Thursday, August 7, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
I was saddened to hear of Donald’s passing. Strangely saddened as if a quiet weight had quietly descended to remind me once again of its presence. The same sad weight of emptiness I’ve felt on other occasions. I recalled your fathers face, his words, his actions, the strength and the frailty that older men display when looking back on their lives. If a human life is divided into thirds with a beginning, a middle and an end. Then it’s safe to say that I knew him at the beginning of the third third in which we shared some time, some work, some lunches and on occasion, salt air on his big boat.
At that point he seemed to be looking back on things rather than ahead and though never specifically worded as such to me, he seemed regretful for some of the choices he’d made and some of the opportunities lost. Looking back on my impression of him it’s hard to separate my impression of him from my own projections because I feel I’m entering the same waters, the same horse latitudes that all of us must navigate at some point.
I don’t really know what he’d been like in his younger wilder years or what living with him was like in his middle years in which he tried to settle down, raise a family and put the demons behind him. I know some of the stories, stories told by you, by him and by your mother. And I’ve looked at the blog and the photos of him as a sweet fresh faced kid. (I see a little bit of you in his face too.) I know enough to know that it wasn’t smooth sailing with him… But despite that, despite some of his questionable value placed on money and status and pull yourself up by your boot strap mentality, he had a genuine quality that’s hard to define. If I had to select a single word it would be honesty. He had a certain honesty about him and he lacked pretensions. He was who he was, with all his strengths and his failings and I liked that and I liked him.
There have been precious few men I’ve liked as much. And fewer still have ever trusted me at the wheel of their ship. I still recall the feel of the wheel in my hands, the swells beneath the keel and the way he showed me to look back at its wake in the sun dappled sea to determine if the ship's course was true. Looking back at the wake of churned water stirred by hidden diesel engines and sharp propellers I saw what he meant. The wake I left far behind me wandered back and forth in a series long left-right corrections. I was over-controlling, over-steering. When he saw I understood, he nodded and explained that to steer a true course you need to compensate for mass. That mass moves the ship to port or starboard well after a course correction has been achieved. That day I learned that a true course is the gentle art of releasing control early. I haven’t forgotten it.
All the best to you.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
- Original enrollment June 15, 1942
- Regular enrollment as Quartermaster Third Class September 24, 1942
- Released from active duty November 24, 1942
(I love this photo booth shot of Dad)
(the letter below is from '75 or '76 when I was in New York and awaiting word on law schools)
Dear Peter and Vickie,
It is Friday, the last day before one week off to touch my boat. I am hearing a custody fight. 3 beautiful children K, 6 [and] 7th grade. Papa was a Baptist minister who brought a 21 year old into the house. Had neglected mama for years -- presto -- she found out [there was another] woman.
Out of 8 lawyers she tried to hire only one would . . . take the case because the husband was a minister and the Judge was Baptist. Up-State New York.
Two years later they are in the sunshine state and I have 3 kids who swallowed the Bible, blame mama, [but?] won't say a word against her.
Oh well the job pays well and I must like playing God or I would go into another line.
I never tried the stage. I act well in court. I love audience response. Upon retirement I will take up the guitar or try the nite club circuit with topical jokes and soft shoe. Just imagine the octogenarian groupies I would attract. . .
I am teaching again at LaVerne Law School (Children's Rights) and have a job teaching psychology and the law at Claremont Grad School. Lawyers must make lousy teacher -- we were never exposed to any classes on how to just about what was in Early England.
This letter is to say, Relax, you have love - I love you - the future is uncertain and exciting. What is past is part of a treasure of memories and only the shining pebbles on that beach need to be taken out and fondled.
p.s. 1-glass of wine for lunch; if the dour Baptists scowling at me from the audience knew --
This is the face of Dad's Parkinson's -- the part of the disease where everything confused and confounded him. My husband and I took him to see the movie Momento during this time period -- about 5 years ago -- the one that moves backward in time because the main character has no memory. None. Zip. Zilch. Dad kept looking over at me with a look of confusion and irritation, like, why are you forcing me to watch this completely confusing movie? Later, dad would call from home and tell me that he was, say, fighting a battle or in the South of France because he was watching TV and felt himself inside the television experience. It was a difficult time for everyone.
