Friday, March 22, 2013

Nineteen Freakin' Years

Today marks the nineteenth anniversary of my wife, Ndnd's, dumbest decision ever. At about 5 pm on the 22nd of March 1994, she married me, bringing to an end any chance for happiness in her life. Well, except the kids, they make her happy. Most of the time.

I know it's a bit personal, but I thought I'd share the story, as it marks sort of a major milestone in a personal journey from nice, gentle, innocent, peace-loving liberal to nasty, foul-mouthed, beer-swilling, gun-toting right-wing extremist. And I'm pretty awful, too.

Anyway, it's a bit of a ride, so pull up a chair, light up a smoke (if you can still afford one), grab a half-caf double soy extra skinny mochachino latte, or what ever you kids are drinking nowadays, and listen to your elder. I'm just gonna sit here with my bottle of Nyquil and type until I can't see or think straight. It's the thirteenth step, baby!

Anyway, I was in Hospital Corpsman Basic school out in San Diego, a young seaman (shut up, that's what they call new sailors) fresh from boot camp, and Ndnd came to visit me on spring break from Ohio University, home of the World Famous Court Street Shuffle and Halloween Extravaganza. Since I was living in open bay barracks at the time, there weren't a whole lot of places to stay that were both convenient to the school and affordable for a week. But we found a hotel at a reasonable rate, near enough to the bus line that would get me to the school on time.

I'd like to say we did a lot of touristy things that week, but mostly we just stayed in the hotel and, you know, visited. Because we hadn't seen each other in months. She eventually extended her stay to miss a few days of classes and fly back the following Wednesday, because we were having a good time together and didn't want it to end.

So, that Saturday, the 19th, we went with a couple of my friends and classmates to see a movie (Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Smell of Fear), and then to the bar of the Bayview Hotel where they had karaoke, which was not only a favorite pastime of ours, but allowed me to put my evil plan into motion.

In anticipation of that evening's sojourn, I had made the bus ride out past the airport to Tower records and dug through their karaoke section and found the song I wanted, but only on tape, which as any long-time karaoke aficionado will tell you means no lyrics on the screen. Fortunately, I knew that the host had the capability to play tape and not just the then standard CDs and laser discs. I brought the tape back to the barracks and practiced and practiced and practiced. I knew, and had known, the song for years, but I also knew that I could blow it big time. And there wouldn't be another chance to get it right. Side note: It's embarrassing to sing love songs in open bay barracks, especially when no women are allowed.

When we got to the hotel, we dug through the books for songs to sing and started putting our song slips in. I know I did one or two as warm-ups, before the place started getting crowded but I couldn't tell you what I sang. My memory of the karaoke that evening extends only to the few minutes before and after the one song I was there to sing, and make no mistake: That evening was about one song for me.

Finally, there were a bunch of people there and the time had come to make my move. I surreptitiously brought my tape, all cued up and ready to go, and asked the host if she would allow me to use her cordless microphone, which at the time was kind of a novelty: most karaoke setups used wired mikes. I went back to sit at the table with my nerves jangling and my heart in my throat.

Then, my name was called and I got up to sing. I announced that I wanted to dedicate the song to a special lady, and the song started playing. I don't know if you know Billy Joel's 'Just the Way You Are,' but it's a pretty romantic song. It falls perfectly into my voice range, and all my years of choir and voice lessons, combined with significant karaoke experience made it an easy song to sing, in theory. But you know, there's always a way to screw up a solo.

On the other hand, God was with me that night, and I hit all the notes perfectly, timed the words just right and basically nailed it. In the middle of the song, there's a musical interlude that lasts a decent amount of time, and I'd worked up a little speech I was going to give while it played. Of course, I couldn't remember a word of it when the time came. So I winged it.

I don't remember the exact words I used, but as I walked slowly through the audience (hence the cordless mike!) I told Ndnd that I knew we'd had troubled times in the past, and, though there were certainly rough times to come there was no one else I'd rather work through them with. With the exception of the music and me speaking, the room had gone near silent, which any karaoke fan will tell you is unusual. I could hear the people around me whispering, "Is he going to do it? I can't believe it. He's going to do it, isn't he!"

At last, I was standing in front of our table, with my friends sitting there wide-eyed and the biggest, most winning smile you've ever seen on Ndnd's face. As the music reached a crescendo, I got down one one knee and asked her to marry me. The music crested as she said "Yes," and the vocals started again. I hit every note perfectly. My speech fit the musical interlude to the second. Her response was at the exact perfect moment. I'd never had before, nor have I since had a moment that could have been on a movie screen and people would have scoffed, "Oh, that only happens in the movies!" I felt surrounded by a white light. All my senses were hypersensitive. It was the perfect performance at the perfect moment, and if I only ever have that one, I will at least have that one.

And hey, people bought us champagne, so, you know, free champagne.

The rest of the weekend was pretty normal, comparatively speaking. We went to Sea World, because, you know, Sea World. On Monday, I went back to school. I was not looking forward to Wednesday by any stretch of the imagination, as I knew lonely times were to follow.

