Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Great Lovers I have Known--Rob Talbert

Great Lovers I have Known—Rob Talbert

            I conclude this series with the story of my friend and roommate, Rob Talbert.  I have decided that the possibly the most important part of being a great lover is the ability to bounce back from great disappointment and no one, in my opinion, illustrates that better than Rob.
            I first knew Rob because he was in my ward, but was not a roommate.  Rob was deeply enamored of Marnie McPhie.  He told me of his attachment, largely, I suspect, because my brother, Gavin,  was dating Marnie’s sister, Libby.  I had known Marnie because she also had been in our ward and I remember considering her as spoiled.  Although, upon reflection, I may have felt that way because I felt that anyone who would give someone of the quality of Rob Talbert the brush-off would have to be spoiled.  But, admittedly, there may have been other more cogent reasons, which I have since forgotten.  What I do remember thinking is that Marnie was a sort of professional heartbreaker and I was becoming greatly concerned that it ran in the family, i.e. all of the McPhie sisters were trained to be professional heartbreakers, which, of course, bode very badly for my brother, who, it was clear was becoming increasingly enamored of Libby.
            At any rate, Rob, I think, was hoping that because of my sort of being indirectly and almost related to Marnie that I could somehow influence her to cast a kinder eye on Rob.  That I was at a loss to know how to do, and probably, considering the fact that I considered her spoiled, I would not have done even if I could figure out how to do it, which I could not, having more than enough problems with my own dating life.  I really liked Rob and considered that his being brushed-off by someone as spoiled as Marnie, no matter how much he felt that she was essential to his future happiness, was all to the good.  The best thing that came of his attachment to Marnie and his subsequent friendship with me was that we arranged to be roommates the following year.
            That first year, however, after the thing with Marnie more or less—actually, more—hit the skids, Rob dated several girls, but since he was not my roommate, I was not really privy to whom they were.
            The next year at the very beginning of the year, Rob walked into our apartment, before he had even unloaded his stuff from his car, and went to the phone.  He said as he picked up the phone, “Just as a joke, I’m going to ask Jean _____ out.”
            “Just as a joke?” I asked incredulously.  “Nobody ever asks a girl out just as a joke.”
            “I dated her a few times last year, but at the end of the year, whenever I asked her out she was busy, so I’m going to ask her for a date for two months from now.”  This he proceeded to do.  He asked her out, as I remember it, for the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  Her response was, “Sure, I’ll be glad to go out with you then, but couldn’t we do it sometime before then?”
            Rob was overjoyed at this response.  He took her out for the next few weeks and they became engaged.  She told me shortly after they announced their engagement to the roommates that she had indeed given him the “cold shoulder” at the end of the year, but over the summer she had thought better of him and had decided if ever he asked her out again she would give him more encouragement.
            The engagement, however, did not go well, or at least, so it seemed to me.  When the rest of us had dates on the week-ends, Rob, more often than not, sat home.  I had had several roommates who had been engaged and for the most part the engaged couple was together at every possible moment.  Rob and Jean, it seemed to me, hardly ever saw each other.  I remember, at one time early in the engagement, expressing envy of Rob after I had gone through the excruciating experience of asking a girl out for the week-end.
            “At least you don’t have to worry about asking girls out,” I opined.
            “Yes,” Rob responded, “but being engaged isn’t the bed of roses you probably think it is.”
            I didn’t say anything but I thought, “Oh really?  All the engaged couples I knew seemed to think that ‘bed of roses’ was about as accurate a description as you could find.”
            Rob always gave as the reason for the fact that they hardly ever did anything together, even on week-ends, was Jean’s involvement in drama.  She, according to him, was always either practicing a play or actually in one, so the only time they could be together was during the day for assemblies and for week-end firesides.  Even the latter were not guaranteed because she would frequently go home to Bountiful on Sundays “to be with her family.”  But they were engaged and they did have the wedding date set, but you could tell that Rob was not happy.  He was having almost as much trouble fitting himself into her schedule now that they were engaged as he did the previous year when she kept saying she was too busy to date him.
            Finally, however, he announced happily that the wedding invitations had been printed and that he was going up to spend the week-end with her and her family at their home addressing the invitations.  Apparently, they spent all day Saturday addressing the invitations.  For what happened next I have two explanations—both from Rob.  Recently, he told me that it was not nearly as dramatic as I had always said it was, but it was from him that I got the drama.  According to what he said when he got back Saturday night, they finished addressing the invitations and then went to a near-by post box.  He said as Jean pulled down the cover, she started to put a handful of the invitations in the box and then withdrew them.  “I can’t do this,” she said.  “I’m sorry, it just won’t work.  I thought that it would, but it won’t.”  They walked back to the house.  He asked if she wanted more time to think about it.  She responded that she had thought about it enough.  She admired him as a person but she did not love him and that was that.
            The only way he altered the story more recently was to say that it never actually got to the post box.  At any rate, he came home, terribly, terribly dejected.  He shut himself up in his room for at least three days.  He told me recently that he remembered it as being three weeks, but, he simply could not have gone without food, or going to class or work for three weeks.  But he did do it for several days.  After that time, he walked out—long beard and all—and announced, “I think I’m ready to face the world.”  He added, “I just hope I don’t have to face Jean.  I’m not quite ready for that yet.”
            Rob worked in the CougarEat, the hamburger/hot dog section of the Student Union cafeteria and, therefore, met with lots of people.  As it turned out, about two or three weeks after his “I’m ready” announcement, Jean did come and ordered a hamburger from Rob.  As Rob reported to me later that day, “I saw Jean today and I think it showed me that I am ready to move on with my life.”
            Well after a while—I don’t remember how long—Rob began dating again.
            The next great crush in his life came shortly before I left the Y.  Her name was Marianne (again I don’t remember her last name).  Anyway, Marianne was extremely popular with the boys and had lots of suitors.  To me, it always seemed that her only real asset was that she bore a striking resemblance to Marlo Thomas, a popular actress of the day.  But obviously, Rob saw in her much more than that, although, he did say on a number of occasions that she did have a large number of “hang-ups”.  Now why anyone—and especially someone as sharp and smart as Rob—would continue to date someone with a “large number of hang-ups” is beyond me.  I suspect that a large number of the large number of girls I dated stopped dating me because they decided I had a large number of hang-ups and I know for fact that if I ever dated a girl that I suspected of having a large number of hang-ups I would have stopped dating her forthwith, but, of course, I was never smart enough to know if a girl had any hang-ups, much less a large number, other than the obvious one that I decided I didn’t like her, so I never dated anyone for any length of time with hang-ups, but I digress.
            Anyway, it turns out that Rob became engaged to Marianne and was looking forward to a wedding in the fall and a blissful married life thereafter.  Rob went home to work for the summer but he came back because Marianne was giving him all kinds of negative feed-back in her letters.  Finally, on July 24th, early in the morning, he called me and asked if he could come up and spend some time with me.  I told him that I had a date to the 24th parade, but that afterwards I was available for the whole day.  Well after the parade he and I spent the day more or less commiserating.  Marianne had given him the engagement ring back and said that she did not want to date him anymore.  Rob did, as he had done with Jean, went into a period of total withdrawal, but this time at home, in Chicago where he lived.
            When he came back to finish his MBA at BYU, he told me that he was going to live in a nicer place than we had lived in when we had been roommates.  He moved into one of those upscale places with a swimming pool and several other amenities.  It didn’t do him any good.  I think that he thought if he lived in a more upscale place the girls would also be more upscale.  That they were more upscale financially was beyond question, but that they were cuter or in other ways more desirable dating prospects wasn’t.  But I get ahead of myself.
            Rob and I had been close friends with the Davis twins, Lynn and Lee.  Sometime before I had left BYU, Lee had been diagnosed with stomach cancer.  He had undergone the usual treatments and had been pronounced safely in remission.  In my own life, I was struggling with a stomach problem which eventually was diagnosed as spastic colitis, but initially, I was sure that it, like Lee’s condition, was stomach cancer.  I became more concerned when Rob and I heard that Lee’s cancer had returned with a vengeance...  Consequently, about October, Lee died. 
            Although, we were no longer roommates, Rob and I attended the funeral together.  It was one of the best funerals I have ever attended.  It was made doubly impressive to me by the fact that, because of the constant pain in my stomach, I was sure I would be following in Lee’s path very shortly.
            After the funeral, Rob and I sought out Lynn.  Rob had always been especially close to Lynn.  But, lo and behold, Lynn exited the chapel after the funeral holding hands with Marianne, who, just a few months previous to the funeral had been Rob’s fiancĂ©—a fact well known to Lynn.  Rob and Lynn embraced warmly after which Lynn resumed holding Marianne’s hand.  Rob and Lynn talked with great animation for at least 15 or 20 minutes.  In that entire time, Rob did not greet—or even acknowledge—Marianne’s presence.  She, for her part, was equally silent during that entire conversation, nor did Lynn say anything to her nor in anyway acknowledge to Rob that she was there.  It was almost as if she were a ghost that only Lynn could see and interact with.  It was strange.  Rob and Lynn, after their long conversation, again embraced and parted without either Rob or Marianne at anytime acknowledging the presence of the other.
            I greatly admire Rob.  Not only for his many obvious fine qualities, but the qualities that made him a “great lover”, foremost of which, in my opinion, is the ability to recover from a huge disappointment and move on without forever holding a grudge.
            And did Rob ever marry?  He did, and very happily at that.                                                       

