Thanksgiving 2022

Thursday, November 24, 2022

(We interrupt the previously scheduled episode recapping my 1972 Coming-of-Age Jaunt through Europe, to interject this Thanksgiving message.)

I am thankful, three weeks before my 73rd birthday, that most of my deadlines these days are self-imposed and freely adjusted. Had I been able to maintain my original plan, this week would have had readers with me in Jerusalem, where I celebrated my 1972 Thanksgiving meal with a jar of peanut butter and the loaf of bread I hoped to stretch for a few more days. Instead, the recap falls short by six weeks and eleven nations. I was still in England, and still thinking I would spend most of my sojourn in France. I anticipated upgrading my high school French and working on my novel. I certainly had no inkling of getting as far as Israel. I had, however, just committed to visiting a new friend in Switzerland.

I give thanks for my God-bestowed but only-recently-acknowledged ADHD. Even as—at this stage in life—unfinished projects challenge me in space and time, the fascinating twists and turns of my distractibility refuse to let me become bored. I am rich in both hobbies and relationships. All by itself, my whimsey in spiders has brought me friendly correspondents on six of the seven continents. My early teaching career allowed me to teach groups of junior high students, and in some cases, my later career brought me their children and grandchildren. Members of each group now show-up richly on my FB friends list. As God supplied me with diverse teaching venues, I once had a class of Cacua-speaking adults from the remote jungles of Colombia. They needed the basics of government and economics to help them pass their (Spanish-language) primary-school equivalency exams. We taught the class tri-lingually. Later, in China, I had three weeks with high school and college students who hoped to improve their English. Over the years, God gave me experiences with both public and Christian school students in California. In the middle, for a decade, I taught a tightly-knit cadre of students in Colombia. Some of those children I had the privilege of shepherding from fifth grade through twelfth, and I’m able to correspond with them now as adults. For all this I am thankful.

I am thankful for the families God has given me, both the family of my birth, and the family I began 50 years ago (next July) by marrying Vicki. In July, I camped with the cousins among whom I grew up. We who could remember our wonderful grandparents and great-grandmother could now see each other’s grandchildren. This week, Vicki and I have three of our five children, with their spouses, and seven of our fourteen grandchildren. My step-counter tells me that in the five days since the grandkids arrived, my daily walking stats double over the average from the previous six weeks. Few gratifications in life can match watching grandchildren grow and their parents negotiating the challenges. The oldest two boys have their voices changing. The younger ones still want to cuddle with Papa and have stories read. I also thank God for the amazing technology that allows me to teleport to Brazil to help homeschool my grandsons there, and then zoom over to England to keep current on the antics of my British grands.

My life puts flesh to the end-time description given by God to Daniel, “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Dan. 12:4, ESV). Living now, two-and-a-half millennia after God instructed Daniel to “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end,” I am grateful to have a storehouse of ‘to-and-fro’ memories from visits to twenty-some countries. I also carry more information through my pocket phone than Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson could access had they owned every book then in print. I am thankful for capabilities unavailable to any previous generation. I am also grateful for the Scriptures that provide a solid place to stand as floodwaters shift the sand from all around us.

As a child born just at the end of two World Wars, I have lived through a Cold War and times of increasingly dangerous proxy wars. I am thankful that both I and my children have been spared the call to arms. Amidst ‘wars and rumors of war,’ I am thankful that, in my call to overseas service, I could carry literacy rather than kill-or-be-killed armaments. I could spread the Word of Life rather than the Kiss of Death. I am thankful to be living in a pocket of peace, the likes of which so many in our world are unable to enjoy. I am not facing a winter without heating, nor the threat of incoming missiles. I have done nothing to deserve these blessings that I enjoy, just as many of the people without them have done nothing to deserve their absence. Even in Colombia, which was struggling with a civil war within our earshot, I could say, as did David, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8). For this I am thankful.

(A conversation, just now, with my Brazilian son-in-law reminds me how thankful I am to be familiar with the tastes of both the peaches, apricots, and plums that won’t grow in the tropics, and the tree-ripened mangoes, papayas, and bananas that only show up in North American grocery stores with a pittance of their sweetness and flavor. I have tasted avocadoes, sweet and creamy as only the tropics can produce them, but have temperate-zone persimmons in the back yard as I write this.)

I am thankful that though riches and fame were never high on my list of ambitions, God’s plan for my life has delivered for me a modest level of each. I enjoy a nice house, a satisfactory pension, and a yard big enough to entertain my horticultural curiosities. Although—as late as 2016—I entertained no ambition to run for elective office, in 2018, I finished ahead of the Libertarian in my race for Congress, and in 2020, an amazing 42,015 voters marked their presidential ballots for me. I am thankful for each one of you. That total exceeds even the popular votes for George Washington (39,624 in 1788-89, and 28,300 in 1792) and for John Adams (35,726 in 1796). I am thankful that both Washington and Adams performed so well in the strenuous times with which they were faced—as have generations of patriots since—and that my family and I can enjoy the benefits thereof. I pray that those benefits will continue.

Even as God blessed me in ways I never sought, He has also gratified the desires I did entertain. I wanted to leave the world a better place for my having been here. Now, I can look at five grown children who are each contributing to the betterment of mankind. I can look at three generations of students whose lives I have touched. I can see riders lined up to utilize a bus system for which God put me in the right place at the right time to help get started. I can look back at teenagers I encouraged in the 1980s—coming from the pre-literate, indigenous peoples of Colombia—students who went on to graduate from prestigious universities, and who now supervise educational systems they have built from the ground up, on land to which their people now hold legal title. I hear of hundreds now worshipping Jesus among people-groups that had none fourty or fifty years ago. Oh, the marvels I have witnessed! Thank you, LORD!

On this Thanksgiving Day, 2022, I pray that each of my readers will enjoy a time of family and good food. I pray for God’s peace among those, worldwide, who currently feel the weight of man’s free will, expressed as it so often is, as man’s inhumanity to man. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Coming of Age, 1972: Episode #10

Saturday, November 05, 2022

The night ferry from Dublin brought me to Holyhead, at dawn. From there I set my feet for London, hoping to find waiting mail. The Welsh countryside was beautiful, and the street signs entertained me with names like Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Glyndyfrdwy, and Brynsaithmarchog. Holyhead sits on an island, connected to the British ‘mainland’ by the world’s oldest major suspension bridge.

It was a pleasant day. By walking some and getting a few rides, I covered about 150 miles before sundown.

