Tonight, as is the case almost every Wednesday night for at least sixteen years now, the whole Dr. No's Gang headed to El Rodeo restaurant for our post-comic-book-day dinner and gabfest. I say "at least sixteen years now" because we discovered that none of us is exactly sure how long we have been showing up at El Rodeo. I remember that we missed going for a week in 1989 when I had three wisdom teeth removed--and since I can verify that surgery was done in October of '89 and we had been going for a while before we missed it (otherwise, there would have been no tradition, so missing it wouldn't have been memorable), we know that the tradition must date back to early 1989 at least. I suspect it may go back as far as 1987, but I simply have no way to verify that.
At any rate, the dinner was superb, as is always the case; the folks at El Rodeo have never failed to give us first-class service, superb food, and much-appreciated tolerance regarding our endless conversations on almost every subject. The smallest groups have been four people; the largest, sixteen; the average, eight. The core attendees for these weekly mini-banquets are Brett Brooks (my store manager), Charles Rutledge (formerly the manager of the short-lived second Dr. No's from the mid-1980s, and a friend for almost twenty-three years now), and me. Regulars include Chris Appel, a former Dr. No's associate and a superb artist (see what I mean at his website; it's a shame that the folks at Devil's Due haven't latched on to Chris to do the covers for their G.I. Joe comic books); Allyson Brooks, Brett's wife, who is a talented graphic designer and the primary author of the Meddling Kids RPG; Buck Turner, the assistant manager at Dr. No's and the designer of the POS system we use in the store; Chrissie Turner, his wife, who does some superb animal portrait art (including the wonderful pencil portraits of Asia and Tisha that hang in our living room); and Ralph Groff, a longtime friend of Brett's since high school who has become a friend to us all. Recently, Charles' friend and former co-worker Trish Barbisch has been joining us every week, bringing a new viewpoint to the group, since she (like Ralph) has no interest in comic books at all. Our numbers used to include Ed Thomas, a former Dr. No's guy and a trivia master; Patrick Key, another former Dr. No's guy who is now teaching elementary school art (pity him!); and Lanny Lathem, a graphic designer who has taken his remarkable skills to Texas, where he's working with the G.I. Joe Fan Club.
It's amazing, when you think about it; this group of friends has been meeting virtually every week for almost a third of the time I've been alive, and the tradition is just as strong as ever. The food is always good, but it's the friendship that's most important; the flow of the conversation is engaging, the in-jokes have years of history behind them, and the group is genuinely interested in the ups and downs of each member's life. I couldn't ask for a better group of friends, and the dinner remains a high point of the week for me.
(Even though I do eat too much... Can't resist my weekly order of Nachos Mara, chicken and beans only, extra lettuce, no sour cream!...)