I have tried to place enough information here to give you some insight about me, but I am afraid much of it sounds like bragging, or at least it does to me. But its really hard to get some of the information out there and when my wife saw me writing this tonight her response was, you left this out and that out. But its not an autobiography, and I have no real wish to make it so. Its more of a quick and short outline of some quick and short impressions that really don't do justice about the buffeting I have had in life and some of the short but important aspects in life. I suppose like any novel, its the ending that justifies the beginning. Its long, but what the hell, at least its something. So here goes:
My Life, a synopsis
My early life was one of privilege. I born in Berlin Germany in a very well to do family and was extremely comfortable physically. My father was always elsewhere working in Asia mostly, so most of younger years were spent with my mother and grandmother in our home in Berlin. To me Berlin is one of those great and tragic cities in the world that held a greatness that still echoes today. It was the cultural center of Europe at the beginning of the 20th century and I would hear my grandfather (grandmothers second husband) tell me all of the stories about cultural life and the influences of artists and writers that preferred Germany’s open culture to some of the more stodgy cities (including Paris). I went to a private school that was specifically for the well off and had the best of a multicultural upbringing. The school was a boarding school for the upper class in which roommates rotated and I had Arabic, French, and American companions that were counted as my friends (some I still keep in touch with). My father was mostly in Asia working for the state department. He spoke and I believe wrote several Asian dialects and spoke them fluently. I do know he spoke Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese. He learned German in roughly 30 days to date my mother, he was smitten. I wish I had my fathers proclivity for languages, it certainly would have made for a more interesting life with different opportunities.
A bit about my father, who I did not know well at all until my 12th birthday. He was born of poorer stock than my mothers family (that will be the greatest understatement of this thread). In the Appalachian hills, he was the seventh son of the seventh son in a family that bore two sets of twins, eleven children total. In that region there were two options, the military, or the coal mine. At 15 he lied about his age to get into the military and out of the coal mine because his official learning stopped at 15 so he could bring in income to his family. He joined just in time for the Korean conflict and was actually part of the battalion that had made it to the Yalu river before hundreds of thousands of Chinese crossed that frozen river causing the largest retreat in the history of the US. One thing he did do during those years was pick up Korean, and quickly. To such an extent that he was quickly pulled from the normal ranks and given “different” responsibilities. He was sent to a special school in California during those years for intense learning in languages and excelled at these. Later he became one of the original Vietnam advisors before the army began moving in after the Tet offensive. Later he worked with Kissinger on the China talks, still in the military but assigned to assist the diplomatic corps. I bring this up for two reasons, I am incredibly proud of my father, and it would also cause a schism in the family.
By the way, dad was a died in the wool communist, loyal to his country but sure that workers would one day tire of oppression and rise up to kick the bastards out. He had good reason for feeling that way. Unions allowed a jump in pay in that region of VA. Pay was approximately ten cents an acre of coal dug, and not just dug, but useable coal. Unions raised that to a ton of mined coal. Coal companies were very hard on families, they stole the land (some of which has been tied up in litigation for almost 100 years), they oppressed the attempts at collective bargaining and company stores kept a certain level of servitude and indebtedness that created a type of serfdom for the area. My mothers family never knew that part of him, it was not politic to speak of such things in mixed company.
Anyway upon my 11th birthday my father decided it was time for us to go to America next year (I had been there before but only for a short time and never to meet my fathers family). In that year I ran away from home with my cousin to Morocco which actually got Interpol involved because at that time Germany suffered from the Baadar Meinhof gang and other East German sponsored terrorist groups. I don’t think I was ever in worse trouble with my father then than ever before or after, he actually flew back from Asia.
