Jeff Pearlman

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Happy anniversary, Earlie!

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My wife isn’t a huge fan of this blog. “Too personal,” she says. “Why does the world need to know that your poop is bloody?”

Unlike her hubby, Catherine is private. She doesn’t share all that much with outsiders; certainly doesn’t seek an audience to hear her spew on sports or politics or mental anguish. Were I to never mention her again in this space, I think she’d be quite content.

Well, tough luck.

Today is our eighth wedding anniversary. Through the years, I’ve given Catherine cards made of plastic and cards made of paper; cards done in marker and cards done in crayon. Today, I’m giving her the oddest card of all.

Her very own blog card.

Where to begin? I am in love. Deep love. My wife is the greatest thing to ever happen to me, and if that sounds like a cliche, well, who cares? Because it’s true. She’s the chocolate syrup atop my sundae; the points to my skis; the Jordan to my Bulls. There’s a DARKNESS and SUNSHINE line in my life, and it’s divided by the day I met Catherine Ann Guggenheimer. Which wasn’t actually a meeting, so much as, uhm, a sighting. I first saw her at a wedding way back in 1999. I was a fringe guest, she was the maid of honor. I can picture her as if it were a month ago—violet dress, short brown hair, nervously reading her toast to a room packed with unfamiliar faces. A friend said, “She’s pretty cute” and pointed toward Catherine. Indeed, she was. Not just cute—stunning. Breathtaking. Gorgeous.

But adjectives applied to me as well: Wimpy, gutless, pathetic. I lacked the nerve to approach, so weeks later I asked the groom if he could put in a good word. He did, and Catherine and I finally spoke on the phone.

“Your name’s Catherine,” I said early on, “and you’re Jewish?”

She was not amused.

Our first date was Sept. 15, 1999. The restaurant was called Ole, located in Manhattan. It was a rainy evening, and I was late. But I looked good—black-and-orange vest, ratty black T-shirt. (It took about six months, but Catherine finally asked, “What was with that vest?”). The date went OK—not amazing, not terrible. I asked if I could walk her home, and en route nervously said, “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna try and come up.” To which she replied, “Don’t worry, I wasn’t going to ask you up.” Ha. Our next date was terrible. I was supposed to plan something adventurous, but came up with nothing. We aimlessly wandered the city, then had dinner and saw a horrible film, For Love of the Game. There was much arguing and debate, and only months later did Catherine inform me that, for the entirety of our day/evening together, I had a hardened green booger latched to the tip of my nose.

Odds are that would have been the end—had I not pulled out a mixed tape from my pocket. It’d been there all day, carving into my leg. “I made this for you,” I told her. “I don’t know, I just thought maybe you’d like it.” She did (Ah, the timeless magic of Hall & Oates). I earned another shot. We went bowling. She asked me what my bowling name should be. I said, “Earl.” She wrote it down on the score sheet, and I asked, “Is that your bowling name or my bowling name.” I wasn’t sure. “Both?” I said. She wrote “Earl” twice—and ever since we’ve only called each other by “Earl.” First names aren’t used here—ever. I’m Earl, she’s Earl (sometimes Earlie).

She was unlike anyone I’d ever dated—loud, opinionated, passionate, loving, loyal, decent, big-hearted, family-oriented. Best of all, empathetic. At the time Earlie was running a youth homeless shelter at Covenant House, and to watch her with these kids … feeling their pain … guiding their way … well, it was nothing short of remarkable. Big, tough guys hardened by the streets. Little, tiny Earlie showing them somebody cared. This was the person for me. I knew it.

I told her I loved her after, oh, four or five months. We were standing on the street, by her bicycle. She didn’t really reply, and I was crushed. A few weeks later I surprised her by picking her up at the airport. She was hoping I’d be there. “I love you,” she said. (Just writing that right now, my eyes got misty).

She loved me.

She loved me!

She loved me!

I proposed to her in March, 2001. At the time, she was living on 15th Street by Union Square, I was up on 64th and York. We spent the night together at her place, and I told her the next day I had to fly off for Spring Training. My bags packed, I left her apartment, took the subway to mine—and planned and planned and planned. Snuck back into her place that afternoon, lined roses and rose pedals from her doorway to the bedroom. Had someone buzz me when she was entering the building.

I was on one knee in the bedroom when she opened the door. Candles everywhere, path of roses. “Earlie?” she said.

