The Wife

“Doesn’t she have a name?”

Yes she does. Thanks for asking.

She doesn’t want to see her name used on the blog, or when I happen to reference her in other online forums. She probably doesn’t want her name associated with my writing in much the same way that Margaret has been associated over time with an amazing ability to argue about anything. She has never understood why I use my own name on my own work.

“That is what a nom de plume is for.”

I am who I am. Like Popeye. Or Descartes. There is no hiding who I am behind another name. It will eventually come back to me as it does to other authors who continue to work at their writing. All I have to do is keep writing long enough and someone will notice it is me writing whether I want them to or not. But I don’t have to use her name or the children’s names. I can do that favor for them, so I will.

I started calling her the wife because it annoyed a co-worker to hear me refer to her that way. This was back when I worked for Tom Hatch, a lifetime and more ago. So, being the considerate person that I am, I’ve used no other reference for her since that time and the appellation just naturally migrated to the blog because of this. The wife has always referred to me as her significant other, which I find clever and cute at the same time. This is probably the reason we are still together after all these years.

Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyesspotifyamazon

At some point in the fourteen years since I first crafted a narrative for explaining the significance of the wife the proverbial “I can’t remember when we weren’t together” moment has occurred. I know that those moments existed, and that they mattered to me before she was a part of my life. They mattered until they didn’t matter anymore. My life is now defined by the beautiful woman I’ve been married to for over a quarter century. Defined by the two children we’ve raised together, both of them adults now.

Does this mean that I’m old?  Never. The children keep me young. They keep me young, while reminding me just how old I really am. Reality is a bitch like that. We both agreed we wanted children, way back in the pre-marriage days. If we were to get married, we would have children. We would be for each other and nobody else, until death do us part. Straying from each other would mean death showed up just a little bit earlier than death had planned.

I moved to Austin alone at the end of 1988, the beginning of 1989. Moved in with friends who were renting from a homeowner. In between the time I moved to Austin and the time I went back to get married and bring the wife to Austin with me, the housing market had collapsed in Texas and our friends were squatting in the house they had been renting, a house that ended up being owned by the Resolution Trust Corporation. The precursor tremors of this collapse is what made me relocate from San Angelo to Austin in the first place. Architecture work had dried up and so had a lot of the other work that easy access to Savings and Loan money had made possible. The tightening financial situation had everyone at each other’s throats and it felt like it was time for a change.

When I moved to Austin I also wanted to confirm, in my heart, that I couldn’t live without the wife-to-be. I suspected this was the case, but I had been utterly wrong on that score before, many times. There is nothing quite like temporary separation to prove where one’s heart lies. It took scant months for me to realize I was completely out of my depth in Austin without my trusty wingman. I had to have her back at my side. I would make an honest woman of her or die trying. I made a special trip back to San Angelo just to propose to her.

Sting – If I Ever Lose My Faith In Youspotifyamazon

We were married thirty-two years ago today. Well, actually, that’s not the half of it. She graduated college on Friday, we got married on Saturday, and we moved to Austin on Sunday. It was a weird weekend. Her parents were in town for the graduation and helped us pack up the house the day after the wedding. They stayed to haul all our worldly possessions to Austin and brought the big horse trailer along with them from Oklahoma to do the job.

The wedding was planned by several mutual friends. Colors selected, dresses made, location reserved. Judge in attendance, annoyed at the lateness of the ceremony, but happy to be there for us all the same. It was a beautifully scripted event right up to the point where it ended. The happy, barely conscious couple kisses and then realizes no one has choreographed how to exit the arbor the wedding was held in. We all look blankly at each other.

The wife says, “Weddings over, see you at the reception.” and I laugh.

Did you notice the arbor reference? Yes, we were outside. It rained. It didn’t rain much, we were dry before the ceremony was over. It’s the principle of the thing. Mother nature rained on our outdoor wedding, whatever that means. That wasn’t all. There was also a tornado after the reception and the trees across most of San Angelo were stripped bare of leaves when we emerged from the hotel we spent our wedding night in.

Late ceremony? My best man and my brother the bridegroom went out for donuts right before the ceremony. They went to Dunkin’ Donuts in their tuxedos on the way to the wedding. Of course there was a delay getting the donuts so they were late. The soon-to-be-wife paid the final gas bill in her wedding gown while waiting for them (moving next day) At the reception, opening the champagne for toasts, I was instructed to “aim for his head!” My brother or the best man? Both at the same time? I missed everyone with the cork. This was probably the smart move.

