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. In his bean-farmer days, 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 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, Arriola 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-healed leather boots, tight brocaded trousers, ruffled shirt, waist-length jacket and flat-brimmed sombrero – all with silver and gold decorations, colorful embroidery, buttons and even a large 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 that the change in Gordo’s life reflected the effect that “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 ‘80s and ‘90s 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 a 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. Then, finally law school.
Plus, the symphony, opera and 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 Marina Green, Presidio, Golden Gate Bridge and Marin headlands. Basketball, racquetball and weights at the Bay Club. And benefitting from the ladies’ complaint that almost all the attractive men were either married or gay.
From my business and social life, unlike Gordo, I already had the clothes. But the small, dreary, poorly furnished apartment on a noisy corner was another matter, and it indicated the important things I was missing: home and family.
Along the way, I met Kathy. She enjoyed the social whirl, but slowly our relationship took on dimensions others hadn’t. I moved into a bigger unfurnished classic yuppie pad. Soon, we spent weekends looking for grandfather clocks, dining room sets, antiques and Christmas ornaments. Then china, crystal and silver to furnish my place. And dinner parties Mary Frances Sevier herself would have loved.
When Kathy stepped up in a key crisis, I realized she had already brought me the gift of home and it was time to follow with family. Marrying her brought the bonus of the best mother-in-law in the world – 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 to move, and we all headed for the sane side of the Sierra, landing in Carson City after Karyn was born. For 18 years, I’ve been blessed with a nearly perfect home and family life. Kathy has made my life beautiful.
So, on our anniversary last Friday, I started the morning as I do each day. By kissing her cheek as she slept and whispering in her ear: “I’ll love you forever and ever, Kathy, with all my heart and soul.
Ron Knecht has served Nevada as state controller, a higher education regent, college teacher, legislator and economist. Contact him at RonKnecht@aol.com.