The Other End of Sunset

Monday, May 21, 2007

Photographs on the dashboard, turned around backwards

Hello again, my OtherEnders. Sorry for the long lag. I haven’t had a lot to say since JR’s birthday. Yes, you are right, I'm on a plane. I'm on my way to a couple of meetings on the east coast.

My travel schedule has been pretty intense in the last few weeks, although I can’t really remember where I’ve been, mostly. How much do I wish videoconferencing really worked, right about now? Really, a lot I wish! Anyway.

I flew to Anchorage, Alaska, a few weeks ago. I had a layover in the Seattle airport. As I was waiting for my next flight, I saw a whole bunch of people with guitars, and shell necklaces, and weird facial hair standing around by the gate. I was trying to figure out why all these tools were headed to Alaska – I mean, was there a sing-along of the Von Trapp family singers on the glaciers? Seriously, who are you all, and what are you doing here!

After I pondered this for few minutes, the plane arrived, and started offloading passengers. It was coming from LA, and lo-and-behold, off comes a famous vocalist for a rock and roll band. You’d recognize the name, I promise. He got off the flight, on his cell phone, and was instantly surrounded by the Von Tool family asking for autographs.

The seekers had guitars, and pictures, and a couple of new CDs for him to sign.

He was a jerk – he told them “how did you know? Why are you bothering me?” – which I kind of understood, but also didn’t. At least, the new CDs got him royalties, and the fans are probably the people who buy them, and see his concerts, etc.

But maybe it gets old having such things happen all the time.

As he was signing, he continued to berate them. One of the seekers responded “I'll swap my life for yours!” Which made me giggle, actually. But not the RockStar. His response was “Get a job and see how it feels!”

Not sure what relevance that was supposed to have, and I don’t think I'll be buying any CDs from Rockstar any time soon.

But then again, I don’t have people interested in me in airports. So, probably I don’t know anything.

Changing topics. It’s interesting what people find in my blog. I got a note from a person who found my blog, and extracted from it that I like beaches. True, I do like beaches; that is a different perspective on what I write about.

I gave a talk recently, and the introduction included a reference to my blog, and the summary that I am sensitive, caring, politically active, and love dogs. Also perhaps all true.

I also received a comment from a work friend who got introduced to my blog at a party – yes, weird, see below for more – and posted a comment on the posting I put up the day Jeanne died. Was a very sweet comment, on a fairly dark post. Thanks for the comment.

I guess I don’t know what this blog is about. Clearly Jeanne, and trying to heal from losing her, is a big part of all this. But it’s about more than that, I think.

My carpool pal mentioned to me that it is sometimes odd to find out my thoughts through my blog, rather than through talking to him. I don’t mean to hide from him – I trust him, and am not conscious of being reticent to talk. But apparently I am more forthcoming here than in my car. Seems odd, don’t you think? SL interpreted his comment to mean that I have hurt his feelings by writing instead of talking.

I thought about this comment for a while, and then the fates conspired to give me another lesson.

Keeping with this theme, I was out on my boat with another old friend (Lieutenant Dan), and he mentioned that he didn’t read my blog, at all. He doesn’t read it because he thought that if I wanted him to know something, I'd tell him directly. But that’s not how I think of it – this doesn’t replace talking, one on one, it supplements it.

I do write more than I talk. But it’s not because I don’t trust or appreciate Carpool or Lt Dan – nope, not at all – I just hate to hear my own voice. It’s so much more interesting to hear other people talk; my mind is boring – they are interesting! Who wouldn’t rather hear from them?

So, anyway, sorry CarpoolPal, it’s not you, nor is it that I fail to trust you. And Lt Dan, I hope you decide to read sometimes, especially since I’ve read a few posts to you now. Try to hear my funny accent, and odd phrasing, when you read my written words. It’s me talking, I promise.

So, for me, my blog is a way of siphoning stuff out of my brain into the ether. When I say it here, I rarely have to say it again to someone – and thus don’t have to bore them with my “gunk”. Brain flakes, as it were.

After all, a brain is a terrible thing to taste.

And I am grateful for each of you that share it with me. In the non-Zombie sense, of course.

I'm looking at a picture of Jeanne and I at Yosemite from a few years ago. Her nephew took it. I have bad hair, and look fat and annoyed. She’s got a shy smile on, and no makeup. But she’s leaning back against my chest, and she has the shy, slightly geeky look that I loved. I have a few pictures of her on my laptop. I copied them there, apparently, on June 18, 2006. The Monday before she died. I wonder why I was gathering photos of her right then? Makes you wonder, eh?

