I have three numb toes. You wanna know why? Well I googled it, and here's what came up:
-multiple sclerosis (doubtful)
-nerve damage (bingo!)
And how, Mary El, did you get nerve damage in your toes? you may be wondering. Let me tell you the tale of two Atlanta-born Washingtonian girls who had the brilliant idea of jumping in a car and heading to New York City, only to return the following morning...
It all began a couple of weeks ago (I meant to write this blog last week but actually got quite busy -- imagine that!) when I got a Facebook Birthday Calendar alert which reminded me my high school friend Lara's birthday was coming up. Lara doesn't do Facebook, and therefore we don't keep in touch. ("Why do we need Facebook?" my boss asked me recently. "Can't we just send out messages to our people through e-mail?" Oh, how to explain just how lazy my generation and those that follow have gotten...?) I probably haven't wished her a happy birthday since the last time I saw her in NYC, where she lives, and that was in July 2005, which was a whole month after her birthday. So I got nostalgic, trying to count mentally how many years it had been since I'd seen her, and decided to shoot her an e-mail (how archaic).
Hey lady! I was just sitting here thinking how crazy it is that I've been living in DC for almost 2 years and haven't been up to NYC once! Are there any weekends in the next couple of months that I could come see you? I'm trying to wrangle in K for a weekend too. Let me know how your schedule is, we need to catch up!
NOTE: K is our other high school friend. I met them both on newspaper, which might lead you to believe we were geeks, but let me tell you, we were hot mamas and really, really cool. And that's the story I will stick to at my 10-year reunion later this year.
After hitting "send," I received new e-mails, one of which was an invitation to Lara's birthday party that Friday. A few minutes later her name popped up in my inbox.
omg! this is so weird. i was just thinking of you and k this week and that i was going to email you and harrass you to come visit me!
did you get my invite - my b-day party is next friday and should be fun! i am only out of town july 9-12 and maybe last weekend in july. otherwise i am good for a visit from you guys.
i'd love to see you, miss you sooo much!
i danced my ass off to come on eileen a few weeks ago and it came on again on my ipod this week. every time i heard it i get a glowing smile on my face.
ps. my hair was cut yesterday and looks amazing!
NOTE: When Lara and I worked at Einstein Bros. Bagels together we would play "Come on Eileen" and dance for customers. Again, we were really, really cool.
It didn't take much coercing to get K on board to skip out of work on Friday and drive up to NY, but she had to be back in DC by Saturday night for a date. So that morning we took off, full of energy and excitement for our reunion.
We arrived before Lara got off work, so we parked (Lower East Side -- plenty of free parking and no tourists) and walked toward Chinatown in search of a knock-off charcoal leather Balenciaga bag for me. First we had to make our way through LoHo (that's Lower Houston), and let me just tell you how scary that was. Not ghetto-scary in the way any "lower" part of DC is -- this was grunge-chic scary. K was wearing a fuchsia floral summer dress, and I was in white cargo capris with a teal ruffled tank. If we had been walking around Times Square we might have had a fighting chance of blending in, but here everyone was dressed in bland neutrals and looked stoned and anorexic. K and I linked arms and giggled nervously, "What are we doing here? We are so tourists! This is so weird!" We have both been to NY multiple times, but I'm telling you, I have never felt so I'm-not-a-New-Yorker-and-I-never-will-be as I did during our walk along Houston.
Once we found Chinatown I felt slightly more comfortable. Women in pink Crocs and men in khaki shorts with belts and polos were more prominent there, and they looked just as awestruck as we did. "Dingbingdingbing bag?" a shriveled Asian man said to me, thrusting a laminated piece of paper in our faces. I jumped back, frightened. "Noooo thankkkkk yooou," K enunciated. I grabbed her arm again. Three more similar incidents and I realized they were just trying to lure us into the "secret" backs of the shops where the good knock-offs were. Terrified the FBI would suddenly raid the store I chose, I mustered up the nerve to tell one of the women, "Ba-len-ci-A-ga." "No, just Coach and Chanel," she said, pointing at her laminated card. "Okay, no thank you," I cowered.
The next time someone approached us K chimed in, "Balenciaga!" "No, Versace and Louis." After a few attempts we just started calling out "Balenciaga! Balenciaga!" to every small Asian person we saw on the street. But my bag was nowhere to be found. We did, however, find a shop selling gen-u-ine leather, no-brand bags that were the perfect size to hold flip flops (a necessity for the end of a long party night). At $25 each, it was steal (I still think we could have talked them down to two for $40 though). Around that time I received a text from Lara saying she was on her way home, so we made our way back to Houston.
