Monday, February 14, 2011


Every city has a word.  So says the Roman friend of Elizabeth Gilbert in her memoir Eat, Pray Love.  The rest of the book leaves much to be desired, but I really loved this notion, especially when he asks her, "What's your word?" 

Rome's word, says he, is sex.  Gilbert extrapolates that New York's word is achieve. In my experience, then, Chicago's word is overcome.  When I lived in Toronto, its was derivative.  I think that's changed, but I haven't yet spent enough time back again to know what it is now. And Dallas? Envy. This is what drives it to such ostentatious lengths.  My own town of Fort Worth, at the opposite side of the Metroplex, has taken me more time to figure out, if only because I live inside it. 

This past weekend, I went to a charity fundraiser.  Suddenly my little preschooler is entering high school, and I am starting to run into people I haven't seen since before kindergarten.  So off I went to bid on silent auction items and eat mediocre Mexican buffet, and to watch people.  It had been so long with many of them that I had to explain that I am no longer married, a story I wish I didn't have to tell yet again, as there is still that too-interested, at-least-it-didn't-happen-to-me look.  "Is it good or bad?" one fellow asked.  "It just is." I shrugged, truthfully. 

Everyone looked a little older, me included.  And then I saw the couple hosting and evidently chairing the event (I confess I still haven't pored obsessively over the brochure to determine what was clearly to the assembled crowd a pecking order of monumental importance) and had a bit of a jolt: I'd known both of them, years ago, when they were married to other people.  Before my own union dissolved, I had watched one of theirs implode, followed a year or so later by the other.  They've been together since and have assiduously pursued legitimacy, and this event was clearly a very important moment for them. 

I talked to others, who were still pretty much working at what they'd been doing when I knew them a decade ago, and I thought about what that might be like.  My personal life, after a period of disarray, hasn't turned out to be what these folks would consider redemptive, which I guess would mean my being married to a doctor or a fund manager, though my occasional romantic entanglements, my tidy little house with dog and kids as much as possible, are awfully nice.

Key is that my work has taken a satisfying path. Several people from my past, when we spoke the other evening, looked at me with a bit of disbelief, followed by a nod of well then, when I told them I'd moved from the biggest game in town to one of the biggest on the globe.  I work with a group of people whose resumes and work ethic make mine look pretty sad, so I forget that it's an accomplishment.  My year looks to have some offshore travel in store, and it's fun to contemplate. In the Fort Worth fundraiser circumstance, this leaves me with little to discuss with people I don't know well. 

This is a great city with a tremendous quality of life, so good that people sometimes go away, but not for long.  Those with real cachet have been to the outside world and lived in New York or DC or Atlanta, but they've inevitably been pulled back.  I love this little universe, but I know I can keep one foot outside.  So I've realized that Fort Worth's word is stay. Mine? It's forward. So far they are compatible, but time will tell.