Monday, September 17, 2012

We stumped the astrologist.

Last January, when Baltimore Style magazine published a self-interview we did with ourselves (that's redundant, isn't it?), an amateur astrologist contacted us. She was super-nice in her note (as she is, no doubt, in real life). Intrigued by our age difference, she wondered what the stars might have to say about why we got together. She asked our permission to char our astrological lives. Sure, we said, and sent her the information we had about our birth dates, times and places.

We heard back from her recently. Apparently, figuring out a 1964 Libra and a 1947 Sagittarius ain't easy.

"To be perfectly honest with you both," she wrote, "I can not make heads or tails of what I see."

Our charts, she told us, have spurred her to acquire more formal training in astrology so she might meet challenges like ours. So, one day we might hear from her again. I'd like that. My curiosity hasn't waned.

Or, perhaps there's another astrologist who would like to puzzle us out, to look into the heavens, and to see how our lives are arrayed.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Strange Bedfellows

Sitting around the little bistro table in our kitchen yesterday, the morning discussion over coffee and the newspaper careened from Clint Eastwood’s empty chair to the resurgent Orioles and then settled on two urgent topics in our household.

Medicare. Pearl Jam.

It’s like that in our house: the collision of ages often makes for interesting table talk.

Although the magic Medicare age is almost upon me, I’ve been avoiding it for months. All those brochures that come in the mail trying to sell me supplemental insurance? Most have gone into the recycling pile. So finally yesterday Michael opened the laptop to and read aloud to me from “What is Medicare?”

After our brief lesson in donut holes and Parts A & B, we turned to Pearl Jam. Michael was heading off yesterday afternoon to the two-day Made in America Music Festival up in Philly, where Pearl Jam headlines tonight.

He’s been a fan for a while. Me? Not so much. But on Friday night he asked me to watch last year’s “Pearl Jam Twenty” with him, which he bought in anticipation of the concert.  The movie  recounts the band’s beginning in 1991, follows its roar into the national consciousness and celebrates its 20 years together.  

I watched mostly as a favor to Michael, but I found myself totally smitten with these guys: their independence, their fierce loyalty to their work and yes, even *some of * the music.

It’s like that in our house: I learn more about stuff I never expected to care about because my younger husband keeps opening the world to me. When the movie was over I told him, Dang! I’d like to go to the concert too now!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Almost Famous: Our TLC moment

We’ve had our Hollywood moment. Whoops! There it went. Did you see it?

No fret. No sweat. I’ll just back up the DVD, press the super-slo-mo button…

The e-mail arrived from “a casting director” in “Los Angeles.” She represented Stiletto Entertainment (stiletto? Knife or heel?). She was on the prowl for younger men with older women to appear in a documentary-style reality show for TLC, tasteful, you know, a “love story,” you know, a “real-life Harold and Maude.”


Anyway, she said she’d read a piece in AARP: The Magazine written about me (which, incidentally, had been written by me about me), and she thought Sheri and I would be great for the show, would I want to schedule a call, chat?

Sure I would. I don’t watch TLC, and I didn’t know what sort of entertainment Stiletto had in mind, but I’m up for adventure, Hollywood cash, and, at the very least, a blog post. So I called the casting director.

But before that, I checked out Stiletto Entertainment on the internet. I expected porn, or street gangs, or street gang porn. I discovered instead that their big speciality is providing talent for cruise ships. Their other No. 1 speciality? Barry Manilow. Older women with younger men? We’re soooo in their demographic.

“We’re more about focusing on what’s going on in your life rather than creating something,” the casting director told me. In particular, they wanted people in an important moment. I thought of my wife’s upcoming birthday (it’s one of those people mark) and how we plan to celebrate–at a resort in Montana. Just perfect for a reality/documentary show, I thought. I didn’t mention this, though.

“This is definitely going to be in the realm of sharing life stories,” she said. “We want to find healthy, happy, successful relationships to show. We don’t want the people who want to be on TV.”

“How much does the appearance pay?” I asked the casting director.

“I’ll get back to you with that,” she said. She encouraged me to mention the show on this blog and to check out TLC’s shows so I could see for myself how tasteful they are.

So, we hung up. And I visited the TLC website. And I knew, right quick, that we don’t want to be on that channel. Virgin Diaries? 19 kids and whatever? Polygamists? How morbidly obese women give birth? One review I read called TLC the “master of the modern freak show.” After watching the trailer for Virgin Diaries, I thought never us, never-never-ever, not in a million freaking years.

Unless the money was right. And by right I mean in the tens of thousands. High tens. Maybe then. And yes, I know that's selling us cheap, but times are hard.

A couple of weeks later Hollywood e-mailed back with the offer.

“Just a quick update, the couples featured on the show WILL be compensated. I think filming would only be a few days where we'd come to you to do more interviews and get a glimpse into your everyday lives etc. I'm not sure of the rate yet as they are figuring that out but I hope this helps a bit!”

Ms. Casting Director, it helped not at all. Compensated? You can be compensated without being paid. Are we talking “tens of thousands” or a couple hundred? Are we talking A GRATIS CRUISE FEATURING BARRY MANILOW IN PERFORMANCE?

