Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bride of the Bloviator

She likes cats.  She tolerates me.  She does not tolerate dirt.

I’m a fan of my wife’s writing.  I’ve been trying to convince her to contribute to this blog, and I’ve finally talked her into giving me her first entry.  I plan to post it next, within in a couple of days.  Meanwhile, I thought it might be fun to tell you a little about her—how we met, what she’s like, a few anecdotes about her, and that kind of fun stuff.  This introduction will be useful whether or not I can persuade her to write more for the blog, given the fact that she’ll be a continuing character in some of my postings.

I met Deborah (henceforth to be referenced as Bride of the Bloviator, or BOTB) in 1983 at a TV station in Memphis, where I was a news producer and she was an intern.  Before you get started, I was just a rank-and-file employee, not anyone’s boss.  The circumstances of our first conversation were noteworthy.  I had just filed for divorce that day from my first wife, after which my news director took me to a bar down the street for some liquid solace.  I rarely drink, and so when we got back to the station, I was smashed.  I hugged people at random—men and women both—and did the whole “I love you man” bit.  I recall throwing my arms around a friend of mine who was expecting, and blurting out how beautiful I found pregnant women to be.  And in the midst of all this, I saw the future BOTB eying me from a corner.  She was cute enough to make a grown man cry.  I’d seen her in the newsroom once before but hadn’t worked up the courage to talk to her.  On this night, when I focused my eyes on her (thanks to the White Russians I’d slurped down, it took some effort), I resolved on the spot to marry her.  But I realized that should I open my mouth in that alcohol-fogged condition, the quality of the resulting conversation would be unlikely to put us on a path meandering anywhere near an altar.  I do recall desperately trying to sober up so that I could say something intelligent should she happen to walk by.  The only other thing I remember is that when I did find myself talking to her, I made repeated assurances that I didn’t normally get drunk and make an ass of myself in this fashion.  This was perfectly true (I do a fine job of making an ass of myself without liquor) but the look in her eye didn’t exactly radiate the trustful confidence of a statement heard, believed, and taken to heart.

My favorite picture from our wedding day, 1985*
Me on our honeymoon.  What can I say, we're an odd couple.
I expected to see her the next day, but she wasn’t there.  I couldn’t even remember her full name—all I recalled was that her first name was Deborah and that her last name began with a “B” and sounded British.  So, after my shift I pulled down the university student directory from its shelf above the assignment desk and started going down the listings.  The first “Deborah” I found had a last name of Bullington, which sounded about right.  I called, and got her.  Awkwardly, I explained who I was, and then with all the poise, aplomb and smooth social graces of a village oaf I blurted out an invitation to go get a drink.  I should mention that I couldn’t have picked a worse night on which to do this; rain was falling in solid sheets, storm water was overflowing the gutters, and cats and dogs were kayaking down city streets.  In response to my invitation, she said she didn’t drink.  Now, every guy has been at this juncture.  Your initial inquiry has been shot down, usually for an ambiguous reason that leaves you wondering where you stand (“Gee, maybe she really does have to wash her hair that night”) and you have to decide whether to try again, or to gather your dignity about you as best you can and move on.  I thought about it for all of one second, and said, “Well, you eat, don’t you?  How about a pizza?”  Having been a starving college student myself, I knew that such an offer would be tempting even if made by a blind one-armed incontinent monkey.  It was and the rest is history.

Here are more things to know about BOTB.

BOTB dislikes dirt
In 1997, we agreed to relocate to Tucson, Arizona, for my first news director’s job.  I arrived first, with BOTB to follow after selling our Florida house.  Now, Tucson is absolutely beautiful, but it’s not much to look at from the air or on the drive from the airport.  To be blunt, she hated it.  “There’s nothing here but dirt,” she huffed shortly after arriving for her first visit.  Now, actually, the comment is not fair; what looks like dirt is really decomposed granite.  But BOTB is from Tennessee, and she missed fluffy green grass and tall trees with wind rustling in the leaves—so much so that the Florida house sale kept getting delayed and delayed, her move to Tucson along with it.  Finally, after several months of pressure from me she concluded her affairs and agreed to let me move her out to Arizona.  In negotiating the agreement, she promised to adhere to one strict condition:  she was to give Tucson a fair chance, and was not to say one negative word about the city for a full month. 

On the first two days of the drive out from Florida, she kept her word.  Around noon on the third day we crossed the Tucson city limits.  Now, I find the desert to be beautiful, but it’s an acquired taste.  BOTB had not acquired it.  She sat looking morosely out the window at the earth-toned stream of passing rocks, sand, dirt, and low scrub.  But she kept her part of the bargain and didn’t say a word.  At about this point our cat Willis woke up from a nap, stretched, put his paws up on the window, and looked out.  “Meow?” he said.  BOTB responded glumly, “’Fraid so.”  I immediately accused her of breaking our bargain, but she insisted she was only agreeing with the cat, and that this in no way violated the terms of our arrangement.
"'Fraid so."  (Dramatic recreation)
A few years later when she visited me in Albuquerque prior to our move there, a gust of wind blew dust across our balcony.  “Great,” she said.  “This town has swirling dirt.”  The next day as we were out looking for houses, we spotted a huge dust devil, spiraling at least 500 feet into the sky.  She stared at it aghast.  “You're telling me it's s got dirt tornadoes?”  ‘Fraid so.

