March 1983

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

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

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

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

January 1983

Angels watching over me

Angels watching over me


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 1982

Wally's Service Station - source:

Wally’s Service Station – source:


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

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

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

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

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


January 1982

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

October 1981

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

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

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

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



July 1981 – Part Two


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

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

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

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

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



July 1981

Photos of Durham - Featured Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 1981 – Part Three


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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