July 1999

I kept thinking he would come find me to apologize, but he didn't even lookTime flies. It has been quite awhile since I last wrote. We went to Grand Cayman again, but this time we took a commercial flight, since we had free tickets using airline miles. The fly-in was fun, but is kind of a “been there done that” thing now.

We also went to the Balsams resort in New Hampshire for vacation. We’d been there and done that before as well, but wanted to do it again. It is a major step up from our days of backpacking on the Maine and New Hampshire trails, peeing in the woods, and sleeping in tents. It was still an active trip; we went bike riding, kayaking, swimming, and golfing. The resort is all-inclusive and the food is absolutely incredible, which in retrospect, was both good and bad. Lou has become quite serious about bodybuilding, so meals are not straightforward. He is normally on a strict diet, with precise portions of exact foods. When he started working with his personal trainer, and was given a customized diet, I did immediately start buying the foods on the list and making them for dinner. But I wasn’t measuring out exact amounts for Lou to put on his plate, and I wasn’t preparing other meals in advance for him to have on hand. I assumed the diet plan was a guideline. Guess I figured wrong. Lou was frustrated because he wasn’t getting the results that he wanted, and blamed me for not supporting him. I asked what more he thought I should be doing. So, now I have a food scale, and a shopping list, a ton of plastic containers, a roll of masking tape, and a black magic marker. After work, I cook a fresh dinner, and plate his food measured out to the ounce. After we eat, I’m back in the kitchen to prepare and weigh out his multiple feedings for the next day, stored in containers labeled for each meal. If he’s traveling, I make up as many meals as possible for the week, he takes them with him in a cooler, and books a hotel room with a refrigerator and microwave. Hmmm, if he starts seeing results now, I wonder if I will get the credit like I took the blame? Doubt it. I’m getting used to the routine, but I am getting sick of chicken and broccoli and rice, and spinach though.

Anyway, for the most part, I eat what he eats for dinner, because I don’t want to make different meals. But the Balsams was a vacation, and I did not feel the need to adhere to his diet, even though he was still pretty much living “clean”. Anjelica liked eating with the kid’s camp group, so she was off with them, and Lou and I dined together. I should have joined Anjelica with the kids. Throughout the meal, he kept commenting on what was wrong with what everyone, including myself, was eating, despite that I chose mostly the same things he was having, with some exceptions. God forbid I should put a little butter and sour cream on my baked potato. He’d tell me how he “just can’t” do that any more.

The topper for me was when I got dessert. There was a huge buffet table with tons of decadent, delicious creations, and all I chose was a single brownie. I brought it back to the table, sat down, and took a bite from my fork. Lou pushed his chair back from the table in disgust, spewed out a proclamation that he could not stand to watch me eat that, got up, walked away, and left me sitting alone at our intimate table for two in the middle of the restaurant. I didn’t know what to do. As much as I love brownies, I didn’t want that one any more. My eyes welled up; I looked down in an attempt to hide my face so other people wouldn’t see I was crying as I left the dining room. I went for a walk and found a place to sit alone. I kept thinking he would come find me to apologize, but he didn’t even look. When I found him, the only statement with any resemblance to an apology was, “I’m sorry, but watching you eat that was actually making me sick, so I had to leave the room.”

Bottom line is that I decided that rather than being at odds with him and his diet, I would start working out and dieting seriously on my own as well. I’m not motivated to compete in a body building show like he is, so I’m doing the EAS Body For Life program instead. I also went to see his trainer to get a workout and diet routine for myself, and I’m combining that with the BFL program. I like the BFL plan because you get a “free day” every week, where you can have whatever you want to eat. I just won’t do that in front of Lou.

November 1998

I wonder, but don’t really want to know, because then I would need to act. Does that make me just as bad?I’m glad they know and like me at work. The local newspaper had a story on the front page about the conflict between Lou and our neighbors, and the charges of racism against him. Lou was thrilled about the article in the newspaper. I was mortified at the office, having everyone ask me about it, and having to defend his position.

We’ve been at odds with these neighbors since they moved in. The conflict itself is not because they are black; but because they are black, it has turned into a racial issue. They run a delivery service out of their house. I’m not sure what they deliver, but they make runs between the Washington DC area and New York City. Lou thinks that it is newspaper delivery service as a cover for running drugs. I don’t know, and frankly he doesn’t know either. What I do know is that around 3:00 am nightly, they are opening and slamming doors as they move boxes between vehicles and the house, and they have a variety of workers coming and going at all hours. We live at the end of a cul-de-sac, so you would think it would be easy to identify who does and doesn’t belong in the neighborhood from a safety standpoint, but there are constantly different people coming and going.

One day, I was doing work in our front yard and driveway, and there was a man apparently waiting for someone, leaning against a car in front of that neighbor’s house. I felt like he was staring at me, so I moved inside the garage. Lou asked what I was doing; I explained I was uncomfortable, and just wanted to move out of sight for a bit. Lou stalked down the driveway and yelled out, “Hey! What are you looking at?” He answered back, “Certainly not you”, with an emphasis on the word, “you.” Lou told him he should move on, the guy got in his car, and flipped Lou the bird while he drove away. Next thing we knew, there was a warrant out for Lou’s arrest for a racist hate crime. The owner of the house filed a complaint against Lou for harassment, and gave several examples, including flat out lies, claiming Lou had actually said, “What are you looking at, Nigger?” and that it was Lou who had given the visitor the finger. I saw and heard everything, and Lou did not call the guy a name at all. They also claimed that Lou is obviously a KKK supporter, and that he flaunts it by having Duke stickers on his car and wearing Duke clothing. They apparently think that the Duke logo refers to David Duke, rather than Duke University.

It didn’t become a black-white issue until the neighbors made it one. They couldn’t fathom that the controversy was all about the home-based delivery business. Now, it has morphed into a conflict between Lou and those black people who happen to have a delivery business. Lou thinks people like them are the reason that other people don’t like black neighbors. I argue that you can’t generalize like that. Lou is definitely prejudiced. He was brought up with the belief that black people are generally a certain way, and that the ones who are not are the exceptions. Not just blacks, but Jews, and Asians, and anyone who is different from him. I don’t sit by and let him make generalized offensive comments about people, so for the most part he has learned to keep his mouth shut around me, knowing that I’ll get disgusted by his attitude and disagree with him.

As far as the neighbor is concerned though, there is a real problem. Sometimes Lou pushes the conflict, and parks my car in front of their house just to bust balls and make it difficult. Then he gets mad at the other neighbors who don’t stand up against them as well. While Anjelica was with Lou, he got into a disagreement with the owner of the adjacent house, who didn’t think Lou should be stirring the pot by parking in front of the other house, which only made the delivery vans park in front of his home. Lou called the guy a spineless jellyfish for not challenging the delivery service neighbor, and for only being willing to speak up to Lou in front of Anjelica. Now I’m totally uncomfortable being in my own neighborhood.

One day, Lou was laughing while looking out our window, and pointed out to me that all of the tires in front of the delivery service house were flat. He had hinted to me once before when he had lost a lawsuit with someone that he was planning retaliation by punching a screwdriver into the other party’s car tires. I told him back then not to do it, and that revenge wasn’t going to change anything or make it better. I always wondered if he did it anyway. And I wonder about the neighbor’s tires.

Like with so many things, I wonder, but don’t really want to know, because then I would need to act. Does that make me just as bad?

June 1998

there's something fundamental about places and people you knew well a long time ago that brings you right back

there’s something fundamental about places and people you knew well a long time ago that brings you right back

We flew to Grand Cayman in our Trinidad as part of a pilot’s association event called the Cayman Caravan. It was a fun, and very long, plane ride; Anjelica was great through the whole thing. We carry a lot of things for her to do, so she is either busy or napping, and hardly ever complains. We first flew into to Key West, where all the pilots met up, had special training classes, and got the emergency gear (like a raft) that you need to fly long distance over open water. Then they team you up with a small group of planes with a certain take off time, and you keep an eye on each other while you fly. The part everyone gets nervous about is flying over Cuba, as if they expect to be shot down as a spy plane or something. But as long as the Cubans know you are coming and you have the clearance, you’re not going to have any problems. Seeing Cuba from the air brought back a lot of memories to me of being there with the Soviet Cruise Ship. We used to dock in Grand Cayman every cruise, also. So I reminisced a lot inside my head. So much has changed, but there’s something fundamental about places and people you knew well a long time ago that brings you right back, no matter how different things appear to be.

We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary while there, also. We had booked our hotel at a place we had a great experience with in the past. But this year, a new addition was under construction, and it was noisy and dusty everywhere we turned. After a very heated debate with the hotel manager, who did not intend to let us out of our guaranteed reservation, we moved to another hotel, which was calm, peaceful, and absolutely beautiful. It was much more expensive, but the peace and serenity were well worth it. I agreed with Lou that it wasn’t right for guests to pay full price for a hotel expecting it to be just as advertised, only to arrive and find most of the property is a hardhat zone.

Once the hotel situation was worked out, we had a wonderful, albeit quiet vacation. We left the hotel once to go sightseeing; both Lou and Anjelica were whiny and irritable the whole time, and I gave up on the notion of walking around town. Turns out that Anjelica probably had a legit excuse for being cranky, because she was sick the next day. Lou and I had booked a scuba dive outing and she was signed up for hotel kid’s camp. At breakfast, she didn’t eat, and said she wasn’t feeling well; Lou volunteered to stay with her and let me dive on my own. The poor kid threw up multiple times and never once made it to the bathroom. Lou called housekeeping, and tipped them generously for each extra clean up. It would not have occurred to me to call anyone to clean for me. Then again, the housekeepers may have been less tolerant of a mother who called to ask for someone else to clean up her kid’s vomit.

I felt a little guilty about not being there for Anjelica, but I had a blissful, fantastic day of diving on my own. A few weeks prior to the trip, Lou and I wrangled a combination of private and group classes and pool work in Delaware crammed into a tight schedule so we could finish off our certification in Grand Cayman. Since our arrival, we had already done that final open water dive test, as well as a recreational dive. Learning to dive has been on my wish list since I was 16, so it has been a dream come true, and I’m thrilled that Lou wanted to do it with me. The pool training and bookwork were easy for both of us, but in the open water, we learned Lou has some issues, although everything was fine and easy for me. His dive mask never sealed well, he had trouble setting his buoyancy correctly, he struggled with claustrophobia at depths of more than 30 feet, and his feet hurt to the extent that he needed socks under the fins. He also was a bit unlucky with leaky rental equipment on the last dive; I had plenty of air, and was able to give him my extra regulator and resurface together safely. There’s good reason for diving with a buddy and following proper procedures. Based on his somewhat rocky start to diving earlier in the week, he was content to skip the dive and let me go on my own. Honestly, although it is fun to dive together, it was nice to go on my own and not have to deal with any of those issues.

Despite the minor issues, the overall vacation was wonderful. The flight back was nerve-wracking. We traveled from Grand Cayman, over Cuba and to Key West fine, and it was uncongested getting through customs, because Lou was able to finagle the group schedule to get us a very early takeoff time from Cayman. He took a catnap, while I flew a good part of the leg up from Florida. I can fly, navigate, and communicate with air traffic control just fine. It’s the takeoff and landing that require the most skills, and particularly maneuvering near airports where there are other many planes to keep track of. That intimidates me. Anyway I was doing the easy stuff while he napped, because he really wanted to be able to get home in one day. While he was sleeping, I flew over an active wild fire in Florida. Looking at it from the air, I got a new perspective on how much damage fire causes.

We landed in North Carolina to refuel and get something to eat. On the weather channel playing at the FBO terminal for private aircraft, we could see there were huge storms brewing between NC and home; I really wanted to stay put and wait for the weather to clear out; Lou really wanted to go home. So we went home. It’s really hard at night to visually discern how far away lightning is, because it all looks close. We have a storm scope in the plane, so we can identify the lightning strikes, and more importantly, where the big cells of storms are located based on the clusters of lightning strikes on the scope. We were in the Virginia / Maryland area, when the scope really lit up. Lou was working with air traffic control to try to find the best route around the storms, but the options were dwindling. The controller tried to get us to fly east, but Lou didn’t want us to get stranded over open water with no place to land, and in this type of dire situation, the pilot ultimately determines what to do. We ended up being essentially trapped, surrounded by a bunch of large cells in every direction. With no airport at which to land, we could only fly around in circles for a while, until finally, a small hole opened up that we could escape through. I kept quiet through it all, but I was really scared, and wished that we had stayed over in North Carolina and flown home the next day. Lou, on the other hand, felt he demonstrated that he was completely right, and that the air traffic controller’s advice would have no doubt caused us to crash into the sea. I didn’t bother sharing my view that the better decision would have been to stay put until the storm passed, and never have been in that situation at all.

May 1998 – II

one of these days my stew pot of issues will probably boil over and create quite the messThe weather was beautiful for my dad’s wake and funeral. I should have had beautiful days honoring him, too, but I didn’t. I am so sad, but it is not because my father is dead. I feel drained of everything inside. I am mad at so many people, even though I’m not an angry person by nature… I’m really not.

Lou actually told me to ask my mother to change the dates of the wake and funeral to accommodate his planned business trip to Rochester to meet a potential new client and speak at a dinner meeting. I told him that was absurd, and that his plans were not that important. The day of my dad’s wake, Lou conceded at the last minute to skip the plant tour he had scheduled with an alleged potential new client, but did not cancel the dinner meeting. He made it quite clear that he had only cancelled to shut me up, not because he wanted to be by my side, or perhaps pay his respects to my father, who had always been kind and loving to Lou. I checked his laptop, and read the e-mail that he sent to a woman named Jean, explaining he had to cancel their planned flight rendezvous over and around Niagara Falls because, “There has been a death in the family, and I’m under a lot of pressure to attend the funeral.” Part of me feels this is a victory for me, and another part doesn’t want him to be anywhere near my father’s presence, given the lack of respect he has demonstrated. My husband is supposed to be a source of strength and comfort in times like these. These are the moments in life when it helps to be reminded of what you still have with family, and to be grateful for that love rather than only reeling from the loss of the person who has died. Instead, I just feel empty.

Lou was present for literally about 10 minutes of the wake before he left for Rochester in our plane. To make matters worse, he abruptly took Anjelica with him. That morning, my sisters and I had been cleaning at my mother’s house, and Anjelica wanted to help. So my sister gave Anjelica a sponge to wipe off a kitchen countertop. Lou saw this, grabbed the sponge away, scrubbed her hands, and marched her out of the house. He pulled me aside and fumed about how disgusting it was that my sister gave her a filthy, gross sponge. There was no way his daughter was going to be cleaning. I explained that it was a normal dish sponge from the sink, that it was not gross and disgusting by any means, and that it was natural that Anjelica would want to help out with what my sisters and I were doing. I didn’t see anything wrong. She helps me at home, as best as a 4 year old can, and at the Montessori school, the kids clean up after themselves. I can easily read his face, and could see he was outraged more by my defense of the situation than he was by the sponge and cleaning offense itself.

We went for a walk and took Anjelica to the playground at my old elementary school so we could get away from the house and have what was probably a very obvious argument in private. It quickly turned from a discussion about the sponge, into a lecture to me about how this was an unsuitable environment for Anjelica, and that he was going to take her with him to Rochester, and she could just hang out while he did his APICS dinner meeting presentation. I pleaded for him to let Anjelica stay with me, but I was worn out and beaten down, so he won that battle. I could clearly envision him using Anjelica to his benefit to look like a Super-Dad, doing his job while caring for his daughter because his wife was too busy or unable. Part of me was a bit satisfied to know this meant he hadn’t been able to re-arrange things to hook up with that woman, or anyone else at the hotel after the dinner meeting. Another part of me was reliving that he had also taken Anjelica away from me when Aunt Mamie died. And both times, I felt like I was being punished for something, and that I didn’t understand what I had possibly done to deserve such treatment. I don’t ask for much, and there are very few times when I really need to be with my family. I don’t think I am unreasonable to expect his support on the rare occasions when I do.

Even with Lou out of sight in Rochester, I was on edge most of the time; so many things irritated me, especially small actions and comments that I interpreted as disrespect. I did my best to hold my composure, as I had to speak publically for the eulogy, which was videotaped to be shown on Cable TV, and there was a rather odd public display with news reporters and police escorts following our family as we walked in a procession behind a horse drawn carriage-hearse from the funeral home to the cemetery. When my mother made those plans, I was not there to object and present my father’s request for a simple ceremony. But at that point, it probably more about what she wanted anyway.

I took so many deep breaths to try to calm myself down over those two days, that it is a miracle I didn’t hyperventilate. I know my mother wanted peace, so I was determined to create no issues. That’s not entirely true. I created a shitload of issues in my head; I just didn’t share them with anyone. I stewed on them all by myself, and they continue to simmer and percolate. One of these days my stew pot of issues will probably boil over and create quite the mess.

May 1998

sawpeopleLou and Anjelica and I were heading to Schenectady anyway, because there was a fraternity event at Union college that Lou wanted to attend. When I called my parent’s house, one of my sisters told me that she thought my dad wasn’t going to live much longer. She had asked him if he wanted a priest to come to give him last rites, but he declined.

I had been up to visit about a week earlier, and saw he was getting weaker and weaker by the day, and had found eating to be more of a chore than a pleasure. But he had a craving for French Onion soup, in particular, a dish just like one he frequently spoke of that he thoroughly enjoyed in a very fine restaurant many years ago. My mom had been trying a variety of soups, but none came close to the ideal taste of his memories, and he simply didn’t want to eat them. I was determined to make the best French Onion soup possible from scratch. I cooked it at their house and described to him step by step what I was doing. I made a bunch of it; he had some that day, and said it was perfect. I don’t know if he was just being nice to me because he saw all the work I put into it, or if he really liked it, but he did voraciously eat it all up. My mom said he finished up the leftovers during the week, too. He never ate anything else before he died. They say soup is a comfort food. My hope is that it gave him some. Preparing it, and knowing that he enjoyed it, and even ate every last drop, gave me tremendous comfort as well.

When we arrived at the house that day, I saw that over just a matter of days he had withered away and was dramatically thin and dehydrated. His skin was tight against his bones, as if a vampire had drained all his bodily fluids, and his lips were cracked and dry. He could still speak, but only a few very soft words at a time with great effort, but he was clean and well cared for, and being kept comfortable. I sat in a chair facing him in bed, and held his hand all day and night, only breaking my grasp for brief breaks to go pee, eat or drink. At one point, Lou came to visit and stood by his bed, held his other hand, and thanked him for giving him such a wonderful daughter, and told my dad that he was a great father to me. My dad squeezed both our hands and nodded. Lou and Anjelica checked into the Glen Sanders Mansion hotel near the bridge from Scotia to Schenectady, and went to the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity function together. I think Anjelica is the only female or non-Fiji to ever go to the Fiji Pig Dinner. I didn’t want to leave my parent’s house to stay with Anjelica while he went to the event, and we both agreed it would not be good to have her with me given my father’s condition. As far as I know, nobody objected to Anjelica attending the fraternity event given the circumstances.   I considered most of the brothers from Lou’s college years to be my close friends as well, so I felt confident that she was with an extension of our family.

I spent most of the day and night sitting with my dad, holding his hand, and reading to him. I showed him pictures and read newspaper articles from old scrapbooks from the days of cruise travel and his publicity stunt tricks, and magic conventions. It was mellow and peaceful. He drifted in and out of sleep. One time after waking, he looked intently toward the wall, and told me he saw people at the foot of his bed. I couldn’t figure out whom he felt he saw to know exactly what to say, so I just tried to assure him that everything was all right, and never disputed what he was seeing. He was a little frustrated that I couldn’t explain who they were, but he soon relaxed, and was less concerned.

Not all my sisters are close with my dad, but everyone was there, and they were each doing the best they could and to be supportive to my mother. It was stressful at times, and I struggled to tolerate the buzz of everyday life activities, televisions and conversations going on around us while I tried to maintain a peaceful serene environment with my father in the family dining room’s makeshift hospice setting.

Everyone went to bed, except my sister who has been caring for him, and me. My dad was having a lot of trouble breathing. My sister called Hospice support a few times for advice. My dad knew he could have morphine whenever he wanted, and eventually asked for some. A while after receiving the dosage, finally looking much more comfortable, he asked why it was taking so long. I guess he thought it was like taking a dose of arsenic or hemlock that would end his life, not just ease his pain. He seemed a bit disappointed to still be alive. A little after midnight, he was struggling to breathe, and had a lot of congestion in his lungs. I woke my mom other sisters so they could also be with him, since our instinct was that he was going to die very soon. On the directive of the hospice nurse advising us over the phone, my sisters and I carefully turned him on his side, which seemed to alleviate his immediate discomfort. In hindsight, I also think the change in position actually makes the fluid in the patient’s lungs move in a way that brings death sooner than it would if a person continued to lay flat and torturously struggle with the rattling, labored breathing.

After we turned him on his side, I laid down next to him over the sheets in his hospital bed, hugging and spooning with him from behind. My mom knelt on the floor beside his head, gently stroked his hair and face, held his hand, and told him that he was the love of her life, and said that we were all by his side, and it was alright for him to let go. And he did. He died three months to the day after receiving his terminal cancer diagnosis.

I stayed in bed spooned with him for a long time after he passed. Eventually people from the funeral home arrived with a gurney to take him away. I wasn’t deliriously being a freak; I just wanted to continue giving him love, uninterrupted by the practicalities and business of dealing with his death until it was necessary to let go. There would be plenty of time for that. This was the last bit of myself I could give him. As he transitioned, I wanted him to know he was loved. If that’s weird, so be it.

After the funeral home took his body away and I saw my mom off to sleep, I drove to the hotel and got in bed with Lou, and told him my father had died. He said he was sorry, then he told me about a noise issue he had with the hotel from a nearby wedding party, then I spooned behind him until I finally fell asleep.

The next day, we went to my mom’s house to help reorganize the furniture and convert the downstairs from a medical facility back to a home. She wanted to open up the house to sunlight by taking down the many layers of plastic and curtains that had been installed long ago to insulate the windows. Light was literally brought back into the house after years of being sealed up by my father in the name of energy conservation. She even hung some art on the walls using nails. The irony was that pounding nails into the walls would be something my dad would say would only happen “over my dead body.” There ya go. She wanted and needed to do some of those trivial things that she had always wanted but didn’t consider worth an argument. Now, she can make her own choices. But, she also now realizes that she will be living alone for the very first time in her 70 years of life. Now, she has to make her own choices.

April 1998

I believe there can be no sin in loveI talk to my dad a lot now. I can’t make him well, I can’t ease his physical pain, but when I asked myself what I can do, I realized that all he really ever wanted was for people to listen. So we talk on the phone, and we chat on AOL Instant Messenger. He tends to monopolize the phone conversations, but I type faster than he does, so I get to do a little more “talking” than he does online.

I regret that in the past, talking to him often felt like a chore I avoided. His speech was always slow and deliberate, and the most simple concepts were over-explained in excruciating detail. The same stories were retold time and again, and it seemed he never paused long enough for me to comment or politely work into the conversation a tidbit that made it obvious I had heard it all before. If anyone interrupted his monolog with an interjection, he took offense, and acted socially injured by being shut down and cut off mid-sentence. But now, given that his remaining time on Earth is so short, something has changed. I am more patient and interested, and he has become more socially aware and generally more interesting. We converse about so much in life, both philosophical and historical topics. We talk about life in the present and past, including some very personal matters and decisions he and my mother made because they loved each other so much, but that other people did not agree with and did not understand, and the impact those choices made. We talk about death as well. He’s not really afraid of dying, but is thinking a lot about whether he’ll be judged for having committed sin when he and my mother had an affair while they were both married to other people. I told him that I believe there can be no sin in love. I know they truly love each other, and they love all their daughters. I don’t believe in a punishing God. I strongly believe in love; my parents brought me up to try to do the right things, and treat other people well. My mother taught me to be optimistic and believe in the good of others. I believe if there were a “judging” God, he would clearly see that my dad loved my mother and my sisters and me, and he has already forgiven the mistakes made, and the hurt that was unintentionally caused as a result.

One thing I learned from those conversations was that because of his age, he didn’t really want to have that fourth child…me. My mother insisted and ultimately convinced him. He did say he was later glad they had me, but I don’t know how long it took for him to come to that conclusion.

My sister has taken a leave of absence from work to help my mother take care of him. Hospice care comes to the house, but it isn’t easy for my mom, and it’s getting harder and harder for my dad to get around. Taking a bath is a major event now. I am grateful for my sister to be there to take care of them both.

Last time I was up for a visit, my father pulled me aside to go through some business. He went over their financial documentation, and said he felt he had saved enough over the years that combined with social security income, with their house already paid off, my mother should be in good financial shape for the rest of her life. He asked me to help her to make the money last. I said I would do what I could to support her, but that I was sure she’d want to make her own decisions. He also confided that since she was still young, it would be fine with him if she met and married another man. Although he was quite serious, I had to laugh a little, and told him I didn’t think it would be the first thing on her list of things to do, but that when the time was right, I would definitely let her know how he felt about it. He talked about his funeral, too, and said he didn’t want anything fancy. I explained that we would all want to honor him. Bottom line was that he felt people spend too much money on funerals in general. Most important, he didn’t want to be a part of any of the decision-making, and didn’t want to know any of the details. I can’t say I blame him for not wanting to be able to envision his own funeral. As much as I didn’t want to talk about all these end of life things with him, or with anyone for that matter, I knew that it was important to him, and it eased his mind.

He has been selling a lot of his magic collection, but gave me a crystal ball that I had told him I had always been fascinated by since I was little. It was the only material thing that I wanted.

February 1998 – Part II

talkedwithoutemotionI called my mom from my office to see how my father’s doctor’s appointment went. I wasn’t prepared to hear that my dad has cancer again. This time, it’s in his liver, and there isn’t anything they can do about it. My mom told me the news and we talked through the details without emotion, as if she were describing the storyline twist in a book she had read. I hung up the phone and went back to working at my desk. But the tears came anyway, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop crying.

My parents had put so many plans on hold these past several years to stay close to home for my grandmother’s sake. Now that she had passed, they planned to travel to China, Alaska, Hawaii, and so many other places they haven’t yet been. My mom didn’t give me the prognosis, but I looked up information on the internet, and based on what she described about his cancer, my dad probably has 3 months to live. My heart is breaking, but I have to be stronger than this. Lou says he’ll take me to see them whenever I want.

February 1998

I didn't make the emergency deathwatch road trip to say goodbyeGram died. We just returned from New York for her funeral. I feel bad about the fact that I didn’t see her in the nursing home recently. Last time I talked to her, I was calling to say I was coming to visit, but I never actually went. She had not been doing well, and had pretty much summoned her family to say goodbye. My mom had explained to me that Gram had been on a recent steep decline with some sort of blockage in her system, and that she was almost black in color, which was hard to imagine, because she was typically fair-skinned with round pink cheeks, her face shape matching her short, apple figure.

I had wanted to visit, but our airplane was in the shop, so Lou couldn’t fly me up, and he insisted that I not drive. Despite the fact that she was 90, he assumed it was just a false alarm, and that my family was over-reacting about her condition. So, I called her to at least be able to talk, and she was told me how badly she was feeling, and that she didn’t know how much longer she would be around. In the middle of the conversation, she said that a nurse had come, and that she had to hang up, but asked that I call back in a bit. At that point, I told Lou that she sounded terrible, and that I was going to make the trip to see her one way or another. The matter wasn’t yet settled between us when I called Gram back about an hour later, but by then, she sounded like a completely different person. She said that she had just suddenly been able to finally go to the bathroom to clear out her system and felt so much better. Then she was chatty, upbeat, and happy, and we had a nice conversation about Anjelica and other normal topics. Frankly, it was probably one of the most pleasant, enjoyable chats I had ever had with her in my entire life. So, needless to say, I didn’t make the emergency deathwatch road trip to say goodbye.

Hopefully she is happier now. I believe that once your body dies, your eternal spirit continues on in peace, yet with a clear vision of your human life and of your loved ones, and that most souls are able to see where they had become off-purpose and disconnected from love. I believe that they forgive and want forgiveness for the errors and shortcomings while in bodily form. Most of my memories of Gram are not of happy times, but of conflict and issues. From my perspective, she and Aunt Mamie fought their entire lives, yet Mamie was always there looking out for her sister, trying to make her happy, right up until her own death. My mom seemed to never be able to do enough to satisfy her mother either. We’d visit her for hours, and yet we couldn’t leave without hearing how short the time had been, and couldn’t we come again soon when we could stay longer. My parents bought her a special lift chair at home, and she complained that it attacked her. When she had needed emergency service, she wasn’t grateful for the rescue help, but angry at the damage done breaking into the house to reach her. I found it difficult to ever become emotionally close to my grandmother when I could see how much she upset both Mamie and my parents for as far back as I can remember. She didn’t even try to hide the fact that she vehemently disliked my father, who was only six years her junior.

Actually, it’s my dad I’m worried about now. He is very tired and weak. He just turned 84, so it’s natural for him to have less energy, but I knew something was really wrong when he didn’t have the strength to come to the airport to meet us when we flew in for Gram’s funeral. When I walked into my parents’ house, he was sleeping in a reclining chair in the darkened living room; I immediately had a clear image of him dead. We are waiting on test results to find out why he is so exhausted.

January 1998

To everything I was last year, I shall shed a single tearOur relationship is still going down the tubes. We have everything we could possibly want, but Lou seems miserable, and I don’t know how to make him happy. He’s not talking to his mother or his sister, and has no close friends. He loves our house, but absolutely hates all our neighbors, and their feelings are mutual. But when I suggest we look at houses elsewhere, he says he doesn’t want to just move from one part of town to another. He doesn’t want to have to pay for a move anywhere for that matter, so I suggested that maybe we look into me finding another job at Hewlett-Packard with a relocation package. He likes that idea in concept, but doesn’t want to move to California, which is where the most opportunities are. He literally makes me feel crazy; I spend all my energy trying to make him happy, but I often think that he’s actually happy being miserable. I don’t know if anything will ever be enough.

There are snippets of a poem, or maybe they are just thoughts, that annoyingly run through my head on constant repeat; I feel like it was somehow complete in my dreams, but I wake with parts of it replaying over and over. I keep thinking that if I can recall and finish, it will stop. But all I have is:

   I Set You Free
In the beginning,
You said I should be your wife, and always stay by your side
You said I brought you happiness, and made your life complete
You said I set you free from all the pain inside
You said I set you free.

Now that we’re married,
You say, as your wife, I must stand in mute agreement by your side
You say my love is not enough to be happy and you just need more
I say, I need to be set free from all the pain inside
I say, I set you free.

I don’t know how to fill in the blanks to get there, but in the end, I need to be set free from all the pain of not being enough in his world, and I need to set him free. It’s just too hard grasping onto nothing.

I remember some parts of a poem I wrote in middle school for an English class about being free:

What is this thing that they call free?
It’s what I hope some day to be.
This thing of wonder – feeling free.

There was more to the middle of that little poem that I don’t remember. I’m sure it was quite profound and lovely. I think I wrote it back in like 1977, because I remember another one from the same timeframe:

To everything I was last year,
I shall shed a single tear.
To all the friends that I have known,
And all the nights I spent alone.
For all my joys, my sorrows and fears,
To them I shed I single tear.

It seems like another lifetime when I was 13 or 14, and I was as free as I ever would be in my life, and my reflection on the year only inspired one single tear.

July 1997

Lately, I've been trying to improve my love lifeHappy Birthday to me. I typically feel like I need to do something to improve myself around my birthday. I get serious about diet and exercise and plan to get better at one thing or another. Then it wears off within a few weeks and I go back to normal. I view my birthday as many others regard New Year’s Day. And my resolutions last about as long.

Lately, I’ve been trying to improve my love life, but that doesn’t seem to be going very far. One night, Lou basically said that he felt our relationship had become too routine, and that there wasn’t enough romance. I couldn’t agree more. Actually, I don’t think there has ever been much, if any, romance between us, but I didn’t say that. What I did say was that it was something that we could work on changing together.

He has no clue that I can read all the e-mails that he sends and some of the ones that he gets under his screen name on our America Online account. I can only imagine what he is constantly chatting about online. But in the e-mails, I can clearly see that he is looking to hook up with a bunch of different women, and that he absolutely does regularly cheat on me. I don’t know what I can do about it, though. If I admitted to reading the e-mails, he would just turn that around as my fault for snooping and would say that I was taking the letters out of context. I have expressed my feelings that it seems he’s generally unhappy and that he is obviously spending a lot of time chatting online with women. His typical response is that I am paranoid, and that he’s doing nothing wrong, but that I will actually make it happen if I continue with “this vicious circle.” But in one of those typically futile conversations I initiated, he actually did share his feeling that the romance was gone from our marriage.

Oddly enough, I was thrilled to have something to try to fix. I bought a few books about romance that I showed him, including Light His Fire and 1001 Ways to be Romantic. I tried several different suggestions from the books intended for his pleasure and benefit. He didn’t respond to anything I did to woo him. I found the book Light Her Fire that I had given him to use as a tool to romance me back tossed in the back of the closet; the binding audibly cracked when I opened the book, which clearly meant that he didn’t bother to read any of it. I don’t think he really wants to change anything about our romance; I think he just wanted something that he could claim was wrong with us…wrong with me… to justify his actions.

His e-mails to other women don’t give me much clue why he’s really unhappy with our marriage. He explains what he enjoys, such as working out, traveling, and flying. The e-mails include details about specific things we’ve all done together, like flying to spend the day at a far-away beach, going to certain restaurants, or a trip out of state over the weekend, but the stories are told as if Anjelica and I don’t even exist and he did those activities alone.

March 1997

I can't think of a single time when he has ever let it goThere’s nothing like a little road rage to get your adrenaline flowing. We were heading home in the Mercedes one night on the Blue Route in Pennsylvania in the pouring rain. Lou was driving in a middle lane, doing a little faster than the speed limit when a car came up behind us flashing its headlights. Lou cocked his head as he regarded the situation in the mirror, but simply stated, “I don’t know where he thinks I can go.” There was a fair amount of traffic in the right lane, so he didn’t turn on his directional and try to move over, and just kept going at the same speed with the flow of traffic in the lane we were in. The car behind us got up close, tailgating our bumper, and again flashed the headlights. In the mirror, I could see it was a large vehicle, like a van. I could also see that what the driver was doing had really pissed off Lou, who proceeded to slow the car down. Anjelica was sleeping in a car seat in the back, and I softly asked Lou to just let the guy go. He ignored me, and the other driver stayed on our tail as our car went slower, then faster, then Lou suddenly slammed hard on the brakes. Lou wore a wry smile, but now, I was the one who was pissed; I asked him again to please let it go, reminding him that Anjelica was in the car. I watched in my side view mirror as the van struggled to not hit us, dropped way back and stayed there for a while, then moved over into the right lane and accelerated. I kept my head facing straight forward but peered out of the corner of my eye to watch what was going on, yet still avoid making eye contact so I could ignore whatever gesture was likely to follow. But what I saw out of the corner of my eye made me quickly turn to look straight at the van driver, and into the barrel of a shotgun pointed right at me. I shouted, “He’s got a gun!” Without hesitation, Lou once again hit the brakes, and this time, it was our car that dropped back. We got up close behind the van and I wrote down the license plate number and details about the vehicle. We luckily had a mobile phone in the car; I called the police, gave them the information about the incident, and updates on our ever-changing location as we followed the vehicle. At one point, the other driver pulled onto the shoulder, so we also stopped on the side of the road, far behind him. We could see a police car across the highway with its flashing lights on, maneuvering around to our side. Then the van took off again; I stayed on the phone with the dispatcher, as Lou followed the van off an exit ramp and onto a dark side road. Then we saw first one, then two, then three… it seemed about five police cars eventually converged on the vehicle, and it pulled over to the side of the road. The police approached the vehicle with their guns drawn and ordered the driver out of the car. As he exited the car with his hands behind his head, I prayed that I was right about what I had seen. He was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a police car, and I watched as the officers pulled two rifles out of his van. Simultaneously relieved and infuriated to see the firearms, I jumped out of our car and bolted over to the police car and yelled at the cuffed van driver, demanding an explanation for how he dared to point a gun at my daughter and me. I imagine he didn’t hear a word, and was glad to be behind the glass, safe from the raving madwoman.

We went to the police station to give our report, and were told the other guy’s side of the story. He claimed it was all Lou’s fault, saying that he was driving normally when Lou suddenly hit the brakes, causing him to also quickly brake, causing his hunting rifle to fall from the back seat and out of its case. He says it was a coincidence that he happened to be picking it up and handling it as he was passing us on the right. I guess he just happened to be sneering right at me at the time as well. If nothing else, he’ll be without his guns for a while. A man without a gun is like… umm … just a whole lot safer for everyone.

These stupid road rage incidents make me crazy. I don’t think it’s necessarily Lou’s fault that they get started. I believe there are a bunch of angry drivers just looking for someone to join their little games, and Lou seems to always be suited up ready to play. I really don’t need to get drawn into other people’s drama. Who cares if the other asshole wins? What is winning, anyway? They get to go ahead of you in a merge. They get to pass you. They get to give you the finger. They get away with flashing their headlights. They get away with cutting you off. They get the parking spot you saw first. Who cares? Lou cares. As do many other guys who drive around with too much testosterone in their blood stream. I can always feel it coming, too. Something stupid happens on the road, and it’s like a shotgun at the start of a race, or the ring of the bell sounding a round of boxing, and the match is on. Every time, I beg Lou to just let it go, especially when Anjelica is in the car. But I can’t think of a single time when he has ever let it go.

July 1996

"I realize that I'm simply not making conscious choices from all the options that exist"

“I realize that I’m simply not making conscious choices from all the options that exist”

I have finally been promoted to Finance Manager at HP. I love working there, but it has been really frustrating being stuck at the level of “Senior Analyst” for years, while watching the Wharton Alumni Magazine publish news from my graduating class, and noting the awe-inspiring announcements of promotions and job changes. I realize only select individuals share their “news,” but it makes me a little bit crazy to contemplate the possible career I could have with even a little flexibility. It’s definitely more important for me to go home nightly and be with my family than it is to make a lot of money. More salary and fancy titles are not the issues for me. I realize that I’m simply not making conscious choices from all the options that exist; I have only ever considered whatever conveniently fits without disrupting our lives. We moved to North Carolina for Lou’s MBA, and I worked there. Then we moved to Long Island for his first job, and so I got my BS at SUNY StonyBrook. Then we relocated to this area when he got his consulting job in Philly, and I so got my job at Playtex in Delaware. Despite the fact that he became self-employed years ago, it has never been an option to move for the benefit of my education or career. I applied only to Wharton for grad school because Phily was close. After graduation, I only sent my resume to firms that I could commute to from home and for jobs that did not require travel. Not that I want to travel for work… one person in the family who is frequently away on business is more than enough.

I was thrilled about my new position, until I told Lou. His initial reaction was, “See, isn’t it good that you went to business school?” I agreed that getting our MBAs has really been a great investment that has paid back well for both of us. He then said, “You know, you would still be working in a restaurant as a waitress or something or at the front desk of a hotel if it weren’t for me pushing you into going to college.” I replied that I’d always had every intention of continuing with my education beyond my associate’s degree. He was instantly furious as if I had hurled a horribly degrading insult at him. I felt the glare of his eyes almost burn through me as they transformed from dark to coal-black, small, and sunken below his brow; his face tensed and he bellowed, “Don’t go there! Don’t even think about going there! How dare you say that? I believe you saved my life. How can you claim that you would have gone to school anyway? Is that really what you have to say to me now?”

I was dumbfounded by his reaction. I didn’t say it out loud, but my initial thought was that I actually would have completed college a whole lot earlier if I hadn’t taken time off from college to work to pay our bills while he got his MBA when we first got married. Maybe I wouldn’t necessarily have become a Finance major at Wharton in particular, but I would definitely have continued with college. I put all my plans on hold for him, and then changed my plans completely because we lived where he wanted to work, despite the fact that none of the nearby colleges had degree programs I wanted to pursue. He actually thinks I would have no education and no career without his influence? And when I object to that absurd assertion, he’s mad at me for having the nerve to believe I had something to do with the course of my own life? I didn’t say any of that out loud either.