After we moved to the suburbs, we became equipped to deal with the real world.
. . . and these are the classic patterns, and this is the weaving, of human living: of whose fabric each individual is a part: and of all parts of this fabric let this be borne in mind: Each is intimately connected with the bottom and the extremest reach of time: Each is composed of substances identical with the substances of all that surrounds him, both the common objects of his disregard, and the hot centers of stars: All that each person is, and experiences, and shall never experience, in body and in mind, all these things are differing expressions of himself and of one root, and are identical: not one of these things nor one of these persons is ever quite to be duplicated, nor replaced, nor has it ever quite had precedent: but each is a new and incommunicably tender life, wounded in every breath, and almost as hardly killed as easily wounded: sustaining, for a while, without defense, the enormous assaults of the universe.
In every child who is born under no matter what circumstances and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again, and in him, too, once more, and each of us, our terrific responsibility toward human life: toward the utmost idea of goodness, of the horror of terrorism, and of God. James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men
(dad at one year)
What can I say about this wonderful woman? She married my dad when he was already suffering the ill effects of Parkinson's disease. She was and is kind, loving, bright, fun, funny, warm, wise, and, indominable. She and she alone is responsible for my father's happiness in the last years of his life.
She truly loved him in the way all angels do -- actively; in word and deed. I do not know what my sister and I would have done without her. We would not have attended to Dad's last days in the ways daughters do for many reasons, not the least of which is the tenuous nature of our familial connection.
Did we and do we love him? Yes, we do. But life is so much more complex and relationships so unique that I cannot even begin to tell you anything truly meaningful about our father-daughter relationships. I'd have to write a book and I have so many other projects pending . . . .
We are grateful beyond measure that Dad found Juanita and we wish her great peace after Dad's passing.
Well here I am worried about you. Have you enough money? Did Peter return on time etc.? has his family situation changed his plans? If I had your phone number I would call you this evening.
In reading [his sister] Bessie's book [family history] I see that much of family history is kept in letters. With the advent of the phone our communications are lost [if only we had one another's telephone numbers!]
I have considered writing my view of family history and happenings from the narcissitic view -- that is all as it relates to me. I would only do that by way of letters to you in the expectation you you would keep them for some future family historian. If not your children or [my sister] Sharon's then the grand nephews and nieces. What do you think of that?
I suppose Peter's loss and the loss last year of Leslie cause me to feel that some bridge needs to be left between yesterday and tomorrow.
Please drop a card or call you can't believe whaat a father imagines as possible disasters for a loved child.
Dad must have been unemployed when we lived in the compound [?] He bought a circular saw. It was powered by a model-T engine mounted on a 4x4 frame. The transmission was complete with a clutch. At the end of the drive shaft was mounted a circular saw blade about thirty inches in diameter. There was a tilting platform to rest the logs on. It seemed to me that he and Leslie went off into the woods to cut cordwood that was later sold in San Diego. I remember $12 a cord. I was very jealous of Leslie and his friendship with father.
We moved from there to Kentwood in the Pines. I think it was close to Cuyamaca as Dad went back to work at C.A. Gray's ranch. Lois [sister] had appendicitus while we were there and Russell [brother] was born. it was either for the appendicitis or to take mother to the hospital, that Mr. Gray lent father a new beaver tail (?) dodge to drive to the hospital. It had a velvet-like upholstery. It must have been a 1932. That was about the time of the first Roosevelt campaign which seems to have been tied up with prohibition. It could have been 1932 when we lived the the compound. I recall that Roosevelt and Repeal were spoken like expletives. I never again recall political discussions but I recall 1932.
Around the house in Kentwood were beautiful tall pine trees. On the walk to school was an orchard of delicious apples. I don't think there was a bus. The road went across a large meadow, fenced on both sides and went down the mountain to Banner mne. It was called Banner Grade.
