There is a certain magic involved in just saying yes to life.
It is too easy to walk through a day and only interact within preset circles—seeing the same people, commuting to and from the same job, thinking similar thoughts to days gone past.
Most of the best moments in my life happened because I actively unshackled myself from my own habitual motions. Said, "Screw it," and let things fall where they would.
So when Brian Satz reached out on facebook the other day and invited me to his house to eat BBQ and watch the game, I thought, "Screw it," and accepted.
Turns out Brian and I have much in common.
We're both from the Bay.
We're both ravenous Warriors fans.
We're both involved in the music scene here in Brooklyn (he's an awesome bass player who currently works with Harry Belafonte!).
We have a bunch of friends in common already.
But until last night, we had never met.
Nope, Brian is a reader here on Golden State of Mind. He likes what I write and so he thought, "Screw it," and invited me over to the house.
Turns out it was his roommate's birthday party.
Her parents had flown in from Oakland for the party. I got there as the sun set. Chicken was grilling in the back yard. Hip hop blasting on the stereo. Well dressed, smiling people sat in the kitchen drinking rum drinks and white wine. Little kids ran in and out of the house. And again, I didn't know anybody at the party.
Some people shrink from such a moment. There is a fear in each of us of being alone in a room full of strangers who all know each other intimately.
But for me, I've always relished such moments. It is as if you've walked into a living, breathing mystery novel. It's up to you to figure out all the subtle interactions between everyone. The flirtations that simmer below the surface. Old friends with their own language. Inside jokes. You have to figure out which kid belongs to which grownup. And as a stranger, sometimes, people will tell you secrets they would never reveal to their friends. They'll say something so profound that it'll turn your head upside down for a month. They'll drop their guard, and suddenly they're talking about that one moment when they were a kid and the sun slanted a certain way through the eucalyptus trees and they've never felt so happy and free.
The mother of the birthday girl said her blessing upon the meal, all of us gathered together in the kitchen, heads bowed. And then we feasted. Springtime in full effect. Sun setting. BBQ and smiles.
The game started at 8pm eastern time. Brian turned on the TV and a bunch of us found seating around the living room.
"They got this. They got this."
Many of us were from the Bay originally. And we sat together, in Bed-Stuy, feeding off of the commonality. Feeding off of our shared love for this weird team.
"Can't be as bad as it was last game. We'll be good. Steph's gonna shine."
"Yeah man. Gonna get it going this time."
But then the game started and, again, the Warriors just seemed lost. The Grizzlies looked bigger, played bigger. Played with an undeniable swagger.
I was sitting next to a very nice woman.
"They just seem..." she said, "they just seem like, well, they're not playing as a team, you know? I don't really know too much about basketball. But, like, when the Grizzlies' player goes to the basket, there's always like another player right there to grab the rebound. You know? And the Warriors, they need that extra guy going to the hoop at the same time so they can get the ball."
"Dammit," I said, "you're 100% right."
Nas blasted from the stereo. We watched the game on mute, perhaps fifteen of us crowded around the TV with hip hop blessing the house.
There was a seven year old kid sitting right in front of the TV, yelling at the players, imploring them to play better. He had the most amazing spot on analysis I've ever heard from a kid his age.
"The Warriors are playing like a bunch of little kids! Memphis is playing harder! The Warriors are playing like little, little kids!" he yelled. The Dubs were suddenly down 11 points. "They're rushing! One more pass! Move the ball!"
"Seriously," said Brian, coming into the room holding drinks, "you should just record everything this kid says. Give him his own article! Ha! I'm not even kidding. This kid could be on ESPN or something."
"What do you do?" the kid asked, turning to me during a commercial.
"I write about the NBA. Write about the game."
"And people read it?"
"Well, Brian reads it. That's how I'm here."
"Oh," he paused, head cocked suddenly, thinking about something else. "Wait, is this Nas?!"
We all lost it.
Later, someone else asked him what he thought about Derrick Rose.
"D Rose?" he yelled. "D ROSE? He always injured. Just like Kobe, man. Just yelling 'My knee! My knee! My ankle! My ankle!' Kobe's just trying to get a reason to retire. Sheesh!"
I'm on board. We need to get this kid his own article here on GSoM ASAP.
The Warriors continued to struggle. The brilliant seven year old lost interest in the game and started playing a skateboarding videogame on an iPad.
The collected ex-pats from the Bay groaned and grumbled every time Klay or Steph missed another shot.
"What is that, one for ten or something now?" someone yelled at the screen.
It was bad. It was the end of all rational thought.
"Goddamn this game," someone muttered and rose to get another drink.
There were two women sitting next to me and we fell into a long conversation. As I'm prone to, I started telling stories. I talked about traveling and about moving to New York City at the age of sixteen on my own. I talked about the road, and about how much I love my wife. How I broke my wrist in a crazy way six years ago and how that was a direct result of my step mother passing and then I hung my head and admitted to myself, and to them, that May 9th, this day right then as we sat together, was the sixth anniversary of her passing. It was a Saturday, and, just like this year, the day before mother's day.
The game continued, the party continued, the festivities continued, and there we were in the midst of everything having one of those conversations. Where you admit your darkest moments to a couple of strangers and they in turn respond with theirs.
For who among us has lived a life unaffected by tragedy?
We are all just seeking moments in which to let go. Let go and talk openly about our fears and about our shortcomings.
And in that moment, talking quietly, watching the Warriors' glorious offense once again get shackled by Memphis' grit, I felt right at home. At home in a sea of strangers. At home with these two inquisitive women who understood my sadness.
Life comes at you hard and never stops.
The Warriors made one more push, cutting the lead to four points.
2Pac blared from the speakers.
People passed in and out of rooms, hugging one another, sharing in the birthday celebration.
We were a multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-lingual concoction of people, all passing through each other's lives for the briefest of moments.
The Warriors lost, but we all won.