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Such San Diego love stories

Oceanside, Santee, North Park

Gino and Carol: a love story too sappy for fiction, redeemed only because it’s real.
  • Gino and Carol: a love story too sappy for fiction, redeemed only because it’s real.
  • Photograph by Matthew Suárez

Gino lost and found

My wife and I are sitting with Carol and Gino at Masters in Oceanside. “Upscale bar and grill,” I’d term it, with an extensive list of, as they used to say on Jeopardy!, potent potables, along with some estimable grub. We’re next to an expansive window, overlooking the buzz and bustle of the 101, but it’s quiet enough for a heart-to-heart, an ideal venue for a love story too sappy for fiction, redeemed only because it’s real.

Carol’s social life started out in conventional fashion in the faded L.A. suburb of Paramount, where she hung out with neighborhood buddies, attending to the mundane social interactions of suburban adolescents.

Porto Ramos Pinto by Rene Vincent, Courtesy Library of Congress

Then she met Gino.

“It was the summer of 1975, late June or early July, and I was 15 going on 16. Anyway, we took a family trip (my mom and dad, my two younger sisters, my aunt and uncle) to Milan, where my mother’s sister and some other relatives lived. We were staying with my aunt in a little city called Lissone, a suburb of Milan 20 kilometers north.”

I asked Carol, “How was your Italian?”

“I’m fluent now, but I grew up understanding the Sicilian dialect; in Milan, they speak Italian.”

“Anyway, Gino also lived in this multi-family complex, and all the families there were very close.” As Moore recounts, quarters were close. “My aunt, uncle, and their four kids, my cousins, lived in a two-bedroom condo. It was less than 1000 square feet, and that kind of arrangement was very common.”

Gino and Carol

Gino and Carol

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

Despite her suburban Southern California upbringing, she felt at home. “I was ok with it. Even though I was raised in a middle-class neighborhood, having been raised by an Italian mother (my father was an Irish-American), I was used to large family gatherings in a full house. And we didn’t spend all our time in Lissone. In the Milan area, I had other relatives, so we’d spend a couple of days here, a couple there.

“Gino, who’d turned 19 in May, was dating a girl, and there was talk that he’d end up marrying her. The culture was different there. It’s a little more open now, but back then, you’d date someone for a few years and get married; it’s not like you’d have many different boyfriends or girlfriends over a period of time.”

Donna and Dave

Donna and Dave

Photograph by Matthew Suárez

As Moore notes, Italian romance, at least as of the mid-70’s, was clannish in tenor. “Gino’s sister was dating a brother of Gino’s girlfriend. Gino had come over with his girlfriend, his sister, and his sister’s boyfriend to my aunt’s house, just to say hello. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, he’s cute.’ He had a mustache, a lot of black hair, almost a John Travolta look, slicked-back. He was thin, only 5’3” or 5’4”. He was three years older than I was, but I didn’t think of him as much older, because I was pretty mature for my age.”

Love at first sight?

“Yeah, I had this schoolgirl-type crush. Within two days, he started coming around a lot, and he had a motorcycle; he asked me if I wanted to take a ride with him, and I said, ‘Sure!’ By the third day, we could tell that we were falling for each other. The rest of the three weeks we were in Italy, I would never go anywhere with my parents or my sister, because I’d be on these motorcycle rides every single day. It was usually in the afternoon; he’d come over after work, I’d hop on the bike, and he’d take me around Milan. Our favorite place was Parco Di Monza, named after Monza Ferrari. He’d buy me gelato, we’d talk a lot and he’d ask me questions about America.”

Language posed no barrier. “My spoken Italian wasn’t very good — I’d say enough words for him to understand — but I understood everything he was saying. Growing up, I was the only one of the three sisters who picked up on the language, and my mother, who was a stay-at-home mom, would get very upset with me because when my dad got home from work, I’d tell him all the things she’d discussed with her relatives.”

