One night in 2001

June 23, 2001

Tonight I’m alone on a Saturday night, playing music loud on my new system, organizing titles and such. I’m alone by choice, Vange, Cristin, and Megan went off to see “Fast and Furious,” a movie I didn’t want to see.

I’ve been working a lot with the videos lately. Vange had a funny comment. She loved them, she said, but for the kids, not for her. I was puzzled. “They make me sad,” she said. “They make me regret. So many things we didn’t enjoy enough, it went by so quickly, so much we should have done that we didn’t.” I was struck by that … it’s related.

It hit me tonight when I was playing old songs and things began to hurt. The passage of time, children getting older and being adults, sand running through fingers. How can good memories hurt? I look at old photos and I love them so much, but how much it hurts that so much time has gone by and won’t come back. I don’t think I regret. But things hurt.

Log Lake

That was 34 years ago, in 1966. I was 18 years old. As I write this, 34 years later, the memory of Log Lake is immediately fresh.

We reached Log Lake in the afternoon, after a long day’s hike, down from the camp to the creek, then up the moutains on the other side, winding up a steep trail through rocks. It owned its own small valley, invisible from anywhere but the high peaks above it. There was a meadow on the west side, a few trees, good sleeping spots, and good rocks and old logs for cooking and eating. On the east side the rocks rose through boulders and snow patches, very little green, up to peaks above it. We arrived in the afternoon, cooked dinner and slep, and the next morning I woke up before anybody else, shortly after the sun hit my sleeping bag, and jumped into the lake. I had braced myself for an icy, painfully cold mountain lake, like an electric shock that takes your breath away. Instead, it’s temperature was so much better than icy that the memory was engraved, and lasts. It wasn’t warm by any means, but it was no colder than the brisk temperature you’d expect from a country club swimming pool in August.

The moment was so right I would have had to search, like an intellectual exercise, for something wrong with it. Years later, I’m guessing that the only thing I would have come up with was that my summer at Unalayee was going to end.

I was at that point about six weeks into an eight-week stint as a counselor at Camp Unalayee, a non-denominational coed summer camp located high in the Trinity Alps, on a meadow next to a Mosquito Lake. I loved the mountains, like the kids, liked the other counselors, liked the management, and generally just enjoyed the hell out of who I was, where I was, and what I was doing. When I looked ahead, it was back home with my parents and siblings in Los Altos for a couple of weeks, and then off to in love with the mountains, and spending a whole summer up in , There was nothing, but absolutely nothing, wrong with life at that moment, and everything right.

I’ve always assumed that Log Lake was that much warmer than normal because it was small, shallow, and surrounded by rocks. It must have been warming up during the days. I don’t know that, and it doesn’t make sense that it had snow patches just a few hundred yards above it; but they were small patches, probably not draining all the way down to the lake in August.

This particular memory is akin to paradise. Log Lake is a beautiful alpine lake, with the complete ingredients of the perfect Sierra Club calendar photo: the peaks above it, the granite sculptured by glaciers, the small snow patches, the meadow just below itnot a particularly well-known landmark, I’ve never seen a picture of it published anywhere, never even heard of it since. specimen of Trinity Alps alpine landscape,

I crawled out of the bag.

from the other side rise steeply out of the creek’s valley into a deep valley with Tangle Blue Creek running down its bottom. We could only see the steep drop of the Beyond the valley, the moutain rose up other side rose up I couldn’t see it at the bottom Beyond the valley, the mountains rose again up to sharp gray peaks, gray and black, brightened by the morning sun on glistening granite, and, in their shadows, sparkling white small patches of snow. To the left of the truck, a steep slope rose up in the same sparse, granite landscape, broken by trees. This was in the Trinity Alps, in Northern California, in 1966.

In the back of the truck, I held on to the staked sides as the truck reeled back and forth. Across the valley, nestled deep in the sides of the peaks across the valley was a lake I’d been to, Log Lake just a few days earlier, on an overnight I clung to the back, reeling as the truck jerked back and forth. , happy, tired, lost in my own thoughts. Across the valley, nestled amoung the peaks, was an invisible lake, I was one of maybe a dozen people holding onto the wooden staked sides of the truck”Tim, you’ve got a beard,”

A couple dozen people hung on in back, most of them clinging to the high fence-like sides of the truckIn the back of the truck, a couple dozen people hu, . The pwoplwback of the truck held

through the Late August, 1966

On the truck on the way back, it was bouncing, dirt road, a couple dozen young conselors in the back of the kind of flatbed truck, wood stake fence up the sides, that you’d expect to see carrying a load of hay, vegetables, or pigs. It jerked back and forth, reeling from one side to the other, with each rock or hole in the dirt track it followed through the Trinity Alps.

Patty, one of the older counselors — she was at least 22 —

Berry Family History

My dad was born Oct. 2, 1919, in Milford, MA. His father, Frank C. Berry, was the principal of the high school there, the coach of the baseball team, and of the American Legion baseball team, which in the 1930s was a very big deal. They played for the state championship in Fenway Park in Boston twice, one once. Dad was the second baseman on the state championship team. He was also a straight-A student, quarterback on the football team, and high scorer on the basketball team. His mother, Helen, was a Sullivan by birth. The Berrys were very well known and respected in the small town of Milford. My dad was called “Frankie” by most of the people there. Because he was son of the principal, a start on the athletic fields, everybody knew him. He had a sister named Berry, six years younger, and a brother named Paul, 12 years younger.