So here goes this city boy, who also wore leather britches as an optional fashion statement, among what could only be called the cast of “Deliverance”. My first month there I was beat up too many times, for making a better grade in school, for talking funny (I had an accent then), for looking funny, for being a momma’s boy, and so on. I was taken “snipe” hunting where I did not get back for well over a day, and I was beaten up because I thought I was better than they were (that part was true). Finally I toughened up, lost my accent, and learned how to be “one of the guys”. I learned to hunt, shoot, make moonshine, listen and appreciate old time bluegrass and our Sunday mornings were spent listening to Gospel Sing on a TV that got one channel if we were lucky. Gospel Sing was a variety show for blue grass music that was sponsored by the “Huff Cook” funeral home which wanted to put the fun back in funeral (that was a slogan they did use, especially for those partial to Irish wakes).
Dad went back to the mines, but this time with an eye for representing the unions. I learned more about reading and analyzing union contracts at that time than I dare say most negotiators knew. Certainly more than the Union President at the time. Sam Church was a tobacco chewing good old boy that wore bib overalls but couldn’t negotiate himself out of a traffic ticket much less a strike, I think that was a low point for the UMWA. Years later my father was one of the key supporters for Trumka. He regrets the UMWA joining with the AFL CIO though because he considers the organization corrupt, and with reason.
Dinner at our house was always cold. Physically and emotionally. My father always maintained we could say anything we wanted to, but we had better damn well back it up with some facts. Our mother was of the same nature, though her method was infinitely more manipulative. So we kept an updated set of the encyclopedia Brittanica next to the dinner table ready for a quick reference. I wanted to beat my father so badly that I began reading the entire set of secondary encyclopedias we kept upstairs for our homework, to this day I remember it, World Scope encyclopedia. Not of the level Brittanica had but still a good read for a little kid of 13. Surprisingly enough I learned that Bill and Hillary Clinton raised their child in much the same way.
At sixteen my parents divorced. The difference between an aristocratic (and manipulative mother) and an intelligent but cold and distant father was too wide for them to work out. The divorce was acrimonious with my father yelling and stern and my mother manipulating us children with both guilt and anger. My brothers were really too young to do anything about it, but I wasn’t. I went to court to become an emancipated youth. Both my parents thought I would soon see how “tough” the world was and return to them. They felt that when I returned humbled I would be more “pliable” to one or the other. As an emancipated youth I had no rights to support from either parent and the judge stated that he would watch both my well being and grades (a small VA town the judge knew both my parents). I never looked back, got an apartment, barely made enough to live on, and more than once skipped a few meals to make ends meet. The rent had to be paid and I would turn off the electricity so that I could cover that. It was tough but doable.
Ideologically I was a dyed in the wool true blue socialist, an acceptable word in Germany and the US, Keynes was the god of all that was good in economics and that is what I felt at the time. The University of VA was an excellent starting place for me, and one in which my father suffered his greatest disappointment. He wanted me to apply at West Point, he certainly had the connections and it was all arranged (pretty much without my knowledge) including the signatures of two US senators. I turned it down and went my own way again. He didn’t talk to me for about three years after that. We have long since reconciled, however I think it was a personal embarrassment to him that I turned it down. Whenever I want his silence I would bring up the incident and he would storm out to leave me alone.
Side bar: My brothers and I were built and raised understanding the military. In our youth my father played war games with me and my brothers, not army, that’s too simple (he did track us through the woods though for picnics, I only lost him once in about four years of these games). Our war games were strategic, he would posit a brushfire, which at that time was a term for limited military engagement between US and Soviet satellites. Then, he would escalate and we would have to respond, that included how, and with what forces. We had a ping table sized relief map of the world and we were expected to know the rough political and economic situation of most of the countries, it’s a habit three of us brothers still keep up (the youngest was too young to play) and never really caught up.
