Being back in New York feels increasingly familiar. The other day I was thinking about this vegan restaurant I like to visit in Chelsea and was wondering if I had gone three times this year, would the waiter know I’m not from here? Anonymity’s freedom is like an elixir of which you sometimes want a long swallow. Then there’s the unexpected city that brings together old friends and new ones.
Such is the New York to which I have returned. Last night, I met up with a friend and we ventured over to the West Village on the A train. He suggested an Indian restaurant called Surya, which sounded great. My cocktail included sweet and sour, strawberry vodka, and mint culminating in a tart and slightly sweet concoction that paired well with our spiced dinner. We ordered vegetable samosas which paved the way for an okra dish slathered in coriander and smashed tomatos. The lemon rice hit all the right notes on my palate. We caught up over a shared jetlag and papadums, then hit the streets walking in the balmy weather. My favorite discovery during the jaunt involved a chess cafe. Multiple tables occupied, each was set up with black and white plastic pieces waiting to be moved. Cost, $1.50 per hour to play; $3.00 to watch and then $10.00 to complain… We continued walking until we ambled up to an independent movie theater where we paid to see a funny film that ended up being an intense narrative on a boy who becomes a skinhead. But a great evening it was, catching up with a friend and strolling the streets like they might be my own.
Tonight, I visited a church on the East side of town. God has a funny sense of humor and sometimes we become privvy to it. This church plant meets in a hotel’s ballroom and reminds me of what SF’s City Church must have been like when it first came into existence. Amidst hymns set to revised chords and a reformed platform, I settled in. The pastor talked about pleasing God and pleasing men, reminding us that we cannot please everyone. He asked us what our lives would look like if we didn’t need the approval of others? For the first time in I don’t know how long, I listened to the sermon and it actually spoke back to me. Like dredging up things I could easily burrow in San Francisco during silent prayer in New York. Afterwards, I met up with a friend’s brother who plays bass at the church. He’s leading a team to work in an orphanage in India. We sat along with his co-leader by the fountain on Park Ave. and 53rd, talking about India pointers and cultural sensitivities to consider on their trip. Talking about India and hearing their enthusiasm for the upcoming trip made my whole body smile. Just like walking down the street with a bag full of groceries, headed to a hotel room that feels more like a mini loft apartment. Hello, New York, I have missed you.