What a ride it's been!! We've worked, made friends, travelled, carried and supported each other through hard times, lived fully, travelled, and cheered each other along with our individual and combined achievements. Oh, and we travelled.
And, we finally got married - legally in NJ!!
I asked Matthew this morning on the way to work if he would mind staying by my side for another 5+ decades since this first one was so wonderful. He said, "Yes, my love."
I want more wonderful times with him - as much as life will give us.
Happy Anniversary, my love.
1) For one, I never thought I would get married, even though Matt and I have been together for just shy of a decade:
2) I'm gay; never thought it would never be possible, though I used to fantasize about it.
3) I didn't think that I would ever want to settle down with someone - one person - for the rest of my life; this attitude came from my extensive years as a single man.
4) It didn't seem that NJ would provide marriage equality any time soon for us to get married here.
5) Neither one of us wanted to get married in another state (NY, CT, MA, etc.) and crossing into our home state, whose laws and/or constitution would render us divorced, unmarried, or legal strangers. Prior to marriage equality, married same-sex couples from other states were not recognized in NJ as married and had to get a civil union or domestic partnership..
Then, all of a sudden - almost overnight, it seemed - it was legal for us to get married in NJ!! We were on our way out of town when we got the news. Only two friends - a couple - called us to ask if we were going to hold to our promise. And we both said, "YES!! ABSOLUTELY!! It's just that we're on our way out of town!" We promptly went online to Amazon to purchase tentative rings for whenever our legal ceremony would happen. We ordered three rings apiece, which we will wear interchangeably till our marriage celebration. Then we'll have real rings to give each other. These interim rings will become Christmas ornaments or used at times when we don't care if we lose them or they get stolen.
Given the marriage application, licensing, and ceremony stuff here in NJ - that neither of us knew anything about - nothing was going to happen anyway for at least three days from the day we submitted our application. The news of NJ's new marriage equality came through just over 2 months ago, and we finally got our act together and submitted our application in our township this morning. A friend of ours from down the hill was our application witness and we'll have two other friends be our ceremony witnesses. The girl who worked on our application this morning seems to be family. She reminded me of Peppermint Patty, but prettier.
Thursday, I'm picking up the license from around the corner from our place. Next week, we're getting married!! It will be a simple civil ceremony at the courthouse in Hackensack (NJ - yes, the town in that Billy Joel song!) on Dec. 31. A great day for New Beginnings!
We slowed our initial marriage gusto a bit when we heard that our governor withdrew his appeal to oppose the NJ Supreme Court's decision to allow marriages to begin. Our governor has tried everything possible to make marriage equality impossible in NJ; it has honestly been so embarassing to be the last mid-Atlantic state above the Mason Dixon Line to allow marriage equality. He even went on record to say that if his own child was gay, he would tell his child that s/he should not be allowed to marry the person of their choice. So, initially we were afraid that we had to get married by the end of the year, so that if he appealed, we would stand with the throngs of married couples in a lawsuit against the governor. But, thankfully, we didn't have to be put in that position and we considered waiting until the actual celebration simultaneously to make it legal. But, the activist in me really wanted the "2013" date stamp on our license.
Frankly, I don't think anything spiritually or emotionally will change. At a later date, we'll plan a celebration - perhaps in 2014 or 2015. No rush since the legal stuff will be done. It'll certainly be interesting to be able to file our taxes as a married couple. THAT will definitely be a change!! Plus, once all the legal stuff is done, I think I'll put Matthew on my health and auto insurance policies, since they're both less expensive than his.
Above all, we're VERY excited at this new stage in our lives. We've been calling each other "husband" for years, but now it'll be HUSBAND!! OFFICIALLY! WOOHOO!!
One day after I parked my Passat to go into work, I noticed that F-Type for the first time. Why? Because it was a Fire Sand F-Type convertible. "Fire Sand" is a cool term for "burnt orange" or "pumpkin". The color is totally intriguing and the body of the car captivated me completely - it looks like an animal. I took 5 or 6 pictures of the car as if it was parked on some side street in Chelsea (something I’ve done, btw). On my way home that same evening, I mentioned to Matthew, “I just wanna drive that car for a day. Just one day. Is that too much to ask?”
Well, this past weekend, I did just that! I had won a raffle at a company meeting a couple of months ago; 12 winners of the raffle would be able to drive a company car (a Jag or a Land Rover/Range Rover) for a weekend. I was one of the winners!
Over those three weekend days, I drove at least 500 miles. Plus, I drove at least a total of 26 hours – just over a day’s worth of driving. Apparently, “Just one day,” isn’t too much to ask! I got my full day of driving just as I had wished and I got to see the car parked in my space for the weekend (I had to leave my Passat parked in the company parking lot for the weekend. More on that on a later, different post…).
