Old Friends, New Beers, Aged Lives
The densely-bearded crowd at Mikkeller Bar — his choice — had finally disappated enough for us to finangle a pair of sturdy bar stools. We mounted, shuffled, and at last, weak-kneed but strong willed, sat.
That I found myself in the heart of the Tenderloin, part of the very reason why I’d been driven away from The City after years of longing to “make it” there, was of less consequence than was the fact that here again we sat, drinks in hand, years older and beers wiser.
Such is the ritual of Sean Lynch and I. Years pass, we convene, we talk of the lives we lead, we share laughs and questions, ideas and opinions, and we again depart for another few years of distance.
There are few people in my life that I have kept touch with for ages. I have been, and always will be, something of a ronin when it comes to friendship. A poor memory, and poorer appetite for social out-calls, have cast me—to some, I perhaps arrogantly presume—an “I wonder how what happened to him”, at best.
Sean is a conspicuous exception. He maintains escape velocity; a stubborn body successfully orbiting the black hole of my friendships. I’m not sure why.
Perhaps it’s because I hold him as the ideal outcome of Waterloo CS. Perhaps it’s because in him I see all the qualities I lack: patience, empathy, attention to detail, optimism, warmth. Or perhaps its because his willingness to share what isn’t working for him gives me a refreshing and reassuring sense that everything is going to be fine.
Whatever the reason, here we were, new beers for old friends, not reminiscing but pontificating about the lives we lead, and our respective successes, and our respective failures, and our respective futures.
Such moments have become sparse ritual for lives otherwise discordant.
Four lives ago, I came to him for advice on product, and a life thereafter for advice on Product. Two lives ago, I came to him for advice on moving to San Francisco, and a life thereafter for advice on leaving.
French fries fell victim to the breaths in between, and around us, our words grew further cramped as the bearded bar grew ever-beardier.
We talked of work, and where we were, and what was next.
“Every two weeks of my life is the same,” I overheard as a Zynga engineer moved closer to us. “I’ve been thinking about moving to HR.”
One beer became two.
The lamentations of Zynga sprints misspent proved a fitting hook for the R&B song of our conversations as we talked of our relationships, of the women that had come and gone, of the one who had somehow managed to stay, and the one, for him, to come.
Two beers became three.
The cadence of conversation, the natural flow from topic to topic, the mutual respect and the simple pleasures of empty pints on a week night: it was all just so.
I grew nostalgic quietly. I recalled our youth; jostling around the campus of Waterloo as freshmen; working together on a CS134 project to build out a floorplan app with his back-end elegance and my front-end Flash-iness; falling together in love with the eventual-Yammer girl next door.
My wrist buzzed as my Apple Watch lit the bar better than its sad, dim orange lamps. 9. Flight’s in a few hours. Time to get going.
And so there, on the corner of Eddy and Mason, did we part again as fast as we had conviened. Years would likely pass before we saw each other again, but our “so long” was short and casual—as fleeting as the mist over the Bay that had since receeded from the morning. By the time we met next, we’d again be different people living different lives.
But there were constants. Tranceport. And CS134. And the memories of lives led in the direction they so happened to go, both passengers on the road to wherever, slaves to ambition and to disastifaction and to the desire for that one thing we never seem to find. And to the curse of never finding it and the blessing of being able to keep looking.
And at least I know he’s around, for those moments, these moments, however fleeting they may be, when for just a few minutes it’s nice to be able to say something as simple as “I don’t really know what I’m doing” and to look across at someone so much better than I who can look back and say “me either”.