Bloomsday is this Saturday, June 16th. Below is a post from our wedding blog, in 2007, that announced our engagement and explains our relationship to the day.
Tania and I got engaged to be married this weekend on Saturday, June 16. It’s our unofficial anniversary. I guess it’s official now that a ring is involved? June 16 represents the day, six years ago, we started “hanging out.” We don’t know the exact day, but it was right around June 16. We know because June 16 is “Bloomsday,” a day I tend to celebrate much like St Patrick’s Day, Part Two. Anyway, I gave her a ring, asked if she would marry me, and she said, “Yes.”
That's the short version. Here's the long version:
“On June 16, James Joyce aficionados the world over celebrated Bloomsday. The day is named after advertising salesman Leopold Bloom, protagonist of Joyce's novel Ulysses. The entirety of this 700+ page book recounts one ordinary day, June 16, 1904, as various characters go about their ways in Dublin.”
Joyce and Ulysses mean a lot to us. Part of our month long Ireland vacation a few years ago was devoted to Joyce nonsense. We had our own odyssey trying to find the Martello tower that served as the opening scene in the book and which Joyce actually lived for a brief time.
Tania at the top of the Martello tower stairs.
Me freezing my ass off while doing my best impersonation of "stately, plump Buck Mulligan."
We also visited the James Joyce museum where the actual door from Leopold Bloom’s house at 7 Eccles St. is preserved.
And of course we went to a couple of pubs that appear in the story. This is not one of the pubs. This the pub in the Clarence hotel which is owned by U2. I was trying to take a photo of my pint of Guinness but this pretty little bird kept getting in my shot.
We’re very aware of our nerdiness.
We were supposed to have our Gentleman’s Hockey party this coming Bloomsday weekend, but Tania said, “No hockey on our anniversary.” So we decided that the weekend would be spent in the woods camping. Not the most romantic place in the world to propose, considering the fact that I hate nature, but it would have to do.
I decided to employ the ole “Router a Hole In a Copy of Ulysses and Place the Ring in the Hole” style of proposing. It’s cliché, I know, everyone does it, but I’m a traditional kind of guy. I practiced on an old math book I had hiding behind the stacks, and once I was satisfied the router actually worked on a book, I took out a copy of Ulysses and began flipping through it to find the page I wanted to propose on. I had originally intended to do it at the beginning of Chapter Two (because, you know, this is the second chapter in our relationship), but instead I went for page 55, Chapter Four, the beginning of Book Two, which begins with a giant M. Besides standing for “Mr. Bloom…” and “Molly” (Bloom’s wife), it also stands for “Marry Me.” Upside down it makes a nice W for “Will you?”
To read any Joyce, you kind of need one of the many annotations, compendiums, or notes to completely appreciate his genius and what he’s doing. Every chapter in Ulysses, for instance, besides paralleling a chapter in Homer’s Odyssey, is also represented by a variety of symbols. The “organ” for Chapter Four is the kidney, which Bloom is frying up at the beginning of the chapter. In ancient Jewish rites, apparently, the kidneys were regarded as “the special parts to be burned upon the altar as a gift to Yahweh.” Neither of us are particularly fond of kidneys, nor do we have a drop of Jewish blood in our veins (Tania, being German, is completely the opposite, as is our dachshund who, unfortunately, is decidedly anti-Semite), but if it’s good enough for a Yahweh ceremony, it’s good enough for our wedding. I’m sure we’ll have an argument about this, but I think we should serve kidneys at the reception. “Would you like the pork kidney, or the chicken kidney?”
So there’s that. I also like Chapter Four because right where I drilled the hole for the ring, Bloom’s cat is winding its way around his legs while he’s frying up the kidney. Gary! And I remember the first time I read that passage, I thought, “That is the best phonetic rendering of what a cat sounds like that I’ve ever seen on paper.”
—Mrkgnao! the cat cried.
They call them stupid. They understand what we say better than we understand them. She understands all she wants to. Vindictive too. Cruel. Her nature. Curious mice never squeal. Seem to like it. Wonder what I look like to her. Height of a tower? No, she can jump me.
—Afraid of the chickens she is. He said mockingly. Afraid of the chookchooks. I never saw such a stupid pussens as the pussens.
—Mrkrgnao! The cat said loudly.
Lastly, Ulysses is about Yes. The deconstructive philosopher Jacques Derrida even wrote an entire essay about it titled, “Ulysses Gramophone: Hear Say Yes in Joyce.” I’ve read it, but I couldn’t tell you what the hell he’s talking about. All I know is that the last line in the book, the last word even, is very famous: “Yes.” Which is kind of what I was going for.