Supertramp – Give a Little Bitspotifyamazon

When my brother was married a few years later, we wrapped their wedding present in donut boxes. Bright pink and orange Dunkin’ Donuts to go boxes taped together in an unholy hodge-podge of a wrapping accident. I don’t think either one of them appreciated the joke. The wife and I laughed for weeks.  Joy is in the ears that hear, or maybe revenge is a dish best served cold. Best served cold, like donuts are before you dip them in coffee.

What’s that smell?

Is that all? Not really. The batteries on the stereo gave out before the wedding march ended. It was the drunken wedding march before the player crapped out completely. The wife-to-be’s garter fell off more than once and had to be retrieved so that it could then be removed again properly at the reception. The Superman and Lois Lane outfits we discovered secreted away in our hotel room on our wedding night. The tornado damage the next day as we are driving out of town, heading for Austin.

Tom Cochrane – Life is a Highwayspotifyamazon

Driving, not much unlike how we met the first time. We met at work, four years prior to that day. We both drove test cars. Not vroom-vroom racing, and not on a track. Tire testing on regular highways in stripped-down cars:

The too long; didn’t read version of the story is this; eight hours a day trapped in a car, driving what was known in popular parlance as the double-nickel. Boring fifty-five dead-level miles an hour for four hundred miles per shift. The cars drove two shifts a day even if the drivers didn’t and since the vehicles traveled 800 miles a day 7 days a week, they tended to break down unexpectedly. If you were the lucky one whose car broke down, you were stranded with that broken down vehicle until the tow truck could come and get you and your car.

Blue Öyster Cult – Don’t Fear the Reaperspotifyamazon

Some of us were a little edgy about the wait for the tow truck for up to three hours situation and would carry weapons with us on the off chance that we might need them while trapped sitting on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t want to hassle with a gun so I carried a decent sized butterfly knife which I barely knew how to use.

I did nothing during my driving shift aside from chew up my guts worrying about everything that I wasn’t doing because I was trapped in a car. No phones, not even radio stations for most of the drive. Just a CB radio and whatever portable music you brought with you. I hated the job. It was the destruction of my one avenue of solace at the time, driving for pleasure. The only time I had to think was when I was driving, and driving eight hours a day every day was killing me with over-thinking my far too simple life.

This was where I was mentally on that fateful day when I was introduced to the person that I would come to affectionately refer to as the wife. Strung out on too much caffeine, like all drivers are. Mentally frazzled from eight hours of self-flagellation at all the mistakes I had made in life up to that point, including the screw-ups in timing and spacing that I was supposed to keep track of as the tail driver over the last eight hour shift. Bored with my music. Bored with my life. I was anxious to go home, smoke a joint and just mellow out.

Over my shoulder I hear “Hey, Tony, this is that girl I wanted you to meet.” Oh, right. The one with a knife like mine. She said she would show me how to use it. I turn around and I notice her grin first. This was a setup. I should have known. “I hear you want to meet my baby.” she says. “This is my baby.” She draws out a blade that is a good two inches longer than the butterfly knife that I carried and casually flips it back and forth without even checking to see that she is holding it right.

spotify & amazon playlists

I don’t know if I’m going to see blood or some other kind of demonstration next. Then I notice her eyes. They were grey-green. I’d never seen anything like them before. Not anywhere. Those witches eyes, framed by strawberry-blonde hair, and that impish grin on her pixie face. I was simultaneously in love with her and terrified of her all at the same time, in that very first instant. Casual authority. The way she just flipped that knife around, in exactly the kind of way that I didn’t do unless I wanted to be bandaging a cut in the next moment. That was freaking me out the most.

I think I said “Oh, is that how it works.” Then I showed her my tiny blade, which she laughed at. She proceeded to show me which end of the handle to hold and how to flip it around without cutting myself. Then she demonstrated how to stealth drop one side of the two-part butterfly handle so that she could gut someone in a single motion from draw to finishing stroke. A stroke that stopped mere fractions of an inch from my gut. Yep. I was terrified. She was my dream and my nightmare all in one woman. I had to get out of there or I was going to faint. I made my excuses and fled home to the apartment I shared with a roommate, a roommate who was rhythmically banging his date of the week on the other side of my bedroom wall.