At the initial button push, the Jag growled at me when he started up; his grin was tangible. He had me before the first growl. He had been waiting for me to get inside and push his buttons since my eyes squinted at the sun sparkling off his curves the first time. He wanted to be driven. He clearly didn’t want to sit still or be parked. I brought his top down and pulled out of the parking space, When I rounded the first corner, he seemed to want more of that curve, so I gunned the engine a bit, He smiled and ate that curve in one bite. And then the next one: CHOMP! He was looking forward to the weekend as much as I was.
I pulled up to get Matthew from work (who now works about 5 miles from my office). Matthew told me later that EVERYONE walking out of that office building was staring at the car. I didn’t notice them because I was looking at everything in the car – the controls, the lights, windows, the mirrors, and the radio. Matthew was beaming because he knew I was excited for the weekend. He got in and put on his seat belt. I asked him one simple question: “Are you ready?”
“For what?” he countered.
I asked him again: “Are you ready?”
“Uh. Yes?” he said apprehensively.
Making sure no one was in front of me, I took off toward the edge of the parking lot. Fire Sand snapped our heads back against our head rests.
“OH JESUS!” Matthew exclaimed. “SLOW DOWN!”
“I’m only going 15 miles an hour, grandpa.”
(^^ That exchange repeated itself quite frequently over the course of the weekend…)
When we were leaving the office park, getting onto Interstate 287 South for a bit and back onto 17 South to go home, there’s a very fun curve and Matthew almost shit a couple of bricks as we rounded it. The suggested speed around the curve was a measly 25… my boy wanted to take it at about 35 MPH. So, I gave it to him and then some.
All the cars on 287S saw me coming onto the road and slowed down (or was I going faster than them?). I got across the four lanes to the left quite safely, but quickly because 17S comes up right after that curve.
BOOM! We were on 17S heading home. All the way down 17S and eventually onto I-80E (another Interstate highway), so many people could not keep their eyes off the car. A couple of handsome guys in fun cars (not sports cars, though) raced up to meet my car. They safely kept their eye on the road in front of them, but checked out the car, me, Matthew, the car, me, and then gave me the thumbs up or an “OK” sign with BIG smiles.
We pulled into our building about 30 minutes later and I was able to dash in, change clothes, and head back out to drive down to visit my buddy Joey for dinner. The drive down, with the top down, was almost fully on the NJ Turnpike all the way down. I picked up Joey and we raced off to Princeton.
The best part about all of those routes was that I could drive at least 65. I positioned myself with traffic, so that I didn’t stand out. I also used my cruise control quite a lot, so that I didn’t inadvertently go over the speed limit. At 65 MPH, it felt as though he was plodding along at about 30 MPH – he even yawned a couple of times when I sped up to pass someone.
Cops didn’t seem interested in the car at all, which was just fine with me. Someone at work told me that cops “respect” Jaguars due to the owners/drivers of Jaguars or something, but I noticed that cops – the entire weekend – were uninterested in the car. I had always heard that if you drive a sports car, beware of cops. So, I was paying attention. I mean, I wasn’t driving erratically, recklessly, or exceptionally fast (except for that one time…). So, there was no real reason for them to approach me as it was. Still, that warning was playing in my head all weekend, which was probably a good thing – given my history with speeding tickets from when I was in high school (different story for a different post…).
Saturday was the friends tour. I drove to four different friends’ houses to show them the car and give them a ride. A couple of them live close to highways, so I was able to show them a little of what the car could do. One of them had never been in a convertible, much less and actual sports car. Two friends weren’t home, so I took a picture of the car in front of their house; at least their house got to see the car!
By Sunday, Matthew had plotted out a route for us to drive up to New Paltz and Kingston, NY, that included highways and country roads. He found a marina for us to visit, a resort (that we might want to return to for dinner, at least), and in the end, I chose for us to return home a different route than how we got to our destination; I-87 (the NY Thruway) was really backed up close to the NJ/NY border and we would have been stuck in tons of traffic.
Along the way up there and back, there were lots and lots of twists and turns, hairpin curves, mountains, big hills, river vistas, and plenty of onlookers. We had a great time driving all over the place! Here’s a snippet of some of the roads and terrain we traversed along our road trip on Sunday.
Over the weekend, I took a ton of photos. Here’s a smaller collection of the best of the best from all that driving. We unfortunately had to stop from time to time, of course.
Part of me wishes that hot, fast Fire Sand cat was mine. The other, more practical part of me sat back with a sigh into my 2004 Passat, who’s paid for and running just fine, and drove to pick up Matthew after work. I didn’t really try to push my old guy too far, but from his brakes, I could tell he wasn’t too happy I left him for a hotter, younger, faster guy for a weekend fling. He’ll get over it.
