Straight Up & Sadly

I wish you could’ve seen the sunset just now.

The day started crappy and gray, lugging thirteen dress shirts and a pair of linen pants (Memorial Day is moments away!) to the dry cleaners; jockeying for position on the 1/9 (I’ll always call it that, even if the 9 is long gone); sipping bad coffee and dodging tourist umbrellas. My lunchtime walk around the block brought little solace, despite my iPod’s best effort. The sun was fighting through the clouds, but it didn’t matter, I wore crappy and gray like a badge.

By two o’clock, the streets below my office window were free of umbrellas. The sky was clearing. Then came an unexpected chirp from my cell phone. I pulled it from my bag and read the display, which read, “Steph K.”

‘Really?’ I thought.

“I’m in your MTV building,” she texted.

“U R in trouble if you don’t stop by #2979 ext. 8925,” I replied.

An hour later, amidst promos, encoding, and fashion reportage woes, she materialized in my doorway, all red hair and fabulousness. I lost my footing. My work world and the blogosphere collided. And besides, she was supposed to be in Austin.

There is that which we are, and those whom we wish we were. I envied Stephanie’s single-mindedness when I met her, and I admire it now. I met Stephanie at Barnes and Nobles for coffee in the summer of 2003. She was working feverishly on her novel, now called “Straight Up & Dirty” and due any minute from Regan Books. Whenever we talked, she was hard at work. Still, she made time for my shows, my parties, and to photograph my favorite album cover. Say what you will about the woman’s forthcoming blog (I say “Right on!”), Stephanie has an amazing magnetism, and an amazing work ethic. She deserves every shred of success she has so laboriously earned.

Still, there was something, um, humbling, embarrassing, pathetic about being me, there in my red sweater and jeans on the 29th floor of the Viacom building: still working for The Man, still releasing modest recordings, still blogging in (near) obscurity.

“I told you,” she said, “If this pilot ever makes it off the ground, ‘Shiver’ is going to be on the soundtrack.”

She showed me the book. It looks excellent. I wanted to close the door and start reading right there on the spot.

“Stephanie, it looks great. I can’t wait to read it! And I should’ve known that someone with your eye would craft such a graphically rich book.”

“You should know,” she said, “That one of my posts about you made it in. But I combined you with another guy, someone with a small penis. So you should tell people that that part’s not you.”

“I’ve become an amalgam,” I blushed.

“Yeah,” she smiled.

A few minutes of awkward (on my behalf) catch up later, she gathered her things, and headed off to Blue Fin for (no doubt) a martini.

“Have a tall one for me,” I said.

You wish fame and fortune on your friends. When it strikes, when they buy a house and a car and move to an exotic, sunny corner of the country, you smile, and wish them more still. In the quiet of the sunset, though — the kind you drew in crayon as a little kid, all billowing clouds and rays of sunlight — you’re a little sad to be left behind. You’re a little sad to be the same person you were before: not so photogenic, not so sought after, and not so sexy.

Just sayin’, straight up.

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