Threaded between the days and months and years of politics and culture, the posts and pictures and film of people and things with influence and consequence in orders of magnitude only history will tell, has always been something simpler, smaller. Though it wasn’t a conscious design, part of this blog has always been a love letter to Mr. Shakes, filed mostly under the unassuming header “News from Shakes Manor.” On the occasion of our fifth anniversary, I’ve compiled those posts below, because, clear and true, they tell the story of my heart.
Happy Anniversary, Mr. Shakes. I love you.
October 15, 2005
Shakes (waking up sleepily, rife with fall allergies): Mmph. Glurg.
Mr. Shakes: How are you feeling, Tschoobs?
Shakes: Yucky. My dominant nostril is all stuffed up.
Mr. Shakes: Bwah ha ha ha! Your doominant noostril? Bwah ha ha ha!
Shakes: What? It’s a real thing! Everyone has a dominant nostril!
Mr. Shakes: I knoo, but noo one talks aboot their doominant noostril! Noo one says “My doominant noostril is all stoofed oop!”
Shakes: Shut up, turd.
Mr. Shakes (hopping on bed and speaking in mocking-Shakes baby voice): Woe is me! My poor wittle doominant noostwil is awl stoofed oop!
Shakes: I hate you.
* * *
October 21, 2005
Wednesday night, while watching the Astros-Cards game…
Shakes: Such a weird way to pronounce that name—Ohs-walt.
Mr. Shakes: Aye.
Shakes: We should start telling people our name is pronounced McEee-wan.
Mr. Shakes: I’m shoore there are people who proonoonce it McEee-wan.
Shakes: No there aren’t.
Mr. Shakes: Yes, there are.
Mr. Shakes: Are.
Mr. Shakes: Are.
Mr. Shakes: We coold be trendsetters, and demand that we be called the McEee-wans, and then there woold be.
Shakes: But if we’d be trendsetters, then you’re admitting there are no people who currently call themselves McEee-wan.
Mr. Shakes: Ooh, you’ve goot me! Coongratoolatoons! You’ve woon the Great McEee-wan Debate of 2005. Lincooln and Dooglas woold be soo prood!
In the ensuing tussle, I’m certain there was reference made to my doominant noostril.
* * *
November 4, 2005
Background: I never hear my name. Mr. Shakes has an ever-broadening reservoir of ridiculous nicknames for me—Tschoobs, Tubbs, Chubbs, Chunkles, Boobs, Bubles, Bublekins, Bawheed, Nushtelhead, Dushtels, Hen…the list goes on and on, one nonsensical moniker after the next, specifically designed to make me laugh (and inevitably successful in said endeavor).
Last night on The Colbert Report, Stephen’s guest was Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio, who he christened Judge Tubbs. I knew immediately this was not going to bode well for me.
Mr. Shakes: Bwah ha ha ha! Joodge Toobbs! That’s what I’m gooing to call you froom noo on, every time you pass joodgment oon me.
Shakes: Oh no.
Mr. Shakes: Ooh yes! Joodge Toobbs!
Shakes: Shut up.
Mr. Shakes: Oooooh, Joodge Toobbs has rooled! I moost shoot oop!
Shakes: Seriously. Shut up.
Mr. Shakes: I’m gooing to get you a gavel for your Christmas pressie, Joodge Toobbs.
Shakes: I don’t need a gavel. I’m just going to smack you upside the head.
Mr. Shakes: Here coome da joodge!
Damn you, Stephen Colbert.
* * *
November 23, 2005
Background: Mr. Shakes is home from work today, with, apparently, the express purposes of annoying me. Also, among his many silly nicknames for me is “Nuble.”
Mr. Shakes: So, did you hear aboot the attack of the Nublewerfers?
Mr. Shakes: In WWII, the Germans had a rooket looncher called a Nublewerfer. It was a big fooking rooket looncher that loonched big fooking rookets.
Shakes: Oh yeah?
Mr. Shakes: Yeah, and if you’d been a German in WWII, you woold have been the coommander of a Nublewerfer.
Shakes: You’re an idiot.
Mr. Shakes: [Laughs hysterically.]
(For the record, it was a Nebelwerfer.)
* * *
January 26, 2006
Shakes: Thanks. I thought it was funny how Paul and I have the same glasses, further illustrative of our PSYCHIC MIND MELD.
Mr. Shakes: You look like The Two Ronnies.
Mr. Shakes: Goo oon—do a search for The Two Ronnies. You’ll see what I mean.
Shakes does a search for The Two Ronnies and comes up with not only the above image, which was The Two Ronnies’ “famous spectacles” logo, but also the following picture of The Two Ronnies, from an ancient British sketch comedy show, called, coincidentally enough, The Two Ronnies.
Mr. Shakes: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!
Shakes: You are such a cunt.
Mr. Shakes: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!
Shakes: I can’t believe you called us The Two Ronnies.
Mr. Shakes: Why noot? The resemblance is uncanny.
(I would have tried to fight off this brutal attack on our collective cuteness for longer, except I was falling out of my chair from laughing.)
Breaking News: Shakes and Spudsy get their own talk show!
* * *
February 14, 2006
By the time Mr. Shakes and I shared our first kiss in London’s Norfolk Square, we had already exchanged “I love you”s, already had our first fight, already planned to marry. We did everything backwards; it was only after we had come to trust one another implicitly and confessed our deepest secrets that we gazed into each other’s eyes for the first time. It was only after spending so much time apart that we were finally able to spend time together.