He kept looking at me, up and down, trying to catch my eye again, so I finally said, “Hey. How’s it going?”
He nodded, said, “Good, thanks, You?” and gave me a very nice, handsome smile, and even blushed a little – maybe cuz I spoke to him and was a bit bigger with a deep voice. Don’t know.
Just then his girlfriend, wife, significant other, or just his female friend helping him shop approached from out of nowhere and asked, “Excuse me, I know you don’t work here, but could I ask you a question?”
I said, “Sure! Shoot!”
“We’re going to a wedding. As guests; we’re not getting married. Do you think this suit is a good look for him? Does it fit?” (yes, that was two questions, but not bothered…)
The single-breasted, 2-button suit was black with medium white pinstripes. Noticeable pinstripes, but not overpowering. I replied, “Well, it’s interesting and looks like something you’d wear to a more formal occasion, like a wedding, sure; not for an interview. What are you going for? Is this a black tie affair, or just a normal wedding with friends and family?”
“Normal wedding. No black tie, but do you think a black tie would go good with this?” she countered. “We’re wanting a sort of retro look.”
These simple questions and the guy’s ultimately sheepish and accepting attitude told me everything I needed to know: They needed a gay.
I got the guy to try on the jacket, which was too long overall, but fit on the shoulders just fine. I had him hug her saying, “Pretend like you like her and give her a hug.”
He gave her one of the most uncomfortable, unnatural hugs I’ve ever seen in person! All the while, both of them were looking at me for some sort of approval and no smiles. The hug was a reality-TV-unapologetic-apology uncomfortable hug. Oh, and they never explained their relationship to one another – even after that uncomfortable hug! It’s truly immaterial, I realize, but I observe these things and take note out of socio-psychological interest. Maybe she wasn’t really his girlfriend at all and I made them do something they really didn’t want to do. Or maybe she HAD been his girlfriend and they were obligated to go to this wedding as a couple because they’d replied with the other as the “plus one” before they broke up. And this wedding was the last thing they were going to do together as a couple and he had needed her help to get a suit and she was the only one he trusted to make him look good. Or… Meh! Who cares? The hug just seemed really uncomfortable and unnatural.
The shirts they were looking at were too big for his neck and too long for his sleeves. So, I found a nice white black pinstripe shirt that fit him better, a black/white Ben Sherman skinny tie that was a very fine, retro-looking criss-cross, and black braces – with clamps so that he didn’t need brace buttons sewn into his pants. I instructed them to find a similar suit in a short size rather than regular (the guy was about 5’8”).
I must say, the outfit looked really good. I would have worn it! I forgot to mention black dress shoes, but I did tell the guy, “NEVER wear those braces with belt. Braces and belts serve the same purpose, so look silly worn together on the same outfit; it’s one or the other and the braces will look really much better than a belt. Plus, if you’re ‘between’ sizes as you say, braces will help you avoid alterations for now.”
They thanked me and we parted to go on about our business. The guy kept looking at me, smiling, and nodding even after they were on the other side of the area, so I’m still uncertain what his and their story was. In the end, it’s unimportant. Plus, this exchange was just getting a tad creepy at that point.
Just then, someone else, another woman, rounded the corner and asked me whether “that shirt (pointing) went with this tie”. I asked a couple of questions, offered some suggestions, and escaped the store with just a couple of purchases.
The next day, as Matthew and I were driving home, we stopped there again because two shirts I had seen the previous day had been on my mind all day long. I had to get them. I found about three other shirts, too, that I hoped would be there in my size. The evening before, I just had to leave quickly after spending too much time helping other people.
But, just as Matthew and I were finishing our shirt selections, a divorced mother of two approached us and pleaded, “Excuse me, I know you don’t work here, but could I ask you a question?”
She was looking for a suit for her 13-yr-old son’s picture day at school, and eventually his confirmation in the spring of 2014. It seemed that the kid hadn’t been too cooperative with his mother or helping her out at all. She, too, needed a gay.
We took her and the kid, Justin, over to the suits section he needed (42S). Her budget was around $150 – for the entire outfit: suit, shirt, tie, and alterations (which she had forgotten about). In her hand, she already had about $200 worth of clothes without a shirt and tie!
We gingerly took them out of her grasp. Matthew said, “Honey, I’ll go get a cart for our stuff; you go and do like you do. Help these people.” He looked at her and said, “He’s really good; listen to him!”
I started showing her some suits – on her son – and gave them both lots of suggestions about fabric, designers, wear, clothing etiquette, and style. In the end, the entire outfit we picked for her was – tops - $125, leaving her with a $10 pants cuff (so they can let them out if he grows in the next year or two) to organize with her local dry cleaners. His new outfit was still under her budget and they could get dinner at a diner together! Very happy all around. It was a smart, solid medium gray suit, white dress shirt (you can NEVER have enough white dress shirts!), and a gray/white/purple striped Ben Sherman tie. The kid likes purple a LOT.
