The Most Audacious Birthday Gift

This adventure began during my first year at trade school in San Francisco where I made a new best friend.  For him, I was extra-willing to do audacious things.  This is just one of the stunts I pulled on him because; this is what  friends do . . .

– – = = (+) = = – –

Two things in the world are not meant to be hidden – love and a woman in a red dress.

Author unknown

– – = = (+) = = – –

I opened the car door for her and she extended a long sleeved, white gloved hand to take my arm.  She was breathtaking. It was an, “I don’t believe I’m doing this” moment.  She was  an exotic beauty, dressed to melt hearts.  Her shocking red gown and hair styling would silence the room as she walked in – her smile was radiant. I knew the venue well and she was about reduce all the other women to raw envy and all the guys to barely disciplined desire; and – she would be on my arm.

– – = = (+) = = – –

Because I’ve spoken with him about my using his real name, I now get to name my good friend.  In our first months in class together, we discovered similar spirits, goals and drive and thus became great study friends.  Joseph Santo-Domingo and I  preferred doing life with a smile.  If I ever arrived with an cranky attitude – he would cause a correction and drag me into a better frame of mind and vice versa.

By second semester, we were a study team.  We had flawless attendance and then afterwards, would stake out a nearby restaurant for study and dinner for up to 4 hours some days – reviewing formulas, circuits and solutions.  Each time a quiz rolled around – we owned it!

Joseph was also a man of integrity.  My father drove a freight truck and used to bring me interesting books discarded by one of his customers.  Once he brought me a book that I recognized could replace our current electronics theory text book.  It had all the same chapters and topics.  I brought it to class and suggested to Joseph that we add the chapter questions to what we were studying.

Later that week, we felt over-prepared and almost cocky as the exams were handed out.  On the professor’s signal, we quickly turned over our papers to read the first question and wow!  I quickly read the second and several others to make sure, but it was certain.  We knew these test questions.  They were copied from that extra book my dad had given me.

I turned to Joseph – who was already looking at me.  He mouthed silently, “what do we do?”

I mouthed back, trying to not look like I was having a test-related conversation, that we should, “answer as we studied.”

What else could we have done?  We had studied hard.  We didn’t know the exact same questions would be on the test .  It was not our fault we happened on the question source.

After this, we still studied our brains out for each quiz.  Joseph was unwilling to short cut our studies to memorizing the questions and answers from my extra book.  If anything, we worked harder to deserve our high test scores and the “A” we both got for the class.

In the run up to graduation, we both assumed that we’d be going our separate ways because we were from such different worlds.  He was suburban San Francisco sophisticate while I was a dusty hill wanderer and wise guy from Petaluma.   He had never even been camping so I had to fix that.

In the mid 70’s, the whole area was hiring electronics technicians, so he and I were taking many interviews.  It was fun and chaotic.  One morning, he announced, “last night I received an offer from Four Phase Systems in Cupertino (the heart of Silicone Valley).

“Very cool! I answered, “How much and starting when?”  He gave me the details and I wished him well.  I had interviewed there also and had a slightly better GPA so I wondered if I would also get an offer.  My call and offer came that night.  When the guy cited the salary, I recognized it as the same that was offered Joseph.  I answered that I was hoping for a bit more, but before I could finish my pitch, he bumped up the offer by a couple thousand dollars per year.  I thought I had pushed my luck enough and accepted.

IV-90My parents and I did a crash move of me and my books to a nearby apartment complex  in San Jose for a commute of only about 20 minutes.  I appeared on time at my new employer’s building and was shown to my desk.  Joseph had just started the previous week – but I neglected to tell him that I too had gotten an offer so I could surprise him when I walked up to a desk near him.  He laughed and quizzed me for details and went on about how cool this was going to be, but he finally asked the key question.  “Did they give you the same money?”.

“As a matter of fact,” I smile with a touch of sneak in my tone, They gave me a couple thousand more I finally answered proudly.  He looks scandalized and deeply annoyed.  I was beginning to wonder if I had managed to hit a sore spot, when he suddenly smiled and concluded that it was okay because, “You were always the better student anyway and I agree that you’re worth it.”

Thus two great friends from trade school simply changed our daily meetups from classroom to assembly floor and our banking activities from tuition draws to bi-monthly deposits – just like real adults.  Working literally next to each other, we dug into the work and brought some real value to the desks we manned.  We took lunch together, laughed and told each other our girl-friend distress stories.  We made some great new friends on the floor and it was this group that we called to gather for lunch one day to celebrate Joseph’s birthday at a nearby favorite restaurant.

