Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day 31 The Occupation or Two Weeks that Would Change their Lives

The time was May 1998. The place was Dagenham. The institution was University of East London. The people, well at first anyway, were John, Carla the socialist, Garry, and Lina.

John was studying Italian and heard from one of his lecturers that cuts were being made to the Languages Department. Because John was toying with the idea of becoming a socialist and because the cuts didn’t seem fair, he told Carla the socialist. John and Carla the socialist marched to the student union and demanded that something be done.

Lina, who held an official student union position at the time, happened to be there and happened to be the first person they spoke to. Garry, who wanted an official student union position and was always up for a bit of trouble, joined their conversation.

After some more research, they found out that there were ₤1.3 million cuts being made across departments, 24 lecturers were going to lose their jobs and the university had one of the highest paid vice chancellors in the country. They were angry, but they weren’t sure what to do. Carla the socialist had the answer. Occupy!

They gathered 100 signatures to call an emergency general meeting of the student body, and 250 students showed up. They invited Frank Gould, the fourth highest paid vice chancellor in the country, to make his case. Luckily for them, Frank Gould was patronising, arrogant, had an all-year-round tan, had a shower in his office and talked about his ski thumbs. The students voted unanimously to occupy the building.

They occupied the two main buildings and shut down the administrative side of the university for two weeks. Someone, maybe Dagmar, had the brilliant idea that they would continue to hold classes for students, but only if the lecturer supported both ‘the aims and means of the occupation’. And so classes ran, more or less, as normal. The students unfurled a banner outside the main building that proclaimed: ‘Under New Management!’

Ryan and Massimo became the brains of the operation. They came up with the name, ‘Autonomous University of East London’ and wrote a manifesto. Fred who was nifty with graphics became in charge of propaganda/publicity. Committees were formed: the academic committee that made sure classes ran, the food committee that fed the 100 or so occupiers on a daily basis, the security committee that made sure all entrances were covered and nothing was broken, the cleaning committee that cleaned. The occupiers had two general meetings a day to make all decisions publicly and democratically

One dawn in early June, the occupiers were evicted by 200 riot police.

No-one was arrested or hurt. They formed a negotiation committee that was able to save the jobs of those lecturers who didn’t sign ‘voluntary’ redundancy agreements and they struck a deal that no student would be penalised for taking part in the occupation. Frank Gould, the fourth highest paid vice chancellor in the country, was forced to resign a year later.

John, Garry, and Lina are still the best of friends. The whereabouts of Carla the socialist are unknown.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Day 29 Jenn and Tony part deux or Am I becoming the Cliche? By Jennifer Adams

Jenn and Tony were first featured here on Day 17. This is an honest, beautiful reflection from Jenn on being married, being a mum, and being an artist.

There is a cliché out there about how when a woman gets married and has kids she loses her identity, forgets her own passions, and focuses so much on what everyone else needs that she casts her own needs aside. P'shaw, right?

I'm not so sure...

I think I may have begun to whittle myself into a model of that cliché, though I've been fighting it every step of the way. . . Tony and I have always semi-jokingly used the phrase "Us against the World" to describe our approach to life. We started Halcyon as a way to do something great together, and we always meant to continue that approach when we had kids. When Tony, Jr. was 3-6 months old, Tony was rehearsing Yerma and he really wanted me at rehearsals. There were a lot of nights when I sat nursing in a corner while they rehearsed, thinking "Why did I come?"

I knew Tony wanted my feedback and wanted me to be involved, but it was pretty rare that I actually got to watch what was going on. Yet, I never decided to stop going. I knew Tony wanted me there, and in theory I wanted to be there. I wanted to be like the families I grew up with who always had their whole family in the show, and would take turns watching each others kids while a scene was being rehearsed. However, growing up I did shows in a schoolhouse that was turned into an arts center in the middle of the woods. . . When you rehearse in a room at Sheil Park, or a room in a church with an AA meeting next door, there's nowhere for the kids to go and no other kids to watch them. (Insert a plug for our own space with babysitting services HERE).

During performances of Yerma, when Tony Jr. was in the dream scene at the beginning, Tony would go to the theatre after work and open the doors for the actors, and I would go to our house and get Tony Jr., take him to the theatre, nurse him while we waited for his "Big Scene" so he wouldn't disturb the performance, then bundle him out and take him home on the bus. It was 9 p.m. before we got home, sometimes not much earlier than Tony, and there were a few times where neither of us were dressed for the weather.

One night, the temperature dropped from 55 to 40 degrees between leaving the theatre and getting home, and it started to rain. I was in a short sleeved shirt with an old navy trench coat and Tony jr. was in a long sleeve shirt and pants, a light coat but no hat that I remember . . . I put my coat around him and prayed for a bus that never came. I ended up walking from Irving Park and Damen to Foster and Damen, and stopping at CVS on Lawrence to buy a fleece blanket and one of those weird winter hats with the hard cardboard bill in the front to warm him up...That was one of the first moments when I thought "What's more important? Theatre or my family?"

Since the kids were born, it has felt as if Tony and I have worked better with a "divide and conquer" approach to our lives. It has made sense that the "divide" would be him at the theatre and me at home. He can run tech, and I can nurse...and honestly, a lot of times it just feels better to stay home. The kids get a bedtime routine, I get to be with them and feel needed by them, and it's important to me to be a mom that is THERE.

