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Post Thoughts on Getting Away from It All
Created by John Eipper on 04/13/18 2:53 AM

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Thoughts on Getting Away from It All (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 04/13/18 2:53 am)

Funny thing, David Duggan's nice post (12 April) about enjoying several musicals with senior discounts triggered memories of a close friend also tired of the world's craziness and conspiracy theories, whether they are true or not.

While my friend has had a rich life with her family and profession, she got tired of the crazy world and followed her dream of moving from her impressive city mansion to a small cabin in the "middle" of the forest and cultivating wild flowers.

Sometimes I daydream about retirement and moving back to the Brazilian jungle, where things may be more quiet and civilized. In reality I know I am getting a little too old for such dreams.

Musicals seem like a more appropriate alternative. 

JE comments:  It used to be that "civilization" was life in the city.  The countryside--especially the jungle--meant barbarism.  The opposite belief is expressed by Horace's Beatus ille--the blessedness of rural life.

How many WAISers dream of getting away from it all?  How many have actually done it?  The rub is, in our interconnected world, you're never far away from "it" (as in, "it all").

A confession:  I'm rapidly approaching the Brave New World of Senior Discounts, which for some businesses start at 55.  What's it like the first time you ask for one?  Do you feel accomplished?  Thrifty?  Merely old?

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  • Senior Discounts and a Banjo Band (Clyde McMorrow, USA 04/14/18 7:07 AM)
    To respond to John E's question on Senior Discounts, you don't have to ask. The 12-year old clerk automatically gives it to you.

    Our neighborhood movie theater shows the Metropolitan Opera Saturday Matinee where everyone, regardless of age, gets the senior discount. Even Harry's Hofbrau, where my banjo band performs each week, will give the senior discount to anyone who wants the small portions (about 4,000 calories).

    You will know when you have crossed over when you go to the clinic and the doctor is younger than your children.

    JE comments: And then you get your first Senior Moments, such as yesterday, when I published Tor Guimaraes's comment on "getting away from it all" under my name. Sorry about stealing your thunder, Tor: I have made the correction.

    A banjo band, Clyde? Please tell!  I think I see you in the second row here--


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  • I Got Away from It All (John Heelan, -UK 04/14/18 2:34 PM)
    JE asked on 13 April: "How many WAISers dream of getting away from it all? How many have actually done it?"

    Me for one! After a lifetime in high tech, I went to uni as a mature student (won two funded PhD projects--one to take place in the US), learned how to be a farmer, loved every moment of the life and still miss it. A couple of decades later, I took early retirement from the high tech world and was able to concentrate on self-funded doctoral research on García Lorca and Andalusia. (My only regret is that I ran out of money before I could defend my thesis, but I loved the life of academe.)

    JE comments:  And García Lorca brought you to Ronald Hilton, who brought you to WAIS.  So glad you got away from it all, John.

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    • Getting Away from It All: Australia (Martin Storey, Australia 04/15/18 4:58 AM)
      Me, me! Me?


      I had an American dream. It started on July 3rd, 1976, the day I landed in Chicago, Illinois, for my first visit to the USA as a twelve-year old boy from the Sologne region of France--see the recent film L'Ecole Buissonière a.k.a. The School of Life. What I saw on the next day in Park Ridge, and for the next few weeks amazed me: such BIGness to everything! Friendly people! Magnificent nature! (My godfather host took me along with his family to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario). A few years later, when I completed high school, I left the Sologne, and after few meanders arrived at Stanford as a star-eyed and very clueless "international student." A fashionable ambition at that time of the Japanese "Fifth Generation Project" threat, was to go into computer science so I did, cramming my BSc in two years because that was the duration of my scholarship. I got into a good grad school elsewhere, again the only one that was generous enough to grant me a scholarship, but had to defer this to do the French military service.

      The sequence

      I was able to dodge that, instead spending the deferred year working for the United Nations then in IT in Belgium, and for Médecins Sans Frontières in the Sudan. The people I met there triggered an epiphany: being totally uneducated does not mean that one is totally unintelligent! And another related and more sinister one: being highly educated does not mean that one is intelligent or benevolent! I returned to California, crammed my MSc in the duration of my scholarship and stunned my advisor when I declared that I did not want to go on to do a PhD. My MSc officially qualified me to design Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) circuitry, with a particular emphasis on communications. I did the graduating student thing and interviewed for every company that would talk to me--which turned out to be very few on account of my foreign citizenship and the usual requirement of "US citizenship required," although I did have a green card by then.

      How I got away from it all--or is it "into" it all?

      Interviews were not going so well, mainly because I was unaware of the protocols and truly had no idea of "where I wanted to be five years later."  One of the interviews I went to was with a VLSI company in Palo Alto. The process was hectic and amateurish, and at one point I ended up one-on-one in the messy office of a thirty-something engineer who rambled about the necessity of working long hours; his desk was sprinkled with white powder which he made no attempt to conceal. That experienced puzzled. At another interview, for what later became an "iconic" Silicon Valley computer company (now long since acquired), an HR person told me confidently something along the lines of "Vacations. Yes. You get 6 days per year during the first years. But if you really care about your career, you are well advised not to take them." That may have been the last straw for the French in me.

