Hugo's real name
was Hugh Fleming. If a Latin person tries to pronounce Hugh
from its spelling, the name comes out Ugh! I always called
him Hugh until one weekend in Paris when we happened to
be together, more or less on business. It was also during the Vietnamese
War, and the French were universally upset about the U.S. involvement
in Vietnam, an old French colony which the French had held on to for
many years until the Viet Cong communists made it so unpleasant that
they withdrew. After that, the French could not accept the American
stupidity of going back into Vietnam. Every time Hugh and I met a
French person, they would berate us as to why the U.S. was still in
Vietnam. This really got old, particularly since we werent much
in favor of the war either.
President Kennedy had first gotten the U.S. involved in Vietnam; but
it was his successor, President Johnson, who had sent in the huge
detachment of U.S. troops thus detonating a full fledged war. At the
time that Hugh and I were in Paris, President Johnson had already
lost popularity due to the war and had not even sought re-election.
Richard Nixon was the new President. To me and many others, it was
so obvious that we should get the hell out of Vietnam, I assumed it
was equally obvious to Nixon and that he would somehow honorably extricate
our troops (which, it turned out, he never did!).
So, in this climate, Hugh and I got really tired of the French jumping
all over us demanding that we justify a war that we ourselves didnt
believe in. Like clockwork, everytime we met a new French person and
they found out we were Americans the person would berate us up and
down. To avoid this, Hugh and I decided to pose as citizens of other
countries. I was to be Serge from Russia, and Hugh was
to become Hugo, a journalist from Puerto Rico. Most of
the French we met didnt know much about Puerto Rico, so we were
completely free of any Vietnam stigma.
We visited a night club and our new identities worked out real well;
nobody bothered us. On the other hand, we did notice that we were
pretty well ignored by the night club girls and waiters. (They assumed
that since we were not Americans we probably had no money and werent
worth cultivating.) Either way we couldnt win!
But one thing did change. After that weekend Hugh has since been Hugo.
The name really stuck, particularly with his Latin girl friends who
now had a name they could pronounce. On the other hand, the name Serge
did not fit me too well. No one other than Hugo ever referred to me
as Sergeand he only did so at times when he felt