Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Echoes, echoes

I'm on a Virgin America flight to Seattle. Self-upgraded to first class.
Just like old times.
I look out the window. I see a sprawling cloud landscape in blue and pink-yellow, stretching off to infinity. It's a whole different planet out there.

I put my hand to the window and feel the cold seeping through the hull as we rocket over the cloud cover.

As the plane turns and descends, the sun sets. Colors blossom. I see the moon appear suddenly over the pastel bands of the horizon. The cloud layers are translucent, and I marvel at the complex beauty that results from them sliding across each other. Seattle's lights gleam below.

As we start our descent and drop through the white-out, I think of my good fortune at having seen such a thing. Truly wondrous and beautiful, a special moment.

A woman calls my name. I turn to look at her and it is several seconds before I'm able to recognize a friend. We used to work together. Kindred spirits in many ways. She's got different hair now and new glasses. We are separated only by a few miles back in the Bay Area, but it's still been two years since we've seen each other. She's also on her way up to Seattle for the Rhapsody party. We share a cab and catch up on the way in.

Of course, I'm staying at The Edgewater, as I did many times when working for Rhapsody. Many of our peers wonder why, preferring newer, flashier places. I'm still taken with its slightly faded Kubrick/David Lynch/Twin vibe. In the last 2 years, they've tarted it up a bit, but it's still funky and unique. Hanging on, literally and metaphorically. And so many memories.

The old RealNetworks building is on the other side of the train tracks. Rhapsody's offices aren't there anymore, having moved to a hipper part of Seattle some time ago. But the party is walkable from here.

I ride up in an elevator with 3 middle-aged professionals, talking to each other about their alcohol intake the night before and how it impaired their ability to participate in their management offsite meetings today.

I find my room, change into gym clothes and hit the fitness center. I'm alone in there for most of my workout.
Just like old times.
A great remix I did of a friend's song comes up on my MP3 player. Their album never came out, but the track and the remix are good. It's a shame. They really could have been something if they got their act together.

I clean up, eat some dinner, and roll out into the cold Seattle winter night.

The last time I recall walking this way - in this kind of cold and dark - was many, many years ago, with a woman whose life has changed even more than mine has. Our paths crossed briefly but profoundly. I remember seagulls over the bay, their cries echoing off the buildings and water in the sun. She's not here in Seattle anymore.

I wonder how she is doing, and I think of another woman I know who's moving to Seattle with her boyfriend in the next month.

I pass many homeless people on First Avenue. I am reminded of my long walks through DC after high school winter evenings volunteering for The Jamestown Foundation. It must be hard to be homeless in Seattle.

There's a line around the block to get in to the party, but I'm on the VIP list, so my line is shorter. I shuffle in next to a few former colleagues and watch as more arrive. There are lots of people here, most of whom I don't know. It's very crowded and loud.
"So, what are you up to these days?" 
I chat up the people I recognize. I'm surprised at who is there, and who isn't. Everybody seems very happy - there are new children and new relationships and new jobs. All the trouble and hassles of the past are forgotten, forgiven, set aside, or buried under very convincing smiles.
"Are you still at MOG?" "How's MOG doing?"
Bands play. Drinks get drunk. The food is demolished. Hours slip by.

Look, there's the CEO, next to the billionaire. Look, there's my old boss. Hey, there's the guy who laid me off. There's the guy who replaced me. There's that guy I always passed in the hall.

There's Peter Buck, guitar player for recently-disbanded REM. I tell him "Thanks for the music!" He smiles and nods and thanks me back.

I look around. I am reminded of my high school reunions. It's time to go. Aches and pains and fatigue are creeping up on me. There's a lot going on in my life right now, a lot of things in motion. I push my way through the doors, out into the winter cold again. I say my last goodbyes to the smokers and stragglers out front.

As I walk past all the closed storefronts, I think of doors opening and doors closing, separating inside from outside. People walk in, people walk out. You were here. Now you are there. This used to be the future. Now it is the past.

A train rumbles past, horn blowing. The moon shines down, and its reflection shimmers in the bay.

The seagulls' cries echo across the water.

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