I grew up a rather precocious child, which did not always tend to my good. If my parents wouldn’t have wisely thought the better of it, I probably would have graduated high-school at the age of twelve. But instead of advancing my grade as the teachers suggested, they had me do extra-credit science work at home and make weekly trips to the public library. There, I was free to read up on advanced mathematical hypotheses, check out books on the stock market, and peruse as many history works in the reference section as I wished. I read Lost Horizon in the third grade, which began a quest for good adventure novels; also finished reading the Revised Standard Version of the Bible about this time. It wasn’t until later in life that I discovered the Russian and French novels, then James Joyce, and the truly inspiring modern writer Tom Wolfe. Along the way, amongst numerous other works, I found Michener to be too tedious for my taste; F. Scott Fitzgerald to be envious and disconnected; the poetry of Pushkin to be mesmerizing; and Vonnegut to be hysterical. But I fell in love with the giant novel, filled with action, big ideas, and acute observation - the properly obtained support of microscopic detail skillfully woven into sweeping theories with obvious conclusions and implications.
However I must confess, I did not think these literary journeys to be the basis of anything more than part of a larger desire for knowledge - and the vain pursuit of sophistication: part entertainment, part mental acquisition, part pride. There was the rest of life and plenty of it.
In Washington State in the early 1960’s, everyone still raised fruit trees, vegetable and ornamental gardens, could visually and odiferously identify any number of varieties of Evergreen, fished, hunted, maintained and repaired their own homes and seasonally canned their own food. Television was secondary to outdoor play; an invitation by the neighborhood kids to a game of hide-and-go-seek, which might also include a limited section of the nearby forest, was enough to cause one to ditch Saturday cartoons; except perhaps Johnny Quest. Then, Rock-n-Roll and its attendant drug scene came around and most parents had absolutely no clue what the words to the popular songs meant or that you came home stoned from school. I was there with almost everyone else, except the Jocks (or Soshes as they were known in our part of the country). Sexual dalliance came in tow. But only the most daring and rebellious, the Hippies, or the low-class, moved in and lived together – respectability was still important; being divorced was frowned upon.
My family moved to the mountains of California when I was fifteen. This was imminently cool. California was the dream state for any teenager unlucky enough to be living in one of the other 49. I can’t say that’s true anymore. But back then, just the extended days of sunshine alone was enough to create bragging rights when talking to, or writing the poor souls left behind. It was there I met my future wife, in Spanish class . She came from a Mexican-American background with olive skin, curly hair, and soft green eyes – exotic to one who’d ventured little outside Washington State. Over time, we fell from puppy to real love, became Christians, got married, adopted our beautiful daughter, Margarita, and moved out to a communal situation at a ranch in a lovely high-mountain valley. Nothing unusual at all for a Californian in the mid-70’s; we each had our own homes but without running water or electricity. We raised most of our own food, including meat (vegetarians were still con sidered off-beat by even communalists; vegans didn’t exist as far as anyone knew). When we finally got tired of the bickering and bossing and lack of necessities, and we moved into our first apartment, I distinctly remember the day I flicked the light switch on for the first time and was most convinced that God Himself was the author of, and inspiration behind, electricity. I’ve never been able to stomach the environmental movement as a result. For the most part, they have no idea what they’re proposing and I’m not going along for the ride in any case.
Anyway, having come to the conclusion that I’d wasted a lot of time, and celebrating the passing of my twenty-fifth birthday with the mid-life sense of life’s-over gloom (you have to remember the precociousness), I began to be restless to accomplish something before it was entirely too late. After a stint at managing a local health-food store and restaurant, my wife so kindly prodded me to go back to school.
