In Good Company: A Happy Hour martini at Fuzio's

I never really knew what networking was about until the job market forced me into it.  As a newbie, I thought it was about collecting business cards much like accumulating Facebook friends today.  But after almost 20 years in the workplace, it’s really about making meaningful connections.  When it goes right, it could lead to good things, and at the very least, you are putting yourself out there.

Like meeting anyone for the first time, I go into them with my gut instincts, especially the people you come upon unexpectedly.  These in particular feel like they are created from the ether and act as signposts pointing me in the right direction.  For instance, at one networking function for Music In Schools Today, a local organization that supports music education in public schools, I met a wonderful retiree I will call my New Jersey aunt who lives in Alameda, CA.

For someone who really never had an aunt to speak of growing up, I am pleasantly surprised by these chance meetings with sixtyish women, which might also explain my recent obsession with the TV series, “Murder, She Wrote” starring the ageless Angela Lansbury who played the good-natured mystery sleuth writer Jessica Fletcher.  She was everyone’s aunt, who gave the right kind of advice and support with whatever troubled you.

Women north of 60 don’t have anything to prove because they’ve seen and done it all.  They’re comfortable letting things go and waiting for things to come to them rather than forcing things to happen.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure there’s plenty of effort poured into the things they do, but they make it look so easy, so natural, much like Brenda W., with whom I recently had the pleasure of sharing Happy Hour at Fuzio’s.

She had just come down from work in the tower upstairs and wasn’t going to be hurried, as she deliberately extracted a book from her bag and set it on her lap.  When pressed to order, she politely told the woman behind the bar she wanted to decompress and relax first but went ahead and asked for the white bean dip with chips.  We struck up a conversation that began with where to place her purse at the bar and winded down with family, weekend plans and her intention to see a movie across the way if she felt like it.  In between, I found out she’s a native of Cleveland, OH, which, to a Pittsburgh, PA transplant like myself, is reason to put a stop to things immediately.  But when one has lived in California for years, previous identities fall away, and we’re all simply—for lack of a better word–Californian.

I often end my networking interactions by distributing my business card.  Brenda told me my name sounded like a movie star’s, despite my demurs that show business commonly prefers short and simple, easily identifiable monikers.  But she said who cares because that’s what it sounds like to her–the magical stuff a special aunt who came from the slim seam of the space-time continuum is supposed to say.

If I Could Turn Back Time

Soup's Up: Bun Rieu

So I’ve been on a soup kick the last few weeks because it’s rainy and chilly in San Francisco.  But I just wanted to share one more that I tried from Soup Junkie, a pop-up food vendor that shows up on certain days in the Window on 1599 Howard and 12th Street and DaDa on 86 2nd Street on Market and Mission.  I arrived at DaDa just as the vendor was closing shop, but she graciously packed me up their signature Bun Rieu to go.  I was told the crab and tomato broth does settle and render itself salty after a few hours and to dilute the saltiness add more water.  Indeed, when I got home, I heated up the rich broth in a pot with a little more water and once it came up to the right temperature, poured it over the rice noodles, pork meatballs, water spinach and cilantro topped with a lovely crab omelette.

The last two weeks was a walk down memory lane when I was working at the PR firm Hill & Knowlton.  I used to work for the Regus Group, a business solutions company with properties around the world, and one of its centers was located in the neighborhood near Levi’s headquarters.  I took the opportunity to visit with my old manager and friend who gave me helpful advice.  As I took a shortcut through Levi’s Plaza to the Regus center, the Starbucks, where I used to take refuge, is still housed there, as well as RJs, the pricey grocery store and deli across the uneven, bumpy street I crossed on Sansome where I nearly killed myself in heels.  The thoughts that entered my mind were how most of my career was a baptism of fire, and now that I have a sense of perspective, I realize it is all a learning experience with plenty of interesting and funny stories behind it. 

For instance, the closest I came to ever working for Levi’s was temping in its accounting department and moving merchandise, even operating a forklift, in its factory now museum on Valencia Street.  The latter was a rare joy.  Not only was I comped a pair of pre-branded jeans, but how many could really say they walked the cavernous historical warehouse on their resumes.  Anyway, the point is if I had planned my career more strategically and had a mentor to guide me, I would probably be better off.  However, for someone so eager to be grown-up when I was in school, I would have missed out on meeting the people I encountered and unique moments as a younger worker in the jobforce.  I would lose out on the proverbial music between the notes put simply by John Lennon’s verity that life is what happens to you while you’re too busy making plans.