Tuesday, August 21, 1990

It Was Good (while it lasted)

Suzanne aka Rayette
Chapter 2

In retrospect, I suspected that Marion wasn’t like other people at the time I met her. Her moods were long and intense- she could go from almost giddy happiness to a somber and sullen mood without any apparent reason and, after I’d known her for a while a few people, including her brother-in-law, would make hints about Marion was “more than a little ‘weird’”
I’ d gone through this before with my first wife and I still thought that I could help people, even if they had no desire to be helped. I’ve always thought of it as my “JC Complex”. Fortunately I finally outgrew that bit of childishness.

Moving to London was really fun and exciting - It was in the early seventies and a lot of American artists and such had moved to London from the States, some to avoid the draft and others because London seemed to be “where it was at” Among the expats was my sister, Nicole, who had moved to London soon after her marriage in ‘69. Her new husband was a very talented advertising art director and had joined a hot ad agency in London.
But I didn’t have their address and I was in London almost a year before I ran into them.

As director of european advertising and public relations, I spent a lot of time traveling between London and the European capitals. I traveled first class and nobody ever questioned my expenses. It was great for me but not much fun for Marion. She was alone with her son in a foreign country no family or friends and a husband who was away on business about three weeks out of four . It wasn’t long before her behavior became totally erratic and problematical. I tried to find psychiatric help for her but she refused to see anyone I suggested. Things were becoming seriously unglued. Finally, one night I came home from a week in Italy and found her lying on the floor in dark room - no TV or music, just Marion on the floor apparently just staring at the ceiling. She screamed when I called her name and attacked me with a knife when I entered the room.
She spent a few days under hospitalization under observation and I had a conference with a psychiatrist who advised me to get her home, back to familiar surroundings and family etc.
I called Marion’s sister and we agreed that she would fly to London and bring her sister back to their parents’ home.

A week later I was alone in my London flat. Marion was gone and I never saw or spoke to her again. The family, who were the inheritors of a large fortune, arranged a quick and quiet divorce. We weren’t married long enough to celebrate an anniversary. As I write this I can feel a certain sadness - I don’t miss Marion, I just regret all the unnecessary pain and suffering. Was I to blame? Obviously, but I only expedited the collapse of a marriage that was doomed from the very beginning. I married Marion on the rebound. My first wife had been French and I thought that part of our problem was the fundamental differences in our ages (she was ten years older) language and culture. So I found a local woman, my own age that I thought would be more compatible. Unfortunately, she was insane.

For the first few months after M’s departure, I was busy with my work and took advantage of my bachelor status to take my weekends “on the continent” as the Brits would say. If I had a business trip to Italy on the calendar, I would leave on Friday evening for a Monday appointment in Milan and spend the weekend in the Alps or on coast. I had close friends in Milan and we’d have dinner together during the week. Once, my very good friend, Adriano asked me:

“Who do you think are the most emotional people in Europe?”
After some hesitation I mentioned the Spanish and Adriano laughed and said :

”You really wanted to say the Italians but you were afraid I’d be offended”
and he continued:
“ The most emotional people are the Germans, followed closely by the English. These are people who hide their emotions most of the time but when a situation becomes impossible, they explode. Leaving emotional shrapnel all over the landscape. They are completely controlled by their own emotions totally incapable of controlling them.
The Italians and perhaps the Spanish as well, emote constantly, rarely repressing any expression of feelings but we always retain control of our emotions, never going “sotto giri”, “over the top “ as you Americans say.

Now let’s have dinner, Giannino’s Restaurant has the most fabulous Risotto with
truffles. What do you say?”

One place that was demanding a lot of my attention at that time was Sweden. We had only recently started up operations there and everybody including the company’s Swedish general manager, needed to have their hands held 24/7. I was in Gothenburg at least twice a month. On one visit, the president of our European advertising agency accompanied me.
Jerry was a very pleasant and creative art director who had worked his way up the ladder to become CEO or as the Brits might say “managing partner” of his own advertising agency at
the age of forty. I had been instrumental in having Jerry appointed and he was grateful.
He was the closest thing to real friend that I had in London. We traveled well together Jerry had good taste and a very good sense humor, two indispensable characteristics for a good traveling companion.

