The beautiful and great-hearted Suzanna Logan has tagged me with the following meme: “Post eight random things about yourself.” Ok, you asked for it.
1) At the age of five or six, I was once watching an old World War II movie (I do not remember the film title) and saw an actor dressed in a wide-brimmed hat and black robe, portraying a priest. I found his attire to be extremely cool, and shortly thereafter informed Ma Paco that I wanted to be a priest.
“You can’t” she said.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because we’re Baptists.”
(Many years later, I converted to Catholicism, but had encountered a new hurdle to joining the priesthood: I was married).
2) Also around the age of six, for a brief while, I had this great desire to own a tea plantation. I had seen a movie featuring a plantation owner, and he was wearing a white linen suit and a pith helmet – which was even cooler than the priest’s outfit. Learning that I had to go to India or some such place to be a tea grower extinguished the urge.
3) At the age of ten, I decided that I wanted to be a district attorney when I grew up. I had seen a movie (I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to see a pattern emerging here) in which a dashing young DA was fighting gangsters, and he wore the coolest clothes yet: a pinstriped double-breasted suit and a fedora (see number 7, below, to learn why this idea fizzled out)
4) At the age of twelve, a friend of mine – a notorious trouble-maker – informed me and another henchman of a new house in the neighborhood. It had been sold, but the new homeowner hadn’t moved in yet. On a Sunday evening, under the cover of darkness, we went to the house and peeked in the windows. The house was empty save for a large trunk in the basement. We looked at each other excitedly, because what else could that trunk have held but old Playboy magazines? (I haven’t the foggiest recollection as to why we thought so). We made a few desultory attempts to break in, even whacking at a padlock on a closet in the carport with a crow-bar (I think we had some kind of vague notion that we might be able to get into the attic and drop down inside the house somewhere). We eventually gave up, and as we were walking around behind the house, a dark figure bolted from the woods, shouting invective. It was all pretty hot-tempered and vulgar, but the words that clearly made a lasting impression were “Stop or I’ll shoot!” With the instinct of a wildebeest caught flat-footed at a waterhole by a crafty lion, I turned and ran. A few seconds later I heard the boom! of a gun, and, at that precise instant, tripped over a log. My comrades thought that I had been hit (I heard one of them shout, “Oh, Lord, he got Paco! – although he used my real name, of course, which angered me so much, even in that perilous moment, that I remember damning him under my breath for a loose-lipped fool); however, I quickly jumped up, sprinted in the direction of the deep woods, and made my way home by a roundabout path. I went directly to my room, took out my shoes and polished them, and put on clean slacks, a dress shirt and a tie - bound and determined, in the event that my friends gave me away, to swear that I had just got home from church and that I knew nothing about the incident, whatsoever. As it turned out, my friends had somehow talked their way out of the mess, and they told me later that the fellow who had bought the house was a retired Marine colonel, that he had spotted some vandalism perpetrated a week before at his new house (not by us, incidentally), and that the gun he had used to fire a warning shot was a .44 magnum.
It was about this time that I decided to make new friends.
5) I met the woman who would one day become my bride on a blind date. A couple of mutual friends were trying to set us up, but negotiations almost fell through because I was told initially that the young lady, a refugee from Chile, had fled the Pinochet regime. I vowed that I wanted nothing to do with a communist, but my friends were able to report back, after making a few subtle inquiries, that they had been mistaken, and that the young lady and her family were, in fact, refugees from the Allende government. After that, everything went swimmingly. Well, almost: we had to postpone our first date because she had been knocked unconscious in a traffic accident. But all was absolutely topping once she got out of the emergency room.
6) When I was courting the woman who would one day acquire the dubious distinction of becoming Mrs. Paco, I was sitting at the dinner table one evening, chatting with her and her family. Her mother – a sweet woman of quiet dignity and refined manners – pushed a tray of red pistachio nuts toward me and invited me to have some. Thanking her, I scooped up a handful and popped them into my mouth. It was pretty hard going, I must say. I noticed that the family was watching me with something like amused alarm. The future mother-in-law asked me, in a strangely awed voice, how I liked them. “Oh, swell!” I said. “Just fine. They’re a little crunchy, though.” My bride-to-be leaned in at this point and whispered, “You’re supposed to remove the shells, first.” Thank God they weren’t Brazil nuts!
7) I attended law school at the University of Miami (Coral Gables) for one semester. The reading requirements were extremely onerous, and interfered with my pleasure reading to such an extent that I quit after that one session (“What? Put P.G. Wodehouse aside for three years while I wade through this muck? I think not!”) I was fortified in my decision by something that my father, Old Paco, had once told me. After he retired from the ATF, he set up a garbage company, and was discussing some arcane matter of environmental law with a county official. The official was so impressed by Old Paco’s knowledge of the subject, he said, “Why, I’m surprised you didn’t go to law school! You’d have made a good lawyer.” My father responded with one of his frequent gags – “The only institution of higher learning I ever passed was N.C. State on the way to the liquor store” – and opined that he didn’t need to become a lawyer, since you could always get one pretty cheap if you knew where to look.
8) Readers of my Detective Paco yarns may be surprised to learn that, in the mid-1990’s, I did, in fact, study for and obtain a Virginia private investigator’s license. (You see, I had just finished watching this Humphrey Bogart movie, The Big Sleep...)
Ooohh, y-e-s-s, I almost forgot; I need to tag some other bloggers. Richard McEnroe, Saint, and Pixie Place, you’re it!