I only skirted the outlying districts of Birmingham, rendered magical by yellow street lamps in a slight fog. I don’t remember where I thought I might get to spend the night, but a lorry driver stopped and offered me a ride. I’ve had readers in the British Isles for eleven days now, so we might as well use the correct vocabulary. There are no truck drivers in England, only lorry drivers.

We drove the M-40 the rest of the night, and the conversation was good. Not long before dawn, he dropped me on the outskirts of Winchester, and I rolled out my sleeping bag in a recently mowed cornfield. I might have slept a couple of hours, and the sun was up when I awoke.

How often does one get to Winchester? I thought I ought to get a look at the famous cathedral before I returned to my pursuit of any letters waiting for me in London. As an inveterate whistler, as I walked I whistled The New Vaudeville Band’s 1966 whistling hit “Winchester Cathedral.”

I walked naively into Winchester and took a nice look at the first big church I came to. Yeah, it was nice, if maybe not worthy of all the hype I had heard. Then, thinking I could check-off Winchester from my bucket list, I started across the city to reach the highway north. In the process, I stumbled upon the C*A*T*H*D*R*A*L. Boy-oh-boy. The laugh was on me.

I spent a goodly amount of time properly appreciating an amazing feat of architecture, built between 1079 and 1532. The interior length runs a football field and a half, with burials from an even earlier building, as far back as Cynegils, King of Wessex (AD 611–643). More recently, the Cathedral contains the remains of Jane Austin

When finally I had seen enough of the Cathedral—and seeing on the map that I was only a couple of miles from Tichborne—I hiked out of Winchester on the M-31.

In England, I could not have repeated the details, but I recognized the name had been important on my family tree. Refreshing my memory as I write this, John Tichborne (1460 - 1498), born at Tichborne, had one son, Nicholas (b. abt. 1480 and recorded as “Burgess of Hindon,” living at Tisbury, about 50 miles west of Tichborne) who sired Dorothy (abt. 1510 - abt. 1572), who married John Sambourne. Their grandson Richard (1580 - abt. 1632) married Ann Bachiler. After Richard’s death, their three sons crossed the Atlantic with their maternal grandfather, the Rev. Stephen Bachiler, and settled in Massachusetts, thereby planting my mother’s family in America.

Several days ago, when I began writing this episode, I had no idea I would be posting this on Guy Fawkes Day, nor any intension of mentioning the religious struggles of the 16th and 17th Centuries. Yet as I poked around on the web, it couldn’t help but come up.

Richard Samborne would have been distantly related to Chidiock Tichborne (1562 –1586), who was executed at age 23 for his part in the Babington Plot, a conspiracy by a small group of Catholics who hoped to murder Queen Elizabeth I, and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. Chidiock left behind a wife, a daughter, and three poems that can still be found in print. Other than Chidiock, the Tichborne family were able to remain Catholic and even (by concession of King James I) retain as Catholic their family chapel inside the Church of England St. Andrew’s Church in Tichborne. On the other hand, the same King James I took lands and livelihood away from Rev. Stephen Bachiler, a “notorious inconformist.” There are hints that his Bachiler line arrived in England as Huguenot refugees from the slaughters in France. It makes sense that Stephen Bachiler (1561-1656) was an early proponent of the separation of church and state in American Colonies.

In Tichborne, I found the village library and went in, but had no idea what I might find, or how to go about it. Year’s later, I discovered Tichborne’s Elegy.

Tichborne’s Elegy

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares, My feast of joy is but a dish of pain, My crop of corn is but a field of tares, And all my good is but vain hope of gain; The day is past, and yet I saw no sun, And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard and yet it was not told, My fruit is fallen, and yet my leaves are green, My youth is spent and yet I am not old, I saw the world and yet I was not seen; My thread is cut and yet it is not spun, And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb, I looked for life and saw it was a shade, I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb, And now I die, and now I was but made; My glass is full, and now my glass is run, And now I live, and now my life is done.

After sitting in the library for a short time, I caught a ride into London. My strongest memory is passing Wimbledon. I don’t follow tennis, but I recognized the name.

Coming of Age, 1972: Episode #9

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Once I left Limerick and turned myself in the direction of London, I felt the tug of possible mail waiting for me in Earl’s Court. All of Ireland is only one fifth the size of California, and the trip from Limerick to Dublin is about the same as a trip from Los Angeles to San Diego, though the highway in 1972 was just one lane each direction.

From the portion that I walked, my strongest memory is the carefully designed and manicured garden on front of one house. I stood for a short time to admire it, and I’m sure my neighbors ever since have wished I had learned more from the study.

The ride I remember was with an older gentleman in a truck. We rode together long enough to pass several cemeteries, and each time, he crossed himself without interrupting our conversation. This gesture had not been part of my Methodist upbringing, and I wondered now—without saying anything—whether this was an Irish show of respect for the dead, or a more general Catholic practice.

My Irish ancestors had been Catholics, although only nominally-so within living memory. In Seattle, on the very day that the lockdown lifted at the end of the Spanish Flu, my grandmother’s sister and her beau beckoned a justice of the peace to the house for a wedding, while my grandparents waited a few days to have a wedding mass. Neither marriage lasted, though, and while I was growing up, I never knew my grandmother to practice anything I could identify as Catholic. My dad, upon enlisting in the navy, faced paperwork that asked whether he was Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish. The question stumped him. He checked the middle box, while not identifying with any of them. He attended Protestant services at sea.

Vicki’s family had also been nominally Catholic, until in her early teens she asked her father to begin taking her to mass. Then, just a few months before she met me, she became fascinated by the faith she saw in a couple of Evangelical friends at UCLA. They helped her to a ‘born again’ step of faith. When we first met, she was on fire for Jesus, and many of our early conversations were Christo-centric. Indeed, at Easter, after we had known each other about six months, I took her to the beach for a day—her favorite spot—and we sat under the jets taking off from LAX. I came away from that day with a dim view of the relationship potential between an agnostic like me, and a ‘religious fanatic,’ as I then perceived her. My parting words, as I took her home, were “Vicki, I think you will make someone a wonderful wife, but it won’t be me.” To my surprise, I had said just the right thing. At the time, she was trying to slow down two other fellows who wanted to marry her, and she wouldn’t have to worry about me. Over the next fifteen months, we each had other romantic interests, and Vicki and I could just be good friends, under no pressure.