In retrospect, it seems impossibly crazy—and thoroughly unlikely. A brief online encounter between two people, 4,000 miles apart. Emails, IMs, phone calls. Exchanged pictures. Books sent through the mail. Foolish convictions that it would all translate seamlessly into real life when we finally met.
And then, on August 9, 2001, we did.
I flew into London the night before, arriving at 7:30 am. I dumped off my bags at the hotel and freshened up a bit in their tiny WC; the room wasn’t ready yet. And then I wandered around for awhile—a neighborhood I knew, and I was glad to be back in the area. Though I was jittery with nerves, walking its familiar streets was comforting. I bought a paper at the corner shop, peered into the windows of a great little Greek restaurant where we would eat two nights later, with my girlfriend Miller. When the time came, I made my way to King’s Cross, and looked at the giant arrivals and departures board, to find out on what platform I should wait. I went to the bathroom and peered at myself in the mirror. I looked like shit—exhausted, scummy with travel, my hair tied up in a messy twist. I went back to the platform and nervously chain-smoked, and then the train was pulling in.
People were pouring out of the train, and I watched them walk toward me as I slouched against a column, my knees weak and my heart about to pound right out of my chest. When I saw him, my back went straight. We held each other’s eyes. He came to me and I wrapped my arms around his neck—he leaning down and I on my tiptoes, to accommodate the difference in our height. “Hi, Lissie,” he said, against my ear.
We started to walk out of the train station, and at a V, he started to veer the wrong way. I grabbed his hand. “This way,” I said, and pulled him gently. Our fingers stayed entwined as we walked out into the air, the noise of the London streets. We chattered nervously about our respective trips as we made our way to the tube, to head back to the hotel. On the train, we stood, looking at one another and babbling nonsensically and bumping into each other with the motion of travel. And by the time we reached Paddington Station, and walked above ground, the nerves were disappearing. We crossed the street and walked to Norfolk Square, and on the corner, across from the park, he dropped his bag and pulled me to him and kissed me.
And that was that.
By the time we’d done all the official paperwork of a fiancée visa, allowing Mr. S. to move to the States, his stay predicated on our getting hitched within 90 days, we’d been in each other’s presence just a little over a month, spread over a year. The rest of the time we spent apart, connected only by the internet, the phone, and the mail. A six-hour time difference meant little sleep for both of us; he stayed up too late; I got up too early. We were constantly sick with missing each other, and the worry that our paperwork would never come through. But it did—and on June 12, 2002, we were married by a judge in a 10-minute ceremony…and then we went out for burgers.
When we were apart, all we could talk about is what it would be like when we were together. Sock feet on hardwood floors on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Curled up on the couch on a wintry day, under the same blanket, reading our own books. Hugging each other whenever we wanted. Going to the movies. Making dinner together in our kitchen, bumping hips and sharing a glass of wine. Never feeling again the joy of being together cast in the shadow of knowing it wouldn’t last. When we spoke about how we would never take for granted the chance of being together, even then I thought we would. I figured there would come a time when not every day felt precious, when the routine of life inevitably replaced our gratitude.
But it hasn’t. Every time we snuggle up on the couch to watch a film, I think about the time when we couldn’t. Every time he takes my hand, I remember a time when it wasn’t possible. Every evening, when he walks through the door, I am happy to see him, and the memory of seeing for the first time at King’s Cross lays itself across my heart.
We did everything backwards, you see. I felt the loss of him first. And it will forever make me keenly aware of what having him really means.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Mr. Shakes. I love you.
(The first picture is Back Where You Belong by a Scottish artist called Jack Vettriano. The second is Edward Hopper’s Room in New York. Copies of each hang in our home.)
* * *
February 22, 2006
Because the rest of the news is depressing the hell out of me…
Last night, Mr. Shakes told me the following story, which he had dubbed My Strange Bathroom Story, and has consented to be retold for everyone’s collective amusement.
“Dooring my loonch hoor, I went oover to Boorder’s to broose for books, and soodenly I had to take a shite oot oof fooking noohere. Soo I asked if they had a bathroom and they did oon the secoond floor, soo I went oop there and foond two cubicles—oone was a noormal-sized cubicle, and oone was a huge oone for disabled people. I went to the smaller oone, boot it was coovered in vomit, soo I had noo choice boot to use the big oone or else I’d shite my breeks.
“Soo I goo in, and it’s ridiculoos! The bog is facing a giant bay windoo ooverlooking State Street! I can’t ooverstate how huge this windoo was—it went froom aboot a foot ooff the groond to the toop oof the wall, and it was proobably six feet wide or moore! And noothing to coover it—noot blinds or anything, and noo brackets as if they were joost missing! What the fook?!
“Noo I have to take a shite in froont oof the whoole bloody woorld! Acrooss the rood, there was constrooction gooing oon, and I coold make oot the woorkmen’s faces. And I coold see into all the windoos oof the oopposite building—and I’m thinking, ‘If the people aboove me happen to look doon, they’re gooing to see my meat and two veg!’ Helloo, you doodgy soods, get a good gander at my bits, didja? Quite a shoo, aye? Look at the fooking ploonker taking a doomp in froont oof a windoo!
“Had to wipe my arse and everything in froont oof the biggest windoo knoon to man. Fooking wankers!”
I said, “On the plus side, you probably used the cleanest toilet in all of Chicago.”
“Ooh, it was fooking pristine,” he said. “Good thing, too. Taking a shite in plain view is really quite embarrassing if your toilet isn’t in good nick.”
