Last night we had dinner, spur-of-the-moment, at Josh's restaurant. He called and said he needed me to come take some photos for a newspaper review that will be published soon. (Side note: what kind of an economy are we in when a newspaper can't use their own photographers get the images for their stories?) So, I packed up the boys and my camera gear and we headed in to Camden.

Our food was good, but not what I want to talk about. (We had hanger steak and polenta, per Kalen's request, in the back room so as not to disturb the real guests. Only slightly less hectic and messy than eating at home.)

As I was shooting, and later looking at the images I got and thinking about what I'd captured, I realized how much I love the inviting atmosphere of a busy restaurant, where everyone is enjoying the food, the company, and the evening. It's one of those times when eating dinner is no longer about physical sustenance, but is now an Event, one which stays with you long after the meal is gone.

The lighting is perfectly dimmed, cozy without being strain-your-eyes dim. There is music, audible but not too loud, and so perfectly chosen that you can't actually remember what you heard, just that it was right. There is much laughter and conversation. And of course, the meal. The sounds of good food heartily enjoyed. Cutlery chiming and scraping. Wine being poured. The dual clinking of ice cubes in a drink, rounded and smooth-sounding against each other, sharper and higher-pitched against the side of the glass. Everyday festivity.

Watching just such a scene unfold before me, I was envious that I wasn't on the other side of the lens (and sans children for the evening). But more than that, I felt so pleased to be able to witness it, and was truly happy for all the people for whom that experience was, at that moment, their life. Regardless of what else happened to them that day, their dinner experience last night was joyful.

Isn't that the whole point of a restaurant, anyway?

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