Betty married John Coniaris, a psychiatrist, and they had three boys, Jeff, Tom, and Skip. They were divorced, he married the daughter of Supreme Court Justice Black, and Aunt Betty went back to college, got a masters degree, and became a social worker. All three cousins fooled around a lot in their twenties but then went back to school in their thirties, several Harvard degrees, they became doctors and lawyers and such. Betty had a 30-year career as a social worker in Boston, she was a wonderful elderly lady when I last had dinner with her in the 1980s. She died in the late 1990s.

Paul married Eveline – crossing local town boundaries because he was Irish of course and she was from an Italian family – and they had two children, Joe and Barbara. I always liked my Uncle Paul, he was very easy to like, quick to have a beer with you and talk about anything. He spent a lot of years in the Navy and later had some kind of job – I don’t really know what – in a local plant of Raytheon, a high-tech manufacturer of the 1970s. He died of Lukemia in the middle 1980s. Barbara became a CPA, I don’t know what became of Joseph. Aunt Evy was at Laura’s wedding with Aunt Betty.

My mother was born June 3, 1923, in Pittsburgh, PA. Her mother, Edith, was born in England in a large family, but raised in the United States. Several of her brothers died in World War I. Her father, Fred Wurtenbaugh, was a newspaperman in Pittsburgh, fairly well known about town, and author of occasional poetry published in the newspaper as well. Edit left Fred for good in 1935 and as far as we know never spoke to him again. He made attempts to contact my mom later in life, but she never forgave him for not trying sooner and harder. Mom had 3 siblings: Fred, a year older, Richard (Dick), two years younger, and Mary, younger than Dick, I’m not sure how much younger. She was always close with Fred, called Buddy, who was our Uncle Buddy, married to Aunt Bruna, from Italy.

Mom told stories about childhood. One of my favorite was the two aunts who, as sisters when they were girls, were always fighting. Aunt Anna was terrified that while she kneeled to pray, something monstrous would be under the bed and grab her. Still, she always prayed first, checked afterwards. Her sister, name unremembered by me, hid under the bed once and reached out and grabbed her leg while she was praying. Anna suffered horribly, and was determined to get even. So she got some fluorescent paint and painted her face with it so that at night, in the dark, she would look like a horrible monster. As she crept towards her sister at night to scare her and win her revenge, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror, screamed and fainted.

Another story she told rarely was that her brother Dick shot and killed a playmate by accident when they were both nine years old. She sometimes seemed to blame that horrible even for Dick never growing up right. He eventually committed suicide in his early forties. Dick did marry a woman named Jenny Espinoza, Mexican, and they had three children, whose names were I can’t remember right now. They were divorced, she remarried and spent most of her life in Watsonville, married to the man who ran the weekly paper there, which once won a pullitzer prize. Our cousins visited once or twice in Los Altos, they were good people, but surprisingly – given the stepfather’s success in the weekly newspaper – unconcerned about education. The oldest, Richard, married a very pretty local girl who spoke only Spanish. They had met as day laborers in the mushroom farms in Watsonville.

Dick remarried, they visited once or twice but I don’t remember her name, but they were stereotypical hippies living in the Santa Cruz with flowing clothes, he had a pony tail, and they made candles. Then we learned he had committed suicide, and I don’t know much else about him.

Aunt Mary married Uncle Cal, a dentist, and had Jenny, Matt, Tom, and Patsy, in that order. Jenny was a year younger than me, Matt two years younger. I remember vaguely visiting them in Omaha, NB once when I was very young, and then when I was in something like fourth grade they moved closer to us. For several years they lived in a large old-fashioned house overlooking the second tee at the Los Altos Golf and Country club.


I was born January 17, 1948, in Milford, MA., at night. I was the second, Chip (Frank Dudley Berry Jr.) was born Aug. 1, 1946, which is

I know Milford from later visits, not from memory. We lived on High Street, which was up a hill from main street in a small New England town, about an hour from Boston. We were across the street from Gram, Dad’s mother, a small strong woman who lived into her nineties, was always very politically aware, and was also very religious, especially after her husband Frank C. Berry died in his late 40s of a mole-related cancer on his back.

Sometime before my memories started, we moved from Milford to Park Forest, IL. It was one of the original suburban tract settlements, commuter distance from Chicago. Dad did Ophthalmology at the Illinois Eye Ear and Nose Institute (or something like that) in downtown Chicago and commuted by train. Park Forest was written up by sociologists – Mom told me later – as an archetypical suburb in the very beginning of the generation of suburbs. It was classic 1950s. I can remember the Howdy Doody show on a black and white television at a neighbor’s house – we didn’t have one. The houses were arranged in a circle, and they all looked alike, one street leading out of the circle like the stem of a tree. I remember being outside with a tricycle. Mom said I used to push it, not ride it.