* * *
March 15, 2006
Mr. Shakes and I met online five years ago today. It was so random; it would be like someone having emailed you a link to Shakes and then your striking up a conversation with someone in comments, and then, you know, within a couple of months, completely rearranging your lives on two continents so that you could hang out for the rest of your lives.
We met on the Ides of March, and by May, my 10-day annual trip to Britain which I had planned for August had already been turned into a jam-packed itinerary of traveling about together, including a several-day camping trip in the Highlands, where Mr. Shakes regularly mountain-biked with his mates.
Back then, I had a habit of keeping copies of all my online correspondence. (I’m regularly harassed for being unsentimental by family and friends, but the one thing about which I am rather sentimental is correspondence; I have a massive box filled with folded notes that my oldest girlfriend and I passed back and forth in classes starting at age 11, and I could never bear to part with it. I also have a box filled with hundreds of printed emails from my dear friend Andy in London, some of them saved because of one line that made me laugh, or an interesting thought I couldn’t bear to simply delete.) Now, I’m not such a saver of letters and emails and things, mainly because I’d run out of storage space, but I have copies of every email Mr. Shakes sent me and IM conversation we had through which we forged the relationship that eventually became a marriage. Some of them are cringingly, excruciatingly embarrassing to read now—the things one says in an attempt to put forth one’s best self can be so utterly dreadful! But for this edition of News from Shakes Manor, I braved the depths and pulled out a snippet from the planning stages of what would become known as The Worst Camping Trip of All Time:
May 18, 2001 email from Mr. Shakes:
Anyways, I’ve come up with a few additions to our grocery list:
Cheese and crackers
Oranges (maybe I should bring those from the States so they actually have flavor)
Weird meat products you intend to cook
Freeze-dried pouches o’ sustenance
Toilet paper (and lots of it)
Canned foods (corn – for real, it will make our shit like a damn disco)
Band-Aids (those’d be for me, of course)
Humble pie: (For when either one of us loses an argument)
Chocolate biscuits: (Reward for winning an argument)
Water purification tablets: (for when I pee in your water bottle)
Omar Khyam’s Quatrains: (I want to show you how fantastic they are)
Compass+Map: (Trust you to forget those)
Sellotape: (for sticking your crackers back together, after having them bashed about in a rucksack all day (God preserve me!))
Anti gravity generator: (to make your tinned food easier to carry)
2 crystal wine glasses (So we can drink the wine in a civilised manner)
A rope: (tied round your waist; this way when you fall over a cliff or into the Loch, I can cast the rope around a rock and save your glake ass
Gaiters (not the green snapping kind, you stick ’em on your shoes and it stops the water getting in – we will probably have to ford a few streams)
Change of underwear (since we are both bound to piss ourselves laughing)
Whistle (For signalling the rescue team)
Team of huskies and sled (for when we get lost, and wander too far north)
Dog food (see above)
Bedouin guide (for when we get lost, and wander too far south)
Camel food (see above)
Well, eventually we settled on a real list, divided up so that Mr. Shakes had his list of Things to Bring and I had mine. I brought the tent, a flashlight, a First-Aid kit, and those sorts of things. Mr. Shakes was to take care of provisions.
After a few days in London, which started with our nervous meeting and ended with nearly missing our flight out of Luton Airport thanks to a wholly useless cabbie, we flew into Inverness, and made our way to a B&B for one night. The next morning, we headed by cab to Glen Affric, which Mr. Shakes had chosen as our camping destination. At a tiny wee town (three houses and a general store), Cannoch, at what we thought was the mouth of the glen, we stocked up on supplies, and began the 10-mile uphill hike to Dog Falls, which was really the mouth of the glen.
Two miles in, I turned to Mr. Shakes: “We forgot toilet paper!” We looked back at road behind us, steeply declining away. Not worth it, we decided. The local foliage would have to suffice.
Six miles in, we saw a sign that read: No Camping. “They all say that,” Mr. Shakes assured me. And on we plowed.
Along the road ran a waist-high stone wall—convenient for sitting on, while stopping to have a smoke and a chat. We would swear we’d just stop for a moment, but each time, hours would pass, as we talked and talked and ate bananas and gulped our water, which we’d replenish at the loch once we got down into the glen. “Ha ha ha,” we laughed, “we’ll regret this when night falls and we’re nowhere near the glen yet.”
But the summer light stays in the sky late in the Highlands. We weren’t really worried.
It wasn’t even dusk when we reached Dog Falls. The views were breathtaking; we strolled across the wooden bridges and then sat down in a picnic area next to the stream, where we had sandwiches and fed eager little sparrows with bits of bread. The hours ticked by. “Ha ha ha,” we laughed, “we’ll regret this when night falls and haven’t set up camp yet.”
But the summer light stays in the sky late in the Highlands. We weren’t really worried.
And so we sat and talked, who knows about what. We had been talking for five straight days at that point, and had yet to run out of conversation. All of our plans—London museums, restaurants, camping—were falling apart. They seemed like distractions, impediments from what we really wanted to be doing, which was just lounge about and languidly drift across lines of discussion and debate. We’d had almost no sleep; ten days seemed like an eternity when we each secretly worried that maybe this ten-days-with-a-stranger idea was as foolish as we’d feared, but once it proved to be, perhaps, the best idea either of us had ever had, ten days seemed criminally short, and anything that diverted our attentions from one another was a chore.
Finally, the hint of dusk crept across the sky and we gathered up our bags and headed into the glen. And that’s when it all went horribly, hilariously wrong.
