Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Laurence Platt Autobiography II

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

December 31, 2007

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page." ... Saint Augustine

This essay, Laurence Platt Autobiography II, is the second in a sextology comprising The Laurence Platt Story:
  1. Laurence Platt Autobiography
  2. Laurence Platt Autobiography II
  3. Laurence Platt Intersections
  4. Laurence Platt Photo Album
  5. Laurence Platt And Associates
  6. Gratitude
in that order.

It is also the sequel to Laurence Platt Autobiography.

The Laurence Platt Story is the prequel to Wherever I Went, There I Was.

This essay continues the story of my life. The story of my life isn't who I am. Who I am is Conversations For Transformation inspired by the ideas of Werner Erhard. Sooner or later the story of my life will be told. I want to support it being told accurately.

I am indebted to my brother Brandon David "Bang" Platt and to my mother Andee Platt who contributed material for this conversation.


Once I'd completed Laurence Platt Autobiography, the first take  on the story of my life, I realized my autobiography (any autobiography, actually) is really a fluid commentary, it's really an ongoing work in progress. As long as I'm alive there'll be chapters to add, and there'll be episodes already written to zero in on and flesh out, to provide more detail for.

Some time around now (it may actually have been closer to September of 2007, but some time around NOW) it occurred to me the time had come to write Laurence Platt Autobiography II.

Here, then, is Laurence Platt Autobiography II. It's not the first documentation I've written in the story of my life. It probably won't be the last.

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There Are Places I Remember:
From Birth Through High School

Guy's Hospital, Southwark, London

My parents chose my middle name Guy  after Guy's Hospital in the borough of Southwark in south London England where I was born on Thursday June 8, 1950 at 8:45pm BST  (British Summer Time). Specifically I was born in Nuffield House, a "hospital within a hospital" on the Guy's campus. From Nuffield House you can clearly hear the sound of the bells of the St Mary le Bow church near St Paul's Cathedral. Therefore I was born a cockney, a term which defines anyone born within earshot* of Bow bells. My father Asher Manfred Platt was born in Port Elizabeth in the eastern Cape province in South Africa on Sunday August 13, 1916. He traveled to London England for the first time on Monday February 12, 1934. He was drafted into the South African army and served in Egypt during the second world war as a medic. My Dad's life was always one of service to humanity, a life he loved. My Mom Andee Morrison was born in Dewetsdorp in the Orange Free State (now known as the Free State) in South Africa on Wednesday November 3, 1926. In February of 1949 she was staying at the Palmerston Hotel on vacation in the seaside town of Port Elizabeth in the eastern Cape province where she was invited to a farewell party celebrating my Dad's second departure to London.

In London my Dad had already completed studies in surgery (LRCS:  Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons), general medicine (MRCP:  Member of the Royal College of Physicians), dentistry (LDS:  Licentiate of Dental Surgery), and anesthetics at Guy's Hospital. He had returned to South Africa to escort his Mom, my Granny Alice, and the younger of his two sisters, my Aunt Iris, back to London where Aunt Iris would also study medicine. Soon after the farewell party, my Mom followed my Dad to London where they married on Friday April 29, 1949 and began living in Hove, a town west of Brighton on England's south coast. At Hove Hospital my Dad completed the first six months of his internship, after which he completed the remaining six months of his internship at Guy's Hospital.

Photography by Union Castle
Edinburgh Castle
In those days, many passenger shipping lines plied the route between Southampton England and Cape Town South Africa, a voyage of about two weeks. One such shipping line was the Union Castle  line comprising ships which carried people, cargo, and in particular, mail between the two countries. That's why Union Castle's ships were known as mail boats. It was on one of them, the Edinburgh Castle, that my parents returned to South Africa in December of 1950 after my Dad completed his internship, taking me with them. I was six months old.

Fortuitously, although exactly how fortuitous it was I wasn't to discover for the next seventeen years, my entry as an infant into South Africa was never formally registered with the local authorities as a child of South African parents which would have, by default, made me a South African citizen. I was granted, instead, a simple entry permit making me in effect a tourist, a visitor with permission to stay indefinitely.

Clovelly Country Club, Clovelly

My parents settled in Cape Town, moving into residence in the Clovelly Country Club, a typical country club known mostly for its golf course, nestled in the hills of Clovelly, a picturesque village on the south eastern coast of the Cape Peninsula.

My memories of life at Clovelly and before Clovelly are vague. But I do have memories of those times. I remember our quarters on the upper level of the clubhouse. I remember stuffed and mounted animal heads on the walls of the hallways.

I can recall any memory from any time of my life if I simply apply myself to doing so. I've recalled the memory of my birth. In so doing I realized I have memories of an experience prior to birth  although I make no claim to recalling or having a past life. The life I live today is, as far as I can tell, my first life on this planet. And even if it isn't, I live it as if it is. It's probably not true to say I have a better memory than most people, although I've heard people say so. What's might be true, rather, is without intentionally applying yourself to recalling memories, they stay in the past.

Main Road, Bergvliet

I have clear memories of life after Clovelly. In February of 1951 after six weeks at Clovelly, we moved slightly north up the Cape Peninsula to Bergvliet (pronounced Berg fleet), one of the twin towns of Bergvliet / Heathfield. In 1679 Bergvliet was a farm owned by the governor of the Cape Colony, a dutchman by the name of Simon van der Stel. Two hundred and seventy two years later, we stayed in a flat ie an apartment  above the Bergvliet post office on the main road which was appropriately named Main Road.

Photography by Andee Platt
My Dad and I in his Austin A40 Devon
South Africa - 1951
One of my favorite pastimes when we lived in Bergvliet was when my Dad and my Mom took me to the Cape Town zoo on the slopes of Devil's Peak in the Newlands suburb. We would drive there in my Dad's 1951 Austin A40 Devon. I would take bananas to feed the monkeys in their cages. Sitting in my Dad's arms as he held me, and using a long stick, I would spear a banana and gingerly reach over the safety fence and give it to them. In retrospect there probably was a rule prohibiting that. But no one stopped us.

Sitting in my Dad's arms feeding monkeys bananas with a stick at Cape Town zoo is one of my most indelible memories of my childhood.

Next door on the south side of the post office was a hardware store owned by a Portuguese family, Mr and Mrs Sirala and their son Sebastian whom I called Bassy. The Siralas named their hardware store Caversham  from which they also sold ice cream. I loved Mr and Mrs Sirala and Bassy. They gave me a scoop of green peppermint ice ream (my favorite) in a cone whenever I came by to visit them, that is to say whenever my Mom or my Dad carried me on their arm into Caversham to shop. It was only much, much later when I realized Caversham was a hardware store. To me it was Mr Sirala's icecream shop.

During our sojourn in Bergvliet my sister Anthea Sarah was born at the Kingsbury Nursing Home  in the Claremont suburb on Saturday January 12, 1952 at 1:00pm.

