Today (November 29th) my bride and I celebrate our 24th wedding anniversary. (Jacqueline and I actually met on November 26th, 31 years ago.) I’ve been blessed to have this remarkable woman in my life for over three decades, and I know we’ll be together through the coming millennia. The story of HOW we met is right out of an improbable fantasy novel. I’ve told it before, and I do so again at this special time.
Okay, art is supposed to imitate life. From our life experiences we create paintings, prose, sculptures, you name it. But on rare—and awesome—occasions, art can create life.
Back in the early nineties I landed a contract with The Berkley Publishing Group for a satirical science fiction novel, Bicycling Through Space and Time. The story follows the misadventures of Jack Miller, a thirty-something Southern California writer who, like his creator at the time, is divorced and, as they say, “lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.” Jack has a twenty-one-speed mountain bike—twenty-two actually, because an alien study group has added an extra gear that allows Jack passage through gates into other worlds, dimensions, earth’s past, literature, etc. When he’s not riding the Ultimate Bike Path, Jack is going out on some pretty bad dates.
Halfway through the book, Jack has a date with a lady named Holly Dragonette. Holly is from Iowa but is transferring to San Diego to take a new job. Jack has a great time with Holly and tells readers that he’s looking forward to another date with her—which will only happen if there are sequels to the book. I delivered the manuscript to Berkley, and they liked it enough to offer me a book deal for two sequels. A writer’s dream, yes? But, they say, we’d like to see how you transition into the second book, so can you send us chapter one?
Standard writer’s answer: I can do that! So in chapter one Jack tells readers that the second date with Holly went great, and now he’s going to ride his bike cross country to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to help her move to California. The chapter went to Berkley, and I got the contracts.
A month later I respond to a classified ad in a local newspaper placed by a lady named Jacqueline (Jackie Sweet, at the time). The first time we talk—on the phone; you had to take it in steps—we seem to really connect, and at some point I tell her that I’m originally from New York City. Then I ask her where she’s from, figuring nearly everyone in Southern California is from somewhere else.
She’s from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Dead silence from me. Jacqueline asks what’s wrong. I say that she wouldn’t believe me if I told her. She assures me that she would.
And she did. In 2021 we celebrate 31 years together, 24 of them as husband and wife. It hasn’t always been easy—life deals you a few curves along the way, no matter who you are—but it’s been a great ride. And what a neat way to find your soul mate.
And if how we met wasn’t enough, here’s more. Two months after meeting we went out to dinner and, for the first time, talked about living together. We settled on four or five months down the road, to give the relationship some time. That same night I took Jacqueline back to her rented condo, owned by a professor who was teaching in Europe—and we found an eviction notice on her door. The guy had decided to move back to the states.
We moved into a new place together three weeks later.
Yes, art imitates life, but art can also create life. Sometimes you just need to put it out there.