My Life So Far–Back in Marin

Returning to Marin after two years away was a shock. Well, perhaps the shock was the change going to Ashland. The southern part of Oregon and the extreme northern part of California share a common history.

After the South lost their war to maintain slavery, aka, the Civil War, they were forced to endure two plagues; they were invaded by unscrupulous northerners who came to take advantage of the depressed economy and to extract retribution from the defeated people. Then there were the "scalawags", southern whites who sought to work with the carpetbaggers for their own benefit.

Many of the white farmers could not accept the new way of life and moved across the country to what they called "The State of Jefferson" in honor, I think of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. In any case, they found the climate and soil to be very similar to that in their previous area. They started farming and were very successful in growing fruit like pears, and peaches. In the state of Jefferson, they could maintain their own racist culture. Though they could not have slaves, they could employ farm hands at barely livable wages.

Today, that area tends to be fiercely anti-government, anti-tax and still, with notable exceptions, very racist. There are exceptions. Ashland, for example, is built around tourism and the Shakespeare Festival. It is cosmopolitan and, while people of color are still a minor part of the population, it is not overtly racist. On the other hand, Talent, where Mary and I had lived was.  And Medford, being a larger city, was not as mindlessly so, still had very few people of color who had a hard time getting decent jobs.

Returning to Marin was fascinating. Suddenly I again had friends and acquaintances of many cultures and skin-tones. But it also meant that I was again represented politically by people more to my liking. I also returned with my private pilot's certificate.

Early in my stay in Oregon, I began to volunteer as a chaplain at the Rogue Valley Medical Center. Then I won a contract to install and maintain computer networks there. It worked well as they didn't really need me to spend much time–it was a simple system, but when they did need, I was readily available. Before I left for Marin, the fact that I was now flying meant that I could agree to continue serving them. I was, at most, a three hour flight away.

For the first few years back, we maintained that agreement and I flew to Medford several times a month. I acquired a lot of hours of flight time, landing sometimes in Ashland, sometimes in Medford and occasionally in Klamath Falls. (It is fun to land on a runway that is over 10,000 feet long. That is long enough to land and take off three or four times.)

But eventually, it became clear that I could not do an adequate job as their network needs grew. They required someone local. I helped them find the right person and bowed out after acquiring almost a thousand hours of flight time, mostly serving them.

Flying had become my drug of choice. In the next few years, I flew to Las Vegas several times, Victoria, B.C. southern California, Arizona.  Then I took my instrument training in North Carolina and got a lot of flying in that area, as well as up the East Coast to Richmond, VA, Washington and Philadelphia.

In the mid-1990s, I was looking for help to clean my house. A friend knew a young Brazilian woman who was putting herself through college. I met Adriana and discovered that she had a four year old son. They lived in a home with other students in San Francisco.

She came every couple weeks to clean the place. With my background in Brazil, we began to sit over coffee and talk about life both in Brazil and here. Gradually our friendship grew. After about a year, Adriana told me that she had to find a new place to live. The other students were not happy to have a four year-old around. It cramped their style. The result was that I offered her and Hugo my back bedroom in exchange for which she would continue school, but also keep the house cleaned.

This worked well, but our lives were even more intertwined. Over the next few years, Adriana changed schools to the College of Marin, had at least a couple boyfriends; even moved out to live with one in San Francisco, but moved back when that didn't work. We just kept being closer. At some point, we realized that our relationship was very much like a father-daughter.

Eventually she graduated from COM, was recruited to attend Smith College in Massachussetts on full scholarship. So she and Hugo moved there. But our relationship kept growing.

One more side-track: In the late 1970s, Tamayo, Frances and I went on vacation to Mexico. Tamayo's colleague had visited Mazatlan, Mexico and recommended it. So we went there. Many years later, I started going on short vacations in Mazatlan. I loved the beaches and the old charm. Staying in a hotel that in better days had been visited by movie celebraties like Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Lucille Ball, and Mae West as well as many famous writers like Anais Nin.

