Tonight my friends Leo and Tim from New York are coming to dinner. Tim is a playwright and Leo is just finishing NYU film school. They'll likely bring Bill, an acting teacher from L.A., and his friend Wendy. I'll be making grouper with a lime-and-chili sauce, and my signature garlic mashed potatoes, which Bill says are the best in the world. Tomorrow my friend Amanda is flying in from Seattle, Gail is driving up from Denver, and Doug is driving down from Steamboat Springs. I'll make organic prime rib, steamed turnips, spinach salad. After dinner we'll be doing the last of our packing for the Grand Canyon, where the five of us will join six other people we don't know as well, and the 11 of us will spend nearly three weeks on four rubber rafts riding the rapids of the Colorado. I'm in charge of rowing one of the boats and of the first six dinners. After 18 days of risking our lives together, of absorbing the mind-bending colors and shapes and shadows in the canyon, of making temporary homes along the riverbank, of eating and laughing and singing and most likely yelling and crying together, we will have become maybe not quite the Welsh Couches, but something it will be impossible not to call a family. As far as I can figure, that's the very best reason to go.

More from the O relationship vault: Aunt misbehavin'


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