Selected excerpts from ANECDOTAL, the new novel by J. Brooks Dann
From Chapter 3, “The Most Romantic Night on Earth”
Our narrator Jake recounts how he met his girlfriend of nearly 5 years, Gabrielle, during a post business school trip to France:
Pardon my hyperbole, but as I looked over at Gabrielle again, I had the warm feeling that I might have enjoyed the most romantic night on earth. Before this, that thought had never crossed my mind as I kissed a woman goodnight or turned out the lights to join someone in bed.
But, if there were an essay contest for the most romantic night on earth for this particular square on June’s calendar page, I felt for the first time in my life, I had a legitimate entry. Maybe the most romantic night on earth on another evening belonged to a couple in a rundown tenement in Beijing, who stared into each other’s eyes after both feeling they’d conceived the one child allowed them by law. Some other night in the past, it belonged to two German lovers, reunited after 20 years when the Berlin Wall crashed down.
But, I’m sure at some point, it belonged to two teens in rural Iowa experiencing their first kiss. Or two strangers at Club Med who found some real connection after winning the limbo contest. Maybe, on this night, it belonged to two people who were brought together by soccer hooligans, Donald Duck, Budweisers and “Baby Got Back.” Two people who strolled the Champs-Elysees, enjoyed fantastic red wine, danced like children around a carousel and shared breakfast as the sky above them transformed from steel blue into a gorgeous tableau of pink and salmon hues.
From Chapter 4, “Working the Leisure Circuit”
Jake spends an afternoon “working” at the Grove, a San Francisco café currently populated by stay-at-home moms and overeducated unemployed professionals, but used to be a hotbed of business activity during the dot com era. He muses about things have changed since the Internet “bubble” popped:
Stock options were the currency of the realm. I would say the options game was like playing with Monopoly money, but too many other writers have employed that line already. Besides, it’s a pretty insulting thing to say about Monopoly money, which can at least be used to purchase Indiana Avenue and provide your family and friends hours of wholesome capitalistic entertainment.
After touting the “market opportunity” and the “upside” associated with their companies, smiling recruiters—usually a founder in an early stage company or a polished HR professional in venerable later stage firms (outfits 3-6 months old)—would pile on extra selling points. Earlier in my career, companies had stressed perks such as matching 401Ks, educational loans, training programs and paid gym memberships. In San Francisco in the year 2000, however, a load of dot coms competed tooth and nail to be the most dog friendly workplace. You would not believe how many companies featured frolicking dogs on the “Why Work with Us?” pages of their web sites. You would not believe how many dogfights I saw in the luxurious converted warehouse offices South of Market, and how much dog crap I saw lying among networking cables on the floors of these new millennium Taj Mahals. You would not believe how many times my crotch was sniffed during job interviews—usually by canines.
Most start-ups planned their launch parties before they planned their strategies. If you were a single guy, you really never had to stock your refrigerator—hungry scavengers of the information age could chomp on pot-stickers, quesadillas and crudités at dot com launch parties almost every night. Someone must have been harvesting the Redwoods in Marin to manufacture the long pointy sticks for the tons of chicken satay we devoured every night at these events. Maybe the sticks were gathered and ground up and squeezed through some Dr. Seuss-inspired machine to create the torrent of business cards rampaged through any gathering of 20- and 30-somethings in the City. Maybe the business cards were Seussified into the cardboard sleeves which protect our hands from the hot coffee at the Grove.
From Chapter 33, “Girl We Couldn't Get Much Higher"
Jake and Erica, his friend of many years, decide to go to an Oakland Raiders football game in spite of hurricane-like weather. They find tickets on “Mount Davis,” the towering area of cheap seats at the Oakland Coliseum named after the Raiders’ owner Al Davis:
I took special care to ensure that the tickets Erica and I bought from drenched scalpers just before the game were indeed on the face of Mount Davis. If we wanted a guilt-free pass to jump on the bandwagon for the team’s unstoppable Super Bowl march, we would have to overcome all of the trials of the most die-hard member of the Raider Nation. Our search was rewarded when we found seats on the 50 yard line—at the very pinnacle of Mr. Davis’ monument, the very edge of the stadium’s escarpment.
The wonders of Mount Davis are truly breathtaking. The whitewater rapids that course down its stairwells during a maelstrom like today’s carry veritable flotillas of beer cups and cardboard food trays. From its summit, you can almost see the game through the viscid haze below. But most awe-inspiring are the many types of precipitation you are privileged to behold. I’ve been pounded by globs of rain during Indiana’s summertime thunderstorms. I’ve walked through Boston’s omnipresent mists, the kind that hang in the air, circumvent all umbrellas and leave you sopping wet. I’ve been assaulted by powerful barrages of precipitation, rain and sleet driven horizontally by Chicago’s vicious winds, an onslaught that renders any protective barrier useless. But I’d never faced all of these forms of precipitation at once.
Plus new ones. The design of Mount Davis seemed to shape the very wind itself, driving rain straight up into our faces. And some sort of malevolent aerodynamic effect created by the Coliseum’s bowl structure smacked us from both sides simultaneously with sleet and hail. My God, the brilliance of the design. The exquisite torture of it all. The trial by fire—or by water, actually—which only the most dedicated bandwagoneers could hope to endure. That Al Davis is, indeed, an evil genius not to be trifled with.
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