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Throughout history stories of romantic meetings are chronicled and passed down through the ages.

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So... How Did You Meet Anyway?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I Dated a Spy?

When I first learned that I was to be stationed in West Berlin I was so excited. Never in all my life did I ever think that I would be a part of history as “A Defender of Freedom” in the Berlin Brigade. Patrolling the wall between East and West Berlin was something I had read about as a teenager and now I was being sent to actually take part in it. The United States was in the middle of the Cold War and Berlin was the hot spot to see it firsthand.

I had to go through several security clearances to be stationed here as did all those soldiers before me and after me. We were warned that Soviet and East German spies were all over the place and we were to never talk about what we did or where we were going to those not connected with the military.

To help this situation I promised myself that I wouldn’t date any German “frauleins” , not only so I would not be forced to lie to them about what I did but I really didn’t want to break a young ladies heart because I would be leaving after a year and a half.

After six months in Berlin I met a young American lady who was a dependent, the child of an Air Force serviceman stationed at Tempelhoff. I was 19 and she was 18. Her father didn’t like us Army guys and made it be known that he out ranked me and that he held a very high security clearance to which he was a member of the Air Force Intelligence. His dislike of me made it difficult for him to allow his daughter to accompany me downtown to the discos. Yes, this was the early 80’s and the disco scene was big in West Berlin but he would not let his little girl go out with some infantryman with only a year of college under his belt and barbarian tendencies. It was a relationship which held little hope for a future. However, I wouldn’t leave her because her father didn’t like me. He would just have to deal with me.

Like most weekends I wanted to go out with my friends but she wasn’t allowed to go with me to a bar called the “Kudorf” or Cow Town in English. So my friend Ron and I went out to have a good time. After a few drinks it was now my turn to go and buy a round of drinks for us. As I’m waiting in line I hear the two ladies behind me speaking English. Both were tall, blond and beautiful and had my attention. Being the ever so curious person I asked them where they were from. The taller of the two spoke up and said that her friend was from Texas and that she was from Berlin. I noticed during our brief conversation that they both spoke English without an accent, neither Texan nor German. Strange! I got my drinks and left to tell Ron that I met a young lady from Texas (his home state). After I told Ron about her he decided to have a look for himself.

Soldiers from my company started to show up so I hung out with them when Ron left. About an hour later Ron comes back to us and tells me that he’s chatting with the girl from Texas and the Berliner wants to dance with me. At first I said no! I have a girl friend and I would feel uncomfortable dancing with another girl. He begged me and eventually told me he would buy me two beers. Well, two beers was a reasonable offer and what harm comes from helping a friend in the utmost of situations. Off I went following my friend and fellow soldier Ron, from Texas, into battle.

Ron introduced me to Michelle from “Texas” and Antje from “Berlin”. Wait! No accent. Ron from Texas had an accent. Others in my company were from Texas and had an accent. You know the type I’m talking about. That draw….And Antje from Berlin? I was in Germany and every German I knew (not many) had a German accent, but not Antje from Berlin. Her accent was more British. Not only that, a German man insisted on talking to Antje and my German at that time was not good. It was poor! Not only did I not understand a word they were saying but, when ever this German man would start talking to Antje, Michelle would divert Ron’s and my attention and start asking questions. Of course we were brief and short not saying much except some bullshit about what we did. We quickly brought the conversation back to Michelle asking if she knew what they were talking about. No she did not.

Finally, we asked Michelle and Antje how they knew each other and where they had learned English. They laughed and giggled only like a 19 year old female can and proceeded to tell us they had met in Norway. Norway? No way! They then laughed more and said that she was Pakistani having been born in Lahore, Pakistan. No way! 1984, Cold War, Pakistan, neighbor to Afghanistan, Soviet Union fighting in Afghanistan and back to the Cold War. Not only is that an incomplete sentence but I didn’t know what to think then or now. Why would I think all of this? Oddly enough, I had a similar case a few months before while flirting with a young German lady. Her name I will always remember, it was Magda. Why would I remember her name? Because she had a sister named Eva. Any reader of World War II history would put 1 plus 1 together to get my point. Magda, Eva, Magda, Eva…? Well, Eva, everyone should know, was the name of Hitler’s Bride, Eva Braun. But Magda was the wife of Joseph Goebbels, the famous Propaganda Minister of the Third Reich. Why would someone name their children Eva and Magda? Either because they were Nazis or they were spies. This was a good reason to stop flirting.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Couldn't Be Happier

I was back from the University of Vermont on  break.  Went to visit my high school science teacher in his classroom and saw the “new girl” from Massachusetts.

 She had moved to Vermont when her dad’s company transferred him.  Petite, dark, pretty.  I offered her a ride home.  Her younger sister and brother needed a ride too.  We crunched into my MGA and drove to her house.

Cut to another house, a few years and numerous dates later.  We’re at a party,  home from college on summer vacation.  She’s a sophomore, I’m a senior     Finally she says yes to my request for her hand in marriage.  I promise her father I’ll see to her tuition from college if he’ll let us tie the knot.

With the engagement formalized on Christmas Eve, 1961, I depart for Fort Dix New Jersey and the longest 6 month military training on record.

We are married in late September, 1962, six weeks after my discharge from the Army and three weeks after my father dies of cancer.

We wander – sometimes aimlessly, sometimes with purpose -  through the next 50 years.  Life bangs us up a bit, but soothes the bad times with three wonderful, talented, strong-willed daughters.  They each produce three equally wonderful, talented, strong-willed sons.  The gene pool is a wonderful place for swimming!

