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"Disclaimer: This blog is not responsible for those of you who start to laugh and piss your pants a little. Although this blogger understands the role he has played (in that, if you had not been laughing you may not have pissed yourself), he assumes no liability for damages caused and will not pay your dry cleaning bill.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Up Go the Trolley Cars

There’s a lot of shit on the desk.

Our computer desk is a repository for the randomest junk imaginable. Most of the time, I don’t even see it anymore. My eyes just kind of glaze over it, drifting listlessly from our real estate tax bill (not due until August 31st, thank you) to the black pen to the red pen to the pen with flowers all over it to the pair of orange-handled scissors to the orange camera case to the “Peter Pan” program to the pink scrap of fabric with dress mannequins on it.

There’s one item here that really stands out. It’s a 1/24th scale silver Volkswagen Beetle with a long piece of wire sticking out from the center of its hood, right where the VW medalion would be, you know, if it were a real car, and, at the end of the piece of the wire is a curly-q and, shoved into that curly-q is a photograph.

Like, an actual, real, no-bullshit photograph that's 4x6ish. It's me & the Mrs. The Mrs. & I. The Apron-heads. In this picture, it's 2005. She's wearing the same eyeglasses she's got on today. Mine have changed approximately six times since then. Her hair is shortish, and a wisp of it is flying clear across her fair forehead. She's got on her red "Elmo" fleece. I'm wearing a red, blue, and gray bowtie she handmade for me. I've got on a parka. Do people still call them "parkas?" I am out-of-touch-- with style. Reality. A lot of things.

We're sitting on a bench, but you can't see it in the picture. All you can see is us, in front of a brick wall. Beautiful, blood-red bricks-- bolder and stronger than your average brick, because they were hand-commissioned for a man who was bolder and stronger than the average man.

"I am not an American," he said, "I am the American."

We're sitting on a bench on Mark Twain's porch. The Hartford Home. 351 Farmington Avenue. "Up go the trolley cars for Mark Twain's daughter. Down go the trolley cars for Mark Twain's daughter." That's what his daughter, Susy, said, over and over again as she watched the traffic go by from her bedroom window, in the final hours of her life, her brain ravaged by spinal meningitis-- hundreds and hundreds of miles away from the family that loved her. Susy Clemens was 24.

The picture of us was taken on October 9th, 2005-- Mrs. Apron's birthday. She had just turned 24. Moments before this picture was taken, I proposed. I was behaving like a whackjob all during the tour. I kept putting my hand inside my pocket to make sure the box with the ring was still in there. Because I would lose it. Because birds shit in my eye. Because I am incapable, incompetent, in...conclusive. But never inebriated.

Thankfully. Wouldn't help.

When my wife asked me later why I decided to propose to her at Mark Twain's house, I didn't have an immediate answer at the ready. It took me a little while to figure it all out. It was a house that had seen so much sadness-- Twain nearly drove his family to financial ruin, and to save on expenses, he was forced to shut up the Hartford Home he and his family loved so and travel like a vagabond. He lost the love of his life, little Susy, in that home, and he didn't even make it back for the funeral. But, it was a house that Twain had specially built to surround his family in peace, opulence, and love. It was a house, he said, that would "celebrate this kind of love." The love he had for his wife, Livy.

The Hartford Home is the epicenter of Victorian beauty, grace, delicacy, extravagence, and refinement. Being in it, for me, is like being hugged by the past-- and I like that. More than that, I suppose, and I was finally able to articulate this to my wife after some inevitable Apron-style fumbling-- I wanted to propose to her in a spot that I was sure would always, always be. Yes, there was a time in the past where the future of the Hartford Home was uncertain-- it was unceremoniously chopped up into apartments in the 1940s, I believe, before it was rescued and rehabbed. But, it was Mark Twain's home, and, therefore, it will survive. It will endure. There will be literati and philanthropists who will swoop in and save it from ruin. They will hug it back. I was worried that, if I proposed to her in some place of perhaps lesser significance that, some day, that place will not be there anymore.

And, if our love is to go on forever, well, I'd kind of like the locale of the proposal to go on forever, too. Or as close to forever as we can reasonably expect.

This past weekend, when we were playing in the ocean together in Brigantine, the waves were breaking over our backs and, sometimes, our heads, and as my wife squealed (totes) with delight, and as I held her around her waist, I felt the euphoria and exhilaration I felt in June or July of 2005 when we did the same in Ventnor in the ocean, laughing and loving atop the shell-coated sea-floor together, the waves crashing all around us-- us jumping around like children.

"I almost proposed to you there, in the ocean, that day," I told her later, "and I know that the Atlantic Ocean will always be there, but how could we be sure that it was that exact spot-- by that rock jetty, or was it that one half-a-mile down? How would we know for sure?"

Besides: people pee in there, you know.


  1. Put that photo in a proper frame! It could fade or get wrecked! I have a photo of the day my Mum got engaged.. My parents have been gone for ages but I still pull that photo out and read the back of it. Your kids are going to love that pic young man!
    I love your stories!

  2. Goddammit that's so cute that if my future husband (if I ever have a future husband) isn't as sweet (yes, sweet. I called you sweet) as you I'll be disappointed!

    By the way it's Magpie - I've got a new name. Got tired of being a bird!


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