Willie, Waylon, Jerry Lewis, Julie, And Me

How I Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life

Do you want me to tell you something really subversive? Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. That’s why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for.  And the trouble is, if you don’t risk everything, you risk even more.
~Erica Jong1

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go
~T.S. Eliot2

Every day I live I am more convinced that the waste of life lies in the love we have not given, the powers we have not used, the selfish prudence that will risk nothing and which, shirking pain, misses happiness as well.
~Mary Cholmondeley

Once I read that letter from Julie,3 I was a different person. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide if I had become braver, more foolhardy, merely infatuated, overwhelmed by a forces out of my control, self-serving, or self-reliant.

Whatever the label, the transformation was evident in that first telephone conversation following my receipt of Julie’s letter. There was no hesitation, no explanations offered, and none requested. Neither of us knew what would happen except that it was a foregone conclusion that we would meet. A few letters and calls completed the arrangements.

This all took place while I was married. It was a miserable marriage that had been haltingly moving toward divorce for a year or two. Even my ex-wife, once she was my ex-wife, spontaneously admitted that the divorce was the high point of the marriage. Mitigating circumstances notwithstanding, I was married and I was surreptitiously arranging an assignation with another woman. I did not treat the person who was then my wife fairly. How did I feel about this? Well, did you ever hear Loudon Wainwright III (father of Rufus) sing So Damn Happy?

The sad thing is I’m so damn happy
Who’d blame her if she were to slap me
The sun should not shine when there’s rain
I should be in a lot more pain
At least I should feel slightly crappy
But the sad thing is I’m so damn happy

Reducing the matter to its simplest terms, everything except Julie had become irrelevant to me.

I suspect, in fact, that even if my marriage had been not-miserable or even it had been pleasant or if it had been a anything short of ecstatic, I might well have followed the same course.

In any case, I had not forgotten my role in botching things with Julie the last chance I had six years before; I wasn’t going to repeat that mistake for the sake of propriety.

There was, of course, no guarantee that my pursuit of Julie would be successful. Further, given the results of our combined three marriages, an objective observer might legitimately question the assumption that Julie and I being together could be accounted a success. And, it was clear that pursuing Julie would, at a minimum, stress my then placidly dysphoric marriage and, more likely, push it toward an egregiously painful and disruptive outcome. Was I aware of these risks? Absolutely. Did recognizing these risks have an impact on my actions? None that I noticed.

Plans came together for us to meet in Wichita Falls on a September weekend. As far as Martha or anyone else knew, I was flying to Texas to discuss an offer to join a medical practice there.

I was on the flight to Dallas-Fort Worth before I realized that, despite not seeing each other in years, we hadn’t exchanged photos or followed the I’ll be wearing a pink chrysanthemum and a bowler hat protocol. It hadn’t occurred to me that either of us might have changed and might not be immediately recognizable in the crowd meeting the plane. I made a mental note to carefully scan those waiting at the gate when my plane arrived and make sure I found Julie lest I embarrass myself by approaching the wrong woman. This plan expired in the moment I exited the door of the plan and found Julie, who was, as she had been in all of our classes, at the front of the crowd, thrusting her arm in the air.

We kissed.

Those of you who have been reading along may be aware that this was, indeed, our first kiss. I am proud to note that on this occasion I performed, by my self-assessment, quite capably; Julie, of course, was spectacular. As I write this, I can recall how her lips tasted as that amazing kiss went on and on. While we didn’t escalate into X-rated territory, we may have behaved with a tad more panache and flourish than was congruent with a low-profile rendezvous – at least if the good-natured applause from those at the gate is any indicator.

After retreating to Julie’s car, we stopped for dinner at one of those restaurants that is always described to visitors as a place known only to locals who keep it secret so that the tourists (the other tourists, apparently) don’t overrun the joint. I believe I can capture the essence of this eatery with a few observations that linger in my mind:

  • The parking lot was filled with fifty vehicles, all but three of which were pick-ups. More than half the pick-ups and one of the cars had a gun rack. Perhaps a score of the pick-ups and that one car had the same bumper sticker that explained, “You’ll take my guns when you pry them from my cold dead fingers.”
  • Inside the establishment, stratus clouds of tobacco smoke hung a foot below the acoustic tile ceiling, and the restrooms were clearly marked “Pointers,” and “Sitters.”
  • On the wall was a backlit sign that promoted Dr. Pepper and listed the three items that comprised the menu: Shrimp Basket, Chicken Basket, and Calf Fries,4 a difficult choice if one believes the adage that you are what you eat.

From Between The Lines To Between The Sheets

Surviving dinner, we absconded to Julie’s apartment, opened the door, and, without a (coherent) word or overt planning, ripped off each other’s clothes (literally – Julie had to sew four buttons back on my shirt), and leapt into bed. Rather than provide detailed color commentary, I will only point out that we were, after all, resolving eight years of foreplay. In any case, when we finished, we were disheveled, blissful, and smugly self-satisfied.

