There was a comment a few entries back asking me to write more stories about my old boyfriends. At least that's how I interpreted it. She may have said, "Boy you have a lot of old friends and boring stories." Do I care?
I believe the entry was a whiny one where I had run out of things to
write about and finally turned to my readers for suggestions. Frankly, I
didn't realize I wrote so much about former relationships. But apparently
I do. However, since there are no new relationships to speak of, old ones
will have to suffice. Even so, for several days I wasn't sure who should be exhumed
I was watching a PBS documentary on animal emotions, which featured
a combination of poignant and astonishing examples of animals expressing
their feelings, as well as moments of unexpectedly altruistic behavior --
like the dog who threw herself in front of the family car and died preventing
the driver from hitting one of his own children.
I found the film very moving, especially since a number of respected
scientists finally confirmed what anyone who has ever shared space with a
companion animal knows intuitively: Animals have feelings too!!
At the end
of the program, while the credits were rolling, I saw the name of an old boyfriend's
production company. Brian has become quite successful as a filmmaker and
producer, since the days when I first became aware of him in high school,
hung out with him in college, and finally started dating him in our early
He was one of those people who couldn't be labeled a sporto, a brainiac,
or a druggie, since he was all of these. Sure he played on the football team,
but he had a good singing voice, too, and didn't mind being in the school
shows, not usually a choice for jocks. Having a bunch of older brothers meant
he had also been initiated into the smoking and drinking rituals of growing
up, along with not a little taste of marijuana.
I first noticed him in high school for the typical female reasons --
he was popular and cute. Shallowness began early in my life and continues
to this day. He was aware of me peripherally, because we were in school shows
together, but I was a goody two shoes and he was not only in great demand
by other females but also two years behind me, so our paths didn't cross
much on weekends.
Because of our theater experience together in high school, he
me the summer before he was going to college, when there was a job
opening as a summer stock apprentice at the theater where he was
working. There was
no money, but it was fun to be backstage with people like Ossie Davis
and Ruby Dee starring in his play Purlie Victorious, before
it became the musical Purlie. Godfrey Cambridge, the comedian, was also
the show and used to do stand up for us when there was down time during
He was at the peak of his popularity, so we loved the attention. Show
seemed normal during that run.
The next show featured Jackie Mason and Jessica Walter. That one was
more like being locked in an insane asylum. She was, and still is, a brilliant
actress, but also a diva, so there were occasional tantrums and more than
a few tears. Especially because Jackie Mason was a comedian with no acting
training. Unfortunately he was the draw, but clearly she had the talent.
I got caught in the crossfire between them enough times to give up any thoughts
about going into the legitimate theater. Those people are nuts.
Seven years later, when a cast member called me to try out for Second
City, the one thing I noticed right away is that the difference between the
people who do improv humor and people who read lines and call themselves
"serious" actors is night and day. Would you rather spend time with Robin
Williams or Ralf Fiennes? I prefer funny people. In my experience, they are
usually smarter and aren't such drama queens. In every sense of the word.
Back to Brian. During that summer stock season he used to drive me
from work from time to time with the top down on his little sports car.
think it was an MG. I was hoping to parlay those rides in his car
into something more interesting, but I realized he only gave me rides
when he wasn't messing around
with his main squeeze. She was also an apprentice, a girl my age that
he and I knew from high school. She was studying acting at Goodman
Theater. Later she
went on to play small parts in soap
operas. Unlike the rest of us who were glorified servants, she got a
bit part in the Jackie Mason
wearing a Playboy Bunny costume. If she hadn't been a friend I might
been jealous of her big rack. She sure got Brian's attention. Olive Oyl
one of my nicknames for a reason.
The last time I saw her she showed up at
our fortieth high school reunion to say goodbye to everybody because she
was dying from brain cancer. We laughed a lot at some very black humor and
talked about sharing Brian for one last time.
Despite flunking algebra two times at least, Brian somehow got into Princeton.
His wealthy, widowed mother had a friend who was a trustee or something and
maybe he put in a good word. Brian's dad had been a doctor before dying of cancer
so that probably helped too. Actually, I am as mystified as anyone as to
how he got accepted.
His family had a huge house on a high bluff overlooking
the lake, down the road from where one of our US senators lived. This locale will
be relevant later.
Senior year in college, my roommate at Northwestern had a friend
grew up with who was also at Princeton. He invited her out for a visit
over our spring vacation. She invited me to go with her after
finals. But I had carried a heavy class load that quarter and I
was tired. I also
had enough credits to graduate early, so I had some decisions to make.
or carry a light load and enjoy partying during spring quarter senior
year? Graduate and get a job or play? Hmmm.