BOTB doesn’t like to move
TV people tend to move around a lot, and we were no exception.   She dislikes having to get used to a new environment.  We both hate packing and unpacking.  And then no matter how careful you are or how selectively you choose your movers, items always come up damaged or missing.  BOTB reacts emotionally to a single scratch on a beloved piece of furniture exactly as she would if someone had attacked it with an ax and reduced it to a pile of pick-up sticks.  Her view of moving is very similar to Mark Twain’s:  three moves = one house fire.

When we first relocated to Florida, I came home from work one evening and found her sitting on the couch in our new apartment, brooding in the dark.  The movers had delivered our belongings, and she was staring glumly at the randomly arrayed furniture and at all the boxes we now had to unpack.  “Are you all right?” I asked, flipping on the light.  “Yes,” she squeaked, and then burst into tears.  I still laugh about that.  She still doesn’t.

Dora helps BOTB write (1985)
BOTB loves animals
BOTB with Willis, 1989
BOTB with deer, 1991
Since the day we met, we’ve always had at least one cat in our lives, usually two.  BOTB dotes on them, and the feeling is mutual.  In fact, all animals of any species seem to love her.  Somehow they instinctively know that she’s an animal person.  I’ve seen deer come out of the woods to say hello to her.  One day during a vacation tour of western states, we thought we saw the head of a prairie dog peeking up in a vacant lot behind a fast-food restaurant; we investigated, and the next thing you know a whole colony of them was swarming all over her (of course, it didn’t hurt that we had a carry-out order with us that they were desperately trying to mooch).  BOTB was once the marketing director for a major zoo—a job she left to follow me to Tucson, for which I’ve always felt guilty—and some of its animals knew her on sight, including a big Orangutan named Rango.  Rango is perfectly capable of tearing your arm off and beating you over the head with it, but he loved BOTB, and vice versa.  I sometimes call her St. Deborah of Assisi, and I’m just waiting for birds to start landing on her shoulders when she goes outdoors to complete the effect.

BOTB is very droll
Part of our shtick from very beginning was to fence with one another verbally.  I wouldn’t care to venture a guess as to who’s ahead at this point.  She used to laugh at every one of my jokes and quips, but it’s harder to get a reaction from her these days.  Recently I said something I thought was hysterically funny, and got crickets.  “You used to think I was funny,” I complained.  “You used to be funny,” she said.  That was just mean.
BOTB's Prairie Dog Adventure, 1991

BOTB photographing Mina & Ellis, Christmas 2013
Like all married couples, we tend to complete  each other’s thoughts.   Sometimes I’ll test her ability to do this by inviting her to fill in a blank.  For instance, during a recent discussion of humor, in remembrance of the anecdote above I said, “I used to be what?” and she answered, “Funny.”  In a conversation a few weeks ago about the history of our relationship, I said, “You used to what?” and she answered, “Love you.”

Recently we were talking and she was not responding.  I finally objected.  “You’re not listening to a word I’m saying,” stated I.  No response.  Are you?”  I demanded.  “Am I what?” she asked.  You might think her comment proved my point, but she was just messing with me.

Our movie watching arrangement isn’t equitable
Every Friday night for our home entertainment, she picks a chick flick, and I pick a submarine movie or something.  We watch hers first, which I do dutifully and without complaint.  Or at least without much complaint.  And then when it’s turn for my movie, she proceeds to sleep right through it.  The thing is, when I accuse her of doing this, she indignantly denies it.  Her snoozage usually becomes apparent when I happen to make a remark about the plot that fails to elicit a response.  I’ll then challenge her.  Last Friday night was typical.  “Deborah?  Deborah?  Are you asleep?”  No response.  Fifteen or twenty minutes later, I saw her stirring.  “You were sleeping through my movie again,” I said.  “No I wasn’t,” she responded.

BOTB can’t operate anything mechanical or electric at home
She can open the garage door, make a pot of coffee, and I’ve seen her run a vacuum cleaner.  That is the sum total of her mastery of anything mechanical or electronic in the domicile.  She has no problems in her professional environment, mind you.  But any home technological challenge more daunting than plugging in a hair dryer reduces her brain to a helpless, quivering mass of gelatinous protoplasm.  Really, it’s the damnedest thing.  When we bought our first home computer (yes, I know, this dates us—very sad) we once went 12 rounds and didn’t speak for two days afterwards in an argument over the C:\ prompt.  She can’t operate the CD player in her car.  She couldn’t work the VHS machine when we had one.  If she wants a piece of cheese toast, I have to operate the toaster for her.  She can buy an on-demand movie via the cable box if you give her an hour’s lead time.  She can’t load or play the Blu-ray machine. 

The other day I set her up to watch one of her girl movies on the Blu-ray before heading upstairs to work on my writing projects.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  “The little remote operates the player.  And the big one is for the TV volume.”

BOTB:  “Okay.”

Me:  “The little one is for what?”

BOTB:  “The player.”

Me:  “And the big one is for what?”

BOTB:  “The volume.”

Valentines' Day, 2014
I nodded and headed up to the office, only to be called back down 30 seconds later.  “I can’t get the sound to come on,” she complained as she jabbed away in exasperated frustration at the buttons on the little remote.

She can’t be trusted around beef jerky
It’s like crack to her.  Last Valentine’s day, I got her flowers, candy, and bag of Jack Links.  It was a good night. 

Watch this space for her first post, coming soon.


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All images by TBB except as noted below.
*By Harold James.

©2014 by Forrest Carr.  All rights reserved.

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