I arrived in Dublin, but didn’t see much of the city. I bought my ferry ticket for a sleeper to Holyhead and stayed close to the terminal. I do have a favorite picture of Dublin, though. It is of my mother, from a much later trip. I trace some of my love of travel to Mom, who never got much of a chance to do so. My dad saw a lot of Asian ports while in the navy. My mother had wanted to join the WACS, but had been talked out of it. Then she had looked into going to Europe after the war to help clean up and rebuild. But again, it didn’t fit the limited vision of people whose opinion she trusted. To them, it wasn’t appropriate for a single woman. Occasionally during my growing years, however, she would reminisce over those dreams, and so there was an element of her yearnings in my travel. Some twenty years after my trip, she and my dad did get to Ireland for two weeks, and they visited us once during our years in Colombia. Most of my mother’s travel, however, was vicariously through other people's travels, or through a retirement spent teaching English to immigrants. If she couldn’t go to them, she would make the most of them coming to her.

The crossing to Holyhead was uneventful, and the boat put me back in Wales just at daybreak. It would be the longest day of my trip.

Coming of Age, 1972: Episode #8

Friday, October 21, 2022

My short visit to Ireland—three days of hard travel—did not allow me time to get as far north as Sligo, from whence hailed my paternal great-great-grandfather Carroll, nor to get out of the car in Cork, which I incorrectly thought had been the birthplace of my great-great-grandfather Kelley. However, I did spend a delightful overnight in Limerick. I have to assume the city figures somewhere in my DNA. Here is a quick one that I wrote just today:

An illustrious PM named Lis Truss
Said, “No longer can I hold this trust.”
The greatest frustration
Is viscous inflation
But we shan’t dissolve Commons. It is this thus.

I’m unable to find a photograph of the Youth Hostel in Limerick, and I have only a vague memory that it was somewhere near the city center. In lieu of photographs, I will tuck in a sampling of limericks from my collection.

What I do remember is the uproariously fun discussion we had when we discovered that the 17 guests who gathered in the common room that evening spoke 14 different dialects of English. Between us, we represented Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, Boston, Georgia, Texas, Scotsmen, Welsh, several areas in England, and—of course—the standard and correct English that we speak in California. Since everyone was traveling, we each had recent observations of the funny differences in the ways English speakers say things. In addition to a cheap and clean place to sleep, one of the benefits of the Youth Hostels is trading experiences with the other travelers. Often, many were coming from where I hoped to go next, and could give impressions and advice.

When we could laugh no more, an Aussie girl told me she wanted to go for a beer, but didn’t want to be the only girl in the pub. She offered to buy me a drink if I would be her escort. Had she not asked, I probably would not have thought to include a pub in my Irish experiences. I’m glad I did. It was quiet, but the atmosphere was friendly. She did turn out to be the only female in the room, but we enjoyed our conversation walking over and back, and each drank one beer.

For a day that started in Loo Bridge and included the Ring-of-Kerry, I was more-than-ready to turn in when we got back to the Hostel. Just a few days earlier, I had attended a play by the Royal Shakespearian Theater, in Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon. As nice as that had been, now I was sleeping a night in the city that had given its name to the Limerick, the apex of English literature and culture.

Coming of Age, 1972: Episode #7

Thursday, October 20, 2022

After I decided to separate from Beat and Urs, I dallied awhile to let them get ahead. I enjoyed handfuls of ripe blackberries from the roadside, and then was offered a ride by four German youths in an already-full VW Bug.

Together, we drove through Waterford, Dungarvan, and Cork, not stopping at tourist sites, but stopping twice along the way at pubs. Each time these young men showed disappointment that such a pub would not be open on a Sunday morning. Therefore, they beat upon the door until they had roused the tavernkeeper. Once inside, one of my comrades would order a round of beers, and I would add a round of chocolates. Many years later, in Tashkent, I met a young Uzbek who immediately observed that all Americans liked to travel. I corrected him to say that all Americans who had made it as far as Uzbekistan probably liked to travel. Thus, I must be careful against drawing too great a generality, based only upon the two groups of Germans whom I had encountered in less than twelve hours. I will say only that my small sample suggested that one attraction to draw young German men to visit Ireland in late September, 1972, would be the Irish beer.

Between pubs, we stopped only to search out bushes. I might have liked to at least have gotten out of the car in Cork. My grandmother told us Cork had been the birthplace of her immigrant grandfather. We now believe that he may have sailed from Cork, but probably lived closer to Dublin. Either way, I did not see much of Cork. I did, however, begin to question the wisdom of riding with a slightly drunk driver, over narrow and curvy roads, with visibility limited by hedges of blackberries. I decided to thank them for their company and the ride, and to walk on from there alone, with my target a Youth Hostel at Loo Bridge.

As I write this, I struggle to remember the Youth Hostel at Loo Bridge. Searching for a picture, I find one taken by Klaus Liphard, two years after I was there. He notes, “Unfortunately, I have no memory of my stay there.” That may explain why Loo Bridge no longer has a Youth Hostel. I do remember walking into a small store nearby, buying some bread and cheese, and parting from the shop keeper with a cherry, “Have a nice day.”

He looked at me strangely, and then answered, “Yes, I suppose we do.” I was reminded of the observation by Winston Churchill that the US and Great Britain (or in this case, the Irish) are “two nations divided by a common language.”

Looking at the map the next morning as I was leaving Loo Bridge, my eye was drawn to a loop through the Ring of Kerry, on a road marked, “Scenic Route.” I later suspected that ‘Scenic Route’ was Gaelic for ‘No cars travel on this 110 mile loop.’

I was fooled, though, because between Loo Bridge and Kilgarvan, a middle-aged man and his mother picked me up, and were quite excited when I told them I was from Los Angeles. “Oh, you know our cousin, then!”

“Well,” I tried to explain, “It’s a big city.”

“Oh, but you would know him. He owns the chemist shop.” (Meaning: drug store)

At tea time, we stopped and laid out a blanket and a picnic basket. They were very apologetic that they had no milk for my tea.

After that, I walked about two hours without seeing any vehicle pass. I began to feel concern that the loop might take me several days, as beautiful as the scenery was. My steps were still headed south along the eastern side of the peninsula. After that, I would still face the trip north on the west. However, besides just the beautiful scenery, I was still chuckling over the couple with a cousin in LA and the shopkeeper who misunderstood, “Have a nice day.” I began to praise God.

Almost immediately, I heard the clop of a horse behind me, and an elderly gentleman invited me up on his cart. I am still not sure what language he spoke. It may have been Gaelic, or it may have been English with a brogue too think for me to understand, but as much as we tried, communication was difficult. At one point, he tried very hard to express something. After multiple attempts, I figured out that he was referencing a certain flower that grew beside the road.