I asked Carol, “You said you were shy, but how shy could you have been to hop on a motorcycle with a guy you hardly knew in a foreign country? Did your family think you were being escorted by some hooligan on a chopper?”

“No,” she chuckled. “You have to understand the culture. I was comfortable with it, and so was my family. And since he did have a girlfriend, no one suspected anything; he was just being nice. His girlfriend trusted him I guess, but we never talked about her.”

Moore’s 16th birthday, July 27, was the day before her departure for the States.

“Gino gave me a jewelry box. It was brown, shaped like a candy box and very ornate, filled with hard candy. I treasured that thing and brought it home. Before I left, Gino told me, ‘I’m coming to the United States,’ and I said, ‘Okay, I’ll see you.’ He was determined to see me again, and by October, my family and I were picking him up at LAX.”

Once deposited in Angeleno suburbia, Gino decamped to a spare bedroom at the back of the house. Moore recalls, “He got his driver’s license pretty quickly. I was in 10th grade, and my father allowed him to drive me to and from school every day. He enrolled in night school to learn English, and I’d go with him. But sometimes we skipped class; we’d go behind a building and make out. It was one of the few alone-times we had.”

I asked Moore about her parents’ view of the budding romance. “They were generally supportive and respectful; Gino was a nice guy. But because it was my first relationship, they were a bit cautious. My mother, being Italian, yelled a lot. She got mad at me one time and Gino defended me; no one had ever stood up to her before — and he did. She was the matriarch of the family. I don’t remember what the incident was (he’d been there around three months) but from that moment on, she didn’t like him anymore.”

Then Uncle Sal called. “Gino had been here six months when his mother phoned from Italy to relay his draft orders. He had to serve a year in the Italian army, although he didn’t actually have to report until next October, 1976. He told his mother, ‘I’m not coming back,’ but she said, ‘You have to.’”

Although Gino stayed in the U.S. for six months under the auspices of a three-month visitor’s visa, Moore reassured me that her Latin lover was no illegal alien. “My parents,” she noted, “helped him get a three-month extension.” But after the extension expired, he was informed that the only way he could linger would be to get married. “I was ready to marry him and he asked my dad’s permission. My dad said, ‘Absolutely not! My daughter’s 16, she’s in the 10th grade. You need to go back, do your year in the military and then, at the end of the year, if my daughter still wants to marry you, you can come back and I will consider it.’ If I’d been 18, I would’ve married Gino with or without my dad’s blessing. My mother was totally happy about Gino leaving.

“For Valentine’s Day in 1976, he bought me a promise ring and a stuffed animal, a small bunny which I kept in the jewelry box along with two letters. In April, his mother came to take him home, and it was really emotional. By then, we were very open about our relationship, and I remember walking hand-in-hand to see him off (you could escort people to the gate back then). He gave me two Italian 45 records. One was ‘Ti Amo’ — ‘I love you.’ The other song means ‘I’ll return,’ and totally fit our situation; it was so perfect for us. I played them every day, over and over again on our stereo, and my father would say, ‘Would you stop playing those darned records!’”

“I am a believer in romance!” proclaimed Carol. “People tell me to this day that it’s a Notebook story and my son actually bought me the DVD after Gino and I got back together.” Unfamiliar with the movie in question, I asked Carol about it. “It’s a story about two people who meet and fall in love when they’re young, become separated, and are reunited later.”

“I’m not exaggerating: I wrote a letter to him every single day (phone calls were too expensive), and back then it took about a month for a letter to get to Italy. Gino would write me and tell me that after his year in the army, he’d come back and we’d get married. I’d look at the bunny and the promise ring every day. The whole time, I only got two letters from him but I assumed he was getting mine. One day, I was home sitting on the porch, waiting for the mailman, hoping for a letter. I reached out to grab the mail, but he said, ‘I’m so sorry, but your mother told me not to give the mail to anyone; it has to go in the mailbox.’ I thought to myself, ‘This doesn’t seem right.’ Anyway, the mailman put the mail in the slot on the front door, the kind where it drops to the floor. But there was no letter from Gino. One month went by, then another — no letters; by then, Gino had been shipped off to start his military service. I began to suspect that my mother had something to do with this, but I didn’t know, so I asked my aunts (my mother’s sisters) to help me track down Gino, and I asked my half-brother. No one would help me.”

