Friday, April 29, 2011

Start Counting

Jerry and I have been together 29 years.

MAY 1982.  NINE MONTHS ALONG.

Well, 29 years, 8 months, 12 days, 22 hours, and some additional minutes.

We'll celebrate our 30th anniversary in Spain.

When did we start counting? For lack of a better idea, we started counting the moment we met, since we were hardly ever apart from that first day. It was the moment after Jerry squeezed my elbow as he walked by me during Sunday afternoon tea dance at Chaps in Copley Square, just across the alley from the Boston Public Library.

The moment after I turned to find myself lost in eyes the color of clouds and sky.

CHAPS.  MORE CIVILIZED DURING SUNDAY AFTERNOON TEA DANCE.

The moment after I decided I didn't care if I had only minutes before seen him talking to my very recently ex (and only real) "boyfriend" — I was still going to go home with him.

SAN JUAN.  OUR FIRST ROMANTIC (AND VERY AWKWARD), GETAWAY.

We could have started counting three months later when we flew to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for what was supposed to be a romantic week-long escape from Boston's cold, damp November winds. The week when we were asked at the guest house, Arcos Blancos, if we were lovers and answered in dissonant harmony, "No. Well, yes. But ... Well ..." and then smiled and, red-faced, shrugged our shoulders. 

We could have stopped counting during that same trip to Puerto Rico.  When Jerry got cold feet — because it appeared we had fallen completely in love — and told me he thought it would be good for us to see other people.  Or when I very grudgingly agreed before he, back in Boston a few days later, changed his mind.  (And, for a few minutes at least, I wasn't so sure anymore.)

An appropriate time to start counting might have been six months in, three months after we survived San Juan.  When I sat in Jerry's tiny kitchen and told him he needed to either say good-bye to his checklist (the one that documented all his requirements for a perfect mate) or say good-bye to me.  And, without hesitation, he said good-bye to his checklist.  (I had met the height/weight requirement... and a few others.)

THE HOUSE ON THE LEFT.  "HOLY CRAP. WHAT HAVE I DONE?"

I suppose we could have started counting one month later — seven months after we first met. The day I gave up my urban-chic, completely renovated top floor in a South End brownstone, and watched the movers squeeze my solid-birch platform bed, Haitian-cotton love seat (purchased half price at Macy's warehouse in NY), miscellaneous antique pieces, along with the boxes of audio cassettes, books, photo albums, dishes, clothing, furniture, and stuff amassed over a 27-year lifetime, into the last bit of remaining space in Jerry's one-bedroom, smaller but urban-chic'er Beacon Hill row-house flat.

That first night spent in what had been my, but was now our, bed. A night Jerry spent snoring peacefully while I lay beside him. Sleepless. On my back. Eyes wide and staring dry and unblinking at the ceiling 12 feet above. Thinking, "I've given up my apartment. I have nowhere to go. What if this doesn't work out? What have I done? What have I done? Holy crap. What have I done?"

1985.  I SHAVED AFTER OUR HOUSEKEEPER, AGNES,
SAID WE LOOKED LIKE THE SMITH BROS.

But, we didn't start counting then or in another eight months when we decided we couldn't bear the thought of spending one more winter in raw, damp, windy Boston.  So quit our jobs, packed our things, and flew west to L.A. to discover that we had become — in addition to lovers — best friends. And that L.A. was definitely not where we belonged, so moved again seven months later, this time to Washington, D.C.

SOMEONE ELSE'S WEDDING, '91
If, early on, we had been able to legally marry, we would have started counting on our wedding day. But, we weren't. So, we didn't.

If we had not each separately, years earlier, lost our religion, we might have considered having a commitment ceremony. If only to finally have a rite from which to count. But, by the time we began to seriously consider an "official" commitment, we had already been together more than 15 years. And we wondered what it would imply about our first 15 years together to suddenly say, "OK, now we're committed."

