Last weekend, Sister J. came to visit from Massachusetts, and she, Sister T., and I had a little sibling reunion here in the Big City. Sister J. has three kids at home, all under the age of five, so she doesn't make it down here too often. In fact, it had been over a year since her last visit, so I wanted to show her a nice night out New York-style.
Historically, going out on the town with Sister J. has been fraught with peril for me. It's a bit like walking a tightrope. Carrying a bag of watermelons. Over a flaming volcano. While wearing army boots.
Let me explain. Sister J. is attractive, flirty, provocative, a bit brazen, and will say almost anything to anyone, whether it's ill-advised or not. She freely chats up men, women, busboys, waitresses, policemen, construction workers, you name it. She likes to speak her mind, and she keeps it reals. Sometimes a little too reals for my taste. In fact, on occasion, her antics require emergency evasive action.
One example of some innocuous fun with Sister J. happened the last time she came to New York. We went to a nice restaurant in Midtown to celebrate Sister T.'s 30th birthday. At the end of our dinner, the waitress brought out a piece of cake (or some other tasty treat -- I can't remember) with a candle on it for T. to blow out. We all started singing "Happy Birthday," along with a few waitresses, and several friendly patrons who were sitting near us.
Seated at the table right behind Sister J., who was several months pregnant with child number three, was Federico Castelluccio, the actor who played "Furio" on the Sopranos. Furio had come in to the restaurant twenty minutes earlier to meet some friends who were having dinner. Sister J. noticed with great dismay that Furio was immersed in conversation and not clapping or singing "Happy Birthday" with us. She turned around, tapped him on the shoulder, and said, quite loudly, "Hey, why aren't you singing?!" Furio, who was understandably surprised at this bold intrusion from my sister, smiled good-naturedly and helped us finish the song for Sister T. Upon leaving the restaurant, Furio even congratulated Sister J. on her impending arrival. A nice guy that Furio.
Sister J. can be fun this way -- she knows how to work a crowd.
Unfortunately, her antics are not always so well-received. There have been other instances where things have taken a decidedly more ominous turn, to the point of threatening my health. One night many many years ago, it was my birthday, and Sister J. and I drove into Boston to celebrate with a little barhopping with my friend P., who lived in Southie.
After a couple of stops, we ended up at a restaurant/college bar/dance club called "The Kells," in Allston. While P. and I were having a beer near the bar, Sister J. wandered off by herself to check out the dance floor. After about 15 or 20 minutes, she hadn't returned, so I got up to look for her. (After a lifetime of knowing Sister J., my J.-dar has now developed to the point of virtual clairvoyance. I can now sense trouble several minutes before it happens, but I am always powerless to stop it. Kind of like Christopher Walken in the first half of "The Dead Zone." That night, my J.-dar was shooting off fireworks.)
I walked into the adjoining room, which was a dance area, and saw her on the other side of the club talking to a musclebound, blockheaded Neanderthal. He was 6'4", 230 pounds, and looked like a football player. In college, we labeled this species of male a "Fatneck." The Fatneck is commonly found in the populous cities of the East Coast, and you will often spot him chasing tail in college bars, working out in local gyms (Fatnecks are the ones who grunt loudly when lifting, so that everyone in the gym can hear how strong they think they are), and in quiet back rooms injecting steroids into their ass.
"Another winner," I thought to myself. My J.-dar was telling me that their conversation was getting a little too animated, so I casually walked over just to make sure that everything was kosher. Of course, it wasn't. Just as I got within earshot, I saw her walk away from Neanderthal at a very fast clip. Then, over the loud, thumping 90s music, I heard him call her a very nasty four-letter word, which begins with a "C" and ends with a "T." I really don't like this word at all, and when I heard Neanderthal direct it at my sister, I got a little pissed.
(Cue in Black Mamba fight music from "Kill Bill")
I walked over to where Neanderthal was standing, looked up (higher than I really wanted to), and with some stretching, managed to raise my left arm around his homo habilian fatneck, as if we were lifelong friends. In his right ear, I shouted over the music, "You know, you shouldn't use words like that when you talk to women. You should really try to be a gentleman."
Years later, I still cringe at the utter absurdity of my pathetic, nerdy attempt to reason with this knuckle-dragger. I must have been drunk off my ass, or just plain stupid.
It's fair to say that Neanderthal was none too pleased upon hearing this condescending advice coming from the uppity little fellow in the pansy-yellow linen shirt, who was about half his size. I surmise that this is why he immediately grabbed me by the neck with both of his hands, which were as wide as baseball mitts, and, with all the might his steroid-infused body could muster, shoved me backwards several feet, shouting "I was TRYING to be a gentleman, asshole!"
