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Où sont les amours de lointain?

“Where are the loves of yesteryear”… Ever amuse yourself on the Internet for an hour or two looking up old lovers — les amours de lointain? What a bizarre experience.

Every time. Some would say that’s because my amours of yesteryear were themselves bizarre. Which would, one might admit, be to a degree true.

Today I took it into my bored little head to look up a man I dated throughout my junior and senior years at the august University of Arizona. Let’s just call him “Bob.”

I met Bob at the campus swimming pool, where I spent a fair amount of the summer session between my sophomore and junior years hanging out. He was older than me, handsome, and ever on the make. I had pretensions of smartness, was moderately cute, and had a 20-inch waist and big boobs. An affaire de coeur quickly coalesced. We became a Thing, and we remained Thingly for most of my undergraduate career.

My parents hated Bob. They had, we might quietly remark, no clue how much better he was than Jim, the sh!thead who was my sophomore-year heart-throb. At least Bob didn’t end up in the slam…look at it that way. My mother adored Jim. Handsome, charming, rugged, sleazy Jim. She never heard about his rather spectacular experience with the Highway Patrol. Historic, some might say…

Think of that. She lived the rest of her life without ever knowing him well. 😀 Thank God!

But back to Bob. My parents intuited, on sight, that this guy was a low-key scoundrel. That, I thought — and to this day feel — was an over-reaction. He was a jerk. But as scoundrels go, he really would have had to work to rise to the level of some of the charmers that inhabited the landscape of my life.

At the time I met Bob, he was in his junior or senior year at the University of Arizona. I was a preternaturally advanced student in French, a language that I spoke fluently, and was headed for a richly funded three-year Ph.D. program. I doubt if he really understood what that meant, because in those days women were not expected to have careers — certainly not as university professors — except that it kept me hanging around lovely Tucson all year. Bob was not the kind of guy who came from a background where women did anything other than clean house, f*ck, and raise children. But then, that was about all my parents really expected of me. Far as they were concerned, I was at the UofA to find a man, not to get some exotic graduate degree that would prepare me to do…what? Teach high-school French?

To give you the same introduction to Bob’s character that I had: Bob paid his way through the University — covering out-of-state tuition, which was as stiff in those days as it is now — by stealing hub caps.

Yes. That was his job at the time: hub-cap thief. So successful was he that at one point along the line the Tucson newspaper ran a story about the shocking rash of hub-cap thefts in the city. Bob knew a fence who would buy as many hub-caps as he could steal…and he stole a lot of them, obviously.

He was pretty good at stealing. Once I was in the university bookstore with him. He picked up some book off a rack — as I recall, it looked like an expensive textbook — and slipped it under the letter-jacket that he always wore. Zipped up the jacket three-quarters of the way and coolly stood in line with me at the cashier’s counter as I paid for the stack of textbooks I was buying. Not a blink. He did the same at the library, except that we didn’t have to go past a cashier.

So it was that Bob was single-handedly responsible for all those annoying exit-door alarms in every bookstore and library across the country…

Bob being my first real boyfriend, I was hopelessly enamored of him. And one must say, he was one studly fella.

Yet as time passed, I began to see him in a less and less Valentine-pink light. Stealing from the bookstore? Stealing hubcaps? Okay, that was interesting, kind of picaresque.

But then came the time that I was offered an opportunity to spend my junior year in France. This was outside the usual university-sponsored junior-year-in-Wherever program. One of my friends, who was French, had come to the UofA the year before. Her parents, out of…je ne sais quoi — gratitude? ignorance? some sort of scam? offered to let me spend the year in their apartment in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a rather fancy neighborhood. We might say.

Not being the adventurous type and having seen the world several times around, thankyouverymuch, I failed to see the amazingness of this opportunity. But Bob sure did. And he wanted to go along.

So, he proposed a strategy: I would get a grant or scholarship to support me in France for a semester or (preferably) a year, I would stay in this place in Neuilly for free, and he would come along with me. We would live together in Paris for a year…on the money I would collect from the proposed scholarship.

Got it? This dude proposed to sponge off his girlfriend for a year in France.

I declined the opportunity.

But I did not decline to continue the love affair.

This amour continued through my junior year. Bob was a year ahead of me. He lived with two other guys in a shabby apartment off-campus — standard shabby student housing — and I lived in the dorm, as all unmarried female students were required to do at the time.

The first time I began to have really serious doubts about the guy — can you imagine not having such doubts after it became obvious that if I married him I would never see my parents again, or that he was a professional thief, or that he figured it was OK to sponge off an 18-year-old girl? — came when he delivered an admiring report about an escapade on the part of his best buddy. Said buddy had married a young woman and they were living happily ever after in lovely Tucson. After they were wed, she became pregnant — as young wives were expected to do, back in the mid-1960s. She grew quite large with this pregnancy, so that toward the end she was not able to accommodate his persistent desires for sex. So, buddy had bragged to Bob, he betook himself to a bar, picked up a chippy, and got it off with her. Bob thought that was brilliant!

