Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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As kdotdammit blogged about earlier, today is the anniversary of our meeting each other. Right about now, on 10/30/89, I was figuring out how to make Kim keep the promise she'd extended me with her eyes. The place was Spats, a Berkeley bar-with-restaurant notable -- aside from the momentous event -- largely for its expensive faux Polynesian drinks:

I've already recounted the debauched prelude to that night's debauchery in a long entry from last fall -- triggered by my viewing of Lost In Translation -- from which I excerpt the story of our collision:

The night I met Kim -- on October 30th, 1989, as a matter of fact, a date referred to obliquely in Chris's postcard of November 17th, 1989 that I posted yesterday -- she missed her bus -- or "missed her bus" -- home to Vallejo and ended up coming back to my place in the anarchist household. She had been drinking a lot and I wasn't far behind. Our mutual friend Priscilla -- the reason why we met -- came too. When we arrived at 987 57th Street, however, there were odiferous Germans on the living room floor and the three of us were forced to share my futon in my horribly messy room.

As we were getting ready to go to sleep, finally, my housemate Josh came in, seemingly oblivious to the fact that there were two women sharing my futon with me, and proceeded to tell all of us that he had just met the woman of his dreams at a party that night. Because we were blasted, Kim and I both started laughing at Josh's earnestness. But he persisted, even more earnestly -- since he ended up marrying that woman and is still with her now, I guess he was right to be persistent -- before finally departing for his hell-like quarters in the basement.

Priscilla seemed to pass out almost immediately. But Kim, between us on the futon, I wasn't sure about.

I'd been to see the Woody Allen film Crimes and Misdemeanors with my friend Leanne that evening. We went to Spats for a nightcap. Because I'd been seeing a lot of Priscilla in recent weeks -- we had almost gotten together a few days before, following a great Pixies show with Bob Mould as an opening act -- I recalled that she was supposed to be seeing her friend Kim from college that night. Priscilla talked about Kim quite a bit. She was apparently a little miffed that Kim had been in possession of her black leather jacket for the past six months since graduation. Somehow, though, I had confused this "Kim" in my mind with Priscilla's petite Asian co-worker at Berkeley Beach, whom I had a bit of a crush on. When, shortly after Leanne and I had sat down at Spats, Priscilla came in with her friend, I was shocked to see that Kim was actually a punkish white chick.

They had been to Triple Rock and already had quite a head start on Leanne and I. Kim sat across from me and made a lot of edgy eye contact. When Priscilla got up to go to the bathroom, she asked me, "How come you like her better than me?" I told her I wasn't sure that I did. The mutual flirtation picked up from there. Bizarrely, my ex-girlfriend "A." -- short for Annalee -- came in later with her current boyfriend David Grumio -- the one for whom she had left me -- and this guy Greg Forter whom she'd met in Mitch Breitwieser's Early American literature course in her first semester of graduate school at Berkeley. Kim and Annalee had a spirited conversation about Day of the Locust. Kim recited a poem from memory, which I liked but wasn't sure I should like, given both Annalee and Leanne's more Iowa-esque taste in poetry: "Say you're 16 and never seen a gun/I mean a real gun. . ."

The points of convergence are too many to enumerate here, but I'll touch on some of the highlights:

1) David Grumio spent lots of time in Vallejo with his sister and worked the racetrack there sometimes. I knew about Vallejo because of David. He had even taken Annalee and me to the racetrack company picnic at Marine World in Vallejo, when she and I were still living together;

2) David and Josh had been best buddies for a while. For years, Kim and I kept this blanket in storage that Josh had given us to hold because it really belonged to David, who vanished in Europe around 1990 or so;

3) Mitch Breitwieser became my honors adviser, then my grad-school adviser, then my dissertation director;

4) Greg Forter became a friend -- we went to several concerts together -- and played in a band with Yuji Oniki, who went on to form Oniki Orange. Yuji wrote a really cool essay on George Perec's Things in my graduate class on Postmodernism with Charlie Altieri. When I was reading my colleague Eric's piece on Things last fall, I was amused to see that he had cited Yuji. Greg is now teaching at the University of South Carolina, I believe, and has a great book on masculinity in detective novels.

Eventually, Annalee, David, and Greg left. I had offered my place to Kim and Priscilla. The three of us walked Leanne home. As I said goodbye to Leanne, she wished me luck.

To make sure my luck held out, I took Kim and Priscilla on a small detour to the liquor store opposite Ashby BART -- Black and White Liquors? -- and procured a flask-sized bottle of Johnny Walker Red.

After a near-death experience at Ashby BART, when Kim tried to steal the cab that two gangstas had called instead of waiting our proper turn, we ended up back at our house.

And that brings me back to the moment, following Josh's departure and Priscilla's passing out, when I reached out my hand, ever so slowly and carefully, to determine whether Kim was also asleep. Following what seemed like hours of inching forward, I was able to determine that she was awake. Her fingers responded to mine. That first clasping of hands was the most electric and fateful event of my life. I always wonder how I got the courage to take the risk.
What happened after that moment of connection was considerably more confused -- slurping Johnny Walker will do that to you -- but just as momentous, if only because something in me was inspired to call Kim a "lip goddess," thereby making our second meeting a lot more likely. Come to think of it, the misplaced climax of that fateful night -- actually, by then a new day was dawning -- played a pivotal role in the night -- another time when a new day was dawning -- of Skylar's Ursprung, but that's another tale. Besides, the futon festivities all happened on 10/31/89. I'm writing about the day before.

When I was back in the Bay Area in September, I bolstered myself against the massive stress then dominating our lives by documenting key places in our shared history. That's why I have a picture of Spat's. And that's why I also have this picture of the actual table, miraculously spared the ravages of time, at which I met Kim:

When I showed it to Kim, I said, "See, the first chair on the left is the one you were sitting in and the first one on the right is the one I was sitting in. Leanne was to my right." She immediately protested. "No, I was the one sitting in that chair on the right." At first I thought this was a case of the incommensurability of individual memories. But then I remembered that we had shifted chairs several times over the course of the evening. When Kim was reciting her poem and talking animatedly with Greg and Annalee about Day of the Locust she was sitting in a third chair, further back on the left. Bathroom breaks will do that.

I'm planning to return to my earlier practice of showcasing material personal history like this photograph in these pages. Steven's scanning of various photos and documents and cpratt's series of old photos has inspired me to revive the archival dimension to my blog. If I like that approach in other people's writing, I might as well unchain my tendency to plunge into the past in a search for significance. It's hard to top the place where I met the love of my life, though. Thinking of her sleeping soundly in her oversized PJs right now fills my heart with something softer than washed-to-death Portuguese cotton. There's something intensely comforting about being life partners with someone for whom "the F-word" refers with equal precision to fucking and flannel.


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