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May 13th, 2003

113,880

I met my wife on an airplane flying between Los Angeles and Dallas. She leaned over and said "do you want a light?", and then turned on the airline reading light over my seat, which enabled me to better read J.G. Ballard's "Empire of the Sun". Soon we were talking things to do in Dallas--museums, clubs, and the like. I think that the first moment I knew we would have a spark was when she told me she had just been to see the Wim Wenders film "Wings of Desire". Rather than give some detailed explication of Teutonic cinema, she looked me in the eye, smiled, and said "I was so bored". I like direct, assertive, kind people. As the plane landed, she gave me her phone number. On my next business trip out, not even a week later, I phoned.

We went on our first date to Torung, a Hollywood "dive" Thai restaurant, where we ordered a kind of calamari Pad Thai and talked about everything and nothing. We spent a lot of that evening driving aimlessly. I lamented the lack of a proper Edgar Rice Burroughs memorial when we wandered through the San Fernando Valley town of Tarzana. Our second date was an evening at Henry Jaglom's film "Falling in Love".

Twenty months later, we married, in a Presbyterian church in her native Kansas City, down green-carpeted aisles with understated floral arrangements, on a May day when the rain clouds brought a certain gravitas to the ceremony that the processional, Purcell's Trumpet Tune, could not quite manage. We headed out for a honeymoon in Nassau, flagging jitneys, eating conch. I lost my wedding ring snorkeling at the Holiday Inn Pirate Cove beach, but it was covered by a warranty. In marriage, one should savor as much warranty and guarantee and replacement as possible.

Many people find marriage more difficult as one goes on, but in our relationship, I'd have to say the first year of adjustment was by far the most difficult. Now, years later, it's not really difficult at all. The 12th of May was our 13th anniversary; sadly, I found myself in an airplane away from home on a work assignment, and we'll celebrate this weekend. We've now spent over 100,000 hours in the matrimonial state, but we can still talk about everything and nothing for hours on end.

Before I met my future wife, I labored under the impression that I was not to marry. But impressions do not define life; living does. Marry we did, and I'm very glad. The "traditional" gift for the 13th anniversary is lace. Each year of any good intertwined relationship can weave two people together, in patterns which never cease to surprise or to delight. Those first whispers of infatuated love are like a fireworks display, but a deeper love is like a planetarium show, in which the constellations weave in and out.

We don't live in Camelot, or in a Harlequin romance. We fight our own demons in our own ways. But I'm very glad when I return home at midnight, to our own home, in which we find such comfort. I'd weave this lace all over again.

back row home-owner

Tonight at the elementary school down the street our local homeowner's association had its first "real" meeting. For the first two years we owned our home, the association was controlled by the real estate developer. When enough homes were sold, governance reverts to the home owners themselves. Tonight was the first meeting to pick our neighborhood board's elected officials. I am in general allergic to home-owner's associations, finding that they give people not suited to power the power to make other people's lives difficult. I am in favor of keeping trucks off lawns, and in keeping kids on skateboards off the streets and on the school parking lot. But I do not wish to live in a neighborhood that sends out form letters about grass incursion in flower beds.

My wife and I decided to go to the meeting. My concern in such matters really amounts to trying, as best as I can, to ensure that I vote against anyone who says the phrases "I want to enforce every darn rule in the common covenants, no exceptions", "we need to stop people from daring to park their cars in front of their own homes" or "grass in the flowerbeds must be stopped at all costs!".

We sat on the very back row. I found myself, to my surprise, inclined to scowl more than once. I have a low tolerance for euphemism and corporate speak. When the attorney hired by the developer to draft the association documents discussed their "flexibility", I thought instead of the way in which rights of the developer were emphasized and made sacrosanct and the protections of the individual home-owners from the board were minimized. When the management company hired by the developer sought to emphasize her company's independence from the developer, I thought to myself that this independence never seemed so manifest in the days before the company wanted to be hired by the new board of directors. Note to self: have dinner before attending meetings, and always wear either a smile or a blank, quiet expression.

I flirted with the idea of running for the five member board of directors on a platform of moderation and "protection from government", but the ten people who did run seemed so earnest about it that I decided not to throw my hat into the ring. Each candidate got three minutes. I kept a tally. Any candidate who used the words "enforce all the rules" got the word "no" written beside his or her name. Each candidate who said "we should work together" got an "okay" by his or her name. My wife kept a similar tally, and in most things, our tallies agreed. So we voted our ballots. Afterwards, the questions droned on and on, so we left.

My issues are all askew, I suppose. I am eager for the city to put in better sunfish in the park pond next door, and to figure out how to reduce the green algae. But that issue isn't even in the board's charge.

Small time democracy is a good thing, I suppose. But I must have a conservative streak--I firmly believe that those home-owners govern best who try to govern each other's lives least.