Six Years

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—in the grand scheme of things, anyway. Though it wasn't a conscious design, part of this blog has always been a love letter to Iain, aka Mr. Shakes, filed mostly under the unassuming header "News from Shakes Manor." There are too many of them to repost in whole, but, on the occasion of our sixth anniversary, I've compiled some of my favorites below, because, clear and true, they tell the story of my heart.

There are a hell of a lot of reasons I love the bloke, but one of the most important, which hasn't changed since the day we met, is that he interests me. There's no one with whom I'd rather hang out or have a long, tumbling conversation. And that makes me like the hell out of him, too. He's my best friend.

Happy Anniversary, honsel. I love you.

October 15, 2005

Shakes (waking up sleepily, rife with fall allergies): Mmph. Glurg.

Mr. Shakes: Hoo are ye feeling, Tschoobs?

Shakes: Yucky. My dominant nostril is all stuffed up.

Mr. Shakes: Bwah ha ha ha! Yer doominant noostril? Bwah ha ha ha!

Shakes: What? It's a real thing! Everyone has a dominant nostril!

Mr. Shakes: I knoo, boot 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.

Shakes: Not.

Mr. Shakes: Are.

Shakes: Not.

Mr. Shakes: Are.

Shakes: Not.

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 tae call ye froom noo on, every time ye 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 tae get ye a gavel foor yer 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.

* * *

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.

(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 tae Boorder's tae broose foor books, and soodenly I had tae take a shite oot oof fooking noowhere. 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 foor disabled people. I went tae the smaller oone, boot it was coovered in vomit, soo I had noo choice boot tae 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 tae the toop oof the wall, and it was proobably six feet wide oor moore! And noothing tae coover it—noot blinds or anything, and noo brackets as if they were joost missing! What the fook?!

"Noo I have tae 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 finking, 'If the people aboove me happen to look doon, they're gooing tae 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 tae wipe my arse and everything in froont oof the biggest windoo knoon tae 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 yer toilet isn't in good nick."

* * *

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 dushtelled wif a nushtel!' 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, chuckling proudly.

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 tae joost call it the Doodge Turdo.

Shakes: Mmph.

Mr. Shakes: Dooge Turdo!

Shakes: Stop babbling.

Mr. Shakes: Here we goo—we're turning left noo! Turning left!

Shakes: Sigh.

Then Mr. Shakes broke into his favorite song.

She's short!
She's round!
She bounces on the ground!
Melissa McEwan!
Melissa McEwan!

Shakes: Hahahaha, omigod. [Still funny, though I've heard it no fewer than ten thousand times.]

Short and cute and round!
Round and short and cute!
Cute and round and short!
Short and cute and round round round!

Mr. Shakes: Ye knoo what happens tae shoort roond cute people?

Shakes: What?

Mr. Shakes: They marry crazy Scotsmen.

Indeed we do.

[Mr. Shakes just read this and said, "Good loord, people are gooing tae fink 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 coonstitute a foorm oof insanity soo 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.

Shakes: What?

Mr. Shakes: Look at this one!

Shakes: What?

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.

* * *

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."

* * *

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 wif that guy?! Fooking goods, he's soo bloody annoying! I hate joost looking at him! Everyfing he says oor doos has tae 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, ye wanker! Look at him—joost look at him! Ach! He makes me want tae 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 oof shite!"

Who knew?

* * *

June 21, 2007

As I've mentioned before, Mr. Shakes and I are addicted to So You Think You Can Dance, mainly because it's got lots of just great dancing on it by great dancers, but also because it 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's truly pathetic how much we love this show, and it has Mr. Shakes convinced—convinced!—that we are going to take dance lessons. He's got it in his head that it would be tootally awesoome if we could whip out an unexpected paso doble at a wedding some day. Well, yeah, that would be awesome, but we're both inelegant klutznutz, he's got no rhythm, and I have nerve damage that's left me with a numb foot. Walking is sustained performance art for me, and he wants me to samba. Sure.

