How I became a Liberal

My upbringing was, thinking back about it, a middle class life of unrecognized privilege. My earliest years were marked by my heart surgery when I was seven. Of course at that age, I didn’t even think about the strains it placed on my parents. This was back in 1969 when Health Care was not as big a deal (at least to me). I think my parents were offered financial assistance for the costs, but my dad wouldn’t even consider taking them up on it. $6,000 covered the two week hospital stay and the surgery (Aortic Co-Arctation – Dr. Malm at Presbyterian Hospital in New York, skillfully cut out part of my Aorta 7/14/69, setting me up for a full recovery, starting with the moon launch while in ICU 7/16/69, and wheel chair racing down the halls following).

Most of my grammar school days at St. Gen’s aka Genevieve’s were spent as any typically normal child. Stealing albums from my sister Jane, who has 3 years on me, and looking up to my brother Tom (+6 yrs), taking up a musical instrument to mirror him. My Uncle Stan bought me a ukelele (after buying Tom his first guitar) to start, but the guitar was my goal. By fifth grade I had saved enough from my summer job as a carnival barker on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. I bought my first guitar, a Guild Acoustic. I dragged that axe to the beach (and the boardwalk) about three times a day, In between, I listened to and learned to play those Eagle songs and Jackson Browne tunes from my sister’s records.

I recall in 1979, I went with Jane to Madison Square Garden to see J. Browne, Bruce (Spingsteen), and Linda Ronstadt in the No Nukes Concert.

In 1977, I took ‘ the Test’ for acceptance to Regis High School an all scholarship, all boys high school in NYC. I just took the test to see how I would do, but I was accepted and met many students who had some effect on the rest of this story. Many things about Regis have had profound impact on the rest of my life, but specifically, in junior year, I joined a program to tutor underprivileged, gifted kids, in the South Bronx. This was the bad, old days in NYC. Twice a week, for only one semester, I took the subway to some of the worst burned out neighborhoods in the city, walking an extra 6 blocks to the school, seeing addicts shooting up something, now I expect was heroine, this was before the Crack Cocaine epidemic. I later found out that one of my tutorees got accepted into Regis.

While most of my school mates were getting into Georgetown, Harvard, and Yale, I did not think much about college. When my parents finally put (light) pressure on me about school, I just applied to Rutgers, the state university without much thought.

At this time in my life I didn’t contemplate the import of learning, or how specific skills could lead me to any future I hadn’t even considered.

So, I attended Rutgers. Majored in Music and Chinese (to appease my dad, something other than music, he saw a future in China – 1980 – prescient I’d say) and minored in Business.

Freshman year was spent studying hard, getting stoned, and listening to music with my talented artist friend, Justin (and Dennis, my 2nd year roomie – now in Phoenix). (Justin is still a talented, Jersey artist who has expanded his skills to acupuncture and Chinese medicine)

Sophomore year, I reconnected with a Regian, in my music theory class. Barry was a real talker, with a graduate school level libido and no place to stay (commuting from Livingston). Barry was a very talented keyboardist. Driving his rusted, multi-color (early 70’s, my guess) Mustang, dubbed lovingly the ‘Scum-mobile’. Barry crashed most nights on the floor of my Sophomore year dorm room in Campbell Hall.

We started a band and recorded a demo (with his #1 Hit, “Die”) with engineer Les Hall, Jr. (son of the legend). Barry and Ferd, who worked digging graves at Barry’s brother’s graveyard in Kenilworth (band practice in the chapel after midnight), along with Ron (another guitarist, joined band), my best friend from freshman year , became my roommates . We 4 plus one other rented a small attic in New Brunswick, continued our studies and playing music. I heard later that Barry dropped dead on stage in Miami. (I guess he lived that song!)

After a less than stellar academic career (B avg.), I worked in NYC for a year. Without much forethought I followed my parents in their move to Dallas, Texas.

After getting a job with the company my dad worked for (A.Inc.), I started school again. This time, with a little more motivation, I enrolled in University of Texas at Arlington for my MBA, bought a house and started seeing Kym. She had two little ones in tow and I soon became a surrogate step-father to Kendall and Jess. Beside studying and working, I spent my time with Joe and John. Joe eventually became my employer, at his radio tower maintenance company. Our time was spent listening to country music and partying at their rented farm. Our weekend stress relief was spent on what we called Beer and Bullets parties. We would buy several cartons of shotgun shells for my Winchester shotgun, and a case each of Skeet and cheap beer. (I still have some hearing loss in my left ear)

1990 bought a major recession to Texas. Even with a Masters Degree, I could not get an interview, and business was bad. Kym and I decided I would look elsewhere for a job. She had some old connections to Colorado. I interviewed for a job in Colorado Springs, but Kym was unable (unwilling) to move because of the kids.

I moved to Colorado, alone, knowing no one, but soon fell into the mountain atmosphere that surrounded that town. I loved it. I was soon to discover mountain biking and hiking, were activities that I loved. I fondly remember my hike to the top of Pike’s Peak with my friends (crush), Mary (married Dario) and Buzz (Donald). I also got coaxed into taking the CMA (Certified Management Accountant) exam, having worked with a number of Certificate Achievers. I also met one of my longest term friends while there. Marcelo, from Texas, was an Army Cook at Fort Campbell. (A big Mexican dude, I’ll write about later, a Conservative Texan, gun carrying father to a newborn daughter. We intently disagree on politics. He can’t understand my liberalism as “I went to college and everything”. We played fantasy football from 1992-2016. For all his f’d up politics, I have mad props for his ethic of hard work and no hand-outs.)

I was then asked to move to San Francisco to work on a project to install a NEW manufacturing software product called Oracle. The project required long days for which I barely had the motivation. But rising to the ‘least’ required effort, I excelled at learning SQL, a programming language required to “plumb the depths” of the then slow running software. (BTW – This was when I was first introduced to the internet.). (I had a great, hardly used short term rental Apartment on Pearl St. just below the Mark Hopkins Hotel)

After SF, I was hired by Oracle as there were, at the time, very few cost accounting experts on their software platform. My initial engagement was in Quincy, IL at M. Inc., an animal feed manufacturer and distributor. For two years, I lived in the Holiday Inn on the banks of the Mississippi River and returned to Denver on the weekends mainly to do laundry.

This is where I really learned the ins-and-outs of Oracle Manufacturing software and developed my disciplined approach to SQL/Oracle customization. This paid off in spades when I drew my next engagement with MT, Inc. in France.

Anyway, after my engagement in Quincy for M. Inc., I was offered an engagement in France. Here I was, a young single guy, 32 years old, ready for an adventure. My home office in Denver was happy to send me off and bill for my time. My time at Oracle was largely unsupervised. I had bosses that checked in on me from time to time, but as long as the client was happy (I made myself indispensable very quickly) then I was untouchable. And I spent the next 3 years split between France, UK, and sometimes Belgium.

After Europe, I transitioned back to the states by working for M., Inc. North America.

See Other Article Under ECLE Heading “My Time in Europe and Back”. When I started to recall all the memories from my time in Europe, the section I was writing brought back so many memories. I thought these were interesting enough and I envision a longer account with many more details. Even now, I am remembering other details from my time in Quincy, IL.