My university friend Sarah was in town, passing through on her way to Key West, so we arranged a brief encounter before she went off to meet a work colleague. She and I misspent our youth in Birmingham and Florence in the 70s, and the joke goes that we have to stay friends as we both know where the bodies are buried. I also have very fond memories of visits to her parents ‘ home on the South coast where we would kick off the evening with a trip to the local pub. Happy times. Sarah is a literary agent now and our habitual rendezvous for the last 25 years has been at the Ristorante Diana in Bologna on her annual trip to the book fair. This year we met in front of the Columbia campus, Coffee, or something stronger? I asked. She was working valiantly through her jet lag, so we made our way up to the Heights bar, where they make a mean Margarita.
I discovered the Heights when my sister visited a month ago. Tucked away at the top of an unprepossessing staircase on Broadway, it is the perfect antidote to the urban chic-erie that can dominate the city. Unreconstructed, un-themed, and with a mixed clientele of students, good ole boys and suited business folk, it’s an unthreatening watering hole for a pair of Thelma and Louise wannabes in their mid years. The Margaritas, with plenty of salt, came with chips and salsa, and were so good that we had another. It is always good to catch up with people who knew you when you were young, so we reverted to our 21-year old selves for a while, and exchanged news and photos until it was time for her to go. We hailed a cab, raising an arm assertively, New York style, and said goodbye until the next time. The Heights is becoming the place I want to take people to when they visit.
Oh, and this evening, guess who’s coming to dinner? Noam Chomsky is doing a three-evening gig at Columbia, so I’m going to try and get along to that.