and the world don’t stop every time that you call

Christine insisted on showing off Central Park on Saturday afternoon. We scrambled over glacial rocks, wandered past the closed gates of the Central Park Zoo, and took pictures of the New York skyline. I find it easy to forget that New York isn’t just a tourist destination, like Disney World or the Taj Mahal. Actual human beings live there and go to work there every day.

We then made plans to meet up with her boy Tim, his friend Alex and Internet friend Meg at Gyu Kaku for Japanese in-table barbecue. Christine and I walked the several city blocks, passing the Apple Store first. “It’s not even a real building,” she said, “just a giant glass cube!” We talked about writing and improv to pass the time.

Gyu Kaku: one of those places where they serve the meat raw and you grill it in the center of the table. Meg joined us not long after we’d started, sharing a bottle of sake with us. Once our remarkably obsequious server brought out all of our plates, we set to shoveling food down our faces and took turns monitoring the grill.

Meg proved a sport and joined a pub crawl with four strangers. Our first real stop: the Pig & Whistle, just up the block. I bought the table a round (except Alex, who vanished as soon as we got in, but only so he could immediately get to the bar and buy himself a drink). The conversation fell to high school, then to college, then, inevitably, to karaoke. “We need to find a place to do karaoke,” Christine insisted, and Tim and his iPhone obliged.

Top Tunes Karaoke doesn’t charge a cover, but they do make you pay $2 for each song request so perhaps it evens out. We got there while the crowd was still fairly small so we had little competition for the first couple hours. Christine sang “Hey Big Spender” and “Bust A Move”; Meg covered Weezer and … something else (I forget). I reached not too deep into my back pocket to pull out karaoke staples “Hard to Handle” and “Wicked Game.” Strangers loved us.

Our meandering route north took us across the on-ramp to the Queensboro Bridge. Christine, Alex and Tim dashed across and, after a few more rows of cars, Meg and I sprinted after them. Alex stepped out into traffic to, apparently, try to stop cars for us. “Alex!” I yelled, high on adrenaline and Guinness. “Move!” He wasn’t, despite cars approaching at speed, so I grabbed him by the elbow and brought him onto the curb with us. Of course, at a full sprint I had momentum with me, so I ended up dragging him into a low concrete post. “Ow,” he said.

In his defense, he was doing what he thought he needed to do to help us cross a busy street; in my defense, he was inarticulately drunk. Call it how you will. I made my apologies, figured that nearly braining a guy meant I’d had enough for the night, and left the party to keep on crawlin’. Meg walked the 20 blocks to 94th street with me, and we chatted about how hard it was to find work or new friends in a big city like New York. I believed it.

Back at Christine’s apartment, I spent about twenty exhausted minutes trying to unlock her door before realizing I already had. I took out my contacts, dropping one in the process and not finding it until I heard it fall off my pant leg while crossing the kitchen floor. Then I passed out on the futon in the living room. At some point during all this, on wet Manhattan streets, Tim asked and Christine said yes.

Two different alarms got me up at 6:00 AM, and I dragged myself to the 96th and Lexington station. The walk from 2nd to 8th showed me an eerie, dimly lit side of Manhattan: 34th Street on an overcast Sunday morning. I got to my bus with plenty of time to spare, curled up on my seat, and started putting some miles between myself and the city.

Sunday recaps, and possibly pics, tomorrow.

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