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Great Lovers I have known--interlude--Nanette Poll

Great Lovers—an Interlude—Nanette Poll

I have rather deliberately avoided intruding my own rather sorry failures in this series except I decided that I would, before I complete the series with the story of my roommate, Rob Talbert, tell the story of an incident in my own dating career that is so completely similar to one that Rob had, that it would be instructive.
One of the things we did while I was a graduate student at BYU is have what we called “family home evening groups”.  These consisted usually of an apartment of girls, two male home teachers, and any surplus boys who were not themselves assigned as home teachers.  One year I was assigned as senior home teacher with Neil Whitaker—at that time a freshman student—as junior to an apartment of girls with five girls in the apartment.  One of those girls was Nanette Poll, a very attractive girl who was herself a graduate student in library science.
One of our duties as home teachers was not only to hold a weekly home evening, but also to go over to the apartment for a nightly “family prayer”.  Being at the time about 30 years of age and still not married, i.e. somewhat desperate, and also thus being constantly thrown into the presence of so attractive a young lady, I became quite enamored of Nanette.  I began to believe by certain things she did and said that the feeling was reciprocated.  There were two things holding me back from asking Nanette out on a date.  The first, and admittedly, more minor problem was her family, specifically her father.
Nanette was the daughter of Richard Poll, an alumnus both, I believe as a student and as a professor.  He was highly thought of because he was one of the few (back then) who had gone on from BYU to success in the “real academic world”.  He was an administrator at the University of Illinois.  That bothered me less than a famous paper he had written which differentiated between what he called “Liahona” and “Iron Rod” Mormons.  He classified himself in the former group.  Roughly, a “Liahona” Mormon was more or less a cultural Mormon, i.e. someone who believed that it was a good idea to not drink or smoke or chase wild women and go to church occasionally, but who didn’t see himself as having much real faith.  An “Iron Rod” was, of course, someone who believed implicitly and ordered his life accordingly.  This would probably have been more of a problem for me—not wanting to get myself tied up with a “Liahona” type and all—except for the fact that Dr. Poll, in his essay, mentioned that he was frequently surprised at the depth of his own children’s faith. I assumed, of course, that he meant Nanette.
The second, and real problem, was my Elder’s Quorum president, Ron Knudson.  Ron was the eldest of five Knudsons in our ward.  They were all pretty much “Iron Rods” (with the exception of the youngest girl, who like almost all youngest children, was rather—or so it seemed to me—spoiled, but that is neither here nor there for this issue).  At any rate, Ron was definitely a “Steel Rod” Mormon and tempered steel at that and he made it an absolute, definite no-no that a home teacher would even in the most casual way date someone in his Home Evening Family.  I talked with my good friend, Rondy Bentley about the problem, thinking that maybe he could put in a good word for me and get Ron to bend a little bit.  Rondy was Ron’s brother-in-law, having married Patty Knudson, much to the chagrin of those of us who thought that Patty was probably the best catch in the ward and had some hopes in that direction ourselves—but I digress.  Anyway, Rondy was all sympathy and having made an excellent catch himself was eager to help in any way he could, a friend do likewise, but did you ever try to bend a steel rod?  Ron said, “absolutely not.” And the “absolutely was capitalized, italicized, underlined with several exclamation points after it.
Well, as the year wore on, I became more and more convinced that any hope I could have of any little bit of happiness in this life and even hereafter was tied to Nanette Poll.  Furthermore, I somehow became convinced that she felt the same way. In hindsight, I’m not sure what evidence I had of Nanette’s feeling for me, but when you are 30 and not married your deductive skills with the respect to girls is not always—maybe not even usually—the sharpest.  Finally, about 3 weeks before the end of the school year, I decided to put it to Ron squarely.  “Look, Ron,” I said firmly, or, at least, as firmly as I could muster.  Whenever I talked with Ron, and especially when I talked with him firmly, I had the feeling that it was rather like jello going up against steel and I rather wished that I had been a little bit more devout in my prayers and scripture reading to sort of give me the steel rod sort of confidence, but I digress.  “Look, Ron,” I said (in case you have forgotten), “it’s almost the end of the year.  Summer break is coming up and Nanette Poll will be going home or somewhere other than here and I may never see her again and all my hopes of marriage and happiness will vanish like the wind.”  Of course, since that was many years ago, I’m not sure that that is exactly what I said, in fact, I’m pretty sure I phrased it much more powerfully than that, being, as I was back then, particularly good at phrasing things powerfully, but at any rate, that is more or less, the rather watered down gist of what I said.
“Well, I can’t let you date anyone in your family home evening group, and, quite frankly, I think you’re kidding yourself about this whole thing,” he said, and I must say, he said it rather forcefully.  “I’ll tell you what I will do, I will release you.  Then you can date her.”
That was all the incentive I needed.  I just knew that my bachelor days were all but over.  I announced my release at family prayer that evening and introduced my replacement.  I then went home and asked Nanette out for three dates that very weekend.  Friday night was a group date with three couples that several of us had planned for some time.  Saturday night was a dance and Sunday night was a fireside with Ezra Taft Benson.  I pretty much assumed that by the next weekend we would be engaged and working out the final arrangements for our wedding.
I had planned that I would kiss her on the very first date.  While generally opposed to first date kisses and I don’t believe I had ever done it, I felt that this was an exception.  After all, we were, I felt, in all but the actual details, i.e. engagement announcement, buying the rings, setting the date, mailing out invitations—that sort of thing—more or less a married couple already.
Well, the first date kiss didn’t work out.  We did have a good time, but since there were three of us couples and I wasn’t driving, they dropped Nanette off first and since there were two other couples looking at us, I hardly felt that it would be appropriate to begin mad embraces in front of an audience.  But I was sure that I could correct that on the next date.
The next date—as I mentioned, a dance—was a disaster.  It was as though both of us assumed that marriage was inevitable and, therefore, we wanted to make some things perfectly clear right at the outset.  What I had assumed would be a wonderful evening dancing enchantedly in each others arms turned into one long argument about politics and religion.  By the time I took her home, I realized I had made a huge mistake in bringing the subjects up at all and I was busy backtracking as best I could, but the feelings were such that there was certainly no question of kissing.  I was lucky to get out a smile and a “thank you” carefully avoiding the usual “for a wonderful evening”.
