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.

Gallery

Grandma’s clippings re: singing with comedian Gene Sheldon

My maternal grandmother, née Linda Preston, traveled as a singer with comedian Gene Sheldon in 1941. Unfortunately, it seems her tour with him was cut short when her brother, my Uncle Peter, took a curve too fast while driving her and ran the car into a tree. I remember Grandma told me her leg was broken, and got infected. She told me she begged the doctors in the hospital to save her leg rather than amputate it, and they gave her Sulfa drugs — brand new at the time — to kill the infection. They worked, mostly, but she was prone to getting infections in that leg in her old age.

Gallery

Photos by J. M. Shafer, Altoona Mirror staff photographer, 1940

I found these photos among my maternal grandmother’s memoirs of her time as a vaudeville performer. They were all stamped on the back:

J. M. SHAFER
STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
ALTOONA MIRROR

These nine photos were among my grandmother’s photos of her time as a trouper with Egyptian Follies. I searched the Internet for information about J. M. Shafer and found this mention of his time as a staff photographer with the Altoona Mirror in an obituary:

Mr. Shafer retired as photographer on May 21, 1980 [sic. Must have been 1970.], after more than 41 years’ service. He began his service with the Mirror on March 8, 1929, as a messenger to Daniel N. Step, president and publisher.

On March 8, 1933, he became the first staff photographer under the late J. Edward Benney, then city editor.

–Altoona Mirror [edits mine]

References

Altoona Mirror. (1983, August 5). Retired Mirror employee dies. Death Record, p. 4. Altoona, Blair County, PA: Altoona Mirror. Retrieved from http://boards.ancestry.com/surnames.shafer/739/mb.ashx

Gallery

When Grandma was a trouper with Egyptian Follies

I found these photos among my maternal grandmother’s memoirs. Her stage name was Linda Preston, and she was a singer who toured with comedian Gene Sheldon. Apparently, she was also a trouper with Egyptian Follies, a vaudeville variety show in 1940. I searched for information about Egyptian Follies, and I found this mention in a master’s thesis:

Throughout the 1931 – 1940 period scattered mention is made of vaudeville programs still being presented in conjunction with the movies. In 1931, a magic company, Rajah Raboid and His Mysteries of 1932, and the Carr Brothers and their musical follies, were presented at the Arcade; in 1932, another magician, Prince Shah Babar, and the company of Trixie Friganza and Her Discoveries; in 1934, Waxo the miracle man; Belle and Bozeman, adagio champions, and Ben Bernie and his orchestra; in 1935, a one-hour vaudeville program Broadway Bandwagon was presented as part of the Wilbur Cushman circuit, The Blue Paradise Revue, six acts of vaudeville, and The Soldiers of Fortune Revue; in 1937, still another magician, in 1939, The Rhythm Boys, RCA recording artists; and finally in 1940, the Egyptian Follies.

Patsy Ruth Heidt

Several of these photos were stamped on the back:

J. M. SHAFER
STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
ALTOONA MIRROR

More on J. M. Shafer in another post. I imagine the other photos were taken by my grandmother and other members of the troupe when they were in different cities.

References

Heidt, P. R. (1951). The history of the theatre in Lake Charles, Louisiana from 1920 to 1950. [Master’s thesis]. Louisiana State University. Retrieved from http://library.mcneese.edu/depts/archive/FTBooks/heidt.htm

Shafer, J. M. (n.d.). [Photographs]. Altoona, PA: Altoona Mirror.

It’s my birthday and I’m feelin’ good

I just woke up this morning, and I started the day with a warm glow. I feel happy, proud, hopeful, and grateful. Today is thanks to all that others have done to keep me alive; today I am proud of all I have accomplished, all that I have done to take care of myself and keep myself alive from one day to the next; today I accept another number after “I am”– a badge of courage, a badge of success, a badge of survival. I’m even proud of my mistakes today; you know why? Because I lived through them, I learned from them, and they helped make me who I am today. This morning I’m awash with a feeling of acceptance about my whole life– all the good times, bad times, successes, failures, finds, losses, smiles, tears… every moment of my life so far has brought me to this point, and look! I’m alive, I’m happy, I’m hopeful, and I’m grateful.

