A Life of Letters


Posted in 1986, Kim, Loves by southpawcom on March 9, 2012

I was firmly going with Julie by Christmas of 1986, engaged even, when Kim sent this card from Washington, D.C., where she had taken a writer position with USA Today. She had no business suggesting a holiday get-together, but moreover I had no business not discouraging her.

Had Shrimp Stir Fry for Dinner!

Posted in 1990, Julie, Wives by southpawcom on March 9, 2012

An excerpt from my journal of January 1990.

I Don’t Know If I’ll Ever Get On the Water

Posted in 1983, Loves, Rebecca by southpawcom on March 6, 2012

Bec had moved to Seattle with a young woman she knew from working at El Azteco in East Lansing. She was 22.

An Impetuous Girl and Them Blessed Tigers

Posted in 1984, Kim, Loves by southpawcom on March 6, 2012

Kim was a third-year reporter with the Port Huron Times Herald in the celebrated fall of 1984. Nearing my 26th birthday, I was six months into my first career job, doing community relations work for a Republican Michigan state senator. By this point we would plan a get-together every month or two, just to tear off each other’s clothing and spend a weekend in each other’s close company.

I faintly remember at the end of the most recent such weekend being hunched over the hood of her small, white car of an unremembered make trying to pry a drive belt back onto a drive pulley, sweat dripping onto the air filter compartment, and ripping my hand open on the engine block. I think I might still have the scar. Cutting the unloosed belt was not something I would even have thought of as a solution, then or or now.

I was living in the “Rock and Roll Household” with Keith W., Mike B., and the famous rock critic and future band front man, Mark R. D., (then a recent alumnus of the “knee-jerk” liberal Michigan State News) for whom Kim suggests George Will as a role model.

I am grateful that in my life I have been congratulated much more often for becoming a father than for not becoming one. But in 1984 (not ’83, as Kim absently datestamps) I certainly would not have felt so.

Buuku Bucks

Posted in 1994, Loves, Rebecca by southpawcom on March 6, 2012

The state senator I had worked for for the past two years surprised his staff and other observers by announcing that  he would not seek re-election in 1994. That left me in the fall of that year thinking somewhat stricken with panic about my future. And what I thought was that it would be neato to own a travel agency.

I had some money coming to me from a going-away package from the Senate, and I also thought I had a credit line as trustee of mom’s estate. Without spending a whole lot of time researching the subject and with positively no experience in the travel and hospitality industry, I reached out to a company called Uniglobe, a franchisor of travel agencies. I remember spending an hour or two in a creepy guy’s poorly-lighted hotel room on Lansing’s west side, the room air still heavy with the steam from his morning shower, listening to his sales pitch and looking at the sales literature he brought. He asked a lot of questions, but soon it became apparent, to him at least, that I lacked the capital to make a go of opening a Uniglobe franchise in Lansing.

I think shortly afterward I got a letter from Uniglobe headquarters saying that they regretted shattering my dream but I was not the well-heeled investor they were looking for.

It was not long after this that the Internet happened, and everyone started making their travel arrangements themselves online through Pricline and Travelocity. I just checked, and Uniglobe is still out there, but I wonder if their cost-to-earnings ratios and profit margins are the same as they were in those brochures in 1994, before William Shatner and the gnome started taking our reservations.

I’m just grateful I didn’t give anything more than 45 mins and the time it took to write this blog post…

Bec, now equipped with a couple of kids, writes with encouragement, not as much for going into business but for continuing to write. Sadly devoid of any pen flourishes or whimsy save her signature and closing with a queer sequence of letters and special characters she called her “e-mail address,” her letter foreshadows the demise of the art of letter-writing.It reminds me of how Nazi officers begin to replace the bohemians at the guest tables at the end of the movie, Cabaret.

Wearing Your Striped Shirt is Enough to Make My Day

Posted in 1980, Loves, Rebecca by southpawcom on February 6, 2010

Bec taped this note to my door at 269 Phillips Hall at Michigan State, before she whisked off to begin her busy day. I remember that when I wanted to linger in bed with her in the mornings, she would demur gently: “I want to start my day.”

I’ve always felt a special intimacy whenever a girlfriend (or wife) would wear an article of my clothing. Bec would frequently wear a lot of my shirts and even my grey, Irish walking cap. Talk about cute.