It was my birthday last week. Last year, my birthday fell right before the epochal blowup in my house – read the post if you want a biased version of the story. Anyway the birthday was before all that, and the birthday was kind of fun. JR was fairly mobile at the time. She and her family got me a gift card to Panda Express. Cheap Chinese food, yum! And a container of Coldstone Creamery ice cream (I like coffee ice cream with coconut mixed in). And she got me two pens – a fountain pen and a ball point one – both lovely.

If I’ve ever signed an offer letter for you or a contract for you, I signed it with her fountain pen.

I don’t really remember how I felt. I remember a fuzzy tiredness. But that’s all. It certainly wasn’t a “happy birthday” in any normal sense of the word.

This year’s aging event was happy though, because of SL, my best friend, and Jeanne, all together.

Allow me to rewind the clock, slightly. Jeanne left most of her estate to her favorite charity – the Best Friends Animal Shelter in Utah – but she left some things to family members, and she left a small amount of money to me. When we were planning her will, I tried to get her to take it out, but she wouldn’t. It seemed like a waste to me, but she had a plan – once I shut up and listened to her plan, I understood.

She wasn’t giving me the money to put in the bank. Nope, not her. She wanted me to take the money and throw myself a big party. She wanted me to have fun, and feel like the center of all the attention and love of my friends. She did have a set of rules – I wasn’t supposed to break any interesting laws at the party – but other than that, I was supposed to have a lot of fun.

I never got around to having the party. So SL decided to throw me a surprise birthday party. She enlisted my best friend in the plot, and KC, and a work friend who is crazy good at organizing parties.

And the crew managed to invite a healthy number of people, and convince many of them to show up, without any of them leaking the plans to me.

So I was surprised. Yup, I was tricked.

The party was held at a bar in the city, and it was themed – Angels and Demons, or so. Everybody had wings on – for Angels – or horns – for Demons. I think you get the visual. I was given a Dracula cape and cane to wear around, and a set of horns as well.

The band Tainted Love played, and there was much frivolity. And no weeping or lamentation. The band played “Darling Nikki” by Prince – yup, that’s SL’s ring tone on my phone. Apparently, SL had to sign a special release because of “adult material” in the song. Hmm, granted, it’s dirty, but have you listened to the word for “Come on Eileen”? Anyway, it turned out well.

I couldn't believe who all came. My oldest friend came. All of my consulting colleagues showed. Lots of folks from my current domain. One of SL's oldest friends. And all of my closest friends.

During the set break a few people had funny toasts for me – including DB, who wanted me to show off my arms (I guess I must be working out hard enough!), and my best friend, and lots of others – and I got to thank Jeanne.

I spent some time early in the party deciding what I was going to say, if I got the chance, and so tried to be light and funny.

So, when the time came, I told the crowd a two-sentence version of this story. Well, before I did that, I sang the stanza to “it’s my party, I'll cry if I want to!” And people joined in. Like I said, a great crowd.

Then, I told the quickie version of this story. Immediately after my last phoneme, I scuttled off stage like a cockroach when the light gets turned on.

SL went back up after I got down, and told a slightly longer version, including what is, I think, the kindest sentence ever said.

She said, “Jeanne wanted to thank Douglas for standing by her, and loving her, during her illness.”

Yes, that was it. SL got it right. Thanks SL.

And thank you Jeanne. For the record, it was my pleasure to get to stand by you, and to love you, during your illness. And before your illness. I'm sure you had a great time at the party the other night, and thanks for not stepping on my toes while I was dancing!

There is something odd in the pictures from the party. The pictures of me look happy – a wholly different look from many of the pictures I have of myself. Most of my pictures either look annoyed, staged, or (sometimes) peaceful.

Peace is a good thing to hope for. But this is better. I think this is a relatively happy post. I'm feeling happy-ish.

My friends showed up to wish me happy birthday – except a few who fell asleep and HJP who is in Cannes at the film festival. But generally, folks showed up. Even from Utah! And everyone was so nice and seemed to have such fun. It’s not surprising that it made me so happy.

Here’s to being happy, and still being interesting, and talking in person and in writing.

See you around the taxi queue…