One of my mottos in life (one of the ones I actually believe, not one of the ones I just think sounds good) has always been “It’s not where you are, but who you’re with that matters.”
Case and point (I don’t know what that phrase means, but apparently this is the correct usage):
Last summer I planned an impromptu Labor Day “party” at my parents’ house on Long Island. At the time, they were right in the middle of remodeling the house, so our “party” consisted of me and about seven of my closest friends sitting around a large dining room table in a nearly empty, plywood-floored room, that was lit by bulbs hanging from wires in the ceiling and surrounded by equally empty, disheveled rooms.
All night long we sat around that table, drinking, telling stories and taking pictures, every so often wandering out to the barbecue for another round of food. My friend BJ put it best when he said we were like a group of friends in post-World War II Italy, and our house was bombed out but we were just happy to be alive.
We did this until about 2:00 in the morning, at which time we rolled out makeshift beds on the plywood floor and called it a night. Everyone who was there agrees it was one of the most fun “parties” ever attended.
Which is why I wasn’t surprised (OK, a little surprised) at the fantastic time that was had out in Queens this past weekend. We originally planned on going to the historic Beer Garden; but upon arrival at 10:00pm we were met with a line outside that rivaled a Harry Potter book signing. So we discussed our options, let the Queens natives navigate, and ended up at an outdoor café on the corner of Ditmars and Doesn’t Really Matter Street.
Three pitchers of sangria and a few chocolate and banana crepes later, our waiter rewarded our boisterous behavior with a round of grappa on the house, which was less like throwing gasoline on the fire and more like swallowing gasoline on the sangria. After a hearty round of “OK, now I’m drunk”’s, we dispersed, everyone already saying what a fun night it had been.
So – to anyone who scoffs at the notion of going from Manhattan to Queens on a Saturday night, I have one piece of advice: Get better friends.
HOWEVER – the memorable moment of the weekend goes to dinner at an upper east side restaurant with my mother, grandmother, sister and The Girlfriend on Sunday night. Not because the food was so great, the conversation was fun and the check was picked up by my mother; but entirely because of the couple sitting at the table next to us.
The couple in question was an older man with a perfectly manicured mullet-perm and an attractive, brunette, late 20’s - very early 30’s woman. I knew something was suspect when we first sat down and I saw the woman grab the man’s hand and overheard her say, “Thank you for seeing me. I really just needed to sit down and talk face to face.” At first I thought it was just a break-up gone awry, but I was still curious about the obvious age/looks gap.
Then, after ignoring everyone else at the table for about ten minutes so I could intently listen to their conversation, I heard the fateful words: “blah, blah, blah wife blah, blah, blah.” The Girlfriend, who I didn’t know was listening too, shoots me a stunned look, mouthing the words, “But he has a perm!” It was a priceless moment (more for us than for the girl at the table, I presume).
Halfway through our meal, I was completely engrossed. I may as well have pulled my chair over and sat with my plate on my lap so I could have had a better view. Eventually, she starts crying, he gets up and goes outside to answer his cell phone (THREE TIMES) and I don’t know if I want to go give this girl a hug or slap her for being so stupid. (Although I would probably have to opt for the slapping, because the more I looked at her the more I could tell that she had a little bit of the crazy in her eye; you know, that look that says, “I’m pretty, but don’t think I won’t cut you.”) Finally, their conversation ends with this exchange:
Perm Mullet Man: “So it’s agreed, we’ll just be friends. And I’ll check in on you from time to time.”
Crazy Girl: (slightly twitching) “OK, thank you. Thank you so much.”
The best was when we left the restaurant and I alerted my mother as to what was going on at the table (her back was to them), and her reaction is a gasp of surprise and then: “Did you see he had an American Express Black card?” I don’t even know how she saw it with her back to them. I’m half convinced she smelled it. But just like my mom to get to the heart of the matter right off the bat.
All in all though, just a great dinner. Like I said, it’s all about who you’re with . . . unless it’s someone else’s husband. Then it’s about how good the psychiatrist is.