By the next night I was wishing that I had asked her out for Sunday evening to something—anything—other than a fireside by Ezra Taft Benson since I knew he would probably speak on politics and that would widen the rift between us.  Fortunately, I thought, Pres. Benson had decided to talk about something else.  I assumed that because he started his talk by saying, “Most of you probably think you know exactly what I am going to talk about.”  I assumed that he wouldn’t begin that way, if, in fact, he planned to give his usual political talk.  I was wrong.
About the only thing Nanette said to me on the way home was, “I can’t believe that you would subject me to that kind of talk, knowing how I feel.”
Well, I decided that in order to salvage what I had initially assumed would be a smooth-running courtship that I needed to do something that would avoid even the appearance of politics. So our next date was to be romantic drive over the Alpine loop.  I had envisioned us looking out over the scenery and waxing enthusiastic about the wonders of nature, the beauty of pristine forests, and the majesty of the Wasatch Mountains.  I assumed that by the end of the trip everything would be back on track for our fall wedding, especially after I took her to a quiet restaurant and have a romantic candlelight dinner.  By the end of the evening, we would have laid aside our silly, unimportant political differences and we would end the evening in each others’ arms with me finally getting my first kiss.
What actually happened was that the moment she got into the car she began telling me that I had turned out to be completely different than the person she had envisioned for these past months.  She felt that I was, in fact, a religious fanatic and a political bigot and that we should no longer date or even see each other except at church where it could not be avoided.  As it turns out, the drive over the Alpine loop takes about two hours so she lent considerable embellishment to what I have above abridged into two sentences, also approaching the subject from several different angles with an occasional cross reference, but the gist was as described above.  So after descending from the Alpine loop, I drove her home.  Needless to say, we did not end the evening in each other’s arms, nor was there a good-night kiss.
Somebody, I believe it was Pope—the poet not the pontiff--, said, Hope springs eternal in the human breast.  When he said that I think that he had 30 year old bachelors who desperately want to get married in mind.  At any rate, I was convinced that Nanette really did not mean what she had said.  After all, we had been flirting with each other for months.  I was sure that after a little reflection, she would change her mind completely.
Sure enough, the next Sunday a church, she was very cordial—going so far as to actually ask me how I was feeling.  This gave me encouragement and I decided to ask her out.  It turns out there was the perfect “non-comittal” date available that week.  Our ward had won the Stake Roadshow competition and for the last Mutual of the school year they were staging a repeat performance.  Since it was during a weekday, I felt that it would be the perfect “patch-up” date, since it also would be relatively short and we would be among friends.  So I asked her out to that.
“I thought I told you,” she began emphatically and my heart stopped (people always say that, but, of course, it didn’t really stop, but I did fear the worst), but then she suddenly stopped.  “Sure,” she said after a rather long pause, “Why not? I’d love to go.”  So, I decided, she had indeed changed her mind.  Right in the middle to turning me down, I reasoned, she recognized that she had made a terrible mistake.
With a feeling of high anticipation for a great evening, I picked Nanette up on Wednesday.  Since the theater in which the play was to be performed was only about 4 or 5 blocks away, we had agreed we would walk.
Nanette greeted me with a smile and invited me in.  Although it was late in May, the weather was a little chilly so she had me help her on with a light jacket.  “This should be an interesting evening,” she commented as we stepped out the door.  Indeed it was.
As soon as we got to the sidewalk she began walking very rapidly.  I picked up my own pace to catch up with her, assuming that she was in a hurry to get to the meeting.  But as soon as I caught up to her she slowed down so I passed her up.  I immediately slowed my pace, but as soon as we were side-by-side again she again picked up the pace and speeded in front of me.  I again picked up my pace and soon caught up to her.  “Ah come on, Nanette,” I pleaded, “this is silly.  At least we can walk together and talk.”  She said nary a word but again slowed down to a crawl.  As soon as we were side-by-side again, she again picked up the pace.  At that point I simply gave up and walked behind her the rest of the way to the meeting.
We arrived at the meeting just as it was beginning.  Nanette took a seat and I sat next to her, almost afraid that she might make a verbal protest, but she didn’t.  During the play, which only lasted about 20 minutes, she did, however, carefully place both of her hands on the side of her body away from me, making it abundantly clear that there was to be no physical contact whatsoever.
After the play refreshments were served and everyone mingled, reminiscing about experiences over the past school year.  To me, this was the most remarkable and yet, most embarrassing part of the date.  If you have ever seen a movie in which there is an angel or a ghost which some of the people in a room can see, but others cannot, you can get a feeling for the remarkable part of the experience.  Nanette acted like I was, to her at least, completely invisible.  When talking with friends she would look past me or to the side as though there was nothing there in the space I was occupying.  Furthermore, whenever I was referred to, which I frequently was early in the conversation, Nanette would act like she had not heard and continue the conversation as if I had not even been mentioned.  Of course, this soon became horribly embarrassing since it became clear to everyone there that she didn’t want to have anything to do with me, even though we were, sort of anyway, together.  I could tell that several people wanted to get me alone so they could ask me what happened, but I stuck persistently to Nanette’s side.  Across the room Ron Knudsen smiled at me and mouthed the words, “I knew this would happen.  I warned you.”
After about half hour or 45 minutes of this I said to Nanette, “I’ve had enough of this.  Let’s go.”  This time she heard me and we walked out together.
The walk home was exactly like the walk there, with me trying to walk by her side and with Nanette immediately either speeding up or slowing down.  Finally, I simply followed her home following at several paces behind her.  When she got to her porch I bounded up so I could open the door for her.  “You need not bother to come in,” she said forcefully.  “I can take my coat off by myself.”  She then closed the door leaving me standing there for a few seconds.  Finally, I turned to go, but as I did so the door opened.  “By the way, Merrill,” Nanette said in almost a mockingly sweet tone of voice, “have we learned something tonight?”
“I hope so,” I responded lamely as I left her porch, not really sure what I was supposed to have learned other than the fact that when a girl tells you she doesn’t want to date you anymore, she probably means it.  That, I am sorry to say, was not the first time I had learned that lesson and am even sorrier to have to say, it was not the last, but it was certainly the most forceful presentation of the lesson.