She thanked us so heartily and gave me a 10% coupon she had in her purse. She insisted she had another one in her car (her son went out to get it) and left us looking like a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. The kid seemed very excited about his clothes, too, which was a huge change from when we first met him.
Matthew and I returned to the tie area and were starting to go to the home goods section, when another woman approached me and asked about her husband’s shirt size. Her husband wasn’t with her. UGH!! I said, “Men’s clothes are complicated, huh?”
I helped her and gave her some suggestions. She nodded impishly and shrugged her shoulders, “Yes! I didn’t know where to start and you really helped!”
I said, “Glad to help! Bring your husband next time, so you can make sure you get the right stuff for him.”
Then I told Matthew we HAD to leave that area. Otherwise, we would have been spending our entire evening helping clueless shoppers!! We went over to the home goods section and had some fun with stuff and checked out. When I used the lady’s coupon, the discount came up for about $4.50 – the price of a nice cup of Starbucks! Not all the things I had picked out were part of the discount that the coupon covered. Nonetheless, it was a sweet gesture and every bit of savings helps, right?
Matthew and I did our good deeds for the week. He also suggested that the next time I plan to go to that store that I bring my tape measure. Tee hee!
We met TONS of new people and got to see people we hadn't seen in a long while, such as texwriterbear, slothel, and delmarmar Also in attendance were profundis (apparently - didn't get a chance to meet up), thetarnishedowl, mat_t (I think), faghatesgods & mondragon (Matthew saw them both on separate days from afar),
The day we were together at Vorelli's for bloody Marys, the power kept failing throughout the Cape from allowed brownouts. One of the cooling towers at the nearest nuclear plant wasn't cooling as quickly, so they diverted all the power for cooling to one cooling tower and shut the second off, which took some time and created brownouts.
Even still, we got to see some shows, including Miss Richfield 1981, one of our favorites! Those tickets were for Matthew's birthday gift. And we were both well enough to have a nice dinner at the Crown & Anchor and then head to the show! She never disappoints and always brings in some fresh, unexpected stuff. Very fun!
On the second and last Saturday of Bear Week, we decided to stay till around dinner time. The previous times we had been to Ptown in the off season, we discovered that leaving later in the day allowed everyone else to get off the highway. Our drive went from 7-9 hours (with everyone else leaving the Cape) down to a normal 4.5-5 hour drive home. We spent the day shopping around, which we didn't do during the week, and spending time with a couple of friends of ours from NYC.
The Beginning of OUR Bear Week
Our vacation started off with the "exciting", long, soul-sucking drive through Connecticut, as usual, no matter what time we leave on Friday. There are always road blocks, construction sites, traffic, delays without explanation, and then SUDDENLY everything clears up around exits 72 or 86 right around a nearby prison (there are 93 exits in CT on I-95 and WE start before exit 1...).
In the car ride, we munched on baked sesame sticks (YUM!!), grapes, pork sandwiches that Matthew had made the night before (EXTRA YUM!), rice chips (blech), Chinese crackers, and peanuts. We brought only filtered and seltzer waters with us to drink all the way up, but didn't drink a lot of it. Matthew was happy that we didn't feel the need to stop to go to the bathroom, since we weren't drinking that much. We checked into the Gifford House for the Friday night by about 8:30 - a 7-hour drive for what should normally take about 5 hours. Thanks, Connecticut! We were mellowing over a martini at the Porch Side Bar at the Gifford House by 9:15PM and stayed there till about midnight. We were tired, so went to bed; Matthew had a small tummy ache when we got to the room.
At 5 AM, Matthew woke me up to tell me to call for an ambulance. He hadn't slept much the previous 2 hours because of major abdominal pain that had woken him up. He felt that he had an abdominal obstruction. The EMT who heard Matthew's description said, "It's probably his gall bladder," which seemed really off - Matthew's never had gall bladder issues and our regular diet is perfect for a healthy gall bladder.
By 5:30 AM, distraught and bleary-eyed, I stood watching the love of my life get into the vehicle, knowing he'd be on the road for no less than an hour to the nearest hospital down the Cape. I had to stay behind to move our stuff from the Gifford House to the condo across the street and get things settled for the week, which I did. We wouldn't hear his prognosis till about 9 or 10. It took them 2+ hrs to admit him and then he went for an ultra-sound. They found gall stones, but nothing to report in his abdomen; there was no infection and he had no fever - just pain. The doctors from hell didn't prescribe any pain medication for him or anti-biotics. Nothing. They wanted to remove his gall bladder - FOR NO REASON! So, he promptly grabbed the CD from his ultra-sound and made a mad dash back to Provincetown in a cab.
