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Monday, August 22, 2011

A Love Story--"What If..." I'd never met Susie, and "What If" by Coldplay--our Love Story, and the lyrics and a live performance video by Coldplay

One of my favorite I-pod plays on my car speakers is "What If" by the English group, Coldplay.  I'll provide a YouTube link to a live performance of the song by the group and copy-in the lyrics to this beautiful, poignant, sad, and happy song at the end of this blog entry.  But before all that, what in God's (or the gods, if you prefer) name does a Coldplay pop song have to do with the title of today's blog, "What If..." I'd never met Susie?  And is it really the case that a simple pop song can jog an entire short story, even a Love Story, out of the gray cellular folds of a human brain?

But before go there, let's remind ourselves, for the benefit of those of you who have never heard the story, how Susie met Bob (and vice-versa).

October 26, 1978.  Sophomore year in college.

Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.  Lawn Avenue dorms, second floor, four-man suite.  I lived there with Ross Ungerleider, now a nationally-renowned, if not internationally-renowned, pediatric heart surgeon and inventor of "the Ross procedure," which has saved many children's hearts; Dave Long, now a research writer for ABT Associates, who travels the country, and world, on retainer by governments and corporations, to study and report back on all manner of socio-political problems which need to be dealt with by his government and corporate patrons; and Steven I. Skinner, a tall, blonde, very nice, extremely sardonic, puzzling, man, with whom Susie and I lost touch after Wesleyan and were never able to encourage him to re-engage with us, following which we learned he'd passed away a few years ago.

Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts. Gardiner House dorms.  Susie by then had her own room.  On her hall lived Dale Ungerleider, twin sister of Ross, my roommate.  Unfortunately, Dale, like Steve, has died prematurely.  Two tragedies, true, but this story does have a happier ending.

For reasons known only to God (or the gods, if you prefer), Ross and Dale decided to arrange blind dates with Ross's friends from Wesleyan and Dale's from Smith.  Dave Long accepted a bind date with Susie's younger sister, Maryglen, who was supposed to take a bus from Manhattanville to Middletown's bus station, the old one on Washington Street.  And the Ungerleider twins figured Susie and I would be a good match, but God (or the gods, if you prefer) had other plans for how this little scenario would play out.

"What can you tell me about Susie?" I asked Dr. Ungerleider.  Well, actually he was just Ross at that time.

"She's very beautiful, blonde and blue eyes, very smart, high strung, very sweet, and from a very good family in Wisconsin."  Ross must have known that at that time in my life I had a thing for blonde, blue-eyed women, which I did, but I have no idea how he found that out.  Dave Long and I, and J.C. Louis, had been roommates freshman year.  Dave knew Steve Skinner through a class they'd taken together, and both were interested in government and social science.  Ross knew Dave, I think, and when Dave and I decided to room together again sophomore year, Dave told me Ross and Steve would make a good compliment for us in a Lawn Avenue suite.  So I went along, then, but not now, when Ross wanted me to have the date with Susie. Susan Ellen Price, to be more formal about her family and given names.

From the description of Susie, I was, frankly, scared to death to have the date with her.  Beautiful. Blonde.  Blue eyes.  Everything I loved about the surface of a woman.  And feared.  Feared her power over me, given my fantasies about desirable women.  What had appealed to me at that time in the surface appearance in women.  My desire to have a woman who looked like that on my arm at social events.  My "facial dysmorphia," for want of a better word, about my face, which I thought was ugly because I had large dark eyebrows and a nose which did not look like a ski-slope, in profile.  I think unconsciously I wanted a very beautiful woman to love me, despite the ugly eyebrows, the poorly-shaped nose, but at the same time I feared she'd reject me, humor me by spending the weekend with me, but not really ever being able to like a man who looked the way I did.

"Thanks a lot Ross for thinking of me but I've got a lot of work to do this weekend for next week, so I think I'll have to pass.  Hopefully you can find somebody else for Susie Price."  Ross was always a very positive, optimistic guy, so he changed facial expressions the way he always did when his good suggestions fell on deaf ears.  He kept the smile but was able, probably semi-consciously, to take the bad news with a grain of salt, express mild disappointment, and then move on to the next order of business.  To be a world-renowned children's heart surgeon, you have to operate enough, on enough borderline hearts, that you have to experience disappointment, often involving children who cannot be saved, even by the most skilled cardiac surgeons, like Ross.