Harwell Court, Rosmead Avenue, Kenilworth

After Bergvliet, early in 1954 we moved into a street level flat in a block of flats called Harwell Court, the first of our four homes in the Cape Town suburb of Kenilworth. Harwell Court was located at the corner of Rosmead Avenue and Kenilworth Road. I was three and a half years old. Anthea was two years old. The Kenilworth horse race track (we called it the race course)  was directly opposite Harwell Court on Rosmead Avenue. My Great Aunt Edith and my Great Uncle Izzy lived close by on Rosmead Avenue in a mansion called East Grange. East Grange had horse stables and a swimming pool. It was the biggest private residence I could ever imagine anyone could own. When I visited East Grange I would play with Panther, Great Aunt Edith's great dane, and Sailor, her British bulldog. Panther, at the time, towered over me. I thought he was bigger than a horse.

For many years thereafter my Dad worked on race days as the doctor in residence at the Kenilworth race course, on hand to attend to jockeys should they fall, and anyone in the crowd who may be overcome by the excitement of the race. Many years later during my university years I myself would work at the Kenilworth race course, taking bets at the totalisator  in what were known as permutations  ("perms"), doubles, and quinellas. I was never, however, interested in betting myself. I was probably one of the few people who always left the race course with more money, my wages, than I arrived with.

Lowlands, 7 Stellenberg Avenue, Kenilworth

Lowlands, the house we moved into at 7 Stellenberg Avenue in Kenilworth after Harwell Court, was the first house  I called home. Lowlands has all sorts of memories for me - from Lena our cook coming into the kitchen early in the morning before it was light outside to make steaming Jungle Oats  "porridge" (which is what we called oatmeal  in South Africa) for us for breakfast, to my Dad and my Mom going out for the evening and when they returned, leaving Cadbury's  "Rolos" under my pillow as I slept which I found in the morning, to my bedside lamp shaped like a toy soldier I called Stanley  and the overhead light I called Benjamin  in the passage outside my bedroom, to my first day in Sub A  (which is what we called grade one  in South Africa) at the oldest, most prestigious school in South Africa: SACS, the South African College School.

I was five and a half years old on that first day in Sub A in January of 1956. My teacher was Miss Barbara Helen Ecclestone. My headmaster was Mr Stanley John Hunter. I attended SACS continuously for the next twelve years through matric  which is what we called the high school senior year in South Africa.

For my third birthday at Lowlands my parents gave me a puppy, a dachshund  which I called a "sausage dog". I named him Pretzel. Actually his full name was Pretzel Peter Platt but that was a secret between him and me. Pretzel was more than a pet. He was my friend. Pretzel lived for seventeen years, an extraordinarily long life for a dog, the equivalent of a human being living one hundred and nineteen years.

During our stay at Lowlands my brother Brandon was born on Tuesday June 7, 1955 at 8:00pm, also at the Kingsbury Nursing Home like my sister Anthea before him. Brandon was born four years, three hundred and sixty four days, and twenty three and a quarter hours after my birthday Thursday June 8, 1950 at 8:45pm BST. Had Brandon waited one more day and three quarters of an hour more before coming into our world, he and I would have shared exactly  the same birthday five years apart.

I vividly remember the first time my Dad took my sister Anthea and me to visit our new brother. I was exactly  five years old. Brandon was yelling so loudly I could hear him almost as soon as we arrived in the parking lot. By the time we entered the room where he and my Mom were staying, the racket was deafening. Then he saw me and looked me straight in the eye, and instantly the racket ceased. He just looked at me, my new born brother, suddenly calm and dead quiet. I remember my goosebumps  like it was yesterday.

Honor Oak, Silverhill Crescent, Kenilworth

Our next home was a ten roomed three bath mansion on Silverhill Crescent, also in Kenilworth. It had a detached three roomed one bath maids' cottage, as well as two garages with space for three cars. We lived there (I'm estimating) from 1957 through 1965. It was the first property my parents owned. They promptly renamed it Honor Oak  (its orignal name was Stratheyre)  after Honor Oak Park in Lewisham near London where my Dad played cricket during his student years in England.

Once we moved into Honor Oak, my Dad (perhaps inspired by his memories of Honor Oak Park) started playing cricket again. He joined the Cape Town cricket club and played on the A-team every weekend at the nearby Plumstead cricket grounds. My Dad played wicketkeeper, standing directly behind the batsmen, catching fast balls they missed which were pitched by the bowler in excess of fifty miles an hour. My Dad had magnetic hands. He was an amazing catcher, lightning fast and agile. He was a brilliant wickie. I loved watching him play.

Other vignettes of memories of Honor Oak include our telephone number 70241 (we said "seven oh  two four one" not "seven zero two four one"), the smell of freshly glued wallpaper which my parents contracted a Mr Ali to mount, big coal fires in the middle of the rainy Cape winter, the license plate number of my Dad's black Ford Zephyr 6  sedan CA62624, my Dad cultivating grapes and hydrangeas, my Mom learning Spanish guitar, the music of Erroll Garner (beautifully soft improvised jazz piano - Erroll couldn't read a note of music), Luiz Bonfas, the extraordinarily gentle and evocative Brazilian guitarist, and the rest of my Mom's endless collection of classical music which she could have played non-stop twenty four hours a day for a year without playing the same piece twice.

The women in my family, in particular the women on my Mom's side  of my family, are the carriers of an awesome  musical gene. It's a real gift. My mother's mother, my Granny Lena, sang in her synagogue choir and taught music. My Mom played Spanish guitar, filled our lives with a wide variety of music which was always playing in our house, and encouraged me to play recorder, clarinet, flute, bugle, trumpet and guitar as I was growing up. If it's a musical instrument you blow  I can play it. My sister Anthea is one of the few musical artists I know who earn their livelihood from their art. Anthea sings professionally, teaches singing and piano, gives concerts, and records as a backup singer. My daughter Alexandra sings like an angel - who can be surprised? Alexandra is a stalwart member of the choir at her high school, Napa High, as well as at her church, St Mary's Episcopal.

I celebrated the traditional Jewish rite de passage  graduation into manhood, my Bar Mitzvah, while living at Honor Oak in June of 1963 when I turned thirteen years old. In our synagogue, Temple Israel  (also known as "Manystairs" because of a four story gothic house on the grounds in which we studied Hebrew), we had a choice to read  our Bar Mitzvah or to sing  it. Considering myself to be too shy, I had chosen to read my Bar Mitzvah, a choice which was well known ahead of time by the officiating elder Rabbi  Sherman, by my family, by my friends and guests, and by the rest of the congregation. When the service got under way I surprised everyone, most of all myself, by reneging on my promise totally and singing the entire ceremony flawlessly.

Almost exactly twenty years later in July of 1981 in Plettenberg Bay South Africa, Jesus Christ came into my life. I didn't convert. I didn't become  a Christian. I'm not Jews for Jesus  either. The truth is simply I'm born of a Jewish family, I love the Jewish tradition, and I love Jesus. That's it. Without a context of transformation, it's all just belief, concept, and righteousness  anyway. I've experienced and am nurtured by Islam. Islam has a depth of gentleness, love, and wisdom which is hard to hear these days, given the skew of the listening  for terrorism in the popular conversation.

I went to my first dance party (in short pants) while living at Honor Oak. I had my first rush of passion during that party when I held a girl's hand, Denise was her name, while we were watching a movie. I was fourteen years old at the time. And while I was living at Honor Oak, the local morning newspaper, the Cape Times, one Saturday carried a three inch banner headline on its front page saying simply

Graphic by Cape Times

The world was starting to change.

