Monday, October 4, 2010

Great Lovers I have known--III--Tom Allen--2

Great Lovers--III--Tom Allen--2
After Christmas vacation Tom actually wrote Beverly a few times but he simply was not much of a writer and I assumed that the whole affair had more of less died a natural death. Of course, under normal circumstances, Tom could have used leave time to visit Beverly in Provo, but Tom’s circumstances were not normal. Apparently, he had somehow agreed that he would trade in his leave time for cash to pay off creditors, so effectively, at least, according to him, he had no leave time.
Somehow, and I don’t really remember how, I learned about something they have in the army called "Religious Retreat". This is a program whereby, if your chaplain approves, you can take up to three days off to attend a religious function of some kind. I was getting a little homesick for BYU, so I proposed to Tom that we apply for Religious Retreat" to attend General Conference. He was excited about it, since apparently his leave restriction did not apply to "Religious Retreat." Accordingly, I applied and the chaplain, who was glad to get rid of us, granted our request.
When I told Tom that our request had been granted, he became really excited. I was amazed. He didn’t seem the type to get all that excited about General Conference and since he had never been to BYU, he couldn’t be that excited about going there either. After a bit it became clear that the real reason for his excitement was that he saw it as an opportunity to date--i.e. wine and dine--Beverly for three whole days.
He wrote her immediately saying that he would be there and hoped that she would reserve the evenings for him. She wrote back responding that she would be happy to see him and that she would indeed reserve the evenings for him. Tom was ecstatic.
An integral part of his plan was to present her with the new, and greatly improved, i.e. much lighter, Tom. He had become convinced that one reason that her enthusiasm for their dating had seemed to diminish a bit toward the end of the Christmas vacation had been his bulk. He was, admittedly, a little hefty. The result was that he determined to lose as much weight as he possibly could in the six weeks or so of preparation for our trip.
He had read a book, or pamphlet describing what he called, "The Grapefruit Diet". The idea behind this diet was that, unlike other food, grapefruit did not add to the calories you took into your body, it somehow subtracted from them. In other words, if you ate enough grapefruit, the grapefruit would actually begin to melt fat away from your body. So when I would eat with Tom, usually the evening meals in the mess hall. He would have mostly grapefruit, in fact, fairly often nothing but grapefruit. Tom was able to do this because he had for some time cultivated a friendship with the cooks--formerly, so he could get extra helpings. But now that paid off in getting extra grapefruit--quite a lot of extra grapefruit. Grapefruit was always an option--not a very popular one, from my observations, for breakfast at the mess hall, but my guess is that after Tom began his grapefruit diet that the cooks had to triple or even quadruple their orders of grapefruit. It speaks well for Tom that they were willing to do it.
Of course, it wasn’t just grapefruit dieting. Tom was so sure that the new sleek, suave Tom would so enamor Beverly (in just three days) that provision needed to be made for a more permanent relationship and that would require money. That base was also to be covered--as always, with my help, i.e. me furnishing the capital. Tom’s scheme this time was to become a middleman for glass figurines made by the glass blowers of Juarez. Tom was sure that when the various shops in Provo saw some of these they would jump at the chance to market them and we would make a fortune. Since this seemed like a scheme with somewhat more possibility than Tom’s usual offering, I agreed to advance him $50 to buy samples in Juarez.
Finally, the big day came. We were off to Provo carrying a little luggage and a box of glass figurines. Tom was always telling me all the things he planned to do with Beverly (on the $50 I advanced him for that purpose--also to be repaid out of the profits from the glassware business). I pointed out to him that he needed to spend at least some time promoting his glassware scheme, to which he assured me that that was right at the top of his list of priorities.
I had a great time. I watched the conference sessions in the Wilkinson Center and spent the what free time that left me visiting old friends--especially girl friends, and getting applications for my master’s degree which I planned to begin work on in June when I got out of the army. I saw little of Tom. The one or two times I did run into him, he assured me that the glassware scheme was going great. All the merchants he had talked to were, he claimed, enormously excited about selling this stuff. In addition, things were going great with his courtship of Beverly.
On Sunday, after the final session of conference we headed back. The whole way back, Tom could talk of nothing but Beverly and how well everything had gone. He was busy figuring out what I, as the best man, should wear at the wedding. Where we should have the reception--at her home in Las Cruces or on the base. He was working out the details of the honeymoon and planning to check out married housing on the base. Fortunately, I was spared the details of his whole future happiness with Beverly by the fact that, having had almost no sleep in the previous three days, he fell asleep for the rest of the trip.
The next day at dinner it was back to the grapefruit regimen--apparently, Tom wanted to present Beverly when she came home in a month, with an even sleeker Tom than his already sleek self. Two days later, however, I was surprised to see Tom come to the table with two large steaks (something that only someone who had greatly ingratiated himself with the cooks could get away with), a large, separate plate of mashed potatoes and two deserts.
"What’s this?" I asked. "You temporarily abandoning the grapefruit diet?"
Rather than reply, he merely handed me a sheet of beautiful stationery containing a very neat hand-written note in purple ink.
The note was dated Sunday night and said: "Dear Tom, It is clear from the attention you have paid me the last three days that you are much more serious about our relationship that I am. I am sorry but I can only think of you as a good friend, so when I come home, I think it best that we not date, but that we can still see each other at Church and Church activities and be good friends. Your good friend, Beverly."
"Looks like we came on a little strong," I commented with a laugh handing him back the letter.
"You laugh," he muttered. "You can’t even imagine how hard getting this letter has been on me."
"Having gone through it several times, " I commented trying to be consoling, "I can tell you this--its a lot easier getting this kind of thing as a letter rather than going though it face to face."
"Well, you won’t think it quite so funny when you find out that I’m going to have to ask you for $50."