Anyway, one thing about SYTYCD is that it has this ridiculous theme song that's just the same little snippet of music played over and over and over. It's played at the beginning of the show, while they're introducing the dancers, going to commercial, coming back from commercial, and at the end of the show. Last night during the show, Mr. Shakes mentioned: "Ye knoo, they really need tae get a loonger bit oof music instead oof joost repeating that wee jingle oontil I want tae kill myself." Which totally made me laugh, naturally.

Later, we're lying in bed, and both of us are restless and not falling asleep, but we're both trying to, and I couldn't help myself: "Nah nah nah. Chooka chooka chooka. Nah nah nah. Chooka chooka chooka. Nah nah nah. Chooka chooka chooka." (That sounded like the theme in real life, I swear.)

Mr. Shakes burst out laughing. "Soo ye fink ye can dance!" he sung.

I said, "Don't you mean: So you think you can DANCE!!!" hitting the last word with a loud, guttural, robot voice, just like it is on the show.

This sent us both into gales of giggles. I did it again: "So you think you can DANCE!!!"

Mr. Shakes started howling. "It's like they've goot Charlootte Choorch singing the first bit, and then Napalm Death cooming in foor the big finish." He put on the most angelic girly voice he could muster to sing: "So you think that you can—" Napalm Death voice: "DANCE!!!"

I did the same: "So you believe that you have an ability to…DANCE!!!"

Mr. Shakes again: "So you are informing me that you have a capacity for…DANCE!!!"

Me again: "So to my understanding you are suffering from the misapprehension that you have a talent for…DANCE!!!"

The entire bed shook with our laughter. "My throat hurt on that one," I said.

"Mine hoorts, too," said Mr. Shakes.

"Napalm is bad for the larynx," I said.

Mr. Shakes guffawed. "I doon't want tae goo tae sleep. I want tae stay oop talking tae ye all night."

"I know," I said. "Stupid adulthood."

"Too right."

We said our goodnights, again, and endeavored to try to fall to sleep, again.

Both of us were still restless. I couldn't help it.

"So you think you can DANCE!!!"

* * *

September 17, 2007

Liss: Hey, you know how there's like a million and a billion and a trillion and a quadrillion and a quintillion and a sextillion and a septillion and an octillion and decillion? What the nine one?

Mr. Shakes: [stunned by the nonsequitur of the century] What?

Liss: You know, like multiples of a million. I know all the way up to ten, except for nine. Million, billion, trillion, quadrillion, quintillion, sextillion, septillion, octillion…what comes next?

Mr. Shakes: What the fook are ye talking aboot, wooman?

Liss: Okay, like I just read this article not long ago saying that we'd have 1.2 septillion ancestors without inbreeding, if there hadn't been so much of your-uncle-who's-also-your-cousin kind of stuff. And I got to thinking about septillion, and how I knew all the multiples except the nine one.

Mr. Shakes: It's impoossible tae have fooking sepjillion ancestoors oor whatever that stupid noomber is because there are moore people alive today than there have ever been—

Liss: I know, I know! I said that's how many we'd have without inbreeding, like if it was a straight shot backwards: Two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and so on. But it doesn't work out that way, because of people marrying cousins and wev. But never mind all that. That was just where the thought about septillions came from and how I didn't know the prefix to indicate a multiple of nine.

Mr. Shakes: It doosn't matter, because noo oone uses thoose woords. They say 10 tae the poower oof soomething. Noo scientist says "quintillion" oor whatever the fook you're babbling aboot, ye wee mad fing.

Liss: Okay, just forget multiples of a million, Mr. Literal Brain. Let's make it multiple births. Twins, triplets, quads, quints, sextuplets, septuplet, octuplets, and then…?

Mr. Shakes: Noontuplets.

Liss: Non? Really? That doesn't sound right.

Mr. Shakes: It is. Noo be shooshed; I'm trying tae goo tae sleep.