A few miles in, we found some flat ground on which to pitch the tent, so we stopped. And as soon as we did, we were engulfed in a swarm of midges—Scottish mosquitoes that are as small as gnats but as determined as starving lions to eat you alive. Mr. Shakes worked quickly to try to get the tent set up, but we were absolutely besieged. I held out my hands in front of my face and they were so covered with midges that they looked black. Not a scrap of shin shone through the buzzing masses of midges. They were in our eyes, our ears, our noses.
“Fooking wanking midges!” Mr. Shakes claimed. “Get the fook away froom me, ye cockwanking bastards!”
He was having trouble getting the tent set up in the shade and failing light. I swung the flashlight in his direction, pointing the way for thousands more midges to descend upon him.
“Get that fooking torch away from me!” he yelled. I turned my back, trying not to collapse into a fit of giggles as I swiped boatloads of midge carcasses off my face.
The midges continued their assault, and I began to run around in circles, laughing maniacally as Mr. Shakes issued a stream of profanity that would make Lenny Bruce blush. He kept having to leap to his feet and run around to get a momentary break from the midges, leaving the tent to collapse into a heap once again. “We have to get out of here!” I cried, over my shoulder, as I ran around drunkenly on the path. “I can’t take it!”
“Where do you proopoose we goo?!” Mr. Shakes shouted back, over his shoulder, running around drunkenly in the opposite direction.
“We’ll have to walk back to Cannoch!” I said.
“Ookay!” he agreed.
He scooped up the mess of tent into his arms and we started to run. As we ran away from the cloud of midges, he tried to fit the tent pieces back into their carrying case. It was a precise fit, and he couldn’t run and do it at the same time, but if we stopped, the swarm would get us. “What am I gooing to do with this fooking tent?” he wailed.
“Launch the fucker!” I shouted, and he threw it into the glen.
And we ran.
After a bit, we seemed to have outrun the swarm. We stopped for a moment so Mr. Shakes could dig out a Snickers, hungry as always. We walked on, and suddenly, all at once, every last bit of light fell out of the sky and we were left in pitch darkness. “Got the flashlight?” I asked, into the dark.
“Uh…” I heard rustling. Then frantic rustling. “I think I left it oon the groond when I stooped for that sweetie.”
We made our way in the darkness back along the path. I have never been in such darkness; I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. When we thought we had reached the approximate place where we’d stopped, down on hands and knees we went, our hands feeling for a flashlight, and coming up with nothing but the slime of the three-inch black slugs that carpet the floor of the glen at night.
Miraculously, Mr. Shakes found the flashlight.
And on we walked.
We had walked about ten miles, bringing us to the halfway point on the road to the glen, when I suggested we stop at the one house along its route and ask to use the phone. Mr. Shakes looked at me as if I were mad. “This isn’t America, you dowsy Yank,” he said. “We doon’t have nice neighbors here.”
I then suggested he try his cell phone. Maybe he could finally get a signal again, and we could call a cab in Inverness to collect us. He pulled out his phone and began walking in the long grass at the side of the road, looking for a signal. And then he disappeared.
I heard a splash. And some more obscenities.
Mr. Shakes had fallen into a bog.
He managed to climb out, only to realize his phone was still in the bog. So he dove back in. And in the second miracle of the night, he fished it out, and in the third, it still worked—and had a signal.
We called for a cab and told the very confused dispatcher we’d be at the power station three miles up the road, the only landmark for miles. By that time, we were out of water, exhausted, and ready to crawl into a nice, comfortable bed. And as we sat on the stone wall that ran around the perimeter of the power station, we laughed.
“You know, that we’re still laughing after all this is pretty amazing,” I said.
“Fooking right,” Mr. Shakes agreed.
The cabbie who collected us made calls to the B&Bs in Inverness. Everything—every last rentable bed in Inverness—was booked solid.
Mr. Shakes and I moaned.
“Well, you two were up here to camp, aye?” asked the cabbie.
“Aye,” we said.
“There’s a campsite in Inverness,” he said happily. “I’ll just take you there. You’ve got a tent, right?”
Mr. Shakes at Dog Falls, blissfully unaware
of what lies in his immediate future.
* * *
March 25, 2006
Mr. Shakes has a tendency to babble. I was once talking about this with my friend Sam, telling him that Mr. Shakes babbles nonsense at me 23 out of 24 hours of the day, and he kind of laughed and said he’d like to hear Mr. Shakes’ description of it. I said, “Oh, no—you think I’m doing one of those ‘wife’ things where everything her husband says is nonsense, but I’m telling you…he genuinely babbles utter nonsense at me constantly, like ‘Shushtelled, woman. Be shushed or I’ll have you beaten up!’ when I’m not even talking. He’d quite plainly admit that he is a compulsive nonsense babbler.” When I told Mr. Shakes about this exchange later, he agreed.
The babbling ensues most frequently when Mr. Shakes is extremely tired or very excited about something. Car trips seem to bring it on as well. We either have a passionate discussion about something quite interesting, or I get the babbling. Today was not a day for an interesting conversation.
Waiting at a light behind a Dodge Durango:
Mr. Shakes: Doodge Durangoo. They’re doodgin’ durangoos. What’s a durangoo, anyway? They ooght to joost call it the Doodge Turdo.
Mr. Shakes: Dooge Turdo!
Shakes: Stop babbling.
Mr. Shakes: Here we go—we’re turning left now! Turning left!