"$50!", I exclaimed. "What on earth for?"
"For the chocolates," he explained.
"The chocolates? I don’t understand," I protested and then it hit me. "OH no!" I exclaimed.
Our Elder’s quorum, as a fund raiser, was selling cheap boxes of chocolates for $3 each. I had agreed to sell 3 boxes, which I had taken to work and promptly sold to people at work. Tom, thinking of himself, as always, as the supersalesman, had agreed to sell 16 boxes of the chocolates.
"Don’t tell me you ate all those choclates!" I cried. "In one night?"
"I was depressed", he explained. "When I got that letter I decided that I am going to eat and eat until I get so fat that I can’t move. Then I am going up to Beverly and say, ‘See what you’ve done to me.’ She’ll feel terrible--but not as terrible as I feel."
"Yes, I’m sure that will certainly make her sorry that she dropped you all right. Very smart move. Besides," I added, "if you are so fat you can’t move, how are you going to go up to her?--in a wheel chair?"
"I haven’t worked out all the details," he went on whining. "All I know is that I will be so fat that she will be sorry she ever did this to me."
Well, when I left the Army in June, Tom could still move, but he did gain most of, if not all of, the weight he lost on his grapefruit diet. We more or less quit going to Las Cruces and he quickly consoled his great loss by dating girls in El Paso--as usual, at my expense.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Great Lovers I have Known--III--Tom Allen--I

After I graduated I was promptly drafted with the purpose of fighting in Viet Nam. After basic training I was sent to White Sands Missile Range to learn how to do COBOL on army computers. The idea was that after a couple of months of training I would be sent to Viet Nam and the soldier who trained me actually was sent to Viet Nam, but I, and the soldier sent after me, for me to train, never were sent there. Then they quit sending soldiers. Although we were still in Viet Nam, the force was being reduced and it was clear that we would soon withdraw our troops altogether.
So I spent my two years in the Army at White Sands. When I first arrived, there were six of us single LDS enlisted men. Most of them had been to Viet Nam and were sent to White Sands to finish out their enlistment. Within a couple of months, there were only three of us left--Craig Johnson, about whom I will write later, Tom Allen and myself. After a year, Craig was discharged and returned to BYU, leaving Tom and me to fend for ourselves.
The nearest towns of any size to White Sands are Las Cruces , New Mexico and El Paso, Texas. We would go to both to attend social functions, but Tom favored El Paso, I favored Las Cruces. That is, Tom favored El Paso until he met Beverly. We were supposed to attend Church in Las Cruces, which we generally did, but the first year I was there, Tom always wanted to leave church quickly and get to some social event in El Paso. How Tom missed Beverly all that first year is still a mystery to me, after all, she was in our ward. But anyway, he did. It may have had to do with Craig, who also favored El Paso. Craig had gone on his mission to Mexico, so he really enjoyed socializing with the Hispanic people in El Paso. At any rate, Craig left in the middle of the summer and it was in August that Tom first asked Beverly out. She accepted and Tom was smitten. He took her out as often as he could, seeing as how he had no car and was, therefore, dependent on me for transportation. Tom’s lack of a car was a result of his lack of any money, which I will explain forthwith.
Tom had been a very successful salesman, and had, he claimed, been the proud recipient of an income in excess of 6 figures, which in those days was a considerable sum, somewhat akin to a quarter of a million dollars per annum today. But as so often happens with salesmen, or at least has so often happened with the few successful salesmen I have personally known, they have two problems. The first is the assumption that they will always earn what they earn at their peak. The second is that even if they could in some miraculous manner earn that much, they can always spend more--usually a great deal more. Both of these problems afflicted Tom in spades, to the point that he got so deep in the hole that he finally decided that the only solution--or, at least, the only somewhat honorable solution— was to volunteer for the draft, which he did. He had avoided being drafted outright by being overweight, but faced with the possibility of forfeiting on his debts--some of which were to people who, again, he claimed, were the type of characters who, when presented with a bankruptcy decree, would ignore it and attempt collection using brass knuckles, he knuckled down himself and brought his weight within acceptable limits. The result was that Tom’s creditors were forced to accept what payment they could get, and Tom was forced to give up his entire paycheck except for about $25 a month, to pay off debts.
At any rate, Tom began dating Beverly as much as he possibly could using my car and my money. Since I was rather chintzy with both, Tom only got off two or three dates before Beverly was off to BYU. After she was gone life settled more or less back into the old routine with Tom pressing to go to El Paso as often as I would agree to go.
During Christmas break, however, Tom really hit his stride. For one thing, he had a little more money. He was still, of course, restricted to his $25 a month allowance from the army, but he was always thinking up schemes to make extra money. Some of these actually paid off in a very minor way. He always claimed that they would pay off in a major way if I would simply break loose with the capital to make them major money makers, which I generally refused to do. My favorite scheme--possibly my favorite, because I saw through to the problems and refused to donate so much as a dollar to it--was his "great kool-aid bonanza". He came to me one day greatly excited, telling me he had the perfect scheme to make a small fortune. If I would loan him $50 I would double my money in a matter of days. When I demanded to know how this was going to happen, he was reluctant to tell me (as he generally was) claiming that it was such a fool-proof scheme that I would want to do it by myself, thus cutting him--who had thought the whole thing up--completely out. To this I replied that, not being much into money-making schemes, he need not worry about me. In this instance, he finally agreed to tell me the scheme, since it was clear that no money--at least, no money from me, would be forthcoming unless he did. It turns out, he explained, that the PX had decided to put their sugarless kool-aid--normally 10¢ a package--on sale for only 2¢ a package! If we--or, more accurately, he, using my money--bought up $50 worth, he was sure he could sell the stuff in a few days for 8¢per package, thus being able to double my $50 and still have $50 left over for himself.
