Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fake Girlfriends, Brides By Mail & Paul Frampton

By Doug Vehle, The Daily Bosco

So was the Manti Te'o fake girlfriend story funny because the guy was dumb enough to fall for it? Or because you'd think this star college football player should have had more than enough opportunity for a date around school with REAL women? Which line is better: Te'o saying 'You're just jealous because the online women talk to ME,' or a picture of a certain OTHER school's quarterback with his pageant winning girlfriend inscribed with "SEC: Real Football Players, REAL girlfriends?"

Do you ever get the idea that the real crime is in just daring to believe something good could happen? I think of poor old Mike. Well, he wasn't THAT old, certainly not 68 years old as was University of North Carolina professor Paul Frampton as each stumbled into the same trap.

Mike I knew from my now deserted gym at Orangethrope and Lemon. Divorced 4 times, most recently from a woman who had never stopped seeing her boyfriend from before Mike met her, obviously I think of him as having proved he wasn't interested in the single life by the way he kept stumbling into his disasterous marriages.

Except I always think of the line from 'North by Northwest' where Cary Grant responds to Eva Marie Saint saying she's single because men like him don't believe in marriage with 'I've been married twice.' Saint's retort "See what I mean?" speaks for me. And you can see where I wouldn't take Mike's quest for a Russian mail order bride seriously.

Post modernist that I am I had a lot of jokes to make about the whole thing to cover up the fact I was laughing at him over it. I would guess he was at or near 50 at the time, assistant manager of a grocery store, fat and bald as the cliche suggests he should be, avoiding putting a picture of himself in his profile for this chatroom he paid to sign up for so he could type back and forth with. . . . Here he'd printed out this picture of a nice looking young woman who of course looked the age you'd expect his daugther to be, if he had one.

Whatever lines he read on the screen had so impressed him that he'd made up his mind: SHE was to be his target. One Sunday night we arrived at the gym at the same time. He was quite boisterous as we walked through the parking lot, telling me that he was on his way to Romania. Such an exciting adventure for him, having never left the U.S. before and now on his way into the remote hills of what was once behind the Iron Curtain.

Little did I know that as he stumbled his way through this story he might well have had me stumbling into a mail order bride of my own, one I never placed an order for. Just inside, for no particular reason we stopped as he talked, standing next to an empty curling machine. Suddenly as he mentioned 'Romania,' a woman chimed in with "Romania? I'm from Romania!"

The empty curling machine had sprouted an occupant without our notice, which was a little disconcerting to me as someone who 'Notices' everything. When asked if she had been to this village she said "I'm from there." When Mike jokingly wondered aloud if she could actually know, oh, just the online avatars' first name, almost predictably she said that was her name.

Almost predictably this was a bit much for me, I figured I could leave Mike to talk to her and get to working out. As I did, Mike would later tell me that he found her visibly distressed that I was walking away. But it would be weeks before we were there at the same time again.

So the very next night I'm using the very bench press machine where my onetime stalker at that gym had begun her harassment campaign against me by running up and barreling into me as I was standing up, knocking me back into the machine. Once I was aware to watch for her I have excellent situational awareness, I caught her every single time she was sneaking up on me until the day that the gym management got fed up with her antics and kicked her out.

This was still going on at the time, adding to my discomfort at this Romanian woman succeeding at sneaking up on me, which is what it felt like she was doing. People questioned my uneasiness. If you've seen John Mellencamp's 'Wild Night' music video, you've seen a particular Eastern European model playing a taxi driver. There's a rather close resemblance there to this Romanian woman, both in look and in manner.

Women like that aren't supposed to know I exist, yet there she was, dressed more like a photoshoot to sell the fantasy of gym membership than to workout. And nervously anxious to talk to me. Nothing wrong with her telling me about herself, but why did she want to? How could it be important that I know she'd come to the U.S. as an adult and had been here 7 years? I was more interested in why she spoke perfect American english when so many who are born here can't.

Coupled with the way she carried herself I pictured her first stop was at Julliard, where they completely break down the way one walks and talks to rebuild the perfect. . . . But the one way conversation didn't get far before she was interrupted by one of the gym personnel. There was a certain conman trying to 'Work' the members, they regularly asked me about his doings. Just like that she vanished.

I. . .CASUALLY. . .looked all over the gym, she'd apparently made a beeline to the door the moment she was interrupted. I'm sure you can guess the buzz that started in the gym. All these guys wanting to know who "THAT" was. Mostly not wanting to consider they might be too late, while the older women were more than ready to fill in the blanks of what was going on between the two of us.

