Ben and Me, Somewhere on St. Charles Avenue, 1998.
I just had the most charming evening! Last week my friend Ben emailed me to say that he'd be in New York for business and could we get together? I have not seen him except maybe one or twice since we met freshman year at Loyola University in New Orleans. I left at the end of the year and my memories of my life there are relatively few but intense: the heat-induced languor under outside ceiling fans, the constant party atmosphere, the rickety creaking of the streetcar as it went around the bend, the layer upon layer of unique cultural history in the city, and all the fun we had together. I came straight from a stint in Manhattan after graduating high school a semester early and was a touch jaded. He was in a fraternity albeit at least the interesting one that had been banned from campus. I often think of the time we spent studying at the since-departed Kaldi's, a coffeehouse in a former brothel on the edge of the French Quarter. I always put the same three songs on the jukebox for a dollar: Thelonius Monk's "Around Midnight," Patsy Cline's "Crazy," and one other one that escapes me now. Anyway, I hadn't seen him in years and years or even talked, really, until tonight. We met for drinks and then we had dinner -- barbeque and saketinis in Koreatown -- and walked around and admired the city at night and it was divine. I told him how I still carry the Prada makeup bag he so sweetly bought me as a going away present. And I don't even really wear makeup.