It was a smaller group than in the past. Too many old friends with obligations, plane tickets and scared significant others couldn't make it. More 'friends of friends' than in the past: a newer phenomenon, disquieting yet interesting.
Once a year, in August, under the pretext of a mass birthday party we hold a bash. It's about friends. There are traditions- experimental cooking, the Lobster of Shame, new scotches, home brew, "The Parting Glass", the Baraka book. Some traditions have fallen by the wayside. We don't heal the way we used to, so the six-on-one tackle football has slipped into the past.
We are getting older. The party used to last for three days, from sometime Friday night until late on Sunday. Saturday night we would tell stories, sing and sip scotch until sunrise as the beauties belly danced and some of us drummed or played instruments. This year the last person left at 0130 on Sunday morning.
Good stories, good friends. The friend of a friend thing- at this party I used to be able to look around and realize that almost everyone there had saved my life or sanity at least once. The group was tight in a way that only sharing lots of heartache and/or danger and/or blood can make happen. This year there were people that I barely knew. A short time ago they probably would have been sitting with their backs to a wall with wide eyes twitching looking for exits... but we've mellowed with age. Most of the intense stories we've lived and told and re-told enough and now we tell mostly the funny ones. Some of the ones that weren't so funny at the time, like Curly Creek Falls, have become funny in the retelling. I think the strangers felt comfortable there, and safe. Which is really odd.
Barbecued kangaroo, steak and sausages. We had yak, too, but as usual K had provided enough food for a bigger army than we had, so we didn't get to the yak. Ardbeg is still the best scotch ever and Boodle's is still in first place for gin. You can load scotch into a seltzer bottle and carbonate it- that was the culinary experiment for this year. Previous experiments included scotch milk shakes (good); beer milkshakes (good); and making espresso with beer instead of water (bad, really, really bad).
We've been doing this for a long time now- there have been many changes. From comrades-in-arms to couples. For a few years there were many babies and small children. Now teen agers (and one baby!). Rules used to include "No throwing knives or axes after drinking", the rules are unnecessary now, just, "Take care of each other" which is the one lesson we have all learned in life. In a few years or decades, more of us will be walking with canes. Children and then grandchildren will take over the planning and will tell the new stories- and maybe repeat some of the old one, "Blue-White-Blue-White" or "What Friends Are For" or "Suffocation in Dynamited Cave" or "Rick's Bachelor Pary in a Ghost Town and how we Almost had to Fight an Entire Town and Wound up Eating Sardines".
Good times, good friends. Amazing how often those go together,
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