Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Lido Beach Hotel incident

Back in the 1970s, when I was just starting my career with the IRS, the Treasury Department had a regional training facility at Hofstra University on Long Island, NY.  It was there that new employees from all Treasury agencies in the Northeast received their initial training for a career in public service.  Lodging for these employees was provided at the Lido Beach Hotel, which the Department had leased for its exclusive use as a training residence.

The hotel was at the time well past it's prime.  It had formerly been an exclusive beach resort for wealthy Jews from the New York area, but the years had taken their toll and the old lady was in pretty decrepit condition when she was taken over by the Feds.  The rooms were pretty primitive and the dining room had been closed, but a cafeteria remained open to feed the new occupants (all on a government budget).  One thing had not changed, though - The Lido Beach Hotel still sat directly on the edge of the beach bordering the Long Island south shore.  It was, from a purely geographic perspective, heavenly.

My first five week stay was largely unremarkable; there were several of us from Maine in a class of maybe 25, and we made the best of our stay.  While some others groused about the lack of amenities or the remote location, we Mainers enjoyed the natural beauty of the area, took long walks on the beach, which seemed to go on forever, and had weekend cookouts, when the cafeteria was closed, that featured grilled-on-the-beach food and lots of beer.  Life at the Lido Beach Hotel was not too bad for those of us who knew how to have a good time outside of the big city.

A short while after we had settled in to our routine, a new group arrived at the hotel - they were newly appointed Customs Agents who were also training at Hofstra.  They were in different classes and their schedule was different from ours, but still we ran into each other occasionally at the hotel.  I don't remember the details of our first encounter, but one of the Customs group was a young woman with whom I became friendly.  I don't remember her name or very much about her, other than I think she was going to work on the Canadian border in Vermont and she had eyes of two different colors - one blue, one green.

Her class was shorter than mine, two or three weeks maybe, so out time together was brief, but we seemed to have a mutual attraction and became quite close in our  brief time together.  Mostly, we took long walks on the shore and talked.  My sense was that had we met in another time and under different circumstances, our friendship might have progressed to a whole new level but as it happened we were together only for a short time, and we were both married. 

And so it was that on her last night at the hotel I joined her in the bar where she and her classmates were celebrating their "graduation", and we talked about the good times we had shared and what was ahead in life for both of us - we talked about everything except what was in the forefront of both of our minds, that we desperately wanted to jump into bed together.  The hour grew late and I was a little drunk and very tired so I knew it was time to call it a night.  The bar had a juke box and I put some money in and selected "Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin.  Then I kissed her goodbye, wished her a good life, and walked out to go back to my room.

I'm not sure how much later it was that the knock on my door came - I was sound asleep and had a hard time regaining enough consciousness to get out of bed and answer the door, and when I finally did, there was no one there.  But I know it was her, and I know that if I had been in time to let her in something wonderful would have happened.  What hurts most is that she worked up the courage to come to me, and I let her down. 

That's what happened (or didn't happen) at the Lido Beach Hotel, and that's the memory that "Me and Bobby McGee" evokes every time I hear it - I've been listening to it a lot lately.

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