Today is a celebration of my mother’s carriage of me to term — of her decision to have me — and of her successful birth of me. My mother died last October, but if she were still alive, she would once again say, “today is my birth day,” and she would be beaming with pride in me and love for me. Well, mom’s not here this year, but I’m loving myself for her. I’m proud of myself for her. She and my father and God and everything-and-everyone made me. Today is a celebration of me– this unique individual, this creature, this person. There is not, never has been, nor never will be anyone else exactly like me. I’m special, I’m loved, and I love myself. Today is a very good day.

Mom saved my childhood gift

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Had my first good cry since my mom died. In the bottom of her handbag, I found a brand new white coin purse with plenty of coins in it, but I also found this old leather coin purse I made for my mom when I was seven years old. It had only two coins in it, and she didn’t need it in her handbag, but she kept it in there anyway. It — I — meant that much to her.

I remember a time before… yet where are we now?

I started thinking tonight about how I remembered a time before every town — nay, every corner — had a Walgreen, Walmart, Starbucks, CVS, Dollar General, QT, 7-11 (are there 7-11’s anymore?), Circle K, etc. Then I realized it was September 11th and it would be wrong not to add that to the mix. Well, this is not a Nine Eleven post, but it’s on 9/11, so I will add to this that, unlike anyone eleven years old or younger today, I remember a time before 9/11. I remember a time when we called the World Trade Center the twin towers. I remember when Philippe Petit walked between them on a tightrope. I remember a time before the twin towers. I remember a time before motion screen billboards. I remember a time before wrap billboards. I remember a time when billboards were rolled out in paper and the strips had to line up just so. I remember a time before Apple. I remember a time before Microsoft. I remember a time before the iPhone, the iPad, Google, AOL, Facebook, Twitter, Quora (I don’t even use Quora), social media, sexual harassment (as a term)… although I remember hearing a joke about Catholic priests and choir boys at summer camp when I was 10,  in 1977, just before this movie called Star Wars came out. So let’s say I remember a time before people said they were shocked that Roman Catholic priests were molesting and raping boys– I remember when it was so well-known there were jokes about it. Hypocrites.

Hmph. As I was saying… I remember when I had never heard of Starbucks. I remember the first time I saw one I was vacationing in Seattle in 1990. Within a year or two, they were everywhere. I remember when a tweet was a sound a bird made, blah, blah, blah. I’m 45. It’s not so old.

And yet, you know what else I remember? I remember when I was in first and second grade and being told we had to learn the metric system because we would all be moving to it. Whatever happened to that, huh? I remember when we were going to go solar in the 70s. Whatever happened to that? I grew up watching 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, and Space 1999. I thought we would be living on the moon by the end of the twentieth century and in space by the twenty-first. I also grew up believing in and praying fervently for World Peace by the Year 2000! (Soka Gakkai) How about that world peace? Well, if we can’t even switch to the metric system…

I am not a man who is shocked at all this “newfangled technology.” I’m a boy who grew up expecting a world bigger, better, greater, and more peaceful than what we have now. I hear it’s patent law and trademark and copyright and litigation that’s holding us back, and I’m not surprised. I see trillions (is that enough, or is it quadrillions?) of people burned, bloodied, killed, wasted, and wounded in war, killing, destruction, neglect… I see money stolen from the middle class and given to the rich while the poor have less of a chance of becoming middle class.

We have such great technology, it’s both awesome and terrifying. When I see what filmmakers do with technology, sometimes it restores my faith in humanity. A lot of what people do with technology in social media, photos, videos, words, music– these things restore my faith in humanity. I suppose I should count us lucky that our whole world hasn’t been demolished, and I do! We are lucky, and I guess we are doing something right. We have a long way to go, though. It’s not too late to adopt that metric system, go solar, wind, water, clean energy, sustainable. It’s not too late to make this world the great place we thought it would be when we grew up. I think I have an idea for tomorrow morning. I’m going to wake up and ask myself, “What can I do today to help make this world as great as I hoped it would be when I was a boy?”