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No, that car isn't for me - Riffs and Licks
No, that car isn't for me
I walked out of my apartment building today and saw a black car waiting, a corporate hired car with a number placard hanging on the rear window and the driver talking on the phone. It brought back a rush of memories, of leaving for a business trip on a beautiful day, trundling my rollaboard downstairs and giving instructions to the driver so he wouldn't get stuck in traffic on the way to JFK. Of watching Brooklyn go by on the other side of the tinted window, thinking about the jams I wouldn't be playing at that night, the people I'd had to put off seeing, the day in the park I could have had.

I looked at that car and felt so happy that it wasn't for me, that I wasn't leaving, that I wasn't going to be a spectator to this picture-perfect day, in it but no longer of it, a harried traveler rather than a content resident. All-expense-paid trips to California sound wonderful until the umpteenth time you spend an entire day looking out a conference-room window (if you're lucky enough to be in a room with windows) at the California sunshine, hoping the meeting will wrap up early enough that you can do something fun before the obligatory work dinner that will drag on for hours.

I've had fun on business trips. Sometimes I'd manage to slip a free day into the schedule, or arrange my time to leave an afternoon off, or duck out of dinner. One afternoon in the early years of the dot.com boom, a lunch presentation at a Silicon Valley company was canceled. Everyone remained in the conference room, opening their box lunches at the conference table and making mind-numbing business small talk. A quirky software genius (who later quit the company) looked up at me and said "Let's go to Kepler's." So we blew out of the conference room and drove over to the famous bookstore on El Camino in Palo Alto, loaded up on books and ate wraps sitting outside in the sun.

(Side note: That was the day I bought my first Neal Stephenson novel. The genius came up to me on line at the register and put a copy of Snow Crash on top of my pile. "I'm so done with cyberpunk," I said, and he said, "Trust me, just read it." So I started it on the plane home and was rolling my eyes all through the high-tech chase scene that opens the novel, thinking, this is just what I'm so sick of. Then it turns out that the tech jockey is actually a pizza delivery guy trying to beat the 15-minute delivery guarantee, and I've loved Stephenson's work ever since. Even shared a podium with him at an awards ceremony, but that's a long story.)

But I am very glad to no longer be in that life. To enjoy the city where I live and start to see other places in a new light -- such as Seattle, a place I've visited many times and never once enjoyed. Seattle is, for me, endless hours in the atmosphere of forced conformist brilliance at Microsoft. Of driving an ugly rental car around the ghastly suburbs -- Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland -- thinking, "So this is why Courtney Love is so angry all the time."

I walked past that limo, bought some groceries for dinner, and picked up my dry cleaning -- five dress shirts, three weeks of business dress. The fiddle player I usually play in the park with on Thursdays is busy, so I'm going to cook some dinner, learn some tunes, maybe go to the park. The limo was still there when I came back from the store, and I walked past it again, glad I didn't have to drive off from behind dark windows, happy to be part of the beautiful day.
14 comments or Leave a comment
rubytramp From: rubytramp Date: September 13th, 2007 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nice post! I'm reading Snowcrash right now - I don't know why I never picked it up before.
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: September 13th, 2007 08:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
What a great book. Might be time for a reread in fact. Beware the Baroque Cycle, though. I loved it but it's a major time commitment.
rubytramp From: rubytramp Date: September 13th, 2007 08:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I actually picked me up the first part of the Barouque cycle. I've been eyeing it for a long time. It's next after Snowcrash.
rednoodlealien From: rednoodlealien Date: September 13th, 2007 11:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I never did proceed further than the first third of the first book. It's not bad, just too much!
(Deleted comment)
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: September 13th, 2007 08:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad, good for you!
nyhamsterhouse From: nyhamsterhouse Date: September 13th, 2007 09:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hooray for the new, relaxed, un-corporate, free you!

But wait, why Seattle? Are you moving? Mama's confused...
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: September 13th, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh god no, it's just I've always hated Seattle because of those unpleasant associations, but I'm sure there's more to it than that. But I'm staying right where I am thank you very much. :)
rednoodlealien From: rednoodlealien Date: September 13th, 2007 11:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love, LOVE, this post. I know it. Sometimes I look forward to going to NYC, but there's always at least a small pang, and sometimes it's the big pang you describe. I want to get out and HUG Vermont as I leave it. If I'm driving, I want to stop and hug a tree, smell the air, shop at a tiny store where I can leave my car doors open with stuff in the car. If I'm on the train, each stop takes me one step closer to the metropolitan mayhem, and it seems like I can feel that happening. And if I'm flying... whenever I'm flying, it's so hard to leave because the Burlington airport is just such a treasure. You can walk across the street to an Italian deli. There are like two gates. (All right, there are 10 or so.) It is the calmest airport I've ever been in. There are ROCKING chairs. Whatever airport I'm going to next, it is guaranteed to be an inferior experience. Enough about Vermont. Buying some groceries and picking up some cleaning... being IN the day... that is LIFE. The moment by moment. The small picture. That is what your life is made of; not your title or salary. I've got next week off. Not traveling anywhere till Friday. I am reveling in the thoughts of the stupid little things I'm going to do - get a bike tuneup. Give the goats quality time. Cook something where it doesn't matter how long it takes. LIVE!
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: September 14th, 2007 01:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks, Chris. I love NYC and won't be moving to Vermont or raising goats any time soon, but you were a major inspiration in a lot of this, both in conversation and in the way you're living your life.
rosefox From: rosefox Date: September 14th, 2007 04:22 am (UTC) (Link)
This is lovely. May I post it to readers_list?
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: September 14th, 2007 01:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, by all means. And thanks for pointing me to that community, which I don't think I've ever seen before.
rosefox From: rosefox Date: September 16th, 2007 05:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, readers_list is great! Lots of good stuff there.

Our custom is to turn off commenting on our entries and ask people to comment on the original. Since this is a locked post, would you prefer to unlock it, or for me to enable comments on the r_l copy?
steelbrassnwood From: steelbrassnwood Date: September 16th, 2007 01:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've unlocked it (with some slight editing). Thanks again!
rosefox From: rosefox Date: September 17th, 2007 05:30 am (UTC) (Link)
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