10 years ago, September 11, 2001…
I went to work early in the morning.
My shift began around 7:00am so my commute had to start around 5:45am.
I worked on the 5th floor of an office building in Campbell, CA.
I had a cubicle.
I worked in the software industry and lived in Boulder Creek, CA. in the small loft of a home that was under construction.
I was living an odd life, recently returning to silly-con valley in early 2000 from years in the mountains of Southern Oregon. I had a giant black beard, black plastic frame glasses, shaved head, tattoos… I was far from your ‘typical’ silicon valley software industry worker at that time.
I had some extremely wild adventures, most notably:
- Flying to various cities to play hard with friends both new & old
- Was a male escort (I hired myself out to show up on dates, at parties, & events dressed as Fidel Castro or as an Amish fellow)
- Went on 14 dates in a 2 month span with women who responded to a series of Craigslist Personal Ads I composed (mostly as a sociological experiment) and learned what ‘Bat Shit Crazy Woman’ meant
- Rode my motorcycle all over the place
- Was a dedicated mountain biker
- Traveled frequently to Northern CA. / Southern Oregon often to build straw bale homes (at that time the Strawpenter in me was still very much alive and well)
I had been corresponding with a woman named Jen McGreer for about a week.
She had responded to an ad that I placed on Match.com 3 or 4 months earlier. I had placed an ad to inspire/encourage my dear friend to also place an ad so I wasn’t really looking to meet someone. My profile and ad were way too honest, way too real, very much a reflection of the mountain dweller I had become then. But amazingly enough… Jen McGreer was the first person to write to me.
From the first words she wrote to me, Jen had reached a place in my soul that no one had really been to before. There was a spark that, at the time, was about to ignite an inferno.
So back to the morning at work. It was quiet. I watched the sun rise on my commute in to work. It was oddly beautiful, made more colorful by smoke on the horizon to the East as fires throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains filled the sky. I drove through the Santa Cruz Mountains, through steep hills covered in majestic redwoods, manzanita, and oak. I was the first person into work that day. I recall thinking that the weather that morning seemed like ‘earthquake weather’. I made the pot of coffee and started my day.
Soon after, more folks rolled into work. It wasn’t long before a co-worker reported the news of an airplane hitting the World Trade Center in New York City.
Our work that day was simply non-existent. We stayed at work to await word from the corporate headquarters as to whether we would continue our work day or go home for the day.
We were all glued to our computers, where streaming video on our monitors showed us everything that everyone else was watching. I was at my computer when I noticed in my Yahoo! Chat window that Jen McGreer was online. I don’t remember if she wrote to me or I to her. I just remember that we were chatting throughout the morning, as each tragedy occurred.
Before our conversation ended, Jen proposed that we meet for sushi in Santa Cruz later that evening. We left the plans totally open and were going to just see if the timing would be right.
I eventually made my drive home and waited to see if she would call.
Time passed, no call. I figured it wasn’t meant to be that night and settled in for an evening of quiet solitude.
Then the phone rang. It was like a bad comedy, me, running around like a fool to find the phone that was ringing, knocking shit over, racing, panting, hollering… I got the call. It was Jen.
We decided to meet in Santa Cruz at a sushi restaurant.
I made the drive to Santa Cruz, nervous, giddy, and excited.
I parked. I walked toward the restaurant and standing with her back to me was a woman with long red curly locks, in an attractive long skirt. I totally don’t remember what happened exactly, how she turned around, if I hugged her, or we hugged each other, regardless… I remember feeling an almost electrical ‘zapping’
The restaurant we planned on going to was closed because of the events of the day. We both knew that Shogun Sushi was just down the road. We decided to try that restaurant instead and it was there that we began what I still refer to this day as the “Summit of honesty”
I apparently talked a lot (nervous), Jen apparently giggled a lot.
What happened next was a multiple hour airing of each others dirty laundry, our greatest moments, our lowest moments, the tragedies, the embarrassments, who we slept with, how many, and it goes on and on. It was absolutely the most exhilarating, most honest, most human, most compassionate and loving date I have EVER had.
We wound up going out for tea after dinner. More conversation, more confessions, more connecting.
Somewhere around 11pm we decided to end the night. I hugged her (though I wanted to kiss her) and we made tentative plans to see each other again as soon as possible.
My drive home was again, like something out of a bad comedy. I was talking to myself, excited, telling myself to not fuck this one up, that I was totally smitten with Jen, even tossing in outbursts like “she’s hot”, “wahoo”, and “yes!” – what a geek.
It was on our second date that we kissed.
I was certain on our second date that I wanted to marry Jen McGreer.
In December of 2001 I proposed to Jen.
We were married in May of 2002.
It has been 10 years since we first met.
We have had some really intense times, Jen and I. Some seriously fucked up stuff has come our way, yes this it true but on the flip side, some seriously amazing and wonderful stuff has come to us.
I am still very much in love with Jen.
To this day I get butterflies in my belly when I look at her.
My favorite thing ever is dating my wife.
In a world full of stress, intense challenges, where 80% of couples who have a child with Autism get divorced, we are here fighting against all that chaos as a team. We believe with our hearts in fairness, compassion, humor, humility, and love.
So, September 11th means something completely different to Jen and I. It sometimes feels odd to be filled with such joy and love on this day every year and yet it somehow seems fitting that from tragedy and suffering is this love, this partnership that always seems to rise from the ashes like a phoenix.
Happy September 11th