The Other End of Sunset

Monday, August 10, 2009

Yes, really, it’s Douglas

She got shot down in the road.

She looked up before she went,

Said, this isn’t really what I meant.

And the daily news said, two with one stone.
--Sheryl Crow

I had a complete parental moment tonight. I had taken the dogs on a field trip to their favorite holy ground – In ‘N Out Burgers. After paying homage to the great fast food gods in the sky – or in the drive-thru, anyway – we had gone back home. I pulled our SUV (hybrid, of course) into the driveway, but not into the garage.

Long story, you can ask me why I didn’t park in the garage later. No, it’s not later yet.

Anyway, the street I live on is fairly busy, and my driveway opens right onto the street. Thus, traffic is a fact of life. Since I hadn’t pulled into the garage, the car was right next to the street, and, by extension, right next to the traffic.

I opened the door to get the dogs out. Normally, they are good at waiting their turn, and I can easily get each out individually, and keep them away from the traffic.

Not this time.

Both my Dalmatian and the Brown Dog decided they wanted to be first out. I managed to grab the Brown Dog and get him headed into the house – he’s pretty smart that way. The Dalmatian? She’s an escape artist. She jumps out of the car at the same time as the Brown Dog, but lands wrong on the driveway and falls toward the traffic.

I dive out to grab her and pull her back in. Now, really, she’s 10 feet from the side of the road and there aren’t any cars at the moment. But my head didn’t see it that way.

Revolutionaries wait

for my head on a silver plate.

Just a puppet on a lonely string.

Oh, who would ever want to be king?

I thought she was about to get squished. I grabbed her and hauled her into the car with all my strength – and I’m much stronger than a 45-pound Dalmatian. As I pulled her, she ducked her head and cowered. She was fine before my gymnastics. She was fine afterwards, but scared that she was in trouble – she hates being in trouble.

All day long, she fills me up with dogma.

She's all magazines and Benzedrine and vodka
--Sheryl Crow

I got her inside, and then proceeded to yell at both dogs. Neither dog understood what was wrong, but bore the yelling stoically. Or at least without talking back.

Those of you playing the home game probably noticed that dogs can’t talk, and thus can’t talk back. But go back to your Sudoku, I’m busy here.

I was totally angry – about nothing. It took me a minute to realize that I was terrified that something was going to happen to Minnie, and that I couldn’t prevent it, and that I’d gotten lucky this time. But what about next time.

A total parental moment.

Going where nobody says hello,

they don't talk to anybody they don't know.

You'll wind up in some factory
that's full time filth 
and nowhere left to go.

Walk home to an empty house, 

sit around all by yourself.

I know it might sound strange, but I believe

You'll be coming back before too long

My book is finally done. It’s in the production process now. I have no idea, really, what that process is, or does, but, regardless, the book is in said process.

Apparently you can preorder it on Amazon now. It hits the bookstores – on a shelf near you! – in March of next year. We are just doing final stuff – the cover art, the stuff on the back of the book, etc – but it’s done. A year of my life, captured in black-and-white on acid-free paper.

Ironic, a bit, since I am rarely acid-free myself. And I rarely see the world in black-and-white.

As an aside, I still believe in health care reform. And I did the last time around as well. I have no idea why that’s relevant at the moment, but I’m writing it, so you are stuck with my creative muse. Deal with it.

Back to my story.

I’m not the first person to write a book. In fact, there’s a well-known book by a well-known author in an area of interest of mine. No, I am not even going to use initials here.

A colleague of mine and I had a running joke about this book by this other person. In each and every opportunity, the author would find some way to work a mention of his book into the conversation. Even if it felt forced, and hacked, you knew he was going to plug his book somehow.

We called him “Buy My Book”, instead of by his name.

Naturally, I am becoming “Douglas [buy-my-book] Merrill”. I promise, the book is good. It’s funny, and clever, and has song lyrics, and makes sense.

The book is about personal organization – what makes you stressed, and how a set of tools can help you get unstressed. (I don’t think unstressed is a word, however). I talk about the psychology of organization, and how history plays into our day-to-day challenges, and suggest some ways to reduce your stress.

Several people have read it, and nobody has asked for a refund yet. So, feel free to order a copy. Once we have the cover art done, anyway.

