This hardly constitutes a complete autobiography, one that recounts every detail of my existence, for my life and contributions are not so consequential as to merit an exegetical treatment; however, I do attempt to set forth some information about my heritage and important events that had an impact on my development, which, in turn, might explain more about who I am to my daughter, primarily, or, coincidentally, anyone else who cares to know. With that said, I will continue to withhold some things, for I also need to protect others who might find my disclosures discomfiting because of their own part in things. I doubt most people are willing to divest themselves of all secrets, and I am no exception; but relatively few remain for me at this point. Maybe I will relate more one day; in the meantime, this represents many layers of my onion. I claim that all I have said here is true to the best of my recollection; of course, fallible human beings can never be altogether certain of their memories, and it is certainly the case, as Immanuel Kant said, that we necessarily apprehend things through the hardwired prisms or categories of our own minds, which renders even the most vivid experiences suspect.
off the Washington coast. The old house and the surrounding grounds were converted into a summer resort years later. Carol and I stayed in one of the cottages near the big house where my great-great grandparents lived. Apparently they once raised apples and had some sheep there. Michael returned to live in Prosser in his last couple of years, Mary having preceded him in death. He was said to have been a heavy drinker, not an unusual preoccupation in my family. There's the old saying that "God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world."
Michael and Mary Ward had twelve children: eight girls and four boys, all hearty and hale, and they all survived infancy. which was rather unusual in those days. Among them was Edward Ward, my great-grandfather, who was born in Oregon in 1872. He briefly attended St. James College in Vancouver, Washington, and as a young man he went on to ride the range in Washington for several years. He ended-up in the New Castle coal mines in King County for awhile when he was 21. By 1897 he found himself in the retail business and managing a general store in Prosser, working for the owner, a Mr. D.S. Sprinkle, the husband of Nellie Sprinkle, sister of the woman Edward would marry later that year, my great-grandmother, namely, Charlotte Anastacia Lyon. My daughter bears her middle name as her given name, though spelled with an s in place of the c, and it has long been one of my favorite names.
Everyone called Charlotte by her nickname, Dolly. She was originally from Kansas, and she was born in 1872, the same year as Edward. Her parents, Henry and Margaret Lyon, moved to Washington in 1882. Edward would eventually become a prominent businessman in the local area, and, along with his business partner, Mr. McFarland (their business was named Ward & McFarland), he owned a meat market and a liquor store, along with several other real estate interests they had in the city. He also owned a small farm near Mabton. Edward and Dolly had two girls, my grandmother, Margaret, born in 1901, and her sister and my great aunt, Edna, who was born in 1904. Edward died in 1935 at only 63; he also was reputed to have been something of a drinker, that being the family curse. I met Dolly as an infant, but I have no memories of her, as she died in 1953. I heard many stories about her gentle, kind nature from both my mother and Aunt Edna. It was from her sister's marriage to the aforementioned Sprinkle that Dolly one day would come to own several sections of wheat land.
Noble Sproull and Margaret Ward, my paternal grandparents, met in Prosser. Prosser was a small farming community, and I suspect everyone knew everyone, or leastwise, knew about everyone, and that the children all went to the same grammar and high schools. My grandfather was nicknamed "Nobby," and he and his older brother, Virgil, helped their father with the newspaper business that they would one day inherit. Many years later, when I visited Prosser in the early 1980s, I met several who knew my grandfather when he was a young man. My grandmother, Margaret, was a shy and pretty girl, who, along with her more extraverted sister, Edna, learned piano at an early age. While Edna would go on to college in Seattle, Margaret married Noble, and in due course my father, William Edward Sproull, was born in nearby Yakima in 1929. Virgil and Noble would eventually sell the newspaper. My grandfather took a position with Kaiser Industries and he and his family would eventually be relocated to Vancouver, Washington, which is where my father and mother would one day meet.