I remember every nook and cranny of Honor Oak in minute detail. Many years later after we no longer lived there, Honor Oak was ravaged by a fire then rebuilt. I've been back to Silverhill Crescent to see it a few times. It's still oddly difficult to reconcile what it looks like today with what I know it really should  look like.

Ancora, 25 Finsbury Avenue, Hiddingh Estate, Newlands

My parents sold Honor Oak and we rented our next house, Ancora, a single story home on Finsbury Avenue in Hiddingh Estate in the Newlands suburb where we stayed for a year. In many ways, I enjoyed Ancora more than any of our other homes, before or after. Ancora was within walking distance of SACS for me. Many of my friends already lived in Hiddingh Estate. The house was close to the Liesbeeck River  to which I experienced an attraction, a bond. The river was close enough for me to walk to, then pass the time either alone or with friends sitting on its luxuriant banks on moss covered rocks looking for frogs and tadpoles or playing Pooh sticks.

Ancora was a concise  house, extremely neat a well laid out. The driveway stretched up from Finsbury Avenue along the side of the garden which was terraced on three levels. My parents, my brother, my sister, and I each had our own bedroom, and my bedroom had its own hand basin and mirror. That was a big hit for me, giving me an extra sense of independence.

During our sojourn in Ancora I started my first major teenager in love  affair. Paula and I started getting serious about each other at a dance to raise funds for my boy scout troop, the 3rd Claremont SACS  troop, so-called because it was the third boy scout troop in the Claremont suburb although we held our meetings in the Newlands suburb in a historic brick building called Montebello, and it was open only to boys who attended SACS. I was the patrol leader  of the Eagles  patrol. I earned enough merit badges to qualify for the First Class Scout  award. Paula and I were teenage sweethearts for what seemed like eternity: one year, three months, twenty eight days, and eighteen hours.

Shannon, 9 Firdale Road, Newlands

After a year in Ancora, we moved again, barely two miles to 9 Firdale Road in Newlands where we rented our next home, a double story house called Shannon, from Professor Stanley Skewes who was a professor of Mathematics at UCT, the University of Cape Town, where I would study for four years after I graduated from SACS high school.

Fortuitously for me, Shannon was next door  to Paula's family's house called Kinta  at 5 Firdale Road. On the other side of Shannon, Bernard Wagener who would later be my boss at the Old Mutual Life Insurance Company during the halcyon  years of the Interactive Project, was building his house called Hoogvertoon. The house, still under construction, was barely framed. A few walls were just started. Paula and I would go there after school and hide ourselves in among the construction equipment and half completed structures where we would hug, kiss, and smooch like the two love besotted teenagers we were. Those were grand times.

A river ran through Shannon's garden, a tiny bridge connecting one bank with the other. In addition to a bedroom, I also had a study in which I did my homework which deepened my sense of independence and accomplishment. Across Firdale Road from Shannon was an undeveloped piece of land with tall cypress trees. I built a nine hole golf course there. I learned to drive at Shannon when, without my Mom's permission, I would take the keys of her red Austin Mini Minor  and drive it around the neighborhood. It had a stick shift, and although it didn't require it, I liked to shift gears by double declutching  which made me feel like a race driver.

In 1967 when I was seventeen during our sojourn at Shannon, it was announced all white  South African men had to register to be drafted into the South African army when they were eighteen years old. I dutifully took myself down to the so-called Castle  which was the military headquarters in Cape Town's Foreshore  district. After I completed the obligatory paperwork I was called in for a meeting with a low level army officer. He proceeded to tell me "while we appreciate you registering to serve in the South African armed forces, at this time we don't have the facility to accept enlistment requests from non-residents". He actually called me an alien.

Cape Town, South Africa - April 1967
South African Identity Card
My jaw dropped. Until that moment I had no idea I wasn't a South African resident. However, I wasn't going to give him a second chance to conscript me - I don't stay stupid for very long. I left as fast as I could and presented myself at the British consulate around the corner where I asked for and completed a form for a British passport.

My thinking was this: if I'm not  a South African resident after being in the country for seventeen years, the only other country I could be a citizen of would be England ie Great Britain. If a passport was issued to me by the British government, that would prove it. If not, I would be stateless.

I had nothing to lose and a lot to gain I thought as I dropped the completed passport application form into the box provided, wondering what would happen next. Sure enough, two weeks later my British passport arrived in the mailbox confirming, on page one, I am a British citizen. As a result I've never had to put on a military uniform for any country, a simple twist of fate for which I'm not exactly regretful.

A day after receiving my British passport, I applied for South African permanent residence which I was granted on Friday May 26, 1967. The Secretary for the Interior  also sent me a laminated plastic green identity card  which stated I was male, a British citizen, an alien, and (those being the peak apartheid  years), a white  person.

10 Auburn Road, Kenilworth

After renting Shannon, my parents bought a sprawling twelve roomed single story house, 10 Auburn Road in the Kenilworth suburb. I completed my first eighteen months of university study at 10 Auburn Road. My room had it's own outside door. That, to me, was real freedom. I could come and go as I pleased unnoticed.

I qualified for my driver's license while living at 10 Auburn Road. The South African age for qualifying was 18. I qualified for what we in the United States would call a regular class C  driver's license on Tuesday June 11, 1968, three days after my eighteenth birthday. And on Monday May 17, 1971 (I was no longer living on Auburn Road) three weeks shy of my twenty first birthday, I qualified to drive trucks by gaining what was called in South Africa a heavy duty  driver's license.

My first car was a well used white Simca  I bought from my Mom. The engine was in good shape but the bodywork was in dire need of some repair, something I could ill afford as a student. One day I settled in to the driver's seat to go surfing, and my foot broke clean through the rusted floor. I covered the hole with a plank and a mat. It worked.

He's Leaving Home

I had mixed feelings, both a heavy heart as well as sheer elation, when I left my parents' home at 10 Auburn Road in July of 1969 and moved in with two friends, Colin Leon and Gavin John, to the top story of a double story house we rented at 267 Main Road in the Claremont suburb. Because we occupied only the top story of the house, we called our pad  at 267 Main Road Claremont The Penthouse  which was also a nod to the 1967 movie "The Penthouse" starring Suzy Kendall. The tagline of the movie was "If what happened in The Penthouse happened to you, you  wouldn't want to talk about it either". It appealed to our insiders' hip, noir  sense of humor. I was nineteen years old.

10 Auburn Road was the last home my family occupied continuously as a unit - my Dad Manfred, my Mom Andee, my sister Anthea, my brother Brandon, and I. The Penthouse was the first place I lived in which I called my own place. But that's the subject for another story, another long  story, on another occasion.

