It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Well, actually, on balance it was pretty good, but read on to see why this might seem surprising. And technically it was more than a weekend I was away. It was almost a week, which for me, Ms. "Three Days in Cambodia," is practically a lifetime. And that's pretty much what it felt like too.
After being sworn into New York I hightailed it off to Boston to visit my mom. And my friend, who lives in the area. The Boston part of the trip was probably the longest part, lasting from mid-Wednesday to mid-Friday. While there I rummaged through my room for things I regretted not having earlier stuffed the car with when I moved to California, and my mom taught me how to make one of my favorite kinds of cookies. Then it was off to Foxwoods, a casino in Connecticut, for the Huey Lewis and the News Concert of Doom.
Yes, because this was the night that the bar results were to come out, and right when the band was to take the stage. This situation led to some confused emotions, since normally I look forward to my HLN concerts but for this one I was in no rush for it to happen at all... In many ways it was sort of an atypical concert for me, in part because of that, and in part because normally I go to my HLN concerts alone. It's rare that I can coerce other people to join me, and even if they are interested it's often logistically difficult to arrange. But in this case, because I'd known about my trip back east for so long, and because there were so many friends in the area who I now so rarely get to see, using the concerts as an opportunity to spend time with each other suddenly made a lot of sense.
Of course, on this occasion, even though my friends joined me at Foxwoods, they didn't actually attend the concert. For that I was on my own. But not really. At this point I'm acquainted with most of the people in the entourage, so as I was getting increasingly agitated in anticipation of the results, I talked to some of them about it and got to vent some of my stress a little. Soon enough though 9:05pm came around. The band had still not taken the stage, which is normal because casinos often hold them up while they stuff more people into the theater. So while I was waiting I pulled out my Treo, called up the bar website, entered my applicant and file numbers... and discovered I hadn't passed.
Oh. Ugh. There was a part of me that wasn't entirely surprised by this - I've always suspected that I didn't quite nail the test - but at the same time, I also thought that passing was a plausible outcome. As well as a highly desirable one. In fact, this sucked, and I was soon starting to process all the ways that it sucked. The first one that came to mind was that it was embarrassing. All these people who believed in me, waiting with bated breath for my result... I had to face them, and I had to face them now. So I called my mom, I called my dad, I called my friend there in Foxwoods waiting for me, I called another friend, and I called my sister, although before I could leave her a message the concert broke out...
Which brought to bore another reason why this turn of events sucked: it was ruining my HLN concert, and I feared would ruin the rest of the weekend. As the music started my brain was in overdrive, trying to figure out how to cope with this unpleasant reality. It took my attention away from the show and prevented me from really enjoying it (which was too bad, because it was a nice performance and included some songs I don't often hear them play), but at the same time, I came to be really glad I was there. I had an hour and a half to myself to work through it, with no one I had to talk to, and I was in one of my most favorite environments. Spending that moment at the concert, a moment which I was fated to spend somewhere, one way or another, was like falling into a gentle nest of soft pillows. It was safe and comforting, and that was exactly what I needed right then. I also remember keying in to some of Huey's lyrics in particular, "I'll carry on, as best as I can, I'll find the strength to face another day," which struck me as a nice sentiment to tap into.
(Of course, the rest of the song, being a lament about being cheated on by his mistress, was inapplicable.)
After the show I informed the roadies I'd already talked to that I hadn't passed. They couldn't believe it. After all, they know me as a smart, educated person - surely there was no question I could pass this test. So I got to work on spinning it. "California's a tough nut to crack. It's the hardest bar in the country, with really picky standards." They still held out hope that it was a clerical error, but at this point I didn't. Although I was still largely in an information vacuum, I knew I had to presume that this was the situation, and the sooner I came to terms with it the better. I did worry, because the prospect bothered me, that failing the bar could make me lose people's respect. Surely if I was smart I would have passed, so that does it say about me that I didn't? But the damage control I did to salvage their opinions turned out to be a useful exercise to save my own. The last thing I needed was to beat myself up over it. People who know me know that I can be my own harshest critic, and I could see myself at a crossroads: I could either sulk myself into a morose tailspin that would destroy my entire weekend (at minimum), or I could deal with it. So I dealt with it.
Still, it was enough trauma that after the concert I was ready to call it a day. I met up my friends (who it turned out were still my friends even though I hadn't passed...) and we retired to the hotel. Which was good, because I had an early day the next day. My east coast trips tend to be whirlwinds of traveling and visiting, as I try to see everyone I can. They tend to be exhausting... but they also tend to be rewarding because I do get to see so many people I care about. After Foxwoods I was off to Atlantic City for two more HLN concerts, via a stop to visit my grandma. I didn't have long to spend though, because I had to get to Atlantic City to meet up with friends coming up from Washington, friends I hadn't seen all together since law school (almost a year ago!), and I couldn't wait to see them now.
I had booked a room at the Boardwalk Howard Johnson's, which I knew was crummy but was nearby the Atlantic City Hilton, which is even crummier. In fact, it's so crummy that the band has since declared it will never play there again. But for the moment two shows were scheduled there, and my friends were going to join me for the first. I'd already brought two of them to HLN shows before (I recall one of them remembering, "I hadn't known you five minutes before you'd invited me to a Huey Lewis and the News concert," which he indeed went to) but two of them had never been. And even though the Hilton completely screwed us on our seats, everyone enjoyed the show. I was so glad. And so glad just to spend time with them. One of the benefits of growing older is that you can discover and enjoy what an amazing thing it is to have old friends, the people who know you so well that you never have to explain yourself. It's so comfortable to be with them, it feels like family (except less dysfunctional, perhaps...). Especially this weekend, I couldn't think of anyone I'd rather have spent it with.
They had to leave the next day, so I went to the last concert myself. No thanks to the Hilton, with whom I've spent hours and hours arguing, I did manage to end up with a great spot by the stage and thoroughly enjoyed the last show. And afterwards I got to talk to more of the entourage and get a lot more friendly support to finish scraping what was left of me still on the ceiling. I don't often like to publicly talk about my relationships with any of these people, because it feels contrived and affected, as if the purpose of knowing and talking to them is solely to be able to cite the conversation as some sort of trophy. But at the same time, as could probably be inferred from regular reading of this blog, we're not strangers to each other either, and I've come to know them as lovely people. Very nice, as they are often reputed to be, and also extremely intellectual, much more than people might expect. Which is not to say that people generally believe them to be Neanderthals, but given that the entrance requirements for intelligence in their professional field are not known to necessarily be all that high, it might come as a surprise to some to discover just how erudite they are. As a result their respect and validation has meant a lot to me, and especially did on a weekend such as this.
The next day I visited my cousins, and from there it was time to come home, home to California. I was ready. Surprisingly ready, surprisingly healed, and surprisingly ready to move on.