I later dropped out of college for a while and ended up in South America. I worked, among other things as a professional guide for archeologists and geologists. I have seen pirates try to steal containers from river boats, seen a few shrunken heads, traveled across passes that were at 19,000 and 20,000 feet, seen ruins and hung out at “Vic’s American Bar” in Cuzco to get jobs (Vic has an interesting story). The Amazonian and Andean regions of that area were incredible to view, but I quickly went from being a wide eyed American to becoming a somewhat cynical and scarred (not literally, just sometimes) man who looked at life with a somewhat less than savory view. Part of my time down there was during the Falklands (Malvinas if you were anywhere other than Chile) War. More than once I was arrested on a pretext, or attacked because simultaneously the Sendero Luminoso was powerful and considered unstoppable. It is there that I also began questioning the ability of socialism to truly meet the needs of the people. They weren’t being met and I helped bury more than one child that died due to some bureaucratic stupidity. It is something I will share some other day.
Upon returning to the United States I was older, bolder and somewhat colder. I think at that time I had been in the full fledge of my father’s strong personality but also my mothers ability to manipulate. In a way it is sad because guilt is the first emotion that is thrown upon the wayside when you are that way. Right and wrong cease to be the real issues, rather what the outcome is what the means are based upon. I used that ability surprisingly well to get a scholarship to finish my education and also develop a more comfortable life in California. Not well off but comfortable. I finished my degree in International Business and Finance with a minor in Spanish. I then continued my education and produced a thesis on Chilean economics which was the final denoumont of Socialism for me. After reading Milton Freidman and Hayek, and comparing their outlooks to Marx and Keynes I truly feel the economic systems are better left less tampered with, and Chile is a great example of that position. During my college years I met my wife who kindled in me a remembrance of what I had hoped for when I was younger. She could have had a number of people who to this I believe were more desireable than I was, but I think she saw me as a charity case for this life. Everyday I look forward to not disappointing her, she and my children are the light of my life.
I rose fairly rapidly in corporate America using both my international connections and education to rise from manager of an import export firm, to general manager of in trading company to international controller to CFO specializing in mergers and acquisitions. I made enough off stock options and investments that I could retire by 39. Which I did. I then obtained a masters in education and became credentialed and now I teach in an inner city high school. I work with the mock trial students and the academic decathlon. I say with pride that our mock trial students made it to the top 16 schools in orange county, and we did it by having a good time too.
Stats: One wonderful wife 40 this Saturday (I will buy her a cane) A beautiful daughter 11 A handsome son 7 And a younger daughter 3
Life is good.
Selected scene from my life’s DVD (a bonus feature)
It was 3 AM and my friends and I had just left the English pub and were making our way back to our pension. As we passed the Guatemalan embassy I commented “You know they never take that flag down. Rain or shine, its pretty disrespectful.”
Swantee (from the Netherlands) said “Why don’t you just do something about it”.
I smiled, “I was hoping you’d say that. Whats the bet?”
“Lets bet big, two dollars you can’t get the flag”
“A big bet, but I will want cooperation”
“What do you want done?”
“Distraction in the front”.
I said “You know they might shoot you”.
“Oh they’d shoot you first. You’re the one going after the flag” and he trotted off around the front.
So he threw one of the beer bottles we were carrying home against the wall of the embassy and shouted obscenities in Flemish, French and Spanish (should we call it affirmative action?). The dogs were barking at the fence and the guards came to the front, all of them.
I climbed the fence and was almost to the pole when I set off a censor. Lights came on in back, I had the time to pull the flag down (a good 8+ feet long) cut the rope and run just as the dobermans rounded the corner. As I pulled myself over the fence one dog grabbed my pant leg and ripped it.
“See” Swantee said “they didn’t shoot me. But now I owe you two dollars.”
“Yeah,” I smiled “those two dollars should just about cover a pair of jeans”.
A motto I have always tried to live for in the first half of my life:
quote:Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win great triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
Great post. I remember my brother reading our old copy of the World Book encyclopedia for much the same reasons (the newer Brittanica was kept in the living room). Perhaps it's an oldest son thing. Wonderful post.
[This message has been edited by Bob the Lawyer (edited December 17, 2002).]
Thank you for posting this! You have certainly lived a full life.
