Sunday, November 06, 2016

A look at the past... Kathy and I meet

People who know us well may remember this story.  I was in New York for a "flyback", an expense paid visit to a company for a job interview, in early April 1980.  Manufacturers Hanover was a New York bank that interviewed me on campus, and there I was at the Waldorf Astoria across the street and two blocks down from the company.  Outside that morning there was one of those heavy city rainstorms that can be overwhelming, gutters turned into creeks, umbrellas folding upwards, and wind driven rain soaking anyone on the street.  It was time.

I did not have a corporate looking raincoat, had only one suit and tie, and going out was essential.  It was interview time. What I did have was a bright orange jacket length slicker(in the garage still).  It was the only option. I made it to 320 Park Ave., the human resources offices, on time, and went to the appropriate office. When I went in and introduced myself to the receptionist, she called Kathy.  My slicker was already off and as she came out my first words were "Could you please hide this?"  She did without a question.

The discussion with Kathy went pleasantly, and she then directed me to the next block and 350 Park Ave. to meet members of the business area that was interested. The rain had subsided.  All seemed to go fine, and after that the main contact with my human resources analyst became an effort to get my expenses reimbursed in the next month or so while back in Arizona.  There is no doubt that I was persistent as my funds were limited after paying for a master's degree program with borrowed money.

Kathy was patient with my harassment, and I was not blind to the fact that this was also an excuse to keep in touch with her.  She sent a job offer letter to me on April 30th, which occasioned more conversations as I accepted, and further questions and answers when I arrived to work in mid-July.

A month or two later she asked me out to lunch for a follow up on the company's dime.  Sure, I was interested.  We went to a nice but casual restaurant on Third Avenue near 52nd street.  We received our menus and the waiter hovered over us for a drink order.  I asked for a beer, she paused and asked for a cognac?  Little did I know that she rarely had anything like that.

The relationship had tentatively started.  As the calendar progressed we would see each other from time to time, and then often, and at almost every other weekend I would go out to her family home on Long Island.  At times I was close to insane as living in a studio apartment on East 50th Street was claustrophobic, with noise at night coming from the apartments above and on the side.  Being out of Manhattan was so welcome after a week of work, limited sleep, with the main relief being playing basketball at St. Barts gym most days after work.  On Long Island we rode bikes, swam at a large public gym, ate good food, and I slept soundly.

In the spring of 1981, Kathy and I decided to go to France together for two week vacation.  This trip was something I had dreamed about doing for years, since a sensational post college trip with two friends that took us all over Europe for three months in a rented Renault 4, manual out of the dashboard, not too big.  We had managed to travel well enough for us on an extremely low budget but the dollar went a long way then, and that was the extent of my overseas travel experience.  As we looped around Europe, Paris ended up on the itinerary twice, on arrival as we were late for our Icelandic flight to Luxembourg from JFK and ended up being put on an Olympic Airlines flight that had a first stop in Paris, and then again a couple months later as we were headed from Spain through France to get to Amsterdam and later England.  I liked Paris immensely, and the chance to go back ten years later was easily worth the price of working in the bank mines.

Relatively speaking, Kathy had extensive travel experience.  She and her sister had been in a summer school taking Chinese in Taiwan, she had an extended trip to a Swiss school arranged for a group by her prep school, trips to Hong Kong, Thailand, Argentina, and Italy with family members, and probably more.  She was definitely interested in travel.

It was an exceptional trip.  We stayed in Paris for the first five days at La Louisiane, a dump of a hotel on Rue de Seine that had much better reviews than it deserved.  We had a great time being tourists and seeing the major sights and museums.  We ate at bistros and brasseries that we had read about, among them Chez Allard and Brasserie Lipp.  Deux Magots and Cafe de Fleur were just a few blocks from our hotel.  Then we went on a driving trip through the Loire Valley, to Blois and to Vezelay, and on to the Mont Blanc area for hiking and touring.  Everything was minimally planned, and choosing places to stay, chateaus to see, and hikes to take was part of the adventure.  We returned to Paris after six or seven days, to stay at the Hotel Welcome, also on Rue de Seine, a much better small hotel, even clean.

One more thing.  For Kathy, shopping was part of a trip that was only minimally part of my prior European travel experience. We went to shops, and I learned to carry around a Herald Tribune or other reading material so I could sit in the shop chairs with something to occupy my time.  She looked at stuff for me as well, and bought a suede black leather jacket that I still wear occasionally today.  When we arrived back in New York, the first thing we did was go her parent's house for Kathy to spread out all of her acquisitions on the living room floor.  Her mother allocated --- this is for your sister, this for your brother, this for Auntie Anne, this for... all new to me but then I realized what was expected of her.

Many more trips would follow...          follow up here to be determined.



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