The only two of my mother's people who I came to know well were her adopted brother, Charles Shauman, and her biological mother's sister, Bee DeFreitas. Uncle Charles lived with us for a while after mom's divorce when we were in Lakewood, California, and he later married a wonderful woman, perhaps possessing the finest temperament of anyone I've ever known, my Aunt Ruth. She never had cross word; she was always cheerful and upbeat; she must have belonged to half-dozen or more lodges and clubs; and she was immersed in several charitable activities in the Pismo Beach area, where they both eventually lived. Many years before she had a diner that served breakfast and lunch. Both Charles and Ruth had been married once before. Indeed, Ruth's ex-husband lived in a house behind them, and they all were friends. I loved my uncle, and he was a good man, but he was rather gruff and curmudgeonly. He worked as a mechanic for a racing team that was featured in the Indianapolis 500 when he was young, and I recall he continued to watch car racing on the television whenever he had a chance. I remember causing quite a ruckus when he was staying with us in Lakewood (I might have been about 5) when my pet hamster got loose in the bedroom; Uncle Charles could hear it in the night scampering about over a period of several days ... and while we looked high and low, we never found it. It gave us many laughs years later.
I met Aunt Bee as a teenager at the same time I met my mother's sister, Jeannine, and their mother, my grandmother, Mary. Carol and I got to know Aunt Bee well when we were young adults living in Los Angeles. She was very kind to us and cooked us many tasty meals. She lost both of her legs in an airplane accident in the 1950s. The other passengers in the small plane were killed, including her first husband, and she was stranded in the Tehachapi Mountains in the dead of winter for days before she was discovered by a search and rescue crew. The family lore is that they made a movie based on the incident. She got along just fine on two prosthetic legs, even to the point of being able to dance quite well. She was a devout Christian and spent a lot of time unsuccessfully trying to convert me, providing me with various books that were largely silly and about individual discoveries of faith, miracles, and redemption. The only one that was somewhat worthwhile was C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, which, while mostly preposterous in its conclusions, was nonetheless well written and at times quite moving. Bee was a kind woman, and generous though she was never well-off ... she always worked hard and managed, though. For a long time she worked for Dow Jones selling their financial services. Later she worked for a Christian bookstore. She became engaged to and would marry a guy, Rick, who, long before he met Aunt Bee, was a friend of my biological father ... which was quite a coincidence. It comes as no surprise then that Rick, too, was an alcoholic, though with a family intervention (in which Carol and I participated), he was able to overcome it and quit drinking for the last few years of his life. Bee remarried twice after that. She outlived all four of her husbands and never divorced. Mom called her the black widow, though I can give reasonable assurance, there was nothing untoward or murderous about her.
My mother's biological mother, Mary, was a chorus girl who hoped to become a movie star. She gave my mother (and her sister and brother) away as an infant when she ran off to Hollywood. My mother was raised by her adopted mother, Maude Shauman, who was in her late forties at the time she adopted her, a grandmother's age by the standards of the day. My mom did not meet her biological sister, Jeanine, until she met her mother, though they had exchanged letters as young adults, one of which I still have; and she never met her brother, who, I was told, was mentally disabled, and whose twin died shortly after childbirth. Many years later he would write my mother from Florida. I recall reading the letter. It did seem as though he might have been a little slow, but certainly not completely incapacitated, having had the ability to write a letter. My mother talked to him on the phone once or twice. I well remember Mary, my grandmother, driving up to our ranch-style, tract house in Westminster, California in her new convertible Mustang accompanied by her two poodles for our very first meeting. This was in 1965 when I was 13 and my mother was in her mid-thirties. She had not seen her biological mother since she was an infant.
Mary was quite flamboyant and, in retrospect, I can see many similarities in both personality and physical mannerisms to my mother, though they were never together more than a few times. Mary would later commit suicide by shooting herself, an unusual way for women to commit suicide, the prefered method of women generally being less violent. She was in her early 60s. I don't know what precipitated it: a depression, knowledge of a serious illness, or just dissatisfaction with the way her life had gone. Well I have felt despair on several occasions, though not in many years, I have never had the feeling of wanting to end it all, myself, for I suppose I love life too much, and, of course, its ramifications and finality can also go well beyond oneself with untoward and potentially irreversible effects on others, too. Mary's husband at the time was a man they called Dutch. He worked in the film industry designing sets. They lived in an apartment in the relatively affluent bedroom of community of Toluca Lake, and it was right down the street from Warner Brothers, and very not far from Bob Hope's main residence (he also had a place in the Palm Springs area). She was not a very warm person, I do recall, and I had the impression she did not care for me. She did dote on one of my cousins, Joe, who was my mother's sister's boy. We were about the same age. He got into a lot of trouble as a youth and he died quite young in a tragic accident. He and I got along fine, and I in fact rather liked him. Had we not lived quite a ways from one another, we probably would have gotten into trouble together. Jeannine had several more boys younger than me. I did not keep in touch with them, but I heard that they all did very well both family and career-wise. When my mother died we contacted one of them to let them know if they wanted to inform her younger sister, Jeanine ... then quite elderly. We heard nothing more.
