Excerpted from my old blog, with thoughts of the past on my mind (originally written July 9, 2009):
Lately, my thoughts have drifted to memories of days (or rather, nights) gone by. I fondly recall those boisterous inky nights of my youth: nights that stretched long and reached far into the wee hours, stoked by the warmth of friendship and intrinsically linked by food and drink. I think of lingering nights that rolled on and on, seemingly endless, but which finally dissolved into quiet amber-hued dawns, leaving me replete with the satisfaction that only derives from happy excesses.
In undergraduate school, often penniless, my friends and I would gather at IHOP, studying through the night with only the requisite pot of coffee to keep us going. We’d read under the harsh yellow haze peculiar to late-night lighting, the bright fluorescent glow within contrasting sharply with the murky darkness outside. By 3 a.m., studying had become moot, but we would dawdle over our coffee, punch-drunk with weariness but too loopy to consider retiring, much to the chagrin of our waitress.
Then I moved to San Antonio, where I lived across the street from Earl Abel’s, a 24-hour restaurant and city institution. It was the heyday of disco, big hair, excess and flamboyance of every ilk. We’d gaze out our apartment window, watching as everyone and everything imaginable – from flaming drag queens to prissy starched yuppies – would ramble in, buoyed by their evening adventures. Eventually, when the restaurant was bursting with lively variety, we’d join the crowd for a slice of Earl’s famous black bottom pie and coffee. Always coffee. Those were the days I could drink bottomless cups of coffee and still sleep soundly.
Of course, on many occasions, I was a member of the late-night/early-morning revelers stumbling into the restaurant after a merry, sweaty night filled with tasty food, a few too many drinks, and the abandoned joy of dancing at the clubs. My friends and I were partial to gay clubs, where the music was loud, pulsing, pounding, insistent; the light show dizzying and psychedelic; and the atmosphere randy and ripe with anticipation, minus the pick-up vibe of straight clubs. We’d amble into Earl’s after the clubs closed, carrying our shoes, eager for our pie, or, if we were downtown, we’d indulge our serious hankerings for Mi Tierra’s authentic huevos rancheros.
My last real venture into late night prowling came in graduate school. After class, my friends and I would wander over to Adams Morgan, then still rough around the edges, to knock back seductively delicious white wine sangrias, heavily sweet, perfumed with fruit, and oh-so-heady and smooth sliding easily down the throat. We’d cluster around a table outside, laughing, talking, people-watching, sharing pitcher after pitcher. We’d munch on salty chips by the basketful, accompanied by spicy homemade salsa, which of course, kept us thirsting for more sangria. Afterwards, we’d weave and wobble around the city, reveling in the transition from late night to early morn: the moment when the cacophony of the masses gave way to the hushed stillness of a town put to bed, save for us – the few brave (or foolish) souls who now owned the streets, at least for a few short hours.
Adulthood, parenthood, responsibilities lured me away from my endless nights out playing, eating, and drinking with my friends. Now, as I enter my new single phase, I feel the tug of desire even as I realize I can never go back. But at least the memories linger, reaching as far and as long as my nights once did.