The rides I must have gotten don’t stand out in my mind, but I must have gotten some. I do remember walking one long stretch on the rugged western side of the peninsula.

However, I finished the scenic loop with enough time to catch a ride all the way to Limerick.

But Limerick is a story for our next episode.

2022 Election Endorsements (California)

Monday, October 17, 2022

The time has come,' the Walrus said, To mark our ballots and mail them in: Of governors — and congresspersons — and ballot initiatives— Of cabbages — and kings — And why the sea is boiling hot — And whether pigs have wings.'

I cannot get very excited about the coming November election, with early voting already upon us. I felt fortunate, during the primary election, to at least have American Solidarity Party candidates for some of the races, but now it’s all duopoly parties all the time. In California, that generally means Democrats will sweep the statewide contests, but maybe my local county will lean GOP. The slight of hand from both parties has primarily focused on whether pigs have wings. Neither party can offer solutions to our problem with homelessness, which I consider our most pressing problem. The Republicans have no power to enact their ideas, even if they had some, and the Democrats lack the will to demand the necessary concessions from key constituencies.

I will not vote to send any Democrats to Sacramento until their supermajority has been curtailed. Each of the duopoly parties has enough whack-a-doodle ideas that neither party should be allowed to govern without some semblance of balancing power.

For a similar reason, I fear letting one party control both Houses of Congress, especially the party that controls the White House. In either case, the deciding races will probably be in someone else’s district, so my votes will simply be to go through the motions.

The propositions, however, have my full attention.

Proposition #1: No. Enshrines Uber-Roe into the State Constitution: The SCOTUS Dobbs decision did not affect even one potential abortion law in California. What it did do was give Governor Newsom a platform for over-kill grandstanding and launching a presidential campaign. His campaign to ‘enshrine Roe in the Constitution’ goes way beyond what the status quo under Roe and accompany his efforts to have California taxpayers subsidize abortions for residents of other states. Recently, Gov. Newson added $200,000 to the state budget in support of abortion, while earlier in the year he vetoed money for perinatal coverage. I support increased spending for pre- and post- natal care, but not for abortion. Unspoken in that is that these taxpayer subsidies will pass through the hands of these out-of-state mothers and into the hands of California abortionists, a group already powerful enough to demand that a likely President abandon support for the Hyde Amendment, handpick the Nation’s Vice President in 2020, and choose the Democratic Candidate in 2024. Even Pro-Choice Californians might want to think twice about this Administration’s tax-payer cash cow for Big Abortion, and say “No!” to the whole program.

Propositions #26 (in person betting) and #27 (on-line betting): No, and No. Schemes by which the State attempts to fill its coffers on gambling always function as a regressive tax. Then, the legislature can point at the gambling funds dedicated to various services and justify giving those agencies less money from the general fund. Government sanctioned gambling is always bad policy.

Proposition #28: Yes. Guarantees that 1% of any funds going to education must be dedicated to programs in art and music. This is especially important to poorer districts like the one where I taught. In rich neighborhoods, parents often pay for private lessons, or team together an raise outside funds for art and music lessons. Art and music ought to be part of the basic program at every school.

Proposition #29: No. Yet another attempt by Healthcare unions to force expensive new rules for kidney dialysis. Voters have already rejected this idea twice.

Proposition #30: Tentative yes. Initiates a new tax on high incomes, to use the funds for electric cars, charging stations, and to fight wildfires. My State Teachers Retirement pension does not put me in the high-income category, but we do face a question over how many high earners we can chase out of the state before it hurts the overall economy. It seems to me that a Capitalist system could find Capitalist solutions to create the required charging stations, but we do need to step up our game in fighting our annual wildfires.

Proposition #31: Yes. Bans the flavored tobacco products that are custom designed to hook young people. How long have we been trying to protect kids from early tobacco addiction?

Coming of Age, 1972 - Episode #6

After breakfast, I hiked with Beat (Bay-AHT) and Urs, from the Youth Hostel at Pwll Deri to the ferry landing in Fishguard. For a while we shared the road with a large flock of sheep heading the same direction.

The four-hour crossing from Fishguard to Rosslare, Ireland, was uneventful. We sat on deck in pleasant weather and talked. Beat and Urs were nineteen, and apprentice architects in the city of Basel. Beat spoke English more fluently than Urs, but he was also aggressively working to improve. He kept a note pad in his pocket, pulled it out anytime I used a word that was new to him, and would ask me about the word's meanings and use. My own attempts at language learning had suffered from a lack of just this degree of diligence, so I took note of how the process should be approached. Beat already spoke Swiss German, High German, and French; he was working hard on English; and during the time I knew him, he picked up some Italian and Hebrew. I had fumbled through five years of French and a year of Japanese, but from watching Beat, the Spanish studies I would begin soon after I returned from Europe promised more success.

We landed at Rosslare, and went through immigration. Then, after we were in the parking lot outside, another agent came running after us. He had a spray canister to treat our boots, and told us that Wales was experiencing an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease.

From Rosslare we walked into the city of Wexford, where we bought a few groceries in a small store, and asked for directions. Beat had seen mention of a campground, but by the time we reached it, the gate had been locked for the night. We rolled our sleeping bags out in the field beside the gate, and went to sleep.

At about midnight, a car pulled up at the gate. The German youths who manned it demonstrated recent indulgence in alcohol, which would not have bothered us, except that when they could not get into the campground, they decided to drive circles in the tall grass that hid us in our sleeping bags. Beat and I stood up, waving our arms. Meanwhile, Urs slept peacefully. The Germans did stop, about twenty yards short of running us over. Then they retreated to the far end of the field and attempted, drunk as they were, to set up a tent.

In the morning, Beat and I had fun showing Urs the tire tracks in the grass, and then set off. We hadn’t walked far, however, before we realized that none of the cars that had driven by us would have had room for three young men. We decided to split up. Beat gave me his address in Switzerland, and I set visiting him as a goal. Perceptive readers will notice how circumstances and opportunities were chipping away at my original plan to spend my year in Paris.

It was Sunday morning. I had now been in Europe for a week, even if it has taken a month for me to recount the story.

Coming of Age, 1972: Episode #5

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

I left Stratford-upon-Avon the morning after attending the Shakespeare play. One ride took me through Herefordshire and to the border of Wales, where I found myself in barren-looking highlands. My strongest memory is of a Royal Airforce pilot, who was practicing hugging the hilltops with his jet, up and down the valley, over the hill top to be out of sight for a few moments, and then back. For a while, it was just the two of us in those hills.

