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

HE SAID…. SHE SAID

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

A+

A+

 

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

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

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.