Summer Love, a Year Later – New York Times
A year ago, The Times explored summer love in 15 only-in-New-York permutations. There was new romance kindled on a Coney Island roller coaster and enduring love deepened in a Bronx nursing home. Readers encountered the musician Mike McGinnis and the dancer Davalois Fearon who had some previous entanglements to work through; a visiting Ukrainian couple who availed themselves of New York’s same-sex marriage laws; and a young Irishwoman who met her future husband through an ad for a roommate in The Village Voice. (It happens.)
A year later, the reporters of the “Summer Love” series returned to ask: How’s everybody doing? Great, said some. It’s complicated, said others.
Some had broken up or disappeared; some enjoyed sharing their stories once but declined to do so a second time. Romantic tales sometimes gave way to other powerful forces: money, real estate, career, health, collard greens and the Gorilla Species Survival Plan. Love conquers all, as Virgil noted. But sometimes, real estate conquers love.
Still, in matters of the heart and flesh, the return of summer is a time for both optimism and reassessment. Nothing captures the diversity of life in this city like a look at its lovers, happy or tormented in their passions. And perhaps nothing captures the challenges and rewards of New York like a look at how those lovers are faring a year later. — John Leland
Chemistry and Calamity
Laurie Smolenski texted Nico De Rosa to say good night recently.
Mr. De Rosa was in their apartment in SoHo, feeding his pit bull, Sofia, before crawling into bed.
Ms. Smolenski was boarding a catamaran on the Brisbane River to go to class on a cloudless morning.
Their relationship was one jump-started by calamity: The night they met, in the summer of 2012, Mr. de Rosa got into an accident on his Vespa on the Williamsburg Bridge. Just months later, they moved in together after a fire in his apartment, which involved a back injury for him.
“We were thrown into things pretty quick,” Mr. De Rosa said.
But in the last year, things have slowed down — way down. They have 9,627 miles and a 14-hour time difference to thank for that.
Ms. Smolenski, 32, accepted a fellowship last fall to pursue a master’s degree in peace and conflict studies at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. She left in February. Mr. De Rosa, 36, stayed in New York nursing a new back injury.
But if distance has slowed the pace of their romance, mobile technology has deepened their bond. “WhatsApp has kept us so close,” said Ms. Smolenski, referring to the mobile messaging service. “Often one of us is waking up when the other one is going to sleep.”
But it’s more than just that daily ritual.
“Nico has been so great,” said Ms. Smolenski. Having lived abroad before, including in Australia, “he was able to be particularly empathetic” as she adapted to a new place. “He got why I wanted to do it, and why it was hard at some points,” she said.
At first, she said, “Brisbane struck me as incredibly tacky and very 1990s.” Once she stopped comparing it with New York, though, she began to discover its charms: the sunlight, the extra sleep, trees full of crows and kookaburras.
Mr. De Rosa recalled the day he dropped Ms. Smolenski off at the airport.
“It’s one of those bittersweet experiences,” he said, “because your heart is broken and you’re sad. But that experience that your partner is going to have, you’re going to live through it vicariously.”
Ms. Smolenski has more than a year left to go in her program. Mr. De Rosa said it was very much worth sticking it out, to see what comes next.
“She’s really stuck by me, more times than she should have,” he said. “I’m just really lucky.”
The two will reunite for a vacation in Japan in June. — Annie Correal
Mr. and Mrs. Handball
Handball brought Dori Ten and Albert Apuzzi together, but it has been cruel to their bodies.
“The game takes a toll on your body, the way that jamming on the brakes of your car wears them out faster,” said Mr. Apuzzi, 60, one of the great players in New York City handball history.
He and Ms. Ten, 55, had been regulars at the Seaside Courts in Coney Island when they faced off in a dramatic challenge match in 1988 that began a relationship and eventually a marriage that has centered on handball. That match ended when Ms. Ten twisted her ankle and Mr. Apuzzi carried her off the court to his car, to hoots from the crowd.