There Are Places I Remember   Top

You Can't Go East Forever:
Circumnavigating The Globe

In retrospect I've traveled a lot, way more than most people ever will. When I look back on my life, I see I've covered millions  of miles on this planet. And not just day trips  either. I've stayed in places long enough to become a citizen twice, and a permanent resident five times. I'm a dual national and a passport holder of both Great Britain and the United States of America. I'm a British citizen by virtue of having been born in London. I became an American citizen on Wednesday January 7, 1987. Because of this, my three children, each born in the United States of America, are also citizens ie dual nationals and passport holders of both Great Britain and the United States of America. I've been granted green card  ie permanent residence status by five countries: by Great Britain in 1950, by South Africa on Monday May 22, 1967, by France on Friday July 25, 1975 (the French green card is actually blue), by New Zealand on Tuesday July 27, 1976, and by the United States of America in January of 1978 (the American green card is also actually blue). My children have each been granted permanent resident status by two countries: by Great Britain, and by the United States of America. They may not have been granted permanent residence status by five countries as I have. But they do have something I don't have: they each have two birth certificates, one issued by Great Britain and one issued by the United States of America. I have only one, issued by Great Britain.

Although I began life in south London surrounded by the cockney  accent, one of the most recognizable accents in the world, my parents took me to Cape Town in South Africa where, for the most part, I learned to speak. My base accent, therefore, is South African. But by now it's layered over with various accents from countries I've stayed in long enough to accumulate an accent. I've never attempted to take on an accent, to speak in any particular way or to sound any particular way. It's really just been a matter of expediency: if you want to be understood, you have to speak in a way people will understand you.

English isn't simply English. In South Africa, if you're shopping for a rubber  you'd go to a stationery store to buy an eraser. But in the United States of America, if you're shopping for a rubber you'd go to a pharmacy to buy a condom - not much good for deleting pencil writing. In other words, even within the universal English language, you have to adjust translations and meanings to be appropriate in the local environment. It's the same with the way we sound. I've adjusted to local sounds ie accents in order to be understood, and a lot of that has stayed with me. My accent is really a blend of South African, British, French, Kiwi  ie New Zealand, Aussie  ie Australian, certainly a lot of Californian, with traces of Fijian thrown in to the final mix. Its origins, while intriguing to people, are not immediately recognizable, and the original cockney is by now totally bleached out.

Here is a synopsis of the journeys comprising the path I've traveled, in the midst of all other travels, which has shaped my composite accent, and through which I can lay claim to having circumnavigated the globe.

Cape Town South Africa, to Sydney Australia

In the summer of 1975 in Cape Town South Africa, I boarded the Guglielmo Marconi, a passenger liner owned and operated by Lloyd Triestino di Navigazione, an Italian shipping line. We set sail on a two week voyage traveling east across the Indian ocean to the west coast of Australia and the twin cities of Perth / Fremantle.

The Guglielmo Marconi was a gorgeous ship - sleek and beautiful, easy on the eye with finely crafted aerodynamic lines resembling a luxury motor yacht rather than a typical passenger liner. Sailing on the Guglielmo Marconi was more like a two week vacation than an ocean voyage. The dining was gourmet  and excellent. The onboard cinema had three shows daily with all the latest releases. The passengers, coming from all over the world, made fascinating company, the Guglielmo Marconi having begun its voyage in Genoa Italy, continuing on to Palermo Sicily, through the straits of Gibralter, to Cape Town South Africa, on to Australia, New Zealand, through the Panama Canal, then across the Atlantic Ocean returning to Italy.

Halfway to Australia we encountered rough weather, weather which got rougher and rougher by the hour. I'm a guy who likes comfort, so the onset of wind and big seas concerned me. Clearly there's no option to turn around or to get off. Like it or not, I was committed, by my choice to set sail in the first place, to whatever discomfort was about to befall us.

Surprisingly no such discomfort occurred for me. I wouldn't exactly call myself a seasoned sailor. Yet while the ship rocked and swayed like a bucking bronco  at times (the ship's purser told us the stabilizers  weren't performing as expected), once I noticed (with a great measure of surprised delight, I might add) that the dreaded mal de mer  didn't afflict me, I could focus on the sheer might  of Mother Nature tossing the thousands of tons of Guglielmo Marconi around as if it were a cork in a bathtub.

The storm continued for many days. Sleeping became a problem inasmuch as the violent motions of the ship threatened to throw me out of my bunk - until I devised a solution. I rearranged my sheets and blankets across the bunk instead of lengthwise. I then tucked the full length of the sheets and blankets tightly underneath the mattress. That way, when I climbed into bed at night, I was literally bound  in place. Although bucking up and down all night, even with the sensation of standing on my head at times, I wasn't bounced out of bed anymore, and actually slept quite soundly.

Photography by Lloyd Triestino di Navigazione
Guglielmo Marconi in Sydney Harbor, Australia, 1975
As we approached the west coast of Australia, talk among the passengers turned to "the best beer in the world", the legendary Australian brewski  known as Swan Lager. The storm seemed to end a few miles off the Australian coast. By the time we were moored in Fremantle's harbor, the weather was bone dry, blistering hot, and nothing sounded more alluring at that point than to celebrate our crossing of the Indian ocean with an ice cold beer.

I piled into a taxi with some friends I'd met on board. We asked the driver to take us to a local pub - any  local pub. He took us to something straight out of the wild west - the Australian  wild west. We burst through the swing doors of the local saloon, sat down at the bar and, eager with anticipation, ordered Swan Lagers all round.

The cans of Swan Lager, when they came, were the biggest cans of beer I'd ever seen in my life. One was the size of a large can of coffee. It must have contained a liter or more of beer. It was served appropriate to local tradition: icy, icy cold with icicles and frost covering the can. It was worth every minute waiting for it. There's beer and there's beer ... and then  there's Swan Lager. It's true, I thought: you haven't tasted beer until you've tasted Swan Lager.

The Guglielmo Marconi then took us to the Australian ports of Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney where we moored almost directly underneath the fabled Sydney Harbor Bridge in view of the even more remarkably sculptured Sydney Opera House.

Although I didn't realize it at the time, I would be returning to this exact spot later as an employee of IBM's A/FE  (International Business Machines' America / Far East) division stationed in Wellington New Zealand. IBM's Australian facility occupied a building on Kent Street in Sydney. I would visit there many times later from New Zealand. My desk in the Kent Street building was near a window which overlooked the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The Wentworth Hotel on Phillip Street in Sydney became my second home whenever I visited Australia with IBM on business. The Peter Frampton is God  graffiti was beginning to appear. He had just released his epic album "Frampton Comes Alive!".

Sydney Australia to Wellington New Zealand

When the Guglielmo Marconi departed from Sydney harbor to sail across the Tasman sea to Auckland New Zealand, something unexpected happened. Although I'd been completely inured to the rocking and rolling of the ship through the rough crossing of the Indian ocean between South Africa and Australia, actually delighting in the stormy weather, the three days on dry land in Sydney had unbeknownst to me completely evaporated my newly acquired sea legs. The Tasman sea between Australia and New Zealand was a mirror-like duck pond, the crossing of which left me ill at ease and queasy. I learned from a passenger I befriended (whose name I can no longer recall but to whom I owe a great deal of thanks) about an acupressure point on my wrist which, when squeezed, seemed to interfere with the mal de mer  reflex. I was still holding tight to my own wrist when the Guglielmo Marconi finally docked in Auckland harbor. We had arrived.

From Auckland I rode the famed Silver Star  passenger train overnight to Wellington at the southernmost point of New Zealand's north island on Cook strait where I made my home in the Karori suburb at 42 Collier Avenue and then later in the Wilton suburb at 21A Euston Road.