As Carol, who’d transferred to a Catholic high school, entered her senior year, she became distraught. “I felt that I’d lost the love of my life and wondered if Gino had just moved on.”

Then came a rebellious intermission, an “any port in a storm” interlude. “I met a guy who was renting a room from the family across the street. He was the bad boy, for sure, six years older than me; he’d just gotten out of prison after serving a term for robbing a bank. He’d been a heroin addict, but was clean and sober when I met him; he was on the methadone program and was working as a cement-truck driver. But Walt was this cool-looking guy with blond hair and blue eyes, and all the girls on the block had a crush on him. As soon as I turned 18, I ran away from home with him, got pregnant, and we moved to Baltimore.”

Back in California, when she was eight months along, they were married by a justice of the peace in Long Beach and eventually moved to Moreno Valley, around which time she enlisted in the Air Force.

At the beginning, Carol didn’t share much about Gino with Walt. “My heart was broken,” she says, “but I was trying to develop that relationship.” She adds, “I don’t think I loved Walt at the beginning, but I think that, at some point, I did. But he loved me, because seven years and three kids later when I divorced him, he was pretty devastated. But I needed to do it, because, after I joined the military, it had become a very abusive relationship, both emotionally and physically.”

As Carol recalls, “Walt wasn’t working anymore; all the money that I was making went into his arm, and he started beating me. I left Walt in 1984, when Nicholas was ten days old. My father was dying of cancer, and my mother was a foster parent, so we moved in with her in her house in Rancho Del Oro in Oceanside so she could help with the kids while I finished my last year up at Norton Air Force Base. Things had gotten so bad with Walt that my commanding officer knew about it, put me up in the dorms on base and placed a restraining order against Walt. The divorce was finalized in 1986.”

Throughout the ordeal, “I constantly wondered what my life would have been like for all those years if Gino had just come back.”

I asked Carol to fast-forward to the events of 2006. Choking back a small sob, she recalled, “I get emotional even thinking about it. My kids were grown and I was living in an apartment. My mother was in a nursing home on El Camino Real, literally on her deathbed, and said to me, ‘I have something to tell you. Gino always loved you; I threw the letters away.’”

Carol’s mother died that year on November 7.

In early 2007, Carol and a bevy of kin went to Europe, spending most of their time in Italy as bloodhounds sniffing for any trace of long-gone Gino. They picked up no scent. Later that year, Carol’s aunt found a phone number — disconnected. In April 2008, Carol, accompanied by the aunt (who now lives in Poway), returned to the peninsular boot that had hid her valentine. “We went to Rome, then Florence, and were going to spend the last week in that same home in Lissone. By then, everyone was okay with helping me find Gino, but as we neared our return home — we were leaving the day after Palm Sunday — it didn’t look like it was going to happen.” But Saturday brought the quirk of fate that only St. Valentine could provide, courtesy of Cupid’s emissary in Milan.

On the Saturday before Palm Sunday, as Carol explains, the custom among celebrants in Italy is to exchange gifts and greetings. “I’ll never forget. People were coming in and out of my aunt’s house. I was tired and just wanted to sleep, because the next morning, my aunt and I were going to church. But I noticed something weird. Both my aunts said, ‘Carol, don’t go to bed. We’re expecting another visitor later.’ I said, ‘Okay, I won’t put my pajamas on; I’ll just lie down on the bed. Whoever gets here... just knock on the door and I’ll come out.’ After a half hour at most, I heard the doorbell ring, and didn’t even wait for the knock on the door. And in walks Gino.

“Oh my God, it’s like time had stood still; they’d found him! The hallway was narrow and there we were, face to face, 33 years later. We kissed. It was incredible, like we were 16 and 19 again.