Today, with Janet’s early-on cancer scare, my stroke and aorta replacement (the tube, not the valve), we soldier on.  A spotted job journey for me – largely in public relations, broadcast journalism, a stint as a Congressional aide, advertising agency owner and retirement  Janet’s 25 year career in elementary education (reading) continues.  I continue to rise at 4:30 weekdays to oversee a 2 hour classical music program.

We have watched our relationship pass through all of the stages, beginning with passion, moving to the child-raising years when not much thought is given to our own needs, to the empty nest and re-grouping of emotion, to the grandparent years which are every bit as fulfilling as the years with our own children.

As we have stumbled through these 50 years, our marriage has survived largely because we have faced the predictable – and unpredictable  -  vicissitudes with lots of humor, teeth-gnashing, fear, hope and, yes, courage.

We continue to function as the Bank of Brian and Janet, the arm chair-Freuds, the wizened oracles and the home of last resort.
Us?  We couldn’t be happier.  Younger maybe, or richer, but not happier.

In the Kitchen

It all started in Berlin around 1980, when I had just finished a relationship and was desperately looking for a room to stay independently.

Well, the first and best way to look seemed to me to be in a Studentenheim, having had good experience with this kind of living before. So I checked out a few places, and as it was urgent and I was feeling the time pressure,I checked out a few Studentenheime, among them the one in Suarezstra├če in Charlottenburg.

The chief administrator, Fr. Weser, seemed to be nice and understanding of my problems and my wishes. So I went by there, she was quite hopeful that she could help me. But she had to talk first to her colleague and would give me notice in half an hour. So I walked up and down Suarezstr and had a coffee, couldn’t wait to come back. I think it was 1:00 or so. So when I finally came into the room, Fr. Weser and her colleague still had their heads together, whispering to each other – I thought oh-oh-oh, how might that end? But then looking to me, she said to me that a room was available. I didn’t know what to say at that moment, but was more than grateful for this offer which I accepted very happily.

The only problem was that I was not officially a student anymore, and had a job as a physician already. So I actually mentioned my personal dilemma and pretended to be working on my M.D. thesis. The ladies were quite understanding and respectful and sympathetic with my life situation at that moment. So I got the room number 210 on the 2nd floor, and was overly happy.

So for the next few terms, every semester, it was always a problem to show my legitimization as a student,which I did not actually have.In order to calm down my social conscience (that I wasn’t taking the Studentenheim room from a needy student) I was able to rent an apartment with my real pay check, and sublet it to a student couple for a low price. Of course this was not only altruistic – I knew I had a place to live if Fr. Weser decided to kick me out.

So I said I would need a little extra time to work on my thesis, but after a certain time I felt that didn’t meet the criteria as a student any more, so I had to explain my personal circumstances in more detail. One time explaining not feeling well in general and another time unexpected difficulties occurring. So by then I had figured out that it would be best to go to the office right behind another person, so that they were busy and attended to that person, and then, when I opened the door, they recognized me of course and waved to me that they were busy right then and couldn’t attend to my semester dilemma, and indicated that it was ok to stay on.

In the meantime, I had met a girl from the States (who had moved in to room number 215) and who had noticed me coming in once a week from Kaiser’s grocery store across the street, usually on a Friday, carrying 4 big plastic bags, with Kaiser’s printed on them, mostly filled with cans of “Mexican Bean Stew”, and soda, supposed to last for the upcoming week.

So after walking up the stairs, usually after a night shift, my arms got longer and longer, and the bags almost hit the floor. When I entered the community kitchen, there was the American girl, usually fixing food for herself (and sometimes for others).

While I stored my food away, I had the feeling the girl felt sorry for me, and we got into a conversation, and she provided me with a different meal than Mexikanischen Bohneneintopf.

Sometime after that we had our first date – an all day boat trip on the Berlin rivers, during which we took pictures of each other and fell promptly in love. The rest is history, and it all began in the kitchen (right around the corner from which we are writing this in our “real” kitchen of 25 years)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Love At The Piercing Tent

I met by husband, Carl at Ozzfest ’98 in Milton Keynes Bowl, England. I was 17 and he was 16.  We met by the piercing tent while Slayer was onstage. I was debating about getting my nose pierced when Carl and another guy, also named Carl, started talking to me.  I went ahead and got my nose pierced while Carl had his ear pierced a couple of times. I  fainted (never have been any good with needles of any sort), but luckily Carl came to my rescue armed with lager.  The other Carl went in search of cigarettes and never returned, but Carl and I spent the rest of the day together.

At the end of the day we had to leave each other. I boarded my coach to return to Cardiff,Wales, and he boarded his to Leeds, England.  The following day we both realized we had no way of contacting each other; we hadn’t exchanged phone numbers or addresses.  So we both wrote to the contacts page in Kerrang! magazine trying to find each other and appeared on the same page, our adverts almost next to each other. We wrote for a year, the old fashioned way of pen and paper as neither of us had email. Then Carl visited Cardiff for a weekend.  After that we spoke on the phone once a week and visited as often as possible. I wouldn’t recommend the trip from Cardiff to Leeds by National Express coaches.
In March 2000, Carl got a job in Cardiff and moved down.  We lived with my parents for a year while we saved and we bought our first house in July 2001.  We married on 20th June 2002 exactly 4 years after we met. I was 21 and he was 20.
I totally believe our meeting was fate, and it was love at first sight.
We now have 3 sons, Daniel, Oliver and Ben and we've been married for 9 years.
I don't have a pierced nose anymore, just a dent where it used to be.  Carl took his earrings out a long time ago, when he started a 'proper' job.