In 2002, I turned 65 and retired from the computer business. I was still doing counseling and pastoral psychotherapy as parish associate at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Long wanting to learn Spanish, I began looking for a language school. As it turned out there was a well-considered school in Mazatlan. I made arrangements to enroll in a one-on-one full-time program that they would construct for me.

For the next six months, I studied Spanish and made myself at home in Mazatlan. I fell in love with this city. Yes it does have a tourist section and tourist oriented entertainment, but it is predominently a thriving Mexican city. The Mexican Navy maintains a large base, it is the largest freight port on the west coast of Mexico. The infrastructure is reasonably robust. While there, I met some very interesting people who have organized a wild-animal hospital, a humane society, and many other capabilities. Mazatlan has a marvelous volunteer fire department. Two of the high points in the year are Carnival and the International Motorcycle Week.

Mazatlan has the third largest and most colorful Carnival in the world. Only Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Mardi Gras in New Orleans are better known and celebrated.

Motorcycle week draws up to 15,000 motorcycles from all over the Western Hemisphere. That first year I was there, I met two men who had come from Buenos Aires, others from Brazil, Nicaragua, Mexico, Canada and the US. They came singly, in pairs and a contingent of police motorcops from Canada came to put on a motorcycle trick riding show. (Motorcops all over are among the very best riders in the world.)

When I left, in July, I had an agreement to help start a pastoral counseling center in San Diego. At first I rented an apartment in San Diego, but I soon found a house on the beach in Rosarito, Mexico for the same amount of money, but oh so much nicer. Since my work would only take a few days a week, I could drive in and back. It was a pleasant drive except for the actual border crossing which was always slow and crowded.

San Diego is a jewel. Yes it is a city where the politics is very corrupt. With all the military bases and the civilian contractors who suck up our taxes, there is graft. (San Diego went through three mayors one year, the first two indicted for crimes like bribery.) But it is also the city with great beaches, fairly clean air, a wonderful Balboa park, museums and more. I loved it.

One day, coming in from Rosarito on I-805, I felt a pain in my chest and pulled off the freeway at an exit. As luck would have it, I could pull right into the parking lot of a Kaiser medical office. I crawled in and up to the desk with, "Please help me."  They immediately did what they could and put me in an ambulance. Before the day was out I was whisked to a hospital and had a "roto-rooter" to clear the plaque that was blocking an artery. They placed a stent and I was on my way to recovering.

Two days later, I was discharged. Instead of returning to Rosarito, I decided to stay in a motel room for a couple days to recover my strength, then see the doctor again to be sure before heading back to Rosarito. The second night, I found myself bleeding and weak. I called 911 and was soon back in the hospital. An incipient ulcer had opened up in my stomach. Again Kaiser did their thing and I was feeling so much better. However, I was being kept in the hospital until the social worker was satisfied that I was not indigent.

Two days later, my daughter and her then boyfriend came down and "sprung" me. We picked up my van and drove back to Marin, completely bypassing my home in Rosarito.

In Marin, Tamayo insisted that I stay with her. She has a second bedroom and wanted to be sure I would be okay. After a call to my landlady, I paid for two extra months to cancel the lease. Robb went down to Rosarito to put my belongings in a van, drive them back up here and put them in storage.

Most of it came through. Somehow, all my photography from all my years in Japan, Brazil and the US, was missed and disappeared. It is not the kind of thing anyone would take. It just was accidently left behind and tossed.

After a bit of sadness, I realized that I could start my photography anew. The memories would continue to be in my mind. It was the beginning of the new quality in digital cameras which could now be as good as film ever was.

I can't say enough good about the care I received from Kaiser. Like all of our medical system it is flawed and makes bad calls at times. But that is the human condition. I have at times considered finding another Medicare provider, but whenever I do and compare, I realize that I'm getting excellent service.

Send David an email comment,

On to the next episode