THE WINSLOW SAGA: 1981-1996
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Looking north from Northpark Drive in Winslow, Arizona, on a lonely stretch way out past the landfill at the edge of the road where the pavement ends (hey! this is starting to sound like a country song!) When Carl took this photo on that fateful day in 1996, little did he know that this was a picture of the future of the Saga. You can click on the photo if you like.

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INTRODUCTION

It all began in the middle of 1981 when a guy named Carl stumbled on an article in a weekly tabloid about a nice young lady with a disorder who lived in Winslow, Arizona. For quite some time, Carl's biggest dream was to be Prince Charming for a girl. After reading this article, he thought he saw his golden opportunity. Unfortunately, because he didn't know anybody in Winslow, he lacked a decent plan for meeting her.

On October 30, 1997, one year to the day after it all ended, Carl's story was put on the web, so anyone could read about his odyssey and the people he came in contact with.


During the time of the Saga, Carl made eight visits to Winslow. Significant events have the dates in boldface,
while major turning points are denoted by three asterisks (* * *) before the date.
For your convenience (if you've read part of this story before), links are provided on each page to skip to a particular year:
[1982]

  • Winslow residents' names have been changed completely, as well as the names of some of the businesses there.

  • As far as everyone else goes, some last names have been changed and some haven't.

  • Dates and direct quotes are actual.


PART I: THE EARLY YEARS

1981

A typical June evening in Santa Monica, California was made up of many different activities embodying a sizable city: fathers relaxing in front of the TV with a cold one, night spots opening up, kids staying out later to play, college students busy studying for finals in night class, beach crowds going home, and evening joggers fading into the setting sun. June nights were usually pleasant here; a windbreaker or light sweater would suffice for an outdoor stroll. It was good weather for a barbecue.

Over on Hill Street, Carl had just finished the first day of his second week at the KALT Corporation, a company which supplied just about every piece of photographic equipment you could think of. Unlike the previous summer when VOLT Temporary Services had given him numerous two-day or one-week jobs, he'd have this job for the whole summer -- and he'd landed it with the first phone call to VOLT.

Still, working from 7:30 to 5 was a long day by his standards and he was hungry and a little worn out. He decided to go for a walk. He went to Jan & Joe's Liquor Store on Pico Blvd. at the city line, and bought a snack and a bottle of soda. This being a Monday night, the new National Inquisitor had just hit the stands and he needed something to read.

Carl didn't buy the Inquisitor every week, just when he was in the mood for good fiction. He always got a kick out of the idea of people making money passing this stuff off as fact. He often caught himself reading one of the more down-to-earth human interest stories and wondering if it was true after all and the Inquisitor had just put it there to give themselves some credibility. But then again.....naahh.

He began to flip the pages a couple of times. Hmmm. Let's look over on this page. Oh man. Some French guy named Paul Balay has been in a coma since 1956 and his mother comes to visit him every day. Wow that was sad. Hope that never happens to me.

Then he turned to page five.

There, staring him in the face, was an article that not only caught his attention but held it hostage for quite a long time. Across the top of the page were emblazoned thirteen words that would set this decade in motion:

America's Little Princess Grows Up

Tiny Girl Beats Big Odds To Reach 17

The story, taking up practically the whole page, told of a young girl born with a rare disorder known as "ring one chromosome." She was only four-foot-three, a little slow, but friendly as anything -- and appeared to be single and unattached.

Carl read the article again, and still again. Her name was Denise Gottlieb. She liked to wear designer jeans, she could ride a bicycle, she could cook. The entire town loved her. Despite losing her adoptive father to a heart attack, she'd kept her sunny disposition for which she was soon dubbed "Sergeant of Smiles" by the local police department.

Now, The Inquisitor is known for the low quality of its photographs; it can sometimes make even the sexiest Hollywood starlet look like yesterday's lunch. Despite the photographic shortcomings, Denise didn't look too bad -- and if she “didn’t look too bad” in one of their photos, she must have looked great in real life! Carl's favorite photo was one of her standing on a chair next to a stove, with the caption "VITAL INGREDIENT when Denise is cooking is a chair -- so she can see what she's making!"

