The 1994 Northridge earthquake had just happened. The jolt was so strong I thought my second-story apartment in Reseda was about to collapse down onto the first floor as my bed was thrown across the room. Dishes came crashing down from cabinets. It was dark, and I couldn’t see. When I tried to get out of my bedroom, the door was blocked: The ironing board that was wall-mounted had fallen down, making it impossible to open.
I had a little flash of panic. With some nervous struggle I was able to manipulate my way out. My neighbors and I ran out into the street. The building didn’t collapse, but the building was, ultimately, red-tagged. I had to find a new place to live. Most of my friends left L.A. to stay with family or friends because they feared aftershocks or another quake. I still had to go to work at my job (as an assistant in a business consulting company in Woodland Hills), so I couldn’t leave town. It was just me and my cat, Courbet.
My sister’s ex, who remains a good friend, offered to let me stay in his apartment in Santa Monica. It was on Ocean Avenue, and a spacious two bedrooms. I was a little reluctant, at first, because he was an actor and, at that time, pretty much a party guy. I was past that phase, but it was hard to turn down an apartment where you drive out of your garage every day to a beautiful view of the ocean. I took Courbet and moved in for what I hoped was a short period of time.
The ex often asked me to join him at parties. I think he enjoyed the company and also thought it would be fun for me. Eventually, I gave in. At one of these parties, I met Ron, and felt drawn to him immediately. It wasn’t a physical attraction, but a spiritual connection. He had such kind eyes. I remember having the strange and distinct feeling that this was someone I was supposed to meet. After talking for a while, I did something I had never done in my life: I gave him my business card. We kept in touch by phone, at first. I fell “in like” with him. One reason was that he was the only non-actor I knew who could quote Shakespeare. He left Shakespearean quotes on my voicemail. We went out a few times, but, I believe, he grew tired that I thought of him only as a friend, and he wanted more.
I knew we both felt a deep connection, though, so it was very disappointing to me when Ron stopped calling. Then one day, he rang. We caught up a bit, and he said he’d like to set me up with someone. Yes, it’s unusual for a rejected suitor to set up the one who rejected you, but I knew his good, kind nature, so I trusted that he had my best interest at heart. He set told me a little about Peter — my blind date. He came from a large family, had success as an actor and was an actor-director running a local theater. He was 45 and had never been married. At the time, I was 37 and too had never been married.
Our first date was at Stanley’s in Woodland Hills. He had light brown eyes and adorable dimples. He was a man who had matured into his boyish good looks. He was wearing a vintage tweed vest. A nonconformist, I thought, and I loved that.
Conversation was easy. We learned we both love theater and movies. He made me laugh, and he was smart. We both valued our independence. Our dispositions seemed similar. I felt a lovely, warm flame inside me that was exciting — but also peaceful. There was a little restraint on his part; as if our connection was moving too fast. But I really, really liked him. I was looking forward to seeing him again.
Afterward, our mutual friend Ron called and asked me what I thought. He told me that he’d talked to Peter, and “he thought you were great.” Years later, I found out he told Peter the same thing, about me. On our third date, Peter suggested we go to Magic Mountain on Super Bowl Sunday, because most people would be watching the game, and we could ride the roller coasters as many times as we wanted. (We both loved roller coasters.) On our last ride, it started to pour down rain. It was exhilarating. Drenched, we drove back to my apartment. When we opened the door, Peter said, “Honey, why don’t we get out of these wet clothes and into a dry martini.”
I laughed and said, “That sounds like something Dean Martin would say” (which I found endearing).
On our one-year anniversary, Peter planned a getaway for us. He arranged for a helicopter ride to Catalina (I get terribly seasick on boats). He had a friend, Billie, who lived there, managing the Casino, the beautiful Art Deco building. Billie met us for dinner and then offered to take us on a private tour. Once we got up to the beautiful panoramic ballroom, Billie excused himself, and the lights dimmed, and music from the movie “Il Postino” began to play. Peter reached out for my hand and said, “Can I have this dance?”
During our dance, there was a pause in the music where Peter swirled me around into a chair and got down on one knee, presented me with an antique ring box with a ring inside and asked me to marry him. It was wonderfully romantic. I said, “Yes,” and then the lights came up, and the music came back on, and Billie appeared with glasses of Champagne to celebrate.
We were married on a cliff overlooking the ocean, only the two of us, a minister, and a photographer. It was just what we both wanted. We’ve been married over 20 years now, and we have a happy life with our two cats and a dog.
Over the years, when I tell the story about how we met, I often start with the earthquake, and how it shook me off my path and veered me in a direction that dramatically changed my life.
Looking back now, I see it wasn’t the earthquake that put Peter in my life, but Ron.
I’m not sure why he went to such lengths to get Peter and me together, and I’ve never asked him.
My guess is that he knew how difficult it is to find love.
The author is a real estate agent and Pilates Instructor in Ojai. She is on Instagram @norinfox
L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
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