I have been searching in vain for the box of slides I took during this trip. Not that any of them stand out for quality; they don’t. I also have not been able to find the collection of letters home, saved by my mother and returned to me after her death. I probably did not even take a picture of these mountains, as they impressed me as rather bleak. However, in writing this episode, I did a Google search for a woman I would later meet, and discovered that she loved those mountains and spent much of her life taking pictures of central Wales. She advocated for the preservation of both its natural environment and the Welsh language. Often, though, she did not claim her photographs. When she did, she signed variously as Lis or Liz, Fleming-Williams, or just Williams.

Somewhere along there, I hitched a second ride. As it was approaching late afternoon, I had settled on reaching a Youth Hostel at Pontarfynach (Welsh for ‘Devil’s Bridge’). The driver knew of it, and let me off with instructions that if I followed the trail that she pointed out, it would cross a pasture and go down a deep gully. There would be a foot bridge, and the trail on the other side would take me to Pontarfynach.

The trail was just as she described it, following beside one of those walls that is just stones piled on top of each other as generations of farmers cleared their fields. The gully and bridge were also what she described, but by the time I started up the other side, the sun was down and darkness had set in. I realized it would be too dark to find my way any farther. I was beside a pasture, and could see the farm house farther up the hillside. I’m not into trespassing, but decided to step over the barbed wire and roll out my sleeping bag in a flat space.

Fog came in, which I felt gave me some protection against discovery, but I did not sleep well. I worried both about being where I hadn’t been invited and about the possibility of some cow coming along and stepping on me. In the morning, I quickly rolled up my sleeping bag and continued up the trail, which took me to a spot where I could look back on the farmhouse. This is the photograph which I most wanted to find and include here—but haven’t—with the green hillside, sparkling with dewdrops in the sunshine, the stone building, and an exposed opening where the roof had long-since disappeared. I had been worried about the occupants of an abandoned ruin. I recognized the lesson, and chewed upon it as I walked in the morning sunshine.

The trail put me out on a dirt road and my map told me I had a hike of about 12 miles, passing through Pontarfynach, and on to the city of Aberystwyth. The lush countryside was everything the higher mountains had not been, and the roadside even offered wild blackberries. I pondered the worries that had needlessly prevented a restful night’s sleep, and I had a strong sense that God had been watching out for me.

The God question consumed a lot of energy at that point in my life. Did He even exist? And if so, in what form? My religious education had been in Methodist congregations, which had molded in me the social gospel. I appreciated the fellowship of good people, doing good things, and enjoying wholesome fun and friendships. However, in my teens, I could not escape the observation that this group seemed to treat the Bible as a convenient mythology for holding the social club together. My own reading of the Bible refused to allow that as an option. Either the Bible was true in its claims, or it had to be rejected. I would not base my life on a myth.

I went looking through the world’s other religions for truth. I read the Quran and came away unimpressed. Upanishads and sutras left me bored. I did entertain a brief attraction to Daoism and the Dao De Ching, but it seemed to me that to be a good Daoist, one would need to live as a hermit in a cave. I knew myself to be a people-person.

By the time I graduated from high school, I leaned towards the idea that all of the world’s religions could be reduced to the Golden Rule. That summer, however, I visited relatives in Oregon and heard a rabbi speak. Not only did he actually accept all of the Bible as truth, but he believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Jewish Messiah. I tucked that away in my mind. It bounced back a few years later while reading about a Vietnamese religion, Cao Dai. Caodaism, as Time Magazine explained it, hoped to unite all the world’s faiths into one. They proposed a pantheon of great spirits: Jesus, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tse, Gandhi…(up to this point, I was nodding)…and Victor Hugo. I felt as if I had been stabbed, seeing Jesus and Victor Hugo in the same sentence. Yet obviously, once any other human being could be put in the same sentence as Jesus, any group would be free to add their own superstar. I had to mull my reaction. It also brought back a lesson I had learned from reading the Dao De Ching. There is an enormous gulf between what Lao Tse taught and the way the religion is practiced today. I needed to look only at Jesus, and not the behavior of his modern adherents.

I replayed much of this in my mind as I entered Pontarfynach in the early morning sunshine, inwardly praising the God for whom I still questioned even his existence.

Out of a house, a woman came out to greet me, “Where are you going?”

“Aberystwyth,” I told her.

“I’m driving there in half an hour. Why don’t you come in and have a cup of tea. Then I'll take you there.”

She told me that her name was Barbara Fleming-Williams, that she lived in London. This was their vacation home, and her husband had just published a book on the English landscape painter John Constable. I enjoyed the tea while she finished her preparations, and before she dropped me off in Aberystwyth, we traded addresses.

Aberystwyth turned out to be a small city, colorful and quaint, with the ruins of an ancient castle. A plaid wool cap tempted me beyond my budget, but I thought better of it, and then began the 55 mile hike, south, toward Fishguard. Fishguard would offer both a Youth Hostel and a boat to Ireland.

Despite the marvels I had already experienced in one day, I began to be depressed by the distance I still needed to cover. Then I recalled the last words Vicki had given me at the airport, “No matter what happens, remember to praise God in all things.” Indeed, I had been praising God when Mrs. Fleming-Williams came out to greet me, and I did have a great deal for which to praise God.

While I was still somewhat lost in praising this God about whose existence I wasn’t quite convinced, far down the road, a truck pulled to a stop from a side road, and the driver waved to me. I broke into the best run I could manage with my heavy backpack, and climbed into the passenger side. He was an auto parts delivery man, and we drove down the coast unloading his wares at petrol stations. We had a jolly good conversation and at each garage, the owner invited us to sit for tea and what they called biscuits and I would call cookies. Finally, on the edge of Fishguard, he treated me to fish and chips. I arrived at the hostel with enough daylight left to join two Swiss boys in a walk along the cliffs above the sea.

Beat (bay-AHT) and Urs were also headed over to Ireland, so we decided to travel together. As it turned out, they would later visit me in the States, and after we were married, Vicki and I would travel through Switzerland and Italy with Beat. Barbara Fleming-Williams daughter Lis would also visit us in America. What a day!

As Beat and I got to know each other that night, he asked me if I was religious. I told him that I was not.

