Monday, February 19, 2007

How do you like me now, now that I'm on my way?

Thanks to Delta I had to rearrange some of my plans for Friday (and I never did get around to doing any of the work I brought with me!). I met two friends from high school, Dan and Bob, for drinks and dinner. We went to a hip little place called Olive or Twist. Get it?

I hadn't seen Bob since our graduation day in 1991, and I've only seen Dan a few times since then. Bob tracked me down via my work blog a few months ago and badgered me into coming out to Pittsburgh for the reunion. Over several beers (them) and two lemon drops (me) we caught up on each others' lives, argued about politics (in that way people do when they've had a few drinks and don't want to talk details), and got to eat cake from a retirement party someone else was having at the restaurant. Who doesn't like free cake??

We made our way to another (nearly empty) bar and talked about stadiums and economics for another hour or two (and a couple more rounds of drinks). It was a really fun night out - exactly the low key sort of vibe that was perfect for my less-than-gregarious self.

Thanks to the late night, my next day was pretty mellow. I slept in, drank the tea and tomato juice delivered to my room (for free - I love this hotel!) and then made my way over to Macy's (may Kaufmann's rest in peace) to try to find some lunch and then get my hair done for the reunion that evening. I assumed it would be easy to find lunch in downtown Pittsburgh on a Saturday. All I found was fast food joints (nothing good) and some nasty looking pizza at the Macy's "cafe", which was really more like a gross snack bar. So I got a small carton of milk and called it lunch.

You would think after all these years I would have figured out how to make my hair look decent, but I think I'm just missing that gene. Perhaps it's the same one that controls hand-eye coordination, and throwing a baseball the right way? And especially if I'm out of town without my irons (curling and flat) and potions, the chances of me creating a decent hairstyle are slim to none. So I made an appointment with Shelly at the Elizabeth Arden salon in Macy's/Kaufmann's and she did her thing. I did buy some promising gooey stuff that makes the frizz go away, so maybe it's the magic ingredient that will lead to hair nirvana forever. Um, probably not.

Now for the fun stuff. Marcie and her husband Michael came to pick me up for dinner before we braved the reunion. As I mentioned in my previous post, I wasn't sure what to expect from the reunion. I didn't much care for high school, and downright hated it my senior year.

Through the power of the Internet I tracked down Marcie's email address last year and got back in touch with her. She was the valedictorian of our class (seemingly effortlessly) and came across as being above the whole stupid high school thing. I envied her attitude, for sure (but not the valedictorian part, since I was completely happy being #2 having expended little to no effort studying).

We had a great dinner on the South Side, at a cute restaurant in an old house called UUBU 6. Over dinner we caught up on the past 15 years. She and her husband have got it together, seriously. Great careers, they obviously like each other, and they even *look* great together. They were awesome company and I'd love to hang out with them again. And I must be grown-up and/or happy, because I was not in the least bit envious of them, just totally happy for her.

Which brings me to another philosophical observation - I had some real trepidation about attending this reunion and seeing a lot of people who made me feel bad about myself back in the day. I had imagined for many years that I'd stroll back into our reunion with my fabulous job, fabulous husband, looking fabulous and the soundtrack running in my head would alternate between Toby Keith's "How do you like me now?" and "Have you seen me lately" by the Counting Crows. And this would absolve all of the icky feelings I had about these people in high school because my life would be so much better than theirs. (Marcie, Judy, Dan and a few other friends excepted here). To put it bluntly, I was bitter for a long, long time.

And that bitterness went away 5 minutes after we got to the reunion. Suddenly 1987-1991 seemed like a lifetime away (it was half my life ago) and I couldn't really remember or summon those bad feelings anymore. People were really nice, even those who didn't give me the time of day in school. And instead of playing up my success (and luck) in life, I found myself mostly just answering questions about where I worked without a lot of elaboration, and talking more about Peanut and Spike.

And maybe it was the drinks I had (the bar we went to seems to think a lemon drop consists of only lemon vodka) but I had a sort of epiphany.

In the few years after I graduated in my bitterness, I thought that beyond the few friends I had who went to a decent college, everyone else wouldn't amount to much. Part of it was a snobbishness on my part and the sheltered life I had, and part of it was a fervent hope that the crap I put up with in high school was all part of the master plan and I'd be vindicated/rewarded after graduating from Caltech and getting a good job. (The geeks shall inherit the earth and all that). I had a very narrow outlook on what it meant to be successful.

Of the folks who showed up (maybe a third of our class), people had done pretty well with their lives despite not following the "traditional" path I'm used to.