"And who," I asked, "do you propose to sell all this kool-aid to?"
"Are you kidding?" he demanded in an incredulous tone of voice. "People will be scarfing this up all over the place. They will be getting normally 10¢ packages of kool-aid for only 8¢. People will be buying all we will sell them and pleading for us to sell them more."
"Well, all I want to know is, who are these people?’
"For starters, the guys in the barracks."
"The guys in the barracks!" I said with a laugh. "The guys in the barracks shop at the same PX you shop at. I doubt very much that they will be jumping at the chance to buy kool-aid at 8¢ a package when they can buy it at the same price you paid for it."
"Well, I can always sell it to the people we know at church, both in Las Cruces and El Paso."
"The people in church!" I laughed hollowly again. "I take it you are going to pass a note up and down the aisles saying something like, ‘Would you like to buy a package of normally-10¢-sugar-free-kool aid for a mere 8¢?’ That should go over in a big way."
"Listen," Tom said impatiently, "how I sell it is not your concern. All you need to do is give me the $50 and then collect the extra $50 in a couple of days."
"I’m sorry, Tom," I said trying to sound sincerely sorry, "But there is a good reason why the PX has put the stuff on sale. I don’t know what it is, but my guess is that you will be able to buy kool aid at 4¢ or 5¢ a package anywhere. They probably made way too much of the stuff and are giving the PX the first shot of getting rid of the surplus." Of course, it turned out I was dead wrong. In a couple of days you could not buy sugarless kool aid--not legally, at least--at any price. The government had banned cyclamates, the principle ingredient in the stuff--and required kool aid to withdraw it from the market. The PX had gotten a few days warning and tried to unload their supply.
But the important point was that I had saved my $50. I was not always so lucky. Nevertheless, sometimes Tom’s schemes would actually pay off--as I said--in a minor way and he would have a few extra bucks to spend.
Well, during the college Christmas break, while Beverly was home, he made the most of those few extra bucks and anything and everything he could get out of me. The result was that he was dating Beverly several times a week.
Beverly’s father, who during the summer had assumed that, since Beverly would soon be safely away at BYU, the whole thing would die a natural death, became concerned. I knew he was concerned because he called me into his office. He was the chief chemist at White Sands, or, at least, if not the chief, very close to it. He had a large spacious office--which my boss did not have (he shared it with two others)--a private secretary, and several workers down the hall.
Before the holidays were over he called me twice into his office to talk to him. The first time he explained that he and his brother had always loved chemistry. They had played with chemistry kits all the time they were growing up. All the time he was explaining about his childhood, I was asking myself, first, why he had called me over, and second, what I was going to say to my boss, who I was sure would ask me why the head chemist had asked me to come to his office. I wasn’t sure he would believe me when I told him that he had called me over to explain what a great time he had had as a boy playing with his chemistry sets.
Of course, it soon came out what the real purpose was. It became clearer when he explained that, although, both he and his brother had loved chemistry from their earliest days, only he had actually gotten a degree. His brother had taken lots of chemistry classes in college but had never actually gotten a degree. The result was that his brother, who according to Beverly’s dad, was always inventing new and important chemicals for the small companies he worked for, it didn’t do him a lot of good because as soon as he invented these marvelous new chemicals, his small company would use the new chemical as a leverage to sell out to a big company who would promptly lay off the brother. Thus, although a chemistry genius, because he had never gotten a degree, he was mostly out-of-work and broke. Beverly’s father, on the other hand, because he had a degree, was chief chemist at a major army installation and was securely earning a good income. Mostly so I would have something to explain to my boss, I asked him what the chief chemist at White Sands actually did.
"I always have a goal," he responded, "and I’m working toward it constantly."
I decided from that rather evasive answer that his goal was pretty much the same as my boss’s goal, which was pretty much the same goal as most of the upper level people at White Sands and that was to always have something in mind so you could look busy in case a general happened to walk through your department. Beverly’s father actually called me over two more times while I was there and it was clear that he was not going to waste any effort on the goal of looking busy on a mere Spec 4.
"Do you see what I’m driving at?" he asked after explaining about always having a goal.
"You feel that it is important to graduate from college." I said after a pause. I was still thinking about what I was going to tell my boss and thinking that the idea that the chief chemist called me over to tell me about the importance of college graduation was not much more believable than that he called me over to tell me what fun he had as a boy with his chemistry set.
"Precisely!" he exclaimed hitting his fist on his desk for emphasis.
"That is very helpful," I said, "and nice to know and all that, but, actually, I’ve graduated from college."
"I know that. But your friend, Tom, hasn’t. How much college do you think he has?"
I responded that I really didn’t know but I doubted that it was very much.
"Well, I do know. I had a friend look it up in his personnel file. Exactly zero, that’s how much. That’s why I called you over here. I want you to somehow put the kibosh on his dating of my daughter. I also learned that he is so deeply in debt that he hardly gets any money to spend. I don’t know where he is getting the money to date her at all."
Of course, I was not about to supply that bit of information. I simply told him that the holidays were almost over, and, I felt, that the romance would probably die a natural death which I really did feel, knowing that Tom was unlikely to carry on a courtship by correspondence.
This proved to be the case. After Beverly returned to BYU, Tom wrote her once, or possibly twice, and then life seemed to return to normal. But, as it turned out, the flame was turned down, but it was by no means extinguished, as I was about to learn.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Great Lovers I have known--II-Gary Jensen

Great Lovers I have Known--II--Gary Jensen
Unlike most of my roommates, Gary Jensen was strikingly handsome--so much so, in fact, that frequently when girls first met him, their mouths would simply drop open in wonder, or admiration, or longing, or something like that. However, after they had actually talked with Gary for a couple of minutes, their mouths closed right back up--and usually pretty quickly, at that. Gary was a psychology major, and we all pretty much agreed that he chose that major so he could, hopefully, figure out why he was so different. But it didn’t seem to help much, or at least, in so far as we could observe. Of course, we all agreed that a great deal of the problem was that he was so good looking. He was not only good looking but he was tall and had a beautiful head of blond hair to boot. You can’t possibly have all those advantages and expect to be completely normal--and he wasn’t.
