Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mariachi Birthday

There was a loud group of women at Arcos latin restaurant last night on South Broadway. My friend and I had to move to another table in order to hear ourselves chumming with each other. On reflection, hearing the closeness of the group of 12 or so, I was experiencing the feeling of envy.

The women were celebrating their friend's birthday. I was impressed, again, by the vivacious pleasure women experience in being together. Their laughter was deep and rich, the kind of laughter you experience when you are very happy. There was little squealing laughter, in the way anxious people often express themselves. People touched each other to emphasize comments, a hug around the shoulders, a squeeze of the arm. As the evening played out, my friend and I found ourselves listening to the conversation of the delighted group, smiling at each other, as we eavesdropped.

One of the stories they shared recounted a recent kayak trip that lasted 6 hours, rather than the 2 1/2 half originally anticipated. The retelling was filled with the details of capsized kayaks, women stuck face-up trying to go under logs, while other members of the flotilla pushed down on the stuck person's body, trying mightily to dislodge the kayaker, wedged between log and water.

They noted in detail the need to repeatedly portage heavy kayaks over slippery, decaying logs and shorelines covered with poison ivy. Group members lost sunglasses, food and clothing to the river's insistent current and the frequent shock of a kayak capsized. They recounted their awarness that they began the trip neat and naive and ended it with the sound of dueling banjos in their heads, as darkness descended and the river's tree cover drew more dense.

This tail was told in detail that spoke of the closeness they shared in moving through the difficult together. They acknowledged the initial anger at being in a hazardous situation, that was originally intended to be one of fun and ease. They examined their means of supporting each other and their awakening to the ludicrous nature of their situation. All of this was detailed with humor and bursts of raucous laughter, laughter too large for the narrow restaurant.

I noticed that other diners were as engaged as we were with this unusually adverturous tales. The women, all well over 50 years in age, were ageless. Another reason for envy. They were brave, strong, witty. As their dessert arrived the Mariachi band appeared and played a rousing Happy Birthday to the celebrant. Everyone in the room sang along.