We moved to Camp Pickett, VA, where we lived on an army base in a small house at the end of the row. I had a stuffed dog named “Trick Doggy” that I used to toss in the air and spin, which was the reason for the name. Chip liked trucks, he had toy trucks. Our house was next to a field that was bordered on the far end by a forest (probably just a grove of trees, but to me it was a forest).

Dad had been in the army during WWII, but Camp Pickett was about him getting called up while he was in the reserves. This was during the Korean War. I have a memory of him and Mom very disturbed on a phone call late at night, which was connected with him being called up, because it interrupted their plans and he had already served in the other war. That may be an imposed memory, something that came from stories told later.

Somewhere in the early years Mom and a miscarriage, and an operation, which I now know was removing half of her uterus and one ovary. I have a memory of a hospital room at night, city lights in the background through the window, Mom in the bed, Dad taking care of Chip and me.

We moved to California when I was 4 or 5. We lived with Grandma and Grandad (Mom’s mother and Jack O’Neill, who was not her father but who she loved as a father, called Dad, and stayed with Granma, Mom’s mother, from the time Mom was 12 until he died) in Ojai for a few months, during which I went to kindergarten in Ojai. My memories of Ojai are good memories, mixed now with several visits later on, a wonderful small town in the mountains above Santa Barbara. Grandad was tall, born in Ireland, a tattoo on his arm, he had been a carpenter, he liked to fish (took us fishing, Chip and me, when we were a little older) and smoked fish in his own smoker in the back yard. There were Orange trees in the back yard, and paths and a garden marked by wood borders sticking out along the sides. There was a huge oak tree that towered over the house, driveway, and garage. The house had a room that Grandad opened up, pulling the windows off and leave a screen that was most of the wall, which felt refreshing and cool in the evening. Ojai memories are always summer, hot, so the cool room was special.

There was a cottage in the back, where Chip and I slept when we were older. It was a small house, at the end of the road, closest house to the mountains which looked huge and imposing and full of cougars (Grandad told stories about the cougars) and adventure. It was a small house, not expensive, didn’t look expensive.

We also lived in Marysville, in the Sierra foothills, where we had another small clapboard yellow house (as in Camp Picket) that was the last house before fields and woods.

We settled in California in Los Altos, 629 Benvenue Ave., in 1954. I went to kindergarten in Springer School in Los Altos. It was another suburban layout with a lot of kids the same age. I played with Greg Ball, who was best friend (we were all 5 and 6, mind you, but I have a lot of memories by this point. There was also a Mike Cimino, who we liked, and a Johnny Wiss, or Whiss, who we didn’t. I learned to ride a bicycle, with Dad helping of course, running it down the little slope of the driveway unto the wide-open street.

Benvenue was built out of an apricot orchard. We all had apricots in our back yards. Chip and I had to pick the rotting apricots up in the summer, 10 or 15 trees worth, what seems now like hours spent picking the gooey overripe apricots up and throwing them into a bag. They were all rotten and disgusting. I still don’t like apricots very much, I used to hate them.

Benvenue was an open playground. We went where we wanted, back and forth from friends and houses. We played on the lawns, mostly the Ciminos across the street because it was bigger; we played football from September through December, basketball from then until April, then baseball from April through September.

By this time we had a television. We watched Rin Tin Tin and Disneyland. It was small and of course black and white. The three of us, Dad, Chip and I, watched the 49ers on that black-and-white set. Y.A. Tittle was their quarterback. Norm Van Brocklin was quarterback of the Los Angeles rams.

We had a gray Packard, bought used, Mom and Dad respected the brand, but it didn’t always start and I have a memory of Mom pushing it related to a miscarriage.

But Jay was born that April, in 1954. Before that it had been just the 4 of us, Mom and Dad and Chip and me. Chip was there in a lot of my memories, a comforting figure most of the time, a friend brother, although I also remember some fights. Granma stayed with us while Mom was in the hospital. When she came back with the new baby everybody wanted to see him, over and over again. He became a bargaining chip in the group, they might lose favor and not be able to see the baby.

When I started first grade, Chip and I rode our bikes together to St. Nicholas School (now called St. Williams). Mine was a 20” schwinn bike with fenders, I remember it as always old, but it was also red.

My first teacher was Sister Clarissa, who was scary and mean. I can still remember her shouting at a girl named Patty Vance, who had big glasses and was not liked by anybody, as she spanked her and shooed her out of class, some kind of mess on her chair. Chip had had Sister Clarissa too, he was also very afraid of her, she had been mean to him too. When we came back in January that year Sister Clarissa was gone and we had Sister Judith, who was nicer. I learned that Sister Clarissa had been taken away to some kind of asylum or something like that.

I was always good at school, frustrated by waiting for other kids to catch up. One day out of the blue, while my hand was up in the air with a few others offering the answer to a question, she said: “all of you who have your hands up, keep them up. I always see the same hands. We are going to make reading groups today, and you are in the first group.” She distributed the readers to a few of us. Groups and tracks and channeling were good to me ever since.