Several years later I was sitting reading in the Salt Lake City library when I heard someone call my name.  It was Nanette.  She was working at the library.  We exchanged histories briefly.  She had married and was happy, which by that time I could also say, although she had been married much longer than I.  (At the time of the incident reported above I was still 5 or even 6 years from marriage.)  Best of all, she was happy to see me and no longer seemed to care that I had asked her out after she had so explicitly told me not to.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Great Lovers I have known--James "Cecil" Simons--II

Great Lovers I have Known—James “Cecil” Simons

            After Cecil broke up with Jan, or more accurately, after Jan ran away with someone else, life went on in a rather normal fashion.  At the end of the year, we both graduated.  I moved to Salt Lake and I can’t remember what Cecil did.  After I lived in Salt Lake for a year, I had to move and find new roommates, so Cecil joined me again as a roommate.  Since I was, by this time well over 30 and Cecil was not much younger, finding a wife became the first order of business for both of us.
            Cecil’s first real girlfriend was a beautiful Danish immigrant and convert named Mona Gadd.  Mona was one of the spunkiest girls I have ever known.  Before she dated Cecil she went out with a fellow in our ward named Jim (I don’t remember his last name).  Jim was—or at least, he claimed to be—a reformed, i.e. ex-drug addict.  I was Jim’s home teacher, and I must confess to being a bit skeptical about the “reformed” in his title.  For one thing, he had the most volatile temper of anyone I have ever known well.  Whenever I was with him, I felt that I had to weigh ever word I said, because it didn’t take much to set him off.  He was also a determined, almost violent, misogynist.  Whenever girl spoke in Church, he would stand up and storm out of the chapel, slamming the door as he left.  Normally, he would come back in as soon as the girl had finished speaking only to repeat the performance as soon as another girl began speaking.  Since our congregation consisted of about 3 times as many girls as guys, most of our speakers in Church were girls, so Jim spent a good deal of time storming out of the meetings.
            Jim was nearly always out of work because as soon as an employer would ask him to do something he didn’t want to do, or if they would ask him to do something that he felt could, and should, be done in a different way, he would simply explode in anger.  Since this almost always occurred in the first day or two of a new job, he spent more time looking for work than working.  He was always complaining to me in my home teaching visits, that he felt that Utah employers didn’t sufficiently value men who didn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs, which, as far as I could tell, were about his only qualifications for any job, and, as I mentioned, I was personally a little skeptical about those.  One time, just before Mother’s Day, I was driving several people I home taught to some kind of a ward activity.  I mentioned that I was wondering what to get my mother for Mother’s day.  The other people in the car either made suggestions or told what they were going to get their mothers.  When it was Jim’s turn, he simply muttered vehemently, “I wouldn’t get my mother anything.  I hate my mother.  I hate her even more than I hate my father.”   Needless to say, there was a very embarrassing pause, since none of the rest of us knew how to respond to that comment.
            Well anyway, Jim asked Mona Gadd out on a date.  After either one or two dates, (I rather think it was on the first date) Jim asked Mona to marry him.  If it had been me, knowing Jim’s temper,  I would have said, “Sure, anything you want. You bet, I’m all for it—the sooner the better, just not tonight.” Then when I got home I would have called him up and said I’d changed my mind and called the police and had a restraining order issued against him.  Mona did none of those things.  She just laughed.  “Get serious”, she said.  “You don’t know me well enough to marry me.”
            As Jim later explained to me, he had been serious and he was plenty mad, but, he said, since he really liked Mona, he had restrained himself and didn’t hit her.
            Anyway, Mona was Cecil’s first girlfriend after we moved into together.  At first, he was really excited about the relationship, but she responded positively and I think that put him on his guard.  After about 10 or eleven dates, he broke up with her.  Neither seemed too heartbroken over the split, however, so maybe it was for the best that they didn’t pursue it further.
            After the breakup with Mona, Cecil dated a number of girls, but it became pretty clear that there was a bit of a pattern.  If the girl started to show interest after a few dates, Cecil would lose interest.  Finally, about mid-year he began dating a really cute girl named Linda.  She was excited and, surprisingly, so was he.  She was cute, religious, and ambitious—the perfect match.  She was studying to be a school teacher at the U and had only a semester  left before student teaching.  However, at the beginning of the 2nd semester she was given a full-time job teaching, in spite of the fact that she had not completed her studies.   Apparently, a teacher had quit at the semester and in a sort of desperation, they had offered Linda the job with the promise that she could be hired on a permanent basis if she completed most of her remaining school work during the summer.  Her experience teaching was to count as student teaching because another teacher would monitor her work.
            Suddenly, Linda’s relationship with Cecil took a decided back seat to her work in school.  Any dating during the week was completely out and even on some weekends she said she was too busy preparing her classes to date, even once.  Cecil, who was a school psychologist, and operated very much “by the clock”, had little understanding or sympathy for her plight.  He felt that there was no reason that Linda could not, like himself, finish all her work at school—or at least, after an hour of so of homework.  Well, the upshot was that Cecil decided that Linda was not showing enough commitment to their relationship and he broke the engagement.
            By this time I was dating Shauna Bowman, who, later that summer, I would marry.  Cecil in the meantime, was following in his old pattern.  But toward the end of the school year, as Linda’s school schedule became less demanding, Cecil started dating her again.  She, however, had become decidedly cool toward Cecil.  To fill in the times when Linda would not date him (which was most of the times), Cecil began dating Shauna’s roommate Winnie.  Winnie was a very attractive girl made more so by the fact that she sounded exactly, and acted much, like “Our Miss Brooks” (Eve Arden).  The problem was that Cecil would use his dates with Winnie as sounding boards for advice on how to win Linda back.  Finally, Winnie became frustrated by this and simply dropped him.  Predictably, at that point, Cecil decided that it was really Winnie that he liked, even better than Linda.
            I wish I could report how Cecil finally wooed and won his bride, but I can’t.  All I know is that about a year after I was married, he showed up with her at out house.  It turns out that he had used his summer vacation to go to Uruguay.  There he had met, wooed, and married his wife, Trixie.  When we knew them, Trixie made the perfect wife for Cecil because she could hardly speak any English, but knew enough of it to know when to laugh at his jokes.
            Recently, I spoke with Cecil, who lives and works in California, and he assures me that Trixie now speaks very good English.  He didn’t say whether she still laughs at his jokes.  As a footnote, his oldest son served at the same time as our second from the youngest (Austen) in Uruguay, where Cecil had served and found a wife after many a false start.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Remembering Dad--III

