The Impoverished Gentlewoman

A '60s woman lost in the woods.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The College Inn Murder

The College Inn was a rather antiseptic student hang-out in Gainesville,Florida. I say that because there were several places in Tallahassee that had much more appeal for the "trippers" that congregated there....but trippers were only a gleam in our collective eye. This was winter of 1966. Although I was living on my mother's bounty, I was a flunked out junior, looking towards probation in the spring. My roommates were a very diverse lot. Kathy was a rather disturbed young woman who sat in the corner, knitting and professing to be everyone's moral better and absentee mother. But we tended to see her more as Madame LaFarge, cackling away at our youthful escapades...or just mine. Later on, we visited her home in Palatka, a sun-washed hole of a town and met her father (whom she frostily called "Bill") and I gained much more sympathy for her. Peggy was a graduate student in bacteriology and finally Sing-Sing, a foreign exchange student from Thailand. It was a FRiday night and I was sort of missing which lead more to "Not again" than a real concern. Later on, my friends would only worry about me unless they saw my eviserated corpse. But Kathy was a pain and Peggy thought about what happened a few weeks ago.
I had a terrible blind date with an obnoxious frat boy. This lead to my seeing Simon and Garfunkel (with Peggy in tow) which was awesome but thats another story. The next night, I had gone out to a street dance for an "hour or so" and ended up meeting a really cute boy and going to a party with him and staying out...well, a little longer than an hour. When we got back, the house was crawling with police. It seems my drunken friend showed up looking for me and threatened my roommates with a knife. Or I should say, Kathy's boyfriend Don, who hid in the closet. The "really cute boy" ran for his life.
So on this particular friday night, I met Peggy at the College Inn for a hamburger and mentioned I was going to a street dance because I was bored. She made a joke about calling the police to warn them. I replied "very funny" or something like that and left.
The dance was pretty boring also so I left and decided to take a shortcut home-basically a few alleys and one back yard. I was almost there but realized I had left my shoulder bag. What, am I nuts? And part of my rent was in there to boot. Yes, I am nuts and I'm running like mad to hopefully retrieve everything dear to me before some undeserving lout finds it (probably that drunken frat boy!). I arrived there out of breath and scared to death but amazingly, found it exactly where I left it, with everything intact. I went back, using the same shortcut but for some reason I ran(just like I had getting there,afraid my things would be stolen). I just wanted to get home and fast. When I got there, Peggy was almost crying with relief.
It seems that sometime that evening, a girl was stabbed to death at the College Inn. It wasn't on the news yet but every campus has its grapevine. They caught him the next day. I don't remember his motive but he confessed immediately. He went to the girls bathroom and stood on one of the toliets. Eventually a girl opened that particular stall and he killed her. Peggy of course was thinking of that jerk with the knife (thank you Jesus, I can't remember his name). So she hears this horrific tale and thinks,"where in the hell is Vicki?". You might think, in my fevered imagination, I am the damsel in distress, all flowing hair and running 'cross the moors with a mad fiend in pursuit. But I felt more like I was "Wheres Waldo?" with my little perplexed face. How stupid to run through alleyways but I never did again.
Murder wasn't a common thing in a small southern college town and it was years before Ted Bundy terrorized Tallahassee but it had a sobering effect on us all.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Father Gene

It was 1965, 1966...before I met Rhett. It was in Gainesville, FL (Univ. of Florida) and I was busy flunking out of school,going to "Trader Toms",dancing to MoTown,very young Beatles & Stones(was Mick ever that cute?) and drinking too much beer (before other things came to be more popular). Still a "good girl"(Marymount definition-a virgin) but constantly experimenting.
A friend, Anita was not exactly a good girl but active in her church (Episcopal) whereas I was a bitter ex-Catholic, calling myself an atheist but eventually becoming a "jovial agnostic" -Rhett's term, which I always thought was pretty funny. The priest was Gene Ruyle, an agnostic (honest to god!) who said the best church was a bar and the best hymn, "Up on the Roof" by the Drifters. I went to him for counseling because I was pretty messed up and Anita worshipped him. I would go once a week and wail about my childhood & mother. It helped alot. Along with Anita, I also babysat for his three kids. Gene was also incredibly handsome. Is Ruyle an irish name? Because he had those beautiful blue eyes & black hair. But he was so innocent and good, our young lust was completely inappropriate. When I talked of painful incidents, his eyes were so full of sympathy, I instantly loved him.
He was married to Tommie, who was very petite and fun. She was the extrovert to his introvert. I would hang out for free just because I loved this family so much (my search for family life is always a constant). Tommie would put on music and we would all dance, adults and kids doing a demented conga line through the house. Sometimes we would watch "Lost in Space" and Paul the youngest would pretend to be scared and dive between our bodies and pillows for protection.
When I left Gainesville, I left those wonderful people behind. Only a few years later, Anita called me to catch up on things (for Anita, it was usually whos sleeping with who). "Hear what happened to Gene?"...No, I didn't want to hear this. Some people should be frozen in time, to preserve our dreams, you know? And I didn't believe it but checked it out with a more reliable source. It was true. Gene had left Tommie and the kids and moved out to Haight-Ashbury..and you know what happened with people who gravitated lose yourself(I tried to go...only lack of money prevented me).
Were we all insane then? Or is it that opportunity was there for the taking. You could only associate with non-judgmental people. Whatever you did, it was always, "its cool".
When I was in San Francisco years later, pregnant and not feeling all that well, I tried to find out where Gene was but failed. I was kind of glad.