My maternal grandfather, Maurice, was involved with organized crime back in the 1930s, and he served time in prison in Indiana for several years. Mother used to tell me he was responsible for inventing the smoke screen used on automobiles to evade the police. It seems unlikely to me that he really invented it. He was a mechanic for a time, I do know that, for he is listed as such on several official records that I have found from the 1920s. In any case, my mother corresponded with him while he was in prison when she was a teenager, and she eventually met him in her late teens. I have read a letter that he wrote to her while in prison, and I have several letters he wrote to her when she was a young woman. It was clear he adored her and wanted to have a relationship with her. He would eventually marry a nice woman named Helen, whom I met several times. He was apparently intellectually gifted, at least, according to what my mother told me that the prison warden told her. He told her that he had a very high IQ. I first met him as an infant, but my first memory of him was when we were visiting Chicago, I was probably about 10, and saw him two or three other times when he came to visit in California. He was very handsome and charming, and he gave me a silver and gold, western belt buckle, which I have to this day.
An excursus seems appropriate. It is unimaginable to me that my mother would give a child up for adoption, though, at least in terms of her personality, one that I think I grasped pretty well. Having been given away herself, something she often mentioned, it just seemed implausible. So I am inclined to doubt a baby was involved. I would note that she was certainly attentive and doting over both me and the next born, my sister Tami, when we were small. Her care of my other sisters was never neglectful, exactly, but it certainly was not as consuming, either, partly from having had more experience, I suspect, and partly because alcohol and age were affecting some of her behaviors (she bore her last child in her early forties). Beginning with my sister Vicky, though, when I was about 10, I took a much larger role in babysitting, diaper-changing, and such, and at an unconventionally young age. I had done some caretaking with Tami as an infant, too, but not nearly as much by that point. When I was 9 in Colorado, I do remember being left to care for her all night until dawn while they celebrated down the street at a New Year's Eve party. In any case, to return to Norman, my research showed that he died a few years ago in Los Angeles, and I chose not contact the man's family, as I did not want to cause trouble in case his children or widow (alive when I discovered this) did not know of his brief relationship with my mother. My mother never spoke of her it to my sisters or me, and as far as I know, to anyone else I know.
By all accounts, I was a happy, extroverted child, indeed, a bit of a show-off who very much enjoyed being the center of attention. I was apparently very talkative, physically active, and I loved to explore on my own, so my mother would put me on a halter leash when I was a toddler to keep me at hand when we were on shopping excursions and such. I have a vague recollection of this when we flew to Indiana in the early 1950s. Apparently, one of my favorite pastimes was to memorize the years, makes, and models of cars and point them out as we travelled about town. I do remember frequent visits with my Sproull grandparents in Long Beach. I could find the street they lived on, Fashion Avenue, today ... it was not far from the then new Long Beach freeway. There was an A&P market within walking distance that my grandmother and I would sometimes visit, which was always a big treat for me. My grandmother never learned to drive, and so she was a frequent user of the city bus system. The bus stop was only a couple of blocks away and she sometimes took me on a ride downtown to one of the big department stores or the library and park where we'd feed the pigeons. It was a very special treat when my grandfather would drive us to the big chicken pie restaurant in downtown Long Beach. The restaurant had a giant chicken on it. Years later, Carol and I would go there, too.
My great-grandmother, Dolly Ward, gave my father a half a section of farm acreage, the land that she inherited from her sister, Nellie, which he in turn promptly sold, using the proceeds to buy a small tavern on the island. His sale of the property shocked family members, especially my great-grandmother, who wanted him to keep it for the farm income and for his progeny. I recall that the bar had a parachute draped across the ceiling, and that the place reeked of a boozy stench. The business was not a success, apparently, and he didn't keep it for very long, returning in due course to the insurance business. Years later my mother and I returned to the location on Balboa and it had been converted into a restaurant.
