In California toward the end of World War II. The fish is a bass.
Behind Frank Bardacke on the steps of Sproul Hall, UC Berkeley, an anti-war rally, perhaps late 1965, before longer hair. That's Steve Weissman with the beard also to the left of Bardacke and farther back. (Here is Bardacke in 1969, lecturing the National Guard.)
Sailing on San Francisco Bay with my "Gulf Weed" ketch. Notice the position of the tiller – sign of a well-balanced boat, made for easy sailing rather than speed.
Someone else on board is watching for other boats.
Born in Los Angeles, December 1933, the son of a Beverly Hills automobile mechanic who rarely read anything – newspapers or books. Mother's only literary interest was the Bible.
Bored at Burbank Senior High School. Joined the Marine Corps. Voice radio operator, to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines in Korea in June, 1952. Assigned to Easy Company. After five months, selected for telegraphy school back at division headquarters. A telegrapher with the 1st Battalion. Stationed for awhile at Kaneohe Bay and Camp Pendleton. Part-time duty as a rifle instructor. Left the Marine Corps at age twenty.
Was homeless for a couple of months or so. Must have been traumatic because it is still my basic bad dream.
January 1, 1955, left Los Angles for Mexico City on my Triumph 650 motorcycle. In September enrolled at Glendale Junior College.
In the fall of 1957 journeyed from Los Angeles to Mexico City by bicycle and bus with my friend Tom Hagerty. After one month in Mexico City worked my way to Texas and across South to the Florida Keys, where I began working on a shrimp boat. Jailed in Mississippi when just passing through. Released after one month. Ran through snowstorm on deserted freeway between New York City and Chicago.
In 1960 was one of ten passengers on a Norwegian freighter from New York to Antwerp. Invited to homes in Mannheim and Oldenburg, Germany. Youth hostels and trains through France. Youth hostels in Spain. Lost passport. Sneaked into and out of Switzerland. Returned to the United States, from Antwerp to New Orleans, as a wiper on U.S. freighter.
Late in 1960 was living in Venice California. Met on Santa Monica beach a Swedish woman three years older than I: Margit. She was ebullient around people she knew well, and she enjoyed swimming naked in the ocean after midnight, with me holding her clothing on a deserted portion of Venice beach.
Was driving a Yellow Cab out of the Beverly Hills garage. Late in 1961 was in northern California, working for two or three months as a laborer for the Union Oil Company, prospecting for oil, living in a two-room second house on a farm near the town of Corning. With me were Margit and a buddy from the Marine Corps, ex-sergeant Donald Ritchie, from Missouri – a Korean War vet with a bronze star who had moved to the Los Angeles area after leaving the Corps. Vietnam was making the news, and I ranted against U.S. support for the Diem regime. Don was a segregationist and we disagreed about that, but he agreed with me about Vietnam and was to continue to be against U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Margit was not interested in anything political.
Back in the L.A. area Iwas living with Margit for awhile in the valley and for awhile in Santa Monica, and then back in Venice. Was in conflict with my father, who was opposed to my living with a woman while not married. He was unfriendly to Margit, who tried greeting him with her usual friendliness. His attitude surprised me. The two of us were hardly speaking until his death in 1962, and I did not attend his funeral. Smoking killed him at the age of fifty-five.
Marched with Linus Pauling against nuclear testing. Marched in civil rights demonstrations. Entered UCLA as a junior majoring in sociology. Was reading Halberstam who was writing for the New York Times from Vietnam, and I complained about Vietnam at a meeting of campus Young Democrats. Was in sociology statistics class when instructor told us of Kennedy having been shot. Classes on campus were dismissed.
I had become friends with young Communists. Ideologically they were committed to activism – the civil rights movement – rather than just talking about it. The Communist Party leader, Dorothy Healey, was giving me attention and flattery. I earned a few dollars working around the home of Dorothy and her mother. It was the Khrushchev era in the Soviet Union, and not long after Sputnik. I was anti-Stalinist but believed that the Soviet Union had suffered a lot during World War II and would advance faster economically than the U.S. I believed that the Soviet Union would liberalize, as it eventually did with the "Prague Spring" before that was crushed by the Soviet Union, and as it would later under Gorbachev – but naively I expected it to remain socialist.
