A Berlin Anniversary

Kerry and I recently celebrated our 31st anniversary. I’ve written about our Berlin wedding before. For years we weren’t quite certain about the date of our anniversary. The candidates were February 4th, 5th, and 6th. A few years back we nailed it down to February 5th based on the paperwork we were given by the Berlin government after the fact. That date seems to have stuck in our collective memory; we no longer have to say, “You know, I’m not sure of the exact date” when asked about our wedding. Honestly, the only anniversary that really sticks out in my memory is our first, in February of 1986. And it sticks out for reasons I'd rather forget.

We decided to mark the occasion with dinner at the Kempinski Grill, a favorite spot of ours down on the Ku’damm. Earlier in the day I’d gone for a run. I had a set of free weights in our apartment, so I followed up the run with some light weightlifting. I don’t remember how far I’d gotten in my routine. What I do remember is that during a set of French curls I felt my upper back go into spasm. Naturally, being the quantitative idiot that I am, I decided I should go ahead and finish the set. The idea of two sets of seven curls and one set of three was simply not acceptable. Big mistake.

Within moments I was nearly immobilized. I tried to lie down and stretch my back out. Another big mistake. I barely made it off the floor. I couldn’t move my head, and doing anything other than simply standing upright was almost impossible. A hot shower didn’t help. In spite of my pathetic physical state (wholly self-induced as most of my injuries physical and otherwise are) I insisted on going through with our 1-year anniversary celebration.

Two things stand out from the "celebration," neither of which is the sort of thing I was envisioning would be highlights of the evening. The first was the taxi ride to the Kempinski. Like cabbies all over the world, Berlin’s taxi drivers are remarkably aggressive, a trait usually appreciated by their passengers. Not this time. The ride, at least for me, started by taking forever to stuff my rigid 6-foot, 6-inch frame into the back of a shiny Mercedes Benz, followed by feeling certain for about the next 20 minutes that my head would snap off every time the Benz turned or accelerated or did both simultaneously.

The other outstanding memory is what happened once I was safely out of the death taxi and inside the Kempinski Grill. Due to a nice combo of immobility and pain I was unable to get to my chair at our romantically small table for two. I simply couldn’t do it. A couple of waiters had to come over and pull the table several feet away from my chair so that I, walking like Frankenstein at this point, had a clear shot at it without any obstacles, and plenty of room to awkwardly, stiffly, and with great care lower myself into my seat for the duration. Nice spectacle.

Kerry was an incredibly good sport about the whole thing. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t going to let her idiot husband’s decision to injure himself spoil her shot at a first rate dinner at the Grill.  But I have to wonder if she thought at some point during the evening that the odds of our making it to anniversary number two had just taken a major hit. Well, as they say, the rest is history, and 30 years after that first anniversary I’ve learned more than I ever imagined was possible to learn, including the need to dial back the physical exertion (on those rare occasions when I engage in some) at the first sign of trouble.