At the same time, Tony's writing and online presence has really helped Halcyon grow. While I have always been involved artistically, and have actually directed more shows for Halcyon than Tony, I haven't maintained a presence (or done the work) of the...Executive-isory-ness. . . As a result, I have felt less and less connected to, and less and less needed by, this amazing company that was started by us as equals. He was doing more of the producing, reading of scripts, being the one there for tech weeks. . . It made sense for him to take on the role of Artistic Director and me to become Associate A.D. That's the roles we were playing.

I think that led to me feeling even less needed by Halcyon, and more needed by the kids, which made it even more appealing to be the one that stayed home. I would go to rehearsals or shows, and not really know what to do there. Or have to call Tony to fix the problems. . . At home, I always had the answers, the kisses and hugs, and yes, the milk!

The "Divide and Conquer" has been feeling more and more like "Divide, and Tony Conquers." Its been no one's fault; up until now it has been the best way to proceed. And I'm sure he feels pretty conquered when the kids want me to do bedtime... and bath-time... and everything else :)

However, I love this company just as much as he does, and I want it to succeed just as much as he does. The same way he wants our kids to succeed. Thankfully they are getting old enough now where we can really do more of the Kid Stuff 50-50... I am back to tackling the Theatre Stuff 50-50 as well. If I want to be an equal voice in this theatre company, I have to be an equal voice... the same way I am in my marriage and with my kids. I have to do the work.

The first step, a small one though it is, is to change the name of my blog... The Life of a Theatre Wife used to sound kitchy and fun to me. Now it sounds like "A Cute Little Wife in the Corner, writing a Cute Little Blog to have something to share with her strong, hard-working husband". (Boy, that sounds bitter. But that Bitter Woman is who I DON'T want to become.) If you have a Blog Name you think might be good, let me know...

The second step will be taking a newly found love of marketing I have acquired, and really trying to use it to Halcyon's benefit.

We'll see what comes third... I'll keep you posted!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Day 28 Tom and Suzanne

There are three acts to this story.

Act one. Tom and Suzanne meet at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana in 1973. Luckily for both of them, and for women everywhere, Notre Dame started accepting female students two years before that. They each had roommates who happened to fall madly in love with each other in their first week of college and become joined at the hip. And so, by default, Tom and Suzanne became friends. There is an unresolved dispute between them on whether they went on a couple of dates or not. Tom thinks they went on a date or two. Suzanne does not think they were dates.

Act two. They graduated in 1977. Tom moved to Berlin and Suzanne moved to California. They kept in touch through their old roommates who ended up getting married straight out of college. Tom would send the occasional postcard from Berlin, and they would sometimes talk on the phone. They were both seeing other people at the time, and had no romantic interest in each other.

By 1983 they were both living in Chicago, Tom having got there four years earlier. When Suzanne moved to Chicago, Tom organised a long, thorough tour for her. There still wasn't any real romantic interest at this point. Tom is just a really nice guy.

Act three. It’s December 1985 and Suzanne needs a date for her office Christmas party. She needed to take someone who would be good company, someone she wouldn’t need to baby sit, and someone who wouldn’t embarrass her.

Tom: The bar was low.

Suzanne: That’s a high bar!

Suzanne asked Tom to go with her and Tom accepted. He showed up at her house with a small gift; a red cup with cocoa for hot chocolate.

Winter 1985 was the coldest Chicago winter in recorded history. That's pretty darn cold. So when they left the party, which went fine, they couldn't walk anywhere. Tom and Suzanne ran into the first bar they saw. They warmed up with mulled wine and conversation. They talked till the bar closed. And by the end of the night, they developed a closeness that may or may not have been brewing for the last twelve years.

It took Tom and Suzanne that long to get together because they had to become who they were going to become first. Tom remembers two things that made him see Suzanne more clearly. One was the way she handled her father’s untimely death; with dignity and strength. The other was her growth and excitement after coming back from a trip to Europe.

They were married in 1988. They have three boys, an 18-year old, a 16-year old and a 13-year old. Every year in December, Tom gives Suzanne a red cup with cocoa for hot chocolate.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 27 Magda and Stathis

Magda and Stathis met in Athens, Greece in the summer of 2002 and didn’t like each other very much. They were both working at the Byzantine Museum. Stathis was head of the educational programmes at the museum and Magda was in the public relations office. He thought she was a dumb girl with no politics. She thought he was rude, arrogant and degrading. The source of their tension had something to do with Yugoslavian children, Marxism and a charity event the museum was organizing. Anyway.

It was February 2003, after many tentative conversations, most of them involving politics, before they decided they had some things in common. So when Bill Clinton came to town and there was of-course a demonstration, Stathis asked Magda if she wanted to go with him. She told him she’d be at the demonstration and then ended up, for one reason or another, not being able to go.

The next day Stathis told Magda that he’d looked for her and couldn’t find her. He asked her out to dinner. Stathis had an ulterior motive. He wasn’t looking for a relationship, but he thought Magda was gorgeous and wanted to sleep with her. Magda, although she didn’t really fancy him, agreed to go out with him. She had recently broken up from a long, arduous relationship and was looking to take her mind off things.