Several of my former classmates carry a gun for their jobs or do dangerous work, as special agents, soldiers, state troopers, firefighters or police officers. And every one of them loved their job. It takes a heck of a brave person to do that kind of work - I'm certainly not signing up for it.

Many people have kids, of course, and they were all equally proud of them and happy to talk about them. A lot of people were happily married, and some were divorced but happy about that too. As I talked to people, I realized I was having a good time, and the pressure to show off just went away. It was neat to talk to people who were in a completely different profession than I am, since in Seattle, we're almost always surrounded by techie people. In my high school class we also have a diplomat, a truck driver, a caterer and an environmental scientist who works on hazardous waste stuff.

Anyway, I know it sounds trite, but it took a trip of 6,000 miles and 16 years back in time to make me realize that success comes in all forms. I have known for a few years that I am happy and confident about my life but this was a true test for me. There was no envy in my heart at all this weekend.

Except, maybe, for Marcie's gorgeous diamond earrings. But then again, my wedding anniversary is coming up, so maybe a little birdie will drop hints in TJ's ear. A girl's gotta have her ice. Peace out.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

If I could turn back time

I probably wouldn't have come to Pittsburgh this weekend. Delta Airlines is the newest member of the Wrath of Anandi club. My flight from Seattle to Cincinnati was an hour late and the Delta ticket agent told me there were 11 people going to Pittsburgh so they would "probably" hold the connecting flight. "Probably" should have been my indication to request a refund and just go home.

Of course, they didn't hold the flight, and put us up in a crappy motel in Kentucky. (Believe me, the website is way nicer than the property itself.) Because, kids, the Cincinnati airport is in Northern Kentucky. Betcha didn't know that.

The only redeeming quality was that the Drawbridge Inn had free wireless Internet access so I could check my email and vent my spleen to anyone who was on IM late that evening. Oh, and I met a guy named Joe who was on my flight and used to work for Microsoft so we chatted for a while.

After a fitful night of sleep in that crappy room with crappy pillows and no pajamas since Delta wouldn't give me my checked bag, I woke up super-early to go to the airport. My reissued ticket didn't have a seat assignment so I wanted to make sure I got a spot on that next flight. The "customer service" agent I called (after waiting on hold for 22 minutes!) curtly told me I was on standby and I "might" get on that flight, or I'd just be put on the next one. 3 hours later. Like I have nothing better to do but wait around at the airport after spending a night in Kentucky for no good reason.

Grrr. After 3 gate changes in the space of an hour, some not too bad French toast, and another 30 minute delay, I finally got to Pittsburgh and was even reunited with my checked bag. So I picked up my adorable (cheap, no power) little Chevy Aveo rental car and puttered my way to the fabulous Omni William Penn Hotel downtown.

The hotel is very old, and very ornate. The lobby area reminds me very much of the Fairmont Olympic (which was formerly the Four Seasons) in Seattle, with its comfy seating and bar service so you can people watch and drink your snooty drinks at the same time.

I had a very cozy room at the corner of the 16th floor, so it had two windows and a gorgeous view of the city. The first order of business was a nap to make up for the night before.

Yes, I know I'm high maintenance. I like expensive things - staying in top notch hotels while working at Deloitte ruined me. But if you ever find yourself in Pittsburgh and want a treat, stay at the William Penn. It's lovely and relaxing and will make you forget about the crappy experience that is air travel today.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I wanna bowl with the gangstas

In honor of my visit to Caltech, you must watch this video.

Weird Al rocks my world.

In all seriousness, Caltech students seem a bit better adjusted and dare I say, happier, now than they did 10 years ago. Or maybe *I'm* happier now so the rest of the world looks better? Discuss.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Flyin' like an aeroplane

TJ and I are getting ready for our trip to California. I've got a Volunteer Conference at Caltech, and TJ is coming along just to hang out. We've already planned to hit some of our favorite restaurants (Tarantino's and In-n-Out Burger) and see some of our friends who still live in the area. So it'll be quite an action-packed weekend, but I hope to get in some good walking and sun and relaxation as well.

Next weekend is my 15th high school reunion. Quite typically for my lame-o high school, it was organized haphazardly, for our 16th year. At a bar. At least it's not high pressure - I can just wear jeans and bail when I'm bored. TJ is not coming with me so I'm on my own for that. But to make myself feel better, I booked myself at one of the nicest hotels in town, the Omni William Penn. I'm also planning to go to the spa there. My high school experience was not great - by the time I was a senior I was literally counting the days to get out of there.

But Caltech was so much better for me - I was with like-minded geek people, and finally felt like I had found the place where I "fit". So here's to 2 weekends in a row of traveling back in time! Salut!

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