The couple is known as Mr. and Mrs. Handball at the courts, where they still spend weekends. Ms. Ten officiates and plays in pickup games there, and Mr. Apuzzi sells equipment out of his car, helps run tournaments and works with younger players.
“Back then, you could bounce back from injuries in no time,” recalled Ms. Ten, who now pops Motrin pills like candy for her lingering aches and pains.
“It just takes longer to bounce back,” said Ms. Ten, a physician assistant who in the past year made the finals of the one-wall doubles nationals and keeps sharp in pickup games at the Coney courts.
During the past year, Mr. Apuzzi has been sidelined with a bad hip. He had hip resurfacing surgery on Tuesday and “came through like a champion,” Ms. Ten said, adding that he was already up and about, on crutches, and had to be talked out of visiting the handball courts the day after the operation.
Ms. Ten said Mr. Apuzzi’s increasing immobilization had presented a challenge to their relationship, which centered on exercising together and sharing handball glory as competitors. The more his hip hobbled him, the less they could enjoy working out together.
In the months leading up to the surgery, she said, “Our universe came to a complete standstill — it was nothing but going to doctors’ offices.”
“But going through the surgery has made us even closer,” she said, “because when you go through an illness, you have to lean on each other temporarily until you’re back in the saddle.”
She added, “When this is all over, we’re going to Hawaii and going hiking and swimming.” — Corey Kilgannon
Roommate Wanted, Mate Found
The runaway hit of the Summer Love series was the story of Kerry Ryan and John Juback, whose romance was kindled by a year spent as roommates in Manhattan, and tested by their age difference and the skepticism of her parents. The story, by Kirk Semple, was read by more than a million readers around the world.
The couple got so much attention after sharing their story that they declined to be interviewed for this update.
“Whereas we were very happy with last year’s article and got amazing responses from all over the world on it,” Ms. Ryan wrote in an email, “we’d rather keep the magic and not do any more.”
She added: “We loved spreading the love.” — Annie Correal
No one can accuse Michael King, 43, and Tifphani White-King, 39, of rushing into marriage. When they married last June, in St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University, they had been dating 23 years (with one break) and living together for over a decade. So, did getting married change anything?
“We were, I guess, already feeling as if we were married,” said Mr. King, who is a barber with a shop in South Jamaica, Queens. “I feel as if I might stand up a little taller now that we are married,” he added. “Her having my last name — it feels good.”
People ask Ms. White-King how married life is. “I always say, ‘I don’t know what took me so long. I wish I did it earlier,’” she said.
The two met young — he was 18, she was 15 — and fell hard for each other, even though they were very different. She was the straight-A student and sheltered only child of doting parents, living in the suburbs; he was the Queens boy with a difficult home life, who took five years to graduate from high school. But somehow, it worked, and it still works. She challenges him intellectually; his outgoing personality balances out her shyness.
Their first year of marriage has been busy. Ms. White-King, a partner at Deloitte Tax L.L.P. who advises international corporations on tax issues, has picked up new clients in South America, Asia and the Middle East. Mr. King renovated his barber shop and is thinking of opening a second one.
They have been so busy that they didn’t get around to taking a honeymoon until this month, when they spent a week in Singapore and Bali. Speaking before they left, Ms. White-King said they were looking forward to seeing the Singapore Zoo and the National Orchid Garden in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, as well as, of course, relaxing on the beach.
They are hoping to have a child but say that if it doesn’t happen, that will be all right.
“You put things out in the universe, and you hope it comes true,” Ms. White-King said. “We’re not spring chickens either, so whatever God has in store for us will be great.” — Kate Taylor
There was no big trip, no fancy party and no romantic dinner this May for their 25th anniversary. Instead, Margot Perron and Mike Feller celebrated in their usual understated way.
“I waved at him from the couch,” Ms. Perron said.