We were allowed to go places with our bikes. We used to ride to the theater on Main Street on Saturday, where the Saturday matinee cost a quarter, we would see the Flash Gordon serial first – always exciting, always a cliffhanger, always waiting for next Saturday’s next episode, and then a movie. We loved Laurel and Hardy. Chip and I were often together, although also with the other kids.

Chip and I shared the bedroom that looked toward the street. We had fights over the window and the curtain, because Chip couldn’t stand the window open for fear something bad would look in on us. I couldn’t stand the window closed because there were two holes in the curtain that looked like tiger eyes when the lights shined through them. Chip finally ripped the tiger eyes so they became one, but unfortunately that made an alligator on the wall, and I was still scared. I wet my bed several times, at least once while I was awake but afraid to touch all the alligators on the floor.

We doted on Jay. So did the whole neighborhood. He was everybody’s mascot.

In the summer we went to Clint’s on State Street in Los Altos, for ice cream. I discovered butterscotch. Where the Foothill Expressway is now there was a railroad track that connected to Palo Alto, went through where Gunn High School is not. We would all show Jay the train, competing for his attention. Men with gray suits, hats. and briefcases would get out of the train and find their way to parked cars and home. Once we road the train to Palo Alto and back.

We were proud of Dad. He didn’t have to take a train to San Francisco, we was a doctor. His office was on El Monte, less than a mile from Benvenue, between El Camino and the stop sign where Springer ave joined El Monte (which was the stop sign where I got my first traffic ticket).

We didn’t have a lot of money. We lived in a rented house in the flats, like all of our neighbors. I think that at this time there were a lot of debts to be paid. We didn’t think about money, didn’t notice money, and never thought of it related to friends, neighbors, or schoolmates. It didn’t matter. Los Altos was not a particularly snazzy or expensive place, just a small town between San Jose and San Francisco, houses where there used to be apricot orchards, all across the town. It wasn’t too different from Ojai.

We had a dog named Rene, an airdale, that was crazy. When we let Rene out in the back yard she would run from fence to fence, stopping suddenly and changing directions, always looking like she was going to smash into the fence, but never actually crashing.

While I was in second grade we started with the new house, on Eastbrook Ave, distant from Benvenue. Eastbrook was a very small road, quite remote, that ran through a very wide open field of tall grass weeds. The house started in a mostly flat field, and as the months of construction went by we visited frequently. I enjoyed the process, I used to play with blocks made from the cut frame wood we called two-by-fours. The foundations were placed in the middle of the field, in a float part flattened further by bulldozers, above the beginning of an include that then, after our part of it, fell steeply down into a grove of thick trees by a creek. Across from the house was open field, below it was an orchard of Pomegranate trees. The orchard hill was topped by two tall redwoods, which were very climbable, and became a part of my boyhood after we moved.

I started Loyola School at the beginning of third grade. We still lived in the house on Benvenue but we were going to move, so it was Loyola School instead of St. Nicholas. I had Miss Emerson in third grade, liked the other kids, fell in love with her an a girl in class named Nancy Pershing, so much so that I actually liked the folk dancing we did in PE.

In Loyola School, where I did third through sixth grade, we were channeled from smart class to dumb class, with 3 in between (5 classes total), and we all knew which was which. I was always in the smart class. There were a few hours of awkwardness as a new kid but that ended quickly because I was good in 4-square, the playground game, which gave me a place in third-grade hierarchy very quickly.

We moved to the new house on Eastbrook avenue soon after. I missed Greg Ball, but we had overnights, and I got along fine in the new school. Martha was born that December, 1957. Miss Coolidge was the fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Elliott for fifth grade, and Mrs. Sommers for sixth.

I also rode my bike to Loyola School, sometimes with my friend Jeff Noe, who lived on Terrace, usually with Chip. We rode our bikes to Loyola Corners and Blossom Valley, there were no problems. I had a bigger bike by then, and it was black, and not so old.

Living on Eastbrook Ave. in the beginning was like living in the country. From a neighborhood full of kids we were moved to a house in front of a field, with hills and chaparral in back, and a creek down the hill, not far away. We had a sandbox in the new house, and the blocks, and I had several matchbox cars and trucks and a lot of time to myself. Chip and I kept each other company, although he headed towards chess and opera and I was more trucks, pets, and sandbox. I liked to wander the hills, and climb the redwoods, although for that I’d want to have the one neighbor almost our age, Greg Pike, or then later my cousin Matt Burlison, first cousin, son of Mom’s sister Mary and our Uncle Cal – a dentist – who moved in when I was in fifth or sixth grade. They lived across the fields, about half a mile away through the weeds, in a house on a hill overlooking the country club.

