I never attendend alumni functions in New York for my high school (you know, that one that produced Barack Obama) despite a regular drumbeat of annual activities. But for whatever reason, I decided to throw caution and my “too cool for school” attitude in the wind four years ago to attend an event on the Upper East Side.
I left work early, and entered a well-manicured lobby, whereupon I was taken via elevator operator to the apartment where the fête was to take place. When the door opened into the apartment, I was confused by the low din of conversation. This was supposed to be big — dozens of people, but I heard two or three voices.
I walked into the living room where I saw about 3 couples seated and chatting amongst themselves and a few college kids off to the side. The hostess introduced herself.
“Hi, I’m Marty, who are you?”
“Where are you from?”
“Oh, we’re from Hawai’i too! Where did you go to high school?”
“We went to Punahou too,” she exclaimed pointing to all three couples.
At this point I was very confused. Obviously, we all went to Punahou as this was a Punahou event, right?
“Who invited you?” she asked.
“Suzanne…Suzanne from Punahou.”
“Oh, you’re here for alumni event. That’s next week.”
[cue sad trombone]
I started to slide my feet towards the door and offered my apologies for intruding upon their private dinner, but she graciously invited me to stay for a drink, then dinner, and by the end of the evening, everyone was drunk and having a grand old time.
When I showed up for the actual event the following week, there were a lot more people, and we laughed at my stupidity.
As I was scanning the room, I spotted a pretty cute girl, so I made my way over to chat with her. I introduced myself and after we were chatting for a few minutes, she said, “Did you teach marine biology in summer school?”
“Yes, in 1995.”
“Oh, I was your student!”
[cue sad trombone]
Apparently, little kids grow up into full-sized people, some of whom are attractive. But she had a boyfriend (now husband) so let’s just pretend this little incident never happened, shall we?
At any rate, Marty introduced me to Ann. And Ann introduced me to Jordan and Holden, and her daughters Leah, Nani and Maya. And Jordan introduced me to Emily, Lianne, Natalie and Kristien. And Kristien introduced me to Ashlyn and Britni. Then a random coincidence brought Hannah into the picture. And Hannah introduce me to Michelle and Alexis. And Alexis introduced me to Marcela and Nate. A fortuitous mix-up in my calendar led to a set of remarkable relationships with people from ages 16 to 55.
And what was initially a very infrequent dinner with Ann and her daughters soon became a very frequent Sunday Hawaiian family dinner with new faces and friends all the time. I finally used that education from the French Culinary Institute from 10 years ago, and life started to feel very social and fulfilling.
This past summer, my ex-girlfriend Amanda revealed that Sara had been diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer during a routine screen for what they thought might be Celiac disease. I had hired Sara as one of my first developers at hotjobs in the late 90s, and what can I say other than that the web 1.0 blood runs deep.
Sara was living in Seattle with her husband Jody, and I hadn’t seen her in a few years. So I reached out to her and let her know that she had a lot of people who were concerned about her, and that I’d like to see her. After some hestitance, she agreed, and so in August I flew out to Samamish on the outskirts of Seattle.
Even with significant weight loss, still she seemed pretty “normal” despite undergoing chemotherapy. And in a lot of ways, it seems like no time had passed since I last saw her. I went out the following month, and we talked about me visiting her again in the Spring when the weather was a little warmer.
The whole time in the back of my head, I couldn’t help but remind myself that she was Stage 4 — i.e. the cancer had metastatized to other parts of her body, and the prognosis was simply not good.
Then two weeks ago, Amanda contacted me and said we needed to go out immediately. Things weren’t going well, and the doctors thought she might have a few days or weeks left. So I caught a flight out that afternoon, where I met up with Amanda, Venessa, and Declan. Sara had starting having seizures, and was discharging herself from the hospital to come home for hospice. When we saw her the next day, she didn’t really look any different than September. She had headaches and fatigued very easily, but she seemed to be in pretty good spirits, and you could hardly believe that the situation was terminal. It wasn’t anything like Christine laying in a hospital bed in a state of semi-consciounsness.
We got to spend time chatting with her in bed, and taking pictures, and generally reminiscing of old times. The following day, we were supposed to celebrate an early Christmas dinner with her. But after chatting with her in the morning, she suffered another seizure and was taken back to the hospital. I had to fly out of Seattle to make it to London the next day, so I never got to say goodbye. She passed away three days later.
2012 has been bookended with death. But it has also been stuffed with life. Mark even called me a bon vivant last week, which I guess is sort of like a Whiffenpoof, but older. And at least with Sara, I felt peace having made the time to see her on multiple occassions. Not having day-to-day responsibilities at the office allowed me to travel on a whim to see an old friend when she needed it the most.
And finally, I decided to “gift” my friends with music this year, but not with a CD or a Spotify account, but with recordings of me and my friends playing/singing holiday music. What the hell else am I gonna do with a music degree anyway? The recordings are live and imperfect. They sound good, but not spectacular, but I think they are all the more humanistic that way. Most importantly, I think people are finding joy in them, which put me in that cheesy holiday spirit.
By the way, Josh is doing well. Married as of late 2011, and after years of writing/producing for shows like The West Wing, Law & Order SVU, Fringe, and more, his first Hollywood movie with Oscar-winning director Bill Condon is about to go into production. Well, cross your fingers.
Back in 2004, I wrote of list of 35 Facts about me, and I’d like to take some time to reflect on #6: I love Haribo Gummi Bears and Coke. The reflection is this: Sugar is bad for you, and I’m now pre-diabetic. This is a cruel irony for someone who had so, so much love to share with gummi bears and coke, but probably karmic justice for pretending that my genetic predisposition wouldn’t kick in at some point. As a consequence, I haven’t had a soda nor gummi bears in over two years. This is very funny, and you should chuckle silently under your breath.
I’ve left out a ton of detail and so 2012 will have to be revisited in 2017 when the characters and the stories have been properly fleshed out. But I wanted to make sure that I updated my life tenets. So here we go.
- Man’s need for pornography is insatiable.
- The hottest woman in the room is the hottest woman in the world.
- You cannot reason with crazy people.
- There is nothing more important than the company of good friends and family.
See you in 5 years.