What I did verbalize is that I hadn’t meant anything negative, and that I was sorry if it sounded that way. I explained that I was just saying that he made it seem like I had no ambition for anything on my own, but that I did always want to continue with college. I said that I know he supported and encouraged me, just as I did him. He was unimpressed by my reply, and just scowled and repeated, “How dare you?” He stayed mad for days, giving me the cold shoulder, and calling me “Jo” instead of “Joey” when he did speak to me at all. Personally, I think it should be the other way around.

I read a book, The Celestine Prophecy, which is a fictional novel, that has me thinking a lot about life in general. Within the story, the book breaks down personality types into four categories based on what methods people use to essentially gain power and control over others: “aloof,” “intimidator,” “interrogator,” and “poor me.” I see Lou as a definite intimidator, and I think I fit in the category of aloof, because I tend to stay so quiet now. I never used to be that way, and I’m not quiet in the office. At work, I’m outgoing, very vocal, and participate in meetings and always stick my neck out with my opinions. The rest of the time, I tend to keep my mouth shut. In the book, they say that being quiet would be a control mechanism to keep other people feeling uneasy and off-guard and guessing about what I’m thinking. I’m trying to absorb that concept, but it doesn’t seem to fit me quite right. I keep my mouth shut more often because I don’t want to say something wrong that’s going to cause a problem. Being quiet causes problems itself, but from my standpoint, it is preferable because I can only be accused of being too quiet. But that doesn’t work either, because Lou says my silence makes other people feel I’m being judgmental, and that I think I’m too good for them or something. It’s still easier to defend being quiet than having to justify every word I speak.

On a positive note, I got my check from Harrah’s for my lawsuit for my neck injury. Now the plane and the house are both paid off. The only remaining debt is the student loan from my Wharton education, which, apparently, can be accredited to Lou along with my promotion and the favorable lawsuit judgment.

June 1996

"I think I am saving myself from what could be more devastating suffering"

“I think I am saving myself from what could be more devastating suffering”

I finally had my gallbladder removed. I had to convince another doctor I was willing to take the risk that taking it out may not be the solution, but in the end, he agreed with the diagnosis and decision to operate. Good news is there has been no pain since that thing came out of my body, and the post-surgery biopsy proved the organ was defective. So, I was right after all. My friend from work, Sandy and her husband Rob, took care of Anjelica while I was in the hospital. Lou had to speak at an APICS dinner meeting in New York, so he couldn’t even be with me for the surgery, let alone take care of Anjelica. I guess he didn’t miss much, besides looking at me sleeping it off.

I know there was nothing for him to do, but it is unsettling to go into surgery by yourself, and knowing nobody is waiting for you to come out and be with you afterward to make sure you are ok, to get you a ginger ale, to make sure you are comfortable and that your nurse brings meds when you have pain. Then again, I didn’t ask him to change his plans to stay with me, either. Is it a passive aggressive action on my part to not ask for something and then feel bad that it didn’t happen? Does it even count if I never let the other person know that it upset me? Perhaps acting like its all ok and not making any sarcastic or guilt tripping comments makes me more of a resentful martyr. I don’t think that qualifies as a virtue in anyone’s book. It just seems pointless to ask someone to do something that you think they would offer to do out of love. If they refuse, or do it begrudgingly then it feels worse; so I would rather have never asked. This way, that leaves open the possibility that if only they had understood what was wanted, they would have gladly granted the request, making it my own fault for not having asked in the first place. That alternative just seems less painful; I’m not trying to martyr myself, I think I am saving myself from what could cause more devastating suffering. So perhaps that classifies me as a risk-averse chicken shit.

March 1996

Lou and Anjelica for her first haircut - 1994

Lou and Anjelica for her first haircut – 1994

Anjelica is doing great at the Montessori School near my office where she started last fall after turning two. The only downside of not staying at home with a nanny is that she started getting frequent earaches and colds. After many rounds of ineffective antibiotics, the doctor gave her a vaccine to help ward off viruses, and sent us to a specialist, who suggested having her adenoids removed. What a heartbreaker it was to let go when she went in for surgery. I acted calm, but was such an emotional wreck inside; I was so relieved when she came out and everything was fine. She was dopey for a while, and really grumpy coming home from the hospital, and it was so unlike her to be unsettled in the car. Lou was extremely frustrated by her attitude, and really irritated with me for making him pull over so I could get in the back to cuddle next to her car seat. I imagine she was in pain, and probably felt like crap from the anesthesia. It’s not like she’s old enough to give a great explanation on her own, but I think we’re old enough to figure out why she’s being so cranky. Hopefully this will end all the little sicknesses.

I’m trying to find out what’s wrong with me, too. I keep having pain on the right side of my gut under the ribs. I’ve been doubled over in pain so many times and still don’t know what it is. The doctor sent me to the emergency room one time, where they did an ultrasound, but couldn’t find anything. I overheard some old guy from behind he curtain in the next exam area explaining his symptoms, which sounded just like mine; they found gallstones with his ultrasound. He was headed right for surgery, but they sent me home with instructions to see a G-I doctor for more invasive tests, including a colonoscopy and an endoscopy, during which I woke up gagging on a camera down my throat. They didn’t find much except that I’ve burned holes in my stomach from the anti-inflammatory meds I take for muscle spasms and neck pain. They prescribed different drugs for acid reflux, IBS, and a variety of other things that they think are stress related, but none of those treatments help. I still think it is my gallbladder. My mother and two of my sisters had their gallbladders removed, so it isn’t too crazy to think mine could be bad also. I’m getting tired of this specialist, who seems to imply the problem is all in my head; I really want to see someone else.

July 1995



I am feeling quite lucky, and am confident that a guardian angel is watching over us. You know those times when you see or read something in the news about an accident, and it is perfectly clear that the people involved were doing something destined to result in a bad outcome…. and you scratch your head and ask, “What were they thinking?” This was one of those times, although this one did not make the local news.

We went for my first flight in our new airplane on my birthday. Lou flew it home from buying it in Illinois with his mechanic and flight instructor, and also flew down to Texas and back by himself already. The plane is a gorgeous Trinidad TB-20, from France. It looks like a sports car to me; it’s maroon and white, with low wings, and has the gull-wing doors that open upward, like a DeLorean. Inside, the seats are really comfortable, and it fits five people plus storage for luggage and gear. Lou looked and looked and looked before he found the perfect plane; this one is like new. We took out a mortgage on the house to pay for it, but that’s only temporary until I get my check from the lawsuit. Luckily, we had paid off our mortgage early, so it was easy to get the money we needed without having to finance the plane, since interest rates are better on a home equity loan than on an airplane. I love the plane’s tail number: N470SP, which is spoken as “November Four Seven Zero Sierra Papa.” I think it’s cool because Anjelica’s middle name is Sierra, and Lou is her Papa.

Anyway, for my birthday weekend, we went to Cape Cod for the day. The beach was awesome; being on the ocean is absolutely one my most favorite ways to spend a day. I’m still not used to flying in a small plane, and worry about other airplane traffic that I’m told is too far away to be any threat. I assume I’ll learn to relax after a while. Nico and Mia invited us to join their family outing in the Catskills, so we stopped for a visit on our way home. They picked us up at the local airport, and we hung out with their whole family for a few hours. We could have stayed over, but Lou really wanted to get back home. But when we returned to the tiny private airport, we found the FBO was closed and everything dark and deserted, without runway lights that could be operated by radio control.

Lou insisted that it was still fine, and that we could take off with no problem, but suggested that Nico help by parking his car at the end of the runway with its headlights on for a visual reference. So Nico parked his car there, and wisely got out of the vehicle … just in case.

We took off from the runway and cleared the car just fine, but it was pitch black once we were past its headlights. I looked down from my window, and could see Nico’s car shrinking behind us and to the side. I then saw a strange light off to the right through our front window, and I asked Lou what it was. Then suddenly, all I could see through the windshield were leaves. Lou was looking down at something at that moment, and so I pointed and warned, “trees!” He immediately adjusted course, and once again, all was pitch black in front of us. But there were only a few seconds of darkness until, again, the windshield view was full of leaves. This was not just a mass of distant green trees; we were so close that I could distinguish individual leaves, and practically see the bulging veins on each leaf that seemed to be close enough to reach out to pick if not for the invisible barrier of the windshield. Again, I pointed, and exclaimed the obvious, “trees!” And again, he adjusted he course, and we were thrust back into total blackness. Eventually, we saw some tiny lights below that served as a reference point for orientation, the plane leveled out, and he managed to fly home without further incident.

Neither one of us remembers noticing a mountain that close to the runway when we had landed that day, and we have no idea how we could have gotten that far off course so quickly. Lou later called Nico to see what he thought of the take off, and how it looked from his end, but didn’t tell him what happened, because Nico probably would never fly with us if he knew. What we realized after getting straightened out, is that flying in the pitch black dark is pretty much the same as flying in clouds or bad weather when you can’t see obstacles. The lack of runway lighting was the least of the problems. Not being able to see anything once we were up in the air was the real issue.

My feeling is that any major mishap in flight, or in life for that matter, isn’t typically caused by just one thing; more often, it is the culmination of many factors that converge at once to create the crisis. Let’s count up the strikes against us in this situation: newly licensed private pilot with low hours of flying time; no instrument training; pilot inexperienced with new complex aircraft; unfamiliar airport; no lights at airport; dark; rural area with no ground lights for reference; no moonlight; dark; mountainous terrain; and oh yeah… dark. Personally, I’d add to the list a cocky young pilot who thinks he can make no mistakes. Today, I think he sees most of the same things, but faults the training process for not making it clear that nighttime VFR flying can be nearly impossible in really dark situations in remote locations. Even though the sky was perfectly clear, we might have just as well been flying in a dense fog.

He’s definitely going to train and get certified for Instrument flying, which he needs anyway so that he can fly to work sites regardless of the weather conditions. He barely made it down to Texas and back because of bad weather. It will be a lot safer once he gets some better training and more flight time.

Anyway, we both feel very lucky and watched over, and are grateful to be alive. And nobody but us is asking today, “What were they thinking?”

June 1995

Bader Field, Atlantic City (Source: Wikipedia)

Bader Field, Atlantic City (Source: Wikipedia)

I finally had my lawsuit go to trial for my neck injury at Harrah’s casino in Atlantic City. It would have been difficult driving from Delaware to Atlantic City each day, but Lou was renting airplanes to go to his client site anyway, so he flew me in and dropped me off and picked me up at Bader Field right in downtown Atlantic City each day of the trial, which lasted about 3 days. He was only able to take time off to attend the part of the trial where he testified. He was actually a joint plaintiff in the case, and was also suing the hotel for “loss of services;” my services, to be specific. Reality is that he hasn’t lost that much, since I still do the same everything I’ve always done. It’s just that now, I do it while I’m in pain. Lou did not prevail on his joint complaint, but I won for my part and have a nice award coming, but it will take time to work through the appeal steps before we are actually paid. I think my attorney did an awesome job when he wrapped it up, so the jurors could put a value on my injury. I have insurance, and I continued to go to work, so lost wages and the medical bills out of my pocket were not all that much. So he presented my injury like it is a job, where I had to deal with the pain, the trips to doctors’ offices, physical therapy, and such, and asked them to value what that job should pay. I think I did well in my testimony, and was credible, since I didn’t try to embellish or lie about anything. Lou says I totally bored the jury, and his testimony alone got them to find in my favor. I don’t know what he said, because the judge made me leave the courtroom while he was on the stand. And Lou doesn’t really know the majority of what I said, because he wasn’t there for most of the trial. In any case, we did win, and it doesn’t really matter who said what to make it happen. I just told the truth and that’s all I could do anyhow.

Since we have some extra money coming in, we’ve been looking at buying an airplane. Lou keeps asking me if I’d rather get a sports car instead, but it just doesn’t make sense at this point. Before Anjelica was born, I really wanted a Miata, but there’s no back seat, so that’s not practical now. Even if we got a fun car with a back seat, we still wouldn’t go very far with it, because Lou has to drive all the time for work, so the last thing he wants to do is drive for fun. And even if we did go somewhere, you can still only go as fast as the speed limit, regardless of what the car is capable of doing. With a plane, he can get to his client sites faster, so he’ll be home more, and the three of us can go on weekend day trips all the time. We’ve already rented a few times and had a blast traveling by plane. It’s an expensive toy, but fun.

December 1994

Lou , Jo, and Anjelica with Frontline Teamwork - book promo picture 1994

Lou , Jo, and Anjelica with Frontline Teamwork – book promo picture 1994

Christmas with Anjelica is fun this year. At 16 months, she is old enough to get a huge kick out of opening the presents and all the decorations. For all the presents we got her, one of her favorite things to play with is still the home made box of pictures. She and I selected pictures from magazines of random objects and things that she liked, cut them out, and glued them onto thin cardboard. We lay the pieces out on the floor and play two ways: sometimes I hold up a picture and ask her to tell me what it is; other times, the pictures are all laid out and I tell her an object to find, and she picks it out of the pile. She’s better at that version, since she can’t say all the words right yet, but she tries. I know she knows all the words because she can always do the finding part of the game. She is so amazing to me. I taught her how to sing a little bit of Happy Birthday with me, so she could do it for Lou. I sing “Happy Birthday” and she sings all of the ”To You” parts, then when I sing “Happy Birthday, dear…” then she sings, “Daddy.” It is so cute.

I received a pearl necklace for Christmas. I think it was an investment and a guilt gift more than anything else. Not that Lou ever said he was sorry. But he should be. My Great Aunt Mamie died recently, so we flew to New York for her funeral and stayed at my sister’s house. My sister has a dog and a cat, which Anjelica loves, and she was chasing them around and playing fine with both of them. The rest of my family was there, and everything was great, until the dog happened to lick Anjelica on her cheek. Lou scooped her up, stated that it was gross, and told her she couldn’t play with the pets any more. It was awkward and uncomfortable, so everyone was trying to make light of the situation with conversation, and my mom made a comment that she had heard that there were more germs in a human’s mouth than in a dog’s. He didn’t lighten up at all, but went on lamenting about how gross it was. My sister had offered for a friend to babysit Anjelica while we went to Mamie’s funeral, and said she was flexible about where and times for whatever we wanted. I thought it was really nice and appreciated that she had tried to find someone for us, since everyone in the family would be at the funeral. Lou didn’t respond, was ice cold to her and everyone in general, and wanted us to go to bed early. As soon as we got in the guest room alone, he went off on the dog-licking incident. You would think she had been mauled by that one very gentle, friendly lick. He was furious at my mother’s germ comment, and felt she and everyone else had ganged up against him. He fumed that it was absolutely disgusting that a dog and cat live inside the house, and he couldn’t stand it. Rather than debate the whole topic of household pets, I just suggested that we get a hotel room instead. We could afford the flight and hotel and a car rental because I was paying for the trip with inheritance from Mamie’s estate. He started going on about how my sister was trying to control everything, and that she had some nerve arranging for a babysitter, that there was no way that she was going to dictate that, and he would not leave his child with a stranger. I said that I felt she was offering alternatives, and wasn’t being bossy or controlling at all in my opinion, and that we didn’t need to use a sitter at all. I suggested that we just take turns with Anjelica outside the funeral home, that I go by myself to the cemetery, and that she would be fine with us together the rest of the time. That wasn’t good enough. He said it was stupid for him to be there just to sit in a hotel and babysit Anjelica, and that he would rather just go back home and take care of her there where he can be comfortable. I told him that I really wanted them to stay with me, and I’d do whatever necessary to make that happen. He insisted that he was leaving. I have never been separated from Anjelica overnight before, and I didn’t want it to happen. I cried. I cried hard. I literally begged him not to leave with her. First thing in the morning, before anyone else in the house was awake, he got on their phone and changed his ticket to the next flight out. I managed to calmly ask my sister to borrow her car, but broke down crying when she asked why, and I told her Lou was leaving with Anjelica. We almost never visit with my family, and this was one of the very few times they had been able to see Anjelica, and he was taking her away. I felt like I was being punished. I didn’t do anything. My crime actually was in what I didn’t do. A friendly dog gently licked our daughter, and I didn’t become outraged. My family made light of it, and I didn’t defend Lou’s position. My sister offered babysitting assistance, and I didn’t see it as an offensive controlling maneuver.

I also didn’t get to peacefully honor my beloved great aunt. I didn’t get to spend time together with my daughter and my entire family. I ended up going home early also, and so I didn’t get to spend much time with my family even by myself. I did get to cry. That’s about all I did do. I don’t think I have ever cried so much in my entire life. I’m still mad, and still sad. He still thinks he was right about everything, including the decision to go home with Anjelica. It’s not worth fighting about any more.

So I wasn’t thrilled or excited about my pearl necklace, which wasn’t a surprise gift anyway. He showed me all his research and took me to the jewelry store to examine the Mikimoto pearls he had identified as being “the best.” I was with him when he negotiated the price down, purchased them, and then insisted on a written appraisal at a higher value. He kept talking about them as an investment. I don’t need expensive jewelry, and never asked for pearls. Besides, he had seen that I received some pearls from Mamie’s estate. Save the sentimental value, they are nothing special, but they would look nice. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the value of the ones he bought, it’s just that I don’t need them; I doubt they will get a lot of use, and now I won’t be able to justify wearing Mamie’s pearls at all. I tried to persuade him not to buy them, but he insisted. It’s really my own fault; I should have clearly stated that I didn’t want them instead of saying that I don’t need them.

November 1994

AOL Dial up (photo from You Tube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1UY7eDRXrs

AOL Dial up
(photo from You Tube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1UY7eDRXrs

Our new Nanny / Office Assistant, Leanne, seems to be working out well so far. She’s a bit high strung, but she has great experience from a daycare center. Jennifer, her predecessor, worked out great too, but she got a higher paying full time job, and couldn’t work with us any longer. It is crazy how many people we went through after Astrid and before finding Jen. At work, I mockingly call myself “Murphy Brown” from that TV show, because we can’t hold on to a decent babysitter / office assistant. Maybe it would be a lot easier if we could simply hire a qualified nanny, but in addition to childcare, the person has to also be able to handle administrative duties and work with Lou in his home office. Thank God for Astrid, Jennifer and Leanne, who stayed for a while. Nobody else has lasted more than a few hours, days, or weeks at the most, before there were major issues. It was always something different, but most of them just couldn’t work with Lou for one reason or another. One of the biggest nanny-duty complaints Lou had early on was that they didn’t change Anjelica’s diaper immediately when it was wet or soiled. I probably don’t change it fast enough for him, for that matter. He’s really uptight about the diaper thing, and may not understand that it is not like wearing an old, wet cloth diaper anymore. He’s only changed her a few times total, only on the rare occasions when he’s been home alone with her. He’s actually not home that often anyway, because he travels for work so much, and when he is in town, he spends a lot of time at the gym.

Frankly, he has been really frustrated, I’d say almost depressed, the past several months. He complained that he felt bored and stagnant, and wanted to do something different to expand or improve or grow in some way. He talked a lot about wanting to go back to college and get his PhD. I was supportive, and looked into a few programs for him, but nothing clicked as a good match. He wanted professors he could admire and look up to that could be mentors he could really learn from. But when he looked through the program materials and professor profiles, he didn’t see anything or anyone that inspired him. He still feels the loss of his father; not only from his death a couple years ago, but also from the fantasy image he carries in his mind about what a father is supposed to be, as a mentor and guide, and especially as a role model for his son. He has mourned that void since long before his dad’s death.

After much discussion with me about how to get him out of his funk, Lou recently started taking flying lessons, and feels a connection to his father that way. He says that it something that always interested his dad, and that if he were alive now, they would be able to spend a lot of time talking about together. But mostly, he feels like it challenges him, and that he is learning and growing because of it. I think it is good, since a pilot’s license will make it possible to do more things go more places as a family. We rarely travel because he has to drive so much for work that he never wants to go anywhere for leisure, vacation, or even over holidays to visit family. But in general, I support it because it makes him happy. If he’s happy, then I’m happy.

Maybe now, he won’t stay holed up in his office logged onto America Online for hours and hours on end. The money we would save from that alone would pay for the flying lessons. AOL charges for usage by the hour, and we’ve had hundreds of dollars in overage bills most months. If he is willing to pay that much, then I think he is addicted. Personally, I find AOL to be a boring waste of time. I am so sick of hearing the grinding wail of the modem connecting, then the exclamation of, “You’ve got Mail,” followed by the incessant clicking of the computer keyboard and dinging tones while he is responding to mail and trolling the chat rooms and instant messaging with strangers. Just about every time I walk in his office, I can see that he’s communicating with women. I don’t know which is worse, when I actually see the flirty messages on his screen, or when he abruptly closes down AOL completely when I enter the room. He says it is fun for him, that it doesn’t mean anything at all, and that it is just talk. But I notice the screen names, later look them up myself, and know they live either locally or in towns where he’s consulting. If it is just online fun, then why only select people who are close enough to meet in person? Sometimes I wake up to find that he got out of bed in the middle of the night to go back online. It’s as if he has a prearranged online date or something. He has no clue that I often screw him up by lifting the handset of the phone extension on my nightstand on purpose to break his connection; I pretend to be sound asleep, but can see through the slits of my eyes that he looks into our room from the doorway, trying to figure out why he got booted off. Once in a while, he’ll give up and come back to bed, but he usually keeps logging back on, and I keep picking up the extension and feigning sleep.

He closes the door to his office, and thinks I don’t hear him, but the modem makes so much noise that it usually wakes me up. It totally pisses me off, but when I complained about him being online with other women so much, he got furious, and told me that he’s got nothing else and does nothing else. He says he doesn’t have other friends to hang out with, he doesn’t go out drinking, or anything so I’m lucky compared to what most other husbands do. I tried to explain that it makes me feel bad when I’m sitting alone in the next room, knowing he would rather go online and chat with strangers than talk to me. I brought up the fact that it always seems to be women that he’s talking to, and that it makes me feel like he’s looking and hunting for other relationships. He said that he’s not, but that if I continue to accuse him of it, then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that I will be the one who makes it happen. I can’t win; I lose whether I say anything or not. The only difference is that if I keep my mouth shut, then I don’t have to hear that it’s all my fault.

I don’t know what else I’m supposed to be doing to please him that I’m not. We have sex whenever he wants, which is often, and he says our sex is hot. I lost all the weight from being pregnant, and work out with him at the gym to stay in good shape and spend time together. I support him with his business in all ways: emotionally, mentally, and physically, by helping him with all of his writing and seminars, as well as whatever else he needs. I keep our house perfectly clean. I cook good food. I have a great job with good income and benefits. I almost always get home from work at normal times, and save any overtime work I have to do on my laptop for after Lou and Anjelica are both asleep. I am a good mother. I make few demands on him. I actually don’t think I make any demands on him for that matter. Yet still, he isn’t happy just being with me.

August 1994

Lou and Anjelica

Lou and Anjelica

Anjelica just had her first birthday. She is such a smart little cookie, and so darn cute. She loves everything pink and anything Minnie Mouse… well… maybe that’s me. She’s been walking for quite a while, and has quite an extensive vocabulary for her age. I keep up on what she’s “supposed” to be doing by what age, and she’s consistently ahead of schedule. She can do some basic counting, and even has a great sense of humor. I kept talking to her about her upcoming birthday and telling her that she was going to be one year old, and she understood. But if I ask her, “How old is Anjelica?” she smiles, raises two fingers and says, “Two!” She laughs, and I say, “No, you’re one,” and put down one of her fingers. She just laughs right back and insists, “No, I’m two!” and puts her second finger back up. She is so much fun all the time. I sometimes take her to work with me, and she plays with toys I have stashed in a box under my desk, and she isn’t shy about wandering around to hang out with all the other people in the office. Just about everyone happily offers a lap, paper, and markers and lets her play at their desk, too.

Lou and Anjelica

Lou and Anjelica

Lou even has a great time playing with her now that she can interact more; she loves to roughhouse with him, and especially likes it when he makes an Anjelica sandwich. That’s when she runs around our bed until he catches her, and then picks her up and smooshes her between two pillows and tosses her down on the bed. She gets up over and over laughing and giggling the whole time squealing, “Do it again!” She’s never gotten hurt that way, but on her birthday she had her first and only injury ever to draw blood. I was sitting with her on our bed, she was playing beside me, and she just kind of tipped over the edge and hit her head on the nightstand. I caught her before she fell off, but I wasn’t quick enough. Now she has a diagonal cut across her forehead that kind of looks like mine from when I got hit in the head with a shovel at age three or four. Hopefully hers won’t scar for life like mine did. We have a king sized bed now, and gave her our old “big bed” which she loves. Seems ridiculous for a one year old to have a double bed, but she had learned how to climb out of her crib, so it just wasn’t safe to keep her in it any longer. Besides, now it is easier for me to lay down with her to a read her a story at bedtime, and cuddle before she goes to sleep. That’s my favorite part of every day.

December 1993

Lou and Anjelica on Christening Day

Lou and Anjelica on Christening Day

We had Anjelica baptized last month on Long Island. We don’t belong to a Catholic church here, so we asked the Father at the church Lou’s dad worked at before he died last year if he would do it for us. He reluctantly agreed, but it was unusual because we didn’t go through the normal procedures. After the ceremony we had a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant. Lou’s mom was there, and a lot of his New Jersey cousins and aunts and uncles, and of course, Nico and Mia and some other friends. My sister and my parents came, as well as Jeff, one of my close friends I kept in touch with from Stony Brook. I gave everyone little crystal Angel figurine Christmas tree decorations as a take home gift. My dad took two

Jo and Anjelica on Christening Day

Jo and Anjelica on Christening Day

and wore them as earrings. He was in a great mood. Everything went well, and I think everyone had a great time. Lou is still not talking to his sister, so she and her family weren’t there, even though they live very close. Hopefully, they will be able to get past what happened and co-exist peacefully. There’s always a fight with someone in his family. I don’t have the energy to fight like that. At least his dad can be at peace from all the family battles.

Frontline Teamwork - One Company's Story of Success

Frontline Teamwork – One Company’s Story of Success

We’ve settled into the parent thing fairly well after all. Lou seems happier. I almost feel like we had two babies this year – Anjelica and our book, Frontline Teamwork, One Company’s Story of Success[i], which was dedicated “to the spirit of Howard Roark,” which, I suppose is fitting for Lou. Both of our names are listed as co-authors of the book, but he never asks me to sign them when we send out autographed copies. It’s all about the consulting business anyway, so it really doesn’t matter that much, but it would be nice to be recognized for my contributions. Lou’s obsessed with book sales. We bought a bunch of them that we are selling ourselves. I tell him not to worry so much about the profit margin we get on each book, but to just focus on getting it out there. The profit will come from the consulting business he’ll get as a published author and recognized authority in his field. He still is tracking book sales and watching every penny of profit. He tracks our finances the same way. Every month, he updates his spreadsheet with all the latest stock prices and values for every investment, and every dollar in every account that we have, and then he adds another data point to our net worth chart so we can see exactly where we are financially. He has another chart for cumulative income from his consulting business. I don’t think he likes to chart the income monthly because then he’d see that some months and years it is much lower than in others. He likes the charts that go up, up, up. Actually, I don’t think there’s a chart for anything else. Although I wouldn’t doubt it if he had a mental chart for a lot of things he keeps track of.  Every month he shows me the net worth charts and I say how great it is. And just about every month he reads me, and points out in amazement that I really don’t care. It’s not in a bad way that I don’t care; it’s just that I know we have enough money, and that based on what we have coming in and what we spend, we are fine. When we didn’t have enough, I worked more hours and jobs to make sure we’d get by. I don’t spend a lot of money, and I don’t need money and things to be happy. We have the best educations we could get, I have a great job, he has his own successful business, we have two nice cars, a beautiful house, and enough to pay a full time nanny to take care of our daughter at home. I don’t need a chart to show me that we are in good shape. What more could we want?


[i] Frontline Teamwork: One Company’s Story of Success, by Louis W. Joy III and Jo A. Joy, Business One Irwin/McGraw Hill Companies, July 1993

October 1993

if I tell him how I really feelI got a clean bill of health from the doctor, and was back at work in six weeks. It was hard to leave Anjelica at home, but Astrid has been great, and she and I were both at home while I was on medical leave. Astrid was mostly doing office work, but I really tried to give her a lot of time with the baby while I was there, so I could get a feel for how she was with her, and she is awesome, so I really don’t have to worry. I started giving baby formula part of the time, as well as breastfeeding. Anjelica doesn’t seem to care one way or the other; she just loves to eat. Lou can even feed her now, which is great, because he feels like there isn’t much for dads to do with a little baby. Our first big night out after Anjelica started the bottle; we went to Atlantic City, and Astrid stayed with her for a few hours. I didn’t anticipate that my boobs would just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It was entertaining at first because men kept staring at them, and I’ve never had anyone even look twice at my chest. But after a while, they started to hurt. Then they started to leak. On the whole ride back, I tried to express milk into a t-shirt that was in the car, but it wasn’t working at all. I woke the baby up to eat as soon as I got home. She’s woken me up enough times when she wanted to eat, so I didn’t feel too guilty about it. God my boobs hurt.

Speaking of boobs, the doctor also said it was ok to have sex again. Lou’s been surprised to see that I’ve already lost so much weight. I still feel heavy, but I think the breastfeeding really helps a lot with burning calories and dropping the pounds. I think the big boobs make me look a little thinner below too. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was not happy when he pulled out our new video camera the first time we were having sex. Looking at the video later, though, I was surprised at how much thinner I am already. I still wish there was no camera. Between the video playing on the TV and the camera recording us, there just is too much technology involved, and it’s a major production. Not exactly my idea of romance. We still do date nights every so often, which is really nice. I dress up, make a nice dinner, and we’ll have a bottle of wine, and sit and talk. But in the end, the TV gets turned on for X-rated videos to accompany sex. If we are someplace without movies, then he’ll talk about fantasy sex in scenarios like you’d see in a movie – with multiple guys having their way with me and stuff. He wants me to go along with it, but it really doesn’t do anything for me, and I really don’t want to make it sound like I would like it, because I’m afraid he’d actually want me to do it. So I stay quiet. Sometimes he’ll press me about it, and if I tell him how I really feel, he gets upset with me for not going along with the fantasy. But I know how he is, so I don’t want to encourage him. I really can’t win one way or the other, so my best bet is to say nothing at all.

August 1993 – II


Anjelica’s first day on Earth

August 1993 – Part 2
At 12:20AM on Saturday, August 21st, 1993, my little Angel girl was born. She was eight pounds, twenty-one inches long, and healthy, beautiful, and precious and perfect in every way. Anjelica Sierra Joy.

What a month it has been getting to this point. The baby’s room was finally finished, and I sewed bumpers and blankets for the crib. Work has been crazy; I’ve been working on a major capital project and had to make my first video teleconference presentation to the top management at HP in California. I wore a suit jacket and stayed seated the whole time so they wouldn’t realize I was nine months pregnant. I don’t know why I cared, but I just didn’t want them thinking of me as the pregnant one instead of listening to what I was saying, which basically was that the project they all thought was so great would not be worth doing from a financial standpoint. Overall, I think it went well given that I wasn’t telling them what they wanted to hear. I was due on August 18th; our annual budget was due on August 20th, and it was my job to make sure it got in on time and right. So I was glad when the 18th and the 19th passed and I still hadn’t had a baby. I woke up on the morning of the 20th and felt different, and told Lou, “today’s the day.” My water hadn’t broken or anything, but I’d been having cramping since about two in the morning. I went to work anyway to get the budgets out, and people kept telling me to go home, and explaining that what I was calling cramps were labor contractions. I did go home around noon, after I knew everything was sent off to corporate. Lou and I were still working on getting the seminar mailings stamped and labeled, and off to the post office. I made dinner and cleaned up, because the contractions were still pretty far apart. Around 6pm we decided we should go over to the hospital. Astrid, our new nanny-to-be came with us, and hung out for support. They processed me, checked me out, and then said I had a long way to go, and sent me home with some sleeping pills saying that I’d probably be back the next day. That was fine with me, because I really didn’t want our baby born exactly on the one-year anniversary of her grandfather’s death.

So I took the little pills, and went to bed around 8pm. But I think they gave me the wrong little pills because there was no sleeping. The contractions just got stronger and faster and faster. Lou called the doctor’s office and told them the timing and they said to go right in. Easier said than done. I couldn’t stand up straight to walk, and our bedroom was on the second floor. I literally crawled on my hands and knees down the stairs and to the garage. I couldn’t even sit upright, I was so cramped and bunched up. We got to the hospital around 10pm, but must have been one of many people going into labor just at that time, because I was curled up in a wheelchair stuck in the hall waiting by myself for a long time. Lou had to go move the car, and there were no nurses available to help me. They finally took me to a room, and I was begging for an epidural, but there was only one person who could do it, and they were busy with an emergency C-section. I was not prepared to go through labor and delivery without drugs. We went to the birthing classes, but did not develop the breathing skills to deal with a natural childbirth. Lou thought the classes were ridiculous, but we were required to attend. He was really annoyed that all the focus was on the mother. He told the instructor that the classes really should incorporate more of the effect on the fathers and the impact of pregnancy and childbirth on the men. She was polite and acknowledged that he had a point, but that would probably be great for a different course from the childbirth classes we were in. So needless to say, he wasn’t thrilled about learning any of the coaching skills.

Eventually, the anesthesiologist did come by, but said I was too far along to get an epidural. I begged and pleaded, and she finally gave in. What a difference. There was no pain at all, and I had to look at a monitor to see when a contraction was happening. But she didn’t give me a full dose, and the drugs wore off pretty quickly. I’m usually the quiet one, but I found out I was a screamer. They probably heard me in New York when the doctor stuck this plunger thing up me to pull her out. The worst thing was that it lost suction and popped off her head, and they shoved it back up there again. This was the first time Lou had ever met my doctor, and here he was between my spread open legs while he tried to Roto Rooter out the baby. He really had been great, and I’m sure he’s delivered thousands of babies and heard it and seen it all.

Lou brought the video camera we purchased for recording the new baby’s life, and had video taped us when we went to the hospital the first time, and then again after they had the baby cleaned up. Neither of us wanted to videotape the actual birth. Just as well, because when he saw what came out of me along with the baby, he was really grossed out. He’s still talking about that… it will take a while for that to get out of his brain when he thinks of or sees me down there. I didn’t look at that stuff – I just focused on the baby, who was absolutely beautiful.

038021 Lou and anjelica

Lou with Anjelica still in the hospital – first day as a Dad

The next day, Lou came to visit, and brought the baby a little Dumbo elephant stuffed animal as her first present from her Daddy. I think we were both tired and exhausted from the late night, because when I mentioned that I had talked to my mom and sisters on the phone that morning, he was upset that they didn’t call him, and sarcastically asked, “What am I? Chopped Liver?” I pointed out that his mother didn’t call me at the hospital, either. But that didn’t seem to matter. He’s just hung up on the fact that people give all the attention to the baby and the mother and that nobody seems to care about the father. I guess he has a point, but I don’t think it’s personal. My friend from HP, Sandy and her husband came to visit, and brought some champagne and my very favorite treat: brownies. We had to drink the champagne out of foam coffee cups, but it was fun. I only got to have one brownie, though, because as soon as they left, Lou nabbed the brownies, and threw them in the trash, saying, “You don’t need these.”  I said I wasn’t planning on eating them all at once by myself, and that I would have liked to share them with the nurses. I didn’t make a big deal out of it, but I was really upset. They were mine, not his to throw away. And I’m not a fat pig, either; I gained 26 pounds total while pregnant. I don’t know if it was the hormones, or exhaustion, but I ended up in tears after he left.

In the middle of the night, they brought me the baby to breastfeed. I woke up hours later with her still sleeping in my arms. I was really tired, and my insurance would have let me stay another night, since she was born after midnight on the first night, that day I was in labor didn’t really count toward their maximum allowed. But Lou had to go to his client in PA, and he wanted me to come home before he left. So we checked out that Sunday morning. When the nurse came to fill out the birth certificate information, she asked how to spell the name, and Lou answered, “A-N-J-E-L-I-C-A.” I asked, “J?” He said, “Yes, like Anjelica Houston.” We had agreed to the name, but never talked about spelling. I always assumed we would spell it with a G, like most people do. The J’s are rare. I’m used to people constantly spelling my name incorrectly, and told Lou that she’ll have to correct people her entire life. He insisted on using J anyway. I picked out (and got to specify the spelling of) her middle name, Sierra, which literally means mountains, but for me, her name defines that she is an Earth Angel.

We went home, and found that our next-door neighbors had decorated the mailbox and outside the house and made some food for dinner. It was really nice, and I appreciated it. It was a beautiful day and Lou wanted us to sit out in the backyard when I put
the baby down for a nap. I wanted to lie down too, and didn’t really want to go sit outside, but agreed after I could see he was so

Anjelica going down for a nap with Dumbo on her first day home

Anjelica going down for a nap with Dumbo on her first day home

disappointed when I hesitated. We tested to make sure the monitor worked ok in the yard, and it was fine, so he was right that it would be no different. I think it is going to take a while for him to get used to taking care of a baby though, because when she woke up, and cried, I went to get up, and he told me to sit down. I thought he was going to go get her, but he just turned off the monitor and said, “OK, we know she’s crying now.” He thinks that picking up a crying baby is just teaching them to cry. I totally disagree. At this age, you are teaching them that they are safe and can trust you to be there for them to take care of their needs. I got up anyway and said I wasn’t going to let her cry. I don’t care what he thinks.

He was just upset because we didn’t have a lot of time before he had to leave to go to PA. He is clueless as to what my body went through to have this child. He actually asked me to pack his suitcase for him. I was really tired, and was going to be home alone. I wished I was still in the hospital, or that I had someone staying at the house with me. People offered, but Lou didn’t want anyone from the family staying here. We don’t even have a guest room, so in his opinion they would just be in the way, and would probably not be much help anyway.

Jo and Anjelica first day home

Jo and Anjelica first day home

But I really needed help. I packed for him, and he took off for PA, and I was left home alone on my first night. Taking care of the baby was easy. Walking up and down the stairs between her room and mine was the problem. I was tired, but was doing ok, until I felt a sharp pain and started heavily bleeding. I couldn’t tell if I was bleeding from the inside or on the outside. I called the doctor, and he said to just lay down and give it time to see if it stopped on its own, and that it could be a number of things but not to panic. Easier said than done. I just stayed downstairs on the family room couch with Anjelica so I didn’t have to keep getting up. When Lou finally called to check in on me, I broke down crying when I told him about the bleeding. He called Astrid, and asked her to work and spend the night with me to help with the baby. She watched Anjelica the next morning while my neighbor drove me to the doctor’s office to see what was going on. My episiotomy stitches had ripped out, which he’d never seen happen to anyone before. He decided that it was better to leave it be rather than try to repair it. I have no idea what I’m going to look like down there now.

I stopped bleeding, and could handle the second night on my own. Despite the fact that Lou didn’t want a bassinette in our bedroom, I borrowed one from one of my managers at work. Lou’s not even home half of the time to be bothered by a baby in the room, so he’ll just have to deal with it for a little while. I tried before she was born, but it didn’t work out. I had borrowed this little portable crib that’s been in my family forever. I stripped, repainted, and put a new mattress in it. I think I did a great job, and it is fine, but Lou insists it is too old and not safe. So it is in our attic now. Maybe the next person in my family to have a baby can use it. At least I do have Anjelica sleeping upstairs… for now, anyway.

August 1993

never know what kind of a moodAugust – 1993
I’m huge, but I really have done well in keeping my weight on track. I’m almost to the 25 pounds minimum you’re supposed to gain when pregnant. We think it’s a girl based on the ultrasound; I wanted to know because I’d rather be able to really plan. We’re going rather neutral with the colors and decorations, but would be very surprised if the baby is a boy. My main concern is that we get the baby’s room ready. I always assumed that we’d just take my vanity out of the bedroom across the hall from ours, and convert my changing room into a nursery. Lou insists that the baby’s room be downstairs instead. He says it will give the child a sense of more independence. I really don’t agree and do not want that. I know that with the monitors you can easily hear, but it is just so far away from our room, I just don’t like it. And I know I’m going to be the one who will be getting up in the middle of the night anyway. I didn’t win that debate, though, so now he is repairing the walls and getting ready to paint. I just hope I don’t go early with delivery.

