50th Anniversary, or Six Cycles plus Ten Months
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
September 21, 2020
Approaching Fourth Quadrant
Here we are inside the countdown, September 21, 2020, the equinox of the Devil Year. Summer was a wildfire not a harvest, and now here comes winter, hiding behind autumn, for some a season of oak leaves dropping but for us a desperate chance to fix the house.
Last night I dreamed we lived in an attic room and on top of that room, near the ceiling, was a small window. I boosted myself up to look through that window and although it was uncomfortable I could clearly see the blustery beauty of the East Bay hills. But the window was rotted out and the house was falling in. We had to repair everything but that meant starting with the foundation...and then I woke up.
Sometimes I think I am overstating everything when I write, as if I take a little thing, like a dream, and make it into a big thing for the sake of the story.
But maybe the things I call little things are actually big things, bigger than I know. Maybe I joke because I have no other weapon. Maybe I write about the world like Sancho Panza did, but before his beloved Don Quijote went mad, that short time when both Sancho and his hero saw the enemy clearly and realized they must fight for the song of heroes. It was only later that the old don looked around and realized that what he needed was a wife, but all he had was his outdated armor and his little fat friend.
Sancho wrote it all down or nobody would ever have known. There would be no heroism, no insanity, no lovely princesses, no evil windmills, small things, certainly, but somebody has to write about them or else a birthday is forgotten, a friend never existed, there are no anniversaries, the dragon slays all valiant knights and nobody ever fixes the window.
I was still in my First Quadrant, not quite 25, when Barb and I got married. We both were actively rejecting societal norms at that point, so we pretended that we were only going through with it because of Barb’s mom’s illness, that we loved each other already so we didn’t need to sign on any dotted line, We wanted Mildred to be happy to see her eldest daughter safely married. So, heck, let's just do it.
It didn't matter. The minute I turned to kiss my bride I realized everything had changed. We were now Mr. and Mrs. Konecky, not Mr. Kerouac and his sophisticated girlfriend or Mr. Bob Dylan and that girl on the cover of the ‘Freewheelin’ album.
And I loved it. I hadn’t expected how different everything was now. I had a wife who was cooler than any of the previous women in my life, all of whom had petrified my parents like I had been petrifying Barb’s parents. While we were courting, I was Mildred and Joe’s almost-worst nightmare, especially after Barb and I began living in Sin, which was actually a tenement on the East Side of Manhattan. But once we were engaged, my guess is that all four of our parents realized that Barb and I were peas in a pod, that is, impractical hippie liberal church/synagogue/suburb-hating pompous Democrat peas who could be happy in a third-floor walkup with a bathtub in the kitchen pod.
When we married we were in our Second Quadrants and our parents were not that far into their Third Quadrants. People who got into their Fourth Quadrant were old! I remember my grandparents' 50th Anniversary. My grandmother could barely move. But that was OK, because in those days everything was still in order.
But this coming Saturday, September 26, 2020 —Holy Jumping Jesus on a Skateboard Shut Up!! — it’s our turn. Barb and I will celebrate fifty years married. This used to be known as our Golden Wedding Anniversary
But we are in the Age of Equality now, so gold is out, like diamonds and minks. Instead we will toast our Seventh Marriage Cycle, which is called "Low Salt."
Actually, we’re already one year in, because I Googled it. The average American marriage lasts 8.2 years. We got married in 1970. so we are already ten months into “Low Salt.” Years no longer matter, it’s 8.2-year cycles.
Here is the Official List of all the Wedding Cycles, 1 through 9, though, like I said, most marriages never make it past “Only You.”
First Marriage Cycle: “Only You“
Third: “Private School“
Fourth: “My Job Sucks"
Fifth: “I Need a New Porsche“
Sixth: “Grandchildren ('We're Waiiiii--ting')"
Seventh, as mentioned: “Low Salt,“
Eighth: “Basically Invisible“ and
Ninth: “Estate Tax.“
Seventh Marriage Cycle doesn’t sound nearly as scary as Fiftieth Anniversary, does it?
