Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Comfort Zone

It’s been a long time since I can say I went “clubbing,” but this weekend, I actually think I did. (It’s been so long that I’m not sure what I did or what it’s called.)

I find that as I get older—and I am now officially middle-aged as of this past Sunday…if I live to be ninety, that is—I can find a host of excuses to turn down invitations; many of them are outside of my natural comfort zone. The activities in my natural comfort zone, as you know if you read this blog, run from vacuuming to reading with some personal training thrown in just so my body doesn’t become flabby and mushy. I usually turn to some of my tried and true excuses to invitations that would take me outside of my comfort zone, which are generally 99% true (thank you, John Edwards for that apt equivocation): “Oh, I don’t have a babysitter.” (Yes, I do; she’s fourteen and a half and lives with us and can take care of her brother ably.) “Oh, I have other plans.” (Only true about 10% of the time.) “My lumbago is acting up.” (I don’t know what that is, but it got several family members out of many a family event, and I’m sure I’ve got at least a mild case of it because as I mentioned, I am middle-aged.) But I have made a vow that if something sounds like fun and I don’t have plans or a flare-up of my lumbago, I’m going. Enough of this hanging around the house, waiting until eleven or twelve o’clock at night to find out whether or not Michael Phelps won another gold medal or if any one of the female beach volley players has busted out of her very tiny swimsuit. (Hasn’t happened yet, but don’t let any man tell you that’s he’s not waiting for that with baited breath.)

So when I was invited down to the lower East Side of Manhattan to see a friend’s band play, I accepted, thinking that this was a perfect excuse to venture out of my c.z. (aka comfort zone). I invited a friend, C., who after two glasses of chardonnay, was a willing partner. The day after the invitation, in the light of day, C. called me. “The place we’re going…that’s in the Bowery, right?”

Images of sooty-faced men playing dominoes in the street next to a soup kitchen floated into my mind. (And yes, all of my references date back to the 1920s and every Shirley Temple movie I’ve ever seen.) I mustered up all of my enthusiasm and responded, “Yes! It’s on Avenue B!”

“That’s in the Bowery, right?” C. asked again.

“I think so,” I said, not exactly sure. I hadn’t been south of 34th Street since 1986. “But I’ve been reading that the lower East Side isn’t like the lower East Side anymore.”

“Ooohhhkaaayyy,” C. said, not believing me.

To make matters worse, the friend who invited me to the band performance wrote and said, “We checked the place out. It’s a dive. Wear jeans.”

C., who wanted to get the most out of a purchase of a summer linen tunic with beading, was disappointed, now having to go back to her closet to plan her revised outfit. We met each other at the train station in the prearranged jean/tee-shirt ensembles and headed downtown, trying to mask our nervousness—and our suburban Mom status—and headed down to a part of town that was once known for its extreme seediness.

“We’ll get off at Bleecker and head east,” C. said with complete confidence as we boarded the 6 train.

“Ok,” I said, reminding her of my lack of travel experience below 34th Street. We traveled downtown, getting off at a stop completely unfamiliar to the two of us. I started to head up the stairs, but C. smartly decided to stop at a map and take a look. It indeed looked like we needed to head East for several long blocks, but it looked doable.

We emerged from the subway, ready to fend off the catcalls of the sooty-faced men playing dominoes in front of the soup kitchen. Instead, a massive Whole Foods rose up before us, hipsters and clean-faced moms and dads going in and out of its shiny silver doors with their recyclable grocery bags filled with organic chickens. Small boutiques and cafes abounded. We walked off in search of a restaurant and found one that had been opened a month, served tapas-style food and ate enough to feel ready to drink pints at the “lounge” where our friend’s band would be playing.

Divey, yes? Friendly, certainly. We walked in and purchased a couple of $5 pints, which if you don’t live in New York and don’t know about our consumer-unfriendly pricing, was a steal. The bartender was lovely. Our friends were already there and we headed into the back room where the band got set to play. Two more delightful servers waited to take our drink orders, smiling and clapping along with the music.

This place was safer and more congenial than my own home when the kids are hungry. I considered moving in. The only drawback was the toilet with no toilet seat, but I figured that lent the place a little “atmosphere” as I looked for something to hold onto in the airplane-sized bathroom. (Which, incidentally, opened right up onto a pool table.)

The band, Lieder, was fabulous. (And if you want to check them out, go to http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=90519476.)

C. and I left around 10:30 which in Mom world is officially one hundred o’clock. We rolled back into our town a little before midnight, exhausted but thrilled that we had done something that we hadn’t attempted since we were young, childless, and adventurous.

C. looked at me when she dropped me off. “Hey, that was fun,” she said. “You know, that’s something we should do more often.” I opened the door and got out of the car.

“Sure,” I said, getting out of the car. I had a thought and leaned into the car. “You wanna go to Whole Foods when the kids go back to school for some organic chickens?”

Maggie Barbieri

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the laughs. Loved the last line on this blog! Be careful when you hit the grocery store - those parking lots are just one stray metal cart away from being a crime scene.

    Rhonda
    aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David

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  2. You are braver than I am. My one and only New York venture was to go to the Edgars and I only went then because a friend talked me into it. We had a great time--she was great at hailing cabs, I just went along for the ride.

    We made a side trip to Greenwich Village and a mystery bookstore, on the way back to our hotel had to walk a while to find a cab--and while hurrying down a dark street I saw a drug deal going down. We hurried faster.

    Marilyn

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