In my early years, I spent a considerable amount of time with my paternal grandparents on the weekends. As I said earlier, Noble worked as a newspaper editor and publisher (along with his brother, Virgil) and later as an executive for Kaiser industries. He also dabbled in real estate and co-owned a parking lot facility in Long Beach for a time. Some of my fondest memories are of the time we spent reading together in his home library, a converted bedroom, as he puffed away on his pipe, often with a book by Zane Grey or Earl Stanley Gardner in hand. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack when I was only 10, so I never knew him as would have liked. My mother always thought highly of him and she spoke of him often. She'd tell me how wise and literate he was. I don't remember anything he ever said about politics, but I do remember he had a Nixon bumper sticker on his car and a Nixon sign in his front yard. This contrasted with my step-father's Kennedy sticker on his Mercury's bumper. I remember that my grandfather drove an old Studebaker, the kind with the cone-like grill in front, and that he was an especially slow and cautious driver. He loved music, and he played Bing Crosby and George Gershwin records often. One time, in fact, I attended a concert with my grandparents featuring pianist Oscar Levant at the Hollywood Bowl. The concert featured Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue ... Levant was one of Gershwin's closest friends, and I believe that he was the first to perform it publicly years before. That night is indelibly seared in my memory, because my grandfather had a heart attack mid-way into the concert and the medics came to cart him away, while my grandmother and I had to wait for my father to come fetch us since she didn't drive and they wouldn't allow us in the ambulance. He would survive that heart attack, but not the next. My grandfather also loved westerns on television, and I looked forward to several of them, especially Rawhide, featuring a young and chiseled Clint Eastwood, and also Gunsmoke, with my favorite characters, Festus, the town drunk, and Chester, the awkward, limping deputy to Matt Dillon.
On my visits to my grandparents, my grandmother lavished me with attention. She was very kind and aimed to please me at every turn, making me fudge, taking me on a city bus ride for the fun of it, and she loved to play children's tunes on her spinet piano for me, where I'd sit along side her and sing along. I remember teasing her by hiding from her and causing her some stress as she looked all over the house for me. She seemed to be a nervous and high-strung person. To this day I have an old, miniature grandfather clock that my grandfather bought her as an anniversary present, probably close to a hundred years ago when they were first married. It is the very same clock that's swinging pendulum made a soft grinding noise that comforted me as I would fall asleep on the couch in their living room, which is where I'd stay as a boy. In recent years we had to have the original works replaced and it is now battery driven, but the original casing is in respectable shape. It is the only thing I have of theirs. My grandparents slept in separate bedrooms, hers was pink and frilly, and his was spare with books and his pipe paraphernalia lying about. I wondered later if they were estranged or if he simply snored too much or stayed up to late. I do recall seeing a light under the door late at night in his room. I suspected he was reading.
As a youth, my self-confidence, coupled with my impulsive tendencies, led to occasional trouble. There is substantial evidence to show that the part of our brains that controls rash behavior develops more slowly in males, whose brains reach physiological (and hence, psychological) maturity only by the early to mid-twenties. I think I might have been more impulsive and less risk-averse than most youngsters, and despite my analytic abilities in other areas, I did not always prejudge the consequences of my actions, or worse, I tended not even to care. The unfortunate result was that this caused others to suffer more than was necessary when I was younger, not least of all my mother This tendency diminished greatly as I grew older. I think most of my impulsiveness was under control by the time I was discharged from the military.
As a teenager in the ‘60s, I took every opportunity to have sex with girls, and I had a lot of it. A I was never aggressive about it, but I was persuasive, and I did my best to charm my way to my objectives, and I was successful more often than not. I have come to believe that sex is a more serious matter than I thought at the time, and perhaps especially for women, where emotion at that age might play a greater role than with lizard-brained boys, and where the potential consequences can be more life-changing. As the father of a daughter, I very much regret my casual attitude towards it, then, and I think my sometimes cavalier outlook was insensitive and potentially even hurtful to others.