“Literally,” Mr. Feller confirmed.
Ms. Perron’s one sentimental gesture was to put on a pair of silver earrings shaped like the blossoms from a dogwood tree. She had worn a dress with dogwood blossoms woven into the lace at their wedding in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, the same place they met as newly hired city park rangers in the summer of 1983. It was where they became inseparable. It was the start of “Margot and Mike.”
Mr. Feller’s gesture was to tend the garden they share together. It is under a flowering dogwood tree in their backyard in northern Queens.
The garden and their marriage are still going strong. Both remain dependable, and comfortable, on a solid foundation.
Mr. Feller, 58, who retired two years ago as chief naturalist for the city’s parks department, decided to change things up this spring. He planted Jerusalem artichokes for the first time. And in a “seismic upheaval,” he switched to pole beans after years of favoring bush beans.
They have been snacking on the bounty and sharing it with their neighbors.
But the biggest change is to come this summer. The younger of the couple’s daughters, Opal, is going away to college, leaving them empty nesters. Ms. Perron, 57, president of Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy, said they had already gotten a taste of what it would be like when their daughters went to sleep-away camps. They took walks outside. They had more time for themselves.
“We’ve had rehearsals, but this looms large,” Mr. Feller said. — Winnie Hu
Julio Rodriguez is still cooking for Dolores Batista. The dishes change, but not the devotion that goes into each one.
Whatever he makes, she still tells him, “Oh, my favorite.”
But this year, she really does have a favorite: a savory Puerto Rican stew of codfish cakes, onions, peppers, potatoes, olives and capers.
Mr. Rodriguez, 72, a chef and cookbook author, has been experimenting with more vegetables and salads as they pursue a healthier diet. A new favorite is a white bean soup with collard greens, seasoned with bits of ham. Last fall, Mr. Rodriguez created a website, thecaribbeanchef.nyc, to share his recipes and passions.
The menu is not the only thing that has expanded. The couple welcomed a new grandson, Kai, to their combined families in February.
They remain unmarried, though they have lived together since 1999. Ms. Batista, who declined to give her age, sees that as nothing more than a technicality. “I think we’re lifers,” she said.
Mr. Rodriguez added that he would still like to get married someday. “If it doesn’t happen, we’re still together,” he said. “That’s the important part. She still brings a smile to my face.”
Ms. Batista, an insurance agent for Allstate, had an unusually busy year at work. With Mr. Rodriguez at her side, she took a break this winter with a seven-night Princess cruise to Mexico. She relaxed with a massage and a facial. He sang for 600 people in a karaoke contest with a live band. He came in second and won a bottle of Champagne.
For a change, Mr. Rodriguez had dinner cooked for him. The ship’s head chef, after learning that Mr. Rodriguez, too, was a chef, would check with him to make sure the food was up to his standards. “He was happy,” Ms. Batista said. “He was like the food critic.”
“The food was excellent,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “I gained about six pounds in a week.” — Winnie Hu
They’re With the Band
The various couples in this four-person love story are still together, even if distance has posed an obstacle to much romance. Two members of the quartet have been on the road for much of the fall, winter and spring.
But first, it’s necessary to explain how the two men and two women even know each other, and how they all connect, and how they ended up in Brooklyn. Nate Quiroga, 29, met Mandy Blouin, also 29, in Seattle in 2007, the summer after their sophomore year in college.
Benjamin Verdoes, 34, met Ifrah Ahmed, 25, at an elementary school in Seattle in November 2010. Mr. Verdoes was a substitute teacher; Ms. Ahmed was a tutor, helping students from her native Somalia strengthen their English.
About a month later, Mr. Verdoes and Mr. Quiroga, both musicians, started playing music together. Eventually they formed a two-man band, Iska Dhaaf, which in Somali means, roughly, “Let It Go.”
The two couples — or is it three? — started spending holidays and evenings together.