In the spring, cattle were herded from the moutains to the fields below Banner at the edge of the desert where a rich cienega made waist-high grass. Once a year there was a rodeo in the fields ot the left between the road to Cuyamaca and the Banner Grade. A barnstorming pilot flying a World War I bi-plane, probably a "Jenny" arrived to raise a few dollars. One day on landing his landing gear caught in telephone wires and he crashed. My first airplane, I recall the fabric with laquer making it stiff and brittle.
Certain rules seem important to me in living a successful life. I don't remember every putting them on paper before and I do know that I don't consciously tell them as one tells rosary beads. They are a matrix upon which I daily embroider the patterns of my life. They are the rules I measure my conduct by.
- Have, and understand, your religious philosphy
- Be loyal to yourself and have in mind a priority of loyalties.
- Select role models -- heroes or heroines to emulate, both contemporary and
- Continue your education.
- Be conscious of physical health.
- Have planned recreation.
- Spend less than you earn.
- To explain my rules a little:
You live in an area where more religions are practiced than anywhere on earth. To be a leader you must have a grasp of and appreciation for these values in the lives of others. You should have a position, a belief; and hopefully be comfortable with that belief so that you are not unsettled by other beliefs.
- You are who you are today -- and the person you will be tomorrow and into the future. Only you can protect the future of the person you will be at 30, 40, 50 and 100. If you smoke today, you hurt the 50-year old you will be.
- We all choose heroes or heroines. Who you choose identifies what your goals are and helps you make the hard decisions. My heroes have always been gentle and caring men. I have tried to read a lot about them to find out how they solved problems. General Robert E. Lee is an example of one of my heroes. He freed his slaves before the war and did not believe in secession. He was offered command of the Union Army but declined. He said his loyalty was to the State of Virginia and he must go with the people of his state. he fought for a cause he didn't believe in -- brilliantly, with courage and enthusiasm and without regret. His priority of loyalties was clearly defined.
- Education comes more after school than during it. School is just the foundation on which to build. I left school at the end of the 11th grade and did not return except to go to night law school. Between those years, I educated myself by using the library, attending lectures, reading good magazines and seeing good plays and movies. I took courses from public television and enrolled in employer education courses. had I finished school and college, my career would have been dramatically different. It was an error in judgment not to do so.
- If you wish to earn your living with your brain and not your strong back, physical condition is important. It is a measure of your good judgment visible to all. Good health sustains hours of alert concentration with fewer hours of rest. it allows an air of self-confidence and poise so important in leadership.
- Failure to plan recreation inerferes with creative thinking. Problem solving often requires the solver to leave th eproblem alone for a period or risk falling into tunnel vision. the same simple mistake is often repeated over and over. A withdrawal from the problem allows a fresh approach and imaginative solutions to be explored. A balance between family loyalties and work loyalties is inhibited by a failure to take recreation breaks. Support from the family is absolutely essential to a successful leader.
- Capitalism is the adult game. It is possible to earn more than you can spend. Many movie stars have proven that you can earn a fortune and reach old age in poverty. As a leader, your decisions should be based on your judgment as to the most practical solution to the immediate problem. If your judgment is warped because you owe more than you can earn, you soon fall into the trap of making decisions are good for your finances but bad for your future. Remember the old man or woman that you will be is depending on you.
In the 9th grade I ran a paper route and kept house for four college students. In the 10th and 11th grades I washed dishes in a college boarding house and delivered Western union telegrams at 25 cents per hour. In the 12th grade I dropped out of school and worked as a stock boy in a department store and lived in a room and board hotel. At 18 I went to sea as a merchant sailor, and at 20 went to Officer Candidate School and returned to sea as an officer in the Merchant marine. At 22 I was a 7-Up truck driver, and at 24 route supervisor; at 25 a milkman and at 27 route foreman of 45 milkmen. At 26 I graduated from high school. At 27 I was selling life insurance. At 29 I was an assistant manager hiring and training life insurance salesmen. At 35 I was manager of a real estate sales office and vice president in charge of sales for a builder-developer.