Coming off finals, I said no to the trip at first. What was I thinking?
Why I ever turned down a chance to spend a week at an all men's school is
beyond me. But I recovered. I also decided to come back to school for spring
quarter. Next thing I knew we had borrowed her brother's baby blue VW and began the drive out east.
When we got to Princeton, we quickly settled into Mrs. Palmer's Victorian
rooming house, where the females who came to visit this all male school could rent
rooms in the good old days. Out and about, we serendipitously ran into Brian and discovered
that he and my roommate's friend, who was captain of the crew, were in the
same eating club, the Princeton equivalent of fraternities. Remember this
was before Brooke Shields so there were guys EVERYWHERE. Mrs. Linklater was
in spring break heaven. We even got mentioned in the school paper -- coeds
from Northwestern visitng on campus.
Brian was a sophomore by that time and we had a reunion of sorts
meals -- he belonged to an eating club remember? -- but I was busy
as many guys as I could during the week I was there so we just buddied
when I needed a break from all the attention. He was always there ready
to entertain me if I had some free time. Since I was carrying a light
load, I came back for a couple of more weekends later that spring.
I learned to juggle billiard balls, almost got arrested for being
a bunch of guys who were throwing rocks at street lamps, met local hero
Cosmo Iacovazzi, said hi to Bill Bradley, went to see "Whatever
to Baby Jane," froze my ass riding in the launch with the rowing crew's
on a cold, sleet-drenched day, watched strapping young men work up a
sweat in those skinny boats, wearing only their underwear, got wined
felt like a kid in a campus candy shop, and had a great time.
Back in the real world, I graduated, got a job, and settled into
La Vida Loca in Chicago. Brian showed up in my life once more. I
don't remember how we hooked up again, except that one of his high
football buddies moved down the hall from me in my high rise. He was
a real party guy, so living there was more like being in a dorm, although the
Mah Jong ladies in 4A might not agree.
Brian was working from 6PM to 2AM at the local PBS station. I
sit in the control room while he worked the shows. Afterward, we'd hang
out then lie in bed, listening to Bob Dylan sing Lay Lady Lay about a million
times. Needless to say I was showing up for my nine to five job
a lot closer to ten.
One night we were up at his family's house for dinner, the place with
the high bluff that went down to the lake. Sitting out on the back lawn,
I noticed there were a lot of weeds on the side of the hill. He laughed
and said those weeds were marijuana.
Two years before, a daughter of the US senator who lived a few doors
down had been murdered in a home invasion. Afterward dozens of police officers
spent days combing the bluffs for clues. They stomped all over the vegetation,
pushed it back by hand to see what was on the ground and stuck their faces
right into it. Not once did they notice the yards and yards of marijuana
plants in front of them. At first Brian's brothers were a little concerned
that they were about to be busted for growing dope. But the suburban cops
didn't learn how to spot reefer madness until way later, so the boys lucked out.
I really liked Brian and thought about him for years after we
broke up. But he and I drifted apart because he was smoking
a lot of pot and I didn't do the stuff. Except for that one time
when one of his brothers was in the hospital after a motorcycle
accident. His thoughtful girlfriend had made brownies and offered
me some. "Why do these taste like oregano?" I remember
asking as I took a huge bite. Because they were loaded with marijuana, Mrs. Linklater.
The girlfriend had broken the cardinal rule of sharing drugs. In those
days you never gave drugs without asking first. Not to be
nice -- mainly so you didn't waste them on a non user. Like ME. Two
hours later I was seeing strange colors and bizarre things floating in
front of my eyes. Pissed me off.
So, too much dope was one reason. There
were other reasons, too, but they're not suitable for younger and more sensitive readers.
Ironically, a few years after I got married and had children, Brian's
her very big house and moved several miles away to a smaller big house
right around the corner from us. I discovered all this when I ran into Brian one evening, walking
with one of his kids in front of our home. Cosmic,
my divorce, I ran into his old girlfriend again -- the one who later
had brain cancer. I was out in LA editing at a production
and she showed up there by mistake for an audtion. Cosmic, yes?
We ended up having a long talk and comparing notes about dating
Brian and laughed about having
the exact same problems with him. It was the kind of conversation that
guys dread: Women talking about them and laughing. EEEWWW.
She still hooked
up with him from time to time even though he was married by that time.
With the death of his old girlfriend, my only reminder of Brian these days is when
I see his name at the end of a PBS documentary or drama.
That, plus an occasional, startling glimpse of one of his brothers, who
to the same town I did after my divorce. Coincidence? I think not. He looks like a carbon copy of Brian.
Everything happens for a reason.