ralph robert moore
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Copyright © 2002 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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when dancers are farthest apart
january 19, 2002
Mary's dad Joe will be flying down to stay with us the second week in February, so we're in the process of cleaning house. We have a list of things to do that marches with a serious mouth down one side of a lined yellow legal pad page, and halfway up the back side. Actually, I should have said he's flying across. He's going from Milwaukee to Florida first, for a reunion with his buddies from World War Two, then flying from Florida to Dallas.
As usually happens, the place looks a lot messier now than it did before we began cleaning. As I write, we have an old mattress and box spring leaning heavily against the kitchen counter in our breakfast nook. We have to haul it out to the curb on the one day a week the garbage men agree to take large items. Our fear is we'll grow so used to stepping around it, we'll forget to get rid of it, instead coming to see it as a soft sculpture we purchased. (The big rectangular underside of the box spring is exposed to us as we sit at the breakfast nook table each evening, and I have to admit that underside, with its roughly-hewn, cross-hatched wooden slats, and torn-away canvas covering, so thin in spots it's feathered, does have a brick basement nightclub visual appeal.)
The cats have used the tall, shadowy triangle formed within the lean of mattress against counter as a mystery tunnel, allowing them to disappear at a potted tree near one end, and suddenly, through a space-time wormhole, reappear in front of our feet. There have been several political cartoons about this phenomenon in the most recent issue of their weekly newspaper, all of them crudely exaggerating the susceptibility of humans to surprise feline appearances. The most popular one shows Rudo, the editor of the newspaper, springing four paws forward out of the triangular shadows as I stumble backwards in stupid, frightened befuddlement. The caption reads, 'Would You Also React In Undignified Surprise To Learn We Get Hungry In The Middle Of The Day, Not Just In The Morning And The Evening?'
The mattress and box spring came from the closet in the back upstairs bedroom, where Joe stays. We alternately call it the Archives, because we keep all our mementoes there, and the Prisoner of Zenda room, because despite its pleasing dimensions and planes, it has only one window.
Once we bent, pulled and cursed the mattress and box spring out of the closet, and surfed with them down the stairs, we realized just how large the space inside that closet was, and how many boxes of our stuff, long forgotten, we had put on its shelves ten years earlier.
We unfolded the top flaps of one box, and found hundreds of photographs inside we hadn't seen in a decade. Our old apartments. Us younger. Blue-skied landscapes from our 80-day trip across North America in 1988. Pictures of Joe and Joan. Of so many shared meals.
Shuffling through them in my hands, like over-sized cards in a game where you've already won, merely by being dealt, I decided to re-do the SENTENCE Photographs section of this site, posting a lot of the pictures I had taken over the years.
Most were shot with our Nikon, so the clarity was good. I scanned them using Mary's new Epson, finding the only problem afterwards was having to digitally remove dust specks that had stayed despite my careful brushing across each glossiness with a pink feather duster.
The photo-editing programs available today are amazing.
When pc-based word processing first began, with MultiMate and WordPerfect, it revolutionized the way people wrote. I remember as a kid transcribing my first stories using a typewriter, where you were always fearful you'd accidentally strike the wrong key, and have to tab back, using your index finger and sheer wishful thinking to try to legibly strike-over the 's' into an 'h', an 'i' into a 't'. It was awful. Mary typed up the original typescript for my first novel, Always Again, to submit to agents. You can imagine what a task that was, night after night, after already working eight hours a day, tapping away for hours on the typewriter set on the kitchen table.
I wrote all my stories by hand back then, which allowed me to interlope some revisions in the manuscript, inserting the new words by writing at a forty-five degree angle, the new text climbing atop the bumpy upper-looped back of the existing text, but typing it turned every letter and word into bricks, set down in the line of a sentence, mortared, tamped, which could not be dislodged.
So transcribing my manuscript to a word processor was a godsend. I no longer had to worry about striking the wrong key, misspellings, or getting an inspiration three lines afterwards. I could flit anywhere within my text, changing a word, a sentence, a whole paragraph.
I transcribed from written manuscript to monitor screen until the mid-nineties, about two-thirds of the way through my novel Father Figure, when it occurred to me I could simply write directly on the monitor, bypassing pen altogether. I've never gone back. Most of writing is editing, and there is nothing easier in the world to edit than a word processing text. Plus the swollen bump on the left inside top joint of my right middle finger, which used to hurt every day, and had started to take on the shape of a flat-topped tumor, has shrunk away completely (grade school teachers always complained I held my pen wrong).
The only down side is I no longer have original holograph manuscripts of my writings. Just original typescripts. But the speed and ease of composition is worth it. To me, at least.
In the same way word processing programs revolutionized writing, photo editing programs like Adobe revolutionized photo preparation.
We were always at the mercy of the developers at the chain shops. I remember taking a lot of pictures in Northern Canada, where the sky is such a beautiful, blue and green blend, anxious, a month or two later, to get the developed pictures back, to see that floating jewel again, instead getting snapshots with a standard Disney sky. With Adobe, I can bring back the deep turquoise luster of that sky.
Mary showed me the cloning tool in Adobe for the scanned pictures I took.