We have a lot of stuff from my baby shower. My two girlfriends from Playtex and HP worked together on it, and it was really nice. My parents and sister, and Mia came to surprise me. I acted surprised, anyway. Someone said something to me in a phone conversation about missing my party, and I mentioned the comment to Lou, not realizing that he may have known about the party, also. He got irritated that the individual was so careless, and then told me all the details, including who my surprise out of town guests would be, and said I should just act surprised. I kind of wish he had acted like he didn’t know anything either instead of spilling all the beans.

He says that he’s getting used to the idea of having a baby, but it still seems like he is just down or grumpy so much of the time now. I try to do what I can to help out and make it easier for him. I just never know what kind of mood he’s going to be in, so it’s hard to be excited about baby stuff in front of him when I don’t know how he’ll react when I talk about it.

We hired a Nanny / Office Assistant, which lasted just about one month. She was really young, and wasn’t really mature enough at 19 to handle the responsibilities. We’ve been working on getting together a mailing list to do a teamwork and production sequencing seminar on our own, so she was working with Lou on that. There’s no baby yet, so all of her time is with him in the office. Anyway, one day she told Lou she wasn’t feeling well, and wanted to go home. He told her that she should tough it out and stay. She went home anyway, and that was it for her employment. Toughing it out wasn’t so freaking tough anyway. I came home from work one day and found her laying out on the floor propped up with pillow reading off names and addresses to Lou while he typed them into the mailing list database. They were laughing and giggling the whole time, especially because she couldn’t pronounce Aurora, Illinois. So Lou decided he wanted to name our baby Aurora. He was doing some repairs to the front steps to the house, and had to put down new concrete. I came home to find he had engraved into the concrete his initials, my initials, the nanny/secretary’s initials, and the name Aurora. I have to admit I was happy when she stormed out on him and quit. And I was very happy when we had a water pipe leak and Lou had to rip up the concrete again, and relay it with no initials. The Aurora name idea is a mute point as well. That was not going to happen. We hired a new girl, who is very sweet, and a very hard worker. I think she will do great. We don’t pay that much, considering what we are asking them to do, but we are offering to help with college classes if she wants to go forward with her education. She wants to be a singer, so I don’t know how long she’ll actually be with us.

May 1993

im not fat I really think I’m going to end up being a single mom. Lou is miserable and depressed.

In my mind, we have everything. We each have masters degrees, great careers, financial security, a wonderful home, our book is going to be published, and best of all, we have what seems like a very healthy, much wanted baby on the way. And yet, he’s been really quiet and distant and cold lately, and overall depressed. For a long time, he’s refused to have intercourse with me, saying that it’s because there is a baby in there. I asked what’s wrong enough times that he finally explained how miserable he is. He says that his beautiful wife’s body is no longer attractive, but is just a house for a baby, and that he is sure that I am going to be like all the other women and be fat after I give birth. I assured him that I had no desire to be fat, and that I’ve always been able to stay thin, and that I have only gained the minimum weight that I am supposed to put on for a healthy pregnancy. I’m not loading on tons of extra weight with the pregnancy excuse. But he doesn’t believe me, and said that even if I am somehow able to be thin again, all he sees ahead is “a life of crummyness.” I agreed that life will be different, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be wonderful. I told him that the lives our parents lead didn’t determine what we had in store for ourselves, and that we have control over what our family will be like. Just because he saw his father miserable didn’t mean that he will be miserable also. And the fact that his father had a family does not mean that was why he was miserable in the first place.

I tried to be understanding and supportive. I tried not to take it personally when he shared his fears that he would end up with a fat, ugly wife, and that he would have a crummy life. But then, he said that it was all my fault. He said that I pressured him to get pregnant, and that he didn’t want to have a baby. He said I had just hammered him on the topic until he gave in. I was neither understanding nor supportive of that statement. How can he possibly think this is true? That is bullshit, and he knows it. Yet he was in my face saying it was all my idea and responsibility that we are having a baby. There was never a question in our lives together that we would have children, it was just a matter of when. Once we both had our educations, and good careers, and I was thirty, it was the right time, and I know for a fact that we decided together to have a baby. I remember sitting in the backyard having the conversation about it, and him saying that we should do it, and for me to make an appointment with a doctor to get checked out. I didn’t talk him into it. I didn’t argue or plead or even hint for that matter. It was a natural decision just like any other decision we have ever made together. Like what color to paint the walls, or what furniture to buy, or where to invest our savings. I know he was fine with the decision to get pregnant until it actually happened. The moment I showed him the results of the pregnancy test was the first time the reality hit him. I think his warped imagination has pieced together a horrific future; that doesn’t have to be the reality of life. It certainly isn’t my reality.

But now, my imagination is piecing together a future as a single mother. I know he is going to leave me, and I wouldn’t stop him. He says he will not leave, but I don’t want to be in a miserable marriage. I don’t want to live a miserable life. In my heart am so happy about having this baby, but now I can’t possibly be happy in my marriage. I don’t know what I am supposed to do. I can’t, and wouldn’t change the fact that I’m pregnant. I can’t help him if I am the problem. Lou dumped all this on me, and I am left to deal with it alone. There is absolutely nobody who I can talk to about this. All I can do is prove that I can still be a good wife to him even with a child.

March 1993

pregnauseaVacation while pregnant was a bit of a bust, and it was more than a little scary flying home on the day the World Trade Center was bombed. Nassau was chilly and rainy, so we spent most of our time in the casino instead of on the beach. The cigarette smoke in the casino really made me queasy, but luckily I didn’t throw up during the trip. Last time I puked was in the Mercedes into a bag, and it didn’t get on anything, but Lou swears the car still stinks because of it.

He actually believes I have some control over the pregnancy nausea, like I do it on purpose to annoy him or something. Same logic applies to my neck pain and headaches. I have pain, and he’s the one who gets grumpy and irritable. Most of the time I don’t let it show that I have any pain. We’ve had heart to heart discussions about it, and he says that he can always tell anyway, and I say I can always tell that he’s upset by it. He says he knows I don’t have the pain on purpose, but it still gets to him, and that it just isn’t any fun being around someone who is in pain. I don’t know what to say when he tells me this. I try not to cry, because he hates that, but it is so difficult for me because I can’t fix it. I can’t seem to fix the neck problem, and so I can’t fix the pain, and I can’t change that it sometimes shows that I have pain, and I can’t fix that it affects him. Even though I’m not bitchy and complaining, I am sure that it is a drag to be around me when my neck hurts or I have a headache. I really can understand that. So I do my best to hide it and not let it affect either one of us. I go to work, I do all the housework and cooking, and when he wants to have sex, I’ve never said the clichéd, “Not tonight, dear I have a headache.” I try to not take any meds unless I am done with everything that has to be done for the day, so I can just rest. I can’t take anything but Tylenol for pain now anyway. Actually, the pregnancy hormones seem to be helping with my muscle spasms. Maybe I should stay pregnant.

I’m really just starting to show now, and my boobs are getting a little bigger. I like the bigger boobs part. The doctor says everything seems good with the baby and my weight. I’m hoping that Lou will go to the next appointment with me and be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat. It’s fast, and I think that means that it’s probably a girl. We’re kicking around names, and I like Angel for a girl. I have a collection of angels, and Louie calls me Angel sometimes. I don’t have strong opinions for boy names. Lou doesn’t want a Louis William Joy IV. In fact, he is scared that any boy in the family will carry a curse of some sort. I say that’s silly, but I still don’t push for details on this alleged curse, but he talks in terms of his father’s alcohol addiction, cheating and lying. When they did an autopsy, in addition to cancer, they found he’d pretty much killed his liver. Lou is far from an alcoholic. We hardly ever drink; it’s an event to get a six-pack of beer, and even that lasts for quite a while. But he says that he could see himself becoming easily addicted. When he smoked pot in high school, he didn’t just get high occasionally; he got high first thing in the morning, and all day, and all night long. So he is very careful with alcohol to not get into the habit of drinking regularly. That’s probably what got him on academic warning early in college, actually. But by the time we met, after he came back from taking time off from school to get money to pay for it, he really took it all seriously, and he was the most sober person at any party.

As far as the cheating and lying goes, he doesn’t talk about that as it applies to himself. I have my own internal quiet dialog about it, and I don’t think he’s any different from his father there, either. But I don’t think it is a curse. I think it is a choice. I do what I can to make him happy to just be with me, but I look at him when we are quiet, and I don’t think he is happy at all. So often he is so far away, and lost in his own world. I made the mistake of commenting on that once, and he freaked out, taking it as an insult of some sort. He is still upset with a teacher that commented on the same thing and called him a daydreamer, lost in his own little world and that he needed to rejoin the rest of the class. I wasn’t trying to be hurtful; it was simply an observation. He sits alone, and I can see he’s thinking, but he’s making all these dramatic facial expressions, and his head and lips are moving. There’s no sound; it is kind of like watching a television on mute. Sometimes it looks like he’s having a conversation, other times struggling with different alternatives, and often it looks like an argument. He has told me that before he has an important meeting, he does go through a mock conversation in his mind. I find I do that kind of thing more often after the fact. I’m usually thinking about the brilliant or strong thing I should have said instead of being quiet or agreeable. I don’t think my lips move though. I’ve learned not to call him on any of his visual animations, and just ask what he’s thinking about. Sometimes he tells me, and sometimes he says, “Nothing,” which is obviously not the case, but it’s his prerogative to keep his thoughts to himself. I do it all the time. But then, he isn’t typically asking what I’m thinking of either.

I keep my journal to myself, and he doesn’t even realize I have one. I don’t know who I’m writing to. Maybe it is to my imaginary childhood friend, named Gunky. Gunky understands and doesn’t get bored when I ramble on like this, and certainly doesn’t judge or repeat what I say. Hah – I never thought about that before. Sounds more than a little odd at this age. Just writing to a diary should be my perspective, but I feel like I am writing to someone who cares about my life, my feelings, and who gives me some perspective and feedback. I don’t have any real people in my world anymore who would do that. I used to have friends like Kathy, Paul, Bruce, and Alan that I wrote long letters to, and sometimes they even wrote back with ramblings on about their world, and some insights to what I had said. But I’ve totally lost track of Kathy. Last time I got in touch with Paul was when we lived in North Carolina, and he was happily married and living in the Florida Keys. Bruce got married, and had been in serious relationships for a long time, so I’ve distanced myself so I do not get in the way of his happiness by complicating life. Last time I talked to Alan, he was planning on getting married. I had written to him several times after that, but he never wrote back. I sent one last card acknowledging that fact, and I wished him a good and happy life. It killed me, knowing I had lost the last bit of him I had left in my life. I know he told his fiancé about our past relationship, so I imagine I’m unwelcome as a friend now. Truth is, I haven’t cheated on Lou for years and years now. And I would never want to interfere with anyone’s happy marriage. I do wish I could still have their friendships though. I have friends at work but that’s about it. We rarely see Nico and Mia. It’s always fun, and I know they would do anything for us. But what is it when you only see your closest friends a couple times a year at most? Even my family is far away, even though it’s only a few hours’ drive, I hardly ever see them. And nobody calls anyone. I’ve finally gotten used to the fact that my birthday can come and go and Lou’s the only one who seems to acknowledge it. Actually, that’s not true, in the office we are all pretty good about recognizing each other’s birthdays with a little cake and a card passed around for signatures. I’ve usually had a close girlfriend at work, when I was at Playtex, and now at HP. We have fun during the day, but we don’t go out after hours or call to chat on the phone, and I’m certainly not spilling my guts with my personal life issues.

January 1993

nothomeforthehoildaysHappy New Year. I am so excited, we are finally pregnant. It took over four months, but we did it around Thanksgiving. I looked like a turkey lying on the floor with my legs up in the air trying to percolate. The baby is due on August 18th. So he or she will be a Leo, like me. I’ve already read just about all of the pregnancy books I’ve got. I know I’m a nerd, but I like to understand what’s going on. I’m hoping that we can find out the gender, too. My ob-gyn is a nice older gentleman, who probably isn’t far from retirement. I like him though because he is really sweet and kind. Louie couldn’t go with me for the first visit, but I think he will like the doctor, too.

We had to find our dog, Lenny, a new home. I know we didn’t have him very long, but I cried when he left. He’ll be happier, though, since he’s going to a nice place where they will allow him in the house. When Louie decided to get rid of the dog, I reminded him that this was supposed to be a trial run for a baby, and that we couldn’t just give the baby away when it was inconvenient. He didn’t appreciate the comparison, and said this was obviously different. We didn’t know we were pregnant then, but soon found out.

I just about danced out of the bathroom to show Lou the home pregnancy test results. I guess I expected his reaction to be like mine, since we had been trying for so long. But he just kind of said, “Oh,” and set aside the test stick. Dumfounded by his response, I asked back, “Oh?” He then plainly, and quite dully stated, “Congratulations. I don’t know what else you expect me to say.” He said that he had to go, gave me a quick hug and a peck and left for PA for the week. Maybe he was just in shock. I celebrated by myself that night with a toast orange juice with a very light ceremonial splash of vodka as my last alcohol for a long time. We’ve planned a trip to Paradise Island in the Bahamas next month, so we can have our last DINK (Double Income No Kids) vacation together before I get too big. I started off the pregnancy at 120 pounds, and am in good shape from working out, so I still should look good in a bathing suit.

I don’t want my boss to find out that I’m pregnant yet, but I had to tell a couple friends at work so they would cover for me when I got sick. One person figured it out at the department Christmas party when she caught me at the bar ordering a Virgin Bloody Mary. I’ll be glad when everyone knows, actually. I haven’t even told my family yet. We seldom get to visit them for Christmas or other holidays. My parents don’t make a big deal about it, but I know they want me to come home more often. Problem is that now that we have a house, Lou likes to be in our own home for the holidays. Especially for Christmas, since that’s his birthday. I don’t blame him, but I wish we lived closer so we could compromise a bit more. I feel guilty always telling my family that I’m not coming home, but if I force it and he’s not happy, then I can’t enjoy the visit either. So it’s a no win for me. It’s just easier to plan to visit when there’s something else going on that Lou can look forward to. We’ve usually go visit in the Spring when there are fraternity and Union College reunion functions that we can attend at the same time. One of the best visits we had in Schenectady was to go to Bruce’s wedding. We didn’t know anybody at the reception, and everyone else at our table was pretty much a misfit. We all got along great and laughed, drank, and danced all night long. It was absolutely the best time we have ever had.

On the last trip we made to New York, we outlined an entire book. The consulting business was slowing down, and Lou just didn’t have as much work, and was getting pretty depressed about the future and so we were talking about what he should do next. He has written several articles for trade magazines in the past, and has done lots of speaking engagements through APICS, but really wanted to be published in Harvard Business Review. Most of the consulting work was done using teams to solve problems and implement solutions, and he developed a system to use a pull methodology for custom manufacturing, and named it Production Sequencing. I suggested that instead of just trying to get in HBR, he should write a book. He thought that I was crazy, that he could never get a book published. But we decided to give it a try anyway. So on a drive up and back from Schenectady, we wrote a description of a book, and laid out all the chapters and an outlined a proposal. We decided to make it a fictional business novel that can be used for training and team development. I think it is an awesome idea, and believe that having a book published will establish him as an expert in teamwork and production planning, and that will bring in plenty of work. Plus, he can use his own book as a training tool for his clients when he sets up teams. It’s a winner in so many ways. Right now, he only has his past clients and word of mouth to demonstrate his expertise.

He hasn’t been working as much, so now he writes instead. Every day he sets a goal for how many words he’ll get done. Each night, I edit the work, and we plan out exactly what will be in the next part of the story. His friend from high school is illustrating the book and helping with editing and general feedback and suggestions. He is an awesome artist, and super intelligent, and we are so lucky that he wants to work with us, but Lou gets frustrated when he calls his buddy and his wife says he can’t come to the phone because he’s giving the baby a bath or doing something with their child. Lou thinks that she doesn’t like him because she can tell that he knows she’s controlling and taking advantage of her husband because she’s just lazy. However, I’ve never once heard him complain about taking care of their child. I imagine they share responsibilities, and it just seems lopsided to Lou because he can’t talk to his friend whenever he wants. I don’t think we are around them enough to know what life is really like.

October 1992

friendshipisoverWe didn’t intend to get a dog, yet we now have a dog. Our neighbor found a stray and convinced us to take it in. We left a notice at the animal shelter, but so far, nobody has claimed him. We figured that it would be good practice for us to prepare for a child in our lives. We named the dog Lenny, after the title character in one of our favorite movies, Zelig. It’s a Woody Allen movie, where Leonard Zelig had a personality disorder that made him assume the same characteristics as people he was around, so they called him the chameleon.

We got Lenny a doghouse, and he stays outside. I’d let him in, and clean up after him, but Lou is adamant that dogs are meant to be, and are happiest when kept outdoors. When he was a kid, the family had a dog they named Lucky, and he was just fine outside. I guess he was out there enough to figure out how to escape from his chain, and he never was found again. Hopefully he was Lucky enough to find a new home. Lenny is part Husky, and part who knows what. He’s starting to learn tricks, and good behavior, and loves to go to the park with us to run around and fetch. Fortunately, he isn’t much of a barker. I just need to figure out how to get him to stop digging holes in the backyard. Lou ended up having to make a concrete pad to put his doghouse and a stake to attach a line. Lou takes such good care of the yard and the gardens, and the dog simply doesn’t understand that the digging is wrong. I think the digging is because he’s lonely and needs companionship of another dog or people. If we could bring him inside to hang out with us when we are there, I bet he would do fine when he was outside. That’s not going to happen, though.

Some friends of ours ended up getting a couple of unplanned dogs as well. Well, they are former friends, at this point. Lou had gotten into a dispute with them after his obsession with the wife became known to the husband, who complained and asked him to stop. They had several arguments, ending with them telling him to stop any further contact, and informing him they had installed a security system and now had guard dogs at their home. I honestly don’t know all the details, and it is probably better that way.

September 1992

I am so glad to be home. No stress. No arguments. No fighting.



We got a call from the VA hospital on Long Island saying that Lou’s father was in intensive care, and was not doing well. He had named Lou as his next of kin and as the person who should make medical decisions for him if he were unable. We hadn’t spoken to anyone in his family in quite a long time. He stopped talking to his dad because he wouldn’t have a serious honest conversation about their past and the lies and pain. I can’t even remember why he stopped talking to his mother and sister this time. But all the same, his father was on his deathbed and wanted to see his son, and asked the nurse to call. Lou took the information and lay down to sleep again. He didn’t want to go, and told me he would think about it the next day. But the hospital called again, looking for permission to administer treatment to alleviate the fluid that was building up or something. This time, I talked to the nurse to find out more details, and told her to tell him that his son and daughter-in-law were on their way. I didn’t care that Lou didn’t want to go. If I let him stay home, and his father died alone, and Lou didn’t see him when he had the chance, he would regret it someday. And I would feel responsible that I didn’t make him do it. I told him I was going by myself even if he wouldn’t go. Nobody should be alone in a time like that. I spent time with his mother without him when she had cancer surgery. She totally disliked me before then, but after that, she was always nice to me, even when she was feuding with Lou. Anyway, Lou conceded to making the drive from Delaware that night to see his father.

Before we left the house, we called his sister, Debra and her husband, Bill. She wasn’t talking to her parents either, and had even less interest than Lou did in going to see her father. But I think Bill talked her into it. They had a baby that her parents had never even seen. Once we got on the road, the urgency finally kicked in, and Lou was in a panic that we wouldn’t get there in time. About 3 hours later, we met up with Deb and Bill at the hospital, and went to the ICU. His father was still alive, but not awake and not responsive. The nurse said that they had found cancer in him again, and that it seemed his organs were slowly shutting down, and his abdomen was swelling up with fluids. Other than that, though, I must say he looked pretty good. He was very tan and his body appeared quite strong and healthy. We learned later that he was working as a grounds keeper and doing maintenance for a church.

Lou and I talked to him quietly, and I held his dad’s hand and stroked his hair and arm, and tried to moisten his lips so they didn’t dry too much. Bill was really good at talking upbeat and loudly to him to try to get a response, but there was none. Debra was doing her very best just by being there. She stayed in the room, but kept her distance both physically and emotionally. She had been essentially abandoned by the dying man both physically and emotionally most of her life. I give her credit for being there, and yet not being phony about her emotions.

We called Lou’s mother, and explained that her ex-husband was probably not going to live much longer. She told us that she had seen him recently, and was wondering how he was doing. She decided not to come to the hospital since he wasn’t conscious anyway, and personally, she wanted to remember him as he was, rather than dying in the hospital bed. I guess they ended up being good friends to each other over the past few years. They had even been joking around about his being sick, and how he shouldn’t buy any green bananas.

He was hooked up to monitors; we just watched his body slowly shutting down. It was hard not to stare at the heart rate and blood pressure stats dropping. Bill had a beeper on his belt that went off once in a while. I have never known anyone with a beeper, and had thought only drug dealers used them, so I jokingly asked if he had to meet his connection. Wrong thing to say. I was just trying to be light during a tense time. I heard about that comment later.

Eventually, his stats dropped very, very low. I was still holding his hand, which was clasped tightly around mine, even though he was not conscious. Lou and Bill were on the side of the bed also, and Deb was at the foot of the bed. He then opened his eyes, and slowly and deliberately looked around the bed at each of us. Even though he didn’t say anything, he appeared to have clarity and recognition in his eyes. We told him that we were all there with him, and that we loved him, and that it was ok to let go and be at peace. He very peacefully closed his eyes and the stats dropped and dropped until the solid line and steady beep indicated his heart and breathing had stopped.

That was the end of the calm and peace, because suddenly there were alarms going off, and out of nowhere, came what seemed like a dozen doctors and nurses jumping in the room with equipment and insisting that we clear out of the room because it was a code blue. I practically had to scream at them to leave him alone because he was DNR. I don’t know why the unit nurses didn’t step in. They were the ones who had shown us his card, where he gave his preferences for treatment and specifically requested for them to let him go. Personally, I think the interns and doctors enjoyed the excitement of the crash. Just as quickly as they had come, they all dejectedly disappeared, and the ICU was quiet again.

We went out to dinner with Deb and Bill that night and talked about what we should do. The nurses gave us his few possessions, and his home address, which sadly, none of us knew. He had an old car, and lived in an apartment near the church. Debra said she really didn’t want any of his things. We said we would bring the car to his mother so she could sell it for past alimony due her.

Lou and I had to go on our own to his father’s apartment to take care of his belongings. At first, Debra wanted nothing to do with anything of his.  Later, when we called from a pay phone at the beach we had stopped at to relax and reflect, she told Lou that for the sake of her child, she wanted what was due her, and would meet us at the apartment to “clean out” the place. That phrase sent Lou over the edge, and he reamed her out for being disrespectful and picking over the paltry few remains of his life for financial gain. It was a moot point because their father literally had nothing but the old car we gave their mother.  They had a screaming fight over the phone, ending with her saying she would not be going to the funeral.  It seemed that was going to be the end of it, but later, Debra and Bill showed up at his mother’s front door with the grandchild she had never seen. His mom, who had just been talking with Lou about how disgusted they both were by Deb’s attitude, was quite skilled at building, burying and unearthing grudges, resentments, and feuds spontaneously, and welcomed them with open arms, excitedly doting over both her grandchild and daughter. She didn’t notice the anger on Lou’s face, and his sister’s smirk of satisfaction with her game changing move. Lou immediately tried to regain control, and ordered them to leave the house. Deb rightly stated that it was not his house, and he could not tell her what to do. Their argument grew more heated about the whole situation with their father’s estate and each other’s behaviors and intentions, and Bill stepped in between them to tell Lou to back off.  Lou grabbed him by the shirt, which ripped apart in his fist. Sensing they were about to start throwing punches, I covered my ears and yelled for them to just stop it, and stormed out of the house. I hoped that would startle them out of the physical altercation, but even if it didn’t, I could not tolerate being around all that anger one minute longer. I walked down the dark street and sat on the curb where I would not be easily spotted, but could still see the front of the house. It was a long time before I saw Deb and Bill leave. I waited awhile longer, expecting Lou to look for me, and eventually went back to the house on my own. Lou’s mother was distraught and torn because she wanted to resume having a relationship with both her children and families, but Lou was fuming that she would even consider forgiving Deb’s behavior. In the end, Debra did not attend her father’s wake, funeral, or burial, although most of the New Jersey relatives that his dad had been estranged from for years came to pay their respects.

August 1992

30alreadyWe’re officially trying to get pregnant, now. We were recently sitting out in the backyard, getting some sun, and talking about my 30th birthday that was coming up at the end of July. I can’t believe thirty is already here. I still always see myself as young, maybe because Lou is five years older than me. We’ve always talked about wanting to have a family, but have never done anything about it. I’m not on the pill, so it could have happened many times by now, but it hasn’t. I would love to have a big family. I envision a dining room table loaded with four kids, and then later having big family holidays together with spouses and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Lou’s not so sure on the number, but he does want to have children. I know people wait longer to have kids now, but I told Lou that if we still wanted to have kids, then we should start thinking about acting soon. He agreed, and said I should go to the OB-Gyn for a checkup and make sure that I’m in good health. My health is fine. I just have the neck problem, but it doesn’t seem like I can do anything much about that. I had the problem with my knee, but that somehow became less of a bother after I hurt my neck and I could not possibly carry a heavy backpack. So we got the medical go-ahead to try to get pregnant. I am really excited about the future.

February 1992

howcanItellI thought we were going on an exciting adventure. We were invited to do production planning and sequencing presentations at conferences in Queretaro, Mexico and Mexico City, all expenses paid by the client. But on the flight down, Lou was distant. I asked what was wrong, and he said, “Nothing, why?” I said that I’d been feeling that he was far away for a while now. He hadn’t been close or intimate with me lately, and ignoring the chill I felt sitting close on the airplane was unbearable. Then he told me that all he could do was think about another woman just about all the time. And he told me that he really only wanted to be with her, and just wasn’t feeling attracted to me. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to bolt, but was trapped on the airplane stuck by his side for hours. I tried not to cry, but tears came anyway. I wiped them away, and did my best to hide my eyes and my face with my hand so nobody could see. Lou was irritated that people would notice, and asked how he could tell me things if I was going to get upset like that. I asked him if he was trying to tell me that he wanted to leave me. He said that he wasn’t, but he was just being honest about how he felt. I was quiet. He went to sleep. It was a long plane ride for me. I don’t think I have ever been so sad in my life.

He seemed fine through the whole trip. I think I cried myself to sleep every night. We were in Queretaro first, and stayed at this resort called the Hacienda Hotel Jurica. It was really a beautiful remote place with lots of gardens and beautiful buildings and a fine restaurant. Then we went to Mexico City, and stayed at the Century Hotel right in the middle of the city. We had seen a picture of the hotel that deceptively made it appear to be quite nice. The hotel was really tall but really thin. Maybe two rooms deep at the most. The seemingly beautiful pool on the brochure picture was actually on the roof, and only slightly larger than our hot tub. If you were brave enough to venture near the railing, you could see straight down to the street below. If you leaned over at all, a good wind could easily blow you off the roof. The tiny hotel room was bizarre, with rails on the ceiling above the bed, and the bathtub was round and really deep. It was just as well that we weren’t having sex, because the bed was awful. There was a tiny lounge just off the lobby with a band blaring loud, cheesy music. Luckily, we didn’t have to spend much time there, as the conference itself was at the Nikko Hotel, which was very modern and sleek, and in comparison, made our accomodations seem much like the prostitute-ridden Hotel Dixie my parents booked to save money on our family overnight stays in Manhatten.

We’ve had sex since we got back, but I was self-conscious, and nervous with my own husband. He just doesn’t seem to have a clue how it makes me feel to know that he’s obsessed with another woman, and actually told me he didn’t even want to be with me. He now says I should just forget about it all and go back to normal. But I don’t know how to do that. I just feel empty, and like I’m always on the verge of tears. My chest feels heavy, and it’s like my heart literally aches.

I’m glad I have my job at HP, because that keeps me busy, and I have a lot of fun with the people at work. I’ve also been working out at Gold’s gym and started on a program with a trainer to lose body fat. I’m not really losing weight, so much as toning and changing my percentage of lean muscle tissue. Lou goes to the gym all the time, and I haven’t really been diligent about it until now.

July 1991

#HowIQuitI safely landed at Hewlett Packard in Avondale, PA in the Finance department; almost didn’t get here. I had my job offer at the Franklin Mint, and an opportunity to go back to Playtex in the computer operations department, and then I had an offer to come here to Hewlett Packard, but only working in the Information Technology group. The position and money were better at the Mint, but I decided to go with HP anyway. I was honest about my intentions, and promised I would work hard and they would get the most out of me while I was in IT, but that I would be looking to transfer into Finance as soon as possible. I made another promise, too. After I interviewed for the job at HP, I went to the mall, and was sitting by the fountain, having a diet coke and a cigarette like I typically do on the rare occasion when I get a chance to get out of the house on my own for a little while. I tossed a coin in the fountain and made a vow that if I got hired at HP, I would quit smoking. I felt like it was a pact with God, so as soon as I started working at HP, I stopped smoking. It was the smart thing to do anyway, and was pretty easy since I seldom smoked. Through all these years, Lou never once noticed the smell of cigarettes on me.

I did kind of cheat by smoking though graduation until I actually started work. Lou and my good friend from Playtex and her husband came to my graduation. Unfortunately, Louie cut out immediately after the ceremony to head up to Wilkes Barre because he had work the next day, so just the three of us went out to dinner afterward to celebrate. I was disappointed Lou didn’t take the time to at least stay with us for dinner. Perhaps he had more compelling plans that evening. I don’t think he’s had love affairs, or second families or anything like that. I just know that he’s had lots of opportunities to mess around while he’s away, and that he likes to flirt. It seems like he’s never in his hotel room when I call, either. And he doesn’t come back from his trips all horny like I think he would if he wasn’t having sex somewhere else. And I still have that one woman’s sock that isn’t mine. I don’t know why I keep it. At first I thought I would dramatically pull it out and confront him with the evidence. But I know he would just say I was nuts to try to prove his guilt with a lone random sock.   I haven’t cheated on him in years, and I haven’t been looking for it either. I never actually looked for it to happen when it did, perhaps it was just an inappropriate extension of friendships that I wished could be more; the best I could do given the fact I was married. I never had any plans to leave him, so I don’t really know what the point was for me. I never really felt all that guilty about it either, which is weird, because I should. But I would often wake from sleep with a silent cry out for help…. for Bruce…for Alan… for Paul… for someone to save me. Save me from what, I don’t know, but sometimes my subconscious screamed for help, and I would awaken and almost expect a silent cosmic answer that someone was coming to my rescue. Lou never suspected anything, and I never wanted him to know. I still can’t believe he told me about that woman at the hospital, and about the “hand jobs” in PA. I can’t help but think about it every time he goes up north. And he goes just about every week. If I’m not busy, I find myself thinking about it constantly when he’s away. Is it my own guilt coming from the subconscious because I don’t consciously feel guilty? I don’t even know if I care what he does. I’m busy most of the time, so I really don’t think about it all that much.

I appreciated the company of my one close, good friend and her husband at my graduation, but on such a big day, it made me think about just how few friends and family I have near me. I am sure there were plenty of parties with people from my class at Wharton, but I wasn’t close enough with anyone to have been invited. My family was all away, because one of my sisters, who is only 38, had a heart attack, so my folks were rightfully with her. I went out to spend a week with her when she was released from the hospital to help take care of her and the family. I wanted to drive to Connecticut, but Lou was not comfortable with me going that far by myself, so I flew. I think he really missed me, because after a couple of days, he kept calling to ask when I would be back home. I guess when I think about it, he is hardly ever at home by himself. It’s usually me who’s there alone while he’s away on business. He soon became irritated, and questioned why I had to stay so long. He doesn’t really understand what it means to try to recover from something like this. She couldn’t drive, walk long distances, or even go up and down the stairs normally. She had to go step by step on her butt. Plus, now she had to quit smoking. Her heart attack made it a lot easier for me to quit without hesitation. It used to piss her off so much that I would smoke around her, but not around anyone else in the family. She often asked when I was going to drop my “goodie-goodie routine.” My honest reply was, “Never, if I can avoid it.” I like being perceived as the good girl in the family. In life.

February 1991

start runningI had an opportunity to work as a consultant at one of the big firms in New York, but I think one consultant in the family is enough, so my acceptance decision deadline came and went on January 15th along with Saddam Hussein’s deadline to get out of Kuwait. I was home alone when the war started. It was so bizarre  to watch the first attacks on Iraq live on CNN. I recorded it on the VCR so Lou could see it after he returned from one of his trips to PA. The CNN reporter was very professional, but I could tell he was freaking out because he was supposed to have gotten out before the fighting began, and was stuck in the hotel with the bombs going off all around. I imagine it was horrifying to feel that helpless and vulnerable, trying to seek a false sense of shelter under a table.

I don’t know what I’m going to do after graduation. I’m still working part time at the Franklin Mint. I almost get the feeling that they like me too much to hire me permanently, and think I would be better off somewhere else. They had me interview with a manager that I know, but currently don’t work with. He unexpectedly called me into his office a little before 5:00pm for an impromptu interview, which lasted for several hours. At school, we would call this tactic a stress interview. He asked me normal questions at first, and made reference to all I have accomplished as an intern and part time employee, but then got deep into personality issues. He flat out accused me of being too nice, noting that he sees me in the corridors laughing and smiling when I talk to people. He said I would be like a flounder in the ocean and would be eaten up by the sharks there. He even drew a diagram on the chalkboard in his office, illustrating me standing on the bank of a fast moving river, and a raft coming downstream. He then barked out another rapid-fire interrogation question, “How are you going to get on that raft?”  I may have unwittingly smiled when I replied, “I better start running now.”  He seemed satisfied with my answer, but it made me realize that I’d better start running to find another place to work. I have a job there if I want it for a good salary. There’s no fancy title though, unless someone quits. In reality, people quit or get fired there all the time, so I’m not really worried about job titles or promotional opportunities. It’s more a matter of how I want to spend my working hours: happy or stressed.

According to my doctor, I already have stress-related problems. As if my neck pain and headaches are not enough, I keep getting abdominal cramps and diarrhea. They say it is irritable bowel syndrome, and to drink a fiber supplement. I can’t even drink coffee anymore, because as soon as I do, my gut cramps up and I have to run to the bathroom. I manage to get through the days without taking anything for my neck or headaches, but it isn’t easy. I can’t take any medications and still go to school, work and drive, because the muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory, and painkillers they gave me all make me a bit sleepy. Lou says that they make me dopey, too, and that they change my personality in a way he doesn’t like. So, I don’t take them often at home either. I keep trying different meds to see if I can find ones that get rid of the pain, but don’t mess up my head or personality. I’m beginning to think that these meds only work because they mess your head up, and that they don’t really do anything else. I’ve gone for massages a few times, and that really seems to help loosen up the knots that I have in my neck and shoulder muscles. Lou will only rub my muscles for about a minute before he turns the massage into sex. He says he’s just not good at the massage thing. He doesn’t complain when I get a professional massage, though. It’s just my own issue of not wanting to spend the money.

We’re not poor, by any means; we have two relatively new cars, and just about all the rooms in the house have been remodeled and decorated. We installed plush light grey carpet throughout the top floor, have a burgundy Chesterfield leather furniture set in the living room, and have refinished and reupholstered Lou’s mother’s old dining room set.  We also bought a new stereo system, with a CD player, and huge floor speakers. We were a little bit leery about the CD player; Lou wanted to get a record player as well, but the guy in the store convinced us that CD technology was the way to go. We still have a pile of 8-track tapes, as well as our collection of LPs we can’t use, but the cassettes work in the cars, so those aren’t a loss. We only have a handful of CDs so far, but they sound awesome on the stereo.

September 1990

Franklin Mint Museum.  Source: Smallbones Wikipedia

Franklin Mint Museum. Source: Smallbones Wikipedia

I am back to classes, but will continue working part time through the school year. I spent the summer at the Franklin Mint’s internship program in Finance. Most of the MBA interns worked on special research projects in marketing, but I ended up spending most of my time doing real work for the department writing special spreadsheet and quantitative data uploading and downloading processes for budgeting and reporting. I think my summer experience is more practical for the real world. I have more flexibility with my schedule at school this year, so I’ve piled my courses into fewer days so I will continue to work at least two full days at the Mint each week through the school year.

I thought the Investment Banker’s world sounded like high stress, but the Franklin Mint is a really tough corporate environment, and I think it is a good training ground for me from a culture standpoint. The people there are really sharp, but they are all very competitive and almost high school clique-y. It wasn’t my first choice. I really wanted to work at Hewlett-Packard, where the corporate culture is really people oriented. I was so excited when they recruited on campus, because they have a plant about 20 minutes from my house. But they weren’t hiring any interns locally. Playtex was willing to take me back for the summer, but it would have been in the computer operations area. I don’t know why they would think I’d want to go back to that role. I loved working at Playtex, but I have to feel like I’m not wasting my time going to grad school.

This year, the classes will be more challenging, and there is already a focus on finding a job for after graduation. Some people just about had their jobs locked up at the end of their summer internship. I’m missing out entirely on the social life at Wharton. I work in groups a lot, but I don’t have a circle of friends to hang out with when I’m on campus. Even in classes, I pretty much keep to myself.  It seems like everyone else always hangs out with others outside of classes and group projects. I just go to class or to work, then go home and study. It’s my own doing. Most of the time Lou is out of town, so it isn’t like I have to be home to make dinner or anything. I wasn’t like this at SCCC or Stony Brook, and I don’t have a clue why I am now. Maybe it would be different if we lived on campus as we did at Duke.

Lou’s done so much with his MBA and is his one-man shop is doing well. The “big eight” firms bring in consulting clients usually from projects that come out of their accounting and audit work. So I don’t really see where they can really justify calling themselves independent auditors, accountants, or consultants. At least Lou is not motivated to create work for other divisions of a big organization. He still does a lot of presentations and speaking engagements for APICS and other groups, and gets word of mouth recommendations for his project contracts. He’s a great speaker, and is really good at what he does.

January 1990

"Penn Wharton" by Logo Style Guide. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Penn_Wharton.svg#mediaviewer/File:Penn_Wharton.svg

“Penn Wharton” by Logo Style Guide. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Penn_Wharton.svg#mediaviewer/File:Penn_Wharton.svg

School’s going great, and I’m doing really well in my classes. I’m one of the few long distance commuters, and one of a handful of married people, so I don’t get at all involved in the social life on or off campus. Off campus in West Philly is pretty scary after dark, so I’m in and out of there as quickly as possible. I can’t say I’ve made any real friends here yet, and I’m beginning to wonder if I ever will. The only student who ever calls me at home is looking for help on Economics homework. All the advanced mathematics classes I had to take at SUNY have made much of the program easy for me. There is a lot of quantitative analysis required, so I guess this computer engineering geek has an advantage over the prep school kids. If I could learn assembly language and advanced mathematics, I can certainly dissect and interpret a balance sheet and income statement and do the differential equations for economics in my sleep.

I’m home alone most of the time, and that’s really fine with me because I can just concentrate on my schoolwork. When Lou’s there, I tend to spend time doing things with him instead, and I just don’t get as much done. I help him out by editing his letters, reports and presentations, since he doesn’t have any staff or co-workers in his one-man consulting business. I go to bed when he does rather than stay up late studying. I’d read in bed, but it’s kind of hard to focus over the television, and to work with just one arm. My other arm is usually tied up because Louie likes his “pets.” I have totally spoiled him over the years by scratching and rubbing his head while we’re relaxing together. Now when we lay down to watch TV on the couch, he’ll put his head in my lap and nuzzle it until I start scratching. Even when he’s driving, he’ll lean over toward me, and nudge for “pets.” I think all the blood flow to his head is going to help keep his hair nice and thick. It is starting to get grey, but in an attractive and distinctive salt and pepper kind of way. He’s afraid he’s going to turn all grey and start balding like his father.

