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It's a fine line between living for the moment and being a sociopath.

Patricia B McConnell: For The Love Of A Dog.

Pema Chodron: The Places That Scare You

Daniel Wallace: Mr Sebastian & the Negro Magician

All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. --Pablo Neruda

Sunday, May 14, 2000

LA Unconfidential #6

L.A. Unconfidential
Number 6
May 14, 2000

Okay. I’ve been a pedant all my life. Come by it honestly. My dad is a pedant too. We’re in good company. Most of the great minds have been sticklers. Exceptions to the rule—you know, like Einstein—don’t rattle me. What does is my long-felt inkling that negative karma is attached to pedantic acts. So, maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised when I send out a hastily composed, grammatically flawed Unconfidential and get skewered by a long queue of “friends” joyfully taking me to task for multiple flubs. Thank you, thank you all, for your vigilence. Without you, my inflated self-esteem would be kept in check only by woeful penis size and inability to get credit.

The day after I sent that ill-born screed, I took my first business trip with my new company. No longer must I labor under the duress of a McKinsey travel schedule: dropping everything at a moment’s notice to jet off to Paris, Johannesburg, Auckland, Hong Kong and the like. My derriere no longer retains the semi-permanently molded impression of a Qantas business-class seat. I have traded-in these absurdities for a much better life: a last-minute booking in random economy-class seating on Southwest airlines to glamorous Las Vegas. Out of LAX by 7:30am, back by two o’clock.

It was a blast, actually. I went to an e-healthcare convention. My little team was ticked off that I got to go and they didn’t. Why they were envious of a 9-hour business trip evaded me, but I tried to retain their good favor by treating the entire episode as a toy-gathering expedition. Dot-coms do convention toys very well, and my mind was made up that I would return to L.A. with as big a bag of toys as could be carried back to my team. And the convention delivered: t-shirts, hats, Frisbees, multiple yo-yos, key rings, American-sized travel drink cups, sports bottles, pens galore and more. (It being a healthcare-oriented carnival, one pen was a rather convincing ersatz syringe, complete with blood.)

At first, my toy hunting was systematic and stealthy. (1) Sneak up looking seriously interested in the booth proprietor’s business offering. (2) Engage in conversation for the minimal amount of time possibly construed as genuine interest. (3) Gather as many toys as propriety would allow, and off to the next booth. I quickly tired of this laborious and inefficient strategy. Soon, I swooped as soon as I saw toys my team might value—the most colorful or gruesome—and pluckily grabbed. This was apparently more in line with convention norms, and I attracted exactly zero derisive looks. The only available toy I was unable to snatch was the Porsche Boxster that was up for door prize.

I did, of course, have some legitimate business to do. In addition to toy-hunting, fact-finding, mind-expansion, and inspiration-seeding, there was a meeting scheduled to culminate a deal I’d been negotiating for a long while (Internet time translation: several days). Having gathered a full complement of team goodies, I finally sauntered up to the booth where the other company’s VP of Development, Sarah, was to meet me. Although this was the first time we were to meet in person, Sarah and I had gotten along famously from our first phone call, so she just laughed as she saw me approaching with my “show bag” full of baubles. She asked, “How many kids do you have?” “None,” I said, “unless you count my radio manager.” And we commenced our haggle.

Then, the big bazoomba hit. (The big bazoomba, as aficionados will recognize, is not a base slang referent to a singular mammary, but a generic taxonomial handle for any event of such surprising scope or construct, that the reaction of the experiencer escapes description.) In short, Greta Thomas sauntered by.

Many of you know Greta. And, those of you who do, know she’s supposed to be in France. One might reasonably infer, therefore, that she’s not supposed to be at the Las Vegas Hilton. So, we summarily freaked out. The previously bemused Sarah now reconsidered her position and became incredulous. She only returned to her bemused state when the excitement calmed and Greta and I arranged a meeting point for thirty minutes hence. Greta suggested—and only those of you who know her will fully appreciate this—that we meet at the Porsche. So, business concluded, I proceeded dutifully to the Boxster, rendezvous’d with Grets, and indulged in a noon margarita and a lengthy catch-up session in the hotel bar surrounded by the chink-chinkling of the slot machines around us.

Apparently, I’ve chosen the right geography for hanging out with Sydney friends. Suzanne Parker—at whose Prague wedding in August I’ll butcher the Czech language as Master of Ceremonies—spent Friday night with me in my new pad. I don’t mean that in the Biblical sense. No sin, anyway, but lots of tequila-inspired parable and confession. We got hung up on margaritas and never made it to the purpose-bought Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Given the recurring theme in these encyclicals, no doubt some of you are concerned about the likelihood of my spending time in tequila detox in years to come. In a bald-faced attempt to reinforce your concern, I should close by mentioning my mom. Yesterday, the day before Mother’s Day, I drove down to San Diego, where she occasionally resides. The adjacency with Mother’s Day was a coincidence. I went down for her going-away party. She and Lowell are off to Alaska for several months on their new boat. That won’t surprise those of you who have fantasized about emulating my mom’s lifestyle for some time. Nor will her parting gift to me: a bottle of Damiana, the Mexican liquor deemed to be the distinguishing ingredient of truly authentic margaritas, and widely reputed to be an aphrodisiac. It comes in a bottle shaped like a sensuously rotund naked woman.

Scuze me. I’m parched.

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