Friday, October 05, 2007

LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN

Kathy and I will have been married for seven years on October 7th. I said this last year and I still mean it: where did the time go?!! It’s been nine years since we started dating and it seems like last week. Of course, if I really flog my brain to recall what I was like back then, it can feel like ages ago.

In 1998, I was a pretty up-tight, closed-off workaholic who’d rather have a root canal than go on a date. My last date had occurred six years earlier and that was a blind one at that. I can honestly say I was a complete gentleman and did nothing that could be viewed as an offense to the woman. Still, she never returned my phone calls. It was fine with me if she didn’t want to see me again, but I was really hurt that she didn’t think I even deserved to be told that over the phone. Pretending I didn’t exist put a major wound on my fragile self-esteem and I plunged into a deep depression for about six months (there were other factors leading to this emotional collapse, but I won’t go into them now). Anyway, once I had pulled myself together, I swore off dating and preoccupied myself completely with work. Not such a great plan since I hated my job almost as much as dating. After six years of long hours and virtually no social life, I was a pretty miserable soul. God knows what Kathy could’ve seen in me then, but thankfully she saw something and prodded me into a first date.

Looking back, that first date was kind of a mini-tour of Baltimore kitschiness. We actually double-dated with the couple who introduced us, which was great for me since I was completely at a loss as to what to do. Kathy kindly set the itinerary. First, we had dinner at the Paper Moon Diner on 29th Street. Situated in a converted house, the Paper Moon Diner is painted in garish colors and decorated with funky odds and ends (the front yard sports a naked mannequin in a bear-claw tub and a toilet with flowers growing out of the bowl). Inside, the walls and ceiling are speckled with action figures and toy planes. The primary colors continue throughout and the furnishings are a mixed bag, from 50s-style diner tables to rickety wooden ones that have seen better days.

The current menu looks to be pared down to diner favorites, but back then they had some more adventurous offerings. Although I really wanted the meat loaf, I tried to show my versatility by ordering the veggie quesadilla. Kathy thought it was an odd choice and my style of eating was even odder. I was so nervous on that date, I was terrified that sour cream would dribble down my chin or a chunk of artichoke would fly from my mouth. As a result, I practically buried my face in my plate while I ate. Kathy later said she felt sorry for me. I guess I did seem kinda pathetic, although I had no idea how stupid I looked at the time.

After dinner, we went to The Senator Theatre to see John Waters’ Pecker. I mean to say his motion picture titled Pecker. For those who don’t know, The Senator is the only functioning single screen theatre in Baltimore; a throwback to a time when movie houses were palaces of fantasy and escapism. For anyone who has never experienced such a movie theatre, it’s hard to explain how special it feels to walk up to such a place on a busy city street, step under the glowing, neon marquee, pay for your tickets at the outdoor ticket booth (you don’t even have to specify which movie since there’s only one), and step through the glass doors into the round art-deco lobby. The rest rooms have furnished waiting areas, and the interior of the theatre is aglow with spears of colorful, indirect lighting emanating from the walls and ceiling. Before each show, the theatre’s owner, Tom Kiefaber, provides a pre-recorded lecture on the theatre and its upcoming attractions. Most of the speech is the same, so regulars can recite key sections of it like a sing-a-long.

That night, we saw the latest John Waters movie. I even learned a new term: tea bagging. I won’t go into its meaning here. John Waters, of course, is a Baltimore fixture and the city’s documentarian of all that is quirky, seedy, and crass about Baltimore (I mean that in a good way). He’s also someone you will most likely spot somewhere if you live here long enough. His house was only a block or so away from where Kathy lived back then. It may sound silly, but it feels kinda special to have such an internationally known celebrity in your midst, especially someone who’s made a living out of celebrating your hometown.

After the movie, we went back to Kathy’s house where our friends departed. I was pretty wiped from painting my kitchen earlier in the day, but I didn’t want the date to end. I was so grateful when Kathy made me a rich, strong cup of coffee that fortified me so we could talk into the wee hours of the morning. I was amazed at how easy the date was. We had so much in common and what we didn’t have in common, we found fascinating in each other. Given how little I had dated, the odds of hitting the jackpot so quickly were astronomical. Somebody upstairs must’ve taken a shine to me.

I don’t have any coherent way of tying this together. I’m reminded of a line from Our Town that was spoken by Dr. Gibbs to his wife prior to their son getting married. I say I’m reminded of it, but I can’t remember the exact words and I don’t have a copy of the play handy. Anyhow, in effect he said that, on their first date together, he was so nervous because he thought they wouldn’t have anything to talk about. Still, they dated and got married and stayed married for many years and the whole time, they were never at a loss for conversation. When Kathy and I sit across from each other after dinner every evening and chat about the day’s events and politics and gossip and pop culture, I think about how incredible it is that we’re never at a loss for things to say and we’ve never lost interest in each other. I look forward to many more years of conversation.

Happy anniversary sweetie!

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Awww.... I am a lucky, lucky woman!