Wellington New Zealand to Nadi Fiji

When the time came in 1977 to leave Wellington and New Zealand bound for pastures anew in the United States, I freighted ahead of me the carefully chosen belongings I wished to keep, and set out, one fine day, standing at the side of the road hitchhiking north. Passing through Auckland again, I ended up in the town of Russell in New Zealand's fabulous Bay of Islands  where some of New Zealand's oldest buildings are found. Establishing myself in a quaint inn, I proceeded over the next few weeks to wear down my shoe leather considerably, hiking the length and breadth of the place.

I fell in love with the Bay of Islands but I knew I wouldn't stay. I experienced a certain je ne sais quoi  there, something which told me in spite of the beauty, I wanted more. I envied the people of Russell and their surrounding paradise beaches. Their lifestyles seemed so perfectly simple. And yet ... I wanted more. I could feel the United States beckoning. I was itching to start experiencing whatever it had to offer, whatever lay ahead for me there.

Eventually the time came to leave Russell. I rode a bus back to Auckland and, saying goodbye to New Zealand, boarded an Air New Zealand  flight to Nadi (pronounced Nan dee), the town with the major airport on the island of Viti Levu, the largest of the Fiji Islands, well inside the tropical latitudes and almost exactly on the international date line.

Nadi Fiji to San Francisco United States of America

I rented a room in a bed and breakfast called The Sunseekers  on Narewa road on the edge of Nadi. The bed and breakfast was operated by three Indian nationals of Fijian origin: Krishna Mudliar (Hindu, which he called "north  Indian"), and Ali Nur and Abdul Kadir (Muslim, which they called "south  Indian") with whom I became firm friends, sitting out late in the tropical balminess of the evenings talking story  and drinking Kava  or Yangona  (pronounced Young gore nuh)  which is its proper name. The bed and breakfast on Narewa road was my base in Fiji for the time I lived there, Laurence's infamous life altering lost year.

It was hard to leave Fiji. I was in a quandary whether to stay or whether to leave right up until the moment the flight took off from the Nadi airport runway. I calculated my very inexpensive ticket to the United States cost me ten years of living a decent lifestyle in Fiji. But my time had come to move on, so move on I did, stopping briefly in Honolulu then Los Angeles.

I spent my first night as an American resident in Los Angeles on North Gertruda Avenue in the city of Redondo Beach, and the next day, my first full day in the United States as a resident, visiting Disneyland before traveling to San Francisco, the City by the Bay, and the Bay Area which would be my primary home for the next thirty years or more.

San Francisco to New Orleans, United States of America

The next chapter in this 'round the world  odyssey of mine started in 1978 when I consulted the Yellow Pages  at my home in Larkspur, a wooded California town nestled in the hills of Marin County about a half hour drive north of San Francisco. I was looking for shipping companies who carried cargo to South Africa. With some time on my hands and a long overdue visit to my family in Cape Town imminent, I decided it would be a great idea to travel to Cape Town by sea on a freighter.

Photography by Lykes Lines
The Margaret Lykes on the Mississippi River, New Orleans, Louisiana USA, 1978

Ordinarily freighters don't carry passengers. However I learned from a friend that freighters are nonetheless built with cabins, ostensibly for their owners, in addition to crew's quarters. In the Yellow Pages I came across Lykes Lines  which operated out of Tampa Florida, carrying cargo throughout the Caribbean sea and on to Cape Town, around the Cape of Good Hope, and then further.

I telephoned and was pleasantly surprised when my offer to pay a token "fare" of two hundred American dollars to ship myself from the United States to South Africa was accepted. Lykes Lines explicity stated they promised me neither luxury accommodation and nor did they promise me a reliable departure date or time.

They suggested I get myself to New Orleans as soon as possible, move in on board the ship, the Margaret Lykes, as soon as possible, and not leave the ship for intervals of six hours or more. When the ship's cargo was fully laden, it would leave six hours later - whatever time of day or night it turned out to be, and whether I was on board or not.

I flew to New Orleans and from the airport took a taxi directly to the dock. I fell in love with the Margaret Lykes as soon as I laid eyes on her. She was indeed a beautiful ship, already half laden with cargo and containers. I introduced myself to the captain, "Logbook" Wilson, and was shown to my quarters, a beautiful state room which had clearly hardly ever been used. I was the only passenger on board.

It took two more weeks to fully load all the cargo. Every day I awoke in my cabin to find us still moored in port. I explored New Orleans, visiting the French Quarter, locally known as "the Quarter" or Vieux Carré, over and over again, enchanted and entranced by Bourbon Street, the sidewalk musicians, and the passing show  in general, returning to the ship every six hours to make sure it hadn't left without me.

I loved the New Orleans weather. It was hot and sultry when we were there. On a sunny day it would rain, and surprisingly, every so often. Then the sun would come out again, and my clothes - sodden and drenched - would literally steam dry on my body. One morning I awoke in my cabin and looked out the porthole. Instead of seeing derricks on the docks, all I saw was open water. Captain "Logbook" Wilson had given the order and the Margaret Lykes had set sail during the night.

New Orleans United States of America to Cape Town South Africa

The relaxed three week voyage from New Orleans to Cape Town took us past Barbados and many of the Caribbean islands, south east across the Atlantic Ocean over the equator, then on to Duncan Docks in Table Bay, Cape Town's natural home to seafarers from all over the world since the fifteenth century, guarded by the majestic trilogy of Devil's Peak, Table Mountain, and Lion's Head.

At night I made my way on to the bridge where Captain "Logbook" Wilson and his officers patiently explained the operation of the ship to me. I took the helm on occasion. It's an incredible sensation turning a steering wheel which responds with effortless ease, then watching in awe as something as massive as the Margaret Lykes lightly and delicately dances to a new course.

Surveying the stars during moonless nights in the middle of the open ocean away from all city lights is something so fabulous it's enough to justify an excursion like this all by itself. Rather than simply seeing stars dotted on the sky, the perspective from the open ocean allows depth. Some stars are obviously and visibly closer to our planet than others.

The Margaret Lykes had a well stocked book and video library. I read a lot and caught up on movies I'd always wanted to see but hadn't taken the time to. I worked out on the ship's simple exercise machines. I also had a running track figured out between the cargo and freight containers on the main deck, up and down the stairways, around and over various other decks. I could run five miles on that circuit, watching nothing but open ocean all around me, my skin tanning bronze under the intense tropical sun. The officers watched me from the bridge as I ran my daily circuit. I could see them smiling, pointing at me, talking among themselves.

At meal times I was seated in the captain and ship's officers' dining room. The crew and the deck hands had a separate dining room. There was only one waiter, a man I'll never forget whom everyone addressed only as Duck. Duck had been sailing the seven seas forever, since he was a boy he told me. He was salt of the Earth, or perhaps I should say more appropriately salt of the ocean. He served me my meals and, with a sweeping gesture of his hands, would say "Here  you are, Sir!" in a raspy voice straight out of The Pirates of the Caribbean. With his otherwordly  expression, sun baked skin, intense generosity and attentiveness, Duck is one of the most unforgettable characters I've ever met.