Remembering Dad—III

            Dad, as I have explained earlier, planned to be a career bureaucrat.  This plan was altered when he was told after serving in the War Crimes Trials, that he could not be sent back west, i.e. he would have to serve in Washington D.C.  So he moved back to Pocatello and started his private practice with George Hargraves.  George proved to be not the best possible partner.  His heart was more into his numerous hobbies, especially photography.  I suspect that George kept hoping that his photos, which won numerous prizes at fairs and other contests for amateurs, would somehow work into a full-time position, but it never did, so he slogged away at the law, mostly with a great deal of help from Dad.
            Anyway Dad also became more and more disenchanted with small-town law practice, but his out became the hope that he would be appointed to the district bench.  I suspect that he applied several times with no luck.  Finally, he decided to run against an incumbent judge—something, which, in Idaho at least, had never been successful.  Dad felt, however, that there was some hope.  He was a prominent member of the community.  He was a Stake President, the head of the local school board, and had been involved in numerous ways with community music groups e.g. he had been in charge of community concerts, had won several contests as part of a popular Lion’s Club Quartet, sang frequently at the local Sunday Afternoon concert series in the park and other such activities. 
            One of the main reasons he hoped to be successful, was that the judge he hoped to replace had a serious alcohol problem—something that Dad could not, or, at least, did not, report in his campaign literature.  But he could, and did, report that the judge frequently missed scheduled trial dates.
            Unfortunately, all of that didn’t overcome the strong prejudice against unseating an incumbent judge and Dad lost the election.  Two years later he tried again to unseat a judge of whom he really could not say anything negative.  Once again, he lost the election.
            By this time, it had become clear that the practice of law had become almost unbearable for him.  But the final blow came when the Idaho Judicial Committee finally brought action against the first judge Dad ran against.  His alcoholism had made him essentially incompetent.  Dad, of course, applied for the position and was fairly confident that he would be appointed.  The committee, however, in what was an obvious slap in the face to Dad, appointed George Hargraves instead.  I suspect that the real reason for the obvious slight was Dad’s prominent LDS Church position.
            Dad was devastated.  He then applied to be a Federal Administrative Law Judge with the Social Security Administration.
            He was walking out the door to attend General Conference when he got a call from the Social Security Administrator.  They had a large back log of black lung cases in West Virginia that needed immediate attention.  Although the cases were for miners living and working in West Virginia, the court was in Roanoke, Virginia.  Dad was told that, if he accepted the position he would have to be on the job in a few weeks, as timing was critical.  He was also told that he needed to give his response within a couple of days.  He said that he could not immediately respond but that he would do so early in the next week.  While at conference, he met with Elder Boyd K. Packer, who had called him to be Stake President and laid out his dilemma, i.e. he would like to accept the position, but felt that he had only been Stake President a few years and felt that he could not leave the calling without Church approval.  Elder Packer told him to go ahead and accept the opportunity, which Dad did.  He left Mom in charge of closing down anything in his practice that he could not personally close out in a couple of weeks and he headed off to Virginia.
            Dad came back twice.  Once for Stake Conference where he was released by Gordon B. Hinckley and once for our grand farewell party on Thanksgiving.  Dad came back, rented (or borrowed) a very rickety trailer.  The idea was that we would all get together, pack all that Mom and Dad needed to take to Virginia in the trailer, put all of the rest of the stuff in the house in two locked rooms in the basement, and have a big Thanksgiving/”farewell to the homestead” dinner, after which, Mom and Dad would take off in time for Dad to drive back and be at work Monday morning.  That was the plan.  Wednesday night we got the stuff that was to stay behind in the rooms safely locked away.  But all night it snowed.  Thursday morning we woke up to a blizzard.  Dad announced that he and Mom would have to leave as soon as they could get whatever was left onto the trailer and take off, which they did in a matter of minutes.  Lonnie, Allen, Gavin, and Libby said they would go on home so they promptly took off.  I said I was headed back to the “Y”, but Dad pulled me aside just before he left.
            “I’m sorry son,” he said, “but I’m going to have to ask you to stay until tomorrow.  The real estate agent doesn’t have a key and he is out of town for today.  He told me he will be here first thing in the morning.  You’ll have to stay here tonight and give him the key in the morning.  Here is $5.  Go into town and buy yourself a nice Thanksgiving dinner.”
            That was the loneliest, possibly saddest, day and night of my life.  For lunch I went into town to a restaurant. Unlike today, almost no one ate in restaurants for Thanksgiving, so the place was almost deserted.  I went back to the house and spent the evening looking over the place remembering the many wonderful experiences I had had in that home.  I was sure I would never see the place again, but I was wrong.
            A few years later, Erin and I along with Mom and Dad spent the night at Loni and Allen’s place in Rexburg.  We then, for whatever reason, I don’t remember, were headed together to Salt Lake City.  On the way Dad decided that he wanted to get some things out of storage so we stopped at the homestead and explained to the lady renting the place what we wanted to do.  While we were getting the things out of storage the lady came downstairs and said in an excited tone of voice, “Are any of you from Rexburg?”  Allen said that he was.  “Well,” she continued excitedly, “I’ve been listening to the radio and the Teton Dam just broke and is flooding Rexburg!”  The only response to that which I remember was Allen muttering in a perturbed tone of voice, “Why would the government build a dam that would break.”  At any rate, I remember that we parted company at that point, with Allen and Loni rushing back to Rexburg and the rest of us continuing on to Salt Lake.
            A few days later Loni was telling me what a miracle it was that the dam broke during the day.  “Just think,” she said, “if it had broken just 8 hours earlier I would have lost my two sons who were sleeping in the basement!”  (Unlike many of her neighbors, Loni’s house was not moved off its foundation and only the basement was flooded.)
            I pointed out to her that this was an exceedingly narrow point of view, since if the dam had broken 8 hours earlier she would have lost not only her two sons, but two of her brothers, who were also sleeping in the basement, as well.  “I had completely forgotten about that”, she admitted.
            The next, and final time, I actually went inside the homestead, was after I was married and had at least one, possibly two, children.  The renters had moved out and Dad, Mom, Shauna and I and possibly some of the rest of the family, went to clean the place up for new renters.  I remember sleeping in sleeping bags and I remember cleaning the beer stains from the ceiling.  Apparently, the previous renters had been so exuberant in their drinking habits that they would throw beer up on the ceiling.  This was a good experience because having to clean the mess up somewhat diminished the sentimental attachment I felt for the old homestead.  But I still remember with a great deal of fondness the wonderful experiences I had there.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Great Lovers I have known--VII--James Cecil Simons--1