It is always interesting to hear of the circumstances behind a change in ideology. One certainly knows where one is coming from when one has been on both sides of the fence. Congratulations on all that you have experienced, and on your family.
I would love to hear details of your running away story...without glamorizing it for our younger members. It sounds interesting--most people don't get so far.
What did you do for a living while you were living on your own as a teenager?
I too had an encyclopedia that I used to read, given to me used by my grandmother's church friends. I didn't have my father as an excuse, I was just a geek.
quote:In that year I ran away from home with my cousin to Morocco which actually got Interpol involved because at that time Germany suffered from the Baadar Meinhof gang and other East German sponsored terrorist groups. I don’t think I was ever in worse trouble with my father then than ever before or after, he actually flew back from Asia.
I didn't realize just how interesting you are.
I'm jealous of some of your crazier escapades.
Glad to see you've mellowed a bit.
Mrs. Baldar deserves much more than a cane this Saturday! Unless of course it's used to keep you in line!
Wow... no wonder you always have so many random facts at your fingertips. I always learn a lot from your other forum posts even if I disagree. Thank you for sharing a bit of your life with us. My father grew up in Germany because my grandfather was in Army Intelligence. He was US born, spoke German with a Swiss accent because he grew up in Berne, IN and was also a chaplain. I know he went on covert missions in what was then East Germany, but that is about it. The intelligence community is so small I wonder if your father and my grandfather knew each other?
You know, it's kind of funny that from anyone else, I would've considered this entire thing a fabrication, but reading it just explains so much about you (and I mean that in every positive sense you can think of), that it just "fits."
Of all the places you've mentioned, the only one I've been to outside the US is Cuzco, and that as a tourist. I can't imagine trying to make a living there as an outsider. The Shining Path seemed to sort of be in charge (if not of Cuzco itself, of all the territory around it) and you are right that the existence there seemed pretty miserable and meager for most of the regular folks. I chalked it up to persistence of colonialist attitudes in Peru (seemed that the really poor were all indios -- the more European you looked, the better off you were). But I traveled with the typical tourist's ignorance of what was really going on behind the scenes.
I don't remember Vics, but then we probably would've avoided it if it's the kind of place I'm imagining from your hints...
Do you travel back to any of the places you knew in your younger days?
I bet you are a GREAT teacher. Probably not sought after by slackers, I would imagine.
Anyway, thanks for sharing that post with us. It was riveting.
Its not a question of being a wimp. It is more a question of opportunity. Opportunity that resides unfortunately in not having close and caring parents, never being impressed when one should be by the adults around you, and growing up too fast with too little memories of a carefree youth. In a way you might consider Lex Luthors father an amalgamation of both of my parents, stern Darwinian in their attitudes towards raising their children. This lead to some unique situations.
I think I would give it all up if I could have had parents that went out and played ball with me, or helped me with my homework, or perhaps parents whom I felt I could confide in. You might say it warps you when you don't have those outlets. More than a few here would agree that I am warped.
Would you? Would you really? (directed to everyone)
That is a good question. Would you give up fleeting adventure and experience and excitement for being wrapped up in warmth and love and understanding you could trust?
I know I would. In fact, I have. I was thinking the other day of stupid and faintly unethical things done for love, and while moshing at a KMFDM concert dressed in Goth and continuing to write letters long after common sense said to let go top the humiliating list, the little things have shaped my life more.
However, the offer of love in return for comprimise isn't a true bargain. Someone who wanted you to give up every thought but of them and those they approved of in exchange for their devotion isn't capable of giving the kind of love you can trust anyway.
Warped in a wonderfully interesting way, Baldar.
You know, I have never been a big fan of prescriptions for child-rearing. I believe (with good reason, I think) that the world needs individuals who aren't "the norm." And that many of these people who excell in our world were often raised by parents who just didn't do it according to the book of standard practices for their time.
In fact, although I would never say this in an open forum, there's a good argument AGAINST all this "protect the children" from every bad influence stuff that passes for evidence of family values in America these days.
