Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

16 Feb 2003, 20:48 p.m.

My Life as a Sundance Festival Award-Winning Independent Film

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2003 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

A long time ago, Saturday the 8th, I was puttering around my house when the phone rang. I whimsicoracally accepted, sauntered over to Memorial Glade, and started tossing the old disc around. Just as my legs and lungs started to give way, I fortuitously bruised my left pinky (you can check!) and gave myself over to less strenuous pursuits, such as dozing, eating licorice, and refereeing a game of Three-Up. Mirth: I actually heard one player say, upon missing a catch, "Ah, fudge."

After mondo agua frescas at Cancun Taqueria (the good, quick one on Kittredge, out of the million Berkeley gives with similar names), we strolled to Bem's place. We watched some Matrix trailers and the quite good The Second Renaissance (Part 1), part of the "Animatrix" series (anime stories set in the Matrix universe. When I revealed that I had never seen Invader Zim, we of course also watched the first episode of that cartoon. Amusing, but I don't feel the genius yet.

Since Bem and Adam live near each other, I happened to call up Adam for socializing possibilities. Adam asked me if I'd like to visit a variety store with him -- a "Business"-themed party comprised his evening's plans, and he was borrowing a garment that didn't match his existing tie (he has one fewer tie than I do!), so, off to find a tie. I readily accepted, and not only did I find a nice tie and silly book (101 Wacky Computer Jokes) for myself, I also discovered a fine inventory of formerly free t-shirts. Karaoke nights, high school graduations,; if you want to pose, thrift shops are your poserie.

We were both spending our evening in Albany, and so combined our outing. Adam came with me to Cafe Eclectica to Zed's improv troupe's show. (I know they have a name, SF Improv, but I always think of them as "Zed and those other people.") As per usual, a quite funny and suspenseful show. Towards the end, in an audience-assisted elimination round, the improvisateurs performed too well, and the audience found no cause to boo them off the stage as we were supposed to (by yelling "Die!"). The host had to urge us to greater bloodthirst and encouraged us to punish even minor flubs. We took to this task readily, surprising the performers with our friendly, eager hostility. Apollo Night all over again.

Adam agreed to take me to this party where, as far as I knew, I could fulfill this unusual "theme" requirement by wearing my tie. We wound our way up near-deserted Albany streets, at one point asking directions of the Act I&II Midnight Movies guy. Adam helped me put on my tie. We found our way to the top of a hill, a strange apartment building, and thence to #9, and hesitantly knocked.

A woman in a power suit opened the door. Profit-and-loss graphs of imaginary investments lined the walls. The door held a notice that Wednesday is Hawaiian Shirt Day (mandatory), as well as the Glengarry Glen Ross reference "Coffee is for Closers Only." Above the dirty sink I saw a sign apologizing for the stopped-up sink, signed "Mgmt"; below it, another sign upbraiding the fellow workers who didn't clean their own dishes, signed, "Herbert Kornfield." In the living room, a few suit-clad men and women were razzing each other about getting fired at the evening's "company meeting." One man played a womanizing legal counsel. I claimed to be in accounting; Adam, breathtakingly handsome in his suit, called himself a shareholder.

More guests arrived, some quite dressed to the occasion. One, "Jim James -- Jim Squared [strong handshake]", sported a huge cell phone that resembled an eighties car phone. (His briefcase proved full of Budweisers.) And then we saw the CEO [the guest of honor], who stood in front of five doleful graphs, one for each of the company's accounts, and told us off for putting the firm in the red. "The Dow Jones is our bread and butter," he intoned. "When we win, we win big; when we lose, we lose big. Last year, we lost big." He said much in that vein. Adam and I shared indecipherable eye contact -- mine, at least, meant, "what in the world?!".

After he spoke at length, he revealed that he had hired a private investigator to search out the cash drains in the company. The CEO disappeared into another room. Within a few minutes we were meeting Sam Brown, a foulmouthed, arrogant, and charming P.I. in a fedora and houndstooth. He and other conspirators mouthed some lines I seemed to recognize from Mamet, and he dazzled the crowd by hurling elaborate and hilarious accusations at the five "officials" in charge of the failing accounts. There were props. It was a wondrous thing.

At last, Sam Brown charged us to get drunk and get our hands on the true villain who had schemed to steal the firm's money -- the CEO himself! And thus the party proper began.

Adam and I only stayed a little while longer at the party. Certainly the people were quite personable (one even began a conversation by recognizing me from my interview with Chancellor Berdahl), but the hour was late and the experiences wanted digestion. I had looked out on the balcony at the mysterious apartment No. 9, and caught my breath -- it was a sight to inspire hubris, if you saw that every time you glanced up from sipping coffee. The valley lay dark and alluring below us. You could improvise a world, and I finally understood what role-playing games were about. I finally connected Zed's world and Dan's, and only now do I see that the realization made me too sad to stay.