Of course, I will admit that sometimes Gary would show sense that somehow surprised you. Like the time, for example, that one of the roommates came home with a deck of cards--which he claimed to have picked up off the street--with normal face cards on one side and pictures of half-naked girls on the other. Gary took one look at one card and muttered with disgust. "You get mixed up with that stuff and you will lose your taste for real girls. My advice is stick with the real." Now he couldn’t have picked that up in psychology class.
He had no trouble at all getting dates and normally had no trouble getting a second or even a third date with a girl, but at that point they would start to balk. Admittedly, he did have girls who would gladly have dated him longer, but they were a bit strange themselves and he soon dropped them.
His troubles in dating greatly increased during the second semester he lived with us. He had started taking karate lessons. Pretty soon he began banging his fist--and sometimes, even a foot, into the walls and the doors. The idea, apparently, was to swing against the wall with the hand, or foot, going at incredible speeds and then, at the last fraction of a second, pull back so that he actually hit the wall with only a feather touch. Well, at first he wasn’t too good at it and he slammed into the walls and the doors pretty hard, although, I will say, he never actually went through them, which is more than I can say for Dan Tonks, about whom I will tell later. But after awhile, he got so he could go at the wall so fast that you were sure he was going to put his fist through the plasterboard, but pulled back at the last instant so he hardly touched the wall. The problem was that having pretty well mastered this trick, he could not resist trying it out on real people, including his dates. He, of course, tried it out on us, his roommates, first and I can assure you that after the first experience we kept ourselves at a considerable distance from him. It is a bit (and maybe even more than a bit) disconcerting to see a fist flying at you at a rate of at least 90 mile per hour and be sure that your sojourn on earth is over and then have the fist actually come to a halt at the point of your nose with only a slight flick. As I said, however, having once experienced it, none of us wanted to experience a repeat performance--afraid, no doubt, that Gary might become suddenly distracted as his fist careened toward our nose.
Being unable to practice on his roommates, Gary was naturally always looking around for other possibilities and who more possible than his dates? Having been on a couple of double dates with Gary and seen him in action, I was surprised that he never seemed to learn that having a fist fly at you at an incredible rate of speed is not a pleasant experience. The first time he would do it with a date, he would do it as a complete surprise and I can say that I have seldom seen anyone look so terrified. But I think Gary actually expected after he had proved that he could stop his fist just in time to deliver only a slight touch that the date would say something like, "Gee, that was neat! How did you do that?"
What they actually said on the occasions when I was present was, "Don’t you ever, ever, do that again."
But, of course, that never discouraged Gary. He seemed somehow certain that if he almost punched them in the face, or on the ear, but didn’t quite, that they would come to realize what a remarkable thing he had done. The result was, that while earlier, he could always get a second date--and usually a third or even a fourth--with a girl, he now almost never got even the second. I tried to tell him that I thought it had something to do with the repeated karate chops, but he only laughed. He was sure that if he delved deep enough into his psychology books, he would come to understand it all.
Well, Gary graduated and having done so and, consequently having joined the working class, i. e. those with money, he got himself a better apartment, but we continued to see him. The reason was that his boss had hired him to teach karate. The shop in which he did his stuff was just down from Knight-Mangum hall. At that time there was a sort of a strip mall of little stores where now there is the Campus Plaza parking lot and a service station. Of course, normally when we left the campus, we would go home down 4th east, but occasionally, when we wanted to see Gary, we would go down 6th and stop in at his karate studio. Most of the time it was no problem because there was almost never anyone there. His boss, believing that with a karate studio so close to campus he would get all kinds of business, was disappointed to learn that most students had neither the money or the time to invest in karate lessons. So after a few months, Gary announced that his boss was closing shop and that he, Gary, was moving to Salt Lake in search of better opportunities.
Well, I didn’t see Gary for several months and then one day I ran into him on campus. He was with Wayne Peterson, who had lived the previous year in our apartment complex, but not in our apartment. It turns out that the two of them had opened an electronics store and were doing extremely well. A couple of months later Gary Mathews and I were together on campus and we ran into Gary Jensen again. We asked him how dating was going and he announced that shortly after he and Wayne had launched their store, he had married a girl he had met in the singles ward.
I suspect taking pity on us--me for my "lean and hungry" look, and Gary who always managed to look hungry without being lean--he invited us to dinner at his place in Salt Lake, so we could meet his wife. Eagerly, we accepted.
Accordingly, about a week later we found ourselves at Gary Jensen’s home just off Redwood Road north of North Temple. It was a charming little home set in a large lot with very big trees both in his yard and the neighbors. Most surprising was the fact that his wife was not only very attractive, but remarkably charming. She had a personality that can best be described as infectiously merry. She had a delightful little laugh that she must have known was pleasing because she did it often. It was also clear that she was very much in love with and very proud of having married Gary.
I told Gary that I very much his admired his situation. He had a beautiful and delightful wife, and a very nice home. He responded with. "Well, of course, I agree about my wife, but as soon as I can afford it, we’re moving."
"But why?" I asked surprised. This is a nice home and the yard is delightful. It’s like living in a forest in the middle of the city."
"It’s the neighbors. They’re weird. The other day Sue (Gary’s wife) was in the backyard sun-bathing and my neighbor to the north climbed up into a tree to ogle her. He fell out of the tree and broke his arm. Serves him right the old coot."
