posted 31 jun 1998    

Do you ever wonder which you is you? I do. Reading what I've had up here for the last four months, and which had at last count been read 8,689 times—amazing—I cringe. Who is this transparent, overeager kid with all the subtlety of a WIRED cover? I suppose it's me too, or a part of me. What an embarrassing part.
 
I've always looked for ways to test the genuineness of emotions, sentiments. That begs the question: if some emotion is "real," what is its opposite? Illusion? Certainly not the product of conscious deception, at least with me. Why do I sometimes mistrust myself? It's probably presumptuous to think about such things, when my evidence is a shallow piece of autobiographical prose written months ago. I'll have to give it more thought.
 
In the meantime, what do I replace it with? In keeping with the theme of multiplicity, here are several things I am.
 

 
It was where I grew up, it was my home, in some sense it still is. I think of San Francisco as "The City." I didn't see snow until I was 14. I instinctively expect vineyards the moment I leave a metropolitan area. Perhaps I'll move back someday. Boston is wonderful, but paradoxically, it feels like the "city of my youth," and I'm growing bored with youth.
 
There is, however, a peculiar intensity to the high-tech industry in and around the Bay Area that's distinctly uncomfortable to me. While Bostonians could never be accused of being warm and friendly out of the starting gate, I have been cheered to discover that, generally, deepening friendships and even professional relationships seem to count for something here. The ice takes its time melting, but once gone, the water's pleasant. But in San Francisco ... well, suffice it to say I spent just a few weeks back in California this summer, and if I had met one more in-your-face no-talent top-of-his-game "Internet whiz" ready to tell me about his company's IPO, I probably would have started shooting BB's at car windows on Highway 101. Could it be this is an industry in which Boston is more mellow than San Francisco?
 

 
My spiritual journey began not when I first put on a Salvation Army Junior Soldier uniform, though that's what I tell most people. It began much earlier than that, when my grandmother, alarmed that her newly-divorced son no longer felt the need to take his children of 5 and 3 to church, bought me a copy of The Fledgling Catholic's Guide to Life or some such picture book.
 
The detail in which I remember this thing is eerie. Each page contained a Disneyfied description of a different sacramental element of Roman Catholic worship: holy water, incense, the crucifix, wine, wafers, and of course the mysterious symbols IHS and INRI, which I still don't know what they stand for, someone please enlighten me, thank you. Day after day I'd read this book, scared because somehow I knew we weren't living up to its standards, perhaps weren't even Catholic, now that our family had Split Up.
 
It wasn't until my sister and I were living with our mother four years later that I was again smacked hard by Christianity. On public assistance at the time, we took some of our meals at Napa's Salvation Army. Most people think of it as just a soup kitchen, but it's a full-fledged evangelical denomination too, complete with demagogical preachers, bigoted zealots, and legions of needy, earnest proselytes. I was one of the latter! The pictures of me in the uniform are cute. At least they got the part about feeding the poor right.
 
I took a vacation from religion from the ages of 12 through 19. It wasn't by choice, it was because we moved back in with our dad, but it was probably a good thing. When I joined the Episcopal Church, I'm convinced it was because having just left Harvard, I was in search of an institution of comparable pretentiousness, style, and bulk. I was not disappointed.
 
My parish in Boston is Trinity Church, Copley Square. Until recently I sang in the splendid Trinity Choir, a group with a penchant for glorious Anglican music and a rapturous, full-throated sound. I won't deny I miss the majestic, nosebleed-high liturgy of my parish in New York, Church of the Ascension, but the love, graciousness, and strength of the people of Trinity are indeed special.
 

 
This side of me has had a welcome renaissance the past three years. I am an unabashed Macintosh booster. (My jaw tightens uncontrollably every time I hear "IBM=VHS, Macintosh=Beta.")
 
Recently I began working as the Director of Web Design & Technology at The Atlantic Monthly. It's a dream come true—my colleagues are intelligent, committed, and fun; the office is beautiful and right in downtown Boston, and the magazine is one I've always liked. In March I completed a total redesign of the site, and shortly thereafter we were nominated for the National Magazine Award for Best Magazine Website. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy.
 

 
One thing it was easy to tell from my previous essay, and that was how delighted I am with the turns my life has taken. Maybe it's an offshoot of my faith, but I'm unwaveringly confident that, well, everything's going according to plan. Not that I'm some holy roller, far from it: my theology, if you can call it that, is decidedly my own and curiously humanist.
 
The best part about Boston, no question, is the friends I've found. A more amusing, distracting, caring, and brilliant bunch of people would be impossible to find. They're a blessing and a miracle.
 

 
I'm an odd mix of anxiety and whimsy, confusion and clarity, self-confidence and unmitigated insecurity. Hey, here's a good analogy: if I'm an iceberg, my sense of humor is the tip I show 90% of the time to those around me. Humor's the most important charm in my bag of tricks. If I can make you laugh, I can be pretty sure you won't forget me. I make quite an effort to be remembered.
 
Do I intrigue you? Do you find me pleasing? Hope so.
 

 
June 31, 1998(revised—but not much—January 13, 2000)
 
P.S. Thank you, Sean Welch. Though we haven't met, it was visiting your page today that made me want to change mine. Isn't it strange, the effect this place can have on us. (Alas, Sean's page vanished a few years back.)
 
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