I had planned a little Flatiron adventure this week. But one of the best (or worst, depending on your personality) things about New York is that you’ll randomly end up in the last place you expected, doing something you had never imagined yourself doing.
And sometimes there’s a lot of irony involved in that.
Because the last place I ever expect to wind up in New York City – on purpose – is Times Square. Shudder.
I met my friend N for dinner at Pho, a Vietnamese place on St. Mark’s. I find myself at Pho a lot. Every time I have friends in town, I take them here. Not intentionally. It’s just convenient, I guess. It’s perfectly reasonable food. And bonus: bubble tea, my favorite silly addiction. But it is a chain, and not necessarily the most authentic Asian restaurant in the world. I suppose this inadvertently set the tone for the evening.
N and I are a funny mix of similarities and perfect opposites. I guess you could optimistically say we have “complementary” qualities. I’m a planner, and she couldn’t even commit to having dinner with me on this particular evening until the last minute. She’s been working hard lately, and I felt lucky to catch an hour with her to eat and had no thoughts beyond it.
But one of my favorite things about N is her ability to extend an evening, to decide she wants to do something else, then something else, until inevitably we’ve managed to spend twenty-four hours together. She’s the spontaneous yin to my let’s-set-a-date-and-plan-it-and-have-it-to-look-forward-to yang, and this evening turned into no exception.
What was exceptional is what she suggested.
During dinner N mentioned seeing a movie, and I looked up time tables on my phone (oh how I love instant gratification.) I jokingly mentioned that we had just missed the beginning of Twilight: Breaking Dawn at a nearby theatre. We’d spent dinner talking about our mutual boy troubles and were feeling cranky. Hot vampire sex and sexy werewolves seemed like the perfect silly cure, and she was suddenly determined to see it. The only place it was playing was 42nd Street.
New Yorkers never voluntarily go to Times Square. It’s a vast wasteland of flashing lights with no substance. It’s expensive. It’s a tourist trap, and I can’t fathom why they fall into it. I had to walk through TS to get to work for over a year, and I regularly had to restrain myself from doing bodily harm to tourists lollygagging and congesting the sidewalks when all I wanted to do was WALK.
N is a true New Yorker. She’s got the inside track on dive bars and good food in out of the way pockets of the city. For her to suggest Times Square…but, why not?
The movie was mleh. Sometimes a movie is so bad you can guffaw and gleefully mock it (oh, please, please, see The Room. It will change your life with its absurd terriblosity.) But this one was boring. The vampire sex was chaste. If I came out of a night of passion with the amount of bruising Bella had, I’d consider it a good night. The moments were drawn out in generic soap opera style. I still just want to hit Bella in the mouth.
Still we giggled and felt superior and enjoyed ourselves on some sarcastic level.
We came out into the incessant lights of 42nd Street, bright as day at 10pm, and N announced she wanted steak. All that vampire blood sucking made her crave red meat. She looked across the street and decided we should fully embrace the irony of the night: we would go to Applebees.
I know, right?
But we did. We got giant glasses of sangria that had a thimbleful of alcohol. We split an entrée (surf and turf) and a dessert (triple chocolate cake of death or something. I don’t know. It was yummy. Shut up.) Our tab was $70. Because a Times Square Applebees is twice as expensive as any other Applebees in America.
Twilight. Applebees. We did it all with an ironic smile, embracing the absurdity of the night. But who has the last laugh, when those brands still get our hard-earned money?
I think we do. We laughed hard. Like we always do. And we always have the most unexpected, lovely nights.
So the Flatiron District will wait, because I blew my weekly entertainment budget in Times Square. The beauty of New York is that even in an ultra-urban environment, you can embrace your inner suburban teenage girl. You can act like a tourist, even though it’s home. And as long as you’re with a good friend who makes you laugh, anything can become an adventure.