September 2, 2005

Helping how I can…

Posted in hurricane relief, nostalgia, travel at 6:24 pm by Marise Phillips

My personal favorite of the better-known charities:
Habitat for Humanity

Our friends on the Gulf Coast are going to need places to live. And how.

Also, thought I might use this space to share some sweet reminiscences of a beautiful, magical town that will never be the same again…

I have been to New Orleans only once in my life. It was in the Spring of 1994, and I was there for a Microsoft Windows developers' convention. My employer back then was Ziff-Davis Expos, a company that produced a variety of conferences and trade shows for the high tech industry. As a marketing coordinator for one of the shows we put on, called "Windows Solutions," I was sent to the conference to recruit attendees to our event, basically by being a "booth babe." Ha!!! 🙂

My lord, it was a whole lot of fun, that trip. I went with two colleagues, Andrea and John, who I didn't know too well beforehand, but were fun to travel with and to explore a new city with. And I had many firsts, during my visit:

1. First time seeing the South
2. First time enduring humid weather (ugh!!!)
3. First/only time seeing the Mississippi river
4. First/only time on a riverboat (a casino riverboat, no less!)
5. First time smoking a cigar
6. First (and best!) time hanging out at a gay bar

I was also "stalked" for the first (and not quite only) time in my life.

The booth next to us was sponsored by a tiny, UK-based software company, who had sent out some very smart, very nice, and (mostly) very unattractive men to sell their wares to the Microsoft developers attending the conference from all over the US. The youngest guy working there, whose name was Julian, was an awkward, gangly redhead — and boy, did he take a shine to me.

Frequently throughout the three or four days we worked in the booths alongside one another, he would sneak away to come talk to me, all googly-eyed, deluding himself that we were meant for one another, that I was the smartest, most beautiful woman in the world, and that he should move out to San Francisco and come live with me and be my love.

Sigh… Romantic in any other circumstance, certainly… but honestly — I was a dunce next to just about everyone else in the convention center, and I really wasn't all that beautiful 😉 But I was nice to him, and since I was one of the maybe 4 or 5 attractive women in the joint, I suppose his overactive hormones had something to do with it…

The conference's close was commemorated with a huge Mardi Gras-style party on the last night. John, Andrea and I showed up together for some light socializing, food and drink. After getting off to a fairly quiet start, the party quickly shot to a chaotic crescendo when a huge parade materialized (inside the convention center, somehow) – complete with floats bearing brightly-costumed MS employees, all throwing Windows-logoed poker chips and Mardi Gras beads at us. It was surreal and kinda fun at the same time.

We made a break for the casino riverboat at some stage, and the very persistent Julian had managed to find and attach himself to me. It wasn't long before he began using the tried-and-true "it's my last night in the country – I fly home tomorrow" come-on. Maybe it was the lure of more shiny beads, or possibly the 3 or 4 hurricanes I drank, but I ended up taking him up to my hotel room for some strange reason.

Against my better judgment, I slept with him and… well, it was surprisingly satisfying* for a one-night-stand. Apparently, it was for him, too. Because I was deluged with e-mails and, eventually, trans-continental phone calls over the next few weeks after the conference ended. All about how he was going to move out to the Bay Area, make me his wife, etc and so forth. And I'm like, "Dude, I'm not into you. At all." (He must have been all the more charmed by my oh-so-effete Valley Girl drawl. Yeah.)

Weirdest of all, I came back to my cube one day after lunch, decided to play my voicemails on speakerphone while talking to the girls I'd just come back with, only to snatch up the phone in horror as the shrieking voice of an Irishwoman rang out, "RiseyP! You fucking CUNT! You homewrecking slut! You stole my man! This is [so-and-so] — Julian's girlfriend and the mother of his 2-year-old child! I was pregnant when he was out there with you in New Orleans and you made me have a MISCARRIAGE! YOU FUCKING SLAG!"

Uh, yeah.

So I wrote to Julian, demanding that he cease and desist with any further contact. That I wanted nothing to do with him or his psycho girlfriend. Fortunately, he agreed to leave me alone. FINALLY.

The funniest thing happened, maybe 8-9 months later: The girlfriend wrote me an email to apologize for lashing out at me, that she wasn't well at the time, etc and so forth. And that Julian was moving to the States and that she hoped I would contact him, because he was deeply in love with me and she hoped we would be happy.

Fuckin' freaks.

But N'awlins?? LOVED it there! And I even love this crazy-ass memory which will forever be associated wth my one and only visit.

*I hate to kiss and tell! But I believe this is what must have cemented my penchant for British men.


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