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What about the IUD?

Everyone should be married — once, I think, just as everyone should be fat — once. I am lucky in that I have very little at all bad to say about my one experience with matrimony. Lucky that is, because my ex is in town and I speak with her daily in collaboration regarding our grown son who lives with me and is undergoing treatment for an ongoing illness. She is happily remarried, and I am happy to remain not so. If I had anything along the lines of a serious horror story, one that might include tooth-grinding animosity and garment-rending wailing, the gnashing of teeth, that sort of thing, I would be wise to decline any contribution here.

Diane (her real name and why not?) and I were married at City Hall in Manhattan on July 29, 1977. She was eight months pregnant. We had been "keeping company," which involved hitchhiking multiple times across the U.S. and once across northern Europe, for six years before the day she phoned me at my bartending job at a West Side joint to announce, "I am pregnant." She was calling from the doctor's office. It was happy hour, and I shouted, "What about the IUD?" All eyes at the service end of the bar were blearily upon me, wondering perhaps if this were not some variant on the latest cocktail whiz-bang Daddy-o (as we used to say in those days), the "Long Island iced tea."

"I told you, I took that out six months ago." I was pretty sure she had not told me anything of the kind; it seemed to me I might have remembered something along those lines. I recall nothing more of that conversation other than saying something more or less like "Holy shit! Well, that's great, I guess." She may recall this differently, but it can't vary much. I do remember the reaction of my regular patrons, which were variations on "Too bad" or "Don't worry, I know a guy." None of which were reactions I was looking for.

It was an ungodly hot summer in New York, and a few weeks before the blessed events was the famous blackout of '77. I was 26 years old. Diane was 32, just turning 33 in early July. Spike Lee shot some high points of that season of barking lunacy (Berkowitz's talking dog?) as Summer of Sam. Elvis Presley would be dead in his bathroom by late August.

Though at the time it was all quite acceptable, expected really, for a bartender/rock musician getting married to get snot-slinging drunk the night before the vows, I threw myself into the spirit of the thing with the manic Viking glee of the true and budding dipsomaniac. My bachelor party was a pub-crawl with other musicians and bartenders through Brooklyn and Manhattan. I remember little of it, but there was no sex (not even a blowsy old hooker in a cardboard cake), only one memorable comeback from a friend after I delivered a soliloquy from an Upper West Side rooftop. My garbled, stentorian gibberish finished with the phrase, "...THIS IS MY LAST DESPERATE AND PATHETIC FLING AT YOUTH, YOU BASTARDS!" And my bartender buddy, Gerry Bowes, the laconic Irishman, muttered, "Don't be absurd. Nothing pathetic about it. Damned fine job."

That night was my first blackout. Apparently, I kicked out the screen door to our postage-stamp-sized garden patio apartment and returned to bed as if I had just put the cat out for the evening. This subconscious protest of events is shameful in retrospect because the eight-year marriage, on the whole, represented many of the best years of my life.

I remember eating strawberries and cream for breakfast with a monstrous hangover, my wife-to-be across the table from me, dressed in a peach-colored shawl and floor-length maternity gown, her hair drawn beautifully (and expensively, as I recall) away from her face and neck. I recall our best man, an Englishman named Andrew (where are you, old son?) arriving, herding us into a Checker cab and briskly instructing the driver, "City Hall, Mac. And step on it. We got a fella and a dame need hitching!" (Andrew seemed to exist forever in some 1940s American noir film.)

What I can summon from remnants of brain cells has to do with Moët & Chandon in the back seat of the cab, the movie moment when Andrew pretended to lose the ring (silver and turquoise, but we liked it), and the arrival on the correct floor of the famous building that has been filmed countless times. The floor for licenses, ceremonies, etc., appeared also to be something from a grainy and sienna-tinted film about Ellis Island at the turn of the century. Every third world nation on earth was represented and every female over 14 visibly pregnant. All previous jokes about sitting, clearly with child, in the waiting room, among virginal debs and their gawky boyfriends, evaporated like the residue of the previous night's cognac at the armpits of the type of shirt I might have worn for a weekend with the Maharishi.

I remember a joke: "Would you like fries with that?" after our assembly-line exchange of vows.

Our reception was held at the bar/restaurant where I worked. Bloody Marys arrived in carafes, and then more champagne, and more shrimp than I'd ever seen in one room. Our chef, Jeff (last name no doubt a casualty, brain-cell-wise), created pastries of architectural beauty. Wine flowed from the bar, and Steely Dan's Aja album (I think that was the one) was cranked so loud that at one point the ice sculpture (Diane, help me out here; was it a swan or velociraptor something?) cracked, then collapsed in a rubble of ice chips and cold cuts.

Yet another party followed that night on the Upper West Side, and my recollection finally dims in surrender. There was, as Gerry put it, nothing pathetic about it at all. It was a damned fine desperate fling at youth. Of course, it never worked, they never do, and a 24-hour King Hell party is not proper preparation for marriage, much less parenthood, in any way.

On balance, I felt cheated of no fun, I felt no curtailing of asinine behavior and am extremely grateful that I seemed to have avoided the unforgivable (the only true secret to a happy marriage), or I most certainly would have missed out on joys at which, formerly, I could never have guessed.