Then Mr. Shakes broke into his favorite song.
She bounces on the ground!
Short and cute and round!
Round and short and cute!
Cute and round and short!
Short and cute and round round round!
Shakes: Hahahaha, omigod. [Still funny, though I’ve heard it no fewer than ten thousand times.]
Mr. Shakes: You know what happens to short round cute people?
Mr. Shakes: They marry crazy Scotsmen.
Indeed we do.
[Mr. Shakes just read this and said, “Good loord, people are gooing to think I’m mad!” (He is.) I said, “You should be happy you have a wife who thinks your madness is adorable.” He replied, “I am. I just wish my adorability didn’t constitute a form of insanity so severe that it verges upon the committable.”]
* * *
April 28, 2006
Shakes: Rush Limbaugh got arrested!
Mr. Shakes: Foor what?
Shakes: Prescription fraud.
Mr. Shakes: I hoope he roots in jail.
Shakes (this is before I knew more about the terms of his deal): Probably not. Probably just a fine and community service or some shit.
Mr. Shakes: His community service shoold be coompulsory retirement.
* * *
June 27, 2006
Last night, Mr. Shakes and I went over to my parents’ for dinner, and my mom remembered a story from a trip we took to New York to visit her parents when I was a wee thing that prompted her to drag out an old photo album. I’m sure Mr. Shakes has seen these photos no fewer than a thousand times, but in the way one is always fascinated from any slice of a loved one’s life that took place before a fateful meeting, he looked at them once again.
As he and my mom flipped through the pages, he gave a running commentary on my “wee baw heed, perfectly roond” and my “cheeky face, exactly the same; ye canny have changed a bit!” as my mom peppered his monologue with, “Look how cute she was!” And then Mr. Shakes burst out in laughter.
Mr. Shakes: Look at this one!
Mama Shakes: Ohmigod, hahahaha. What a face!
Mr. Shakes: What a face!
Shakes: Let me see it.
Mr. Shakes: How oold was she here?
Mama Shakes: Two years. She always sat in that booster chair on the floor, like it was her own little chair. So serious.
Shakes: Come on!
Mr. Shakes: That expression! Hahahaha.
Mama Shakes: I know, hahahaha.
Mr. Shakes: Lookit, she’s making the same face right noo! Hahahaha.
I finally grabbed the book and looked at the picture. And yes, I was indeed making precisely the same face.
* * *
July 28, 2006
I spent last night sprawled on the couch in front of the television like a zombie, because I’m still sick and was feeling highly pathetic. Mr. Shakes, because he is a sweet and attentive husband, brought me ice cream and sprawled out beside me, even though he hates watching television for more than about 20 minutes. We watched an episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (during which Carson referred to a pair of ugly sunglasses—donned by the straight guy, Perfect Husband—as “horrendo,” which is now my new favorite word), and then So You Think You Can Dance, which provides us with the opportunity to guess how long it would take our graceless fat asses to learn each routine, and whether we’d actually die trying.
It was the SYTYCD results show, and we were predicting who would be voted off.
Mr. Shakes: It’s goona be Doonyelle.
Shakes: No chance. It’ll be Natalie.
Mr. Shakes: Doonyelle.
Mr. Shakes: I’ll bet you a sip of poo it will be Doonyelle.
Shakes: That’s disgusting. Perfect Husband would never bet his wife a sip of poo.
Mr. Shakes: Well, I may bet you sips oof poo, but in every oother regard I am awesoome.
Fast forward to the special guest performer, who is Busta Rhymes. (Which was irritating, considering his recent homophobic outburst.) Anyway, I commented that “Busta Rhymes” has always been one of my favorite stage names.
Mr. Shakes: I changed my name to Jiz-E Pimpskweez.
Mr. Shakes: Yeah, it’s my new street name. Jiz-E Pimpskweez.
Shakes: On what street—Crazy Street?
Mr. Shakes: Noo, oor street. When I goo ootside in the moorning, Carl gives me a shoot oot. “Yoo yoo yoo, Jiz-E Pimpskweez!”
[Carl is our superbly nice 80-year-old next door neighbor.]
Shakes: You’re an idiot.
Mr. Shakes: I’m gooing to start poosting oon the bloog as Jiz-E Pimpskweez.
Shakes: No, you’re not.
Mr. Shakes: JIZ-E PIMPSKWEEZ!!!
Shakes: I wish I had a tape recorder, so I could post this on the blog.
Mr. Shakes: Me, too. Becoose then everyoone woold knoo hoo mooch Jiz-E Pimpskweez rooles!
* * *
August 8, 2006
Mr. Shakes: Doon’t pinch my foorheed!
Shakes: I wasn’t going to pinch your forehead. You can’t even pinch a forehead! [Tries; fails.] See?
Mr. Shakes: That was soo a pinch!
Shakes: No, it wasn’t. This is a pinch. [Pinches the soft bit under his arm.]
Mr. Shakes: Oow, yoo dirty whoore! [Slaps her ass hard.]
Shakes: Quit it, fuckface!
Slap fight. Giggles…
Five years ago today at this very time, the proprietress of Shakes Manor was on her way to O’Hare Airport for a flight that would take her to London for her first face-to-face meeting with the future Mr. Shakes. By the time we met at King’s Cross, I was skanked from an 8-hour flight, and Mr. Shakes was skanked from a trainride to London from Edinburgh. After some showers and a fry-up, we set off on our first 10 days together, which took us from London to Inverness to Glen Affric to Edinburgh. It was a good 10 days.
