Friday, April 10, 2009

Tribute


You know how there are just some people that bring out the best in you? Tonight, I meet with a group of folks that have an almost magical effect on me. It's weird, I probably can't describe it in a way that makes sense, but they all make me better than I really am. As a matter of fact, I probably wouldn't write this blog if it weren't for them.

We all used to work together at a very large, merger-prone NY bank. The constant merging created an atmosphere of tenuousness and each merger survived left us with a mix of relief and survivor's guilt. Through all of this turmoil, I connected with a small network of people that were so special that I vowed to never let them out of my life. To be completely honest, I have never been very good at making friends at the office. I am so guarded about who I let in my life, that I just don't throw out a lot of feelers. Friendship has to be an organic thing, never forced or fake. Because of silly rules like that, I have a somewhat small, but very trusted circle of people that I call friends. And tonight we dine!

Throughout our history together, we determined that we shared a unique sense of humor and the ability to make each other laugh. We would write epic e-mail chains, with each reponse riffing on the prior and expanding the thing to absurd levels of hilarity. We talked about writing a bathroom book together (we always aimed high) and even made a couple of short movies together as material for offsite presentations, etc. Our creative vibes just clicked.

As I mentioned, I would not write this blog if it were not for these folks. They always encouraged me and raised the bar in such a way that it elevated my contributions. When I ask myself who my audience is, I realize that I am writing to them and for them and by extension, anyone that shares our sensibilities. If you have enjoyed any of my posts to date, please thank them. I fully intend to ask them to guest post, if they would indulge me.

So tonight we celebrate milestone birthdays for two of this crew and a regular (but still special) birthday for one. I would like to indulge in tribute to these fine folks by giving just a few of the many reasons why these dudes are awesome:

Vin P. (Milestone Birthday 1) - is awesome because:

He was the first Project Manager that I ever worked with that got things done by gentle and artful persuasion and not iron fisted abuse or straight up nagging. It earned him the title of the "Velvet Glove". He still uses this name on occasion to sign sign his e-mails.

He was the first Project Manager that I ever worked with that got his PMI certification, more specifically, his PMP. The pimp jokes flowed like wine that year.

He wore an electric blue suit and Mike Brady perm wig to my 70's themed birthday party and he completely owned the look. When I introduced him to my friend Paul, who was wearing a mile-high afro wig, Vinny shook his hand, looked up at his head and said "Wow. I think I have wig-envy."

He is an encyclopedia of trivia. Don't even front like you can keep up with him. He's a machine. His head is full of details, places, names, songs, movies, TV shows, etc. He is our go-to tie breaker in all factual disputes. A walking encyclopedia. Better than google. That's right, I said better than google.

He worships Martin Scorsese. He has watched all of his movies and has committed their most subtle nuances to memory. We have had so many great conversations about Goodfellas and its music, our favorite characters and favorite lines. No matter how many times I have seen a movie, he will bring to light some small detail that I never noticed and make me want to watch it all over again.


Vin's a dude that makes you want to be on your game. As up on popular culture as he is on sports, you had better stay sharp if you want to play in his league. An obscure statistic, a sarcastic comment, a "did you see it" moment. He covers it all with the ease and grace of a Velvet Glove. In my opinion, he's always too hip for the room and we always feel honored to be in his presence.

Dennis H. - (Milestone Birthday 2): Is awesome because:

He is not a slave to fashion, trends, peer pressure or changing times. He likes the Grateful Dead, jeans and tee shirts and the same parking spot EVERY DAY. No matter how much we tease him, he has the courage of his convictions. That's his band, his wardrobe and his parking spot and he's stickin to 'em.

He is always smiling, even though he is constant fodder for the rumor mill. For some reason, he gets romantically linked with everyone that he has ever had a hallway conversation with. Man, woman, transgender, whatever. For some reason, the office gossips always have him in their cross-hairs. It would be annoying if it weren't so funny. It's funny because it's absurd and untrue. We surmise that it is because he is cordial and friendly and says hello to everyone. I guess if you have a corporate job and you don't have your nose in the air and a stick up your nether-regions you are nailing everyone.

He has had the same group of friends for as long as I know him. Loyalty always scores points with me and Dennis' loyalty is unparalleled!

He is sooooo sensitive. He is willing to pull on his manties and chat with you about subjects that most men shy away from. He has counseled every heartbroken man woman or child that came his way and did it without any macho posturing or the slightest hint of self-consciousness.

He put up with my ridiculous shenanigans for 11 years. That's how long we worked together where he was in the unenviable position of being my boss. For some reason I felt so comfortable with him that I never sugar coated anything and told him exactly how I felt about everything and everyone. The poor soul listened to me bitch about office politics, uncooperative software developers, impotent (from a management perspective) Sr. Managers, crappy cafeteria food, angry tattooed hash slinger/convicts that worked in the cafeteria and whatever else came to mind. What a burden I was. Allow me to take this opportunity to say I'm sorry. I don't know why I unloaded all my psychic detritus on you, but I suspect it was out of trust and respect. I still don't know what was in it for you. Thank you for tolerating me.

Dennis M. (Regular Birthday) - Is awesome because:

He used the doors song Riders on the Storm to parody Paul Bunyon having an attack of gastroenteritis entitled "Bunyon on the Bowl". This was written in response to a rather unfortunate encounter that DM had with a bowl of Veal Goulash.

He once told me a story about David Cassidy singing the National Anthem and trying not to lose his false teeth while he sang. His imitation is a visual that I keep in my head and pull out when I need to laugh. You can't tell, but I'm laughing now at the thought of this.

When we were sunk with the final blow, the merger that none of us survived, we were each presented with a multi-ream printout of all of our e-mails from our friend Dennis. It was so thoughtful and so amazing that he cared enough to archive them all. There had to be seven or eight hundred exchanges. It was such a touching thing to do.

He brought the act of "Sharting" into our daily conversation when he told us the story of a a guy that he worked with on a construction site that ate too much pork sandwich and lost control. Then this poor guy was berated by the crew chief for going home and changing his pants. Through Dennis we learned that real men tough it out, whether their pants are filled with puddin or not.

He clearly loves his wife and children. This is evident in the way that he talks about them, the time that he spends with them and the way he wore those crazy brown moon shoes that they bought him, just because they bought them for him. (DM - You know the ones)

He is so mellow and flexible that whatever challenges life throws at him, he meets them and pushes forward. He is gracious and kind, funny and smart as hell. We call him the professor partly because he played one in one of the movies that we made and partially because he is that whip-smart. It's always a treat to be around him.


So there you have it. Three awesome birthday salutes for three awesome guys. This does not even begin to graze the surface of how much I appreciate each one of you . All the best to each of you for a birthday year that surpasses all others that have gone before. Revel in your own awesomeness. I know I do!