The airdale Rene died and was replaced by Lena, German Shepard, who we got as a puppy and became part of the household for a very long time. Martha grew from baby to little girl and by the time she was 5 she was inseparable with Matty, Matt Sherman who lived down the hill, and she also was allowed to wonder the area from house to house as more houses were built and we had neighbors, but always with Lena, who never left her side. Lena would follow me wherever I went until Martha was old enough to follow, and then she was always with Martha. She was a fierce-looking German Shepard whenever a stranger arrived and a house where Martha was, whether it was our house or not. playing with friends in somebody else’s house or

I had lots of pets, aside from Rene. Mom liked pets. Not long after we moved into the new house in 1957 (the earlier version of the same house on 23260 Eastbrook Avenue that Dad lives in as I write this … there was a lot of remodeling through the years) I got a pair of white rats, babies when I got them, that were installed in a relatively large cage in the family room, where our single TV was. Mom liked them a lot. She would feed them scraps and they’d come running. They had a litter of babies, after which we got rid of them. I had a long series of hamsters, white mice, and similar pets. I saved my allowance for a long time to buy a box turtle, which lived in the house for years, not in a cage, just wandering around, which was also fine with Mom. At least once it went slowly pondering through the living room when they had adult company in to play bridge. I had a skunk too, which Mom helped me get, but it was never very friendly and we got rid of it.

I read a lot about snakes and tried to hunt them. There was some foolishness to this, because we had rattlesnakes in the chaparral up above the house and in the fields, but I had read books about them and felt I knew how to avoid them. It took a lot of frustration before I finally caught snakes, but I did eventually catch a few, which became pets. Gopher snakes were scary in the beginning, catching them, because they would bite; but they became tame very quickly.

One of the first times I actually caught a snake was on a warm Saturday, sometime in late Spring or early fall I know because Saturdays weren’t relevant in the summer. I came up the hill from the creek, back home, eager to show the snake to Mom and Dad and the rest of the family. Dad was asleep on his bed when I waked him up to show him the snake. It was pointed at his face, and as he woke up, he rolled all the way off the bed in fright. He was not amused.

We shared a bedroom.

The bus route up Magdalena Ave. Glovie Reider, Penny Tie, Jane Trowbridge.

In Georgina P. Blach junior high school they did the same thing with math, English, and history, and again we all knew. In Chester F. Awalt high school,

Skiing … broken leg

Awalt High School. Mr. Gilette. Miss Elliott. Nov. 22, 1963. The World Affairs Club. Terry McKenna.

Sunset Lake, high sierra. 1994

St. Francis, High School. Meeting George, Tom, and Bill. Friendship.

Camp Unalayee, Janet Bowers. Haight Ashbury.

Notre Dame, Innsbruck, Notre Dame, Julie Castrop, Leslie Granstrom. Steve Tapscott, Pat Clinton, Al Eisenmann, Leo Lensing, Bob Wingerson.

The Innsbruck program started in early July from New York. I flew out of my own, found the hotel in New York where the Innsbruck group was to meet. I was one of a few who went there alone, most of us kids from farther away, whose families didn’t go with. Airfare was relatively expensive in those days, compared to now, so people thought a lot more before flying across the country the way we now do.

Dad’s family came to New York to meet me and see me off. That was Gram, Dad’s mother, and Uncle Paul and Aunt Eveline. There was also a bit of hanging out in bars in New York, a bunch of 19-year-old kids feeling adult. After a long day and a half, we boarded the U.S.S. United States, one of the largest ocean liners in existence,


Dad’s letter while I was in Innsbruck. Go to medical school.

Vange. One night at the Lower Level, February of 1969.

Spring Vacation, Vange.

Summer of 1969. The foot accident. Uncle Buddy, Holly Sugar, Jack what’s-his-name who taught me, shoveling sugar.

The visit, September 1969. The drive to South Bend. The traffic ticket that wasn’t. The house, the weed, Easy Rider, the draft lottery. Planning the marriage.

Christmas Vacation and Dec. 19, 1969.

Jan. 24, 1970. Finding an apartment. The visa problem.

Sister Rita and the job. The red Volkswagen. Sleeping in the library. Laura’s visit. German speakers annoyed with Spanish. The trip to California. House sitting, the cottage first, then the bigger house, working at Pittsburgh-Demoines steel.

The trip to Mexico and back in 1970, by car. Crossing the border with the visa.

Eugene and University of Oregon. Westmoreland, job problems, John Crawford and Dean Rea, switching to Amazon. Painting the apartment.

Job search, the news, going to Mexico. The group at the News. Jaime Plenn, Patrica Nelson. Carlos. Marty the mustached man, ex-hippy, New Yorker

The car broke down, get it fixed, on to Mexico.

UPI supplente, Pieter Van Bennekom, Denny Davis, David Navarro, Victor and Benjamin Ferretiz.

Laura marries Raul, in 1971.

Vange announces she’s pregnant, some time in December 1971. Christmas 1971, we went with the Lillies.

Jay comes for a spell.

Laura is born. Perugino. July of 1972. The new baby. Living with the new baby. Introduction to Dr. Mario Lasky. Parque Hundido, ratas que son del campo.


The Orbis Nostrum, May of 1973. Where are those slides? Diego Becerra. The ball in the middle of the glorieta. Sabrina is born.

UPI Journalism. The Hermosillo story. The Leonhardy story in Guadalajuara, Geraldo Rivera and the other guy who later had an NBC show interviewing. George Natansen, Tony Halek, Carl Hersch. Paul Wyatt. Norberto Swarzman. Matt Kenny, his wife Vera. Chess tournament at the foreign correspondents club. The clubhouse in the Hilton, Insurgents and Paseo de la Reforma. Taking peseros. Pick pockets in the bus.