He went on and on about what a brave, fine, and righteous thing it had been for this guy to relieve himself in the vagina of some chickadee he’d picked up at a bar, while his wife was left at home — presumably cleaning house or washing the dinner dishes and lugging her vast belly around.

That was the point where I first thought, seriously, “hmmm…maybe Daddy is right about this clown.”

Then we had the draft issue.

The Vietnam War was still in progress, and young men were being drafted and sent off to be sacrificed in the meat grinder of Southeast Asia. Bob had no moral qualms about the war — he did not oppose it on ethical grounds. He probably didn’t oppose it at all. But he absolutely positively had no intention of going to Vietnam.

By then, I had realized that I was not going to marry the guy — men could still avoid the draft if they were married. Luckily, the government changed that rule right about then, so getting me to marry him would not have kept him out of the army. But…being enrolled as a student would still protect you from the draft.

So, Bob came up with another plan: graduate school.

A student, Bob was not. I was attending lectures for about half his classes, taking notes, and writing his papers. He was barely managing to pass the mid-terms and finals. But because I could generate passing grades for his courses while I was asleep, he did finish a bachelor’s degree in business management — the standard rubber-stamp degree for young males at the time. The second-to-last thing on this earth Bob wanted to do was take more coursework. The last was to fight in Vietnam.

So, he decided, he would enroll in a master’s degree in the dumbedest-down, most Mickey-Mouse graduate program he could think of: elementary education. This would protect him for at least another two years. Assuming he could avoid the draft at that time, he would then take a job at some school with the goal of parlaying his B.S. in business into a principal’s job within a few years. Principals, he reasoned, earned a living wage, unlike teachers. He was accustomed to living on next to nothing, and so he would put up with the low pay until he could get into an administrative position: that would be far better than a tour of Vietnam.

Dumbed-down and Mickey-Mouse were les mots justes for a course of graduate studies in elementary ed at the UofA’s College of Education. Incredibly, the guy earned three units of graduate-level credit for a course in bulletin-board making!

No joke: graduate credit for sticking little cut-out felt figures on a corkboard!

That academic year ended. I took one summer session in Tucson but then had to go home to lovely Sun City for the remainder of the summer break. This gave my parents a chance to have at me. By the time we returned to class in the fall, the scales had fallen (or been ripped) from my eyes, and I told Bob to get lost. He was shattered. I was sad, but convinced my parents were right: l-o-o-o-s-e-r.

A lifetime has passed. Occasionally I wonder what happened to him. At one point while I was working at the Great Desert University in lovely Tempe, I looked him up and discovered, to my amazement, that he, too, was on that campus. He had some kind of nondescript administrative job.

Today I decide, out of (altogether-too-) idle curiosity, to look up old Bob and see what became of him. And lo! where should I find him (where else) but on LinkedIn.

Just now? He’s an associate vice-chancellor at the University of California campus where my cousin and her mother went to school. Before that: same position, only at Santa Cruz, where he spent four years in a job with the same title. He only lasted one year at Oregon State, doing something unmentioned for some foundation. Three years as associate vice president of a Florida university. And three years in that assistant vice-dean position at the Great Desert University.

Sure am glad I didn’t have to follow that character all over the country, these past few decades. Santa Cruz might have been nice. But Davis…not so much, probably. Certainly not in his company. 😀

As for the drug dealer? What happened to him?

That guy was a Republican Party operative during Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign. He and his associates were responsible for a variety of “dirty tricks” (yes, they called it that even then) employed to get Goldwater nominated over the rival candidate. His mentor was a member of the Arizona House of Representatives, who was a first-class sleaze. One of this boyfriend’s jobs was to scout up prostitutes and other willing adventuresses to serve as escorts for visiting Republican bigwigs, to keep the guests entertained while they were in Arizona.

A few months after I married my husband, the friend who had introduced me to that Republican worthy called on the phone with news.

“Did you read the story in the paper about Jimmy?” All excited…


“He was just arrested driving across the California desert with the largest haul of cocaine that has ever been nabbed!”

Yep. That was Jim. Never did things small.

Last time (and the first time, come to think of it) I looked him up online, which was a couple years ago, he had turned to charitable works after he got out of the slam. He was somewhere in New Mexico, serving as an executive director for some nonprofit working on one of the Indian reservations. What exactly this outfit did was unclear.

Today? No sign of him, that I can find. Or care to spend enough time trying to find.

The Red Tuxedo

Who knows what secrets lurk in the hearts of women? Ever wonder…first, at the secrets you held when you were a young thing, and second, what became of those secrets? One of mine is the Man in the Red Tuxedo.

