Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Saturday, February 10, 1996: I was in my room at the Wayfarer Hotel in Bedford, New Hampshire, after a day of set-up for the upcoming NH primary. I turned on my Apple Powerbook, dialed up my AOL account and saw an e-mail in response to something I posted on a bulletin board about the actors Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland six months earlier. The sender of the e-mail wrote: "Would like to chat if you are interested. Respond if you are."

In the days before spam and online scams, I didn't hesitate to respond...but neither of us had any idea that one e-mail would lead to a 15 year journey that continues to this day. Thank you Kara, for writing -- and sending -- that e-mail!!!

Our story 'til now: February 10, 1996: I got an e-mail from a woman wanting to chat about the actor Errol Flynn.  I was in New Hampshire prepping for the primary, and responded, sure.  Between the 10th and the 22nd, when I came home, we exchanged e-mails and did some online chatting. Cut to:

Sunday, February 25, 1996:  After I got back from NH, we spent every day either e-mailing or in online chats.  On this Sunday, I said that I would be home by 1030p (Manuel's Team Trivia afficionados take note that I made time for trivia that night!) and would look for her online.  So...we started online chatting around 1030, and shortly after 11p, we agreed that we should FINALLY have an actual verbal phone conversation.  So we got on the phone around 1115p...

And didn't get off the phone until 6a Monday!!!  Yes, a 6 hour and 45 minute phone call.  Our respective phone bills were over $300 that first month, and at least for a month after that.

I think Kara and I realized that we had something going.  But it was another three weeks before we'd finally meet in person.  

March 15, 1996: We Finally Meet In Person

So...after our marathon phone call on February 25, and subsequent calls, e-mails and online chats, it quickly became apparent that there was a mutual attraction between Kara and myself.  And since this was well before you could really upload photos, we used plain old postal mail to send each other pix of ourselves so we had an idea who the hell we were talking to.

Finally, we decided we had to meet in person to know whether this was going to go anywhere.  Kara lived in the Sarasota area, so she proposed a weekend in Orlando.  That sounded good to me, and we decided we would meet at the Orlando Airport on Friday, March 15, 1996 - The Ides Of March. 

Cut to the Orlando Airport, late afternoon on March 15.  This was when you could still meet incoming flights at the gate, and I expected to see Kara as soon as I stepped off the jetway.  Well, she wasn't there.  I kept looking around, and no sign of her.  So I called her cellphone and when she answered I asked, "Are you hiding behind a palm tree?"  She apologized, saying that it normally takes about 2 hours to drive from Sarasota to Orlando, but the traffic was miserable.  She said she'd be there soon, and we agreed to meet at baggage claim.

I got to Delta baggage claim, saw my flight wasn't unloading yet, so I waited.  Still no Kara.  Also no bags yet.  I decided to page her on a house phone.  The phone was situated in such a way that I could see the entire baggage claim area, but interestingly, I turned my back away from it.  As I was speaking to the person about setting up the page, I turned around...

...And there was Kara, standing 10 feet away from me.  I told the house phone person, "It's OK, I found her."  As I hung up the phone, Kara walked over to me, put her head on my chest, said "I'm sorry."  I said, "It's OK," and gave her a kiss on her head.

Remember, we met online just 34 days earlier because of our shared interest in Errol Flynn...could this first face-to-face meeting have been any more cinematic?

Needless to say, we had an incredible weekend, and set the pattern for what would truly be a whirlwind romance and courtship. 

More to come...

June 20, 1996

...But I wasn't thinking about that at the time.  Remember, Kara and I had met online in February 1996 because of our mutual interest in Errol Flynn, and met face-to-face for the first time a month later on the Ides of March.  After that initial weekend in Orlando, Kara had driven up to Atlanta with her 6-year-old fraternal twins Kayleigh and Jonathan.  I made several long weekend drives to Nokomis (south of Sarasota).   So there I was, the morning of Thursday, June 20, 1996, at my desk at CNN Special Events, when our offices were still on 7 North.  As became our habit, Kara and I were doing a morning AOL IM chat.  What I would say was the key part of that chat went like this:
ME: "Kara..."
KARA: "Yes...?"
ME: "Will you marry me?"

I honestly don't remember Kara's online response, but I know that I immediately picked up the phone and called her...and repeated my proposal.  To which she said -- thankfully -- Yes!!!

Now came the hard part...I was scheduled to leave for San Diego in a little over two weeks to start prepping for the '96 GOP Convention.  I didn't want to wait until the end of the summer for us to be married, so...what to do?

June 28, 1996 - ____________

So what do you do when you propose to someone by instant message and phone...you're leaving town in a couple of weeks for the entire summer...and you really want to get married but your bride-to-be lives in Florida and you live in Georgia?

Why, get married 8 days later, of course!

After I proposed to Kara on the 20th, we knew we wanted to move quickly, so we each went for blood tests, I ordered wedding bands for both of us, and I arranged to work a half-day on Friday, June 28, 1996.  I picked Kara up at the airport and we went to pick up our rings.  Which would've been fine, except the store had Kara's ring -- but not mine.  OK, we could deal with that.  On to the DeKalb County Courthouse.

We got to the courthouse, started filling out paperwork -- and found out that Georgia won't accept blood tests from another state!!  What to do?  Fortunately, we were told where we could go to get a blood test done nearby, which we did.  Then it was back the courthouse, where we waited a bit more.  Finally, we were called before DeKalb County Magistrate Judge Gary Leshaw, and within minutes, we were married. 

That was 15 years ago today. Five months later Kara, Kayleigh, Jonathan and I were living together as a family...in London. From the UK to Connecticut...back to Atlanta, where Melanie came into our lives 12 years ago...and now in Maryland...it has been, and continues to be, an incredible journey. 

It seems only fitting that this story closes with a quote from the man who, you could say, started all this.  This is Errol Flynn, portraying George Armstrong Custer, speaking to his wife Libby (Olivia de Havilland):

"Walking through life with you, ma'am, has been a very gracious thing."

Indeed it has.  Happy 15th Anniversary Kara!!!!