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Tuesday Night Dinners

My tribe solidified years ago when we started meeting every Tuesday night at the Rite Spot restaurant in San Francisco. The Rite Spot had more ambience than attitude and could always accommodate a group that varied weekly from 4 to 20 people. Todd and I started the weekly dinners with these simple rules: "Don't call us to say that you are coming or not coming. Just show up and bring a friend if you like." The last thing we wanted was to organize an event every week. Needless to say, flexibility on the part of the waitstaff was key. We never asked for separate checks and we tipped like crazy.

We didn't have any grand theory when we started Tuesday Night Dinners. Many of us were freelancers and simply wanted a routine activity to measure out our weeks. Looking back, however, I can see how this ritualized event made a key difference in our group. Mainly, it increased what a social scientist would call our "clustering coefficient," that is, the number of our individual friends who also have friendships with each other. The higher the clustering coefficient, the more a group feels like a group. Those dinners were also useful in networking with other groups and connecting with new friends and meeting potential romantic partners. At least two couples who ended up marrying were first introduced at Tuesday Night Dinners.

Our Yearly Rituals
Without any direct effort, Tuesday Night Dinners became unofficial planning meetings for larger, more complicated tribe activities. We planned all our Burning Man adventures there and also came up with the idea for our annual houseboat trips. These yearly rituals have grown in importance and meaning. By challenging ourselves to organize these weekends, we learn something about the strength of the group and the characters of individual members. (Will they carry their weight or will they slough off?) These trips also make up much of the lore of our tribe. When we include new people, the trip takes the form of an initiation. By coming along, they are written into the story of our group.

My Talented Friends
If you've read the book, you'll notice that the name of my friend Larry comes up a lot. Here is a passage: "For myself, the overall assessment of my tribe tended to change with my moods. On days when I was feeling generally good, these friendships seemed like the very font of energy and momentum in my life. The fact that Larry was working on a song about my failed relationship with a girlfriend would, on those days, seem charming. I would count down the hours to the next group trip or get-together. On days when I was feeling down, however, the tribe and my house full of roommates seemed like a prison. How could I justify being in my mid-thirties and spending so much time goofing off with my friends? How could I move on and find a life partner if my friends were always around, literally composing odes to my failed love affairs?" So you know that this is no hyperbole, here is the song Larry wrote about one of my ex-girlfriends. You should all buy his album, “Endless Chain of Accidents," which can be found at: http://www.larrygallagher.com/

I also wrote in the book about the travails of my friend Nikolas and his attempt to build one of the biggest glass lighting installations known to man: "When I saw Nikolas next, it was clear he was in over his head. The
lighting installation he had proposed to Frank Gehry was to be composed of thirty-six enormous slabs of fused glass tubing, each resembling the shape of a leaf or a wing and weighing hundreds of pounds. Nikolas admitted that he had never fired a piece of glass larger than a couple of feet long--teeny compared with the nine-foot behemoths he had told Gehry he could manufacture. He had only a year to create the three dozen pieces--five thousand pounds of glass in all--using materials he didn't know he could get, with technology he hadn't yet developed, through a process he could only vaguely imagine. He was in for a literal trial by fire." This picture shows the finished product. More on Nik's work can be found at: http://www.nikolas.net/home1.html

The Author Marries at Last!

I hope this doesn't ruin the ending of the book, but here's a picture of Rebecca and me moments after we married. With the help of a mariachi band, we led our friends and family from our backyard, where we held the ceremony, to the reception hall in San Francisco’s Mission district. Much is written in the book about the tribe vs. romance conundrum. While it is true that life in the tribe may not always be conducive to creating long-lasting romances, my belief is that most of us will get there eventually.

Rebecca and I are now expecting our first child, who the tribe is sure to welcome with love and amazement. I, meanwhile, will attempt to continue life as a freelancer (I’ve written for The New York Times Magazine, Spin, Details, Mother Jones, GQ, Esquire, and The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, among others) at the San Francisco Writers Grotto, a co-op I founded in 1994 with fellow tribesmen Po Bronson and Ethan Canin.

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