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Well, it all began in a little 10,000-watt radio station in South Dakota . . . no wait, that's the Mary Tyler Moore Show. You see, that's a big problem with us TV-saturated baby-boomers: we have a hard time separating our lives from the lives of the characters on all those TV shows we used to watch. Why, just the other day, my brother Howdy and I were discussing the dysfunctional family dynamic Ozzie and Harriet created for us kids back in Mayberry . . . darn, did it again.
What can I say in a short enough space that doesn't put the average reader to sleep? Oh, probably not much, but hang in there and we'll get you out alive.
I was born in 1954 to a third-generation Arizona ranching family. On my father's side, I had a grandfather who was a bona fide tough-guy lawman who could have taught The Duke a thing or two: He escorted Dillinger to the airport after the legendary baddie was captured (the first time), and he could out ride, out shoot, and out rope every other old bowlegged cowboy who rode into town. My father was a hot-shot Air Force test pilot and fighter pilot. Mom's side of the family boasted a feisty Irishman by way of east Texas who moved to southern Arizona, went to work for the Southern Pacific railroad, and married my "abuelita," a Mexican lass who fled north with her brothers and sisters after her parents were killed during Pancho Villa's revolution in the second decade of this century.
I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where I went to grade school (while air-raid drills in the hallways were still part of the "normal" curriculum of the Cold-War years), junior high school (while girls' skirts were still so short they caused lasting damage to my cervical vertebrae), and Sahuaro High School (while we were all still pondering the Three Big Post-High School Options: College, Canada, or Vietnam). Fortunately, by 1972 Tricky Dick was helping us see that "Vietnamization" was going to lead to "peace with honor," so at the University of Arizona, I got my BA in Mathematics & Psychology (dual major) with minors in French & Arabic. Then, naturally enough (he said facetiously), I followed up with an MA in teaching English as a Second Language, with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. (Remember, this was before the days when it was cool to get an MBA, when we felt it was our god-given right to pursue studies that would deliberately not get us gainful employment later in life.) Some years after my college career ended, I read that Playboy magazine had rated the U of A the number one "party school" in the nation in the party-hearty 1970s. Much to my chagrin: I spent all my time there with my nose buried in textbooks; talk about serious, or maybe the adjective is "clueless."
After graduating, I knocked around in a variety of jobs that made for interesting stories, if not a robust bank account (see Top Thirteen Most "Interesting" Things I've Ever Done for Money below). In 1984, I quit the sunny southwest for Seattle, mostly to come live with my future ex-wife. True, one marriage didn't work out, but another one turned out to be the most stable relationship of my life so far: For nine years, Microsoft and I kept house. It was a strange and wonderful relationship, and as they say about classic literature, "it was a book I was glad to have read." Anyway, I met some great people there, and learned a lot of amazing information (some of which did not become obsolete within six months of my leaving). And where else could I have combined my educational background in English and Math?
Right now, thanks to Chairman Bill, I'm not commuting to a "real" job; inshallah, that will not soon reappear on my personal horizon. In the meantime, I still seem to spend a lot of time in front of a computer monitor . . .
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As Dave Barry would say, "I promise I'm not making this up":
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