The Back-Up-Plan Beau

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‘I promised to marry him in 5 years — and clean forgot’

So I was swiping through the New York Times the other morning (I get the paper on my iPad while out here in Amagansett, hence the ‘swiping’) and saw a piece in the Modern Love column called “Let’s Meet Again in Five Years”.

Well. I’d barely started reading the darned thing — which is about these college sweethearts who “thought college was too soon for lifelong love, so they scheduled their next date for a little later”, like five years — when these little bells started going off in my head.

Gosh, I remembered all in a rush, there once was a guy, way back when, who made a plan like that with me. Except that it wasn’t a college sweetheart, and we didn’t schedule a date — we agreed to marry each other in five years.

It happened like this.

I was, in those days, the Head Creative Director of an advertising agency in Kansas City. Now, I don’t mention my big fancy title to impress you. After all, it was a very small agency, and in Kansas City to boot. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Kansas City, mind you. But, as far as advertising goes, let’s just say they didn’t set Mad Men on the Country Club Plaza.)

That’s me, acting all Head Creative-Directory for a company brochure

I mention my big fancy title so you’d understand why I got sent to a big fancy advertising conference in, of all boondoggley places — Aspen, Colorado. Now, for those of you who didn’t work in advertising back when advertising did things like this, a “boondoggle” is a “business trip” that is “coincidentally” held in a wonderful location. Like later, while at Ogilvy, I got sent on a multi-city tour to sample fried chicken. (I was working on the Shake ‘n Bake account at the time.)

This time I got sent to this gorgeous place — Aspen — to “confer”. I remember that the first thing I did when I got there — this was on the getting-to-know-you “Free Day” — was go on a white-water rafting trip. (We could also choose golf or tennis; this was summer, so skiing wasn’t an option.) The guide warned us that one of us was sure to get launched into the water, and, when it happened, to immediately curl up into a ball so our limbs wouldn’t snap off on the rocks. Well, guess who the lucky launchee was on that trip?

Well, after I dried off and spruced up, I launched myself into a two-day white-water whirl of talks and panel discussions and conference-related whatnot.

It was during the last event on the last day — a send-off, see-you-maybe-someday cocktail party — that I met this Incredibly Handsome Guy.

I don’t have a picture of the Incredibly Handsome Guy. So, what the heck, here’s another bosslike shot. This is me sandwiched between my bosses, the two guys who ran the agency

Where had This Guy been all conference long? He not only was “important” enough to be attending a meeting like this, but he had the most amazing Paul Newman blue eyes and black hair. (He told me later he was “Black Irish”, which, you can imagine, sounded unspeakably exotic to a Midwestern Girl like me.)

We got to talking about, of all things, running. This was back in the Seventies, you see, when running was a pretty sexy sport. Talking running talk back then was kind of like chatting about Brooklyn Boulders. Hot stuff.

We were well into a swooningly interesting conversation about marathon training techniques (I was training for my first marathon, happening that Fall in Kansas City), when it was time to part. We exchanged smoky looks and business cards and went back to our respective cities. (He lived in Santa Barbara.)

I don’t have a photo of me running in the Kansas City Marathon. But here’s me a year later, running my first New York Marathon

Speaking of running, I’ll cut to the chase. Back in Kansas City, I couldn’t stop thinking about this guy. So I bought a copy of a then-popular book about great places to run in cities all over the country, paper-clipped a note inside (“Let’s get together and do a little running around”) and sent it to him. (I had his business card, remember?)

Well. The next thing I know, I’m opening an envelope from him. Inside is a plane ticket to San Francisco.

Honest. I could not, as they say, make this up.

Of course I went. We clicked like crazy, and had a wonderful time. We even did a little running. A few months later he came to visit me in New York — where I had relocated, having gotten a taste of The World Outside Kansas City on that conference. (The story of my relocation is a pretty good one, too. It’s called “Take a Letter, Miss Henry”.)

Now, it might seem hard to believe in this day and age, but back in those Wild and Crazy Seventies, young people like me — and the Incredibly Handsome Guy — weren’t exactly what you would call monogamous. So, while IHG and I were conducting our long-distance relationship — him coming to New York; me going to Santa Barbara — we were, of course, “seeing other people”.

So. We didn’t promise each other unfailing loyalty. But we did get along so well and liked each other so much that we made a pact that we would get married in five years.