And, yes, I’m going to talk more about the book over the next several posts, and, yes, we are going to have a site devoted to the book. Stay tuned.

Did you envy all the dancers

Who knew all the moves?
--Crosby, Stills, and Nash

I was involved in Google’s IPO, many years ago. There was a small team of us who did loads of paperwork, busy work, and general scut work. The three of us who were on that team spent an inordinate amount of time together.

One of my fellow scut-tees went on vacation to France right after the event. He bought me a bottle of wine that needed to sit for at least 5 years.

He gave it to me, and Jeanne grabbed a yellow sticky. She wrote, “Hold until June, 2009” on the sticky, and put it on the label. She underlined the date, in case it wasn’t obvious.

I was sorting through wine in my closet a couple of weeks ago, and I came across the missive from Jeanne. Or from the ghost of Jeanne-past, actually.

Seeing her handwriting pulled me up short. I can remember the smile on her face when she wrote it. I can remember that she wanted to drink it with me on a picnic somewhere. I can remember how proud she was of me, even though there was no reason for it.

I sat on my kitchen floor and cried.

Another day, another kick in the stomach.

Give my gun away, 

Is that alright?

If you don’t shoot it,

How am I supposed to hold it?
-Damien Rice

I asked SL what she thought I should do with the wine. She asked me what the possibilities were.

I told her I could drink it alone while SL is on vacation. I could drink it with SL, on a picnic somewhere. I could drink it with some friends of Jeanne’s… if I could find any. Or I could drink it with friends of mine, who wouldn’t mind if my eyes watered a little.

SL thought that I should definitely not drink it alone.

SL and I took it to a dinner at The Surgeon’s and The Lawyer’s. They were very gracious about my periodically drifting off from the conversation. I talked to Jeanne a bit, and asked her if she liked the wine.

Not surprisingly, JR didn’t answer, but I think she’d have liked it, and would have wanted to hold my hand while drinking it.

So I held hers. Thanks for the wine. Thanks for the note, Jeanne.

Thanks, SL, The Surgeon, and The Lawyer, for letting me cry over a very good bottle of Bordeaux.

The bottle, empty, now sits above my desk. Where it will gather dust, unlike my memories.

Got a strangely calm voice on the other line

Sneaky little priest trying to reach out to swine

He said, "Hello my name is Father Tim

Seems to me your zeal for this life

Has been wearing a little thin"
--Sheryl Crow

I can’t believe I’ve ever quoted one artist this many times in one post. It’s possible that I was listening to a Sheryl Crow album in the car. I don’t remember, but it’s odd that so many lyrics from one artist come to my mind while I’m writing.

I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks making jokes about security. I made some on the stage of a talk I gave at a conference about security – nothing like making fun of your audience.

Other times, I’ve made security jokes to myself in lines. Now that I think of it, talking to myself and grinning probably made me more interesting to the security folks. But never mind that.

There were 4 police officers at a checkpoint outside of LAX, making drivers stop as they come into the departures part of the airport. Four. That’s more than a normal traffic stop. That’s a lot. The best part? Three of the four were off to one side laughing, and the fourth didn’t look at, or examine, or generally show any interest in the cars that desultorily stopped at the check point.

What security is that providing? I don’t know. And I don’t feel safer.

At one of the conferences where I gave that speech, they wouldn’t let me have a wireless microphone, because the conference attendees would block the RF of the microphone.

I hadn’t thought of that.

I laughed, and then did my best Dean Martin impression with a wired hand microphone.

That security, although hilarious, I understood. I like security, when it makes sense.

Unlike, say, the officers outside of LAX. Or this airport wireless that keeps asking me to agree to the Terms and Conditions… over and over again.

I threw the last punch too hard
--Elton John

I have mixed feelings about being kicked in the stomach over and over again. On the one hand, I’d love not to feel the kicks, the pains, the bruises. On the other hand, I never want to even remotely forget her.

All in all, the pain seems worth it. The bottles and cards, they will fade. The songs, they will go out of style and be reduced to the late-night AM stations.

But the limned image of her in my mind, that remains.

SL is in France. She doesn’t speak French. Maybe one of you could help her get a taxi to where she’s going? I’d appreciate it, and I’ll reciprocate with a witty security joke, and try not to push my book at the same time.