The night hundreds of men kissed me was also the night I slept in the bed of one of the wealthiest men in the world.
Both adventures descended upon me as a college student from the American heartland. Far from home for the first time, my long legs, barely covered by tiny skirts and black tights, carried me confidently through the streets and into the lecture halls of Cambridge University. For my short life, my family’s love and the courtesy of Midwesterners protected me. Now, while my open gaze, wide gestures and long strides may have bemused the residents of this university town, their sense of class consciousness and button-downed reserve protected me just as effectively.
I almost forgot this one. Just remembered it this minute. Something truly sad and momentous happened once when Bennett and I were together.
I forgot about it because this event took place fifteen years before we met. We were in the same room only a few feet from each other, but we were strangers and never spoke that evening.
We pieced it together when he was telling me about his past as an amateur musician, playing the clarinet and singing lead vocals in a band. He had just started spinning his tale of a bizarre night when I interrupted him, saying, “I was there. I know exactly where you’re going with this story.”
As he spoke, I could actually picture him all those years ago in his tuxedo, standing at the microphone, singing. Alan, my ex, and I danced to his crooning that night.
Bennett looked kind of like bandleader Artie Shaw fifteen years ago.
Two days after leaving Kinsale I heard my saddest song. Ireland touched me unexpectedly.
My mother’s roots were solidly Norwegian. Her ancestral traditions dominated my childhood. I never gave a thought to the 25 percent of my makeup that’s Irish.
That is, until the day in 2005 I stepped off the plane in Dublin airport. Then every gene fragment in my body that harkened back to one of my two Celtic great grandfathers demanded attention. I was home.
Only when I’m with Bennett. I swear these things only happen when Bennett and I are together. First, we stumbled on a John Philip Sousa concert in small town America. That’s when he decided things happen around me (see Adventures Happen). He also decided he wanted to stick close. To experience more, I guess.
Now it’s the State Fair. Our State Fair is the best state fair in our state.
No, this is not Bennett and me. He’s not quite this good looking. This is Ann Margaret and Pat Boone in the 1962 movie, State Fair.
So much love. So much love lost. Where did it all go?
I’m driving home alone after a long summer weekend with friends. I draw up beside a pair of young rebels flying down the pavement on a motorcycle in the lane next to mine, defying the law that requires that they wear helmets. Her girlish arms wrap around his waist, her mouth presses against his ear. His head tilts back toward her, his mouth opens in laughter. Her sun-streaked hair flies out behind her.
I know them.
I know them well.
Georgia and Joe; they are the ghosts of my young love and me the summer after my sophmore year at college.
We streak past tall pines crowded thickly together along the side of the highway. My windows are rolled down. The scent of balsam fills my nostrils.
We slow down as we drive through the towns with French and Native American names; names that caress as they slip through my lips, names that translate as, “The Lake That Speaks,” “Translucent Waters,” and “The Breathing Hole of the Gods.”
We’d bought a map in a little kiosk just off to the left of the iron-gated entrance to Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris . Alan, my ex-husband, and I had picked out the names of the honored dead whose monuments we wanted to find; Oscar Wilde, the Irish writer who died disgraced and penniless in Paris, now resting under a striking Art Nouveau monument; Abelard and Heloise, real-life star crossed lovers from the 12th century, separated in death by the walls of their adjoining tombs; Frederic Chopin, the composer of deeply romantic melodies.
Ten years after the incident in New York, surrounded by a different cast of characters and on another continent, I kidnapped my second man.
On a sunny June morning in southern Scotland, Alan, my former husband, our friend Reggie (who wrote One Man’s Viewpoint) and I dropped Reggie’s current squeeze, Rachel, at the gates of an ancient castle for a day of history, antiques and gardens, with a promise to pick her up at the 4 p.m. closing time.
We were intent on more vigorous activity. Our aim was to follow the ancient cattle drover’s trail that Reggie found in a guide book.
We parked our rental car next to a gypsy caravan, found the trail exactly where the book said it would be and headed out.
Okay, I’ve done it. I’ve bent them to my will; taken what they had and used it to meet my needs. I’ve kidnapped them
The first time was on a rainy night in New York City. Have you ever tried to find a cab on a night like this? Impossible.
Alan (my former husband) and I were newlyweds, bar hopping in the Big Apple with Marius (see Valentine’s Day Two) and his current squeeze, Pamela. We were trapped in Soho, miles from our final destination. Drops of rain fell on our shoulders, on our hair and dripped off our noses as we watched full taxis pass us by.
Drastic action was called for. I took it.
Like Claudette Colbert in the movie It Happened One Night, I edged away from my companions, slid one foot off the curb and manufactured some wardrobe malfunction that required sliding my skirt high up my thigh to fix.
Clark Gable is looking at Claudette Colbert just as Alan looked at me as I fixed my own manufactured wardrobe malfumction.
Guess who I called Monday morning after Sunday night at The Comedy Club? (read Public Humiliation) Marlys, of course.
“You won’t believe the mess you got me into last night!” was how the conversation started.
She, of course, found it hugely entertaining. Had way too much fun laughing at my public humiliation.
Thursday evening she called me. “Hey, I talked to my friend who works at The Comedy Club. They loved you! She said, ‘That woman was your friend? She was great. The other guy on stage was a jerk, but your friend was hilarious. We loved her. We wanted to bring her back up on stage. We were so disappointed when she and her date left.’”
I could go either way. Become a comic like Lily Tomlin, or an actress like Meryl Streep.