Ross, I imagine, must have turned to Dave Long for suggestions about whom to set Susie up with, now that I'd turned them down with what they may have realized was a transparent pretext for me to get out of going out with a girl who most of me felt I wasn't man enough to handle.  Long blonde hair, sky-blue eyes, a perfect face, high cheek bones, a thin and willowy frame, the voice tone of an angel, a truly warm and loving personality, enthusiastic and energetic, and smart enough to go to Smith College as a National Merit Finalist from a Wisconsin business family, of which Susie was the oldest of four beautiful, smart, and talented sisters.

All that iconic power, concentrated in one young woman, Susie, who also, as I later learned, was 9 months older than I.  I also was a year younger than most of my sophomore year Wesleyan classmates, 300 men strong and true ('cept when they were lying about one thing or other, to get dates, girls, what they were smoking and drinking in their dorm rooms, and the like).  I went to kindergarten in Philly when I was 4 years and 9 months, and hear it was, 14 years later and I was still the youngest one in my college class.  And I was always the youngest in all my classes, from kindergarten through college, and somewhat smaller on average than the other boys, although I've since caught up and even have a son who's 6'5" (Susie's Viking genes).

All that iconic power, in my mind at least, so I turned down the date, and Ross, in consultation with Dave, told Dale to tell Susie she'd be having a date with J.C. Louis, my freshman roommate, with Dave also, a major professional football fan (New York Jets; Namath era).  Susie was also a major professional football fan (Green Bay Packers; Lombardi era, who else?), through which interest she was able to develop something in common with her dad, Glenn Price, which motivated him to spend time with her.

To keep this blog entry to a reasonable length, I'll defer to another day the rest of this Love Story.  Suffice it to say that I met Susie before J.C. did, because he was announcing the Wesleyan-Trinity Homecoming football game.  Susie was sitting on the living room couch in our Lawn Avenue suite so I went out to take a look at this girl I'd turned down for the blind date.  She was sitting there, in a modest dress and black boots, fashionable but not "sexy," and reading a magazine which probably was on the little coffee table in front of the couch.  And I took one look at her and fell in love.  Instantly.  Irrationally, but in love all the same.

And the rest is history, to be recounted in another blog post at some point.

And now we return to "What If," the pop song by Coldplay.  Here are the connections.

First, What If I had accepted the blind date?  I'm sure my anxiety, my fear, my longing, for just such a girl as Susie was described to me by Ross would have left me feeling too awkward, too needy, and too uncomfortable in Susie's presence for her to see the other side of me, my mother's side.  That other side of me  (not my father's family's anxious, thoughtful, and mood-challenged side),  my mother's side, that fun-loving, extroverted, (trying to be) funny, devlish, thoughtful (although I have a lot of the opposite in me once you get to know me), energetic, adventuresome, and full of blarney (though Susie's half Irish and I'm not any Irish, but I have enough blarney for the two of us to write about) side of me.  Susie probably would have seen mostly my father's side had I accepted the pressure of the blind date with her.  As it turned out, I didn't, so when I met Susie, and spent the afternoon trying to find her sister at the bus station in New Haven, she only saw my mother's happy and positive side, fully active in me on the afternoon of October 24, 1978.

Second, What If I hadn't met Susie?  Then there'd be no K.C., Tim, Jamie, Robin, and, now, through K.C. and Devon, Liam aka Little Dude.  'nuff said?!

Third, What If something goes wrong tomorrow morning during Susie's 4-hour (that's the surgeon's estimate) neck fusion surgery?  Well, let's just say I won't go there in imagination, not too deeply at least.  And that is because I don't want to go there, because God (or the gods, if you prefer) are in control of what happens, and because I just don't know what I'd do if Susie didn't want me by her side (or God, or the gods, if you prefer).

