As I was getting ready to leave for San Francisco this afternoon, I marveled that it seemed impossible we have been having our annual "Gilbert Dinner" for 28 years. Gilbert would be shocked, for sure, to realize that the group of us who gather to remember him each year has been doing this far longer than any of us knew him.
Even if you include the years when I only watched him perform on stage, long before he became my best friend, that is still only about 20 years, and yet we have been getting together for 28 years to remember him.
Of course, "remembering Gilbert" is really more just getting together, a bunch of old friends, who don't see each other often enough.
In the early years, we had a huge group but over the years, from attrition, disability, and death, the group has been whittled down. There were only seven of us there tonight (three were unable to be there), but that was actually a good thing because in the days when we had a large group, you never got to visit with at least half of the table. Tonight I was sitting at one end of the table and had no trouble chatting with Roger at the other end of it.
The ride down had been uneventful. It was another perfect day and San Francisco sparkled. I was able to get a fairly decent picture of one of my favorite sights...the Golden Gate bridge as it appears suddenly after you have come through the Waldo tunnel out of Sausalito and there it is with the city behind it. Even on a day like today, with bumper to bumper traffic, it still glowed.
We were meeting at Thanh Long, a Vietnamese restaurant almost as far out toward the Pacific Ocean as you could go. Three blocks from the beach. The drive out was like a trip down memory lane, down the street where he lived, passing many of the restaurants where Gilbert and I would eat on my nights in San Francisco.
Only Jill was there when I arrived -- she had not received the email saying that the time had been changed from 7 to 7:30. I ordered a Manhattan, the drink Gilbert and I always drank when we had dinner together. The others started arriving, first Willa, with the announcement that Henry was parking the car (that is the thing Willa always says when she shows up and it has become a joke). Roger arrived. He had walked there from his old apartment which was at the foot of the hill on which the Cliff House was located. Roger moved out of San Francisco last year and it was nice getting caught up with him. Henry and Walt arrived, having both parked their respective cars, and we were shown to our table. Diana was the last to arrive, shortly after we were seated.
As we have aged, these 28 years, more and more our initial conversation is filled with the annual organ recital -- who has had surgery, who is going to have surgery, who is taking what medication with what side effects, who has what aches and pains. Today there wasn't that much of that, but a depressing death roll of who had died either since we last got together or in the past few years that we had not yet heard about. Sadly, I'm afraid that this is what people do as they get older. We are all in our 70s now and it's to be expected.
But once the statistics were out of the way we were able to continue with normal conversation about theater, music, people we know, and Lamplighter memories. All things that I share with few outside this group.
The thing about Thanh Long is that they have fantastic food. Needless to say I ordered the roasted garlic crab. It was listed at "market value" and I sort of knew what it cost, but when the bill came and I asked Henry how much it was and I saw him do a double take and kind of jump back, I figured he hadn't know what it cost. I told Walt this was our anniversary dinner!
That plate behind my crab is the restaurant's famous garlic noodles.
This is one of a handful of dishes on the menu (my crab is another) which come from the restaurant's "secret kitchen" that nobody but a few people are allowed to enter, and the recipes closely guarded secrets. It might be asked what's so special about garlic noodles...I couldn't tell you, but I certainly have never had any noodles quite so delicious!
We had a leisurely dinner and then we all felt the need to start home -- we are old and get sleepy earlier these days (well, except me--it's nearly 2 a.m. as I am typing this!)
|Day 13: Happiness is dinner with good friends|