In the weeks running up to his birthday, he had told me some troubling details about his girl friend’s family.  I was unprepared for his situation.  This was racial and my first exposure to discrimination.  I knew Joseph was a different race than me.  I’m white and his skin was a lush dark brown that the girls all loved. I was envious.

He told me that he was depressed about his birthday, it was because the Filipino parents of his girl friend did not like their girl mixing with a guy who was part black. Joseph was half African-American and half Filipino. Her parents had recently told them both that, after several years of dating,  they were no longer allowed to see each other or talk by phone. I was indignant for him and he was miserably in love with this girl.

So there I sat, with information like this at the tender age of 20, thinking of all the ways I could humiliate her parents into changing their minds.  I gave that up because clearly,   I was not going to succeed against such thinking.  Instead I stewed in what-if mode, which is where some of my most audacious ideas arose.

Here’s what I finally did.

I called his mom and got her to find the girl friends number.  I turned that into a discussion of;  “How would you like to come to Joe’s Birthday Party as my guest?”.

She was game to try.  “What do you want me to do?”

“Just take my call sometime soon when your parents are home and play along with my request.

She agreed and took that second call as planned. “Well – Hi Andrew – long time no see.”  This “Andrew” of course never existed.

[additional small talk happened that no one cares about…]

“Okay, that sounds like fun.  Let me ask my parents.

“Mom, my friend, Andrew, from high school is on the phone.  No, you never met him because he was there only part of the year and wasn’t even there for year book photos.  I didn’t think I’d ever see him again. Anyway, he’s moved back to California and now lives down in San Jose.  He and some friends are doing a beach day in Santa Cruz and thought I might like to go and get reacquainted.  I would like to go.  May I?”.

“Okay – Andrew, Mom wants to talk with my dad when he gets home.  Can you give me the dates and details?  Oh, you could pick me up? That would help.  It is a long way for us.  Okay, I have the dates and will call you back later tonight.”

And she did.  Did you note I needed to ask for a lot of time because I wanted her to really dress up and make this birthday a rich visual event for Joseph.  We both still had to work that day and this was all supposed to happen during our lunch hour. This meant I had to pick her up the night before, let he sleep over at my apartment and then have the morning to wake up and prep herself to be picked up again for lunch near work.  I was ready for this “overnight” part of the discussion in case her parents pressed me on it, but they didn’t.

The day of, she opened my own apartment door to me and was knock-out gorgeous when I arrived to pick her up.  Now; we stood at the restaurant door, after a pause for a deep breath – it was show time, I was so calm and ready to blow him away.

I pulled the door open and, with this lovely woman on my arm, we walked in.

Filipino gown

I quickly found the table the team was at and we strolled over.  Joseph looked up and got this much out; “Gary – you’re late. Where have you . . . ” is where his brain jammed shut and his jaw dropped open – and lifeless.

I smiled extra sharply and approached the table.  “I ran into a friend of yours.  Any problem with her joining us for lunch?  She tells me you’ve not seen her for months.  Is that true?”  The table, who were all in on it, went wild.  She smiled at seeing Joseph so badly brain frozen.  Everyone scrambled to made room for us and, of course I seated them together, making a big deal of transferring her hand carefully from my arm to his.  He was struggling to speak – a malady he never suffered from and squeaked out something about how was this possible – but it was badly spoken.  He was seriously tongue-knotted and kept looking at her perhaps expecting to see her evaporate.  He finally rebooted his jaw and attempted introductions, but messed them all up – which made it all even funnier.

Well – we had a great lunch; laughing and getting to know each other, except for Joseph, who remained is a state of diminished capacity through out.  I took her back to my apartment afterwards.  Thanked her for a job well done.  Because of the car situation, there was no way for me to let him bring her home or even ride with us, so she and I got to talk on the way back.

I was finally able to ask her, “How did you convince you’re parents to let you spend the night?”

“Oh, that was easy.” she said casually.  “I just told them that you were white.”  At this point I lost track of what we were talking about.  I got badly stuck on how her parents, with the long history of knowing Joseph (who never even brought her home late) was unwilling to let her date a black Filipino they knew well but were more than willing to let her spend the night with some white guy they had never met or even heard of.  These people were raving bigots in both directions.

My outrage stuck with me 45 some-odd years ago and, frankly, it never left.