And that, then, brings me back to two final things.  

First, here's a picture of Susie in the summer of 1967, the summer before she started at Smith College, and the summer before I met her.  This was taken at her parents' summer home on Pine Lake in Hartland, Wisconsin.  I call it Susie's Ivory Snow look.  It's a bit fuzzy because it's in a gold-painted wooden frame, which I used to have hanging in my law office before I retired on March 31, 2011.  To get it on the blog, I had to photograph the photograph and upload it to the computer, from which I imported it into the blog.

                                              SUSAN ELLEN PRICE
                                      Pine Lake, Hartland, Wisconsin
                                                    Summer of '67

Second, here is a live performance of the song, "What If," by Coldplay, with Chris Martin, the lead singer, also playing the piano part and singing while he plays.  After the video link, I copy-in the song's lyrics, which are also very interesting.  I don't think I can upload the YouTube video of the song so you may have to copy and paste the internet link into your browser and hit Enter, to see the song performed by Coldplay.

Here's the YouTube link:

And here are lyrics to "What If."  Enjoy the words and lovely harmonies.


"What If?"

What if there was no lie
Nothing wrong, nothing right
What if there was no time
And no reason, or rhyme
What if you should decide
That you don't want me there by your side
That you don't want me there in your life
What if I got it wrong
And no poem or song
Could put right what I got wrong
Or make you feel I belong

What if you should decide
That you don't want me there by your side
That you don't want me there in your life

Ooh ooh-ooh, that's right
Let's take a breath, jump over the side
Ooh ooh-ooh, that's right
How can you know it, if you don't even try
Ooh ooh-ooh, that's right

Every step that you take
Could be your biggest mistake
It could bend or it could break
That's the risk that you take

What if you should decide
That you don't want me there in your life
That you don't want me there by your side

Ooh ooh-ooh, that's right
Let's take a breath, jump over the side
Ooh ooh-ooh, that's right
How can you know when you don't even try
Ooh ooh-ooh, that's right

Oh - Ooh ooh-ooh, that's right,
Let's take a breath, jump over the side.
Ooh ooh-ooh, that's right,
You know that darkness always turns into light.
Ooh-ooh, that's right

More, anon.

Bob Dutcher


  1. Bob, this is all so sad. You need to get well. I pray for you but more for your wife and family.

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    It's hard to respond to your well-meaning comment because you write in a general way, without explaining what YOU mean by the vague words you choose to express whatever is on our mind about Susie, my family, and me.
    Whatever it is about my story which you choose to be sad about, I cannot know because you don't say. I'm not a mind-reader.
    Your other observation, that I "need to get well" suggests you think I'm sick. And that puzzles me because I wake up every day and am grateful that God has given me another chance to live and choose the content of that life.
    If you read some of my other blog posts, you'll realize that I truly WAS sick a year ago at this time, when I woke up every day wanting to kill myself. It was a monumental struggle to get to the point where I realized it was my former way of life, not my physical life, which needed to die and be restructured, much like a bankruptcy reorganization.
    I can only speculate about why you find my current life choices "sad." Probably you think I'd be happier if I returned to my life as a practicing lawyer, if I didn't dance three or four nights a week, and if I were doing the legal job I cam to hate rather than the unpaid work I do as a writer and comic. IF that is your thinking, I an assure you I would not go back to my old way of life, even if that were possible.
    As for Susie, it is a difficult adjustment for her to be with me as I restructure my personality and become a happier, more creative, and more fulfilled person. I am now focusing on finding the humor in life rather than the injustice and the money. I worked for 53 of my 61 years, doing all kinds of jobs, and I am now free to pursue what I am interested in, not what somebody else wants me to be interested in.
    If you're somebody I know, I would enjoy getting together over coffee so I can hear your concerns about me and I can try to reassure you about my well-being. I appreciate your Comments, but wonder what struggles you are going through which lead you to view my situation as you do.
    If you do wish to talk, call me anytime on my cell phone.
    Thank you for your Comment,

  3. Bob I just found your blog this evening and find nothing sad about it. Do whatever makes you happy.