Perspectives

Out of the Navy and Into a Cold War Job: “You Know Anything about Celestial Navigation?”

It was June 1954, the day after graduation. I had just received my shiny electrical engineering diploma from the imposing and stentorian UC President Robert Gordon Sproul. After finishing dinner with my proud parents, then bidding them a safe journey back to my hometown Los Angeles, I returned to my room in dear old Bowles Hall and began the Augean task of packing my stuff and loading it into my trusty 1941 Plymouth.

From the Summer 2015 Confronting the Future issue of California.

Out of the Gate: Hitchhiking Toward the World Cup

It is night when I set up camp on the beach of La Zona Hotelera in Cancún, away from all the hotels. I’ve just come in from Mérida and am sitting cross-legged in my sleeping bag, listening to the fall of waves about a hundred feet away. From that distance, they sound like measured breaths through the nose. In the morning I’ll see Aashik, my roommate from Berkeley.

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.

A Rescue on Mt. Tam, as Seen from the Stretcher

On New Year’s Eve 2012, having returned early from an East Coast holiday with our kids, and with an 8 p.m. dinner invite ahead of me and no one to say no, I drive to Pantoll to do a run to Stinson. I’ve been running the Marin Headlands for 41 years and this is something I have contemplated doing for years.

Go Fish: How I Hooked My Mom on Online Romance And Ended Up as Her Dating Coach

I was 22, my sensitive vegan boyfriend had just dumped me, and my life was over.

Now I circled the park in my running shoes, trying to smooth over the jaggedness of the past two hours. No such luck. Every footstep was a lonely echo, every smiling family I passed another cruel reminder. There was only one thing left to do: I slowed to a walk, and called my mom. “I’ll never date again,” I announced.

This was met with a sigh, and what I could only guess was an eye roll. “Stop being ridiculous,” my mother said. “After all, there’s plenty of fish.”

In on the Ground Floor: Would My Investment in a Friend’s Scheme Really Seal My Fortune?

Graduation was near and other seniors were scrambling for work. I knew I was set. I had met a brilliant entrepreneur and was investing my time and savings in his sure-fire venture that guaranteed me both a job and untold millions.

His plan was literally airtight: Create a device that would improve upon the highest volume manufactured product—the sealed bags used for everything from dry macaroni to potato chips.

And what was wrong with those bags? They weren’t re-sealable.

From the Spring 2014 Branding issue of California.

The Harvard Humblebrag

The lovely young woman has been admitted to the master’s program at Berkeley’s School of Public Health and she is seeking my advice. She’s also been accepted to Harvard and several other top schools, she says, and is weighing her options.

I make the appropriate comments. I have nothing negative to say about Harvard, or any other of the schools of public health she is considering, I tell her. Each has its pluses and minuses and so forth and blah blah blah.

From the Summer 2013 A New Deal issue of California.

A Moment’s Grace

To call it a birthday party would be a bit of a stretch.

It was my 22nd—not a particularly celebration-worthy year to begin with. I also didn’t have any friends with whom to celebrate. I was only a couple months into what would be a year-long stint as an intern at The Bakersfield Californian, and furthermore—since I was in the employ of a newspaper reporting news—planning ahead was a shady proposition.

From the Spring 2013 Growing Up issue of California.

Out of the Gate

My son, Danny, returned from an exchange semester at Berkeley and treated me to a recitation of Beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s Hadda Be Playing on the Jukebox. Robert Haas’s American Poetry class had introduced Danny to the Beats, and he wanted to know whether I had read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. I hadn’t.

From the Winter 2012 Culture Shock issue of California.

Cold Jungle

The Yosemite of Chile is located in Northern Patagonia about 60 kilometers, as the condor flies, east of the city of Puerto Montt. Its true name is El Valle de Cochamó—and that is where we were headed, four of us on horseback, riding slump-shouldered in the pouring rain.

The horse I rode was called Miti Miti, for mitad mitad, or half-and-half. Fabián, who owned the horses, explained that when they were gelding Miti, one of the animal’s testicles retracted in terror and they were only able to complete half the job.

From the Winter 2012 Culture Shock issue of California.

Jumping for Joyland

We first noticed the giant Ferris wheel in Jinjiang park right after moving to Shanghai. But much of the wheel’s accompanying amusement park looks anemic and rundown. Of course, we are used to theme parks stateside, and it is hard to compete with the lands of Lego and Disney. So we avoided the place.

From the Fall 2012 Politics Issue issue of California.

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