I don't usually write about people. The few times I have, it's been a family member, or else veiled by some food-related event that keeps this blog from become too personal. But once in a while, it's necessary to shed those safeguards, and write about people and events which have changed everything. Today is one of those days.
The person who left an indelible impression on me in 2009 won't be a surprise to many people. She has a knack for changing lives, you see.
- I met her 18 months ago at Elixir. I noticed her, we exchanged perhaps five words, and then Book Club proceeded as usual. I bumped into her on the BART platform that night as we were both Oakland-bound, and we chatted for a while. She was more alive than anyone I'd met in many, many moons.
- A couple of months later, after a few more Book Clubs, I was talking about Burning Man, and about how profoundly tortured I was over the fact that I couldn't really afford to go, but my soul was dying at the thought of not going. I remember saying to her, "you should really go; you belong there." It wasn't until much later that I learned she thought I was insane for putting myself through it.
- 2009 rolled around, and she was there to celebrate with us. We drank Mai Tais, Monkey Pods and Grogs at Forbidden Island and danced until the wee hours. It would set the stage for the next 12 months.
- We whiled away many a Sunday at Heinolds; mid-week klatches at The Trappist often led to roast duck dinners at Yung Kee. And there was the particularly memorable evening that started with sushi and ended with Greyhounds at Cafe VanKleef. I felt like the Dynamic Duo of the DTO.
- A mere 14 months after our first meeting, we packed up her trusty steed with two bikes, 15 gallons of water, shelf-stable "food", a first-aid kit, and enough music for the eight hour drive to the most unforgiving climate in the hemisphere -- Black Rock City. While there, we shared a tent, a sunrise, giggles, heartaches and frustration (we finally figured out that covering our bedding with one big sheet before a duststorm would help cut down on that last one). We drove home laughing and crying and exposed. She later told me she hated me for being right about her and Burning Man. I took it as a compliment.
- Most recently, I went to hear her read a collection of her short stories, and was reminded once again that I am blessed to know someone so profoundly talented and so incredibly alive. One of my greatest goals this year is to make sure I get to see her perform with her band. Yes, she's also in a band.
Her name is Eugenia Gratto, and I'm honored to call her my friend.
This post is part of Gwen Bell's "Best of 2009 Challenge"