I wasn’t expecting the message. The niece of my former husband had a bag of watches to give me. The back story? For 15 years I was married to the incomparable, Erich Korte, aka, Video King, VK, EK, Forest Twig, or Rick, depending upon how you knew him.
I met him at a time in my life when I was sure that I was better off single. But Erich was different, and he was amazingly perceptive about human nature. For example, we were on our way home from our maiden voyage—a road/camping trip to the Oregon coast in my brand new strawberry-red sports car, during which certain bonding events had occurred; I was bored with the infamous needle-straight western freeway. I proceeded to test my new hot rod against a raucous convertible full of male teenagers. As the speedometer of my new hot rod ticked toward the 130 mark, Erich sat quietly in the passenger seat. As the car levitated ever so slightly off the road, he quietly asked, “Do you realize you are traveling at one quarter the speed of sound?”
Perhaps he said the speed of light, I really don’t know. The math, as usual, meant nothing to me. But his approach to a serious problem with a strong-willed woman at the wheel, meant the world to me. Anyone else questioning my driving choices on that day would surely have compelled me to push the limits even further and probably to disastrous consequences.
We were married on the vacant lot where our new home would soon materialize. It was a magical time. Erich was an artist, a man of vision, integrity, and bravado. He pushed my subdued tastes and together, we built a beautiful home and had a pretty great life together—until I got claustrophobia.
I had been right about myself. I’ am not marriage material. I am a lover of solitude, of quiet time; I prefer operating under the radar and eventually Erich’s bombast and delightfully boyish pranks wore me down. I skedaddled. I ran. I ditched him. There is no way to pussy foot around who I am and what I have done. To his infinite credit, Erich worked to maintain our friendship even after my betrayal.
Completely out of the blue, he died in his sleep in 2008, just a few years after we split and in the midst of his own rebirth into a new and exciting life and relationship. I guess that is why I got the call from his niece, who now lives in our former home with her own growing family. The house is about to undergo some major and long overdue remodeling, and since dear niece moved into a home that was filled with remnants of her uncle’s cut-short life, she is still trying to figure out what to do with the flat files filled with 40 year’s worth of genius and cupboards stashed with memories. Hence, the message that she had a bag of Erich’s watches that she didn’t quite know what to do with.
I jumped on that. The Video King had a number of wild and crazy obsessions. Toys and electronics ranked high on his list of acquisitions. But his watch fetish was unmatched. Said niece presented me with a huge sealed baggie, pregnant with watches. I unpacked them and counted. There were about 30, one for each day of the month. And I’m sure that is not all of the watches Erich owned. Somewhere a fake Rolex hugs the hairy arm of one of his admirers.
Aside from toys, electronics, and watches, Erich also enjoyed a huge community of friends, a core dozen or so who might be called groupies. Each summer, they come together for their own special Manley in Stanley—a big-boys weekend that Erich established years ago in the Sawtooth Mountains. This esoteric group of manly friends has continued the tradition of escaping the girdle of civilization: wives, kids, jobs, expectations, to simply enjoy each other’s collective creativity and grand camaraderie. I will present the bag of time to the Manly in Stanley crowd. They will have fun reminiscing. They will find clever ways to have fun with the collection. Erich will smile down upon them.
I am forever grateful to Erich for the memories and to his niece for her thoughtfulness.