Afterthoughts: In preparing to write this, I came upon obituaries for both Lis Fleming-Williams (d. 2019) and her father (1998). Barbara died in the 1980s. Lis had devoted her life to protecting the natural environment and wildlife of Central Wales. We had a brief visit with them in London in 1976, but otherwise had no communication after Lis and a friend visited us in Los Angeles during the summer that Vicki and I got married. For both Vicki and I, the strongest memory of that visit is the embarrassment we felt when Lis’s stomach pains required us to take her to Emergency at Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital, in Los Angeles. It was very obvious that our American healthcare system did not match what she would have expected from the British system. When I search back to my first questioning of our American system, I go back to that hospital visit.

Coming of Age, 1972: Episode #4

Thursday, September 29, 2022

After two days of walking the streets of London, I was ready to leave for Ireland. I figured I could do a quick loop, take a look around, return to Earl’s Court to pick up any mail, and then proceed to France to settle in. The London Underground rises above ground after it gets outside the central city, and took less than two hours to reach Oxford. I have a friend who is spending a week in Oxford at the moment, and I’m sure it will be productive time, but my goal was to reach Stratford-upon-Avon by nightfall. My one memory of Oxford is a wide grassy stretch beside the highway as I walked.

I realize that Oxford has one of the world’s fine universities, the oldest in the English-speaking world. (My youngest son would study his junior year abroad there). Oxford got its big boost in AD 1167, when my ancestor, Henry II, banned his subjects from attending the University of Paris. Of course Oxford had turned up often in biographies. Growing up in the Methodist Church, I knew about the ‘Holy Club,’ founded by Charles Wesley, led by his brother John, and including America’s first great evangelist, George Whitefield. Yet, by my late teens, I had left behind my Methodist upbringing, and could no longer claim the Wesleys as my own. Perhaps, as well, I was still burned out after my last year at UCLA. I had no strong desire to walk around another university.

I doubt that I walked the whole 39 miles from Oxford to Stratford, but I don’t recall hitching any rides. The town of Woodstock stands out, a medieval settlement that has guarded its historic appearance. I did not realize how close I was passing to Blenheim Palace—just a hundred yards off the highway—where Winston Churchill was born and where Queen Mary locked her half sister Elizabeth away. When I visited England in 2019, my main objective was time with kids and grandkids, but Blenheim was the next thing on the list of things I didn’t get to.

In Stratford, I found the Youth Hostel and checked in. Across Europe, I was to discover that the rural YHs were more attractive and less expensive than the city versions. They were mostly stately mansions that had been donated when a younger generation could not afford to pay the inheritance taxes. I seem to recall that a bed with mattress at most of the rural Hostels cost me about the equivalent of 80 cents U.S., and I was carrying my own sleeping bag. The bedrooms would have three or four sets of bunkbeds, and guests could use the kitchen, though no meals were provided. In the morning, I found the Royal Shakespeare Theater and bought a ticket for a play the following night.

After pushing for several days, Stratford allowed me to rest. I’m a sucker for the Tudor-style, black and white or black and tan, half-timbered buildings. In my mind’s eye, I have intended to build one for myself, though it gets ever-smaller as I age and my ambitions shrink. It fascinated me how buildings dating from the 1500s could now have indoor plumbing and neon lights.

I took some time for a peaceful hike, through fog, along the River Avon. I had much on my mind. The previous three months had raised the possibility that I had found my life partner. I met Vicki during my first quarter at UCLA. We had one class together, ‘Education of the Mexican-American Child.’ It would be the only education class I took there. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a teacher, but with a History Major and English Minor, that could be a possibility. During my two years at UCLA, I tutored English to 4th grade immigrant kids in L.A. Chinatown. A year earlier, after deciding my years of competitive running were over, I went back to my high school coach, and he gave me the tenth-grade cross country team to try my hand with. We made it that year to the city finals. I’d enjoyed both of those teaching experiences.

At UCLA, though, I took a series of creative writing classes. A writing career interested me, but not if I needed to be ready to support a family. I knew too many starving writers. For a short time, I pondered studying for the pastorate. That would have been for all the wrong reasons, as much to figure out what I believed about God—if He existed—as to serve the God who might be there.

Then, on a lark, I took a Movement Behavior class, partly to better be able to describe my characters in fiction. The professor, Dr. Hunt, was teaching Kinesiology in the Dance Department, but as a physical therapist she had lived among and treated Bedouins, Inuit, and a variety of other cultures. She introduced a remarkable amount of anthropology. I was so blown away by what I learned that the following quarters I took every class she offered. In the process, I didn’t quite finish my minor in English, but I did complete one in Kinesiology. I began to ponder a career in Physical Therapy, until I realized I would need two years of math and science prerequisites before PT school. As I walked along the River Avon, I leaned toward teaching. Vicki was studying to be a teacher. Two teachers would have the same vacations.

At Thanksgiving of my first (junior) UCLA year, I mistook a reply from a young lady and incorrectly jumped to the conclusion that I was engaged. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I was checking my dorm mailbox multiple times each day, always to find it empty, but sometimes to see the student who was sorting the mail on the other side. I knew her slightly from my ‘Education of the Mexican-American Child’ class. On the first day of that class I did what all unattached students do, I glanced unobtrusively around the room, and thought to myself, “Nothing here.” She remembers whispering to Bonnie, her roommate, “Nothing here.”

They lived two floors above me and we often left for class at about the same time, so I occasionally walked them to the main campus, or saw them in the dorm cafeteria. At the end of the quarter, Tuesday of finals week was my 21st birthday, and I went home to celebrate with my parents and siblings. Back on campus, the next evening, a coed was stabbed to death in the parking structure not far from our dorm. The crime has been connected to the Zodiac Killer, and left the whole campus on edge. When the final exam for the education class got out after dark on Saturday evening, I finished early, but stuck around outside to walk the girls back to the dorm. I was still thinking about the girl from Thanksgiving, but I remember thinking that I hoped there was someone available to walk my future wife safely home. Little could I have imagined.

We had to move out of the dorm for the Christmas holidays. My parents came to help me transport my things, and while Dad and I made several trips up and down the elevator, my mother—who could strike up a conversation with anyone—chatted with the nice young woman who worked behind the desk, who seemed to know me.

I do not remember what play I saw at the Royal Shakespeare Theater that night. What fascinated me most was the way the set could be staged with almost no scenery. Instead, sections of the stage itself would rise or fall, high to become the bow of a ship, or less to become a bench. However, I could leave and say that I had seen a Shakespeare play at Stratford-upon-Avon. I walked back to the Youth Hostel ready to leave in the morning for Ireland. Admittedly, that was in the opposite direction from France.