Wichita Falls is rarely featured in the Travel section of periodicals one of your destination cities for leisure fun and culture; on a hot weekend in September … well, we had few distractions. We played a lot of the “whatever happened to _______” and “do you remember _______” games. We talked about books and music and family and her adventures and our schools and on and on into the night. I even met a couple of her friends who visited the apartment. We must have eaten sometimes. Mostly, we camped out in bed.

Even the accoutrements of this two days & three nights sojourn took on iconic status. Because, for example, Julie and I spent this Labor Day weekend together with the Jerry Lewis Telethon playing everywhere, we henceforth thought of ourselves as “Jerry’s Kids,” explaining why Jerry’s fan club during that period consisted of 40 million Frenchmen, Julie, and me. Tanqueray and tonic was our official house drink that weekend and for the decade or two that followed, and I still have pleasurable physiological reactions on hearing the opening bars of Honky Tonk Heroes, T For Texas, and, especially Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love), all of which happened to be on Julie’s playlist then.

The only two things in life that make it worth living
Is guitars that tune good and firm feelin’ women
I don’t need my name in the marquee lights
I got my song and I got you with me tonight
Maybe it’s time we got back to the basic of love

Let’s go to Luckenbach Texas,
With Waylon and Willie and the boys …

We finally left the apartment for dinner on the night before I had to leave. We walked to a diner that specialized in chicken-fried steak and that offered, for our entertainment and edification, a booklet at every table with 20 pages, each of which began, “A Mother Is … .”

Until this point, we had romped through the weekend without broaching the ultimate issue — What happens next? This liaison had been arranged on the basis of my classic two-point plan:

  1. Show up.
  2. See what happens.

We had specifically limited our mutual promises to the three days we were spending together in Wichita Falls. As Julie pointed out, she was 0 for 2 in selecting husbands so perhaps taking things at a slower pace was in order.

And, having assumed far too much years earlier, I was hesitant, lest I make the same mistake now. After all, Julie seemed happy with the life she had made for herself; she had friends, a decent job, no husband shooting the family dog, … .

Nonetheless, I made my pitch for us living together, opening with an offer to leave my marriage immediately and, once my residency was completed, move in with her wherever she wanted to live. I did, however, promote Chicago, tempting her with descriptions of great, semi-exotic food (I was on a mousaka and pastitsio kick at the time), a full spectrum of movie houses (Julie was a hard core cinema addict) and a theater district that extended beyond the local junior college drama department. For the topper, I promised Julie the ultimate gift a guy like me could offer a woman like her — a library with a library ladder (no, library ladder isn’t an euphemism for a bedroom toy; it was …, well, you had to be there).

When I finished, she was silent for 15 to 30 seconds and then — promised to think it over.

I was surprised to find I was not devastated by the “think it over” (i.e., “there isn’t one chance in a gazillion that I’m going to agree to what you want”) response. I am convinced that the laws of metaphysics dictate that 48 consecutive hours of banter and sex with a lost love preclude emotional desolation, regardless of the precipitating event.

Still, it certainly wasn’t the answer I hoped to hear. And I was leaving in the morning.

But there was good news in the offing: we spent the twelve hours before Julie had to take me to the airport talking, laughing, fondling, and screwing.

Then, just before I boarded the plane, Julie gave me a great goodbye kiss

And, then I left Wichita Falls.
Julie’s Story

Next Installment: Leaving On A Jet Plane
Previous Installment: The Letter
First Installment Of Julie’s Story: This Is How A Love Story Began

For more information about Julie Showalter and her writings as well as instructions for finding all of the Julie’s Story posts and downloading a PDF version of all the posts comprising Julie’s Story, go to Julie Showalter FAQ.

  1. I do realize, by the way, that little I could do (at least in a blog) could more effectively demonstrate risk-taking than offering Erica Jong as a source of wisdom. []
  2. I trust that entering into the record this quotation from my fellow Missourian (if one considers St Louis part of Missouri) re-establishes my elitist pontification credentials. []
  3. Julie Showalter was the fiercely intelligent, sexy, and loving woman and prize-winning author, with whom I had a outrageously wonderful 20 year marriage that ended with her death in late 1999 from cancer diagnosed the week of our wedding nearly 20 years earlier. Many posts on this blog are about her, our unlikely romance, and our life together, and still others consist of her writings. Information can be found at Julie Showalter FAQ. []
  4. For the uninitiated, this menu item is also known as “Rocky Mountain Oysters” or the more prosaic “Bull Testicles” []
  5. At this point in the song, I would point out to Julie that I didn’t play the guitar, thus allowing me to focus on the one thing in life that made it worth living. Yep, I was hilarious. []

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