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Weekly Column by Andy Grieser
Column by Andy Grieser

May 24, 2002

We slipped into the old roles so easily: Lex, the model-gorgeous blonde unlucky in love; Sunshine, the tomboy who turns heads; me, Texas boy in the big city. So many more were missing: Detto, a burly ex-rugby player and my right-hand man; Little E, my right-hand woman and surrogate little sister; Danielle and Chris and Gail and Sassy and so very many more.

Time claimed them. Almost two years since Sunshine and I had been back in Manhattan, after almost double that time laughing and loving and crying and facing unemployment when the dot-com bubble burst. Here we were in the old roles, back at El Rey del Sol in Chelsea, drinking and smoking and feeling as if we’d spent a weekend in the Midwest, not years.

My first night at El Rey was a haze of alcohol and rain. The sky opened; Detto and I rushed to save pitchers by grabbing one in each hand. We started drinking straight from the pitchers, a practice that spread quickly. That was the night Sunshine and I went from friendly to flirting. More, it was the night a group of co-workers became an intimate group of friends.

Being back almost felt like old times, with Solly still chasing boys and Heather still dating artistic men. The new felt strange: Avram was single. Cathy was pregnant. Doug and Erika needed a babysitter. Lex later told us she and Solly and Heather, once great friends, talked infrequently.

There was a healing wound in the city just a few blocks away.

For the next few days, Sunshine and I talked about moving back to Manhattan as we revisited old haunts. She missed New York pizza; we ate it the best way, hot and greasy and folded with a soccer game blaring in Spanish for the guys behind the counter. We both missed Planet Sushi, to which no Chicago sushi bar can hold a candle. We met Lex — Sexy Lexi, now a schoolteacher! — again for drinks at our favorite Murray Hill pub. We fell immediately into New York patterns of walking fast, wearing black and projecting a sense of implacable cool.

We avoided that hole in the midst of downtown, because it was now a grave for one of Sunshine’s cousins. Many more of our friends might be there, had they not suddenly decided to go to work late or take vacation time. We talked about going, throwing around the word "closure," but it didn’t happen.

Unlike us, New York is not broken. I could feel that in the air. I doubt the city was even bent for very long. On the contrary, there’s now a palpable power, born of defiance and pride and community. Yes, the dead are mourned and the heroes praised, and too often both at once. But this is a city that says: You have taken your best shot, and it wasn’t even close to damaging who we are.

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