Three Cheers For Equality!!
I will say this: I was greatly encouraged by the Massachusetts health care system and the level of equality/acceptance I experience in MA - on a regular basis. At about 10:30 am, I called the hospital to check up on Matthew, because the last text at that point from him was, "I'm running out of blood, TTYL!" I called and said, "My partner was admitted there at 6:30 this morning and I would like to speak with his nurse about his status and why his blood is running out." They put me right through to Matthew's nurse, Frank, who gave me an update.
Once I hung up, Frank went to Matthew and introduced himself and relayed my information; Matthew had not met his nurse until I called asking for information - WHICH I GOT WITHOUT QUESTION!! But, because I, his partner, called to check up on Matthew, his nurse got more on the ball - Matthew wasn't alone. I can pretty much guarantee that that experience would not happen in any of the states that currently do not recognize same-sex couples as equal in the eyes of the law - no matter what the hospital employee-patient manuals say.
My Matthew was safely and soundly back in my arms by 3 PM. I had gone shopping for all our food, including vodka and rum. I had everything set up for him for his birthday - all the decorations throughout the house - and set up his suitcase, hanging shirts, and our Internet for the week, so that we'd be WiFi-enabled. He didn't have to lift a finger. Instead, we both took a nice, long nap and went to Tea Dance by 5:30. Then we had dinner at the Red Inn and enjoyed a slice of cake that I had delivered from Relish Bakery down the street.
For this Bear Week, my Facebook group suggested some get-togethers and I picked two to host: One on Sunday for the Facebook group at large, and one on Monday for the "Bear Week Virgins" to meet some veterans. The Sunday morning coffee house get-together went over GREAT. Matthew and I wore t-shirts that we had made with the logo of the group that Matthew constructed. I had also gotten a huge banner made up for the events and hung that up, too. Over the course of about 2.5 hours, about 50+ people made their way by us for the get-together out of about 200+ people who'd responded as "Going!". A 25% turnout is pretty successful.
Monday's turnout at the Aqua Bar was about the same and I was very happy to introduce people to a bar that seems to get lost in the shuffle between all the other bars in town. The Aqua Bar has great views of the bay and the wharves, as well as other bars' decks. For this event, we wore the t-shirts, I hung the banner, and I passed out Pride beads; I had bought 4 bags of 6 dozen beaded necklaces; I gave out 1.5 bags at the Monday event, which was about 85-100 necklaces. That means about 33-50% of the people who responded came!! Even more successful - and some people from the Sunday event came to the Monday one, which was even better. The bartenders (Brecken and Morgan - loving their names) made up a summery, fruity cocktail special for the event. But, I didn't drink any alcohol on Monday, which I'll explain next.
Sunday evening after Tea, we went out to dinner with some friends. I was playing it "safe" by ordering mussels, a salad, and a Provincetown staple: fish soup. That dinner at 7:30 pm was practically all I had eaten all day except some store-bought hummus late in the afternoon. Sunday night I could tell something wasn't right and it seemed that I had eaten something bad. By Monday around noon, just before my "Like A Bear Week Virgin" event, I started feeling odder and a little queasy. By the time the event was over, I really needed to be back at the apartment because I was getting delirious and dizzy. So, we went back and we took a 2-hour nap, skipping Tea.
We had dinner reservations for 7 pm at one of our favorite restaurants, Ross' Grill. Every hot appetizer or entree I saw on the menu made me feel nauseous. So, we ordered the raw bar (which for some reason didn't disgust me) and I got a salad as an entree. Matthew got the mussels and chicken (he felt fine) and I ended up not finishing my half of the BEAUTIFUL and delicious raw bar or my salad. The waitress brought me ginger ale after ginger ale and then THAT made me ill.
When we got home, my tummy was really bad, but nothing was moving. I got a fever in the restaurant and it got up to around 101.8 at one point in the evening. I dozed off and on for 3 hours and went to bed around midnight. The fever broke around 2:30 and I ended up sleeping till around 9 AM Tuesday and napped from 11:30-1:00. I didn't feel like eating anything at all and by no means was I drinking alcohol. I ended up not having any alcohol for three days!
Matthew started getting my symptoms from Sunday by Tuesday evening after dinner of Greek salad with chicken. That night we had another salad and chicken gyros because we were both kind of hungry. His tummy ache and fever kicked in later Wednesday afternoon. We both made sure that his tummy aches were definitely not the same as the ones from Saturday. We were quadruple-booked for Wednesday evening events and parties. I went to Tea on his insistence, and came back with a light dinner for us both at home by 6pm. Matthew insisted that I go out and have fun with some folks, so I went out for about 2 hours, checking on his temp from time to time, which held steady at around 100 degrees (thankfully, less than mine). I brought him back some Tylenol and by midnight, his temp was down to almost normal.
