10/16/2014 08:18 am ET Updated Dec 16, 2014

The Girl Upstairs and the Boy Next Door

The first time he saw the girl upstairs, his heart jumped.

Big blue eyes, wide cheekbones, and that catlike way of moving some girls are born with.

Yeah, you're born with it, all right. It's one of those unteachable things, and Charlotte Simonson had it.

Suffice it to say my Uncle Sal was probably in love before the new tenants were even unpacked on the upper floor of my grandparents' two-family brick house on Shepherd Avenue.

"Sal saw Charlotte, and that finished him," was the cheerful way my grandmother put it.

What she meant was that his life as a free man was over, even though he was a drop-dead handsome teenager as well as a baseball star, with loads of single girls to choose from all over Brooklyn.

So naturally, he goes and falls for the girl upstairs.

You save a fortune in carfare and shoe leather when you date somebody who lives one flight up. Going steady, Sal and Charlotte spent endless evenings canoodling on their mutual front stoop.

"If you stay out too late, I'm turning off the porch light," my grandmother would warn Sal.

"Go ahead, Mah," he'd reply. "Charlotte likes it better with the light off."

Of course they got married. It was the first wedding I'd ever attended, and it still ranks as one of the most thrilling days of my life. I swear, Sal and Charlotte were as dazzling as Elvis and Priscilla Presley.

Yes, Sal was like Elvis, and one of the guests at that wedding was a bit like Buddy Holly, with his big black-frame eyeglasses and a playful smile. He was a guy named Mike Perrotta, and he'd recently married Sal's sister Jeanie.

Mike was literally the boy next door, from a house standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my grandparents.'

Seems he was just home from the Army, soldier-handsome in his uniform, and he bumped into my Aunt Jeanie. They got to talking... yeah, you can fill in the rest. Another whirlwind courtship with a remarkably short commute.

"Jeanie met Mike," my grandmother said, "and that was the end of her."

Uncle Mike was cool, with a wicked sense of humor. He once gave wooden airplanes with slingshots to me and my sister Mary and showed us how to send them whizzing toward my grandmother's china closet. We had a ball as Grandma rolled her eyes and Uncle Mike chuckled, savoring the mayhem.

Aunt Charlotte was warm, and her cooking was in a class by itself. Her eggplant parmigiana was nothing less than a miracle, doubly-so because she wasn't even Italian.

I'm writing about Mike and Charlotte in the past tense because we've lost them both -- a one-two punch that's sent my family reeling.

And here's what really gets me -- all told, Sal and Charlotte and Mike and Jeanie were married for more than a hundred years. Fifty-plus years per marriage.

Future generations won't be rattling off numbers like that, and courtship stories like these are already gone. Love is a whole new ballgame, and all the players are on steroids thanks to the Internet, which has reduced the world to the size of a basketball.

Dating? It's a drive-through window on an iPhone. Why wear yourself out trying to meet people face to face when you can sit around in your underwear, trolling the 'net for a good catch? Hook up online, then put your pants on to meet for coffee or drinks.

If it's a bust, all it costs anybody is a latte or a Chardonnay. No harm, no foul, and on to the next.

Maybe it's a better way. I guess it widens the scope, saves time and increases everybody's chances of finding The Right One.

But I can think of two things the Internet could never deliver, not in a million years.

The girl upstairs and the boy next door.

Charlie Carillo is a producer for the TV show "Inside Edition" and a novelist. His website is