I have met a lot of great characters in my life and I marvel at some of the creativity such people exert. Name just about any action possible and someone will come up with a unique and creative way to do it.
One of my most unique friends of the past was a pretty young lady whom I will refer to as Dionne Davenport. She is a friend of the past because she eventually chose to dump me as a friend. Her reason? She realized that she could tolerate neither me nor my choices because they were just as foreign to her as hers were to me. This story is about a unique and creative way of dumping someone in addition to a few other unique and creative things.
I met Dionne on an airplane headed for San Francisco where she lived at the time, and we had an immediate rapport; she really fascinated me, and apparently I fascinated her, all in a one hour flight, after which we parted. Both of us were married at the time and this was not about an affair; it was about discovering and ultimately dissolving a friendship. Nothing would have kept us apart after that first meeting. I started planning on seeing her again as soon as she disappeared from sight, and I think she knew that. From the outset I knew that we had some valuable things to give each other.
Dionne was a powerhouse of a woman; she had big dreams, big plans, and a lot of energy and confidence to make what ever she wanted to happen, happen. She worked in the world of finance in a world that was so foreign to me that I always stood amazed at hearing her describe what she was doing and even learning that it was possible to do such things. It was the time before the big savings and loan crash when banks routinely floated hundred million dollar issues on not much more than a whim. Dionne raised money for business ventures, big money. For her, a hundred million dollars was no more than a buy in for a serious project. The company she worked for was a money machine.
In a telephone conversation a few weeks later, I asked her if she would be interested in going to dinner with me sometime. She responded positively and asked about possible dates. “Well, I’m not doing anything tonight,” I said.
“Okay with me, but you are in Los Angeles and I am in San Francisco”, she responded.
My immediate response was, “I believe I can fix that in a couple of hours; let me see what flights are available”.
Apparently, that impressed her, and calling her again from the San Francisco airport two hours later impressed her even more.
That started a 10 year friendship that had many ups and downs, fun experiences as well as a few bizarre ones. Dionne always thinks and acts big. I never really figured out how wealthy Dionne, herself, was. She never seemed to deal in what I think of as real money. It was always some kind of nebulous bit of paper, electrons in a computer, promises, and notes, and people she knew. Nevertheless, Dionne was always surrounded by the substance of wealth, expensive cars, jewelry, art, homes and clothes. You would not be able to distinguish her from a zillionaire. So I guess she was a zillionaire. Maybe this is how zillionaires live. If it looks like a zillionaire, talks like a zillionaire, and ……well, you know the rest.
She often struggled with the question of what was she going to do with all the money she could make. It really troubled her that she was about to be in possession of more money than she would be able to spend. And yet every time she offered to bring me in on a deal, I had trouble seeing any “real” money. It was always some kind of substance (or non substance) that I could not understand. It was real money to her. She once called me, all excited, and wanted to show me something she had located. She took me to a large home in Laguna Beach high on a cliff overlooking the ocean.
“You and I can buy that for two million and some change,” she said excitedly. You live upstairs and I’ll live down stairs.” Her contribution, again, was some kind of paper and loan that totally escaped me. She was totally serious and became really upset with me when I didn’t get as excited as she was.
On each of these communication breakdowns we parted for a while for things to cool off. We had perfectly natural ways of insulting each other without knowing it. Once she was telling me about an operation in which she had just raised 200 million dollars. I responded with what I considered to be a compliment by saying, “What a helluva way to make a living!” a statement that friends of my profession often make to each other fondly. Later I learned that I had deeply insulted her, seeming to imply that what she was doing was somehow less legitimate than my own profession.
