On February 15, 2003, I was out with some friends at an Italian restaurant when my friend Jen got in touch with me. She was at a bar called Boxers with her new boyfriend’s colleagues and she wanted back-up.
I headed over there. I was ordering a drink at the bar when a gentleman started talking to me about the Irish authors painted on the wall. “Now, James Joyce -- what did he write?” he asked.
I have no idea why he asked that question -- quite possibly one of the world’s strangest pick-up lines, but one that had me babbling on about various aspects of Ulysses and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. We talked for a while, then the crew moved over to the club next door. I had just enough cash in my wallet to take a cab home, so I begged off. As I was heading out, I saw him looking back at me like “you’re leaving?”
The next day, the word came through Jen that James Joyce man had asked for my contact information. She had figured out a few things about him -- he was older, relatively senior at the firm, but rumored to be a bit of a player, so I should be careful. He and I got in touch and met for brunch the next weekend. It was a good brunch, though nothing earth-shattering. Afterwards as we stood on the street, he announced that he was going to the art museum. He didn’t ask if I wanted to go with him, so I said something along the lines of “ok, have fun!” If he was a player, I didn’t want to seem too eager, right?
He was persistent, though. The next weekend he asked me out on a mystery date. He picked me up in a car (a strange thing in New York) and took me out to the New York Aquarium at Coney Island. We checked out the sharks and the turtles, and then walked along the very cold beach. After, we went out for margaritas. I remember thinking that I was actually having a really good time talking to him. I was on a date and I was enjoying myself. Good sign, right?
Apparently, the feeling was mutual, because the next weekend he took me out to Aquavit (the restaurant) -- quite possibly the swankiest restaurant I’d ever been in at that point. Goat cheese ice cream? We had the chef’s tasting menu plus beverage accompaniment. We went to a bar afterwards and then he asked me if I wanted to meet his parents.
His parents? Yep, he said his parents were staying with him that week, and so I went back to his apartment wondering if this was an incredibly inventive way to get me back to his place. But they were there. They were nice. By this point, it is possible my date was a bit inebriated. He told his parents we were engaged, and then as he was putting me in a cab to leave, he stood there on the sidewalk yelling “I love you!”
Perhaps it was the booze talking, but it all turned out to be accurate, if premature. We got engaged on February 15, 2004, and got married a few months after that.
Sometimes I think it’s good, in life, that we don’t know ahead of time what little decisions and moments will turn out to be so life-changing. If I hadn’t gone to my second bar of the night that February 15, 2003, my life would be completely different. As of that afternoon, I thought the most out-of-the-ordinary thing that had happened to me that day was seeing Al Sharpton on the street when I went to watch the anti-war protests (remember those?) that morning. I smiled and waved because I thought I knew him from some where. The mind does that when you see famous people. He gamely smiled and waved back.
Little did I know I was hours away from meeting the father of my three children.
Of course, if I had known that, that would have been quite an odd scene in the bar.
So anyway, that was 9 years ago today. I think about that each year on February 15 and remember just how random life is, and how fortuitous it was that I decided to go to Boxers. Which, incidentally, closed down a few years ago. But we’re still going strong.
In other news:
(photo courtesy flickr user Carlos Luna)