It’s raining today for the first time in months. It’s a warm, tropical rain that has brought thunderstorms into my town, and even though lightning and explosive claps of thunder kept me up most of the night (and terrified my poor dogs), it makes me happy. In fact, thunder is booming right now and my car is getting a much needed free bath.
The last few days, actually, have been some of the best days I’ve had this year. I spent Saturday with my friends, playing super geeky games. I hadn’t seen them in months, thanks to mono and incompatible schedules, and I didn’t realize until I was sitting at Cal’s dining room table, drinking wine and playing Spooks, just how much my soul needs them, and how much my friends mean to me.
Isn’t that weird? It is so easy to take your friends for granted, all the while thinking about them, caring about them, and enjoying their company . . . but not considering what they actually mean to you, until you don’t see them for an extended period of time for one reason or another.
Sunday, I played in the Main Event of the World Championship of Online Poker. I busted out in 488th place — not too shabby out of over 1400 entries, but well out of the money. I went out hating myself, but the tournament quickly faded from my memory after I was done, because Anne and I went over to our friend Stephanie (who introduced us) and Patrick (her awesome husband)’s house for Patrick’s birthday dinner: bone-in fillet, heirloom tomato salad, creme brulee . . . and wine. Oh, sweet jesus on a pogo stick, the wine. Patrick is the general manager of a very popular restaurant here in Pasadena, which means he has access to some of the best wine from here to Milliways. I could go on and on about the amazing wine we had, but I’ll just say: ZD Reserve Cabernet. Holy. Fucking. Shit. It’s a good thing Anne was driving.
On the way to their house, Anne said, “You know, I love our house, and I love doing things with the kids, but sometimes it’s important to spend time with your grown-up friends, you know?”
I couldn’t have agreed more. I told her about Saturday at Cal’s house, and how I’ve missed our friends these past few months. Then we ate dinner and I told everyone just how much I love them. A few too many times.
When I woke up Monday morning, the smell of freshly-brewed coffee was heavier than usual in our house. I could hear bacon sizzling in the kitchen, and as soon as I got out of bed, Ferris and Riley almost knocked me down, they were so excited to see me. (Tangent: don’t you love how your dogs do that? I once saw a sticker or shirt or something that said something like, “Lord, please let me be the person my dog thinks I am.” Dog owners know what I’m talking about, and Ferris must know that I’m typing about her, because she just rolled over onto her back, and started wagging her tail.)
I walked out to the kitchen, where Anne was cooking.
“Is there coffee?” I said, in my tiniest voice.
“There sure is,” she said. She turned from the stove to the coffee machine, and spun around with the best coffee mug, ever. It had a picture of a pirate on it, and it said, “Dead ’till I gets me coffee.”
“This is for Talk Like A Pirate Day,” she said.
“Oh my god,” I said. “This is the best mug ever!”
She hopped a little bit, and maybe she made a happy squealing noise. “I was so excited to give you this,” she said, “it’s been killing me to keep it a secret!”
“How long have you had this?” I said.
“Almost two weeks,” she said. “Do you love it?”
“I love you” I said, and kissed her with my icky coffee breath.
We ate breakfast, and I settled down at the table to get a lot of work done, while she got ready to go down to The OC to pick up some blinds.
I checked e-mail and worked on Games of our Lives for about twenty minutes, when she bounced back into the dining room.
“Watcha doin’?” She said.
“Workin’,” I said. “Why?”
“Well, since I have to go down to Anaheim to get Nolan’s blinds, I’m going to be right around the corner from Disneyland . . . and I thought we could use our annual passes to go ride Pirates of the Caribbean. You know, for Talk Like A Pirate Day.”
I sprang out of my chair. “That is the best idea in the history of ideas!”
“Really?” She said, “you’ll really take the morning off to play with me?”
“If I didn’t, what’s the point of being my own boss?”
Fifty-seven minutes later, we picked up Nolan’s new blinds, and seventy-five minutes later we were in line for Pirates of the Caribbean. We held hands the entire time we were there, and shared a Churro in a sickly cute fashion that would have mortified our children, if they’d been around to see it. (Note to self: remember you just came up with a new way to mortify the children. Use it at the next available opportunity!)
I must have told Anne, “I’m really glad that we came to do this,” fifteen times in the span of a couple of hours. It was really fun, and a great capper to three supremely wonderful, perspective-restoring days.
On the way back to the freeway, we passed this lumber yard on Ball Road that always has interesting sayings on its sign. Yesterday, the sign said, “No man is a failure who has friends.”
The truth is, for a couple of months, I’ve felt like a huge, colossal, stinking failure in a lot of things that I’m not willing to go into right now. But spending a weekend with my friends, and a surprise Monday with my wife reminded me of some advice I’d been given and forgotten: Don’t let your work become your life, because when work isn’t happening, then what do you have?
Work may be frustrating, but life? Life is good.