartender’s crazy concoctions (most of which involved CUCUMBER flavor, for some reason) and tart flambe… Yes, flaming tart. Run with it.
We eventually got a table, and ordered some more drinks and some food. The food came in absurdly small portions, with ridiculously high prices, but for a first meal in the city on this trip, it was perfect. Besides, the waiter was gay and reasonably cute, and in fact was from Central Florida. So we were pleased to order from him, and to frequently compare notes on him as he walked by. Compare notes LOUDLY, that is. (We drank too much cucumber…)
NEXT STOP, another bar. Wandered down the street to China Queen. Or China King, as I quickly corrected myself… and then China Grill, as people more sober than me insisted on calling it, just because that’s what the menus and signage said. Whatever, they had greasy chip-like things to eat, and poured a lot of Jack Daniel’s when making mixed drinks. (Yes, I went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered Tennessee whiskey, shut up) Before long, Mark (formerly from FIT, more recently from Charlotte) arrived, with his NYC friend Keith in tow. Drinks, intros, etc… Then another friend of Mark’s (Steve, I think?) shows up with HIS friend, who is cute and blonde and will remain nameless. (I have his picture, but can’t remember his name… I was drunk, don’t judge me) I harass him until he agrees to have a cocktail. This makes me happy.
Eventually it occurs to me that I haven’t officially gotten my hotel room, just “checked in” and dropped off my luggage with the porter. I realize that eventually I’m going to want to sleep, or at least fall over, in a bed, and that I should have a back-up plan in case meeting a nice Hell’s Kitchen boy doesn’t work out (I kid, I kid!) We all part ways… Whitney goes to meet up with friends of hers in Brooklyn (I think?) and is out of the picture for the rest of Friday night. Mark & Co. depart to destinations unknown (at least to me, four days later). Jason Green goes off for dinner… and Jenn and I retreat to the hotel to regroup, change clothes, etc.
The hotel is on the far east side of the island, which isn’t PRECISELY convenient, but it’s not too far… Especially because the weather is GORGEOUS! Sunny, but with a nice cool breeze… And not the breeze that comes out of the subway, but a real breeze! Hooray! The view from the hotel is unbelievable… absolutely, positively, breath-taking. Worth the few extra blocks from the theatre district. We stare in awe for awhile, then remember we’re supposed to be getting ready.
Rush back to Midtown in a cab, and meet up with Giles (more recently called by his first name, Jason) and his lovely fiance Christina. They went to FSU, but I love ’em anyway. I have a surprise lined up for them: SPRING AWAKENING! Great show… I didn’t walk away from it MOVED like I have from other shows, but it was awesome nonetheless. Great to see the context around some of the soundtrack! Left the theatre and wandered ’round to find food… And lo and behold, we manage to meet up with Erin outside on our journey.
Now, Erin and I go way back. WAAAAAAY back. I’ve known Erin longer than I’ve known ANYONE I still keep in touch with, except for Damon. There’s a reason I called Damon my lil’ brother and Erin my lil’ sister… We may as well have grown up together. Unfortunately I haven’t seen Erin in almost two years… She’s had a rough few months, and moved up to NYC just a few weeks before, so the timing of this visit is a great chance for us to catch up. We find a lil’ corner “food court” kinda place and settle down for a late bite to eat.
And shortly thereafter, met Sal, the first of the HKGBs (that’s “Hell’s Kitchen Gay Boys” for the uninitiated)
Sal is, in a word, awesome.
He took us ’round to a Hell’s Kitchen bar he thought we’d enjoy… Turned out to be a gay bar, crowded as hell, loud as FUCK. But they had a giant jar full of the NYC subway-themed condoms in the front, so that was cool. A few minutes after we get good ‘n settled, one of my OTHER HKGBs that I’ve been chatting with, Chris, makes his way to the bar. Chris is a former UF student (Go Gators!) and has come to get his dance on at the club, and meet me in the process. We chat briefly, and I introduce him to Mark when he comes in. Mark, Jason Green, and Chris go to dance.
Throughout the whole social portion of this bar, I notice that Sal is chatting up my girls. Smart guy, gettin’ in the with gatekeepers 😉 Seriously though, HOW COOL is that?! You gotta respect the ability to meet total strangers and being instantly immersed in the group. And we all know I love introducing people and helping strangers forge connections, so I was lovin’ it.
I enjoyed the “meat market” feel of the place for a few minutes, out of fascination more than anything else, but eventually I got tired of shouting. So we go two doors down to a slightly-quieter, much less crowded straight bar. The BREWHOUSE, if I remember right. This place ROCKS.
It’s got a “pub” kinda feel to it… Large tables, high stools at each, cute lil’ waitresses wandering around chatting up customers. Ours was adorable, and had a beach-chick look to her, which was appropriate ’cause she told us about her intention to move to West Palm Beach (right, guys?). Unfortunately I can’t remember her name. But she was rockin’. Sal knew her name at that point, but couldn’t remember it the next day either… Nor could he remember the name of another server he introduced me to, which was embarrassing, ’cause he guessed wrong. But whatever, she seemed to get over it.