“I don’t know how they actually found him, but apparently, he was just coming over to say hello. By then, I knew a lot more, of course. I knew that not only had my mother thrown out Gino’s letters to me, but that his mother had (intercepted) mine as well. His mother didn’t want him to come back to the United States; he was the only son and the U.S. was too far for her. But he didn’t know anything about the letters, so he was cautious.

“That night, we stayed up and talked a little bit. He said, ‘I’d like to take you and your aunts out for lunch tomorrow. I’ll pick you up after 10 o’clock Mass.’ We went to a nice restaurant and I was really nervous, like a kid again. Afterwards, he said, ‘Carol, would you like to go for a ride?’ I tried to get my aunts to join us, but Gino said, ‘I’ll just take Carol and bring her back at a decent hour.’ We weren’t on a motorcycle this time, but in his little Fiat. And where did he take me? The Parco Di Monza. We sat on the same bench we’d sat on years before and talked for hours. He said, ‘Carol, I just thought you were too young, not really in love, and I was heartbroken. I didn’t know what happened to you.’”

Carol synopsized Gino’s prolix absence from her life. “After he got back from the military, he became very depressed and his parents became quite concerned about him. He met a girl, got her pregnant, married her, and had two kids. But by the time we (reconnected), he’d been divorced for over 14 years. We were in similar situations.”

Enter long-distance romance in the Internet age: “We exchanged email addresses, and I still have a couple of the messages.”

“I took a month off that summer and spent it with Gino in Italy. We knew we were supposed to be together. But he told me that he couldn’t give up his job or his condo to come to the U.S. So I said, ‘I’ll come stay with you.’

“He said, ‘Really? You’d do that?’

“‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I would.’”

“I moved to Italy in November, 2008. By then, my Italian was pretty good, but the only English Gino remembered was, ‘Hi. How are you?’ But I couldn’t stay in Italy for more than six months as a visitor, and I couldn’t get a work permit unless I got married. I really wanted a church wedding, and I hadn’t gotten married in the Catholic Church to begin with, but Gino had already, so he couldn’t do that again. So we got married in the Lissone City Hall. It was January 24, 2009. I found a job teaching English as a second language at a little private school, Gino kept driving trucks, and I got a final six-month extension from work. In July 2009, we packed up and came back. Gino told me, ‘I should have stayed in America 33 years ago.’”

“There were a lot of lost years. Gino was very angry with his mother when she admitted keeping my letters. She didn’t like me at all. Her attitude was, ‘How dare you enter my son’s life again!’”

I asked whether the rediscovered Gino was the same man she’d met decades before.

“He was an older version of the Gino that I knew. We’re so happy together and often reminisce about what it would’ve been like.”

Hurdles notwithstanding, should people try to find long-lost loves?

“Absolutely,” asserts Carol. “You have to follow your heart. Gino and I were meant to be.”

“And by the way,” adds Carol, “We only speak Italian at home.” Next year, Italian will be the lingua franca of their neighbors as well. Carol exults, “We bought a house in Sicily, where Gino was born, and we plan to retire there. It’s a little fishing village called Aspra.”

Liquor trumped love

“It’s fascinating?”

“It is, actually,” says Dave Webster, who regaled me with his chaotic journey through the vicissitudes of liquor, loss, and love. My wife and I met Dave and Donna at Filippi’s in Santee, not far from their home, and sat at the bar amid eclectic stained glass, a bevy of beer taps, and a modest din. In a wondering tone, Dave spoke of an evening in Del Mar Heights back in 1999 when a stranger at the house of a mutual friend suddenly turned to him and said...

“‘Brother, I need to ask you something. ‘Yeah?’ I said. ‘I read palms. I don’t charge people; it’s a gift and I don’t know how I do it. Right now I’m getting this energy from you, and I’d like to read your palm.’”