They went out. Magda didn’t follow the no-sex-on-the-first-date rule and she didn’t hear from Stathis for the next two weeks. Magda was indifferent. She was fed-up with men and had resolved to have no expectations when it comes to them.

But Stathis eventually did call and they went out 15 days after their first date. Since their second date, unless, they are in different cities, they’ve spent every night together. Stathis had been suffering from insomnia for years. He wouldn’t be able to fall asleep till 5 or 6 o’clock every morning. But when Magda was around, he could sleep. And because she cured his insomnia, he couldn’t do without her.

Magda has been completely in love with him since their second date. Stathis has given her everything she’s ever wanted, and he makes her want to be a better person. She likes that he’s comfortable in his own skin and can laugh at himself.

Magda and Stathis officially moved in together in September 2004. They were married in March 2007. Magda’s best friend and housemate from her college days in London was their maid of honour. A great time was had by all. Magda and Stathis are living in Athens with their almost-one-year old baby boy, Aris. They were not married in a church and Aris is not baptised. Magda and Stathis do not like to follow rules and conventions.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day 26 Angela and Matt

Angela and Matt met in May 2006 at a festival in London’s East End. The borough was Hackney, Europe’s crime and grime capital, and the festival was Paradise Gardens, where you go to see Victoria Park magically transformed into a modern day Pleasure Garden. It is a mystery how the young lovers found themselves to be in the same time, in the same place, talking and drinking, but they did.

Even though Matt was living in South London and Ang, who is in the Top 5 Funniest People, was on the right side of the river, she decided to give him a chance. They met at the festival, got drunk and talked non-stop all day. There may have been some crazy magic funky fairy dust in the air.

At the Paradise Gardens Festival, they have an old-fashioned funfair, powered by steam instead of electricity. Ang and Matt rode the steam fair dodgems, played on the penny arcade machines and had good banter.

Ang would soon learn that Matt was uber reliable and would never let her down in any sense of the word. When Ang was going through some tough times, Matt was there for her unfailingly, always saying the right things no matter the time of day. Matt has been to every kiddy musical Ang, a primary school teacher, has put on. They spent last Christmas in Rome and went to see the Pope’s speech, during most of which Matt held up Ang’s class toy stuffed bird so she could take a picture for the kids at just the right angle.

So, despite their irreconcilable taste in films, they are moving in together after Christmas. Ang loves Karate Kid, Point Break and Lost Boys. Matt loves Aliens, Clockwork Orange and Goodfellas. She is not moving south of the river, but Ang will be moving to Bedfordshire. There are slight misgivings,

Angela: aw or .... shit! i'm living in the middle of nowhere with a bloke who is refusing to watch karate kid again!!!

But these misgivings are minor.

Every year, Ang and Matt go back to the Paradise Gardens festival for their anniversary. But this year the festival has been moved to June.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Day 25 Wesley and Richard

Meeting Richard (see Day 2 Crystal and Richard) would change Wesley’s life, but he didn’t know that at the time. At the time, Wesley thought it meant he would have someone to carpool with from work. They were both living in Conway, Arkansas’ college town, and working in a school in a town neither of them liked very much. Wesley was a science teacher and Richard was a history teacher-in-training.

There were many teacher trainees that lived in Conway Wesley could have asked to car pool with, but there was something about Richard that he warmed to. As Richard was driving Wesley home for the first time, he followed Wesley’s directions to Richard’s own house. It turned out they lived, not right next to each other, but behind each other with adjacent backyards.

At first, Richard’s wife didn’t trust Richard’s new friend and didn’t want him in the house. He was too clean cut and that was fishy. But Wesley had the superpower to make Richard’s newly born twins stop crying and fall asleep so he became indispensable to the family. Before long, Wesley would make a habit of walking into Richard’s house unannounced in his pyjamas and ask what was for breakfast.

When they first met, Wesley was a Republican or as he put it, one of the prisoners in Plato’s cave. The less that is said about ties to a right wing militia the better. Meeting Richard exposed Wes to things and ideas he’d not been exposed to before. His horizons were broadened, his worldviews shifted, and he escaped from the cave.

Richard still lives in Arkansas and Wesley now lives in Minnesota. They get to see each other on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas where they stay up till 3am talking, and watch Across the Universe on Christmas Day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Day 24 Sonia and Mike

Sonia went to high school with Richard (see Day 2 Crystal and Richard), and Mike went to college with Richard. And so Sonia and Mike met at Richard’s birthday party in northwest Arkansas years and years after their school days with Richard.

The first thing that struck Sonia about Mike was that he had the confidence to introduce himself as an artist. They ended up talking for hours at the party about obscure artists that only they knew. People would join, and quickly leave their conversation.

Sonia first invited Mike to join her regular Sunday potluck group, and then invited him over to her house for dinner. What’s that? Always let the boy make the first move? That wasn’t Sonia’s style.

Before their first kiss, Sonia told Mike straight up – she wasn’t looking to spend her time with someone she couldn’t get serious about, she was too busy, she was starting her own business and two non-profits so was he in or was he out? Mike was in. He liked Sonia’s style.

