Monday, March 29, 2010

Bons Amis et Bonne Nourriture

As I indulged myself in a rare second cup of dark roast coffee filled with french vanilla creamer this morning, I began to reflect upon my weekend. It was filled with good friends, good food, and lots of laughter.

Thursday, 3/25/10
Neal arrived in NYC around 10:45pm. Thursday is the night that I bowl in support of BC/EFA. We bowl two games starting at 11:30pm with a warm up that starts at 11:15pm. With Neal's arrival time earlier than that of the time I needed to be at Port Authority to bowl, he met me at the TONY Lounge at New World Stages. I usually can be found there on a Thursday night passing the time before bowling begins by singing a little karaoke. Neal arrived at NWS just as I was getting ready to sing my swan song for the evening. I forgot to be nervous about him being there. I hadn't sung in front of Neal in any performance capacity for years, but I didn't feel nervous about him hearing me. I think I felt a little excited and proud. After the song, we headed down to Port Authority on 42nd Street. Neal asked me how good of a bowler I was. I responded by telling him that the week before I had bowled four strikes in a row and that it was the second time in three weeks I had done so. I am nothing, however, if not inconsistent. I went from high scorer on my team the previous week to low scorer that night. I couldn't even beat the blind I was bowling against. A blind is when there is no one bowling against you and the computer registers a 180 point score for that slot. All I had to do was score a 181 to get a point for my team. Didn't happen either game. Sadness!! Neal and I shared a cab to Astoria with my friend and team mate, Christine. It was my first cab ride from Manhattan to Astoria. It was $14. Not too bad. I also learned how to get to my apartment via cab from Manhattan. That came into play later in the weekend. It was Neal's first visit to my new apartment. He liked it and was very happy for me. I showed him around the apartment and we talked for quite a while. Exhausted, at 3am I turned the light off and sleep took over.

Friday, 3/26/10
Even though I had known for more than a week that Neal and Stephen were coming for a visit I was unprepared. When Neal and I woke on Friday morning, I had no food to feed him for breakfast. I don't know why I don't prepare myself. When at Neal's there is never a moment when food isn't in the house. He and Stephen always have cereal and milk at least. We might have to make a trip to the grocery store, but it's usually to get specific things that we want to eat. I guess since I don't always stock my refrigerator and cabinets with food for me, I don't think about it for others. Bad host! BAD host!! Neal did a small amount of work on Friday morning, but by 1pm we were ready to get on with the day. We showered and left the house walking toward the subway to head into Manhattan. It was the first time Neal got to see my new neighborhood in the daylight. He liked it. Once in Manhattan, we had a plan of attack. I wanted to go to Pottery Barn and Neal wanted to go to Bed, Bath, & Beyond. We had already decided that we would treat ourselves to a small spa day and get manicures. First on the agenda though was food. We went to the Oxford Cafe. It was nothing special. We just decided to eat at the first place that looked as if we would find food we wanted to eat. Actually, I think this was the second place. We initially were in search of a diner so as to get breakfast food. On the East side of Manhattan, diner's aren't as easy to come by as on the West. So we chose what was basically a deli with seating in the rear. Sandwiches consumed, we decided to head to Bliss Spa on 57th Street to get our 30 minute manicures. Or in the case of Bliss they are called Manly-cures. I was in desperate need as my cuticles were dry enough to flake off. So embarrassing. Neal, as it turned out, was also in need of one. It was a fitting first stop for us. Upon arrival we were told that they didn't know if they had space at the 57th Street location today. Who knew it would be so full? They did end up having the ability to give us 5 and 5:30pm appointments. They didn't have the ability to take us at the same time. No problem. We took the appointments. With our names in the computer at Bliss and our credit card numbers holding our spots, we headed to Kenneth Cole. Neal wanted to donate a pair of old, but in-good-condition shoes to Haiti, and buy a new pair for himself. We then went to Saks Fifth Avenue where I bought a new fragrance and indulged myself in a search for a new bag. It seems I've been bitten by the "get a new bag" bug again. Then off to Pottery Barn. I had seen, briefly, the yellow floral pillows that they introduced for the season. I thought they might look pretty in my living room. Turns out, they weren't as pretty in person as I thought and the colors weren't as conducive to mine as I had hoped. I didn't leave empty handed though. I bought an oval basket for holding my magazines. After Pottery Barn, we spent a little time in Crate and Barrel. Who can pass up an opportunity to stop in Crate and Barrel? I can't, that's for sure. Neal and I have passed many a minute/hour in Crate and Barrel. Time to head to Bliss. Bliss Spa is painted in what must be the most tranquil, relaxing shade of blue. I love it. I had similar color on my living room walls at a former apartment. Manicures are manicures. Clip, file, soak, push, cut, massage, buff. It did take 30 minutes and it was so worth it. My cuticles and nails looked amazing. I wanted to fall asleep during the hand massage. Little indulgences are so good for the spirit. It's amazing how it makes me feel to simply get a manicure. We left Bliss and took our newly manicured selves to Bed, Bath & Beyond. Neal and Stephen had decided to buy me an Aero Bed as a house warming gift. Neal said that I was always giving up my bed when they came to visit and that now that I had space there was no need for that. I protested at first, but decided that I would graciously and thankfully accept their gift. We were pushing it to get back to Astoria, drop off our bags, change clothes, and get back into Manhattan to meet Stephen for dinner. Stephen couldn't make the trip from Boston until Friday afternoon so he was due to arrive around 7:45pm. I don't know how we managed to pull it off, but we got to the mexican restaurant, El Azteca, on 9th Avenue before Stephen. We put our request in for a table for five and sat to wait for Matt and Josette to join us for dinner. I will say that I love El Azteca. I've had many a good meal there. However, this particular night, we had to wait for a table and had the poorest service in my history of eating there. So strange. I don't know if they are just not used to the over flowing tables of customers or what, but it was incredibly annoying. With our bill paid the five of us went to the sidewalk to hail cabs to take us to our respective homes. Goodbye hugs and kisses were given on the street with a promises to talk the next day and discuss a plan for that evening. Here's where paying a bit of attention in the cab from the night before came into play. The cab driver for this ride to Astoria didn't know where to go. Having never really needed a cab ride to Astoria before, it was a rude awakening for me that cabby's don't just know how to get around each borough. I remembered from the night before that we were on Northern Boulevard and took a left on 47th Street. I was able to tell the cab driver that information thus being the essential component in getting us to my apartment. Thank God I was paying attention. After showing Stephen around the apartment, the Aero Bed was opened and filled with air so that the three of us could go to bed. I had to get up at 8:20am the next morning for work. It was already after 1am. After a day of shopping, running around, and our later dinner, I was tired. I turned the light out and remember nothing until my alarm went off the next morning. Well, I do remember hearing movement in the living room earlier than that, but I didn't remember it until later on Saturday evening.