On Tuesday afternoon, I got this feeling in my gut. We didn't have a name for it at the time, but we did soon after. We've got this thing we call Radar Love. Because, you know, the song. I went to the barracks and found a phone book at a payphone. I looked up wedding chapels, which are all over Southern California, because Californians have a tendency to get married in haste and repent at leisure. I found one on a bus line convenient to the hotel and made an appointment. Didn't ask, just made it. Five PM, Tuesday March 22nd, 1993, 19 years to the minute from when this post is scheduled to be published.

I hopped the bus back to the hotel and went to our room. When I walked in, on the bed, there was a phone book, opened to the Yellow Pages. Wedding chapel section. Remember I said, we've got this thing...

I looked at Ndnd and said, "Were you thinking of getting married before you leave?" She looked at me and said, with the decisiveness that I have come to know and love, "Yes. No. I don't know. Do you think we should?" I said, "Well if you want to, you'd better hurry, we have an appointment at five and the bus leaves in ten minutes."

We took the last $120 dollars that we had between us out of an ATM. The wedding cost $105, and I had a couple bucks on me, so we had enough for the ceremony, bus fare and dinner, and then bus fare for me to get to school the next day. We didn't even have enough for her to take a taxi to the airport the next morning for her very early flight. Fortunately, the hotel helped us out by calling in their airport driver early, but that came later.

We hopped the bus to the Wedding Bell Chapel on 5th Avenue in San Diego, making it to the chapel right in time. It was a bright, warm, sunny day, which isn't much of a rarity in San Diego, but we'd had quite a bit of rain during the visit, so it was a nice change. We walked in and there was a bunch of paperwork to be filled out, which we did. It's not very romantic, but what are you going to do? You have to dot the i's and cross the t's, especially in a liberal utopia like California.

Finally, it was time. We went into the sanctuary and the ceremony began. It took about five minutes and I remember it as the second hyper-real moment I'd had in 72 hours. I can still picture her standing there. In my memory, her long hair is blowing, as in a breeze, but there was no fan blowing, nor any draft that I remember, so I must have idealized it in my mind. But that's okay. No bride in any ten thousand dollar dress ever looked more beautiful than she did in her jeans and blouse. I couldn't believe this beautiful creature would consent to marry me, but in just a few minutes, we were permanently and irrevocably bound to each other. Soul mates for eternity. Split-aparts is the phrase Ndnd prefers, as if we were one soul split into two prior to birth, spending our whole lives searching for our other half, destined to unhappiness unless one finds the other.

When the ceremony was over, we walked Fifth Avenue to University to wait on the bus. We had a fair wait, and right at the bus stop was a store that sold naughty accessories, and, being a dirty little girl, she suggested going in. We just looked and laughed mostly, but we got her a little key ring that she kept in her purse until the purse was stolen (with $400 cash inside) on September 5, 2001. (I remember that date because it was the last Wednesday before that bright, clear, beautiful September morning that turned so quickly to a horror show in New York City.) They found her credit cards tossed all over Akron, but no trace of the purse or the little Happy Sperm key ring ever showed up. I will never forgive that pathetic scum for that. I would accept the loss of $400 and the problems of all the credit cards and ID needing cancelled and replaced to have that silly little key ring back.

We caught the bus back to Hotel Circle in Mission Valley and had our wedding dinner at the Wendy's just up the street from our hotel, pretty much exhausting our funds. Then we went back to the hotel room and, um, consummated the marriage. Numerous times. In the history of wedding nights, there may have been better, but I can't imagine how that could be.

So, that's the story of how Ndnd made her dumbest decision ever, and I made my best. I know there are those who say we are lucky we found each other because no one else could ever stand living with either of us (including me, Ndnd, our parents, and pretty much everyone who knows us), but I still think I got pretty lucky, with no qualifiers. I know we've had tough times in the past and will have tough times in the future. I know that sometimes, even in our love, we absolutely loathe each other. But the negative emotions are transient, while the love I have for my wife is eternal and undying. Now if only I could convince HER of that...



UPDATE: I totally did the "MY POWER IS BEYOND YOUR UNDERSTANDING!" thing to Jake Johansson tonight. He gave a big smile and said that that was an old one. He was great. Highly Recommended.


  1. Those were the most romantic days of my life. You completely swept me off my feet! Everything was perfect- it was like a movie, only better, because it was happening to me! And, yes, you do know how I love public displays of amore (what girl doesn't?) It was unreal to me that we were both thinking of getting married at the same time! We have always had that radar love thing going on ;) It was the most spur of the moment, romantic thing, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way! I love you, too, split apart!

    1. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, except the second time, I would have insisted you tell your parents we were married well before our first anniversary. :D

      And seriously, what good is a big church wedding when you can do something out of a [Insert current popular female romantic comedy star here] movie and have THAT story to tell your grandkids?

  2. I love that you were practicing in your barracks-you're so sweet! Also, I too lament the loss of the Happy Sperm :(

    1. I didn't want to mess it up. And as you saw tonight, it's quite difficult to fit everything important you have to say into that little interlude.

    2. I had an impromptu wedding at a Justice of the Peace in Hawai'i (where we both lived) and then a fancy wedding in an old fashioned chapel in Pennsylvania. So you can do both.

    3. Actually, we had a church wedding a few years later, but I couldn't tell you what year or even the date. It was sometime in April, maybe 1998 or 1999. The first one was the one that really stuck with us.