Between the time we met at the Mudhoney show and the time we first started--you know--going out or whatever, I had graduated from college (a ceremony that for me involved driving to the registrar's office to pick up my diploma and then drinking a forty or two), and spent a month in Vienna, where my parents were living at the time.
One of my housemates, the snooty architect, let's call him Mac, also had parents in Europe (my dad worked for the U.S. Defense Department, his dad worked for a German heavy equipment manufacturer), so he stayed with us in Vienna for a while before going on to hang out with his family. We also made friends with a bunch of other American college kids that were visiting their families who worked for the U.S. Mission in Vienna. Almost every night involved a party at the stately apartment of some diplomat or another, failed attempts to hook up with some diplomat or another's daughter, hoisting liters of Goldfassl at the bars, dancing at Sprockets-esque techno clubs, and on New Year's Eve, when the usually straight-laced city goes completely apeshit, playing football in the train station with empty champagne bottles while dodging M-80 firecrackers casually tossed by other revelers (the only people who didn't think this was fun were some priggish American tourists). One night I re-injured the wrist I had broken months earlier and had to wear a brace for the rest of my visit. Mac still swears this was a result of my punching him in the stomach as he and another guy played this fun game where they blocked me from getting on the train as it pulled out of the station; but I know for a fact that it happened while we were scaling the wall of the Gothic cemetery near my parents' apartment.
So when I got back to sleepy, provincial Charlottesville, I thought I would only be there for a few months, tops. I had big plans to seek my fortune in Europe as soon as summer brought out the nude sunbathers on the banks of the Danube. The little backwater of C-ville just couldn't hold me.
While hatching my Europe plan, I was almost able to scrape by on the wages from my part-time job at Kinko's. I had gotten that job despite the manager's policy to only hire gay guys and overweight women because of our mutual friend, my neighbor Bill (R.I.P) who would knock on our window at 2:00 a.m., shaking a paper bag full of homegrown weed, which was his signal that he wanted to hang out at our house because his landlord didn't allow smoking in his apartment. (Already I was mastering the art of networking by making allies of important players.) But Kinko's was not providing me the capital I needed to set out on my European conquest. I needed more work and better pay.
As the infinite lattice of coincidence would have it, Bill, the same neighbor who indirectly got me the Kinko's job, happened to be the vice president of Dave Black and Associates, a small construction outfit. This was a company dedicated entirely to depleting the trust-fund of its president, Dave Black, and it was way ahead of schedule in accomplishing its mission.
Dave, a dyslexic English major, had attempted to design and build a custom home in a tony suburb, armed only with half a million dollars, a rag-tag band of frat boys, rugby players, crackheads, and an evangelical Russian former tank commander; and the unflagging confidence that, since construction workers seemed real stupid, any idiot could build a house.
I first met Dave when Bill brought him to a party at our house. I struck up a conversation with him, mentioning my own experience as a carpenter, and hinting broadly that I could really use some work. Dave excused himself to go fill our toilet and much of our bathroom floor with partially digested chicken tenders, and then pass out on the vomit-soaked linoleum. Bill said he wished he could help with the mess, but it would only make him throw up as well, so he bid us farewell and dragged Dave's limp carcass down the stairs and out the front door. (To Bill's credit though, he had a change of heart later that night and drove the Dave Black company truck to a convenience store in the worst part of town in order to get some cleaning products to scrub our floor. But he didn't make it back in time because Mac had already cleaned it up. Also, he was delayed when some fellows at the liquor store wanted the truck and Bill did not want to give it to them. So these fellows beat the tar out of him and took the truck anyway. The next time we saw him, he had forty stitches around his blood-red eyeball and a fistful of pain killers to go with his paper sack of weed.)
The upshot was that once again, through my growing knack for networking, I landed a job despite the usual hiring policies of the management. With my two years of pre-college construction experience and summer carpentry gigs, I became the most experienced tradesman on the crew.
Dr. Mom was still a student then, taking classes from the likes of Richard Rorty, which were only offered to graduate students and elite honors program undergrads like herself. She lived in a world of ideas, populated by limp-wristed nerds. I was a rugged artisan and a well-connected up-and-comer. I brought home a whopping seven dollars an hour from the construction job, and still worked some graveyard shifts at Kinko's, so I could afford the finer things in life, like eating at Chi-Chi's and drinking Cisco.
It's no wonder then, that when, after only a handful of dates, I asked her if she would like to accompany some friends and me to Mardis Gras in New Orleans, she agreed, even though she would have to miss Sunday Mass for the first time in her sentient life.