“I had an open mind, so I said, ‘okay.’ He takes my hand and says, ‘Wow — the universe is screaming at me!’ You’re going on a journey and it won’t be fun. Then I see you coming back, maybe going to medical school or something like that.’ He told me the exact details of something he never could have known about: when I was 16, I got drunk, totaled my mom’s car and woke up in the hospital not remembering a thing. So when he said, ‘You’re going marry somebody you’ve met before but don’t know,’ it astonished me, but I soon forgot all about him.”

For Dave, who attended Mission Bay High School (class of 1977), happiness, or an unreasonable facsimile of same, revolved around surfing and drinking. When I asked him about his early dalliances, he held forth in his typical, candid fashion. “My romantic life in high school was pretty screwed up, because I was already into alcohol at 13 or14, drinking down at the beach. Between ‘77 and ‘82 I had two girlfriends, one for a year and another for two, just your normal after-high-school ‘learning about love’ stuff.”

But the constant was booze, always deeply intertwined with his love like a liquid Gordian knot. The next chapter of Dave’s life was to usher in a wave of tumult, much of it set amid the bucolic greenery of Kauai, interspersed with stints back on the mainland.

“I first went to Kauai in 1982. My aunt and uncle ran the Princeville Ranch on the north shore before it got built up. Hadn’t seen my dad in 11 years; he kept the books for the ranch and took care of my grandma. I lived in Hanalei, stayed for a few months, then came back to California and drove long-haul trucks for a company my parents owned.”

Romance-wise, recalls Dave, he played the field. But liquor trumped love. “I was a wild 22-year-old drunk. My mom sent me back to Oahu in 1984 on a one-way ticket to join my dad in rehab. My family on Kauai had already sent my dad to Honolulu, because when Dad and I had been on Kauai living with my grandma, who was 92 and delusional, we had an alcohol-involved family dispute. My Dad and I were the alcoholics.

“On Oahu, we lived at Ewa Beach in one of those Filipino ‘drunk houses’ with nine other boozers. It was a scam. You’d just get on welfare and food stamps, the operators of the house would take most of it, and as long as you didn’t drink in the house, it was all good. The guy who ran our house would just go to flophouses around Waikiki and round up guys. Back then on Hawaii, you could get welfare if you were too drunk to work. You’d just say, ‘I’m an alcoholic’ and get a doctor to sign off; everyone knew what was going on.”

Dave returned to Kauai in 1987, and joined his dad, who had eight months’ sobriety under his belt. Dave once again entered an alcohol rehabilitation program. “By 1990, I was a binge drinker; I’d get sober for three months, then relapse. During one of my drunk periods, I asked God or whoever for an ‘older woman who never did drugs and was pretty’ so maybe I could get sober. About six months later, at 30, I met that person, Shirley.” Shirley Faust, 44, was half-German, half-Japanese, the daughter of a prostitute.

“Shirley was crazy, verbally abusive, but I didn’t know she was nuts when I married her. She was fine until one week after we got married. We were at another friend’s wedding, and later, she started yelling at me about how I wanted to fuck my best friend’s girlfriend. At our own wedding, I wasn’t even nervous; I knew what I was doing: I was trying to save my life. But I was drunk again a month later. When I’d get sober for a while, I’d realize that the relationship wasn’t right. Shirley actually preferred me drunk, and this went on for three years until we divorced.”

Dave is a believer in augurs, milestones, and markers. “Right after Hurricane Iniki, I got my sanity back. The date was November 9, 1992, when I drank a bottle of mouthwash and hallucinated. It was a near-death experience with religious ideations. I didn’t ‘go to the light,’ it was more of a conscious awakening. And I never drank again.”

Donna entered Dave’s orbit via a sequence of events that Dave views as miraculous. “It just flips me out. I met Donna very briefly in 1993 when I was still married to Shirley. It was at my brother Bill’s wedding to Donna’s sister, Daphne, at the Mission Bay Yacht Club. I met Donna for about five minutes and that was it; I didn’t see her again until May 1999 when she was staying at Bill and Daphne’s house. I still remember what she was wearing; that’s amazing to me.”