      Concurrently, Royal Dutch Shell had offered me a job and during the obligatory "thinking-about-it period," called to warn me about another company that may court me, and why I shouldn't work for them. By the end of the call, I was quite keen to talk to that company I'd never heard of and couldn't quite pronounce the name of. I traced it and got an interview with them--Schlumberger--in Houston, Texas. A few days later, a short offer came in the mail wrapped around a plane ticket for Venezuela. I took it and the job. That was over 30 years ago, and during that time I have not resided again in North America or in Western Europe, but I have lived in South America, West Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and for most of the past 18 years, Western Australia. During these life-travels, I have met many more uneducated intelligent people and highly educated unintelligent people. I occasionally reflect on what I would have been if I had remained in Silicon Valley or in academia... someone else. Revolving doors!

      Does that qualify, or was I too young when I got away?

      JE comments:  Martin, that makes you a WAISer!  Thank you for telling us the details of your fascinating peripatetic career.  If I do an on-the-fly survey of our colleagues, I think you rank with World Citizens Tom Hashimoto and Marga Jann for the "most countries worked in" title.  Two of you, I note, are French.

      Great to hear from you, Martin.

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  • Getting Away from It All: Germany (Patrick Mears, -Germany 04/15/18 4:22 AM)

    in response to John Eipper's question and John Heelan's story, I can add my two cents.

    Sometime in my late 50s, I decided that I was ready and able to retire from the active practice of law but wished to remain somewhat active in my profession and pursue other interests--e.g., reading the many books that I had collected over the years but had no time to open, researching and filling in the gaps in my family's history, learning a foreign language, devoting more time to my son, Eddie, and my daughter, Tricia, who now is a cinematographer in NYC, all the while living in Europe.  My wife had passed away from appendix cancer in 2006, and afterwards I had met my present wife, Cornelia, who is a German living in Heidelberg. So I decided to plan for retirement and a move to Germany thereafter.

    In July, 2014, I retired and moved to Heidelberg, where I began to teach a course in International Trade Law at the University of Mannheim as a Lecturer or, as they call it over here, a "Honorardozent." Because I lacked sufficient knowledge about this subject, I designed my own crash course and, through constant studying during the last four years, now have a fairly good working knowledge of the subject--enough at least to teach a survey course to master's and undergraduate students here. At least, I haven't been fired yet.

    The main benefit to me of "getting away from it all" is that I have done just the opposite by expanding old interests and developing new ones, which have nurtured emotional and intellectual growth that I likely would not have experienced in the same degree had I not retired and moved to a new environment. What has affected me the most by my recusal from law practice is appreciating many, previously "minor" things in my life that, on account of this change in perspective and attitude, have become extremely important to me. And there have been really surprising discoveries about my forbears and other family members on the way. One example is the trip that I made to Millstreet, County Cork, Ireland, the details of which I recounted in a WAIS post back then. Another one is something that I uncovered just recently that was a major surprise: a cousin of mine--the daughter of my first cousin and who was raised in Manhattan--had married in 1973 Evelyn Robert Adrian de Rothschild and had three children by him, although they are now divorced. As a child, my family had lost contact with this branch of the family (that of my father's sister) and, sorry to say, I had never met any of these people other than my Aunt "Tonnie" back in 1957.

    In conclusion, I just hope every day that this adventure of discovery continues unabated and that my health holds up for some time to come. And I am thankful to my immediate family, friends, "teachers" and, ultimately, God, who have helped to bring me to this point in my life and to the realization that I have some paying back to do for these advantages bestowed on me.

    JE comments:  Beautifully said, Pat.  It's not what you get away from; it's what you get away to.  And I note that like John Heelan, your life transition is what brought you to WAIS.

    Here's the link to Pat Mears's splendid 2017 report on his trip to County Cork:


    Next, we go to Western Australia and Martin Storey.

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    • A John Heelan Ancestor... (John Heelan, -UK 04/16/18 4:01 AM)

      Patrick Mears's interesting report about searching for his Irish roots (15 April) reminded me that in Cripple Creek's (Colorado) Gold Mining Museum, I spotted a waybill dated in the 1880s and signed by one "John Heelan." He was of my forebears escaping the Great Famine no doubt. It was a strange experience!

      I found this interesting website about the 1880 famine in the West of
      Ireland that perhaps inspired my eponymous ancestor to make the move:


      JE comments:  The engravings above remind us that just over a century ago, many Irish
      lived in Stone Age conditions.  Look at the primitive lodgings. 
      Compared to a mud-and-thatch hovel, a coldwater flat in New York or
      Boston would have seemed luxurious.

      There's nothing quite as uncanny as coming across your Doppelgänger.  Some years ago our dear friend Randy Black found the following for Yours Truly:


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