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Mr. and Dr. Buckaroo Banzai Meet

By Jennifer

pretty wife with short blonde hairWe met online.  Which amazes my coworkers for two reasons.

First, my hatred of all things digital is legendary.  I print documents out to read them, and edit them by hand.  My favorite way to transport data is what software engineers call “sneakerware” — that is, walking over a hard copy.  My “mood” on the internal instant message system reads “I find instant messages intrusive.”

Once they’ve gotten used to the idea of me dating online — editing and posting my dating profile photographs voluntarily — my coworkers gasp, “Weren’t you afraid?”

I do have a reputation as a bit of a James Bond, which is more a measure of others’ timidity than of my fearlessness.  After years of online dating, the only real risk I’ve faced comes from inappropriately young men persistently pinging me.  Which can happen at work, though for entirely different reasons.

But, yes, we met online.  His excuse is that he lived an hour and a half from civilization.  I don’t really have one, except that I felt like I needed to cast a wide net, and not fish at work.

pretty woman in the sonoran desert

Like many middle-aged folks condemned to the singles scene, we each had a colorful and varied work history.  I started out as a reporter and editor for a small Arizona daily, worked at an investment bank during the biotech boom, took a long swerve through academia including a stint as a Professor of Humanities, and ended up back in my hometown doing entirely unrelated work that only I find absorbing and exciting.  Ken, too, had worn an assortment of professional hats: jet engine mechanic, published wildlife and conservation biologist.  I remember thinking after our first date that we were both like the Eighties movie character Buckaroo Banzai: neurosurgeon, rock star, astrophysicist.  I also felt like he’d be an excellent companion for a post-apocalyptic road narrative.

aravaipa canyon arizona


On our third date, Ken showed me his molding pictures.  To understand just how impressive they were, you have to imagine the context: a weekend-long date on a nature preserve deep in the desert.  We’d already ridden around on an odd piece of farm equipment like a ruggedized golf cart, he pointing out various restoration projects and swaths of non-native invasive vegetation, me holding forth earnestly on Marx and Engels.  He’d led me sloshing up into the canyon through one of Arizona’s rare wet creeks, and shown me various rare desert fish (small, brown, and, to me, indistinguishable).  I have a solid practical knowledge of the desert rooted in childhood experiments with prickly pear fruit and mesquite beans, but he’d studied it and lived in it, and knew the Latin names of things.  I was impressed long before we got back to the ranch house for dinner.

desert pupfish in sonoran desert Arizona

The small, the brown, the indistinguishable.

As I browsed through his portfolio, I thought, “Wow, what incredible, expensive, high-end stuff for rich people!”  No matter how many times he repeated the words “affordable” and “easy to install,” I kept thinking, “Wow, what incredible, expensive, high-end stuff for rich people!”

It took me months to grasp exactly how much he knew.  Once we got engaged and he regretfully left the wildlife preserve, the finish carpenter side — the downright sexy handyman expertise of it — started to sink in.  I’m a sucker for specialized vocabulary, and the talk of pilasters and miter saws intoxicated me.   We realized that we shared not only a love for the desert, but a love for history.  We compliment each other intellectually — he can explain the architectural principles behind the Parthenon and name its parts, and I can answer with the story of the Battle of the Lapiths and the Centaurs and fun facts about  the Peloponnesian War.

We’ve been collaborating on the house for almost a year as of this writing, and I never get over my profound gratitude that we met, and that he actually cares what color the walls are.  He expresses childlike delight at everything I cook — every pizza is the best one yet! — and reciprocates by creating a lovely, orderly workspace.  Young love is touching — innocence, infants, that sort of thing — but to me it’s more moving to reflect on how we both came home after such a long search.

More articles by Jennifer >>

couple in love

One Response to Mr. and Dr. Buckaroo Banzai Meet

  1. Melissa February 9, 2013 at 9:05 PM #


    Thank you for this site. Recently I have completely left the outside work world and am embracing my dream: being a homemaker a.k.a. wife, mother of eighteen and nineteen old daughters, a six year old curly headed delightful son and caretaker of our self-built 5400 sq ft (including basement) home and 5.5 acres of which 1 acre is my beloved vegetable garden.

