So, Sunday I went to New York City with a ex-girlfriend I hadn't seen in 8 years.
It's rather hard to start that without being fraught with expectations, concerns, anticipation, and beyond all, curiousity. But a Krispy Kreme donut on the way took the edge off that, as did the convenience of finding parking very close to where I wanted to be. So by the time I and D.Z. met, I was in a comfortable zone, ready to take the day.. as a day in NYC with a old friend.
Which was exactly how it went down. We went to the Times Square Toys R Us first, chatting nonstop. From there, Rockerfeller Center, Pokemon Store (No Zangoose stuff! What's wrong with them?) some street-vendor pretzel and then St. Patricks Cathedral. Very lovely in there.. It has a more non-nonsense directly religious feel than St. John's the Divine, I thought.
After that, we found a Disney Store by happenstance, and spent a while in there. Since it'd been DZ's birthday just the day before, I bought her a Stitch Backpack. Quite adorable, just stitch's head and giant ears out to the sides. On clearance too for $4.50. From there, more semi-aimless wandering towards Central Park, and then to FAO Schwartz. I hadn't been in there in a while.. rather neat. She grooved on the Star Wars section, naturally, though all we ended up buying in there was candy. Gummi Octopi and silver-colored M&Ms.
After that.. we sat and talked a while, then carried on walking.. and headed back past Carnegie Hall towards Times Square, where we ened up getting dinner at the ESPN SportsZone bar/restaurant/arcade. It felt like a Dave&Buster's, only with sports-only video games, higher prices and lots of Football on TVs everywhere. None too shabby. I didn't dare try the VR pingpong game, though. Should've, but DZ talked me out of it.
After that, we opted for some DDR at Broadway City, after narrowly escaping the Sanrio Store without spending massive cash.. DZ is a lot better than I thought she'd be, passing 4-footers with relative ease. Give her another year and she'll likely be better than me. $2 a game for 3 songs is way too much for DDR, but we each got a number of games in, and had much fun. From there we got ice cream, and then to the concert, the big reason we were meeting: They Might Be Giants doing a show at Joe's Pub on Lafayette.
And the show was good. Different than their usual performances in a lot fo ways, which threw DZ for a loop... her first show. My 17th, so I was wierded out in a different way. Set in a small venue (150 people or so, most seated); with a very different sound (Flansburgh on aucoustic guitar, Linnell on accordoin and Sound-FX box only, and a backing barss band of Tuba, Trombone and Trumpet, plus a drummer that was'n; the expected Dan Hickey.). Furthermore the setlist was not their usual rock blend of big hits-new album-some new stuff, but was slanted much more towards very new songs and some less-poipular tracks that had horn sections on album. Metal Detector, Dirt Bike, Boat of Car, the new-and-weak Bed, Bed, Bed, Idlewild... only three and a half songs of the set would be part of their usual setlist: Doctor Worm, Older, Cyclops Rock (which stopped halfway through) and Birdhouse In Your Soul. Birdhouse was played with the backing sounds to "Wicked Little Critta" going, which went beyond surreal. I was hearing Birdhouse, but all the while thinking Wicked little Critta. Heavy stuff. DZ ended up a bit dissapointed without their better-known songs, though since she plays the Trombone, liked the brass section. I was very much grooving on the new material and the horn-presented old material, so I was jazzed.. but wished it'd been better for DZ. More on that shortly...
After the show, I managed to get semi-lost three times. First on foot, trying to get back to the car.. I headed for the wrong parking lot and lost my bearings, took us a bit. After that, we got lost trying to get to the Holland Tunnel, but managed to get pretty quickly onto FDR and make our way from there. Brought her back home to her place in New Jersey, then started the long drive home.. made longer by getting lost a third time in New York just after the Tappan Zee. Grrr. The signage there was not helpful at all, and it took me a lot of head north, u-turn this exit, head south and such before I finally made it to I-95's beautiful white dotted lines again. Got back home very late, after a lot of time to think to myself while driving.
It was a good day, all in all.. and I had a while to think about thing, what'd happened in the 8 years since I'd seen her with me, with her.. and I came to a number of realizations. Mostly good ones. Some don't need to be mentioned, but one was a fairly significant thing: I like to make women smile.
No, it's more than that. Where I get some of the deepest, long-lasting warm fuzzy feelings is the knowledge that the things I've done or said are resonsible for a smile. I clown a lot at work to get good smiley reactions from waitresses, or the dishwashing Chinese ladies. On dates, I tend to end up looking for that smile, traces of it, as a positive sign things go well. Heck, a lot of my hanging out with my sister is to make her happy. Words can matter, but what really keys me into somoene else's happiness level is that little turn at the corners of their mouth. And in the end, in a relationship.. especially a romantic one.. there's not much more that gives it validity. One day I hope to be a good husband to some woman, and do that by being a giver of smiles.
Now, this wasn't precisely a date with DZ. She has a boyfriend currently, and I didn't invite her with romantic intent. Still, as we talked thorugh the day.. I was looking to her to see her expression a lot. Glad when she was smiling, sorry for the times she wasn't. Especially towards the end with the unfamiliarity of the concert. That feeling of wanting-to-please is still there even with my female friends, and just about as strong as with girlfriends.
I hope in the end, I gave her more smiles that day than she'd have had otherwise. If so.. then that makes me smile, too.