Fa·mil·iar: one that is familiar; especially an intimate associate, companion; a spirit often embodied in an animal and held to attend and serve or guard a person; one who is well acquainted with something. That's how merriam-webster.com defines familiar. I can define it with three words: Neal and Matt.
Neal arrived in the City late Friday night, joining Stephen who was already here to conduct Emerson's fall auditions. I know I had just seen him in Boston a mere 13 days before, but it's always nice to hang out. In Boston, we hang out at the house. In NYC we go to dinner and have drinks. Different cities, different entertainment.
I met Neal at the Crowne Plaza on 49th and Broadway at 5:30pm on Saturday evening. Stephen had a dinner break from 6-7pm so Neal and I hung out in the room until Stephen joined us and then we headed out into the City to get him dinner. It was too early for Neal and me to eat, we were being joined later by Matt for dinner anyway, so we just sat at the table and talked while Stephen ate. I think we went to Cafe Europa, but I wouldn't swear to it so don't even ask me to raise my right hand. With Stephen's dinner complete, he had to run to the next audition location.
Neal and I began to saunter back to the hotel. Well, saunter as much as one does in the cold. I wanted a drink. We stopped mid street to discuss where to get a glass of wine. Hmmm, NYC, where to get a glass of wine. That should be easy. I mean just turn around oneself in a circle and there's bound to be a bar somewhere. Divine Bar occurred to me. We headed toward 54th. Neal realized he had forgotten his cold meds so we did an about face and headed toward the Crowne Plaza. Hey, they have a bar in the hotel. We could've just as easily had a drink there.
Back in the room we had a moment of talking about what we each wanted to drink. Neal thought he might have a Maker's, neat, and I was completely salivating for a Jameson with a single cube. The light bulb above my head went off and I knew where we should go. The Time Out Lounge. Yes it's at my place of work, but it's also where I get a discount. Done. We were off to the TONY Lounge.
We sat at the bar and talked, enjoying the warmth of the drink as we froze our asses off. You see the TONY Lounge is located at the bottom of the stairs below the main lobby of New World Stages. So every time one of the six doors opens off of the sidewalk, cold air is sucked down the stairs and chills the patrons of the Lounge. We were only going to be there for roughly 45 minutes as we were meeting Matt at 7:45pm so we just dealt with it. That time turned out to be a gross miscalculation on Matt's part. We called Matt just after 8pm as he had not responded when Neal sent him a text to meet us at the Lounge instead of John's Pizzeria. He was still uptown, having just finished walking the dogs, but walking out the door to meet us. We gave it a few minutes and then headed down to John's ourselves.
I don't go to John's anymore without Matt and Neal. It's just something we always do together. So it felt good to be back in the familiar surroundings of the former church building again. Neal and I sat at the bar, ordered a pitcher of Brooklyn Lager, and waited for Matt to arrive. Neal finished telling me a story that began on the walk down while the bartender poured us each a glass from our pitcher. Familiar. Comfortable.
Matt arrived. Hugs all around. Matt went to our table as Neal settled our bar tab. We took the remainder of the pitcher to our table and poured Matt a glass. We had to take care of our friend. I mean it's the southern thing to do. Just because we're all Yankees now doesn't mean we left our roots in the South. It was so nice to be together again. I don't remember the last time just the three of us hung out. It was reminiscient of the old days. We are all in different places in our lives these days. Matt is engaged, Neal is going to grad school, and I'm working on finding a place to live and be happy. But we're all the same. Familiar stories and actions find their ebb and flow just as they always did. The cadences were still the same. We're just a little (and I do mean just a little) older and a bit wiser.
Watching us pay for things is always comedy. I never carry cash so I always need to split it on my card. I paid for the drinks at the TONY Lounge and Neal paid for the pitcher at John's. I paid for the pizza which left Matt wondering what to do. I told him to pay for breakfast the next morning. He also paid the tip on the pizza.
We hailed a cab and headed to 57th Street to meet Josette, Matt's fiance, for a birthday party of one of Matt's clients. The cool thing was, I knew the man too. The boss of a former roommate who also does marketing for many shows that I've sold tickets for in the past and present. There were lots of gays there, a few women, and a couple of cats. Our little quartet spent most of the evening in the bedroom, drinking vodka and grapefruit juice, just talking. The funniest thing that happened at the party was when Neal saw the female cat of the pair of siblings. The owner had already mentioned that the pair were identical, but that she was a little bigger. We were also told she only drank water from the bathroom faucet and therefore liked to sit in the sink. She was hilarious just sitting there when I went to the bathroom. Back to the funny moment. Neal hadn't seen her yet. He had only seen her brother. She came sauntering (I seem to be loving that word) out of the bathroom and Neal said, "Hey Puss...(gasp) she is fat!". There was no filter. I nearly fell out. It reminded me of something that Neal and I used to say in college about a girl who didn't strike something from a scene during a dance concert one year. Our ballet teacher, upon questioning her whereabouts, was informed, "That girl had to shit!" We used to say that all the time and Neal's delivery of the "fat" line was the same. Again, I nearly fell out.
We had already decided to meet the next morning at 8am for breakfast. It was late by that point and the 7am alarm was going to come quickly and sound as bad as nails scrapping on a chalk board. I decided, with Neal's permission, to stay in their hotel room on the chaise. It was a little shorter than comfortable though so I eventually ended up on the floor. I was happier to be on that floor than sleeping in my own bed with the anxiety that attaches itself to my chest when I'm in my apartment.
The next morning, breakfast was at Georgio's Country Grill. Stephen and Josette joined us. We made it just past 8am. Matt paid.
The three of us are well acquainted, companions, and though not as animals, guardians of each other. My familiars, my friends