I graduated college in 1991 with a degree in International Relations, Law & Diplomacy (I know, right…?!)
You’d think I’d be headed straight for a job in Washington or maybe some think tank. But, no…
About half way through my Junior year at The University of Rochester I realized this was not at all what I wanted to do but, unless I wanted to spend another year in the sunless frozen tundra of upstate New York (I didn’t), I was going to have to finish my degree and get out. The truth was, I really wanted to do something in the arts and I found a tiny folder for Arts Management in the career library. From there I landed an internship to the Production Manager at Portland Stage Company, in Maine. So, the girl from Florida was headed even further north.
When I graduated college, my girlfriends got me a gift. They knew I desperately wanted a cat but, since I didn’t know where I was going to be living, they got me the next best thing; all the stuff you’d need for a cat! Once I had the job I started looking for him; a cat named Winston. They (the voices) had told me to look for a Winston but as I was still so shut down I didn’t really connect it, I just knew I’d know him when I found him. My boyfriend at the time was living in Boston so that’s where we looked. We saw all sorts of cats and finally, there he was! I knew he was my Winston as soon as I saw him! The only thing was… he had a brother. A beautiful long haired kitten named Albert. I heard him tell me his name as clearly as if he’d spoken the words aloud and I knew they were meant for me.
The three of us moved to Portland and I learned to be a Production Manager. Lord help me, they had me balancing budgets and doing math on a calculator! It really is a miracle they didn’t go broke after the first show!! For those who may not know, math and I are NOT well acquainted! In that time, I was also learning to be a theatrical electrician and I loved working in that department more than anywhere else! My training served me well and I would go on to work as an electrician for many years after that.
I loved living in Maine!! Of all the places I’ve lived, and I moved around a lot in those years, Portland was truly one of my favorite places. I made some of my best friends in the two seasons I spent there. It was an exciting time of education, growth and fun for me though I continued to struggle with managing my emotions. I didn’t hear the voices or have visions now but it still seemed like things would affect me more deeply than other people, more deeply than they should. I just didn’t understand why.
At the end of my second season in Portland I was offered an Associate Production Manager position at The Williamstown Theatre Festival. My girlfriend Marilee told me she’d “hit me with a really big stick” if I didn’t take the job and, while I liked Marilee a lot, I also knew there was a good chance she was completely serious. I knew she only wanted the best for me and it was a great job offer so, I packed up my cats and my car and headed south to Massachusetts.
In all honesty, I owe Marilee a great debt because I met my husband in Williamstown. Robert was the Resident Sound Designer and, as more senior staff members, we were on site about a week before everyone else arrived. He told me later that he knew when we met, he was going to marry me. I asked him, “what if I turned out to be a bitch?” and he said, “I guess I would have gotten over it.” To this day, that thought makes me smile because Robert knew what I did not. Although he was not yet spiritually “awake.” He already knew we were connected, we were soul-mates. He chased me for half of that summer and we dated for the other half. And when it was over, I knew this was more than just a summer fling.
The plan was to return to Florida, get an apartment and start working in the local theaters and production houses. When I left Portland, I didn’t really have much in the way of furniture and my uncle let me store what I did have at his house outside of Boston. So when summer ended that is where I was headed, while Robert was going back to Alabama to retrieve his belongings, before we reconnected further south. We decided to caravan together as far as we could and say our good-byes then. But clearly The Universe had other plans…
We headed out of town, me and my two cats in my two-door Nissan Sentra with a tiny U-Haul trailer on the back and Rob in his 1974 VW van. But a few miles out of town the van started having problems. We drove the few miles back to Williamstown, tried to fix it and got back on the road but, it quickly became clear the van just wasn’t going to make it. We stopped on the side of the road next to the tiniest house we’d ever seen. Seriously the whole house was like 250 square feet! The owner was nice and let me use the phone to call my dad. My father had flown to Boston to drive back to Florida with me and now he was camped out at my uncle’s house, waiting. These were the days before everyone had cell phones and as I was several hours behind schedule, I knew he would be concerned. I was grateful to the tiny house man for letting me use his phone to call my dad, after which we called a guy with a tow truck to come get the van; he was nice and would help us sell it later, after we were settled in South Florida.
It was tough on Rob to say good-by to his van but we loaded all his stuff into my tiny U-Haul and were finally headed to Boston. We got there about 9pm and you could say my dad was less than pleased that the long-haired hippy boy who would later become his son-in-law was the cause of my delay, though he did understand why I couldn’t just leave him on the side of the road. We were still supposed to drive to Brooklyn to spend the night at my sister’s house so my dad could see her while he was this far north so, late as we were, the day was far from over.
My uncle’s house was down a steep driveway and there was no way I was taking my car down there in the dark. That meant completely unloading all of Rob’s stuff in to the street, hiking down the driveway, going down to the basement of the house and schlepping my stuff all the way back up to the street to load it into the trailer. Thankfully my furnishings were limited to a futon/couch thing, a couple of small tables and a papasan chair! We loaded my stuff into the trailer and then shoved Rob’s stuff in behind it and somehow got the doors closed and locked!! So now, with my father and I in the front seat, 6’4” Rob folded into the backseat along with anything that didn’t fit in the trailer, AND the two cats, we set off again.
We arrived in Brooklyn about 1am and my sister was pretty well pissed at the whole situation. Her (then) husband had small, very barky dogs who were not at all happy knowing there were now cats in the bathroom. Somehow no one thought to tell her they were coming with me, and now I’d brought a strange man along as well! This was for sure, going to be a major issue! In those days, it was well known to my family that my sister and I could barely be in the same room together before arguments erupted so I wasn’t any happier about all of this than she was. To keep the peace, we all settled in for the night as quickly as possible. And without too much fuss, we were back on the road early the next morning and headed to Maryland where we dropped Robert at his sister’s house. He would go back to his parents’ house in Alabama and then meet me in Florida in just a few weeks.
Meanwhile, my dad and I were headed home.