Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How I Met My Husband and What Kept Us Together for Better or Worse

When my husband and I married in 1982, Joe was 42 and I, Mary was 33. We were no spring chickens. We met while both teaching at Anchorage’s West High School. Joe taught Biology and I’d started teaching Spanish there in the fall of 1980. That October I was nearly killed in a car wreck. It was late January 1981 when we first met. I was still in shock and just happy to be alive. Not that Joe wasn't, but he was the "quintessential bachelor". He spent his free time in Seldovia on the Alaska ocean building a cabin and was on his way to becoming a bit of a hermit. That January we were working at the West High’s winter registration table. Joe broke the ice by asking if I was going to do the crossword section of the newspaper and if not, he said he’d be happy to take it off my hands. That was fine with me since the only newspaper puzzle I worked then was the crypto-quote (still my favorite).

We didn’t see one another for two or three months until almost the end of the school year, when one Friday we both ended up at La Mex in Spenard. In those days, many West High teachers would meet there for margaritas on Fridays after work. That particular evening Joe and I started talking and decided to move the party on to the Midnight Express (now Organic Oasis) to shoot pool. I was never good at pool and Joe won the games hands down. However, I knew a game that I could beat Joe at. It was a video game called Missile Command at White-key's Fly By Night on Lake Spenard. We headed there, where we played game after game of Missile Command for 25 cents a shot. This was in the days before even Pac Man and I was able to out-missile Joe nicely that evening.

A day or two later, Joe called to ask if I’d like to go see "Popeye" with Robin Williams at the old Denali Theater, where the Bear Tooth is now and where we had our beloved bookstore. When we got to the ticket booth, Joe discovered he had neglected to bring cash and had to hit me up for admission, which was all of a buck each. He said, “Can I borrow a dollar?' And I thought, oh my God, I've got a hot one here. Joe likes to say he has been paying ever since, if so, it was a darn good dollar investment on my part.

Eventually our friendship grew into a marriage. We were at a little Chinese restaurant in Spenard when Joe popped the question. It closed up right after the proposal. I told him I had to think it over. I said, 'I don't know, Joe.' I was recently divorced in 1979 in Oklahoma and I wasn't certain I wanted to try marriage again. I was always a little eccentric and odd, a woman who really wasn’t the marrying kind, not into cooking and domestic life. I remember when growing up in the fifties and sixties, women were asked regularly when home from college when they were getting married, not when they were graduating. It was like women went to college to get their Mrs. So, I was hesitant, but Joe was so stable and moreover he was fun to be with. He loved the outdoors like myself and he too was a free spirit. We started hanging out together and we've been hanging out together ever since, like Siamese twins for 30 years as of Oct. 9th, 2012.
My grandfather approved of Joe right away. Grandpa Robert was an Oklahoma cowboy. After meeting Joe he took me aside and said, 'Now Mary, that's a good boy”. Joe was 43.   Joe’s cat, Julia was another story. She didn't think much of me moving in at first. Every night I’d find her laying on my side of the bed at bedtime. She'd see me coming and go Rrrrr and then stomp off. Julia thought she was married to Joe. Over time, we worked out our pecking order and grew fond of each other. Julia lived to be 22 and is now buried in our front flower bed in the same house we were married in on Wendy‘s Way in 1982.

After we married I quit teaching and went back to school to study business. I always wanted a bookstore. Joe taught until his retirement in 1987. In 1983, we launched a summer mobile food business called the Renaissance Cafe, We sold food at the Talkeetna Bluegrass Festival, the Girdwood Forest Fair and many other outside events and had many grand adventures. We finally opened the Alaska Renaissance Bookshop in 1988, featuring out-of-print, small press and Alaska books in the same mall as we saw “Popeye“ in 1981. Five years later we took the bookstore on the road to the Saturday Market and other venues including the Internet.

The remnants of our bookstore live on, on the shelves of our downstairs museum and home library. Our books include out of print Alaskana, such as "How to Get a Job in Government Without Really Trying; Or How to Write a 140-Page Book in Just Five Days." by Walter J. Hickel. It's a joke. Inside are pages from the subcommittee hearing regarding Hickel's nomination as secretary of the Interior during the Nixon administration. Nearby it is an out of print first edition 1973 copy of Duke Ellington’s Music Is My Mistress which I’d be happy to sell if anyone is interested.

For several years we’ve worked as tutors, adopted a puppy who wanted a boy, Moonshine and eventually adopted an older child. The adoption chapter was a nightmare but we survived with counseling, the F word, forgiveness and the help of our trusty dog Moonshine. She was the one special dog of a lifetime. Moon passed June 17, 2010 with cancer after 13 years of wandering the roads with us between Alaska, Canada, California, the Southwest and even Oklahoma. She swam in every river west of the Mississippi.

These days we've introduced a new chapter in our lives of being Vegans.  Having always been a wantabe Vegetarian, it is an easy transition for me and easier for Joe working to escape the return of stomach esophageal cancer.  We also are caring for our new pet family, Pogo (bow-wow) and Wiley (meow- meow) that give us great joy in the day to day grind of life. 

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