Well, I don’t know what happened with the Incredibly Handsome Guy (bless him, I don’t even remember his name), but I kept my half of the bargain. Because, yes, I did, in fact, get married in five years. Just not to him.

And here’s the Dude who made me forget

Amagansett, New York. August 2019

Yes, there are plenty of fish in the sea.

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‘I know because I had my share of stinkers.’

I don’t want to embarrass The Child. Well, not any more than I have to. But I must say that she has excellent taste in boyfriends. So far, fingers-and-all-toes fervently crossed, she has managed to choose ‘dates’ who have not inspired The Dude or me to put on that Fake Nice-to-Meet-You Face. Or not very often, anyway.

(I put ‘dates’ in quotes because I don’t think that’s what Young People call ‘guys you go out with’. But, for my purposes today, it’ll have to do.)

Now, before I dig myself in deep here, let me say that this is not going to be a story about The Child and her ‘dates’. (I can hear her ‘whew’ all the way from Cambridge.) Nope. It’s going to be about me and mine. Continue reading

Double-dating at the drive-in with Bonnie and Clyde

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‘Tales from the Passion Pit’

I guess those lazy, hazy days have arrived. Those of you who follow me every week (there is a special place in Heaven for you!) know that I’m super-late getting this post polished up. I plead ‘summer’. It’s hard to recollect amusing anecdotes — much less collect the wits to write them down — when birds are singing, guest room sheets need changing, beach towels need washing, and the umpteenth grocery run needs running.

My world, and welcome to it

My summer world, and welcome to it. (I know, I know. First-World Problems)

But enough midsummer malingering! As luck would have it, I was reading another clever blogger’s post and was inspired. Her theme was summer and about how much she missed going to the drive-in.

Now, for those of you who are so young that you think of Paul McCartney as an aging rocker who is still, god help him, singing and touring — instead of the Cute Beatle Everyone Had a Crush On, here’s a link you can click to read all about that mid-century recreational phenomenon known as the drive-in. Continue reading

The time I had a blind date with an eye doctor

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‘A Cinderella Story. Involving an actual cinder’

My friend Mary Ann said she liked the Forbes story (which was about a honeymoon) and the de Kooning story (which was about a living room), but that the story she really wanted to read would be the one about how The Dude and I met.

And I’m going to tell it. But first I have to set the stage a bit.

See, back in the 80s when this tale takes place, I went out a lot. With a lot of different guys. Trust me, this wasn’t at all unusual at the time. Most of my friends also went out with lots of guys. Young People then were not so into that going-out-in-packs thing, much less that thing called ‘hooking up’. (I’m not sure I know exactly what that means, and I don’t want to know. And please don’t mention Tinder.) True, there were a few couples into that serial-monogamy thing, but most of them were married.

A bevy of pre-dating-app beauties. The one on the right (me, hah) has a role in this story

A bevy of pre-dating-app beauties. The one on the right (me, hah) gets the fateful cinder in her eye

So. During the day I’m having a blast working at Ogilvy. Nights and weekends, I’m having a blast going out with guys. Let’s see, at the time of this story I was going out with a blonde surfer-type guy from California, an energetic older guy (he was probably 45) I met running in Central Park, a hunky television producer who owned his own Personal Truck, and, oh, off and on I was also seeing a Russian waiter. I’m not counting Steve Martin. I met him a week after I met The Dude. (If you have a sec, you can read that story here. It’s a pretty good one.) Continue reading

The Jerk and The Dude

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‘The Summer I went out with two Wild and Crazy Guys’

Yup. One of the two Wild and Crazy Guys I went out with that wild and crazy summer was indeed Steve Martin. The other one, though, was not Dan Aykroyd. (For those of you who are Very Young, or were living under a cultural rock during the late 70s, I have included links so that you can find out who the heck I’m talking about. But if you need to click on them, you probably won’t ‘get’ this story, so might as well stop reading now and go to your hot yoga class.)

This story is all about my date with Steve, who was famous, besides being a Wild and Crazy Guy, for his role in a seminal film called ‘The Jerk’.  And whose phone message, incidentally, I kept on my answering machine (remember those?) for years. (‘Hi Alice. It’s Steve. Please call me. I really want to go out with you. [Phone number goes here.] Click.’)

Classy art-house poster for Steve's most famous early film.

Classy art-house poster for Steve’s most famous early film.

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