The Margaret Lykes carried cargo destined for Hispaniola, the island home of the twin countries Haiti and the Dominican Republic. She also needed to load outbound freight there. We moored in the Port‑au‑Prince  docks on the west side of Hispaniola in Haiti at what was a primitive yet adequate dock, unloaded some containers and loaded some new ones. Captain "Logbook" Wilson had received word of ongoing civil unrest (for which Haiti is infamous) in the Port‑au‑Prince downtown area, and so we went about our business quietly, not venturing too far from the docks until it was time to leave.

Sailing around to the east side of Hispaniola to Santo Domingo, the capital city of the Dominican Republic, we put into what could hardly even be called a dock and which made the primitive facilities in Port-au-Prince seem state of the art  and modern in comparison. The huge Margaret Lykes sailed up a river until the crew spotted some big trees on the bank. They literally tied the ship to a tree and set up a means to offload cargo using block and tackle  to make a slide between the ship's deck and another tree on the river bank.

It's the stuff of legends that when sailors reach port and they party, they party hard. The night we spent in Santo Domingo was, in character, partied hard. I had befriended two of the crew who worked in the engine room. Being experienced sailors, they knew where the action was in these parts. We took a taxi to a beachside nightclub comprising a half dozen or so grass huts, one of which was a saloon dispensing grog, the sailors' mainstay. There was live music by a local band and tiki  lights, and there were women everywhere, at least two for each visiting sailor. They were beautiful  - in a nubian, muscular, horsey  kind of way.

Fueled by the heady grog and initiated into the sensual rites of island hospitality by my two new female companions, it was a night to remember. As dawn was breaking, I heard my friends calling me through the walls of the grass hut. Bidding swift and fond farewells, I joined them for the taxi ride back to the Margaret Lykes which we boarded under the watchful, knowing eye of Captain "Logbook" Wilson, released our moorings from the tree, and set out once again for the open sea, charting a course for Cape Town.

Photograph courtesy George Ancona
Hellenic Sun

Sailing on the Margaret Lykes from New Orleans United States of America to Cape Town South Africa wasn't the last time I sailed on a freighter. On a later occasion I sailed on the Hellenic Sun  from Durban South Africa to New York United States of America.

Putting to sea in the port of Durban on South Africa's northeast coast, we sailed around the southernmost tip of Africa giving Cape Town's Cape Peninsula  a wide berth of many nautical miles. It was a totally unique view of Cape Town for me.

During the three weeks it took us to cross the Atlantic Ocean, I woke up every morning with views of the open sea through my porthole ... until one morning when I woke up with a view of the Statue of Liberty through my porthole.

We had arrived.

I haven't included deeper coverage of this voyage in this account because it wasn't one of the sequential journeys I made circumnavigating the globe. So it's a subject for another conversation on another occasion.


Closing The Circle

Sumi-e circle by Yamada Mumon Roshi
When I arrived back in Cape Town, not having forewarned anyone about my imminent return, I went straight to my parents' home, 2 Kabbelende Waters  (which means "babbling waters" in the local Afrikaans  language) at 89 Kildare Road in the Newlands suburb. This was the same house from where I had said my goodbyes before setting sail on the Guglielmo Marconi east bound for Australia and New Zealand at the start of this odyssey.

I knocked on the door. I could see my Mom through its frosted glass panes. When she opened the door, she had an apple she was eating in her hand, and very quickly thereafter, a look of sheer astonishment on her face.

"What are you doing here?"  she asked incredulously as I embraced her.

It took me nearly four years from early 1975 to late 1978 to journey around the world in these discontiguous segments, always traveling east. But you can't go east forever. Eventually you just come home again. And perhaps when you do, you know the place maybe for the first time. During the next year I delivered the first ten guest events in South Africa enrolling the first one thousand people around the country in the possibility of Werner Erhard's work of transformation.

I never had an intention per se  to circumnavigate the globe like this. It just happened. It just turned out this way.

You Can't Go East Forever   Top

And Then There Was One:
End Of An Era

This chapter shares my feelings and my experience of and immediately after the end of my second marriage. Not writing this chapter for as long as I've not written it has been a perpetration, a withhold  on my part. I've had no reason to withhold it, but I've had no reason to gossip about it either. This is one chapter where I'm drawing the line at specifics. The details  surrounding the end of a long, happy relationship are just gossip, dirt  really which if published would further offend my children who've already been offended enough.

Neither do I intend to offer my opinion  of what happened ie play the blame game  speculating who caused  what happened. Opinions are like noses: everyone's got one, and so what?! I place very little stock in opinions: other's, yours, my own - especially  my own. What I'm committed to, however, and what I intend to share is where in my experience  I discovered value  during this disrupted, transitional time of my life. Even something as arduous, something as painful, something which brings on as much dislocation  as the unwanted end of a long, happy relationship is interimly merely circumstance. Ultimately circumstance is not who I am.

There's Life, and then there are our preferences  for and our attachments to  the way we'd like it to be. When something's there for a long time and then it's not there anymore, there's plenty of occasion for reflection. If what's not there anymore had erstwhile notes  that it would be there forever and then it's not, there's certainly an opportunity for great dislocation, for great confusion, even for great resentment.

In my case, given who I am, given the conversations  I am, given my family and my friends, given the people I speak with, given my coach (especially  given my coach), I saw I had choice in the matter. Regardless of what seemed like a looming inevitability  of dislocation, confusion, and resentment, I listened for and heard the beat of a different drum. Without hesitation I marched to it - unflinchingly.

The Beat Of A Different Drum

The beat of a different drum I heard was the beat of "this is not what you expected ... AND ... this is the way it turned out". Once I started marching to it, I discovered (or rather re-discovered) something profound. I discovered the only thing the end of my second marriage meant, was my second marriage was ended.

When I was a child, my friends and I played a game we called "Pile On". We would be playfully wrestling, rolling around on the floor (or on the lawn) in fits of laughter, when someone would yell out "Pile on!". At that point all of us would pile on  ie climb on top of whomever was closest to the ground, making a big pile of bodies. And the bigger the pile the more we giggled. And the more we giggled the more fun we had. And the more fun we had ... well, that was the whole point of the game. That was "Pile On".

That's what we do with meaning  in life. We pile on  meaning. And that's what I did - at first  - even though I wasn't doing it consciously when my second marriage ended. I piled on  meaning, none of it validating, of course, none of it kindly. But the thing about "Pile On" is ultimately it's just a game, and I had long forgotten that. I wasn't giggling anymore.

The problem, it turned out, wasn't the end of my second marriage. The problem was whatever I'd made the end of my second marriage mean. The problem was with whatever meaning I'd piled on. When I saw I was doing that, I saw there was no value doing it and, like nicotine and alcohol, I dropped it.

Life turns out the way it turns out, and the way it turns out isn't always what you expect. One of the first things people asked me when they heard about the end of my marriage was "What went wrong?". The question itself didn't bother me, yet neither was I in any hurry to answer it. After settling into my new home, the amazing Cowboy Cottage, I looked until I was clear I had an answer for them. Only then did I say "Nothing went wrong. It just ended. That's how it turned out.". Finally, thankfully, I'd stopped piling on meaning.

To tell you the truth, that answer, the matter-of-fact-ness of what it conveys, was hard to confront at first. But it opened something up for me: the possibility that the disappointment around the end of my marriage was the result of being removed from a simple preference I had, from an attachment I had. It wasn't, in and of itself, an indication of anything laid down by Life itself  going wrong. It just ended. It was real. It started. It had a middle. Then it ended.

