Hard to believe, but last month Laura and I celebrated the first anniversary of the day we met, which we decided was as appropriate as any other day for celebrating. That was December 16, 1998.
It wasn't actually the first time we had metin the strictest sense, it was the third. Here's how it all happened:
I worked for a company called N2K for 15 months, from February 1997 to May 1998. I was the technical producer for a web site called Rocktropolis, which was the rock-music community adjunct to the now-demised and much-lamented Music Boulevard (a competitor to CDNow).
1998 was a banner year for me. It was when life got good again. First, the horrid woman I'd been living with moved across the country, while I stayed in New York. Then I wrote 5 new stories in rapid succession, and sold 2 of them right off the batmy first stories and sales in three years. Then I quit N2K, which was going to the dogs, and started working for CTWyou know, Sesame Street. That was in May.
Laura started working at N2K in August, so we never overlapped as employees. A couple of months later, it was announced that CDNow would be buying N2K, and there would be a lot of layoffs. N2K had always been a company with a small, homey feel, even when it grew to 200 employees. So on December 9, 1998, N2K held its last-ever Christmas party, and invited all former employees to come.
The party was held at Irving Plaza in Manhattanprobably the best mid-sized venue for live music in town. (On Halloween 1997, I had helped produce a live Webcast of The Cure there.) My friend J.B. told me there was someone I had to meet. He introduced me to Laura, and we spoke for all of thirty seconds before someone else snatched away her attention. But I kept thinking about her smile all night. As Renee Zellweger said in Jerry Maguire, she had me from hello. She really had me when she told me how much she had heard about me, and what a genuine pleasure it was to meet me.
What I didn't realize is that she had been drinking a lot that night, and later she wouldn't remember having met me. At any rate, I managed to catch her as she was leaving the party (early), and said I hoped we could talk again sometime. That was #1.
The party was so much fun that I decided to a party of my own for a week latera drinking outing like the ones we had held so many times in the past while I still worked at N2K. I drafted a long, involved email, as clever and funny as I could make it, and sent it out to all my friends, inviting them all to meet at a bar called The Opium Den for drinks on December 16th. Specifically, I asked them all to forward the invitation to the new folks at N2K, the ones whose names I didn't know. I was hoping to get Laura to my little gathering.
The 16th was a Wednesday. That day, I emailed two of my friends directly, asking them to forward my party invitation to that Laura women. Midway through the day, my friend Ric AIMed mesaid there was a woman at work I should meet who had questions about things Mormon. He started up an AIM chat room, invited me and Laura into it, and we proceeded to have a discussion about temple garments, which she had always been curious about.
When Ric introduced Laura in the chat room, I asked her, "Didn't I meet you at the Christmas party last week?"
She said, No, you must be thinking of someone else. She didn't remember, because she had been pretty plastered that night. She did say that she had received my party invitation and would be there that night so we could continue our conversation.
"Until then," I said, "you can look at my Web site for more Mormon-related stuff. It's www.shunn.net."
She said, "Oh, cool. I have a Web site too. Take a look. It's www.krista.com."
I immediately clicked to her Web site . . . only to discover that www.krista.com is really a porn site. There was a kneeling woman on the front page, covering her breasts with an arm. My manager happened to be standing right behind me, but I got the browser backed up to the previous page before he could see the naked woman. Whew!
That was my first encounter with Laura's strange (and completely compatible-with-mine) sense of humor. That was Meeting #2, even though I was the one who didn't realize it this time.
For her part, when Laura looked at my Web site, she realized that some friends at work had showed it to her months earlier, when she first started at N2K. Even then, she later told me, she had been attracted to meto my mind, anywayand wanted to meet me. Now she had an even better reason to come to the Opium Den party.
She was also attracted by the invitation. She told me later, "I had to meet the person who had written it. It was so clever and funny."
All that writing practice pays off.
Laura goes to an exercise class every Wednesday night. She always goes straight home afterward, and she was tempted to do the same thing that night. But finally she said to herself "What the hell, this guy does sound interesting," and showed up at the party. It was apparently a close thing.