Three months in Mike knew he wanted to marry Sonia. And she knew she wanted to marry him. Sonia had wasted a lot of time on boys in the past. By her mid-30s, she was done wasting time. She knew what she wanted, and was glad that she hadn’t found Mike earlier. Finding Mike at the time that she did meant that she knew exactly how special he was and how lucky she was.

Every year, Sonia held a benefit party for the non-profit organisations she set up. That year, surprising everyone, they got married at the benefit party. They vowed to be together “for richer and poorer; for profit and non-profit”.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Day 19 Your task

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 17 Jenn and Tony

Luckily for Tony, Jenn liked short, bold men on the stocky side. They met in a bar on Addison and Broadway in Chicago. But before they met, Jenn noticed Tony across the bar and thought, “Oh my God, who is that guy”.

Lina: What made you notice him?

Tony: Because I’m hot.

Jenn: Because he reminded me of my uncle Bruce. He looked like a quiet, strong man with strong morals. The kind of man that if you ever needed anything he’d be there. And then he came over and sat at the adjacent table!

It was their first time in ‘Jay’s’ (Joe’s, corrects Tony). They were both hanging out with their respective theatre companies and it so happened that someone from Jenn’s theatre company knew someone from Tony’s theatre company. And so they got talking. They got talking so much they closed the bar that night. And then Tony gave Jenn his business card.

Jenn was directing a show about strippers, so she emailed Tony the next day and asked him if he would be her sound designer.

Lina: Did you have ulterior motives?

Jenn: Yes.

Tony: Workplace harassment.

The crew had their first production meeting in a strip club. The set designer was stressing Jenn out, and she remembers thinking if she could keep her foot touching Tony’s foot, it would be ok. Tony didn’t notice.

They got together that night after it took Tony four hours to kiss Jenn, and it was like nothing Jenn had ever felt before.

They dated and broke up three times that year before they could make it work. Tony was working a part-time job that was sucking his soul, and he was homeless, trying to make it as a theatre artist. Jenn was struggling with undiagnosed depression. They were the right people for each other at the wrong time.

Jenn had been life-searching for two years before she met Tony. The apex of her self-discovery coincided with her meeting him. Having the right person in her life made her realise how wrong everything else was. So it didn’t work between them again and again. But they kept finding ways to be in each other’s lives through theatre productions and Tony didn’t judge Jenn through any of it.

And eventually it all came together. Once they were happier people alone, they figured out how to be happy together. Jenn and Tony married in 2005 and founded their own theatre company, Halcyon, in 2006. They have a three-year old, Tony Jr. and a one year-old, Charlotte.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day 16 Sara and Adnan

It was Ramadan 2007 in Damascus, Syria and Sara was watching television. TV is big during the holy month of fasting for Muslims. A California-based video blogger that called himself ‘Baba Ali’ was being interviewed on television.

Sara thought he was funny and relevant and checked out his blog. Baba Ali had posted an appeal to Muslims from all over the world to help out on a film. Being the month of Ramadan, where every good deed is multiplied ten-fold, Sara, a musician and sound engineer, responded to the appeal.

Sara agreed to create the score for the film and became part of the team. She quickly became friends with the producer, who happened in passing to mention he was thinking of starting up a Muslim matrimonial site.

Sara’s ears perked up. Her first instinct was to be too shy to say anything. Her second instinct was to ask the producer if he knew anyone that would be suitable for her. She was tired with her options in Syria of men who wanted traditional wives.

Lina: You just straight up asked?

Sara: Well, the Prophet’s wife was the one who initiated things with him, so I just thought of her.

The California-based, producer-friend did have someone in mind for Sara. Actually, he had four people in mind. The first guy was spoken for. The second guy wanted someone local. The third guy’s family wanted a Pakistani girl for him. And the fourth guy. Well, the fourth guy was Adnan, who was also part of the film crew.

The producer-friend approached Adnan and told him he had a girl in mind for him. Adnan told the producer-friend he would think about it, or more precisely pray about it, the prayer of Istikhara/guidance. Adnan prayed. And then he told the producer-friend to hook him up.

That’s when the Syria-California courtship began. Sara and Adnan started off with IM chat, graduated to voice chat, and then eventually to video chat. And then they found themselves talking to each other for eight hours a day.

Sara marshaled the resourcefulness of her relatives on the East Coast and the West Coast. Her cousin’s husband went to meet Adnan’s family in New York to check them out. Her second cousin in California somehow managed to come up with pages of information on Adnan. We don’t know how, but we know the information was halal.

Lina: So, when did you actually meet him?

Sara: Three days before our wedding day in Syria.

Sara trusted her instincts. She had another suitor asking for her hand at the time, and her instincts told her to turn him down.

Sara had no doubts about Adnan. When she saw him for the very first time, she remembers noticing her heart felt comfortable. Her second reaction was: “he’s dreamy”.

Adnan comes from a Pakistan family and was raised in New York. Sara comes from a Syrian family and was raised in the United Arab Emirates. They were married in Syria in June 2008 and are now living in Canada.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Day 15 Zach and Hannah

While not exactly high school sweethearts, Zach and Hannah went to the same high school in small town Madison. Hannah was 16 years old and Zach 17. Hannah’s friend thought Zach was cute, but Hannah didn’t think he was all that.