A Godsend - All Tummy Issues Aside
In the end, Matthew and I spent a lot of time together this last vacation, making sure the other was on the mend and back on his feet. Since I got my new job in May, we've both been feeling lots of separation anxiety and the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) of each other's presence. We haven't spent this much time apart for almost the last 5 years!! So, having time together on a vacation, where we usually are out and about all day in town spending time with friends, we would have felt like we spent no time together. In a way, it was a godsend that we got food poisoning.
It might be strange to say, but there's no one I'd rather be sick with than Matthew and he feels the same way. We take care of each other and know each other's needs. The main thing I never want to experience again is watching him leave in an ambulance by himself. That was probably the worst and most helpless I've felt in a long, long time. No matter how much he insisted that we had to do it that way and no matter how it all turned out, it was awful. Seeing my love, in pain, leaving without me to an unknown place with unfamiliar people was awful.
All in all, we relish in the fact that we did, actually, have a great time!!
I only succumbed because my MATTHEW (@matthew_vecera) took the plunge the other day. This is his first real social media involvement and I kicked and screamed every step of the way whilst signing up for Twitter. I really, really didn't want to get involved, but because I wanna support my man, I did it. You can find him on there, too, but he's not posting much - yet. ;-)
Matthew's hair has to be at about the same length as a month ago. He's doing a scene this time that precedes (in the story's time line) that he shot a month ago. Between walking from the street into a bar, his hair can't all of a sudden appear shorter than it was outside. That would be really funny! Never know, though; I might be called in last minute to be background! That'd be cool.
Here's the weather forecast for the next few days. I'm hoping that it's not as wet as is predicted; last time was snowy and wet enough!! I'm also hoping that maybe we could get into a different town, say on Sunday, like Wellfleet. They have GREAT oysters from there this year. They're HUGE and delicious.
I will never forget parking my car in New Brunswick in front of my bank and seeing him standing outside Old Man Rafferty's on that Saturday. He was wearing a leather sports coat and jeans. His foot was propped up against the wall and he was looking toward my car with his hands in his pockets. My heart fluttered and butterflies were flapping around in my tummy. I remember thinking, "That's got to be him. OH MY GOODNESS, he's so much more handsome in person!" (We had exchanged pictures, of course, and web cammed a couple of times during the week leading up to that Saturday.)
I went to the bank to get some cash for lunch and almost tripped onto the sidewalk because I couldn't stop looking at him from afar. I walked down the street and couldn't stop smiling; I felt like a dork. His face lit up as I got closer and we shook hands. Frankly, I wanted to jump him right then and there. But, I waited... patiently.
When we sat down to have lunch, I could not stop looking at his hands and face and shoulders. I don't remember the shirt he was wearing because I was so fixated on how beautifully handsome he was. And he still is. His laugh and smile are infectious.
Here's looking forward to the rest of our lives together. Needles in hay stacks, we were, but I've found my soul mate, who's become my best friend and partner over the course of 9 amazing years. Never thought it would be possible that I would find this man who wants to be around me and knows me so absolutely well - better than I know myself. And, I often ask myself and him, "Why the hell do you and can you put up with me?!" It's because he's a saint and I love him to death.
Happy anniversary, my love. You bring me so much joy, laughter, and love.
Matthew did a fantastic job again this year with the Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes. It's an Italian, Catholic, Christmas Eve tradition. I'm not Catholic. I'm not Italian. But I LOVE this tradition!! Matthew is holding to most of his mother's recipes and has added a couple of things (or tried out a couple of new things) for a bit of a flare to keep the interest in the affair going. There's nothing difficult about picking out fish - truly. We all love seafood. But, to prepare them in such a way that there are different dishes with at least 7 different fishes, that's the ultimate challenge.
For example, we made an octopus salad with roasted potatoes and onions. Matthew slow-cooked the octopus overnight in red wine vinegar and white wine with spices, pulled off the suckers, and marinated the octopus meat for 2-3 days. Then I roasted the potatoes and pearl onions and mixed in the octopus, which warmed up the octopus and olive oil marinade. YUM!!
Then we made the standard (and VERY scrumptious) seafood salad with squid (calamari), shrimp, cuttlefish, scallops, and baby octopus. Matthew made a lemon/olive oil marinade for the mixture and they sat in the fridge for about 2 days. I chopped up red, yellow, and orange peppers, celery, two garlic cloves, and parsley and mixed it all together on Christmas Eve. DELICIOUS!! And so fresh.
Matthew worked extra hard on battering and sauteeing soft shell crabs. I never liked soft shell crabs that much until I met Matthew. Also, his prep is by far the tastiest I've ever had. I could not stop eating these this year - and we were able to glean about 10 for leftovers. He also made stuffed calamari, which might fall off the list next year. Also, he did the shrimp with lemon and basil and I learned how to chiffonade basil for the preparation!