Supertramp – Logical Songspotifyamazon

I was out at a Circle K down the street from my shared apartment, meeting another friend a few days later. I was there to pick up a box of comic books, the third one that this particular friend had sold to me. I’m pretty sure he was trying to seduce me with this contraband. Why do I think that? He had tried taking me to gay bars for several weeks at this point in time. Gay bars that he pretended weren’t actually gay bars and then feigned surprise when I noticed that there were no girls and that the guys around us were sitting just a little bit too close. Since that tactic hadn’t worked, he had decided he might have more success appealing to my love of heroic fiction and calling me back to a time before inhibition had closed off the kinds of drives he wanted to exploit with me.

As I was standing there going through the box of books, haggling over a price, I notice a familiar face drive up next to us. It’s that knife-girl. My knees got weak. She was there to get her Dr. Pepper, her lifeblood. She had bailed out of the little lakehouse that she and her estranged husband still shared on inertia alone and drove into town to get a change of scenery and to drop some quarters in the video game arcade down the street from where I was haggling over comics with my friend.

She saw the box of comics and her eyes lit up. “Is there any Superman?” she asked. I knew I had to get to know her better, right then and there. I completely forgot about the friend who had been trying so desperately to get me to open up to him for weeks and I don’t even remember his name now. She and I thanked him for the trade and we piled into our separate cars, then she followed me back to my apartment.

As we went through my most recent acquisitions on my bedroom floor, as well as dragging out the two previous boxes of books that I had acquired so she could see what treasures were hidden there, we discussed the other things that we had in common. Not only was she into comic books and a video game fanatic like me, she was also into Star Trek and speculative fiction too. This was too much for the both of us to ignore.

I had been looking all my life for another castaway from my home planet. Another refugee in this backwater chock full of mundanes, someone who understood what Science Fiction was and why it was the modern day equivalent to mana from heaven. We looked deep into each others nerdy eyes, and then kissed like it was the first time for both of us. We made love for the first time right there on top of that pile of comic books.

Dr Hook – “Sharing The Night Together” (1978)spotifyamazon

So the way into my heart that my friend had tried to exploit worked perfectly, it just didn’t work perfectly for him. I used those comics to seduce The wife instead, and then I married her. Thanks, man. I wish I could remember your name.

32 Years Ago Today Babe. Happy Anniversary

We lived together for just shy of four years before we tied the knot, got married, made the relationship official. We pretended that we weren’t living together for all of those years so that her parents wouldn’t know she was living in sin. They were from a different time, a completely different world than ours; and they’re both gone now. No harm in letting that cat out of the bag. We were shagging it for years before we told you mom and dad. Hope you didn’t mind.

In 2006 I started marking anniversaries by writing a piece with this title, adding to the first one rather than subtracting from it when I could, Just like our love for each other evolves and becomes more complex over time. May it continue on in this fashion forever. It is an interesting dream to contemplate.

She will not appreciate the song list I’m adding to the versions that occur after 2019. Those are not her kinds of songs. This is her kind of song:

TohoMojo -Godzilla Blue Oyster Cult Music Video HD – Aug 12, 2017spotifyamazon

It’s also her kind of movie. Giant monsters stomping on buildings. Explosions. I love drama, romance and intrigue. Explosions are nice, but they don’t keep me interested for long unless there are some decent characters on screen as well. These are my songs for her, and the lyrics of these songs still speak to me even if I can’t hear the music anymore:

Love
I don’t like to see so much pain
So much wasted
and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired
working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you
to keep me awake and alive

And all my instincts, they return
And the grand façade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

In Your Eyes

…the resolution of all the fruitless searching. That is what she represents for me. May everyone find that harbor for themselves. Even you, wife.

Jimmy Buffett – One Particular Harborspotifyamazon

Lean On Me

Rock & Roll Hall of FameBill Withers, Stevie Wonder, John Legend perform “Lean On Me” at the 2015 Induction Ceremony – Apr 3, 2020

I had to go looking to remind myself who it was that had written that great song that I loved. Who was it that the coronavirus killed the other day? That guy? That guy who sang a song about being there when someone needed you? Wasn’t that the song? I had to not only remind myself that his name was Bill Withers, but I had to then recognize the chorus line so that I would know the song title.

Lean on Me. Yes. That song. That guy. Bill Withers. Him too, then? One more grandfather we let die because we can’t be bothered to spend some of our precious treasure to make sure that there are procedures and tests and quarantine measures and hospital beds and whatever else that we need to invest in so that we can stop disease from spreading unchecked through our cityscapes. How many more will we lose? Will it be worse than AIDS this time? Will it hurt more this time than it hurt when Freddie Mercury died and I had to listen to friends spit on him and call him faggot?

