Friday, April 10, 2009

In Search of...unexpected opportunities

So after all my griping about how when you decide you want to undertake a new and exciting endeavor there are a bunch of naysayers there to greet you...there are also unexpected opportunities there to greet you as well...and from very unexpected people.

Nearly (gulp) twenty years ago I took a job at a men's clothing company in midtown Manhattan. Over the course of the seven years I worked there my daily duties included answering phones and taking clothing orders, collecting money from vendors we lovingly referred to as "deadbeats," and pulling fabric swatches out of cubby holes while standing on a step ladder in a tiny closet in the back of the office. I was not fond of these tasks or of the occasional groping by intoxicated sales reps at our twice annual sales dinners. However, I loved the people I worked for and with. They were my very own dysfunctional family.

It was a magical time for me during which my annual Christmas bonus was accompanied by a note from one of my bosses telling me they hoped that my music career would go nowhere so I would keep working for them. (Maybe it was their fault it took me so long to get a hit!)

Anyway, I would take the rare lunch hour to drop off demo tapes (yes, tapes) at surrounding record labels (Sony was across the street, Atlantic was next door, and Arista was five blocks north). There was even the time I told one of my bosses that I might be very difficult to work with if I did not get to see Bette Midler in concert across the street at Radio City Music Hall. (Somehow those tickets were miraculously procured.) Ah yes, those were magical times.

But all good things must come to an end, and the casualization of our society as well as NAFTA ushered along the eventual demise of what had once been a forty year old, family owned and operated, great American company.

Though it didn't feel like it at the time, the company's necessity to downsize as a step to try and salvage it, was the best thing that could have happened to me. But I was devastated. Within six months I moved to Nashville, and I have never looked back...until now.

I always think that when people from my past reenter my life it's a sure sign that the end is near. (Yes, I'm an optimist.) But recently, thanks to Facebook, Twitter, this blog, and a surprise call from a former co-worker, I've been in touch with a lot of people from my past. Some, like Lisa in my earlier blog, are a delightful addition to my present life. Some are just a curiosity.

"Curiosity" was what I was going with when I got in touch with one of my former bosses from the clothing company. Having had no contact whatsoever since I left, I wasn't sure I'd even get a response, let alone a warm one. But life is full of pleasant little surprises and this was one of the better ones.

The man I'll call "Cliff" - because that's actually his name, was happy to hear from me. Though I wonder if we'd recognize one another on the street now, it felt like no time had passed in our email exchange...well, at least it would have felt like that, had so many major changes not taken place in my life and in the world as well.

One of those things was - I've written a book. You know it. I mention it in pretty much every blog - In Search of George Stephanopoulos. Cliff, possibly having nothing better to do in semi-retirement, wanted to read it. So me being me and being thrilled when anyone asks to read it, said "Sure," and sent it to him.

Now I can't tell you the rest of the story in this blog entry because it hasn't unfolded yet (and because I'm both neurotic and superstitious), but let's just say that you never know who is going to be the one to help you, or try to, or who is going to have a distant relative, or a neighbor three doors down, or something that will be the key that you've been waiting for.

What I know for sure twenty years later is that working for the clothing company was never really about the pay check or the health insurance, or even the Bette Midler tickets (though that was sweeeet) was about the intricately interwoven tapestry that is all of our lives. It is a stunning picture that we are unable to see when we are just looking at our little corner of it alone.

So thanks everyone for being part of my tapestry in some way - known and unknown. And thanks for stopping by. Please tell your friends.

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