That's 6 fishes so far (yes, arthropods (crustacea), mollusks, and cephalopods are included as fish since squid, octopus, mussels, and shrimp are all from the sea). Then, we got lobsters steamed and removed the meat from the shell for a "raw bar", which included mussels, lump crab meat, and snow crab claws. He also added a beurre blanc sauce and a minuet, of course, for dipping. On Christmas day, Matthew's brother-in-law steamed clams (littlenecks). YUM!!
As for actual fish, Matthew prepped smelts, which I always love. Smelts are similar to sardines. Matthew rolls them in a flour/salt & pepper covering mixture, I sprayed them with olive oil, and then we baked them. Once they're out, they get tossed in a lemon/olive oil sauce to bring out the flavor of the fish. On Christmas Eve, Matthew grilled Chilean sea bass steaks, which he had carefully tied into round filet "mignons" of fish. Typically, there's a Baccala salad (salt cod), which is a smelly, disgusting, but ultimately tasty (albeit kinda dry) dish, but this year, the Baccala didn't happen - no one likes it that much and the prep is such a PITA, that it's just not worth making.
Matthew really wanted to make quenelles escoffier (Jacques Pépin) - a French fish preparation of one or two fishes blended into a mouse, poached, and baked with a white cream sauce. We made a haddock-based "test run" for ourselves about 6 days early, which turned out wonderful. THAT dish would have been an amazing addition to the array of fishes dishes, but the blend we made with turbot and cod for the Christmas Eve feast bombed for some reason - maybe because the fishes weren't as fresh as the haddock we had used earlier. :-(
Of course, he made broccoli rabe and green beans for veg, and with leftover stuffing from the stuffed calamari, he stuffed some PEI green shell mussels. For dessert, everyone whipped out chocolates, store-bought cream puffs and sfogliatelles, but the biggest hit were Matthew's cookies, which he finished baking about 2 weeks before Christmas. He made two kinds of biscottis, rainbow cookies, and pignoli nut cookies. Those are the basic standards and about all he could muster with all the other stuff going on throughout the holiday season.
Almost two weeks ago, we had a quite literally "shitty" flight down to Florida. We had also been denied nut-containing products from their snack selections because someone in our rows 3-6 apparently very sensitive nut allergies.
This week, our flight was delayed by about 45 mins. Why? Because the plane had flown in from Bogata and needed to "clear customs"... aka "get fumigated and cleaned out of drugs", I'm sure.
When we did board the plane and got to our extra leg room seats in row 5 (I was on the window and Matthew in the middle), our aisle-seated neighbor was a full-grown young woman who happened to be about 2.5 feet tall. Yes, a midget. Yes, a midget, who paid extra for more leg room. Why would a midget need extra leg room? She treated the space like it was her apartment. She hopped down to organize her stuff in the pouch in front of her, reached into her grocery bag, pulled out some snacks, and hopped back into her seat. As we were deplaning and walking carefully over her, she was in the middle of folding a tiny pizza whilst laying on the seat with her ankles in the air.
Then Matt went to turn on his TV on his display. The first channel that displayed a show was presenting the Wizard of Oz!! And which scene exactly??! Yes. The Munchkin scene where Glenda is saying, "Come out, come out! Wherever you are!" Matthew nudged me to look at the screen, we both looked at each other startled and he changed the channel quickly.
Of course, Matthew and I during the flight couldn't discuss these things because that would have been rude and inappropriate. But we were confused. She seemed like a nice enough woman, but didn't have much to say. The only time she needed assistance was from the flight attendant with her tray table and from Matthew to hit the flight attendant button; standing on the seat, she still wouldn't have been able to press that button. :-(
Before we landed, one of the flight attendants ran up to the front and said, "Is there a doctor on board? We need a doctor in row 5 immediately!" THAT WAS OUR ROW! Of course, Matthew and I side-glanced toward our neighbor who was as happy as a clam laying on her ENORMOUS seat, as if it were a chaise lounge, playing with her iPad. Then about 10 people behind us said, "NINE! ROW NINE!"
As we were descending, something happened to one of the passengers and had to be evacuated once we landed in a sit-up stretcher. We overheard an EMT or police officer say, "Yeah, we have a possible code 16." We found out later that code number meant that there was something to do with alcohol abuse, medication overdose, and/or mixing of the two combined with the cabin pressurizing and depressurizing. So, even though the pilot did get us landed safely 15 minutes late instead of 45 minutes late, we all waited about 15 minutes while the sickly passenger and his wife got off the plane.
