Dinner and a Movie.

I had one of the best meals I’ve ever had in New York last night. Almost didn’t.

Maybe I’ve mentioned before what a hard time C and I have choosing movies. We both love movies and it’s not as if our tastes are completely exclusive of each other’s but the films at the top of my list are usually artsy and small and C’s are more … popular. I’m also leery of the multiplex experience where 9 times of of 10 some asshole is talking through the movie and phones are bleeping and people are chewing loud. C is not so bothered by it.

(This might suggest that I’m a snob and C is a philistine. I’ll cop to being a snob, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like big Hollywood movies. I did see Les Miz and not hate it. I just don’t like the ones where the men all whisper intensely, kill lots of people, and call it acting. C is most definitely not a philistine, but he has a low threshold for artsy and obscure.)

Farther down, our lists converge. We both wanted to see Dallas Buyer’s Club, and so did C’s friend E (my friend, too, but he’s been C’s closest friend for many more years than I’ve known either of them), and our plan for Saturday evening was for dinner and a movie with E.

It’s showing near Lincoln Center (close to home) and in Murray Hill in the East 30s. I pushed really hard for Murray Hill because I’ve been wanting to try an Indian/Pakistani restaurant there called Haandi for weeks, ever since I read an article about the Indian restaurants in that neighborhood in NYEater. C was up for it, but E wanted to go to Lincoln Center because he had plans tonight to meet friends for Asian food in the East Village. (I don’t know, either.) I like the Upper West Side, but I had my heart set on this restaurant and for some reason it’s always hard to find a good restaurant near Lincoln Center that isn’t expensive. I was pushy. E relented.

Now suddenly there was all this pressure on a restaurant I’d never been to in a neighborhood that’s not easy to get to, and when we got there and C saw that it was a neon-lit hole in the wall with a cafeteria-style steam table, an inscrutable menu, and not much English being spoken, he got cold feet. “I like atmosphere,” he said. I said, “This is atmosphere. It’s just not the atmosphere you were expecting.”

And then we got into a big argument, me railing about how I miss my old life when I used to eat in places like Haandi all the time: super cheap, great food, neon lights, dirty bathrooms, and now I can afford to eat at more expensive places but I reject the idea that low lights and cloth napkins and a wine list makes a restaurant objectively better.

Neither of us much likes arguing, so we got out of this one by looking up the NYEater article, finding the blogger’s second choice, which was right across the street and more sit-down-and-order-from-a-menu. I said I’d be fine eating there instead, and C, also feeling conciliatory, suggested we give E a choice between the two places when he arrived, which he did shortly, looked at Haandi and said, “Well, we came a long way for this.” But when C proposed the other place, E said, “No, we came all the way down here to eat at this place. Let’s go in.”

Vats of various Indian and Pakistani curries, kebabs stacked up on the counter, and different kinds of fritters, a chicken biryani. I asked a few a questions. C and E both ordered a meat platter that came with a choice of two meat dishes, a vegetable, rice, salad, and raita. I had a big lamb shank that was moist and tender with some kind of very spicy dry rub and a bowl of lentils. Everything was served on styrofoam plates with plastic forks and dispenser-style napkins that you have to use about 30 of when you're eating a big lamb shank with your fingers. Both the lamb and lentils were spectacular, and everything I tasted from C’s and E’s plates was exceptional too. A rich chicken tikka and some other kind of stewed chicken that was even better. Chicken tandoori that was moist and spicy and full of flavor. Best naan I’ve ever had (perfect for dipping into the ghee that pooled on top of the bowl of lentils) and the raita tasted fresh and cool and minty. I’m rarely so happy with a meal. I can’t wait to go back and try the goat stew and kebabs. Their meals were $7.99 and mine was a few dollars more because the lamb shank was a special.

Dallas Buyers Club was okay but I was never drawn in, never emotionally affected. Both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto (both of whom I like) lost a lot of weight, and I guess that’s impressive but I find it distracting when actors do that. I find myself thinking about the actors rather than the characters. And it’s always men isn’t it? It strikes me as a sort of macho endurance ritual rather than a sincere effort to enhance the storytelling. It’s not that far removed from a Jackass stunt.

Maybe I had a chip on my shoulder about the film, too, because it’s a story about a time I remember very well, a scary complicated intense time that now is just fodder for an edgy Oscar-bait movie about colorful Texans and oh my god Jared Leto is playing a trannie drug addict and he lost 50 pounds. The Dallas Buyers Club was a real thing, and it wasn’t the only one. Do you know about the buyers clubs from the early days of the AIDS epidemic? If not, you should. Google it. During the movie, I found myself wishing that instead of this semi-fictionalized film, I could have seen a documentary. By turning it into an Erin-Brokovich-style-charismatic-outsider-takes-on-the-powers-that-be-fable, Dallas Buyers Club takes this story out of the larger context of AIDS treatment and activism of that time. I know not every story can tell the whole story, but this one was, I think, misleading. If you're going to tell a true story, it should be ... true.

It’s Sunday night and I’m cranky. I’m cranky on Friday nights because I already know the weekend isn’t going to be long enough and on Sunday nights because I was right.