I didn't consider beginning to count when, after we had spent only a year together, Jerry's oldest friend, Joan, asked me why I loved him and — finally stopping to think about it — I realized it was because he was exceptional. And gifted.  And flawed.  And funny.  And abundantly human.  And that, when he let "his South Dakota" come out, he was the kindest person I had ever met.  And I would love him unconditionally for as long as I could imagine.

So, we did not start counting on the day we first referred to each other as "lover" because "boyfriend" sounded silly and "partner" was at the time considered politically cowardly. Nor the day we stopped referring to each other as "lover" and began saying "partner" — because "lover" didn't say enough (we had both had at least a few lovers, after all) and "partner" had become acceptable.

I still find myself searching for the appropriate word for us. Partner confuses people, which was made especially apparent when we went to Norway in 1998 and met some cousins for the first time.  They thought Jerry was traveling with his business partner. After they were temporarily befuddled by the fact that I knew the names of every family member in their photo album, they finally realized we were "husbands."  But I sadly cannot get comfortable referring to Jerry as my husband.

LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA, '93.  NOT EVEN DOMESTIC PARTNERS.

I'm still searching for that word that would define who we are as opposed to who we are not. Sometimes, I call Jerry my "spouse." Some have called us "significant others." Until we were legally married in Iowa in 2010, I would sometimes, half-jokingly refer to Jerry as my "domestic partner," since, in California in 2003 we legally became at least that. Sometimes I say "life partner" or "the love of my life." Too many imperfect choices for something the straight marrieds in our midst can say so simply. 

But, after all, why do we even have to be defined?

So, what I find myself saying is, "Jerry and I have been together 29 years." And although I usually don't stop to count the months, days, hours — and additional minutes — I am grateful for every single one.




Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jerryism #5


"IT AIN'T THE HEAT, IT'S THE HUMILITY."
— Yogi Berra

Lately, we've been finding it's not always easy to get an inside table at Peet's.  When the weather is nice, it doesn't matter, but on those still slightly chilly mornings (i.e., under 65F), we like to be warm and cozy... and so apparently does everyone else.  We think if we get there after 10 on weekday mornings, we should be fine.  But, that's not always the case.

"FRANKLY, MY DEAR, I DON'T GIVE A DAMN."
(BUT HER NAME WAS SCARLETT.)

We had another cool morning last week.  As we were leaving home, I suggested that maybe we were a little too early and would hit the morning rush.  Intending to cleverly suggest that there was no predicting the crowd and that he was willing to just deal with it, Jerry began his pithy, famous-movie-line (he thought) retort:

JERRYISM #5
"Frankly, Charlotte..."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nothing Says Holidays Like A Cheese Log

Thanks go to Ellen Degeneres for the title of this post (thanks go to Ellen Degeneres for a lot of things).

I went through all 10 large Rubbermaid tubs of Christmas ornaments and decorations that were stacked in the garage, and I was relieved to find not one single holiday cheese log.

HERBS OR MOLD?
I had expected (and hoped) that downsizing our Christmas collection would be easy.  It was.  The original 10 tubs have been reduced to only two.  Everything else is going to Goodwill.  Some happy thrift-store shoppers will find, among other things, 75 Hallmark ornaments (in their original boxes), a set of 24 silk penguins, 4 beautiful silk figures that Jerry brought back from China.  (Interesting that those ornaments sound so much more impressive when I say Jerry brought them back from China... as opposed to silk ornaments "made in China.")  There are boxed sets of glass ornaments — not the traditional colored balls, but tinted large tear-drops and other forms.  All beautiful and all surprisingly easy to part with.

JULENISSE.

We've got a collection of carved/cast Santas that stood every year on our fireplace mantel — when we had a fireplace mantel.  These Santas were given to us, one each year, by our nephews (and I will continue to believe that a 5- and 7-year-old came up with the idea and then shopped every year all the way through high school).  Anyway, it doesn't matter, the Santas will always make us think of Ryan and Matt.  We'll find a new home for them (the Santas) in Spain.  All five of our Norwegian Julenisse (Christmas gnomes or Norwegian Santa Clauses) are definitely going with us.  We bought the two shown here on our first trip to Norway.  Another was brought to us as a Christmas gift one year when our cousins Jan Olaf and Inger visited us in Santa Barbara.  And the other two are beautiful hand-crafted Julenisse made for us by our cousin Ellen.  (They're too carefully wrapped to photograph right now.)

