Wednesday, January 30, 2008

lurb story

Four years, three weeks and four days ago, I drove to Hatch, running late as usual. It was a Monday, our first day back after the New Year holiday. Five new interns were starting that day, and we'd scheduled a training session for the morning. The new blood consisted of four girls and a boy. Two of the girls were from Harpeth Hall, a January tradition, the other two from different colleges up north. The boy was more of a mystery. In classic Hatch nepotism, which I both regularly protested and participated in, one day in the fall Jim had called up to the front of the shop, "One of my friends from high school is sending his kid down to intern with us sometime this winter!" I picked this as an opportune time to be a pain in the ass, and objected. "What do we know about him? Have we seen a resume or a portfolio? Do we even know his start date?" Jim, to his credit, at least obtained that last vital bit of information for me. There was a post-it left on my desk with the words, "Austin Gray. Salina. Jan 5."

The training session was already in full swing by the time I got into the shop. I made name tags when I got to my desk, and tried to distribute them by instinct, instead of asking who each new intern was. Austin was easy enough to pick out, the only new boy, so I slapped a name tag on his chest and thought, "Oh, he looks fine."

A week later, I had determined that he was, in fact, more than fine. He was funny. I was organizing some intern/staff bonding, and asked him what his plans were for the evening. He responded by saying he was probably going to wank it a few times, in this incredibly casual way that made me laugh before I even realized he was joking. I recruited him for a sushi and board game night, where we played a game called Kokology, from a book of quizzes I'd received for Christmas. Our quiz responses were supposed to give us insight into our psychology. The quiz we all took was about an imaginary amusement park, how we pictured our own experiences there. One of the questions was how long we expected to stand in line before getting on a roller coaster. My optimistic sisters, who obviously haven't spent time at Cedar Point, said there would be no line, no wait, just walk right up to the ride. Edan said, "Maybe five minutes?" I pragmatically predicted 45 minutes. Austin's response: "EONS." At the end of the quiz, it was revealed that our responses were supposed to be indicative of our attitudes toward sex, and specifically, our wait time for the roller coaster represented foreplay. Much giggling ensued...

Another week passed. Everyone at Hatch made plans to attend the Guilty Pleasures show at 12th and Porter, and I was frothing at the mouth with excitement. Austin left the show after the second song, and I was troubled by how mad this made me. Why should it matter? I knew he had a girlfriend at home in Kansas, although he occasionally exhibited an apathy about that situation that gave me a mean flare of happiness that I didn't want to examine. I was in a long-distance Thing with San Francisco. I wasn't supposed to care.

By the next week, Austin and I were either talking on the phone every night after work, or making plans together. Mostly still group activities, dinner, movie nights. He came to Jenny's birthday dinner with my sisters and their (now) husbands, but it Wasn't a Date. The next week he helped me make my famous chocolate and almond tart, and was joking around with the whisk, which was covered with ganache. He had chocolate all over his face and in his beard, and I remember thinking, for just one second, that I wanted to kiss it off his face. Uh oh.

January 30th was a Friday night. We had talked about going to the opening at Cheekwood with Casey and Trent, but it was too cold. We met a visiting friend of Austin's for a beer at Bosco's, and a couple of times I didn't move my leg away when it rested next to his under the bar. We took the friend back to his hotel and then picked up sushi from Ken's. We watched The Italian Job at my house while we ate. I had a blanket spread out over both of our knees. At one point I realized that his hand was on top of the blanket, on my knee, which was under the blanket, and I wasn't sure if he realized it, but didn't want to move my knee so as to not make a point out of it. Trent was in the living room talking to us, and Austin didn't move his hand. We were sort of snuggling without really discussing it. We sat on that couch and talked late into the night after the movie. We were reading Calvin and Hobbes books out loud to each other by the time the snuggling had become more overt, and then, eventually, turned into kissing.

And, I suppose, you know the rest. Or, to skim over the next two months, Austin went home to Kansas with the intent of returning to Nashville as soon as he found an apartment and a job. I visited and then sort of lost touch with San Francisco. Austin and I talked on the phone and IMed every day he was gone. I was becoming addicted to the sound of his voice. He came back the first weekend of March to sign a lease on an apartment, and we went out in public as a couple, and I got to meet most of the Jenkins family, with whom Austin had grown up and also stayed with during his internship. I suppose the clincher was the middle of March, when I went to Texas for South by Southwest with Jenny and Shannon. This trip also coincided with my birthday. I spent the entire trip either on the phone with Austin or seeing things that reminded me of him and I wanted to tell him about. I stayed back from a shopping excursion to talk to him for two hours. He had made me a beautiful birthday card and sent an incredibly thoughtful box of gifts. He was winning.

He moved to Nashville the last week of March and we have, literally, never looked back. Four years of inside jokes and amassing an embarrassingly large zoo of spoiled pets. Four years of ridiculous dances in the kitchen, and planting tomatoes, and holding hands thistight on airplanes. Four years of baseball games and guilty cheeseburgers and washing dishes. Four years of always having something to talk about, but also not always having to say anything. Four years of sharing family and history, and saying, "Sweet dreams," before we fall asleep, and slowly building this future that I'm so honored to be a part of.

