By Ron Knecht – 1September2020
This has been the worst year in many, with strange events wrecking the goodness that continuity and cyclicality often bring. Pandemic, shutdowns, riots, Democrats off the edge. Sports, travel and movies cancelled. Two major surgeries and my brother’s death. Then I remembered my annual love note is due.
Cartoonist Gus Arriola knew he was a blessed man in many ways – one in particular – and he illustrated it beautifully in his 1941-85 daily comic strip Gordo. I, too, am blessed many ways, especially the particular way he was.
Gordo Lopez, Arriola’s comic-strip alter ego, was a poor Mexican bean farmer who later became a tour-guide dandy with a sharp eye for pretty ladies. As a bean farmer, he dressed simply: floppy-brimmed sombrero, short baggy pants with a rope belt, formless shirt and perhaps a serape – usually in peasant off-white – plus sandals. He lived in a small adobe hut and spoke broken English. But he was a carefree happy man.
Then a neighbor moved in, Mary Frances Sevier, a lovely, vivacious, sophisticated belle with a puhh-fect southern accent. Actually, Gus had married the real “France” (as he called her) a few years before.
Over time, Gordo’s clothes, home, life and everything about the strip evolved toward great beauty. His peasant togs yielded to “el vestido de Charro”- high-heeled leather boots, brocaded trousers, ruffled shirt, waist-length jacket and flat-brimmed sombrero – with silver and gold decorations, colorful embroidery, buttons and even a large floppy bow tie. His home became beautiful and his tourist taxi stylish. Even his guitar morphed from plain to exquisite mariachi.
Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz said Gordo was “probably the most beautifully drawn strip in the history of the business.” It was also quite funny with sophisticated puns and wordplay.
Arriola once explained the change in Gordo’s life reflected the effect France had on his own life. She had made his life beautiful, he said. There I began to see my own story.
Unlike the bean farmer, I mis-spent the 1980s and 1990s as a single yuppie in San Francisco’s Marina district – a prolonged young-adulthood. The dream come true for a small-town boy from the Midwest.
I had a strong career as an economic, engineering, financial and policy analyst, expert witness, and consulting executive. Jetting to Atlanta, Anchorage, Honolulu, Boston, etc. Attending grad school at one of the world’s top universities in a unique academic program that was just what I wanted. Finally, law school.
Plus, the symphony, opera, ballet and all the movies and theatre anyone could want. Eating out in the culinary capital of the West. Weekend drives along the stunning coast or skiing at Lake Tahoe. And, of course, Sunday brunch. All with friends in a beautiful and exciting place.
Running or bicycling the Presidio, Golden Gate Bridge and Marin headlands. Basketball, racquetball and weights at the Bay Club. And benefitting from ladies’ complaints that almost all the attractive men were married or gay.
From my business and social life, unlike Gordo, I already had the clothes. But my small, dreary, poorly furnished apartment on a noisy corner was another matter. It indicated the important things I was missing – home and family.
Then, I met Kathy. She enjoyed the social whirl and activities, but slowly our relationship took on depths others hadn’t. I moved into a large unfurnished classic yuppie pad. We spent weekends looking for grandfather clocks, dining room sets and antiques. China, crystal, silver and Christmas ornaments. Plus, dinner parties Mary Frances Sevier herself would have adored.
When Kathy stepped up in a key crisis, I realized she’d already brought me the gift of home and it was time for family. Marrying her brought the bonus of the best mother-in-law ever – although Kathy argues that’s the one she acquired.
As she was carrying our daughter, we agreed we had enjoyed as much of California as we could stand. Her mom agreed, and we all headed for the sane side of the Sierra, landing in Carson City after Karyn was born. For 22 years, I’ve been blessed with a nearly perfect home and family life. Kathy has made my life beautiful.
So, on our anniversary this Sunday, I’ll start the morning as I do each day – by kissing her lips as she sleeps and whispering in her ear: “I’ll love you forever, Kathy, with all my heart and soul.”
And maybe now the world will awaken from its long nightmares.
Ron Knecht has served Nevada as state controller, a higher education regent, college teacher, legislator and economist. Contact him at RonKnecht@aol.com.