I opted for more thoroughgoing juvenile delinquency when we moved up north to Campbell, California, a small suburb outside of San Jose in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1966. I went downhill very quickly at that point. There's not much in the petty crime arena that I didn't try. But things turned more serious when my friend Skip and I robbed a donut shop (I was the lookout, he was the robber... no gun, mind you, he faked it with his hand in his jacket pocket ... complete with a woman's hose as a face mask) when I was 15 and change. He was apprehended while running away, and he later told the police about me, and they showed up and arrested me at my parent's house later that night. He was 18 and ended up in an adult jail. I spent several months in juvenile hall and, thankfully, after a year of probation, my record was expunged or I never would have received my security clearances in the Army. Oh, and I also stole a car, hubcaps, stereos, credit cards, gas, and shoplifted, among my other delinquent activities in this phase of my life. My time under incarceration for the robbery was a transformative event for me. I was lonely and scared, and I vowed then to never return to such a place and to fly straight and narrow.
Some years later I found out from my mother that another girlfriend of mine, Barbara, had written me letters while I was overseas. She was a wild child, much like me, and she lived down the street from us in Campbell. It was her mother, in fact, that accompanied us when I was taken to the mental hospital. Barbara was a year older than me, and she had a nickname that was a day of the week, which she coupled with her surname whenever she introduced herself. It sounded quite exotic. My mother did not like her. She found my home address in Fremont through her sister who, along with her mother, had maintained friendly contact with my mother. My mother opened the letters and read them and never forwarded them to me. She ripped them up. I was furious when I heard about this, though I know my mother's intentions were good and she thought she was protecting me from a vixen. Barbara was not a bad girl at all... just a free spirit ... but my mother was convinced she was a corrupting influence. The truth is, if anything, I was the one who was the more corrupting influence.
Carol is also the most straightforward and unpretentious person I have ever known. She is devoid of guile and duplicity. What you see is what you get, one never has to wonder what she thinks, because she will surely tell you if you ask, and sometimes even if you don't. She is incapable of dissembling. What is more, she is fiercely loyal and will go to the ends of the earth for a friend or loved one. She is the strongest and most reliable person I have ever known. Like any relationship, Carol and I have had our ups and downs and things to work through over the years. Marriage takes work, but it has many rewards, and in time, given the effort, the partnership becomes an essential part of one's existence. Today we are hand-in-glove and can finish one another's sentences. I am most comfortable when I know she is nearby, knowing that when I call out and she will answer. When she is gone for long periods, I am anxious. I am completely dependent on her now, and she and I are inextricably tied to one another. She is indispensable to me, as I think I am I to her, and I live a life of utter contentment with her. I have not always been the best husband, but I have not been the worst, either, and now after many years, I think I can say I have learned how to be the kind of companion and partner that she deserves. We have been together now for over 40 years, and from my perspective, life without her is unimaginable. She is my best friend, and she is the person upon whom I know I can rely through thick and thin. And I love her with all my heart. Even knowing me as well as she does now, she continues to care for me.
I was treated well from the day I arrived at Pacific Life to the day I left, and many opportunities came my way that hardly seemed possible when I first joined the company. I have no regrets. I left Pacific Life in 2001. Carol says my retirement added years to my life. I don't know that she is right, but it did at the very least save me the trouble of doing something unpleasant, namely, presiding over the demise of its group insurance operations, which were sold to PacifiCare shortly after I left. PacifiCare was then, in pretty rapid succession, acquired by another, even larger company. Nearly all of the Pacific Life group employees lost their jobs in less than a year's time. The principals of Pacific Life completely mis-managed their end of the acquisition, and many of those employees were left in a lurch, especially those who were too young to retire, but older and who would encounter greater difficulties finding work. There were a good many employees in that age range. I was the principal involved on Pacific Life's end when we acquired Mutual of New York's group operation in the late 1980s. One of the main requirements by MONY was that we retain a high percentage of its employees for a period certain of time. That was specified in our contract. It was the right thing to do, and I admired them for having taken care of their former employees, people who had served them loyally, some for a great many years.