GW bio card 4

32 thoughts on “The Most Audacious Birthday Gift

    1. Hi Cherie.

      Im sorry that I mamaged to miss your feedback and provide a proper response.

      Thank you again for even more kind words.

      I wish I could report that his life with this gal turned out to be the making of a great love story but details outside of my little essay became evidence of damage they failed to overcome. Their eventual marriage failed. It was so sad.


    1. Hello Ann Marie. It’s always a pleasure to receive you in my virtual entry. Welcome!

      I still keenly recall my young outrage for my friend and how vigorously I pursued my bright idea for his birthday. The adult me, now regrets my dishonesty, but I can’t undo any of it now, and it makes for a great memory and story. You should have seen his face…. He really feel apart and lost all the dignity he was known for.

      As for me – I am very well – so much improved from almost 3 weeks ago now.

      I was in the hospital for right at 24 hours, and only about 3 in actual surgery. I woke up being wheeled to my room and at that time detected none of the nerve pain that had become my constant unwelcome companion. I was up and walking with only the pain of the surgery itself (no small matter itself) within 3 after surgery, and was fully off all pain meds within 7 days.

      At this time, I believe the problem with my back is corrected and I need only heal from the weakness it caused and from the surgery itself.

      I am so thrilled to be living with so much less pain and what remains is expected to heal and go away. Count me a thankful for the technology we have for such procedures and all the prayers and support I received from friends and family.

      As always, I’m very pleased that you took a few minutes to review my story and check in.

      Actually – I have a question about that. Did you get an email or ?? from WordPress about my posting the new story about my friends BD gift? I’m still not sure what it does for someone following my blog.

      Hope this finds you well and loving life.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I am so glad to hear that you are doing well. Back pain can be a nightmare, and It’s nice to know you are on the mend.

        I just check my email, and I did not receive a message about your recent post. I even checked the trash in case I forgot about reading it. I do receive emails from other bloggers, so I am not sure why yours did not find its way into my inbox.

        I am enjoying my summer off from teaching. The first week I had some back pain of my own and had to do bed rest. While stuck in my quarters, I completed lots of research, which always makes me happy. I am doing so much better and I am back in the therapy pool at the Y. I just need to make sure I keep up with my swimming when school starts.

        Keep me updated on your healing, and I hope you figure out the email SNAFU. Take care,



    1. huh? How did you find out about my posting my Most Audacious Birthday Gift story? Some days I doubt that I understand anything of WordPress. I get an email when you or any of the other bloggers I follow make a post and kinda expected the same to happening for my followers. Thanks for letting me know. I’m working on my next story and hope someone notices…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah – Great!
        But I doubt many think to do that…
        One more problem to solve – I’m on it.

        My next story is going to be about my rowdy solution to giving student exams. As a teacher – I think you’ll really enjoy this ride.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hello Ann Marie. Not urgent, but I would appreciate any comment on this. I’ve been crawling around my blog site admin data – looking for some setting or check box that suggests the site to alert my followers each time I post a new story. I’m not finding such a setting, but suspect I may have figured it out. I maintain my collection as a sorted set of “Site Pages” not “Blog Posts”. In fact I have only one Blog post and it’s the index page listing all the stories. I now think that WordPress only alerts followers to new Blog Posts but not new Site Pages. What do you think? Does this idea align with your experience?

        I think I’ll test it out by producing a Blog Post that announces my latest essay later today – unless you already know that I’m terribly confused.


      3. Update: I think I was correct. I need to post a blog update for the alert to be pushed out to followers. I set up a bogus email, made a WordPress account for it and set it up to follow my blog site. After finishing my most recent story, I created it as a Site Page as normal, but then created a blog post that announced the release of the new story with a link to it. My bogus account got the alert as hoped for, so I think you should have an alert in your email. Too bad that followers need to have a WP account to follow a WP blog when any email could work – but there is most likely some reason I’m not aware of for this extra step. Anyway, I hope you see and like the new story. My teacher friends are either going to love it or hate me for doing this. It was fun regardless.
        Warmest regards,


    1. Good day Clair, thanks for your kind feedback. Now that I’m a real adult (not just a 20 year old legal one) I regret the whole dishonest portion of this event and would not repeat such a stunt as this.

      Unfortunately, they did marry and began having kids but other issues they both brought to that marriage gave them a bad start and it fell apart after several years.

      It has been a while since I spoke to him. It’s time to reach out again.