For my part, she had a pair of denim OshKosh overalls that I could wear. She and others had applied to them all kinds of sayings and loopy flower-power designs with blue ballpoint ink.

When she wore them, though, as she walked past I would enjoy grabbing the utility loops on the sides, saying “C’mere…,” and kissing her before freeing her to her return to her appointed rounds. It was also rather nice that one needed only to slide a hand down under the riveted buttons on either side, as likely to be undone as done, for a little heavy pettin’.

There is no doubt in my mind that the tape at the bottom of the image was helped along toward becoming yellowed by having picked up a bit of the heavy stain and lacquer applied in many coats to the old oak door of my residence hall room, 269 Phillips, Michigan State University. Go Green!

Erica Lyn

Posted in 1976, Chrissy, Loves by southpawcom on February 4, 2010

A note from my high school senior year girl friend, Chrissy, signed with her future nom de cinema and distilling some of my peers’ major concerns in 1976 or ’77.

Then I’ll Have Everything

Posted in 1977, Chrissy, Loves by southpawcom on February 4, 2010

I treated Chrissy pretty poorly. This letter dated June 7, 1977, sent just a few days ahead of my graduation from Andover High School, makes that pretty clear.

She was a year younger, and I went out with her because I couldn’t go out with Mary H. or Mary G. or who knows who else. She was apparently star-struck by the leading men of classic American cinema, such as Clark Gable and Fred Astaire, and the only thing I could think was that she was attracted to me from my leading roles in the high school musicals. I had to look up the source of the poem on page 3, and sure enough, it is from a Barbra Streisand song.

I do remember having a lot of fun with Chrissy, and in retrospect, she was not a dummy. But so arrogant and cocky was I in our relationship that that is exactly the nickname I gave her: “Dummy.” She would even occasionally refer to herself as “your dummy.”

I wish that I still could unburden myself of things I don’t particularly care to do with the simple reason that I don’t feel like it.

A 300% Jump in One Year

Posted in 1987, Loves, Rebecca by southpawcom on February 3, 2010

Bec had moved past est and the people and life she had in Seattle and was back living in Detroit and working for EDS when she wrote me this undated letter. (Well, OK, March 11, but no year.) This came out of my big box of letters without an envelope, either. I’m going to put it at 1987, since she says I must be “going through a lot … with the wedding,” which must have been my wedding to Julie on May 9 that year.

She describes at length her relationship with her boyfriend, John, which she gives an outside survival chance of six months, because she wanted to stay focused on her career. If I’m not mistaken, this is the same John that she married and remains married to. I’m glad she’s not an oncologist.

I always enjoyed Bec’s warm and free association sense of humor. She was always very supportive of and genuine with me. We never stopped telling each other, “I love you,” even after we had long since stopped being romantically linked.

On the other hand, isn’t she a little bit sassy, acknowledging my impending wedding and then asking me for a date? (And then giving only her work number to call.)

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Invoice Between the Sheets

Posted in 1985, Loves, Tori by southpawcom on February 1, 2010

Having had a year of career-type work under my belt, I decided in the early spring of 1985 to take a few days off and travel to New York. I was going to see my newly married friend, Ann-Face, who lived I believe in Westchester County with her husband, Phil, and I was going to see my old girlfriend, Tori, who lived in Astoria.

I wish I remember more details of the trip. I know that I spent two nights with Tori, after I had been at Ann and Phil’s. I met her at Grand Central Station, and we spent the evening in Chinatown. We had a great time, winding and laughing through the sidewalk markets on Mott Street. We spent the next day hanging out at the beach on Long Island Sound (it was cold and windy). We partied with her friends around Astoria the second night. After the bar, I had been given a place to crash on the sofa in the living room, and I remember that she came out in the darkness to tell me that she had something to show me in her bedroom. In her bedroom I remember she took off her top in the front of the mirror, and we just started making out. I remember her shushing me in bed so as not to wake up her roommates.

Although she had me heartbroken through most of 1978 and ’79, by 1985 I had grown up enough to see Tori as hopelessly hard to figure out and just a little put-on. She wrote me a few times later that year, and we kept in touch sporadically over the years, including exchanges over the dreaded Facebook, but I haven’t seen her since.

But she wrote some me some great letters, as you shall see….

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