Orbis Nostrum again in 1974. Vange and Laura the month after, I stayed with Nana and two kids. Good times.

Raul is born. We moved to Boston 34, in Colonia Napoles. One floor below Laura and Raul. Mom and Dad visited, mom proposed taking Sabrina.

I switch to Business International. Hurricane Fifi in Honduras, May of 1974, just when I was leaving, but the peak of confidence.

Colonel Sandino and the necesitamos helicopteros.

McGraw-Hill World News, freelance.

Weekends … Nana took the kids, we went to Camomihla in Tepoztlan, Las Estacas, San Jose Purua.

I finished my thesis, got my master’s degree, traveled to Oregon, degree with honors. Mom and Dad paid the debts. Acapulco for a week with two girls, Sabrina about one year old, calling me “Mama.” The stint in the ad agency.

1975. We discovered Vange’s pregnant with Paul. Rosemary’s comments about abortion. We were able to buy the Rambler stationwagen, a milestone for all of us (notwithstanding Raul’s LTDs briefly)

Sick kids, Lasky, el Hospital Infantil Privado.

The land in Cuernavaca, my $1,000 to Nana back when it was a lot of money to us.

Dias del Campo on the highway to Cuernavaca, or the Ajusco. Weekends in Ixtapan de la Sal. More camping in Tepoztlan. Saturday nights we’d go to La Pergola.

A beautiful weekend at Las Hadas, on the west coast of Mexico, guests of the Alfa Group. Flight back on the private jet. More thoughts about journalism.

1976. I’m going to night school, learning macro and micro-economics, marketing, accounting, finance. My question to the finance minister in Acapulco. The story on devaluation in March of 1976. We buy land, we failed to buy a house in Lomas del Sol, the story of Nuestro Pedazito de tierra. The peso is devalued.

Nilda Morell, Ralph Diaz, the round tables. General Facho, Orville Freeman, Bob Wilson. Working the turismo brochures, giving up smoking.

Summer of 1977. I went to New York for Business International and 3 weeks with Business Week. Vange and the kids staying in California. When we returned we lived up Desierto de los Leones, in the Ramos house. In the woods, above the city, I liked it a lot. Laura broke her leg. Charlie’s Angels on TV, the first Sabrina.

I bought the green volkwagen sedan from Patty Moreno. Luis Moreno and the inauguration of Jose Lopez Portillo.

1978. Chip Married Kathy. Dick Conlan from Business International San Francisco liked me, got me a junket for the wedding. Dallas also, and we lost Vange’s visa to an inquisitive customs agent. December of 1979 we took the green volkwagen through Oaxaca, Chiapas, Palenque, Tabasco, and Veracruz. Paul had tonsils out. The kids stayed in Cuernavaca.

1979. January I visited Mom and Dad in Los Altos, for my second nose operation opening a passage (removing polyps). One morning I was up early, doing pushups in the sunny spot on the living room rug, thinking nobody was up.

Dad walked out into the living room, in a bathrobe and pajamas, slippers, cup of coffee in his hand. He was 60 that year, a good-looking 60, pretty much bald by then already, but still at the top of his game in his profession, and on the tennis courts too.

This was the quintessential Dad in the morning. He was dressed in a dark green plaid bathrobe, pajamas of some unidentifiable color and pattern, and the brown slipper he had forever. This was his uniform for non-work mornings, what he wore to go out into the driveway and get the morning paper. He had his coffee in one hand, a plain solid yellow cup of instant powdered coffee softened with milk. And he had his newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, folded under his arm.

We all grew up with the Chronicle. It was a piece of our life everyday, an important ritual for both Mom and Dad, our whole family window into the rest of the world. The green sections were particularly important to Dad, and, as we grew up with them, to me and Chip and Jay; the green sections had sports and business. We all read the sports, and Dad also read business. And they were green, as I was growing up, the pages were printed on green newsprint.

On this particular morning, a very sunny January morning with me back and home for a rare visit, Dad shared some thinking and advice, along with a front-page story in the green business section.

“I’ve been thinking,” he began. “You should get an MBA degree at Stanford. You already said you wanted to get into banking but you weren’t getting anywhere for lack of the MBA degree.”

I agreed warily. I had flown to San Francisco a week earlier than required for the operation because I wanted to switch from business journalism to business. I’d been set up for an interview with Wells Fargo thanks to the Help of Hugh ____, who had become a friend because of Business International ties in Mexico City, where Wells was a client. Before Hugh ___ there had been Dennis Nathan, who left for Wells Fargo in New York, and I liked them both. I thought I could be a banker, and I

The trip to New York that followed. What’s her name the co-editor. The Hong Kong offer. Crumbacher back in Mexico City. The trip to Hong Kong.

The decision, the trip to the U.S. arriving, Escondido Village, Stanford as wonderland. The first fall, first quarter, nerves about money, followed by the dinners on the porch, crab, bicycle to Creative Strategies.

Larry Wells and Creative Strategies.

Summer of 1980. Consulting for Grupo Alfa, traveling, the houseboat vacation, the backpack vacations.