The fact was that NOTHING was going on, though it sure does feel that it is when someone seems so clingy. And rather than see this as a good thing, I was sure something was wrong. I could picture an old episode of 'The Twilight Zone' where the man has a bad feeling his wife is too good to be true, boy did HE find out he was right.

I'd warned Mike of news stories where these men are killed by their new Russian wives, who turn out to have been active in the Russian mafia. All so melodramatic, right? But Mike would wind up getting the story from his online 'Girlfriend' where the mother needed surgery, she needed money, Mike sent it. And that ended quickly. Far too reasonable for him to think this woman was up to something with all that. Just as Dr. Paul Frampton should have known.

But it took this one Romanian woman a long time to make her next move. It would be 7-8 months later I would see her again. Greg, whom I met in the Cal State Fullerton gym as a college student only to find him in my new gym afterward, was showing me some of his improvised repetition excercises using the dance bar along the mirror. In the reflection it was easy to see the entire room behind me.

So how did this Romanian woman get within 6 feet of me and begin stretching? The stalker was still a problem, would I have been finding this one so creepy if she wasn't so stealthy? I tried to work my way a distance from her, but she kept moving right with me. If I stumbled backward I'd fall on her. You know me, if I'm going to act like nothings wrong, I'll be making lots of jokes. She was laughing loudly at each of them, as though trying to be noticed. I found a way to mutter to Greg that if Mike had told him about the Romanian woman, that was her.

Which somehow angered Greg, he was instantly denying it. I pointed out I was with Mike when he started speaking to her, but Greg insisted he'd walked up during their conversation and met her, finally shouting her name, which I didn't even remember by then, then storming off. She took that opportunity to swoop in, with a wide eyed look at him as he left then at me. Followed by breaking into a smile and acting like nothing was wrong. And as Sheryl Crow would say, standing 'Dangerously Close.'

 "I'm sorry I haven't been in." Sorry? Since the only word I'd ever spoken to her was 'Hello' that last time, why would she feel some responsibility to maintain contact with me? But this whole matter simply continued to be hard to figure, right down to why she was talking to a fat, funny looking guy with a limp in the first place. It was simply unbelievable that she was as starving for attention as she was behaving. She sure managed to work all sorts of 'Getting to know you into small talk.

I was hearing just a little about a lot of things with her, as though she was at a job interview trying to paint that positive image. Yet packaged in such ways as "I'm taking American History, because that's what I am now." And that was the cue for, to me, the greatest cliff hanger of this whole story. Why did she ask me about the American Revolution? As one person who's known me a long time put it: "She asked you a history question? YOU? This perfect stranger decides to ask YOU a HISTORY QUESTION?" Which called into question just how perfect a stranger she really was.

I was in the 5th grade when my own history of reading in general shifted gears. Not satisfied with the confusing text book in my history class, I found a book on the American Revolution at the Fullerton Library that turned everything covered in class on it's ear. Suddenly I was doing poorly on the tests because I knew the correct answers and the teacher didn't. A huge problem in the history classroom.

So I launched into the real story of the misrepresented Benedict Arnold, literally the greatest hero of the first two years of the Revolution. With his self made fortune he raised an army to invade Canada and frightened the British into holding back troops in Quebec which would otherwise have been sent to the colonies. Again with his own money he bought riverine ships and crew to lead America's first naval battle and turned back a larger British force to prevent an advance.

When British deserter Horatio Gates went to the colonial army with the stated purpose of being a General instead of a Captain and proceeded to undermine George Washington in hopes of replacing him as commander in chief, he found Arnold in his path protecting Washington. As the treacherous Gates lounged in a hotel waging war instead of fighting it, General Benedict Arnold was on the collapsing front lines of the Battle of Saratoga, redirecting troops and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat at the price of a war wound that nearly killed him and left him crippled for life.

While he was recovering he faced accusations designed only as an excuse to not reimburse him his costs for keeping the Revolution alive. And so he asked Washington to assign him command of West Point. . . . All of which she was listening to with her mouth hanging open. Well, she had asked. And she said "You REALLY DO know your history." I could just hear an unspoken 'They were RIGHT.'

Was it really a coincidence that she'd pick a guy people mistake for being a history professor and ask him a question like that? Who might have told her to ask me that? And why? Could she tell that, right at that moment, I felt overwhelmed with suspicion? She stayed with me until closing a short time later.

