Years ago I was working at this great company called Nellcor and during my eight or nine years of working there I made friends that are friends to this day...such as Skip Duncan. It was perhaps the best place I have ever worked in my life in that it treated its employees with total respect and expected each and every employee to have a value driven home life as well as a value driven work life. The HR Director was named Francine and she taught all of us great lessons on management, meeting protocol...you name it. Ok, I digress...but it was also a very creative crowd that I worked with and one year we all did a series of short stories that we were going to tie together into one big story...each part of the big story being told from our own perspective. In going through some of my old paperwork I found that I still have parts of that project and here is my version of Raoul and John which was called "The True Story":
As I swerved to avoid Raoul, I hit Juan with my 1984 Ford Tempo. His body just kind of hurtled into the air and then bounced away. And the rest is, shall we say, history...
In 1972 I was a young man out and about in the great cities of the Midwestern United States called Minneapolis/St. Paul...sometimes better known at the Twin Cities. As I said, I was young, and more than that, I was undecided as to my career. A college degree seemed insufficient to sent me on my way to fame and riches. Perhaps, too many alternatives were available to me. For, alas, my first career choice was that of an exotic dancer at Charlie's Turf Club on University Avenue near downtown St. Paul. The club was not in the best part of town--but it certainly could be one of the liveliest.
It was there that my tale of woe and misfortune began one dark and stormy night. The day had begun hot and humid and rapidly deteriorated into violent thunderstorms with a threat of tornadoes. You know...typical Midwestern summer weather. I got to work early that miserable Tuesday evening and went backstage to my dressing room to prepare for the evening of dance, fun, and frivolity. You see, I was a very popular dancer because of my ability to "communicate" with the crowd. Part of my popularity, I like to think, was my glamorous costuming. Therefore my preparation time was much longer than most other exotic dancers at Charlie's Turf Club..
As usual, club management had left a bottle of Tanqueray gin chilling in an ice bucket on my dressing table along with my favorite crystal old fashion cocktail glass. I quickly poured myself a generous dollop of gin and added two ice cubes and settled down to contemplate the evening and the dances I was to perform.
I had been studying dances from the far east--particularly the Moroccan Dervish. In fact I had quite perfected the moves to this mystical and exciting dance. My only problem was the costuming. Moroccan outfits were quite hard to find in St. Paul. So I had to come up with an alternative and my final decision was hot red leotards with a black, gray and green sequined cape.
Finally, completely made up and dressed, and after several dollops of gin, I was sitting in my dressing room watching the clock as the minutes slowly ticked off until dance time. I had always danced on a stage. This particular evening was going to be my first time in the gilded cage that hung above the dance floor...from which I would be looking down at the dancing writhing masses.
Little did I realize as I anticipated my entrance to the cage that disaster was awaiting me. It would be a disaster that would forever change my life. I had no idea that my career as an exotic dancer at Charlie's Turf Club was about to bend and I would be placed on a path that would end up with me being a Credit Manager at Nellcor in Hayward, CA.!
To the strains of Thelma Houston singing "Don't Leave Me this Way", I made my entrance and climbed the rope stairs to the cage and then began my dance. I was magic there above the crowd...swirling, twirling, "dervishing" to that music. I did not realize that the rocking motion created by the moves of my dancing was seriously weakening the chain links that attached the cage to the ceiling of Charlie's Turf Club. Suddenly the cage broke loose and plunged to the floor below. Fortunately the crowd was able to avoid the plunging cage and were able to avoid injury...except for me. As the cage hit the floor, the door flew open. At first I was too stunned to move. Finally I half walked, half fell out of the open door...into Raoul's waiting arms.
I was not injured, just stunned, but he wanted to take me away and I could not find it within me to object. He helped me into my dressing room and poured me a generous dollop of gin, over ice, in my favorite crystal old fashion glass. The he took a generous swallow himself right out of the bottle! And, I thought to myself (wickedly) "This man cannot be all bad if he likes Tanqueray gin."
After the two of us consumed several dollops of gin, I was quite convinced that I could go back out and resume my performance. Raoul tried to discourage me from doing that...but I really did wan to do it if they could finally get the gilded cage rehung. Which they did. However, the minute I walked out and saw the cage suspended 30 feet above the dance floor...I knew that my days of exotic dancing were over. I would never dervish again.
I turned to Raoul for consolation. He suggested that we escape the environs of Minneapolis/St. Paul and go somewhere, far away for that we could be alone together...sipping generous dollops of Tanqueray gin on secluded beaches from crystal old fashion glasses. We considered several locations but finally settled upon Pointe-A-Pierre on Guadalupe Island in the Lesser Antilles chain of islands. Since I had build up a considerable savings account while dancing at Charlie's Turf Club...and Raoul too had saved some money...we dreamed of opening a quiet little bar and restaurant. And thus we departed for the Caribbean leaving the world of exotic dancing behind forever.
Raoul and I called the bar/restaurant "Hanna Mae's"...naming it after a dear Midwestern friend. By the way I am sure that at this point you would like to know a lot more about Raoul. Well, that will have to wait for another story. The bar and restaurant were located on an old quay overlooking the ocean. It was surrounded by coconut palms, oleander bushes, and other flora. The place was truly restive and was appealing both physically and mystically. Well, maybe not mystically but you get the point. This, I thought, would be my future. Once gain not realizing that Nellcor was still hidden over the magnificent horizon beyond Pointe-A-Pierre on Guadalupe Island.
All went well for us. The years were peaceful and good to us. After our first season there, the Tanqueray distributor gave us the first volume discount that had ever been given in the Lesser Antilles. The days were sun-blessed with afternoons given away to crystal old fashion glasses continually filled with generous dollops of Tanqueray gin.
Then September, 1989, arrived. It was hurricane season in the Lesser Antilles...(to be continued)