THE DRAWING IMMEDIATELY BECAME AN ORNAMENT.

We kept special gifts given to us over the years, unusual blown-glass ornaments, one-of-a-kinds, Jerry's baby rattle, a sweet drawing of "Annie" given to us in 1983 by a little girl named Sarah — our friends' daughter who has remained our friend herself.  At that time, Sarah was a bit obsessed with "Annie" the musical (her sister Anne, born in 1984, is living proof).  Now, Sarah is a 30-something mother of two and Anne travels the world.  Time flies like an arrow (fruit flies like a banana).

A KEEPER.  I DON'T THINK WE'LL BE ABLE TO FIND ONE IN SPAIN.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jerryism #4

It just doesn't always connect with his mouth.

Jerryisms.  Malapropisms.  Fractured American idioms.  Spoonerisms.  I've thought of putting together a book of Jerry's most entertaining verbal fumbles.

"WE HAVE DEEP DEPTH." — Yogi Berra

We got to Peet's a bit late Tuesday morning, as if we were back in Sevilla; it was almost noon when we finally arrived for our morning coffee.  While we were there we were joking with two of our favorite baristas, Breezy and Natalie, about Jerryisms.  And that reminded me of one from a few years back.

MAYNARD AND DOBIE, DE-STRESSED.
MAYNARD WAS AN ESPECIALLY POOR TRAVELER.

When we  made our move in the late '90s from San Diego to San Francisco, we decided to take a leisurely drive up the coast instead of stuffing ourselves onto a plane.  We boarded the cats with a service that would fly them up to San Francisco once we arrived.  We felt a little guilty, but decided it would be a much more pleasant drive without two stressed-out cats yowling incessantly from the back seat.  We spent two nights on the road — for what should have been a one-day drive.  Our first night was spent 3-1/2 hours up the coast in Santa Barbara.


While we were getting ready for bed that night, Jerry intoned:

JERRYISM #4
"Kitties, I'm communicating with you telepathetically."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Without Music, Life Would Be A Mistake

— Nietzsche

I have spent many hours in recent days numbering and cataloging our music CD collection.  I know all the music should just be moved to my iPod, but it takes a long time to transfer all that music.  Out of a total of 360 CDs (after setting aside more than 50 for my next trip to Goodwill), I have only 63 on my iPod.

THE ECLECTIC MIX... BEFORE NUMBERING

So, the CDs are all numbered, listed on a spreadsheet with their corresponding genre, and placed in vinyl sleeves (8 CDs to a sheet).

SOME OF THE MESS AFTER NUMBERING BUT BEFORE "SLEEVING."

All I have left to do is buy binders for the CD pages; two or three should do.  The binders will be packed in a box and shipped to Spain (except for a travel pack we'll take with us on our road trip to South Dakota).  Once we're in Spain, I'll have to figure out what to do with them all.  We currently have a 5-foot-tall, swiveling CD tower; I don't want to haul that around the world — or have it take up space wherever we settle.  Maybe I'll just put the binders on a bookshelf.

NOT LIMITED TO:  THE ESSENTIAL BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, MOBY, IZ,
BACH, LOTS OF BROADWAY, AND PLENTY OF BETTE MIDLER

And, yes, Jerry, I understand from past experience when I first organized the CDs on the 5-foot-tall, swiveling CD tower all those years ago that some of my music classifications (my so-called genres) are confusing to you.  That's why you can also sort the spreadsheet alphabetically or search any keyword.  And, of course, you can continue to do what you always do: Pretend there's no order whatsoever and hunt.  (Just like the cookbooks and the spices.)


Speaking of spices... when we get to Spain, should I alphabetize the spices by their English or their Spanish names?

