It was time; the plan was set and I needed to get Suzanne outside away from the crowd and the music. No need to put our coats on because it was barely 30 degrees inside the rec. barn, even with all the stereo equipment and young warm bodies dancing; we were already in our winter gear. I waved at Roger and he took over the DJ duties while I grabbed Suzanne and headed for the door. As we stepped through the door I felt the ice crystals instantly form in my nasal passages. The snow crunched loudly under our feet as we made our way down a path to a quieter spot. The winter night was sparkling with ice crystals and the trees were all dressed in their own parkas of light fluffy snow. I knew Roger would be stopping the music for the countdown. It was New Year’s Eve 1978 and it was colder than anything I had felt up to that point in my life; It was a chilling -10 degrees as the sound of Dire Straights, Sultans of Swing pounded in the crackling night air. The music stopped and I drew in a breath. My lips tingled as ice crystals formed on the tips of my mustache and the edges of my teeth. I looked at Suzanne as she looked back, slightly puzzled and a bit irritated by having to stand in a random frigid storefront doorway. We stood face to face, our foggy breaths dancing together in the sparkling air. I had already gone over all of the prerequisites with her; where we would live, a budget plan, a roadmap for the future with diagrams and ledger sheets, so I was sure I knew what her answer would be. As the countdown began… I realized I was asking her to marry a guy who was partially supporting his way through college as a partner in a mobile disco business; what could go wrong?
The mobile disco, which was known as “Irving Enterprises”, was something my friend Roger had been doing since high school. He started by carting his home stereo from place to place, working out various methods of making home turntables mix out segues between songs. Out of high school Roger decided to follow his girlfriend Cristie to Eugene where she was attending school. Suzanne and I moved down there too, to the University Inn in 1978, to attend the University of Oregon. The UI was a dorm that catered to older and more serious students; Suzanne, who graduated high school with honors, was serious; I guess I was older. Roger lived in an apartment just a couple blocks away. There was just enough room for him, a couch, a table and two “homemade” exponential folding horn speakers; each one the size and weight of a refrigerator. There was also a crazy poster of dogs playing poker which lives in my mind, much like a faint scar.
One particular night Roger, Suzanne and I were having a little party in that little apartment, which involved Micky’s Big Mouths and lots of hand waving story telling; it was awesome. Roger spend a good amount of time telling about his mobile disco business and the intricate physics of his home made speakers, when Suzanne suddenly announced that she had to have a Dilly Bar from the Dairy Queen just up the street. Now Roger and I were not all that experienced at drinking beer but we had tons more experience than Suzanne; she had just finished her 2nd beer. As I recall, there was some discussion that the idea of walking 3 blocks to the Dairy Queen in our current condition was well, just bad! …but Suzanne announced her determination by proclaiming she didn’t need any escorts. She up and walked out the door and left Roger and I looking at each other. After about 2 minutes, being a couple of dorks drinking beer, we cooked up this idea to keep an eye on her, from a distance. We decided to spy on her from a parallel street one block north of her route in order to make sure she was OK; without tipping her off to the fact that we were making sure she was OK; point of clarification: nobody was keeping an eye on us. It didn’t take long to get to the Dairy Queen 3 blocks away. Using a shortcut, we caught up with her and found a spot behind a tree so we could survey the situation without being noticed. Soon we spotted Suzanne pacing up the street. She went to the window and placed her order, constantly giggling as she made Dilly Bar hand gestures. That’s when we noticed a security guard slowly walking up behind her. Now none of us are sure to this day why he took notice of Suzanne but he was definitely on to something. Maybe it was the hand gestures, or maybe it was the two spying, shadowy figures, behind the tree across the street? We just sat there trying not to giggle too loud while being “inconspicuous”.
