july 20 1985

This post is for Amy, as promised.

In a Joy of Sox gamethread way back when, Amy asked how Allan and I met. I gave the short version - "on the street in New York City" - and said the long version was too long for comments. Amy asked if I would write it, and I promised I would.

Herewith, the detailed version of How We Met.

* * * *

It was the summer of 1985. I was 24 years old, and I was miserable.

In the winter and spring, I had been seeing two men... until they both dumped me at the same time.

I hated my job. It was supposed to be a big career move, a step towards being the managing director of an off-Broadway theatre company, which is what I thought I wanted to do. But it was miserable in every possible way.

I was spending the summer apartment-sitting in Manhattan, living in an unrenovated walk-up across Central Park from the theatre where I worked. Back in Brooklyn, my roommate wanted to go back to living alone, so even my incredibly inexpensive place in Brooklyn was becoming insecure.

Things weren't going well and I knew I needed to make changes, but I didn't yet know what to do.

* * * *

Allan was 21, living in Vermont, not far from where he grew up. Traveling wasn't part of his life at all; he had only been outside of New England a few times. A friend of his was in New York City for the summer, attending film school at New York University, and he invited his friends down for a visit.

So Allan and Ray hopped on a plane and ended up in New York's Greenwich Village. This was - to put it mildly - out of the ordinary.

* * * *

I was on the phone with NN, complaining. "We have to get out of this funk. Let's go dancing! Let's put on something cute and go meet some guys." We chose Danceteria, near her apartment in Chelsea, and I would stay over afterwards. In those days, we went out looking like extras from "Desperately Seeking Susan".

We were waiting on line - it's New York City, you wait on line - outside Danceteria, when a guy came up to us, and said the immortal words:

"Hey, you girls got dates?"

Let me tell you, it sounded as suave as it reads.

I turned away and continued talking with Nancy.

But he persisted. "No, no, it's not that, it's not what you think. My friend and I are trying to get into this club, but they're not letting in single guys, just couples and single girls. Could we just stand next to you and pretend you're our dates? We just want to go in and hear this band."

I looked to where he was indicating his friend was waiting. There was a cute, skinny guy with long hair leaning against a car. Hmm. I asked, "Is that your friend over there?"

He said it was.

"Yeah sure, come on over."

"Hey you girls got dates" was Ray. The cute skinny guy with long hair was Allan.

We all made small talk as the line inched towards the door. When we reached the bouncer, two things happened at the same time. I suddenly realized that if the club was only admitting couples and single women, what were Nancy and I going to do? And the bouncer recognized Allan and Ray.

Tugging on Nancy's sleeve, I said, "Get out of line!" Naturally, she didn't know what I was talking about. "Come on come on, I'll explain later, just get out of line." We jumped out of line and the guys got kicked off the line at the same time.

So now the four of us were just standing on the sidewalk. They may have asked us about music, thinking we were at Danceteria to hear a band. (We didn't even know who was playing there.) I suggested we all go somewhere else to hear music, and we started walking downtown to The Ritz, then on East 11th Street.

Ray, a Red Sox fan wearing a Mets cap, asked me if I liked the Mets. The next thing I knew he was walking backwards in front of me, yelling. "You like the Yankees? How could you like the Yankees?" This in New York City. "You like George Steinbrenner? How could you like a team owned by George Steinbrenner?" We argued the whole way there, and continued arguing for the next 20 years. (As Ray notes, it's just not the same now that I'm a Sox fan.)

Allan and Nancy, both quiet and on the shy side, weren't saying much.

At The Ritz - and we don't know how this happened - we switched. Nancy and Ray went off somewhere, and Allan and I started talking at the bar. Within five minutes, we knew we were both writers, and that neither of us were writing. I remember Allan's face brightening. "A writer, really? I used to write..."

We danced - possibly the first and last time Allan ever voluntarily danced with me - and spent the rest of the evening together.

Much later that night, they walked us back to Nancy's place, and I was scheming to see them the following day. I floated the idea of doing the Circle Line cruise around Manhattan, and Allan seemed interested.

Allan got a splinter ("sliver" in Vermont) in his finger. I followed him into Nancy's bathroom so I could kiss him. The actual existence of said sliver is the subject of debate.

I gave them Nancy's number and we kicked them out.

* * * *

The next day, Allan called Nancy's place and I arranged for the four of us to meet at the Circle Line.

We saw New York City from a boat. We drank vodka. We went to Little Italy for dinner. Allan got sick but recovered. We sat in Washington Square Park. I thought it would be fun and bold to directly ask Allan to come home with me, back to where I was apartment-sitting, but the words didn't quite come out. Instead I dropped the world's largest hint - large enough that even a farmboy from Vermont got it. (He wasn't really a farmboy, it only seemed that way to me.)

We took a wild cab ride. That cab hurtling its way uptown was as New York as anything we saw from the boat. I'll keep this PG-13: we had a lot of fun.

Allan called the next night, and suggested we go to the movies or to another club. I wanted to see him, but I didn't want to go out. He brought a pizza. We sat on the bed in that little walk-up at East 82nd Street, and we talked. For hours. It was intense.

He was supposed to go back to Vermont the next day, but changed his flight to stay two days longer. I called in sick. We spent the rest of his time in New York together.

By the time he flew back, we were in the tenative beginnings of a long-distance relationship.

* * * *

I was freaked out.

The men I had been dating were all much older than me, by around 15 years. This guy was two years younger than me. These men were professionals, with careers. This guy had a boring job and was a college-radio DJ. He wasn't "the kind of guy" I went out with.

On the other hand, the kind of guys I went out with weren't making me happy. (I only dated guys in those days.) Maybe I was barking up the wrong tree. Maybe totally different was a good thing.

Allan and I started writing to each other. Writing, on paper, sending letters through the mail! He drew cartoons for me, and sent me tapes of his radio show. We missed each other a lot.

On Labor Day weekend, feeling a bit surreal, I flew to Vermont to see this long-haired skinny guy. Whatever we had was still there.

* * * *

Within a few months, I had quit my job, and quit my plans for a career in theatre. I became a nanny in exchange for my own apartment, and picked up some work as a freelance proofreader. I turned my life upside down so I could devote more time to writing.

Allan contacted his local newspaper - where he had written professionally during high school - about reviewing local concerts.

When he came to New York for Thanksgiving, the long-distance thing was on in earnest.

We wrote letters. We had huge phone bills. We watched for special fares on People Express. Often we would plan our visits to coincide with what bands were in town. We went to clubs and concerts, and ran around New York City together, and were always really sad to say goodbye.

* * * *

At some point I couldn't stand the long-distance thing anymore. I asked Allan to move to New York. We made a plan. Allan drew two calendars so we could both count down the days.

On January 2, 1987, in the middle of a blizzard, I caught the last flight into Burlington, Vermont before the airport shut down. The plane was rocking back and forth like a seesaw; people cheered when we landed.

The next morning, January 3, it took us three hours - and a tow truck - to dig the U-Haul out of the driveway, and another 12 hours to get to Brooklyn, including getting hit by a skidding car.

* * * *

We celebrate January 3, 1987 as our anniversary, but we always mark the day of July 20, too. (For a while, we took the Circle Line every July 20. But that got old after a few years.)

A few weeks after Allan moved to New York, People Express went out of business. Coincidence?

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