But Ms. Ahmed had a dream, to be a lawyer specializing in human rights. She was accepted by several law schools, including her top pick, the City University of New York School of Law, which was far away from Seattle.
Everyone decided to follow Ms. Ahmed, and in the summer of 2014, all four moved. Now the two couples live a 15-minute walk apart in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Now, for the update: Iska Dhaaf has spent much of the past eight months on the road. Mr. Quiroga and Mr. Verdoes spent November in Paris before going to Berlin in December. Ms. Blouin, a web designer who has also been doing portraits, visited over Christmas; Ms. Ahmed joined for New Year’s. “We get our little fix now and then,” Ms. Blouin said.
This year, the men spent a bit of time in Brooklyn before hitting the road again, playing a few weeks in Los Angeles before touring up the West Coast.
“I miss him for sure, but he’s pursuing his dream and I’m doing mine,” said Ms. Ahmed, who is about to start an internship at the Center for Constitutional Rights, focusing on human rights.
The band released its second album, “The Wanting Creature,” on May 20, and was scheduled to play the Sasquatch! Music Festival at an outdoor amphitheater in Washington State on Memorial Day.
Mr. Quiroga admits that he’s spent more time with Mr. Verdoes in the past eight months than with Ms. Blouin. “It’s very true,” Mr. Quiroga said. “It’s a bit bizarre in that sense. Benjamin and I have had to share many a bed.” — Kim Barker
Ann Iervolino, 58, and Peter Cipolla, 59, have been together for a while now. How long is a while? Almost nine years.
Nine years of playing on the Marine Park bocce courts, of walks on the beach, of Italian dinners, of goodnight calls. Nine years of living apart: They are each caring for an aging parent.
Nine years, Ms. Iervolino sometimes reminds Mr. Cipolla, without a ring. “Status quo,” she reported recently, a year after The Times wrote about them.
How does she feel about that?
“Not gonna say,” she said. “No comment.” — Vivian Yee
Ashwini Chawla has one year of college left, and she is excited to see what her relationship with her boyfriend will look like in the adult world.
Ms. Chawla met Sanam Wadhwani about three years ago when they were counselors together at a camp in Kerhonkson, near Poughkeepsie. She was just 17 and he was 19, and they were paired together for an icebreaker event on the first day.
They stole moments together to get to know each other. After camp, they grew close very quickly as Mr. Wadhwani grappled with the death of his father. Ms. Chawla was able to meet him before he died.
Mr. Wadhwani will graduate from Hofstra University in the fall with a degree in marketing, and Ms. Chawla, a student in the Macaulay Honors program at City College, said he was considering moving to Miami. He spent time there with his family growing up, and Ms. Chawla said she was game to join him in that balmy city.
“I love it,” Ms. Chawla said. “I’d move there in a heartbeat.”
Mr. Wadhwani, she said, plans to get a job right out of college. She is deciding between medical school and seeking a master’s degree in biology, and if they move to Miami she would probably take a gap year to get settled, she said.
In Miami, she said, they can test out what it will be like to live together and depend on each other day to day. They want to see what it might be like if they were married, she said.
They plan to start by getting a puppy, she said. — Elizabeth A. Harris
A Good Ride
Love, as perhaps you’ve heard, can be a roller-coaster ride.
Last summer, two college kids named Lisa Guerrera and Rich O’Flanagan laughed on the boardwalk and screamed on the Cyclone roller coaster at Brooklyn’s Coney Island, a date night destination for a pile of decades.
This winter, they broke up.
Ms. Guerrera and Mr. O’Flanagan were a year apart at Oceanside High School on Long Island, but they did not meet until just after Mr. O’Flanagan graduated.
In a high school movie, they would have been an unlikely couple — he, a football star, and she, the president of the mock trial debate team. In life, they got along. They spent some time together and started dating.