About the time Suzanne got her Dilly Bar she turned to notice the shadowy man approaching her. She got spooked and immediately started down the street at a fast pace while looking back at the guard. Roger and I could see she was making pretty good time so we dashed back down our “parallel” street. We stopped at the first block and waited, looking down the block for her to cross… where was she?… “crap! she must be ahead of us”… Now in a bit of panic we decided to run to the next block and look down the next street. Just as we got there, we spotted her. She was moving quickly and was nearly back to the apartment. We had to rush in order to get back before she did. Roger and I sprinted across the dark street for an alley that lead back to the apartment. I ran like a gazelle into a dark shadow where a large oak tree blocked the street lights. I bolted behind the dim outline of a parked car toward the sidewalk. That’s when I felt the pain; sharp, tearing and instant, cutting through any benefits a few beers could provide… Then there was nothing. My left foot folded like a cheap card table against the curb and I instinctively tucked my shoulder for a summersault. Just like all those football drills in high school, I neatly rolled and came right back up running. As it turned out, the momentum from the roll caused me to take 3 very painful steps on my left ankle before I wildly hopped to a stop. Roger turned when he heard me squeaking and grunting. “what’s the matter?” he said… “I’ve twisted my ankle”… He grabbed my arm, “We gotta hurry if we’re gonna beat Suzanne to the apartment” he said, while giggling like a school kid playing hooky.
I hobbled up the stairs behind Roger and collapsed on the little couch between the two huge exponential horns. Seconds later Suzanne came bursting through the door holding her hands over her face. Sensing something was wrong we got up to help pull her hands down; Roger blurted, “Holy crap, that’s gonna be a huge black eye.” Suzanne started to cry and began her halting explanation… “I saw this security guard and he was following me.” She sobbed… “I ran… and I looked back to see if he was still following…” she paused for a halted breath… “and then when I turned to look where I was going… I ran into a sign post” she let out her breath in a string of sobs… “Do you really think it’s going to be a black eye?” she asked… I nodded my head as I turned to sit back down, but I had to hop a couple of times in order to do so. “What’s the matter with you?” Suzanne asks. “I twisted my ankle” I admitted. She looked at us both, like all smart folks do, when they’ve figured out they are in the presence of dumb asses. “We sort of followed you to the Dairy Queen” I admitted… with that there was no choice but to come clean. I detailed our stupid little plan to keep an eye on her without her knowing and she did her best to avoid blaming all the injuries on us; which was good because there was little we could do to defend ourselves. So there we sat, Roger looking at the two of us, youthfully inebriated and injured as a result. Roger suddenly starts pulling on his beard with his thumb and forefinger as if tugging for a smile; His eyes lit up. “You know, this was a lot of fun; do you want to be a partner in a mobile disco?”
That was how the mobile disco became part of our young lives. I would develop marketing materials while Roger would schedule bookings; then we drive to the venue, set up sound and lights, DJ the party, tear it all down and drive back. Suzanne came along but often would get bored watching everyone else having fun. There was however, one party we ALL enjoyed. Two to three times a year the Black Butte Ranch Recreation Department hosted youth dances in their rec. barn. They would put us up in the Rec. Room for the night, with pool tables and video games. We would also be treated to a dinner at the Black Butte Restaurant. It was a great time that included playing in the snow, and skiing at Hoo Doo Ski Bowl.
Suzanne and I had been dating for nearly 3 years which seems like a lifetime for people so young. But I knew in my heart that she was the one; and I was pretty sure she felt the same for me. I just needed the perfect setting. A snow covered setting on New Years Eve seemed perfect and a booking for Black Butte provided the perfect opportunity; I went shopping for a ring.