She looked pretty cute in that shot. And sweet seventeen too. It didn't take but a few minutes for 21-year-old Carl to develop a crush on her -- and begin devising a plan to meet her.

The bad news was that she lived far away: 500 miles from Santa Monica, in the town made famous by the Eagles' song Take It Easy: Winslow, Arizona. The good news was that near the end of July Carl would be taking a road trip to Canada with Craig Martin and David Henry. This trip would involve at least two stops in Arizona. He'd never been there before.

Carl had been a little hesitant about going on a cross-country trip with Craig, ever since the idea was proposed on February 1 during a snow trip to Angeles National Forest. He was now a little leery of Craig's driving habits, considering Craig had gone up Angeles Crest Highway with tires squealing on almost every turn. Even though Craig was a skillful driver who had taught him how to drive a stick shift, Carl couldn't help but be a little apprehensive about going.

Any apprehensions were overridden by more pleasant thoughts of Denise's Prince Charming riding into town in a little yellow chariot, sweeping her off her feet, taking her as his bride and living happily ever after.

He couldn't wait to go.

In the early morning of July 25th, they set out. First they visited Fred Morgan in Tucson, then Craig's uncle and David's grandparents, all of whom lived up in Prescott. From here, it was only 147 miles to Winslow. Carl begged and pleaded with them to PLLLLEEEEEEEASE go to Winslow after the Grand Canyon.

But no dice. The closest they would get would be a little town called Kayenta, on the way up to Four Corners. Arizona wouldn't even figure on the way back.

Although the Canada trip did not have a Carl-and-Denise meeting as its biggest triumph, it had more than its share of memorable moments: Carl almost crashing into a horse; Craig and David doing impromptu rafting down a stream in Colorado; Carl breaking a pop-tart into four pieces and circling the Four Corners monument eating one piece at a time and then standing on one foot in the center of the monument; Craig taking a bath in a lake on a cold windy day; TV Guides from every state piling up in Carl's suitcase; Craig buying cheap supermarket sodas that tasted like motor oil; the three of them going the wrong way for an hour one night because the highway signs were too small (and Craig driving back the other way at over 80 mph to make up for the lost time); the three making an "illegal" campsite behind a hill in Yellowstone National Park because all the campgrounds were full; David putting in a Led Zeppelin tape his brother copied from an album and hearing the same guitar riff for fifteen minutes because the record had started skipping after his brother left the room; the three of them buying $15 worth of fireworks in Wyoming; spending over an hour at the border station and having everything taken out of their car while other cars were just briefly glanced over; the fireworks getting seized by Canadian customs; Banff National Park in Alberta; missing the Royal Wedding; playing in the snow somewhere in Washington state (in August); Dave Moylan's house near Seattle (the lap of luxury after endless nights in a tent); finding a small box of fireworks the customs agents missed; staying in a motel in Anderson the night before they came home; and dozens of bad photographs.

There wouldn't be another trip quite like that one. When they got back, Craig received word that he'd been laid off his job at BFA Educational Media.

If Craig Martin and David Henry had known just how long the Winslow thing would be dragged out, they probably would have had the heart to stop there.

Carl kept the Inquisitor article. Although various events would keep Denise out of the picture for awhile, he would come to remember her time and again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS-oyLm-_fg

A mild earthquake was felt in Los Angeles on September 4, Carl's last day at KALT. The next day, he headed off to Thousand Oaks to begin his junior year at Cal Lutheran.

Carl had launched his radio career in March, 1980, with the help of Alicia Thornton. He'd since come a long way at the station, and now it seemed he'd be a shoo-in for the title of Music Director. He'd expressed an interest in the job the previous school year, and by May 1981 had three semesters of DJ work under his belt plus a knowledge of both top-40 and progressive music, which helped.

