Europe and a Hawaiian Honeymoon
By this time I was teaching Psychology during the day, teaching driver education after school, and driving limo nights and weekends. My marriage ended after five years and Sherma and the kids returned to Utah. I kept the house and started a Masters Degree program through Northern Arizona University. Their program, specifically designed for CCSD teachers consisted of driving to Kingman, AZ Friday after school, taking a class Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday morning and returning to Las Vegas by noon. Four such weekends equaled one class. By taking classes in Kingman and two summers in Flagstaff, one could complete the Masters program in two years.
I had been inspired by the book Roots to find my relatives in what was then Yugoslavia, so I took a one-year leave of absence from the school district and planned to be gone for the entire year, looking up relatives, polishing my Serbo-Croatian language, and writing the great American novel. While in summer school at Flagstaff I met Patty, also a teacher in Clark County. We dated and I told her of my plans that would commence at the end of the summer session. Just before the summer session ended, however, Patti’s mother died unexpectedly. She was shattered and I was in a dilemma. Our relationship had grown serious and we’d talked marriage, but my plans for Europe had been made. After wrestling with what to do I decided to go to Europe.
The year was 1972 and Bobby Fisher and Boris Spassky had their famous World Chess Match in Reykjavik, Iceland. The tickets I held to Europe took me on Lofleiter Airlines, the national airline of Iceland, from New York to Luxemburg with a stopover in Iceland. For a very reasonable fee one could stay a few days in Iceland and be treated to tours of the area. I opted for the stay over. There were only two major hotels in town, one of which was owned by the airline. I stayed there as did Bobby Fisher. Spassky was in the other. The first day I went to take a swim and steam and in the steam room (I’m sure very few people can say this with honesty) I met Bobby Fisher in the nude. Of course, the steam room is a place in which men sweat together sans clothing. We spoke briefly and I thought then, “What an odd duck.” The stopover was well worth it.
The first part of my trip lived up to expectations – traveling through thirteen countries and having adventure after adventure. But once I reached Yugoslavia the novelty began to wear off. I had picked up a cold in France as the result of an overnight stay in an unheated railway station during a rail strike and when I reached Ljubljana I couldn’t understand a soul, even though I thought I had at least a rudimentary grasp of the language. My grandparents spoke almost no English and my parents used both languages in the home. I phoned Patti to see how she was doing, then phoned my parents. The phone call went as follows (remember, I’m 29 years old and have not lived at home since I was 17):
Me: Hi Mom
Mother: You don’t sound good.
ME: I caught a cold in France.
Mother: I knew it. You didn’t take your winter coat.
ME: Mom, I have a very heavy sweater. It is fine.
Mother: No, you need a coat. Where do you go next?
ME: I’ll be in Zagreb tomorrow, why?
Mother: I’m sending your father over with your winter coat. You left it here.
ME: No, Mom, really.. I’ll buy a coat. I promise.
Mother: No, I know you, you’re too cheap. Go to the Continental hotel in Zagreb. Your father will meet you there.
ME: No, Mom, really…
Mother: He’ll be there in the morning. Love you. (click)
There was method to her madness. My father and I had never been close. Since my parents had traveled to Yugoslavia 22 consecutive summers, spoke like natives, and knew the country intimately, she thought it would be a good bonding experience for both of us. Even though they had just returned several weeks earlier, she put him on a plane and off he went.
During our week together my mother’s plan did not work as she had hoped. We did indeed get to meet many of the relatives but throughout the trip his mantra was, “You need to get back home and marry that girl. We’ve talked to her on the phone. She has a good heart. Quit all this foolishness and get back to work like a normal person.” And so it went. I did begin to be concerned that Patti might be having a difficult time of it so I cut my trip short and in early December returned to Las Vegas.
Shortly before Patti’s Christmas vacation began I popped the question and she said yes. We married on December 15, 1972 and planned to drive to her sister’s house in Orange County, leave the car there, and fly to Hawaii on our honeymoon. The day before the wedding Patti had some dental work scheduled and while she was numb the dentist suggested he take her wisdom teeth out so they did not cause her future problems. She agreed and when we married, she was on pain medication and looked like a chipmunk.
We just went to the courthouse for an informal ceremony. Dave and Margi Hoff, Patti’s friends from the school district, stood up as witnesses. The trip to Orange County, where her sister had wedding cake and a small party, as well as the flight to Hawaii were miserable for Patti as the effects of the Novocain wore off.
We flew directly to the Big Island, as I wanted something quaint but Patti was expecting something from the Hawaii brochures. That was our first miscommunication. The first night we went to a small restaurant inside the home of a local. Very Hawaiian. A little urchin peeked around the oilcloth curtain that was positioned between the kitchen and the small dining area. It was a miserable introduction to Hawaii as well as to marriage. I felt so bad for her.
The next day we flew to Waikiki and stayed there. We took the city bus to the Ala Maona Shopping Center, did some sightseeing and were returning to our hotel. An older gentleman on the bus struck up a conversation with us. He was a real gentleman and when I insisted on paying his fare he did not object. He got off at the Ili Kai, a very exclusive hotel in Waikiki. As the bus started to move the driver laughed and said, “He did it again.” I looked confused and he added, “The man rides the bus, pretends to be a pauper, and often gets a tourist to feel sorry for him pay his fare. He owns that hotel.”
We both had a good laugh and things started getting better for Patti. Her swelling had gone down, the pain was gone, we were staying in a real hotel, and an NFL playoff game was about to begin (Patti is a rabid football fan). I was interested too as the Steelers were playing and we watched as Franco Harris made the so-called “miraculous reception” and the Steelers won the game. That was our first and only Christmas in Hawaii.