A Quarter Century Minding the Crank

Okay, so let’s talk straight and honest here, for a moment, can we? Here’s the deal: despite my nominally friendly public persona (online and in the real world), I’m actually a fairly difficult person to deal with much of the time. Maybe even most of the time. Seriously. You don’t want to know.

I can be very demanding, for example, expecting things to happen the way I want them to, when I want them to, and being hugely annoyed (and annoying) when they don’t. I’m digital in my interpersonal relationships, generally compartmentalizing¬† people into “for me” or “against me” columns, thereby likely alienating people who actually didn’t really care about me much one way or the other, until I put them in the wrong hopper. I’m obsessive to an extreme, so if I get interested in doing something, I generally get interested in doing way too much of it, whatever it might be. And I can be as self-absorbed as all get out, quick to chatter on and on and on about geeky or arcane subjects that other folks likely find to be skull-crushingly inane or irrelevant.

I could go on, but suffice to say that spending a lot of time with me can be something of a chore. Which is why not a lot of people have been able to do it over the years. I graduated from high school a year early, and left for the Naval Academy a couple of weeks after my 17th birthday, so my parents only had to put up with me on a full-time basis for 17 years. Well, my Mom did that, anyway, since my Dad was away for probably four or five of those years with the Marine Corps. My sister is four years younger than me, so she only got 13 years up close and personal with me. My daughter went to boarding school after her freshman year in high school, so it was only 15 years for her. And that’s it, really, for my family, by blood.

What about friends and colleagues? The longest a non-romantic roommate could put up with me was two-and-a-half years. The longest a romantic partner (prior to my marriage) maintained interest was less than five years, but that was a long distance relationship, so it probably would have imploded much sooner, had I been around her more often. My peripatetic upbringing as a military brat meant that I never lived in one neighborhood or went to one school for more than three years, either, and my average job tenure as an adult is about three years, so I have had regular opportunities to rustle up new batches of friends once I wear out my welcome with the prior ones.

Like I said . . . I’m difficult.

But then there’s Marcia, who somehow — amazingly and thankfully — not only tolerates prickly, cranky, moody me, but actually seems to like (!) being around me, for long periods of time, even, since we mark our 25th wedding anniversary today! Lawks! Plus, I should note for the record, before Marcia signed on the dotted line of matrimony, for better or worse, in sickness and health, she and I were housemates for almost a year-and-a-half, so she’s done some serious bonus time in the trenches of life with Erac, who is not a nice person. (That’s how my Naval Academy roommates described me when we memorialized ourselves on a wall during a company wardroom renovation, so it’s not a new phenomenon).

At some point in the past six months, I had a milestone day, after which I have spent more of my life being married to Marcia than I have spent not being married to Marcia. That’s pretty cool, especially since I still consider her to be my favorite person, and adore her even more today than I did on our wedding day. I am still happy to see her when she gets home from work every day, and I am always happy to go on trips with her, and am happy for her successes, and just generally happy when she’s around, and really, really, really happy when she is happy.

Come to think about it, the fact that she makes me so happy may be what makes me tolerable to her in ways that no one else can tolerate me. She brings out the best in me, and sees facets of me that no one else does (or can), so I’m deeply thankful and grateful for that. I am also grateful for how often she makes me smile, and how often we laugh together, and how often we get to give each other Parenting Gold Stars as we watch our greatest collaboration (Katelin) striking out on her own as a lovely and smart adult, with just enough weirdness about her to keep people guessing. Perfect.

One of my favorite conversations with Marcia went like this, after I had no doubt been waxing loud and opinionated about some arcane factoid of marginal relevance and importance . . .

Marcia: You are a crank.

Me: What? Me? Why am I a crank?

Marcia: Because you have too many strong feelings about too many things.

Which, uh . . . well, yeah, that’s true. I can’t argue that. But I will note that some of my strongest, deepest feelings are for Marcia, and they’re the ones that are the most important, and most meaningful, and most enduring. There aren’t very many people who could live in close proximity to me for 25 years . . . and there aren’t any others who could make me feel so good while doing it.

Here’s looking forward to the next quarter century, as we celebrate the last one!

June 24, 1989. Happy Together.

June 24, 1989. Happy Together.


¬†1. I traveled to New York City in 2008 to see what I have since assumed was going to be my last King Crimson show, as mainstay guitarist Robert Fripp announced his retirement from live performance soon after that tour wrapped up. The show was wonderful, as was the mobile fracture subset of the Big Crim, ProjeKCt Two, that I had caught in 1998. (My P2 review is here at Crimson’s Discipline Global Mobile [DGM] site). So imagine my delight and surprise when, in 2013, Robert Fripp announced that King Crimson was on the move again, with a new seven-man, three-drummer line-up, including four of the five players I saw in 2008 — Fripp, Tony Levin, Gavin Harrison and Pat Mastelotto — plus Jakko Jaksyck from the 2011 KC ProjeKCt album, A Scarcity of Miracles, plus returning sax man Mel Collins from the early ’70s Crimson lineup, plus former Ministry/R.E.M. drummer Bill Rieflin. Wow! I have been eagerly monitoring Robert Fripp’s diary and the DGM Live pages waiting to see where they’d play, so imagine my shock a few weeks ago when the Crim announced that they’d be opening their tour in, of all places, Albany, New York . . . which I left in 2011 after 19 years in the market! Auggh!! Why you do this to me, universe?!?! No fair!!! Fortunately, Crimso are playing two gigs in Chicago (a mere six hours away), and Marcia has agreed to be a Prog Rock Warrior Princess and accompany me to one of them . . . on top of our agreed-upon-trip to Chicago to see YES! She’s even committed enough that she’s asked me to put a selection of YES and King Crimson songs on her car iPod to prepare her for the adventure. What a gem! What a wingman! How lucky am I, right? I love the road trips, I love the music, I love my wife, so this is about as good as it gets for me!

2. We had a great opening night of Shakespeare on the Lawn at Salisbury House last night, with perfect weather, a super crowd, and a nice sponsor preview Garden Party where we unveiled our plans for transforming the grounds of the property. I did a few TV spots in advance of the show, and I like this one best, as it features a green-screen sneak scene (ooo! I like the sound of that accidental alliteration/rhyme!) by our presenting partners at Repertory Theater of Iowa of this year’s production, The Merchant of Venice:

3. While Marcia and I were on vacation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the paradisaical Villa Amarosa, I read a relatively recent work of fiction by Christopher Priest called The Islanders, which had been “Recommended For You!” by my Kindle. And what a great recommendation that was: this book is completely my alley in terms of its subject, its presentation, its structure, its use of language, and its general, over-arching weirdness. I’ve been finding myself thinking about and re-visiting it, mentally, for the past few weeks, and may decide to give it a full “Five by Five Books” treatment at some point soon, if just to get the thoughts rattling around out of my head. It’s pretty rare for a new book by a new (to me) author to resonate with me so deeply, though I suspect that this would be a “love it or hate it” kind of book, with more people leaning the latter way than the former. Are you intrigued enough to give it a shot? (Katelin is reading it now). If so, let me know what you think!