So we have some drinks, and here comes a friend of Sal’s, and two friends of Sal’s friend (a guy and a girl). Sal’s friend is gay, and fabulous, and wears a trucker hat like Scott-o, so he’s on my cool list right away. The other two, a cute lil’ couple, are more quiet… and, come to find out, no more a couple than Jenn and I. Or Jenn and Erin, which is probably way hotter. Anyway, he’s gay. And they’re both named Sean. (The guys… not the girl… don’t roll your eyes at me, I know a girl named Sean, but spelled differently, here in Charlotte, and SHE DOESN’T APPRECIATE YOU MOCKING HER)
The Seans rock. Sean #1, aka Trucker Hat Sean, is more energetic and outgoing. Sean #2, aka Straight-Until-You-Talk-To-Him Sean (I kid, I kid!) is a little more reserved…. For now. Wait for it.
So we’re all hangin’ out, having some drinks, shootin’ the breeze… some more of our crowd wander over from the restaurant next door… it’s turning into a party. Jenn’s tired and not feeling well, so she calls it a night early (and by “early” I mean like 2 or 3 o’clock… people in Charlotte would be SHOCKED at my 4:00 or 5:00 bedtimes this past weekend!) She wisely convinces me NOT to try to take her home and then make my way back to the bar. Thanks, Jenn, I would’ve gotten lost and had to make a whole new group of friends to survive!
Anyway, after a bit, we decide to change bars AGAIN and go to a piano bar down the street. Turns out there is semi-karaoke going on… no TVs, no prompting of lyrics, you actually have to KNOW what you’re singing. Tricky.
There was a singing cow. Like, with black-and-white spots and udders. You can’t make this shit up.
By now we’re all loaded. LO-HO-HO-HO-DED. At one point I’m having a VERY explicit conversation with an attractive young man, detailing in particular EXACTLY what he’d like me to do to him, and how, and for how long. This has never happened to me with a total stranger, and while I’m not going to take him up on the offer, it was definitely an event to remember!
One of the Seans goes up to sing, I think. I’m a little blurry, but that seems about right. (Sean-G, did you sing at “Don’t Tell Mama” ?? And yes, people, that was the name of the piano bar… Cabaret fans, rejoice) Regardless, he wasn’t the singer with the udders.
Later, me and the OTHER Sean are both in the skeezy bathroom in the basement (skeezy basement bathrooms have a unique charm, no?) with the JET ENGINE HAND DRYER (you have to experience this… as long as you don’t have loose fillings in your teeth) and walk out the door, nearly colliding with a vivacious young woman named Tara. With a TEE, not a KAY. Tara-with-a-T, as she will henceforth be known, is immediately suspicious, and demands to know what two obviously gay (shut up) men are doing in the bathroom together. (Peeing, it seems, is not an answer that satisfies her) Eventually we have to grab her and take her up to hang out with us to get her to stop demanding to know “the truth”. Turns out she’s FANTASTIC! She gives us business cards. I write my info down on a bar napkin (my “business card” from my bartending days… still works!)
The extended gang hangs out until 3:30 or so, drinking and being merry. Sean 2 keeps apologizing for being drunk. Erin’s breasts keep finding them way into my hand and onto my face. Sal keeps trying to go home but Erin and I keep drunkenly insisting that it’s too early to do so. THE NIGHT IS YOUNG!
Pause and reflect on the fact that everything written above happened within the first 15 hours of arriving in the city. We’ve got Kevin, Jennifer, Cousin Tony, Rick the bartender, Whitney, Jason Green, gay waiter from Central Florida, Mark, Keith, Steve (?) and Cute Blonde Guy, Giles, Christina, Erin, Sal, Chris, Sean #1, Sean #2, Victoria (right?), West Palm Beach girl, Tara-with-a-T, and the singing cow. And those are just the people I can clearly remember and assign a name, or at least a nickname.
I love New York City.
Jenn, Sal, Erin, and I stumble to a cab. We quietly… QUIETLY… tip-toe into the room, where Jennifer has been sleeping. And by quietly I mean we might as well have backed a car up into the “sitting area.” I call Thijs to leave a slurred message, and discover that while we’re stumbling back to the room, HE’S IN A CAR ON THE WAY TO THE ORLANDO AIRPORT TO COME HERE. Wow… Either he’s up early, or we’re up late, or both.
Erin whispers ever-so-softly, as if with a megaphone, that she can’t find an extra pillow. After ten minutes of this, Jenn loudly proclaims that Erin can get into bed with her if she will FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHUT THE HELL UP. Sal and I fall over onto my bed and proceed to not have sex, you fuckers, don’t assume you know things.
A very VERY short while later, it turns out Thijson and Jinilin got to the airport 25 minutes before their flight… and Continental, it seems, requires you to arrive 30 minutes before your flight. So there will be no flight for them! They get delayed, and have to catch ANOTHER flight, changing planes in Chicago, which gets them into the city much later then planned.
We are, in a word, oblivious.
I wake up at like 8am and freak out when I discover Thijson’s message. Sal has to leave to go to rehearsal, so he treks on out. Jenn furiously insists that if I *TRY* I can fall back asleep, despite my morning-person ways… Erin is unconscious and unaware of any of this. I lay there quietly, thinking to myself that Jenn is wrong and I will NOT fall back asleep, and then I realize it’s three hours later. Thanks Jenn!! Despite this, I’m freakin’ exhausted when I wake up from what has become a nap. My increasingly-elderly body is not used to this.
But I’m a trooper, so I carry on.
Jenn, Erin, and I get up and frantically catch a cab over to the theatre that houses Wicked, so we can put out names in the lottery for front-two-rows tickets for $26.50 each. Alas, we do not win, so we stumble around squinty-eyed looking for food. Get some brunch and a LOT of rehydration in us, and we’re doing better.
I’ve been in the city for 24 hours now. It feels like home.