Well, there’s a line from the stage-play Evita (which my wife and I happened to literally pop in to see on a one-off trip to San Francisco): “Now Eva Peron, had every disadvantage, you need if you’re gonna succeed. No money, no class . . .” That is a perfect description of my ambition at the time I entered the California State University at Chico. Working thirty-five hours a week at two jobs because we couldn’t afford our apartment otherwise, and taking a full load at school, I threw myself out of bed at 5:00 a.m. every day, and didn’t go to sleep at night until I had assured myself of not only getting an “A” in whatever class, but that I had also thoroughly learned the material. I found I loved accounting; decided to become a CPA; realized I could get a job with the Big 8 straight out of college (now there are a Big 4); did so; graduated with a 3.94 gpa; and passed the CPA exam on the first try. In two years of work at Coopers&Lybrand (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) I had my license and a reputation for being the most diligent, aggressive, and yet best mentor, at the firm. It didn’t hurt that I really got it. I brought in four clients, increased productivity and profitability on every job, and tied a ribbon around the work I handed off to my superiors before I was made a Manager at the very early three and ½ year mark. I loved the telecom industry, having a knack for the technical, and got in on the nascent explosion of cellular at the headquarters of AirTouch, the Pacific-Bell precursor to SBC Global-turns-Cingular-turns-AT&T. Several other bio-tech, real-estate, oil and gas, and other retail and tech clients later, including work on a big merger and an IPO, I jumped ship to work with a tele/datacom client in Reno, Nevada.
Though the firm’s touch-screen and remote technology was very advanced, the company was poorly capitalized and improperly structured and eventually failed. I was there to participate in and witness all the wrong things being done for the wrong reasons. But my previous reputation and industry standing came to my defense, and the Board of Directors and Executive Management at Tut Systems, Inc. saw my well-learned lessons as a big advantage (which they were). So two years after leaving Coopers, I came aboard Tut for the wildest ride imaginable as they were positioned in technology, product, staff, and connections to become one of the key players in the initial build-out of the internet. We partnered with Microsoft, Intel, HP, Compaq (they were separate at the time), Rockwell, AT&T and many others; Fortune 500 companies were buying our networking infrastructure products; Wall Street was keenly interested in what we were doing and where we were going; and I was smack in the middle of orchestrating $240 million in private equity, venture capital, and investment bank funding working with Lehman Brothers, Salomon Smith-Barney, Dain Rauscher Wessels, Bear Stearns, Credit-Suisse and others. It was nothing for our President, Sal D’Auria to take calls from the likes of Jon Corzine (then at Goldman Sachs), and Frank Quattrone at Credit-Suisse. In our travels internationally and in the U.S., I met George Soros face-to-face in a private two-on-one meeting: hey, it was the Tech Boom.
But when I was working on a contract with Saudi Aramco for a deal to place internet equipment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the first-time use of the general Saudi public, I became privy to the intrigue of the Ulemic Council that oversees the administration of Shariah law in the Kingdom and greatly influences all of the Muslim world. We were being kept abreast of the detailed infighting between the moderates and fundamentalists on the Council. If the internet couldn’t be filtered, sanitized, it was in danger of being declared haram, forbidden, in the Kingdom (and possibly all the Muslim world as a result). Our sales team, through our contacts, was helping to bolster the moderate position; I was helping iron out contractual and accounting differences between Shariah and U.S. law. I felt like I was witnessing first-hand, something not understood or discussed by the press; or most anyone for that matter. Even Judith Miller didn’t have a handle on this one. In fact, I began to realize that outside the Silicon Valley, hardly anyone understood what was happening in the Boom, or especially, why.
So while the clinical dissections of, praises for, and rants against the Boom and the corresponding run-up of the stock market streamed out in all medium of picture and print, I looked past the churning out of the latest whiz-bang gadgets and services at hyper-speed: at societies being thrust into making culture-altering decisions. I saw the intimate, personal narratives - the desires of the people involved at the epicenter of actually making it happen - the reasons, the “why” any of it was coming about. When I began looking deeply at the motives of the characters in our almost-spun-out-of-control techno world and thinking about how their story could, and should, be told, the seeds for A TERRACE ON THE TOWER OF BABEL were sown. Upon semi-retiring at the very young age of 45, I began the novel I trust you’ll decide to read.
The task was enormous, the amount of research needed vast. The diverse characters in the book not only came from different races, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds, but because the story had to be told, for the sake of believability and understanding, in the psychological, first-person format, they had to sound differently in their thoughts, emote differently in their feelings. This forced the tactical issue of different syntax and style applied consistently across several characters. A daunting challenge, but the characters are so very much alive, real, and compelling; they simply demanded that their part be played out; not overtly, but rather because their spirit, motives, and conflicts cause the story to unfold and conclude.
These people, in the midst of their struggles, pain, triumphs, and defeat, brought the author face-to-face with his own internal world. A spiritual renewal paralleled the progress of the novel and I and my wife rededicated our lives to God. More of this is detailed in the Preface, a must-read before setting foot on A TERRACE ON THE TOWER OF BABEL.
Be brave and enjoy.