I wonder. I really do wonder. Hat/tip to Billboard for being there when I needed someone to remind me of the things I had forgotten. I was reminded of this today because John Prine died today. I can’t name a single one of his songs that I know and love, but I know his name anyway. Ellis Marsalis I can remember too, and I can’t say that I’m a jazz fan. How about Adam Schlesinger? If you watch TV you probably know his work.

(Billboard’s list of musicians who have died to the Coronavirus)

Get ready. Get ready, because there is going to be a lot more of this kind of sadness going around before this tragedy is over.

Facebook – Jimmy Buffett

Sailing

Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free

Christopher Cross, Sailing

I had a love of old wooden vessels powered by nothing but the wind like most young boys did. Treasure Island was one of the many books I read in grammas collection of old reader’s digest condensed books, on one of my many nights spent sleeping in my dad’s old room.

The idea of something called an ocean was nearly inconceivable to a young child trapped in the middle of the high plains of North America. Much less a story of a deadly life upon the sea. After reading Treasure Island I was young Jim Hawkins evading the pirates in most of the fantasies that I created, if I wasn’t Huck Finn floating his raft on the Mississippi, that is.

I read the full version of Huckleberry Finn when I read it the first time. Mark Twain’s love of travel infected me from the very beginning, and I’ve picked up and read pretty much everything of his that I could get my hands on since then. The beauty of Treasure Island as it was originally written had to wait until I bought a copy for myself back when the Son was hitting reading age and I thought I’d sneak him a copy. But even in its condensed version Treasure Island was enough to inspire a lifelong fascination with ships and the sea.

But when it comes to songs, few songs of the sea can stand up to Christopher Cross’s Sailing. Styx’s Come Sail Away was made and probably heard first, but Sailing expresses the sea-longing that Tolkien ascribes to Legolas and all the Elvish peoples in the Lord of the Rings. Ascribes to them but is really to be felt in the breasts of all people who hear the calling of the sea. Perhaps even in J.R.R. Tolkien himself.

It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance else that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen.

Wikiquote – The Silmarillion

Sailing will make me weep with longing for the freedom of the waves.

When I became a young man, with the weight of the responsibility of the years before me, I sought freedom in the music of pirates like Jimmy Buffett. His freewheeling style, refusing to be categorized by anyone as country or rock or pop or whatever, was my inspiration. I dreamed of taking a trip to the coast and liberating the yacht of some wealthy family or other, and with my friend Wade we would become pirates and drug smugglers. It would be a short life, but a merry one, and the cares and responsibilities of modern life could be someone else’s burden to bear.

But even Jimmy Buffett knew that it was too late to make that fantasy a reality.

Yes I am a pirate, born two hundred years too late
The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothing to plunder
I’m an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late

A Pirate Looks at Forty

When it became clear that I was never going to get to sail on the ocean itself, I settled for sailing on the waters of Twin Buttes reservoir near San Angelo. I bought myself a fourteen foot sliver of fiberglass with a nineteen foot mast and tried my best to drown friends and family while mastering the handing of that finicky little boat of mine. The water was a short ten-minute drive from where we lived in San Angelo, and my experiences there were an almost acceptable substitute for real sailing experience. The canvas can do miracles, just like the song says.

But then times got rougher in San Angelo and we had to move to Austin. In Austin the lakes were much farther away. An hour in snarled traffic wasn’t the carefree ten minute drive that made sailing something I could easily engage in anymore. Boat maintenance became a chore that I soon shirked on, and I ended up selling my beloved sailboat to someone with more time and money. Someone who could afford to keep her.

From the North to the South, Ebudæ into Khartoum
From the deep sea of Clouds to the island of the moon
Carry me on the waves to the lands I’ve never been
Carry me on the waves to the lands I’ve never seen
We can sail, we can sail with the Orinoco Flow

Enya – Orinoco Flow

The longing for the sea still calls to me. It called to me today, with a casual reference to my sailboat themed comforter that I gifted to the Daughter ages ago. Calls to me, even though just basic swimming is something I can’t indulge in anymore. I refuse to wear nose and ear plugs to the pool, and when I swim without them I end up with infections that have to be treated with antibiotics. I can only imagine what swimming in the ocean would do to my sinuses.

