When you first move to a different city, most everything seems foreign, and it especially seems as though you’ll never have the sorts of friends you had in the place you left: the kind you run into randomly and end up spending half the night with, enjoying each other’s company. But two years on, you bump into someone in the West Village and he suggests dinner at one of his old haunts (and offers to treat), and the next thing you know you’re walking down to Houston St. and ending up in a front-room booth at Arturo’s, with live music and intimate Italian ambiance and an environment in which, it seems, everyone knows your friend’s name. (They should; after all, he used to drink there.)
We ate pizza and mussels and garlic bread; drank bottles of sparkling water with fresh lemons; and after balking over dessert the chef brought us a generous helping of chocolate cheesecake with fresh whipped cream, gratis. It was such a warm atmosphere, such warm company, I nearly forgot I’d ever worried I wouldn’t find such a thing in New York.
The friend tonight is one I met so randomly, about a year ago in a meeting, after which we walked back to his Murray Hill apartment and sat on his rooftop drinking Pellegrino nearly until the sun came up. He was a complete stranger, he and the other man who came with us, whom I’d also met that night. Both men have become friends, close ones at that, and it’s a comfort to have discovered people in such haphazard ways who end up being constant sources of both pleasure in one’s life.
We’ve made plans to see a movie this weekend at the Film Forum, a place we each cherish, albeit for different reasons: he, because he finds serenity there in his sobriety; me, because I am reminded of my earliest experiences in New York, of being taken there to see a Godard film when I barely knew who Godard was and couldn’t pick Houston St. out on a map if I had tried.
So much has changed since then. Some of it has been troubling, but today was spectacular.