Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dad Brag...

Last week I was in NJ/NY to celebrate a milestone birthday. It was nice. The real treat was seeing a young lady I had known since birth present herself as an actualized, centered young woman. My daughter. I had last seen her a few months before when she graduated from Georgetown University and I helped her pack her belongings, say goodbye to college friends and move back to NJ. She was sad, nervous, unsure and about to begin the finial interview for (hopefully) a new job, her first employment as a young adult. I picked her up at the train station after the interview – she had received a firm offer via text during her ride home. She was told to report for work in the office of Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, the following week. She was excited. She was scared. “I don’t know if I can do this, Dad.”

We talked about how natural those feelings are, how change is always scary and about the fact that she was well equipped educationally and intellectually. We also talked about integrity and truth-telling, about how important those qualities are, especially in the field she was about to enter. “What if I make a mistake?” Count on it, you will. And the world won’t come to a halt.

A few days later, I kissed her cheek - and drove back to Ohio. And a few days after that, she dove into the sea of work. Sixty – seventy hour weeks. Little sleep. Saying YES a lot. And learning. Leaning mostly about herself.

On the 17th of October, I again picked her up at the train station, this time after a 12 hour workday. We went to dinner. There was something different about her. Entering the restaurant, we walked to the MaĆ®tre‘d’s desk. No one was there. We waited. We waited some more. Finally, a young woman approached, looked in the reservation book, checked her iPhone for messages, then looked up. “May I help you?” In an even tone, without a hint of anger or petulance, my daughter said, “We’ve been waiting for five minutes. No one said hello, no one said anything.” The young woman’s eyes widened, “Oh, I’m terribly sorry!” She showed us to our table.

After dinner, the check arrived; my daughter took it and laid her credit card on top. The waiter looked at me. “I’ll play this however you want, Dad.” Let her get it. She’s in charge. “I like taking my Dad to dinner for a change. I’ve got a job – I can afford it.” My oh my. Like I said – actualized, centered, purposeful. A young woman.

Riding home in the car after dinner, she said, “You know what my theory is, Dad?” Ah, no – what’s your theory. “My theory is, I’m 22 years old, I work hard, I don’t say no, I keep my head down and I produce. That’s my theory.”

While I was in New Jersey this past week, she again had job interviews, this time to join the staff of now Senator Cory Booker. She had been in his employ for a mere four months. Her first interview was with the gentleman who initially organized the office of Senator Al Franken of Minnesota. After the interview, she was convinced she had done badly, had said the wrong things. Did you tell the truth? “Yes.” Then you don’t have anything to worry about. She passed muster and was asked to a second interview, this time with the newly hired Chief of Staff for Senator Booker. Again, she felt she had blown it. I picked her up afterward and we talked in the car ride home from Newark. How many job interviews have you had in your life? “About three or four.” We get good with practice. Did you tell the truth? “Yes.” If you are supposed to get this job, it will happen. If not, fire and reload. You’re smart and talented and work hard.  “Thanks, Dad.” 

Yesterday, I got a phone call. “Dad, you can tell Uncle Ivar and Uncle Erik but you can’t put this on Facebook – at least not until I tell you.” OK – tell me what I can’t tell anybody, a smile stretching across my face. “I got the job!” Brava, I yelled. When do you leave for DC? “Tomorrow!” I’m a luck guy.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Slidin' through the darkness...

Last night I saw Patti Larkin and Chris Smither at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch. It was wonderful. Chris did a tune called ‘Leave The Light On’. The song is about constancy and acceptance and hope; it made me think of a guy named Robert, whom I knew in NYC years ago. Robert was a faithful attendee of a meeting located on the extreme upper west side of Manhattan, scant blocks from Harlem. He ALWAYS wore a dark blue baseball cap, pulled low, over aviator shades. He wore a P coat, with the collar turned up. Twelve months out of the year – except if it was really hot, when he’d trade it for a navy nylon jacket, collar turned up.

He never spoke.

One summer night I was heading home from a show at a westside club and changed trains in Times Square from the downtown express to the local. It was about 1:30 AM. I crossed the platform and started walking toward where the front of the Broadway Local would stop. Standing on the platform was Robert. Hat, shades, P coat. I walked up to him. Hi, Robert. He looked me over. I extended my hand - Arne, from the Wednesday meeting. He shook it. “How ya doin,” he said, scarcely looking away from the white tiled wall above the third rail across the tracks. Robert, I said, mind if I ask you something? He shrugged. It’s almost two in the morning, we’re in the subway, and you’ve got those shades on and the hat and your collar up. How come? He looked at me. He looked back at the wall. Staring straight ahead, he said, “I like slidin’ through the darkness, alone and unnoticed.” Then he turned and walked down the platform. I’ve never forgotten that encounter.

Listening to ‘Leave The Light On’ last night I was happy I was where I was - in the company of people. I was glad I could let the words in. I’ve spent some time slidin’ through the darkness. And I’ve felt alone and unnoticed. I’m not regretful of the experience. There’s no pity in it nor am I sad about it. I’m just thankful I came out the other side. I don't know why, but sometimes when I hear a tune that strikes a particular chord, I think of Robert. And wish that I could thank him for what he shared with me that night.