Since he is Louis William Joy, III he’s afraid of following in his father’s footsteps in a lot of ways. He doesn’t drink much because he is scared to death of becoming an alcoholic like he believes his father is. He always talks about feeling like he carries a curse from his father, but never gets very specific about exactly what that means to him. I usually just compliment him on his own self-discipline that has enabled him to achieve so much in life. His business is doing great, he’s still going up north to Pennsylvania every week, and his daily consulting rate is far higher than the salary from any of his previous jobs. He can work fewer days and make more money. I’m really proud of what he’s accomplished.

I really could use some “pets” or at least a neck rub sometimes. My neck pain and headaches are still a big problem. I’ve got all kinds of medications, and have tried just about every kind of physical therapy imaginable, but nothing seems to help, and what’s worse I now get migraine headaches as well. I’m still keeping up in school because there is no way I’m going to let my head and neck screw this up for me. Harrah’s isn’t the least interested in helping out with the medical expenses either, so I’m on my own unless we sue. I just need to stay focused on what is most important right now.

The focus at school is already shifting to finding summer internships. Recruiters come from companies all over the country, and you have to compete to get an interview slot. My choices are narrowed down to jobs within commuting distance of Wilmington, Delaware, so that makes it different for me from the majority to students who will go to wherever the best position is.

September 1989

hp12cLife changed gears quickly. I was in my office at work when I got a call from Wharton Admissions asking if I still wanted to attend. I’m not sure, but I got the impression there was an international student from China who couldn’t attend this year because they were in legal trouble from the Tiananmen Square incident. I wonder if I wasn’t right there at my desk to get the phone call at that moment if they would have moved on to the next person on the waiting list. There were only three weeks before school started, so I had to give my “yes” answer right then on the phone. I was floating on air for those three weeks. The reality of losing my income and insurance benefits on top of paying for school didn’t set in for a while. Louie is really excited for me too, though, and we will get by just fine. He has steady consulting work, and I can get insurance through COBRA, and a student loan to pay for school.

Lou joined me to meet with someone in the financial aid office, but there really isn’t any merit based financial aid available; he got into a heated discussion about how unfair and discriminatory it is that it seems only minority groups have financial aid available. He went on to complain that he never got aid either because he was a white male. I understand his point, although I could have done without him getting on the reverse discrimination soapbox at my new school.

They gave me a party at work, and an HP 12-C calculator as a going away present. I am really going to miss everyone at Playtex. My major concentration is going to be in Finance. Wharton is just about always the top ranked Finance MBA program. So far, the classes are pretty straightforward, and I expect to do well. I’m not the least bit nervous about the course work. I went through the face book with the pictures and little biography of the 750 or so students in my class. I could count on my two hands the number of students that went to undergraduate state schools. The majority of students had bachelor’s degrees from top private and Ivy League level schools. When people describe what their pre-Wharton jobs were, it seems like everyone has already been super successful in business, including several Wall Street investment bankers. Hopefully this is a good sign that I am destined for a great job after graduation. It is a little intimidating though, and my GED, AAS, BS from SUNY, and my job as Playtex Help Desk Manager doesn’t seem to stack up in comparison. At least my grades will be competitive; I have absolutely no doubt about that.

July 1989

AtlanticCityWe went to Atlantic City for our 8th anniversary last month, and stayed at Harrah’s. We got a nice room, played black jack, had dinner, and then went to watch a show. It was all good until we were escorted to our seats in the theater; I was holding onto a railing, walking up the stairs, and suddenly my head was hit from above. There was a concrete overhand along the wall above the staircase, and I was safely walking up the steps below it, and then at one point I no longer fit underneath, and unknowingly stepped right up into it. Man that hurt like hell. I just stood there for a while trying to recover, then the usher sat us. Lou didn’t like the table, which was far back, even though there were plenty of open tables closer and toward the center. So the usher moved us to better seats. My head was killing me, and I still had tears, so I told Lou I needed to get some Tylenol or something. I went to the usher again and asked where I could get something for my headache. He had me wait by the entrance to be escorted to the hotel’s medical station. They looked me over for signs of a concussion and filled out a report before they would give me any Tylenol. I returned to the theater and stayed for the show, but for some reason I couldn’t stop crying throughout the whole thing. Not blubbering or anything like that, just silent tears kept dripping down my face. I felt like a child. The next day, my head was throbbing, and I really didn’t want to drive home, so we tried to get the room for another night. They said they were booked up, and couldn’t do anything for us. I’m sure they had rooms put aside for entertaining high rollers and those who have more money than brains to stop gambling. But there was no room for us, despite the facts that I was hurt and we were willing to pay. And there was no apology for the incident either. We had a lengthy argument with a manager in the lobby and ended up having to drive home after all. A couple days later, my neck got really stiff, and the headaches got worse. Now I have a stupid neck brace collar, and have to go to physical therapy.

I recently took a trip to Florida for work, which was fun. I’m working on setting up personal computer systems for the field sales organizations, and Orlando is my pilot site. I didn’t realize just how hot it would be in the summer though. I went to Disney by myself, which I thought might be awkward, but turned out to be fine, except that I got really burned. I couldn’t go on anything but the kiddy rides though, because of my neck injury.

Once again, Wharton didn’t accept me, but did put me on their waiting list, and now have me on their summer waiting list. It’s like when I really wanted something and my parents said, “we’ll see.” I knew that meant more likely an eventual “no” than a “yes” but it was better than outright rejection. My fingers are crossed for delayed gratification.

January 1989

SerenityPrayerTime flies. I’m reapplying to Wharton, with another year’s management experience and a couple more recommendations from higher-level managers at work under my belt. Fingers crossed that I’ll get in this time. I love working at Playtex, and the people I’m with, but I just know that I can achieve so much more with an MBA.

Lou has his own consulting business now. He got a call from one of his prior clients who wanted to know if he would come to work for them full time. He was really gun shy from his last experience, so he agreed to work on a contract basis for a while, and it’s worked out well. We incorporated his business as Manufacturing Excellence, Inc. I say he should tell people he works for “Me Inc.” He prefers to call it “M-E-I.” I still think “Me” is more appropriate and accurate. He’s getting steady business so far, and we are covered with health care benefits from my job, so we’re in good shape. The only investments we’ve had to make for his company are for an accountant to set up the corporation, and in a computer and printer. We got a Mac Plus, which he likes because it is easy to use and is great at graphics for presentations. We’ve fixed up his office, so it looks really nice, with striped wallpaper and wood wainscoting on the walls, book cases, some artwork, and we had all of his diplomas and certifications professionally framed, as well as prints of both the Serenity Prayer and Desiderata. He covered the top of his old metal desk with gorgeous off-white 12” marble tiles, and painted the rest. Pretty cool looking.

August 1988

rosetrellisThings looked so bright at the beginning of the year. But then, I didn’t get into Wharton, and Lou got fired from his job. Maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t get accepted. I think Lou tried to change too much too quickly, and he upset too many of the wrong people. The worst part of all this is that they fired him over the telephone while he was in New York with his father who was going into surgery for a laryngectomy because of throat cancer. Lou had a feeling the axe was going to fall, so before he left work the last time, he brought home all the files that he thought were important to him that he’d never see again. He was certain this one guy in particular was working hard to get rid of him, and that he was manipulating the facts to make Lou look bad to the owner. I think if Lou had been more patient and made more compromises along the way it would have been better for everyone involved. Now the people who supported him are left hanging on their own.

Lou’s dad had come to our house to visit for a while to try to decide what he wanted to do. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to have the surgery or not. He spent most of his time here working in the garden. We have a great garden area in the back yard. There’s a huge lattice fence with beautiful climbing roses that goes up to about 8 feet tall. Lou put it up to block the view of our neighbor’s backyard. We do all the plantings together in the spring, and then Lou keeps it nice. He’s a much better gardener than I am. I’m good at figuring out what to buy and where to put it, but he’s good at the weeding and maintenance. The one time I tried to plant my own little garden area, he thought they were weeds and pulled them all out. Oops. Anyway they spent a lot of time out there together. Bottom line, he decided to have the surgery. Lou went to the VA hospital to see his dad, and after he went in for the operation, Lou called into the office and got fired over the phone. Lou left before his dad got out of the O/R. I know he was upset, but I wouldn’t have been able to leave if it were my father. I probably should have gone with him, even though he didn’t really want me to. Lou told me that his father walked him around the hospital to show him where he had stayed for a while earlier on, which turned out to be a tour of the mental health ward, where everyone knew him. He had told us that he was there previously because of his throat cancer, but hadn’t mentioned anything else. I imagine he was treated for depression. I’m glad he got help.

I know that Lou was depressed himself after being fired. All he did was sit around the house playing solitaire; game after game, after game. To add insult to injury, the company had only offered him two weeks’ severance pay. He was threatening to sue, but they insisted he was an employee at will, and they had the right to terminate his employment for any reason or no reason at all. Lou contacted a lawyer who pretty much said he had no case. I called the owner of the company myself to make a personal appeal. I explained how devastated Lou was, and that he had put his heart and soul into his job and the employees. Lou now felt that they never intended to keep him on, and that they had just been using him for his ideas short term, but didn’t want him to ultimately have any real management authority. Lou felt he was deceived and defrauded. The owner said that certainly wasn’t the case, and was sorry that he felt that way, but that Lou just wasn’t a good fit with the management team. I explained that my experience has been that someone at Lou’s level should be given at least six months’ severance pay. I couldn’t believe it when he agreed to those terms. Lou thinks it is because the owner feels guilty and that he knows they were wrong, and is afraid of a lawsuit. Personally, I think my conversation was effective and the owner had empathy, and most likely just didn’t want to deal with the topic anymore. Whatever the reason, it is good to have an income while he looks for another job.

I’ve been using the word processor at my office to type up application letters for him, which is a lot easier than the typewriter we have at home. I get the Wall Street Journal from the VP’s office here and cut out all the manufacturing management classified ads for him to review and approve for me to send out a letter and resume. My managers are afraid I will have to leave soon because Lou will get a job out of state or something. So far no interviews, but we keep sending out resumes.

I already have a lot of experience using the word processor and the PC and plotter at work from when Lou became President of the South Jersey APICS Chapter. I agreed to be VP of Publicity, which meant I had to do the monthly newsletter. I typed it, did artwork, got it printed, and did all the folding, labeling, and mailing. I spent a lot of late nights working on it, but I must say that the newsletter was looking mighty fine with my touch. I absolutely despise going to the meetings and conferences, though. BORING.  But as an officer, I have to attend, and have also taken several of the certification exams. At least I have something new to put on my own resume.

March 1988

insteadimarriedlouWork’s good. I’m a manager now of the help desk in computer operations. Playtex has gone through so many cutbacks and reorganizations that it’s amazing I’m still there. I got a nice raise with my promotion. Most of the increase came because one of the people who would be working for me had been there a long time and made a lot more money than I did. So they bumped my pay to be more than his. We’ve taken on a lot more responsibility in our group, since they laid off other people. I like our little group though, and we work well as a team. Every day, we post messages to all the computers in the company about system issues and other technical support information. One day, I didn’t have anything to report, so instead, I put up a quote that said, “Blessed are they who have nothing to say, and who cannot be persuaded to say it.” Ever since, I’ve posted a new “Thought for the Day” as the first item on the list of bulletins. If we don’t update it first thing in the morning, people start calling asking for it. It is fun to look for new quotes to put up, and it’s nice knowing that people look forward to it.

I decided that I want to go to graduate school for my MBA. I took the GMAT and did well, and applied to Wharton at University of Pennsylvania. I haven’t applied anywhere else. I think this is the best school, and it’s local, so it is among the few options available for me. I have honors level grades from my undergraduate years, good experience, and good recommendations, so hopefully I’ll get in. I think my essay was pretty good also. It focused on what we’ve been able to achieve in our lives, starting from basically nothing. My personal essay opened with, “My mother always thought I’d marry rich. Instead, I married Lou.”

We have come a long way. He’s now working for one of his old consulting clients up in Amish country as Operations Manager. Coopers & Lybrand wasn’t thrilled when he created a job for himself with the client, but I think it was a win-win-win all around for everyone. He was getting frustrated at Coopers anyway, and he would probably have left soon for somewhere. Now he has all the manufacturing and distribution organization working under him, and he reports to the owner of the company, who is a Mennonite. They say a prayer even before meetings. That’s quite a change. I’m glad he’s not consulting and traveling to hotels anymore. There are just horses and buggies and plain clothed religious people where he works now. So there shouldn’t be any more of those work related sexual issues.

Things were getting a little too freaky while he was consulting. We kept getting hang up phone calls at night. One time, Lou decided to do the star 69 thing on the phone to return the last call. When the person answered, Lou asked, “Who is this?” The guy on the other end said, “Who the fuck are you?” and he hung up. Then the guy called us back again, and said, “I know who you are and where you live, mother fucker. I’m gonna cut out your heart and suck your blood.”  Lou called the police, and through the phone company they identified who it was and the police filed “terroristic threatening” charges on some guy Lou never heard of in Wilmington. The police told Lou that the guy claimed a neighbor of ours had him calling to bother Lou because of some issue with work. Lou thinks that it’s related to the hospital engagement where someone who happens to live in our neighborhood lost his job because of the project Lou was on. It’s all too weird. Lou’s upset because nothing is really happening with the case. The police don’t seem to be following up with it. They ask if there have been any more phone calls or contact, and there hasn’t, so that seems to be it as far as they are concerned. I hope that’s it.

August 1987

Green Room Hotel DuPont Wilmington, DE

Green Room Hotel DuPont Wilmington, DE

I don’t know what he expects me to say or think or do. Lou came home all paranoid and in a panic wanting to know whether or not it was possible and legal for someone to tape phone calls and use it against you, and if you could tell when a conversation was being recorded. I said that I had no idea, and asked why he was worried about it.

He explained that this woman who works at the local hospital where he was consulting had been really flirting with him a lot, and that they chatted on the phone at work during the day and it got to be really dirty sexy talk. And now he was worried that she was setting him up for some kind of trap. He thought there was some sort of conspiracy going on to get him fired from the hospital job because he was going to uncover some real problems. I looked at his eyes, and could tell he wasn’t right, and asked if he was high. He then says that he’d just been smoking pot with her in the car in a parking lot, and that they had kissed. I don’t know what piece of information pissed me off more: the kissing or the smoking in our Benz.

From there, it just went from bad to worse. Next, as part of his conspiracy theory evidence trail, he admitted to lying to me about going to dinner with clients at the Hotel DuPont, and that he had just gone with this woman. I started to cry, and he didn’t get why. The Green Room at the Hotel DuPont is the only really fine restaurant we have ever gone to. We got all dressed up and went for our last anniversary, and I thought it was so special and romantic. How could he take her there? I remember when he came home that night all horny; I guess she didn’t put out for him after the expensive dinner, so he came to me for relief. He really didn’t understand why I was hurt. Instead, he got mad at me because I got upset and was not helping him with his problem at work. I told him I didn’t see where he had anything to worry about as long as the conversation was both ways, not just him talking to her. He said she was a just a cock tease and he was going to stay away from her from now on. I assume that means she didn’t put out after the kiss either.

I asked him if there was anything else I should know about, and he told me that sometimes on his way to his client in Pennsylvania, he stops at a place for a hand job, but that it was no big deal and didn’t mean anything. I wish I didn’t ask. I know he didn’t tell me everything there was to tell, and perhaps that is just as well. He still didn’t understand why I was upset. After all, he came to me for help.

Lou fell asleep. I cleaned the house. I think when I clean and I vent to myself. I obsess. I have a sock that I keep in my drawer. It is a single woman’s sock that isn’t mine. It came home from Pennsylvania mixed in with his suitcase laundry quite a long time ago. He stays at a nice hotel that has a nightclub that I know is a big pickup joint. I heard rumors are that there was prostitution too. He’s up there all the time, and knows everyone, and because he’s such a regular guest, they give him the honeymoon suite whenever it is available. I am so damn angry but there’s nothing I can say. I scrub until my fingers cramp up. My house is very clean and I feel a little better when I am done.

January 1987

1987 Mercedes Benz 190E - ours was powder blue

1987 Mercedes Benz 190E – ours was powder blue

We bought our first new car, and it’s a Mercedes Benz. Actually it is a “Baby Benz” 190E. We spent New Year’s Eve picking up the car and then sitting in it in the garage. We sat in the front seats, each taking turns on the driver’s side and the passenger’s side then we sat in the back seats, where there is little leg room. But it is nice. It will be a challenge to keep it clean, since it has a cream colored interior. Not leather, but it looks like it. Lou was appalled that the car didn’t come with floor mats, but managed to get them included at the end. It was kind of embarrassing to be fiercely arguing over something trivial like that at the dealership, but he had a point. The financing wasn’t too difficult this time, since we are established now with the mortgage. It’s funny how having debt makes it easier to get deeper into debt. We’ve got Lou’s student loans, the mortgage, and now this car payment, but we’re ok now with both of us working full time. Lou’s going to use the car for his business travel. It’s more impressive for his clients to see him in a Mercedes than the Olds. The only pain for me is that the radio doesn’t work in my car, and I have an hour commute each way.

We’re getting stuff done on the house, and it’s coming along nicely. The first thing to go was the blue and silver metallic wallpaper in the bathroom. It’s been non-stop work around the house, but it is good to work together on the projects. We figure that if we can hang wallpaper together without killing each other we’re doing something right in this marriage. He’s such a perfectionist when it comes to the work in the house that he won’t let me do anything that shows, not even a first coat of paint. I’m more like an assistant than anything else because he knows what he’s doing and I don’t. Except when it’s time to clean up. That’s always my job. I do keep the place clean though.

April 1986

First House in Christiana Delaware - Just off I-95

First House in Christiana Delaware – Just off I-95

We bought a house. It is awesome. Nothing big, and it needs a lot of work, but I love it. I got a job at Playtex in Dover, Delaware. Lou’s in a new job too, working at Coopers and Lybrand out of Philadelphia. Since Dover is far enough away from South Jersey, Playtex paid for our relocation expenses, which included temporary living for me in a hotel as well as movers and such. We had been having problems at our apartment that they weren’t fixing, so Lou withheld rent. I went to renter’s court to fight our case, and we actually won, so the last few months of rent were free, which went right to the down payment on this house. We had looked at a bunch of houses with a realtor, and then Louie and I went out to dinner at Howard Johnson’s in Wilmington, and I found a classified ad “for sale by owner” listing in Christiana that sounded perfect. Lou called, and we went right over to see it. It was already dark outside, but as soon as we drove up the street, and I saw the house at the top of the hill with the lights on, I got goose bumps and told Lou that this was definitely it. It’s a four bedroom bi-level house, with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, dining room and living room on the top floor, and the lower level has a huge family room, a half bath, and a bedroom, as well as a laundry room and access to the attached garage. There’s a pretty big yard, with a two-level deck, and an outdoor hot tub built into the lower deck. The colors in the house are really 70’s. There’s bright orange carpet in the living room, and brown shag downstairs. The kitchen has wallpaper with birds and orange stripes, and yellow linoleum floors, and the bathroom has metallic blue wallpaper. We will have plenty of work ahead, but with all of Lou’s handyman experience, we will be able to do it no problem. We don’t have furniture to fill the place yet, but that will actually make it easier to do the remodeling. The upstairs living room and dining room are empty, but we are using the family room downstairs, and the master bedroom. Lou has his desk in one of the other bedrooms that we will make into an office at some point.

I like my job at Playtex. It was a tough start, since they use COBOL, and I overstated my knowledge of COBOL. But I was living in a local hotel on my own anyway, so I had a lot of time to put into work and stayed late just about every night to get my projects done. Nobody figured out I didn’t have the language experience, they just saw me working hard. I have the language down now, thanks to a couple books. The actual biggest skill is in knowing how to write and test programs in general, the language itself isn’t such a big deal. That’s what I told them anyway when I interviewed, and I think it’s true. I didn’t lie. I said COBOL wasn’t my strongest language. I don’t like to lie at all, but when I do, I usually say something that is true, even though I know it is misleading. I worry that if I lie about something, I’ll have some sort of karma retaliation. If you call in sick when you’re not, then you will get sick; that type of thing. If I’m being deceitful, then I prefer to avoid any conversation about the topic all together. So far, that’s worked the best in life. I guess it would be better if I was up front and honest about everything though. Yeah right.

On the night of April Fool’s Day, I was bored in my hotel room, and wrote a really long letter to Alan. I made up this story about how I was drinking in the bar by myself and ended up having way too much, and started hanging out with a few guys, and took them back to my hotel room for sex. At the end of the letter, I told him it was just an April Fool’s joke, which it was. I thought it was pretty funny, because he probably was freaking out thinking I had finally really lost it. If I sent that same letter to Lou he probably would have been jerking off thinking I had really done it. Lou is always talking about stuff like that when we’re in bed, and wanting me to get into the fantasy of it with him. I just kind of “mm-hmm” back, but it really doesn’t turn me on in the least bit. He likes porn star type sex, and keeps introducing me to people saying, “this is my wife, Jo Joy… doesn’t that sound like she’s a porn star or a stripper?”  I smile and I laugh. I’m tired of it though.

Lou has been doing a lot of travel for Coopers and Lybrand. He goes to a company up north in Pennsylvania every week, coming home only on the weekends. I think he is a lot happier there than he was at Price Waterhouse. He was gone so much of the time that I had to do all of the legwork in buying this house on my own. I was so nervous about getting approval on the mortgage. The real hurdle was that we were both changing jobs at the same time, and neither one of us had a good long-term employment history to point to. I’m proud that I was able to get it all done though.

I finally met Lou’s dad. He called one night while we were still living in Jersey. Lou was out of town. I don’t know if his father had been drinking or not, but he was obviously very depressed. It sounded like he was basically calling to say goodbye forever. I talked to him on the phone for a really long time, and arranged for him to call back again and see if we could set up a time to meet. I think he’s living out of his car. Since he got fired with the rest of the striking PATCO air traffic controllers, he hasn’t had any steady work, and no place to stay. He owes Lou’s mom so much money he just signed over the house to her. After I got off the phone with him, I called the suicide prevention hotline to ask for some advice on what I should do or say to help him. They basically said that what I did was good, to let him know that there are people who care and to give him something to look forward to.  He called back when he was supposed to, and talked to Lou for quite a while on the phone. We drove to Long Island to meet him, and had dinner at the local pizza place near where Lou grew up. We got there first, and while we were waiting, the bartender recognized Lou and asked him about his father, and whether or not he was back from Saudi Arabia. Lou just said, “yeah,” and excused himself. His father never went there, and we have no idea what kind of story he had been telling around town. Louie says his father is a chronic liar, and will just make stuff up like that. His dad showed up, and we talked for a long time, but it was all about trivial stuff. He smoked Camel cigarettes pretty much non-stop. Lou says that’s how it always was. His dad would buy himself a case of beer and sit outside and just drink and smoke all night long. His mom smoked all the time also, but inside the house, usually in the kitchen. Lou has never smoked, but his sister does. He still has no clue that I smoke sometimes when he’s not around. I don’t even know if he’d care one way or the other, but I’d rather not find out.

His mom tells the story about the day “Louis” was born on Christmas in1957, and Lou’s dad was hammered. She left him when Lou was little, but they soon got back together. There were a lot of stories about drunken fights and threats. She treated her Louis like gold though. He was always dressed perfectly, in matching sweaters and socks. Quite the little man. Quite the Momma’s Boy, actually, until his father made her stop sometime in middle school to keep him from becoming a total dork. She idolized her son, and would ask his advice, and take it, even when he was little. One of her favorite stories was her asking Louis what greeting card she should buy, and he gave an answer, and some lady said, “And the children shall lead us.”  I’ve heard that story so many times. She goes on and on about how wise he was beyond his years. I think the being born on Christmas Day has a big impact on how she saw her kid. Lucky for her she never found his stash of porn hidden in his room. She’s very religious and would have freaked at that. From what she tells me, the last time she had sex was the night that his sister was conceived, which was about 20 years ago. Right now is the first time since I’ve known Lou that he’s actually talking to everyone in his immediate family. His mother actually likes me now. The turning point came when she had surgery for cancer, and I went on my own to be with her in the hospital and at home. I didn’t do it to make her like me, but in her drug induced fog, she thanked me for caring for her, and said she was so wrong about me, and that I was an angel.

January 1986

Philadelphia_skylineWell Lou and I are both miserable at our jobs. I finally got a position at a small company in Philadelphia I thought would be good, but it is an absolute nightmare. The money beats what I had been doing before I got hired, which was waitressing at a Greek diner in Jersey. The restaurant owner was the epitome of a male chauvinist pig. He was short and fat and greasy and kept hitting on me, saying he wanted to make a baby together. When I left, I told him that I had to quit because my husband didn’t want me working anymore. I figured I’d go with something he could comprehend. I never told him I had a college degree and that I just hadn’t had luck finding a job yet in my field. I was so frustrated being home not working and not going to school. One day, I woke up to a phone call from a woman from personnel at a local company, who said they received my resume, and asked if I was still in the job market. She said Mr. Johnson would be giving me a call later that day for a telephone interview. I was so excited, and waited all day by the phone, but no call ever came. The next day, I called the company but there was no Mr. Johnson there. I didn’t know what to think. I must have made the whole phone call up in a dream, because they never did call me again, (or ever I guess, for that matter). Anyway, after that I started looking at jobs in restaurants so I could make some cash and kill time until I got a real job. It didn’t take long.

In October, I started working at a very small company in Philly. The guy who owns it is really quirky at best. When I first got there, his employees were still mad because he had gotten behind in payroll when he used the money to buy and scalp Live Aid concert tickets over the summer. My job was supposed to be temporary office manager while the regular woman was on maternity leave, and then I was to transition to being a programmer when she returned. The reality is the company is so small, that everybody is everything. I even clean the toilets because nobody else will do it, and the bathroom was disgustingly gross before I got there. Shipments received are all on COD because the company’s credit is shot. I have to dodge phone calls from bill collectors all day. He has some great clients who are doctors at the local hospitals, but he is mainly hoping that money will come in from a government contract we just put in a bid for, where we would build portable computers to be used by the military in the field. We put in a lot of work into that proposal, and barely delivered it there in time, but we made it just under the wire.

I’m still looking for another job. The only thing good about where I am is the money and the location. I take the train from Jersey, and sometimes I meet Lou for lunch downtown, but that may not be for much longer. He’s looking to get out of Price Waterhouse, because it’s such a bureaucracy there, and he’s frustrated because he does all the work and the more senior people take all the credit. He was so pissed when someone took Lou’s name off a report he had prepared. Now they want him to go on a long-term assignment down in Washington, DC working at the Mint, doing the same type of project he did here at the Philadelphia Mint. He thinks it is just going to suck, and doesn’t want to go. His manager has been trying to coach him, and called Lou a one-man band, and told him that he can’t just take his bat and ball and go home when he doesn’t like how the game is going. Lou basically told him that he could and he would. His previous manager told him that when Lou liked what he was doing, nobody could do a better job, but when he didn’t like it, there was nobody who could do it worse. That’s why it was time for him to move on before, and why it’s time again now. It just hasn’t been that long, so he’s worried that he’s going to get a reputation as a job hopper. I think wherever he goes next, he’s going to have to stay there for a while, so he’d better make sure he’s going to like it. He didn’t argue with what the managers said, because he knows they are right. We joke about the one-man band thing all the time. When he gets going about his work issues, I’ll pretend I’m playing a trumpet and banging symbols between my knees. It makes him laugh. I tried to buy a little one man band statue for Christmas but couldn’t find one. Maybe I should get him a bat and ball.

July 1985

dasherMan, are we lucky. I was driving the VW back from a visit to upstate NY in heavy traffic on the Thruway on Monday of the Fourth of July holiday weekend and heard a funny noise. I asked Lou if he heard something, and rolled down my window so we could listen. All the sudden, I heard a loud bang, and the car started spinning. I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes, but I immediately noted that I have never understood the phrase, “turn into the spin.”  Next thing I knew, the car was stopped in the middle lane, facing the wrong way on the NYS Thruway with a flat blown out tire. But amazingly, there was no traffic, and I had pressed the clutch, so the car didn’t stall, and I just hobbled over to the shoulder driving the wrong way. Almost instantaneously after being safely out of the way, there was a horde of traffic again. We got out of the car, I said a little thank you prayer to whoever had just saved us, and Lou got down and dirty in the gravel to put on the tiny spare tire. A police car came by and the officer blocked a lane to stop traffic so we could pull out and get turned around again. We got off at the next exit to buy a new full sized tire. It was a miracle we didn’t have an accident.

The car is full of rust, and barely holding together. While at Stony Brook, the rear bumper simply broke off on one side when a foot had leaned against it for balance. I tied it up with rope, which held well enough, but I swear it nearly got me in deep trouble one night while I was making my weekly trek from Long Island to South Jersey. I was driving along and noticed an 18-wheeler come up beside me, drop back, and the driver started honking the horn and flashing headlights behind me. Knowing my bumper was attached by silly string, I pulled over to the side of highway, assuming the frantic beeping and flashing lights were to signal a problem to me. I got out of the car, and looked around, seeing nothing extraordinary besides the rope, which still securely held the bumper in place. The 18-wheeler also pulled over and stopped, and the driver got out and quickly started walking toward me. I was about to ask him what he saw wrong with my vehicle, when he called out, “Hey, darling!” I immediately read he was not a Good Samaritan after all, and just threw my hands up and yelled at him for making me pull over for nothing. I got back in the car, locked the doors, and pulled out before he could get close enough to do any harm. I don’t know if he really thought that he could pick up a woman that way, or if he would have snatched me up if given the chance. I’m just glad I didn’t have to find out.

I miss really Stony Brook. I had a lot of friends there by the time I left. Those 11 weeks when Lou was living here in Jersey and I was back on Long Island were absolutely great. After I was done with homework and projects, I went out just about every night with a group of friends and typically hung out at a Mexican bar drinking Margaritas. Yum. A girlfriend moved in with me, so I wasn’t alone at home either. I kept myself entertained so I wasn’t sitting around moping about Alan, and we eventually were able to be more comfortable as friends again. But it wasn’t the same by any means. I stayed busy and made sure to not have time to think about it.

Now that I’ve moved here, I feel isolated since I don’t know anyone. This apartment is OK, and it is nice to have the bigger color television again. I’m going to Rutgers in Camden, NJ for the last few needed credits for graduation. I made the mistake of taking the subway to get to the college the first day. It was convenient, but when I came up the stairs from the underground to the street, I had no idea where I was. The neighborhood looked really tough, and I clearly stood out as someone who didn’t belong. The first thing I noticed was a group of guys, most would assume to be thugs or punks, who had stopped whatever they had been doing to just look at me. Instead of moving away, I decided to just go directly over and ask them for help. I was nice to them and they were really nice to me back, and showed me exactly where I needed to go. I do firmly believe that you should assume the best of people. Lou says I’m a Polly Anna. I’d rather be disappointed by the bad stuff than surprised by the good stuff in life.

I’m sending out resumes now for jobs in Philadelphia and South Jersey. Looking at the ads in the paper, most of the programmer jobs require COBOL experience, which they did not teach us in school. They taught us Pascal, and programming languages in general, which included a little bit of COBOL, but not much. That’s going to be an issue. I know I can learn any language, and that I’m an awesome programmer. I ways got A’s, and made Phi Beta Kappa. Intel wanted me, so I am hoping that it was a good sign that there will be something for me here also.

April 1985 – Angel of Misery

weeping angelAngel of Misery (published April 3, 1985)

You couldn’t guess from that innocent smile
That she’d ever do the things she’s done all the while
If you knew you wouldn’t want her at all
But she couldn’t be bad, ‘cause, God, she’s so good

A fire is raging down deep in her soul
Look closely now, and see she has no control
You’ll wonder what’s happening inside of her head
You’ll know she is bad, and you’ll wish she were good

Just when you think you’ve got her all figured out
The tables will turn and you’ll soon start to doubt
Her actions say that she’s changing her ways
She’s not so bad, now she seems to be good

She’ll keep on pretending there’s nothing to hide
But you will know better once you’ve heard how she’s lied
A selfish child when she don’t get her way
She’s really all bad, and she ain’t any good.

She’ll wait till your close, then she’ll swallow you whole
And if you’re not careful, you’ll lose self control
You best get out quick, before it’s too late
She’ll make you bad, ‘cause she’s so goddamned good.

December 1984 – Lunch Time

Lunch Time (published December 5, 1984)

A stranger kept my house while I was gone
Not exactly a stranger
But a sometimes acquaintance
Who happened by one day

I was relieved to see her
For I was tired and needed a break
She was there to take over
And in a snap she had control

She lived her life in extremes
Bathing in water always too hot or too cold
Surviving on Virginia Slims and coffee
Never sleeping, forever thinking

She thought of nothing but herself
Only because she believed someone had to
My house was neglected
My belongings scattered around indifferently

I returned to find my house a mess
And my favorite treasure shattered
There is much work to be done
But first I must find some glue

November 1984 – Diet Tips

Ice-cream-sundaeDiet Tips (published November 7, 1984)

When I decide to diet
I choose a day on which to start
And on the eve of that day
I indulge in what I can’t have anymore

I like to get a sundae
With the richest chocolate ice cream
Smothered with hot fudge and whipped cream
And of course, topped with nuts and a cherry

A lot of time goes into deciding
What will go in my sundae
And I spend a long, long time
Just thinking about how good it will be

On the eve of the day of my diet
I go to my favorite ice cream parlor
It’s got old-fashioned chairs
And tiffany lamps — just the perfect setting

The waitress brings my sundae to me
And it’s a work of art
And I think to myself
This is the most wonderful sundae in the world

The first thing I do is to take off the cherry
And I lick all the whipped cream off of it
And then I put the cherry aside
(I always save the best part for last)

Then, I take a little taste of everything
A nibble of ice cream
A bit of hot fudge
And dab of whipped cream and nuts

I slowly eat my sundae
Savoring every spoonful
Letting the ice cream melt in my mouth
As it rolls across my tongue

I know this is my last sundae
So I don’t want it to end
But the ice cream melts in the bowl
As it mixes with the hot fudge and the whipped cream

All too soon I’ve eaten it all
So I pop the cherry into my mouth
And pull it from its stem
And my sundae is done

I know there will be no more sundaes for me
But whenever I hunger for one
I just remember how good that last one was
And I’m ok without it

I wish there’d been an eve of the day
Starting my diet of life without you
To indulge myself
In what I can’t have anymore

But then, I didn’t decide to diet
And I didn’t choose a day on which to start
Maybe if I had, it would be easier now
And I wouldn’t feel so deprived

I know there’ll be no more you for me
But whenever I hunger for your touch
I imagine how good that last time would’ve been
And I’m still not ok without you

April 1985

Photo Wikipedia Rob and Stephanie Levy

Photo Wikipedia Rob and Stephanie Levy

For months now, everything has just felt upside down. My head just keeps going around and around on a million things and nothing at the same time. I know it was wrong, and I don’t know why I did it. Why I do it. I hate to admit it even to myself, but it wasn’t the first time I cheated on Lou. I wasn’t trying to start an affair or anything like that. I wasn’t planning to leave him. It was more like I had a close friendship and bond, but wanted so much more, even though I was married. Allowing myself to fall in love and have a romantic relationship was out of the question because I could never actually leave my marriage. But a little sex between friends was like getting a taste of what it could have been. I built a bulkhead to keep myself from the danger of getting too close. Time and distance took care of the rest.

But this time, Alan decided it was wrong and we shouldn’t have the “benefits” part of our friendship anymore. I should have known what was coming when instead of sitting in our usual spot on the couch by the windows in the commuter lounge, he wanted to go to a table in the cafeteria to talk. He said Lou had passed him on the road, driving in the opposite direction; Alan couldn’t miss our distinctive powder blue VW with the hand-painted boat on the hood. Lou wore dark aviator sunglasses and drove with a stern intensity that I am quite familiar with. Alan said that one look at Lou made him realize that he wasn’t someone to piss off. He explained that he was feeling guilty about it all anyway, and seeing Lou just made the right decision clear. I said all the rational things out loud: that it was OK, that I understood, and that of course he was right. But inside, I was steaming: I was the one who had everything at risk, and yet he just decided that was that, game over, all there is to it, with no discussion. This was not a break up; we were just friends who sometimes got together for more… we were just cutting out the more.  He was cutting out the more. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is a really, really big freaking deal, and I honestly don’t know why.

I tried to get together one last time, so we could have a nice ending to that part of our relationship. He said yes, but at the last minute called to cancel. I was furious, and since then, my emotions have been on a rollercoaster ride of delusional, irrational, depressed, confused, and angry thinking. Enough time has passed that I am calmer now; my creativity is up, and I’ve been venting by writing poems. And I’ve been passively aggressively throwing my pain in his face by submitting the poems to the school paper for publication. Maya Angelou, I am not, but I too, know why the caged bird sings.

As upset as I have been, I still care, and do what I can to show it. Alan loves music, so I got him a Sony Walkman for Christmas so he can listen anytime. When I gave it to him, he just added the bag to the big pile of gifts he had just received from parents of the kids that he cares for in the psychology department’s daycare center. I watched for quite a long time through the observation window while waiting for Alan to finish his shift. He was always smiling, upbeat, and playful; the kids absolutely love him.

He quit smoking; I said I quit as well, but I just don’t do it around him. I had a cigarette in my hand when he caught up with me to thank me for the Walkman, and I just let it drop to the floor, and casually stepped it out, using my father’s magical skills of misdirection. It wasn’t my first lie.  He had once asked if I had cheated on Lou before.  My non-answer reply was, “It’s not the kind of thing you can just go around doing.” The truth was not something I wanted to reveal, because surely if he knew, he would not have anything to do with me. Why would he? Why would anyone? Honesty, on topics such as that, is highly over-rated. I now usually hang with a different group of friends from the computer science program because I can’t manage to not say something weird, mean, or sarcastic to Alan whenever I see him. I don’t want to lose his friendship, so I just keep my distance because I am so afraid of ruining everything. It’s ironic that the first time we had sex was while Lou was out of town and we saw the movie Against All Odds at the theater by my apartment. The movie totally sucked, but the night was awesome, and the song has so much meaning to me now; when it plays on the radio, I don’t know whether to turn it up or turn it off. I still feel pretty much crazy most of the time, and have absolutely nobody to talk to about it, and just go through the motions of acting normal. Nothing is normal. Even the streetlights keep going out on me at night whenever I’m driving and thinking of him. Who in the world can I possibly tell about that? About anything? Nobody.

Ironically, if we had not reverted to a strictly platonic relationship, it would have been a lot easier to get together now. Lou got fed up with his job at Hazeltine, because there was a position that he really wanted but didn’t get, so he started looking around. I drove with him for an interview in Philadelphia to be a consultant at Price Waterhouse. The interview went well, and the manager wanted to meet me and take us out to dinner that night. We had to shop for appropriate fancy restaurant attire for me since I was just wearing jeans. After dinner, the VW stopped running before we got on the highway to head back home from Philadelphia. Turns out that the gas pedal was no longer attached to anything. I guess that is much better than the brake line failing, which you can find out the hard way.  Lou took two coat hangers, hooked them together, and ran the makeshift line from the fuel line connection under the hood up and in through the driver’s side window. So we could operate the gas using the coat hanger by hand. That was a challenge coordinating the hand movement instead of the gas pedal with the clutch, but we did it. Anyway he got the new job, and moved most of our stuff to an apartment in Deptford, New Jersey. We fixed the gas line for me, and got another car for him– a huge Oldsmobile – so he can commute into Philadelphia and to client sites. I’m back to my 15” black and white TV and have been driving from Port Jefferson to South Jersey to visit every weekend for the last three months until this semester is over. I still have to take some more classes to complete my degree requirements, so I’ll have to pick up where I left off at Rutgers this summer. I would have rather been able to stay here, finish my classes this summer, and graduate at Stony Brook. Actually, I would rather have been able to stay on Long Island period. I had an on-campus interview with Intel Corporation that went very, very well, and I felt very confident they would hire me. But Price Waterhouse is a great opportunity for Lou, so we really didn’t give Intel a second thought. I imagine it will be easy for me to get a job in Philly as well. Assuming I can get my head back together.

