New York is a funny place. Monday it can be the lonely city you’ve often heard it can be; every stranger you encounter seems to be in a foul mood and wants to take it out on you, sideways wind and rain turns your umbrella inside out and leaves you wet and helpless, and you feel like your frighteningly small yet overpriced apartment is closing in on you. Then comes Tuesday. On Tuesday, the sun streams in through the blinds and you rise out of bed with verve. Passersby offer a friendly good morning to you as you hit the vibrant streets, taking in the charms of your neighborhood, and you find yourself in a convivial setting where a happenstance conversation begins with a stranger next to you. Here lies the beginning of a new friendship, unbeknownst to you.
There I was, in that convivial setting, or quite specifically, one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, many months ago on a winter weekend. Cramped spaces call for close quarters in New York, and we are often rubbing shoulders with strangers, all quite accepting of this as long as we are feeling social. I was having dinner at the bar with a friend, making room for a young Dutch woman and her big Dutch family to hang their many layers (winter months make quarters more cramped than usual), and we got to chatting. Little did I know that this would turn out to be one of my dearest friends on this simultaneously tiny and enormous island. Our mutual love for food and trying new restaurants means many lovely meals, but one of my favorite ways of catching up is over the kitchen counter, bringing together our seasonal finds from the market and making a healthy lunch or dinner while we exchange stories about our travels, our plans, and the pesky pot-smoking neighbor living two floors above. Ah, the pleasures of close quarters.