There were stories of serendipity (a straightforward bar meeting jazzed up by the fact that she would have been out of town but for 9/11) and false pretenses (he claimed to be a vegetarian, but wasn’t). Iceman almost missed his opportunity at love because his future wife was a smoker; eventually she quit. And not surprisingly, given the number of journalists around these parts, there were several stories of newsroom meetings, besides my own: one at the AP, the other at Dow Jones.
But the story that charmed me most was Charlie B.’s story of meeting his wife during an AIDS walk in 2001. Love was the last thing he expected when he rolled out of bed that day, sparks flew when they were introduced, she ditched him during the walk, he spotted her later in the crowd, and devised a way to meet up with her again and make it look accidental.
Sunday, May 20th, 2001, was the first brilliantly sunny and warm day in an otherwise dull gray Spring. If it had been anything but a perfect day, I would have characteristically slammed the alarm off at 8:00am, but it was AIDS Walk Day. For those of us regulars at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun of the Upper West Side, AIDS Walk was very important, almost a “High Holiday” because the synagogue not only fields one of the largest teams, but also is still a primary fund-raiser. Volunteers started recruiting in January for the May event. The rabbis hit hard from the pulpit for months, “It’s a mitzvah (good deed)!” “Support our LGBT brothers and sisters!” “Help with Tikkun Olam (fixing the world)!” and the most crass, “Who knows? You might meet someone.” So as I got out of bed to do my good deed, I thought I was hardly going to meet the girl of my dreams at a LGBT event so I didn’t even bother to shower or shave; I pulled on a pair of dirty jeans, employed the fail-safe baseball hat trick to cover my bed-head, and off I went.
I can point to you the exact spot in front of Bethesda fountain where my friend Stephanie said, “This is my friend Nancy.” Although Nancy looked like film star on our wedding day, she will always be most beautiful to me as she was on that day; without any make up, wearing shorts and a simple t-shirt and her hair in a pony-tail. We chit-chatted and hung around until the walk started, but then I lost her. When Stephanie invited Nancy to come along, she also suggested that Nancy could meet someone too. For Nancy that was the furthest thing from her mind because she was walking and raising money in memory of a good friend lost to AIDS. In fact, so she says today, Nancy wanted to prove her friend wrong and ditched me on purpose.
I kept watch as we walked along the Eastside of the loop and finally spotted Nancy diagonally across the park just rounding the edge near 110th St. towards the Westside loop. As a native Manhattanite who practically grew up in Central Park, I knew a shortcut from where I was that would put me slightly ahead of her on West 96th Street. I bolted.
To Nancy our meeting was serendipity, to me a well-executed strategy. We walked to the finish line and then went to the boat house for coffee by the pond. Four months later we were engaged, and this October we will celebrate 10 years of marriage with our three kids and many friends. It is a wonderful story and we continue to support the Gay Men’s Health Crisis because really the best ending of the story would be, and the one for which we dearly pray, “And eventually enough money was raised to find a cure for AIDS and everyone lived happily ever after.
For this story, Charlie and Nancy win two fabulous prizes: a $50 gift certificate to Samba Montclair, which Holly Korus calls “one of the most romantic restaurants in Baristaville,” and a free private dance lesson from Arthur Murray.
Thanks to our generous advertisers — and to everybody who shared their stories of finding love. I hope they’re an inspiration to all the unattached. Cupid shoots his arrows and they land in the craziest ways. Isn’t life grand?