And I . . . er . . . ignored for the first hour or so after she arrived. She showed up, sat with some friends for a while, then stood up and signaled for my attention, across the crowd. "Hey, recognize me?" she shouted, and mimicked the pose of that woman from the front page of krista.com, with her arm across her chest. I laughed and laughed, but I was in a conversation, and I didn't want to look like I was a predator, just intent on hitting on Laura, and zeroing in on her the moment she walked in. This was almost a fatal mistake.
After an hour, Laura was ready to pack up and go home. She made one more bid for my attention. "What are you drinking?" she said from across the crowd again. She figured if she bought me a drink, I'd have to talk to her. If I'd known how close she was to walking out, I would have gone and chatted her up in a second (despite the fact that that's not my style), but I didn't know that, and fortunately I didn't have to know that. She brought me a beer, and we sat down together and talked about Mormonism and religion in general.
When we looked up, a couple of hours had passed and everyone else had gone home. I offered to walk her home, and we shook hands on her doorstep. I went home, floating.
Laura on the other hand was devastated. I hadn't tried to kiss her, I hadn't asked for her phone number, and I hadn't said I wanted to see her again. (Not being in the habit of picking women up in bars, I didn't think to do any of these things. We'd just met, but I knew exactly how to get in touch with hercall N2K and ask for Laura. Why did I need to ask her phone number?) She had just been walked home by someone she found interesting, funny, and attractive, and then he just walked away. She figured I didn't like her. (That was #3, the one that stuck.)
But we talked the next day, and then we went on our first date, and then we both made ready to leave on our respective Christmas vacations. I dropped by her apartment the night before I was leaving for Utah, to give her printouts of a couple of my stories. I arrived at her building to discover Laura out front, digging frantically through her purse. She was locked out. She had left her keys on her kitchen table that morning.
A neighbor buzzed us into the building, and we walked up to the sixth floor (no elevator in this buildingNew York is not for wimps!). The neighbor let us into her apartment, and I crawled out onto the fire escape, opened Laura's window, and climbed into her bedroom and unlocked the apartment from the inside. I hate heights. I liked Laura.
And so it was that the first time I entered Laura's apartment, I went in through the bedroom window.
That's also how I acquired the nickname "Knight in White Armor."
Then we were both out of town for two weeks, though we talked on the phone every day. My phone bill the next month was $300. When I flew into Laguardia late on January 2, 1999, my luggage was lost, and I spent an hour filling out forms. By then it was half past midnight, and only one cab was waiting at the taxi stand. Before long, the old driver had proved himself incompetent behind the wheel, and I was in fear for my life. There was an ice storm going onbeautiful little crystals falling out of the skybut unfortunately they turned the BQE into a skating rink.
A mile and half from my exit, the cab skidded. We hit the center divider, spun around. I watched another car slide and start spinning directly toward my side of the cab. That car hit us in the right front fender, and we all spun some more, then came to a stop. In some kind of shock, I hopped right out of the car and onto the freeway, and immediately lost my footing on the ice. I got up again and very carefully made my way across to the shoulder. (Well, the edge, anywaywe were on an elevated stretch of road.) Fortunately there wasn't a lot of traffic, and what traffic there was was moving pretty slowly.
Still, twenty minutes later, someone else went out of control and slammed into the cab again.
I ended up standing in the ice storm with an insufficient jacket for two hours before I finally hitched a ride in an ambulance to Brooklyn Hospital. (We passed seven more wrecks in the mile and a half to the exit, all with emergency vehicles in attendance). Then I took the subway home from there.
Good thing my bags weren't with me in the cab! That might have been a little unwieldy. (But then again, if my bags had arrived with me at LGA, I wouldn't have ended up in the bad cab during the ice storm.)
But the upshot is, I was sick for week after standing out in the cold, so I didn't end up seeing Laura for another week after that. By the time of our second date, it was three weeks since we had seen each other.
And now Laura is in the Caribbean on a cruise with her mother, and I miss her. It still no fun to have her gone, but at least it's not unbearable. We got past that early on, because she had to travel so much in her job for Skymall.
But now it's time for me to get to work, since I am at work, so I'll sign off. Just had to get that all off my chest for some reason.