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, Adobe's cloning tool allows you to click on any section of a photograph, then duplicate that color over any other section of the photograph. Why would you want to do that? Well, in my case, to remove those dust specks that showed up in the finished scan. Using the cloning feature, I was able to drop the surrounding color over the speck, making it go away forever.
I wanted to post a picture of Joan, Mary's mom, on my site. Like a lot of people, she rarely enjoyed being photographed, hand in front of her face, so most of what I had to work with were pictures in which she's photographed with other people, where I could enlarge and crop her image, making it seem like she had sat for a personal portrait. Traveling my cloning tool around the browns and sunlight of her hair, fussing over dust specks, I felt like a hairdresser.
Also prepatory to Joe's visit, I've been reviewing our hours and hours of videotape, to find segments where Joan appears (Joan died several years ago. Joe has created a moving remembrance to her, here.). It surprised me how much videotape we had of her. Watching the tapes was like going back ten, twenty years. Besides the fascination of seeing something from so long ago in my life so faithfully documented, were my more mundane reactions (Whatever made me think I looked good in that shirt?).
The videotapes did show, very clearly, in each scene, two sets of couples in love, Joe and Joan, Mary and me.
I've always admired Joe and Joan, because they are the perfect couple. Joe, with his great story-telling ability, his wit, his world travel, his wide range of interests, his gift for photography and technology (he was a rocket scientist), Joan with her depth of knowledge in so many areas, her artistic and culinary skills, her talent for finding the right phrase to sum up almost anything. She could have been a great literary salon hostess, but she chose not to follow that yellow path, choosing instead to share herself with a much smaller audience. I've always felt privileged I had a chair there.
I also appreciated Joe and Joan's graciousness when Mary and I first visited them in Sacramento, in 1980, soon after Mary left her first husband, and I left my first wife. Other parents might have been cold to the man who broke up their daughter's marriage, but both Joe and Joan could not have been more accepting. It meant a lot to me. It's a courtesy I've never forgotten. The Irish have long memories.
Mary and I met while working for the same company, Information Magnetics, or InfoMag, in Goleta, California, in the late seventies. InfoMag made credit card readers, the little chips that pick up information off the encoded magnetic strip on a credit card when it's swiped through a reading device. Now, of course, these credit card readers are everywhere, but back in the late seventies, it was the 'newest thing'. InfoMags' chief competitor was Texas Instruments.
InfoMag was a rag-tag group of employees, several hundred strong. Everyone showed up in jeans each day. People smoked pot in the break area during lunch. Almost every Friday, after the paychecks were handed out in the morning, someone would phone in a bomb threat, so we could all leave early. (Incidentally, whoever that was, Thanks). I was a micro-welder, meaning I welded connections to the reader-chip, under a microscope. Mary was Quality Assurance, meaning she was responsible for checking everything InfoMag produced, to make sure it met necessary micro-engineering standards.
I'm not going to speak here about how we met and fell in love, and have kept that love alive for over twenty years, because there isn't time nor space. But at a company Christmas luncheon in December of 1978, we happened to sit next to each other, and started talking. We had noticed each other around the plant, there had been a few tentative smiles, and no one's so old they don't remember the thrill of tentative smiles, especially when they're tentatively returned, but this was the first time we had actually had an opportunity to find out about the other person. A few days afterwards, I asked her out to lunch. She turned me down, folks. I asked her a few more times. She finally accepted. She reminded me she was married, bringing it up out of the blue, mid-sentence about something else. I reminded her I was too. There was that momentary hush, like when dancers are farthest apart, holding to each other only by fingertips, before they snap back against, chest and breasts. We started meeting after work, for a half hour or so, to have a beer at the beach in Isle Vista, known locally as IV, the college area of Santa Barbara. The more we talked to each other, the more we realized how much we enjoyed each other's company. There was a first kiss, weeks after that Christmas luncheon in late 1978. There was the first talk of being together all the time, not just for lunch and a half hour after work. Of going to sleep with each other, in the same bed, and waking up together, in the same bed.
And then we did it. We moved in together, divorced our former spouses, never looked back. A lot of things have happened to me in my life, nearly all of them wonderful. But nothing, ever, was as wonderful as meeting, falling in love with, marrying, and staying with, Mary. We've shared so many joys, and only a few, unavoidable, sorrows. Today, January 19, is our 21st wedding anniversary. Through the years, through all the so many places in which we've lived, our love has grown, deepened, strengthened. I would not be who I so enjoy having become, were it not for the beautiful, wise, loving, humorous, sincere, kind, caring, helpful, sexy woman I was so fortunate to meet, and marry. New England man, California woman.
I love you, Mary.
The Link of the Week this time is to Jim and Ducky Got Married!, a page I happened to stumble across out of the hundreds of millions of personal websites on the Web. I don't have any idea who Jim and Ducky are, but they seem like a nice couple, and I'm happy they found each other. There's no greater feeling in the world than being in love.
Mary on the first night of our honeymoon, January 19, 1981, in San Luis Obispo, California, at the Madonna Inn. Each of its hundred plus rooms is different. We chose the Cavern Room. Walls, floor and ceiling are all made out of rock. It was like sleeping inside a warm cave. The shower is a rock-lined grotto. You twist on the tap, and the water flows off a stone ledge above your heads, splashing on your hair like a waterfall. If you're ever in San Luis Obispo, give it a try. I hope you have as much fun as we did.