Are you living in the same place as in 2004/05?
K: We have moved exactly once since then, from our darling apartment in Astoria, Queens, (which was our first home together) to a lovely apartment in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. We “own” it, which really means we’re renting it from the bank and sharing the costs of the common spaces with our sometimes crazy neighbors and fellow cooperators. Our building is one of the Finnish Co-ops that were built in this area of Brooklyn in the 1920s, and has a weird and fascinating history. Also we live on the fourth floor and NO, I have not gotten used to it yet.
S: No. Relative to both our jobs and most of the people we knew in NY, we were a bit of an outpost in Astoria, so a move to Brooklyn was a good idea. We also accidentally moved to a block with the best Vietnamese sandwiches in the city. Accidentally. The crazy neighbours have been …crazy. One guy accused me of stealing a gun. He’s just recently left the building.
Would we recognise you if we passed you in the street?
S: Yes. Be prepared for me to act a little suspicious of how you come to be passing me in the street though.
K: Other than a few extra pounds (I like to think I’ve earned them) and an increasingly expensive addiction to purses, I think I’m pretty much the same.
What do you think is the best/most important new technology/online thingy to have appeared in recent years?
K: For me, it’s the smart phone. Or, as I like to call it, the iCamera. Or also, My Precious. The Apple Device 5 is supposedly a phone with millions of apps that want to improve my life, and somewhat creepy artificial intelligence, but for me it’s basically just a camera that allows my mother to call me all the time (thanks Apple).
S: Sharing and online collaboration tools, layered over the other great software advances. I’ve travelled to distant cities to pile into a dusty trailer with a crew of builders, to argue, tease, cajole and sweat over a pile of drawings with a pencil, and there’s nothing to compare to the jocundity, ribald insults and character-building backstabbing that you get out of that experience, but it doesn’t compare to spinning 3D designs around on a screen and having people all across the world follow along with what you’re saying. That and the instant look-up for celebrity names. I can never remember who famous people are.
We all had a blog back then. Do you still have one, or are you mainly present somewhere else?
S: Proudly, I’ve never officially stopped posting at autoblography.co.uk, and have checked in every six months or so with the digital equivalent of ‘I ATEN’T DEAD’ post or a photo or two. When I was part of a writing group I occasionally posted the pieces there too. One piece, ‘Bread and Milk’ about my attempts to learn Brazilian Portuguese with Krissa, was published in the now sadly defunct Hawaiian Women’s Journal. True story. I tweet quite a lot, as @autoblography, but mostly I pull off amazing emails for work. I once moved a museum curator to tears with a technical report. Not sure if that counts. I also started writing short comedic plays as a bit of a lark lately and am trying to convince theatrical friends to give me some criticism or take one of them on.
K: Holy cowbells, petitHiboux is dead two years this May. She looks really great for a corpse! She’s like the Evita of blogs. I will admit, the death of the death of blogging as heralded by Uborka v.2 has tempted me to dust off the engine but in all honesty, my farewell post is one of my favorite pieces of writing on pH. I don’t want to cheapen the eulogy by coughing gently in the sidelines and then re-emerging on stage to an empty auditorium. I really did stop blogging organically, because when life is so well and fully lived IRL, I felt less and less inclined to write it down. (Although I will say that writing about my grief over my father’s death at the end of 2009 did feel cathartic and important, but only so that I could understand and give shape to what I was feeling.)
What achievement of the last 7 years would you most like to celebrate here?
K: I’m proud of a few things – getting my master’s degree, staying close with an incredible bunch of friends here in New York, and really celebrating my relationship with my dad when he was around – but the thing that most pleases me, every day, is staying married to Stuart. You would, too. He’s amazing.
S: Couple of things. Mostly, biting the bullet and getting my US Engineering licence, which entailed two 8 hour long exams, a year apart. They still use feet and inches over here, and fluid dynamics in Imperial units is nothing short of painful. I kept having to remind myself that my professional forebears built whole empires, railways through India etc with this system, and it only helped a little. It was like learning another language – the underlying meaning is the same but all the words are all different, including some irregular verbs… ANYWAY, I am now proudly bilingual in engineering. Second, and this is a bit of a less grand one, learning to drive. I had all sorts of deeply pocketed fears and anxieties about this, having put if off since I was 17, it was like a massively overdue library book or homework neglected for more than a decade, where messing up could be very dangerous; I’d begged off lessons in the UK before coming here, and New York is highly forgiving as a city to non-drivers, but I (eventually) did it anyway. I now drive occasionally for work and join in the collective swearing session with my fellow New Yorkers with vim when navigating the roads.
Mike wanted us to interrogate you about the divine machinations of your Deep and Abiding Union, so here goes:
Stuart, what was Krissa’s first impression of you?
S: I think it was ‘Where the hell has this guy been?’ as I was significantly poorer than someone taking a trip to New York should be, and attempted to take public transport from JFK rather than taking a cab like a sensible person…followed perhaps by wondering how tall I am. We talked a lot, and I think it was rare of me to take a stranger to task on their opinions as I did with her that night – we talked about books a lot – and I suppose when a dismissive comment came up about Hemingway (I’ve since revised my opinion of the man, if not the writing) I pointed out a few holes in her argument and we went on from there, talking, I believe, about evocative writing. I’m not sure, as an engineer married to a Sarah Lawrence graduate, I really knew what I was getting into.