The second year. Living in the anticipation of money, working with

Pobre Mundo 1975

The month that Paul was born, cartoonist Abel Quezada published a cartoon in the Excelsior newspaper in Mexico City, noting, in drawings, the recent deaths of Pablo Picasso, Pablo Casals, and Pablo Neruda.

The caption was “Pobre mundo sin los Pablos.”

We were moved. Paul was going to be Paul regardless, although in those days we didn’t know gender until the baby was born, because of my Uncle Paul, who was a good man, and because Paul is Pablo in Spanish and it was a good name.

That cartoon, however, closed the deal.

Big Enough to Fit us All

Laura and Vange and Christopher finished moving in today. As Vange, exhausted but satisfied, was leaving, said “Christopher, I love your new house.”

Christopher said the new house is “bigger” than the old one.

Vange and Laura looked at each other, confused. How could the 2-bedroom apartment possibly be bigger than the old one?

“Why?” Laura asked Christopher.

“Because everybody fits,” Christopher answered.

Sabrina: Oct. 6, 1973

UPI Mexico City bureau at night. I’d look out the window at the corner of Avenida Morelos and Paseo de la Reforma, city lights, traffic, the car downstairs; talk to Benjamin the “office boy;” look at the afternoon papers, scanning for news. It was fun when there was news.

That particular night there wasn’t news until Vange called, about 9 pm. “Nothing,” she said; nothing was up. “I just wanted to make sure you were there.”

I thought about that one for about a second, told the office boy I was leaving, and took off for home. We didn’t have cellphones in those days. There might not be a second chance. Vange was plenty due with Sabrina.

By the time I was home she knew I was on my way because she’d called the office several times. We had to hurry. Contractions were coming too fast and too hard. Eva would meet us at the hospital.

The drive, at about 10:30 at night on a weeknight, didn’t take long. We were relatively close, from San Jose Insurgentes it was up the Periferico to the Hospital Engles. I remember very well the topes, how much they seemed to hurt.

The hospital worked quickly. Jaime was there. Eva was there shortly. There was a short time in the preparation, then into the delivery room. I waited on the inside of the doors now, where I could hear everything, but they still didn’t let the fathers inside the delivery room itself.

There was struggle, effort, and then, in just a few minutes,

“Otra nina guera.”

It was Vange’s voice, full of happiness. Sabrina had arrived, slightly smaller than Laura at 7 lbs 8 ounces, with a twisted nose, and beautiful from the first glance.

The twisted nose became a funny story because we, young parents that we were, worried about it for days. Dr. Lasky just teased us, “don’t worry, surgery for that will be easy later on.” Of course it’s common and went away.

Laura: July 15 1972

“Tim. Call my mother.” It was the middle of the night, probably between 1 and 2 in the morning. Finally, the waiting was over.

Thank God the old red volkswagen (chofre) started. It was dark, quiet, easy to get to the hospital quickly. Vange fell into caring hands. Eva arrived.

Jaime Lopez Ortiz, tall, good looking, personable, and thoroughly reassuring, was waiting for us at the Hospital Dalinde, in Colonia Condesa, just past the Periferico, behind Insurgents. It had been carefully chosen. It was close to Dr. Lopez Ortiz’ office.

Vange was rolled away and the doctor followed her behind two beige doors with small portholes, through which I could see only a hallway. Eva and I sat together and waited. And waited. And waited.

“They are both fine.” Jaime the doctor had popped out of the door. “But the baby’s heartbeat is slowing, don’t worry, I’m going to push things faster now, and if I can’t get the baby in about 10 minutes, we’ll do a Cesarean.”

Minutes took forever. Then we heard the baby crying, from through the doors, and Jaime was back out, quickly. “She’s a beautiful baby girl, very blond (guera).”

It took about half an hour before we could see her, tiny baby, a face only, slicked down, sleeping. Vange was out for several hours. The world had changed. We had Laura. Joy, reverence, magic, and I floated, having become somebody else, somebody happier, stronger, more loving, more responsible, better.

They scared us. Hours passed, we waited for them to bring the baby to the room for cuddling and nursing. Fear mounted. Welcome to the rest of your life. We complained. There was no explanation. We complained again. Finally I went downstairs and insisted. She was breathing hard, a bit of moisture, she would be fine.

And she was. Baby Laura’s first cold.

On the second day, mid morning, I was driving towards home to fetch some things for Vange when Raul passed me, going the other way, and we stopped in the middle of the road, driver to driver. “I’m in a hurry,” I said, “they’re going to bring the baby back to the room in a little bit.” Raul smiled and waved. He had no idea. The new baby, baby Laura.

One of my meditation tapes — today, 35 years later — talks about feeling light like power come through your body as you breathe in. Cheesy, irrelevant, except for this: that was what happened every time that little blond baby girl breathed: like like power ran through her.

Flies Buzzed. Thousands Died.

“Flies buzzed” was one of the best lead stories I ever wrote. Choloma, Honduras, about an hour from the Caribbean, a hot, humid, October, three days after Hurricane Fifi killed about 30,000 people. The illustration here isn’t that story, unfortunately, those things are hard to keep. I’m lucky to have this one.

