Sunday, July 12, 2009


"I just love this guy," Linda beamed as she grabbed my arm at the reception following Craig's memorial service.

I really didn't know what to expect since I was going to meet people I had worked with closely at NWF. Former colleagues I hadn't seen in the four years since I had been dumped by the then-new CEO.

There was a raw honesty to the reception. It threw together people who hadn't seen each other for years. There were probably 500 people at the memorial service; most stopped at least briefly at the reception. Many had worked together, so had histories and stories. Most struggled to remember names, like at a high school reunion without the name tags.

A lot of tension drifted beneath the surface. Quite a few people had been fired by others there. Some had slept with others, or at least wanted to. Some really didn't like each other. Mostly, though, it was about people genuinely happy to see each other again. Lots of hugging.

We all had Craig in common. But at that point how much is left to say? It's the start of moving on.

All that made the reception a non-choreographed dance, participants weaving around the food tables and through the crowd, connecting or avoiding, interactions sincere or just polite, brief or longer.

For me it felt pretty good. Most were happy to see me. I was happy to see them. Like Linda, who couldn't stop smiling. We had worked together at NWF years ago. She did marketing and branding. I always loved watching her Sisyphean efforts, largely wasted it seemed to me, on a company that just didn't get it.

Then there was Chris the environmental filmmaker. You usually hear Chris before you see him. "Why Wayne, I didn't expect to see you here!" he boomed, grabbing my hand with typical Chris gusto, flashing his million dollar smile. "Enjoy it while you can, Chris, because this is probably it," I replied. I just love this guy.

Chris, who once worked for NWF, is a clown who stands on his hands for his audience. He reminds me of a public speaking tip I got more than 30 years ago: "When you get up in public just take off all your clothes. They will either love your or hate you but there'll be no in-between."

He is an extraordinary entertainer. A passionate crusader for nature. Some people say he is a shameless self-promoter and a bit full of himself. Well for Christ's sake what do you expect? It's show biz! Anyone ever say, "That Craig Ferguson. I don't watch him 'cause he's so full of himself"? I'm not saying the world needs a bunch more Chrises but having one is good. In moderate doses. I'm just saying...

Midway through the reception I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned and recognized a face. "You probably don't remember me but I'm Amy and I used to work at NWF. You came to see me in a bike race in Reston one time. I always appreciated that."

"Not only do I remember," I said, "but get this. Three hours ago I was having brunch with my son and his girlfriend in Reston. We wondered why the streets were all blocked off. It was the annual bike race. We sat there watching the same women's race that you were in -- what? -- five or six years ago? I told them about your race.

What do you make of such odd coincidences? Those things happen to me often enough that my wife thinks I'm creepy.

I learned that Amy and her husband are moving to Boulder via an Airstream cross-country odyssey. Here's their dream (from Amy's website):

Among the last to leave the reception, I was edging for the church exit when another old colleague from NWF stopped me. She obviously had something on her mind. After perfunctory small talk she asked why she hadn't heard from me in the four years since I left NWF. "Do you hate me?" she asked, tearing up.

It had never dawned on me that my behavior after leaving NWF would be hurtful to anyone. She really set me back. I mumbled reasons about why I had disappeared but it sounded lame. I apologized as best I could. We talked about what an intense experience it is for anyone who ever works at NWF -- good and bad intense. "But are you remembering the good experiences?" she asked.

At the end I said goodbye to Craig's wife, Jean. It is the strangest thing, saying goodbye to someone you are close to and knowing you likely will never see again. Yet life is a mystery and you just never know.

Next: "Happiness"

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