Monday, April 10, 2006

The Road More Traveled

A short aside to apologize for being a barely-present friend to the effervescent Jen D., my bookfair partner and yin to my yang. For reasons only known to God, the San Francisco Association of Realtors and a couple of wacky publishers in Minneapolis, I've been almost entirely MIA since the crowning glory of our bookfair, back in November.

From September to November, Jen is my "other wife." (so dubbed by Sandra Bullock herself, in a moment of uncharacteristic irreverence) We count on each other not only to stage this huge event, but also to keep each other (plus our team of volunteers) mostly sane during this surprisingly stressful time.

So Jen, though I am preoccupied, rushed and occasionally surly during those brief times we see each other at our kids' school, be assured that I am always looking forward to the next time we can meet around beverages, be they chocked full of caffeine or alcohol, or the kind that come in a small box and contain at least 25% real fruit juice.

Last weekend we got together for what has become one of my favorite social events, the dinner club. We started this thing three years ago with three other like-minded couples. Unlike most well-intended scheduled social functions, we have not only carried on consistently but have thrived, explanding our slate of activities to include everything just short becoming godparents to each others' children. Religious differences would not allow this, otherwise we'd probably do that, too.

Some scoff at the dinner club, because it includes the word "club" in its title, involves 8 people whose wardrobes are comprised almost entirely of 100% cotton or wool, and because I don't actually eat most of the food prepared. In fact, had someone told me prior to moving here, that I would be involved in a half-San Francisco, half-Marin "dinner club," I probably would have sneered as well. "There goes my street cred," I might have said, ironically. There is nary a tattoo among us, and often we speak of business in hushed tones, using language I barely understand.

On Saturday we were at the home of Teduardo and his Phd. candidate wife Yo Yo Ma. They live near Castro Street in an Edwardian-in-progress with drop-dead views of downtown. We were lounging around the kitchen after Yo Yo Ma nervously gave us a short cello recital in preparation for her dissertation defense. I took a step back. I watched us. And from my vantage point, we all looked like we had the world by the tail. Life is good.

To the me of 1992, we're a pack of yuppies who listen to boring music, wear boring clothes and bring our loud children to restaurants with no regard for the needs of other diners.

Thank God it's not 1992 anymore.

In 2006 I know us well enough to understand (mostly) that we are more than the totems we give to the world with which to perceive and judge us. I used to depend on what I thought were counterculture totems -- leather jackets, bad jobs, motorcycles. The reality is that I've spent most of my time stuck in slow traffic on the road more traveled, unable to join the line of normal people effortlessly zooming along in the fast lane, yet likewise unable to find the off-ramp to the underground.

Of course, in 2006, I understand, with the help of my friends in the dinner club, that getting up to speed in the fast lane is anything but effortless, and no less interesting (at least to me) than the secrets awaiting on that dirt road that lies beyond the off-ramp I still can't quite find.

So maybe laughing loudly in Yo Yo Ma's kitchen is proof that you have the world by the tail. And is it bad being the misfit God of underachievement in a group of people who know that, accept it, and yet keep rooting for your to break out of it?

Also last weekend I read a good book by Beth Lisick, someone whose life seems like something I'd want. Her upbringing was, if anything, more mainstream than mine. She found the off-ramp. Like my former temping friend Johnny Rods, who is 39 and plays rock and roll to rooms packed with 150 worshipful fans. The funny thing is that Beth Lisick's life includes people from mine, including a fellow real estate agent at my firm and a mom from school that I know pretty well.

Then again, Johnny Rods lives in an apartment with his mom, and the critical favorite author of the book I read still occasionally has to take jobs handing out flyers at lunchtime downtown.

I hated handing out flyers downtown.

And so we beat on, etc. etc.


Anonymous flush puppy said...

Let me know when you find the off-ramp. I need directions.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Ken Dunque said...

Yo Yo Ma would like to be known as Yo Ma Ma

1:59 PM  
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