Great Lovers I have Known—James “Cecil” Simons

I have told how Dan Tonks became the first of us to get married, but it almost didn’t happen. That honor almost went to Cecil, the psych major, who so laboriously counseled with Dan. Cecil certainly deserved to be first. He definitely tried the hardest, and he almost was, as will herewith be explained.
It started not with Cecil but with Tom “Watergate” G______. I will never really understand what happened with Tom. He certainly seemed like a true-blue liberal Democrat. I know, because I had several knock-down, drag-out battles with him. Back in those days, I felt that it was my responsibility to set anyone straight who drifted from the path of Bill Buckley Conservatism. Since not many of my acquaintances, and certainly, not many of my close associates, did, or at least, were willing to admit to me, if they did, I did not waste much time arguing politics. The exception was Tom G______. He was a very outspoken and also very argumentative liberal. Since he was also a political science major, he had a great many facts and figures at his command which always sent me scurrying to the library to find the necessary data required to set him straight. It was because he was so adamant, so seemingly sincere, that I was absolutely baffled at what eventually happened.
Well, anyway, because Tom could not spend all his time arguing with me, he found time to get engaged to very attractive girl named Jan. What Jan’s last name was, I honestly don’t remember, which is unfortunate, because I should, but if the reader should happen to run into Tom or Cecil, I’m sure that they could supply it. At any rate, Tom got engaged to Jan at the end of the school year. If you wonder which school year all you have to do is go to an Encyclopedia and look up “Watergate Break-in” and it will undoubtedly tell you which year, because, as the patient reader will soon discover, the Watergate break-in is a very important part of the first part of my story. But I digress.
At any rate, Tom got engaged to Jan, which, although it certainly did not make him disconsolate, it made Cecil somewhat disheartened—or maybe “disheartened” is too strong a word, but it did make Cecil something that was somewhat less than disheartened, which, if I had a Thesaurus handy I could probably tell you the exact word that would tell you how much less than disheartened he was, because he had dated Jan himself and liked her a lot, but as much less than disheartening as it was, he had to acknowledge that she obviously liked Tom more than him. Parenthetically, I might say that that sort of thing was happening to me and my roommates all the time.
Besides getting engaged to Jan, Tom also worked out a deal with the political science department where he would get Political Science credit by working on the presidential election campaign of Eugene McCarthy. Tom apparently told Jan, who was eager to settle down and get married, that by working on the presidential campaign, he hoped to be in a position to marry her in the fall. So to waving flags and loud accolades from the political science professors for their rising star, Tom was off to Washington DC.
Well it wasn’t very long before Tom sent back to the Polly Sci department requesting permission to be transferred to the George McGovern campaign, which they said was ok but they wondered why since McCarthy was the front-runner for the nomination. However, within about a week or so McGovern had overtaken McCarthy and was the new front-runner and the Polly Sci people wrote an article or letter to the editor about how proud they were of their rising star and his ability to foresee the drift in the political race.
Well, a few weeks later Tom came back to BYU in absolute disgrace. Shortly before he returned, the Watergate breakup occurred and, it turns out, Tom was a big part of the reason. Of course, we didn’t know that. All we know is that the Pol. Sci. people came out and said that Tom had betrayed their trust. Shortly thereafter our Bishop, Lennis Knighton, got up and said he was not going to discipline Tom, because Tom had been misguided but he did everything he should have done when he recognized the error of his ways. But, of course, none of us knew what the error of his ways was until later. We did know, however, that it had to do with the Watergate break-in. I think we assumed that he must have driven the get-away car for Hunt and Liddy, but, as it turns out it was nothing like that.
What actually happened, we found out later, was that Tom, as soon as he got to Washington was approached by Bob Bennett, who at that time, was working for the committee to re-elect Pres. Nixon. What was baffling to me was what happened next. I would have assumed that if Bob Bennett were to approach Tom that Tom would have started to tell him in no uncertain terms all the facts he had learned in his Polly Sci classes, such as if the minimum wage was not raised—and soon—workers would not be able to afford to appear at work in anything but burlap loin cloths, and if the food stamp program was not continued, or even expanded, there would be millions of men, women, and children lying in the streets having died of malnutrition. These were the sorts of facts he was always throwing at me, and why—as I said—Bob Bennett didn’t get the same treatment was a puzzlement. But he didn’t. According to what we heard from Tom and his friends, apparently, all they talked about was money. He, Bob Bennett, would pay Tom a tidy—especially for a student—sum of money if he, Tom, would provide information about what was going on at the McCarthy headquarters. It was Bob Bennett who asked him to transfer to McGovern, having guessed, correctly, that McGovern would be Nixon’s eventual opponent in the final election.
But after he had been working at the McGovern headquarters for a few weeks and secretly calling Bob Bennett and telling him all that was going on, he started to have second thoughts. Maybe it bothered him when he pictured all those workers showing up in nothing but burlap loin cloths. Whatever it was, he went and told his Bishop what he was doing. The Bishop told him in no uncertain terms that it was wrong, that he was to call Bob Bennett and tell him he was through, and, furthermore, return all the money he, Bob Bennett, had given him (Tom had banked it all), and leave Washington. Of course, if the Bishop had known that Bob Bennett would eventually write a book defending the Book of Mormon, he may not have been so harsh, but one can’t always foresee the future. Anyway, Tom did exactly what his Bishop told him to do, which was why Bishop Knighton, who was incredibly strict about enforcing Church Discipline, refused to punish him. It was also why the university, as I remember it, over the protests of the Polly Sci dept., only suspended Tom for one semester.
The important upshot of all this was that Tom announced to Jan that he had no money and could not, therefore, get married in the fall. Whether it was for this reason, or something else, I don’t remember, but at any rate Jan broke her engagement with Tom. The perceptive reader will notice, although it has taken a long time to get there, that Jan is now free to date, and the really perceptive reader will remember that Cecil liked Jan.
Well, as soon as, or at least, at some decent interval after, Tom and Jan broke up, Cecil began dating Jan. As an aside, let me say, that just as Watergate may have been the very best thing (politically speaking, of course, in such discussions one always lays his baptism and his marriage aside, they being presumed “the best things”) that ever happened to Bob Bennett, he being forced by circumstances to actually do something worthwhile in life, so Watergate may have been the very best thing that happened to Tom for reasons that will become more apparent as I continue my story. But as an even further aside, my wife (this is really getting ahead of the story—I am still a good five years from getting married) knew Tom some years after all this happened, and, as a result, she was invited to his wedding reception and, as is more or less my custom on such occasions, I went along. Did we, you are probably asking yourself, get into a knock-out-drag-down battle about politics? We did not. In fact, I rather gathered from the brief interchange I had with Tom on that occasion, that he had more or less laid politics aside. He did, however, seem very happy, beaming proudly as he stood beside his new bride, which, of course, is a very good thing. I have always said that it is important for a man to be able to smile on his wedding day. But, I digress.
Anyway, at some sort of decent interval after Tom and Jan broke up, possibly even as much as two weeks, Cecil began dating Jan. It went, as most such affairs do go, from casual to more-than-casual, to less-than-serious, to serious. It started out by Cecil taking her to a movie on the week-end and progressed to Cecil taking her to two movies on the week-end. It rather stuck at that level for some time, because, Cecil, like the rest of us in our apartment, was not all that imaginative about dating. But eventually, it moved beyond that point to the point where he began taking her to firesides, and mid-week lectures, and concerts. Finally, it got to the point at which we knew it was really getting serious because they began studying together.
Finally, we got the big announcement. They were engaged. Of course, that would more or less, be the end of the story, were it not for the fact that, as Shakespeare says, “The course of true love never runs smooth.” The hitch came, in this case, because Cecil was making so much money. Of course, making a lot of money is seldom, in my experience, a good thing, but, as the perceptive reader will come to realize that, in my opinion, at least, in this case it was. Normally, of course, students—and Cecil was still working on his Master’s degree in psychology—are not all that well off. But, as a part of his master’s work, he got a job giving psychological examinations to students, for which he was—for a student, at least,--very well paid. He was excited about this, as one could well imagine, because it meant, he felt, that he and Jan would be starting their married life out with a nice little nest egg, after going on a better than average (for newly graduated students) honeymoon.
Cecil and Jan decided that it would be a good idea if Cecil would use a small part of his newly acquired wealth to buy food. Jan would prepare it and they would have dinner together every night; hence, a sort of pre-marriage domestic arrangement. For a couple of weeks this worked out famously. Cecil reported ecstatically that he was eating better, and more cheaply, than he ever had as a student. After a couple of weeks, however, problems began to arise. The problem was that, with increasing frequency, when Cecil reported for dinner, Jan would inform him that she had been unable to fix dinner. At first, this was no problem. After all, Cecil was making plenty of money, so eating out on an occasion or two, wouldn’t hurt. But, the fact of the matter was, that although Cecil was making a lot of money when compared with the rest of us who were working at campus wages, he was not yet quite in the Rockefeller class, and eating out regularly began to take a toll on his income—so much so that he found himself having to dip into his savings.
Cecil began to fret and worry about his diminishing wealth—especially as he saw his anticipated nest egg disappearing. Finally, he laid down the law. No more eating out. She would have to prepare dinner no matter what. This worked for a couple of days, but it became painfully clear, that Jan did not enjoy preparing dinner. It got to the point that it was either eat out or not eat at all or maybe eat peanut butter sandwiches. It got to the point that the conflict over dinner began to strain the relationship. Cecil began—first to us, his roommates—and then to Jan herself, to express doubts about the advisability of their continuing the engagement.
Fortunately, before it came to an actual break, Jan actually rode off into the sunset with a fellow she apparently had been seeing a good deal of. Cecil was actually the second of my roommates that was thus spared from what, I predict would have been a very unhappy marriage, by his intended riding off into the sunset with a hippy on the back of a Harley-Davison motorcycle.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Great Lovers I have known--VI--Dan Tonks

