Throughout most of the winter I was overworked, slightly depressed by the lack of sunlight and feeling apathetic toward society so I slipped into semi-social hybernation. I went to relatively few parties, dinners and get togethers and those I did attend I didn't feel I had the energy for them. Even when I was invited out, my preference was generally to take the reclusive route by enjoying whatever movie Netflix delivered to me with some popcorn on my couch. It was a nice run but I have decided the hermit life must end - afterall, I can pretty much guarantee that I will never meet anyone sitting on my couch so no matter how long the odds are at various parties and social events, they are better than what I currently have going for me.
In light of this new resolve, I reluctantly decided to forego my Friday night yoga class in favor of a night out. A girl (let's call her Texas for reasons to be revealed later) I sort of know who has never given up on inviting me to her gatherings despite my rare appearances organized an outing to a place in the West Village called Cafe Wha. Her emails adamently insisted everyone arrive promptly at 9 pm so that our large crowd of 20+ people could be seated. I arrived at exactly 9 pm and was the very first person to arrive and I was seated immediately at a long table for 20+ people. The ten minutes it took for the larger group to arrive felt more like 20 as I sipped my diet coke and chatted with the two other prompt attendees, one of whom insisted on asking me questions about getting into law school. But once the larger group arrived, things relaxed and before I knew it I was meeting new people and hugging those more familiar.
The place is known for its cover band that plays everything from current pop hits to R&B to 50s rock. We even had a special performance from (I believe) Samuel E. Wright who was the voice of Sebastian in The Little Mermaid - he performed his Grammy winning Under the Sea! Not really my choice in dance music but it isn't every day you can say you heard a live Grammy winner perform their winning song. Basically, you eat then dance in the aisles between the tables. It was pretty fun and my friend even danced on stage although I think I impressed a few people with my "shake it" abilities during the cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya"! Afterwards a smaller group of us (only 5) went to a place called Slate Plus where we played pool for an hour or two before heading home. I was quickly reminded that I am bad at pool. A shameful thing considering the amount of pool my siblings and I played the summer of 1990 after we first acquired a pool table and my sporadic dabbling throughout high school. I enjoyed meeting new people and decided I really need to make more social efforts.
However, Saturday that resolution quickly slipped away when gray clouds brought a cold drizzling rain to New York City. I slept in and puttered around my apartment not accomplishing much of anything until I left for yoga class at 330. I was glued to my couch despite the fact that I knew this weekend was the annual International Food Festival in Hell's Kitchen. Unlike last year, it snuck up on me and I failed to promote and recruit friends to wander down 9th Avenue with me for more sharing. The snarled traffic on the street outside my apartment confirmed that even with the rain, the street fest was going forward. So I went to yoga smack in the middle of the festival and sized up the food booths, plotting my post-workout indulgences. When I finished class the rain was falling slightly faster and heavier than the misty drizzle from my walk to class. This was no reason to forego my plan. The streets were emptier and the booths didn't have lines so I picked up a mozarella cornbread thing (I can never remember the name of it but SO yummy), a freshly made mango, strawberry and pineapple smoothie, an oriental chicken salad from Eatery (a favorite restaurant with a booth out front) and a cheesecake.
The first time I stumbled onto this festival was May 2002 when I ran into my neighbor in the lobby of our building when I was running to the grocery store. He convinced me to join him and a friend to see the newly released Star Wars movie (I can't remember which one). I still remember that I was unshowered and only left the house out of absolute necessity. I used the excuse that I was hungry and needed food and there was no time to eat and make the matinee. Then Kyle pointed up the block to 9th Avenue and explained we could grab some food from the street festival. I acquised despite my grungy, make-up-less appearance and the intimidating good looks of Kyle's friend visiting from DC. We started at 53rd street and literally ate our way to the movie theater on 42nd street. Most of the food costs $4-6 (a bargain here) and we would pick something up, try it and pass it amongst ourselves for better sampling. By the time we reached the theater we were pleasently stuffed. After the rather lengthy movie we repeated the process, sampling each other's purchases on the way home. One of the clear favorites was the cheesecake. We bought one slice on the way down and a second on the way home and I believe we each bought our own the next day on the way home from church. The booth is there every year and I always make a point of picking up a slice of the absolutely best cheesecake I have ever had. The crazy thing is the booth is for Martha Frances Cheesecake which is an actual bakery in the City, but I have never been to the actual establishment. Each year I just wait for the cheesecake to come to me in my neighborhood. This year I was not disappointed. I walked up to the booth with my other to-go items, stepped under the tarp for a respite from the rain (I felt a baseball hat was preferable to carrying an umbrella but it really isn't as effective) and pondered over the turtle, mud pie, chocolate raspberry and other delectable flavors. The proprieter of the booth claimed to be a dessert counseler and offered to help me with my choice. He seemed more suited to the Renaissance fair circuit (or what I imagine the Renaissance fair circuit to be) than a dessert shop on the exclusive Upper East Side. But he helped me narrow my selection to the turtle cheesecake and I was very pleased when I pulled it out of my fridge yesterday evening.
After devouring my street festival food, I indulged in a book and a long bubble bath. At the end of the previous night I was invited to attend a game night downtown at one of the boy's apartment. I debated all evening and even got dressed, put on a makeup and was about to walk out the door to go when I received a call from Texas, the one person I knew who was planning on attending. She wasn't going. She encouraged me to go anyway but I had been reluctant and now I lost all desire. I felt bad about making the effort to shave my legs and even put on lipstick but ultimately I think I made the better choice in watching Dreamgirls.