Saturday, 3/27/10
I had to work on Saturday from 10 - 5. Neal and Stephen wanted to go to Room and Board, and they also wanted to see a matinee of something. They chose to see the new gay-themed play NEXT FALL written by Geoffrey Nauffts. They came by NWS before the matinee and returned my keys so that I could get in my apartment after work. Their play was to end half-an-hour after I got off work. Another bad host situation. I didn't make keys for Neal and Stephen. After work I went to buy a couple of bottles of wine for the evening's gathering at my apartment. I then went to the Food Emporium to pick up some snacks. The plan was to go out to dinner in Astoria and then return to my apartment to play games. I arrived at the Food Emporium just minutes before NEXT FALL was to end. I called Neal and left him a message to meet me at the Food Emporium so that we could ride back to Queens together. With snacks of pretzels, kettle corn, M&M's (both peanut butter and dark chocolate) mixed nuts, and beer in hand we made our way back to my house to wait for Matt and Josette to arrive. I did a little research on a couple of restaurants that interested us. One I had been to before and the other I was dying to try. We decided on the one I hadn't been to before. A french bistro called Bistro Les Minots. It was amazing. The food was incredible. We had truffle oil french fries. Josette had mussels. I had lamb shank with mashed potatoes. Stephen had salmon. Neal and Matt had spinach and mushroom stuffed chicken breast. Bon Appetit! We had good wine. Both white and red Cotes du Rhone. While waiting for our dessert the owner presented us with a liqueur to sip which he referred to as antifreeze. He was very funny and seemed to like us. Dessert arrived in the form of classic and espresso flavored creme brulee along with cinnamon and apple filled crepes. Some had coffee. It was an amazing experience that I look forward to repeating. Good friends enjoying good food. I was so glad that we chose to stay in my new neighborhood and enjoy what it has to offer. We all discovered a wonderful restaurant. When we returned to my apartment no one was really hungry, but I began to fill bowls with all the snacks I had procured earlier. It wasn't long before hands were reaching into bowls to lift salty or sweet treats to their mouths all the while saying they didn't need it. Part of the fun of hanging out is over-indulging in things you don't really need in the company of people who aren't going to judge you for doing it. I felt myself go into hostess mode. I immediately asked if any one needed anything to drink. Water seemed to be the choice of the moment. We decided to play Celebrity. This is a game played in teams which can lead to side-splitting belly laughs. Here's how it goes: each person gets ten slips of paper and writes the name of a another person on it that at least one other person in the room will know. This can be a real name, character name, cartoon name, etc. You get the picture. We drew numbers for teams. Turned out that Neal, Stephen, and I were to play against Matt and Josette. It wasn't fair. Not just because of the 3 against 2 thing, but we gays tend to be pop culture people. It seemed natural for the team names to be Gays vs. Straights. The first round of play the giver can say whatever it takes, without saying what's on the paper, to get his team to guess the name. For round two all slips go back into the bowl and the giver can only use one word for the guesser(s). Round three is a charade round. I hate to be mean, but the Gays wiped the floor with the Straights. We laughed so much. About halfway through round one, Stephen got a beer from the refrigerator, and just like that, the water turned to wine. Well, not literally, but water glasses were exchanged for wine glass and the purple liquid of the grape flowed freely. As for those belly laughs alluded to earlier, watching Matt try to act out Benjamin Bratt by acting as a bratty child hilarious. Listening to Josette describe the name on her slip by saying, "I love her," and thinking that would help Matt figure out that it was Jackie O. Funny! Of course all of us had fun with Mao Tse Tung and Sookie Stackhouse. "Neal" became the buzz word for Mao Tse Tung as he had put in that clue and "Matt" became the buzz word for Sookie Stackhouse because of a story involving an non-existent child whose name might one day be Sookie Semrick. Can't you just hear someone yelling from the back porch, "Sookie Semrick, you get in this house right now!"?

The weekend with my friends ended for me that night. I had to work 10 - 8 on Sunday so I didn't have any time to spend with them that day. Neal and Stephen saw a matinee of THE TEMPERAMENTALS by Jon Marans at NWS. I'm always happy when I can provide tickets to my friends. Both plays they saw over the weekend were gay-themed. We referred to the weekend as gay play weekend or GPW for short.

By the time Sunday night rolled around I was exhausted. Not only had I spent a fun-filled weekend with my friends, but work was extremely busy. There is no hidden complaint in there either. I'm thankful for the time spent with my friends and thankful that NWS is thriving.

La vie est bonne!!