I was born in Washington DC on a warm November 18, 1939. My father was an assistant district attorney and my mother a registered nurse.
The headlines that day were about Nazis executing Czech students, the king of England giving a DFC to an RAF pilot, an American promoting a Nazi political movement in the US, and Hitler’s minister Goering working on the German alliance with Italy.
A couple years later in 1941, I listened to the radio with my parents, and remember the president’s words citing a “day of infamy” when the Japs killed 3,000 Americans in a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
Two years later, in 1944, at age four, my mother took me to Providence Hospital where I was diagnosed with Bulbar Polio. I found myself enclosed in a glass room on the Isolation Ward. The boys on my right and left stood in their beds to greet me. Within a few days, I watched both removed on gurneys, covered by sheets. Though only four years old, I knew they were dead. But I survived.
Later that year, I entered kindergarten. I was skinny. My father called me “Mahatma Ghandi.” I didn’t understand until I met my first bully. I never won a fight until age 13, when I learned to attack, and never lost one afterward. At the time, I didn’t realize the implications of my attack strategy, and its disconnect from my moral upbringing. This disconnection would transform my future.
Our neighborhood did not have fences.
We played sports on the stone and tar streets. A fall was painful, so we learned to stay on our feet. I lived there until I left home.
Across our street was the Potomac River valley, and a couple hundred feet down the hill the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. The first lock and bridge over the canal were a ten-minute walk away. On the far bank of the canal was the tow-path. Beyond the tow-path, the Potomac River sometimes flooded into the canal, ripping away a section of the tow-path, and as the flood subsided draining that part of the canal.
Also on the hillside across the street lived my best friend: Bobby Burchell. We fished the canal and river and got good at it. Both of us built model airplanes which we flew “free flight” and on control-lines. And we attended Trinity Grammar School together. Upon graduation, he entered a Jesuit high school in Washington DC and I a public school in Bethesda, which separated us forever.
At midnight, two weeks after high school graduation, I stood with 72 other recruits before three Drill Instructors at Parris Island, South Carolina.
The Marines taught me self-discipline, comradery, and how to defend myself with weapons including my hands and feet.
I crossed the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Aegean, Pacific, and South China Sea on ships, and discovered the rest of the world while doing so.
During the three years on active duty, I was stationed at Marine bases in Florida, North Carolina, California, and Okinawa.
In my job as an Intelligence Analyst, I learned politics by studying failed countries.
I earned two ribbons serving with Expeditionary Forces sent to Beirut and Taiwan.
Three months after leaving the Marines, President Kennedy announced we’d put a man on the moon by 1969.
I then started classes at the University of Maryland, seeking a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering.
Nearing graduation, I found the interesting Apollo engineering work was completed.
But graduating first in my class opened doors. I considered three Ph.D. programs suggested by my Dean, but decided to leave this field.
Three months after leaving Maryland, I started a two-year Master’s program at the Yale School of Management, tuition-free. I married Nancy, and she worked at Yale and elsewhere as a secretary to pay for an apartment, and put food on the table. Graduating second in my class didn’t feed my ego. I missed a tie at straight High Honors, with one Honors grade where I tried to do with a computer what my professor said couldn’t be done with a computer. He was right, and I missed a full-house and tie for first in class. But lots of doors opened.
After receiving my Yale degree, I joined General Dynamics at their head office in New York. The job was as a corporate management intern reporting to subordinates of the CEO. After completing their program, I was the only intern who didn’t leave.
General Dynamics then sent me to solve a scheduling problem with their testing of the 673-class attack submarines. When I presented them a solution, they sent me to a surface shipyard where scheduling was killing them.
Two years later, I supervised 4,100 men in controlling production, warehousing raw and finished steel, construction by 23 unionized trades, building and launching steel ships upon 3 ways and 3 basins, and helping other trades install machinery, piping, and electronics. I trebled the launch rate and helped General Dynamics avoid bankruptcy. At 31, I was the youngest by 10 years in their “Brown Book” of top 50 managers.
By my 7th year, I thought my ego wouldn’t let me stay because they didn’t pay me enough from what I had already done—which was true and important—and weren’t transparent regarding their plans for my future—also true and important. My reasons were logical, but superficial.
The real reason was that I had gone so far astray from my upbringing that I finally became uncomfortable with what I had become in the shipyard, my behavior was scandalous and far afield from my roots, something which I recognized as Satanic was urging me to end my life, and I felt with clarity that I should “bail out” of that situation as fast as I could. I wanted to clean up my life—to walk myself back from the edge of the cliff.
With Yale Alumni Association’s help, I was steered away from my inclination toward aviation (airlines, manufacturers) and, at their erudite suggestion, I landed a job with Citibank in New York for a 25% increase in salary.
After a year proving myself to Citi management, they assigned me to a team planning Citi’s expansion.
I later presented my plan to Citi’s EVP of Operations and was assigned to apply it to integrate three recently acquired banks.
To celebrate, I took a fishing trip to Maine.
I now foresaw success ahead, having shed my moral upbringing, broken the Ten Commandments, become a Narcissist, provoked my marriage toward divorce, and convinced myself I was the Captain of my Fate—but I recognized that I was changing, now found repugnant the debased path I had been sliding down, and sensed that there was an immensely powerful force opposed to the demonic, self-destructive nihilism that had recently sought to destroy me.
I thought I owned my future at age 34.
What I expected was not to be.