The following is an excerpt from a collection of memories I wrote down in 2003. This piece tells the story of how Tania and I met, and how our relationship began in 1986/87.
I was in a dark hole. In my mind I often picture the year 1985 as this big dark hole. So many things happened that year which shaped my future life, but what really happened is I got stripped down until I was raw, and I looked at myself and what I saw I didn’t like. I knew I needed to turn this around.
How do these changes, these re-creations of our heart happen? Some moments are so crystal clear in their abruptness you know you’ve changed. Some moments wash over you like a slow tide of a long season before the harvest of change comes. I believe in change. I believe people can change. And somewhere in the dark hole of 1985 a change started in me.
I threw away pages of really bad, angry poetry. I got a job as a teller at a bank. I listened to lots of gothic music. I was tall, rail thin, chalk white, with hair that was ratted on top of my head.
I would go to the local Winchell’s Donut Shop when I got home from my teller job for my evening cup of coffee. One day in September of 1986, I saw a very beautiful girl behind the counter. We started talking about working at the donut shop. I had worked there a year earlier as a late night baker for about 3 months. It was the longest amount of time I held a job during that year.
As we talked I found out her name, that she was out of cigarettes, and she was at the beginning of her shift. When I left the donut shop I walked to the nearby Thrifty Drugstore and bought her a pack of her brand of cigarettes (Marlboro Light 100’s). I came back, walked past the line of people and laid them on the counter. I pushed the pack across to her and said, “Here you go…Tania,” making sure to pronounce her name correctly, which so many people don’t. Then I went home.
I thought about her a lot, making many trips to the donut shop for coffee in the following weeks. I found out she had a boyfriend, and I wasn’t going to interfere with that. Not again.
I just came in with my poems, which had started to get better, and tapes of my music. We talked and smoked cigarettes along with her friend Jamie who worked there with her. Jamie was her best friend at the time. Sometimes we’d all go in the back room and get stoned, then just hang out some more. We became good friends very quickly.
Tania was only 17 at the time, and I was 22, but she was just as old as I was. We both had been spending the last few years doing the same drugs, having similar experiences, just in different crowds.
We spoke the same language, but only in the way that meeting your other half makes a language like no other.
It was only a month later that Tania got rid of her boyfriend, and asked me out. That was October 12, 1986 – From that moment onward, life became amazing.
Some people are just meant for each other, and this was just one of those things. God made me for Tania and He made Tania for me. I’m sure there are lots of perfect fits like ours out there in the world…
Because we were in Irvine, California we found each other. Our families traveled great distances over time to bring us together.
Tania’s dad’s family left Belgium the same time my parents left Illinois (1952) and settled in the same year in the same town in Southern California (Pasadena).
Over the next 35 years our families wandered around Southern California until the necessary pieces fell into place and brought us together in Irvine, where we could meet in a little donut shop.
Wonderful memories about the beginning of our relationship that I cherish:
It was a full moon that first night; we watched a cat stumble through the street and get sick; we made love in the parked car for the first of many times together.
We were together from the word go. We both knew it and made it special. We made it more important than anything else, and when Tania said she was going to Minneapolis, I asked if I could go. Of course she said yes.
Before Tania, art was just an idea, a concept out of reach, but she made it real to me. Creativity sparked immediately when we came together.
I compiled a collection of all the music I had been working on in a project called Eccentric Activities.
I started collecting my poems and then a friend wanted to publish them as a book, which he did, and it was called “I’d Like To Live That Kind Of Life.”
I had a Yamaha scooter we’d go for cruises on, zipping down to Newport Beach to our pot lady, who was the mellowest, sweetest lady in the world with a goof of a husband and two great kids.
We would sit for hours on my front porch, smoking Marlboro Light 100’s one after another and talking, drinking coffee, and getting stoned.
We sat there, collecting our cigarette butts in coffee cans, discussing everything. We read Kurt Vonnegut books out-loud to each other. We talked about change. We talked about God.
We started building a sculpture, a tower, out of our collected cigarette butts. We made colored glue with Elmer’s glue and food dye. We added odd trinkets to it, like you get out of gumball machines. We would only allow our own cigarette butts. No one else could contribute. We were all about us.
When we left for Minnesota in August, 1987, our sculpture was nearly four feet tall.
Photos of Cigarette Sculpture – 1987