December 30th, 1978 the snow began to fall in Lebanon and as I mentioned before, I had a plan; I reached in my pocket to make sure it was still there. The snow was the light and fluffy kind that swirls, “oh so innocently” on the ground… which meant it was friggen cold. We needed a rig to haul our gear over the pass so we stopped by my folks place and borrowed my dad’s old 1971 yellow, two wheel drive Chevy pickup. We loaded the exponential horns and any other gear that could stand the cold under a tarp. My dad, Roy, was a very strong man that day. I could see the worry on his face as Roger, Suzanne and I piled into the front seat of that old truck; just as the ground was turning white. We were headed up highway 20, over the pass to Black Butte Ranch; Into the jaws of winter we were treading in stupid youthful abandon. This could have easily been the kind of thing you read in newspapers a couple of days later. With the heater on full, we moved steadily through the city of Sweet Home and beyond Foster Reservoir. The snow was coming down quite hard. Hard enough that we had to slow down so the windshield wipers could keep up. Just a few miles out of Sweet Home we began the slow steady climb up the pass. We made it about 5 miles past Sweet Home when we decided we needed to chain up in about 6 inches of powder snow. There was no other traffic, and we had 60 miles and 3900 feet in elevation to the pass.
In our youthful oblivion there was no panic, but there was an intense amount of concentration. The plows were not keeping up and soon our only guides were the snow markers along the road. I actually thought for just a moment, this crazy thought… “if we die up here my dad is going to kill me”. The good news and the bad news was, it was cold and the snow was light and dry. As deep as it was the snow kept blowing aside as we drove through it. It was slow going but we did keep going… all the way to Black Butte Ranch. Rather than sleep in the Rec. Room we hooked up with our friend Steve, at his girlfriend’s parent’s condo; they looked plenty surprised to see us. I guess considering how late it was, how cold it was, and the amount of snow coming down, they figured nobody in their right mind would drive up there that night. The underestimation of the ignorance of young people should have doomed mankind long ago. But hey, there we stood in that doorway grinning like it was no big deal; the headlines would have to find other examples of Darwin’s theory.
The next day Black Butte woke up under the cover of several feet of snow and a temperature reading that was so low single digits would’ve been describing it as bit warmer than it was. After a quick breakfast, Roger, Steve and I drove over to the Rec. Barn and started unloading equipment inside. It was cold in that barn but at least there was no wind chill. Roger was concerned about condensation in his equipment as it warmed up but there wasn’t much we could do about it. All the lights were strung up and the sound system was checked and rechecked. The kids started showing up and the show was on.
And so there Suzanne and I were moments before the stroke of midnight, looking into each other’s eyes. The countdown commenced and I took her gently into my arms. At midnight, this young man who could hardly know at that time, the magnitude of what he was doing, gave his love a very long kiss. The ice crystals glistened on our skin but that kiss was so warm and unencumbered of worries. As I pulled back, I smiled and wished her a Happy New Year. Then I bent down on my knee… sort of; it was too cold to put my knee all the way down OK? I reached in my pocket for the little box and held it up to her. “Will you marry me?” I asked. She smiled down at me and helped me up from the frozen ground. “Yes” she said, “I will marry you”. We kissed again for a long while in that doorway as the music and the celebrations released a rain of ice sparkles into the chilled air all around us.
As I think back on that night, I realize my luck in that particular pivot of my life. I suppose many couples can look back and say they were crazy in their youth, let alone in love. Many would say we were just kids and didn’t know any better; much of that is true. But I would tell you to this day that I cannot discount our feelings back then any more than I can now; and we did sit down and plan together beforehand; discovering we were compatible in the process. The secret to love is not based on magic spells or magical places; although if you pay attention you may see a little magic along the way if you choose to do so. The partnership that Roger and I struck up to run a crazy little mobile disco eventually faded into the past but it provided for one of the most magical settings of my life. When Suzanne and I look back on that crazy journey, we shake our heads and laugh. We were so young and so in love. No one can tell you for sure that if you pop that question, live your life and do your best, that you’ll remain partners for life. All I can tell you for sure is that on that very cold New Year, two teenagers braved a mobile disco adventure and made a bargain in the cold brisk air of a sparkling snowscape; I am still so very thankful, that in the midst of cheers for the New Year, she said yes.
Copyright 2014 Darrel Boyd db