Healey believed in class struggle and looked forward to Marxism-Leninism for the U.S., but she also believed in diversity of opinion within the Party, in human rights, democracy and a people's right to self-determination. It seemed a oversimplification to accuse her of advocating the violent overthrow of the government. The Marxist argument was that overthrow of the government would take place only if the government ended elections. The Party knew that to win power it would need majority public support and that in a democracy people will vote for you before they will pick up a gun for you. They knew that revolution by violence succeeded only where there wasn't democracy. Lenin himself had denounced putchism. By chacterizing Party
Bt Dorthy and I did not think alike. She blamed Bertrand Russell's anti-Bolshevism on his epistemology and his class rather than on what he observed back in 1920 to be a religious-like dogmatism among the Bolsheviks – not the scientific approach that Marx aspired to. I liked Russell's epistemology and his writings. Blaming his position on his aristocratic origins seemed absurd. I told Dorothy that I disliked the content of the speech she gave to students at UCLA, a speech that had attracted a lot of media and student attention. Eventually she and I argued, she with her characteristic feistiness. She told me that my friendliness with her mother was "unnatural" and that she didn't want me to return. The FBI had been listening to our arguments. They approached me and asked if I would inform for them. I declined, and to punish me they visited my mother and told her of my associations.
A man I respected among the Communists in Los Angeles was Ben Dobbs, an old union man and vice-chairman of the Party for the Los Angeles area. From him I never heard an irrational word. He was without pretense or posturing. He too was what I would call a liberal Communist – surely anti-Stalinist.
I was annoyed with upper division sociology. I believed it was too abstract, sometimes so abstract as to say very little – as in a huge volume by Talcott Parsons. I was more interested in historical context and specificity, but I doubted that because of my politics I would ever be able to teach history or otherwise benefit from a degree.
Became interested in an eighteen year-old junior at UCLA – Wendy. Worked to elect Lyndon Johnson as an alternative to Barry Goldwater. By December 1964 I had drifted away from my association with Dorothy Healey and her Party. Wendy transferred to Berkeley and I joined her there in January, sharing the upper floor of a Victorian house with three other students. She was interested in joining the Communist Party, and I talked her out of it.
In June she wanted to marry – rather than return home for the summer, where she thought she was treated like a child. I was not interested in marriage. During the summer I motored on a salmon boat from Moro Bay to Bodega Bay. Fished out of Bodega Bay, leaving every morning at five, and caught no fish. Returned to Berkeley in September and found that Wendy had married someone else.
Was reading French historians on Vietnam. In the fall of 1965, With the approval of Mike Delacore (who was running the day to day operations) I wrote leaflets and a pamphlet for the Vietnam Day Committee. I became one of two persons for the Berkeley anti-war movement whose job was liaison with the international press. The leader of the VDC, Jerry Rubin, asked me to represent the Vietnam Day Committee at a debate at local television station. I declined. I hadn't been attending the negotiations between Oakland city officials and the Vietnam Day Committee and was poorly informed about the legal issues regarding the planned anti-war march through Oakland to the local army base.
Hundreds of people were active with the Vietnam Day Committee, many of them associated with the university and some had been articulate spokespersons in the Free Speech and Civil Rights movements (the two shouldn't be separated). My old friend Tom Hagerty arrived from Chicago and found a crowded VDC headquarters with nobody who knew my name or where I could be found. I was probably in one of the campus libraries. I was a humble unknown to anti-war activists accept to Jerry Rubin and Mike Delacour and a couple of friends, which was appropriate.
The FBI knew who I was and was watching, but an agent describing my activities described my blue eyes as brown. The soon to be Attorney General of California, under Governor Reagan, was to declare to a Congressional committee that I was one of two persons sent from Southern California to radicalize Berkeley – a comical assertion.
For you who oversimplify what was going on with the anti-war movement, Jerry Rubin explained to me, as an aside in our conversation, his hostility to Marxism.
Homeless at the time, I was the one person who slept on the floor of the Victorian house used by the Vietnam Day Committee as headquarters. This was on the first floor in the back room, with a rear door. A bomb was placed under that room the one night I was away at a party. The building was destroyed. Of course, there had been government agent spies among us – as we discovered years later – including one who was a Berkeley policeman with whom I had been working closely and whom I had rather liked as a person. Maybe the bomber or bombers were aware of my sleeping there and were kind enough to strike when they knew I was away.
Officially I was still a student in the University of California system, and I was working on campus for the education department, running copy machines. I continued writing for the anti-war movement, including conferring with graduate students in Far Eastern studies.
My interest in war and history turned to World War I. I was using the library card of a graduate student friend for research in the campus libraries. I was also sitting in on some history classes that interested me, without credit, and attending special lectures, while continuing to work for the education department.
In November 1966, I traveled to Tangiers on a Yugoslav passenger ship – more stingy with the food than the Norwegian freighter had been. From Tangiers I went by ferry to Spain, then hitchhiked across southern France, northern Italy and entered Yugoslavia on foot. I took a train to Belgrade and then to Greece and ended up on the island of Hydra. I took a ship from Piraeus to Haifa. Worked on a kibbutz. Returned to Berkeley and my job on campus.
Because of me, my brother had lost his security clearance. He was working for TRW, on satellite something or other. My brother had a lot of integrity and on those rare occasions that I ran into him at my mother's he said nothing about what he did concerning satellites or anything else. Later a movie was made about a couple of young spies at TRW, the movie titled the Falcon and the Snowman.