I don't remember if I went down -- it's entirely possible. I do remember looking at my right hand, and there, like a shimmering, magical weapon you discover in a dragonslayer video game just when you need it, I saw that I was still holding my pint glass, though it was now empty of beer. I gripped the glass hard with my fingers and felt its girthy heft and weight in my hand. This was a solid piece of work. Surely, it could do some damage.
Time slowed down, and there was a three-second span where my mind went to war against itself, as I seriously contemplated taking the pint glass and smashing it as hard as I could against Neanderthal's unibrow. I remember the bloodlust I felt as my Id took hold of the driver's wheel in my head, my adrenaline kicked in, and I anticipated how fucking great it was going to feel to completely let go of myself, not worry about the consequences for once, and teach this stupid moron a badly-needed life lesson.
But then, all of a sudden, my Superego snapped awake. He doesn't like fights, and when he saw Id holding the steering wheel and jumping up and down on the driver's seat like a rabid Mr. Hyde, he yanked the wheel away from him.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing, you stupid, primitive ass? I'm in charge here, not you. I got this idiot through childhood, grade school, high school, and college without serious incident, and I'm working on law school. I've kept him out of trouble so far, and it has not been fucking easy. You are NOT going to screw it all up tonight. Now go back into your goddamn playroom until I say you can come out!"
Id, who's not the brightest of mental beings and never speaks, just "does," complied with a whimper. As the door closed on Id's playroom, the potential consequences of splitting Neanderthal's head open in a bloody explosion of glass, skin, and bone flashed through my mind like sharp, silvery flickers from an overactive strobe light.
"You'll probably get arrested for assault and battery, you know," Superego taunted. "Then you'll have a criminal record. And that will probably mean that you'll get kicked out of law school. Oh, and if you happen to blind him, I hope you manage to locate All The Money In The World because you're going to need it to defend yourself in the 10-year long civil suit that this fuckhead will surely bring."
"Not worth it," declared Superego, with his customary finality. "And that's if you hit him clean and take him down on the first shot. If you miss, even just a little bit, IT'S ON, my sorry friend. And he's got two equally-sized cavemen nearby to help him out, as if he needs any assistance against you, pipsqueak. And who has YOUR back? P.? He's still in the next room, the idiot, sipping his beer in his khakis and loafers. By the time he finds out about this, you'll be on a stretcher and well on your way to the hospital."
Superego is a smarmy, know-it-all bastard, but he makes a lot of sense, and he's usually right. Yet, when I heard Id bouncing around the walls of the playroom like a nutty pinball, desperately trying to get the door open, I almost let him out again. I felt sorry for him, because in my head, he hardly ever wins. This is sad and quite boring. Id's not very bright, but damn, he knows how to PAR-TAY.
Just as I was declaring Superego the winner (again), Sister J. magically appeared back on the scene. She had witnessed what had happened and was seeing red. (I've seen that look many times -- it's a little scary.) Apparently, HER Id was firmly in control of her situation, and none too worried about the consequences. She ran directly towards Neanderthal like an angry, crazed, Spanish bull, armed with a half-empty glass of something in her right hand. I thought for a second that she was going to club him in the face with HER glass, which would have been a disaster. But she stopped right in front of Neanderthal, screamed something loud and unintelligible, and threw the rest of her drink in his face. This all happened in about three seconds.
Then, in came the bouncers. Like a bunch of rodeo clowns, they broke up this ridiculous scene before it got any worse. One bouncer, who was about as big as Neanderthal, took him to a corner of the club and began lecturing him like a small child. It looked to me like they knew each other. The other bouncer gave Sister J. and I the bum's rush back to the other room, where good buddy, ol' pal P. was still sitting at the table, calmly nursing his stupid beer, as if he were having afternoon tea in the middle of an English cricket match.
"I almost got my ass kicked in there -- where the hell were you?"
"What? I thought you were just going in there to get your sister."
"Oh yeah, as if it's that easy. It's never that simple with her. I almost got into a fight."
Soon Sister J. sat down and started laughing as she told us what she had said to Neanderthal to make him use the "C" word. Apparently, he and his buddies had come on a bit too strong with Sister J., and she wasn't remotely interested. When they didn't take "no" for an answer, she went with Plan B, and told Neanderthal precisely why he didn't measure up to her standards. That's about the time that I entered from stage left, like a clueless Mr. Magoo.
As my sister was regaling us with these informative details, Neanderthal suddenly appeared at our table. The good chap wanted to apologize for his uncivilized behavior. In a Sylvester Stallone-like monotone, he proceeded to grunt a few words of regret in our direction, clearly stretching the limits of his sub-par vocabulary. I accepted his apology, with the following caveat: "You shouldn't always assume that people aren't going to escalate things because of how big you are. This could have ended a lot differently tonight."