Gary’s wife, who had been in the kitchen until the last comment protested, "I’m sure that that nice Mr. Smith was not ogling me. He was just up in his tree trimming the branches."
"You don’t use binoculars to trim branches," Gary retorted quickly and with some vehemence.
She laughed that delightful little laugh of hers and said softly, "I had forgotten about the binoculars."
At any rate I tell all this just in case you happen to be a little strange and have gotten a degree in psychology and it has not helped. There is still hope. All you have to do is get your black belt in karate, open a karate studio that fails, and then open up an electronics store and all will come out for the best in the long run, even if in fact, especially if, the psychology degree doesn’t do the trick.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Great Lovers I Have Known-1--Gary Mathews--2

Great Lovers I Have Known I--Gary Mathews II
Gary and I continued dating every weekend for some time until Gary fell hopelessly in love with our neighbor, Janet Bush. Of course, by the expression, "hopelessly in love" we generally mean "googly-eyed" or "puppy-dog-fawning", but Gary was never any of those things with Janet Bush. What it meant to be hopelessly in love with Janet Bush meant that you were in love and it was hopeless. For Gary to have sent her a large piece of butcher paper with a sentiment like "Roses are red violets are blue no matter what happens, I’m crazy for you", would have delighted her immensely. She would have roared for hours and put it on display in her living room, but it is doubtful that she would ever have gone out with him again.
It is fascinating to me that Gary, who always seemed eager to do his duty and get married as quickly as possible, should ever have started dating Janet in the first place. Not that she wasn’t a nice girl and very attractive, but she was also sort of ‘aloof". I came, in my own experience with her to refer to her as ‘the refrigerator", although I hear she has married and I doubt that her husband refers to her as "the refrigerator". She had graduated and was managing a finance company. She was, therefore, a professional woman and she looked and acted the part. For example, she had absolutely perfect posture when she stood (when she sat, at least, when she sat at home she had the posture of a raggedy-ann doll). She was very proud of her work, which often led her into being an absolute Scrooge, when her clients fell behind in their loans. On the other hand, she was very proud of being able to help people who could not get loans from the bank.
She would talk with pride of her helping the Arbizus, for example. I had known Ray Arbizu on my mission. He was the lead tenor for the Opera Company in Boon when I was assigned to work there. He and his wife were an interesting couple. Ray, who was, in appearance at least, a typical lead tenor, i.e. short and very stout, claimed to have been engaged to the absolutely most beautiful girl in the world. She (according to him) had all the curves of Jane Russell and the long blond hair and husky feminine charm of Marilyn Monroe. Anyway, he was engaged to this paragon of feminine beauty and within a few weeks of marrying her, when he decided to take a break from Opera singing and go for a weeks vacation back to the reservation (he was an American Indian). While he was there doing whatever Indians on vacation do on the reservation--I suspect, in his case, singing so everyone else can do the tribal rain dance--at any rate, while he was there he met and fell in love, apparently almost instantly, with a rather plain looking Indian girl and within a couple of days, they were married. It all happened so fast, that he didn’t have time to inform his fiancee that he had tied the knot with someone else. The result was that when he got off the plane in California to return to work, that his fiancee ran up to him and wrapped her voluptuous self around him in an only-to-be-seen-in-Hollywood embrace. When she finally came up for air, he pointed to his wife and introduced her as such leaving the now former fiancee wishing she had not been quite so ardent in her greeting. At any rate, the happy couple proceeded to have a tribe of little Indians that were as wild as anything seen in the movies. The Opera company had provided them with a very large (for Germany at the time) apartment but with hardly any furniture, which was a good thing, because whenever I was there, at least, the kids were all over what furniture there was. Ray had gotten a job teaching opera singing at BYU, but had been unable to get a loan for a house at the bank, so Janet had obligingly provided the ready for that purpose. Because she knew that I knew them she always informed me that they were right up to date on their loans, this being in contrast to her typical story about how she was having to chase after a delinquent client with a few tomahawks of her own.
But I digress, the point was that during his senior year, Gary pursued Janet with all the ardor that his lack of resources and her decided lack of ardor would allow. The latter was, or course, very frustrating for Gary. Probably as frustrating, or even more, was the fact that he perceived (he was always rather perceptive in this way) that I was becoming convinced that since Janet was dragging her feet, it was no doubt due to the fact that she really liked me! Dating Janet Bush may very well have put off Gary’s marriage by a good two years. I can speak thus rather confidently, because dating Janet Bush probably put mine back by at least four.
At the end of his senior year Gary was hired to teach school on a very remote island somewhere off the coast of Alaska--an island inhabited by a few Eskimoes and, during the school year for two years, Gary. The salary for performing this service was one that an MBA graduate would drool over, at least, he would until he found out that everything had to be flown in by hydroplane and that a quart of milk cost about as much as Gary had made in a week spreading butcher paper over banquet tables for BYU food service. He had hoped to save a lot of money but it became pretty clear that unless started shooting his own food (not likely, although he had read innumerable novels in which the hero shot, skinned, and cooked buffalo, they were all a little short on detailed explanation of how-to-actually-do-it) , he was going to have to live on bread and water--and moldy bread, at that.