Monday, April 18, 2011

There It Was, Hidden In Alphabetical Order

BOXES OF BOOKS
We have spent another day in the garage going through boxes.  This time it's books.  And sorting through three boxes of cookbooks reminds me of a couple of stories.  But as you probably realize, everything reminds me of a couple (at least) stories.

Jerry, the former librarian, has always taken very good care of his books.  He knows the proper way to shelve them, the proper way to stack them, and the proper way to handle them.  He could never, however, be bothered with organizing them.

We always had shelf upon shelf of books in no particular order.  In San Diego in the '90s, we had a library off our kitchen.  The cookbooks sat on their own several shelves (because when I unpacked, I put them there).  Any time Jerry wanted a recipe, he would search the shelves of randomly placed cookbooks to find the one he needed.

A BIT OF OUR ORGANIZED SAN DIEGO LIBRARY.

One day, I had the brilliant idea to organize the cookbooks so Jerry's culinary life and my aesthetic life would be that much more pleasant.  While Jerry was out, I spent a couple of hours alphabetizing the cookbooks.  I was so happy with the results — order out of chaos — that I decided to do the same with our mess of spices in one of the kitchen cabinets.  When I finished (and it didn't take long at all), the spices were in alphabetical order on stepped shelving and two-tiered turntables (which, oddly, I always had on hand and which should tell you something about my personality), easily visible, easily reachable, and exactly where they were supposed to be.  I couldn't wait for Jerry to get home.

When Jerry walked in the door, I pointed at the bookshelves and announced, "Look what I did!"

"What?"

"I alphabetized the cookbooks!"

He sputtered.  "Well, using what system?"

"What?"

"Where did you put the Sunset ground beef cookbook?"

"What?"

"Well, did you put it under Sunset or Ground.  Or is it under Beef?  How am I supposed to find anything?"

EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE.

"I also alphabetized the spices," I commented as I walked into the kitchen.

THE SPICES OF LIFE...
IF YOU KNOW WHERE TO LOOK.
"But...  What system did you use?  Is black pepper under Pepper?  Is it under Black?  What about red pepper?  Or Spanish Paprika?  Is Ground Cumin under Cumin or is it under Ground?"

"Jerry, tell me, what system do YOU use for organizing the spices and the cookbooks?"

"I don't use any.  I just search for what I need."

"OK, then, just pretend everything is still a complete mess and keep searching."

I felt very clever.  Unfortunately, the problem with my plan was that it required Jerry to always put the cookbooks and spices back where he found them.  Oh, well.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jerryism #3



HOPSCOTCH. 
POSSIBLY THE ORIGIN OF THE EXPRESSION "BACK TO SQUARE ONE."

We thought we had made some major progress yesterday resolving a challenging item on our to-do list only to discover an hour later that what we thought would work would not.

When Jerry realized the sad truth, he announced...

JERRYISM #3
"I feel like we're back to square zero."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jerryism #2


WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE TO "ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES.

SALMON NOT "GOING WITH THE FLOW."
  
JERRYISM #2
"Flow with the punches."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Consulate, Gilligan's Island, and More Spanish Cooking

Our visa applications have been successfully submitted!  During our meetings Tuesday morning, we received commendations for our perfectly prepared paperwork (all credit goes to Jerry).

MY ACCORDION FILE TAKEN TO THE CONSULATE.  JERRY HAD ONE, TOO.

Everything was in perfect order.  Our health insurance was exactly what was required.  Our translations were certified as needed.  Our photos were the right size.  We had enough copies (and then some) of all the originals.  When we arrived at the consulate, we were greeted warmly.  The people we worked with were charming, knowledgeable, and exceptionally efficient.  It was a great experience.  We should have our visas in three months.  Maybe less.  So, now we just relax.  Well, really, now we can focus entirely on getting rid of our stuff.

MARINER'S VILLAGE, WHERE WE LIVED.  NO, THAT'S NOT JERRY IN THE BOAT.