The staff meeting was held on September 14. After talking with station manager, Carl got the job and a key to the station.

On September 18, Carl met a preacher's daughter named Jennifer Appling and had a brief romance with her. Things moved too fast and it fell apart five days later.

November 13 found Carl at the pub with Andy and his ladyfriend Carolynne. It turns out this girl had a sister named Dianna who was newly unattached. He finally landed a date with her in mid-December. He took her to see the movie Neighbors (John Belushi's last film.) Carl must have looked like a real klutz on this date. The fact that this girl had once dated a member of the band The Surf Punks didn't help his image any. Neither did that fact that Carl had to use that---that---that CAR. Nor did the tacky red sweater he wore to her house. Or a slip-o-the-lip he made about one of her homemade gingerbread men. When all was said and done, it became obvious that a high-class girl like Dianna was just a little out of his league. Needless to say, she wasn't impressed.

1982

Carl's prize cat, Homer Iliad, died suddenly on January 21. About a week later he was watching television in the SUB and met a smiling, outgoing dude who was very active in the school's drama department. He had much in common with Carl, namely movies, girl problems and rebellion against the college's conformist social elite. He was a rather short fellow, Asian in appearance; a stocky, bearded freshman with the unlikely name of Hercules Simpson.

Carl and Herc formed an immediate bond. They would spend many a night sneaking into the New Earth to make hot dogs, and going to the Chuck E. Cheese in Simi Valley with a third guy, Stuart Scott, to spend the tokens Carl had gotten.

Dianna eventually got back with her old boyfriend, but given Carl's sloppiness on that date he doesn't blame her. Hey, by now she was probably telling her friends about the Date from Hell. By the spring, his thoughts were once again turning toward winning the heart of a young lady a little more his speed: Denise Gottlieb, the girl in Winslow.

Early April, 1982: Argentina was invading the Falklands, several men with chainsaws were frantically trying to free three whales stuck under the Arctic ice, and the students of California Lutheran College were beginning a week-long break.

Ah, the spring.

The big problem with meeting Denise was getting to Winslow in the first place. Craig and David came up with a little plan: next time they went to Prescott to visit their relatives, Carl could come with them, then take a bus or a train to Winslow. (Driving across unfamiliar desert in an unpredictable 1965 Rambler was pretty much out of the question.) Carl went to the Auto Club and got a tour book for Arizona.

 

Memorial Day Weekend: the Martin/Henry plan was put into action for the first time as Carl effectively "hitched a ride" to Prescott.

David Henry's grandparents, Marlowe and Mary Sisson, were retired jewelers who sold most of their handmade jewelry to the Sharlot Hall Museum in town. Their work was so good that their product was frequently sold out.

Around 9:30 pm that Friday, the Sissons were watching Falcon Crest on channel 10 when suddenly the station cut in with a live shot of a gunman holding newsman Bill Close hostage. Then the Martin/Henry entourage arrived at the Sissons' and they all watched the gunman read off some pretty whacked predictions. Happily, the guy gave Close the gun and surrendered when he was done reading. Great thing to see on TV when company comes over.

The next afternoon Craig drove Carl to the bus station. Carl was so tight on funds that $14.95 seemed expensive for a round-trip ticket to Winslow. Consulting the Tour Book, he found all the motels listed under "Winslow" a little out of his narrow range. He didn't get a bus ticket.

Checking a Winslow phone book at the Prescott library, he found several other, cheaper motels not listed in the Tour Book and discovered that he could have afforded it after all! By now, the only bus to Winslow was gone and he spent the rest of the weekend with Craig and David. Soon, another trip to Prescott was planned for July 4th weekend.

The temporary job market wasn't what it had been in 1980 or '81. Carl only got two VOLT jobs this summer, and both were two days long. The first job was moving office equipment at Pacific Environmental Services in Santa Monica. He picked up his check the following Thursday, just in time for another Martin/Henry jaunt to Prescott. This time, all systems were go (except for one thing, Carl: just how were you going to meet this girl?)