October 1984

Jo Fonda June 1976 - Age 14

Jo Fonda June 1976 – Age 14 when my parents left me at the NYC ship dock to find my way walking to Port Authority to hop on a bus home to Schenectady

We went back hiking on the Appalachian Trail in Maine a few more times. Unfortunately, we didn’t get all the equipment we needed, and still had way too much weight to carry. On one trip, I fell on the third day, and twisted my knee. It swelled up and it became really difficult to bend. We took an afternoon off and camped at a lake to rest it. It was a beautiful lake, and we pitched our tent right on the nice sandy beach. Lou took a stick and wrote “I Love Joey” in the sand with a heart around it. I thought it was sweet so I took a photograph. Frankly, I was surprised that he wrote that since he seemed more frustrated at me than loving at that point since we had wasted half the day. I was hoping my knee would be better in the morning, but as we got hiking again, it just stiffened up even more. When we got to the next road intersection, Lou asked if I wanted to stop hiking because of my knee. I wasn’t sure what to do. I really did want to stop, but I was afraid he would be disappointed if we did. He said it was ok to stop, so we hitchhiked a ride back to our car and got a motel room in Rangeley, Maine. It was really nice there. We rented a canoe and paddled around Rangeley Lake, and I played golf for the first time. He kept asking about my knee, and said that it seemed like it was suddenly all better, and that it sure did look fine. It did feel better than it had on the trail now that I wasn’t constantly going up and down on rough terrain, and after being able to ice it at the hotel the night before, but it was still swollen. He didn’t think it was really swollen all that much, and took pictures of my knees as evidence to prove his point.

I probably should have just stuck with the hiking and dealt with the pain of my knee. It would have been easier than dealing with how upset he got because we got off the trail. On the drive home, he kept going on about what a waste of time it was, slamming his fist against the steering wheel, and repeating that if I didn’t want to do it, then I shouldn’t have gone at all. I really don’t think he believed that I was actually injured. He continued getting more and more pissed, and I kept apologizing, but that didn’t help at all. If I had it to do over, I would have just taken a little more rest time before continuing. I fell asleep on the drive home, and woke up crying in the middle of a dream. He lightened up after that and said we just would never do this again, and that obviously I wasn’t up to it physically. I argued that I could do it, but he wasn’t convinced. I’m sure it is just an injury that will heal with a little time.

Hiking certainly makes me appreciate the less rigorous fun in life. One time, Barry, Alan and one of his friends and I went to the beach for the day. We had plans to go to Great Adventure or into New York City too, but Lou nixed that idea. He freaks out every time I talk about going into the city, whether it is by myself, with my sister, or with friends. He says it’s too dangerous and not worth the risk. My parents trusted me to go to NYC on my own all the time when I was a teenager, but my husband doesn’t think I can. When I was just 14, they actually left me at the ship docks in Manhattan to find my way alone and walk to Port Authority to hop a bus home to Schenectady. There wasn’t enough room in the car for all of us with the many suitcases and magic props after we had been cruising for months on the Kungsholm; looking back, I’m not sure why one of my parents didn’t take the bus instead of me, but that wasn’t ever even a consideration. Lou says that is my parents’ bad judgment, not his. There have been so many times that I really wanted to go into the city to visit my sister, or go with my friends, but it’s not worth the hassle to debate the point. I did manage to get Lou to take me to the Museum of Natural History in the city one day, but that’s about the extent of our outings. It is such a waste that we live so close to New York City never go there.

June 1984

200px-AT_-_Franconia_RidgeMan, am I bruised and worn, but at least my legs are tight. Guess I won’t need to do the exercises in Thin Thighs in Thirty Days for a while. It started as a conversation I had about camping one night while we were hanging out with some of Lou’s old high school friends. I was a Girl Scout for years, and even got to the rank of First Class. So perhaps I bragged too much about that fact in my enthusiasm to get Lou interested in a camping trip. To me, camping means going to a campsite and pitching a tent. Then, you build a campfire, go on day hikes up a mountain, and swim in lakes and streams and stuff like that. I thought it would be a lot of fun, and something new we’ve never done together, and something that Lou’s never done at all.

We went to the library at Stony Brook to find info on where we could go camping. I assumed we would go to the Adirondacks or Catskills, which are not far from here. We looked at lots of books, including this one written by an old woman who had hiked the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. This concept got Lou really interested and excited, and we ended up checking out only books about the Appalachian Trail. Next thing I know, we have narrowed our search down to a section that we could do in a week of backpacking, which was described as the most difficult part of the entire 2000 miles of trail. Once he had set his mind to this task, there was absolutely no interest in “camping” anymore.

There’s a difference between camping and backpacking equipment. We borrowed camping equipment from my sister, which included an orange tent with lots of poles and stakes, backpacks with no support systems, boots that didn’t fit me right, a heavy camping stove, and thick, heavy flannel sleeping bags. My backpack was well over 50 pounds, and Lou’s was heavier, but he’s in much better shape, and much taller and stronger. I am proud that I made it through the entire week, but it left its mark; my shoulders have welt marks from the weight of the pack, and I have a huge multi-colored bruise on my thigh from when I lost my footing and fell down a steep rocky slope. Our feet suffered the most. Thank God we brought moleskins to put over the blister spots. Lou had each of his toes bandaged up and we laughed that they looked like the hostages in Iran. “Blindfolding the hostages” made wrapping up our painful piggies every day actually kind of fun, despite the joke being in bad taste.

The views at the summits were incredible, and well worth the hard work to get there. As you climb, you stay in the woods for the most part, and you really can’t see where you are in relation to the overall mountain, and it seems like you are never going to get to the end. But as you get closer to the top, the trees become smaller, and there are more rocks, more views, and then usually small flowering bushes that you’d see just before you reach the summit. After a few climbs, we learned these flowers meant we were close, and we dubbed them the “welcoming committee.” We always took a break at the summit, and ate trail mix and M&Ms for a snack. Breakfast was instant oatmeal and hot chocolate. Lunch and dinner were freeze dried instant meals from pouches mixed with hot water. We had pills that you could add to the water to make it safe to drink, but the water from the streams was really good, so we didn’t have to do anything to it. The only night I was kind of scared was after we had just hiked through the Mahoosuc Notch, which was basically a mile of climbing over and under huge piles of boulders. At the end of the notch was the base of the Mahoosuc Arm, with a steep, 1000-ft ascent to its summit. It was just about dark when we got through the jumble of boulders that literally filled the bottom of the notch, so we camped out there at the base of the arm. There was something about the spot that felt so completely trapped to me, with the huge obstacles on each side. My own breath was freaking me out when I tried to sleep. The noises that the material of my sleeping bag made as my chest rose and fell became creatures in the night in my imagination. Lou slept like a log, not the least bit intimidated.

For a week, we only had washcloth baths near the streams and dips in the lakes to clean up. It is amazing anyone picked us up when we hitchhiked from where we popped out in Maine back to where we parked the car in New Hampshire. We drove straight through at night from Long Island up and back. Lou can’t drive late at night, but as long as I have a radio to sing along with and an open window, I can do it all night long, and I did both ways. I must have heard Ghostbusters a couple dozen times on that drive up.  While going through the toughest parts of the trail through the notch, we kept singing, “I ain’t afraid of no notch!” I’ve done a lot of travel, but I have never been so glad to be back home as I was after this trip. A piece of pizza, hot shower and a soft bed were real treats.

Lou wants to go again, and eventually wants to hike the whole trail. I’ll do it if we can get some better equipment first. It was beautiful and I’m proud I did it, but this was physical torture for me.

January 1984

Louie and I went to Atlantic City with Nico and Mia for New Year’s Eve. They have use of his family’s condo on the boardwalk, and invited us to stay for a few nights. I learned how to play Black Jack before we went so I’d know what I was doing. It’s fun watching the high stakes players, but that’s out of my league. Too many rules, and too many people getting upset if you don’t play just the way they think you should play. We really had a great time; Nico freaked out a little bit at dinner one night, which started because I took a bite of something off Lou’s plate that he’d gotten from the salad bar, which I did not order. It turned into a huge, and unnecessarily heated ethical discussion of right and wrong. Then it got really uncomfortable when Mia took her wedding ring off, sparking a whole other controversy. Lou and I just looked at each other, afraid we had caused trouble somehow. I’m glad we are so much more low key. We really don’t ever have any arguments, fighting, or bickering. We get along so much better than most of the couples we know. Nico always has an opinion on everything and it is usually different from Lou’s. Yet they are still great friends, and Lou thinks the world of Nico. He and Mia are people we can always count on, and we love them both, and cherish their friendship.

School is great, and I have a lot of good friends in different groups, so I’m never bored or lonely on campus. Just about every morning, I go in early and have coffee with my new friend, Alan. I either have my big thermos of coffee that I make at home, or I stop by the vending truck and get an extra large coffee and a yummy muffin. I’m typically there first, and our regular seats on the couches by the window in the commuter lounge are usually open. It’s weird when somebody else sits there, and as soon as they get up, I move right over to “our” seats. That’s where we first met, when it was just “my” seat. I always hang out there before and between classes, and one day he happened to sit next to me, and we ended up talking for a long time. After a few days it was like we had been best friends forever. Now, I don’t have as much time to get my reading and homework done, but I have a lot more fun. He’s a psychology major, so we don’t have any classes together, but a friend he met in one of his classes, Barry, meets up with us a lot to hang out, too. My favorite time is early in the morning, when it is quiet, and I look out the window and see him coming across the campus to meet me for coffee. He has the brightest, sweetest smile. I haven’t had a friend like him to talk to since Bruce in Schenectady. I can tell him almost anything, and he doesn’t seem to judge or criticize me. He’s had it rough, and I give him a lot of credit for being as strong as he is. He had cancer, and underwent surgeries and treatment for a while, but basically got sick of being sick, and decided to go out and do some travel on his own without any more medical treatments, and either get better or not. He got better. Alan doesn’t like to talk about it much, so I don’t really know a lot of details.  He does talk a lot about his ex-girlfriend though. He is still so much in love with her and is heartbroken they are not together. Maybe I’m missing something, but from how it sounds to me, the only reason they broke up is that her parents thought she was too young to have to deal with a boyfriend with cancer. In any case, he seems to still have hope to reunite, and doesn’t want to get into any real close intimate relationships. So he is always around to hang out with me. We joke around about fixing him up with different girls, but that’s about it.

November 1983

I have found my occupational calling. Turns out I’m really good at computer programming. To get accepted into the Computer Science degree program at SUNY, you have to take a bunch of technical and math prerequisite classes and maintain a high GPA. The only hurdle for me was getting through calculus last summer. The five-week summer sessions condense all the material of a whole semester in less than half the time, and I was taking a full course load. The problem with calculus was that they assume that you’ve had all the standard high school senior classes, and that you know trigonometry, functions, and other pre-calculus things like that. I didn’t really have any math education after 9th grade. The GED didn’t require advanced math, and I had accounting, but no math classes in community college, since the focus was all on culinary and hotel and restaurant courses. I was a real wiz at 9th grade algebra, but that was long ago, and calculus resembled none of that. I was so frustrated with the calculus class, and had no idea what they were talking about with sin and cosine and tangents and functions and derivatives and integrals. It made absolutely no sense to me; I was literally in tears because I just wasn’t getting it. Luckily, Lou really understands it, because he had lots of math in high school and while at Union College. So he sat at the kitchen table with me one night and went through all the fundamentals. It was like I was handed a key to unlock and open a door behind which all the secrets of calculus were hidden. I don’t know how I would have been able to get through the class if he hadn’t spent that time with me.

I’m enjoying life here. Lou’s really into his job at Hazeltine, and has a lot of ideas for changes and improvements at work. We bought a Volkswagen Dasher so he can attend the monthly APICS meetings, which he can’t get to by train. So now I can take the car when he doesn’t need it. He likes commuting by train so he can read. He wants me to read the same books he selects, but I’ve got so much I have to do for school, I just don’t have the time. His favorite authors right now are Ayn Rand and Herman Hesse. He insisted I read The Fountainhead, which I did because it was short enough and he was adamant about it. He totally relates to the title character, Howard Roark, and says that I’m his Dominique. I see what he means about Howard, but I really don’t get the Dominique thing. Despite the fact that they are together at the end, they pretty much torture each other all along the way.  I personally find Roark’s character arrogant and destructive rather than heroic, but I didn’t mention that to Lou. Maybe I read the book too quickly. As much as he likes Atlas Shrugged, I only gave it a skim; it is way too long and looks too dull for me. Besides, after reading the Fountainhead, I find I have serious philosophical differences with Ayn Rand. Like her, I value the rights and aspirations of the individual, but I think her obvious distain for people with characteristics and views that are different from her own is contradictory and hypocritical. Her writing and characters are brilliant, but I don’t think there is as much polarity in life as she presents. I do not feel that people exist at the far extremes of being all virtuous heroes or all evil destroyers; I believe that most lives are spent hovering in the “good” spectrum, but their actions vacillate from one end to the other at times. But that’s just the type of person Ayn Rand despises. Lou has embraced her Objectivism philosophy, which is that the only moral, valuable purpose in an individual’s life is his own happiness. That’s fine, in and of itself, but I don’t see the need or virtue in viewing and treating others as the enemy in the process. I’m keeping my opinions to myself, lest I be branded a destroyer for life.

We finally got a color TV and VCR. We researched the different models and got the best rated one. It’s only 19”, but that makes it a little easier to move around. The apartment is really small, and the cable reaches long enough that we can just roll the TV from the living room to the bedroom at night. I like MTV; Lou was excited to get the Playboy channel, but I’m getting tired of it always being on in the bedroom. It is just soft core, so he usually also rents or buys X-rated videos, and already has a collection going. It’s an improvement over the movie projector, I guess. I just wish we could listen to music instead sometimes. I always know when he’s going to have an orgasm though – because it is always in sync with some guy in the video; it has nothing to do with where I am in the process.

August 1983

photo copyright author source visualizeus

photo copyright author source visualizeus

I am really sunburned, literally from head to toe. Last weekend, I had been sick and stayed home, but Lou still took the bus to the beach on his own. When he got back home, he told me he noticed that lots of people kept walking down the shore to the right and out of sight. He decided to go for a stroll and check it out himself, and found a nude beach. So, this weekend, we went on that walk together. I didn’t know he wanted to actually sunbathe there, but we did. I was so nervous, and kept putting my bathing suit back on every time the police came down by car or horse. But I finally figured out that they didn’t care. Apparently it is legal on the Fire Island National Park end of the beach. Anyway, I am scorched, especially on the parts where the sun don’t usually shine.

This is the second time I’ve been naked in public now. The first time wasn’t too public but it was a lot less private than I was comfortable with. Lou called this guy on a classified ad that was in the local paper for lingerie model, described me, said I would be good for it, and arranged for me to interview. I was really nervous about doing it, and never spoke with the photographer myself, so I wasn’t sure what it was all about. I have not been working, so Lou talked me into checking it out, saying it would be an easy way to make some extra money. We had wine and cheese at home that evening; Lou kept refilling my glass, and we actually finished off two bottles before we walked over to the photographer’s studio nearby. There were big drapes hanging in the room, and lots of lights and photography equipment. The photographer talked about lingerie modeling, and said that it really didn’t pay as much as soft porn movie acting. Lou did all the talking, of course pointed out my stripper name, “Jo Joy”, and told him how I was just as good as any of the girls you see in the movies, and asked if he wanted to see. Next thing I knew, Lou was taking off my dress, talking about what I like the most, and playing with my body. My eyes were begging him to stop, but I knew it would totally piss him off if I protested in front of the photographer. Instead of stopping, Lou actually had sex with me right in front of the guy. It was unreal, and it felt like I wasn’t really even there, but was more just observing it myself. Afterward, the photographer left the room, and while I dressed, Lou suspiciously searched all around the room and behind the curtains for cameras or something. Luckily he didn’t find any, because he would have freaked out if we had been secretly filmed. Walking home, my legs didn’t even feel like they were my own. I could see them moving in front of me and hear the clacking of my heels on the pavement, but I really couldn’t feel them, or much else of my body for that matter. It was weird. I definitely had too much wine, and woke up with a headache. I was afraid Lou would be mad about it all in hindsight, but he actually likes to talk about it, and goes over what happened when we’re in bed together. It gets him worked up without a movie. I guess it is like a movie he can replay in his head. Anyway, we are not going to go back to that place. I told Lou I definitely did not want to the movie thing, and explained that I thought we were only going there to talk about lingerie type modeling, which I wasn’t sold on doing either. And now, I definitely want no part of any of it. He agrees, so we are fine.

The nude beach, on the other hand, is no big deal, and I don’t care if we go back there or not. Most of the bodies are older and heavier than mine, so I feel pretty good about how I look.

July 1983


Port-jefferson-mapWe are settled in Port Jefferson, a great north shore port town on the Sound, at the end of the line of the Long Island Railroad, about two hours from Manhattan. Our apartment is just a block from the train station, which is good because we are without a car again. There’s also a bus stop right in front of the house, so it is easy to get just about anywhere. We can even pick up a beach bus that goes to Smith’s Point at Fire Island on the ocean, less than an hour away. Lou takes the train to work at Hazeltine in Greenlawn. He got a job in manufacturing as a project planner. I hop on either the bus or the train to Stony Brook, where I’m taking summer courses at SUNY. I submitted an application to go full time starting in the fall; they actually refunded my money. Apparently, I didn’t need to apply or even take the SAT, because I have the two-year A.A.S. degree from a NY community college, they automatically take me into the state university. I have no idea what my major will be, because they don’t have any culinary or hotel management program like I wanted to study. For now, I’m just taking classes and will decide on a major later.

Our apartment is on the second floor of an older Greek couple’s house on the main road. There’s a movie theater right across the street; at night, I can look out my bedroom window and watch them put up the titles of the new movies on the marquee with a long stick, one letter at a time, the same way we changed the big signs outside the Ramada to welcome a convention or wedding group. It’s a noisy on the main drag, but very convenient. This place is furnished, so we had to get rid of most of our stuff. We gave our couch to my sister, who also lives on the island, and Lou’s mom put the bed into her backyard storage shed. The visit to his mother’s house was more than uncomfortable; the last time we had been there over a year ago, she kicked us out. This time, she invited us to stay over and sleep in her bedroom, while she took the couch. That seemed like a friendly gesture, but both her attitude and glares at me grew darker as we spent more time together. When we went to the bedroom to sleep at the end of the evening, I noticed that the rosary and cross that had been hanging from the headboard when we dropped our stuff in the room earlier were now gone, as if allowing me to sleep in their presence was sacrilege. It’s the little things that communicate just how much she doesn’t like me. I can’t imagine what it was like growing up in that household. I have a feeling it is always madness. Lou’s sister came home with a new pair of boots; she took the box out of the store bag and put it on the empty kitchen table, opened the lid and held up a boot to show me.  Her mother absolutely went crazy.  At first, I thought she just disapproved of the boot style, which was kind of sexy, with a high heel and high top. Then I learned that the actual, horrific offense was the fact that the boots, albeit in a box, were on the table. You would think that someone had dropped their pants and taken a shit at a place setting of fine china on a table nicely laid out with a full holiday dinner. She kept screaming about the shoes on the table, over and over again, and her daughter kept screaming back at her about how she hates her and can’t do anything right. I didn’t get it, they were new boots that had never been worn, and were not even touching the table itself. Apparently, her daughter knew very well that shoes on the table would bring extremely bad luck to the household, and carelessly disregarded that danger just to show off her damned new boots.  I filed that superstition away for future reference. I also noted that I need to know in advance exactly how many ravioli I intend to consume at dinner. I had no idea how to answer… how big are they?… what else will be served?… what will I have for lunch that day?… why the hell does it matter? When I make ravioli, I cook more than enough for everyone, serve it family style, and any leftovers go in the fridge to reheat. She, on the other hand, goes to a specialty market and buys hand made pasta, carefully counted and boxed, and then only cooks and serves you the amount you commit to eat. It was absolutely delicious, and, also for future reference, I was careful to watch how she made the sauce. My mistake, it was not sauce, it was gravy. While she cooked the ravioli and carefully removed them from the pot, she talked about how her father would be made sick and push away from the table angry whenever he was served a dish with broken pasta. Wow. My father was lucky to be fed a hot meal, and never complained about either the menu or the quality of the food. Luckily, we were moving into our own place about an hour away, and would have no need to stay at her house any time soon.

The only problem we had getting into our apartment that our landlord wanted two months’ rent up front, and we only had enough money for one. I don’t know why we hadn’t anticipated needing that much cash. I had to do the unthinkable, and ask my parents for a short-term loan. I knew we could pay them back in just a few weeks once Lou started getting paychecks. My dad was not thrilled about the idea, but they fronted us the money. He had me go to the bank with my mom and actually take out a passbook loan with payment coupons to make it official. It is already paid off, and I appreciate that they helped, despite the formality of the payment arrangement.

We had left Durham before Lou’s graduation from Duke so we could go to Nico and Mia’s wedding, which was a lot of fun, and a really beautiful ceremony. Lou didn’t seem to care that he missed graduation. It would have just been the two of us anyway. The MGB made the drive home from NC, but I’m sad to know that it is gone now. Before we left North Carolina, we switched license plates with some friends I knew through my job at Swensen’s. Their car had expired plates from “Wild and Wonderful” West Virginia and they couldn’t go near there with those plates, and we didn’t want to go into New York with our expired bright yellow plates, so we traded plates with them; it worked.

While we were upstate visiting my family in Scotia, I took the MGB to go out with Kathy one night. Lou didn’t want me to go at all, but consented under the condition that I not go too far. We did drive about twenty minutes away to Latham; of course the car broke down, and I had to call for help. He came out with my parents to get us; if looks could kill I would be dead now. Anyway, it was going to cost a small fortune to fix the car, and we still couldn’t get the title from my sister’s ex-roommate. While on Long Island earlier that week, we had actually been to her apartment building and begged over the intercom for the title. I was begging, anyway. Lou’s version of begging was probably closer to threatening. In either case, she refused and sent us away, unseen. So we sold the car cheap for scrap without a title, and sadly watched it get towed away from my parent’s house. The real kick in the teeth came when the signed title was sent to my folks the week after we junked the car. Timing is everything.


March 1983

curvy elephant 1Things are good at the hotel and at Swensen’s, where I work both as a waitress and as a supervisor part time. The guy they hired instead of me as the regular supervisor is still there, but he can’t work all the shifts, so they needed another manager who can close out the restaurant and open on the weekends.  I work weekdays in the sales office at Ramada, so nights and weekends at the restaurant are good for me. Some nights while I’m closing, Lou comes by early to pick me up and he often makes his own sundae while waiting. I like having him there while I close, since it’s a little intimidating counting out the register alone late at night. It’s an easy job most of the time though, and I like all the people who work here. The only thing about being both a manager and a waitress is that I am privy to details about employees because I’m a waitress that I wouldn’t know as a manager. I know who sneaks off to get high and where they do it and when. I finally had to confront one of the cooks, and tell him he can’t do it while I’m on as supervisor, because I need my job, and I’d get fired if anything happened while they were getting high and I hadn’t done anything about the smoking. After that discussion I didn’t smell the weed anymore, so either he stopped or he found another place to do it. I don’t care as long as I don’t have to know about it, and as long as he keeps showing up for work and cooking well. One time a cook was a no-show, and I had to run the kitchen on my own until someone else finally came in. That’s a stressful job – I don’t think I could do it high. I guess he couldn’t do it straight. One of our waitresses is really sweet, but she is painfully thin, and refuses to eat regular food. Sometimes she just gets a cup of Bleu Cheese salad dressing and eats that. She’s always cold, and wears knee socks and sweaters even when it’s hot. I swear my arm is bigger than her leg. Anyway, shortly after Karen Carpenter died, one of the customers confronted her point blank about her weight, and asked if she realized that she was too thin, and that was why Karen was dead. The poor waitress was horrified and hid in the back crying until they left. The customer was probably right, but it wasn’t really her place to say anything. It’s ironically like an elephant in the room that you can’t ignore but don’t know what to say about, so I just try to be nice and be an empathetic ear for her. I know her family is all over her about not eating. She doesn’t need to hear it from me too.

I have found time to also audit an accounting course at night at UNC in Chapel Hill. The wife of a guy in Lou’s class was taking the course and suggested I join her. The professor is really nice, and lets me sit in the class and take the tests even though I’m not actually a student. I’ve done really well so far, and it’s a nice change for me to be back in the classroom once in a while. I have an advantage, though, because I studied the material when Lou took accounting. He likes having me give him quizzes and review material together, and I learn a lot in the process. I don’t help him study for all his classes though. His management game class was one I didn’t like to be anywhere near, because there was too much drama around the whole thing. The class was broken down into teams of companies, and everyone on the team had a position in the organization. Lou was initially a friend of the guy who was his team’s company President. But Lou soon didn’t agree with how the team was being managed, the decisions being made, and the presentations to the executive board. So Lou basically got the guy demoted, and took over as President. The team was really divided on what to do; the change was finally made just so they could move on, but in the end, they still didn’t do well, and he actually got his first Low Pass grade in that class. He does feel that they would have done great if he had been President from the start.

Now, the focus is on Lou finding a job. We rented a typewriter like the one I have at work. It has a memory in it, so I can type a standard form letter and store it with automatic stops in certain places so I can type in a company’s name and address and maybe something specific about the job he is applying for, and then it takes off again. We got tons of letters out. He’s gotten tons of rejection letters back already too, and he keeps tacking them up on the walls in the bedroom by his desk. Not my idea of decorating. I don’t know why he wants to look at them all the time, but he says it keeps him focused. Personally, I’d find it depressing. He wants to get a job in Operations Management at a manufacturing company. One of my regular customers I talk to all the time at the Ramada Inn set up a dinner meeting for Lou and me to meet with some operations people from his company to give him some suggestions about how to find a position in their field. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any openings, but they said he should get involved with APICS, which is a professional society for manufacturing people. I was hoping they would actually have a job for him, but I’m confident something will work out soon.

I’m planning to go back to college, hopefully into a hospitality and culinary bachelor’s degree program, so I studied for and took the SAT so I am ready to start quickly. I did well, since I’m generally a good test taker. For a lot of reasons, I am anxious to get back into school. I want my parents to see that I could finish up what I started. When I graduated from community college, my folks gave me a little gold star necklace. I felt like a star then, but here at Duke, I feel like I am at such a lower status level from everyone else. When I meet professors and other students in the MBA program, they almost always first ask where I went to college, then ask what I do for work. Neither of my answers to those questions is impressive, so I usually joke around and say, “I’m getting my PHT degree – aka Putting Hubby Through.”  They laugh, and seem to appreciate all the work it takes for us to get through financially. But I feel like they just move on pretty quickly and don’t really have any interest in getting to know me because of my education status. I wouldn’t dare tell them I dropped out of high school and had a GED.

January 1983

Angels watching over me

Angels watching over me


We stayed here in North Carolina this Christmas. The tags are expired on the MG, and it isn’t the most reliable vehicle, so we didn’t want to risk driving all the way up North. We still don’t have the title to this car, either, so we can’t register or insure it. Turns out my sister titled the car in her roommate’s name for cheaper insurance. They had a nasty split, and she won’t hand over the title. So now Lou doesn’t want to pay my sister any more money for the car until we get the title, especially since we’ve spent a lot on repairs. It is always something, and always expensive. Half the time we can’t afford whatever it needs.  When the alternator went bad, I had to park on hills so that I could put the car in neutral, get it rolling down the hill, then jump in and pop the clutch.  Other times, I would just open up the hood and look under until some nice guy offered to help me and I asked him to put some muscle behind the car for a push start.  I’ve pushed the car plenty of times myself, so I know it isn’t too much to ask.

To save money, I permed my own hair; I thought it looked pretty good, but Lou obviously doesn’t like it, and made a big deal about the nauseating smell of the chemicals, so I doubt I’ll do that again. We had a good, frugal Christmas though. A few of us from Ramada went out to find trees together; I cut my own tree, dragged it out of the woods, and brought it back in someone’s pickup truck. My tree didn’t look quite as huge in the woods as it did after I lugged it up to our small apartment. We really don’t have decorations, so I cooked some popcorn to string into a garland, made a bunch of ornaments by hand, and put some candy canes on the tree, and fashioned a star out of tin foil. I baked a cake, too for Lou’s Christmas birthday, and served ice cream on the side.  That, he liked.

I actually smell like ice cream now that I also have a second job at Swensen’s, a fairly new ice cream parlor style restaurant at Brightleaf Square, which is a renovated old tobacco warehouse in town. I had applied for a supervisor’s job I saw in the paper, but the manager said he knows I will leave in the spring, and hired a local instead who would be more likely to stay. I can understand, and asked if he had anything else open, and so I got a waitress job. I’m probably making more money with the tips than I would on a flat higher hourly rate. It’s always fun to dump my apron pockets out to count my tips when I get home. I like the people at work, the food is great, and the ice cream is delicious, since it is all freshly made right there in the restaurant. We get more families than we do Duke students as customers, so the tips are good, especially when their kids get the ice cream clown I make up extra special.

Our social life is improving a little bit; we’ve actually been to a few different parties held by a variety of people from the hotel, the restaurant and the university. Melissa, the front desk and accounting manager at Ramada had a get together at her house. I like her a lot, but I swear she is hiring every gay person in Durham to work at the front desk. She lives with a gay guy; I’ve never seen her with either a girlfriend or boyfriend, but I just assume she’s gay too. Doesn’t matter, we’re good friends, and play cards just about every day at lunchtime. We get our food from the restaurant, and go back in the bar to listen to music and eat and play honeymoon pinochle. We sing along with made up words, since nobody can hear us; my favorite is when we belt out our version of a Journey song, Broken Arms. Anyway, I think Lou and I were the only straight people at Melissa’s party. One girl from work, who is married, started coming on to me in the kitchen. I didn’t know what to do, so I just ducked under one of her arms that she had used to pin me against the counter and scooted away. Melissa has cable TV, which I haven’t seen in ages; it was tuned into a station called MTV, and the first thing I saw was this video of the song, Mickey, with these pig-tailed cheerleaders bouncing around. After that, I became glued to her color set for the rest of the night, watching music videos. We still have our black and white 15” TV, and there’s no cable. For Christmas, Lou bought a Pong video game for me; it is no small miracle it works on that old television.

Speaking of miracles, we had one recently in the MGB. Lou was driving, and I was in the passenger seat; the light had just changed from red to green at an upcoming intersection, so Lou didn’t stop and just continued through. Through my window to the right, I saw coming crossways through the intersection, a car that wasn’t stopping either. The vehicle was a lot bigger than ours, and looking up, I could see the driver and her passenger both with an expression of sheer panic. The next thing I know, Lou and I are both looking out his driver’s side window on the left and saw the back end of that same car driving away. Lou pulled over, and we sat there for a while in shock. We saw exactly the same thing, and both agreed that it had to be an angel that somehow protected us from a crash that would most likely have killed us both. If he wasn’t there with me I don’t think he would have believed my story. But there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there was no human earthly way we could have not been in a horrible accident. The people in the other car have to be telling the same story themselves. I get chills just thinking about it.

That’s not the first or only time I’ve been saved since we’ve been married, either; it has been just one thing after the other. One day, I was slowly pulling out of a parking spot at the mall, and was about to get onto the highway, when suddenly the front wheel of the MGB simply broke off its axle.  I can only imagine the huge accident that would have caused if that happened to me just a few minutes later at freeway speeds. Despite the huge repair bill, I felt very lucky.

And, one evening, I was sitting in the living room, not really paying attention to Lou, who was moving around the apartment, when he suddenly ran outside, and left the door open. I went to the doorway to see what was wrong, just as he had come running back, jumped up, and was swinging a hammer to knock down a wasp’s nest that had been built over the doorframe. The hammer came down right on the bridge of my nose, with the full force of his swing, and his body weight as he came back to the ground. I fell right down to the deck. Oh my God, how that hurt, but somehow, it didn’t break my nose. We put ice on it, and all I got was a some swelling and little bit of discoloration under both my eyes. My mother rarely calls, but while I was sitting there with tears in my eyes and ice on my face, she phoned, saying she was thinking about me. Good timing, because I really did want my Mommy.

Yet another messed up thing that happened here, was when Lou and I were practicing karate together one night on campus in a room that is used as a dance studio. It is a big room with a wood floor and huge mirrors on the walls. The mirrors are probably 8 feet high by 10 feet wide or so, and the glass is very thick. We did our stretches and kicks and stuff to warm up, and then he wanted to practice his kata. I sat down on the floor along the mirrored wall, with my knees tucked up to my chest, and my arms hugging my knees, so I was leaning a bit forward. Lou was doing his routine, and got to the part of the kata when he stepped down hard and let out a big yell, “HA!” The hard step and loud yell caused a vibration in the room, and suddenly, the mirror behind me came off the wall and crashed down over my body, breaking into a million pieces on the floor all around me. Lou was standing far enough away that the mirror didn’t come close to him as it fell, but as the pieces broke, they scattered everywhere in all directions. Still sitting in the same position, I slowly raised my head and looked around. His eyes were wide open in shock and disbelief, and asked, “Holy shit, are you alright?” I said, “I think so,” not really sure if I was or not.  We were both barefoot, and there was sharp broken glass all around me. I walked on my tip-toes on and between the shards of glass over to a bench, where I could walk along the side of the room on top of benches away from the mess. I didn’t have a single cut or bruise or pain on me at all. Looking at the large sharp shards of glass everywhere, it seems impossible that I was not impaled; we figure I wasn’t hurt because of my relaxed position. Whatever the reason, to me it was a miracle.

A week or so after the mirror fell on me, I got this oval spot of red bumps on my abdomen that really hurt like a burn, almost like a hot fire poker. I had an appointment with a gynecologist for a normal checkup because I was thinking about going on the pill. Lou has heard that you gain a lot of weight on the pill, and the doctor said that was possible, so I didn’t get a prescription. I asked him to examine the rash, and he said it looked like shingles, probably caused by stress or nerves. Shingles is in the same family as the chicken pox and herpes virus, but it’s different, and isn’t contagious. He said there wasn’t anything to treat it, but that there was a new cream medicine called Zovirax that they use for genital herpes and there was some thought among researchers that it could possibly help with shingles. I was willing to try anything; it was embarrassing to buy the herpes medicine, but it did work like magic, and the doctor sent me a copy of the letter that he wrote to the manufacturer about the success of his little case study. I can’t imagine not having anything to treat that condition having to just hope for it to go away. I was lucky to find the right doctor.

All in all, I feel pretty safe, knowing I must have angels watching over me.

July 1982

Wally's Service Station - source: retroweb.com

Wally’s Service Station – source: retroweb.com


Lou started going to a karate school near my hotel, since he doesn’t have the Duke club instruction over the summer. We made a deal that I could commute with the MGB instead of my bicycle if I started taking karate classes, too; that’s his way of encouraging me to exercise. He has a summer internship job in Research Triangle Park working in the stock room at IBM. The job isn’t at all what he had in mind, but he is making the most of it, and getting experience for a career in Operations Management.  He came up with a great idea for organizing some of the inventory bins, and submitted it for an improvement award.  Turns out that his supervisor said that change was already in the works, and somehow the supervisor was going to get the credit for it all.  Lou is really upset about the whole thing, and was close to quitting his job.  My dad used to talk about things like that happening at his machine shop job at General Electric.  He was a toolmaker, and constantly came up with all kinds of new ideas and inventions, but complained that the engineers or management always got the credit and the bonuses instead of the blue-collar guys; it was constantly “us versus them.” I don’t know why Lou is so upset, because soon enough, he’ll have his MBA and he’ll be one of “them” getting the better paycheck and all the pats on the back.  Probably half of the time “they” are going to get a knife in the back as well. Anyway, Lou works the night shift, so he drives me to work at 7am, picks me up at 3pm, we drive out to RTP to his job, then I drive back to Durham, go to my karate class, home for a bit, and then pick him up at IBM around midnight.

One Friday night, we decided to head to the beach after I picked him up from work.  I packed up the car with our stuff, and started out well past midnight after he had worked some overtime hours.  It’s only about a three-hour drive to the beach. Normally.  But it wasn’t a normal trip. Somewhere, smack dab in the middle of Nowhere, North Carolina, in the dead of the night, about an hour or so into our trip, the car started running rough and making a distressed noise. We had been enjoying the drive with the car top down, and so we both heard it immediately, and decided it would be better to go back home instead of risking getting stuck at the beach. So we hung a U-turn and headed back westbound, but within minutes, the car simply stopped. Lou was really good with the mechanical repairs on his Grand Prix, but the MGB is completely different, and he had no clue what was wrong.

There were no gas stations, no businesses, no houses, no nothing that we could see or remember seeing recently, and it was pitch black. Finally, an off-duty police officer stopped to help on his way to work, and gave us a ride in to the nearest town. He said he only knew of one repair shop that could possibly work on a foreign car.  Eventually, we got in touch with the garage owner on his home phone, and he, his wife and their kid picked us up; we piled in with the tools in the backseat of his truck and rode out get our car and tow it back to his garage. As daylight broke, the scene shifted from a creepy Stephen King movie into an episode of Mayberry RFD, with us out of town Yankees with our fancy European car stuck at Wally’s garage with Goober’s head under the hood.  Everybody standing around the car was really friendly; they wanted to help, and offered lots of suggestions. Unfortunately, nobody had any experience with an MGB, and none of the things they tried worked out.  At one point, they accidentally got the car running.  We took it for a drive, and gave them our wedding rings as collateral so they knew we would not skip out on the bill.  We didn’t come right back; the car broke down again on the short test run, and we had to hike back to the garage for another tow.  Several hours later, one of the many town-folk bystanders, a quiet black man who had been doing more watching than suggesting over the hours, threw out the idea that maybe it was a bad fuel pump.  Everyone, including Lou thought that was brilliant; luckily there was a fuel pump in a parts store in town that fit.  That was it. We all cheered, and Lou gave the guy $20 for helping. AAA took care of the towing charge. Of course, we had to pay the repair shop a lot more money, but Louie got the owner of the Mom and Pop shop to charge us less than the full day since he thinks they should have been able to figure it out sooner, and without the solution coming from the sidelines. Fortunately, neither the police officer, nor any of the onlookers noticed that we had removed all the expired inspection and registration stickers from the car and our New York plates.

We finally did get back on the road and got to the beach a little before sunset Saturday evening, set up our chairs, and enjoyed some of the sandwiches and snacks I had packed for the weekend. We had been awake since 6am on Friday morning, and fell asleep fast and hard in the tiny MGB parked in the beach lot, but were woken in the dark back into that creepy movie by someone knocking on our car window.  Some girls were partying at the beach, and got stuck in the sand.  We both pushed their vehicle out of its ruts and went back to our car to crash until dawn.

Waking up that Sunday morning at the beach was absolutely wonderful, and the experience was well worth the arduous adventure to get there.  I’ve been to a lot of beautiful places over my years working on cruise ships, and can honestly say this place was spectacular. The beaches are long and wide, and the ocean goes on forever. I can only imagine how great it would be to live in one of the oceanfront houses built up high on sticks. I’m hoping we can go again soon. It just costs gas, so it isn’t a huge expense. Probably the only other thing we do for entertainment is that Lou likes to go to the X-rated drive-in theater.  It doesn’t cost much, especially since I hide away tucked on the floor of the backseat to get in for free. Oh yeah, I do play Ms. PacMan obsessively while I’m waiting for my wash to finish at the laundromat, but that’s about it for entertainment expense.