The Man entered my life in my sophomore year at the University of Arizona, introduced to me by a friend I’d met in the dorm.

Jim was not a good man. To the contrary. He was the kind of man who was attractive to women who are attracted to the Dark Side. And I, decidedly, was one of those women. He hung around briefly that year and then he left, and I was privately glad to see the dust rising from his heels.

Several years later, though, he resurfaced. How exactly he found me, I do not recall. But he did. I had graduated from college, landed a piddling little job, and had recently moved into an apartment. So it was early in 1967.

Well, we immediately started dating again. My parents had badgered me into breaking up with the true love of my life, who himself was…we might say, not the best of all possible men. Ultimately I would have shown that guy the door on my own initiative, but because of the circumstances — long story short, my parents inflicted a surprisingly effective variety of emotional blackmail — I missed him very much, felt guilty about having dumped on him, and wanted a man. So, we became an Item.

A fairly rocky Item, because, as I say, he was not a good man. My mother, so happy was she to see the end of the guy I’d been dating for the prior three years, deluded herself that he was a wonder and a joy and the handsomest thing that ever came along.

He was handsome, in a rough way. More or less. When he was sober.

Jim came from Yuma, where his supposedly widowed mother still lived. He claimed to be living off the proceeds of a large inheritance, which, he said, had been put in trust for him. Every now and again, he would make a drive to Yuma to “rip off some cash from the trust.”

So he said.

What we’re saying here is that there were no visible means of support…

Jim was active in the Republican Party here in lovely Arizona. He had attached himself to a Yavapai County congressman as a kind of informal man for all seasons. Because he had been treated, in the past, for some kind of mental illness, he could not run for political office, but he dreamed of becoming a power behind the power — a small-time, primordial Steve Bannon, I guess. His mentor was not a great guy, either. One of the chores he assigned to Jim was scouting up prostitutes to entertain visiting politicos, of whom a few would drift through in a fairly steady stream.

Jim and this state representative had attended the 1964 Republican convention that nominated Barry Goldwater, where they involved themselves in a number of petty acts of vandalism intended to support their hero. An early rendition of “dirty tricks,” you might say.

One day, Jim decided to accompany me and my mother on a shopping trip to Diamond’s Department Store, at that time one of the most upscale merchandisers in the state. It was on a par, I’d guess, with Saks Fifth Avenue today. If such stores thrived now to the extent they did in the mid-twentieth century.

Remember S&H Green Stamps? In those days, Diamond’s dispensed them. My mother collected them and furnished our house with the Target-quality Green Stamp give-aways. She collected assiduously. Keep that factoid in mind.

So at Diamond’s, Jim directs us to the men’s department, saying he wishes to buy a red tuxedo and wants to view the store’s offerings. Forthwith, a salesman shows our man his wares, and they indeed do find a red-toned tuxedo jacket. It’s not a scarlet number like the one in today’s FaM banner, but black with some kind of pattern — probably paisley — limned in red.

He buys himself the red-patterned jacket, a cumberbund, a bow tie, a vest, a pair of black slacks, and such like, racking up a handsome bill. All this, he pays for at the register with cash.

The delighted salesman hands him a stack of sheets filled with Green Stamps, eliciting a blank look from Jim.

It used to be you got one stamp for every dime you spent at a participating merchant. I don’t clearly recall the amount Jim spent. The figure that sticks in my mind is $600, but that seems unlikely. A quick cruise through Amazon suggests that today a tuxedo jacket and trousers go for something between $160 to $360; a vest, $16 to $50; a cumberbund, $7 to $23; bow tie, $6 to $20; suspenders, $5 to $10, for a total price ranging between about $200 and about $460. Presumably today’s clothing all comes from China and so is, in relative terms, much cheaper. But given the difference in the value of a buck, I think he spent about $200.

In 2017 dollars, that would be $1,499.51.

So…it is no wonder that when he turned to my mother and, with a courtly flourish, offered her the entire pile of Green Stamps, her jaw dropped to the floor.

From that day forward, my mother thought Jim was the most wonderful thing that ever walked the surface of this earth.

There was a lot she didn’t know about Jim.

In due course, though, I figured him out and told him to take a flying eff at the moon. His response was to commit a rape and then, thank God, to leave. Good riddance to exceptionally bad rubbish.

Time passed. About three months after I had married, the phone rang. It was my old college friend, the one who had introduced me to the dashing Jim.

Had I read the report in the morning paper about Jim? she asked.

Well, no.

Jim had been arrested driving across the desert from Yuma, carrying the largest haul of cocaine that had, to that date, ever been confiscated in Arizona.

Ha haaa! So! That was the “trust” and the source of his mound of cash money: the Mexican Trust. 😀

Ay, caramba!

What became of Jim after that, I do not know (mercifully). Never heard from or about him again.

That was the Man in the Red Tuxedo.