“Earlie!” I said.

For a second, she thought she was in the wrong apartment. She walked in, looked at me on one knee, ring in hand.

“What are you doing?” she said.

“I think you know.”

She started crying. “Don’t you want to see the ring?” I asked.

I never actually asked her to marry me. She never actually accepted.

The wedding was on January 19, 2002. Took place at the Rainbow Room, way above Manhattan. With the white flakes falling outside (“Only day it snowed all winter,” she likes to say), we felt like we were living in a Snow Globe. This was our wedding song. The evening was fantastic. Thrilling. Euphoric.

And yet, the day doesn’t touch the marriage itself. What has Earlie given me? To start with, love. Companionship. Adventure. Encouragement. Support. Extreme highs. No, breathtaking, never-before-felt-in-my-lifetime highs. Chile. Nicaragua. Australia. Guatemala. Paris. We had our daughter, Casey, in 2003, and I loved Earlie more than ever. We had our son, Emmett, in 2006, and I loved Earlie even more than ever. People always say this, but here, it’s 100-percent true: She is the most amazing mother I’ve ever seen, and someone who has gifted me with the art of righteous parenting.

But that’s not all. She has taught me tennis and Boggle; Scrabble and apple crisps; MSG and the need for a pair of “going-out” pants; how to properly negotiate a vehicle purchase (“We’ll take the car, Jim!”) and how to properly shovel a walkway. It kills me to write such a thing, but she’s about 800-times more handy than I’ll ever be—a screwdriver-wielding Ms. Fix It who puts me to shame. One of Earlie’s most impressive attributes is determination. When we first met, she told me she wanted to run a marathon—despite never having jogged more than a mile. In the ensuing half-decade, she ran two. A couple of years ago, she told me she wanted to start a business where she could help parents with their child-rearing needs. I was modestly skeptical. The Family Coach has been a huge success. When the woman gets something in her head, she makes it happen. Always.

In eight years, Earlie and I have learned many lessons together: To hell with convention—sometimes it’s OK to go to bed mad. Don’t eat the mystery meat on a Chilean bus tour. A nice back rub solves everything. There’s a danger in unkempt toe nails. You can always hide stuff under the chicken.

More than anything, what I’ve learned is that, in a world oft-darkened by despair, there is a brilliant light I can always count on: My wife.

I love you. Happy anniversary.

  • Jeanne

    You guys are great! Happy anniversary. (so happy you mentioned the booger story)

  • Kim

    Beautiful. Happy Anniversary to two very special people!

    That WAS a magical wedding.

  • Deanna

    Wow. Just wow. I told Paul when we left your house, “They’re so great together. I forgot to ask how they met.” Thanks for filling me in. I may not agree on your views about believing in God in times of stress (Faith gives way to inner strength whether you choose to believe in a god or not) or telling someone that you’ll pray for them (It’s called giving people hope.) but with this story, you may have redeemed yourself. Happy Anniversary to you and Guggs!

  • Laura

    Love it 😉

  • Who knew you had such a big, gushy heart?

    Much congrats to you two and the family!

  • Steve H

    Damn…a booger and an ugly vest and she still married you.

    Nice pull…

  • Dave

    Both your words and your wife are beautiful. Congrats on 8 years, Jeff!

  • Philbert

    Really. Very. Cool.

  • Mike

    Congratulations on your 8th to you and your wife. May you enjoy many more years of happiness.

  • Michael’sSister

    I love it. I even sniffled. Can you get my husband to write a blog about me? Hell, i’d take a sentence that didn’t end with XOXO.

  • lynda bush

    Jeff your wife is just beautiful…and she’s a social worker like I was for many years! I love the “Earl” thing! I love the tender nubial romantic rose petals surprise you charted. I could so do without the booger part. Yes I really do know you are ALL MAN….it comes thru in your attitude and writing. I even like that….so I didnt need you to reassure me with “the booger thing”. I am sooo happy for you two wonderful people and your son and daughter. Its true that the greatest thing you can give your children is to love their mother. Happy 8th Anniversay…you are a lucky man.

  • Brian McDowell

    Wow, Jeff, you’re more whipped than I ever thought. :)

  • Well done, Jeff. That blogpost is what my wife would call “a keeper”.

  • As someone who knew her before she was Earlie – when she was Guggy from high school. This so warms my heart to see her so loved by someone.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life