THE FIRST TRIP: JULY 3-4, 1982

Fourth-of-July weekend was shaping up to be a carbon copy of the Memorial Day trip. They spent the night at the Sissons again. Craig drove Carl to the bus station around 12:30 the next day, just like before, only this time Carl followed through: he bought a ticket and got on the bus, his heart filled with anticipation.

After Ash Fork and Flagstaff, the bus passed by wide spots with names like Two Guns and Twin Arrows. The sun was lower in the sky, Carl was getting tired and his excitement was beginning to fade as he realized his small problem: how was he going to meet Denise Gottlieb? Call her on the phone? Out of the question. She didn't know he existed. Just happen to pass by her, maybe? HA! Winslow ain't THAT small, dude. Close to 3000 people. Also, he had just enough money for a motel and a bite to eat. Nothing for emergencies. And what if he missed the bus back to Prescott?

Maybe he wasn't as ready for this as he thought. He began to feel uneasy as the bus got closer to its destination. It seems he'd packed everything except for one thing: his brain. As the bus hurtled indifferently down Interstate 40, he just sat watching open space pass by.

A building appeared out the window. Then another. Then still another. Then...a town.

Before he knew it, he was in Winslow. And scared half to death.

The sudden appearance of Winslow out the bus window caught him off guard. He got this strange feeling like he wasn't supposed to be here. There he was, with little money and no car, alone in a small town where he didn't know anybody -- and nobody knew him.

He got off the bus and crossed the street, feeling sort of like he was being watched. All the buildings looked really old. Bells rang on a nearby church steeple. The bells were obviously just a recording; the tape sounded warped and uneven, almost like the machine was trying to break down. The warped tape sound added an extra eerieness to the whole scene.

It was 5:00 and about 96 degrees outside. He turned west, facing the sun. Motel 6 was advertising a $14.45 price, but the "SORRY" sign was on. Two small Indian boys passed by him, each carrying a tiny kitten.

Carl talked to no one until he stopped at the L - Z Budget Motel near the west end of town. He'd been walking for a half hour and must have gone a mile.

The desk clerk was friendly and quoted a price of $12.95 for a room with a sliding door. Carl filled out the form, sweaty and still nervous. His hands were shaking as he signed the receipt.

He checked into room number nine and turned on the TV. A Starsky & Hutch episode, a music video or two. He dozed off a couple of times and only left the room once to walk to a nearby Burger King. He spent most of the night watching TV: Fantasy Island, a Superman episode, Saturday Night Live, Eddie Murphy talking about his new movie 48 HRS. The sounds of nearby train whistles eventually lulled him off to sleep.

The next morning, he boarded the bus. A guy going to Phoenix struck up a conversation with him. Carl had the Inquisitor article in his pocket, and almost told the guy why he was here, but lost his nerve. Completely unnerved by this trip, he went back to Prescott no closer to meeting Denise than when he'd first heard of her. Craig Martin and David Henry weren't the least bit surprised. But at least he got to see Winslow -- and he vowed he'd try again.

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On July 25, Carl's father helped him finance a new 1982 Toyota Tercel SR5. No more would he be driving the infamous Rambler -- the stigma of his reputation.

With a reliable car and unheard-of gas mileage, he could go to Winslow any time he wanted to, right? Wrong. There was still a problem of finances, and a procedural problem: how to meet Denise.

On August 22, Carl got a notice in the mail. Suddenly, his room assignment for the fall had been changed. Instead of living in room 431 of Mount Clef Inn with Chris Madsen, he'd now be living in room 331 in the east wing, directly above the radio station, with none other than.....Hercules Simpson!

Herc called him a few days later and told him that he'd arranged the whole thing himself with Marty Anderson, the director of housing.

Carl had a dream about Jennifer. He doesn't remember the details, but he recalls waking up the next morning upset with himself for giving her the silent treatment. He was beginning to fear that his past anger at her was going to cost him dearly. He had to talk to her.