We were leaving together when someone spoke to me at the door and I stopped momentarily. She kept going. I tried to catch up with her but she'd vanished into the parking lot, seemingly into the ages. She never came into the gym again that I saw.

And for that I remind myself that I may well have wound up better than one Paul Frampton, who, like Mike from my gym, decided to fly to another country to see a woman he only knew from online, although he did in fact go. To see a woman whom he believed to be the model Denise Milani.

Why this recently divorced elderly man would believe someone world famous would be wanting to leave her life behind and marry him is beyond my pondering, but at the behest of the message on his computer screen he was on his way to Bolivia where she was on a 'Photo shoot.'

Low and behold she wasn't there, she had to rush off to another shoot in Brussels, you know the jet set life of a model. So could he make a dash over to Buenos Aires to pick up her bag and meet her there? So you're wondering who this Paul Frampton is, how he could be falling for all this. He made his name among those who would know it working on such physics theory as the dual resonance model and ten dimensional guage field theory, bridging the gap leading into string theory.

If you want someone to straighten out your Lagrangian mechanics, he's your man. He was once the project director for the North Carolina Supercollider. And then in 2011 he interrupted his work on new advances in dark matter to approach airport security with this bag he was to take to Brussels. And found himself on the way to a prison sentence of 4 years and 8 months for transporting cocaine.

It never went that bad for Mike. He found a 2nd eastern European woman online in his chatroom, again sent money for a 'Family emergency' before finally waking up to the fact that's all these people at the other end, male or female, ever intended.

Faced with the closure of his store he put in for early retirement and began visiting his mother a lot. This led to his getting to know her visiting caregiver. Who is now his 5th wife. I almost find myself wanting to believe this Denise Milani could actually find the work of Dr. Paul Frampton exciting, if not interesting to her personally.

I once met the actress Morgan Fairchild, who surprised me by seeming as quite the deep thinker. Shortly after college a few of us had Judd Nelson join us as though he just didn't want to be alone right that moment. He actually seemed interested in our petty little lives and never once blurted out 'I suppose that's interesting to someone who DID NOT star in a $40 million movie this month.'

For such a bad boy image he was really a great guy. Even so, it's hard to picture this Denis Milani interested in bileptons. I can't imagine her bragging to the photographer about her new boyfriend: "He anaylzes superconvergence sum rules and predicted axigluons." Some people just aren't impressed that a scientist has a Festschrift published in his honor, as does Dr. Frampton.

And if even the author of 'Chirality Commutator and Vector Mesons' gets stood up, what hope could there be for the rest of us? It's easy to want to interrupt my boring little life and follow this Romanian woman out of the gym and learn more about her than just what she was saying, but the question of 'Why me?' still looms large.

The one concession her behavior made to seeming too good to be true was the way she talked and talked about herself, as I'm sure she's always been encouraged to do. Not that she told me anything substantial, I didn't even learn what she was studying in school other than that history class, she barely had time for school but for working but I didn't know what she did for a living. All those fun facts that taste great and are less filling.

The prevailing theory was she wasn't really the citizen she tried to sound like when she said ". . . .That's what I am now" and was seeking a husband to guarantee she could stay. Hard to not wonder what the real story is. What risk is there in finding out? I mean, is it really important that at age 20 Morgan Fairchild was riding in a car with a man who suddenly told her he was going to addict her to drugs so he could work her as a prostitute?

Is the fact you never really know a strangers' motives so crucial? My gym closed, Mike moved away, I don't think I'll be seeing again any of these people who kept asking 'Did that Romanian girl ever turn up again?' Can't say I'd have known what to do if she did. But I'm wondering if I saw her again.

It was several years later that I was sitting on the patio at Roscoe's, already regretting that I was on this date, when across the way at Joe's a woman walked out on the patio with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Now there's shattering the illusion of her being perfect, if it was her. She didn't seem any happier than I was, she was looking down.

Then she glanced about and apparently saw me, locking on with a startled laser focus for just a moment. Then she turned and rushed back inside, once last glance as she disappeared. Hard to say it was really her. So I wondered if she was with someone she just had to get away from for a moment, if so I was knowing how she felt. I found myself wondering if there was a guy over there who might have wanted to trade; maybe he'd have preferred the woman with this haughty talk-everyone-else-down diatribe

I was listening to over the sulking foreigner who was dreaming of a man who realized that Aaron Burr actually lived out his life publicly practicing law rather than disappearing after the false accusation of his trying to lead a coup, as they teach in school. Wouldn't she have been shocked at me actually wanting to talk to her.

Ah, but there I go, trying to believe. . . .

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