Red Dragon: in which I have a nice, calm drink with my best friend

You have a best friend, don't you? The kind of person you can call up and say, I'd really like to have a drink, and they'll say hey, that sounds great, actually. Why don't we get some cream cheese wontons, too?

You should. I do.

So I rode over to the Red Dragon, purveyor of fine and not-so-fine-but-plentiful liquor to meet Julie at an obscenely early hour. When the sun's still streaming through the stained glass at the front of the dining room there's something that feels positively sinful about drinking your first fishbowl full of rum.

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Julie lives dangerously close to the Dragon, which I think is part of the reason that we end up there so frequently. So she walks, but this often leaves me stranded in front of the bar waiting for her for a precarious five minutes in which, you must know, leaves you open to the enthusiastic hobos and random drunks. so there I am, standing and waiting for her, when our newest drunk friend comes stumbling out of the bar. He asks me for a light and then proceeds to make wasted conversation about the man in San Jose that has "like, nineteen Beavis and Butthead tattoos" and drinking Red
Bull/vodkas and exactly what he likes to do on the nights that he's not with his girlfriend. Brian who works in construction, if you remember me at all, remember that I know all your secrets.

We extract ourselves, finally, and head in to the blissful air conditioning. There's a booth i like the most, that single booth over on the far edge of the front dining room. I think it's the perfect place to watch the room and figure out if that's your plate of wontons coming out.

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The early hours at the Dragon are, they're not full of the hard-drinking, out-to-have-fun crowd. in a way, it's better people-watching. See, there are families and older folks trying to catch the blue plate special. here's a family at the long table in front of me, against the back wall. Grandma, parents, two sons. and dad's having a fishbowl of something milky-white (is that a pina colada? really?) and the boys are bouncing off the walls, singing along with the music, happy to be here, happy to be out to
dinner, because isn't that just the most special thing you can do when you're a kid, to be out on a school night, at a restaurant? and you know that when you're little the smallest things seem grand, the gold wallpaper with the fading peacocks and the stained glass lanterns?

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Anyway. there is nothing like sharing a couple of giant glasses of rum, a plate of wontons and a dish of greasy fried rice with your bestie to cure everything that is--or ever could be--wrong in your world. so i won't tell you exactly what we talked about. but it was one of those conversations where you talk about everything but nothing, and you circle your words around again and again. Kind of like getting taking a different route to a place you know well and getting very lost on the way there.

But when i went home afterwards, i rode faster because i felt lighter.

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