One day you're burying your best friend and then you turn around and discover that you are commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of that sad day!
We held our 30th GRUB yesterday, the Gala Reinterment of Uncle Buddy, remembering Gilbert yet again.
There were 8 of us last night. The first time we held this dinner there were four of us and the group grew up to near 20, I think. Then we started losing people, some because they lost interest, three because they decided to share this celebration with Gilbert himself, and have passed on to whatever is beyond this life.
Jeanne Ziaja was the first to leave, all too soon and a much too young age. Her husband John continued to join us until health problems kept him housebound. Then we lost Adrian MacNamara, who an actor and also the first president of the Lamplighters. He served as president for many years. His wife Connie came for a year or two after Adrian's death, but it was a long drive for her. Then Will Connolly, one of Gilbert's best friends, had the audacity to die. A big spark left with him and he is still sorely missed, especially because he was the organizer of the event year after year.
The wonderful actress Marie Clyde, who was one of the earliest Lamplighters and who had been Gilbert's friend and shared a house with him for many years, just gradually stopped coming.
We kept the group to people who had been his friends and didn't let word get out that we even had this gathering. We made a big mistake last year, inviting a friend of a friend, who worked with Gilbert but wasn't really his friend. She ended up telling lots of people who were hurt because they felt they should be included. We decided not to invite new people again.
In the beginning we started meeting at restaurants that had been Gilbert's favorites, but over the 30 years, most of those have closed their doors, so we started trying new places, like the Portuguese Cultural Center (for no particular reason except the food was good and it was reasonably priced). We went to the San Francisco Yacht Club once, because Will had connections and the food was good, and pretty spendy. For two or three years we went to restaurant called Delancy Street, which was a place where the food was plentiful and reasonably priced, but the cooking and wait staff were all people from recovery programs trying to get their lives back together again. (I think we always had the best service there of anyplace).
In the last three years we went to a little restaurant in the San Francisco Presidio, which used to be a military base. I can't remember what this building was, but it is now a trendy little restaurant, across the road from what used to be a military hospital and is now the headquarters of Industrial Light and Magic.
The problem with all of these venues, especially in the years when we had a big group, is that you only get to talk with the people directly around you. I went for years without visiting with Diana, the contractor of the Lamplighter orchestra, who somehow usually sat at the other end of the table. Other than greetings at the start and end of the evening we didn't speak at all, though I enjoyed visiting with those who were seated across and next to me.
The evenings weren't always without problems. We always split the bill rather than try to figure out who had what, but at least one couple had more expensive tastes than others of us and ordered expensive meals and very expensive wines. (I remember one night where settling the bill took longer than eating the meal and nobody was satisfied at the end). After a couple of years of difficulty about the bill, especially for people who were on limited incomes, they finally stopped coming.
So we have finally come down to 8 of us and this year Shelley decided to host it at her house. What a GREAT idea! For one thing she lives in a part of San Francisco I didn't know existed and can't believe we actually found.
She has a great patio where we sat and were entertained by the lovely Miss Lovely.
We had hors d'oeuvres and wine outside in the delicious 65 degree weather and chatted for a long time, then went indoors to have the main course(s) -- roast beef, chicken and sushi?? -- and dessert. Best of all, we could all participate in all the discussions and, of course, there was lots of discussion about The Mikado. We were the only ones who had actually seen the show. (Diana, who is in the orchestra has heard it many times, of course). There were differences in opinion about the wisdom of doing it because of threats from the Asian Community -- and how it was done, but everyone plans to see it and I hope we get a chance to share opinion about what they think of the production.
Once we reached 25 years after Gilbert's death, and especially after Will died, I started thinking maybe we had done enough, since none of us -- not even Marie -- knew him that long in real life, but we always go for "one more time" and at the end of the "one more time" I'm always glad we did it and ready to do it again next year.
I truly love these people.