Jun 18, 2008

Congratulations, Louis and Jim

[Before I explain who Louis and Jim are, and why congratulations are in order, indulge me as I tell the story of how I met them]

Ever since I was a kid, I knew that I had a cousin Louis. Every so often, his name would come up and that he lived in San Francisco. I don't recall ever meeting him, and the only picture I ever saw of him was with a black cat that had a piercing stare. So I always remembered Louis and the cat... Louis and the cat.

Fast forward to my teenage years when I finally discovered why I'd never met Louis. It turned out that Louis was gay, and because of this, his parents basically disowned him, which is why I didn't remember meeting him. He ditched New Orleans and moved to San Francisco, and that's pretty much all that I ever heard of him. My grandparents did visit him once or twice on their travels, but for the most part, we never spoke about Louis. He was just Louis. He was gay. He lived in San Francisco.

Fast forward again to the late 90's. Working for Apple, I found myself travelling frequently to the Bay Area—usually to San Jose, but occasionally to San Francisco. At some point in the year 2000, I remembered that my cousin Louis in San Francisco and that it would be nice to look him up since I was out there so often. It never seemed fair that he'd been unceremoniously drummed out of the family, and especially unfair to me that I hadn't gotten to meet one of my cousins.

I called my grandmother and got Louis's phone number and dialed the number. As I anxiously listened to the phone ring, I thought about what I was going to say. Would he be happy to hear from me? Shocked? Annoyed? Angry? Anxious as I was, of course, I got his voicemail. I left a somewhat awkward message and waited for him to call back—if he ever did call back.

A few days later, Louis called me back. I explained that my job took me to the Bay Area somewhat often and that I knew he lived in San Francisco (Wrong! He lived in Oakland!), and that maybe we could get together for dinner or something. He graciously invited me over to his house to meet him and his partner of many years, Jim. As we chatted, he asked about my family as he'd been out of touch with them for some time. I'll never forget the lump in my throat when he asked how his uncle—my grandfather—was doing. I didn't know how to tell him that he'd died two years earlier and I felt like a total jerk when I just blurted it out. I mean, how do you tell someone something like that? But I digress.

A few nights later, I took the BART to Oakland and Louis picked me up and drove me to their house, popping half a dozen pieces of nicotine gum on the way home. I didn't know a lot about him, but he sure liked his nicotine gum!

Dinner was some of the best Italian food I'd had in a long time, and the conversation flowed even more easily than the wine. Louis and Jim turned out to be what they call in the industry "good people." They were clearly two people who were made for each other, and they were a joy to talk to--passionate, irreverent, curious, and downright hilarious. We talked for hours before they drove me back to San Francisco sometime close to midnight.

From then on, it was no longer just "my cousin Louis," but "Louis and Jim," and we kept in touch more often as time went by. Marie came out to the Bay Area with me on one of my business trips and visited their house and spent the next day up in Sonoma with them. We had a blast (and a whole lot of wine).

I was honored when they accepted my invitation a year and a half later to come to my wedding. They even came out to spend Thanksgiving with us one year. Who knew that that simple phone call eight years ago would bring not one but two wonderful people into my life. I guess I'm a pretty lucky guy.

And all that brings me to why I'm writing a post titled "Congratulations, Louis and Jim." It's because after 35 years of being together, they got married today—all because the Supreme Court in the state of California finally ruled that same-sex marriage was legal.

When I got an email from Jim earlier today announcing that they'd gotten married, I let out a whoop that scared half my office mates. I was so excited that I pretty much told the good news to everyone I saw this afternoon. In fact, I'm still pretty excited. They even got interviewed by a few reporters for the LA Times and the San Francisco Gate (Picture and an audio clip on that second article).

So, congratulations to two of my favorite people. May you have another 35 years together.

(photo from SFGate as Louis hasn't sent me his pictures yet, ahem.)