A Time To Heal

The moment I invented the possibility of being complete with it ending, I started to heal.
Werner Erhard says "Happiness is a function of accepting what is.". Being complete requires accepting things the way they are and the way they aren't.

One of the next things people asked me when they heard about the end of my marriage was "Why?". Now that  question bothered me when they asked me. What bothered me wasn't that they were being intrusive, prying, or inappropriate. What bothered me was I didn't have an answer  to the "Why?" question for them. I didn't know what to tell them. I didn't know why. That's what bothered me. I had it that I was supposed  to know why. I had it that I was supposed to have an answer. I didn't. That bothered me.

I still don't have an answer to "Why?". But something in this regard is shifted big time  now. It came in a revelation around 3:15am late one night in July of 2005 when, unable to sleep in the sultry, clammy heat I got up to take a shower. As I passed my bathroom cabinet, I saw my face reflected in the mirror. A shout  came out of my mouth: "That's IT! I don't  know why. I don't know why is  the truth!". Eureka!  Then, noticing the simple sadness still there in my reflected face, I said: "Now that you know the truth, Laurence, how much longer are you going to be sad?".

I got my own point immediately. The bother vanished, the sadness fell from my face, and my new life started in that moment. Now, when people ask me "Why?". I say "I don't know why. I can't tell you why. But one thing I can  tell you with 100% absolute total certainty is she didn't want to be married anymore , and I'm complete with that.".

With every ending, with every closing door, something starts anew, new doors open. Although one of the "benefits" of divorce is most often unwanted at first, the opportunity to start life over again doesn't come often. The chance to look at everything I am, everything I do, and everything I own, and then to have the absolute freedom to decide what to discard, what to keep, and what to give away doesn't happen often. And the key to making it work, as I've discovered, is to be willing to let go of what was  in favor of what could be. That's possibility. It's an opportunity like no other. It's quite literally the ride of my life. This is a life worth living. It's a powerful life. It's the life I love.

Fatherhood As A Function Of What's So

Divorce, when there are no children involved, is one thing. When there are children involved it's another order of things entirely. I could get the end of my second marriage had been called, although I wasn't the one who called it. I didn't want it to end. I was set up to grow old and to grow gold  together forever. But it takes two to make a marriage and only one to pull it apart. In my life, I've ended relationships with people. And people have ended relationships with me. I've been through both. But there weren't ever children involved. The way I'm thrown  tells me divorce isn't healthy for my children. As I processed through the calling of the end of the marriage and the tragic, irrevocable, unnecessary  consequences it would have for my children, I found myself using words like vicious, cruel, and even bestial.

But as I include the reality of it, I notice while it may, in a perfect world, be preferable for their parents to be married, my children are way more resilient than I sometimes, in my own concern for them, give them credit for.

Divorce clearly has a major impact on the time and the way my children and I interact these days. While at first that seemed to warrant fiercely protecting our time together, I've realized that's just another symptom of the sense of scarcity  which is really self-imposed following the forced evacuation of my preference, of my attachment  to being married. I've found there's no power in belaboring that aspect of it. Doing so is really quite petty.

What's really powerful comes from the dynamic, the absolute reality where they're my children and I'm their Dad and that's how it's going to be for the rest of eternity. Period. Actually, that's not only where the power lies. That's where the freedom lies. Why fret trying to bring something forth when its overt presence is already assured by the design of Life itself?

And so, paradoxically and arguably for the first time, my children are now my children and I'm now their Dad simply because that's who they are and that's who I am, and me trying to be great for them  no longer gets in our way.

From now on, whenever I'm fortunate enough to be blessed with the gift of a woman's friendship, company, warmth, and intimacy, it'll be very clear I'm not looking to reproduce again. In three gorgeous, intelligent, loving children, I've made my biological contribution to the human race. I've given at the office  and it's unlikely I'll make that particular contribution ever again.

I bin  there before (as Huckleberry Finn may have said). It's complete for me.

And Then There Was One   Top

Cowboy Cottage Times:
Genesis Of A New Life

Perhaps finding the Cowboy Cottage in February of 2005 was a superbly timed stroke of good fortune. Perhaps I created  the Cowboy Cottage at least like a possibility, after which it was simply a matter of time before it materialized. But lately I've come to see differently what happened. What happened was the Cowboy Cottage called me  to come live in it.

Whenever I hear the question "If you could have any house you wanted, what kind of house would be the perfect house for you to live in?", I know the answer. The perfect house for me to live in would be a house that's an extension of my clothing. It would be like ie it would fit me like  my favorite, most comfortable pair of Levis  denim jeans.

In this way, the Cowboy Cottage is a perfect fit  for me. There's not much of anything here. Indeed, there's not much room  for anything here. But there's room for everything I need, and I've got everything I need in the Cowboy Cottage. It's very Zen: absolutely minimalistic, and completely inspirational.

Joshua my son articulated it perfectly. "Blonde Boy" he said to me (it's our private joke: he calls me "Blonde Boy", I call him "Dad" - Joshua is blonde, of course). "Blonde Boy" he said, "Inside, your house is the smallest house I've ever been in. But outside, your house is the biggest house in the world.".

Not even the Bard  himself could have said it any better than that.

Initially I envisioned staying in the Cowboy Cottage as a temporary sojourn - perhaps six weeks, perhaps longer, but no more than six months at the most. The six weeks has turned into three years. When I moved in, I only envisioned the Cowboy Cottage as a place of transition, indeed as a place of healing  where, uninterrupted, I could process through and fully assess the unexpected, unwanted changes in my life, regroup, complete the past, chart a course for the future, then move on.

The Cowboy Cottage became and fulfilled all of that, and more.

For the previous fifteen years I'd lived in a nine roomed house (four bedrooms, two bathrooms) with an outside granny  unit, a barn, a swimming pool, and a lanai  which I'd bought, taken down almost to the foundations, remodeled, refinanced (four times), and worked my ass  off making payments on two mortgages and a home equity line of credit. Indeed, I worked my soul, my blood  into that house. Being forced to sell it wasn't a happy proposition.

The Only Way Out Is Through

It's funny how even the most seemingly permanent indelible  things change, sometimes through a complete one hundred and eighty degrees. When I first moved in to the Cowboy Cottage I would come home with trepidation, not wanting to be alone, hoping  the phone would ring.

Pain is a dictatorial taskmaster. It's unrelenting. It goes on ... and on ... until it stops of its own accord. It stops when it stops - not one moment sooner - with no regard to when I've had enough or to when I want it to stop.
Werner Erhard's two observations were extremely useful to me over the next few months. They are:

 1)  What you resist persists.
 2)  Experienced experience disappears.

The pain of being separated involuntarily from my children was recurring, stabbing, jagged, deep in my solar plexus. If I tried to avoid it ie resist  it, it persisted, it got worse, it woke me up at night. Gradually I began to notice if I experienced  the experience ie if I just let the pain be, it disappeared. At first, given how I'm thrown to be about pain, that was counterintuitive.