Well, he actually did save up some money so he returned the next summer and we resumed life where we had left off the previous summer. When he had left he had told me that he expected that I would begin "beating around the bush", meaning, of course, that I would start dating Janet Bush as soon as he left. Which I did. But by the time Gary came back for the summer I had figured out that Janet Bush didn’t like me any better, in fact, probably not as much as Gary so I had given up temporarily. So Gary began dating Janet again, but fairly quickly gave up there himself. He took a couple of classes, but fairly easy ones so he had time to read, which he did with a vengeance. Almost every other day he went off to the city library and came back with 6 to 10 western novels. I suspect that during the course of that summer Gary read (or re-read) every western novel ever written up to that time. I figured out that he was able to read 10 novels in two days because all he had to do was read enough to get the names of the main characters, the location, and whether the plot was plot A, plot B, or plot C. Having read only a couple of Zane Grey westerns myself, I’m not sure whether the plots extend beyond C. The three I read never got beyond A. Of course, western novels are big on the description of the scenery, but I suspect that Gary only had to find out the local and from previous readings, he already knew where all the mountains, rivers, stage coach routes and trees, passes, and big rocks behind which outlaws could hide to rob the stage, so he could skip all that. Of course, we dated on most weekends, but it seemed to me a rather desultory thing, at best, on his part. Toward the end of the summer, I found out why.
It turns out that Gary was smitten, almost from the start of the summer and with increasing intensity with a girl he home-taught named Sharon. Of course, since he home taught her he could not date her, but rather than the traditional once-a-month visit, he dreamed up every excuse imaginable to perform home-teaching duties. Toward the end of the summer he confessed his amour to me and I hit the ceiling. This was, I told him, Janet Bush all over again only worse. Sharon was a prim and proper Easterner, from, as I remember it, of all places, Boston or someplace close to it. She was as different as Gary as Boston is from Tooele, which I pointed out to him. To this he protested that after all, he too was an easterner, having come from Washington D.C. To this I responded that I was convinced that the reason he liked western novels is that the all the gunfire and knives flying through the air in those novels reminded him of home.
Well, at the end of the summer, he returned to Alaska, and Sharon returned to Boston, but before that happened, Gary confessed to Sharon having strong feelings for her--something that, no doubt, came as no big surprise considering the fact that he had been hanging around all summer on the flimmsiest of possible excuses. But he said that he would have dated her had he not been her home teacher. She responded that she liked him too and hoped that he would keep in touch. Well, the bottom line to that story is that he started writing, she responded, then he started calling, so much so that he didn’t make any money that year due to phone calls. What he could possibly have written or said, I have no idea. He must have quoted Longfellow or Tennyson or, possibly, Jane Austen, which certainly would have been a stretch. He obviously had the good sense to avoid quoting Zane Grey or Max Brand, because after a couple of months they got engaged. A few months later they were married.
For my part, I was convinced the marriage would not last a month--they were just too different, but somehow it did. Years later, I was at one of his children’s wedding receptions. I have never known anyone so thoroughly happy with his marriage or the family that resulted from it--the sign in my opinion of a truly Great Lover.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Great Lovers I Have Known-1--Gary Mathews-1

Having last year in February told the story of my own romance, I have decided to begin telling the stories of some of my roommates. I had hoped to finish the effort in February, but it appears I will have to extend it well into March, or even April.
I begin with my dear, dear roommate and very good friend, Gary Mathews.
Great Lovers I Have Known--Gary Mathews
Gary Mathews was my roommate for about four years, although the last two were only in the summer months. He was not what I would characterize as the "great lover type" which was probably better represented by the other Gary in our apartment, Gary Jensen. Gary M. was rather short and chubby and a little rough around the edges--speaking about his manner rather than his appearance, In appearance, Gary had no edges
Gary was always very much for doing his religious duty and since, for a returned Mormon missionary almost your most important duty is to get married, Gary was all for doing it and the sooner the better. If he had had a crystal ball that had told him how long it was going to take, I suspect he would have been very discouraged indeed. But those of us who did not get married until we were 35 are in no position to talk about either crystal balls or discouragement.
But, of course, all of us in our apartment were conscientious about doing our duty and were, therefore, pretty diligent daters--all except Robert Patterson. I throw that in just to point out that Gary must have had several dates and much dating experience before the first great love of his life. But I don’t really remember much about Gary’s early dates (for that matter I don’t even remember much about my own from that period). What I do remember is how hard we worked to get Robert Patterson out on a date. We felt that it was absolutely terrible that Robert was not only not doing his religious duty, i. e. getting married--none of us were doing that--but not even moving in that direction by dating. We all would encourage him in every way we could, by, for example, telling him about what a wonderful time we had on our latest date, which, of course, was generally an exaggeration if not an outright lie, but, naturally, when you are encouraging a person to do his religious duty, you are naturally allowed a great deal of leeway, religiously speaking. I mention all this because we were finally able, using a great deal of persuasion, an even greater deal of force, a bit of fib telling and a great bit of chicanery to get Robert to go out on a date with the girl next door, who, we felt, was just his type.
I mention all this about Robert because it was almost the end of the year before we got him to go on that date--actually, I think he finally went on two or three--all with the girl next door. Anyway, we all went home to work for the summer and what should we get from Robert toward the end of the summer but a wedding invitation! Naturally, we all went to his reception and lo! And behold! Wonder of wonders, the girl he married was very cute and very charming, which we all agreed was terribly, terribly unfair especially considering how little effort he put into the whole "struggle to find just the right person" thing. But the other thing we all agreed on was that it almost certainly never would have happened had we not essentially forced him to date the girl next door. I mention all this because, if anything, Robert was even rougher around the edges than Gary M. with, physically speaking, even fewer edges. For example, when we all went to the opening social at church, the Bishop came up and asked Robert his name, he said, "Robert Patterson." To which the Bishop good naturedly asked, "Do your friends call you Bob?" To which Robert replied very gruffly, "Some people do, but they aren’t my friends."
But I digress. The point of all that was that Gary went out on several dates before he started dating A_____. I don’t really remember her name, but I do remember that it began with A and I’m pretty sure it was April, but if her parents had wanted to name her by characteristic they would have named her Anxious--as in "Eager to get married". By the time Gary started dating April, he and I had become good friends, so naturally, I wanted the best for him, and, in my view, at least, April was anything but the best. She was cute enough, but she had just graduated from high school, was not interested in going to college, and saw life (again in my opinion) after high school as a Sadie Hawkins race in which she was determined to grab the slowest runner who could take care of her for the rest of her life. When it came to running away from cute, young girls, Gary was (at that time, at least) about the slowest runner around.
