Avarice Days Revisited

I put my notebook in my backpack, locked the screen on my computer, and gave my boss my solemn word that my current project would be done first thing in the morning.  It was the end of my Monday and there was someplace I needed to be.

That place was Tres Agaves, a bar/restaurant around the corner from where I work.  I had probably walked by there hundreds of times but never set foot inside.  I’m not a big fan of tequila and the whole bar-restaurant thing detracts from the joy of drinking on an empty stomach.  However, this was a special occasion.  It was a reunion of people from the dot com where I worked close to ten years ago.

Back in 1999, I was going to be a millionaire.  It wasn’t a total given.  I had to do a satisfactory job until I was fully vested but if I managed to pull that off, it was a done deal.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with all that wealth.  It didn’t matter if I did anything at all with it.  The important thing is that I did some worthwhile with myself and had a million to prove it.  If someone dared tell me otherwise, all I had to do was affect my best withering sneer and say, “Fuck you, I’m rich.”

Well, we all know how well that turned out for most of us.

The funny thing is despite the fact that the company did a nose dive along with every other dot com with a bong-hit business plan, I have very fond memories of that time.  What made them that way were my co-workers.

They were a good bunch to work with, smart, interesting, and very tolerant of my weirdness.  They also liked to drink.  A lot.  Those heady early days of long hours and rosy predictions, the CEO and one of the founders would take us all to some bar at the end of each, toss his credit card to the bartender, and let us have at it.  A lot of lasting friendships were formed during those times and despite the amount of liquor involved, there were no fistfights.

We got our product to market in record time and then without even stopping for a breath, rewrote it in another programming language.  We were ready to go public.  In the spring of 2000, we filed our S-1 with the SEC.  The IPO was just a few months away and after that, ka-ching!

And then the unthinkable happened.  No, not 9/11.  This was what we thought was unthinkable before the real unthinkable shit went down. The market started to tank.  That bubble that we hoped would stick around for a few more years was beginning to rupture.

We lowered our expectations and moved on, fixing bugs, adding features, and making the system run faster.  If we had some paying customers, it would have been perfect.

Company funds began to dwindle.  First came a small round of layoffs, then a big one, followed by round three that pretty much eliminated everybody.  In the months that followed, we’d meet up at our old watering holes to swap horror stories about our respective job searches and to reminisce about old times.

As time progressed, both the frequency of the reunions and number of attendees diminished as we settled into lives in a post dot-com reality.

Then came the announcement that there would be one last hurrah, a chance to catch up with old friends and colleagues who once shared a failed dream.  The turnout was impressive.

I wouldn’t say that the years have been unkind to any of us but they have been truthful.  We were all to some extent victims of thickening middles, graying and/or thinning hair, and the relentless pull of gravity.  None of that mattered and we were there for more than simple nostalgia.  It was good to hear about people’s new jobs, how their kids growing up, and all the things that reassured us that despite the disappointments, life did indeed go on.

The Dose Not Taken

Sid Vicious died thirty years ago today.  I barely paid attention to news of his death because my appreciation for both punk rock and nihilistic stupidity was still in an embryonic state.  It wasn’t until a couple of years later when I was in college that I started to idolize the sorry bastard.

Looking back, he was a pretty unworthy object of admiration.  Sid was and incoherent junkie who was musically talentless and had appalling taste in women.  Perhaps it was because he had brand-name appeal and I was too young and stupid to realize that a crucial element to rebellion is the ability to think for oneself.

What impressed me most was his level of self destruction.  Sid may not have been able to define the word “dissipation” but he lived the concept with every fiber of his being.  He managed to cross over to the great beyond before reaching his 22nd birthday and in the process of doing so, held the door open for Nancy Spungen and said, “After you.”

I had heard or read the phrase “Sid died for your sins” somewhere and took it to heart, though not in the way I should have.  I took drugs.  I cut myself.  I bought a bass guitar that I never bothered to learn how to play.  I was missing the point entirely.

You don’t become a Christian by hopping up on the cross yourself.  There’s no need.  Someone already took one for the team.  In this sense, Sid was very much like Jesus.

I eventually got wise to this notion though more by default than anything else.  As a frat boy a San Diego State, heroin was not readily available.  Cocaine in lethal quantity was far beyond my budget.  Forced to get by on beer, pot, and low-grade speed, I had no exit strategy.

So unlike Sid Vicious, I have survived long enough to know better.  Drugs have lost their charm and I have finally figured out that even life seems unbearable, it will improve if you are willing to stick around for another day.

There is one thing I still have in common with Sid though.  I never did learn how to play that damn bass.