One fine day during summer break, Hannah was in her car at a stop sign. At the exact same time, Zach pulled up to the stop sign on the opposite road. “Hmm, he is kinda cute”, Hannah thought.

After noticing him at the stop sign, Hannah began stalking Zach. She would leave him little notes and gifts in his car and his locker. She noticed he wore friendship bracelets so she thoughtfully made him a friendship bracelet out of colours she noticed he liked to wear. Zach didn’t know who the bracelet was from, but he thought it was kinda cool so he wore it around his ankle. His ankle was not visible to Hannah so Hannah thought he never wore it.

Hannah remembers signing her notes with her name and number and asking Zach to call her. Zach remembers that he had no idea who these notes and gifts were from.

Someone else might have given up at that point. But Hannah was going to grow up and become an aggressive community organiser, so she didn’t let Zach’s silence stop her. She recruited help and organised an action. She got the German exchange student who was staying with her family to call Zach and convince him to go out with her. Zach remembers thinking Hannah was whiny and politely declined.

Someone else, crazier than Hannah, was also after Zach and she threatened to beat Hannah up if Hannah didn’t back off. Hannah backed off. Zach went off to college in Colorado.

During her high school senior year, Zach was visiting Madison and noticed Hannah. “Hmm, she is kinda cute”, thought Zach.

When Hannah went off to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois they began a once a week platonic email correspondence. Hannah was dating someone else and now the tables were turned. Zach found an excuse to visit Hannah by dragging his younger brother on a ‘college visit’; he drove through a foot of snow on winter break from Colorado to Galesburg; he took an internship in Chicago to be closer to Knox College and Hannah. And that’s when things, finally clicked. It was summer 2000 and they were at last in the same place, at the same time – metaphorically and literally.

Not for long. They separated when Hannah went off to Russia to study Russian and Zach went off to Mexico to study Spanish. In the five months they were apart, the only contact they had was one eight minute phone call.

But study abroad programmes come to an end, and Hannah and Zach eventually returned to the United States. If you’re guessing Chicago, you would be right.

Hannah and Zach were married in 2006 and are now living in Chicago with their one and a half year old baby boy, Mateo.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 14 love/ logic by Kristiana Colon

The train stops running at midnight
and I am half past twelve
but the night is warm
and I am safe
Music from the street
hums up through the platform
so I will wait awake
let darkness prick my skin
and watch sun rise
till the morning train comes

I am waiting at a station watching
tumbleweed popcorn in the distance
A gust tugs at my straw sun hat
Alligator suitcases collect dust at my feet
and I shade my eyes to squint down the tracks
believe I see its smoke swelling closer
not knowing this train will never come

poem originally published in chickenpinata; a journal of poetry

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Day 12 Yoni and Mere

There wasn’t an exact point at which Yoni and Mere met. This non exact meeting point happened in their junior year at the University of Michigan. At this non exact time, they were both dating other people.

Yoni thought of Mere as someone you have a good friendship connection with, you know, the type of person you meet who you’re sure you would be great friends with. Mere thought of Yoni as the soft spoken, Israeli long-haired kid whose name means vagina and worked behind the film equipment counter.

Mere held a porn and fondue party, a party where you watch granny porn, tranny porn, lesbian army porn and eat fondue of-course. She invited Yoni, who was friends with her girlfriend at the time. She remembers him reacting wonderfully – relaxed, curious with a good sense of humour.

But they didn’t become friends. Not then anyway. They became friends a year later in their senior year, and then Mere left for Ecuador for 18 months. They exchanged a few emails over the next year and a half about film making and cultural identity ideas.

Around the same time that Mere got back from Ecuador, Yoni started making a documentary about Ecuador. It was a no-brainer. He called her up and Mere became co-director of his Ecuador documentary. At this point, they were both living in Chicago because everyone moves to Chicago eventually. For the next two years, they worked on several documentaries and film projects together.

There was an attraction between them, but it was the kind of attraction you feel for someone while being in a long-term relationship. An attraction that you know is there but you know you won’t act on. Until Yoni’s seven-year relationship ended.

Yoni and Mere got together under a clear, deliberate agreement of an open relationship, which lasted for eight months. “I think it was eight months, Mere might tell you it was longer”. During the eight months, they saw other people, had mini romances and experimentations. Yoni wanted to be sure that what he was feeling wasn’t just infatuation for Mere. And Mere wanted to give him the space necessary to heal from a break-up of a major relationship.

It was summer 2007. Mere went to Alaska to fish and work on a salmon tender boat for two months, and Yoni went to Prague to study art history and insect animation. Yoni never gets culture shock and he never gets homesick, but he missed Mere and would think about her all the time. Mere missed him too.

They made an appointment to talk on the CB radio phone while Mere was out at sea and Yoni in Prague. They decided to start officially dating when they both got back to Chicago. Yoni picked Mere up at the airport and remembers their embrace as a resolution to start a committed relationship. That day they got two parking tickets and one speeding ticket.

Their first fight was about conspiracy theories. Mere was repeating what she had heard from her boat captain in Alaska – crashing a plane into a building will not raise the temperature of steel to melting point. Yoni thought conspiracy theories were counter-revolutionary.

