Getting it right, finally

MY FIRST TWO marriages failed, and maybe it was because of how I proposed to those wives. I don’t recall how I did it the first time though I do remember why. That was over half a century ago. But I do remember how I did it the second time.

We were in a restaurant on Westheimer Boulevard in Houston. I did not get down on one knee. I did not have a ring lurking in a champagne flute. There was no music. The waiters did not sing ‘O Sole Mio. I told her we should get married so she could get on my employer-provided medical insurance. She had no coverage.

She swooned. I was such a romantic guy.

We had been living together at that point for seven years.

Perhaps if ObamaCare had existed, we never would have wed, and I would have been spared lots of pain, grief and expense.

By the third time, I had learned, matured, wised up and sobered up.

I did get down on my knee, and I did have a ring. And where did I do it? Where these two pre-Hispanic pyramids join, right there at their base. You see it early in the video, the V between the two structures. That’s where it happened about 18 years ago.

And medical insurance had nothing to do with it.

Thinking back …

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YESTERDAY MORNING, after hard work in the yard, I was sitting at the dining room table after second breakfast, cereal. My child bride had returned to her pastry workshop, so I was alone, gazing out the window toward the distant Alamo Wall.

With elbows on the table, I placed my face into my hands, closed my eyes and thought. What a high pile of memories.

Three-quarters of a century of breathing combined with an adventuresome, sometimes reckless personality lead to all kinds of crap, most still alive in the cranium.

Three wives, two countries plus a Caribbean island, two languages, planes, parachutes, motorcycles, hot-air balloons, mind-altering materials, a number of jobs but only one of any duration. I did stick with that, which was good, and why I’m here right now.

Dancing in clover.

I wonder about people who live in a more linear fashion. Finish school, a real profession, marriage, have kids, grandkids, buy a home and stay put for decades. Take vacations every year to places like Paris, then head home again.

Yes, I know far fewer folks live like that these days, but many still do.

I ponder if I would have preferred that. Some moments of my life have been pure terror. Try two divorces for starters. Once I had a small plane spin out of control, but it got leveled off. Once I flew into a cloud bank with no training on how to deal with that. And once I overflew a rural runway and ended up in the weeds.

Drive a motorcycle drunk? Count the times. Other stuff so absurd I’m not even going to share. Yet, there I sat at the table, full of cereal, low-fat milk and chia seeds while my child bride was baking brownies, and the sun was shining in a cool, blue sky.

Thoughts in the night

TWO DECADES AGO when my mother was about 80, I asked her what entered her mind at night during those moments when she was awake, those intervals we all have.

I was curious about what old people with lots of history thought in the dark night.

New ImageIf we’re worrying about something before going to bed, that’s what we’ll be focusing on, of course, but at times we awake when there’s nothing worrisome in our lives. Usually, we slip back into our dreams easily, but not always.

I forgot what my mother told me, but I recall it was nothing notable. I thought she’d be remembering the Great Depression or the time she eloped at midday with my father in Athens, but she didn’t mention anything like that. I would have remembered.

Well, now that I’m pretty old myself, I know what old people think, at least what I think. I have a few set skits for those moments. I think, for instance, of a photo of me standing on Cesery Boulevard in Arlington, Florida, posing with a baseball bat as if someone were pitching a hardball at me. I was about 9. I have lost that photo.

But it lives in my mind.

I sometimes think of my very small bedroom in that Cesery Boulevard home, the twin bed, and getting up mornings, stepping across the narrow hallway, and opening the folding canvas door into the kitchen where my mother would be smoking a cigarette. Maybe she’d just downed a Miltown to get her through another day.

What I have thought of more frequently than anything the past 25 years is the moment my last wife told me she was leaving. I was standing in her office door in our Houston home one evening, and she was sitting on the floor going through files.

She mentioned fairly casually that she had found an apartment in Montrose and was moving out. She was shockingly nonchalant. She didn’t even look at me.

Since we had never discussed the possibility of divorce, this was like a meteor. I remember the moment in detail a quarter of a century later. And here is the strange part. Conjuring up that memory during an insomniac spell almost instantly returns me to sleep.

You would think it would be precisely the opposite.

But I’ve just recently noticed that I’m not using that memory anymore as a substitute sleeping pill. The 25-year-old habit has died. I do still think of the kid with the baseball bat, and mornings walking from my small bedroom into the little kitchen and seeing my mother, but not the moment my wife announced she’d had her fill of me.

A single Tylenol will also send me to dreamland, but where’s the drama in that?

From the Nazis to Amazon

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IN THE EARLY 1970s, when I was married to my first wife and had a toddler, I bought a VW Bug convertible. It was so much fun! Totally unsafe, but who cared?

Airbags? Nah! Viable seatbelts? Nah! Padded dash? Yeah, right. It was hard steel. But we really enjoyed it, especially with the canvas top flipped down.

One afternoon in a summer rainstorm in New Orleans I was driving alone up Magazine Street (driving up, not down. There’s a difference.) and the puny wipers were doing their best. Janis Joplin was singing Me and Bobby McGee on the radio.

It was the first time I’d heard that song, and I still associate it with the interior of my Bug convertible in a sweltering New Orleans afternoon deluge. I gave the car to my wife after we split up, and she rapidly ran it into the ground. Sad.*

The world’s last Bugs were manufactured only in Mexico over the last few years, but that has come to an end. Sad again. And the only place the final cars will be sold is on Amazon Mexico. You can pay the full ride, or you can fork over 20,000 pesos for a layaway.

That’s about 1,000 U.S. dollars. Layaway is alive and thriving in Mexico.

Now, let me return to that rainy afternoon in New Orleans when I’d only been married once, had a cute little girl named Celeste, and I drove a white Bug convertible.

Imagine the rain.

* My second ex-wife scored even better. I gave her a house! Voluntarily. Or stupidly if you subscribe to my mother’s point of view.