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New York weekend makes things happen for 40-somethings

April 03, 1997

By KATE COLEMAN

Staff Writer

It's a weekend-long slumber party for 40-somethings.

We will come from several places - California, Pennsylvania, upstate New York and a bunch from the D.C.-area - packed in a minivan. We will arrive at Carl and Sheri's deceptively spacious Victorian home in Ridgewood, N.J., Friday night. And the wild rumpus - our annual women's weekend - will begin.

I wasn't there for the first few, but the tradition, which began 12 years ago, is strong and wonderful. The excuse for the weekend is seeing a Broadway show. We do spend Saturday in the city, but it's the people who are the focus and the fun.

We are sophisticated New York's worst nightmare. We wear sensible shoes and comfortable clothes, we haul shopping bags with Bloomingdale's bargains into our theater seats. We are tourists. We couldn't be more obvious if we wore placards declaring it, and we are comfortable with that.

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Twelve of us are too many for one taxi, so we split up. I love to be with Mary. She always talks to the cab driver, inquiring about his health, his family, his country of origin. We overtip and usually arrive at our destination much later than the other cabs. We've been "taken for a ride," but we don't care.

Our weekend could take place almost anywhere. But there is something about New York. Even chronically polite small-town folks like me pick up a little extra edge in the city.

Things happen in New York. One year I stood in the sun in front of Balducci's Italian grocery in Greenwich Village waiting for my friends to emerge with their cannolis and cheeses. A man with coke-bottle thick eyeglasses, a trenchcoat and military issue hat with a brim and earflaps walked up to within three inches of my face and said, "The Russkies" - or did he say Huskies? - "are more organized than you'll ever know, Sweetheart." "Sweetheart," of course, was pronounced "Sweethot." For me, it was a quintessential "New Yawk" experience.

We have seen some of the big shows: "Les Miz," "Phantom" and "Guys and Dolls." More than once at post-theater dinners, we've been part of the show ourselves. A cabaret performer named Gabriel O'Donohue, an Ireland native - like almost everyone else working in the restaurant at South Side Seaport - let us sing on several occasions. We've played New York!

A midtown Italian restaurant has been our spot the past few years. One time our reservation placed us next to a table occupied by a bachelor party of 20- and 30-something Catholic school "boys" from Long Island. They flirted, and we flirted right back. We told them how old and how married most of us were: There were more than 200 years of collective nuptial experience among us. They loved it.

Although few of the waiters speak much English, we manage to order wonderful food. We wait for the moment when they hand out tambourines and blare a raucous tarantella from the sound system. Everyone in the restaurant waves a napkin above his head, and glasses of Chianti are raised in toast to new and old friends.

Most of our friendships go back to college days, others to high school, others farther still. Mary and Nancy, the twins, like to say they were "wombmates."

Yes, that's an example of the bad puns that will color the many, many, many conversations we will have. We have celebrated the births and adoptions of our children. We have supported each other in illness, separation and divorce and the deaths of parents. We share memories, we share stories of successes and disappointments, kids, spouses, jobs, hopes and dreams.

We revel in the weekend and in each other. Like teenagers at a sleepover, we will stay up too late talking.

We will be exhausted ... and restored.

Kate Coleman is a Staff Writer for Lifestyle.

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