In 1987, Roxie, Lauri, Raun and I first met around Christmastime for a meal and good company of friends. I sort of "crashed" that first year, not knowing that it originally was to be just the three. Roxie and Lauri, however, said nothing, and it's become an annual tradition. Tonight was our 24th year!
Raun was always hit and miss; he eventually went MIA and shortly after his reappearance in the area, he passed away from HIV complications. There are times I miss the old pre-sick Raun. We always toast our fallen friend.
That first year we met at Mimi's Cafe. Then for a few years we met at a Velvet Turtle (anyone remember that restaurant?). A few years we travelled to Burbank to the Falcon Theater to see a performance put on by The Troubadour Theatre Company. For quite a few years we've been going to Portofino's, a fine Italian restaurant in a neighboring city. No matter where we went or what we did, it always ended up being on Winter Solstice. We've continued this tradition and tonight was no exception.
From the start we started exchanging gifts. For many many years, Lauri has given us homemade truffles; sometimes in a wrapped box, often on a holiday plate. I have one plate displayed in my kitchen; it's a teddy bear dressed in a Santa suit. I've given them holiday-themed items and theatre-related items. And honestly, it's never about the gift.
It's really simple, really, why we do this: amid the hustle and bustle and stress of holiday preparation it's a special evening to meet with friends, break bread and share wine, engage in lively conversation, and bask in that rare condition called friendship.
It's the best night of the season.
There are so many of you with whom I wish I could share an evening like this. I value each and every one of you and wish each of you a Happy Winter Solstice.