So it's 2:45 in the morning on Friday night. All the Dallas bars and parties have either closed down or stopped letting people in. I'm standing on Main Street with a bunch of people, including Worldwide Wes, the renowned NBA power broker who's really a cross between Confucius, a benevolent uncle and The Wolf in "Pulp Fiction" to assorted NBA superstars and up-and-coming stars. Known as "Uncle Wes" to the players, he carries more weight within the league than basically anybody. Because he keeps such a low profile, I could never figure out why. Which is why I went out of my way to spend some time with him on Friday night. Back to Main Street: We're standing with a young player who wants the night to keep going. The young player pushes to find another bar even though the odds are against it. Uncle Wes makes a face. He's squashing this right now. "Nothing good can happen at this point," Wes explains simply. "You can't chase the night. When the night is over, the night is over. That's just the way it is. You just gotta wake up tomorrow and hope for a better day." Uncle Wes had spoken. I am not exaggerating by saying it's a strangely profound moment. Within 15 seconds, our group splinters in three directions to look for cabs. I find one with my friend Connor. We climb in. We look at each other. "I will never be able to properly explain that story to anyone," Connor said. Agreed. You can't chase the night. It was like hearing a human fortune cookie. I went back to my hotel, took my contacts out, crawled into bed and hoped for a better day. These are the things that happen at NBA All-Star Weekend.Big A sat me down this past Monday to tell me he was worried. He didn’t think I was adjusting to Dallas particularly well. His concern was, basically, that I was trying to force my move to have immediate meaning and it looked to him like I was doing it in self-destructive ways. The interesting thing is that what he was seeing wasn’t as bad as he thought, but he was right on the overall story. I’ve been chasing the night ever since I moved to Dallas. Chicago, as far as I’m concerned, is the center of the universe. It’s tough to move a thousand miles away, then turn back and see all the things that I could be doing or would be doing if I weren’t in North Texas. It’s created in me a sort of desperation. I wasn’t sleeping, but I wasn’t accomplishing much of anything, either. Mostly, I was raging impotently against a decision I had made for all the right reasons that suddenly looked like a terrible idea. More than that, though, I’ve been chasing the night for my entire life. I’m always looking backwards, realizing mistakes and regrets, then trying to figure out how I’d fix them. But it’s always about how I’d fix things so they came out the way I wanted them to, how I wished they’d have turned out at the time. It’s never really occurred to me to realize that the things I regret doing wrong could have hurt other people, too. It’s never really sunk in that in ruining my memories I might have also ruined someone else’s. It’s all about me. It’s all about chasing the night, even long after the night is over. She’s long gone. Chicago’s in my rear view mirror. I can’t live my life in the past. I can’t live my life a thousand miles north east of where I am. I realized last night that even though I realize that I messed up that one night two years ago, even though I know exactly what I would do now if I had that night to live all over again that in the end it doesn’t matter if I only look back and say, “Man, I wish I’d have not screwed that up.” It doesn’t help, either, to try to turn it in to an ultra-specific lesson for the next time it happens. Because that scenario will never happen again. But other scenarios will happen that that lesson applies to. And there’s a huge lesson to be learned that’s readily applicable. I need to figure out the things that matter to the people that matter to me, then figure out how to communicate that I care about them through the things they’ll best understand. It’s simple. It’s basic. But it’s something I never really learned, since I was always so intently focused on making sure that I didn’t have anything to regret and that my world turned out the way I thought it should. I also realized that one day I’ll stop chasing the night. When I do, when I find someone, I’ll make sure my world changes to fit her and not try to change her to fit my world. The weird thing is that I’ll owe someone I’ve spewed a lot of vitriol at over the past couple years a huge debt of gratitude. She somehow managed to make me a better man even though she hasn’t talked to me in a really, really long time. I just can’t believe it took me so long to figure that all out. But after I did last night I did something I haven’t done well since I moved. I slept. ----------------------- *Although that would be interesting, since not only would I have been dressed differently than usual, I have a different hair cut and different facial hair now than I had then. And I currently weight about 20 pounds less than I did that night. And, of course, there’s the problem that if I did that, then stepped back through the time portal at the end of the night past me would not have learned this lesson. Time travel is confusing that way.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Life's a Leaving Train
Lately Lately I’ve been thinking about time More to the point I’ve been thinking about yours and mine I don’t want to spend mine without you And, yeah – I know that I have been such a fool Everything you are to me is etched upon my life --Scott Lucas & the Married Men, “You Put a Spell on Me” When I was a young and overly stupid high school kid (redundant, I know), I declared that I was going to live my life without regrets. At the time it seemed such a simply propisition. If I knew I’d regret doing or not doing something, I’d take the appropriate steps and then, no matter what happened, I’d be able to say that I’d done my best and there were no regrets to be had. Now that I’m a not-so-young and hopefully-less-stupid adult-type person I realize that my plans were hopelessly naïve. Life comes with regrets. It’s part of the basic package. Every decision, every action, has unintended consequences. No choices can be made with perfect information beforehand, especially since the most important information doesn’t come until afterwards. Sometimes seconds, sometimes days, sometimes decades. More than that, though, the prime cause of regret is perspective. As we grow up, as we develop the necessary distance to properly understand what we’ve done our perspective changes. Sometimes drastically. If we’re lucky, too, we develop the maturity to realize that we’ve made mistakes that hurt others. It’s why I was knocked back by a series of memories I had while taking pictures of my closet on Tuesday. I realized that if I could go back to that night where I threw on mis-matched clothing and acted like a snot at the thing she wanted me to go to I would. Hell, if one of those sci-fi time vortex things opened in front of me while I was standing in front of my closet I would have stepped through, given past me a Gibbs smack in the back of the head and handed him a shirt and pants, then said, “Wear this, dingus. And don’t argue with me.” Actually, if I was smart I’d tell him to stay home and play video games or something while I went, Quantum Leap style. Because 2010 me would have been pleasant, while past me would probably still have been an insufferable snot.* The thing is, I I’m not saying this because I believe that I would have changed anything by doing then what I would do now. I don’t imagine there would be a particularly drastic change in my life between then and now. What matters is that I would do things differently now because it was something that mattered to her, I was someone who mattered to her, and she mattered to me. That realization is absolutely key to something much, much bigger. In his latest column, Bill Simmons tossed in a story.