‘Willst du mich heiraten?’ It just pops out of my mouth. Something I had never asked anybody up until then and have not to this day since. ‘Will you marry me?’

The fog has fallen dense on the city of Amsterdam. My emotions are torn. The longing intensified. The faces dissolving in the ripples as they march on.

●●●

It’s January 3rd 1979. Delayed by two and a half hours, our United flight from Los Angeles is the last one to land that night at 12:30 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, before the back-to-back snow storms would blanket and paralyze the city for weeks and months to come. We check into the Playboy Towers – the old dame of the hotel known as The Knickerbocker, before and after its present avatar – at two in the morning with a whole bunch of boxed live potted plants that make up the bulk of our excess baggage. Because we are told that they would never make it to Chicago in the truck. I have returned to Playboy full time to work out of their head offices. Carolyn is seven months pregnant. We have bought a condo in Hyde Park and would move in soon as our stuff arrives.  The side streets remain buried under mountains of snow up until April. When the truck finally makes it to Chicago area, they deliver bits and pieces by minivans. Soon as they deliver the mattresses on the 26th, we move in.

After three weeks of being stuck in a hotel, it feels good to be in our own place. However inadequately equipped. We are prepared to sleep on the hardwood floors if we had to. In the meanwhile, I keep trucking. Of which Lee Hall writes in his International Publishing Newsletter dated February 5: Haresh will be returning from Spain this weekend to assist in the last minute birth of his first child. He and Caroline (sic) have recently moved into a delightful apartment in Chicago but are currently awaiting the arrival not only of the baby but of their furniture van which has been marooned somewhere in the Mid-western snow.

And then its March 6. Its 04:04 in the morning – the drama of a new child being born is enacted in the bedroom of our apartment. Propped up and leaning on the wall at the edge of the bed is me, Carolyn’s head resting on my shoulder. At the ready is the midwife Kay with her experienced hands to clutch and catch the baby pushing to emerge into this world. Surrounding the bed are Dr. Elvove, Anita and Keeline while Bob is clicking away with the little Kodak Instamatic with his trembling hands.  We see first Anjuli’s head pop out and then with another push, all of her. Dr. Elvove hands me a pair of scissors to snap the umbilical cord. A daughter born in Playboy family receives Playboy kind of welcome by telexes from around the world in response to Lee Hall’s following announcement, barely making it  in his Newsletter dated March 5, but not mailed until later.

PS: Anjuli Shah-Johnson, the first daughter of Haresh Shah and Carolyn Johnson, was born on March 6.

© Haresh Shah

Illustration: Jordan Rutherford

Next Friday, April 12, 2013

FACE TO FACE WITH JAN CREMER

It is very likely that the most of you have never heard of Jan Cremer, the ultimate enfant terrible of the Dutch literature and the art. He once famously said in an interview: Rembrandt? I have never heard of him. I’m not interested in sports. Arrogant? Brilliant?  Whatever. But I am a big fan of his books, I Jan Cremer and Jan Cremer Writes Again. And have had a pleasure of meeting and talking to him.

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