I did write back. And we won’t be on the TLC show. But if Stiletto does make the pilot, and TLC airs it, you can bet we’ll watch. And you can bet we’ll tell you what we think.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Band of gold

Yesterday I went to a jeweler to have my wedding band cut off. 

No, it’s not the end of our 19-year marriage. The moment itself was unremarkable: I was shopping for pants at the mall, on my way to a hair appointment, when I stopped in at the jewelry store.

After a short wait, during which I worried more about being late for my haircut than about cutting my wedding ring, a man appeared with a turquoise device that had a tiny mechanical circle saw.  Other store employees gathered round to watch. In less than a minute, the ring was split and slipped off my swollen finger.

Why have the ring cut off? That swollen finger requires minor surgery today, and will probably be even more puffed up afterward.  But isn’t it odd that of all 10 fingers that could have developed a cyst, it just happens to be the ring finger on my left hand? And wasn’t it odder still that I took the ring off when the finger started to swell and then, after a week of having it gone, missed it so much that I convinced myself the problem was getting better and shoved the ring back on?  Within a few days, it was too late to get it off again, despite my best efforts with ice and Crisco. Ouch.

Still, despite that mundane moment at the mall, having your wedding band severed feels significant.  This little circle of gold has been a metaphor of commitment 19 years. Had I been smart enough to just leave it off when my finger grew too big for it, it would still be in one piece, a circle complete. Instead, I’m staring at a gap of air between the gold, the circle broken.

If it weren’t for my mother, I wouldn’t even have known you could have a ring cut off.  Twenty years ago this month, my mom married an older man. She was 82; he was 86. She had been a widow for seven years, and she still wore the thin gold band my father had given her 58 years earlier.  Now, when her new beau wanted to slip his own ring on her finger, she couldn’t get the old one past her arthritic knuckle. So she went to a jeweler and had it cut off.

I still have the two pieces of her ring. For me they represent her faith in the future, her willingness to step off into an unknown land.

I have faith in the future, too. Yesterday, the jeweler assured me that my band could be repaired, my circle completed once again.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Publication Day

Twenty-some years ago, I walked a sidewalk on a Hartford evening, side-by-side a pony-tailed volleyball-playing co-worker. You know who I’m taking about. Among a group of other journos coming out of a bar, Sheri and I nevertheless ended up in our own chat, as we seemed often to do those days. Side-by-side walking. Practice, I suppose.

We talked about what each of us hoped would come next in our own lives. Sheri mentioned Montana, and I allowed as how I wanted to write fiction. Stories. Maybe a novel. I had cockeyed ideas about graduate school, but didn’t how to apply or how much it cost or anything, really. Even as they came out of my mouth, the words, “graduate school,” made as much sense to me as “string theory” does now. I was 26 and clueless.

Some people might have laughed. Some might have pointed out the difficulty of uprooting a life for graduate school, of the cost, of the years given to a pursuit that would not be lucrative and perhaps not even successful. But Sheri listened to a younger man’s quixotic ambition, and she never varied the pace of her steps. And later, when I wanted to move to Arkansas for that mythical graduate school, she still kept pace.

Today is publication day. Twenty years later, my first book of fiction comes into the world.

And I think it is true that the reason I have both book and Sheri in my life is that twenty-years ago an older woman listened to the optimism of youth and made room on that sidewalk for what was unlikely, maybe even daft, and she considered it possible.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Love among the enchiladas

Dorky photo from 1991
Tonight we will drink champagne, toasting 21 years since the night we sat together on a couch in my Hartford condo, looking our future full in the face and saying yes to it.

It was March 11, 1991, a Monday night. The previous night, as “just friends” (we thought), we had played in a weekly volleyball game. Afterward, we had planned to make dinner together at my place; Michael had bought everything necessary for enchiladas, including the Mexican cookbook. But then I hurt my leg in the game.  So I sat with my leg on ice while he cooked. It took six hours. We joke now that we had to grow the corn for the tortillas in order to make it all happen.

Who was I then? My life was full: I was writing a grant proposal for funding to research the fate of American POWs left behind in North Korea, working as a newspaper bureau chief, playing volleyball, swimming laps at the Y, going to plays, choosing a sperm donor, reading both “The Little Prince” and I.F. Stone’s “The Hidden History of the Korean War,” spending a weekend with my sister at Cape Cod, taking a pottery class, watching the Gulf War on TV, and trying to quit smoking.

I knew Michael was 26, but even on that night of the enchiladas, he did not know my age. When we first met, he had guessed 36. Then, after I once mentioned being in college in the late 1960s, he thought, “Maybe 40, 41.”

Who we are today
Back to the enchiladas. It took so long that he didn’t leave until 2:30 a.m. Before he left, he hugged me. He was shaking. The kitchen was a mess. Both of us had to work in about eight hours.

When I woke that Monday, it was all I could do to drag my bad leg in to work. The condo was still in chaos. Egads, a 26-year-old guy had made tortillas from scratch so you can imagine the helter-skelter in my tiny galley kitchen.

That evening, after work, he showed up to wash dishes, bearing a bouquet of purple iris and a carton of ice cream.  And that’s when it finally hit me: This guy is serious.

Over ice cream, we abandoned the “just friends” fa├žade. There was too much joy, delight and exhilaration. We felt safe. Comfortable. He gulped only once when I said, “43.”