      I’d bet that you’re a pretty awesome friend yourself.



  1. Thank you for taking the time to write up your memory. You are a very caring person. So sorry that your friend had to endure this blatant racism. Petty and small people can do so much damage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Irene.
      It was a long time ago but yes it was scary blatant. We were great friends though and little of the racism from San Francisco affected us. Later he stood with me at my wedding


  2. Gary you are the best kind of terrible friends one could ever ask for.
    Having gone through the comments I see wont have to ask about you still being afraid of her finding out bout your part in the letter conspiracy.
    I am curious though, about the exams, in hindsight do you think skipping study time and memorizing answers to questions in the book would have worked or was it only a once-off that the lecturer had simply pulled questions from your mysterious text book,
    Our Physics teacher had a textbook like that and I was fortunate enough to stumble upon it in an ancient part of the library where outdated books went to die, a graveyard for broken book without covers or spines, but of course I was not very communal and I kept it to myself though I copied out some of the harder questions and shared them with my study mates, who thought I was very lucky in figuring out up coming exam questions.

    Its ironic, how people are more alike than different and yet some just choose to stay fixated on the differences that separate us, race, ethnicity, religion, heck even the food you eat Just remembered I a story about a Vegan blogger who was “caught” eating fish and lost maybe a million follower on youtube and got quite a lot of hate comments for eating fish…


    Liked by 1 person

  3. So much to take in from your story. Your story reminds me of when a friend of mine came out and I went round to his family home and I was so nervous because things were pretty strained. His mother loved me because I laughed all the time. However, it was my nervous laugh. I just wish people would be nice to each other.
    Best wishes,
    PS Not sure how I’ll handle the whole dating thing. As far as I know, our kids are single. Haven’t dated. I just hope they make good choices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes. I can’t tell you how I’ve worried about our kids reaching their dating years. But we got very lucky, almost too much so. They have all had a great group of friends, but very little dating ever happened. Our oldest son finally came home with a girl friend, a romantic version and wow – we love her. His smart-alec sister loves telling anyone that she loves her more than she loves him. . . Sisters. . . there’s no hope for them. I think ours are just smarter about this than I ever was, well except for my sarcastic daughter perhaps.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great story, Gary. Amazing, and they did eventually marry? Your friend sounds like a wonderful fellow. I hope he EVENTUALLY ended up with a happy life and a happy wife – if not with her. Glad your surgery went well and you are on the mend. I feel like mending takes such a long time these days. I have to have yet another surgery to remove clots from my leg on Friday. I’m grateful for the surgeries for saving my life, but I’m ready to be cured now. LOL. Have a great week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marsha. Yea, Joseph was quite a friend. Last year I managed to track him down and we met for dinner and some catching up. He & that gal did marry, but it was not a good match and they later split up. I believe she was too damaged by her parents. She’s passed away now and he’s remarried to a truly wonderful gal and is loving life.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a story, Gary! with each story of yours I read, I can only surmise that you have indeed had a very exciting and rich life. And what a friend you have been to many – to do something like this for him.

    And I echo your parting sentiments – this prejudice, unfortunately, persists till today, although it may look slightly different in guise, but essentially, it is very much still there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Ju-Lyn.
      It has been an interesting life, made so by some of the most I interesting people around. Joseph certainly enriched my life and was easily worth my silly stunt.
      But it did make for an interesting and thought provoking story now.
      I don’t see as much blatant racist acts anymore and think it is better, but clearly not gone.


  6. Such a sign of the times back then, Gary, but what a fantastic thing you did, and I loved how you told this story. It was like reading a good movie (if you get what I mean). I saw it all playing out in my mind as I read, especially the extended gloved hand from the car.

    As others have commented, the prejudice still goes on, but perhaps on a smaller scale, although there are pockets around the world where the bias seems as strong as ever. I read a story recently of a guy who attended a Remembrance Sunday service for veterans. He’d served in the forces for many years and played his duty. Nobody buttered an eye during the service, but when it had all finished, and he held hands with his husband on the way back to their car, prejudice erupted from another veteran. Such a sad tale of today’s world. It spoilt the whole day for the first veteran, but he rose above it and the next day said that he would no longer allow the prejudice of others spoil the service he’d done for his country or how he lived his life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Hugh.
      Now there’s a line I may run off with. “reading a good movie” is exactly the experience that I’m trying to create with each story. That you would say that one of my stories met this mark just made my day.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s