January 1982

mgbWe went to New York over the holiday break, and rode up with someone from Lou’s class who was going home for vacation. While home, we bought my sister’s MGB; thankfully, she agreed to payment terms over time, since she doesn’t have the title in hand now to sell it elsewhere, and we don’t have the cash to buy it.  I love the small convertible, but the color isn’t so wonderful – I think they call it mustard, but kind of looks like baby diarrhea to me. Anyway it is good to have wheels that you don’t have to pedal. I still don’t have a driver’s license, and we don’t have insurance, registration, or inspection for the car… one step at a time. While in Schenectady, we stayed at the Ramada where I used to work.  And I actually did work a few shifts, so I made a little money over vacation. The hotel is pretty quiet over the holidays, and it was great to see Bruce again, but it was really painful to have to leave. We drove in our little car from Schenectady to Long Island to visit Lou’s mom and his sister.  We were planning to stay at his mom’s house for a few days and go to Nico’s engagement party, and also to another of Lou’s friend’s wedding, which happened to be on the same day, both nearby.  Somehow, Lou ended up getting into a huge argument with his mother. I don’t know what I did to piss her off, but through the yelling I found out that she was even mad at me, accusing that he was looking at me when he was talking to her – as if he required my approval or agreement of what he said, rather than just talking to her directly. It was absolutely crazy with screaming and yelling that I have never experienced in my life; it seemed perfectly normal to Lou. Bottom line, we were thrown out of the house. We slept that night in the car in a park not far from his house in Elmont where Lou and his high school friends used to party at night. It looked like the kind of place I imagine drug deals are made.  The next day, we wandered around a mall, and then later went to a gas station bathroom to change into dress clothes.  We did make it to the wedding and spent time at both parties, but had to leave each of them early. We changed in another rest room back into jeans for the 12 hour drive home. It was a bitter cold, windy night, and the heater stopped working in the car.  The soft convertible top is not well-sealed, so there was cold air constantly seeping in. Luckily, we had our coats to use as a blanket when we pulled over at a rest stop to sleep in the car for a few hours on the way. It was even unusually frigid cold down all the way down in North Carolina; it felt so good to finally get home to our apartment and crawl under the covers in bed. We were planning to stay a little longer up north, and I had hoped to still be in Schenectady when my other sister gave birth to my nephew, but it’s probably just as well to be back.  This way, I can return to work sooner, and Lou can get back to karate.  He’s in the karate club at school, and wants to go to the gym and practice.  His biggest issue is stretching.  He runs a lot, so his thigh muscles are really tight, and it’s hard for him to get his head down to his knees, and get anywhere near the splits for karate. I do try to run with him sometimes, but it just isn’t my thing.  I end up getting tweeks of pain either in my side or my ankle; seems it’s always something with exercise and me.  Tennis is a safe bet; I suck, but it’s fun, and the campus courts are close enough to bike or walk to and are usually open. He always wants to do something athletic; I do my best to keep up.

October 1981

theinstitution          The Institution
They bind you and blind you
       and lock you up inside
And say it is for your own good
.     and safety
You are fed and sheltered
       and have all you need
But you just can’t leave
How long is your sentence?
The Institution of Marriage

I just had to get that written down to get it out of my head.  I was lying in bed, unable sleep, with versions of those words repeatedly playing through my brain. I finally drifted off, but I woke up with it still on repeat, like when you set the arm on your record player to automatically start playing the disc over again when it comes to the end of the album. I don’t know where it all came from, except that my thoughts got caught up with the concept of the word institution being one of those weird words with more than one meaning… is it a homonym? Or is the word meaning actually the same for a mental or penitentiary institution and the institution of marriage, and the context of the sentence just provides some further detail? Is getting married much different from being institutionalized? Kind of like The Eagles Hotel California “… you can check out anytime you like… but you can never leave.”

So school has started. With the money saved from my paychecks so far, we got Lou some decent clothes for the fall semester from the mall, just like my mom shopped for me in every September I started a new year of grade school.  He even got some corduroy pants.  The slacks crack me up;  they remind of my dad calling them “whistle britches” because of the sound they make when you walk.  Lou also got some jeans and shirts, a really nice pair of Frye boots, and a new pair of sneakers.  So I think he is all set for now.  It’s a little intimidating here at Duke, aka the Harvard of the South.  To me, that means most people are rich, and we are far from it.  In fact, with all the student loans from Union and the ones we’re accumulating here, we are getting poorer and poorer every day. But that will be short term.  I can’t think of a better reason to get into debt than for education.  It will pay off for sure once he gets a great job after graduation.

Work is going fine for me here. I miss Bruce though, more than I had ever imagined possible. We write to each other all the time using the Ramada corporate reservation system kind of like a telegraph. It’s intended to be used to ask questions or send a message regarding a reservation to another hotel using its site identification number.  For example, you could send a note on behalf of a guest who was going from a Ramada in one town to the next and had a special request.  But Bruce and I created code names for each other and send messages back and forth just about every day.  It’s usually nonsense stuff just joking around, and I am thrilled every time I hear that Teletype machine click on. I write long letters to him regular mail too and he writes back to me here at the hotel address. As a wedding present, he gave me a beautiful original pencil drawing of a naked man and woman embraced in a kiss; it is the only artwork hanging in our apartment.



July 1981 – Part Two


novisitorsLou’s gotten some handyman jobs, which is good because the customers pay cash, which we need.  I like my job at the Ramada; the people I work with are great, but I think their southern drawl is starting to rub off on me already.  I may be doing the accent on purpose, because people understand what I’m saying a little better when I speak a little more slowly, and throw in a y’all once in a while.

On the downside, my sister is probably really mad at me.  I can only imagine what she’s thinking, but I didn’t know what else to do. She had called me, saying that she was driving to North Carolina with her roommate who was visiting her brother, and wanted to stop in to see us since we were so close to him.  When I first talked to her on the phone, I said that would be fine, and that although we didn’t have a guest room or place for them to sleep over, I could get them a really cheap rate at the Ramada with my employee discount.

I ended up having to call her back and say that it really wasn’t a good time for us to have company, and that maybe we should do it some other time. I know that sounded really stupid; she is a NYC nurse, who doesn’t get much time off,  they are driving all the way down from New York already, and were only going to visit and stay at my hotel. But Lou feels like it is way too soon after we just got married, and that we need to have time to ourselves. He says that she is purposefully trying to intrude and interfere.  I don’t see it that way at all.  I think that it makes perfect sense that she would stop in to visit since she’s going to be driving on I-85 right by where we live and my hotel is literally right off the highway.

I was looking forward to showing her our apartment and around town…this place is really nice. Lou’s irritated and thinks that I’m just trying to defend her and take her side, but that’s not true – I just see it differently from how he does.  I felt absolutely horrible telling her, but it wouldn’t be a good visit with Lou feeling the way he does about it. I didn’t give her much of an explanation, because I really didn’t know what to say. It’s embarrassing for me to have to tell her not to come when I don’t agree with decision or the reason; it feels so wrong and so rude.

Hopefully she understands… God knows I don’t understand it.



July 1981

Photos of Durham - Featured Images

This photo of Duke University Chapel in Durham is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Well, I am off to a good start here in Durham, North Carolina. I got a job at the Ramada Inn on I-85 at Guess Road as a desk clerk. Easy transition for me and easy hire for them; all the equipment is exactly the same as I used at the front desk at the Schenectady Ramada. I’m hoping that I can move into the sales office soon, though.  While I may be a very good desk clerk, I don’t want to do it forever. The guy who was working behind the desk when I applied looked to be about sixty… not the long-term future I envision for myself.

We met the married undergraduate couple who live in the apartment upstairs from ours. There is always noise and banging from above; either because they have a bunch of friends over, they are fighting, or they are having noisy sex. They’re both pretty cool, but I wish I hadn’t opened my mouth and had let Lou do the talking when we first hung out.  We were chatting about just getting married, and I told them what I thought was a funny story about Lou getting a black eye at his bachelor party, and that we were lucky it disappeared before our wedding day. I had no idea that it would upset Lou, but his expression turned cold, and he abruptly ended the conversation; as soon as we were alone, he let me know he was really pissed.  He said that it was humiliating, and that I had no right to tell them about it. I just don’t get it. He had told the story to others himself, and had laughed it off with his fraternity brothers and my family and me. Now, it is a shameful secret that he thinks I am trying to use to embarrass him? I won’t bring it up ever again, that’s for sure.

Anyway, the people at work are nice.  It’s just a few miles from Duke to the hotel, so it’s an easy commute on bicycle.  There is one really big, steep hill though on the way home. My legs give out about half way up and I have to walk the bike a bit. Each day, I try to make it a bit farther pedaling up the hill.

Lou has an ad in the paper for handyman work, so he should be getting some income from that soon.  We’re also both working for the on-campus housing department.  I close the pool at a university apartment complex each night, and do some basic maintenance on it; same work I did at the Ramada pool when I lifeguarded.  We are also sharing duties with another couple to do lockout service.  That means that every other night, we are on call to help out anyone who has a simple problem at night – like they forget their keys, or their toilet backs up, or they lock themselves out of a room in the apartment. The best thing is that for both these jobs, we have access to a station wagon.  So I can go grocery shopping with a car, instead of trying to balance a grocery bag on the bike on the way home from work.

All and all, things are going well here. This campus is absolutely beautiful; the gardens are amazing, and the architecture is incredible. I love it.

June 1981 – Part Three


Jo with Mom and Dad on graduation day  from Schenectady County Community College

Jo with Mom and Dad on graduation day from Schenectady County Community College


We returned from our two night honeymoon on Sunday morning for my graduation from SCCC.  We stayed in Lou’s dorm at the fraternity house for the week until Union’s graduation day because we couldn’t afford any more nights in a hotel, and my parents outright said they were not ready for us to sleep together in their house.

Immediately after Lou’s graduation ceremony, we took off for Durham, North Carolina in a small rented U-Haul truck loaded with used furniture from his dorm, and some new-to-us items we purchased at the Thrift store. Lou’s mom had offered some old furniture she wasn’t using, so we diverted to her house on Long Island to get a bed and  a few other pieces.  As we pulled into the driveway, I was first struck by the Virgin Mary statue on the small square front lawn; I had nothing to prepare me for the visit, since Lou had never described his family home to me, with the exception of some mental snapshot images of a very young Louis following his grandfather around weeding the backyard garden, his mother endlessly smoking while cooking in the kitchen or watching TV alone in the living room, and his father sitting in the yard for hours by himself with a portable television, a case of beer, and his no-filter Camel cigarettes. Not too long ago, his mom had found a huge stash of hotel receipts and other extra-marital affair documentation in his dad’s car trunk, so his father was now living in the apartment on the second floor, but I didn’t see him; he’s an Air Traffic Controller and works a lot of hours.

We also stopped off to see Lou’s relatives from his father’s side in New Jersey, because they had planned a little family wedding party for us at his uncle’s house. I had no idea that he had such a big extended Jersey Italian family. I even met his grandfather, the original Louis William Joy. Lou’s father, Louis William Joy, Jr, was not on speaking terms with anyone in the family, and apparently had not been invited. They were over the top nice to Lou and me, and gave us a giant white Catholic Bible with gilded pages. If we had a coffee table, I guess we could put it on that. I’m not sure if they know that we were not married in a Catholic church.  I am sure they do not know that I have never even been baptised, nevermind that I am not Catholic. Lou’s mom was not happy about that fact, nor the outdoor wedding with the family friend minister instead of a priest, but could only bellow a mournful, “Oh, Louis….” when he told her our plans. Lou’s sister actually wore black to our daytime garden nuptuals, a statement of sorts that I was unsure how to interpret. Although she and I are just two years apart, she is very much Lou’s little sister. Her birth when Lou was seven seems to have marked the end of their parents’ marriage, although they have yet to legally divorce.

After the party, we drove straight through to our new life in Durham, NC.  Lou couldn’t drive all night, and we couldn’t swing a hotel room, so despite the fact that I had no driver’s license and no clue how to operate its standard transmission, I drove the U-Haul anyway. Lou explained that getting the car up to full speed is the hard part, so when it was my turn to drive, we didn’t pull over.  Instead, I climbed over him to get on his left side, he scooted over, took his foot off the gas pedal, and I put mine on. At rest stops, I slowed, learned how to shift into neutral, and then coasted and braked into a parking area in the back of the lot. We repeated this routine several times throughout the night.

We arrived in Durham the next day and checked into the Duke University campus housing office to get the keys, and moved right into our second floor apartment at 220 Alexander Avenue in the section designated for married students. It’s small, but complete with a bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom. My parents let me take the 15” black and white television from my bedroom that you have to smack on both sides to get the picture to come on.

While we still had the U-Haul, we went to the grocery store to stock up, and drove around so I could apply for jobs at local hotels, including two Ramada Inns. I only applied to places within biking distance from campus since that is still my only ride.  Lou is going to put a classified ad in the local paper for handyman work.  He’s really good at it, and it usually brings in steady money when he has the time between semesters. I don’t think it will be long before we both have jobs and will be able to pay next month’s rent.

June 1981 – Part Two

louie and joey weddingThe sun was shining at 9am on June 12th, and many people came to our very odd Friday morning marriage ceremony in Jackson’s Gardens on Union College campus. The wooded garden backdrop looked beautiful in the photos; I wish I could say the same for us in the foreground. The bright sun had us all squinting into the camera and the humidity contributed to a very, very bad hair day. I curled and curled on that last morning I was to wake up in the twin bed in my room in my parents’ house, but nothing held. My hair was a frizzy, limp, formless mess that looked like I had rolled out of bed and loosely pinned a veil to try to cover up the mop on my head.  For some inexplicable reason, Lou decided to part his hair on the side, which I have never seen him do before.  The fraternity brothers call him Eddie Munster because of his typical straight-back black hair interrupted by the capital V running down the center of his big forehead formed by an indelible widow’s peak. The thick, wavy hair combed over that lump in the middle also created a cowlick in the back and made him look like a giant five year old Baby Huey with a moustache.  Memorable.

I did finally meet Lou’s mom and sister the night before the wedding.  They took the bus from Long Island, and I got them a free room at the Ramada, where I work. The four of us went to dinner at Mother Ferro’s, where Lou and I had our first date. They were both very nice; it was as if there had never been any issues, making it difficult to imagine that he had no contact with his family in almost two years.

The wedding was very simple.  Nico borrowed his stepfather’s Cadillac, so I had a nice car in which to arrive to the gardens. Most of the wedding guests were fraternity brothers.  From Lou’s family, there was just his mom and sister, and a few of his old friends came from Long Island.  My family isn’t big, but they were all there, as well as a few of my childhood friends, Bruce, Kathy, and even many of my parent’s magician friends I have also known all my life. In fact, the minister was also a magic club member. It was a quick ceremony, so we didn’t bother with any arches, ribbons, decorations, or even seating, with the exception of one folding chair for my grandmother.  My brother-in-law video-taped, and one of the frat brothers took photos. The reception was at the fraternity house.

The garden setting created a couple of issues we had not anticipated. One issue was that we were directly under the flight path for the airport, and the loud jets flying low overhead occasionally drowned out the minister’s voice entirely. Another was a persistent bee that kept buzzing around the magical-minister’s head.  He didn’t flinch, but I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud.  My dad had walked me down the open aisle naturally formed by the standing guests, and was up at the front, between Lou and me, dutifully giving me away for an eternity, squeezing my hand tightly and fighting back his own giggles while his eyes followed the bee.  My sister was maid of honor, because my very pregnant, very single, very best girlfriend, Kathy, had refused the role. I actually think she just didn’t want to do it because she can’t stand Lou. I told my sister to wear whatever she wanted, and she self-imposed a stereotypical bridesmaid’s flowing dress on herself, complete with the floppy hat and ribbons. Louie and Nico each bought matching blue suits that were cheaper than renting a tux.

Mr. and Mrs. Louis William Joy III

Mr. and Mrs. Louis William Joy III

After the ceremony, we took family photos in the garden, and everyone else headed over to the reception. Lou and I had some solo pictures, and were among the last to leave; when we got to the Cadillac, we found it was locked with no keys in sight. The guy who had driven me over had walked back to the fraternity house already to help set up, with the keys safely in his pocket. So the small pack of us trekked across the campus green, me in my grass stained wedding dress and white high heels. It was unexpected and fun, and certainly memorable.

The reception in the dining area of the frat house was as informal as a family barbeque. On the previous day, I scrubbed down the filthy house kitchen, and prepped and cooked the food and stored it in the big fridge, ready to be served. My family and others helped heat up the pre-cooked chicken and set up the buffet table while I milled around chatting with guests before lunch.  The fraternity brothers generously opened up the house bar for everyone.  We only had one bottle of champagne and four “glass glasses”– enough for a single toast for the maid of honor, best man, Lou, and me.  The whole thing was no-frills and really cheap.  It had to be. We didn’t have money for a party, and I would not even consider asking my parents to pay. My mom had taken a cake-decorating course specifically so she could make our wedding cake; it was delicious and pretty.  Like the tower in Pisa, it leaned a little to one side, but it was perfect. The wedding was also perfect for me. I didn’t need a big, fancy shindig.  It was just important for me to share the occasion with people we cared about, and to not just elope alone. My family and my closest friends were there. When we left the reception, they all lined up and pelted elbow macaroni at us, because I didn’t buy the little rice packets, confetti, or anything normal to throw for good luck as we set off on our married lives together. The pasta was not my idea, but again, that was creative and memorable.

It started pouring rain when Nico drove us in the Caddy to our wedding night destination. We had the honeymoon suite, which meant it had a round waterbed and a Jacuzzi in our room of the no-tell motel. You can rent their rooms by the hour, but we had it for the whole weekend, and Lou paid for x-rated movies for the duration. In between the feature presentations, they kept playing the same previews over and over.  One of the deep voice-overs is stuck in my head like a bad song, “You will never forget – the velvet touch of the velvet tongue.”  All weekend long… I will never forget.  Talk about memorable.

We had an awesome night. In the morning, Nico and his girlfriend called from the motel lobby and came to the room for champagne with us. Great memories.

June 1981

dogBruce wanted to treat me to a special night since I’m getting married and moving away soon.  I’m closer to him than even Kathy now, since we spend so much time together at the hotel.  So he picked me up in his car, and we parked, got wasted and listened to music and laughed and talked.  We had such a great time just hanging out together out of uniform for a change.  I over-did it, and ended up getting sick, which was bad, but it wasn’t the worst part of the night.

Even though I was totally wrecked, he didn’t try to take advantage of me, or make a pass or anything. That’s a good thing because I don’t know what I would have done if he did.  If I’m being honest with myself, there’s a part of me that wishes he would. I don’t know if it’s because he is always flirting with every other female on the planet except me, and I feel rejected, or exactly what it is.  But, we are such good and close friends, I’m afraid that anything more would actually ruin the friendship, and I can’t imagine life without him. We are so different, and we only spend time together at work, but I feel closer to him than anyone else I know. It’s like a soul connection or something weird like that. Sometimes, I silently almost will him to kiss me, but he doesn’t. And then later, I’m relieved that it didn’t happen, because that would be like losing something. I am messed up. What am I thinking anyway? I am about to get married, a fact that is not always in my mind. Nothing happened; nothing has ever happened, so it is a pointless thought.

Bruce dropped me off at the fraternity house, where I figured I could spend time with Lou for a while, and sober up before going home. He had not been thrilled about my plans to hang out with Bruce for the evening, but he knew all about it and didn’t ask me not to go or try to stop me. It wasn’t even late when I got to the house. I was queasy and still toasted, baked, fried or whatever you want to call it, and just wanted to chill out and relax. Lou was already pissed when I got there. That’s an understatement. I sat in his Goodwill store armchair and tried to keep the room from spinning me out of it while he kept ranting and raving at me.  Where was I, what was I doing? Who saw me?  That was the biggest issue – who saw me? He drilled me for all the details about what we had done.  I answered all his questions, knowing full well that I hadn’t done anything wrong. He was totally freaking out, literally screaming in my face.  Then he got a look in his eyes that I’ve never seen before, as if he was possessed. He talked through his teeth without opening his mouth, and accused me of f**ing Bruce in the car. I told him we didn’t do anything like that, but he wouldn’t believe me, and suddenly grabbed my legs, yanked them up and apart and stuck his head in my crotch and smelled me like a dog. He kept repeating, “Did you f**k him? Did you? Did You?”  I didn’t know what to do. I was scared, I was mad, and I was hoping not to get sick again. All I could do was try to calm him down. I apologized for doing something that made him so upset, and said I didn’t think it was a problem. I think he finally believed me that nothing had happened, but he was still furious. He knew Bruce and I were close friends, and had these plans, so I don’t know why it went from being OK to suddenly not OK. He mentioned that someone had asked where I was that night, and he lied because he was embarrassed to say. But that’s not my fault. I just wanted to go home and forget about the whole thing.

I never go out with anyone. I only see my friends from school at school, and I usually miss the school and club parties. Work friends are only at work. Kathy is pregnant, and she and Lou hate each other anyway, so it’s not realistic to see her often. This was just about the only time I have gone out on my own, and this is what happens. Oh wait, I lie – Nico’s girlfriend took me out the night of Lou’s bachelor party. We had dinner and a couple drinks in a Church that was converted to a restaurant. I think she just felt bad for me not having a bunch of girlfriends to take me out. Lou had an overnight party at a hotel with a group of his fraternity brothers. The bar at that hotel is known as a major pick up place. Did I freak out?  No. The next morning, I got a call from Nico to apologize and warn me that Lou had a black eye. Apparently, whoever was supposed to watch Lou in the bar dropped the ball and left him alone.  Louie saw this couple making out, and went over to their table and suggested they stop or get a room or something. He wouldn’t let it go, and by Lou’s account, the guy sucker punched him.  Eventually, his friends removed him from the scene and got him back up to the hotel suite.  He still has the shiner. I just laughed at the situation and said I was glad he had a good time. And he is yelling at me?  I didn’t do a thing.  Maybe I should have.

May 1981 II

catoutofbagMy parents asked Lou and me to come to dinner at home one night. Mom’s no chef by any means, so the point was not to impress us with her culinary skills. Instead, they decided to let the proverbial cat out of the bag. In this case, the cat was a well-kept family secret they felt it was time I know.

It was a long story that would fit well as a sub-plot to a long running soap opera. It is a saga of love, lies, secrets, and complicated twists to hide the deceptions. I consider myself fairly bright, but I was totally surprised by their confessional unveiling of the truth.

The secrets that were revealed and the reality of the truth itself doesn’t bother me in the least. It’s actually a love story with heart-wrenching decisions, obstacles, tragedies, and determination to overcome adversity.  What does trouble me is the fact that there were years of deceit and lies that were fabricated to cover the truth.  They were more concerned about public perception than in building trust with those involved by dealing with the truth and facing any consequences head on.  They didn’t give anyone enough credit to be able to love them and accept them with the truth.  They felt the secret was theirs alone to keep, but failed to recognize that it touched other lives in many ways, and that withholding the truth was a betrayal of trust to people closest to them.  And, most likely, they subconsciously resented those same people because of their assumption that they would be judged if the truth were known. You’d like to think your parents always know the right thing to do… but in this case, I’d say they acted out of fear, and did not use good judgment.

Worst thing is that now they have included me in their web of secrecy. There is one other person who has also been sworn to silence with whom I am permitted to discuss this topic.  I think they have unburdened themselves and shifted the weight to the two of us.  Hope they feel better for it.

May 1981

simon and lauraWe’ve been planning our wedding, and all that’s going fine. I have a dress and veil I got from a rack of older models for about $100, and we found leftover matching gold bands at a jewelry store for even less; can’t do much better than that.  We’re having the ceremony at Union College in Jackson’s Gardens, where we had our first kiss. That will be nice. The only problem is that the church on campus that we have as back up in case of bad weather is only available on Friday morning the week before graduation. So… the ceremony is on Friday, June 12th at 10am. The reception will be at the fraternity house.  Nothing fancy.

Lou finally called his mother to talk to her and let her know we are getting married. Apparently, she and Lou’s dad have officially separated; Lou doesn’t want to try to get in touch with him. He hasn’t spoken with her since he and I started dating, so she didn’t even know I existed, but she will come to the wedding with his sister.  I wish I could have the chance to meet them before the wedding, because this is going to be very uncomfortable for everyone.

In other good news, Lou was accepted to Duke University MBA program. It was the last school that we heard from and his only acceptance. I don’t know what we would be doing if he didn’t get in there. He had blown off most of the on-campus interviews that he had for jobs, so there was a lot riding on Duke, and the hopes that his chem professor’s connections there would get him in.

We were working together the day he got his acceptance letter. Lou had a call on his handyman ad from a couple that needed help moving.  Help was an understatement.  They needed the National Guard, but all they could afford was Lou, who came with my labor for free. Simon and Laura had two kids and two floors full of crap; they were being evicted and needed to move right away. They rented a U-Haul to move them to a new place in two days, but couldn’t do the packing and moving work alone.  I don’t think these people ever threw anything away in their lives.  Their floors were literally covered with stuff, the boxes the stuff came in, and the advertisements for the stuff.  Laura explained her situation, saying that everything had been going just fine for a long time. Simon had a well-paying job; they had lots of money to spend on fun and stuff.  She said that they loved going out for dinner regularly; they drove as far away as Vermont just for their favorite fondue dinners.  Life was good. Then Simon lost his job, and he couldn’t find another position. Suddenly there was no income, and they had no savings, so they couldn’t make the credit card payments, they couldn’t make the rent payments, and it all went quickly downhill before they knew it.  We worked steadily for two days, moving stacks and stacks of crap from their old place to their new apartment.  We filled an entire spare room of the new apartment stacked from floor to ceiling with stuff, yet they were dirt poor.  We rode back to campus on our bicycles talking about them the entire trip. Not in a gossip or judgmental way, but more reflective, as to how they ended up in such a position in life. We both took a vow: “Remember Simon and Laura.”  We swore we would never get ourselves so far over our heads that we saw no way out, and could only dream about the days we thought would never end.

When we arrived back on campus, we stopped at the student center to check the mail; I waited with the bikes while he enthusiastically skipped steps up the long stairway. On most recent occasions, he has plodded back down, dejected by the bad news in his mailbox. This time, he came running out with the open letter in hand, and practically bounced down the stairs so excited that he got into Duke.

So, now I know what we’ll be doing for the next two years.

March 1981

Fondas temple 1

Ruth Clark and Jo Fonda Magic Show


We finally told my parents that we plan to get married in June.  We took them to dinner at their favorite restaurant, The Van Dyke, where I used to work.  It went as well as could be expected. My parents said the appropriate oohhhs and aahhhhhs, and congratulations; they didn’t even mention that they would be losing their box jumping magic assistant. But then my dad went into all the statistics he could think of about how most marriages fail, especially between young people, and that we have less than a 50-50 chance of making it. My parents were both married once before; just because they didn’t make it the first time doesn’t mean we won’t.  My mom didn’t say anything negative, but she doesn’t usually anyway. She is easy going and doesn’t want to make any waves anywhere – as long as I didn’t piss off Daddy, I am fine with Mom.  I never want to piss off anyone, so we are good, and we get along great.

Based on the things she has mentioned about her past, Mom was no saint before she got married either.  She also started college at 16; she just didn’t finish, and got married and had a baby by age 19. I don’t know what she would have done if she stayed in school. The 1940s was definitely a different era, and what women did for their men and their country was different from today.  Thank God we are not in a war now. As Democrats, my parents are not thrilled about having Reagan as the President of the United States, but at least we are at peace.

Anyway, I was really nervous about telling them, but it’s good to have it finally out in the open. Lou didn’t actually ask my father for permission to marry his daughter, so there wasn’t that awkward moment of waiting for his reply, not knowing what it would be. I think if my dad actually had veto power, he would have used it on this decision.


January 1981

Photo by Annie Leibovitz

Photo by Annie Leibovitz


We spent most of the Christmas break working on Lou’s MBA grad school applications. I helped by editing and typing the essays; my mom also proof-read. His grades are not good, so the applications focus on his ability to persevere, overcome adversity, be creative, entrepreneurial, and just do whatever it takes to achieve goals in life.  He certainly does have a lot of examples to demonstrate success in those areas, and has management experience as the steward for the fraternity house kitchen.  Louie took on that role because it pays toward his room and board, plus it is a thankless job nobody else really wanted to do. The steward manages the cook, organizes the cleaning jobs, approves the menu, and maintains food and supplies inventory within a budget.

Cookie was an older woman who had been the fraternity house cook for years and years. As steward, Lou was her boss, and she didn’t appreciate his suggestions for improvement. He thought some things that she did were gross and some of the food she made was disgusting, and wanted her to change. She decided it was time to immediately retire instead. So, I did the house cooking while he ran an ad in the newspaper and interviewed applicants for her replacement. He hired the new cook just based on looks; she is absolutely gorgeous. She cooks fine, but I almost throw up when the brothers give her a round of applause after every meal. Most afternoons, she lounges on the couch watching General Hospital with the guys in the living room instead of prepping for dinner. Do I sound jealous? Maybe.

For me, school is great, and work is actually a blast. Bruce and I usually work the 7am-3pm shift together on the weekends. The managers tried splitting us up because we have too much fun, but that didn’t last long because the other people they tried to schedule with either of us kept calling in sick and bitching about getting up early on the weekend.   I leave home very early and ride my bike to the hotel, go for a swim, and take my shower there. My favorite part of the day is in the early morning before we punch in for our shift when Bruce and I hang out and talk in the stairwell up at the roof level. We have really become best friends. I spend almost as much time with him as I do with Lou. Sometimes more.

Bruce jokes around constantly, and we laugh all day long behind the desk, but I think sometimes the humor is just a cover for what is actually a difficult life. As close as I feel to him, we are so different in so many ways. He outright ridicules the music I listen to, and I cringe at most of the heavy stuff he likes. The only musical common ground we have is The Beatles. When John Lennon was killed last month, I was saddened, but Bruce went into mourning. I’m not as intense about things as he can be, but there’s something about a person who feels so deeply that I admire. I wish I had his passion… about John Lennon, about music, about his art, about his ex-girlfriend, about anything. I like a lot of things, but is there anything that would bring me to the depths of emotion he feels? Either good or bad.

Click to Play Imagine – by John Lennon [audiotube id=”yRhq-yO1KN8″]

December 1980 – II

bufordtjustice-01I was studying on the bed in Lou’s single dorm room one evening, and noticed strobe lights flashing through the window coming from the parking lot below.  The campus security guard and a town police cruiser had blocked in Lou’s Grand Prix. I threw on my sister’s hand-me-down red ski jacket, and we raced down the several flights of stairs to see what was going on. The security guard, whom Lou calls “Beuford T. Justice”, from Smokey and the Bandit, had noticed that the tags and stickers on the car were expired. Then, he looked through the car window and saw the repo tools on the back seat; I guess he called the cops thinking he had found a car thief.

What a mess.  They actually wanted to arrest Lou for possession of the tools.  I don’t see how it can be illegal to have possession a slaphammer and a slim jim. A slaphammer is used for pulling out auto body dents, and a slim jim is just a piece of aluminum with some notches in it. Anyway, Lou explained that he worked for the local repossession company, and had the officer call his boss at home to vouch for Lou. His boss wasn’t happy about the situation, and Lou told him that I had left the tools in sight by mistake, which I may have done.  They couldn’t prove that the car had been driven on the road without valid registration, inspection and insurance, so there was nothing they could do about that, but apparently Union College has a regulation that all cars on the campus property have to be properly registered and insured.  So they radioed for a tow truck to haul the car away.  Louie freaked on that, saying that Beuford had no right to call the cops on him in the first place, and no right to tow the car.  Lou claimed that the guard should have just put a ticket on the car, and he would have moved it on his own.  It turned into an angry yelling match between Lou and the security guard; the police officer futilely tried to keep everyone calm, and the tow truck driver stood looking annoyed that he couldn’t hook up and get going.  The guard dug in his heels, insisting the car be moved off the lot right away.  I ended up calling my parents and asking them to come over with their van and a rope so we could tow it ourselves.  We just needed to get the car far enough out of sight of the officer and campus cop, and then we could drive it to my house. A few days later, Lou sold the car for scrap and got next to nothing because he didn’t have the title.  We bought a second bicycle with the money from the car.

I used to ride my bike or take the bus and walk during the day and Lou would drive me home from the fraternity house at night. Now, I always take my bike to school and to work and to the frat house, and Lou bikes home with me at night.  It’s good exercise, I guess, but it is a pain in the neck getting over the bridge through the slushy snow.  I have a raincoat that I wear on top of my warm coat and my backpack to cover everything.  It has a permanent line of mud splashes up the entire back and hood. When the weather is really bad, I call for a big yellow checker cab and my bike and me both ride home in the huge back seat.

December 1980

repossessedCar repossessions are the only money Lou has coming in now. Most of the handyman work was in the summer, but he still has a classified ad in the paper, and gets random calls for odd jobs. Some of the jobs really so seem quite odd; the details don’t make a lot of sense, and leave me wondering exactly what is going on behind closed doors.

I do like doing the repos with him.  He prefers to take me instead of his fraternity brothers because he feels like he should pay them for their help, or at least be indebted to them for another favor.  It’s always exciting, and we have some good stories from it. One night, we had to repossess 3 cars from one person.  As it turned out, they belonged to one of my former Girl Scout Leaders. I was a First Class Girl Scout, now I’m a Second Rate Car Thief (legally – sort of). She must have been having a hard time of it, and I felt bad taking her cars; it really wasn’t fun. We also had to take a car from another person I knew, a friend of Kathy’s boyfriend. This one was both fun and scary. The bank gives the repo company all the loan paperwork they have on file, so you can have all the info on work, family, residences, whatever might help get the car back.  The repo company had already tried to find the guy, and he wasn’t at the given address anymore.  The phone number was unchanged, but it was unlisted, so they couldn’t get the new address. I like doing the investigative work on the cars nobody can find, and I’m pretty good at it, so Louie calls me “Joey Investigator”.  On this one, I called the number, a person answered, and I waited a bit and then asked, “Hello?……. Hel-lo? ….. Hel-lo?”, and hung up.  I called again a couple times with the same sort of thing, and talked to an imaginary person supposedly with me, saying, “I don’t know what’s wrong… it rings, and stops, but nobody’s there”. Then I waited a little while, and called again, saying I was from the phone company and that there had been some trouble reported on this line.  I asked if it was intermittent or all the time and stuff like that. I said we would send a lineman out to the house to check it out, and gave the old address as where we would send him. Then the guy offered up his new address right away, practically giving directions. We drove over, and the car was there.  Lou got it started right away and took off; I followed in his car.  We were stopped at a red light, and in my rear view mirror I saw a car race up and come to a quick halt behind me, a guy jumped out of the passenger seat, ran past me and the Grand Prix, and jerked opened the passenger side door of the repo car Lou was in.  I locked my doors.  From the streetlight, I could see their outlines through the rear window, and watched the two of them struggling in the front.  Eventually, Lou did push him out and took off in his repo car. I drove around Kathy’s boyfriend’s friend and straight through the traffic light, which had cycled from red to green to yellow and back to red again during the scuffle. My knees were literally shaking. Later, Lou told me that once the guy realized the car was repossessed and not stolen, he mostly just wanted to get what looked like a bag of pot out of the glove compartment.

One time, my father saw that Lou had driven me home in a repossessed Jeep.  He wasn’t thrilled about that, and said he didn’t want me in the repo cars because they may not be safe.  He figures that if a person isn’t making their car payments, they probably are not keeping up on maintenance either.  He’s probably right. I can only imagine what he would say if he found out about me actually going on the repos with him and driving the getaway car with no license, registration, inspection or insurance. I’ve done a lot of repos; most are not exciting and involve many hours of just waiting around for someone to come home or drive by. I study in the car a lot.  Once, Lou was hunting for a car that nobody had been able to get for months.  We were just driving around town cruising for it, and he caught a glimpse of it down a side street in a random location. We got the vehicle back to campus, and Lou told his boss he had a hot lead on the car, but it was going to cost a little extra to get it. That was sneaky, but double fee was a nice reward for the hard work.

Lou has a lot of stories from when he did repossessions in New York City, where he used to carry a gun.  There’s no gun now that I know of, and I don’t think he ever actually used one.  I think he would have told me. On one repo, someone convinced Lou to take him home to get money to pay off the loan, and ended up locking Lou in the garage.  Lou thought he was going to die that night. Another time, Lou was driving a repo car and it suddenly caught on fire and was totaled, which kind of proves my Dad’s maintenance theory.

November 1980

Jo and Dad – Snake Dance Magic Routine


It’s unsettling to have no clue to what lies ahead.  I had plans all laid out to go to a four-year college like Cornell with a culinary arts and hotel management program next, but it’s hard to say now what I can do. We decided to get married after we both graduate in June; Lou’s getting his B.S. in Chemistry, and I’ll have an A.A.S. in Hotel Technology.  Getting a job in either a hotel or restaurant is not going to be difficult for me, but to have the career I planned, I really need to get my Bachelor’s degree and more training.

Lou has absolutely no idea about what he wants to do after college. He’s getting a Chemistry degree, but isn’t at all interested in being a Chemist or doing anything in the science field. He started out Pre-Med, but his grades weren’t good enough to stay on that track; he ended up on academic warning from all the stress at home, plus too much partying and not enough studying.  It wasn’t until he lost his parent’s funding that he really got motivated about school, decided that he had to get the money and had to graduate somehow. His friend Nico’s parents generously gave Lou a loan to bring his student account current. We rarely go to any parties, and are usually studying in his dorm room when I’m at the fraternity house.  I even read the same books for his literature classes so we can discuss the topics and I can work with him on his papers. That has helped bring up his grades. He is going to graduate – a year later than his class, but he did push through.  The only problem is that he just focused on getting the degree, and has put no thought into what to do after that was accomplished. He met with his academic advisor to help get some direction.  While he was in the office, I wandered around the halls of the Chemistry Building reading bulletin boards, and pulled off an information postcard about an MBA fair in Boston. When Lou came out of the meeting, he said that because he wasn’t sure where to go with his career, his advisor recommended he interview with companies recruiting Chem majors on campus to see if something clicks, but that he also consider getting a Master’s Degree at a business school.  I handed Lou the paper I was holding with the MBA fair info, and told him I’d just been thinking the same thing. So we decided to go to Boston to check it out; surprisingly, my parents didn’t object.  The only other time we traveled out of town together was with my parents to do a magic show for a convention at the Waldorf Astoria.  My dad wasn’t feeling great and wanted help moving some of the props.   Lou got to see our infamous snake dance routine, where my father acts as a snake charmer and I’m the snake doing acrobatic moves crawling up and down his body, around his neck, spinning and slithering, until he ultimately captures me in a rope net, stuffs me in a basket and impales me with swords, only to have me disappear.  It was a lot easier when I was a stick thin ten-year-old.  I’ve outgrown a few of my mom’s home-made snake skins through the years.

The Boston MBA fair trip was our first overnight alone at a hotel together. We picked up a lot of information on the different programs and learned a lot. It was nice having time to hang out and talk and think about the future. We were having a quiet time lying in bed looking for something to watch on TV; Lou stopped clicking the remote when he became mesmerized by boxing on a premium channel.  One of the fighters was an Irish redhead; I don’t know if it is true that they bleed more than others, but I was horrified. I hid under the covers because I literally could not watch.  I’ve only been to one boxing match in person, and that was to watch Lou fight in an inter-fraternity match. I wanted to be there to be supportive, but it was torture for me, and he got beat up pretty badly.

Anyway, Lou sent away for a bunch of applications to different grad schools, and registered to take the GMAT exam. His grades are not that good, so grad school may not be a realistic option, so he’s still going to send out some job applications and interview on campus for whatever he is qualified with his degree.

I’m pretty much on hold with my own life to see what happens with him. I know I can get work in a hotel or restaurant anywhere. Hopefully, we will end up near a college with a culinary program and I can still go to school.  My grades are really good – I get mostly A’s, and I’m in the Honor Society and lots of clubs and stuff, and have relevant work experience, so I think I would get accepted into most colleges. I should be fine.

October 1980

Welcome to my world


As an officer of the Hotel Tech Club, I’ve met a lot of people and made new friends this year at school. A group of us decided to hang out in the bar at the Ramada where I work. I’m always with Lou’s fraternity brothers and their girlfriends, but he is never with my friends, so I called him before we went, and asked him to come hang out with us.  He said sure, and that he’d be there a little later.

