Once upon a time, an intern came all the way from England to work at the tiny theatre company where I was quasi-gainfully employed. She slept on our sofa for a month and stayed my friend forever. Well, twenty years, so far, but that seems like a good start. I'm not saying that installing an imported intern in your living room is a surefire way to make an excellent friend. After all, I only tried it once. Your results may vary. I can only say that, in my case, it was a fantastically good idea.
Since then, Talya has far outpaced me as a proper grown-up person. She is a theatre professor with a husband and two children and a house that is located, extremely inconveniently, in Massachusetts. All that distance has mattered very little though because our friendship is built on the unshakable bedrock of bookstores, theatre, fancy cocktails, and chocolate. Oh. And birthdays. Talya and I believe in birthdays.
I have never understood those people who refuse to actively participate in a day when people you love are so delighted that you were born that they give you cake. That seems like a day worth announcing as broadly as possible. Not everyone understands this, however. Therefore, if you are a birthday enthusiast, it is important to make sure that when your personal anniversary rolls around, you are in the company of another birthday enthusiast. This is why, despite living thousands of miles away from her, I have managed to spend three out of the last six birthdays with Talya and, often, her whole family, who actively wonder if I have a home of my own and/or any other friends at all. In recent years, I have driven to her house from Vermont; she has traken the train to New York to have lunch with me; and once, perhaps most spectacularly, I abandoned a friend in Switzerland and flew to London to crash her family vacation and be taken to a charming restaurant in Primrose Hill. She has never found this the least bit questionable.
Today, as it happens, is Talya's birthday, or, as we feel it should more fittingly be called, la Fête de Talya. She seems to have arranged her life in such a way that she can manage to celebrate it without flying across the country to my house. Indeed, she tells me that there was even a parade in Amherst this afternoon, which we assume was in her honor. I applaud her independence, of course, while at the same time feeling a little embarrassed about the one-sidedness of the arrangement.
I thought perhaps a virtual outing was called for.
Had she been here, I would have taken her to the 20th Century Café, where everything is beautiful and the hot chocolate is perfect (a rare, rare thing for hot chocolate to be in a coffee-obsessed town). She could have had whatever she wanted, of course. In addition to excellent beverages, this charming lady also makes delicious lunches and very fancy cakes. (Click through to see more).
And then, because there is no one in the entire world who loves the Von Trapp Family Singers more than Tal (really, I cannot overstate her enthusiasm), we would, naturally, have gone to the Sing-Along Sound of Music at the Castro, where no matter what birthday it is, everyone gets to be 16 going on 17.
Bonne fête de Talya à tous. And may you all be so lucky as to have such a thoughtful, funny, caring friend.
Happy birthday, Tal, with love from San Francisco.