And that’s if I don’t get run over by a truck first or have some knucklehead tipsy on hand sanitizer open his car door right into me as I ride by on my bicycle; and if I don’t get sneezed on by some CORONA virus-infested Trumpy dishrag who thinks face masks are a plot from George Soros and his band The Deep Fucking State; and if my internal and external orifices remain free of serious grime and my teeth and gums do not permit plaque to clog my arteries; and if our downhill neighbor doesn’t shoot me, because he is one of those people about whom other neighbors say, after the massacre, “Gee, he seemed like such a lonely guy. Kept to himself. Sometimes we heard screams but we didn’t want to cause panic...”
Barb must stay healthy too. Women tend to outlast their husbands, and that's fine with me because I have no interest in cooking for one or writing songs for nobody.
Here is our plan: We shall celebrate the close of our Ninth “Estate Tax” Wedding Cycle together with our children, grand-children and great-grandchildren on our recently-purchased island that arose from the lava beds off the Big Island of Hawaii, that Uncle Joe managed to get us the deed to and Uncle Ricky financed, and we shall drop dead together while hoisting the trophy for winning the Doubles Limbo Contest.
It is my fondest hope that we can upgrade to all next levels without any whistleblowing Sancho Panza chronicling our more egregious screwups in previous Cycles.
I wore a wedding ring for only a few weeks. I had never worn a ring before and I couldn’t get used to it, kept fiddling with it, rubbing it around and around on my finger until it finally fell off while we were asleep in a room in New Hampshire. I asked Barb if she would mind if I didn’t replace it. We both knew Charlie Pride’s record “Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger (When You Go Out at Night)” but she understood my pain and agreed. I haven’t worn a ring since.
At some point during my Second Quadrant I tried a Hawaiian pukka bead thing around my neck but I didn’t like that either. I don’t like the feel of any of it, rings, necklaces, how about piercings? Tattoos? Jesus, no.
When my mother got the Life Alert necklace I kept thinking how that is definitely not going to work for me. I will require a serf or at least an attentive drone overhead.
I needn’t have worried. It now appears that by then every house will have a drone, a robot and a Roomba. There will be no secrets and no dirt on the floor. If you don’t pay your phone bill, the drone will notify the robot to slap you in the face. And if you fall down, the Roomba will vacuum you up. If that fails, the robot will pick you up and slap you again.
You fall down, you get back up. Our marriage has had ups and downs. A marriage has two principal trunks, money and sex, which are different sides of the same elephant, whose name is RESPECT. People argue endlessly about an infinite amount of problems, religion, children, how to stack the dishwasher, whose turn it is to choose a movie, who is refusing to talk about his feelings, who won't stop asking him to talk about his feelings, who isn't sure he even has feelings, and if he does the last thing he wants to do is talk about them -- but everything always comes back to that elephant.
Does she respect who you are and what you do?
Do you respect who she is and what she does?
If so, if honestly so, you're good.
When Barb hectors me about my nose hairs, I know she loves me.
When I beat my head loudly against the front door while I’m waiting for her to get ready, she knows I love her.
When I watch too many Dodgers games on TV, I know she respects me.
When she puts too much faith in Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, she knows I respect her.
When she says, "Sit up straight," and I say, "I AM sitting up straight," and she says, "No, you're slouching," and I say, "No, I'm not," and she says, "You should be in an L and you're, you know, like the side of a W," and I get mad and say, "Well, YOU'RE the one who's doing Pilates," and she says, "Well, you COULD do it too," I know she cherishes me.
When she leaves the fucking top off the fucking peanut butter AGAIN, she knows I cherish her.
And then, every month, a full moon rolls around. We stand on our deck watching it rise above the avocado tree. This takes us to the full moon on a dark night in Franschoek or its reflection on the water in that hushed cove in Belize or the night in Granada when we were the only people in the Alhambra and the moon was so huge we could feel Moors sharpening their swords.
We always hold hands when we stare at the full moon. We are reminding each other what is really important. It is also how we pet the elephant.
One day to go.
I worried about Barb’s office mates. She worried about my demo singers. Insecurity doesn't ever truly disappear, even, I am guessing, in "Low Salt"and beyond. That's OK. It keeps us on our toes.