Gary would be in absolute ecstasy when he described their latest date. For my part, I don’t remember the dates so much as the notes they wrote to each other. Gary was working a job at the time that allowed him unlimited access to butcher paper, which he used for his own notes and provided to April to use for hers. So all over our room were these large notes with messages that can best be described as mushy. I think Gary got his from the Western novels he was always reading--after all, those cowboys, after they finished chasing cattle rustlers and running from Indians, would have to think of something to say while they sat on the front porch with the boss’s adoring daughter. I think Gary figured that since it always worked for his western heroes, it should certainly work for him--but I would have been dubious, if I had been him. One went, Roses are red violets are blue, I love you lots and I hope you love me too." Another read, "How do I love you? Let me count the ways" (admittedly, not a bad line. He must have gotten that one from one of the better writers--Zane Grey or Max Brand, but it went down hill from there), "I love you from your head to your toes and in lots of other ways too."
But if his notes to her were bad, hers to him were even worse. The one I remember went something like, "When I am with you I shake all over and come unglued." (Which, of course, one hopes is not the same thing as coming unstitched.)
At any rate, it was pretty clear that Gary thought his duty--at least so far as getting married was concerned--was all but done. What he would have known if he had read Shakespeare instead of Zane Grey (which I know, because I had to read him in the 10th grade) was that the course of true love never runs smooth and (I’m not one hundred per cent sure this is Shakespeare--I was in the 10th grade a long time ago) you should never count your chickens before they are hitched. The fly in the wedding cake, so to speak, in Gary’s case was that he didn’t have any money--or at least, not very much. A trip to the jewelry store showed him that if he could have bought an engagement ring at all, the biggest thing about it would be the microscope required to see the diamond in it. This discouraged him a great deal and resulted in the use of a great deal less butcher paper, especially on April’s part, who, as soon as Gary mentioned that they might have to wait for awhile before they happy day, began to notice that her glue was beginning to hold. Finally, she did Gary the biggest favor (in my opinion) she could have done for him. She hopped onto the back of an old boy friend’s motorcycle and together they ran off to Las Vegas. Gary learned that for someone like April, a large piece of butcher paper--even butcher paper covered with lines from a horse lover like Zane Grey--will not hold up to a Harley Davidson.
Poor Gary was disconsolate and for months and was even worse than Robert Patterson about doing his duty. But time, about fifty Wester novels, and a little pushing to remind him about his duty, and he was--to all appearances at least--pretty much his old self.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Remembering Dad--Part 2

Some months after my 8th birthday, we were obviously more prosperous because we moved from out first home on 8th to a new home on 18th. We were moving up in the world, both economically and geographically. The home on 18th was designed not only to be a symbol of increasing prosperity, but also of Dad’s partnership with George Hargraves. That was symbolized by the fact that we lived almost next door (one house in-between, whether they were unable to get adjoining lots or whether being side by side all day and all night too was too much, I was never able to find out) in houses that had exactly the same exterior and the same floor plans. When I say exactly the same exterior, I mean the same shape, they were different colors on part of the house.
The house on 18th was a fun one because it was at the edge of town. When we first moved there, there were no other houses between us and the hills behind us. On two sides we had open fields. It was also fun to help Mom and Dad with the landscaping, mostly because after a hard evening’s work Dad would take us to the root beer stand where we could get a mug of cold root beer for a nickel. The two look-alike houses, did not look-alike long, however. As soon as the landscaping was done, Dad began tinkering on the house--a process that did not end until we finally moved. One of the first changes was the conversion of the garage into a bedroom. Of course, after that we had a wall with a window, where Dad’s partner had a garage door, so the two houses ceased to look alike except that for a couple of years Dad left the driveway in place and would, in fact park one of the cars in the driveway. The driveway was very steep and came to an abrupt demise after Mom lost control of her car when backing out of the driveway and hit Dad’s car. A few days later we came home to find that what had been driveway was now just an extension of the lawn.
Part of the reason that the driveway suffered so quick a demise was the fact that when Dad filed a claim with the insurance company, they refused to pay the claim. When Dad demanded to know the reason for the refusal, the agent simply said, "We won’t pay it because we know that you won’t sue your wife." It seems to me that Dad, being a lawyer--and by all accounts, a good one--could have made mincemeat of that argument, but Dad who was always eager to fight for other people’s rights, seemed strangely reluctant to fight for his own. He accepted the refusal with good grace and simply switched insurance companies--making him one of the few community leaders who was not insured with Farmer’s (they had a regional office in Pocatello). When ever anyone would ask him how he would dare to insure with another company, he would simply tell the story of their refusal to pay a claim based on the fact that "we know you won’t sue your wife". I suspect that in the long run, it cost the company more in lost business than paying the claim would have done.
As Dad’s business picked up, I think he got tired of tinkering with a house that was essentially George Hargrave’s (his partner) dream house and wanted to build one of his own. That finally happened when he built the house south of town--and it really was a dream house. But even more than the house, was the property on which it was built. We had 2½ acres of beautiful forest land--in fact, a national forest actually began just a block or so behind the property. We had a warm-water creek running through the property beginning with the source spring, which was also on our land.
