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11.18.03 Stressing in San Francisco

San Francisco, view from Renaissance Parc 55From what I've been writing, it would be hard to deduct that I am sitting on the 13th floor of a downtown San Francisco hotel with the draperies flung open on a view of skyscrapers, highway cloverleaves, and, in the distance, the bay. This neighborhood is upscale shopping-mall America -- nothing unique, only big chain stores charging their highest prices to put on a glitzy show (although there are many homeless men sleeping in doorways and only a few short blocks away the neighborhood turns as seedy as any big city's downtown perimeter). I'm glad that I've seen other neighborhoods that are full of the famous flat-top row houses and pastel colors.

But the trip has not been devoid of drama. On Sunday, Jim "happened to mention" to me that he saw his ex-wife Glenda here at the conference and then confessed that he knew all along she'd be here and hadn't wanted me to obsess for days over it.

I should make it clear that this is Glenda's territory. When they were married she help found the section that is giving him the award and was one of its first chairs. The group is full of her old friends. And to her I am Satan. When she picked up and took charge of her life one sunny autumn and got a job in another city, she expected J. to follow, but he didn't. She figured I screwed up her master plan.

"So maybe I shouldn't go to the award ceremony," I offered.

"Don't be ridiculous."

"Well, then I'm going to have to go out and get a new dress so I can look drop-dead gorgeous."

"You are already beautiful."

Well, ok. Maybe dressing Satan in black silk would do nothing to melt the heart of a 70-year-old woman.

I decided that what I really needed to do was keep my mouth shut about it so as not to ruin J's moment of glory with self-centered whining. I decided to walk tall and face the music. I tried to give myself some lines in case I wound up face-to-face with a snarl. "It's been a very long time..." was the only thing I could come up with and it has been over 20 years, for godsake.

But, as it turns out, no words were spoken. Like me, Glenda appeared to be interested in neither confrontation nor conciliation. Although she spoke with J, she kept her distance from me. During the awards ceremony and the reception after, we spiraled around each other like planets from distant galaxies, always aware of one another but never needing to make eye contact. No one else at the proceedings said a word about it. Universes did not collide.

Still, I was thrilled when we were able to slip out and stroll back to our hotel.

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