Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Scenes from a Marriage

(23.5 years in, on a warm July night, cuddling in bed)

I had been thinking about broken hearts. I looked back over my life and realized that my heart had broken exactly once, in the summer of 1982, when Garry and I renounced one another for reasons that seemed good at the time. Pondering this, I wondered if it really counted, because we ended up getting married 2.5 years later. Could it really be a broken heart if it ended up in a happy marriage?

Me: Have you ever had a broken heart?

Garry: Only once.

Me: Tell me about it.

Garry: It was that summer when we gave each other up. I'd been hurt before, but I never knew what it was like to have my heart break until then. I never believed in true love until then, either.

Me: Wait. You believe in true love?

A rare and precious thing to discover after 23 years of marriage and 4 kids. I appreciated learning it so much more now than I would have then.

(after 24 years of marriage, on a cold winter night, cuddling close for warmth)

We were talking about my weight loss and its effect on the male half of the population.

Me: Well, I did get issued a pretty nice body.

Garry: Oh yes, I noticed you the minute I set eyes on you, on the first day of class.

Me: You noticed me the first day of class? What did you think?

Garry: I thought you were gorgeous. And then I thought, 30 years from now, we'll be married and have four kids and we'll be lying in bed together naked talking about this moment. I'd describe what you were wearing....

Me (in utter disbelief, because he has no interest in my clothes): You remember what I was wearing?

He went on to describe my outfit, and I remembered the shirt he was describing. Amazing.

It is strange and wonderful to discover these tidbits about our early days after so many years. Almost like being on an archeological expedition and discovering signs of an earlier society.

(later that same night)

Me: Marry me.

Garry: I'd love to, but I'm already married.

Me: Well dump her and marry me instead.

Garry: But I like being married to her.

Me: What do you like about being married to her?

Garry: Well, for starters, she's brilliant and sexy.

Me: Sounds like tough competition.

Garry: Very.

Some things in life just keep getting better.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

California Dreaming

Over the past few years, I've realized that I don't really consider myself an American, any more than the average Scotsman considers himself British. I am an American, but foremost I'm a Californian. I understand deep in my soul the importance of water. I know how hard we need to fight to save our environment, our towns, signs of the past. I know that the soul of the land is the tough manzanita that re-sprouts after wildfires, not the redwood or the palm or the showy California poppy. I know the importance of basing one's diet on fresh fruits and vegetables. I know that the cardinal sins of human existence are social, environmental, and dietary rather than sexual.

I know that earthquakes aren't a big deal (except when they are), and that building codes are our friends. I know that snow belongs tidily in the Sierras instead of scattered willy-nilly all over the state. I know that the real seasonal variations are wet and dry, and that it never rains in the summertime. I know that farming requires irrigation. I know that every drop of water that sustains our cities comes from the snow in the mountains, and must be conserved.

I know that real trees are thousands of years old, can be 30-40 feet thick at the base, and that they can tower 400 feet in the air. I dream of climbing some of those trees like mountains and spending a night in their canopies. I know that real mountains are 10,000 or more feet tall and made of granite, while the ~5000' ones near the coast are more properly called hills.

I know that the ocean is large, wild, and cold, and that the sun sets over it. I swim in it anyway, even in January. Some places the ocean rides gently into beaches while other places it smashes into the mountains at the edge of the continent. I know what a microclimate is, and always dress accordingly.

I know the meaning of diversity: in the land, in the culture, in viewpoints, in the economy, in languages, in religion, in diet, in dress, in social mores. I know the costs and benefits of rapid growth and the struggle to create a meaningful, workable post-industrial society. I know that the state is large enough to embrace the Imperial Valley and The Land Behind the Orange Curtain as well as Berkeley, Marin, La Jolla, Garberville, and Eureka. It does not cause me the least bit of cognitive dissonance to put Spanish and English place names in the same sentence or to drive through neighborhoods where the store signs are in Cambodian or Vietnamese.

I grew up knowing how to eat an artichoke. I know that vegetables come loose in bins, not shrink-wrapped on plastic trays. I can eat a Cabo San Lucas chicken sandwich on pita bread without a second thought. I know that I can always find a recycling bin, wherever I might be, and that reusable trumps recyclable.

I know that deep-fried foods, public consumption of tobacco, single-use diapers (or single-use *anything*), SUVs, failure to take turns on the approach to the cloverleaf, incandescent light bulbs, ethnic or sexist or heterosexist jokes, transfats, and pushiness are rude and quite possibly ought to be illegal. I do not know how to send a restaurant meal back to the kitchen, but I can pass the time of day with the wait staff in basic Spanish.

I know that, even though we have 1/8 of the U.S. population, California is not taken seriously, and our concerns are routinely ridiculed and marginalized. This is one of the reasons I don't consider myself an American, really. If the rest of the country wants to stick their heads in the mud, so be it. We'll just keep on trying to invent post-industrial society and they can get there, like, whenever. No hurry, because hurrying is not, in fact, cool.

I don't hate people from other regions of the country, nor do I feel superior to them. I don't call the middle of the country the fly-over zone or make cracks about Iowa farmers. The folks I've met from the Midwest are pretty nice actually, a lot like the folks I've met from Mideast. (And I don't understand why Kansas isn't in the Mideast; American geographical terms don't make a lot of sense when viewed from this coast.) I don't get the cultures of the Northeast or the Deep South, let alone that of Texas, but hey, whatever.

I think about Asia a lot. Europe and Africa, not so much. I feel a cultural affinity with Mexico and Central and South America; we're all part of the same Spanish and Portugese colonial expansion.

It's January 8th and I noticed this morning that my roses are blooming.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

When I Grow Up

In our living room, just after Christmas

Morgayn: When I grow up, I want to be a gypsy.

Me: When I grow up, I want to have children who don't drag their feet on their chores.

Matisse: When I grow up,  I want to be a velociraptor.

Morgayn: When I grow up, I want to be a parasaurolophus.

Me: When I grow up, I want to be a really big pterosaur.

Morgayn (using an English pronunciation with a short e): Quetzalcoatl, maybe.

Me (using a Costa Rican pronunciation with a long a for the e and a soft s for the z): When I grow up, I want to be a quetzalcoatl!

Morgayn: You can't pronounce it like that; it's pronounced kwetzelcoatl.

Me: Why can't I? Quetzal is Spanish, isn't it?

Morgayn: Yeah, but kwetzelcoatl's name isn't pronounced like Spanish.

Me: Okay then, when I grow up, I want to be a kaytsalcoatl that doesn't speak English!

Dissolve to a fit of laughter.