Yoni and Mere are living happily in Chicago.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Day 11 Hugh and Ismaeel

Ismaeel was Hugh before Hugh converted to Islam. Hugh was Catholic and had always believed in God as far back as he could remember. It was the image of God asking each person in the afterlife how they treated the poor and the hungry amongst them on earth, that drew Hugh to God.

Half Sri Lankan, half white, he’d always been somewhat of an outcast growing up in Harlesden, a poor, inner city neighbourhood also known as London’s Reggae capital. When he was 11 years old, Hugh was sent to an exclusive boarding school in the beautiful English countryside that offered tuition fees on a sliding scale. That meant that Hugh got to go for free because he was clever and poor, and it also meant he got to live.

It meant he didn’t get knifed in a London school, “I had a very quick temper when I was young and I used to get in a lot of fights. I would have probably been dead by now”. Instead he got called ‘darkie’ and was punched in the face on occasion.

As a teenager, he read about Martin Luther King and Gandhi, listened to Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. When he was 19 years old he went to India to walk in Gandhi’s footsteps and become a Hindu. He didn’t find the Hinduism of Gandhi on his travels. Instead he found a Hinduism that was caste and village based and one that wasn’t very welcoming of prospective converts. In India he bought a Qur’an, but never read it.

He returned to London and went to Law School where he opened the Qur’an, got scared witless and promptly put it back on the shelf. And then he fell in love with a Muslim. A Pakistani-American woman who told him he had to convert to Islam if they were to marry. So Hugh opened the Qur’an again and began to read. Their conversations about Islam led her to break off the engagement and go on pilgrimage, while Hugh was left in the middle of his quest.

He was convinced intellectually, but it didn’t stick in his heart. Until one of his friends took him to see their family Imam. “The problem you are having is that you don’t know who the Prophet (Peace and Blessings be upon him) is”, the Imam told him. Hugh started reading about the Prophet Muhammad, his life and his teachings and that’s when Hugh fell in love, when Islam became alive to him and he became Ismaeel.

“Everything I do I try to do what the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did or would have done in my situation, doing so I remember him and by remembering him I remember God”. Dhikr, remembrance of God, replaced impatience and frustration.

Ismaeel recently graduated with a Masters in Islamic Law and Theology. He is an Imam and teaches at Hijaz College Islamic University in the beautiful English countryside.

‘Ismaeel’ means the fulfillment of a divine promise resulting from prayer being heard.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day 10 Lora and Lina or My First Jewish Friend

They met in Jerusalem at the renowned Faisal Hostel (see Day 1 Shannon and Noah). Lina remembers their first meeting; Lora does not. Lina remembers because she knew Lora had been with Tom when he was shot. “She seems so young”, Lina remembers thinking. Lora had just come from Gaza and she was taking a break from international activism in Jerusalem. Lina was on her way to Nablus from London, having missed her international activist orientation. They made small-talk about whether you should drink the tap water or not.

They saw each other again in Gaza a week later. Lina was part of a Nablus-contingent visiting Gaza. When it was time for the contingent to return to Nablus, Lora decided to go with them. Gaza was getting too overwhelming. On their way out of the Strip they were shot at. Bullets hit the sandy beach, a few feet away from where they were walking. It was the first time Lina had been shot at and she was scared. It was the kind of fear that focuses the mind on all the little details around you. Lora had been shot at many times and was not scared.

In Nablus, Lina asked Lora if she could interview her on being Jewish in the International Solidarity Movement. Lina still has the tape and will get round to transcribing it one day. It’s been five years.

When it was time to say goodbye, they exchanged emails and promised to keep in touch. You know how you do, when you meet someone great but never think you’ll actually seem them again.

For one reason or another, Lina spent that summer in the States. Baltimore, to be exact. And for no apparent reason, Lora who was in Pittsburgh visited her. They ate good food and laughed a lot, and then caught the China bus to New York. They exchanged books. Lora gave Lina a book of Iraqi poetry, and Lina gave Lora The Life of Pi.

They saw each other again in London where Lina was living at the time. Lora was traveling to Paris and stopped over to fry some plantains and talk about Haiti.

Two years later, in the same week that Lina accepted a job in Chicago she got an email from Lora saying that Lora had just moved to Chicago.

The rest, as they say, is history. Sure they had their ups and downs like that time that Lora almost killed them in a car accident in New Orleans. Or that other time, when they dated the same guy by accident.

Lina is still in Chicago, while Lora now lives in Paris. Lina thinks Lora should come back to Chicago.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 9 Titilayo and Sunny

Titi had grown up in Vienna and Sunny was currently living in Indiana, but that night they were both in London celebrating Nigerian Independence Day. He was due to fly back on Sunday. They met on the Friday. The Friday that is two days before Sunday. The group they were out with had such a good time together; they all decided to have brunch together the next day. On Sunday, Titi offered to drive Sunny to the airport, “because that’s what you do for friends”. This is London. Nobody drives anybody to the airport. I think she had ulterior motives. He gave her his phone number. She didn’t keep it. “I couldn’t see the point”.

But he kept her email address. They emailed back and forth, they chatted on yahoo and occasionally they’d talk on the phone.

They built a friendship over 7 months and the Atlantic Ocean.

