Day 16 – Eat Latin, Drink Russian

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Last night began downtown at an upscale Latin steakhouse. It ended uptown at a Latin drag show. In between, my favorite people in DC helped me celebrate my birthday. The night was full of good friends, good food, and good several drinks.

Toro Toro is a new-ish restaurant in McPherson Square, and it was my first time there. The food is South American, and the vibe is New York lounge. For dinner, three friends and I shared small plates — what else in DC? — and a bottle of Spanish red. The empanadas, the scallops, the short rib flatbread, and the grilled octopus were delicious. The ceviche was confusing, the guacamole disappointing. While the service was spotty (still working out kinks?), I left very satisfied. New place with old friends. That’s a great combination.

Afterward we went to Nine, where several others joined for drinks. I was late, of course. Contrast that with my punctual friend Ben, who texted me this gentle prod, “So are you coming to your own party?” He cracks me up. For me, birthday gatherings are a gift, because it is rare for all my friends to be together in one place. It was a parade of favorite hits. I am fortunate to have good people in my life.

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A few Stoli sodas into the evening, just a few hearty souls remain. Joe, Clayton, and I decide to cab to Diego, a Mexican restaurant just north of U Street. They host a gay party on Friday nights, and none of us have been. We arrive in the middle of a show, which appeared to be a mix of drag and a random guy lip syncing. Some people were watching, some were dancing, and some were just drinking. It was like a big living room party, way more laid back and informal than the stand-and-yell-to-hear feel of other bars.

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Now after several Stoli sodas, it was time to head home. As I walked up the hill to my house, I was nothing more and nothing less than content. Just happy.

Today, as I look back on the night, I am struck by a few things…

  • My friends are generous.
  • My friends are an interesting assortment, who don’t really form a group but came together for me.
  • My friends, especially after the death of my parents, are “presence,” and they orient my life in ways I don’t always recognize.
  • My friends are people I have to invest in. Friendships don’t just happen anymore.

Now I’m off to a friend’s birthday cookout. We’re swapping parties this weekend. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Day 15 – Say Hello and Goodbye

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I caught up with Patrick at the Royal Pig, a gastropub in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The place was new to me. He picked it for the buffalo shrimp. I was skeptical. And I was wrong. Blue cheese and ranch dressing have a way of enhancing shrimp fried in buffalo sauce. Then there was the bacon mac and cheese and honey buttered corn bread. Comfort food was a great way to reconnect with an old friend and to pass the extra night in Florida. Thanks, stormy weather, for the flight change and unexpected chance to say hello.

It was also the chance to say goodbye. Patrick is moving to L.A. in a few weeks. Sadly, another friend is leaving the area, taking with him good memories and one more connection to this part of the world. Yet, the move seems like a really good one for him. He’s been here 19 years, and as he put it, it’s time to get out and try something different. Indeed.

Funny, Patrick and I could have easily never become friends and never had this dinner. We met in passing at the wine bar where I worked, and only hung out a few times before I moved away. We never got the chance to know each other that well. Yet, there we were, years later, hanging out as friends bonded over some pretty serious life events we have in common. Like the loss of our moms, or leaving a city and people we love. From such a random beginning came my dinner date, ride to the airport, and new place to crash in L.A. And from it came some fond memories of a little bit of life shared.

I am grateful for the people who have come in and out of my life. I am grateful for what has been given me, what has been taken away, and what has been left behind. And I am grateful for buffalo shrimp on a rainy night at the beach.

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