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  • Sometime I believe in the 90’s (I’m never good at time, everything for me happened ‘the other day'), I worked at a downtown restaurant frequented by actors, musicians, old money, freshly-minted financiers, tech-gurus, and much admired sports players. The food, the service, and the chef were French. We waiters wore the traditional white shirt, subtle ties, a vest and slacks, and a butcher’s apron. We were expected, too, to drink wine – French wine, that is.

    There is a strange kind of thrill at first waiting on well-known people. But the shine of that glamour wears off when you’re working to fulfill their various appetites and caprices. The colorful Greek actress endlessly tries to shock you with truck stop humor. The sex-symbol’s sheepish mutterings make it impossible to get his order. The nouveau riche tech-celebrity demands to know why his tuna tartare is undercooked. The comedienne wordlessly holds out her empty glass in demand, all angular and strained, her empty face always turned away as the old money dispiritedly watch their spouses excuse themselves between courses.

    One night, I was asked to stay late for a special party. It was the night before my much needed vacation was to begin and my frustration at having to stay started to blister my lip. Merde! I’d spend my holiday hiding in the shade nursing a cold sore all because someone can’t manage to have dinner during our already late serving hours. Still, what could I do but polish the silverware and wait.

    The first thing I noticed when he walked in with his party was the color of his skin from his hairline to nearly his navel - which was neatly exposed by his low-buttoned shirt. You might call this particular shade beta-carotene orange or burnt peach, perhaps. But it was no earthly color. It glowed something entirely different.

    I noticed, too, that his gait seemed effortless and his party followed him with the nerve-quick co-ordination of a school of fish or a flight of pigeons. Just as I was about to contemplate the beauty of his shirt – I don’t think I’d ever seen such a beautiful shirt before, white, exact, natural, he was in front of me reaching out one hand while, almost invisibly, the other moved to my shoulder as he said:

    “Hello, I’m Tony Curtis,” with a not surprisingly Tony Curtis accent, as he was indeed Tony Curtis, “and what is your name?”

    “Hello, Mr. Curtis. My name Shane,” I said as we shook hands.

    “Shane! Wonderful to meet you." Then, sweeping his right hand towards his party while the other remained on my shoulder, he announced, "Shane, these are my friends.” “Friends,” he rang out to his party, “This is Shane.”

    “Hello Shane,” they said in an unruly choir-like unison.

    “Friends, Shane has been roped in to staying late for us so let’s be sure we are especially gracious to him it.”

    “Thank you, Shane!” they said, again in happy unison.

    As they went to find a seat at the table, Tony's friends each introduced themselves and thanked me again for staying late.

    They ate and drank and laughed tremendously. They were lavish and unrestrained in their good will and affection, so much so that I felt more Mr. Curtis’s co-host than their server, as if we had planned this little party all along together.

    And as they started to leave - each unnecessarily thanking me for a wonderful time, shaking my hand or offering an embrace - it seemed there was between us that same fatigued sorrow of having an evening with friends end and a brilliant party dissipate and fade.

    Did we promise we’d do it again soon? I don’t remember. But I will always remember the special glow of that beta-carotene orange skin and the equally distinctive glow of the generosity of real joy.

    And that glow, wherever it radiates from, star or smile or from within ourselves, is, I believe, one of the best and finest parts of being alive.

    Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
    As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
    Are melted into air, into thin air:
    And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
    The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
    The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
    Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
    And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
    Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
    As dreams are made on; and our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep. - The Tempest Act 4, scene 1, 148–158
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