My friend of 20+ years came into town. He told me to meet him at the Regal Cinema in some suburb or another. True to form, I showed up right on time, 6:30, when the movie he was seeing with his wife and in-laws would be over. Waiting for Ron, my dear friend who I met in college, I ran into a different friend from college. And not just any friend. He was the very first friend I made at college orientation in the summer of 1990. Always a nice guy with great music taste, I will always remember him as the person who introduced me to Jane's Addiction and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I don't think I'd seen him since his wedding, about twelve years ago. So it was quite a surprise to see him and his family walk toward me. We hugged and chatted for a few minutes. He couldn't believe I was waiting for Ron; they were good buddies in college too. In hindsight, I should have twisted his arm to join us for a night out. When will I get to see him again?
At 7:00, I got a phone call from Ron. He never made it to the movie. He told me he would get dropped off in 45 minutes at a bar on Main and Transit. I knew which one so there I went. I stood in the crowded bar, sipped a pint, and watched the Sabres game. It's another wasted season, so who cares, but you go through the motions pretending that you do. I finished the pint and waited outside in the cold until Ron got dropped off.
We met one of our friends at a cool new bar in downtown Buffalo, a bar with just the right colors and the perfect price for a bottle of wine. We drank a lot of wine and mostly kept to ourselves. It was my kind of night. Other than small talking with bartenders, we minded our own business and talked to each other about all the stuff we usually do. After a few hours the place began to empty out, so we figured we'd head elsewhere to finish the night. We ended up in the loudest bar of my life on Elmwood Avenue, where the DJ set a new and absurd standard for volume. This was no place for 40-year-olds. But it's good to find yourself in a place you don't belong once in a while. We had one drink and left to get some late night eats. Pano's had just closed, why, I'll never know. I thought that place never closed. So we ended up at ETS where Ron devoured a steak and cheese sub and a bunch of extra saucy and rather hot chicken wings. Sauce all over his face, he paused for a moment to quietly say "This is exactly what I needed." It cracked me up. Meanwhile, I ate a terrible chicken burrito. As for our friend, he fell asleep with his head suspended in air. That's his customary behavior late at night. I half expected to run into a student and was ready to explain why I was hanging out at 2:00 in the morning. Students don't expect to see their professors at certain times or places. After eating we crashed on couches at our friend's apartment. I tossed and turned until 7:00, probably getting about an hour of actual sleep. I don't like being away from my family. I left at 7:00 to get croissants and muffins for my wife and kids, and headed home to resume my life. I'm a creature of routine and habit.
It was a fun and simple night, just the way I like it. No missteps, no shenanigans. I'm getting too old for shenanigans, I think. The trick for me is to try to enjoy life rather than study it. I've always liked observing more than participating. I'm thankful to the people in my life who help me actually live it rather than just watch it.
Author's note: most of this story is true. A few details have been altered.