Nyilah and I were running late.
We were supposed to meet up with my friend Kevin at a bar called Dram Shop. I had put out a blast on Facebook, signaling people he and I both knew to join us there. Unfortunately, due to the last minute nature of the activity, no one he and I used to work with were able to make it. And because of my aging phone's declining battery, I was unable to keep up on Facebook with whomever could. I knew Kev would be there though, it was his idea. Kevin is one of the people that inspired my first novel, The Fab 5. We had known each other a good 22 years, had worked together at various places. He is one of the absolute funniest people I've ever met, and easily a highly ranked person on my bullet list.
The train from Coney Island had a few delays, adding 30 minutes to a 40 minute trip. When we finally got to the bar, Kevin was nowhere to be found. He elected to wait for us at another bar, but joined us fairly quickly once we arrived. We picked out a booth and ordered our drinks. Nyilah had a vodka tonic, and I only remember that because I had never been in a bar with my niece before. So strange, having a drink with this girl I watched grow up. Kev thought so too; it was evident when the two of them got into discussion on a topic of shared interest: music. My niece went to school for music management, and Kev is a drummer in a band that's about to release their first studio album, as well as a producer. I observed and intermittently participated in this conversation for the better part of an hour over drinks and appetizers. By the way, if you're ever in Park Slope, Dram Shop has amazing wings and burgers.
After an hour we were joined by Eric, who's tangentially related to me. He's the younger brother of my oldest nephew by my oldest sister, though neither of them has the same mother. Through the family connection alone, he's on the bullet list, but even without that he's one of the most stand-up people I've known. If you're in with him, everyone you know is in with him. He's loud and brash and quick-witted, and VERY New York. I say that as one of the highest compliments. Eric was at my dad's funeral, which says a lot as to how close he is with my family. Once he joined our table, it was a party. After E got over the initial shock of Nyilah being 24 and able to drink, he treated her like part of the group, that is to say totally indifferent to the fact that she was a she. Ah, the stories we told.
We talked a lot about playing football in the park, especially about two games in particular (more on that later). We talked a lot about prank wars. We talked a lot about being in my old apartment and playing cards or dominoes throughout the night. And a lot about old girlfriends. Periodically I would look up at my niece and realize that, holy crap, she shouldn't be hearing this, only to find her cracking up at the stories we told. And we were loud enough that the wait staff couldn't help but laugh at our stories.
A giant shadow passed over our table and said "wassup, fellas" in a voice that was familiar, but deepened by age. I looked up to see Vachel, a guy I literally watched grow up. His sister went to Erasmus Hall High School with my brother, and we became friends through that, even though he was several years younger than me. He's always been a big kid, built like an offensive lineman. We hadn't spoken in quite some time as life gets in the way occasionally, but he had gotten married a few years back and had his first child late last year. Both situations agreed with him.
When he got to our table the stories only got raunchier. We again referenced football. Two games in particular -- the game where I got hurt (where, as Kevin put it, the group tried to carry my big ass to the hospital) and the legendary "Ninja Please" game, where after some trash talking by a friend in absentia, my normally mild-mannered self responded with a high-pitched "What?! Ninja Please!"
I didn't say "ninja."
We drank for a few hours, remembering our childhoods and the time we spent together in those formative years. We reflected on the people who couldn't make it out that night, and definitely agreed we needed to make an effort to get together more frequently. However, responsibility crept up on my friends as time went on and while they didn't want to leave, they weren't on vacation. We got outside and puttered around a bit before Vachel had to get back to his family, Kevin had work to do and Eric had to return the car he borrowed. We agreed to barbecue at Vachel's place when I came back to town in a week. After all, I had a plane to catch the next day.