AND NOW! On the eve of our 50th year of official togetherness, here comes the wisdom you have been waiting for, the intimate understanding available only from two people already buckled into their Disney World motorized canoe as they sail forgetfully into their Seventh “Low-Salt“ Wedding Cycle, as “It’s a Small World After All,” sung by chipmunks, drones above them in a never-ending loop:
Life is a crapshoot and we got lucky.
Happy Anniversary! The Eagle has landed! We made it!
Cinnamon twists, fresh-squeezed orange juice, French Roast steaming up our favorite mugs. We're back from the crack-of-dawn Farmer's Market. We will have no more unfathomable Covid nightmares until tonight. Life is good.
We have fine friends and dear family. They Zoom with us. We also have friends who are ill, friends who limp, friends who can’t remember a thing, friends who are blind and are being moved into retirement homes, friends who are widows and friends who are widowers, friends who have lost children, friends whose parents don’t recognize them any more, friends with transplants and stents and new hips and knees, friends with cancer, friends with writer’s block, friends who think we're cool and friends who won’t call until after we die. Right now, it’s all the same: WE CAN’T HAVE DINNER WITH ANY OF YOU.
In two delivery rooms, first on the rain-lashed hurricane road in Pennsylvania when Dan was born, and next in the bustling Hollywood baby factory when Bronnie was born, I had the two major epiphanies of my life. One was I am really glad it's the women who have to do this. Two was I am forever joined to my children on the molecular level. Our little family is a street gang with our own signs and customs and jokes and when a river of shit comes flowing down the highway I will defend my family before I defend myself. I’ll probably come next, but everything and everyone else comes in a distant third.
Barb feels the same way. I love her for that.
I love her for being so beautiful and so smart and kind and such a great mom. I love her for knowing a six-letter word for “neighbors of lichens.” I love her for teaching me which end of the screw driver goes into the screw. Her father taught her that stuff, like how to snap a straight line and how to pick roofing nails out of a gravel driveway and how you have to paint all four sides of the pickets in a fence. Her mother gave her the recipes for pecan pie and honey buns, showed her the secret to driving right up to an empty parking place at Jones Beach and, I hope, taught her how to pick a good man out of a crowd.
My father wasn’t around long enough to teach me much and my mother could have really used a daughter. I learned all the important stuff from my brother, like how to shuffle the deck and how not to be afraid if the baseball hit me in the face and how to never stop, to just keep running until the football he threw came down from the sky and dropped into my arms.
Sometimes I think I have been waiting through several Quadrants for Ricky to throw me that ball again. I never thought about it quite that way before, until now.
But I'm A4Q, approaching my Fourth Quadrant. I am finally beginning to understand. It is easier to complain than be happy. A protest song is easier to write than a love song. The reason is we always know what we don’t want but rarely do we know what we do want.
For me, in retrospect, it was easy. I wanted a family. All I had to do was leave the West Coast to run from the draft to drive to Nashville to put a band together to move to New York to meet Barb and then be smart enough to realize what had just dropped out of the sky into my arms.
All she had to do was stay right where she was and be willing to take a flyer on a California youngster with Mark Twain hair.
Nothing lasts forever. Maybe this is why she and I have always signed one-year contracts. We get through one year and then we talk again. Tonight, with luck, we will ink our 49th Renewal. The first year was free.
This is how we have made it through “Only You,” “Mortgage,” “Private School,” “My Job Sucks," “I Need a New Porsche,” “Grandchildren ('We're Waiiiii--ting')" and one year, so far, of “Low Salt.” This is how we are keeping our foreheads and noses pointing straight ahead, though one of our noses is somewhat larger than the other’s, as we ride the motorized canoe into our Fourth Quadrants.
My brother and his wife have already made it into “Basically Invisible” and my mother defied the math and made a Fifth Quadrant out of Four. So there is precedent for continued, long-term success beyond our wildest dreams.
May my attempts at humor never disguise my gushy, unlimited love for my girl, my stargazer, my beauty, my Duck.
Seventh Marriage Cycle
Approaching Fourth Quadrant