I met Lily, the girl of my dreams, in the summer of ’64 while we both worked at
the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. We were both students at LSU but had
never met. Things happened fast in the mountains at 8000 feet. We were in love at ten
days, if not the first.
She left Estes Park early in August to go home to New Orleans as her mother
was dying of cancer. I missed her so much that I left and went home to Baton Rouge
eight days after she left. Six other friends from the hotel quit work and went with me so
we could party in the French Quarter.
Lily invited us all over for dinner before we went to Bourbon Street. Her father, a very
imposing man, and one of the imminent lawyers in New Orleans scared the shit out of
me with his presence and demeanor. We were two hours late for dinner because I got
lost. We were also sorely underdressed in our jeans and casual shirts for dinner in the
Woodruff home. I was very happy to get out of that house.
Lily and I had an intense relationship that fall while attending LSU. We both
almost flunked out. At Christmas time she ended our relationship. Her Mother died.
Her Father was upset with her grades and she was being presented as a debutante in
New Orleans highest social echelon. No room for a beer-drinking, crazy frat boy.
I spent the next summer living with my brother and his wife in New Jersey while
working construction. I had to make money to atone for my failure the summer before
to make any money. I had spent it all on Lily and Coors. My Dad told me he would cut
off my college funds if I didn’t produce some bucks.
Lily and I had stayed in touch, writing letters occasionally, but there was no re-
kindling the fire of passion on her part. Turns out she was going with her father and
younger brother on a month long vacation to Europe that summer. They were to fly
from Kennedy Airport in New York to Orly in Paris, returning on the Queen Mary. I
arranged to come up from the Philadelphia area where I was living for the summer, and
spend the day together with Lily before she left.
We toured the World’s Fair that summer day in 1965. I had a hard time focusing
on the Fair because all I could think about was Lily. I did manage to notice a new car
that was being introduced, the Ford Mustang. I could see us driving around in the red
convertible with the top down, radio blasting Otis Redding, smoking Lucky Strikes, and
drinking Schlitz Beer. Eat your heart out James Dean.
The Fair specialized in new and futuristic things that would change lives. The TV
with a phone was cool. You could see who you were talking with. The collection of
kitchen and household appliances was incredible. I visualized the electrics doing so
much work that life would be a matter of working and coming home to make love all
Alas! When the day was done, I realized that none of my fantasies regarding Lily
would ever come true. We headed back to the hotel at Kennedy. Lily’s father had
offered to let me sleep on the sofa in the living room of their suite. He also sprung for
my dinner in the hotel restaurant. Although that was nice of him, he so intimidated me
that he never got to know the real Mike—funny, intelligent, kind, and motivated. To him,
I would always be the slow, drab, bungling loser his favorite daughter got mixed up with
in Colorado the previous summer.
The next morning after breakfast, the Woodruff family headed to Kennedy to
catch the flight to Paris and I caught the bus back to Manhattan. I headed to the United
Nations to take the tour and experience government in action.
Once in the United Nations, I was more impressed than I expected to be. The
history and government buff in me manifested itself and kept me interested all morning.
Another thing I found intriguing was a striking blond about my age who was also on the
tour. We were a group of about forty people and I could never get next to her, but I did
observe her from a distance while the other members of our tour and I learned about
the United Nations.
When the tour ended, I lost the blond and I had about seven hours before my
brother, his wife and their friends would meet me. I decided to go to the basement and
get a sandwich and some coffee. The lunch counter was packed—not a seat. The
tables were also full. I waited a minute and a stool opened up. I rushed to grab it when
I noticed a blond was sitting on the next stool—yes, that blond. We struck up a
conversation almost immediately.
“Hi, I saw you on the tour this morning. I’m Mike. Actually, it would be hard not
to notice you. You really stand out in a crowd.”
“Thanks. I noticed you, also. I’m glad we were able to meet here in the coffee
shop. I’m Katie.”
Things moved quickly. When you are young and full of piss and vinegar, things
happen fast. Katie offered to take me on a tour of New York that afternoon. Of course,
I accepted, thinking that girl on her way to Europe didn’t know what she was missing.
Katie and I took a bus up to the Cloisters and walked around a bit. Next, we
went to Harlem. I was a little nervous about that, but Katie was the personification of
self confidence, so I joined in. It was a real eye opener. King had been killed, causing
was much civil unrest and to a Southern white boy who had never experienced a large
black urban area, it made quite an impression. After Harlem, we went down to Times
Square. It was seedy and filled with bums and poor people. After that we went to
Central Park, took a short carriage ride where we sat close, held hands and did a little
smooching. Finally, we were back at the United Nations.
As Katie prepared to take leave of me, I realized all this fun was going for
naught. No address, no phone number and I would never see her again. She hugged
me and kissed me lightly on the lips. After that, she turned and walked away. I stood
there dumbfounded. I came to my senses and rushed after her. She was already lost
in the crowd or on a bus. I realized I lost the perfect woman one morning, meet
another perfect woman later at lunch time, fall in love with her by two and she’s gone
forever before five. Women!
I jumped up on a retaining wall and sat there watching people, thinking
about, what if…Oh, well. I was going out for drinks and a nice dinner in the Village at a
cool little steak house called, “Peter’s Back Yard.” with my brother and friends. About
that time, my brother, his wife and another couple pulled up to the curb in his big
Oldsmobile 98. Party time!