Her first visit to Indiana was in December. Technically she was visiting friends in Chicago but she was really there to see him. A friend of Sunny’s advised him that if you really want to see how you get on with a woman – go on a road trip together. And so off they went. They drove to Canada, New York, and Georgia.

Titi went back to London and their communication became more frequent. Sunny was working nights and would talk to her before he went to work from 11pm to 11.45pm every night. She went back to Indiana for his birthday in March. That’s when things took a romantic turn.

He warned her that he wasn’t interested in getting married or having a family. He’d been married, divorced and burnt. Titi was getting to a place in her life where she did want to get married. Despite their differences in opinion on marriage and despite the approximately 3999 miles between them, they started dating.

Titi was back in London, but was feeling listless. It didn’t feel right to be there. Sunny convinced her to pack her things and spend 3 months with him in Indiana. This would be her third trip there in a 5-month period.

At the end of the three months, Sunny proposed. She was lying on the couch on her last night before she was due to fly back to London. He sat at the edge of the couch and said “marry me”.

Sunny and Titilayo are now living in Indiana with their 8-week old baby girl, Joy.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 8 An Invitation by Oriah

In memory of Dee

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon...
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Day 6 You are what you love not what loves you

So perhaps this is a cop out, but I've been traveling today and had no time to write a story. Also no time to figure out how to upload a youtube video to the blog. But I like this clip a lot and think you might too. xoxo gossip girl. wait that's not right.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day 5 Kristiana and Alistair

Alistair: We’re on week 49.

Lina: But what about the earlier parts? You met when you were 17 years old.

Kristiana: Yeah, we don’t count those.

Alistair: Yeah, those don’t count.

Kristiana and Alistair went to Whitney Young High School on the Near West side of Chicago. Michelle Obama also went to Whitney Young, but she was in a different year. Even though they were the same age, Alistair was a year ahead,

Kristiana: Because he’s a nerd!

So, because Alistair is a nerd they didn’t know each other in high school. They met – well, not exactly met; Alistair noticed Kristiana at a spoken work event and began to stalk her.

Alistair: Before on-line stalking became something all the cool kids were doing...

Kristiana: Let’s just say, we don’t how but you found out what my aol chat name was.

Alistair: Ok.

They became what they’re calling ‘intimate friends’. They were both seeing other people at the time. They graduated from Michelle Obama’s high school and went off to their separate universities. Kristiana went to the University of Chicago (which she decided to graduate from a year earlier because of Alistair’s taunts), and Alistair to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kristiana had cause to visit U of I. We’re less sure if she had cause to call Alistair and ask if he had a spare place for her to stay the night. But she did, and he did. But they didn’t. Alistair, the gentleman, gave Kristiana his bed while he slept on the couch.

After several months, Alistair finally broke up with his girlfriend of five years who he didn’t like very much. And our young lovers had a shot. But not for long.

Something Bad happened. We don’t know what. All we’re told is that there was “a difference of opinions” followed by a period of a 20-month-long silence.

During which Kristiana was dating someone she didn’t like very much and argued with a lot. In the middle of one their many arguments he accused her of never having forgiven anyone in her life. This made her think, and she thought he might be right. Kristiana decided to start forgiving people so she made a list of everyone she was angry with and not talking to. Top of her list was Alistair. She got in touch with him by writing him three haikus. And he responded by skyping her from Germany.

By now, our young lovers had both graduated from college and Alistair was back in Chicago. They reconnected, and the rest is the future.

Kristiana: Alistair is my best friend. We’re like two ants discovering morsels.

Lina: Am I the morsel in this analogy?

Alistair: Yes

Kristiana: No

Alistair: Wait why are you asking so many questions? Is this for your little stories?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Day 4 Nickyy and Alex

She was escaping East London and a broken heart. She escaped all the way to Thailand. Nickyy had a six-month return ticket. She’d go to Thailand, she’d find herself, she’d mend her broken heart, she’d return to East London. That was the plan.

Nickyy has a knack with the boys. Put her in a room full of people, chances are someone’s likely to fall in love with her. It doesn’t mean she chooses well, or wisely, but she always has choices.

Unhappy with the choices in England, she would frequently jaunt off to the Far East. At first a month at a time, then three months. She’d hang out at ashrams and stand on her head. She’d get up at 4.30am to meditate at the Zen Buddhist centre in Tamil Nadu. That kind of thing. And there was that one time that she got rabies from a dog.

Her latest jaunt was to be Thailand for six months. She mixed it up a little. She’d spend some time on Am on Koh Phangan, a party island, collecting boys’ phone numbers; and then spend some time in a wat/monastery, sleeping on a concrete bed, getting up at 4am and meditating for the day in silence. In between her monastery stays, she’d have flings with beautiful men from different parts of the world.

Then two months into her Thailand adventure, she met an Australian man, Alex.

“Off to the retreat for xmas and then maybe going to Oz. Have met a man but its a secret. He wants me to go to australia. Im thinking about it”, Nickyy wrote in an email to her friends back in East London.

While she thought about it, two more men declared their undying love for Nickyy.

A week later, a second email came through:

“Im off to OZ - tomorrow - have a man waiting who is desperately in love with me, has paid for a ticket to melbourne and wants me to have his babies. Hopefully he wont bury me under the floorboards”.