Can you spell attention deficit disorder?
But there's more.
I have also managed a direct mailing buisness, clerked in a grocery store, sold light bulbs and Fuller brushes door-to-door, wamped beer in warehouses and on beer routes, delivered Dad's Root Beer, worked as a stoop laborer in lima bean fields, threshed wheat and barley, picked turkeys, and clerked for a trial lawyer.
At 43, after going to night law school, I began practicing law by myself in Beverly Hills and was elected to my present position by the Los Angeles County Superior Court Judges in 1973.
While doing all that, I have been a landlord since 1948; that is, owned rental property, and bought and sold common stock, vacant land and generally
have been successful in the game of capitalism.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
from left: Russell (lawyer); Dad; Dorothy (married to long-distance truck driver); Oscar (owned the first cash and carry grocery store in Ramona); Ken (the family's only LDS); Lucille (the eldest sister), Lois (the "card-carrying Communist" and social worker); and, Bessie (who took care of everyone)
Missing: Brother Leslie, who died too young.
Still living: Dorothy, Oscar, Ken and Lois
The graduate. I was 15. On the few occasions we saw one another, Dad told me all the law stories -- the case law he'd read and the ones he made up.
He took me along to a client meeting in San Diego when I was still in high school. He told an elaborate story to his client and cited the case name and date. I was SO impressed.
"How did you remember that case?" I asked in the car afterward.
"I didn't," he replied. "I made it up."
I should have known then that the practice of law was perfect for me as well.
One day at lunch, Dad told me that a Superior Court colleague (a Judge, not a Commissioner) had called him "a clever peasant."
And Dad took it as a compliment!
I said, "not true and not funny and no compliment." Fortunately I have a short memory and do not recall the offending Judge's name.
How do you learn when you're doing farm labor to help supplement the family income or moving from the Nebraska farm to the Portland logging camp and thence to Julian and then a Romona chicken farm? All before you are fourteen years old with your father weak and arthritic and your mother taking in laundry?
Had he been given the advantages I have had, or, that my Stanford- and Brown-educated step-children have had, he might have been President.
His burning ambition was lit by the flames of poverty and his compulsive self-education ignited by insecurity.
He told the Daily Journal columnist that he equated poverty with stupidity and assumed he was intellectually inadequate until he sought out a psychologist
and asked for an IQ test.
Then he left (my) home to make his mark in the world.
And all I ask is a Tall Ship
and a star to steer her by.
From another of Dad's unfinished memoirs:
On Broadway in downtown San Diego was the Spreckles Theater. On the sidewalk was a poster of a clipper ship in full sail and an old salt with a sea bag over his shoulder.
The bold print read:
I'M GOING BACK TO SEA
and directed recruits to an office on an upper floor.
The recuiter showed me a book of Coast Guard regulations that had "three years" crossed out and eighteen months interlineated. That was the sea time required before you could take the examination to become a third mate. No schooling was required and the rank would be Ensign in the naval reserve.
I would like to think my decision to join was cool and responsible -- one that bore in mind my parents' financial problems. The truth is, I had the Bounty Trilogy and Two Years Before the Mast in mind.
Iron Bottom Bay was full of our cruisers and destroyers. The Navy continued to conceal the true status of the war in the Pacific. The war in the Atlantic was being lost.
It would be a great adventure if your tanker was not torched or you died of hypothermia or disintegrated in a torpedoed ammunition ship, for which duty you received a ten percent bonus.
Many old timers continued to go to sea. Some who had retired as long ago as the first World War.
My first ship was the S.S. Robert Toombs, built in the fashion of Henry Kaiser's assembly line construction. Articles were signed in the Cape Fear shipyard in Wilmington North Carolina.
There were no Able Seamen, only Ordinarys. None of the deck crew had ever been to sea before. Mates were sailing above their licensed station.
We sailed around Cape Hatteras and went into dry dock in Portsmouth navy Yard. The ship was fitted with an experimental device that was accompanied by a ranking naval officer who I assumed was the inventor.