A view of Dog Falls at Glen Affric.
Long-legged Mr. Shakes asleep on a bench at the Inverness bus station (for reasons explained here). My backpack, along with an assortment of empty cups, cigarette butts, and candy wrappers from the fine vending machines at the nearby taxi stand, are scattered on the ground below.
The scene arriving in Auld Reekie—Edinburgh Castle.
The floral clock at the edge of Princes Street Gardens, on the corner at The Mound.
Getting a peek at Clann an Drumma, just outside the gates surrounding the Scotts Monument.
We went into the gardens and stayed for the whole show.
Shakes holds up a CD of Clann an Drumma; behind her is the view from the estate on which Mr. Shakes lived in Edinburgh.
Mr. Shakes spits on the Heart of Midlothian, a mosaic built into the pavement outside St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile. It’s a tradition.
Mr. Shakes makes arrangements for us to see Margaret Cho at the Fringe Festival, part of Edinburgh Festival. I hadn’t planned my trip to coincide with Edinburgh Fest; in fact, we weren’t even planning originally to be in Edinburgh at all. Just a happy coincidence the way things worked out.
Drunk at the Cellar Bar.
Mr. Shakes. I loved his walk, the way he hunched up his shoulders as he trekked uphill, so I fell behind just to take a picture.
Shakes and Harry, Mr. Shakes’ budgie. How pale am I? I can get sunburned in Scotland. That’s how pale I am.
* * *
August 23, 2006
Last night, Mr. Shakes and I were lying in bed, and had just been talking about the president’s fondness for farting, when I heard Mr. Shakes’ gut grumbling menacingly.
“Do you have an upset tummy?” I asked.
“Aye,” Mr. Shakes replied, “and the oopset’s heading sooth, so get ready for soome Bushisms.”
And thusly was it decreed at Shakes Manor that farts will hereafter be known as Bushisms, and gassiness as “feeling presidential.”
* * *
August 29, 2006
Last night, lying in bed before falling asleep, Mr. Shakes and I were playing “Exchange a Letter.” Ps had to be replaced with Gs.
Shakes: Nice genis.
Mr. Shakes: Thanks, I like your googies.
Shakes: You just said that you like my poopies. Ha ha! You like my poopies!
Mr. Shakes: I meant boobies! Argh. I like your niggles!
Shakes: No, you like my poopies!
Mr. Shakes: Shut ug.
* * *
September 12, 2006
Things you learn from drunken Scotsmen:
1. Beer is good for your teeth because it’s enriched with fluoride. This is a Known Fact.
2. Beer is also good for your skin. The evidence? The perfect skin of Scotsmen.
3. BB guns purchased at K-Mart have enough fire power to hurt if shot at another Scotsman’s arse.
4. One scuffed jeans cuff is clear proof of having one leg longer than the other. Badly hemmed garments do not exist.
Today, Mr. Shakes and I and our guests—Mr. Shakes’ best mate and his girlfriend, visiting from Auld Reekie—are off to Chicago to visit Shedd Aquarium and continue our quest for beer and meat, so blogging will be a bit light again for my part.
Remind me, lest I forget, in coming days to post something about the insanity of watching 9/11 anniversary coverage with non-Americans. Oy.
* * *
November 6, 2006
Happy Birthday, Mr. Shakes!!!
Or: Thirty-one years of tumbling red curls, the loveliest green eyes on the planet, and what can only be described as a freckle explosion.
It’s my burfday!
It sure is, you cute wee devil!
Oh good lord, woman. What have you done?
The other night, I mentioned to my friend Sam that Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks had always been my favorite Hollywood couple. “Not Bogart and Bacall?” he asked. “Not Newman and Woodward?”
“Nope,” I replied. “Definitely Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks.”
He asked why. It was because of something Anne Bancroft once said. Yes, that Brooks made her laugh. And this: “When I hear his key in the lock at night my heart starts to beat faster. I’m just so happy he’s coming home. We have so much fun.” I can totally relate.
I’ll never get over my crush on Mr. Shakes.
He’s all the things that anyone would hope to be able to say about their partner—kind, intelligent, loyal, admirable, talented, affectionate, witty. But then there’s this other thing…this completely bizaare and wonderful thing that leads him to believe that his primary role as my husband is to annoy the shit out of me in the most hilarious way.
“Hey,” he’ll say. “Did you see that poll that CNN did today?”
“No,” I’ll reply.
“Oh, it was really interesting,” he’ll tell me. “They foond oot that Joodge Toobbs is the moost brilliant chooby wifel in the entire universe.”
Then he’ll give me that wicked grin with the raised eyebrow, and I’ll tell him to shut up, to which he’ll reply, “Hey, doon’t tell me. I’m joost repoorting the news, Chunkles.” And on and on we’ll go until I’m laughing so hard my sides hurt.
Which reminds me of something else Anne Bancroft once said about Mel Brooks. “I’d never had so much pleasure with another human being. It was that simple.”
I can totally relate to that, too.
I love you, Mr. Shakes. Happy Birthday.
* * *
November 10, 2006
Some would say it’s spontaneous sex in atypical places, but I say it’s learning new things about your partner, even after you thought you knew everything there was to know about them, that keeps a relationship spicy. Last night was muy picante at Shakes Manor, as I discovered that the mere appearance of Regis Philbin’s face on our television screen is enough to send Mr. Shakes into an elaborate and passionate tirade.
