How I met my husband fourteen years ago at the Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge

It was a Saturday morning fourteen years ago when I met the man I would marry. I was at the Claire de Lune Coffee Lounge in North Park, San Diego, where I had a scheduled meeting with a man I was working with on a volunteer basis. I saw my future husband walk in wearing sweat pants, a tee shirt, and a baseball cap. (He later told me he was running late and didn’t have time to dress right and do his hair because he also had a meeting with other people in a volunteer organization and had overslept.) I practically bumped into him as we both got in the line to get our coffee and pastry. He said, “HELL-oh!” as if he were gladly surprised to run into me. We did a bit of a dance as to whom should go first. I don’t remember who went first, but the next thing I remember I was stirring my coffee at the condiments bar and he walked up to do the same and said “Good MORNing!” as if he were happy to meet me. We were both in such a rush to get to our respective meetings we didn’t dare exchange names or any further pleasantries; we just left it at that buzzing undercurrent. I swear to God, as I watched him walk to his table, I thought “he would be good for me,” like the lyrics in the song from Evita:

I don’t always rush in like this / 20 seconds after saying hello / Telling strangers I’m too good to miss / If I’m wrong I hope you’ll tell me so / But I think you should know / I’d be good for you / I’d be surprisingly good for you.

I looked over at the table where he sat, and recognized one of the men he was sitting with; in fact, I had that man’s number in my phone. After my meeting, I texted the man and asked him to give my number to the cute guy with the reddish brown hair. I never heard from my mystery man, but I went to a Memorial Day pool party two days later and there he was! I went up to him — or he came up to me — I forget which. I found out his name was Andy, and learned more about what he did for a living and as a volunteer. I got out my sunscreen and he asked me if I would like him to do my back. I said, “You don’t have to… I mean… if you want to… I mean… yes, thank you.” I was so flustered, I was bumbling for the right thing to say. Looking back now, I’m glad I got over my nerves and took him up on his offer. We got to know each other at the party, and after a few hours, when he said he needed to go home and walk his dogs, he asked me what time it was, and I said “time to take me home with you.”

(I never thought about it until just now, but I get annoyed now when he asks me the time, because he does it all the time. Nowadays the answer is sometimes “time for you to get a watch,” but if he hadn’t asked me the time that first day, I wouldn’t have had that clever response, and who knows how I would have made my move? Hm… makes you think… the little things that bug us about our loved ones are what makes them them, and we would miss them if we lost them and their annoying little quirks.)

Well, I’ll just say the rest is history because I don’t want to get too intimate here. And speaking of history, here are a few fun facts about the coffee house where we met, the song that inspired the woman who opened it, and the poem that inspired the song. I Googled it this morning and found out that the correct spelling of the bittersweet song by Debussy is Clair de Lune, which means moonlight, and the song was based on the poem “Clair de Lune” written by another Frenchman, the poet Paul Verlaine (who, coincidentally, had a scandalous love affair with the then seventeen-year-old French poet, Arthur Rimbaud). The reason the coffee house had an e at the end of Clair was that the owner’s name was Claire. I also learned that, sadly, Claire closed her coffee house in February of last year.

Here is the original french text and an English translation of the poem “Clair de Lune”:

Clair de lune

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L’amour vainqueur et la vie opportune,
Ils n’ont pas l’air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d’extase les jets d’eau,
Les grands jets d’eau sveltes parmi les marbres.

From Fêtes galantes (1869)

Moonlight

Your soul is like a landscape fantasy,
Where masks and Bergamasks, in charming wise,
Strum lutes and dance, just a bit sad to be
Hidden beneath their fanciful disguise.

Singing in minor mode of life’s largesse
And all-victorious love, they yet seem quite
Reluctant to believe their happiness,
And their song mingles with the pale moonlight,

The calm, pale moonlight, whose sad beauty, beaming,
Sets the birds softly dreaming in the trees,
And makes the marbled fountains, gushing, streaming–
Slender jet-fountains–sob their ecstasies.

And here is the song played in a video “with an animated graphical score”:

There is a bittersweetness to all of this, but as the French say, c’est la vie! At some point, if one of us loses the other, that will be bittersweet too, but the bitterness of the future doesn’t diminish the sweetness of the present. For today, and for the fourteen years we have loved each other, I am blessed.

Paul & Tina’s Signalong: Haters gonna hate

I am not as offended or concerned about Paul & Tina’s Signalong as some people are. I think exposure to ASL can be a good thing, regardless of who’s signing. Personal experience: the first time I was truly impressed with the beauty of ASL was at a monologue competition in 1985, when a hearing girl spoke and signed a monologue from Children of a Lesser God. I have no idea, in retrospect, how good she was at signing; all I remember is I thought it was beautiful. The fact that she spoke and signed at the same time made it accessible to me. I don’t think I would have gotten the same impression at the time if I had seen a Deaf woman delivering the same monologue, even if it were interpreted. I might have been more intimidated than entertained. I might have seen more differences than similarities. I might not have been ready for the culture shock.

If you read the comments on Paul & Tina’s Signalong Facebook page post about taking down their donation site, you’ll see a variety of views, both supportive and critical, both from hearing and Deaf people. I think this dialogue is a good thing. The comments from d/Deaf people were more supportive than those from interpreters, though, and I think that’s telling. If Deaf signers want to be offended by Paul & Tina, and educate them about their language and culture, that is their job. It’s not ASL/English interpreters’ job to be offended for Deaf people.

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish

Where you start isn’t necessarily where you end up. It’s not Paul & Tina’s job to be Deaf, and they’re not trying to be. They’re just being themselves and having fun with it. They’re not the be all, end all; they’re just doing their thing. Where people take it from there is their business. Time will tell whether future interpreters might have first thought ASL was fun by watching their videos. Eventually, we learn from Deaf people if we get that far. And if we don’t get that far, what’s the harm?

Magic Man is a tightly crafted song!

I was listening to a classic rock station just now, and they played Heart’s “Magic Man.” I remember hearing this song many times when it came out– my mom and her boyfriend played the vinyl LP every day for weeks. I never noticed before today, though, how tightly crafted it was. The verse and chorus repeat only once each, with slightly different lyrics and very different meanings each time. In the first chorus, the person quoted is the self-proclaimed Magic Man himself, inviting her to “come on home, girl”; the second time, it is the mother pleading with her to “come on home, girl.” I don’t know what it’s called when songwriters change the meaning behind the same lyrics, but I think it can be brilliant (my favorite example is Tim McGraw’s “Don’t Take the Girl”).

What really impressed me just now was how short “Magic Man” is. Coming out of my car radio, where so many songs are composed mostly of choruses repeated ad nauseum, this tight little composition put the rest to shame.