While we waited for everything to settle, I called our driver just to confirm that we'd just landed and they hadn't updated our new flight from when I'd called the week before. So, they thought we were supposed to arrive at 2AM on Monday! Needless to say, I said, "Well, we probably have about 20-30 minutes before we have our baggage and are ready to get in the car, which should be enough time to get to La Guardia from NJ."
The driver made it (somehow!) to the airport in 15 minutes from across the George Washington Bridge. We were amazed as was his dispatcher, and we made it home in one piece by 10PM, just in time to place the last order from our local Chinese place. It was a long, adventurous day to say the least.
For the last 8-9 months we had been planning a trip with some friends ... somewhere. First, France, then NC, then, DE, and then we finally decided on Puerto Rico. I'd been wanting to bring Matthew here for the last 8 years and this was a perfect opportunity.
The flight down couldn't have been better. Smooth the whole way and we were essentially in Business Class on JetBlue. Perfect. Check.
Getting to the hotel and checking in were a breeze. Check... check.
It had started to rain a bit, but we figured we'd take a nap first. We got into the room, turned on the A/C... only pseudo-cooler air. Uh oh. The front desk suggested we wait a bit because the room had been empty for a couple of days. Fair enough.
Under the ceiling fans, we took a 3-hr, sweaty nap. Then we started the process of switching to another room with a broken A/C unit, checking other rooms, calling Hotels.com to see what other options we had.
Within an hour, we had a new unit, a MUCH better room, a 35% discount at the restaurant, and a free round of drinks at the bar. It turned out good.
We had a good dinner, walked around a bit, and got caught in a couple of showers. We ended the night meeting the hotel drunk from FL, who calls herself, "Monkey!" because she likes to mount her boyfriend (of 28 years) and jump around on it. As she so graciously demonstrated for us, "Eh-eh-eh-eh-eh!!" while gyrating around on her stool. Classy.
Looking forward to more Caribbean adventures today! First off, I'm jumping in the jacuzzi!
When the Chinese delivery guy showed up, I opened the door and took the bags to sign the bill. He looked into the kitchen from the hallway, noticed the steamer in one of our woks, and asked, "What are you cooking?"
Me: "Pho" (pronounced "fah").
Delivery guy: "Wha?"
Delivery guy: "Wha? You use Chinese bamboo steamer..." pointing into the kitchen at the stove.
Me: "Pho. Uh... shrimp. We're steaming shrimp."
I had to leave it at that. He wasn't Vietnamese; he was Chinese. Not sure if they have something similar in authentic Chinese cuisine, but it's evidently, surely, not pronounced "fah".
The Pho was fantastic, tasty, and absolutely filling; the shrimp do have a wonderfully sweet, delicious tamale that's better than the one found in a lobster. But, eating the shrimp was a PITA (pain in the ass). The shells were papery and it's awful to have to dig through a sauced shell to the fat free meat and find the prized tamale. There's also just something a little unappetizing about sucking out a spread out head just behind the shrimp eyes. I know that crawdad head suckers are gonna get on me about that, but even those little critters are different than these shrimp.
Though they're very tasty and we're glad to have had the experience, large, unshelled saltwater shrimp are flavorful enough, easier to eat, and more forgiving,
Matthew loves to do something unique, of course. He got inspired by a semi-homemade Bomba-style cake dessert he found in a Pillsbury recipe book. That recipe called for whipped cream and liqueur (maybe Triple Sec?). He decided, instead, to make use the cake for the outside of an ice cream cake. We couldn't find any Swiss cake logs for the outside, so we chose Little Debbie cake rolls instead - chocolate ones (Swiss Cake Rolls - my favorite) and strawberry ones (my 2nd favorite). He filled it with Edy's chocolate ice cream, but the core was a pint of Hagen Daas Dulce de Leche. YUM!! We separated the layers of chocolate ice cream with crushed thin, dark chocolate cookies (like Oreos without the stuffing). Here are the pictures and it was DELICIOUS!!
My sciatica is still ever-present, but I'm making the best of the week. I'm still on a therapeutic cocktail of meds to get through the week not completely bed-ridden or handicapped, for which I'm very thankful.
On the way home from a dance party, though, (alas, I can't dance this week) a friend of mine from Montreal saw Matt and me walking down the street. Normally, during Bear Week, I'm really playful and very active. This year, I'm not. :-(
My friend from Montreal didn't know about my sciatica. He started to charge me. Matt moved to the side not thinking about the outcome until I started screaming, "NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!" The guy's impact wasn't that great, but I'd tensed up at the same time that Matt was trying to pull the guy away.
The guy felt so bad, when he realized that I was serious. Wasn't his fault; he was being friendly as normal. No harm to existing problems was done but my left side was in slight pain from tensing up quickly. :-(
All in the name of fun and frolic, but I really hope I wake up without new pain. Could have been worse had Matt not been there. :-)