Once, for a session of the Movement Behavior class, Dr. Hunt took the students to a large, walled-in, grassy area behind the Women’s Gym. Our assignment was to move. Just move. After a while, she called us in and she reported what she had seen. The class was heavily dance majors, and she’d observed the way many of the students had picked a spot and waved arms and legs or done a variety of artistic contortions. Then she got to me, and chuckled. “Brian, you explored every inch of grass and every corner.” I didn’t realize it yet, but that would describe my trip to Europe.

Coming of Age, 1972: Episode #3

Friday, September 23, 2022

I found a free map of London and walked the city for two days. I soon learned that the three things I needed in order to learn a new city were a map, a couple of days, and walking.

Travel teaches us much about a foreign place. By comparing and contrasting, we also get fresh eyes to better understand what we consider home. In 2022, looking back 50 years, I am struck by how much my travels have taught me about myself, as well. The passage of time has a similar effect. I’ve been thinking as I write this about my cousin Lance, who would have celebrated his 23rd birthday on the day I flew from Los Angeles to London, if only had he not drowned in a scuba accident when we were both 17. At 17, Lance never got a chance to learn just who he was. I am also comparing my trip 50 years ago with the current trip of a friend who is posting each day from Greece. I am learning a great deal about Greece, but more-so, although I have considered her as family and admired her for 40 years, I am also gaining new insights into who she is, and comparing her meticulously planned trip with my trip, which had almost no planning at all.

My plan was to go over there and have a look around.

I wouldn’t be traveling in total ignorance, because I had been visiting England vicariously since meeting Benjamin Franklin in a children’s book at the age of eight. Franklin first visited London to study the art of printing. He lived there again, 1757-1762 and 1764-1775, as the representative of the Pennsylvania colony. Increasingly during those years he also became the primary representative for all the British colonies on the Atlantic seaboard. I could imagine myself arriving in London much as Franklin had arrived in Philadelphia, a run-away, walking the city with bread stuffed in his pockets.

I did walk past the house marked as Franklin’s home. It’s a mere ten-minute walk from the Parliament building. He rented rooms in that building for almost 16 years. In Franklin (along with Jefferson, who much preferred France) I’d had my first hero, my first tastes of travel, and—I realize now—not an imaginary friend, but a friend from another era, and a soul mate. I could not have told you for another 25 years anything about Myers-Briggs personality typology, but somehow, my shared characteristics with Franklin (ENTP and the often-concurrent ADHD) grabbed me, and in the process hooked me on history, biography, geography, and a layman’s fascination with anthropology, zoology, botany, linguistics, meteorology, and all the other interests that Franklin (and INTP Jefferson) found to interest them.

By the time I landed in London, I had read biographies of Churchill, Gladstone, Henry VIII, Victoria, Elizabeth I, Drake, Darwin, Florence Nightingale, Admiral Nelson, Newton, Faraday, Cromwell, Richard the Lion Hearted, and Raleigh; and read works by Shakespeare, Austin, Dickens, Tolkien, Lewis, and Orwell. I had also studied my English genealogy, including the Rev. Stephen Bachilor, a Puritan divine who brought four grandsons and my mother’s line to Boston, in 1632. After some scandal (there is evidence that his fourth wife formed the model for Hester Prynnes, in Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’), Bachilor returned to London for his final years. On a later trip I would do a search for his grave.

From Earl’s Court to Buckingham Palace is a three-mile walk, or slightly farther if one takes a route along the Themes. I looked in on whatever I could enter without a fee, which included several hours in the Victoria and Albert Museum and an hour-or-so in the balcony listening to a debate in the House of Lords over a bill to install culverts beside roads somewhere. Several walks through the Hyde and St. James Parks gave me a baseline to judge change in the city during my four return trips. (On a Sunday in 2000, it seemed like most of the women in Hyde Park were dressed in black hijabs and niqabs.) I remember crossing a Themes bridge one evening after lights were on, and coming upon the statue of a young woman, and thinking very much about Vicki. On future trips to London, I have ventured farther upriver and down, but on this trip, there was plenty to see in the center of the city.

My London walk included locating offices of the Youth Hostel Association, where £20 bought me membership, a guide book, and a map of all the Youth Hostels in Europe. I was on my way.

Coming of Age, 1972: Episode #2

Saturday, September 17, 2022

After watching the sun come up over the English countryside, I landed at Luton International Airport before 7:00 AM, and committed my first rookie error within minutes. I carried no British pounds, but had $600 in US Traveler’s Checks. (Note to those who grew up in the age of ATMs: These used to be a thing, allowing traveling Neanderthals to go to a bank and obtain cash.) I supposed a better exchange rate at banks farther from the airport, and as it was still too early for banking, I decided to walk as far as I could before banks opened. It skipped my mind that banks observe no hours at all on Sundays.

After watching the sun come up over the English countryside, I landed at Luton International Airport before 7:00 AM, and committed my first rookie error within minutes. I carried no British pounds, but had $600 in US Traveler’s Checks. (Note to those who grew up in the age of ATMs: These used to be a thing, allowing traveling Neanderthals to go to a bank and obtain cash.) I supposed a better exchange rate at banks farther from the airport, and as it was still too early for banking, I decided to walk as far as I could before banks opened. It skipped my mind that banks observe no hours at all on Sundays.

After watching the sun come up over the English countryside, I landed at Luton International Airport before 7:00 AM, and committed my first rookie error within minutes. I carried no British pounds, but had $600 in US Traveler’s Checks. (Note to those who grew up in the age of ATMs: These used to be a thing, allowing traveling Neanderthals to go to a bank and obtain cash.) I supposed a better exchange rate at banks farther from the airport, and as it was still too early for banking, I decided to walk as far as I could before banks opened. It skipped my mind that banks observe no hours at all on Sundays.

After watching the sun come up over the English countryside, I landed at Luton International Airport before 7:00 AM, and committed my first rookie error within minutes. I carried no British pounds, but had $600 in US Traveler’s Checks. (Note to those who grew up in the age of ATMs: These used to be a thing, allowing traveling Neanderthals to go to a bank and obtain cash.) I supposed a better exchange rate at banks farther from the airport, and as it was still too early for banking, I decided to walk as far as I could before banks opened. It skipped my mind that banks observe no hours at all on Sundays.

I had an address for a bed and breakfast in Earl’s Court, a mere 32 miles away. I had walked that far in a day previously so even after I realized my mistake, I was not concerned. I had hiked the high Sierras. I ran run cross country in high school and my first year of college. I’d run a marathon in Mexico. I once got my high school class to challenge the class just ahead of us to a contest to see which class could rack up the most total laps on a Saturday, and personally tallied 33 miles, so I set out on a beautiful sunny morning to walk to Earl’s Court. I probably walked past dozens of bed and breakfasts that would have served me well, but a friend had given me the address of the place he’d stayed in Earl’s Court.