Just getting on a boat causes vertigo. If I travel and need to take a ferry ride, I have to stay on deck the entire time so that I can see the horizon move and not get nauseous. A cabin cruise would be strictly verboten from a vestibular perspective.

Where it all ends I can’t fathom my friends
If I knew I might toss out my anchor

Son of a Son of a Sailor

What is it about the sea that calls to me? Is it the lulling sound of waves lapping on the sand? Is it that I’m descended from fisher-folk who have always been near the oceans, lived on the oceans? Or is it something more than that?

I thought that they were angels but to my surprise
They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies
Singing, come sail away come sail away

Dennis De Young

Little Miss Magic

Since the day that our son was born, the daughter (also known as the teenager) has been jealous of the attention that his birthday gets. Costumes and free candy on your birthday, how do you beat that?

15 years ago today, I became a parent, and started marking that official anno parenti time. If the full truth were to be told, I’ve been raising children since I was a child myself. The children I raised weren’t my kids, but sometimes you get handed a job that you didn’t ask for. As the eldest in a single parent household, you spend a lot of time herding the younger ones. You can always look forward to mom getting home at some point later in the day, and then you can quit pretending you know what you are doing and get back to being a child yourself.

Once you are mom (or dad) things get a little more complex. The early experience helped, though. I knew how to change diapers. How to feed a baby, hold a baby, a thousand different things. But at 2 in the morning, when it’s your turn to rock the baby, you find that you miss the days when mom would come home and take over. Well, not really. But just for a minute there…

…And they grow so fast, too. 15 years? It couldn’t have been that long. But then, she’s a good bit taller than she was when I first saw her. Then, I could hold her in the crook of one arm, a little over 6 pounds, light as a feather. I’m still taller than her now, but I don’t think that will last much longer. I can remember taking her to the Montessori School for the first time. I can remember her learning to read, and then talking me into reading books that she liked (I’m hooked on Harry Potter and it’s her fault) getting me hooked on anime (especially Hayao Miyazaki) Discovering she has quite a talent for art in her own right. Trying to encourage her to explore her talent, without pressuring her to ‘do something’ with it. Dropping her off at the High School for the first time; wondering out loud if I “should walk her in…” The disgusted “DAD!” that I got in return was the first clue that she was growing up much faster than I was really ready for.

I think they’ll have to sedate me for the next birthday. I don’t think I’ll be ready for 16, dating, driving.

After the boy was born, we took to telling her that “well, your birthday is Lincoln’s birthday too…” That didn’t work. She could go here and see a full list of the famous people who were also born on this date. I doubt that would be good enough either. Maybe, if she’s half the artist I think she can be, she’ll end up on that list as well.

She’s already on an exclusive list of one in my book. That’s a good enough reason to celebrate the day all by itself, without needing costumes and candy. Wouldn’t you agree?

Happy Birthday, dearest one.

Jimmy BuffettLittle Miss MagicSongs You Don’t Know By Heart – Oct 14, 2020

U2, The Eagles and Jimmy Buffett

The top Tour acts of 05 have just been reported. I’m not sure how this should be interpreted. I’ve always been a fan of U2, but I thought they were going to retire a few years back. I guess the lucrative concert tours have made them change their minds.

So too with the Eagles, which I could have sworn have been doing farewell tours the last two years running. I guess it’s one of those extended goodbyes. Like the slow dances to their songs with high school girlfriends, you just don’t want those moments to be over. The next thing you know you’re 40 and have a gut that you wouldn’t want to show on stage. I noticed none of them seem to have that problem.

Coming in 9th is Jimmy Buffett. Way back in ’76 I can remember singing “lost shaker of salt” and wondering why you would need one for a place called “Margaritaville”. That guy started when the Eagles did, released albums and toured through the entire 14 years that they “went their separate ways”, was probably touring when Bono decided he was only going to have one name, and he’s still grossing in the top 10 acts of 2005.

I knew I was a parrothead for a reason. Or maybe it’s the other way around.


Editor’s note. We lost Glenn Frey in 2016. His wife has filed a wrongful death suit against the hospital where he died. The Eagles have died with him, the farewell tours have ended. Jimmy Buffett sails on. The pirate looks at sixty these days. I’m not sure why I said I was a U2 fan when I wrote this. I have a few albums. I can scream in the name of love when the song plays. Does that make me a fan?