Just a Gigolo
Pen Pals and Love
What is a Gigolo
Merriam-Webster defines a "Gigolo" as a man who is paid by a woman to be her lover and companion.
Letters Written in Cursive
Remember those long forgotten days of having pen pals in far off places? There were no personal computers, no Skype, and those long distance phone calls were few and far between because of being cost prohibitive. We were exposed to the extra phone charges when making a “person to person” long distance call. So how did we communicate with each other in those days of yore? We wrote letters to one another and we answered correspondence, occasionally enclosing photographs of ourselves, our geography or of family and mutual friends. We were distant from each other, yet tied together with a string of words in a letter. Thumbs weren’t for texting and instead they helped cradle the pen or pencil we wrote with. For some strange reason, life didn’t seem so hectic back in the 1960s.
I had visited California twice before my graduation. I was privileged to have met a wonderful Mexican family who had two daughters around my age. Their parents owned a restaurant and my parents became fast friends with them through a mutual acquaintance. At only 12 years old I was entranced by the beauty of one daughter named Kathy and after my stay, the two of us kept up with each other through the power of letters. I felt so close and comforted in my preteen and teenage years every time I would see the postmark from California. Our letter writing campaign went on for four more years when I took my next journey out we I 16-years old. Both Kathy and her sister Sarah had matured and developed into gorgeous young ladies and their parents looked the same. Manuel was always welcoming in his khaki pants and flip flops, sporting salt and pepper hair and a mustache that matched with that ever-present warm smile which prominently showed off his gold front tooth. He and his wife Esperanza were by far the two nicest people I had ever met in my short life span.
The restaurant was set up on a major avenue with a lot of traffic and in a thriving neighborhood. Connected to the restaurant were a back courtyard and then the two story house with the girls and Manuel and Esperanza living on the first floor and the girls’ grandfather and Uncle Tony living in the upstairs. I loved the ethnicity of it all and the sense of family, love and cooperation in running the family business. Manuel had asked my mom to let me stay there and he would see to my education, plus buy me my own car for transportation, but alas my mother declined the offer so the pen pal friendship went on.
Airplanes and Mexican Beer
As a graduation present, my parents purchased an airline ticket for me to go back to California and reunite with my far away friends where I took up residence on their living room couch for several weeks. For me, it was a life-altering event and a time filled with memories that have lasted my entire life. Never could I live long enough to repay the kindness and hospitality this family showered on me. Six days a week were filled with duties around the restaurant. In the morning Manuel and I would travel to the Farmer’s Market for fresh produce, return for a breakfast of steak, refried beans with cheese and eggs, and then the process of making fresh nachos and tacos for the 11:00 A.M. opening. At 2:00 P.M. the business closed for Manuel’s afternoon shower and siesta only to reopen at 4:00 P.M. and it stayed open until 11:00 P.M. The lunch crowd was subdued and business like, while the nighttime brought out a festive atmosphere of great food, large crowds, Mexicali beer and of course, tequila.
Kathy and Sarah’s grandfather did the prep work in the kitchen while Manuel performed all of the cooking. The girls also acted as waitresses with Esperanza as the hostess. I helped wherever I was needed and then there was good old Uncle Tony who was a charmer and a wheeler and dealer of rugged handsomeness. He had thick black hair, chiseled facial features, pearly white teeth and shirt unbuttoned two down with a gold crucifix around his neck. Always witty, smiling and seemingly carefree, it was impossible not to immediately like Uncle Tony. He just had a way of making people grin and laugh. However, being a naïve kid from back east it took me quite a while to realize that Tony was, in fact, a hustler and a true gigolo. Women would come to the restaurant alone and Tony would seat them in one particular booth. The two of them would sit for a while and then Tony would get up, hand me the menus, look at the woman and inform me whether he would be gone for a half an hour or two hours, then off they would go into the night. One particular evening Tony and a rather large female were sitting across from each other in the famous booth. I couldn’t help but notice how they both kept looking in my direction and giggling. He motioned me to their table and had me sit next to the woman at which point he said, “Well, here he is…he’s all yours.” The female grabbed me and like a banana peel I slid under the table to the other side. Tony was in hysterics, as my face turned as red as a beet. The woman lunged across at me and I frantically slid out of my seat and into the other area of the restaurant. Tony shook his head and the two of them made their exit. Whew…I was saved from an experience I did not want in my biography.
Finding a Job During the Vietnam War
Although the Los Angeles Times Newspaper had a strike going on Tony said he could still get me into personnel for a job interview. The picket line went around the block, but Tony said, “Hey kid. Now listen carefully. You don’t want to mess with these people so keep your head down, do not make eye contact, don’t say a word, follow me and walk fast.” He led and I followed. My dad would have been upset with me had he known I crossed a picket line. To this day, I don’t know how I got an interview, but there I was in the personnel office of the LA Times. I didn’t get hired. For you see I was classified as 1-A by the Selective Service and Vietnam was in full throttle mode. The Times informed me they didn’t want to go through a hiring process only to have me drafted.
Watches For Sale
Tony would be absent for days on end as he traveled to Mexico returning with boxes of watches and a potpourri of merchandise. It is anyone’s guess what he paid or how he acquired his goods, except he sold the watches with 3-inch wide leather bands for just a few dollars and still managed to make a huge profit. He gave me several of these watches. Why? I have no idea, but, whatever the reason Tony liked me and even with his character flaws I liked him. To say the least, Uncle Tony was a conundrum.
Back in the day, males 18 years old and over could not be out of their areas for more than 30 days without notifying the Selective Service. I had long overstayed my California visit and it was time to go back home and make contact again with the government. I landed at Syracuse’s Hancock Airport with a massive tequila hangover and a broken pottery bull I had fallen on when entering the airplane. Two days after returning home I put a down payment on a used car with a watch that had a 3-inch leather band. Adios my friends…adios.
The Highway of Life
FROM A NAÏVE KID TO THIS OLD GUY. WOW LIFE SURE DOES FLY BY!
WRITTEN BY: DENNIS L. PAGE