The increased calorie intake actually began on Wednesday with drinks and dinner at Divine Bar West with an old North Carolina college friend visiting from Chicago. As the Vodka Sodas (my signature drink) and Vodka Gimlets (his) flowed, we began to realize just how far from Cullowhee we really are. It's amazing, the clarity that comes with low-level intoxication.
"I never would have believed," I said, "Back when we would walk by each other and nod on campus - you in your over-sized hooded sweatshirts, and me in my velour sweatsuits - that we would one day be in a trendy Manhattan lounge miles and years away from North Carolina, sipping trendy drinks and eating gourmet chocolates given to me by a celebrity chef [I didn't add, 'You in smooth business casual and me in a black dress and 4" patton leather pumps']."
While we both agreed that we wouldn't change our pasts and that we appreciated all North Carolina had provided in our lives, there was nothing left back there for either of us. Then, we swapped our big city stories - both good and bad - but mostly good. And we toasted Chicago and New York.
Thursday night was dinner at a friend's apartment in Harlem, where I inhaled two pieces of steak that he cooked on a grill - even though I don't typically eat beef - steamed broccoli and wine, followed by a popsicle, two packs of fruit snacks and a late-night trip to McDonalds for a hot fudge sundae and two cookies that we devoured in the McDonalds parking lot (there is actually a drive-thru on Broadway and 125th!).
Friday night was dinner at Park Avenue Winter, a restaurant that changes its name, menu and decor with the seasons, and a going away party at Kush for Gina B., who is moving to Los Angeles. All weekend long, I was quoting Samantha from "Sex and the City," "I'm always surprised when anyone leaves New York. I mean, where do they go?"
Where do you go once you've lived here? As someone once said to me while we were dining in Morandi, "If you were in North Carolina right now, you'd be sitting around with your friends watching a Reese Witherspoon movie, talking about how much you love her."
While I know that's a comical exaggeration, I know that if I left New York for anywhere else right now, I'd ultimately wake up one morning and wonder what the hell I was doing there. Maybe I'll feel differently in a 5-10 years.
In the meantime, I rounded out my weekend high above Columbus Circle at Asiate at the top of the Mandarin Oriental with a three-course brunch and mimosas. Then, the Sunday dinner crew (Iris, Keith, T and Olu) came to my apartment on Broadway Sunday night for a once-a-month ritual we started at Iris' apartment on Lenox in December, went to Olu and T's apartment in Jamaica Queens in January, and brought to my place for February (even though it was already the first weekend of March). Next is Keith's in Long Island, though I think we'll make him bring the menu to Harlem.
It's five days and eight pounds later, and I just returned from an industry event at The Bowery Hotel, where a fellow executive assistant and I (attending on behalf of our bosses) downed complimentary champagne, mango martinis and tiny hor'dourves served on silver trays. We sat on the private terrace bundled in our jackets and scarves - just warm enough from the alcohol and the overhead space heaters - while she smoked cigarettes, laughing about how "Sex and the City" we were.
And I have more communal eating with friends this week. This is good news for neither the wallet nor the waistline.