I was having a fun time with my friends at the bar, and enjoyed spending time with them in my “work home.” I was in the midst of a casual conversation with one of the guys, when all of the sudden Lou popped up out of nowhere; I didn’t even see him come in. He moved in between me and my friend, got right in his face, poked him hard in the chest with his index finger, and just about yelled, carefully enunciating every syllable, “Hey! I’m her f**king boyfriend.” It was totally out of line. This poor guy wasn’t hitting on me, standing close, touching me, or anything.  We weren’t even laughing. We were just talking.  My friend just put his hands up in the air and backed away saying he wasn’t trying to step on his toes or anything.  I got myself into the middle, pulled Lou away, and sternly told him we were just talking.  I don’t know what got into him.  I invited him to come there to meet my friends.  I obviously wasn’t trying to hide anything from him, and certainly wasn’t flirting with that guy, or anyone else. I was pretty much the host of the get together, and ended up being the first to leave.  It was so embarrassing. If I had known he would act like that, I would never have suggested going out at all.

Lou really didn’t have much of an explanation about it for me after we got out of there.  He just didn’t like the way the guy was looking at me when we were talking, and it was just his gut reaction to the situation. My gut reaction is that I was humiliated and am livid. He did not care to hear any of my points. He didn’t apologize; he doesn’t see anything wrong with what he did. It isn’t worth fighting about it, though.

September 1980

The Fonda Slicer could cut a woman in half right before your eyes


Summer is over.

Pop died. It was expected, but still difficult for everyone. He had been so ill for such a long time, and there really wasn’t anything we could do except visit him in the hospital, and talk about everything except the obvious, as we watched him become thinner and thinner and weaker and weaker with each passing day.  He was always such a big man, with a big Santa belly and a hearty laugh. When he found something really funny, his laugh would turn into this weezy giggily sound that went on and on and on. You couldn’t help but laugh when he did.  I’ll always remember him that way.  My favorite childhood memories of my grandparents’ house are of sitting on his lap while he smoked a sweet smelling cherry tobacco pipe and laughed. I was always so intrigued by this little hole under his lip that he said was from a bb-gun shot, leaving me with a fear about the danger of bb-guns and all weapons in general.

Despite the sadness of saying goodbye to Pop, it was a good summer overall. I still do magic shows and conventions with my parents.  The most current act is called “The Fonda Slicer”, where I am cut in half by a giant blade in full view of the audience with no big box and no covered table bottom that can hide what is going on. The audience freaks when my parents then start sawing back and forth right before their eyes.  There is no gore like in some of the old time horror magic shows with a circular saw spewing blood all over the curtains while the woman screams.

I handed down my crown to the next Miss Schenectady County Teen-Ager.  The pageant director asked me to do the introductions and color commentary for the contestants while they did their swimsuit and evening gown walks. I also had to give my “farewell speech”. Instead of the typical canned and corny polished tribute to saving stray animals, feeding the hungry children, and creating world peace, I just said what came to mind, which wasn’t always so brilliant.  But, I did thank my parents for all their support in life and for driving me all over the place to the different events throughout the year, and I thanked “My boyfriend Lou…”  awkward pause “…For being Lou”.  I really should have planned what to say about him. My parting message to the girls in the pageant was that just as with any competition in life… it really doesn’t matter if you win or lose, but that if you lose, be a gracious loser, and if you win, be a gracious winner, and you will always be a winner. Such words of wisdom… I may have skipped the canned portion, but did not successfully avoid corny.  Maybe next time I have to give a speech I’ll actually write it first.

I may not have nailed my public speaking tribute to Lou, but I am pretty darn proud of the seat covers I made for his Grand Prix.  I got some brown fuzzy material that matches the car color. I hand embroidered an “L” (for Lou) on the fabric for the driver’s seat and a “J” on the other (which could be either for Jo or Joy).  It will probably last as long as the car does anyway.

School is going well.  I’m on the board of the Hotel Technology Club, and am joining the national Hotel Sales Management Association as a Student Member.  Between school, the clubs, magic shows, and working at Ramada, I’m pretty busy most of the time.  I like working the weekend 7am-3pm shifts the best, but I also work 3-11pm after school. The weekend is great because it isn’t so busy, and there aren’t as many managers around.  There’s a bellman, Bruce who I work with a lot.  He is a nut, and we have so much fun that I actually look forward to going to work when we’re on the same shift. He’s constantly drawing naked women and big superhero or creature type characters you’d see in a comic book; there is no question he will be a successful artist. Even the naked women look like they could kick anyone’s ass. They are strong and muscular, but also really sexy and beautiful. All the guys working here obsess about females, and practically drool over his drawings like porn.  If an actual woman comes through the lobby, they are all like dogs watching a steak go by; their heads follow in unison, and the conversations come to a halt until she is out of sight.

Bruce always gets the attention of all the girls at work.  He has an awesome personality and sense of humor that makes other people laugh and just be happy to be around him. If he is quiet, it is only because he’s drawing.  He is amazing. It’s no wonder that all the pretty girls like him so much.  We have become close friends and have so much fun at work, but he definitely sees me as just a buddy, and doesn’t flirt with me even a little, and he is flirting all the time.

August 1980 – II

As the ship pulled into Port Authority, I saw Lou waiting on the dock, smiling and waving when he spotted me at the rail. He was cheerful, talkative, and asked a lot of questions about the cruise the entire drive back to Scotia. I think it is the happiest I have ever seen him. When we were alone, he thanked me for wearing the birthstone as an engagement ring now, and reminded me to not tell anyone about our plans for me to become Mrs. Jo Joy.  He likes the name and thinks it sounds like a stripper or porn star from his film and magazine collection.  I am not thrilled with the name… probably for the exact same reasons.

Out of the blue, Gino called early Saturday morning, and said he was driving through Schenectady and wanted to see me.  I have not written or talked to him in a year, but agreed to take the bus across the bridge and meet him downtown.  I found him on some steps outside watching the traffic, and just sat beside him with no fanfare reunion hugs and kisses.  I gave back his heavy gold chain I had stored in my jewelry box, unworn since last summer. I wasn’t mad at him anymore, but his indifferent abandonment of me had wiped out my former illusions of love. He didn’t seem to have an agenda, so we chatted for a bit about what was going on in our lives. Ironically, he is the first person I have told I am engaged. It wasn’t in spite or to impress him, but more for closure.  I did give him a hug goodbye, and felt at peace, feeling certain that chapter of my life was closed for good… for the best.

I walked several blocks to Lou’s apartment, reviewing my meeting with Gino, and deciding whether or not to tell him about it.  There was little chance that he would even know that Gino had been in town, and there was a greater chance that he would think I should not have met with my ex-boyfriend at all.  In the end, I decided to tell him, given the fact that I had nothing to hide and that I had definitively ended a relationship that had been just hanging unresolved, like the necklace in the box.

I was relieved that Lou was pleased how I handled meeting Gino and that I had returned his gift.  I was tired, and fell asleep beside Lou, listening to “Diary” on my well-worn Bread album I kept at his place.

Click to play Diary – by Bread [audiotube id=”wnRc1saiTUU”]


August 1980

I had lost what must have been hours standing at my usual perch, looking over the rail on the back of the ship, watching the wake. I was transfixed by thhypnotic swirling of the trail of white-blue water churned up by the giant propellers. The ocean reveals its own rainbow of blues, turning dark as night as you venture into the seemingly bottomless depths, the color highlighted by streaks of orange where the the sun rises and sets on either side of the day.  I can always tell where I am by the color of the sea. In the Crayola box of all blues, the water of my home base in New York’s Port Authority would be simply called Steely-Cold-Greenish-Grey-Blue. The color of the waters in my favorite destinations in the Caribbean Sea would have fanciful magical names like Aqua-Dolphin-Blueberry-Pie.  But the middle of the ocean is always Midnight-Blackish-Blue, even when you are crossing the equator at Noon, when the sun is at its strongest peak.

I was suddenly jarred back to reality hearing my name called, but thinking it was my imagination, because I was alone. I turned around when I heard my name again, this time noticing the loud speaker fixed to the bulkhead. I was being paged. I rushed inside, and went directly to the purser’s desk, knowing that a shipboard page meant urgent, and usually bad news.

The officer said they had received several calls for me from New York, and that an operator was waiting to patch through a ship to shore return call. I went into the tiny room that fit a single wood chair, and picked the telephone handset off the hook, and noticed there was no way to dial out. But the shipboard communications officer quickly spoke, asking me to stand by. The open line sounded both sonic and surreal, as if the voices between land and sea literally traveled underwater through some sort of Jules Vern invention.   

When the call went through, my greatest fears were realized, and my knees went weak. It was my boyfriend, Lou, who was so mad that I went on this cruise vacation without him that he wasn’t even speaking to me when I left. In that eerie, slow motion deep drawn out cadence of a ship to shore call, I heard the words I dreaded most, “Will you marry me?” Inside my head, I was shouting out my one word response over and over, “Shit! Shit! Shit!” Out loud, I calmly answered the only way I could, “Yes.”

Although there was no physical cord connecting the receiver on my end to the phone in his upstate New York apartment, I could almost feel the line wrap around my body and yank me right back to him at home.

Home is a relative concept. I feel most at home out here in the middle of nowhere on a ship at sea.  Lou often plays the Billy Joel song, “You’re My Home”, making very clear the point that he feels he has nobody else to depend on, and that I define home to him. How can I say “No” to his marriage proposal when I am his home? To me, the epitome of “home-home” is my mother’s best effort at a home cooked dinner: Shake-and-Bake pork chops, freeze dried instant mashed potatoes, canned corn, and Mott’s applesauce.  I would take her packaged pork chop dinner over any gourmet meal, anytime.

Having grown up in a multi-generation Long Island Italian household, Lou has a better reference for the taste of a legitimate good home cooked meal.  With just a brief glance, you can tell he’s Italian; he reeks of it. With the richness of his long lineage of Mediterranean blood, his eyes are darker than the deepest parts of the ocean…black, without any hint of blue or even a tinge of brown in the flecks. His piercing eyes dig deeply into anyone they gaze upon, probing for their ulterior motives. Even when he is laughing, his presence is overpowering and intimidating. He calls them “horsey teeth”, but when he smiles, his oversized ivories bare themselves more like the big bad wolf than as Mr. Ed. Quite often, when he is deep in thought, I see his lips moving, his eyebrows speaking a language of their own, and his head nodding or shaking, sometimes in agreement, but more often in some sort of silent debate with himself. I mentioned this tendency to him once, but will never bring it up again. 

So now, I guess we are getting married. Lou said to not tell anyone for awhile. That works for me. I just turned 18 last week. Nobody is going to think this is a good idea.


July 1980

Happy Birthday

Lou is renting an old second floor apartment in a duplex with one of his fraternity brothers from Thailand who is from a very well off family, and did not want to go home this summer. His roommate spends a lot of time in the gym, and God only knows where else he goes, but he is almost never home, so we usually have the place to ourselves. I cook, and we get to hang out without a bunch of other guys around; it is a nice change from the fraternity house. To get some cheap furnishings, Lou and I went to some yard sales, where he also picked up a used 8mm movie projector. He immediately went out to buy some X-rated movies at a local porn shop, which I refused to go in with him. He’s always had magazines around; I guess most guys do, but the movies are more of a distraction than anything else as far as I’m concerned.  The film keeps jamming up, and he stops to fix it and re-spool and thread the film into the sprockets. The picture is distorted on the uneven bedroom wall, because we don’t have a screen. I get bored pretty quickly with it, and I’m not interested in seeing the movies over and over and over again like he is. He keeps going down to the porn shop to get ‘just one more”; in my opinion, it seems like a waste of time and money.  Sometimes, I think he is much more into the action on the film than in me. Thank God for the music on the record player to drown out the incessant noise of the projector that rattles like my banana seat bicycle tire spokes when I used to clothes pin a playing card to the wheel, or a loose muffler under a junky old car; if I close my eyes, I can ignore the fact that his eyes are glued to the images on the wall.

Lou is still expecting me to cancel my vacation that starts just a couple weeks from now, and he keeps challenging that I would not do this if I really cared about him. This trip is for me, and has nothing to do with him, but I can’t think of a way to make that point in a way that won’t piss him off even more. So, I just explain that I’ve already paid and have committed to the trip with my girlfriend, and can’t back out now.  Technically speaking, that is the truth, and it implies that I’d rather stay with him and would like to get out of it if possible. It sounds better than me saying that I do care about him, but I really do want to go on my own.   A few of his high school friends are coming to visit; I’ll meet them to hang out one night, but will have to head out the next morning to New York City. He wants me to tell them I have a family event to attend rather than tell the truth about where I am going. Apparently, it is something I should be ashamed of doing. Whatever.

Yesterday was my 18th birthday. Not a big celebration, to say the least. In my family, the only birthday parties are the ones I plan, and I’m long past the days of using my oldest sister’s shared birth date with me as an excuse to have a party for myself as well. Lou and I went out for my first legal beer, and he gave me a birthstone ring with a ruby and two small diamonds on either side, sized for my left ring finger. I tried putting it elsewhere, but he asked me to wear it on my left hand as a commitment ring. My parents literally raised their eyebrows when I showed them the gift; I explained that was the only finger it fit.

June 1980

Vinny promoted me to the front desk at the hotel.  I absolutely love my job and have so much fun that it hardly feels like work. Bruce and I usually work the same hours, and spend the entire time talking and joking around. We are about as different as night and day, but he is quickly becoming my closest friend and I go to work early just to hang out before our shift.

Because I committed to making weekly savings deposits in that joint account, I had to borrow some money from my sister to make the last payment on the cruise. It’s just a timing issue; I will pay her back before we sail. I did not admit to Lou that I needed to get a loan, and I did not ask my parents for help.  My dad is adamantly against loaning anyone money, especially family. His position is that he will end up being screwed by someone he trusts, and he will resent them for the rest of his life. He would rather deal with the hard feelings the person has for him because he would not loan money in the first place. Since we all know it is his “policy”, nobody asks for a loan no matter what the reason or amount.  My mother keeps a secret savings account; I’ve been with her to the bank and have seen that she’s made loans behind my father’s back to family from those hidden funds. I didn’t want to ask her to give me a loan from that stash because those kinds of secrets are likely to backfire at some point in life, and I would rather not be a part of it and have to deal with my father’s mopey punishment with the silent treatment.

I am still dealing with enough mopey punishment from Lou for going on the cruise.  It is a sore subject that I avoid at all costs.  It seems that the more I need the money to pay for the trip, the more expenses we need to cover for his car and other unexpected events, including rent deposit on his apartment for the summer. Lou will earn some money over break working as a handyman and repossessing cars, so we won’t be so dependent on my income.

Regardless of Lou’s opinion, and his failed attempts to guilt me into canceling or to screw up my financing, I am excited to be going on the trip.  I plan to look into getting a job on the ship after graduation next year for a while before I transfer into a four-year college. Between my past hostess experience, my Hotel Management degree, and my front desk job, I should have a good shot at getting hired. I’m certainly not talking about any of those ideas out loud; I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

May 1980

A dozen beautiful red roses were delivered to my house; I was shocked  to learn they were from one of my friends in the Hotel Tech program.  I had absolutely no clue that he liked me that way. I thanked him for the flowers and explained that I had a steady boyfriend who went to a different college.  Apparently, I don’t talk much about Lou at school because he didn’t know I was going out with someone.

The flowers really are gorgeous. The last and only other time I got a bouquet of roses was in 1976 on the M/S Kungsholm. We were on that ship for most of the year, doing short cruises to Bermuda and Canada, and really long ones to the Mediterranean and all around South America.  One of the photographers and I became really good friends. We used to hang out together all the time; I wasn’t even 14 yet, and he was obviously a lot older, so nothing was sexual.  He was always a real gentleman and a friend.  The roses were yellow, which he said were a symbol of friendship and respect. He got in trouble with the ship’s captain who said there were rumors he was having an inappropriate relationship with me, which simply wasn’t true. He is married now, but still writes occasionally, and always sends sunset picture postcards at Christmas.

The person who should have gotten into trouble was one of that ship’s top officers, a Swedish guy who was missing part of one of his fingers. He was very sociable and always flirting with all the women.  One night, I mentioned how much I liked being out on deck watching the ocean; it’s just mesmerizing. I said that I usually watch the wake from the back of the ship. He invited me to go to the bow of the ship, where only crew are allowed. It was awesome to be out on the very front of the ship, but it was really, really windy and really, really cold.  He said his cabin was up front too, and had a great view he could show me.  I looked out the porthole for maybe a minute before he asked me to sit down on his couch to talk, and he put his arm around me and started moving in.  I jerked away, and said I had to get going.  I acted like I didn’t understand, and he walked me back down.  I know I looked older, but he knew my age.  It wasn’t my fault.

Anyway, Lou would probably freak if he found out about the flowers. I really didn’t lead the guy on, but Lou may not believe that.


April 1980


When it rains, it pours. First, Pop went in the hospital for gall bladder surgery.  When he was opened up, they found that his gut was full of cancer that had spread everywhere.  So they just closed him back up because there is nothing that can be done for him at his age with advanced cancer. My grandmother doesn’t want him to know what is wrong with him, and that he is going to die from this.  She thinks that he won’t have any will to fight if he knows the truth.  I would want to know, and I think he would too, but I’m not going to go against her wishes.  Instead, I have to go there and lie to him, which just feels wrong.  Lou is supportive, and talks to Pop a lot about going fishing in the future.  He’ll be lucky if he gets to go home, but if it is possible, we will take him fishing somehow.

Then, my dad wasn’t feeling well, and was really tired all the time.  He found some blood in his stool, which turned out to be due to colon cancer.  He was scheduled for surgery to have a long length of his intestines removed. At the same time, my sister was having abdominal pain and ended up in the hospital in Connecticut to also have gall bladder surgery.  Her daughter is just a toddler, and my brother in law has to work, so I was scheduled to go right after my dad’s surgery to her house to help take care of my both her and my niece.

My grandfather, my father, and my sister were all in the hospital; on the day before my dad’s surgery, I was at home with my mom, and found we had no heat in the morning.  I went into the basement and saw that the natural gas furnace was out.  I tried to light the pilot, but it wouldn’t ignite on the first try.  On the second try, I lit the match and put it toward the pilot hole, and BOOM! I felt an instant rush of heat and air like a hot blast of wind on my face. I made my way through the dense smoke back upstairs, and my mom ran down from the second floor in a panic asking what happened.  Seeing the smoke filling the house, she called the fire department, and I went into the bathroom shower to put cold water on my face, hand, and arm. I had no idea what kind of damage I had done to myself. While I doused myself in the cold running water, I heard the blast of the emergency horns signaling the location of our street and then the sirens of the arriving fire trucks. They inspected the house and made sure the gas was off and that there was no fire in the ducts; they put big fans in the house to suck out the smoke. I was obviously burned, so they insisted that I go by ambulance to the hospital.

My poor mother had her stepfather, husband, and daughter all in one hospital, and another daughter in a hospital hours away. I had first-degree burns all over my face, neck, and right hand and arm.  I had second-degree burns on parts of my face, and third-degree burns on my hand near my index finger and thumb area, which is where I held the lit match that caused the blow back of the gas. My hair was melted all around the front and the ends. My eyebrows are completely gone, and my eyelashes are tiny little nubs. I am so lucky all around that is all that happened.  The cleaned me up, and put Silvadine on my burns to help them heal. I looked like a clown or a mime, since my face was entirely covered in white.

We didn’t want my father or grandfather to know what happened, and I wanted to see my dad before his surgery, so I had to take all the burn cream off my face, which was pure torture.  I put on a floppy hat and eyeglasses; my hand was bandaged up, so I carried a coat over my arm.  My dad was pretty dopey because of the pain and other meds he was on, so he didn’t really ask any questions.  Pop was a lot more alert and wanted to know, “Why the hell are you wearing that silly hat?”  My dad’s surgery went well, and they think they got all the cancer.

Lou has been a really big help to my family though all of this. He drove me to and from Connecticut to be with my sister, and while I was gone, he  brought my dad a get well stuffed rabbit, appropriate for a magician, and he helped my Mom set up a recovery area for my dad in our dining room.  I don’t know what I would have done without him; I am really grateful.

February 1980

Save Like a Beaver


My friend, Linda, asked me to go on a cruise with her this summer. I’ve always wanted to go as a passenger instead of as staff; I’m working full time and have enough to make it happen.  She picked out a trip in August, which works out great right after my 18th birthday.

When I said I’d go, I really didn’t even consider what Lou’s reaction would be.  Not good.  I don’t know why, but I assumed he’d be happy for me since I was so excited. He didn’t say a whole lot about it for a long time, and just got really quiet and  sulky.  When I asked what was the matter, he said nothing was wrong. But I could see in his face he was pissed about something.  I pressed for the issue and soon found out.

He was upset that I would even consider going on such a trip without him.  How could I say that I cared about him and still go away on vacation with a friend?  I said that I didn’t think that he could afford to go on a trip like that. Well, that was just the problem.  Since he didn’t have the money to do it, then he felt  shouldn’t be spending my money that way either. He pointed out that he can barely afford to stay in school, never mind paying for gas and car repairs.  I reminded him that I pay for gas just about every time, but he says that’s not the point. In his opinion, if I have extra money, then I should be saving it for us, not going on a trip by myself.  He totally freaked out in his dorm room, and started yanking everything out of the closet, ranting about how he doesn’t even have decent clothes that fit him.  He pulled on a shirt to show how the sleeves are too short, so he always has to wear them rolled up, and then he tore it off with buttons flying, ripped it up, and threw it in the trash can.  I guess he has a point, but I committed to the trip and put down a deposit, and I intend to go.

We compromised when I agreed to start a joint savings account at the bank downtown next to Proctor’s Theater. They gave us a stuffed toy beaver named “Bucky” for opening the account. I had no idea that beavers are known for their savings skills. We both put some money in the account, and Bucky sits on his bed to remind us of our savings plans. I’m going to put in some funds from my paycheck every week, and he will do what he can when he has extra cash. I don’t know how I’m going to add to the savings and make the remaining payments on the cruise, but I’ll figure it out. He seems happy about the savings plan.  They gave us cards to withdraw or deposit money at the bank or at the customer service counter at Price Chopper. We set an identification number that we enter on a keypad to prove it is our account. Our ID is 7684 to match S-N-U-G on the pad. I won’t forget that password, because we usually call each other pet names like snug, or snugs, or snugger, or snerg, or curd, or curdles, bird, birdles, nerd, nerdles, and an occasional turd. It all started one night when I was lying in his bed while he was studying at his desk.  He always studies at his desk, and I prefer to lie on the bed or lounge in an armchair. One evening, I was reading in bed and wanted some company; I tried to coax him into coming up asking him to snuggle and cuddle with me.  We started joking around and playing with the words. He called me a snuggler, and a cuddler. From there we just started rhyming a bunch of made up words.  It ended up sticking.  So now, instead of Joey and Louie, we usually just use one of those silly names for each other.

January 1980

Detective Johnson!


Lou called on Christmas and asked me to go out with him for New Year’s Eve. It was his 22nd birthday on Christmas Day, and again, he was alone. I really felt bad for him being by himself for both the holiday and his birthday.  I hesitated about going out, but he agreed that we’d go just as friends. We went to dinner and then back to a friend’s apartment where he was staying over break. He explained that he was insecure about our relationship before, but doesn’t feel that way now, and would like to try dating. It’s been fine so far; as long as he doesn’t pull any crap again, we should be ok.

He was not thrilled that I’m working with Vinny now, but does like the fact that the hotel is within walking distance to the college.  So, after work I can head up to his dorm to do homework together. I get as many hours as I want at the hotel and can study while I’m there, so I quit the restaurant job. Lou met Vinny when he picked me up at work; he doesn’t see him as a threat of any sort, so there’s really no issue to worry about.

I went to “work” with Lou for the first time to repossess a car. We drove to a house in some remote place down a long dirt road and had a stake out.  Finally, the car showed up; when the coast seemed clear, Lou walked over to get into the vehicle, but got caught opening the door by the very pissed off owner who assumed his car was being stolen. Lou immediately flashed an official-looking badge he carries with him, and barked out, “Detective Johnson, REPOSSESSED!” and continued getting in the car. He had the keys to this one, so it was easy to get it started and pull out.  I was waiting in the Grand Prix just across the road, and followed.  I had never driven by myself before, it was snowing, it was dark, on a bumpy dirt road, and I have no driver’s license, so I had a bit of adrenaline rush when I stepped on the gas.  There were some sizable dips, and I got a lot of air flying down that dirt road. It was one of those blustery snows where it is hard to see past the headlights, so I was sitting on the edge of my seat the long drive back to campus. It was really exciting.  I think I like being the getaway car driver.

I had to be very careful driving; a ticket would be expensive, given that I have no license, and Lou’s car registration, inspection, and insurance have all expired. Lou paid for the car, but he bought it and insured it under his father’s name, because he could get better insurance rates through the FAA. However, that means only his father can register and inspect and insure the car, and he’s not talking to his dad.  Even if he could do those things, I don’t know if he could afford it. I usually pay for gas because he does drive me home and pick me up frequently.  It’s the least I can do. His only income is from the repossessions; he works in the fraternity house kitchen to offset meal costs.

I’m doing ok financially since I work a lot of hours, and community college is pretty cheap with financial aid. My parents won’t charge me to live at home as long as I’m in school. I help with housework and cooking; I don’t eat many meals there, so I’m not costing them too much. Besides, I’m only seventeen, so I don’t feel too guilty about living under their roof for free.

December 1979


Kathy showed up at my house a couple weeks ago to talk about Lou. Over Thanksgiving weekend, she and her boyfriend were arguing while driving through Schenectady. She was mad, got out of the car near Union College, and decided to escape into Lou’s fraternity house.  She says her boyfriend started to go after her, but he was in a leg cast and couldn’t keep up.

The fraternity house was virtually empty because most people went home to family for the holiday; Lou had nowhere to go, and stayed in the dorm alone. She and Lou had a drink and chatted for a while. She was horrified and took off after he unexpectedly moved in for a kiss. He called her at work to find out what she planned to say about what happened, and said that she had better not tell me at all.  Obviously, that’s all it took for her to come talk to me about what a jerk he was to her.  She never did like him anyway. He kept calling, even though she told him to quit bothering her.

I phoned Lou to ask him to just stop calling her, because she had already talked to me. He wanted to speak to me in person, and I agreed to meet him at the Rathskeller Pub.  I ordered a beer, lit a Virginia Slims cigarette, and said, “Oh, by the way, I smoke.”  He replied that he didn’t mind, since his parents both smoke. I had no intention of getting back together with him, so his opinion really didn’t matter. His story is that Kathy is lying, and that she had come on to him. He also said that when she came in, he went right outside to confront her boyfriend and there was nobody there, and no car leaving. He claims she just came over on her own, although he couldn’t explain why she would have done it. He said he only called her at work because he was pissed that she was blowing him off after leading him on.  I felt calm, but noticed that during the conversation, I had taken the labels off my beer bottle and torn the papers into tiny pieces that lay in a pile in front of me along with ripped napkin bits. Frankly, neither version of the story makes a whole lot of sense, but actually I could care less either way, since we had broken up. At this point, I just don’t want my ex-boyfriend harassing my best friend.

Speaking of ex-boyfriends, Vinny called to offer me a job as a lifeguard at the Ramada Inn, where he manages the front desk and pool. I should be able to fit it in with school and my schedule at the restaurant. He’s says he felt bad about what happened with us, and wanted to do something for me.  I have no hard feelings, and I’m grateful for the chance to earn more money. He’s a sweet guy, and I’m happy that we can still be friends now.

I’m trying to be friends with Lou as well, but it doesn’t seem to be enough for him. He called, and we made plans to hang out and talk at my house one evening when my parents were not home. He phoned again, wanting to know what it all meant, and I explained that it was just as friends; he sounded disappointed, but said, “ok.” I made some snacks, and waited and waited and waited, then finally called to see when he was leaving campus. He said he wasn’t coming at all; he changed his mind because I wasn’t willing to commit to getting back together again. I asked if he was planning to call to cancel; he simply replied, “no.” Nice. I’m just not ready to commit to anything with him. I’m not saying never; just not yet. Maybe with some more time. Maybe not at all.

November 1979




I am so freaking upset I can’t think straight. I walked home all the way from Union; with every step I took, I was cursing and screaming louder and louder in my head.

Lou and I were having sex, and it started like any other time we’ve been together the past few weeks. But this time, it was like I wasn’t even there.  I don’t know how to describe it, but he wasn’t talking to me, or kissing me, or being gentle. He finished then just kind of rolled away separate from me.  No hugging, no cuddling.  He didn’t even bother to ask if I was done. It was all pretty much abrupt and cold. I turned over on my side away from him and didn’t say a word.  I felt childish, because the tears just welled up in my eyes.  I didn’t know if I’d done something wrong.  We hadn’t been fighting, and I didn’t understand why I was feeling as I was. He heard me sniff, and caught me wiping a tear away, and asked what my problem was.

I told him that for some reason it felt really different to me; he seemed distant and I was feeling really alone even though he was right there.  I asked if he was mad at me. He kind of smirked, and said, “So you can tell the difference.” I asked what he meant, and he said that it was a test to see if I’d even notice. He wanted to see what my reaction would be to cold sex to see if I was just f*ng him or if I really cared about him. I was floored. A test. What nerve to screw with me like that.  He obviously thinks he won something; he was happy that he proved I really do care. He proved what a total ass he is to me.

I couldn’t get dressed and out of there fast enough. He kept following me around as I got my stuff and left. He was trying to tell me what a good thing it was, because now he knew that I cared. I told him I didn’t want to see him again, and to get away from me.  When I got outside to the stairs down to the parking lot, he grabbed my arms to stop me from leaving; I think I could have killed him with my look alone.  I shook him off and screamed, “Get your hands off me!”  He got all indignant like I had insulted him, and put his hands up in the air and said he didn’t touch me. It’s not like he hurt me, but to physically hold me back when I was trying to leave is just as bad. He did let go, and I took off. He didn’t follow me; I think he was mad because I yelled when he grabbed my arms.

A test. I told him not to get serious with me. If he felt I wasn’t committed enough, then he should have just talked about it or stopped seeing me. A test. Who does he think he is? I wasn’t dating anyone else, and I saw him all the time. He really thought it was ok to test my feelings?  That way? Funny thing is that I think I was finally starting to fall in love with him. Not anymore. I’ve been saved that pain. Messed up as Gino was, I don’t think even he would have done something like this.   You don’t tamper with someone’s emotions like that with sex.  All done. I am better off alone.


October 1979



Lou and I went for a walk on campus and through Jackson Gardens.  Everything was nice and peaceful. He stopped and kissed me just outside the gate to the gardens.  The kiss was so gentle and soft, although having our first kiss after just hanging out for so many weeks was a little awkward. We ended up making out in his dorm room later. I was grateful that he didn’t try to have sex or anything.

A few days later, he gave me something he wrote during class to let me know he was thinking about me.  It’s a whole sheet of narrow ruled lined notebook paper front and back that he wrote my name on over and over and over and over again.  He has really tiny handwriting, and the letters are always in capitals; I don’t know how many JOEYs are on that paper.  It’s just line after line of little JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY and a few ….s  in the middle of more JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY JOEY. He was really pleased with it and proud, and was looking for my reaction. I’m glad he was thinking about me, but it kind of freaked me out, too; hopefully he was just bored. I had no idea what to say, so I just kind of mumbled something like, “oh wow,” like I might say to a child who drew a crayon picture of me that accentuated an unflattering feature, like my big ears. He took the paper back and said he wants to keep it. He put it in a little lock box he has along with the letter I wrote him and a little piece of paper with my name and address. I don’t know what else is in that box. I still have the rose he gave me when we went out in the spring. I didn’t preserve it right, so it is all dried up, but it’s holding together for the most part.

After the kiss and that note, he stepped up the pressure to be together, and I didn’t have a good enough argument for why not, so I stopped resisting. I guess we are boyfriend and girlfriend now.

September 1979

Ruth and Clark Fonda 1959 Wedding Day

Clark and Ruth Fonda on their wedding day in 1959 when she was still a smoker

Lou is back at Union. He explained that he had called me over the summer about finding a place to live because his parents kicked him out of their house. He took them to family court, and the judge ordered that they let him live there for the rest of the summer until he went back to college. He said it was really nasty, and that they turned off the water to his second floor apartment to make him miserable; no water meant he couldn’t flush the toilet. I feel bad for him. I feel lucky for myself to have a good supportive, loving family.  Mad as my parents were at me, they would never desert me like that.

I really do try to be good and not disappoint them; I’m not disrespectful, I stay out of trouble, and whatever I do that they won’t approve of, I keep hidden so they don’t have to deal with it.  I know enough not to get caught smoking.  My mom used to smoke, and my dad still talks about how much he hated it.  After they got married, my mom went to kiss him, and he pulled away.  She asked what was wrong, and he said it was like kissing an ashtray. My opinion is that it was completely unfair for him to have not complained about it until after they were married. She stopped smoking; cold turkey.  She gained a lot of weight, but her breath smells fresh. I don’t smoke that often, and only when I have a drink. I brush my teeth and wash my hands a lot, and always have gum.  So far they haven’t noticed.

Kathy is always with her boyfriend and working, so I don’t get to see her much. My dad is not thrilled that I’ve been hanging out with Lou sometimes when I’m not at the restaurant or in class.  My mom seems to like the idea of me dating a Union guy; to her, anyone is better than Gino. I just want to be friends, but Lou wants to get serious.  I wrote him a long letter explaining how totally screwed up I am, and that I just can’t be in a relationship.  He seems to understand, and says he is willing to give me some time and space and not rush things.  At the same time, it’s kind of like having a puppy dog following me around waiting for me to play with it, or pet it, or something. Anything. The only difference is that sometimes this puppy dog named Lou gets impatient and growls when it doesn’t get the attention it wants.  I don’t blame him.  I just think he is wasting his time with a messed up person like me. He can do so much better. I told him he should find someone else.

It’s good I’m busy; that is the only thing that makes me feel sane.

Click to Play Why Can’t We Br Friends? – by War [audiotube id=”XRGd0gD0QNE”]

August 1979

Miss Schenectady County Teen Ager Pageant Bathing Suit Competition Jo Fonda

Miss Schenectady County Teen Ager Pageant
Bathing Suit Competition Jo Fonda


For reasons I don’t understand, my mom always encourages me to enter pageants; I go along with it for her sake more than my own. This time, I made her proud when I won the title of Miss Schenectady County Teenager. Frankly, I wish I had not won; my sash should actually be a “FRAUD” banner. I’m sure there are much better representatives than me. The newspaper ran an article about the pageant with my photo. My boss saw the story and was not happy; they had no idea that I was under-age. I didn’t lie; they never asked.  They assumed I was already 18 back when I had been a cocktail waitress in St. Thomas last year, but I just recently turned 17 at the end of July. They are letting me keep my job, but I can’t serve alcohol anymore; less work for me.

Gino is out of my life for good. I can’t count on him for a simple phone call, never mind anything important in life.  I’m trying to start over, and have gone out on a few normal dates. I met Bill, a train engineer, when I took Amtrak to visit my sister in New York City.  Bill took me out on his boat and tried to teach me how to waterski.  Every time I tried to get up, I fell flat on my face. I don’t think it’s my thing. Kathy also fixed me up with Steve, a really nice guy from her class. Neither one of them has tried to make any radical moves. They are both great guys, who act like gentlemen, which is really refreshing and appreciated.

Miss Schenectady County Teen Ager Pageant Jo Fonda gown

Miss Schenectady County Teen Ager Pageant
Evening Gown Competition Jo Fonda

Lou called last month, said he was having problems at home, and that he wanted to come back to Schenectady. He asked me to look for a place he could rent for the rest of the summer until school started.  I checked out some places in person, and found a couple good options for him. I left messages with his family, but he never called back.  His father was really friendly on the phone. His sister was fairly cool, and I wonder if she actually got a pen to write down the message. I haven’t spoken to his mother yet. I don’t know why he hasn’t called me back.  He’s the one who asked for my help. I finally just sent him a letter with the information.

I heard from Paul, and am excited that I’ll be able to visit him when his ship has a layover in New York City next month. We write to each other quite a bit, but nothing compares to seeing his face.  He is a true close friend, and I have never stopped thinking about him, even when I should have only had Gino on my mind. Paul is the only guy I’ve ever been completely happy with. We have never had even the smallest disagreement, or even hurt feelings. Maybe there just wasn’t enough time together for it to go wrong. I still sometimes buy the more expensive, but very smooth, Dunhill cigarettes, which I learned to appreciate when I was with Paul on the Odessa. Gino’s Marlboro’s always left a bad taste in my mouth when I bummed one from him.


June 1979

The Vn Dyke Restaurant, Schenectady, NY from www.timesunion.com

The Van Dyke Restaurant (photo from www.timesunion.com)


Gino came back by himself to visit me, just as he promised.  It was a perfect day; this time, we got to be alone together. He wanted to do it in the car, in the front seat driver’s side. It was quick, but not easy; my back is bruised from the steering wheel. We didn’t argue about anything. We just talked; he told me about his plans, and we listened to his music. He gave me a copy of his band’s tape; I’ve played it over and over again. He drove right back home again the same day.

Lou called to ask me to return a book I had borrowed. I had hoped he wouldn’t even be there when I stopped by, but he was pretty nice to me, considering how we left things the last time. We agreed to part as friends, and he gave me his Long Island home address and phone number to keep in touch over the summer.

I’ve already started taking classes at SCCC, and found out that I didn’t even have to take the GED to go to college.  After taking a certain number of classes, they would have automatically given me a high school equivalency diploma. Go figure. Regardless, I’m glad I got the GED and that I did so well on the test.  It proves to my father that it was perfectly OK to take me out of high school.

I also got a job working as a hostess at The Van Dyke, one of the nicest restaurants around, located in the Stockade section of Schenectady. My parents used to eat there occasionally with a couple they met through the magic group.  The husband, who happens to love magic as a hobby, started a grocery business that grew into really big supermarket chain, and now the family is beyond wealthy.  Even though they are in a completely different economic realm, they really enjoyed hanging out with my folks, and invited them out often. It was always a big treat for my parents to go with them to the track in Saratoga, or to The Van Dyke, which caters to the rich and old locals. I audit checks and do general office work before opening, and then take reservations and seat people all day.  When it is busy, as it normally is for Sunday brunch, I also get drinks from the bar, and help bus and set tables. It doesn’t pay much, and I don’t get tips, but it is good experience, and it is a nice place to work. Some of the old-timer employees and customers can be grumpy, but I love it there, and my hours fit perfectly with my school schedule.   Everything is falling into place.

May 1979 – Part Five

Schenectady YMCA
Postcard photo from http://oldschenectadypostcards.wordpress.com


I really thought it was going to be a perfect day. Gino called my house and I got to the phone first. He and his roommate had driven down together; I got Kathy to come with me, and we met them at the park. We listened to a tape from the band he’s playing with now; we talked, we kissed, and it really felt good to be with him again.  I didn’t want to leave, but I had to make an appearance at home, so we agreed to meet back up again later.

Kathy and I showed on time, but they weren’t there. I thought maybe they got lost, so we walked and walked and walked and walked, looking all over the place in both Scotia and in Schenectady. It got dark and we still didn’t find them anywhere. If Kathy hadn’t been with me, I don’t know what I would have done. My eyes were red and swollen from crying so long and so hard.

Finally, we gave up looking, and stopped at the Schenectady side of the bridge to rest before making the trek home. It was late, we were exhausted from the miles we had walked, and I didn’t want my mother to see me upset, so I used a pay phone at the YMCA and called the only friend I knew with a car to ask for a short ride home. Lou came right away, and we squeezed into a Corvette he had just repossessed.

The next day, I called Gino’s apartment in Canada and was shocked when he answered the phone. He said that his roommate had wanted to go back home, so they did. When I explained that I looked for him for hours, he apologized, and said he would borrow a car and come back by himself in a few days.  We’ll see if he actually follows through.