Three years, one death in the family, some heartache and much laughter, later Nickyy and Alex are still living together, happily in Australia. “He is the best man in the world. I’m going to be with him forever”, Nickyy writes to her friends back in London.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 3 Wendy and John

“I have it figured it out. It’s like I’m working on an assembly line”. Wendy had been internet dating for the last eight months. “I get ready, I go out, we make conversation, I come home. Repeat as needed. I’m averaging four dates a week. It’s like I have a second job”.

Wendy didn’t count how many dates she’d been on total. But she could count on one hand the guys she actually wanted to see a second time.

She accidentally found herself in a relationship with one guy for three months, for no other reason than she couldn’t think of why she shouldn’t see him again. It wasn’t chemistry, exactly. More like process of elimination. But even when nothing is wrong with someone, it doesn’t make them right for you.

The accidental relationship ended and Wendy’s only regret was that she had to start internet dating again. Two weeks and five dates into a new round on, Wendy stumbled across John.

Besides the small detail that he was a Lebanese Maronite from New York and she was a Jew from Nebraska, they seemed to be made for each other. They were both professors. Her research was on the Middle East. His was on Latin America. They could have conversations in which she spoke Spanish like a Spaniard and he spoke Portuguese like a Brazilian. They both preferred Arabic as the language for terms of affection. A five minute walking distance separated their apartments. They had probably crossed paths at the gym a dozen times without ever noticing each other.

It wasn’t just that they seemed to match on paper. There was an easy quality to their interaction, immediately, intuitively. “Even if it doesn’t last, I’m just glad to know that I can still feel this kind of excitement for someone.”

Wendy was John’s first date.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day 2 Crystal and Richard

Richard looks like and is as funny as Jack Black. This piece of information is irrelevant to the story. Richard and Crystal both majored in History in central Arkansas. But they didn’t meet then.

They met seven years later in northwest Arkansas at a Sushi restaurant where Crystal worked and Richard ate. They thought one another looked familiar and it didn’t take them long to figure out they’d graduated from the same program in the same school.

Since graduating Richard had gotten married, had twins and gotten divorced.

Richard started visiting the sushi restaurant more and more often. He showered, he wore clean flannel shirts, but he never quite worked up the nerve to ask for Crystal’s phone number.

Until he had a lucky break. One day, she got talking to him about an unfinished bronze sculpture she was working on that she needed a Dremel tool for. He snatched the opportunity and offered to lend Crystal his. When he went home to look for his tool, he couldn’t find it. He bought one; then decided it looked too clean. She’d be able to tell that it was brand new, and figure out he’d just bought it to get to know her, and come to the conclusion he was a crazy stalker. Richard took his new Dremel tool out and rolled the parts around in dirt. Crystal didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, she even asked for his phone number so she could return it to him. But she was not interested in a divorced man with two kids. They decided to be friends.

Several months later, recovering from another break-up, Richard told Crystal he had decided he’d rather be alone than be with the wrong person. That was the turning point. That night they sat out in the porch and watched the thunderstorm. Richard hid his visceral fear of thunderstorms and sat outside with Crystal. It took him till 5am to work up the courage to kiss her. A year later they eloped.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 1 Shannon and Noah

They met in occupied Palestine. Noah was working with the International Solidarity Movement and Shannon was working with the International Women’s Peace Service. They crossed paths in a war zone and got talking. Noah was living in Canada at the time and Shannon in Chicago.

Noah: So what do you do in Chicago?
Shannon: Well I’m trying to figure out what to do next. I was working in theatre, stage managing, directing, but I’m not doing that anymore.
Noah: Why not?
Shannon: I can’t stand actors. What do you do?
Noah: I’m an actor.

On Shannon’s day off from peace work, and on Noah’s last day in the Holy Land, they found themselves spending the day together in East Jerusalem. So far, so platonic.

The next day, Shannon woke up and couldn’t stop thinking about Noah. He was due to fly out later that day. At Rabbi Sarah's urging ("If you're brave enough to face tanks, and guns, and tear gas, you should be brave enough to tell a boy you have a crush on him") Shannon went to find Noah at the renowned Faisal Hostel, where he was staying.

She didn’t find him. He had gone to the Austrian Hospice where she was staying to say goodbye. She went back to the hospice, dejected. He went back to The Faisal. He may or may not have been dejected. He decided to try one more time, and walked to the hospice again. And there Shannon was.

She told him she liked him. It was more terrifying than tanks, guns or tear gas.

Today, four years later, Shannon and Noah are together in Chicago.


I’m interested in human relationships, and I’ve always been fascinated by love. How one finds it, how it grows, what happens to love after a relationship ends, how one loves well, why one loves badly. I also like to write, and I’ve been trying to make a conscious effort to write more lately.

So, for the next hundred days, once a day, I will document a love story. To start off, I want to write about people around me who are in love and how they met. I’m not sure how this will develop in the next hundred days, but I’m excited to found out. The next hundred days will not exclusively be about romantic love. I want to explore the full spectrum of human love. So, if you have an idea, or want to share your love story, please get in touch.

Thanks to Dominic for the inspiration. Check out Dom’s very cool 100 Days

The mother ship blog: