11.18.03 Stressing in San Francisco
From 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
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