On a Sunday evening last November, Patrick Moberg, 21, a website developer, was in the Union Square subway station in New York City. “Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed this girl,” he says.“She had bright blue shorts and dark blue tights and a flower in the back of her hair.” New York’s fun if you’re a guy — the city’s lousy with gorgeous women. But this one was different. She was his perfect girl.
When the number 5 train pulled into the station, the two got on. “I was enthralled,” he says. “I noticed details like her braided hair and that she was writing in a pad. I couldn’t shake the desire to talk to her.”
He considered giving chase, but there’s a fine line between blind love and stalking. He thought of plastering the station with posters. Then a brainstorm: the Internet. “It seemed less encroaching,” he says. “I didn’t want to puncture her comfort zone.”
That night, the world had a new website: nygirlofmydreams.com. On it, Patrick declared, “I Saw the Girl of My Dreams on the Subway Tonight.” He drew a picture of the girl etched in his mind, along with a portrait of himself with this disclaimer pointed at his head: “Not insane.”
The website spread virally, and soon he had thousands of leads. Some were cranks, and some were women offering themselves in case he struck out.
Two days later, he got an e-mail from someone claiming to know the girl. He even supplied a photo. It was her. She was an Australian interning at a magazine, and her name was Camille. And she wanted to meet too.
Their first meeting was awkward. And why not? It was set up by Good Morning America. Like the rest of the media, GMA saw a great love story and pounced. But being sucked into a media maelstrom isn’t necessarily conducive to a nascent love affair. “There was a lot of uncertainty on how to act around each other,” Patrick said. And in the back of Camille’s mind, a nagging thought: Who is this guy? The media circus eventually moved on, giving the two a chance to talk without a microphone present.
“Everything I found out about her was another wonderful thing,” says Patrick. She was smart, funny and a big personality, a nice fit for this shy guy. “And,” he continues quietly, “we’ve been hanging out together every day since.”
Thinking back, he sighs. “It’s amazing everything went without a hitch.”
“I really can’t think of anybody who wouldn’t appreciate being met at the airport by a jazz band,” says writer Calvin Trillin. “I suppose there might be some people who are in the witness protection program.”
But Calvin’s wife, Alice, wasn’t some hood in hiding, and she would, he knew, most definitely love being feted by a jazz band.
The year was 1972, and Calvin was in Louisiana covering a crawfish festival. Back in New York, Alice’s parents were both ill, and she was coming down for some much-needed R&R. Calvin wanted to cheer her up. He called a friend at Preservation Hall about getting a band. But Jazz Fest was in full swing. All the good ones were booked. So he took what was left.
When Alice’s flight landed, she deplaned and walked smack into a wall of sound — brass, to be exact — tooting a rousing rendition of “Hello, Dolly!” For her. And she laughed.
“She saw it as a grand gesture. And I don’t think she cared that the cornet player was actually an antiques dealer.” In fact, he wasn’t even from Cajun country. He hailed from London. And the trombone player? Norwegian. They happened to be in town for the festival.
Calvin and Alice strolled arm in arm through the terminal, trailed by their personal band blasting out standards. Along the way, passengers fell in behind and began second-lining all the way to the baggage area.
“Usually not the most interesting of times, waiting for your bags,” says Calvin. “But they kept playing.”
Alice died a few years ago, but Calvin clings to the memory of that day. “She was a very engaged person,” he says. “Having a jazz band meet her fit her personality.”
So what if he couldn’t land a Satchmo or a Wynton Marsalis? As Calvin reminds us, “Imperfect gestures are still nice gestures.”
Aric Egmont knew he had to calm down or he was going to blow it. After all, who breaks out into a flop sweat doing the crossword puzzle? If he didn’t relax, he was sure to clue his girlfriend, Jennie Bass, into the fact that this was no ordinary Sunday Boston Globe. This was his marriage proposal.
The two, both 29 — he’s in communications, she studies public health — had dated for four years and never seriously discussed marriage. Why mess up a good thing? went the thinking. But Aric had second thoughts. And since they were fanatics, he says, proposing via the tiny boxes of a crossword puzzle “was a more natural idea than it might seem to others.”
