... than dinner with friends at a good restaurant, not too noisy and conducive to amiable conversation? We went out last night with our across-the-street neighbors to eat at Far Niente, a landmark Italian restaurant in Glendale, just across the freeway. We used to eat there more often than we have done recently, and it was a pleasure to be back for an unhurried meal, a glass of wine--a single one, for me, and a solitary one, since the others abstained. As the evening's driver, I limited myself to the one glass of house Chianti, which I much enjoyed.
We talked, as the Lewis Carroll poem has it, "of many things"--though not of "shoes and ships and sealing wax," nor "cabbages and kings." We talked of books and movies, of vacations, of families, and generations, and the differences between them. And most of all we talked of grandchildren, of which we all have our share. And after dinner we drove home, and sat around, and talked some more, and delighted in a small bowl of gelato. We ended our evening at a reasonable hour, before we all fell asleep, and said our goodbyes as we came to the door and saw our friends safely across the street.
So what could be more pleasant? We chastise ourselves for not doing this often enough. It is not hard to do but somehow, here in the city, we get lazy. We stay home. A good part of the pleasure, I think, is not in the going out and eating at a restaurant; it's in the simple practice of communication with other human beings--not necessarily of anything of great import, but simply talking across the table, hearing from others about who they are, and having the opportunity to let them know about ourselves.
This is what I read and look at pictures for. I used to offer a lecture whose title was simply "Tell Me Who You Are." It was a lecture for artists, from one who writes frequently about art, in answer to a question that, as a writer, I am often asked: what do you look for in a work of art? And that's the simple answer: I want to learn more about the humanity of a fellow human being, and through their work to learn more about my own. It was a lecture about authenticity, and about communication. It's what I try to practice in everything I write, and what I try to practice in my life.
So, yes, what could be more pleasant than an evening with friends, a good conversation, a good class of wine... and an early night?