Since being back in the US, I find myself comparing many aspects of life here to life in Tokyo. Transportation, people, food, shopping; there’s something to be said about the similarities and differences present even in the most mundane of everyday situations. Yesterday I had the opportunity to compare the small-town bar experience to the big-city nightlife. I think what I found is that it’s truly the people that make or break things.
The planets had aligned perfectly so that one of my closest childhood friends and I were in town at the same time. We hadn’t seen each other for somewhere around 4-5 years, despite years of shenanigans as children. He moved to New York when we graduated high school and attended the American Music and Dramatic Academy there. Always a very talented person, my Mom has video of him singing Disney songs in talent shows as a little boy and making all the mothers cry. He’s quite good.
Anyway, we got in touch, established we’d like to catch up, and quickly the question came up: “What do we do here?” We were at a bit of a loss as to what to do for fun, as well as how to get safely to and from where we were going. We finally decided to hit up the cheesiest possible place; the local Mexican restaurant. Our mission was margaritas. The shining moment of the entire expedition: “I want to drink, but I don’t want to drink and drive…so…Mom, will you drive me?” And drive us my mother did. She remarked: “Y’know, it’s just like when you guys were in school!” Yeah, except this time we’re going to a bar instead of a school function.
Times change, what can I say?
Our beacon of hope that was the Mexican restaurant closed at 9PM, so we headed to downtown Redmond in search of a place that would stay open a little later. We found it – a local sportsbar. When we walked in and sat at the edge of the bar, it was clear we were out of place – instantly we were giggling and cracking camo and workboot related jokes.
Soon it became apparent that this was a very karaoke-friendly kind of place, so we participated (despite my best efforts not to). After all the country music the other patrons sang, our Ray Lamontagne and Fiona Apple seemed rather out of place, and people looked at us a little funny once we finished our songs.
We had a great couple hours catching up and comparing our experiences moving from the small town to the big city. It was hilarious to hear similar anecdotes about returning to small town life; getting strange looks for the clothes we wear, re-learning to operate without public transportation, and trying to figure out what to say to people we used to know when we run into them.
First-world problems, I know.
We called it quits somewhere around midnight, where our next task was to find a way home. The bartender called a cab for us, and told us it’d be a 20 to 25 minute wait. We stepped out to the road in front of the bar where we stared at the empty street, both expressing the same sentiments regarding cab access in small towns. I walked into the middle of the street (which, I should note, is like a highway downtown) and took a couple pictures of the downtowniest area of my city.
Our cab picked us up in the alley behind the bar (for some reason), we headed home to our families’ dwellings, and called it a night. It was the first time I’ve done anything like this in literally months, and it felt so good to go out and enjoy myself again. For all the crap I give my hometown for being so gosh-darn-hometowney, it’s experiences like this that point to what you can make out of a situation given the right people and a little bit of imagination.
I’m so glad we had the chance to catch up – this particular friend is one I’ve been close with since elementary school, and probably the only friend I still have from that time. It amazes me to think of the people that come and go in our lives. When I take inventory of the people that are active participants in my life and that have stuck with me through relationships and absences and everything in between, I feel so grateful!
Mostly grateful that they haven’t been totally put off by my incessant nerdy movie references and my penchant for burping the names of foreign politicians, but, y’know.
I guess the point of all this is that the night served as an experience to remind me of how important good folk are. People you love are hard to find, and I’m so happy to have the people I’ve found.