Sunday, October 4, 2009

And You May Ask Yourself, How Did I Get Here?

Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the moneys gone

Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.
Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...same as it ever was...

Same as it ever was...same as it ever was...

Once in a Lifetime -- Talking Heads/David Byrne

Py and I were curled up on the sofa with our dog Jack watching the 5th or 6th game of the 1995 World Series - Py was a Braves fan back then and so we were in a celebratory mood, cause they were beating the Indians. The phone rang, somewhere towards the end the of the game and I said, “I’ll get it.” but Py got up, “no I’ll get it, I need a beer anyway.” So he ran back to the kitchen and picked up the phone. I heard him say, “Oh no, its not too late, we’re up.” I heard the refrigerator door open and close and Py walked down the hall to our bedroom. I continued to watch the game and wondered who he was talking to? Mainly I heard the sounds of him listening, “uh huh, yeah, hmm, I don’t know.” After 45 minutes, my curiosity got the best of me and the game was about over. I walked down the hall and our bedroom door was partially closed and I heard Py say, “You know I live with someone, don’t you?” This made my face go slightly hot -- Py worked at a nearby university and suddenly I thought, “great, he’s in there talking to a woman! Some brilliant grad student with the body of a pin up girl.” I walked back up the hall and watched the end of the game as best I could. I was unable to concentrate though. Py and I had lived together for close to ten years at that point -- we had never married as we both came from divorced families and our motto was, “If you get married, you get divorced.”

I heard the bedroom door swing open and Py came up the hall, he sat down next to me. The game was over, “Man, I missed it. Who won?”

“The Braves.”

“Oh good!” He moved closer to me on the sofa. Jack the dog’s head was in my lap.

“So, who was that on the phone?” I tried to be all cool.

“I got one question for you...” he said, and I thought oh boy, here it comes, “How would you like to live in Bermuda?”

“What?” This was not the question I was expecting. Was this a joke?

“For real, how would you like to go live in Bermuda?”

“Um, I don’t know...why would I go live in Bermuda?”

“Because I might take a job there and I wouldn’t go without you.”

“oh, okay....where exactly is Bermuda? I mean I know, but I don’t know.” Py jumped up and got our over sized National Geographic Atlas off the bookshelf. It was 1995, there was no Google Earth, hell there was no Google. The internet was something that only the most esoteric of geeks used at that time. Books were still the first choice for finding information.

We opened the atlas and there in front of us was tiny Bermuda -- a spec in the Atlantic Ocean -- exactly 600 miles due east of Cape Hatteras -- balancing on an ancient volcanic mount. The island stunned us with its size -- shaped like a fish hook, the atlas told us Bermuda was approximately 22 square miles, with its widest point being a mile across. It seemed impossible that a population of 70,000 people could all fit!

Our Columbia Encyclopedia further informed us that Bermuda was one of the few remaining British colonies -- its entry was more than intriguing to us -- it told us the colony’s "mainstays were international financial services, especially insurance and tourism." It spoke of “fine beaches, an excellent climate, and picturesque sites.” We discovered the island was sub-tropical, that “60% of Bermuda’s inhabitants are of African ancestry, descended from slaves brought to the islands during the 18th century; there is also a sizable population of British descent. English is spoken.”

My only personal history with the island was knowing people who had honeymooned there and my grandmother had a good friend who sailed the Newport to Bermuda race several years in a row. Bermuda was associated with wealthy East Coasters who needed a getaway. Sometimes you hear the word Bermuda sprinkled into an old movie “Oh well, they went to Bermuda, you know.” and that would lend an air of wealth.

That was it, that was all we could learn that night...we conjured up this tropical rock in the middle of the ocean in our minds. It was getting late and I still didn’t know who Py had spoken to on the phone...who was this mystery caller that asked him to come work in Bermuda?

“That was A. -- he’s a graduate student and he and a couple of engineering students won some international programming contest recently -- they engineered a stock trading system that predicts markets...its supposed to remove the human element from trading, as in Traders, those guys who yell and scream and fight the markets all day. Their system got the attention of this guy, Gold Finger, out in Bermuda. He has hired them and they are headed out there to further develop this system. And they need a Systems Engineer...that’s me.”

I couldn’t believe it. This was a completely unexpected turn of events. We were two working stiffs basically -- he worked at the university and I worked at a big non-profit international environmental organization. We lived in a funky old rented house in Durham, NC with our big dog Jack and our two cats, Bill and Marley. We were hoping someday we might have enough money to buy a house. Suddenly we were faced with a Once In A Lifetime choice.

I had a million questions and none of them could be answered that night. We were going to have to go to the library the next day and do research! We hemmed and hawed -- one moment we said, “Of course we are going to do this!” and the next “This might be too risky for us -- so far away from home.” But that night before we went to bed, we decided we were going to go for it -- that if we didn’t do it, we would regret it for the rest of our lives. We would always ask ourselves what would life have been like if we had gone to Bermuda?

But other questions raced through my head all that night. I could barely sleep. Where would we live on the island? Could I work too? Could we take our animals? I would not go if I could not take my dog and my cats! What did the island look like? Was it safe there? What side of the road did they drive on? Who was this Gold Finger guy anyway? Who was going to pay for all this? Moving? What would we take with us? What would we leave behind? If something happened, how would we get home? So many questions, so many...and finally I think I drifted off to sleep.

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