Early Days

April 14, 2011

Sarah and I met around April of 2005, when I was living in New Zealand and Sarah was a student at Notre Dame.  She was an editor for Design@ND, an alumni newsletter that comes out every few months and is sent to graduates to keep them updated on the goings-on of the Notre Dame Art Dept. She had been assigned a small “What ever happened to…?” column, and her design professor told her to “contact this guy named Allen; I think I heard he was working in New Zealand or something.”

We batted emails back and forth for a few weeks under the auspices of ‘interviewing me’, which was legit up to a point. But it wasn’t long until we started flirting each other up a bit. We both still went about our day-to-day lives, but ultimately in our idle moments or at the end of the day we found we kept returning to our computers to email each other. This whole thing started before Skype was a big thing, and Weta didn’t allow for chat clients like AIM for a while, so our main form of communication was emailing.

This communication went on for months…almost a year, in fact. I had been working on King Kong at the time, and when it came time to travel back to the U.S. for Christmas, I figured I could also spend some time in New York City, where Sarah had moved after graduation. Our first big date would be to the release of King Kong.

We realized too late that neither of us bothered to bring a camera with us on any of our adventures in the Big Apple, so Sarah decided to make us a hand-drawn photo album to commemorate the week.

(I should point out that in the caption of the first photo there, “The Sex” is Sarah’s hip chick abbreviation for “Sex and the City”,
the box set of which I had given her as a Christmas gift. )

When I returned to New Zealand, we knew we dug each other. We continued with the emailing for a good long time after that before Sarah eventually moved to New Zealand to be with me. During this long-distance relationship, we tended to invent lots of ways to amuse ourselves.

For one of my birthdays, a giant box showed up at his apartment from New York. In it were these books:

Not knowing what they were, I lifted the top one out of the box and opened it, to find this:

I was obviously pretty stunned–the books were handbound and beautifully designed.

At several points during our emailing period, I would make references to movies Sarah hadn’t seen. I kept a mental running tally of these, and eventually decided to try to come up with a way to share some of them with her. As a single-living dude with few external expenses, I had a overly-large dvd library. Again, this is before the time of rampant BitTorrent, so sharing something like a movie required a bit of cleverness. My Dad helped me make a small rugged wooden case that would survive multiple journeys around the globe, and the NYNZ Video Exchange was born:

The inaugural shipment of videos to Sarah included, of course, the movies I had worked on up to that point: a Veggietales movie, the Matrix sequels, Catwoman, and The Ladykillers.  I sent these off with no small degree of excitement, and waited with bated breath to hear back from Sarah.

Well, SEVERAL agonizingly-long weeks later, she casually mentioned in an email that she had watched one of the movies (the Veggietales one), and “…eh. I thought it was ok. I wouldn’t watch it again, probably.”

This response wasn’t really what I was hoping for.

So I stewed about it for a few days. I mean, of course she’s entitled not to like something, but on the other hand, this was my life, so if we were gonna get along she kinda had to care about it a little bit, right? In retrospect I was probably being a bit of a douche, but I nevertheless brought it up to her, and she responded with…silence.

So I waited. And waited.

A few weeks later, a small envelope showed up in the mail, containing these custom-designed report cards offering copious and comprehensive rankings and grades of each movie I’d sent.

Dating an artist is fun.