Thursday, December 06, 2007

The High Life



That's our balcony: right wing of the hotel, second from the top.


My wife and I were married in downtown Detroit in the Wayne County Courthouse on November 27, 1965. I suppose it was technically an elopement. I had decided in the middle of the fall semester my senior year that it was time to for us to get married. The next step that I took will astonish you, you modern young people and also you old people, who have always been modern, now and back in the delirious Sixties.

I asked the Dean at the Bible college where I was a student and where my wife had been a student if it were all right if we wed. It never occurred to me not to ask permission. That is the culture from which I have spent my life trying to escape, and I'm not there yet.

Please, sir.

But he said no. He said it would be "unnatural" for us to be married and not be living together, for I had explained to him that She Who Must Be Loved was teaching kindergarten outside Detroit and living with her parents and would continue to do so, our wedded bliss consisting of 24 hours a day of being wedded but only occasional weekends of bliss.

Thinking back, I realize the gravity of his crime in saying no. He failed to pay me the respect of assuming that my "fiancee" was knocked up and that we damn well better get married, the sooner the better, the date on the wedding license backdated if possible.

In fact, she was not knocked up. The knocking of up did not figure in our calculation, either past or imminent. There was some trouble at home, and I wanted (in the context of that trouble) to be her husband, so we could stand together against the trouble.

But the Dean said no and -- suddenly indignant -- we got married anyway, in complete secrecy in downtown Detroit with only the judge's clerk and typist as our witnesses, and whatever support my wife derived from being my wife was personal, not general, for we kept it all secret until I graduated six months later.

So that part of it was fine. However, we were stuck with one of the more inconvenient of anniversary dates. Half the time our anniversary is on Thanksgiving -- or a day before or a day after. It is not just finding a place for an anniversary meal when the day falls on Thanksgiving, though when we were first married the only place in Durham, North Carolina, open for eating on Thanksgiving was the Holiday Inn, and the meal was just what we would have made at home, but not so good.

More to the point, over the years my wife has come to decide she likes to cook a big Thanksgiving meal for friends and thus, when our anniversary falls on Thanksgiving, that day is already quite festive enough, and if our anniversary is a day earlier or later, we are weighed down with the great meal or with anticipation of the great meal....

Also, let's be honest. Thanksgiving is already loaded up with thanks. An anniversary in proximity to Thanksgiving is more burden than joy. So our anniversary became a kind of afterthought -- until our 40th, which I knew deserved something more than a pan of dressing shaped like a heart. My first idea was that we would fly to San Diego and look at the zoo, assuming the zoo was open on Thanksgiving, or at least walk on the beach, assuming the beach was open.

But that seemed like so much trouble, running from work, negotiating a crowded airport, not to mention a midnight arrival at the hotel, all of which would probably add up to No Sex Please (We're Exhausted). That wouldn't do, I thought, because once you reach a certain age anniversaries are all about sex for, as you age, sex-by-appointment grows more important, and we all hate to miss an appointment.

I know I do.

Anyway, going to San Diego and back all seemed like an exercise in logistics, too much planning and too little playing, so I said let's take the BART train over to the Hyatt Regency, where we stayed when we first visited San Francisco in 1979 on a free press junket back in the day Eastern Airlines was still flying. (Coincidentally, the story I wrote about that trip got me my Chronicle job, and, coincidentally, my Chronicle job got me my USF job. Coincidentally.)

And that's the trip we took, from 12th St. Oakland to the Embarcadero station in SanFran. And it was wonderful. The atrium lobby of the Hyatt was filled with hundreds of strings of lights stretching down 15 stories. We rode streetcars along the waterfront. We ate a really good restaurant and tipped 20 percent. (Though not 20 percent of the bill plus the tax. At some point romance becomes foolishness.)

We were tourists without putting in the work that the poor dear tourists have to put in.

So: a success. This year is the third year we've done it, though we've moved the date to either the weekend before or the weekend after Thanksgiving because we do love to make the turkey and the big meal and have friends over. This year I even got an internet deal on a suite, which was probably a mistake because it was the nicest hotel room I have ever been in except for that villa in Tuscany back when the dollar was strong against the Euro. (It was a mistake because anything ever after is going to be a letdown.)

Oh my how self-indulgent. But we reconsidered while sitting on *our balcony stretching over the entire end of one wing of the hotel 16 floors up*. Our last vacation -- and I mean even a weekend trip with a night in a Motel 6 -- before this vacation was our last anniversary, so I guess we deserved it, however one makes that vain and self-interested assessment.

It was a good time. We even got off the streetcar this trip and walked around Fisherman's Wharf and looked at the tourists, so many of whom seemed to be working so very very hard at life, love and keeping the children from noticing the Hooter's poster.

My bad. Hooters must be plural.

1 comment:

Professor Of Pop said...

This is a great story. And I want more.