Friday was a big night.
Law school friend Vanessa and I were meeting up for dinner, old college friend Jim was in town looking for apartments in preparation for his big move to New York, and I took the PATH train to the city for the first time in quite awhile.
I typically drive to New York for two main reasons - it can be cheaper and faster than public transportation if you park on the street, and since I am typically out late in New York, it's nice to just get in your car and go, rather than waiting for the subway, PATH, so on. And if you have to take the NJ transit train, well, they usually stop running by 1am, so that can be a problem.
Anyway, Friday evening, I wound up taking the PATH from Pavonia/Newport in Jersey City. V and I were meeting at 7pm, but at 6:30, I was still thick in the middle of Holland Tunnel traffic and I knew there was no way I'd make it to Columbus Circle by the appointed time. So, PATH and subway it was. Going in was fine, coming out was a whole different story which I will save for later.
Anyway, I met Vanessa at Azucar, a Cuban restaurant on 8th Avenue at 56th Street. My whole weekend had a very Latin theme to it, which seemed even more apropos following Ibrahim Ferrer's death. Outside there's a man making cigars, and there's a busy bar just through the door. The restaurant itself was also bustling, but Van had gotten there early and snagged us a table (and also had some empanadas, which she said were excellent, to tide herself over). The decor was really nice, with the typical warm, low lighting that softens the edges and makes everyone look better. Lots of vegetation, too, which helped muffle the din somewhat. I had rabo encedido - braised ox tail in red wine sauce with mashed plantains. It was served with a side of rice and it was simply splendid - the meat was tender and full of flavor, and the mix of peppers in the sauce was quite complementary. Van had the pollo aljibe, which she raved about.
The service was quick, friendly and attentive (and patient considering I was late to meet V, and she sat at the table for about 45 minutes before ordering) and the salsa music was at a good volume. I love salsa music, and I thought to myself Friday night, "If I were a waitress here, it might not be so bad, I'd just dance around all night long." Anyway, I'll definitely return to Azucar.... I think I'll have a cuban sandwich and a mojito.
As ever, the company was a delight. I hadn't seen Vanessa since last October, but she was full of her usual saltiness. Few people could pull off, "Megan, you should be black. Ordering ox tail. Jesus," or "If another associate talked to me like that, I'd tell the partners, 'Fine. But you're losing two attorneys today - her because I'm gonna kill her, and me because I'll be going to jail." We gossiped and commiserated and had our usual rollicking time.
I met up with dearest Jim after dinner and we headed off to Citrus for my favorite sangria. Citrus has its faults (the music is completely bizarre and the bar area is not comfortable) but the sangria rules and I actually am a fan of the food too. Jim is a law-talking person too, so we did the usual legal blah-blah and caught up since we hadn't spoken since December, and hadn't seen each other in years. The delight of Jim is that despite the fact that we have both changed a lot since we were 18, we can still talk and talk like it's 4am in the dorms and Jim's roommate has sexiled him. Spending time in New York with Jim is so refreshing because he sees it through entirely different eyes - the kid grew up in Idaho and has loved New York, or the idea of it, since childhood. Everything is fresh and clean and beautiful, even when it's hot and sultry. This fall, he'll be moving here for the next two years. "I wonder if I'll ever see New York as home," he mused. "Or if it will always just be this beautiful, exotic other. I think it'll always be the other." I hope so. Familiarity can breed love, but it's nothing like the love you have for the ideal in your head.
Jim and I said our good-byes and I headed back to the PATH, where I got to wait on the unbearably hot platform with other Jersey-bound folks for 30 minutes. As we rolled off to Hoboken, I dozed off in an attempt to block out the loud people. I was so successful that I slept right through my stop and had to wait at Grove Street till the next train came. I stood on the platform as a train headed to Journal Square came in, watched a guy go running off the train and puke all over the tracks. "This is why we can't have nice things," I muttered. Long story short, from the time Jim and I said good-bye outside Lincoln Center till I got home to Mo Plains, two hours had elapsed. This is why I don't take public transportation.