“What is wroong with that guy?! Fooking goods, he’s soo bloody annoying! I hate joost looking at him! Everything he says or doos has to be soome fooking meloodrama, like he’s the woorst Shakespearean actoor oof all time! What a wankstain! Hoo did he get famoous, foor the loove oof good?! Who the fook is he? FOOK OOF, you wanker! Look at him—joost look at him! Ach! He makes me want to poonch him right in his smoog wee face! Grinning like a fooking baboon. If I stepped oon him, I’d think I’d stepped in a pile of shite!”
* * *
December 9, 2006
So we’re just sitting around watching a movie, and the cats are doing their usual chase-each-other-around-the house thing. Matilda chases Olivia—zip! Olivia chases Matilda—zoom! When one catches the other, they turn into a huge ball of tumbling fur, hissing and faux-biting and flipping their tails madly. This is The Funnest Game Ever, and they can literally do this for hours on end.
One thing about this game is that it’s almost always on the floor. Olivia loves to climb up to the highest place in the room; she loves running along the loft railing, which makes my stomach turn every time she does it. Matilda, on the other hand, doesn’t care for heights; jumping onto the bathroom sink is a zany move for her. So the highest The Funnest Game Ever usually gets is the back of the sofa, and even that’s pretty rare.
Today, it made it to the back of the sofa for several unremarkable rounds through the loft—but then, all of a sudden, with Olivia in hot pursuit, Matilda goes tearing from the back of the sofa to the back of the chaise, keeps running full steam ahead, and does an absolutely mad kamikaze leap over the railing of the loft.
And it’s a long way down.
Like 20 feet.
Then there’s this thunk, and Mr. Shakes and I just stare at each other, gape-mouthed, for a moment before we jump up and race downstairs. “Tilsy! Tilsy!” We ran around frantically looking for her, and I found her under the dining room table, looking like she’d just, uh, done a swan dive off a balcony for no fucking reason and was trying to figure out why she’s made such an insane decision. “Found her!” I called to Mr. Shakes.
“Is she ookay?” he asked. “Fook!”
I coaxed her out from under the table, fearing the worst. She had a lot of momentum going into that jump, and she hit the hardwood floor below with some serious thuddiness. Cats really don’t always land on their feet, and around 20ft is when nasty injuries can occur even for cats that aren’t big and graceless like Tils. I was sure all her legs would be broken or popped out of joint. I can’t really begin to explain how panicked I was.
Well, Matilda came sauntering out, looking a little sore and limpy, but she was definitely walking on all fours. I picked her up and she gave an annoyed squeal, which she always does, and I poked and prodded her until she wriggled away. Mr. Shakes and I looked at each other, then watched her walk down the hall. She has the most absurd wee swagger on a normal day—it’s utterly comical to watch her run about the place—but suddenly I couldn’t tell if she was exhibiting her normal weirdness, or if there was new, thud-related weirdness.
“She has such a funny walk anyhow,” I grumbled.
“She’s too furry,” Mr. Shakes complained. I can’t tell.”
“I can’t either,” I replied.
We followed her into the office and I got on the floor to play String, which is The Second Best Game in the World, and after a few minutes of taking it easy on her, I dangled the string about a foot over her head. She shot up like a bolt of lightning onto her two back legs and went for that string like it was it was the devil, tearing it right out of my hands.
“I think she’s okay,” I laughed.
“Yeah,” Mr. Shakes said. “I think soo.”
We played String for another half hour or so, and then Matilda got tuckered out and crawled into her favorite chair. Olivia joined her and gave her some sisterly comfort preening.
And then it was naptime.
Once she wakes up and has some energy again, I’ll be poking at her some more and working her legs, just to make sure she didn’t appear pain-free from adrenaline or shock, even though enough time had probably passed that it isn’t a concern. Nonetheless, I still can’t believe she didn’t hurt herself, so I just want to make absolutely certain she didn’t.
I have no idea what possessed her to do such a crazy thing. All this time, I’ve been worried about Olivia slipping and falling off the railing, and then Matilda goes and leaps over it like she’s a PCP-user in a 1980s after-school special. It’s impossible to make sense of anything she does—scared to death of sneezes, but attacks the vacuum cleaner head-on with such ferociousness that it’s like she’s settling a personal vendetta. She’s such a barmy fuzzball, that one. Which is, of course, why I love her endlessly, but I really hope that one flying leap from the loft is enough to satisfy whatever madness prompted it in the first place!
* * *
March 12, 2007
In which Mr. Shakes lives up to the Scotsman’s reputation as perv and poet.
The Scene: Saturday night; master bedroom at Shakes Manor.
Mr. Shakes climbs into bed.
Mr. Shakes: To sleep, perchance to dream.
Shakes stands at the bedside, trying to untangle her comforter, which is a mess.
Shakes: Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Mr. Shakes: What a piece oof woork is a man, hoo nooble in reason, hoo infinite in faculty, in foorm, in moving, hoo express and admirable; in action hoo like an angel, in apprehension hoo like a god—the beauty of the woorld, the paragoon oof animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence oof doost?
Shakes: How much do I love that you can quote me Shakespeare before bedtime?
Mr. Shakes: Proobably as mooch as I loove your boobies. Noo quit fooking with that bloody blanket and get ’em in here.
* * *
April 26, 2007
Last night, Mr. Shakes opened the mail, and a part of our life ended.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.
