This was early on when Julie and I lived in Chicago. We were invited to a dinner party by someone in the dance world. She sat on the board of a number of committees determining who would get grants for performance work. She was friendly. And this particular evening she and her husband invited us to her home with two other couples for dinner. None of us had met.
We had the address and it was in Old Town in Chicago. We drove around a bit before we figured out where it was. It was difficult to see the addresses. If you’ve never been to Chicago, Old Town is a residential neighborhood right next to downtown. Very much “city living,” the closest residential area to the primary business district. When we finally found this place, it was up some steps from the city sidewalk into a building concealed from the street and covered in greenery. This is a little hard to describe, but from the outside, it looked like some random apartment building. Just a one-story thing on a city street. But once you were inside, this place was palatial. One of the largest and most impressive homes I’ve ever been in. Soaring vault ceilings. Beautiful fixtures. A huge space, like the size of a small mansion but it was concealed on this non-descript city block so you would never know it. There was no indication from the street that a rich couple was living in a city mansion in this space.
We said hello, and we stood around having some drinks for a few minutes. The woman’s husband was a man named Bob. She was in her late 40s and he was in his 70s, I believe. He was retired. I made a point to chat him up when were standing around. He was a very interesting guy. He seemed warm and curious and very smart. I told him I was an editor for a music magazine. He told me that his daughter used to be the lead singer in a band called Veruca Salt. i told him I had heard of them. They were not reunited at this time, it was a few years ago. He also told me that he used to be CEO of the company that invented Nutra-Sweet. So I knew he’d made a few bucks.
We sat down, and we had dinner. The dinner was quite good. After we’d finished, Bob asked for everyone’s attention because he had something to say. He told us that one of our guests had brought a bottle of some nice port wine, so perhaps all of us would like to retire to the area of the living room by the fireplace to try it? That sounded very good to me. So we did that.
I don’t know why, but for some reason I admired Bob for directing his guests to his fireplace to drink port wine. Maybe part of me admired his wealth, that he had a fireplace at all. But I also admired the way that he directed the flow of the evening, asking these people he didn’t really know to join him in a glass of port.
We walked over to the fireplace and the wine was opened and Bob’s wife said it would be nice to hear some music. Since I worked at a music magazine, it made sense that I would choose it. So I walked over to the closet where they kept their stereo and I started flipping through the iPod they had hooked up to it. I saw Feist’s The Reminder and I knew immediately that was it. I walked back to the living room and everyone seemed to love it.
This was the early days of the iPhone. I still had a flip phone. But Bob, even though he was well into his 70s, had an iPhone. And he sat near us by the fireplace but he was mostly looking at his phone. Sometimes the conversation would move in a direction where there was a stray fact unknown and he would look it up without prompting. He loved this iPhone. And I loved that this older man loved this iPhone. To me it represented curiosity. He was fascinated by what new technology could do.
We started talking about movies. Bob asked that we all go around and state our favorite movie. When it came back to Bob, he said his favorite was the Paul T. Anderson film Magnolia. This was very strange and interesting to me, that a man about 75 who had seen films going back to the 1940 chose as his favorite film of all time Magnolia. It made me realize that we all grow old in different ways.