On our way home from the consulate, we went by way of Marina del Rey — where we lived for seven months in '82/'83 — and had lunch at The Warehouse.  We chose the place just because we happened to pass it as we drove around the Marina.  Once we walked in the door, however, I recognized it as a place we frequented when we lived there.  It was easy to recognize.  Nothing had changed.  All the decor — including the carpeting and upholstery I'm pretty certain — was exactly as it had been in 1983.  Sadly, the place had the smell of 30-year-old carpet and upholstery.  But, the mahi mahi sandwiches were excellent.  So it wasn't a bad choice.  In case you never knew, the "tropic port" depicted in the opening credits of "Gilligan's Island" was in reality Marina del Rey.

GILLIGAN. THE SKIPPER, TOO.  THE MILLIONAIRE AND HIS... ETC.

Wednesday night, Jerry cooked up another delicious dinner from the pages of his Spanish cookbook, "The New Spanish Table."  This time we had Moorish Chicken and Nut Pie (olive oil, onion, chicken stock, chicken, paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, tomatoes, raisins, sea salt, puff pastry, pine nuts, almonds, egg, milk, and finished off with confectioner's sugar).  Unbelievably good.  And we managed to restrain ourselves, which meant we had enough for lunch on Thursday.

MOORISH CHICKEN AND NUT PIE.

Today, we met a dear and wonderful San Diego friend for a farewell-for-now lunch at The Public House in Temecula.  If you haven't been there and you can get there, you should.  Unusual menu.  Fantastic food.  The best, by far, service.  Huge portions.  We finished off, well Jerry and I did, with their "S'mores" dessert, which was sinful and, if possible, even better than it sounded (graham cracker, marshmallow, chocolate ganache, chocolate brownie, fresh vanilla cream).

OUR S'MORES AT THE PUBLIC HOUSE...  BEFORE WE HAD AT IT.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Now Is The Right Time

— Lotus Sutra

We have all our paperwork done and we're ready for our appointments Tuesday morning at the Spanish Consulate. The paperwork we have now includes items we didn't realize we needed until last week when I initially scheduled our appointment (singular) and discovered we needed two separate appointments, some duplicate paperwork, and some more notarization.  We think we're all set this time.  The process can be a bit daunting (and expensive), but the Spanish Consulate in L.A. has been amazingly quick to respond to our questions... and very clear in their responses.  So, as I said, we think we're all set this time.

So far, the biggest challenges — or perhaps simply the most confusion — have revolved around what constitutes a certified translation and how to obtain regulation-size photos for our visas.  We found a certified translator.  They notarized their translations, so we think we've met and probably exceeded the requirements.  Standard passport photos are produced 2 x 2.  Visa photos need to be a minimum of 1-3/16 x 1 and a maximum of 1-6/8 x 1-3/8.  Those sizes make a little more sense in centimeters I'm sure, but the standard 2 x 2 won't work.

PABLO ESCOBAR
We finally did obtain our visa photos (leaving enough white space so that we could trim them ourselves to within the required range).  And we were pleasantly surprised when Jerry's official photo did not bear any resemblance to what we thought Pablo Escobar's brother might look like, which is what Jerry insists all his government-issued photos have looked like for 20 years. 

I just looked up Roberto Escobar (Pablo's brother) and I compared photos of Roberto to those of Pablo.  I then compared them both to those bad photos of Jerry (which, for Jerry's sake, I will not post here).  After careful review, I have decided that Jerry's mug shots have always made him, unfortunately, look more like Pablo than Roberto.  I say "unfortunately" because although Pablo appears to have been better looking, Roberto was the lesser of two evils.


HIS BROTHER, ROBERTO

Anyway, Jerry really doesn't look much like either of the Escobars.  His various ID photos over the years have simply not been very flattering.  

DO YOU KNOW THIS MAN?

My visa photo is of a balding man with slicked-back black and white hair.  The man in the picture also has a salt and pepper beard.  He looks like he's been around the block a few times.  I don't know who he is, but apparently he's been passing himself off as me.

WONDER IF I CAN USE THIS PHOTO FOR MY VISA.