And that’s how the amateur soothsayer came in. “Right before I met Donna for the second time, I’d been seeing a woman who was a ‘friend with benefits.’ That’s when Garrett read my palm, and everything he told me has come true. Everything.” A month after the reading, Dave flew back to Kauai to see his father, who had terminal lung disease. “My dad died in my arms. When I returned to San Diego, I enrolled in nursing school, six months later not even thinking of the palm reader.

“In 2000, Donna and I started dating. At the time, I was a mess; my dad had died nine months before, I was doing my ‘clinicals’ at nursing school, and I was working full-time. On Mother’s Day, Donna told me that she loved me, and I said, ‘I’m flattered.’” Dave laughs, “‘I’m flattered!’ She’ll never let me forget that quote. So we just kind of faded away, and I still hadn’t thought of that guy, the palm reader.”

“On January 1, 2007, I called my brother to wish him a happy New Year’s Day and Donna answered. She was living with my brother Bill and her sister Daphne in Fernley, Nevada, about 30 miles east of Reno. I remember telling her, ‘There was nothing wrong with you; you were a wonderful person and we were compatible.’ A week later, I called her back and said, ‘Why don’t you come to Hawaii for your birthday.’ She asked, ‘What if I want to come back?’

“‘If you don’t like me,’ I replied, ‘I’ll send you home.’”

That’s when Dave’s epiphany struck. “I’d forgotten all about the palm reader until Donna and I got ready to go to Hawaii and we knew she’d never return to San Diego without me — and that she was going to be my wife.”

Dave laughed as he looked back at the conversation. “I said, ‘Have you ever been to Kauai?’ She didn’t know where it was, so I said, ‘Look it up.’ She bought a convenience store map and pointed to Oahu. I said, ‘That’s Oahu. You’re coming to a little rock north of Oahu.’ She arrived on her birthday, March 1, 2007, and a year later, we were married.”

This Hallmark holiday

I was sitting at the bar at Cantina Mayahuel at 30th and Adams at the north end of North Park. It’s a shrine to everything agave. Tequila? Sure, I can talk about that with some authority. As for mezcal — just add a little smoke. “But what’s this stuff called ‘sotol?’” That’s what the guy on the next stool asked. Kevin, who figured me for some sort of south-of-the border hooch-maven, was already half-lit. By the time we neared last call, he didn’t know much more about the spirit world, but I’d learned a lot about one man’s dismal, and at times comical, journey from Hallmark happiness to motel hell. Over, under and through the din of the cantina, amplified by bright acoustics, this tall, wiry guy with red hair and thick black glasses (Buddy Holly from Dublin, perhaps?) wanted to unload decades of bad love. So I listened.

Born in Connecticut, Kevin moved to San Diego when his dad, an insurance man in Hartford, was transferred to an outpost here. Home was Clairemont, high school was Kearny, and teenage romance was nil. With nary a trace of self-pity, Kevin says, “I didn’t have a girlfriend in high school; my love life was pathetic. Valentine’s Day was a downer, because I was depressingly shy.”

College proved a bit more copacetic in the distaff department. At San Diego State, where he majored in history (he was fixated on the Civil War), his junior year ushered in a liaison he calls a “semi-romance.” “I was working at Costco as a stocker. She was a checkout girl, Linda, a tomboy type with an athletic build. Kind of reminded me of — who was that singer from a few centuries back —Joan Jett? She moved up to Santa Barbara to go to UCSB. We sent these lovey-dovey letters to each other to keep the flames going, but it was a young romance. It ended in a disappointing way. I visited her up there where she was living in a dorm suite with two roommates; I got a weird, negative vibe from her and things fizzled out from there.

“After college, I worked in commission sales. There weren’t many options for liberal arts majors. At the time, I liked to sing karaoke, and Tom Ham’s Lighthouse was one place I’d go. The night I met Theresa, I was singing Billy Joel’s ‘Honesty.’”