Flies buzzed because the village of Choloma, about 9,000 people, was about 10 feet deep in mud. Most of those 9,000 were bodies, and bodies had to be burned before they were buried. And chopped up, with axes, to be burned. Like I said, hot, humid, and a smell not to be imagined, much less remembered.

I flew into Honduras about 12 hours after the hurricane on a Mexican Air Force DC-6 older than I was, pitching and bouncing, strapped onto a wood floor, a water leak dripping from the ceiling, and several huge boxes of relief supplies were also strapped on. The Mexican government let 6 foreign correspondents on the plane. I was one of the first international journalists into the place.

Interesting note about this Time Magazine story was that Bernie Diederich, quoted in the story, was there because I got him a hitchhiked plane ride from a small private plane at the airport; my Spanish was way better than his. I also started all of the press quoting Col. Andino. I was the first foreign correspondent in who spoke fluent Spanish, and Col. Andino, a swarthy short man about 40, relentlessly focused on foreign press to get him helicopters. I found him at headquarters in Tegucigalpa.

As the story ran on, for a week, Col. Andino became my ally in coverage. He gave me permission to increase the death toll by 5,ooo every time AP (the competition, staffed by eight people) caught up with UPI (me and Paul Wyatt, who flew in from Panama). UPI called me in the Tegucigalpa hotel middle of the night, more than once, saying competition was matching our death toll, and I, more than once, immediately increased it by 5,000, quoting Col. Andino.

Coverage took the death toll up to 30,000, which I suspect was because of me and Col. Andino and his relentless quest for helicopters, which he related to death toll. I notice the history books seem to have settled with 8,000 deaths (wikipedia, among others).

The dumb mistake, Private Version

The commercial version of this is on my main blog.

This was one of my worst mistakes: I took a job I didn’t like for the prestige. And maybe two of them: I told them I needed a lot more money instead of just quitting.

Act 1: Spring in Paradise

Things were really (perhaps even the true Californian “wrily wrily”) good. The story begins in Spring of 1981 with ultimate happiness, which is – Samuel Johnson said this – happiness laced with the anticipation of more happiness. I was finishing my MBA at Stanford. I loved my classes. My wife loved simple town-house living in student family housing on campus. The kids went to great public schools without having to cross a street. The rent was cheaper than our fifth-floor apartment in Mexico City by half. Although I couldn’t afford the MBA without working virtually full time, the work was good, mostly at home, and the money was enough. I consulted with Creative Strategies.

And things were going to get even better. Job prospects at graduation were fabulous. High-paying jobs with lots of perks and lots of, well, awkward to say it, but, power. Recruiters came from far and wide. Good job offers were everywhere. So I had a lot of choices. I was a 33-year-old Stanford MBA, American fluent in Spanish, former Business Week correspondent in Mexico, etc.

Act 2: Like an Idiot…

And I, like an idiot, took a job I ended up hating: McKinsey Management Consulting in Mexico City. It paid great, there were perks, and, crowning my mistake, I think I was way too influenced by what looked good to my peers.

I should have known better. The job I accepted was meant for a very ambitious 25-year-old single person with no family and no relationships, ready to work long hours for six years to win the partnership. I, on the other hand, was a 33-year-old married father of three, with (we learned a few weeks later) Cristin coming.

And, worse still, I was already “tainted” by 10 years of entrepreneurship. I made more money freelance than on salary. I paid my own way through Stanford Business School and supported my family while I did.

Things went badly, of course. Details accumulated. At six or so when there was no work to do I went home to my family, instead of waiting until the partners left three hours later. I did that repeatedly, despite warnings that it wasn’t to be done. I objected when one of the partners left his sixth car in my parking space. I disagreed with a partner about peso futures. I objected to a mandatory company meeting over a five-day weekend at a beach resort with no family allowed.

So of course I had to quit. That’s obvious. But here’s how I made it worse. There is a lesson here.

I didn’t tell the managing partner I was quitting because I didn’t like him, his other partners, McKinsey Management Consulting, or Mexico City. I didn’t tell him I made a mistake. I didn’t want to look that stupid.

Here’s where the lesson really smarts. So instead of saying something like the truth – speaking of looking stupid – I said I was sure the peso was going to be devalued so they needed to pay me a lot more money.

And the next day they offered me a lot more money.

And the day after that I quit anyhow. Talk about dumb! How bad did I look when they gave me the raise and I still quit.

Act 3: Thrilling Conclusion

There is a useful point here. I’ve brought this up before. Don’t hide the truth with what you think might make you look good because it can end up backfiring, making you look bad. Don’t guess what the other party won’t accept and ask for that when what you really want is something entirely different. They might give you that, and then you look like an idiot.

We’d borrowed about $3,000 to buy a fancy-but-nauseous (some of you might remember) Volskwagen camper conversion. And (like an idiot, again) I decided to pay them back my signing bonus.

I returned to Creative Strategies. They were nice about it, they seemed very happy to get me back. I called my parents, asked them to pick us up at SFO with two cars. We travelled back from Mexico with Laura’s teddy and 12 checked bags. We stayed with my parents in Los Altos for more than a month while some of you went to Loyola School and we purchased the house we quickly hated at 530 Suisse Drive.