The earliest arrivals finished watching an episode of Metal Evolution I had on PVR, and then most of us gathered around the big table to wait for the rest to arrive. Some snacks were arranged, some wine was poured, and we had a significant head of conversational steam built up by the time the last person arrived.
More wine was poured, and a couple of Belgian ales, and we spent a little time getting caught up from the holidays. Someone had recently needed to put down a beloved pet so there was some commiseration among the others, especially the other pet owners, and which spun the eight of us onto a wide variety of topics.
After an hour or so, and a bit more wine, and some liqueur made from wine and chocolate, I made the observation that if we were going to watch a movie, we'd have to start fairly soon if we wanted to finish close to midnight. No one was willing to abandon the conversation, which suited me right down to the ground; you can watch a movie by yourself or with 300 strangers and it doesn't make a lot of difference to the experience, but having 8 friends who can talk about everything under the sun, and have the time and inclination to do so? That's not something to be taken lightly, even though we all do it, and far too often.
A little more wine, and some cream puffs that materialized from the freezer, powered us through the rest of the evening, and into a not insignificant part of the morning. I had a couple of 8-player games on deck, in case the dreaded conversational lull reared its ugly head, but it never did.
We talked about parenting, and friends, and work, and college, and celebrations, and the upcoming Oscars, and books, and the past, and the future. We didn't solve any problems, but we didn't create any either, so it would be difficult to say that anything was achieved using any objective measures. In spite of this, I'm certain no one there would dispute the value of the time spent; the enrichment can be taken as an article of faith.
Despite my appreciation of the things taught to us by the thinkers of the East, I have always had a hard time stepping aside and just letting things happen. My inclination is to have a plan, or a schedule, however loose or flexible it might be. Last night was a rare opportunity to 'be here now', and I'm glad I could take advantage of it. I'm gladder still for the assortment of tremendous people I have been fortunate enough to call my friends, some for decades, and others for much less time. They are insightful, funny, and compassionate, and so often our plans to get together like this go awry, despite our best wishes and intentions.
What is the fulcrum that an evening like this pivots upon? The table? The number of people? The libations? The large table? I wouldn't chance the alchemy by removing any one of these elements. The price was a fairly late night, and a disrupted schedule for Sunday, but I would pay it again without complaint, if I only knew where and when.