Call It Postmodern Love
Joseph Bartlett Fay and Daniel Wayne Garness, fittingly, met face-to-face inside an architectural landmark — now known as the Burns House, designed by Charles Moore, the postmodernist architect, on a hillside in Santa Monica Canyon in California.
“Dan is a residential and landscape designer,” Mr. Fay said. “I’m an architectural enthusiast.”
Six months earlier, in March 2012, the pair met via email through mutual friends, who thought, distance aside, they would be ideal for each other — Mr. Fay, 68, lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and Mr. Garness, 70, in Los Angeles.
In September, after a slow start — they emailed three months before speaking on the phone — Mr. Fay flew out to Los Angeles to attend a fund-raiser for the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation, of which he was then the executive director. He graduated magna cum laude with a degree in history from Boston College and received an M.B.A. from Columbia.
Mr. Garness invited him over while house-sitting for his friend, the late Leland Burns, a University of California, Los Angeles professor of urban planning, who owned the house at the time. The house is now part of the Charles Moore Foundation.
“I thought Joe was adorable, really intelligent, really adventurous, accomplished and worldly,” said Mr. Garness, the principal of Garness Studio, a residential and landscape design firm then in Los Angeles and New Orleans.
Mr. Garness graduated with a bachelor of architecture from Louisiana State University and Mr. Moore was his mentor while he pursued a master’s in architecture for two years at U.C.L.A. He also later worked at his firm, Moore Ruble Yudell, in Santa Monica.
Mr. Fay and Mr. Garness sipped drinks on the patio before going out to a local Mexican restaurant. Later, as they gazed at the full moon from a balcony overlooking the pool at the house, they had their first kiss, and agreed to see each other again.
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In November, they spent a weekend in Phoenix, where Mr. Garness, on his way back to Los Angeles from a project in New Orleans, accompanied Mr. Fay to a fund-raiser at the Arizona Science Center.
“I knew I was in love with him,” Mr. Garness said, and they soon realized they wanted to be together.
In July, Mr. Fay made the jump to Los Angeles after landing a job as the executive director at ThinkCure!, a children’s charity then supporting cancer research, from which he retired in 2017.
“How often do you have this happen?” said Mr. Fay, who drove five days cross-county in his Volvo with Bear, his 12-year-old black cat at the time. “You find the right guy and head off into the rest of your life?”
On weekends they visited houses Mr. Garness had renovated or built, from Oxnard to Hollywood; they went to museums, including the Getty, whose garden has every plant imaginable; and they ate at old-school restaurants like Musso & Frank Grill.
Mr. Garness, a fan of minimalist music, also took him to the Philip Glass opera “Einstein on the Beach” and they listened to works by John Cage at the Ojai Music Festival.
“I didn’t have to apologize for it,” said Mr. Garness with a laugh, who moved to Los Angeles in 1978, and was originally from New Orleans. “Joe had open ears.”
Mr. Fay stayed in a corporate apartment for a month, then for a year rented a little bungalow in West Hollywood. In 2013 they bought a 1926 English Cottage-style house in the Silver Lake area overlooking downtown Los Angeles.
In Spring 2018, Mr. Garness proposed on their roof with a ring made out of hammered silver quarters from a local boutique. Then, with an identical ring, Mr. Fay, who braved the heights, proposed to him.
In September 2018, they moved to the Irish Channel neighborhood of New Orleans, near the Garden District, about 45-minutes away from Mr. Garness’s 94-year-old father.
“We hear the river at night, the barges and the boat horns,” Mr. Garness said.
They live in an 1885 Italianate house three blocks from the Mississippi River, with their tabby cat Kerouac, and Ralph, a Clumber spaniel rescue they adopted in February. They try to make it to every Mardi Gras parade in their neighborhood, and also enjoy local jazz, regional theater productions and the Marigny Opera House.
“A good house is a snapshot of the world,” Mr. Garness said. “Equal parts shelter and dreams. Marriage is maybe a little like that too.”
On May 1, Richard Perque, judge pro tempore of the Civil District Court of the Parish of Orleans, officiated at the Civil District Court in New Orleans, with Mr. Garness’s father and his girlfriend as their witnesses.
They later celebrated, with about a dozen guests, in a friend’s courtyard in the French Quarter with Champagne and a lemon cake with butter cream from Bywater Bakery nearby.
“We were pleased to find tourists applauding as two older guys walked hand-in-hand being photographed on their wedding day,” said Mr. Fay. “It was completely unexpected.”
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