    We started building in late 2008 after purchasing the land I grew up on from my mother – well the 5.5 acres that was left after the highway dept. took the house and part of the acreage several years ago.

    Everyone was so surprised because my husband doesn’t “do outside”. He is a computer junkie and has worked programming for Y2K, tutoring and instructed at a community college. His hobbies are reading, rpg’s and singing on the worship team at church. My background is social services. HOWEVER, he was raised on a homesteaded farm and is brilliant. When he wants to learn something he just reads a book and then he teaches this student (me) what he learned – if she is interested in the subject that is. Who isn’t interested in saving 50 – 60% building their dream home, especially when the idea to study these subjects were given to him by headphones while he slept. jk. not really. well kind of, but I didn’t use headphones…anyway…

    We did hire out the pouring of the basement, the 850 ft driveway (500 tons of rock – seriously) and we both worked Monday – Thursday and hired two local Amish men on Fridays as well as when we were able to take some vacation days. I just wasn’t able to lift the 580 lb beam and I am afraid of heights (self-induced that is, like climbing on a 2 story roof). Oh and if mudding and taping isn’t your specialty, do like us and hire it out if you want it to look professional. We worked many evenings and all day Saturday and left straight from church (sometimes changing in the bathroom to our work clothes) on Sundays.

    I was the designer and general contractor while working full time. I sourced the materials, negotiated the pricing and kept us on track. We wanted to be energy and ecologically conscious as possible on our budget. We built with SIPS – structurally insulated panels. Someday I will have solar panels and wind turbines…pipe dreams…

    Our 85 year old neighbor has a degree in Agricultural Engineering. Everyday for 3.5 months I went in early and left work at 1 p.m. From 1:30 – 4 everyday he and I – well he dug the six foot trench with some huge piece of his personal equipment from his 1000’s of acres of farmland and hollered down directions to me where I layed the conduit/pipe for electric and water from the outer road all the way to the back of our house – over 1000 ft! Then we moved on to installing the septic system. we….he was 85 then and pretty agile, but he mostly operated the equipment and I was his “boy”, well “girl”. Then I showered super fast and got to my 2nd job at 4:30 or just thereafter and got the kids, some dinner and met the hubs at the building site by 6:30ish.

    The hubs read books on plumbing and electrical and then we tackled that. A friend came and checked the plumbing for us and we only had one small mistake that he fixed for us in 15 minutes. We did make several calls to another friend on the electrical, but now we are “the experts” among our friends and family and get those calls.

    We had the 2nd floor 95% finished and moved upstairs March 31, 2009. We are now 95% done with the first floor, the detached garage, the attached garage, stonework and siding, my bday present of a 100 ft zipline, the back deck and pool. No front porch yet and the driveway still needs work. 🙁

    All of that being said…the past two weeks of my very new dream life has been cleaning, painting (common areas were all beige to start out) and organizing. Today as I was painting the cheap dining room trim I thought there has to be a way to beef up the moldings and customize this dream home…hmmm I wonder if I could make several pieces of trim into something better??? I am not engineer-y and this dream life of mine to grow and can all of our food possible, maybe get another goat and build a barn and greenhouse out of free pallets has put the hubs in a bit of a longer work day – so I didn’t want to bother him. Plus this is my job now and I will be good at it!

    I thought about calling his dad because he can make anything from gunstocks to cabinetry to dulcimers and violins but he lives 8 hours away. I searched for a few hours and was ready to give up when I hit your site on google images. HALLELUJAH! I am starting in my walk-in pantry and upstairs hallway with your tutelage. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Please excuse grammatical errors – I am so excited but tired after just reading every page and every comment on your site for the last four hours! I must be excited – perfectionists do not type without editing.

    By the way, did I mention your meeting of the minds and souls is beautiful?


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