We lived on the hill next to "Snob Hill" where many of the wealthiest people in Pocatello lived, and I suspect, that Dad wondered why more people were not eager to live on our hill. After all, to get to Snob Hill you turned up from the golf course and turned left at the top of the hill. If you turned right, you went down a dirt road and arrived at our new home. The most probable reason that we didn’t have any new neighbors (there were two families living there long before we moved in) was that right at the turn-off there was a chicken farm. Dad, who had very bad hay-fever, and consequently, could hardly smell anything, did not notice when he bought our property that whenever the wind blew west (which, in Pocatello, it almost always did), we got the smell of the chicken farm. Fortunately for us, occasionally the wind would blow east, so that the rich, and influential, folks on snob hill used that influence to force the chicken farm people to buy some sort of anti-smell device. But every now and then--usually about once a month--the device would break down. Mom would call out and Loni and I would frantically run around the house, closing all the windows and doors, while Dad sat blissfully out on the front veranda looking out over the golf course across the street and the Portneuff valley beyond, no doubt wondering why no one else had bought property on our hill to get this magnificent view for themselves. Had he thought about it, he may have realized that the reason was somewhat connected to the fact that his own family was carefully closeted inside the house burning scented candles.
We moved South of town when I had just started at Poky High. A few years later I was elected Student Body President and early in the year, I was expected to attend the Homecoming Dance. Since many of my friends had told me that they were getting a new suit for the occasion, I somehow felt that, being the important person that I had become, I ought to be wearing a new suit myself.
I can still remember everything about the conversation in which I asked Dad if he could buy me a new suit. I expected that to ask was a mere formality and that he would simply say, "You bet, we’re so proud of you being student body president and all. Anything else you need?"
I chose the time when we were sitting in the car together. Dad had driven me in for seminary and he was then going to work. Just before I got out of the car, I made my request.
To my surprise, Dad did not respond immediately, Instead, to my amazement I saw tears forming in his eyes. This amazed me because Dad was not emotionally expressive--not at all. In fact the only times I could remember Dad getting emotional at all was the two times he got angry enough to spank me. The first time occured when we were living in Germany and I was about 5. Dad had asked me to do something which I didn’t want to do so I got mad at him and hit him in the face and busted his glasses. The thing I remember most about the spanking that followed was that, considering the provocation, it was remarkably mild, and that Dad was remarkably controlled. The other time occured when we were living on 18th and I was about 11. This time Mom had asked me to do something which made me mad and I had given her a mild swipe. Dad, who saw me hit Mom, was standing at the other end of our living room. The room was divided into two sections by a couch that stretched 3/4 of the space across the room. Dad came straight for me, jumped over the couch, laid me across his knee and spanked me. I don’t remember anything of that spanking because I was in such a state of shock at seeing my dad, who was not an athletic type at all--quite the contrary, jump over the couch.
But now he was silently weeping. "I’m sorry son," he finally said. "But I can’t get you a suit. Since I signed the right-to-work petition, I’ve barely made enough to pay my office help and rent. Our family has been living on savings for a year."
"Oh, that’s alright," I quickly responded. "I really don’t need a new suit." Which, of course, was true, I really didn’t. Looking back on it, I’m surprised I even asked. I have never been much of a "clothes horse". But even more surprising, and more troubling, was that Dad could have been struggling for so long and that I was completely oblivious to it.
Although I didn’t get my new suit right then, I certainly got it--with interest. I left for college the next year and all through my college and military career, everytime Dad would come to town and see me, or when I would go home, I knew that times were better for Dad, because almost invariably he would say, "Son, you look like you could do with a new suit." And unless I could prevent it by pointing out that he had just gotten me a new suit a couple of months previously, I would get a new suit.
The suit I remember best came at the end of my college career. "Son," he had said at graduation, or shortly after, "since you’ll be looking for work now, what you need is a new suit." By this time Dad was working as a Federal Judge so, I suspect, that since he was covered up by black robes all day, the suits he wore tended to be a bit on the flashy side, but nothing he ever wore or bought for himself could ever match, in flashiness at least, the suit he bought me. It was creme-colored with rust-colored stripes (or vice-versa) and must have been made of material that included iron filings. I remember going to the interview that eventually landed me a job. The company was about half a mile from closest bus stop and the roads to the plant had only dirt sidewalks. While walking there a car drove by splashing me with mud that covered my pants from the bottom to well above the knee. Since it was winter, I simply used snow to rub off the mud. After undergoing a process like that a normal suit would have looked like you had pulled it out of a trash pile--that suit looked almost as good as when I wore it out of the store. I have always felt that the suit had a good deal to do with my being hired. The man who hired me was not LDS and did not like BYU, but I suspect, that he took one look at my suit and thought, "This kid only went to BYU because his parents forced him to."
It took me several months to find work after graduation. It was the midst of a recession in which engineering was particularly hard hit. I got dozens of interviews, and many companies said that they were interested in me, but they had a hiring freeze (or were laying off) but that they expected to be hiring again in a few months. But, of course, in the meantime I had to get by. I was living in an attic of a house in Salt Lake, and, although, the rent was low, so were my finances. Finally, I realized that I could not hold on any longer. I had exactly enough (or so I thought--mistakenly, it turned out) to pay my rent, but no money for food or transportation. I cried almost every night wondering what to do. Should I bite the bullet and confess my poverty to my parents hoping they would offer to take me back in until I could find work? Should I simply start living in the street (rather unpleasant in Salt Lake in December)? It was while I was thus at my wits end that I got a call from Dad. He was flying from Virginia--where he was living at the time--to California but had a short layover in Salt Lake. Could I meet him at the airport for a couple of minutes? I agreed. I was wondering if I should lay out my problems to him. But when he came it was obvious there was no time. "I’m sorry son," he explained as he came off the plane. "I only have a minute to catch my next plane." I walked hurredly with him to the a near-by gate where he checked in. We had less than a minute or two before he had to board. As he boarded he handed me an envelope. "Your mother wanted you to have this," he said as he walked through the boarding gate. I waved good-bye and then opened the envelope. In it was a check for $300. I had never really understood his problems, but he always understood mine.