Shakespeare and Rodin


My friend sent the invitation a month ago.  A party to celebrate the anniversary of the founding, many years ago, of his company, in which I was slightly involved.  He was, in effect, one of the first ISP's, before there even was an Internet, and he sold out to One of the Big Guys about five years ago, at the height of the Internet buzz.  Estimates in the press were that he was worth a quarter billion dollars at the time he sold out.

In my opinion, he's one of the few people who deserves to have gotten rich.  He saw the future clearly, inspired others with his vision, was able to hire good people, and executed his plan to perfection.  And was richly rewarded.  It's nice to see the good guys win sometimes.

So the party was several hundred miles away, but not several thousand, as it would have been had I stayed in California.  We said we'd come.  Diana hadn't seen some these old-time geeks I used to hang out with.  And by all accounts, his house was spectacular...

So we got into the car, and drove to the party this last weekend.

They were right.  The house was spectacular, from the indoor swimming pool to the indoor theatre with 20 foot screen.  And the 40-odd Rodin sculptures didn't hurt either.  It seems that when you have hundreds of millions, you collect unique things.  Like Shakespeare first folios.  And books previously owned by Isaac Newton.  And Chagall paintings.  You also, if you are my friend, do good works, helping those worthy of help and advancing some of the things you believe in.

He remains severely deficient in social skills.  Luckily, he is married to a wonderful woman with enough personality for both of them.  By all accounts, he was a disaster as a manager.  All the more irritating that his sense of what to do was so excellent, but he engendered resistance by the way he asked people to carry out his vision.  Before long, the company had hired a couple of windbags to be the official managers.  When the Big Guy bought him out, the rot began.  And now they are dancing to avoid bankruptcy.  But my friend has 'diversified' his holdings into Rodins and Shakespeare.  He'll be OK.

I'm struck by the curious lack of envy I have for him.  As wonderful as it was to hold a Shakespeare First Folio, I don't want to own one.  I might buy some music manuscripts if I had the wherewithall, but not to keep in a climate controlled room.  My future would be a bit more secure with a bit more money, but I'm not doing badly.  And I'm more focused on living each day than surviving to 100.  Having your first wife die in her forties does that to you...

So I saw some old friends.  One guy who, when I last saw him 10 years ago was very pissed off at me (I was the messenger of some news that dismayed him) met me with open arms and an apology.  It was great to see him again and connect.  Some of my California friends came out also--wonderful to see them again.  Good food, good wine, a great band, and wonderful people.  And Shakespeare and Rodin.  Diana and I had a ball.  And returned home with thanks to our home with its much more modest treasures.  And some good memories.

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2002 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.