First time travelers may be struck by the fact that a foreign country appears in the same colors as at home, but somehow looks different. I was pondering that when a car stopped and a young man offered me a ride. I gladly accepted, and obeyed his instructions to stow my rucksack in the boot. Do you know that the British drive on the wrong side of the road? They also seat the driver on the wrong side of the car. I had read about it, but now I saw this peculiarity verified.

When my benefactor learned that this was my first day in England, he decided to divert and show me some local Roman ruins. We had a most congenial time, and then he let me out to continue on my way. The countryside gradually gave way to industrial areas, and then brownstone residential areas, and then I was in Earl’s Court. I had successfully flown across an ocean, walked most of 32 miles, gotten some exercise (though not much to eat), met a native, seen some Roman ruins, and located a target address. I decided I ought to recount my safety and my successes in letters to Vicki and my parents.

Of course, I had no return address to offer them other than the bed and breakfast in Earl’s Court, and it would be two weeks for my letters to get to California and receive answers back (Note to those who grew up in the age of email and texting: Letters were a thing that allowed Neanderthals to communicate over long distances, albeit very slowly). On the plus side, those two weeks would allow me time to visit Ireland before continuing to France, where I would hunker down with my novel and the French language. I still entertained that objective.

A few thoughts from 50 years later:

After yesterday’s episode, I messaged with a high school friend who did her travel with the army, as a nurse, and though she did not go to Vietnam, the topic came up in our discussion. For my generation, it often will. For my cohort, our post-high-school years were either spent in Vietnam or trying to stay out of Vietnam, or maybe protesting in the streets over Vietnam.

Like many of my peers, I was conflicted about Vietnam. I loved my country and wanted to defend it, but questions nagged me about whether in Vietnam we were the good guys or the bad guys. I started college three days after high school, not because I wanted to avoid the draft (Note to those who grew up in the era of an all-volunteer army: It used to be that when the letter from the draft board arrived, you reported for military duty). In 1968, the best way to stay free of the draft was to stay in school. Although I did want to avoid the draft, my primary motivation for college was excitement about college. However, those first weeks, I buddied around with a friend who really wasn’t that excited about school. Toby dropped out, got drafted, and died standing in the boot camp breakfast line. A recruit standing behind him dropped his rifle.

After watching the sun come up over the English countryside, I landed at Luton International Airport before 7:00 AM, and committed my first rookie error within minutes. I carried no British pounds, but had $600 in US Traveler’s Checks. (Note to those who grew up in the age of ATMs: These used to be a thing, allowing traveling Neanderthals to go to a bank and obtain cash.) I supposed a better exchange rate at banks farther from the airport, and as it was still too early for banking, I decided to walk as far as I could before banks opened. It skipped my mind that banks observe no hours at all on Sundays.

The spring I was finishing up at community college and getting ready to transfer to UCLA, the employment office connected me with a middle aged veteran who needed a man Friday. Pat suffered from emphysema, due to an accident in the Air Force. He knew he was dying, and wanted to do so in Europe. My job would be to carry his oxygen tank, and then accompany his body home at the end. He would pay all of my expenses and a nice salary. Most importantly for me, it would be my longed-for trip overseas. I look back on that episode as the supreme test of my transition to adulthood. Going with Pat would mean I would have to cancel my plans for UCLA. Pat told me Sen. Cranston owed him some favors and could fix me up with the draft board. Although I didn’t want to go to Vietnam, I also didn’t want some politician pulling strings for me. I drove Pat to Cranston’s office, but the Senator had been called away that day. Pat was expecting a big check from the government, but I began to wonder if it was actually coming. Pat liked to brag about the friends he looked forward to seeing, but from his description, some of them impressed me as a little shady. He also talked about the girls he would be able to get me, and how they could move in with us. That wasn’t the kind of girlfriend I wanted. After investing five or six months in Pat’s dream, and as much as I wanted to see Europe, I realized that I wanted to be my own boss when I traveled. I told Pat I was going to UCLA. To have gone with Pat then would have traded away everything of value that I have today.

I remained timid and indecisive about the war. I took part in a few demonstrations, and wavered over the question of what to do if drafted. I could not imagine killing another human being. Maybe I would go in as a medic. Maybe I would go to Canada. Dying for my country was one thing, but what if our side was actually the bad guys? That would be worse than dying in the boot camp breakfast line.

One more friendship stands out: I had written a 500 page—typed, double spaced—murder mystery (Note to those who learned word processing at a computer key board: Word-working was once done at a manual instrument that left one’s fingers raw and swollen at the end of the writing day). I had alternated 12-hour writing days with days carting Pat around. UCLA had a novel writing contest that first quarter and my 500 pages lost to a Vietnam vet’s 30-page opening chapter. Brian Jones took his $5,000 prize, went home and beat up his wife. The prize went for her hospital costs and the divorce. Over the next two years that I had to get to know him, I watched the Man Who Had Everything slowly fall apart.

We did not understand PTSD in those days, nor PITS (Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress), a concept first described by Psychologist and Sociologist Rachel MacNair. As I heard MacNair present at a conference in 2019, and then driving the carpool back to our shared AirB&B, she put into words exactly what I sensed had happened to Brian Jones. Brian had been the All-American everything: football quarterback, Student Body President, going steady with the head cheer-leader. Then he had done the All-American thing to do in 1966; he joined the Marines. When I asked about his experience in Vietnam, he could only shrug and say, “I killed a lot of Gooks.” There is PTSD trauma that soldiers experience when bullets are flying and friends all around them are dying, but PITS kicks in when someone raised with high moral values must face that they have become a murderer. Within a few months of my return from Europe, Brian Jones drove a van full of marijuana over a cliff, while running from police.

I believe I have seen PITS twice more. For a while I was visiting and corresponding with an inmate on Death Row in San Quentin Prison. He had been convicted as a serial killer. Independent research brought me an account of a childhood murder-dismemberment (of his mother) in which he had been forced to participate. Every one of his murders had been a reenactment of that event.

And then, in helping a friend clean up after a tenant, I found the letter-to-herself of a woman whose life had spiraled down after an abortion. Her agony came out in one haunting line, “This is not who I am!”

In 1972, as I left for Europe, the United States was struggling with a similar disconnect. “This is not who we are!”