For the next five or six years I would see Dionne occasionally and discover a wide range of drastically varying situations she would be in. At one point she was running a company with a huge luxurious office in a prime location and supplying Mercedes Benzes to all her employees. She actually loaned me the entire office for a day to conduct interviews for a company I was starting. At the time, she was living in a prime home in Newport Beach with an ocean view. Shortly after that she handed me the keys to a Mercedes and told me to see if I liked it. Of course I liked it, and then she was amazed when I turned down her offer to let me take over the lease for it. It seems that she had a whole fleet of leased Mercedes. We had many such natural curious differences in how we looked at the world that both pushed us apart as well as drew us together. It was as if we were checking to see if the other person was really for real.
A series of choices of that nature led her to realize how different we were. Each time one of us would make what would be considered a bizarre choice by the other, a long time would pass before meeting again. After not seeing her for some time, she sent me a large bouquet of flowers and invited me to her home in Newport Beach, a mansion, on a piece of land larger than any I had ever seen in Newport Beach, larger than I had previously known even existed in Newport Beach. When I asked her how she was doing, her response was, “Well most of my friends are in jail, I have lost over a hundred million, and people are trying to take my house. Other than that, I’d say I am doing okay.” This was in the heat of the S&L crash; a lot of wheeler dealers had gone to jail. To this day I can’t explain how she came to “own” this home. It took someone months of legal activity to get her out of it.
Some time later she moved temporarily into a home that I owned in Orange. I can’t remember how she wound up paying about half the going rate for rent. It seems she was doing me a favor. Eventually, when I told her I needed a legitimate renter, she offered to double the rent and even buy it for about fifty percent more than what it was worth. This sounded like a good idea until she explained how. The offer included a large note she had from the Bailey brothers of Texas, well known for their failed attempt to corner the silver market. She was outraged and incredulous when I failed to jump at the offer.
Dionne’s two huge Alaskan Huskies had an upkeep budget at least equivalent to two kids. She seemed amused when one of them would manage to catch a neighborhood cat and make minced meat out of him.
She loved going to parties that were attended by big named guests. I went with her to a few of these, some of them being black tie events. For me, just watching such a social event was a curious spectacle. She was in heaven at such parties, and she loved introducing me to bank presidents and politicians, and she sometimes got upset when I failed to pursue these people with the proper amount of vigor. If you want to know what a fish out of water is, it is me at one of these parties.
Finally came the proverbial straw. She was invited to a charity event that was to be attended by Maurine Reagan. For me, being at a party attended by Maurine Reagan is about as exciting as a grub worm race. I had only heard about such charity events. Apparently one goes to these things and is supposed to feel extra special giving away money to some cause when Maureen Reagan is there as a witness. Unfortunately for our friendship I underestimated how important the event was for Dionne. Mostly because of her excitement, I agreed to go with her, even knowing that I had a potential conflict. My mother had passed away a few months before and the date for settling the estate was approaching. As luck would have it, 10 days before that the final settlements would take place I learned that it would fall on the day of the Maureen Reagan party half way across the country. I had to attend. For me ten days time to change an appointment is eternity. For Dionne it was last minute. To make matters worse, she was not answering her phone. Finally, rather than delaying, I left her a message that I would not be able to attend the event with her since I had to travel back east. I think that it was not so much the ten days that broke the camels back but more my lack of excitement of being in the same room with Maureen Reagan. This was absolutely beyond her comprehension. It was to her the utmost of inexcusable snobbish ignorance.
Now comes the punch line. Dionne’s unique way of saying goodbye was simple and ingenious and had the most perfect signature; it came without a physical signature. A simple envelope containing a card had no actual message. A message was not needed. The card was a Rolodex card with my name and phone number on it. I haven’t seen or heard from my friend Dionne now for over 10 years.
Dionne, if some day you chance to
read this, you will recognize your name and the story, though you may
understand only half of it. (That is not an insult, but yet an amorous
admission.) We had a great friendship and I would not wish to change a
single bit of it, not even your ingenious goodbye. That will reserve a
place in my heart for you forever.
Note: One has to wonder, since Rolodex cards have now been replaced by Palms, IPods, and hand held computers, what would be the equivalent good bye today.