He went to the chalkboard in the Mount Clef hallway and wrote, "Anyone who knew JENNIFER APPLING last year, come to room 331 on October 18, and we'll call her at 9:00 sharp." The only person to show up was Jennifer's old roommate, Kristy Johnson. They called Jennifer and sang "Happy Birthday" into the phone. They all took turns talking to her. Kristy talked first. When she was done, she asked: “Do you want to talk to Carl?" "Wait. Jennifer, what? What's wrong?" It seemed Jennifer didn't want to talk to him, even though his anger had long since dissipated.

Kristy gave the phone to Hercules, who started the conversation with, "Hey, how ya doin', sweet cheeks?" Then he talked to her for awhile. He, too asked if she wanted to talk to Carl. He must have gotten the same response Kristy had gotten, whatever it was, but Carl talked to Jennifer anyway. She told him that she was going to a junior college in Fairfield; he told her he had a new car. He asked if he'd ever see her again, but she said she doubted it, after all, she was up there and he was down here and all that. This was the last time he was ever able to talk to her. Later, Hercules said he'd call her again and talk to her further. A check of the next phone bill found that he'd kept his word. In fact, he'd talked to her for over twenty minutes one day while Carl was out. He didn't give Carl any details of their talk except for his observation: "She didn't want to talk to you." "How come?" "Oh, man, Carl, she REALLY didn't want to talk to you." It was no use. Carl had to let go.

On November 1, Carl was in the room alone. Larry came over to visit. Larry was relaxing on Herc's bed when he noticed a book on the desk that had "S.J. DELTA COLLEGE LIBRARY" rubber-stamped on the edge. This tweaked his curiosity.

"Hey Carl, who went to San Joaquin Delta College?"

"I don't know. Why?"

"That book. I think it's mine." Larry went over and checked out the book's title: Playboy's Book of Forbidden Words. "Yep. This is mine."

"Hey man, that book belongs to Hercules!"

"No, man, this book was stolen from me over the summer. You know the only two people here from the same town as that college are me and George Greathouse."

"Well don't take it, man. PLEASE."

"Okay, then, I'll just take his Walkman!" Larry picked up Herc's portable stereo and started fiddling with it.

"OH NO! NOT THAT!"

"Okay, then, how about some of his tapes?" Larry looked at the tapes, one by one. "What's he listen to? These are all soundtracks. Hey, what's that over there?"

"Uh, that's his whip. It's a stage prop."

"Okay, then why don't I just take that?"

"NO!"

"Why not? You and him whip each other every night?"

"No. Of course not. But don't take the whip."

Carl had succeeded in stopping Larry from taking the book, Walkman and tapes, but was unable to convince him not to take the bullwhip. Larry left with it and Carl followed him to the SUB. Larry started to doze off on a chair and Carl gingerly sneaked over to the whip. He was only a few inches from grabbing it when Larry awoke and thwarted the whip's recovery.

Carl saw Herc about twenty minutes later. Not pulling any punches, he just told him the truth:

"Um, Larry came over and was a little [upset] about that Playboy book and said it was his."

"It's mine. Greg Nelson found it in the trash over the summer and gave it to ME."

"Well, Larry tried to take it, but I stopped him, and then he tried to take your Walkman."

"DON'T EVER LET HIM IN THE ROOM AGAIN!"

"Well, I didn't let him take it, but, um, he kinda took your whip."

“HE TOOK THE WHIP?”

“Yeah.”

Boy, was Herc ticked. And rightly so. They went over to the office of the Director of Student Affairs, Marty Anderson, and told him what happened. They also told Karen Sutton, the Head Resident of Mount Clef Inn. Apparently, the charge against Larry must have done some good because later on he acted angry at Carl every time he saw him. Regardless, Herc never got his bullwhip back and his friendship with Carl was starting a downward trend.

CONTINUED...

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