Ever know a johnny? -Not the guy with a cute spin on the name Jonathan (or even a woman, I’ve met one) but rather a student or alum from St. John’s College. When I first moved to Santa Fe in 1999 I soon learned about this strange subculture of hedonistic wanna-be philosophers. The first one was a chance encounter with an Argentinian johnny who saw me and my friend and decided to strike up a conversation the way johnnies do. They can chat you up about anything and they succeed in it. This guy also succeeded in scoring a ride back to campus from the Plaza – compelling and industrious – my kinda person. A lot of people I know don’t “have the time” for chance dances with a stranger of epicurean descent, but hell yeah I do and I gotta say I’m the better for it.
A classmate where I was going for my undergrad started the introduction to the way of the johnny. She rented a room out of a house where the head couple – who were also polyamorous (how johnny) – were getting their Johnny Masters while two other roommates were in the undergrad program. Her tales of their dinner conversations, debates, and bibliographies were intriguing, funny, and heady, to say the least. One of the roommates took a liking to me (not the one I thought was cute, sorry Vic but this is for your shitty comment about me being hot if not for the eye bags) and we hung out, he gave me a Bob Marley record even though I tried to be uptight about not liking Marley. (That album did help, Vic, and it cleared the pain of your douchey comment, but obviously not enough. Maybe Tosh would’ve been better?)
I went on to move into a quasi compound on the east side of Santa Fe – a walled courtyard dividing two single-person abodes connected to unconnected properties. Santa Fe is referred to as ‘the city different’ and it all makes sense when you settle into its scene. My neighbor was a johnny who played off his attraction to me not well but handled the dismissals also not well. In between we managed to be neighbors who collected in the courtyard with other johnnies and whiskey and fires in the wanna-be horno fireplace. We would nosh on tapas and maybe something I baked and discuss everything. They liked my approach and admired my pursuit of art and music. I was like a specimen to them, and I liked the attention even if it reeked of white male gaze privilege. They weren’t clueless in a lot of ways the other white male privilege dudes I’d known all along to be; they were soaking in the beauty of the western mind and would bounce it over to me for a return of an art or music equivalent which would then form a volley which would feed into a mutual love of philosophy and romance. They all do it this way, and I’m a sucker every time.
I don’t know what particularly cheeky part of me wanted to write a letter into the Santa Fe Reporter’s Love and Sex column. It’s gotta be that I was tired of being celibate and self-serving coupled with the prior week’s call and response that lit a little fire under my typist’s fingers and got me rolling. I’m not going to include my entire letter; rather, I’ll do what William Goldman and Tom Robbins did and bait the interested readers with a call to write me if you want the whole shebang. Here are some highlights:
“I think I have the libido of a 16 year old boy… It is my suspicion that more women than you think follow my suit” and “Why is it that sex is regarded by most people as penetration?” and “…maybe women take so long to reach their sexual peak because they have to grapple with the cultural constraints of sexual patriarchy” are some of my personal favorites.
The columnist called me within 12 hours. He was a johnny, I knew this, and yet I still gambled. We agreed to meet for drinks at a bar a few blocks from my place after the other place which was a bottom unit under the owner of the home that used to be part of a cherry farm. I walked, he was 10 minutes late. I looked good, dressed casual in black with my hair cut in a flipped bob. He played off his attraction to me not well and wound up playing off the dismissal also not well but in between we had some great conversations, real excursions into romantic feelings, slips of the tongue and drinks over several dates. It turned out that I was the first woman to write in about masturbation (without using the word, I’m proud to note), and a specimen like that was just too good to pass up, I’m sure.
I guess the thing I like about johnnies is that while they can talk about anything and defend anything with anything – they can really play people whatever way they want with their citational knowledge – they err on the side of no bullshit and forge a ‘let’s get down to the brass tacks’ kind of attitude about life. They like pontification, they bring out my full lexicon and I bear no embarrassment. It seems mutually beneficial, so why do I wind up feeling used?
Full disclosure: I’ve never had sex with a johnny so I’m not talking that kinda used. (I’ve made out with a few but it’s pretty hard to feel used after just making out.) I more feel intellectually used or creatively/romantically played. Anyway, my last romantic encounter with a johnny was many years ago and began with a customer of a cafe out of which I served my soul. Just kidding, but you gotta feel for the introvert who puts themselves in a service role. Behind a counter. Where they can’t get away. So this recently graduated johnny comes in because he starts working at the financial stock management place that’s down the street and he takes a liking to me because I’m the great johnny attractor. He calls the shop before closing to ask me out for a drink. I’ve lowered my standards by this time so I agree to meet him. Usually, I’d be like ‘I don’t go out with customers I don’t know well’, but shit was desperate. Santa Fe is also known as the city of holy faith.
We meet for wine with plans to eat around the corner at a noodle joint. We have one glass, then two because why not, we’re about to eat and we’ve covered all sorts of bases from philosophy to ambition to past love to music and that’s when we decide to actually listen to the song ‘Crazy’ because isn’t it crazy that he was just listening to it on his way here and now we’re talking about it? I’m all for the dip into Seal, so we go to his car and he starts up the engine which freaks me out just a bit, like why would we drive, but I’m like ‘chill, Mindy, he’s turning on the heat to be a gentleman.’ okay, he dials up ‘Crazy’ and we start settling into the groove and he puts the car in reverse. I think we had talked about manual transmissions over the wine and he was excited to show off or something. Again, I get a little anxious but I reason that maybe we’re just driving around the block to the place around the corner.
‘Crazy’ is peaking at this point as are my nerves as we hit Cerrillos and he heads west. I know he just wants to open up (in fourth?), but I keep thinking that we’ve had TWO glasses of wine, that’s just too much and we live in the capital of DUI. Cerrillos? You crazy, dude? Yeah, there’s no reasoning this situation anymore. Seal is singing ‘Crazy’ quite loudly and ex-johnny is speeding down Cerrillos in the early evening. I start thinking about what I’ll say to the cops, pleading my innocence and how ‘I don’t even know this guy’ a la Norteno style. But first, I have to address the fact that we’re still headed west. Do I ask where we’re going or should I just jump out at the next stop?
When do you actually ask a question that you don’t want to hear a possible negative reply? I found myself in this turmoil in a vehicle which is my number one fear – I have no idea why – but I was pretty convinced at this point that the guy had slipped something in the last glass and was just waiting for the effects to hit me on his way to Madrid where he’d chain me to a radiator and… We stopped at a light. I asked in a manner more meekly than I’m proud to admit, “where are we going?” He starts maniacally laughing snapping to how ironic the situation could be considering the song and how far we’d gone from the restaurant. “That’s hilarious! It does seem a little ‘crazy’!” More maniacal laughter out of him. I fake it good and laugh along, crazily. I’m not gonna tip this guy off.
He pulls a u-turn to head back east (johnnies are notoriously brazen) and we get to the restaurant without a hitch. We dine, it’s fine. I’m not sure how I shrugged it all off because upon reflection it does all sound crazy, indeed, but you know johnnies and their way with conversation. Or maybe it’s our shared affinity to always find the silver lining. As I summed up in an email to a friend regarding the johnny prior to crazy johnny: “Well, he was a johnny, so you know what that’s all about but at least I got a tongue in my mouth.”