On the flight from London we talked about Marion and the divorce which had just been consummated.
I explained that I had no regrets and felt very fortunate to have divorced an heiress, I had considered asking for alimony but it would have meant quitting my job in order to show “need”
Jerry said “Christ man, you can’t do that - I’d lose your account!”
We both laughed and I told him I wasn’t serious “Just joking of course”
Then he said:
“ And how’s your love life? “ Nudge nudge, wink wink. You must be doing all right, good looking rich american -I’ll wager the women just eat you up, er whoops, poor choice of expressions !”

The banter went on for a bit and I told him that I haven’t been actively playing the field. An occasional drink at the pub with some of the women from the office but nothing exciting.
“Just haven’t come across anyone I particularly fancy” I said.

We landed in Stockholm. There was a meeting with the president of a Swedish agency who might be the agency for our account in that country scheduled for the morning.
So we headed for our hotel, a small boutique hotel in the center of Stockholm right on the sea front. The rooms were very comfortable and nicely decorated it was a shame I didn’t have someone to share it with. Maybe that would change.

Jerry and I had dinner in a very pleasant restaurant close to the Opera, in fact I think it was called “The Opera Restaurant” after a wonderful dinner with lobster and aquavite . Jerry strolled along the quay enjoying the beautiful July evening. At ten pm. it was still very bright about what it would be at four o’clock in London. Eventually we found a night club that looked interesting - we walked in behind a group of eight young swedish women. All of them attractive and well dressed but not bar girls that you might expect to run into at that hour in a club in London or Paris. We quickly met two of the women who had gone in just before and the four of danced together until someone said “it’s two o’clock and I’ve got to work tomorrow” and my companion said “so do I- I have to go”

We stepped out into the Stockholm night but it was already daylight. During the time we were dancing in the club, the sun had set and risen again. Less than four hours of darkness in the land of the midnight sun. I accompanied Gunnilla (my new friend) to a taxi and told her I’d call her at the number she gave me the next time I was in Sweden. Instead, she called me at the hotel the following afternoon and we had dinner together. I would see Gunnilla several times in the following months. I even spent a week with her in her home at Christmas, she was very sweet and wanted me to come and live in Sweden with her but much as I enjoyed being with her, I couldn’t imagine living in Sweden, not withstanding the glorious Stockholm summer nights.

We met with the Swedish agency the following day and after a meeting that lasted through lunch and into the mid afternoon, Jerry and Lars, the Swedish company president, agreed on the terms of a contractual agreement. They would represent Jerry’s company in Sweden and in return, rebate one-third of the commissions on my company’s advertising in Scandinavia and Jerry would do the same on any Swedish clients who advertised in England.

To celebrate we drove out to the lake for a swim and some Swedish beer. The next day, Jerry flew back to London and I visited the Stockholm art museum.

It was fascinating to see the very different “look” of Swedish painting. We don’t see much of it outside of Sweden but the land of the midnight sun is bathed in a very different light. I suppose the distance from the equator ( or proximity to the North Pole) puts the sun’s angle at something less than 45 degrees and so the light is very sharp. Many paintings look as if they were painted by the light of flash guns. Walking around Stockholm is fascinating. At a glance it seems like it is quite similar to the U.S. but a little digging reveals a culture very different from our own. It isn’t surprising that this is the home of the Noble Prize. The whole country is infused with a spririt of social responsibility that would surprise the Quakers. If our national motto is “United we stand” than Sweden’s should be “We are our brother’s keeper” I can’t think of another country where people have such a dedication to the welfare of others.
Unfortunately this attitude often impinges on personal freedom and dignity. It’s a “Big Brother is watching you” kind of place and one of the reasons why I could not live there permanently.

I went on a New Year’s cruise to Finland with my friend Gunnilla. Everyone was pleasant and well mannered as we boarded the ship but they were all blind drunk and rolling on the floor within an hour of leaving port. Drinking is highly regulated within Sweden but once you’re on the high seas it’s “bottoms up”