Sunday was Stake Conference - broadcast from Salt Lake and after talking to my brother in Boston I discovered it was actually a regional conference because he saw the same thing. But then another social dilemma presented itself. The Jazz game was scheduled to start at 3:30 pm and I received not one but two text message invitations to a barbeque downtown starting at 4:00 pm. I was told via text that the game would be on but not wanting to miss any of it I debated and debated and ultimately, when the Jazz were up 7 - 0 in the first minutes of the game, I walked out the door. Luck was on my side and the train arrived shortly after I reached the platform and when I transferred at 42nd street the express train pulled right up so I made it to Wall Street in 30 minutes. I ran into an old friend in the lobby of the building (she lives there, as do about 4 apartments of Mormons!) so I had a friendly face to escort me to the bbq. But when I walked in the apartment I became worried. I didn't know any of the party hosts (although I've met one a few times) and their tv was small and shuttered behind glass and latticed doors. I walked out onto their truly amazing 18th floor private terrace but felt I needed the tv on or I needed to find a sports bar. I explained that I had been reassured that the game would be on after I dropped my contribution of hummus and pitas on the serving table outside. It was a production getting the tv on the right channel but I then plopped myself on the couch and squinted across the room at the sorry score nearing the end of the 2nd quarter. During half time, I enjoyed the terrace, made brief small talk with people and nibbled at some pasta salad, carrots and the pitas and hummus - foregoing the novelty of barbequed hot dogs and hamburgers (truly no temptation there).
When I returned to the room with the tv at the start of the 3rd quarter, I was once again the sole viewer but gradually others trickled in and I started meeting fellow Jazz fans. Texas claimed to be a San Antonio fan despite the fact she is from Houston. She is from Texas and at all times wears a pendant in the shape of her home state with a heart cut out of the middle. She is loud, opinionated and attention seeking. I mean, this is the same girl who danced on stage Friday night. She is a lot of fun but I was getting irritated with her constant jabbering as she tried to prove how much she knows about San Antonio - since it is her third favorite team after the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks - and how she had $800 tickets to the Heat v Spurs finals game last year. We tried to point out that those teams are rivals but she claims she supports ALL Texas teams. I'm sorry, but you have to pick - you can't be a Mets and a Yankees fan so you shouldn't be an all-inclusive Texas fan. As the game wore on and the Jazz improved she started slamming Utah more and more. Belittling Utah for only having one professional team and claiming the games she attended at the Delta Center were the worst ever and that the Jazz have the absolute meanest fans. Those of us who were born and raised on the Jazz defended our fans but mostly watched the game while she pressed on claiming they are the worst she has ever seen and how they once tore up her brother's autographed poster of Hakeem Olajuwon. Why he would take an autographed poster to an opposing team's arena is beyond me. I didn't respond a lot to most of this because I was focused on the game. But then she crossed the line. First she spat out that everyone at Jazz games is white. Umm, yeah, it is Utah. We know we don't have a lot of diversity but what a weird comment, it isn't as if they only allow white people to attend. Then she said "I mean, they were all white trash." That was it, I had had enough of her. I told her that was just ridiculous and inappropriate. She countered that I shouldn't take it personally and I said of course that is personal - Utah is my home state and I have been a Jazz fan as long as I can remember and everyone in that arena is NOT white trash! She pressed on. Frustrated by her incessant badgering and the Jazz' inability to close the scoring gap by more than 10 points, I let myself loose and argued back. I think I silenced the room when I told her that just because you had the misfortune to sit by some jacka** doesn't mean you should call the entire fan base white trash. She persisted and I reluctantly let it go but couldn't understand why she had to be so rude about it. I thought her home city of Houston was hot, humid and dirty with no apparent redeeming features when I visited it briefly years ago and our waitress chastised my brother for not calling her "ma'am". But I did not share this with her, nor would I. That would be rude. Mostly I just get tired of Mormons who are not from Utah thinking it is funny to ridicule Utah and everyone from there. I know I mock much of the social culture of Utah but I love my home state, I often miss my home state. At the barbeque I told a friend I am going there for vacation this next weekend and she said "well, that isn't really vacation." What? Let's see, beautiful mountains, warm spring weather, the Jazz in the Western Conference finals, lots of friends and family to visit and best of all no work . . . why doesn't that qualify as vacation? Oh, because you scorn Utah. Right. I am tired of defending my state to those who think they are better.
Later that night as I was relaying the incident to my brother, Texas called. I let the call go to voicemail and was surprised by her message wherein she apologized and claimed she hoped there were "no hard feelings" because she didn't mean to personally attack me but felt like I was taking it very personally and then backed up the apology by saying "that's just my experience, Jazz fans are the meanest fans I've experienced." Fine, I really don't care if she feels that way but calling them white trash is an elitst, self-entitled attitude that crossed over the line in my opinion. I called her back and got her voicemail - told her I don't take these things personally and this was hardly a friendship breaking encounter. She returned the call (perhaps screening?) and although it ended fine I was irritated that she kept wanting to bait me back into an argument, or at least get the last word. If you are apologizing do you really need to insist you are right? Anyway, it added some drama to the evening.
But to end on a better note, I have to say how VERY EXCITED I am to get on a plane in 4 days to go home to Utah for FIVE WHOLE DAYS! I have a whole list of things I want to do, people I want to see (and yes, if you are reading this in Utah, you are on that list) and Mexican food I need to eat. Topping out the list will be attending both games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Finals. The Jazz need to step it up a notch, win tomorrow night in San Antonio (which I believe they can do) and take games 3 and 4 in SLC. I know that sounds like I am asking a lot of a team that no one predicted would come this far and a team that has not won in San Anotonio since 1999, but I have faith. I really want to believe that this is the year of the Jazz.