A relatively short time later (it took me a year to completely process through the pain) I couldn't wait  to get home, suddenly fully awake and turned on to the amazing possibility of the Cowboy Cottage. I was brimming with new ideas, bursting with creativity, looking forward to generating Conversations For Transformation and hoping the phone wouldn't  ring.

The best thing about it was the place was mine. It was all mine. All mine.

New Technology Foundation

The New Technology Foundation  nearby in the town of Napa was hiring talent to develop their GradePortal  website, a comprehensive and innovative approach to reporting students' grades at a group of schools in the New Technology stable. Grades would be convieniently reported on the internet by school, by teacher, by subject, by assignment, by student. There would be varying degrees of authority. Students, for example, would only be able to view their grades. Teachers, on the other hand, could update grades. The project would last as long as it took me to develop the website, the back office  database, and the connectivity, after which its maintenance would be outsourced  and my position would disappear.

For the duration of my tenure there, it was great working with the staff of the New Technology Foundation. Having first laid my fingers on a computer keyboard in 1969, it was interesting, to say the least, to participate providing a mainstay of education for the young computer guard nearly thirty five years later which, in time measured in the computer universe, is eons  and eons  and eons  later.

One of the benefits provided to New Technology Foundation staff was membership at the local gymnasium "Exertec Health and Fitness Center" where I renewed my lifelong love affair with water by swimming a mile twice a day every day in the heated indoor swimming pool. Swimming in a swimming pool is many degrees removed from the gentle art of surfing, the water sport which captivates and calms my heart. But once a waterman always a waterman  and the trine  of the Cowboy Cottage, the New Technology Foundation, and Exertec Health and Fitness Center quickly became a bastion  of my life. I shed pounds. The pudge  on my face and my belly fell off.

Napa Winery Shuttle

Napa Valley, California, USA
Napa Winery Shuttle
Ford Econoline E-250 V8 Mark III 2000
No sooner had the New Technology Foundation and the GradePortal website project completed and had almost disappeared from view than the Napa Winery Shuttle  came into clear focus, front and center.

Driving has been a recurring theme in my life. In addition to driving cars to get around like everyone else, I've driven cabs and trucks, and I've also contracted to drive rental cars from the drop off  city back to their point of origin, sometimes over thousands of miles. It's a great way to see the countryside, have a vacation, and get paid to do it.

California's Napa Valley, the wine country  where I live on whose south east side the Cowboy Cottage is situated, has many visitors year round who come to visit its wineries and taste its juice. Any enterprise which drives visitors around wineries in the Napa Valley, freeing them from the concern of driving and drinking at the same time, is like a salon which cuts peoples' hair: they both provide services which will always be in demand. No announced upgrade to any Microsoft  operating system can ever make them redundant or render their skills obsolete. Designated drivers, barbers, and manicurists are immune to the vagaries of Redmond Washington's whims.

I was intently creating the opportunity to work as close to my children as possible, to master my own time and to free it up fast in the event my children's available time also opened up suddenly, and to work with great, family oriented people. Given my love of driving, the outdoors, and serving people, the Napa Winery Shuttle showed up in my life like a gift from God.

Owned and operated by an intensely family oriented father and son team, the Napa Winery Shuttle is ideally suited to a man like me, intent as I am to maximize my time with my children. Around 9:30am daily I start "the loop", a euphemism for driving a van around the towns of the Napa Valley, picking up guests from hotels, bed and breakfasts, and inns to take them on a winery tour. During the course of an average day we can visit seven or eight wineries.

Offering people fabulous scenery in the Napa Valley is a slam dunk. Offering people exquisite wines to taste in the Napa Valley is shooting fish in a barrel. Offering people a memorable day in the Napa Valley touring and wine tasting is easy like taking candy from a baby. I can deliver what I promise, and more. However, I'm not satisfied unless by the end of the day my guests are better informed and are better educated and have learned more about wine and wine making from me than they knew before we started the tour. That, to me, is how I measure the success of the day as I return home at dusk to briefly soak and relax in the Cowboy Cottage's hot tub before getting on with whatever activities the evening has in store.

Hopefully the phone won't ring.

Cowboy Cottage   Top

Transformation And Acknowledgement

After transformation, if you tell the truth about it, you've got people to thank. The Cowboy Cottage has seen the entire phase of the genesis  of my new life: from stasis  through rebirth. When I say rebirth  I'm implying nothing more (and nothing less) than simply noticing choices I've made and their results, then noticing choices I could  make and their possible results, and then inventing possibilities which touch, move, and inspire me, and living from  the future generated by those possibilities.

Throughout this process, there've been people who've stayed present with me and for me, and to whom I owe a lot. Actually I know you don't expect anything of me or any payback  from me for being with me during some distressed, perplexing conversations. Some of you have visited with me in the Cowboy Cottage and others haven't. But all of you have generously listened  me in a way that's allowed me to invent a new future, a future that's powerful, a future I love living into, and for that I'm indebted to you. You are:

Alexandra, Anna, Anth, Art, Avram, Bang, Barbara, Belva, Beverly, Bob, Brian, Bruce, Carolee, Cathie, Charlene, Cherie, Christian, Claudette, Colin, Curt, Dad, Dan, Dorothy, Ed, Elizabeth, Elize, Ellie, Floyd, George, Gerry, Gordon, Heidi, Jan, Jane, Jean, Jeanne, Jeff, Jessel, John, Jonny, Josh, Joshua, Judith, Judy, June, Karen, Kate, KC, Kihā, Kris, Larry, Laurel, Laurine, Lillian, Linda, Liz, Lorenzo, Lynne, Marielle, Mark, Marissa, Marty, Marykay, Melissa, Mimi, Mom, Nancy, Neil, Norm, Olga, Patrick, Pondi, Rhonda, Rick, Ron, Sally, Sheila, Steve, Tammy, Teressa, Tim, Victoria, and Werner.

I thank you. I thank all of you. I thank each one of you.

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In The End What Does It All Mean?

It's a great story this autobiography, this life story  of mine. But in the end that's all it is - it's just a story. It's a great story, but it's just a story.

Cows go "Moo moo!", pigs go "Oink oink!", chickens go "Cheep cheep!", and human beings go "Blah blah blah!" (as Old MacDonald may have said).

Old MacDonald was a wise, wise man. "Blah blah blah!" is just what we human beings do. It's just sound and fury. It signifies nothing. It doesn't mean a god-damned  thing!

Laurence Platt

But there is some value in my story, however. Secondarily it paints the picture of what was going on in my life that gave rise to the critical mass of experience which eventually, inexorably  led to meeting Werner Erhard in 1978 and the Conversations For Transformation which are sourced by and which keep coming forth from the space of our friendship. Primarily my story provides the contradistinction to who I really am  as Conversations For Transformation.

The story of my life isn't who I really am. It's separate from and distinct from who I really am.

Thank You for the space you grant me to be who I am and to do what I do in the world. I experience your listening as a very personal gift. I want you to know I'm using it well.

With my Love,

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* The bells of the St Mary le Bow church were destroyed during the blitz  on London in 1941 and replaced in 1961.

During that time which included my birth year 1950, no true "Bow bells" cockneys were born, given there were no Bow bells within whose earshot they could have been born.

So from 1941 through 1961, a cockney was anyone born within earshot of Bow bells, had they existed.

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© Laurence Platt - 2007 through 2024 Permission