Pacific Life was a good company to work for, and I have many fond memories of my time there. I was paid well and was as a consequence able to live well. It afforded two working class kids a great many improbable experiences and luxuries, and for that I am grateful. Several people were important mentors and influences in my early business career, and perhaps none more than the late Gene Lyons, who hired me and was a kind of father figure to me when I was younger, and who would become one of my dearest friends. Indeed, my closest friends over the years are people with whom I worked at Pacific Mutual starting back in the 70s. In addition to Gene, of special note would be my friends Warren Clark and the late Clay Yokota. Here I should say a few more things about these three important people before continuing on about my business career.
Gene Lyons and I have had several adventures in business together, but also in backpacking, boating, and river rafting. As I mentioned, he hired me at Pacific Mutual, and he was several levels above me until he retired in the early 80s as head of our business unit. I eventually would hold the same position that he did as head of the group employee benefits operation. Some years ago, Gene and I took an 8-day river rafting trip down the Colorado River. The Little Colorado, an azure, warm-water river running perpendicular to the icy-cold Colorado, seemed especially inviting for some body-surfing in the rapids. The rapids were strong and there were many rocks. I mentioned my occasional impulsiveness, already; well, Gene had the good sense to get out early, whereas I continued down the river and ended up banging into a large rock, feet-first ... thereby, permanently damaging my leg by destroying the lymphatic valves below the knee due to the impact. It's mostly tolerable, but occasionally it results in a great deal of pain, and I am now much more susceptible to infections, and the consequence can be a very painful and potentially deadly bout of cellulitis in my entire leg, so I've become a bit of a germaphobe.
Quite apart from being my good friend, for a good many years Gene was also my business mentor. Pound for pound, he was the most skilled manager of people I have ever known. While he had a formidable business mind, he also had exceptional abilities when it came to sizing up people and motivating them in a work environment. He was the consummate interviewer of job candidates, and I picked-up many of my own practices in recruiting and interviewing from him. I learned more about business, the principles of managing others towards a common goal, and basic leadership skills from Gene Lyons than any other person in my career. No one could replace Oscar Berumen, my dad, in terms of the importance he had in my upbringing, both for better and for worse. But Gene was in many ways a continuation of the father role, or perhaps more accurately, he became a role model for me, an example to follow, and well into my twenties and early thirties. Dad influenced me a great deal too, and certainly not all for the worse; but as an adult operating in business and society, Gene's role was the more significant one. Outside of my academic life, and apart from my wife, Carol, Gene was the most influential person in my adult life. We were close friends for nearly 5 decades.
Carol and I were also both very close to Gene's wife, Jane, who passed away little more than a year before Gene. She had been ill for many years, and there is little doubt in my mind that her welfare and sustenance had given Gene purpose that contributed to his own longevity. Jane was one of the most sophisticated ladies we've known, and we two working-class kids learned much from her early on in our careers about social customs and conventions that we were not exposed to growing up and that would prove useful to us in our corporate lives. I was very glad that Gene was able to attend my daughter's wedding not even two years before he died in April of 2017; Jane was too ill to travel at that point. Both of Anastasia's grandfathers had died, and her grandmothers were not well enough to travel ... and it seemed fitting for Gene to sit with us at the family table, for he and Jane were like surrogate grandparents to her, and very much a family member to Carol and me.
Gene, Warren, and Clay and I remained a very tight-knit group throughout the years, notwithstanding several changes in career and geographic location, and Gene was the acknowledged paterfamilias of our foursome. As I write this, only Warren and I are left. Of course, I have many other friends from Pacific Life, people who were employees there or clients and vendors with whom I worked over the years, as well as friends from my other interests, whether from Kung Fu, aviation, or some of my more academic pursuits, such as my involvement in the Bertrand Russell Society, where I was a board member and an editor of its scholarly periodical, the Bulletin. A good many of my friends live in other countries, including the UK, Canada, and Thailand, and I have friends strewn across the United States.