“So she was attracted to your singing?,” I asked.

“No, not really. It was an old song she’s probably never heard of. I’d noticed her earlier and moseyed over toward the bar and struck up a conversation. She had, uh, some ample attributes and long, straight dark hair.”

Then things started to get a little wacky, says Kevin. “Theresa and I had been seeing each other for a couple of months when she suggested a San Francisco road trip. We drove up there and bopped around, went to the Fisherman’s Wharf — the usual tourist shit. Then we had a lover’s spat, I guess. The first morning there, I slept in and when I woke up, she was gone. The car keys were missing too; she’d taken off on a little joyride. No note. I was infuriated. Her explanation was that she didn’t want to wake me, but my mind was racing. Did she have some ulterior motive, maybe another guy in Frisco? (The trip had been her idea.) And then, as soon as we got on the freeway to drive home, she whipped off her top and started flashing the drivers in the next lane. I wasn’t so much pissed as awed, amazed. She had — how can I say this? — ample tracts of land.

“Theresa and I stayed together for a while until she announced an unexplained pregnancy; it didn’t show much because she wasn’t exactly a skinny girl. Obviously, it was either me who was responsible or another boyfriend or hook-up she had before we met. I didn’t know much about her past. I wasn’t wearing any protection, because she’d told me that she was unable to get pregnant. Had her tubes tied or whatever.”

The resultant conversation, said Kevin, “was a big explosion. We sat in my car and yelled at each other. After that, we had another blowout where she went crazy on me; I’d gone over to her place one night to discuss it and then she locked me out of her house.”

Kevin’s next foray into the world of rocky romance was, as he termed it, “a bit of a fling with a Filipina” circa 2003 when he was working as a forklift driver at a biomed company warehouse near Torrey Pines. “Beatrice was slightly nerdy with wavy black hair and glasses. We went out for about seven months. Things were getting a bit too serious, and she was still a virgin.”

“So you wanted to change that?” I asked.

“I wasn’t sure, because of all the things that go along with that.”

I pressed: “Afraid of another accidental pregnancy?”

“It was definitely on my mind” replied Kevin, “and I broke up with her.”

Not long after that, switching his attention from the vocal to the dramatic, he enrolled in an acting workshop at the Old Globe. At the Bard’s place he met a Mexican girl, Paula, who worked as a hostess at the faux-Italian Olive Garden. It was 2006, and he was 26. “During one of the sessions, I noticed her looking over at me a lot. As it turned out, we ended up in the same scene. There was a spark, and things developed after a few rehearsals.”

Like Kevin’s prior liaisons, his affair with Paula proved tumultuous, albeit longer in duration: two years of break-ups and patch-ups. Eventually, said Kevin, he wanted to tamp down the relationship, but Paula objected. “We had good chemistry, but she was too possessive, and played odd little head games to test my faithfulness. I thought it was time to cool our jets. We were living together in Santee when we had a huge fight; she accused me of intending to leave her from the get-go. I thought it was unfair, because I had never cheated on her, except in my mind. She kicked me out of the apartment after she found out that I’d met a girl online and was carrying on an Internet relationship. I never did actually meet her, since she lived in Pennsylvania.”

A few months later, Paula showed up unannounced one evening in Kevin’s studio apartment near Mesa College. “She rapped on my glass door and demanded to come in, pleading and pleading that I talk to her. I told her that I wasn’t interested, but she was adamant. She couldn’t accept the answer ‘no.’ My landlord heard the ruckus and threatened to call the cops.”

As a way of wrapping up Kevin’s account of his experiences with the ostensibly “fairer” sex, I asked: “What do you think of this Hallmark holiday?”

“I’m pretty jaded about the whole romance/love issue, especially being alone for so long and having failed somewhat in that realm. You know, not having what it takes to meet the one and then living happily ever after. And I guess I might have been unfair in not giving 100 percent.”

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