But they are young. She was living in Harlem and he on Long Island, and they attended different schools. They grew apart. She went on a study abroad program in Melbourne, Australia, for a few weeks last winter, and when she came back, the distance between them was finally too great.
“We just kind of moved in separate directions,” Mr. O’Flanagan said. “It just wasn’t something that worked, that’s all. But we ended on good terms.”
They were together for more than three years, and they still keep in touch.
This summer, Mr. O’Flanagan, now 22, plans to go backpacking by himself for a few weeks in Iceland. Ms. Guerrera, 20, will be in New York, doing research on molecular compounds and taking linear algebra. — Elizabeth A. Harris
Best Parts Stay the Same
When you’ve been together 75 years, one more year can sometimes seem like just another ring in the trunk of a very large tree.
You slow down. Time speeds up.
Arthur and Selma Bachner, cheerful, 90-ish lovebirds who flew their childhood nest in the Bronx and returned to live in a nursing home, have mostly stayed put, apart from a day trip to the Hamptons and a granddaughter’s New Year’s Eve wedding at the Pierre.
But their life has not been uneventful.
They made their first friends since moving to the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in the Bronx in 2014. “The husband’s in the early stages of dementia,” said Arthur, 91. “The wife is more or less confined to a wheelchair. We talk, we read, we kibitz.”
Arthur went to the gym the other day, for the first time, and rode an exercise machine — “the one where the arms go back and forth and the legs go up and down.” Selma is knitting a sweater for her 3-year-old great-granddaughter.
And last month, they met Bill Clinton when he came to stump for his wife. “He shook my hand!” said Selma, who just turned 89. “He said, ‘Hello, Selma, how are you?’” (“What a glad-hander,” said Arthur.)
Selma, born just seven years after women won the right to vote, is looking forward to electing one to run the country. Or, failing that, to emigrating. “If Trump becomes president,” she said, “I’m looking for another country to go to. Either Israel or Canada.”
It is a given, when you’re 90, that change will seldom be for the better. Arthur’s macular degeneration is accelerating. He’s responding by reading more — a book about the Koch brothers, detective novels. “It’s the fact that I’m eventually not going to see anymore,” he said. “I want to catch up.”
Selma, more troublingly, has been having infections. “They feel that if it’s not operated on, I could go into septic shock,” she said. “The doctor said he’s never operated on anyone my age.” An anesthesiologist will decide whether surgery is safe.
The best parts of their life remain unchanged: All day, every day, they are together.
“I am blessed, really,” said Arthur. “I wish everybody had a wife like I have.”
“You know,” Selma said, “we’ve had a wonderful life.” — Andy Newman
Modern Dance, With Clarinet
The first time Mike McGinnis, a musician from Maine, danced with Davalois Fearon, a ripped modern dancer, he said he moved like the “Tin Man before he had oil.”
Their slow-burning love evolved over three-borough dates and a desire to be like John and Yoko, or Frida and Diego (without the fighting).
And the extemporizing continues.
For their wedding last August, the couple staged “DavaMike Presents” at an artists’ space in Bushwick, Brooklyn, making the traditional walk down the aisle blindfolded. Ms. Fearon groped the air in a dramatic ballet as she followed the sound of Mr. McGinnis’s clarinet through the room. They exchanged vows in a ring ceremony officiated by the choreographer Stephen Petronio (Ms. Fearon’s boss).
On a recent evening at their favorite rooftop bar under the Empire State Building, Mr. McGinnis said his wife had “loosened” him up and taught him the importance of sleep. But the biggest bonus, he said, is having an in-house “art therapist.”
Mr. McGinnis, 43, had talked for years about uniting two of his jazz heroes to record an album. She pushed him (“in the right way,” he said) to get rolling on it.
Ms. Fearon, 32, said she got sick of hearing about it and told him to “own his idea.”
“Nothing tried, nothing done,” she said, repeating a mantra she learned from her mother.
In January, the ensemble will make its debut at the Joyce Theater with “Consider Water.”
