1. Snap decisions. I remember the first time I bought a house – way back in 2001 – and it felt like a much more civilized process. Sure, there was an endless supply of paperwork to make the offer, go through the negotiating rounds, and square away financing, but it wasn’t clogging up my inbox every day demanding immediate attention. The agent or mortgage guy would call, I’d find some time to stop by their office, sign off on this or that, and then go on about by business. In this latest version of the game I’m feeling a little hammered by incoming rounds of email from inspectors, mortgage brokers, my agent, my bank, preliminary calls to insurance companies, and the call sheet from hell which lists all of the other services and utilities I’ll need to build new relationships with between now and (assumed) closing. I’m making a lot of snap decisions and I’m fairly sure I’m making good ones, but this could be awfully close to a full time job if a guy let it… and one of those at a time is more than enough.
2. Broken dream. I’ve always secretly thought Alaska might be a nice place to live. Lots of wide open space between me and the next guy. Plenty of food on the hoof. Not needing to learn a needing to learn a second language like I would if I washed up on an island in South America. However, consistent morning temperatures hovering between zero and five degrees have now officially led me to believe that I am singularly ill equipped to deal with sustained stretches of stupid cold weather. That dream is officially over.
3. The morning commute. I get it. You ended up in the left turn lane, but you really wanted to go straight. You know what you shouldn’t do? You shouldn’t just sit there in the left lane with your right blinker flashing in hopes that some kind soul will let you correct your mistake while the turn arrow cycles through its all-too-brief green phase and 300 yards of traffic backs up behind you. That’s especially true when your dinky toy car is too small to be seen around Big Red and people behind me think it’s just me sitting there like a jerk off holding up their day. Next time go ahead and turn left, pop a u-turn, and let the rest of us get along with our morning without paying the price for your asshattery and inability to manage basic driving skills. People like you are the only reason I’ve resisted the temptation to add a bull bar to my front bumper… because if I had it, I know I could’t resist the temptation to just nudge your dumbass out into traffic and be on my way. I’m just not caffeinated enough at 7AM to deal with that level of foolishness.
One of the last things I did before leaving Memphis was add an earthquake rider to my insurance policy. Memphis is prone to periodic rumbles after all and only being on the hook for 10% of replacement cost seemed like a good idea at the time. In Memphis, the next “big one” on the New Madrid fault system is one of those things you pretty much just accept as a possibility but don’t spend much time thinking about. Moving back east, the idea of an earthquake was even further from my mind. I know they happen here too, but only small ones that stay well below the threshold that most of us are able to feel.
Look, I know that everyone is playing this down, but the earth friggin’ moved and not in that nice calming way that it does all the time. The firmament became something less than firm. I’m not ok with that. It’s like rocky road ice cream suddenly tasting like liver and onions and everyone just deciding that it was no big deal. Not cool at all.
I remember feeling the chair move under me and then standing up at my desk watching the lights sway above me. I remember the overwhelming feeling that my equilibrium was just a touch off as the world lurched. I’m not embarrassed to admit that was the point where I bolted for the door. I think you’d all be surprised at the speed with which this fat man can move when he has the proper motivation. It’s for the best that there were no women or children between me and the outside, because I learned this afternoon that when faced with imminent peril, I have no intention of slowing down until there was blue sky and not five floors of concrete above my head. Realistically was anyone expecting me to be the selfless hero directing others to safety? In this case, I think the infantry motto, “follow me,” is the more appropriate course of action… even if I did pause long enough at my desk to pick up my iPad, phone, and building ID card. Just because I’m running for my life doesn’t mean I’m willing to drop off the grid or be stuck in an endless line of people with no ID cards in the morning.
Let me start off by saying it’s good to be back on the east coast. For the most part people here make sense to me in that they have places to go and basically want to be left alone to get there in as expeditious a way as possible. With that being said, all I can say about this class is that I’m basically over it. I’m not saying that I’m ready to go back to my actual job, just that I’d rather be doing something other than this.
In 1969 Dean Acheson published a memoir of his career at the State Department that covered his entry as an assistant secretary and ending with his elevation to Secretary during the second Truman administration. Serving from 1941-53, he saw the dawn of the modern political age. Empires that spanned three centuries and all corners of the globe crumbled in the wake of a war that left Europe unable to even feed itself, let alone meet its manufacturing and financial needs. Into this breach stepped the United States in the form of the Marshall Plan to rebuild a continent, become the guarantor of high seas commerce, and hold the line against the Soviet Union. For his part, Dean was in on the creation of the modern world.
I don’t claim the high credentials of Mr. Acheson nor am I quite vain enough to think that anything I have done will have those kind of sweeping consequences on the international order. Having a good deal of free time lately to really consider where I am and what I have been doing for the last two years, I can make the general assessment that I am inordinately pleased. In my own way, I’ve been a part of something that will cast its shadow long after I depart from the scene. These few years have been the most intense, most disappointing, most gratifying, most frustrating, and most intellectually challenging experience of my life. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most gifted minds I have ever known. I’ve met more than my share of colleagues who embody the Peter Principle and who have far exceeded their level of incompetence. Through the pitched battle to carry one vision from concept to reality, it has been a great honor and privilege to work shoulder to shoulder with a small group of people who have earned my unquestioned friendship and respect.
We’re off the ground now and our creation is beginning to take on a life of its own. New faces and new ideas are being brought into play. Those of us who were present at the creation are moving off into our own orbits now; managing our finances, planning for the worst case scenario, and chasing an elusive dream that lives somewhere out there on the sunny east coast. We’ve been a part of something special; that most people will never experience anything close. I just can’t say enough good things about you guys.