Gray’s Revisited

American Airlines is more thoughtful than ever: about 30 minutes ago, I received a call from a representative informing me that my flight to Narita has been delayed by 1 hour and 20 minutes. I babbled to her, thanking her for her kindness in contacting me personally, because I know that in a day it will be back to speaking only in wretched Japanese to staff and officials.

I could go back to sleep now, if I could sleep at all. It has been a very restless trip. I am not sure if it is jet lag or boundless excitement that has woken me up each morning at 5 or 6 am, bursting with energy, singing Japanese songs in the shower, and incurring Diego’s eternal wrath. This morning zeal has its down side; I often found myself passing out as soon as the sky darkened or nodding my head violently in bars, at plays, at dinner.

“What’s the matter with you?” people asked. “Where’s your energy?” If only they could have seen me at 5 a.m.

Diego’s apartment faces into another large apartment building; countless windows, most of their shades drawn. When I first came to the city in 1998, I used to imagine how many stories accompanied each glittering window in each apartment building. I still like to think about it. Right now, I’m thinking more about the trip back to Japan – 45 minutes to JFK, 14 hours to Tokyo, just under 1 hour to Tokyo Station, just under 3 hours to Shin-Osaka, then one and a half hours to Abeno and a 20 minute walk back to Chateau Oji with my suitcase, now bulging with Milano Cookies, gluten-free pasta, self-tanner and Herbal Essences. My new hairstylist in Osaka has informed me that Japanese water and hair products have fried my hair. How fortunate, she said, that you will visit America. Buy American. Your Western hair can’t handle what we’ve got.


Last night was the last hurrah, and the hurrah was good. After some much needed girl time with Peaches and Erma, there was dinner with Squirrel and her boyfriend. I made a new friend – the manager of the restaurant – and we will be friends for life, I believe, although we do not know each other’s names. After dinner, there was, at long last, Marie’s Crisis. My beloved Darin did not play; it was, instead, a lively young woman I’d never met who declared herself at my service after Diego so generously gave her the 20 dollar bill in my wallet. I recognized none of the patrons, probably because I never usually went on Tuesdays or also because many people might still be out of town. This unknown lady pianist does not bang the back of her head against the wall to keep time like Jim Allen or belt Dionne Warwick like Darin, but she plays entire catalog of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, something I never before witnessed in my years of haunting Marie’s.

I had my Gray’s. I had a piece of lasagna last night, too, with Squirrel. I had a KFC biscuit. The Gray’s was, by far, the most amazing. Any time I’ve cheated on my diet this trip has yielded fewer moments of bliss than I expected. Fewer side effects, too, leading me to wonder if gluten and dairy are really causing my skin issues after all. But if not gluten and dairy … then what?

I had one dog at Gray’s; tangy sauerkraut and spicy onions on a toasted bun, with a small pina colada drink. As it should be. And that’ll be it for me for at least another year. A brilliant cap to a New York visit that will end as soon as Diego gets out of the can so I can tell him goodbye.

“The wrath of Papaya,” he groaned, before disappearing. I’ll give the boy another 10 minutes before pounding on the door. The plane awaits.

But I wanted to go grocery shopping. And have an all-nighter that ended up with breakfast at a diner and a walk home at pink dawn. And have a cupcake from Crumbs. And try this yolato business that’s been cropping up over the West Village. And drink a Canada Dry Mandarin-flavored seltzer water. And find Hostess cupcakes to bring back for Sean, who has been deprived of cupcakes with peelable plastic icing all of his sad Irish life. And stroll in Central Park. And hit Kenka on St. Mark’s. And see Jiggy. And finally get to see Koko’s and Peter’s new house in Jersey. And completely forget that screaming little Japanese children exist to make my job miserable.

It’s snowing out.



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