At parties I met grad students studying history. For dissertations they were obliged to be original and were focusing on narrow subjects. I was too fascinated by the whole of history and doing research on President Johnson and writing a book in preparation for the 1968 presidential elections.
Johnson announced that he would not be running for president. I gave up on the book. In the spring, I left a friend working in my place at the education department and took Icelandic Airways to Luxembourg. Visited Germany. Stayed with friend and family for one month in Sweden. Obtained a visa for Soviet Union in Stockholm. Returned to Germany, through CheckPoint Charley to East Germany. From East Germany to Czechoslovakia. Marched with demonstrators against the Russians, the demonstrators carrying signs reading "Eto nasha dyelo" (It's our business, leave us alone.) Entered Poland, where I lived in a dormitory at Warsaw University. Among the students I heard complaints about their communist government. A government or Communist Party agent complained to my friend there that I was an anarchist. What an insult!
I took my laundry to a state-run shop in downtown Warsaw. The service was frenzied, scowling and they treated me as through I were a nuisance.
Visited Maidanek concentration camp near the Polish city of Lublin. From Warsaw I traveled to Moscow, where I stayed four days. My ballpoint pen ran out of ink. Looked all over Moscow for a pen to buy and found none. Tried to buy a pen from a couple of secretaries and with scowls they refused. At the Moscow train station, just before boarding I found a ballpoint cartridge under glass with other items for sale. Bought the cartridge. From Moscow traveled to the Pacific via the TransSiberian railway, keeping notes with my ballpoint cartridge without a holder.
It appeared to me that the Soviet Union's socialism was not the engine of economic advancement that I thought it had been back in the days of Sputnik. And I saw no sign that fifty years of Communist Party rule had improved humanity in the Soviet Union. But I continued to respect the effort and suffering of Soviet peoples during World War II.
By Soviet passenger ship I went to Yokohama, and I stayed four months in Japan. What a delight Japan was after the Soviet Union. The benefits of free enterprise were obvious. There were little shops with friendly people everywhere. I stayed in a youth hostel in the Otsuka district, and I stayed a couple of weeks at Lake Akan in Hokkaido, hobnobbing with artists who were selling their wares to tourists. Spent one month in Kyoto. I was in Hiroshima for a week, including August 6. Visited hospitalized victims of the atomic blast.
Returned to Berkeley and my job with the education department in Tolman Hall. In 1969, I returned to Japan for two months. From Tokyo to Guam and the island of Yap. Was asked by a local leader to stay on the island and teach English to students. Declined and returned to Berkeley.
The Japanese had delighted me in '68 and '69, but I realized more than before how American I was. I did not want to try to be Japanese and I preferred to live in the United States. The woman I had been with in Berkeley in 1966-67 had been a Japanese citizen. I saw her for the last time in Tokyo in 1969. My next companion was a third generation Japanese-American, Sansei. America was just as much in her as it was in me.
I learned that Dorothy Healey had objected to the Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia and had left or been expelled from the Communist Party. Old friends of hers who had stayed in the party castigated her for her position – the kind of wooden thinking that Bertrand Russell had objected to. Healey joined the New America Movement (NAM), an acronym that fit with the anti-war movement.
In June 1972 I traveled through Mexico and Guatemala. Took an old bus that broke down in the jungle on the way to the Maya ruins. From Tikal I journeyed to Belize. From Belize I traveled north by bus along the coast to Mexico and then back to Berkeley.
My Japanese-American companion threw me over. I had an explosive relationship with an aggressive woman about to get her Ph.D. at age 21. There were others, but I was relationship oriented and didn't like one-night stands. Soon I was seeing a graduate student studying psychology and already working as a psychotherapist. We seldom talked psychology and I never attended the group therapy sessions she led. I disagreed with her, believing a psychotherapist might do well by trying to impart values to a patient. She graduated and went to work outside California.
Belately I was disgusted by what China's cultural revolution was doing to people. I was a slow learner. I disliked how Europe's "proletariat" revolutions had treated people of the middle and upper classes. I had come to favor change that respected everyone's basic freedoms, regardless of class. (I didn't believe that the progressive income tax was a violation of a right to one's own property.)
In April 1973 I flew to London and back. I was planning to build a sailboat. For years I had been reading about sailing and voyages to the South Pacific. I met a woman who was on the verge of receiving her doctorate who wanted to travel with me, but she was from a respectable, conservative family in Korea and said that such a voyage alone with man to whom she was not married was out of the question. Moreover, she bought the boat necessary for the trip – a Gulfweed ketch, gaff-rigged, with a square sail for sailing before the wind, a boat made for thirty-knot winds and the sudden squalls that come up in the Gulf of Mexico. We married in August. We motored the boat from Santa Barbara to Monterey Bay. We sailed San Francisco Bay on weekends. I was no longer working for the university.
