The year was 1960. The “Pill” … aka the birth control pill … had just hit the market. The sexual revolution had begun!
At the time Mr. Simpson, my Spanish teacher at Vallejo Senior High School and a personal mentor, asked, “How do you think ‘the pill’ will affect our morals?”
I gave him a long, sophomoric, rambling reply in which I made the case that our morals were so deeply embedded in us through cultural acclimation … our religion, culture and societal institutions … that the pill wouldn’t significantly affect or change our morals.
Boy! Was I wrong! I was trying to look ahead in a rear-view mirror.
Mr. Simpson, a lover of philosophy and B.S.ing, listened politely (he was a great listener, which was probably the reason he was a great educator) replying succinctly, “Nope. They’ll go down with the pill.”
It didn’t take long to see my thesis fail in front of my own eyes. By the time I’d arrived in Germany the sexual revolution had shifted out of low gear and was speeding straight into its Golden Age. Later on it picked up some unpleasant hitch-hikers like HIV and AIDS, but that was later on.
Being a revolutionary at heart, I decided to give it my all! I waved its flag, proselytized for converts and painted a blissful, utopian future filled with love and love alone … all of which led me to lead a double life in Koblenz … a soldier by day keeping the commies at bay, a revolutionary by night in a mano-a-mana struggle to defeat out-of-date mores and promote the blessed new era of science and the pill!
I found much rhetoric and little luck in my revolutionary ardor in Koblenz. The city had a bevy of beautiful, sophisticated young ladies enjoying, no, reveling, in the peak of their bloom. I felt like a man in a lush tropical orchard where all the ripe fruits hang just out of reach!
The problem was, of course, that they all spoke German! … a ridiculously complicated language with non-intuitive verb tenses, backassward syntax and multi-syllabic words so long one of them would keep a sign painter busy for a day!
I found it quite impossible to accept the fact that the German language gave birth to our beautiful, elegant and utilitarian English … though I had to admit that those marauding Anglo–Saxon thugs brought something special to Britain in their grunting language’s harsh rootstock!
As I had a mission, a goal and a strategy … and a revolution to help … I determined to learn that difficult language as fast as I possibly could! And though the learning curve proved frustrating, I came to enjoy it very much … very much indeed!
Thereafter for a couple of years I had the time of my life! Money, leisure and three outstanding nightclubs downtown in which to spend it … which I did roughly six or 7 nights a week where an arrow from Cupid’s quiver would lodge itself in my heart about as often as the moon rises!
I loved them all after a fashion, which for me was good enough … after all, the hunt can be as fun as the feast!
However, as with most things in life, there comes a time when you find someone you love better than all the others. In my case the one who stole my heart wasn’t a Koblenz girl, or even German … she was an English lass!
Her name was Jan. I met her one evening at the Tanz Palast, a popular dance club downtown. When I asked this good looking, slender “dishwater” blonde for a dance and heard her reply in English you could have knocked me over with a Bratwurst!
And you could have knocked her over with a Bratwurst as well! We both went crazy … absolutely looney! We danced and danced and danced until the band quit playing, and then we did it all over again the next night and the next and the next!
Her dad, a successful architect, had arranged for Jan to get some international business experience working at an engineering firm in Koblenz … which she did, plus quite a bit more! It wasn’t long before Jan and I rented an apartment together and for next six months we danced, drank and partied with friends as only young twenty-somethings can do.
We hung-out in Paris and drank buckets of cheap red wine. We prowled the midnight streets Köln and drank champagne along the Rhein. Those six months sped by like a New York minute!
When Jan returned to England I moved back to the kaserne, but life just wasn’t the same. My evening pursuits didn’t have quite the edge they had pre-Jan. I was lonely … but it wasn’t only loneliness that had me down.
I was short! My time in the army, and in Koblenz, was rapidly coming to an end … and just as a watched pot never boils, a short-timer’s days move slower than a slug on hot asphalt!
But eventually my discharge date arrived and I immediately left for Kenilworth and a passionate reunion with Jan. She and I spent a few beautiful months together with her family and friends in Kenilworth, camping in Devon, wandering around Birmingham and exploring the Lake District.
Then it was time to part again. I vividly remember the last time I saw her walking off to work. I felt a painful melancholy watching her, but at the same time I found myself excited about heading-off for new adventures … driving around Europe from Helsinki to Moscow to Athens and all points in-between.
But I felt bad about leaving Jan. I imagined how she’d miss me, how awful she’d feel without me. I even found myself thinking that I’d spoiled the whole of her remaining life!
Hogwash! I was as self-delusional as a hypnotist gazing in a mirror! About a year later I was to find out how self-deluded I was!
Back home, lonely and desperately missing her companionship, I called Jan from Vallejo. Back then overseas phone calls were exorbitantly expensive so I tried to make the call as brief as possible. That proved to be a costly mistake!
During our conversation I’d asked her to consider coming to California for a visit … but when I received her letter excitedly planning for our wedding I realized that something must have gotten tragically garbled in our intercontinental conversation!
OMG! I couldn’t remember asking for her hand in marriage! I couldn’t even remember the word “marriage” or “engagement” cropping up! But it was too late! Her dad had already approved the union! Her friends were planning engagement parties! Her grannie was deliriously happy! And my mother, after receiving a letter from Jan, was ecstatic!
I, on the other hand, found myself disoriented, confused, distraught and devastated! “What in the hell?” I thought, profoundly perplexed.
A few weeks later I received the final nail in the coffin, the pièce de résistance! In a particularly syrupy letter my “fiancé” wrote about the last time we’d seen each other, about how, after I’d left Kenilworth she was thinking that we’d had the perfect affair … and how happy that made her!
And all the while I’d suffered from this manifestation of exaggerated male vanity believing my departure must have made her absolutely miserable!
“Joe! What have you done now?” I screamed to myself as I pounded my head against a wall, “How stupid, stupid, stupid could you be!”
And when all was said and done I did break her heart! I wrote her a long letter about how I’d thought things through, about how I realized it wouldn’t work-out for her and about how she’d be better off without me … in other words, a load of cowardly, loathsome male drivel!
If there’s a purgatory I’m sure there’s a special room reserved just for me. And I’m sure when I arrive I’ll find the place filled with other self-centered, delusional Lotharios!
Afterwards I figured I must have gained a valuable insight about women from the ordeal, but as I’ve proven many times since, I really didn’t learn a damned thing … except re-discovering the long known fact that the vanity of a man can far exceed his pitiful reach!
Coming next! How I Won The Cold War, Part 29 … A FORTUNATE MISTAKE AND A JOYOUS ESCAPE
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