The problem is, I suppose, that for every Baldar we get, we probably run the risk of getting someone with more warlike ambitions of conquest...
You aren't planning to take over the world for your midlife crisis are you?
When you marry you do give up much. Independence, desire of the one for desire of the two. Whenever we love we inherently compromise ourselves and our feelings for others.
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Baldar, thank you so much for sharing your life with us. I'm with Bob -- I wouldn't have believed this from anyone else, but it's certainly possible to see (at least in hindsight) that these experiences could make you into the person we know (sorta) today. However, it's also easy to see how the same experiences could have made you a very different person, depending on how you handled them. Warped as you are, I'm glad you are the you we know.
I was lucky enough to have parents that went out and played ball with me, who helped me with my homework, in whom I felt I could confide. There have been fleeting times when I think I would have given that up for more security now -- but your story is the kind of thing that reminds me how glad I never had the chance to make that choice. I may be unemployed in two more days, but it will be a happy two days, and a happy however-long after that. I'll get another job eventually -- or there's still that SuperLotto possibility. At some point I'll be able to retire, but until that time and beyond it, I will have joy with my wife and children, and I'm glad that you will, too.
Happy 5,000 to you, and happy birthday to your wife. And if you want those "more years with a feeling [you] have with [your] wife," I'd recommend getting her something other than (or in addition to) a cane.
Finally found the gift for both of us, subscribing for a year at the Orange County Light Opera and The South Coast Repretory. There should some great plays in there (including two of my favorites from Shakespeare).
Posts: 6449 | Registered: Dec 2001
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I don't know if anybody will remember this, but awhile back I believe it was you, Baldar, who started a thread about some preacher who crashed a funeral and started slandering the corpse. The thread title included that "putting the fun in funeral" bit. I thought it was funny at the time but your post here has broadened my appreciation of the remark.
Of course, I say that jokingly because your post obviously achieves much more (which others have pointed out).
Yes, that phrase has always stuck with me because I found it so ironic how a funeral home would juxtapose the tragedy with an opportunity for laughter and do it with the staid seriousness of used car salesman desperate to move that last coffin off the lot.
There are stories I could tell you about southern funerals which are often unabashadly eccentric. The view of death in the Appalachian hills is often simultaneously feared and jeered. A strange people to be sure.
Thanks for the stories of your life Baldar. I hope that you will share some more details of your various adventures with us. It sounds like you have led an interesting life.
I just wanted to add that your posts in this thread have made me think about my relationship with my parents and how lucky I was to grow up with attentive ones. I don't think I would trade that for the adventures you have had, but at the same time I am a little envious of some of the things you have seen and done and the stories you have to tell.
[This message has been edited by solo (edited December 20, 2002).]
The grass is always greener solo. But what you have is better than what I had I can promise you that. An adventure that ends is just that, an ending. The love of parents endures much longer and more deeply than a mere adventure, and while I can revel in the stories I can tell, they are cold comfort compared to a parents love.
Posts: 6449 | Registered: Dec 2001
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Actually Tick I have met men that would make my life seem pale and uneventful. My cousin for instance, who is a year older than I am, was a mercenary for a period of time and worked in Africa, had his own "ranch" and took people on Safari. I knew someone else who, regularly treks into the frozen wastes of Siberia prospecting, has established gold mines in Brazil (he almost talked me into going down there again to buy gold directly from the miners), and has even set up a prospecting mission to antarctica.
While I have had some adventures, there are those who create the eddies of society and makes changes, all I really do is ride them and try to survive.
Baldar, I'm not sure what impresses me more. The fact that you were able to retire at 39, or the fact that after you did, you chose to teach in an inner city high school. Bravo!
Posts: 4625 | Registered: Jul 2002
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Baldar, can I ask you a question? You're LDS, right? When did you join the church?
I realize this could be an enormously personal question. There are few things more intrusive than asking about religion - its like me asking you about your love life. But I would be absolutely thrilled to know.