"Let's take a cab," K suggested. I was more than willing since the beating sun and my late-20s compulsive-sweating-disorder were not mixing well. We hailed a cab, and K asked, "Houston and Clinton, please." The cabbie looked confused. K repeated, more slowly, "Heeeeew-ston and Cliiiiiiiin-ton." The cabbie shook his head and drove off, not seeming concerned that we were A) somewhat stranded and B) had toes that were near his tires (no, this is not how I got nerve damage). I hailed the next cab and peeked my head in. "Houston and Clinton," I said more firmly. "There is no Houston and Clinton," the cabbie said. He looked ethnic, as did the last one, so we pronounced it slower and louder for him a few times. Finally he laughed, "HOW-ston?" Oh. We were mispronouncing it. Well what are two Southern girls supposed to think? Houston was a city in Texas before it was some grungy street in NY (I think)!
Lara met us at her apartment in a mustard mini dress and this season's scary S&M high heels. "Ladies! Welcome to the Lower East Side!" she said, running toward us with arms open for a group hug. The last time we'd visited her she was living in Hell's Kitchen, a vastly different neighborhood.
"Uh, yeah, can we talk to you about that?" I said quietly. "Why does everyone dress in neutrals? We are going to stick out so bad tonight!"
"What?" she said, surprised. "No no, it's just all the cool people are at work! Look at me, I'm not in a neutral!" No, she wasn't, and really only Lara could pull off that look.
We made our way upstairs to her posh apartment -- also vastly different than her last one -- and we immediately began getting ready. Once we were all showered, we made some Brazilian cocktails and started doing our hair and makeup. Lara warned us to not get anything on the dining table because it was her live-in boyfriend Matt's and he would break up with her if anything happened to it. So of course I took the opportunity to spill my drink all over the table.
"Don't tell Matt!" Lara laughed. "When did you become so klutzy?"
"I'm not klutzy," I defended myself.
"Mary El, you've fallen like three times since you've been here, you spilled your drink, you keep dropping things...I want you to do my hair but I'm afraid there will be a catastrophe with the curling iron!" Lara said.
I shrugged but then began to worry that Bella's character in "Twilight" was rubbing off on me. I gotta get through those books faster.
We made it to the outdoor bar with no more major incidents, and Lara was right -- the people there were dressed much more colorfully. "First round's on me!" K yelled. I followed her to the bar to put in orders. "Ooh, let's do cosmos since we're in New York and with our girls!" she suggested. "Three cosmos!" she told the bartender, handing him her credit card. He made the drinks, and I took two toward our table. When K came back over she looked annoyed.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"There's a $50 minimum with a credit card," she winced. "Guess I'm buying all the drinks tonight."
Three drinks later, I had no hope of not being clumsy. I staggered around on my 4-inch heels and talked way too loud to anyone who would listen. And I may have hit on a few of the ladies around me. I'd really rather not talk about it.
After 10 the bar closed (???) so we went somewhere we could dance. I haven't gone out and really danced probably since the last time I saw Lara, and even then I'm not sure if we went dancing. Regardless, I was in my early 20s then, and a lot changes after that 25 mark. But I forgot all of that and let the cosmos guide me around the dance floor. At some point a Latin beat came on, and I started stomping around like I knew how to salsa. But then my heel hit something soft, something that wasn't the floor.
"AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!" a girl, crumpled on the floor, screamed.
"Oh my gosh, can I get you some ice?" I asked, terrified.
"Noooooooooooo........" she whimpered, her friends crouching down to help her.
I figured that was a good time for me to take a breather, so I sat down on a nearby stool. Almost immediately I got payback, on both feet. I grabbed my feet and writhed around in pain, and K landed next to me to make sure I was okay. She had seen the whole thing, and when she realized my feet weren't broken we fell back laughing. Matt came over to pull us up, and we found Lara and danced like old times. Not long afterwards I felt an arm slide around my waist. I glanced back and the guy was pretty good looking, so I went with it. It was fun at first, dancing with a stranger, but then I got a little uncomfortable -- not because he was a stranger, but because he was making my body do impossible things. During one extremely painful dip, I thought, This is why I stopped going to nightclubs -- these guys want you to be a limber sex goddess, and I can't even touch my toes! When he asked if I wanted to go outside with him I yelled to K, "He wants me to go outside with him!" and she yelled back, "You're not allowed!" Ahh, I love my girls!
Around 2 or 3 or who knows when a.m., we all hobbled back to the apartment and crashed. My internal alarm clock is set at 7:30, so I was the first one up in the morning. K was next, and then around 10:30 we got Lara out of bed. Freshly showered and in flat shoes again, we found a little place for brunch, the perfect way to round out our girls' reunion. At noon K and I had to jet, so we hugged and promised to do this more often, and then we were off. Exhausted, we spoke about six words for the next four and half hours.
That night I noticed one of my toes was numb. The next morning two more toes were numb. I'm guessing it will be another four years before I go dancing again.