"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Smart, pretty and interesting

I don't know about your friends, but mine, once they have some liquor in them, start asking questions. And not the "How about them Wild?" or "Cold enough for ya?" type, but the type of question that makes one think as only slightly inebriated minds can. I was asked who's the smartest, the most beautiful and the most interesting persons I've ever met (the clause soon got added that one couldn't claim one's spouse was all three).

I've met some extremely intelligent people; two with IQ's measured over 200. Intelligence just means an ability to learn quickly. It doesn't mean one actually knows anything. I also know some people with a little knowledge of a great many things (game show contestants will know who Leshek is; he's a perfect example). I know a large number of people with a tremendous, even scary, knowledge of one particular field. But when it comes to an intelligent person who knows a lot about a lot of things, the guy who stands out is Harold Varmus. Sure, he won a Nobel Prize, but I've met 9 Nobel laureates and a couple of them couldn't make change for a dollar. I was once asked to describe my research to him and, after five minutes and three questions, he knew it better than I did. I quickly turned the subject to local caves (he's a speliologist as well as retroviral expert). I was tempted to change the subject every sentence from that point onward.

The most beautiful woman I've ever met (and I've met Hollywood starlets, supermodels and Miss Universe contestants) was a forestry student (in 1985) named, I think, Ingrid Anderson. She didn't have the best of personalities and she REALLY didn't like me, though she liked my Pakistani pilot friend quite a bit. She had perfect proportion and symmetry, flawless coloration, youth (again in 1985) and health. Not really my type. Not sure what happened to her.

The "most interesting" is tricky, because interesting slides into unusual and unusual into crazy and crazy's not particularly interesting. There's only one answer for me though and it leads to the story I've always threatened to tell if I ran out of things to blog about:

She was naked when I met her

It was the summer between high school and college and I spent a lot of time wandering about St. Paul, trying to figure out what made the city what it was, what made it tick and what my place in it was going to be. If I'd stayed home, my mother would've found chores for me to do and my father would've made me look for work, but they seemed happy as long as I was busy and out of trouble. I'd tell them stories over dinner about what I did, which became nothing but lies after one particular day.

The weather was sweltering as I ran out of things to do downtown and wandered out of the cool shadows of the buildings and headed north. Or west. Those who know St. Paul know directions are a little odd there. I was passing the St. Luke's wing of United Hospital and felt I was being watched.

"Hey, you. Help me find my clothes," a woman's voice called from some bushes next to the hospital building. "They're in a green duffel bag." I could see the bag, so I directed her to them and waited as she got dressed. This, at least, was not boring. She stepped out of the bushes and started talking a-mile-a-minute, probably telling me who she was and what she was doing, but I didn't hear any of it as I just stared at her. She might've been beautiful - I wasn't sure - but she was certainly the oddest looking person I'd ever seen.

First, there was the hair. At the time, punk rockers were dying their hair all sorts of colors, but that wasn't her style. She just had metallic pink hair; burnished copper, I eventually decided, the color of a newly minted penny. The color of her hair made you notice the color of her eyes; beneath brows that had an impish, mischievious arch to them, were eyes that looked intensely green (close inspection showed them to be olive drab with a deep emerald ring around them). Her skin was that milky white you only see on redheads who never go out in daytime. You could draw her with three crayons.

Before I knew it, I had followed her a few blocks. She was having some sort of adventure and I was just playing along, ready to rescue her if need be, as I'd already gotten involved and she looked like someone should be watching over her. As we walked, I couldn't help but notice how thin she was. She was a bit too short to be a model, but she was model thin... actually, when the light hit her so you could see the hollows under her cheekbones, you could tell she was actually too skinny even to be a model. Was she pretty? Did I like the way she looked? I wasn't sure.

We were walking up Irvine Street, a country road in the middle of the city, 14 feet wide, oiled sand reverted to just dirt, with trees and grape vines creating a tunnel that led up to Summit Avenue and the rich part of town. I had had no idea it existed. There was a staircase down to a building and she said she had to get her key by climbing up a fire escape and would I give her a boost? I obliged and, shuddering with horror for a moment as my fingers laced between her ribs and I felt her hip bone as I lifted her, she clambered up to the third story, uprooted a plant and pulled a key out of the pot. She clambered down the steps, dropped into my waiting arms (she felt like a child) and went on up the hill... "That's not my apartment. That's just where I keep my spare key. If they ever found it, they wouldn't know what it went to." I asked her what she would've done if I hadn't been there to help her get the key. "I put it there, didn't I?"

We walked past some historic houses and an apartment building. "F. Scott Fitzgerald lived there. Mine's the next one." We entered the building and headed to her apartment (what was I expecting? where was this leading?) and as she put the key in the door, I could hear a dog bark. And then there was a thud and the barking stopped. "Lucky has narcolepsy. He falls asleep when he gets excited. Fortunately, he doesn't have accidents when it happens any more." We pushed the door open, and sleeping dog with it, then we had to gently pull back a fold of skin that had wedged under the door. "Poor Lucky."

The apartment was pink. It was all pink. It was all the same shade of pink. There was a framed picture of pink with a pink frame. Thank God for Lucky, or I'd have nothing to focus on. Such an ugly dog - half boxer, half schnauzer, I later learned. "I'm going to change," she said. This changing clothes after 20 minutes was going to be a theme, but I didn't know it at the time. As she stepped into her bedroom, I could see it was green, not pink.

The phone rang. "Would you get that?" I picked up the pink phone and was asked if Stacy was there. One moment, I replied. Is your name Stacy? I asked. "I told you that, silly. Who is it?" It turned out to be the hospital. They wanted to know if she was okay. I said that, as far as I could tell, she seemed alright, if a little odd. They wanted to know who I was.


It occurred to me that I might be in some sort of trouble. Stacy reappeared, fed the now wobbly, though awake dog and said she really should walk the dog. I said I had to get back downtown and get to my car anyway, I was parked at a meter, which must've expired long ago. "Why didn't you say so?!" She dragged me and Lucky out of the building and to her car (Mercedes. I was impressed. And I'm not a car guy). She drove me back downtown and I considered not letting her see what kind of car I was driving, but she didn't seem to mind much of anything.

"Same time tomorrow?" she asked.

Oh yes. Yes, indeed. Please.


Diane said...

Very interesting story! I'm glad you told it.

Andrew said...

I can't not comment

I have no idea what to say

Knowing you normalizes my life

Thanks, Kinda

SteveQ said...

So, Andrew, are you buying your redheaded daughter a Mercedes for her 16th birthday?
I left out a lot of details, of course and I think I should mention that almost nothing mentioned is the same today as it was. If people want, or I get bored, I may add installments to the story... or tell others.

it's all about pace said...

" You could draw her with three crayons"

very nice