Got a call from an old friend, one of the three women students Wendy and I shared a flat with in Berkeley. She told me Wendy had been working as an organizer for the AFL-CIO in Philadelphia and had died of encephalitis – apparently after having been bitten by a mosquito. One our other roommates I learned became psychotic. She was charming and bright. Her boyfriend had talked her into taking LSD and, as I understand it, she was one of those who should not have touched it. (I never touched the stuff and remain hostile toward Timothy Leary.)
Wife and I flew to Hawaii. A week later we flew to American Samoa, then to Western Samoa for a couple of weeks, from there to Tokyo and an extended stay in Seoul and Pusan in Korea. I was amazed at how different Korea was from when I saw it in 1952-53.
I wrote an article on South Korea that included atrocities committed by South Korean government forces early during the Korean War. An editor for the New York Times said kind things about the article and suggested I send it to someone else. Wife was not at all politically radical.
For appearance sake my wife wanted me to have at least a BA degree. The cost of attending the University of California at Berkeley had skyrocketed. California State University, East Bay, was an hour's drive from Berkeley and within my budget. I worked teaching English to immigrants and visiting students from Japan.
In June 1977 I graduated from Cal State Hayward. We could afford no more schooling. A professor tried to get some kind of financial backing for me for graduate study at his Alma Mater, Stanford University. It did not happen. Instead I went to work in Silicon Valley, and I burned my work on 20th century history in order to avoid the temptation of working on it.
My wife always beat me in scrabble although English was not her native language. I enjoyed her intelligence. With her I also bonded. She was strong-willed, which was okay with me, but we had temperament problems. When I went to work in Palo Alto she continued living in Berkeley around her close friends, and we drifted apart. I backed out of buying a house in Palo Alto with her, for $79,000. By the year 2000 it was going for $750,000.
She was the only woman I knew who was interested in my writing. She continued urging me to write while I continued focusing on making money.
In 1982 I quit my job as a senior technical writer. i wrote manuals for Karkar Electronics that were sold to MCI Communications and Litton Industries, users of Karkar equipment. The manuals were highly praised. MCI Communications, I was told, paid about $100,000 for its manual, about six times my wages during the time that I wrote it.
I was making money trading stock options – derivatives – shorting what my homemade charts told me were the foolish plays of others and pulling in about 20 percent annual profit. When the market started rising in 1983, I pulled out, not trusting what seemed to me the market's new volatility
In 1983 I moved to Hilo, Honolulu, and then to Seattle. In 1984, while living in Seattle, I found in the local newspaper an ad by Microsoft for an editor. I sent them my resume and they did not respond. Maybe the writing I had found in a Microsoft manual that I criticized in my letter to Microsoft annoyed the person selecting the new editor. Too bad. A generation of secretaries stuggling with Microsoft software would have been spared more frustration. I wonder who was in charge of Microsoft's publication department.
In 1985 my divorce became final – accomplished without lawyers.
In 1985 traveled to Mexico City and then to Nicaragua and by taxi from Managua to Costa Rica.
In 1986 I moved to downtown Oakland California. I was interested in chance, odds and disciplined money management at horseracing. Wrote basic computer program for collecting data on a hundred kinds of horses based on their racing histories, to be matched with other horses in a particular race, producing odds for each horse, odds to be compared with the odds that bettors were creating, for the purpose of finding odds that were a bargain. A good idea, but I hated going to the track. It was a waste of time.
In 1987 Began writing in order to burn the history books I was reading into my brain. It stays with you better than passive reading. It was a return to work on history that would last more years than it should take to go from BA to Ph.D.
In 1988 my mother died. Or was it 1989?
In 1989 began working as a resident apartment manager, by Oakland's Lake Merritt, getting free rent and a modest salary. I had time to read and write every day. Turned a building that had had a high turnover and vacancy rate to one with a less than one- percent vacancy rate.
1989 to 1995: Continued working as a resident apartment manager. In June, 1995, moved from Berkeley to Kentucky to help friend recovering from a head-on collision. Began using the University of Kentucky library and the city of Lexington public library. Berkeley was a good place for me to do research in the sixties and early seventies, but Lexington was much better for me in the nineties. For two months worked weekends cleaning robotic machinery at the Toyota plant in nearby Georgetown. In December, 1995, turned 62 and took early retirement, living off of a modest monthly Social Security check while continuing to work full time on history, which has occupied me to the present.
1997: Move near the university in Athens Ohio.
2005: Moved to the quiet of 1,300 acres of woods. Five months later moved to central Ohio for company and good high-speed internet access.
For the scratchy beginnings of a detailed story about the Southern California that my mother and I grew up in, click here.