Great Lovers I have Known—Dan Tonks

After my year with Craig I moved back into the apartment complex in which I had lived before I was drafted. Among my roommates were James “Cecil” Simons, Dave Hall, Redge Bake, Rob Talbert, and for one year, my brother, Gavin. After Gavin got married and moved out, Dan Tonks moved in and took his place.
I was excited to have Dan move in, although, just off his mission he was by several years the youngest of us. He was from my home town, Pocatello, and was, in fact, the son of “TV” Tonks. “TV” was one of the high school physics and electronics teachers in Pocatello, but his chief claim to fame was that he would drive around in a brightly-colored, clearly-stenciled van advertising the fact that he was your best choice if your television set needed repair. His fame—or notoriety—was considerably enhanced by the fact that the van had a loud speaker attached to the top, which he would occasionally use to advertise the fact that he was in the neighborhood and willing—even eager—to repair your defunct, or poorly functioning television set. One reason I was excited to have Dan as a roommate is that I assumed that he, like his father, would be a physics major. He immediately disabused me on that score, stating that he had no interest whatever in either math or science.
We soon learned, however, that Dan did have one talent that the rest of us lacked. To understand his unique talent, it will help to understand the routine in our apartment on Monday through Wed evening. Usually, on Monday night right after dinner most of us would begin the weekly litany—namely, asking each other, “who should I ask out for this week-end. The exceptions were Dan and Dave Hall.
Dave was the most organized roommate I ever had—I suspect, possibly the most organized roommate anyone ever had. He is the only student I ever knew who never wasted a dime, a minute, or a square inch. Whenever anyone in the apartment—and even a good many outside the apartment—needed anything, especially if they needed it in a hurry, they would ask Dave. You weren’t often disappointed. For example, being returned missionaries, we all had those little sewing kits for doing minor repairs to clothing, such as sewing on buttons. As I said, we all had them, but when a button came off, generally, we asked Dave for his, because, although we all had them, he was the only one who could actually find his.
At any rate, this super-organization carried over into his dating life. At the first of every semester, Dave would meet all the new girls in the ward, in his classes, and in the neighborhood and make up a list of those he would like to date. Every Tuesday night at exactly 7 PM he would walk out of his study area, go to the phone and call the next 2 girls on the list and ask them out for that week-end. By 7:30 generally, he had the job done. Now I’m the first to admit that I admired this procedure tremendously, but I also recognized that this was even more out of the cards for me than keeping track of my sewing kit.
Dan, on the other hand, would ask right after dinner on Monday night, “Does anyone need to use the phone for the next little while?” Of course, no one did. By that time most of us still hadn’t decided who we were going to ask out, and even if we had decided who we wanted to ask out, it would require at least one night—usually two—of coaxing and encouraging from roommates before we would actually have the courage to do it.
Dan would then go to the phone and ask a girl out. We soon learned that by “little while” Dan actually meant anywhere from one to 2 ½ hours. Already it was clear that he was a phenomenon. The rest of us, after we had actually worked up the courage to ask a girl out, would do it. If she said “yes” we quickly explained the arrangements, thanked her, and hung up—the idea being to get off the phone as quickly as possible so as not to leave the girl enough time to change her mind. Dan, on the other hand, would make small talk for some time before asking the girl out and then continue to make small talk after he had gotten the date. “What would he do if the girl turned him down?” the reader is undoubtedly asking him/herself. The answer is, “I don’t know.” To my knowledge, he was never turned down. He was probably one of the greatest—if not the greatest—askers for dates ever. He was incredible. The problem was that while being the greatest asker for dates, he was also, undoubtedly, the world’s worst dater--the reason being that he never actually went on any of his dates, as will be explained forthwith.
We learned that there might be a problem the very first week Dan was with us. The Sat. after his first scheduled date, I was eating breakfast when he came into the kitchen.
“How was your date?” I asked perfunctorily expecting an equally perfunctory response like, “Oh, fine.”
Instead I got, “I didn’t go.”
“Didn’t go!” I responded amazed. “What happened?”
“Oh, I was up on campus studying and I forgot all about it. I’ll apologize tomorrow when I see her at church,” he said in a matter of fact tone of voice.
I couldn’t believe it. I decided right there and then that all the agonizing, the hem hawing, the questioning, the wondering was worth something. At least, I never forgot that I had a date. I decided that Dan, who seemed to get dates effortlessly, had the sort of “easy come, easy go” problem.
I discovered the next Sat. that that was not the only problem, when again I asked—this time less perfunctorily—“How was your date?” I got the same response as the week before, only this time it was a different excuse. This time he had been downtown and his car gave him trouble. By the time he had got it taken care of it was too late to go on the date, or so he claimed.
The next Sat. morning we were all together in the living room when someone asked and we got a much more truculent response. It turns out that this time, it wasn’t his memory or his car, it was us—his roommates. Because we were all older and “desperate to get married”, he felt forced to ask girls out, but he wasn’t, he claimed, interested in marriage or dating or anything related to it. It was just having old roommates who were decidedly unhappy in their bachelorhood that was forcing him into asking girls out—which he did not want to do.
“Listen,” I said, somewhat annoyed—an annoyance obviously shared by my roommates, “no one is forcing you to get dates. If you don’t want to get dates, don’t. But if you do, then by all means go on the date.”
The next Monday when it was his usual time to get his date, he apologized and said he was sorry for what he had said. He really did, he said, want to date, and he proceeded to get another date, and as usual he spent the whole evening talking with the girl after getting the date.
But the next Sat. morning it was the same story, only this time it was not only our fault, it was also the fault of BYU which, according to Dan, was nothing more than a large marriage mill—not even an educational institution at all. He didn’t understand why he had ever come to BYU and planned to leave at the earliest possible moment.
What bothered me more and more was that with every passing week, the denunciations became more bitter and the accusations against us, his roommates, against the school, and finally, against the church itself more acrimonious. Curiously enough, somewhere in all this, he actually did go on a date. The date was with Jean Simmons, a very cute girl whose apartment he visited frequently and who he spent a good deal of time talking with. He finally asked her out. We were all nervous that it would be the same old story, but it wasn’t. The curious thing—at least, to me, was that for once he really did have a legitimate reason for canceling the date. In the morning of the date, he had gone to the dentist to have a couple of wisdom teeth removed. But what was scheduled to be a two-hour appointment lasted all day. It turns out that his wisdom teeth were impacted, or something, that required the dentist to work literally hours to get the teeth out. He came home in absolute agony. Worse, from a dating standpoint—in my opinion, at least—was the fact that he was bleeding badly from his mouth. When he opened his mouth he looked like someone in a class B vampire movie. Blood was literally dripping from his teeth. Under the circumstances, even I suggested that he cancel the date, but for some reason, possibly, because he really liked and respected Jean, he went through with it. Although he did go on the date, I suspect that Jean must have made it clear that she didn’t want to date him again because he never asked her out again. But we all felt greatly relieved. He had actually gone on a date. We were sure he was cured.
No such luck. The next week was the same old story with escalating repercussions. This time, he typed up a “Paper” condemning dating practices at BYU and denouncing the pressure placed on unwilling young men to date and marry. He made about twenty copies of this paper and spread them though our parking lot and the parking lot of the girls’ apartments next door. Furthermore, he actually began venting his anger by throwing things, books and the garbage can, against the wall in his bedroom. The situation was bad enough that our roommate, Cecil Simons, who was a psychology major, decided to take things in hand by counseling with Dan. Both he and Dan stayed home from classes all day Monday while Cecil conducted an intensive therapy session. Monday night both Dan and Cecil announced that Dan had responded positively to therapy and was, therefore, cured.
Since he was cured, Dan proceeded to ask Laurie _____ to a major dance—either the Junior Prom or the Senior Ball, I don’t remember which, but it was definitely “a big deal”. For my part, I was amazed that Laurie didn’t have a date already for the big event. She was, if not the cutest girl in our ward, certainly very close to the cutest and whatever she may have lacked—and as I said, it would be hard to show that she lacked anything—in that respect, she more than made up in the vivacious personality department. I wanted desperately to date her myself, but since I was nigh onto thirty and she was a freshman of 17 or 18, I decided it would be a bit of a stretch, but most of the guys in the ward—even those for whom it was that big a stretch or even bigger, had made a bid for her at one time or another.
Anyway, Dan worked his usual magic on the phone and got the date for the big dance Friday night. Friday night right after dinner, Dan announced that he was going to take his car into the mountains to escape the pressure that everyone in the apartment, in the ward, at the school and in the church in general were putting him under to date and get married even though he didn’t want to do any of those things.
“But what about Laurie?” I asked incredulously.
“What about her?” he snapped back. “She’s part of the whole conspiracy. She can go to H___ for all I care!” With that he stamped out, slamming the door as hard as he could as he left.
“This is my fault,” Cecil said after he left. “We can’t not let Laurie sit home and miss the big dance. I’ll run downtown, buy a corsage, and say that something came up that Dan couldn’t make it, and offer to take her myself.”
I had mixed feelings about whether Cecil’s offer was entirely altruistic, since, like the rest of us had wanted to take her out, but hadn’t worked up the nerve. Still, I felt like it was a good thing and offered to help pay for the corsage.
Well, Cecil went to the dance, and reported that he had a wonderful time. Dan came home really late, even after Cecil was back from the dance. He spent the night in a rage so that the roommates that shared his bedroom got hardly any sleep. He not only threw things against the wall, breaking the plasterboard, but he actually put his foot though the bedroom door (it was one of those cheap veneer wood doors). For my part, I became really nervous that he was going to actually get violent against us, but by the next day he had settled down again somewhat.
Monday was another all day therapy day with Cecil, but I was skeptical. I don’t know what it was, I think it was having to help pay for Laurie’s corsage, that gave me the one good counseling idea, I have had in my life. When we came home, just as they had done on the previous Monday, Dan and Cecil pronounced Dan cured and, just as he had done on the previous Monday, Dan went to the phone, asked a girl out, and spent the whole evening in small talk with her.
After Dan hung up the phone I walked over and picked it up.
“It’s kind of late to be asking for a date,” Dan said. “Who are you calling at this hour?”
“I’m not asking for a date,” I responded. “I’m calling the girl you just asked out.”
“Why ever for?” Dan demanded.
“I’m simply going to explain to her that although she thinks she has a date, she doesn’t have one. I plan on telling her about your history of dating and tell her that she can forget about having a date and that if she has another offer for Friday night, by all means, snap it up.”
“You wouldn’t do that!” Dan protested.
“Oh no, watch me.”
“But I’m cured,” Dan complained plaintively. “It’s unfair. Just ask Cecil if I’m not cured.”
“You were cured last week and all we got was a hole in the door and in the wall.”
I picked up the phone and started to dial.
“Please don’t,” he pleaded.
“I tell you what,” I said suspending my dialing, “if you will put down a $10 deposit, I’ll let it go. If you actually go on the date, you get your $10 back. If not, we use it to buy the girl something in the way of a consolation offering.”
At first he said “no way” but when I continued dialing he agreed to it. I did not, however, put down the phone until he had actually pulled the $10 out of his wallet and given it to me. It is important to understand that back then $10—especially to a student—was more like $50 today.
Did it work? Well, yes and no. Dan marched into the apartment at midnight and admitted after careful questioning that he had not gone on the date. But, he claimed, it was due to the fact that he had been downtown and his car had gone on the blink and it had taken him all that time to correct the problem. How then, you may ask, did it work? It worked in the sense that there was no loud complaining about having old, desperate-to-get-married roommates, no moaning about being trapped at school in a marriage mill, and no hand waving against the pressure the Church was putting on him; no kicked-in doors, no thrown waste baskets, no nothing except perfect amiability.
We used the $10 to buy his almost “date” flowers and chocolates—which shows how much more $10 would buy back then.
The next Monday was exactly the same story with the exception, of course, that it was a different girl and also the fact that I upped the ante to $20.
Did it work? It did. Twenty dollars was the magic key. Dan not only went on the date, but he started dating that date regularly. The result? Dan got married before any of the rest of us. He was actually married, as I remember it, that summer.
All this goes to show, I believe, that, in some cases at least, certainly in this one, that economics trumps psychology.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Great Lovers I have known--V--Craig Johnson