A Bos'n and a carpenter of many years experience was prone to say "I have pissed more salt water than you kids will ever see." He put himself in the way of danger for $180/month for twenty four hours duty in the North Atlantic. The combination of the ranking naval officer's animosity and the deck officers' inexperience nearly led to the loss of the ship and her cargo.
(looks like L.A., date unknown, extreme pleasure in one another's company noted)
We are better people on paper than we are in person, me and my dad. I started writing my father long, soul-searching letters when I was in high school. Every time I saw him (usually twice a year) I prayed he would not mention them. He never did.
As a girlfriend, I was the needy one who you were happy to have dated only if you loved me immediately and unconditionally.
You know the type.
I'm lucky to finally have found Steve -- particularly since he loved me immediately and unconditionally. And because he is not an unemployed artist. Finally, I am the (un-)(semi-)employed artist. Who KNEW it would take so long to build a mediation practice (well, other than Peter Robinson and everyone else I spoke to).
But I was going to tell you the nicest thing my father ever wrote to me. We were incapable of expressing these things in person. Until he was dying. At his bedside I finally said everything, all of which was loving -- the anger at the early abandonment had long before burned away to be replaced only occasionally with a small slip of sadness at the loss of him so young. We made up for it in our adulthood. We really did.
Typically, the letter is undated but he is still writing me from the Pomona Superior Court and talking about my future after law school so I assume this was before that when I was living in New York '75-'77.
I don't know where you will be but I feel great enthusiasm to start interfering in your life by looking for summer spots or political positions. I have always been happy to have daughters. to have a liberal, sensitive, educated, intelligent, beautiful lawyer daughter, who loves me, my cup ran over long ago. it is now nectar of life that spills out. How proud and pleased I am.
from Ed Dorn's Gunslinger courtesy of Dave Cook's site (blog?)
How long, he asked
have you been in this territory.
Years I said. Years.
Then you will know where we can have
a cold drink before sunset and then a bed
will be my desire
if you can find one for me
I have no wish to continue
my debate with men,
my mare lathers with tedium
her hooves are dry
Look they are covered with the alkali
of the enormous space
between here and formerly.
Need I repeat, we have come
without sleep from Nuevo Laredo.
And why do you have such a horse
Gunslinger? I asked. Don't move
the,sun rests deliberately
on the rim of the sierra.
And where will you now I asked.
Five days northeast of here
depending of course on whether one's horse
is of iron or flesh
there is a city called Boston
and in that city there is a' hotel
whose second floor has been let
to an inscrutable Texan named Hughes
Howard? I asked
The very same.
And what do you mean by inscrutable,
I mean to say that He
has not been seen since 1833
But when you have found him my Gunslinger
what will you do, oh what will you do?
You would not know
that the souls of old Texans
are in jeopardy in a way not common
to other men, my singular friend.
You would not know
of the long plains night
where they carry on
and arrange their genetic duels
with men of other states
so there is a longhorn bull half mad
who awaits an account from me
back of the sun you nearly disturbed
just then. I
Lets have that drink.
And by that sound
we had come there, false fronts
my Gunslinger said make
the people mortal
and give their business
an inward cast. They cause culture.
Honk HONK,Honk HONK Honk
that sound comes
at the end of the dusty street,
where we meet the gaudy Madam
of that very cabaret going in
where our drink is to be drunk
Hello there, Slinger! Long time
what brings you, who's your friend,
to these parts, and where
if you don't mind my asking, Hello,
are you headed...
Boston!? you don't say, Boston
is an actionable town they say
never been there myself
Not that I mean to slight the boys
but I've had some nice girls
from up Boston way
they turned out real spunky!