Everyone in our expedition went on a hike except Tania and I. Fuck hiking. We are anti hiking. I had originally intended on popping the question at the waterfall at the campground we go to—it’s a very idyllic location, even a nature hater such as myself has to admire it—but to get there entails a short hike. And out of principle, we had silently vowed not to do any hiking of any sort. Plus we haven’t gotten any rain, so I don’t even think it would have been worth it to even walk up there anyway. The point is, their hike provided the perfect opportunity to steal away somewhere and pop the question.
“Wanna take the dog up to the end of the campsite for a short WALK?” I said. Strolling, walking, even scampering is allowed, but no hiking.
“Sure,” she said.
I had my little bike messenger bag with my new camera and the drilled out copy of Ulysses, laden with ring, inside. The ring fit snugly in the hole, but I had a rubber band around the book just in case. Carrying the full bag on a short walk was a little peculiar, but Tania didn’t say anything. We walked through the campsite commenting on all the sites we passed.
“Oh there’s the loud Asian family we almost had as neighbors,” Tania said pointing at a group of Asians unpacking. “It’s hard to tell if someone is really a boy scout these days,” she said as we passed a teenager in a boy scout uniform, “or if they just got it at a thrift store.”
I don't know how she does it, but Tania, even after a night of drinking in the dirt next to a fire somehow manages to look beautiful. She is simply awesome. Unlike Beckett who panted at the end of his leash and barked at imaginary devil rats. I love that girl. I tried to put my arm around her, but failed because I had dislocated my shoulder the day before in a croquet related accident. Yes, I dislocated my shoulder playing croquet. When we go camping we play “Rugged Mountain Terrain Croquet.” I don’t play golf, but Jason likens it to the Master’s Tournament that just went down at whatever that “gnarly” course is. Anyway, we’re totally gnarly. Extreme even. We had set up a couple of wickets on one side of a felled log. I went to climb over the log, but the bark gave way and I fell. I threw my arm up in the air and, POP! out of the socket. I don’t think I squealed, but I fell to the ground and instantly thought, “Arm out of socket! Very far from hospital! Shit!” But just as Tania arrived at my side, POP! it slid back into place all by itself. I don’t thank God for anything, but if I did, that would have been a perfect opportunity.
“Shit,” I said while walking beside her, “I want to put my arm around you, but I can’t lift it that high.”
“Aww,” she said.
My second choice, after the waterfall, for a place to pop the question was this little stone plateau above a creek and in the shadow of a miniature Yosemite-ish rock. I remembered it looking fairly majestic, but as we approached it was anything but. Just a bunch of dirt in the hot sun, not a tree in sight, and a small pool of still water below. “Shit,” I thought. I was already getting really nervous. I wasn’t really worried about her answer, we’ve talked about marriage a lot, but I just didn’t want to fuck it up. I wanted it to be romantic. I wanted it to be something we’d remember. But here we were in what might as well have been the parking lot at the county fair.
“Oh well,” I said, "it’s now or never.”
I got out my camera and took a few pictures to stall for time and kind of figure out how I was going to do this. She posed with Beckett for a couple. Once I got myself together, I said, “Well it is Bloomsday, after all. And I brought a copy of Ulysses.” Which I hoped still contained a very expensive ring.
“Oh god,” she said laughing.
“But this is a really special copy,” I said kind of shaking.
“What?” she said. She was suddenly paying attention because I think she sensed how nervous I was. It was about this point that everything gets kind of blurry.
“Yeah,” I stammered trying to take the rubber bands off. Once I opened it and found the page (the ring was there), I dropped to one knee and proffered her the text and the ring. “Because Book Two begins with the sentence, ‘Will you marry me?’”
The words felt weird. Not bad weird, good weird, but really heavy. “Our lives have just changed,” I thought. "Cool."
Tania was stunned. It took her a second to realize what was going on, but eventually she was able to choke out a, “Yes.”
Above us, on the trail we had just left, a boy scout troop was passing. I had always envisioned asking for her hand in a semi-private environment. I’m not one to do it in a crowd, or at a restaurant, but unfortunately that’s just what I did. “WOOOO!” the boy scouts screamed. “YEAAAAAH!” “WAY TO GO!” I didn’t even look up. I was too busy kissing my fiancée who had tears streaming down her face.
When we were done, she turned to the last page of the book and read the last words, “’…yes,’” she said, “’I said yes I will Yes.’”
This is tania before the ring. see how she's all bummed? lost? unwed?
Then you give her a ring and she pipes right up!
"Love you Tania!"
"Love you David!"
"We love each other!"