Allow me to introduce my friend Lee. “Friend” might be stretching it, actually, because the truth is, I barely knew him. We had spent a grand total of perhaps three or four hours together in person, at a writers’ conference in Key West, where we’d met two years earlier; since then, we’d kept in touch via email. Lee’s a novelist, bartender, and freelance scribe whose beats include nightlife and the singles scene. He lives in Baltimore and looks a bit like the actor Ryan Gosling. He has a quick, broad smile and, always, a wry gleam in his eyes. From what I’d gathered from our limited interactions and the man- about- town tone of his writing, he was the very definition of dashing and rakish—in other words, an appropriately inappropriate sidekick for someone who is, as the Dutch say, kindofaneuroticintrovert.Reading that, and the rest of the book, you probably wouldn't think of Lee as the settling-down-and-getting-married type, at least not in the remotely foreseeable future--except, perhaps, to the Contessa we encountered in Munich. And in any case, by the time we got onto our respective airplanes back to the States, it was clear that there would be no Hollywood-worthy enchantment, no perfectly-scripted tales of European romance, ending with Alpine castles and the words "Happily Ever After" in a filigreed script.
Now, throughout the book, I tweak some of the tropes of travel memoirs, particularly the ones with sub-titles like How I Dropped Out of the Corporate Rat Race and Went to a Traditional Village and Herded Goats and Found Love and Meaning and Happiness.
If I'm to be honest, though, I have to confess that even though I was staying on the beaten path, and even though I roll my eyes at the paint-by-numbers epiphanies of so many travel books, I was secretly crossing my fingers for some of that myself. I mean, that is how it's supposed to work, right? Every passport stamp brings you closer to Total Happiness™? Especially when you're traveling with a vintage travel guide that you like to imagine has some sort of old-fashioned magical powers?
But, no, it didn't work out like that. (And I spoil nothing about the book, I hope, by mentioning this fact.)
Of course it didn't. You can't script life.
But there's a twist. Always.
When Lee got back to Baltimore, he had a first date with Angy, a woman he'd met only briefly before. He mentioned to her that he'd just been in Europe, and she casually said, oh, that's interesting, tell me more. They started dating and she soon confessed, to Lee's amusement, that she'd been following our exploits through my blog—she knew all about the trip. As I was finishing my manuscript, Lee e-mailed me to say that they were engaged. I know it's naïve, wishful thinking to imagine that our trip had anything to do with that, but even so, I like to hold out hope that perhaps my guidebook had some residual supernatural properties after all.
My book tour in April ended in Washington, DC. The destination was intentional and the timing was intentional, because the following night, I had a commitment just up the road, in Baltimore: Lee and Angy's wedding.
|CONGRATS, LEE AND ANGY!|
The morning after the wedding, over a late brunch with Lee and Angy and a small group of their friends, the story of Angy's blog-stalking came up again, in the context of introducing me. Lots of raised eyebrows and knowing grins in my direction: "Ooh, you're THAT guy!"
I've gotta tell you: they're perfect together, not least because Angy shares Lee's kindness and spirit of adventure and, yes, that wry grin. I'm looking forward to hearing their own tales of journeys together. (For example, they just moved from Baltimore to Salt Lake City, where they are the resident cocktail experts and worm-keepers. You can read all of their exploits and findings, including the differences between "magic dust" in Baltimore and Utah, on their aptly-named blog, BmoreInUtah.)
I'm also looking forward to traveling with them someday--a happy anticipation that is tempered with a dash of terror at hearing not one but two different people urging me to do something by saying, with matching wry grins, "Come on, Doug ... Spirit of adventure!"
Actually, make that three people saying that, because I recently got engaged. And my blog inadvertently helped woo my globe-trotting fiancee, Maren.
And ... well, that's another, longer story.