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Everyone should be married — once, I think, just as everyone should be fat — once. I am lucky in that I have very little at all bad to say about my one experience with matrimony. Lucky that is, because my ex is in town and I speak with her daily in collaboration regarding our grown son who lives with me and is undergoing treatment for an ongoing illness. She is happily remarried, and I am happy to remain not so. If I had anything along the lines of a serious horror story, one that might include tooth-grinding animosity and garment-rending wailing, the gnashing of teeth, that sort of thing, I would be wise to decline any contribution here.

Diane (her real name and why not?) and I were married at City Hall in Manhattan on July 29, 1977. She was eight months pregnant. We had been "keeping company," which involved hitchhiking multiple times across the U.S. and once across northern Europe, for six years before the day she phoned me at my bartending job at a West Side joint to announce, "I am pregnant." She was calling from the doctor's office. It was happy hour, and I shouted, "What about the IUD?" All eyes at the service end of the bar were blearily upon me, wondering perhaps if this were not some variant on the latest cocktail whiz-bang Daddy-o (as we used to say in those days), the "Long Island iced tea."

"I told you, I took that out six months ago." I was pretty sure she had not told me anything of the kind; it seemed to me I might have remembered something along those lines. I recall nothing more of that conversation other than saying something more or less like "Holy shit! Well, that's great, I guess." She may recall this differently, but it can't vary much. I do remember the reaction of my regular patrons, which were variations on "Too bad" or "Don't worry, I know a guy." None of which were reactions I was looking for.

It was an ungodly hot summer in New York, and a few weeks before the blessed events was the famous blackout of '77. I was 26 years old. Diane was 32, just turning 33 in early July. Spike Lee shot some high points of that season of barking lunacy (Berkowitz's talking dog?) as Summer of Sam. Elvis Presley would be dead in his bathroom by late August.

Though at the time it was all quite acceptable, expected really, for a bartender/rock musician getting married to get snot-slinging drunk the night before the vows, I threw myself into the spirit of the thing with the manic Viking glee of the true and budding dipsomaniac. My bachelor party was a pub-crawl with other musicians and bartenders through Brooklyn and Manhattan. I remember little of it, but there was no sex (not even a blowsy old hooker in a cardboard cake), only one memorable comeback from a friend after I delivered a soliloquy from an Upper West Side rooftop. My garbled, stentorian gibberish finished with the phrase, "...THIS IS MY LAST DESPERATE AND PATHETIC FLING AT YOUTH, YOU BASTARDS!" And my bartender buddy, Gerry Bowes, the laconic Irishman, muttered, "Don't be absurd. Nothing pathetic about it. Damned fine job."

That night was my first blackout. Apparently, I kicked out the screen door to our postage-stamp-sized garden patio apartment and returned to bed as if I had just put the cat out for the evening. This subconscious protest of events is shameful in retrospect because the eight-year marriage, on the whole, represented many of the best years of my life.

I remember eating strawberries and cream for breakfast with a monstrous hangover, my wife-to-be across the table from me, dressed in a peach-colored shawl and floor-length maternity gown, her hair drawn beautifully (and expensively, as I recall) away from her face and neck. I recall our best man, an Englishman named Andrew (where are you, old son?) arriving, herding us into a Checker cab and briskly instructing the driver, "City Hall, Mac. And step on it. We got a fella and a dame need hitching!" (Andrew seemed to exist forever in some 1940s American noir film.)

What I can summon from remnants of brain cells has to do with Moët & Chandon in the back seat of the cab, the movie moment when Andrew pretended to lose the ring (silver and turquoise, but we liked it), and the arrival on the correct floor of the famous building that has been filmed countless times. The floor for licenses, ceremonies, etc., appeared also to be something from a grainy and sienna-tinted film about Ellis Island at the turn of the century. Every third world nation on earth was represented and every female over 14 visibly pregnant. All previous jokes about sitting, clearly with child, in the waiting room, among virginal debs and their gawky boyfriends, evaporated like the residue of the previous night's cognac at the armpits of the type of shirt I might have worn for a weekend with the Maharishi.

I remember a joke: "Would you like fries with that?" after our assembly-line exchange of vows.

Our reception was held at the bar/restaurant where I worked. Bloody Marys arrived in carafes, and then more champagne, and more shrimp than I'd ever seen in one room. Our chef, Jeff (last name no doubt a casualty, brain-cell-wise), created pastries of architectural beauty. Wine flowed from the bar, and Steely Dan's Aja album (I think that was the one) was cranked so loud that at one point the ice sculpture (Diane, help me out here; was it a swan or velociraptor something?) cracked, then collapsed in a rubble of ice chips and cold cuts.

Yet another party followed that night on the Upper West Side, and my recollection finally dims in surrender. There was, as Gerry put it, nothing pathetic about it at all. It was a damned fine desperate fling at youth. Of course, it never worked, they never do, and a 24-hour King Hell party is not proper preparation for marriage, much less parenthood, in any way.

On balance, I felt cheated of no fun, I felt no curtailing of asinine behavior and am extremely grateful that I seemed to have avoided the unforgivable (the only true secret to a happy marriage), or I most certainly would have missed out on joys at which, formerly, I could never have guessed.

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