For the score, Mr. McGinnis recorded ambient sounds while on their honeymoon in the rural Jamaican town where Ms. Fearon had lived in a house without running water.
For the choreography, Ms. Fearon integrated the hip-hop and reggae “that live in my body,” with “the European lineage” of her classical training.
“I had been brainwashed to believe that only white males could be choreographers,” she said.
But her husband, who braids classical strains and jazz in his work, encouraged her to be more “avant-garde.”
“I think that I have become more of who I am through his support,” she said. — Emily S. Rueb
As if it weren’t hard enough being in a long-term relationship with a 500-pound gorilla, Suki has had health issues since she last appeared in these pages. She is one of five love interests or, less anthropomorphically, procreation mates involved with Ernie, a 33-year-old silverback gorilla and leader of their troop at the Bronx Zoo.
Last summer, Suki gave birth. But she suffered what Patrick Thomas, the general curator of the Wildlife Conservation Society, termed a “retained placenta,” and was anesthetized so veterinarians could remove the placenta and cut the umbilical cord.
When she awakened, Suki was disoriented and angry, Mr. Thomas said, refusing to nurse the baby. In her place the zookeepers bottle-fed the newborn for months.
The daily feedings were done near the troop so the baby would grow up seeing, hearing and smelling gorillas. Ernie and Suki — much like human parents hovering over an incubator in a neonatal unit — would often stop by to watch the feedings.
The good news is that the baby gorilla, Njemba, has become integrated into the troop. Suki has put aside her anger issues to become a nurturing mother. She passes halcyon days with Ernie and his other mates — Julia, Layla, Tuti and Kumi — that are filled with child’s play, heads of lettuce, oranges and yams.
Visitors to the zoo keep asking when Ernie and his troop will produce another baby gorilla.
The answer to that is out of the gorillas’ hands as well as the zookeepers’.
To keep the North American zoo population manageable and ensure a healthy genetic mix, gorillas aren’t permitted to procreate until their keepers get the go-ahead from the scientists who run the Gorilla Species Survival Plan for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, based in Cleveland.
To date, except for the Cavaliers and the N.B.A. playoffs, zoo officials report that there is no news from Cleveland. — Michael Winerip
For Richer, for Poorer
The swing dancers Katherine McClintic and Caleb Wiese were on the cusp of tying the knot last year at Central Presbyterian Church. They did, and then danced until 2 a.m. at a reception for 300.
She was 24; he was 27.
“Even my parents danced, which was weird,” Mr. Wiese said.
Nine months later, in their Upper Manhattan apartment, they were still playfully affectionate, but some things had changed. Ms. McClintic, who was working for a tech start-up, lost her job and now works part-time for her church while auditioning for dance roles; Mr. Wiese, who was finishing a graduate program in mathematics, decided he did not want to become an academic after all. He’s still figuring out what to do instead. In the meantime, he’s tutoring math students at coffee shops.
Both say the financial uncertainties have brought them closer together.
“Everything’s wishy-washy, but I always have Katherine,” Mr. Wiese said. “That’s something that’s not up in the air. If we were still dating, it’d be more crazy.”
Ms. McClintic said she had to adjust to being home together. “Normally when people are around, I’m like, hey, let’s do things. It took a while for me to just chill out. Now I look forward to it.”
After the wedding, they wanted to travel to the south of France, but without steady jobs, they visited Mr. Wiese’s parents in Florida instead.
They haven’t been swing dancing much lately, because Ms. McClintic has regular dance classes at night. But with the warm weather that may change.
“Now there’s no reason not to go to the Lower East Side at midnight,” he said.
“We should go tonight,” she said. “We could totally go.” — John Leland
An earlier version of this article misstated the complications involved in the birth of a gorilla in the Bronx Zoo. The birth was natural, not chemically induced. However, the mother gorilla had to be anesthetized to remove the placenta.
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