Pamela and Clay

How We Met

We first met in 1986 when we lived next door to each other in adjoining houses in Madison, Wisconsin. Clay was in grad school and Pam was an undergrad. Our houses were so close that you could climb out the window of one and into the other. At the time, Clay was friends with Pam’s roommate… We knew each other to say “hi” when we passed but that was about it.

A couple years later Clay graduated and moved to Milwaukee. Pam’s roommate graduated and became a missionary in Morocco. Pam went on to grad school. 23 years passed.

Pam’s roommate came through the States on a visit and called a reunion, inviting Pam and Clay. For separate reasons including Clay’s house being nearly destroyed by a flood the day before, we almost didn’t attend. We did and were seated next to each other at dinner. At the end of the night, Clay said: “hey I think we should go out.”

Pam laughed.

I was persistent though and eventually Pam and I met up at one of my performances (I’m a part-time musician). That meet up turned into a date which turned into dating for eight years. When we surveyed across the 23 years in which we hadn’t seen each other we discovered that we had been going to the same church, the same restaurants, and bars, worked a couple blocks apart but never had met – until the universe decided we were ready.

Now, in 16 days we will marry on the eighth anniversary of that first date at the very same location as that first date.

How He Asked

The proposal was filled with issues. What started out as a pretty simple plan somehow tried to go off the rails. For two years I had been paying for a diamond as I wanted Pam to have a diamond that “guys could see from across a crowded bar.” As the end of payments approached I started plotting. The Santa Monica Pier is a special place for me, and for us so I thought about that for a while to figure out how it could go bigger.

First I looked into using the lights on the iconic Santa Monica Pier Ferris wheel to send my message. Great idea – but 15 grand! I came across a plane that has an LED banner under its wings. I thought “perfect.” I constructed my message, paid for the thing (not cheap, but not 15k either).

I hired a talented jeweler in New York to construct a ring of my own design and got that rolling. Our trip to L.A. was planned, the ring was ordered – what could go wrong? In a word – everything. The first thing that happened was that the jeweler called and indicated he had somehow ruined the ring and had to start over. He indicated there was no way to get the ring in time for the trip. I explained to him the whole plane thing – no dice. I hang up, dejected. What to do? I thought about rescheduling but that’s not easy given that we don’t live in L.A.

Proposal Ideas Santa Monica Pier

The next morning I got an email from FedEx that a package was on the way from New York and indeed the jeweler had basically stayed up all night to make the ring. It would get there just hours before our flight to L.A. But alas, it had to be signed for and I would not be home. I re-routed the FedEx to my office and indeed it arrived on time.

Off to L.A. When we land I’ve got a voicemail. “Sorry, the LED on the plane is broken – call us.” We figure out that they have another of these planes in San Diego and they’ll fly it up to L.A. for me. Second call. Can’t do that – FAA won’t let them fly past San Clemente without a permit and it takes seven days to get that permit.

After numerous calls, we couldn’t figure anything out. It’s now the day before the planned proposal. I sneak some time away from Pam and get on the phone with the plane people. Two choices – either I get myself and Pam down to San Diego or I could go with a “day banner” (the things dragged behind airplanes to lure beachgoers to EDM shows that night). San Diego was a problem inasmuch as it’s far away but more so because the Santa Monica Pier was chosen for very sentimental reasons – you can read more about that here.

I decided to go with a day banner. A few more calls. Can’t find one available. A few more calls. We found one. Last call (Pam is in the car – can’t answer). Call back. You have to shorten your message, it doesn’t fit on a day banner. Another call. Okay, if I change the time to 2:00 pm they can do it. I just need how to figure out how to get Pam to the end of the pier at exactly 2:00.

We go to the Santa Monica farmers market and I suggest walking out on the pier (something we do frequently). I’ve got it timed to just hit the end at the right time. As we start down the pier Pam observes a wedding going on on the beach and wants to stop. Clock ticks. tick. tick. tick. Finally, they wrap and I rush Pam onward. “Let’s stop and buy a bag for all this stuff we got.” Tick. tick. tick. tick. I look at my phone – 1:55 – we’re still a couple hundred yards from the end of the pier.

Pamela's Proposal in Santa Monica Pier

Finally, we’re on our way. 1:59 we hit the end of the pier. 30 second later I hear the plan from behind my head. It swoops past us and Pam sees it. Normally overly loquacious Pam goes completely mute as I produce her 3-carat ring.

We celebrated by killing a couple bottles of champagne at Ivy at the Shore and checking into the bridal suite at the Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica. Whew.