Great Lovers I have Known—Craig Johnson

Craig Johnson and I had served together in the army, but he was discharged one year before I was. We had always planned to live together as soon as I got out, which we did. We lived in the basement of an elderly couple’s home in very cramped quarters, but we didn’t need much and the rent was definitely right at $25 each a month for the four of us. One roommate, Alma _____ was Craig’s friend from Mesa. We didn’t see a great deal of him, because he was engaged and spent most of his free time with his fiancĂ©e. Our other roommate, Paul _____, I have described in a previous essay.
Craig was the most humble, soft-spoken, mild-mannered man I think I have ever known. The longer I get to know people, generally, the more I become acquainted with, not only their strengths, but their weaknesses. But the longer I knew Craig, the more I became convinced that he had none. In our theology, when a person becomes perfect he is translated, more or less like the prophet Elijah, who was taken up by a chariot into heaven. It just seemed to me almost unfair that someone as kind and considerate as Craig would be subjected to the same sort of trials and abuse as the rest of us. I somehow expected that someone like Craig, who never lost his temper, who seemed always in perfect control of himself, deserved every bit as much as Elijah to be taken up. Of course, that was before I was married and had children and came to realize that someone can be perfectly mild-mannered when he has only himself to be responsible for, but that mild manner can be severely tested when dealing with a teen-ager that everyone assumes you should have some, at least, responsibility for. At any rate, it was a bit of a challenge to one’s faith, or something like that, to see someone so perfect still there with the rest of us. All that changed in one very revealing incident.
Craig was driving with Paul and me in the car down 7th East in Provo. We hit 5th North where there is a 4-way stop, but a rather unusual one, because one of the streets is not properly a street at all but an entrance road into an apartment complex. We were following a girl in her late teens or early twenties when she stopped at the stop sign in front of us. I don’t know whether it was the unusual nature of the 4-way stop or whether she simply wasn’t paying attention, but for whatever reason, when it was her turn to pull into the intersection she just sat there until finally the driver next in line pulled out.
Quick as a flash, Craig jumped out of our car, threw his fist up into the air and yelled, (before then I had never heard him raise his voice, I didn’t even know that he could yell). At any rate he yelled out in an angry tone of voice, “Lady, you move that car, and you better be quick about it, or I’m coming up there and move it for you!”
Having said that, he jumped back into the car, because the lady had pulled her car into the intersection before he had even finished with his threat. Paul and I sat there with our mouths open.
“Some people just don’t pay attention to what they’re doing when they’re driving,” Craig said by way of self justification. For my part, I realized that there was at least something that Craig could learn before he was taken up like Elijah.
Every week Craig and I would sit down, usually about Tuesday and begin stewing over the question of who to ask out for the week-end. Since we were both approaching 30 we felt that is was more or less obligatory for us to have dates for both Friday and Sat. and possibly one for a fireside on Sunday. Paul, as mentioned in a previous essay, never seemed to worry about it until a few minutes before the date and Alma, our other roommate, was engaged. Craig and I would banter names back and forth hoping to get suggestions and even encouragement. For my part, if I had spent the time studying that I spent worrying about and actually getting dates, I would probably have my PhD and possibly even a Nobel Prize by now. Craig’s task, while almost as bad, was never quite as bad, because on most week-ends, a girl would ask him out, usually to a church dance. So after a few weeks when he said, “who could I ask out this week-end?” I responded with, “Why don’t you ask one of the girls on the ballroom dance team? They are all certainly very cute, and they also all seem to like you.”
“They are cute,” he acknowledged, “but they just don’t seem to be my type. They lack something that is really important to me.” He never seemed to be able to pin-point exactly what that “something” was, indeed, I’m not certain he even knew himself.
The week after the events I recorded in “Paul”, I decided I needed to do something to make amends as best I could with Jill Hunter, largely, because, contrary to what I had told Paul, I really was still hopeful that something “would work out” between us. I decided that the best plan would be to take Craig with me to their weekly sing-a-long, so that she could see that I also associated with “better quality folk”. So I asked Craig if he would be willing to go along with me and maybe, if the occasion arose, put in a good word in my behalf. He said that he would be glad to, so off we went.
Jill greeted me warmly, as she always did, and seeing that I had brought someone with me asked me who he was. I responded, “This is my roommate, Craig Johnson. He like Paul is on the ball-room dance team, but he’s nicer.” I quickly added.
“How could he not be?” she said laughing.
Well we had a great time. We began by introducing ourselves and then moved over to the piano where we began the customary sing-a-long, with Jill playing. Craig, of course, shined. He was not only a remarkable dancer; he was also a great singer with a very mellow, appealing baritone voice. We had sung about 4 or 5 songs when Jill turned the playing over to one of her roommates and disappeared into the kitchen. A few minutes later, one of Jill’s roommates went into the kitchen to answer the phone and came out saying, “Is there a Craig Johnson here?” Craig said that it was him. “You’re wanted on the phone, it’s in the kitchen,” the roommate continued. Craig disappeared into the kitchen and the rest of us continued with the sing-a-long. As we did so, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Who on earth could have called Craig. I didn’t know that we told anyone that we were coming.” Then it occurred to me that it was probably Paul, who knew where we were going. After a few minutes Craig returned and a few minutes later Jill came out with the customary cookies. We sang a few more songs and I said we needed to go.
“Already?” Jill said in a disappointed voice, “You just got here.” I made some excuse. The truth was, I was really curious to know what was so important that Paul would call us at Jill’s. The only reason I could think of was that he felt obligated to warn Craig to keep a close eye on the hatchet and if Jill started to move in that direction to make a very hasty exit.
“What did Paul want?” I asked after we had left the house.
“It wasn’t Paul.” Craig said quietly.
“It wasn’t Paul? Who else knew we were at Jill’s?”
“It was Jill.”
“Jill! I don’t understand. If she wanted to talk to you why didn’t she just do it there?”
“Well, I hope you don’t mind, but you did say that you were all over her. She went next door to use the phone so she could ask me to her ward dance without you hearing. Like I said, since you had told me that you were over her anyway, I agreed to go. I hope you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind at all”, I said very sincerely, because I realized with that, that I was indeed “over Jill”. It was like a large weight had been lifted from my back.
Craig went with Jill to the dance, but I am afraid that honesty forces me to tell something else about Craig. Of course, his was a weakness that all of us must confess up to. Well, not really “all of us”, because of course, there are some of us who have never been asked out by a girl, but most of us have and when we are, we are generally faced with the challenge that courtesy requires that we reciprocate. Now, if my memory serves me correctly, I personally failed to reciprocate only twice—once in the 9th grade and once when I was a senior—but the one when I was a senior shouldn’t really count because the girl was from out of town and I didn’t know her phone number—of course, someone could argue that I could have—maybe, even should have, gotten her phone number, but that is merely being nitpicky. I will have to admit that if looked at from a percentage standpoint, I still am in no great position to criticize having been asked out (again, if my memory serves me correctly) only 4 or five times altogether, so obviously, I am not being severely critical of Craig, but only somewhat critical when I point out, that I don’t think he reciprocated by asking out all the girls who asked him out. Naturally, he knew he was supposed to, and, speaking in his favor, I am bound to say that I think he always intended to and always planned to and always said he wanted to, but I think time just got away from him and he felt, after several weeks, embarrassed and simply let it slide. Of course, when a fellow is being asked out almost every weekend, sometimes it is tough to reciprocate as etiquette requires and still have a dating life of your own—or, at least, it seems to me that could possibly be a legitimate excuse—unfortunately, I wouldn’t know. I happen to mention all this, not because I wish to shatter anyone’s image of Craig, but just to point out that I don’t think he ever asked Jill out again after their first date. Of course, he might have taken her to a school assembly or met her on campus for lunch, which I would not know about and I’m not sure that would really count as reciprocating anyway.
Well, I digress. What happened next—or, at least, what continued to happen is that Craig and I would hem and haw and stew every weekend about who we should ask out. Of course, I had to hem and haw and stew a great deal more because, as pointed out above, I usually had to fill two weekend nights with dates, and he had to fill only one—in fact, if he had always reciprocated, he would not have needed to hem and haw at stew hardly at all.
At the start of the second semester we went to church (we always went to church during the first semester too, but I am about to describe what happened the first Sunday of the second semester). During Church it was announced that a new girl had moved into the ward who wanted to form a church choir and that those wishing to sing in said choir should stay after church for practice. Well, both Craig and I did.
After we got home from choir practice, Craig began to wax eloquent on how attractive and commendable in every other way he could think of the choir director was. He said, “Merrill, I wonder if she would go out with me, if I asked her.” I said, “sure”. Which I honestly believed but it puzzled me a great deal, because to my way of thinking she was not all that attractive. In fact, I was pretty sure that she would even go out with me if I asked her. In order to understand all this I think an explanation is in order. It will help with the explanation I mention that her name is “Barbara”. I don’t remember her last name—I think it might have been “Johnson” but possibly could have been something else. I hope that I am not giving too much away when I state that I know for a fact that it is “Johnson” now.
The attractiveness issue requires an explanation. At BYU at that time the girls wanted, for the most part, at least, to be considered attractive and the best way to be obviously attractive was to look like someone. Now the “someone” that it was most popular to look like at that time was Julie Andrews. The “Sound of Music” was the most popular movie and all the girls who could wanted to look as much like Julie Andrews as possible—and, I must say right off, that some of them were quite good at it—of course, perfect candor forces me to admit that many were not. Naturally, for most, looking like Julie Andrews was simply not in the cards. In that case, they would try to look like Audrey Hepburn, or Rita Hayworth or even Mary Tyler Moore or someone like that. Well, the girls that Craig normally dated, especially, the ones on the ballroom dance team that asked him out all looked like one of those movie stars. The problem, it seemed to me, was that Barbara didn’t look like any of them—or at least, if she did look like a movie star, I missed that movie—and being not very imaginative (i.e. always taking my dates to movies) and being required, as described above, to go on two dates a week—I didn’t miss many.
There were, however, two things about Barbara that I think strongly attracted Craig. First, she had perfect, incredibly perfect posture—even, unlike Janet Bush (if you remember her from an earlier essay)—when she sat down, and I suspect, that posture is always important to a dancer. And second, she had the most winning smile. Of course, all the girls smiled at least occasionally, when they thought circumstances required it, but with Barbara it was spontaneous and natural and almost constant.
To make a long story short (it really wasn’t all that long anyway), Craig got his date the very next weekend. After that he simply turned down all the other girls and before you knew it (this is a trite expression that I felt obligated to use—I knew it long before “before you knew it”) they were engaged. And it wasn’t too much longer after that that they were married.
Several years later, after I was married, Craig and Barbara and several children happened to be coming through Salt Lake and asked if they could stay with us. At the time we had no children (which means that it was very soon after I was married), and had one of those couches that fold into a bed so we were glad to have them. I mention this because Craig was, if possible, even more mild-mannered and affable than before and Barbara more smiley, which at the time did not surprise, or even impress me. It was only after I had a few children of my own that I realized what a remarkable achievement that was.
In my minds eye, I can see Craig driving somewhere in Arizona, behind a rather inattentive driver who comes to a 4-way stop and, for whatever reason, fails to move forward when it is his turn. I can see Craig pushing open his car door, throwing his fist into the air, and almost yelling when he suddenly remembers that Barbara and some of the kids are in the car. Pulling his arm down, I can see him rather quietly climbing back into the car and rather sheepishly saying, “I felt a need to stretch”. I can see Barbara flashing that wonderful encouraging smile of hers, quietly laying her had on his knee and saying softly, “its ok. It bothered me too.”