Over & Out

I hear laughter as I climb the stairs. I knock loudly, inhale deeply, and wait.

The door opens quickly. A reddish-blonde rock star stands before me and says in an Aussie accent, “You must be Benjamin, eh?”

I am two hours late for Neil and Aaron’s dinner party. I have an excuse, but it’s not very good. Or at least it’s trite. I was stuck in the office well after nine o’clock. We continue to iron out the details of our Very Huge and Super-Secret Video Music Awards Project. I leave for a week’s vacation tomorrow (if two records, three shows, four cities, and a family reunion constitutes vacation), and doubt that we’ll have resolution on the Very Huge and Super-Secret Video Music Awards Project, increasing the likelihood that I’ll be tapping away on my Blackberry as I track vocals for “Cry” (which seems oddly appropriate).

ANYWAY (as Chuck Klosterman would say), I walk in, greet Neil and Aaron, apologize profusely, am handed a beer and am seated at the head of the table. “Everyone,” Neil says, “This is Benjamin Wagner. Let’s go around the table.”

One by one, my new friends introduce themselves. They are the United Colors of Benetton. They are everything a New York dinner party — my first in ten years of living here — should be. Neil, Aaron, Tandy, Tal, Angela, Lauren, Eric, Joe, and Mary, are as diverse as this great city. They are all walks of life: documentary makers, television producers, DJs. They are warm, they are open, they are passionate. Our conversation is spirited, and substantive, and fun.

The meal is unbelievable. Neil and Aaron trot out trays upon trays of the freshest, finest, most delicious Thai cuisine I’ve ever tasted: chilled watermelon and crab soup, baked snapper, a chicken dish with crisp iceberg lettuce, coconut, mango, pineapple, bananas, and sorbet of every color and stripe. And Thai beer, just for me.

I am the last to arrive, and the first to depart.

Weaving my way through the crowds outside of Brother Jimmy’s and Jake’s Dilemma, I thought to myself, ‘This is why I moved to New York.’ I didn’t move here for Lotus or Park or whatever club’s hot. I didn’t move here for MTV, or for the bright light of Broadway. I moved here for Heather and Stephanie, Neil and Aaron, Tandy, Tal, Angela, Lauren, Eric, Joe, and Mary, for Casey, Jeff, Amy, and Wes.

And I moved here for you.

I think it was a good move. Maybe even my best.

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