But you look like you
always did Slinger, you
still make me- shake, I mean
why do you think I've got my hand on
my hip if not to steady myself
and the way I twirl this
Kansas City parasol
if not to keep the dazzle
of them spurs outa my eyes
Miss Lil! I intervened
you musn't slap my
Gunslinger on the back
in such an off hand manner
I think the sun, the moon
and some of the stars are
kept in their tracks
by this Person's equilibrium
or at least I sense some effect
on the perigee and apogee of all
our movements in this, I can't quite say,
man's presence, the setting sun's
attention I would allude to
and the very appearance
of his neurasthenic mare
a genuine Nejdee
lathered, as you can see, with abstract fatigue
Shit, Slinger! you still got that
marvelous creature, and who is this
funny talker, you pick him up
in some sludgy seat of higher
learnin, Creeps! you always did
hang out with some curious refugees.
Anyway come up and see me
and bring your friend, anytime
if you're gonna be in town we
got an awful lot to talk about
Do you know said the Gunslinger
as he held the yellow tequila up
in the waning light of the cabaret
that this liquid is the last
dwindling impulse of the sun
and then he turned and knelt
This is Dad's troubled look. He always said,
"every man has a cup of worry in his heart. It doesn't matter what the worry is; it's always the same amount."
In dad's final days, I told him it was time to pour out his "cup of worry."
His eyes shone so brightly that day; like a delighted infant just waking up to the world.
I'm "acting as if" he was and is awakening to another unimaginable reality. The scientific part of me has always balked at this even though my best friend continues to press upon me how afterlife and quantum physics are closer than my Newtonian reality and the absence of life after this one.
A Couple of Dad's letters -- classics on making money as his life's favorite game.
Accumulation of wealth. I know that is an unpopular goal in your house [I think I'd just graduated from law school and my husband was working as a social worker at a local children's home]
I find it [accumulation of wealth] to be the only adult game aside from bridge or chess and I can't get serious about the former or win at the latter. Why haven't you looked at bigger newer more attractive housing? Owning a sports car -- You could be driving a 280ZX. You know it gives the the spirit a lift. There surely has to be some reward for beauty, talent, skill and hard work. A yachut. Learn to fly. Own your own airplane to fly to Auburn etc. You might be the first skirted lawyer to do so. Lucy told charlie Brown "life is a supermarket. Fill up your cart and push it up to the check out counter." He says, "I would be in the line '6 items or less!'"
AND THE NEXT ONE, written before I went to law school. '75?
"I am not sure why people accumulate capital. Lolly [my then step-mother, now deceased] and I do because we can't help it. We can't let a day go by without accomplishment. We can't go boating without catching fish so we feel
that need fulfilled. The great depression just won't leave us alone and I suppose we are hyperactive. I suspect in 13 years (age 65) I will be a millionaire [yes he was]. Inflation will take care of it and a million won't be the same as it was 20 years ago. I still won't be able to spend it.
"Should I feel guilty? I did it with Lolly's help by cleaning dirty houses, painting, plumbing, spending less than I earn and increasing my ability to earn.
We have offered to send Lolly's oldest son back to school and the same to all of
you. It pleasures us to see our kids get good educations.
"I hope you will accept our offer and keep your money in the bank. Poor people need government subsidies, not you. I promise not to demand, pressure for or encourage conservatism, excellance, super success.
"I enclose a clipping about USC just because you might be interested [I was living in New York and he in Los Angeles at this time]. No pressure. I don't really care where you go. If you go to a less expensive school I can make your life easier. I would love to see you often if you were closer but I love you all the time anyway.
Dad was sitting as a family law commissioner at the time.
"Dear Vickie and Peter,
"Every day this year we have had summer weather - Hi 70 & 80s. One gets the feeling that all hell will soon break loose and start a new ice age. We are even having forest fires.
"Here at the job, it is more of the same. This individual imposes his will upon others. You will visit - you won't visit - you get the kids - he gets the kids. I suppose it's best I don't know much about what I do or I would resign.
"My secretary's daughter has started living with a pro ball player who is black and I have been counseling her this morning. I believe a parent is lucky when a child finds someone to love who loves back and is kind and caring. I see so many dreadful relationships and have to hear about men beating women as an everyday routine. Black seems an insignificant social problem.
"Please be kind to each other. With the cruel nature of man singular, in groups, in religion, in nationality, in ethnicity, we each are entitled to one partner who cares about us intimately with infinite patience and forgiveness. Love ought to be synonymous with freedom. My love you are free to be you whatever you may be in all the complications, moods and conflicts of personality that man is capable of and still be loved and cared about by me.
