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Wednesday, June 20, 2007Waiting on a friend
It was one of those magical New York nights when the stars and planets are aligned in your favor, and even though the weather was a little hot and humid it was breezy enough that your curls behaved nicely and were not doing the afro puff thing. Life was good.
The evening had started out with a one man show by Rick Cleveland called “My Friend Bill” about his friendship with the former president. One story in particular about Christopher Walken smoking a joint in Amsterdam was really funny. After the show we met up with friends at a Mexican lounge for dancing and drinks. I was introduced to a drink called la cucaracha (the cockroach) and after a sip I understood why it was called that, my leg shook as if I were a roach from el barrio (them heffas are mad tough) on the losing side of a battle with a can of Raid.
After a bit of dancing one of my friends needed a cigarette break so we stepped out side and sat at one of their sidewalk tables while she puffed away. We weren’t there for long when this guy on his way out of the lounge looked at me and double backed. "You’re Puerto Rican aren’t you?" “Who me?” asked my Guyanese friend… "No her." he said pointing at me. I took a sip of my bottled water before replying, "Yeah I am." "I knew it! I can spot my own people a mile away!" He was a Puerto Rican attending college in one of the "red" states where the only Latinos around were the ones that had crossed the border. He was visiting New York for the first time and really excited about finding one of his own people so far from home. "There’s more of us here in NYC than there is actually on the island so stick around man you’ll be spotting another one of us any minute now!" I told him. Talking to a fellow Boriqua even though I was New York born seemed to ease his homesickness for the moment.
Our conversation attracted the attention of a sailor standing near us trying to hail a cab back to his hotel. I caught him looking at me and chuckling at our jokes a few times and invited him to join us. He was on leave and also visiting NYC for the first time. His leave was almost up he was leaving NYC in the morning and in a matter of days he'd be headed out to Iraq. We spoke about life in the service; life on a submarine,college life, and of course politics. In between we laughed a lot and discovered how much we all had in common despite coming from different backgrounds and different parts of the country. As we sat there shooting the breeze someone drove by blasting an old Rolling Stones song, "Waiting on a friend" and it just seemed to fit the scenario perfectly.
Finally it was time for me to leave, after nearly two hours a small posse had been formed and been sent in search of me. I called a car service for the guys and waited with them until their cabs arrived. Before I left we all hugged and the guys asked to take a picture with me. We took a couple of shots of us as a group hugging each other and another few acting silly then of course there were obligatory cheesy grin ones. As I headed back up the stairs into the lounge I felt compelled to turn around for one last look. The Puerto Rican guy shouted out to me,"Hey you owe me a dance!" "Next time!" I shouted back at him as he took one last photo of me before getting into his cab and driving off. The sailor stuck his head out of his cab window as his car pulled out giving me a salute and gentle smile. I saluted him back before disappearing into the crowded lounge.
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