"Yeah," he said. It became clear to me that he was too stupid to understand what I was saying, and that I was the idiot for continuing to try to reason with this guy. He finally turned around and left our table, no doubt proud of himself for having acted like a "mature adult" by coming over to apologize.
When he left, P. started laughing. "That guy was fucking HUGE. He would have mopped up the floor with you."
"Well lucky for me, you had my back, so I had nothing to worry about, did I? Asshole."
All in all, a lovely birthday with Sister J., and another fun story for the annals.
Last Saturday night, with the assistance of friend K., who hooked us up with a reservation, Sister J., myself, Sister T. and her Boyfriend A. found ourselves at Buddha Bar in the Meatpacking District for dinner. Because I have an innate aversion to self-absorbed, arrogant, vapid, and self-important poseurs, I don't frequent the Meatpacking District too often. I also can't stand the completely arbitrary and utterly idiotic door policies that are in place at many of the bars and clubs over there. And no, it's not because I've never gotten in to those places (I have), though they certainly don't cater to single guys traveling in groups larger than one. I just refuse to play the silly game of faux "exclusivity" that they try to create in order to generate a fake "buzz" among the masses. In a city this big, with so many cool places to go, it seems silly to subject myself to a bouncer's judgmental b.s. and an interminable 2-hour wait that may not even lead to entry. In 6-18 months, the same place that everyone is so desperate to get into will be "out," and begging anyone to come in. Give me a nice lounge, pub, or unpretentious Billyburg bar any day of the week.
Surprisingly, Buddha Bar was a marked exception to the above. We had no trouble getting in, though an early reservation certainly helped. There was a long line outside the door when we left hours later. Everyone from the hostess to our waitress was incredibly nice, even when we were a little late. The decor inside was very dark, plush, and sultry, with lots of dark wood and walls that were painted a rich red, which created an intense feeling of depth. Sitting at the back of the dining room and facing everyone, was an enormous, black Buddha. He took up almost the entire wall by himself and welcomed everyone with a smile. Opposite the Buddha, a DJ played some funky music in a little glass box at the other end of the dining room. Very cool.
The food at Buddha Bar was decent, but for me, the hit of the night was the Buddha Lemonade, which had vodka, guava, peach, and a bunch of other sweet stuff in it. The picture below, of myself and Sister J., was taken after I had "experienced" approximately three Buddha Lemonades, each of which was stronger than the last. As you can see, I quite enjoyed them.
After dinner, we made our way to the bar and kept on keeping on. Sister T. was quite happy herself, the direct result of two or three whiskey sours -- her weapon of choice. Every 30 seconds or so, she conveyed to Boyfriend A. how much she loved him, with a pleasant, glassy-eyed enthusiasm. Before long, she and Boyfriend A. departed to greener pastures, and I turned my full attention to the two women that Sister J. opportunistically had engaged in conversation. Both of them were visiting from Los Angeles, and we spent the rest of the night talking about New York, L.A., and their respective love lives, which were as dissatisfying as my own.
The older of the two was about 5'10", thin, with blue eyes, and short, blondish hair. She told us that she was 48, though she looked much younger. About 30 minutes into the conversation, she confided that she has been married for 25-plus years, has no kids, and hasn't had sex with her husband in the last ten years. By that time I was on my fifth Buddha Lemonade and well on the road to Buzzville. I made her repeat what she said because I thought I had heard her wrong. Nope.
That just didn't seem possible. No sex with your husband for ten years? Not even by accident? Conspicuously, she didn't say that she hadn't had ANY sex in ten years, just not with her husband.
Perked up by yet another happy story of marital bliss, I turned to her younger friend to find out her situation. She was very attractive (and became even more so around my sixth Buddha Lemonade). She was about 5'6", with dark, shoulder-length hair, and clear blue eyes. She looked like a cross between Tiffani Amber Thiessen and Julianne Moore. We talked for awhile, and eventually got on the subject of things that we can't stand that people do (coincidentally, one of my favorite subjects), which led to this clever exchange:
HER: "I can't stand it when I have to repeat myself. I don't mind saying things once or even twice, but I don't like it when people don't listen, and I have to keep repeating what I said."
HER: "I said that I don't like it when I have to repeat myself."
Oh what a card I am! It's amazing that I'm still single, isn't it ladies?
After more fun banter with our new friends, the older of whom invited me to her house in L.A. (for goodness knows what), Sister J. and I left Buddha Bar for home around 2:00 a.m. Amazingly, we escaped the evening without incident, though not before Sister J. surreptitiously plugged my cell phone number into Older Woman's cell phone. Nice. Thanks so much.
If only Sister J. lived here. I have discovered that she's no longer just a pain-in-the-ass troublemaker. She's the perfect wingman. Though it appears she needs a little target practice.