Krissa, what was Stuart’s first impression of you?
K: Oh boy! I would guess it was “gosh, this girl is pretty, but she does not stop talking, huh” quickly followed by “why did she just put her foot on my knee?”
Okay, I’ll be serious. He was jetlagged, and had spent two hours getting to Shiv’s apartment from the airport, and I was also jetlagged from my week in Brazil (I had just arrived back in the States that morning) but I know he thought I was lovely, and interesting, and when we started talking about books I know we both felt this very specific and electric connection, as though we could talk to each other forever. Indeed, we are still talking, and I still feel it.
What was the first meal you shared?
S: First meal we shared was delivery chinese food, which arrived, to my excitement, in the little square cardboard containers like the films, on my first night in New York. A few days later, our first date was at a restaurant/bistro called French Roast in the Village, a meal we revisited on the same date for many years afterward.
How and why did you acquire a small dog?
K: It was October 2004, and I decided to try the nicotine patch one night out of a creeping sense that Stuart was losing patience (rightly so) with my smoking. This may have to do with him saying, in desperation, “you are never going to quit, huh.” In honor of my decision to try the patch, Stuart said if I could go two weeks without a cigarette, we could visit the shelter and maybe get a dog. Never in the history of bribery has a more effective carrot been dangled.
S: I also threatened to send the dog back to the shelter if she started smoking again. If she “only” had one, at a party or something, I would only send back a small part of the dog. This has been immensely effective. I am still slightly annoyed at missing the England-South Africa rugby world cup final on the day we adopted Nano.
K: Also, just in case he ever learns to read, Nano, we love you very much and frequently marvel at each other that we can’t imagine life without this tiny, nervous dog who seems to love us and only us. Thanks, Nano. Thano.
What’s the secret to maintaining a Deep and Abiding Union such as yours?
K: Love, respect, and communication. I think we’ve always got the first one, and the health and ease of our relationship hinges on maintaining good levels on the other two. This is a little clinical, but I’m a pragmatist and like to understand how things work, and that’s how I see our union. We do best when we’re respectful of each other’s needs and opinions, and when we communicate through a misunderstanding. We don’t give up on anything, either; we will sit down and work out what went wrong, and unpack our own fears and mistakes until we understand each other better.
It also helps that I think Stuart is the funniest person I’ve ever met, that I adore his scientific mind, and that I still melt at the sight of him on the street or in our doorway. He is my lover and my perfect equal.
S: So, yes yes it’s bloody brilliant being married to Krissa. Amazing. Five out of five stars, four thumbs up, seriously guyz. Bouncing off what my better half said, however, I want to say that sometimes it takes a lot to figure out where we messed up after something goes awry. It was a massive change for me, being married -do tell us another, I hear you cry- but seriously, it was. I realized I had to turn a critical eye onto myself, my behaviour, my feelings, in a way I had never done before, if I was going to be able to figure out how not to do Stupid Stuff that Krissa pointed out to me, and also it was tough to figure out how I was going to object to Krissa’s Stupid Stuff in a constructive way. I’d always assumed I was a fairly even-keeled sort, not much emotional variation. Yeah. Not true. I was just not terribly aware or mindful of my own emotional state..which was a bit of an education. And each time one or both us messes up we spend a bit of time mutually figuring it out. That means every time it happens we walk away with a bit more understanding and (eventually) a totally clean slate, no sweeping under the carpet. Anyway. That’s a big thing for me. And the love. So much love.
Surprise Ending. Didn’t see that coming
(Currently 79 Kgs)
“I once moved a museum curator to tears with a technical report” is our generation’s “I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate”.
*gives Mark a thumbs up symbol*
*wonders what has happened to her, that she needs to express her satisfaction with a witty comment by resorting to corporate iconography*
Thank you both – great answers. Hooray for Deep and Abiding Unions.
Thanks Mike. It was lovely to read your interview too!
Hmm. Now that Uborka is a thing again, perhaps I ought to change my picture to something that isn’t an otter with a hammer.
I am very interested in the Vietnamese sandwiches. Please elaborate?
They are Banh Mi, the classic at our local joint, the banh mi thit nguoi, has lots of coriander/cilantro, cucumber and pate, smoked cuts of meat and carrot with some spicy sauce, on baguette. (The baguette thing confused me until I remembered rampant 19th Century European Imperialism).
The place on our block is called Ba Xuyen, and has been nominated as best sandwich in NYC multiple times.
I should mention that I could happily eat banh mi for every meal for weeks on end.
Maybe to a picture of a sloth in a space suit?
That looks *amazing*. I spent a fabulous week in Hanoi once, best food I have ever eaten. Nothing like that to be had in Chester
(sulkily surveys Starbucks and Costa as far as the eye can see)
I am deeply jealous of the Vietnamese sandwiches! Like Lisa, my Hanoi food experience was sublime.