Happy anniversary, my Boo. I love you the most of all.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

blog of shame

It's the same reason I get so far behind on my friendly correspondence. The longer you go without saying anything, the more there is to say! John C. Reilly at the Mercy Lounge! Book club Christmas party! Scary travel to snow-covered Kansas! Christmas! Four days in a cabin with my family! New Year's Eve! Louis XIV at the Wildhorse!

The truth is, I laid low in December. Real low. I almost completely cut off communication with anyone I am not related to (or, you know, sleep next to at night) and just took some time off from Social. My niceness was wearing thin. So while everybody else was moaning about how Busy December is, how many Presents they had to buy, how many Parties they had to go to... I didn't do that this year. I stayed home, and cooked a lot of dinners au deux, and didn't buy a single gift. I was off the hook.

But the thing I really wanted to tell you about was Kansas. We got to the airport over 2 hours early for our flight to Kansas City on the 22nd. I wonder if I ever told you about the Time Austin and I Almost Broke Up because I made us late for a flight. It was really bad. So now, we err towards early. It works. Except this time, when our flight was delayed for four hours because of a half an inch of ice and then four subsequent inches of snow in Kansas City. Four hours of sitting on the floor, trying to focus on my guilty Scottish historical novel or forcing Austin to play Paper Rock Scissors. I'm not good at waiting, particularly where it involves traveling. I am a Nervous Traveler. I started calling Brian in KC, saying, What is the weather like there, what is happening? He comes back with horror stories of 40 car pileups on the very same interstate that we should have been traversing at that EXACT MOMENT if our flight hadn't been delayed. First person reports of brand new Audi wagons careening backwards into stationary fire engines. Scary stuff.

So then we had to get on a plane. Here is where Antsy Nervous Traveler turns into Basketcase Nervous Traveler. It is a short flight from Nashville to Kansas City, usually pretty painless. This time, our plane had to circle around the city for an interminable amount of time (in retelling, it has become hours, but Austin the Calm and Patient Realist usually corrects me and says it was about 30 minutes). There was no open landing strip for us to put the plane down on; they were all too icy. Note to all pilots and air personnel out there: DON'T TELL US WHEN IT'S TOO ICY AND WE'RE GOING TO LAND ANYWAY! Jeez. Finally a runway opens up, and we begin the most terrifying descent I've ever experienced. Plane tilted at crazy angles, where all we can see out the window is white, white ground. The wind causing us to jump and bump in the air. The engines kicking into reverse to slow our downward spiral. The passengers were silent, and the man seated to my right was doing origami in his lap. I kept getting distracted from my panic by watching his hands, the soothing motions of folding, pressing, turning squares of milky vellum that he kept extracting from his coat pocket.

On a perfectly normal, predictable flight, I still kind of freak out at the landing. I make Austin hold my hand and squeeze my eyes shut and don't open them again until the plane has come to a stop. On this particular landing, I had been squeezing his hand since the circling started, and I'm surprised he has any bones left. When the plane finally skidded to a halt on the ice-covered runway (nearly sideways), I leaned over, put my head between his back and the seat, and burst into tears.

Then we sat. No gates could open up because the trucks that push the airplanes backwards out of the gate couldn't drive on the ice. The wind was blowing the snow across the ground in waves. When I looked out the window and pretended everything that was white was actually water, it was easy to pretend we were stranded in the middle of the ocean.

Finally we pulled into a gate, crawled off the plane, headed towards baggage. Which was a mob scene, as we were among six or seven flights that had all been granted entrance to the airport at once. And the overhead announcement system was broken, so one poor schmo was leaping back and forth between the (two) baggage carousels, bellowing, "SALT LAKE CITY! BAGGAGE CLAIM ONE" I went and sat on the floor in a corner, and met a nice dog who had been locked up in her cage under the plane for 5 hours. Her owner let me pet her while I decompressed and Austin went baggage hunting.

Originally the plan had been (when our flight was supposed to land at at 6:30) that we would pick up our rental car and drive straight through to Hays, home of Austin's brother and maternal grandparents. This was scrapped by the time we left Nashville, and rather than even attempting to get out of Kansas City, we just called the first hotel listed on the big screen at the airport and luckily got a room. I would say it was 5 miles from the airport? Maybe less. It took us forty-five minutes to get there, forty-five painstaking minutes of creeping along on roads that were so snowbound that you couldn't tell where the asphalt stopped and the shoulder started. The Courtyard by Marriott finally appeared, shining like a beacon of king-sized beds and mediocre hot breakfasts.

We took our time getting out of KC the next morning, giving the road crews time to get everything clear. By the time we crossed over into Kansas proper, it was smooth sailing and sunny skies for the drive to Hays, and we made great time. I saw 27 hawks, which is my own superstitious way of passing the time in the midwest. They make me feel lucky.

I think that is going to be Part 1 of my Holiday Recap. Sorry for being so wordy, after being so absent. I have the office to myself this week, coworkers are all at a conference, so hopefully I'll have some more time for catching up over the next three days. Happy 2008, even if I'm the last person to tell you.