Liss: I don't think it's non. Are you telling me a nine-sided figure is called a nonagon?

Mr. Shakes: Aye. Noonagoon.

Liss: "I am a nonagon. I have nine sides." Nonagon's a crappy name to have.

Mr. Shakes: Dae ye knoo hoo many sides a doodecahedroon has?

Liss: A nonillion?

Mr. Shakes: Och aye, wooman. Enoough wif the illions!

Liss: Hmm, yeah, a dodecahedron has twelve sides. I guess that makes a 1 followed by 39 zeroes a dodecillion. I don't know the eleven one, though.

Mr. Shakes: Fooking hell.

* * *

November 9, 2007

Liss: It's chillsy in here. (snuggles under favorite blanket)

Mr. Shakes: Yoo're always chillsy, wooman! Except when yoo're hoot! Hoonestly, wooman, if it's oone degree less than seventy, yoo're freezing, and if it's oone degree moore, yoo're boorning alive! What a screwball!

Liss: A screwball?! Bwah ha ha ha!

Mr. Shakes: Yeah, yoo're a screwball, ye wee mad fing.

Liss: A screwball?! A screwball! Ha ha ha! Do you want go on some madcap high-jinks, or should we just engage in some fisticuffs, Old Timey Husband Type Person?

Mr. Shakes: Be shushtelled, Apple Cheeks.

Two screwballs engage in a round of fisticuffs.

* * *

December 08, 2007

During a marathon Trivial Pursuit session this evening, I unexpectedly tapped into a heretofore undiscovered talent: I can talk like a cattle auctioneer—and, unaccountably, reading everything superfast and in the flat, nearly-robotic monotone of an auctioneer totally circumvents my usual propensity to stutter like a gormless douchenozzle; instead, every word comes out with otherwise elusive crystal clarity.

I began reading all the questions that way, which sent Mr. Shakes into an absolute fit of hysterics. He was laughing so hard he was coughing and sputtering and alternatingly begging me to stop and declaring it the funniest thing he's "ever fooking heard!"

There's pretty much nothing in the world that satisfies me more than making him weep with laughter, so this is definitely a skill that I will call upon in future, even if I never stumble upon a corral full of adoptable calves and eager livestock consumers looking for someone to make their collective dreams come true.

* * *

January 28, 2008

[Yesterday, while engaging in one of our favorite dorktastic pastimes—looking shit up on Metacritic, mainly to get cheap thrills from reading bad reviews of dire-looking rubbish like Meet the Spartans.]

Mr. Shakes: Oohmigood! Meet the Spartans goot a metascoore oof eight! EIGHT! "Extreme dislike oor disgoost!" [laughs hysterically]

Liss: [laughing] What was the highest score?

Mr. Shakes: Firty-eight! [38]

Liss: Oh my!

Mr. Shakes: The Oonion gave it a zeroo. Ha ha ha! Listen tae this: "Meet the Spartans gamely alternates between oonfoonny gay jookes and violent pratfalls foor a good 80 minutes, finding time foor noot oone, boot two musical dance noombers set tae 'I Will Survive'."

Liss: Priceless.

Mr. Shakes: I canny remember ever seeing a filum get a metascoore in the single digits befoore.

Liss: Nor can I. What was There Will Be Blood's metascore?

Mr. Shakes: Ninety-two.

Liss: Well, look at that! Add them together and they make the perfect film.

Mr. Shakes: When we were watching There Will Be Blood, I was finking: This filum is oone "I Will Survive" dance noomber away froom perfection.

* * *

May 01, 2008

Iain walks into the office, having just arrived home from work…

Iain: Hiya, apple cheeks. What'd ye write aboot today?

Liss: I just posted something about how people insist on spelling your name I-A-N.

Iain: Och aye, all the bloody time! Oof coourse, they alsoo ask me if the Loch Ness moonster exists, soo the whoole I-A-N fing is really joost the first step oon the staircase oof stupidity that I face every day.

* * *

Onward toward six more...and more...

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