I can’t fully express my wonder at having Alene’s life opened up to me on September 11, 1999. For one thing, I’d never visited Denver, so I was even fascinated when Alene and her friend found themselves stuck in traffic. That weekend, I spent a lot of time in my easy chair, pretending to be napping. The time difference was now seven hours, so I was able to enjoy Alene’s afternoon in the evening at my end. On Sunday afternoon, they went for a hike in a nearby state park and I was a bit disappointed at not seeing much wildlife, but the views were terrific.
On Monday, I enjoyed checking in with Alene at the conference, although I didn’t understand much of the proceedings. I was busy myself, preparing for another business trip to Seattle which would also be my last in that capacity. I made sure to be around when Alene presented her paper. She was very nervous beforehand, repeatedly checking her watch — which decided to die seven minutes before she was due up! She did a great job though and I could see that everyone in the audience was listening intently.
Alene’s friend wanted to take a day off from the conference to drive up into the Rocky Mountain National Park. I was flying to Seattle on Thursday and urged her to do it that day — so that I could watch while I was on the plane. I forwent the in-flight entertainment in favor of Rocky Mountain scenery, and this time we saw plenty of wildlife — including one incredibly presumptuous marmot at a scenic overlook.
Friday saw me busy all day, but I was in Seattle, for now just one hour behind Alene. I did not bother to go up to Capitol Hill for coffee. The source of that attraction was now known to me. Alene used to stay with friends on Capitol Hill when she visited Seattle and that was the Starbucks she went to. The August 11 trauma she experienced had taken place during the most recent visit.
In the morning, I just took coffee in the Olympic Hotel, but in the afternoon break I felt like stretching my legs so decided to walk down to the waterfront. As I was waiting to cross at one intersection, a bus waiting to turn through blasted its horn at me. The driver was Allen, and he greeted me as though I were a daily feature of his routine. As he got moving, he was rewarded by the poles of his trolley bus coming detached from the overhead wires and he came to a halt. He gestured at me out the window and jokingly insisted it was all of my doing! I hung around to watch him reattach the poles to the wires — and was impressed at how easy he made it look (I’ve seen other drivers get quite exasperated.) Allen just gave me a knowing grin and a wink. The bus went on its way — and so did I.
I was in Seattle through Sunday morning, with just the one meeting on Saturday morning (a rather secretive affair, hence the irregular timing.) Alene spent Saturday traveling home from the conference, and by the time I was done with my meeting, and a very long lunch, and an unexpected conference call, she was driving home from the airport. I was about to see where she lived — and it was then that we really started our life together.