One of the fellows I met and befriended at Stanford was from Germany. He was head of research and development for Bayer, one of the world's largest chemical counties. We spent a good deal of time together at a local drinking establishment in Palo Alto called The Bankers Club. I also made friends with one of the students, Eddie Mugabe, a handsome playboy from a South African homeland. Turns out that he was the son of the homeland's tribal chief and President, and though black, his father supported the apartheid regime in Pretoria, no doubt in order to hold onto his own sinecure. His father apparently controlled some of the diamond mines and was very wealthy. Eddie was the Minister of Economic Development. He had living quarters in many major cities throughout the world, including nearby San Francisco, where he housed himself instead of the dorms where most of us stayed. He'd show up at each of our Friday evening parties with a different beautiful woman on his arm. Eddie invited us to come to Africa several years later, all-expenses paid, but we declined because our daughter was too young to go, we didn't want to leave her behind, and we also had some reservations about being hosted by a beneficiary of that awful regime. His father was eventually overthrown, and some years later I read in the Stanford alumni magazine that Eddie died, but I never knew the cause.
While I have grown very suspicious of business enterprise, and I certainly do not see business as operating for the public good or inherently efficient, I hasten to add, here, that the leftist fantasy now in vogue, which promotes a resurrected, Fabian-style syndicalism, with decentralized units of production owned by the workers or the state, and with democratic control of the workplace, ignores how organizations or people in groups actually work and interact. Of course, centralized ownership of the means of production and central planning of pricing and distribution is all but dead, and rightly so, since it has not and will not work. The left's opprobrium for profit-making and competition are views strongly rooted in biases that developed over the centuries, and with both the anti-commercial influence of utopian Platonism and the disdain for profit-taking by the early Christians. Marxism and some of its variants are based on three myths: first, the idea that labor instantiates ownership in some kind of mystical relationship between the object and labor put into it, the so-called labor theory of value; two, that profits are at once unearned and unjust surpluses in excess of true value that can be avoided while achieving the same result in production and distribution; and three, that the value of goods can be based on an objective standard of reference. In the final analysis, I believe in a mixed economy, and one that incorporates elements of both socialism and free markets. Keynes has shown that some macro-control is necessary to soften and smooth the business cycle and deficiencies of markets. Even Friedman's monetarism is in the final analysis a concession to Keynesian economics, insofar as controlling the money supply is a macroeconomic tool.
One could put the economic knowledge of most politicians in a thimble, but the Republicans, in particular, have for too long benefited from the falsehood that they are good on economics because they represent commercial interests. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it is empirically demonstrable by examining both markets and deficits over an extended period, historically. Republicans have in recent decades engaged in much fantasy on their foolish supply-side theories, and they confuse doing what is in the interest of the wealthy or particular businesses with doing what is good for the economy or for markets at large, not to mention the nation as a whole, where in fact they leave large swaths of people in relative privation. Indeed, their real claim for success is in marketing and not finance. As I said earlier, most businesses fail, and doing business, even doing it very well, is not the same as understanding economics. As was proved by erstwhile businessmen and failed presidents Hoover, Carter, W. Bush, and Trump, running the government is not remotely similar to running a business, that is, other than in superficial ways. The incentives are entirely different, as they well should be. I do not want the forests or prison systems run for maximum profit, for example, for the former would require us to cut down more trees and the latter to house more "customers", that is, if we were to run them like businesses that for their success depend on sustainable growth and profit.
I started with White Crane kung fu, but in later in life I took up the Wing Chun school, a species of kung fu taught by famed grandmaster Ip Man, whose most famous student was the martial artists and actor, Bruce Li. I willed myself through teaching my last private student such that it was not obvious to him, but it was clear to me that I was no longer up to the task of sparring. I started to bruise and bleed easily all over, especially on my arms, in part due to age, but also because of blood thinning medicine. My balance was always very good until recently, so perhaps I have taken too many blows to the head. I was a firm believer in realistic and frequent sparring as a pedagogical method. It is important for a number of reasons, obviously to learn to apply the various forms and maintain the all-important Wing Chun structure in real-life situations, but it also is essential that one learn both to accept and give pain. We do not inflict death blows or excruciating pain, mind you, but use just enough force to learn not to fear giving it or receiving it. It is vital for students to have the confidence that comes from it. It will surprise many to know that giving pain is nearly as difficult for most as receiving it. It is not natural for normal humans to want to inflict pain on others, perhaps out of an underlying sense of empathy for others. Overcoming both fears is important. Wing Chun is not a sport or intended for showing off. One of my former students was a boxer, and a good one. But he had to unlearn everything he had been taught, for boxing is a point-driven sport, not real fighting. The structure and stance are all wrong, as are the punching habits that are designed to earn points and for wearing large gloves. Wing Chun is not about points, and gloves do not give the correct feel for receiving or giving pain. Also, Wing Chun is not for demonstrating one's fighting prowess to the crowd. It is to be kept among kung fu practitioners, and its use outside of that is strictly for the purpose of protection in the most exigent circumstances.
