Sometimes the hardest thing to admit is that failing has everything to do with you.
In the fall of 2000, I went to a Halloween party in North Beach. A couple friends had rented a bar and there was a good cross-section of people I’d known from growing up and from college — along with a number of folks who’d attached themselves to the group as co-workers or significant others.
A girl in a bee costume (black dress with a homemade singer and a headband with springy styrofoam balls dipped in gold glitter) caught my eye and as it happened we found ourselves outside the bar taking a breather from the steamed up windows and the shouting inside.
The spell of fall in San Francisco washed over us. The day had been hot as Octobers are in the Bay, but the night fog wrapped itself around our ankles in a feline way and the foghorn blew us kisses from the charcoal beyond. I lent her my sweatshirt and we talked for awhile. Presently we went back inside and she buzzed back to her friends, but I got her number.
The months to follow were a mix of too long email exchanges and weekday evening phone calls that would last from dinner till one or both of us fell asleep.
I had a decent job as a reporter for a daily in the East Bay and was happily overbooked on the weekends. She was in Portland starting work for a PR firm. By the time she came down to visit in December we both felt something should happen to shrink up the distance or the whole thing might just go away.
So I made the move.
I remember arriving at her place at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday in January. Her apartment was warm from sleep and her old-fashioned radiator that woke up every couple hours. I crawled under the sheets beside her and she sighed, “I can’t believe you’re here.”
The way she said it and the way I heard it were two different things entirely.
A couple weeks later, we were at a Blazers’ game for my birthday. My job search was already stagnating. Some of the connections I had from college kind of shrugged when I pressed them to get me in for interviews. The paper wasn’t in full buy-out mode yet, but they weren’t hiring much either. The nadir came earlier that week when I got turned down for a reporting gig for a farm supply trade publication in Keizer, Oregon just outside Salem and the same day had gotten fired from a job handing out bags of prunes downtown for a promotion company. I guess I had been giving too many away to the homeless.
While in line at the concessions, we ran into her ex. Their conversation went off to the side and I did what I thought was the right thing and went back to our seats. She returned sometime later that quarter and the banter which had come so easily to us as a long-distance couple, seemed to grind to a halt right there.
At the time, I was renting a room from a guy I knew from school. He was still in the double La-Z-Boy, six-beer-and-a-bong-rip-per-night phase passing out during Conan, getting up, throwing a polo on and going to work. The house smelled of pizza box and boy and she didn’t really ever come by. I started getting the invite over to her place less and less. Things came to an unceremonious end when my desperation calls to set something up for Valentine’s Day went unreturned.
That night, I went with my roommate to some derelict nightclub out by the airport. A pair of women in high-waisted jeans and Looney Tunes embroidered jean jackets had their eyes on us but instead of wing-manning I grabbed a cab and feasted on the loneliest 3 a.m. Sourdough Jack man has ever tasted. (And that’s saying a lot.)
Four hours of tossing and turning and burning up my sheets later, I drove down to her neighborhood and found an open store. I bought some ugly funeral lilies and a card. In it I told her I understood if she “needed some time” but I would be here and all the other shit you should never write down once you’ve already lost.
I snuck into her building behind a morning dog walker and strode in, chest out and chin up with this ginned up sense of false confidence that could just as easily have been mistaken for rock bottom. I pounded on her door at 7:55 a.m. like a psycho, half fooling myself into believing that she’d fling it open in a back lit nightgown and lure me in. That we’d talk about the stress of me moving and the job search how it’d be a matter of time before things settled down and then we could start our lives.
I pounded again.
I crinkled the flower plastic and set the bouquet on the ground. It slid slowly down the wall like a gunshot victim in a movie. I walked away three steps and paused and held my breath. After about a minute, a guy’s voice, “Is he gone?”
And that was that.
A month later and I was back in the city, working again and living with two of my best friends. We had a rooftop with a view out to the bridge and we drank weekend kick-off beers there on Friday evenings. We were walking distance to the bars and our other buddies’ houses. I was back.
It took me a long time to admit that the whole move thing was a bad idea and my fault. And it took me even longer to say, you know what — I’d do it again. I’d do it again, because at least I knew. At least I tried. At least I found out what it was and wasn’t supposed to be. Even though I didn’t get it at the time. Ultimately, I got it. And it was worth it.
I haven’t had that flower drop-off feeling in a long, long time. That notion that even if you’re trying to do the right thing 1,000 times over, it’s just going to end badly. I haven’t had it that is — until last night.
The Warriors had that kind of game. They were pressing. They were chasing. They were trying too hard. They wanted it so so bad.
But they were off.
The Warriors can point to the league’s untimely and precedent-setting Game 5 suspension of Draymond Green, who — now it can be said without irony or reservation — is Golden State’s lifeblood if not the series’ MVP should they go on to win one of the next two games.
Steve Kerr could not find the answer in his starting five or on the bench. He threw several different looks at the Cavs and Klay Thompson — scoring 29 in the first half — especially was trying to single-handedly make up for his brother temporarily gone from the trenches.
But in the end, it was Steph Curry’s dismal shooting (4-13) from beyond the arc. It was Harrison Barnes unable to assert himself in a step-up-or-die moment missing 12 of his 14. It was the Warriors abandoning their pass-first-and-get-back-in-transition mentality.
Were this was the first game of the series, one would’ve thought Cleveland, with 28 fast break points and seemingly set on every defensive side, invented that game plan.
Kerr wasn’t calling for time outs or settling his starters at the right time. If a coach’s body language says anything: It was Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue standing, clapping, barking, cheering most of the game juxtaposed with the seated Kerr watching it with the passive energy of a hedge fund guy live tweeting it to his 209 followers. And none of the Warriors, from Thompson down to McAdoo, were getting good looks or taking good shots in the second half.
The 112-97 box score didn’t reflect a game that was only close for two quarters.
In the end, the Warriors only have themselves to blame for not being able to close at home. Something that came so fluidly so easily to them previously was being forced. A tempo they could control and own, switched over to the other side.
…I blamed a lot of people besides me in the wake of my ill-advised move. Her. Her friends. Her ex. Her coworkers, family — that person walking the dog. But in the end, it was me. It was my decision. I was the one to blame.
I reckon the Warriors will always have some kind of argument as to forces beyond their control influencing the game. But in the end, their shots weren’t falling, their starters weren’t showing flash, their bench wasn’t stepping up and their defense wasn’t fast or physical enough.
Even as they knocked on the door as a last-ditch in the middle of the fourth quarter, they went on a complete scoring drought, silent for more than three minutes before LeBron turned over and whispered to Kyrie, “Are they gone?”
The Warriors get their MVP back for Game 6 Thursday night in Cleveland.