Six years, one month, and eleven days ago, Mr. Shakes and I met online, in a forum not so very different from this one, all because of an Oscar Wilde quote an affinity for which we happened to share. In a matter of days—three, to be exact—Mr. Shakes fatefully asked, “Fancy a game of Fahrenheit 451? Which book would you memorize for posterity, and which would you throw onto the pyre?” I was, of course, hooked, and—quite easily, perhaps inevitably, and eventually inexorably—we fell for each other in a series of 1s and 0s.
We read books at the same time, like a private little nerdy book club, starting with Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, so we’d always have something to discuss, though running out of things about which to speak was never a problem. Finding the time across days separated by a six-hour time difference was. Mr. Shakes would later tell me he’d walk the streets of Edinburgh in the six hours of day he had before I, music plugged firmly into each ear, composing his next email. I had gazed out the windows of my express bus down Lake Shore Drive, looking at Lake Michigan, and done the same in quiet rides home for the evening.
Naturally there were phone calls—long, expensive phone calls—and packages. The day I emailed to Mr. Shakes an Omar Khayyám quatrain, he told me to keep my eyes on my mailbox. The next day, a package arrived from Britain that Mr. Shakes had sent nearly a week before, containing The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, with one dog-earned page. On that page was the exact same quatrain I had emailed.
It was becoming fairly evident we were eager to spend some time together. And eventually, we met face to face at long last. Ten days we had, and then it was the gut-wrenching return home for me on a lonely airplane filled with people to a lonely airport bustling with travelers to a lonely city of millions. Back and forth we went for months, and then he flew across the pond for Christmas with a diamond ring he promptly lost somewhere in the Windy City, a token never to be recovered. I said yes all the same.
And so we filed paperwork.
It was still called the INS back then—Immigration and Naturalization Services, much friendlier than Department of Homeland Security, but equally as bureaucratic either way. Everything seemed to take ages; it was hard to know what was going on or when things might happen. We heard horror stories of applications being rejected for minor mistakes; we would alternatingly panic and pant with excitement when we spoke about how soon it might be that we’d be together, not for a week or 10 days, but forever…
In May 2002, we went to London, and Mr. Shakes got his fiancée visa. A month later, we were married in Illinois.
We’re soon to celebrate our fifth anniversary; they’ve been pretty good years at Shakes Manor. Padding sock-footed across hardwood floors for cups of tea before settling in with books at opposite ends of the sofa is of what we dreamed, and it is what we have, every bit as good as we’d hoped. And it’s easy not to take it for granted, when you’re still filling out paperwork to ensure you aren’t parted.
The last few months, we’ve been waiting to get word from the DHS on the latest round of paperwork—the package we submitted months ago to lift the conditions from Mr. Shakes’ permanent residency. Every time, there’s a fear—a fear about which we don’t really talk, because its source is too hard to contemplate. It’s a fear that any moment, we could be whisked to different parts of the globe, back to falling asleep in separate beds, composing emails instead of lazily drifting fingers over warm skin and looking into familiar eyes. This time, the fear was magnified—I was national news for political reasons; we could do nothing but hope our fate did not lay in the hands of a dues-paying member of the Catholic League or a Factor fan. The wait was excruciating.
But last night, Mr. Shakes opened the mail, and a part of our life ended. And another one began.
Out of a crisp white envelope from Lincoln, Nebraska tumbled his green card and a brochure exclaiming “Welcome to America!” We looked at each other for a moment in utter disbelief, and then we began to laugh wildly. The relief was almighty. I threw my arms around his neck, and it felt as good, and so much the same, as the first time, all those years ago, on a train platform at Kings Cross Station—because I was thinking, as I did then, “This is it.”
This is it.
Mr. Shakes will now embark on the citizenship process. He’s “tootally gooing to becoome a citizen in time to voote in 2008!” That’s my guy.
* * *
June 1, 2007
[Scene: This morning, driving Mr. Shakes to the train. Having our usual morning chat about things.]
Mr. Shakes: What are yoor plans foor the day?
Shakes: Same as every day—fight the forces of evil.
Mr. Shakes: Good stooff.
[We pass the skankiest porn shop on the planet, creatively named “XXX Adult Bookstore XXX.”]
Mr. Shakes: If you get boored, you shoold do soome broosing at the Adoolt Bookstoore.
Shakes: Fantastic idea. I’ve never been in an “adult bookstore” before. What kind of adult books do they have? Is it like the adult books section of the library? Can I expect to find Tolstoy, James Joyce? Things like that? Or is it mostly wankrags?
Mr. Shakes: Moostly wankrags, I’m toold.
Shakes: Ah. Not so much books then at all, really.
Mr. Shakes: Proobably noot.
Shakes: I won’t find The Handmaid’s Tale?
Mr. Shakes: I doobt they carry Margaret Atwood.
Shakes: Didn’t you just read that book, by the way?
Mr. Shakes: Aye. A few weeks agoo. I liked it.
Shakes: DYSTOPIAN NIGHTMARE! [<——said in a 60’s robot voice]
Mr. Shakes: Ooh, I doon’t knoo. It has its good points.
Shakes: Cheeky. Don’t even think about calling me Ofiain.
Mr. Shakes: I wooldn’t. Yoo’re my wife, not my mistress for breedin’. I guess wives get to keep their own names, eh?
Shakes: I wasn’t born with the name McEwan.
Mr. Shakes: Ooh, right! I tootally oon you!
Shakes: [stink eye]
Mr. Shakes: [gazing out the window, almost to himself] I quite liked The Handmaid’s Tale. It was tootally 1984 for girls.
Shakes: I’m blogging that.