I come now to the most important event in my life, which was the birth of my daughter, Anastasia Camille, in late 1989. Carol and I had waited until we were in our late thirties to have a child ... the good news being we were well positioned economically and had many things out of the way, and the bad news being that it took longer than expected once we started trying to have a child. In the end, we had her the old-fashioned way, and without technological or pharmaceutical intervention ... and that occured after we had basically stopped trying so hard. It was a difficult birth, as Carol had the worst of both worlds, a long labor followed by a C-Section. Anastasia had an infection and was stuck in the critical care unit at the hospital for two weeks before she could come home, which was especially hard on us. Carol spent every day at the hospital. But the infection went away, and we had a healthy, beautiful little girl. She was then, and remains, the most important thing in our lives. She was always a good girl ... she did well in school, never got into trouble or caused us problems, was well mannered, and had several notable talents, not least of which is the ability to paint and draw and to write fiction. My work schedule was hectic and involved a good deal of travel away from home, so I made it a point to have a date night each week with her. For many years we had concert tickets to the local symphony orchestra. During the summer they'd perform at an outdoor bowl where the two of us would take a picnic dinner. Finally, at about 15, she allowed as how she needed to start going to rock concerts and ought not to be seen with her dad at one. Alas, my baby girl was growing up. She grew up in one place, namely, Laguna Niguel, California, where Carol and I lived from 1986 until we moved to Colorado in mid-2011. Anastasia attended the University of Montana on an academic scholarship, and received her BA in history, with an emphasis in African American history. We were delighted when she returned home to us in Colorado and met a fine young man from Fort Collins, Craig, which kept her nearby. She eventually married him and they bought a house 20 minutes away from us. I could not be more proud of what I helped to create, which is without question the greatest thing I have ever accomplished.
It is statistically unavoidable that I am in the last two or at the best three decades of my life. Like nearly everyone I know reaching a certain age, one becomes more nostalgic about the past and yearns to be closer to the family and friends that remain. I am no exception. I remain very close to my sister Tami, who lives in San Diego, and who I hope might one day move to Colorado and be near me. I am good friends, too, with her husband of many years, Joe DeSanti, a gregarious bon vivant, and a natural comedian, besides, and who has long been an executive in the food and beverage industry. Tami and I have had many shared experiences as kids and adults, and I am now the person who has known her the longest, our mother having passed away. Tami took charge of helping my parents in their final years after I had handled their affairs and supplemented their income for over 20 years. I ran out of steam towards the end, and aside from dad's growing complications from Alzheimer's, there were exacerbating factors, among them the time and difficulties involved in running my business. Shortly after we sold Four Star, we moved away to Colorado for our own retirement. Tami and Joe did a remarkable job of ensuring that both mom and dad lived comfortably and in a safe environment until their deaths, for which I am most grateful. Outside of Carol and Anastasia, and along with Warren and Nicki, Tami and Joe are the most important threads to my past, and they are central and very dear to my present.
I am much more content today, with relative stasis and more tractable levels of excitement than I was in my youth; yet, I continue to feel that I should have done more worthwhile things than I have done, which, I suppose, amounts to a kind of vanity. When I was younger, I had the idea that I ought to do something great for posterity, whether it be in business, politics, or an intellectual contribution of some kind. Alas, I have done nothing particularly memorable, that is, beyond helping some people achieve some of their life goals along the way in a business setting, and maybe setting forth one or two original ideas in my written work that might one day have an impact on greater minds than mine. Perhaps my most important life's accomplishment is being present and available during my daughter's formative years and seeing her grow into a wonderful, responsible adult, and which, in turn, will have its own salutary effects as she goes about her life. That's not a bad legacy. As for my competency as a parent, only she can really judge. Parenting is not something for which one can ever adequately prepare. But at the very least, I began with a pretty good idea about what not to do.