So last June he contacted the Globe and told them about his idea. They bit. Aric fed Globe puzzle writers Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon (who also create RD‘s Word Power column) personal info to be turned into clues, then he waited … for four torturous months.
On the morning of September 23, having not slept the entire night before, Aric nonchalantly asked Jennie, “Want to do the crossword puzzle?” He bolted downstairs and out the door, grabbed the paper, then ran up to their bedroom. Climbing back into bed, the two assumed their normal puzzle-solving pose, with Jennie leaning against him. Almost immediately, she was struck by the number of clues that matched up with people and places in her life.
Twenty across asked: “Lover of Theseus.” The answer was Ariadne, whose namesake is a friend of Jennie’s. Seventy-three across: “One of the Judds.” Naomi, also Jennie’s sister’s name. Ninety-one across: “NASCAR driver Almirola.” Answer: Aric.
Aric began scanning ahead to where the big clue was. “I knew the moment was coming,” he said. And there it was. One hundred eleven across: “Generic proposal.” Clever, he thought, a wordplay on Jen and Aric. The clue next to it was “Winston’s mother.”
“Look at that,” said Aric. “Will you marry me, Jennie.'” He waited for a reaction. He didn’t get one. Jennie is a smart person, smart enough to know all about Theseus’ love life, but this was information overload. So Aric produced a ring and, quoting the Boston Globe crossword puzzle, asked, “Will you marry me, Jennie?”
After tears and shrieks and lots of “I love you’s,” Jennie said yes.
“I’m not the most romantic person,” admits Aric. “I think I was playing above my head on this one.”
Then Romeo adds, “Hopefully, this will satisfy Jennie for a while.”
As blind dates go, it was a good one. The year was 1950, and some friends figured that 20-year-old Grace Miltenberger might like their fellow Marine, Bob. They were right. “I thought he was the most handsome man in the world, and I fell right in love with him,” she says. It was mutual.
They dated happily for almost a year, then Bob up and disappeared. No calls, no visits and, most maddeningly, no explanations.
Not one to wallow, Grace enlisted in the Marines. Four years later, she and Bob hooked up again. Neither remembers the exact circumstances, but Grace does recall, “I still loved him.” And after a few months, her finger sported a big, fat diamond engagement ring.
Then it happened again. In October 1954, she got a call from Bob saying he couldn’t go through with it. No reason given; he just couldn’t do it.
“The not knowing why is what hurt the most,” says Grace.
As before, she collected herself. In 1958 she married another man, and over the years, the couple had five daughters. But the marriage was an unhappy one, and adding to Grace’s anxiety was a secret she kept from her husband. Taped to the underside of a dresser drawer was the engagement ring Bob had given her. After what he put her through, most people might have pawned it or tossed it in a river. But not Grace. “I never stopped loving him,” she says.
When her faltering marriage dissolved in 1969, Grace devoted herself to her daughters and to getting degrees in sociology and nursing. Fast-forward to 2004. The phone rings. A voice says, “Gracie?”
“I threw the phone in the air and said, “Oh, my God. It’s Bob.'”
He’d called under the pretense of finding out where the guy who’d introduced them was buried. Three and a half hours later, they hung up. During their chat, Grace learned that Bob was a widower after 48 years of marriage.
“I never figured out what happened to us,” he said at one point.
“I’ll tell you what happened — you dumped me.” But she wasn’t mad. She was thrilled to be talking to him.
On New Year’s Day, 2005, they became engaged over the phone. Six months later, Bob visited Grace at her home outside Tulsa. It was the first time they’d seen each other in half a century. He showed up at her doorstep, and, she says, “we just walked into each other’s arms like we’d always been together.”
On the day he popped the question, Bob said, “Now I guess I’ve got to get you a ring.”
“No,” she said. “I’ve got one.”
“Who gave you that?”
“You did, you big, dumb jerk. Fifty years ago.”
This time, Bob didn’t run away.