Lou called my house a little later, asking to talk to me in person. He was at my house pretty quickly to pick me up in the Corvette. He made it clear that he was totally pissed about everything I did: not going to the picnic with him, seeing Gino, and then asking him for a ride. I could see his point; it was obnoxious and insensitive for me to go out with someone else, and then call him for transportation after I got stood up, and I apologized for that. But feeling sorry quickly turned to feeling scared, because while we talked, he drove like a maniac down a wide-open stretch of Route 5.  There was no traffic to slow him, and between the speed and his attitude, it felt like neither he, nor the car, was in control. I had my hands braced against the dashboard and I screamed at him to stop the car and let me out, even though we were near a spot along the river that freaks me out, where a girlfriend of mine had been abducted, raped and murdered when we were in grade school.  He did not stop, but luckily, he took me home safe. He peeled away from the house after I got out without a word, and shut the car door. We are not going to see each other anymore. Gino will be glad to know he doesn’t have to worry about my “date” from now on. It was a bad idea all around.

Anyway, I can’t wait to see Gino without anyone else to worry about. I still can’t believe he was so stupid to just take off and leave me to look around for him like an idiot. I probably am an idiot to expect him to come back now.

May 1979 – Part Four

blue angels photo http://www.blueangels.navy.mil/team/

Blue Angels air show photo
from http://www.blueangels.navy.mil/team/


Lou asked me to go with him to the Blue Angels Air Show at the Schenectady County Airport. Sounded like fun; no pressure for anything more than a casual outing.  Or so I thought …. until he handed me a single red rose after I got into his car. I simply said “thank you,” and put it aside until much later when I got out of the car after he took me back home. It was awkward. I was awkward. I appreciate the simple gesture, but it seems out of line with our “just friends” agreement, and I don’t know how I feel about that, so I didn’t really deal with it, and tried to forget about the subject entirely while we were together.

The beginning of the air show was awesome. Then, the demonstration was abruptly brought to a halt by a torrential rain pelting the audience and grounding the planes.  The crowd of spectators herded into an open hangar for shelter from the storm.  People coming in the wide open front kept squeezing in, pushing the first-comers against the back wall, and pressing body against body throughout the space, like an oversized elevator packed far beyond its maximum capacity. I was not afraid of being trampled or groped, but Lou instinctively put his arm around me, and held me close to protect me from getting pushed around. Like the rose, it was a nice, but unnecessary gesture that unsettled me.

I called Gino a few days ago, and he still doesn’t believe me when I tell him it’s just dating, not a relationship; he wanted to know if I f*ed my “date.”  I simply said that I had not, and asked why he has to be that way.  He is driving down to see me soon.  Lou wanted me to go to some fraternity picnic with him, and was obviously disappointed by my reply that I could not go because Gino would be visiting on that day. From the start, I told him that I have a boyfriend, so I don’t know why he is surprised. He said it is OK, but I can tell he expected me to go; his whole demeanor changed when I said I already had plans with Gino. It was no longer fun, and I was anxious to go home. Maybe I’m kidding myself thinking that you can just go out with someone as friends.

I wrote a new poem for my collection:

Today you gave me this rose.
So perfect, so beautiful
It reminds me of you.
Nobody ever gives me flowers.
I want to treasure it forever
And I want to rip it up and throw it away.
Dont ever tell me you love me
I’ll never answer you truly.


May 1979 – Part Three

Lou picked me up in his Pontiac Grand Prix

Lou picked me up in his Pontiac Grand Prix

The next day, Lou called my house. He got my number by checking the yellow pages and easily found the listing for the only magicians in Scotia; I had mentioned the town when I said we had to get the last bus back. He said that he really enjoyed talking to me, seeing my magic trick, that my life seemed really interesting, and that he wanted to have dinner with me again. I had told him that I had a boyfriend currently living in Canada, so if I went, it would just be as friends. Again, I asked my mother, and she said that was fine.

He arrived at my door dressed in a form fitting silky patterned shirt and tight Sasson jeans, and spoke with a heavy New York City accent, reminding me of a stereotypical Long Island Italian character from Saturday Night Fever going out for the night. However, he doesn’t strike me as the dancing type. He towers over me, at probably six feet tall, with a runner’s thin, fit build; he has thick, wavy jet-black hair and eyes that appear to be just as dark. He was polite and took time to introduce himself to my parents, speaking with a wide, big toothy smile, giving them a brief bio, and shaking my dad’s hand. He walked me to the curb and opened the passenger door for me to get in his brown Pontiac Grand Prix.  The car obviously has a few years on it, but it’s in pretty good shape for its age.

We went to Mother Ferro’s, a popular, but simple little Italian restaurant in Schenectady. I’d only been there once, but my parents like to tell me about the time they ate dinner there with a friend who didn’t get out much. When ordering appetizers, my parents asked if he’d like to get a shrimp cocktail, and the guy seriously replied, “No thanks, I don’t drink.”  That line cracks up my dad every time he thinks about it, so he channels that memory right before walking on stage so he genuinely looks and feels upbeat and happy when he greets the audience.

Anyway, the food was good, and I enjoyed picking up from where we left off our previous conversation, hearing more about him this time.  Lou’s 21 and my impression is that he is a really dedicated Chemistry major, and very hard working. He just got back to school after having to take a semester off to make enough money to pay this year’s tuition.  He learned how to repossess cars in New York City, and now repos cars here too. It sounds really exciting, but dangerous. I guess it pays well though, making it worth the risk for him. Apparently, his parents are no longer helping him with school tuition, so he’s on his own. Student loans don’t cover all the costs at Union, and he isn’t eligible for much financial aid because his father earns too much as an Air Traffic Controller, even though he isn’t supporting his education. Lou said that his father lost interest and stopped writing checks when Lou injured his knee and had to quit the football team. Nobody else in the family has ever been to college, and his mother would have rather seen him go into the military.

He asked, so I told him a lot about Gino and explained that I really loved him, and I would not date or get into a relationship with anyone else. He said he understood, and that he has a girlfriend too on Long Island. So it is fine for both of us to be friends, but it is definitely not going to be anything more. He drove me home after dinner, I said thanks, goodnight, and just got out of the car. There is absolutely nothing for me to hide or lie about.

In fact, I had called Gino from a pay phone earlier in the day and told him that I was going out to dinner with someone.  I was clear that I wasn’t dating and that the guy knew I was in love with my boyfriend. Gino was disbelieving, and his tone was sarcastic through the whole conversation and said that I should have a good time on my “date.”

Gino and I have been writing to each other frequently since I got off the ship.  He sends my mail to Kathy’s address so my parents don’t see it.  He’s back home too now; my purse weighs a ton from carrying around all the change I need to call him in Canada.  He’s going to drive down to visit sometime soon, and I’m fine just writing and talking on the phone in the meantime. He’s still trying to get me to run away from home, but I definitely cannot do that. Maybe after I graduate with my Associates degree, I can transfer to another college for my BS and be with Gino.  If he can’t wait those two years it isn’t going to work in the long run anyway.

Click to play Scenes from an Italian Restaurant – by Billy Joel [audiotube id=”JUz48xw_OiM”]

May 1979 – Part Two

Roaring 20's Flapper on the M/S Kungsholm

Roaring 20’s Night on the M/S Kungsholm in 1976 when I was 14.
I learned early in life how to put on a show.


I felt confident that I could pull off this one trick that I had been the assistant for my dad on countless times. I easily convinced Kathy to be my assistant, grabbed a few napkins from the table, and went into the TV living room area to show her what we were going to do.  We have been close friends for years, yet she’s never seen any of the magic, so this was new for her.  All she ever saw was the hand drawn sign my parents frequently hung over the doorbell of our house that read in big block letters, “DO NOT DISTURB, REHERSAL IN PROGRESS.” All too often, my friends came by when the sign wasn’t yet out, to ask if I could come out to play; from inside, I heard my parents answer for me, “No, Joey has to practice.” Kathy certainly saw all the costumes, magic props, doves and bizarre stuff all over the house, but never saw any tricks performed.

Everyone was still eating in the dining room, except one guy who was sprawled out on the couch half-asleep. I introduced myself and asked if I could practice a magic trick on him. Nico, my guinea pig, seemed unusually worn out considering the time of day, but he was friendly, and happy to oblige. I pulled Kathy aside privately to explain what to do, and we practiced on Nico before returning to the dining area.

Lou stood and quickly got everyone’s attention and introduced me as a girl named Jo who was a magician.  I said I needed a volunteer, and it was no surprise that Lou eagerly raised his hand first. I had him sit in a chair in front of me, and said I was going to hypnotize him.  First, I held a napkin high in front of him, and confirmed that he, and everyone else could see it.  However, I explained, once I had him under my spell, everyone else in the audience would be able to see the napkin, but it would be invisible to him. For my special type of hypnosis, he had to look deeply into my eyes. I held his gaze for awhile, and then dramatically buckled my knees as if I was going to faint, catching myself from falling by reaching out hold myself up by his shoulders, and gasped, “that’s long enough,” as if the eye contact with him had an effect on me.  Next, I showed him the napkin again, crumpled it into a ball into my fist, tapped three times, and then opened my upturned hand and pulled out and held up the ball of napkin that was invisible to him, but the entire group confirmed with a laugh that they could clearly see, then I tossed the invisible napkin to someone near the front. I repeated this same effect a couple times, and then said I could give him the power to make the next napkin disappear.  I had him hold his short sleeved right arm straight out, and again established eye contact while I ran my hand down the length of his arm, not touching, but close enough that I knew it would create a sensation both of heat and chills, and asked, “Can you feel it?  Can you feel the power?” He enthusiastically agreed that he could feel it.  After I balled up the next napkin, and closed it in my fist, I had him use his now empowered magic limb to tap the back of my hand and once again, it became invisible to him.  Of course you can’t leave someone in a hypnotized state, so I said that at the count of three, everyone who held the napkins should throw them back to me and the spell would be broken so all the invisible napkins would suddenly reappear as they landed.  I held my open hands cupped out right in front of his face, asked the entire audience to count to three with me, and the pile of napkin balls magically were once again visible to him.  Lou looked mystified, and kept looking to his fraternity brothers for answers, but they only laughed.    Kathy and I had fun talking about it on the bus ride home.


May 1979

Nott Memorial, Union College Schenectady New York

Nott Memorial, the central focal point at Union College in Schenectady, NY


I took the GED exam and scored quite well. I start classes at SCCC soon. Financial aid should cover most costs; my parents say they will help out if they can as long as I continue to live at home. I’ll be taking the bus and riding my bike though, because they do not want me to get my driver’s license, since that would raise their car insurance, which I will need to pay for even if I don’t get a car. If I live at home and don’t go to school, then I will need to start paying them rent.  Given the parameters, the choice is pretty easy: live at home, go to college, and do not drive.

I tagged along on the bus with Kathy to an appointment in Schenectady. Afterward, we wandered around while talking and ended up at Union College.  Neither one of us had ever been in a fraternity house, and decided to check out first one we saw. The place was a wreck; our shoes made squeaky ripping noises with each step as they stuck to the tiled area of the floor near a bar in the dining area. The room reeked of a sour odor that must have been old beer soaked into the thin carpet of what appeared to be a large family room with couches, a TV, pool table, and beer pong set up.  I assumed there had just been a party, but that’s probably how it looks just about any day of the week. We headed right up the stairs acting as if we belonged, but must have really looked out of place, because this guy standing at the bottom of the stairs stopped us before we had gotten even half way to the first landing, calling out with a really big smile, “Can I help you ladies?” I simply answered, “We’re just looking around.”  Why lie? He raised his eyebrows and pouted his mouth to a slight frown, but said, “ok,” so we continued up the flight, checking out the framed annual house photos that lined the walls, and wandered around the halls on the different floors, and peeked into open dorm rooms to see what it was all like. On our way back down the stairs, the same guy stopped us once again, introduced himself as Lou, and asked if we wanted to stay for dinner.  Kathy and I looked at each other, and shrugged our shoulders. I said, “Sure, but I’ll have to call home first to ask my mother.”  He walked me back upstairs to use a phone in this little room in the hall on the second floor. My mom said, “that’s fine,” without asking questions; I don’t think she realized that we just met these people.

We hung out and talked before dinner was ready.  The dining area had long tables lined up in a U shape; lots of guys came in, but nobody sat down.  There were probably 50 guys all standing at the table behind their chairs, watching us talking to Lou near the center of the shorter bank of tables of the middle part of the U.  Finally, Lou told us that nobody would sit until Kathy and I sat down first. We both quickly dropped into the closest seats, and Lou sat next to me.  Over the dinner conversation, he asked why I had such a dark tan, which was a legitimate question, since it was Spring in upstate New York, and I looked like I had spent all summer at the beach. I explained that I was just back from traveling for months with my parents’ magic act on cruise ships.  He asked a barrage of questions about what we did, where we went, and what that life was like, and then if I would do some magic.   My dad is great with close up magic and can do all kinds of tricks using everyday objects – especially things that are on a normal dining room table.  I don’t have a clue how to do any of that.  I am the girl in a skimpy outfit who does the snake dance routine, gets cut in half, impaled by swords, appears and disappears, brings props on and off stage, and takes a bow.  But I can’t make a simple salt shaker disappear, levitate a fork, or pull a coin from behind someone’s ear.  But I do have one trick I can do just about anywhere, and I said I’d do it for the whole fraternity right there in the dining room.

April 1979


Photo from Jumpin Jack's drive in website

First sight coming home to Scotia is always Jumpin’ Jacks at the end of the bridge


It is good to be back home. As always, the first sight to welcome me back home is the sign for Jumpin’ Jack’s Drive In Charcoal Pit and Twin Freez across from Collins Park, right under the end of the Western Gateway Bridge connecting Schenectady to Scotia across the Mohawk River.  I saw my best friend Kathy my first night back and we talked for hours. I miss her so much when I am gone, but when we get back together we are immediately connected as if we had never been apart.  While I was away I sent a little book I made for her with pictures I drew and poems I wrote and the lyrics to songs that are meaningful to us. I know it sounds dorky, but it was very personal and nice; I think she liked it.  I would love to receive a gift like that from a friend.

I called Vinny to let him know I was home.  He told me that he was in a serious relationship. I said that I understood – it had been a long time, and I figured he was seeing someone when I didn’t get any letters back from him. Kathy had actually told me about his girlfriend earlier, I just wanted to hear it directly from him.  He did not ask, and I didn’t tell whether or not I had been seeing anyone.

My father is still pretty mad in general.  He wants me to do my correspondence school work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.  People who go to school full time don’t do that much school work. I did some checking into other options on my own and found out that I don’t have to finish the course work. I can take the GED exam now, get my high school diploma, and start going to the community college this summer.  He agreed to that plan.  If I was still in high school, I would just be finishing up my Junior year right now.  So, I’ll be ahead of, not behind, schedule for my education.  I bought a GED study workbook that has sample tests and review materials. I’m used to looking at information on my own and taking tests. I can read; I don’t need anyone to explain it to me.

The community college is just across the bridge in Schenectady. I can ride my bike, take the bus, or even walk to get there.  They have a good hotel & restaurant management program. In fact, the college building used to be a hotel, so they have a huge kitchen and banquet facilities. I can do all the basic classes and get my two-year Associate’s degree there, and then transfer to a better culinary school, like the Culinary Institute of America or Cornell or other good college for my Bachelor’s. I want to be a chef, and one day own a restaurant, or even better, own a hotel.  Over all the years working on the cruise ships, I have learned a lot about customer service and cuisine and hotel management in general.  Some ships are like a fine hotel, with all the very best of everything at your service; others, like the Russian ships, are like the little bare bones budget motels.  Obviously, I prefer the finer establishments.  My mom thinks I have been spoiled by the good life on the nice ships.  She is sure that I am destined to marry a rich guy and have it all.  I don’t mind working, and am not looking for anything to be handed to me.  I worked pretty hard and a lot of hours relative to most of the other people on the cruise staff, and only got about $25 a week. I even managed to save a little bit of it to go toward college. My parents certainly can’t afford to pay for it.

March 1979-III

The Fondas Magic Temple.

Box Jumping has its hazards. Jo actually had some scars from a few mishaps with the swords.


My parents let me move back into my cabin. I cleaned up the mess left in the room after the tirade. I had thrown the torn photos away, but then pulled the pieces out of the trash and taped them back together. It is hard for me to stare at those fist-sized holes in my wall and door and then look Gino in the face with the same loving eyes. I don’t know what will repair that damage.

For better or worse, I found out that we are leaving the ship after this trip; two months early. I’m told the cruise line is replacing the three of us with a single magician to save money. I wonder if that’s the truth or if my parents asked to be let out of our contract so they could separate me from Gino.  Or, maybe the cruise line didn’t want to put up with any more trouble from the two of us.  In any case, it is over, and I’m packing to go home.

Gino apologized, yet again, this time for the scene in my cabin. He gave me a really beautiful Italian gold chain that he always wears. He wants me to run away with him to his home in Canada and get married, and then come back when I’m 18 so he could work in the States. He is convinced my parents are responsible for me having to leave the ship, and insists that we only have each other to count on.  I don’t see it that way, but it isn’t worth arguing the point with him. I frankly don’t think my parents have done anything unreasonable given the circumstances. They are just looking out for me, and don’t want me to get hurt. I’ve taken a few hits from swords in the magic act, but I’ve yet to be really hurt by anything in life.

It’s not like I want to be seen as perfect, but I just don’t want to hurt them, or have to see that disappointed look in their eyes again.  Especially my father.  My mom does whatever she can to keep him from getting upset about anything. She’s really easy, but the cardinal rule in my life is basically, “don’t piss off Daddy.” Up until now, I’ve done quite a good job at that, too.  I probably held the record for worst attendance when I was in school; I stayed home as often as possible with the slightest of excuses, and my mom and I played cards and board games and hung out all day. In the half hour or so before she had to drive our lone family car across the bridge to the plant to pick him up from work, we both ran around the house to tidy up, get rid of any evidence that I had been home all day, and make their bed.  Always, the bed had to be made.  My mother has no interest in being a good homemaker, which is why she loves being out on the ships, even though she gets sea sick. My dad is tolerant about the messy house and the ever-growing piles of dirty dishes and laundry, but he has always insisted that their bed be made so that when he came home from work he could comfortably lie down and take a nap. He retired “early” after working 35 years as a toolmaker at General Electric.  As soon as he retired, we started going out for months at a time on the ships with the magic. He’s doing the best he can to give us a good life and lots of travel and fun with virtually no money.

I really don’t think either one of them would have voluntarily gotten off this ship early. I can’t do anything to hurt them. I can’t believe Gino doesn’t understand that, and that he feels betrayed by me, and gets in my face singing the line from Santana’s Black Magic Woman“Don’t turn your back on me baby…” like I’m being cold because I won’t defy them.

Click to Play Black Magic Woman – by Santana [audiotube id=”10gH-bC3iXo”]

March 1979-II

Ruth Fonda with the type of nice old gentleman cruise passenger who would think I look like Cheryl Tiegs


Just when it seemed I had hit rock bottom, I stumbled through another crevice down to new depths with Gino. Being grounded by my parents isn’t really all that bad; I still can’t go out with Gino, so I’ve just been happily and peacefully reading in my cabin.  Stowed under my bed is a bottle of Tia Maria that I bought in Jamaica, and a coffee cup that was gifted to me by an older gentleman whom I had helped to make a costume for a party; he kept coming back to me for help on different things throughout that cruise, and never failed to mention that he thought I look like Cheryl Tiegs.  Remembering his misguided compliment puts a smile on my mug every time I bring a glass of milk back to my cabin after dinner and mix it with the Tia Maria in that big coffee mug. I was reading and enjoying my evening mug when Gino came to my cabin, knocking loudly on the door and staggering in right past my ineffective attempt to nonchalantly fill the doorway.

I told him he couldn’t stay, and that my parents would be mad if they found I had let him in. I could smell the booze heavy on his breath as he got close to my face insisting we had to talk.  His eyes then looked past me to a low table in the room, and focused in on a few pictures I had from the day we had driven around the back roads of Cozumel together.  His eyes squinted into slits and his lips pursed tightly as he flat out accused me of going through his stuff behind his back. I’m pretty sure he was right there with me when I had removed that small group of photos from the envelope after we had them developed. I took ones he didn’t care about that were just photos of some alligators and monkeys and of the crumpled up blanket had we used on the beach; not a single human in any picture. He snagged the prints up from the table and held them up to me, dramatically ripping them apart, and asked if I had been in his footlocker and gone through or taken any of his other stuff.  I had no clue where he kept the key and I was not even the least bit curious about what was in that locked trunk he obsessed over. I explained when and where I got the photos and that I never touched the trunk.  He knocked everything off the table, rummaging for evidence of other stolen items, finally overturning the entire table when nothing was found.

He continued hurling nonsense accusations at me, while I just sat on the bed saying he had to leave.  He typically talked with his hands, animating whatever story he was telling or point he was trying to make. As his rant went on, his arms flailed more wildly, echoing the volume of his voice, and his tightly balled fists accentuated his angry tone.  Without any threat or warning, he hauled back and punched a hole in my wall and then turned to throw another punch breaking through the wood, hollow-core door.  At that point, my mother burst through the bathroom door at the other end of the room, commanding him to get out.  He flat out refused, claiming we had the right to see each other and that she couldn’t keep us apart.  She picked up the phone receiver giving him one chance to leave before calling the purser.  He stormed out, slamming the pockmarked door behind him. My parents made me sleep in their cabin, with me on the top bunk and the two of them sardined together in the lower twin bed. Jill enjoyed having the other cabin all to herself.

March 1979

Ruth Fonda and Sid Kane doing Pork Chop Routine

Ruth Fonda and Actor Sid Kane doing comedy routine on Kazakstan on the big brass dance floor in the Music Salon

I am so pissed; my cabin-mate, Jill, screwed me over good. To be more specific, it was a Russian that she screwed, but I’m the one who bled after that particular cherry was popped. Everyone understands the rules: the Americans are not supposed to fraternize with the Soviets.  Those rules are applied more loosely to the top ship officers, but are really strict when it comes to the crew.  You have to be careful about with whom you seem to be too friendly.  One day, I went in the music salon, where we have dancing and stage shows, and found Svetlana, a crew member I like, polishing the huge brass dance floor by hand all by herself.  She actually had to use a toothbrush to scrub the crevices to make it perfect.  I felt so bad for her; I got my own toothbrush and stayed the day to help her; we enjoyed chatting in her broken English and my pathetic Russian.  She was afraid I’d get in trouble, but I didn’t think it was a big risk.  The next day, in gratitude, she gave me some Russian perfume. The oval shaped bottle, with its glass stopper top, is very nice, but the stench is an overpowering assault to the senses. I think the Soviets like strong perfume because it covers up B/O.  I imagine they shower regularly, however, I don’t think they use deodorant, and then they wear the same clothes over and over and over again before laundering.  Bottom line is that I won’t be using the perfume except as a vanity ornament.

Kazakhstan Music Salon from Ship Brochure

It’s fine to talk to and hang out in the clubs with the officers, but going to a cabin alone with one of them is definitely off-limits. The most I have ever fraternized with a Soviet officer was on the crew change trip to Cuba last year when we had a mixed staff and officer cabin party/wake in honor of the cruise director who had just died. I played Monopoly with one of the Russian officers, and after my game-winning move, he abruptly pushed back his chair, stood tall, and called me a damn capitalist, loud enough to make the others in the room quiet and turn to look.  Maybe that was for the benefit of those listening on the other side of the light fixtures, but I thought it was funny. Since Jill speaks fluent Russian, she regularly fraternizes much more than that. On the night she screwed me, I’d been hanging out with Gino, and when I went back to my cabin, I found Jill had doubled locked the door from the inside, so I could not get in, even with my key. From the hallway, through the door, I could hear Jill having sex in our room.  I left, irritated by the thought that she was probably in my lower bunk bed; I came back later, but it was still double-locked.  So I called from Gino and Nicky’s cabin next door; I could hear the phone ringing though the wall, but she would not answer, nor would she answer the door when I knocked again and again. I eventually gave up and went to sleep with Gino in his upper bed while Nicky slept on the bottom bunk.

The first thing in the morning at breakfast, I saw my parents, who wanted to know exactly where I had been all night.  I simply told them that I was locked out of my cabin, so I just slept in Nicky and Gino’s room. It was a truth I should not have told; they were pissed. I explained that Nicky was there too and that nothing had happened. They said I should have gone to their room to let them know what was going on, but I explained that it was late and did not want to wake them to go through the other side and interrupt an awkward situation.  Apparently, they were already awake and knew very well what was going on because they had heard her. My dad had gone through the adjoining bathroom and opened the door into our cabin and saw Jill and the Russian in my bed. They listened to that action all night, wondering where I was.

Later that morning, my mom cornered me alone and said that my father was so upset that he was going to have a heart attack, and that I needed to tell him I was still a virgin. I did talk to my father, apologized for making them worry, and swore nothing happened that night, which was the truth.  I did not claim I was a virgin, and he didn’t ask outright.  Then, he wanted to have a talk with both Gino and me about sex and responsibility.  He sat us down together and explained that he understands that sex is all good fun and pleasurable, but warned us about the risks of getting pregnant and about disease, and added that it was illegal because I was underage. I give Gino credit for just listening and being respectful to my dad.

For the first time in my life, I am grounded, which means that my parents need to know where I am at all times, and I cannot see Gino alone. I’ve managed to talk to him a few times out on deck, but that is about it.  I feel like everyone is mad at me…although my parents are probably more disappointed than angry.  They have given me a lot of freedom and now they are wondering if that was a mistake.  My mom tells me that it is going to be a long time before they will be able to trust me again. That hurts more than any punishment they could impose.

Gino is pissed because my parents are keeping us apart, and he is mad at me for not defying them. He feels I should stand up for him and go against their new rules.  When we got a chance to talk out on deck, he said that when it comes down to it, there really is just us two alone in this world, and that everyone else will let me down.  My family, my friends, everyone else I know will disappoint me and turn their backs, and that only he will be there for me in my life.  But because I won’t just ignore my parents, he now questions if I will be there for him.  He says my betrayal of him is like one of the Al Jarreau songs, You Dont See Me.  A while ago, I made him this little booklet based on songs on the Look to the Rainbow tapes. My book quoted the lyrics that meant something special, and I illustrated each page. He, on the other hand, selected the one negative song on the whole cassette to throw in my face to illustrate that I’m not supporting him.  He got so pissed off at me that he practically ripped off the white dinner jacket we bought together at that vintage store in New Orleans, balled it up, and hurled it overboard. I’m lucky I didn’t tumble in myself trying to stop him and catch it.  But I missed, and watched it fall and then disappear into the black ocean.

Click to play You Don’t See Me – by Al Jarreau     [audiotube id=”7gb9mcJxTjw”]

February 1979-II

Captain's Night on the MS Olympia  Jo's First Cruise - Age 9 February 1972

Captain’s Night on the MS Olympia
Jo’s First Cruise – Age 9 February 1972


I’ve been traveling on ships with my parents since I was nine, so there are few ports of call that I still find to be new and exciting after seven years of cruising.  Sometimes, I don’t even bother disembarking, and more enjoy being on a virtually empty ship for the day.  Cuba is an exception, and both my parents and I like exploring the country as much as possible.  In just about every port we visit, one of the first things on my dad’s to-do list is to locate other magicians to meet, learn about magic in that area, and talk shop with his own kind. He and my mom did find some magic friends in Havana, and they make plans with them to get together each time we dock there.  They invited us to their home, and we were amazed by what wasn’t there.  So on each trip, my parents smuggle in small loads of basic necessities and appliances for them from the States, in exchange for local Cuban crafts we can justify as souvenirs when going through customs.

It may be illegal, but nobody notices their stash of goods coming in because there is usually a flurry of activity around the Cuba port of call time. Among the staff, we joke about guessing which officers are actually KGB; I figure they are the ones who don’t seem to ever be doing any real work, or a new guy who got on in Cuba.  We just assume our cabins could easily be bugged; it is a running joke to talk to the light fixtures in the room if one of us says something questionable, to make sure they heard it all clearly. There is nothing we talk about that the KGB would care about anyway. We also play Guess the CIA Operative to pick them out among the passengers.  That game is fairly easy when you see guys traveling without family, and seemingly looking around more than lounging on vacation. I imagine every trip has both KGB and CIA snooping around like in that Mad Magazine Spy vs Spy comic.

Just about every trip, I escort an evening tour group going to the Tropicana Night Club in Cuba. This time, after all the stage shows ended, my job was to stand at an intersection  of paths on the long walkway between the club and the parking lot, and make sure everyone made the correct turn, since you could not see the busses from that spot.  When I didn’t notice any more people from our ship coming out of the club, I headed over to get on the bus myself. But all our busses were gone. It was around midnight; I had absolutely no money for a taxi, and no way to get in touch with anyone on the ship. So I went back in the club to see what I could figure out.  There was a small tour group of American guys who were still there hanging out, and said their bus could take me to the ship on the way back to their hotel. In the meantime, we danced, drank Cuba Libres (my usual rum and coke) and had a great time.  The ship wasn’t leaving yet, so I knew I was fine.  The next day, I told my parents about it all and, as I figured, they never even knew I was missing.  In fact, only Gino noticed I wasn’t back on the ship.

I really thought Gino would have laughed about what happened and been proud of how I handled the situation like my parents felt about it. But he was pissed.  He was not mad because his girlfriend had been careless or reckless and he had worried about my safety. He was pissed that I hung out with and took the bus with the guys. He wanted to know all the details about who was there, and who I danced with, and did I like them, and did I have sex with any of them and stuff like that.  He basically implied I was doing it on the bus with a football team or something.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  I just got a ride back and had some fun while I was hanging out waiting to go.

We stood in the stairwell near our cabins where we usually sing and play music, fighting for what seemed like hours of insults and accusations from him, and defensive pleas of innocence from me.  I was crying to the point where it is hard to get any air through the dense sobs, and my entire body was shaking uncontrollably. I finally sat down on the bottom step and stopped, peacefully barricading myself into my own cocoon with my head resting on my knees, and my arms wrapped around my shins. I just stopped; stopped crying, stopped arguing, stopped explaining. He finally quieted as well.  I eventually lifted my head and plainly told him that I’m not a rubber ball, and I can’t keep bouncing back up every time he throws me down to the ground.  At that point, he started crying and asking me to believe how sorry he is. I’m just getting worn out from all the fighting and crying.  We sit on that same stair, listening to Al Jarreau sing Could You Believe, making promises, asking me to believe, and to have the courage to carry on.  I know Al’s talking about something else, but I’m not so sure I can just believe in Gino much longer.

Click to Play Could You Believe – by Al Jarreau     [audiotube id=”NJ7K9-dBs1Q”]

February 1979

Hanging out in the Troika Lounge


Gino and I have been seeing each other secretly.  We had been hanging out a lot and I was happy just being friends. I had no intention of getting into a relationship, but he was persistent about getting closer. He says that he loves me; he’s the first guy I’ve ever said that back to. Quite honestly, his matter of fact ,”Ti Amo” felt less like an affectionate declaration of emotion than it did a challenge statement, basically throwing down a gauntlet that I had no choice but to answer to, even though I was far from being prepared or sure in my response.  I hadn’t seen Paul since we spent the day together in St. Thomas a few months ago, and had no interest in anyone else, even though neither of us has made any commitment to the other. And there had certainly been no mention of love, or any feelings at all for that matter, other than missing each other’s company.

One evening, when we were still just friends and hanging out in the lounge having a few drinks, Gino told me that he had talked to Thomas at the beginning of the season and asked questions about the staff on board last year, and that Thomas actually told him about our relationship, and said I was, “f-able”. I find it hard to believe that he would have told anyone, never mind a new guy on the ship, but yet Gino knew. Was I being offered up as available as if I was some kind of hand-me-down that was no longer needed?  I don’t understand why Gino would even tell me such a thing, even if he was drunk. I brushed it off, didn’t acknowledge the relationship with Thomas in case Gino was just guessing, and I never mentioned it again; not to either one of them.  But that word, that attribute, that label: “f-able” plays over in my head like a bad song you hear late at night that gets stuck like a broken record while you are trying to sleep, worming into your dreams, and still lingering when you wake up.  It’s only by playing a new song that you can get it out of your brain.  I think I ended up with Gino to hear a new tune.

We do spend a lot of time together, and it is usually awesome.  He is so much fun most of the time. Sometimes I play my guitar while he plays conga drums, but we mostly listen to and sing along with tapes, especially Al Jerreau, Santana, Gino Vanelli, Earth Wind and Fire, Chic Corea, Steely Dan, and some others. I say it is usually awesome because he’s fine as long as he just drinks beer.  But when he drinks hard stuff, he is a different person all together.  He’s cold, and paranoid, and can be really mean to me.  It’s not like he is physical or anything, it’s more like he doesn’t give a shit how I feel about anything or what he says. “Mangia merda” is a favorite insult I wish I never learned.

When he drinks more than beer, we end up in an argument, and then the next day he’s saying how sorry he is and that he didn’t mean any of it and that he loves me. And I forgive him and he promises it isn’t going to happen any more. I must be stupid or something to believe him.  I guess it isn’t stupid if you love someone. But it’s as if he sets me up to say or do something that he can blame me for later. That happens even when he is sober.  I care about him, but I really don’t know if this is going to work out. I was a lot happier last year.

But we do have so many great times, like the day in Cozumel we rented a convertible and drove all over the island to isolated beaches and found a little zoo in the middle of nowhere with alligators and other odd animals. And the day we went shopping in a vintage clothing store in New Orleans; I bought an antique silk blouse and a beautiful white petticoat style puffy skirt, and Gino bought an old boy scout shirt and a white suit jacket – the kind a 1950’s nightclub band guy might wear.  He looks so cute in that shirt with his troop number on it, and the jacket is really stylish when he dresses up at night. Those are the good times, and there are a lot of them. I just don’t know how to make him be happy and normal all the time. I never know what to expect when I see him. I try my best to not say or do things to piss him off, but I don’t really think it has anything to do with me when he acts that way.

Click to play I’ll Write a Song For You– by Earth Wind & Fire [audiotube id=”_yKr8Q8PNuc”]


January 1979

Clark Fonda on Kazakhstan New Years Eve

My Father Time December 31, 1978


Happy New Year!

We, and my little stash of joints that I stuffed into the bottom of tampon tubes, flew back to New Orleans to meet the Kazakhstan in time for our second Christmas here. I had saved a lot of money from waitressing in St. Thomas, so I bought my parents a boom box with a radio, cassette player and a little TV.  They were surprised by the big gift, and have been having fun dialing in channels when in port, mostly finding fuzzy Spanish variety shows. We’ve been traveling for months at a time for the past three years with no TV at all.  You get used to it. The best place for reception is when we’re in port in New Orleans, which is about the only time we get any real news.  The Soviets censor the news here, and are not subtle about it; they print out the day’s news off the wire service, and actually post the original pages with permanent marker blacking out the parts they don’t want people to read. Sometimes I try to stare my way through the black ink to see what it is I shouldn’t know, or that they don’t want the Soviet crew to read. I read everything I can get my hands on. If one of us finds something really good, we all read it. When we were home last summer, I could have cared less about the TV. I just wish we could get Saturday Night Live out here; I love that show.

Sales are good, and the ship is filling up, so they are making a lot of the staff double up this year; the other hostess quit as a result, so they made me hostess again, and squeezed Jill and me into this tiny cabin. There’s barely enough room for the two of us to get dressed at the same time, and no space for all our clothing.  We also share a bathroom with my parents, whose room connects on the other side. Shower times have to be coordinated among the four of us, and we have to remember to lock and unlock both doors on either side of the bathroom so you don’t get walked in on or lock the other room out.  We have all messed that up multiple times.

I get the vibe that Jill, the other hostess, does not care much for me, although she was friendly when we worked together on the Odessa. We coexist in a room that is about the size of a walk in closet, but are silent most of the time; although her glares of disapproval of most everything I do speak very loudly to me. Jill’s American, but speaks fluent Russian, and spends more time drinking straight vodka with the officers than she does hanging out with the rest of the staff.

New to the staff this year are two Italian guys, Gino and Nicky, who play drums and accordion.  They are just a couple of nuts, and I laugh the whole time we hang out; the passengers seem to like them and their music a lot.

Thomas and John are both on the ship again this season. We’re all just friends… no benefits.  Paul is not here, which breaks my heart; he’s  assigned to another line, so we just continue to write, which gives me something to look forward to whenever we are in port.

For the New Year’s Eve party, the cruise director asked my father and me to dress up and work the audience around midnight. My dad was dressed up as Father Time in a costume I made, with a sickle from cut up cardboard taped to the end of a broom handle and covered with foil, a white sheet, and ghostly white makeup; he walked around the room, looking quite ominous and frankly, a little creepy. I represented the New Year.  My costume was high heels and a bunch of balloons all attached around me like a giant blob of colorful soap bubbles.  When they played Auld Lang Syne at midnight, I had to work my way around the audience while they eagerly popped my balloons, until I was down to just a bikini and a Happy New Year 1979 sash, which is kind of creepy on their part. That’s a normal evening in my show business life.

Click to Play Auld Lang Syne – by Guy Lombardo [audiotube id=”Q-ncPPArxEk”]

November 1978


Jo at Age 13 on Kungsholm


The cockroaches seem to have moved on to a better place, except of course, in my dreams.  I wake up in the middle of the night brushing what feels like dozens of bugs off my face and arms, and jumping up to stand on the mattress and strip the bed of all the blankets and sheets. I shake out each piece of bedding before remaking the bed.  I have yet to find a single actual critter when I fully awaken. It’s all in my head.

One very nice redeeming feature about this apartment is that it magically produced a little present for me to make up for the bugs. For no logical reason, I decided to pull one of the drawers all the way out from the dresser to look behind it. The drawer was not sticking out or sliding oddly, or making a noise when it moved, so I have no idea what made me want to remove it. But, when I reached way back into the dark empty space, I found a plastic baggie half filled with pot and some rolled joints.  Curiosity found the stash. And it brought back a lot of satisfaction. We are right on the beach, so I just go out for a walk, smoke a joint, and am not worried about getting caught since I’m smoking out in the fresh ocean air.

The best time to be high is right before I go to bed when I listen to this hypnosis tape my dad just made for me. He read an article that stated that applying heat to the breasts causes blood flow to them, which would increase their size.  So, he has a theory that he could use hypnosis to get the body itself to send blood to the breasts, and if it is done on a regular basis, you could permanently increase bust size that way.  Since mine are small, I am his boobie guinea pig; and he’s measuring my chest every few days to see how much it grows.  It actually seems to be working.  Nothing huge, but every little bit helps.

I’ve been hanging out on the beach during the day, and have gotten to know the guys who run the suntan oil booth. They are all really cute, especially Dirk.  He and I went out to a costume party; I was a harem girl and he was Lawrence of Arabia. They hired him as eye candy for the women on the beach; he is a model or something back in the states. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he is very well chiseled himself.

As much as I enjoy the beach, it got boring quickly with nothing else to do, so I’m working as a waitress in the beach snack bar during the day and as a cocktail waitress at night, except when we do our shows.  I make the best tips because the other waitresses are so slow and don’t even try to keep up with the tourists’ vacation thirst. My tables’ glasses are usually replaced with full ones before the last sip is gone. The other waitresses are being flagged down by customers raising an empty glass toast to them across the room with a nod and raise of the eyebrows begging for more. The workers are not lazy; they just run on island time. All I have to do is operate at normal speed here and I look like a super hero dancing along to the Calypso music from the Mighty Whitey singing, Move Your Mudda Ass. The bar manager invited me to his room to get high one night and I went, since he was friendly at work. We were sitting on the floor passing a bong back and forth and he suddenly whipped out his junk and put his hand on the back of my head and started to pull me down. I just got right up to bolt out, seeing his little helmeted soldier quickly retreat into its bunker back under his shorts. It is a bit awkward at work now, but that’s not my fault. Last person to try a move like that was a ship’s officer, when I was 13. He wanted to show me his cabin at the very front of the ship.  The cabin was very cool, with an awesome view, but I was totally horrified and took off.  Again, awkward.

Paul is assigned to a new ship and will be docking at St. Thomas soon. I can’t wait to see him again, even if only for the day.  We’ve been writing to each other regularly. I miss him so much.  I wrote to Vinny back home a few times since I left but he’s never sent me anything… no big surprise.

Click to Play Move Your Mudda Ass – by Nicky Russell aka Mighty Whitey [audiotube id=”jfhhP6eiUiU”]