"Sometimes I am perplexed impatient and lose my temper and exhibit the obtuse, short sighted, selfish, jealous traits that man is capable of. Give me freedom to be human - know that I will forgive and expect your forgiveness.
"I am sure that is easier for a parent to a child than for boy to girl - less cruelty escapes between parent and child. I believe I have learned to love people in general and in particular including me.
"Things as they are giveth
Things as they are taketh away
Blessed by things as they are
"(with apologies to Job)
"So back to judging my fellow man.
"Love to you both be kind to one another for if not you who
"Pike, 57, feels the judicial system is strengthened by letting people like him on the bench. 'I think it would be terrible if only graduates of Stanford became judges because society isn't made up of Stanford graduates . . . We're a heterogeneous, polyglot, poly-complex and highly diversified society,' Pike said, adding that the bench should reflect the society it judges."
"Pike was born in Nebraska, the fifth of nine children. His father owned, and then lost, two farms there, so they moved to Oregon where his father destroyed his health working in a lumber camp. They drove to San Diego in 1929 in a Model T Ford."
"Pike grew up quickly as a child. When, at age 14, he began earning more money as a farm laborer than his father could, he decided he 'wasn't going to be disciplined anymore' and left home."
"First, he lived with an elder brother in a tar paper shack in the middle of a sugar beet field while the brother attended college in San Luis Obispo. He stayed next at a boarding school that a sister was running. Then Pike moved back to San Diego, living alone in its Tenderloin District . . .
"He was a messenger and a department store clerk - saving money to buy a $12 car - until he turned 18 and joined the merchant marine. By the end of World War II when he returned again to San Diego, Pike was an ensign and had sailed all over the world.
"Pike still likes to sail. He owns a 35-foot ketch and recently spent nine hours rowing 36 miles from Catalina to Marina del Ray.
"Starting in 1945, he drove a 7-Up truck for three years and an Arden Dairy truck for five, finishing high school along the way.
"The commissioner recalled that he bought his first shares of stock and his first rental house while he was a milkman, using money he earned from a second job."
Here's the thing about being a "self-made" man. You tend to drop out of your story all of the people who helped you make it. In this case, these people included my maternal grand-parents who bought my parents their first house around the corner from their own in "Hillcrest" -- a close suburb of San Diego.
Not to diminish one bit my father's enormous achievements. But it's just not right for people to believe every self-made man is truly self-made because we need each other to accomplish anything.
Here's the other thing. Despite having six living siblings; four living step-children; and two living daughters, the only people at his bedside during his final days were his wife Juanita and me. That's the tragedy of "self-made."
The following from an undated letter
written when Dad was 52'ish:
"This time off period [for surgery] has caused the usual ambivalence to retire and whittle wood and bum around the world - plan retirement at age 60 (8 years, no 7 1/2) try for judge in June and plan a carreer in judicial administration - try to become presiding judge of the world's largest court system -- seek to go from rich to super rich (you see there is this 46' ketch costs $108,000). Any mention of another boat is forbidden talk."
This one signed "love from your eccentric father."
by Walt Whitman
A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full
How could I answer the child?. . . .I do not know what it
is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful
green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we
may see and remark, and say Whose?
Or I guess the grass is itself a child. . . .the produced babe
of the vegetation.
Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic,
And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow
Growing among black folks as among white,
Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the
same, I receive them the same.
And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves.
Tenderly will I use you curling grass,
It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men,
It may be if I had known them I would have loved them;
It may be you are from old people and from women, and
from offspring taken soon out of their mother's laps,
And here you are the mother's laps.
This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old
Darker than the colorless beards of old men,
Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths.
O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues!
And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths
I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men
And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring
taken soon out of their laps.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
What do you think has become of the women and
They are alive and well somewhere;
The smallest sprouts show there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait
at the end to arrest it,
And ceased the moment life appeared.
All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.