My Life Since Graduation

(Written for my Williams College 25th reunion’s class book in 2014)

In the week after graduation I flew home to Oregon, bought my first car, packed up my meager possessions and drove to Mountain View, California, 30 miles south of San Francisco. Since then, except for a one year hiatus, I’ve lived within four miles of my first apartment. I’ve also worked in that same circle, except for a six month stint at Netflix, 15 miles away.

I came here because I wanted to establish residency in California before I started in on a PhD in Chemistry at one of the UC schools. I had a job lined up as a bench chemist, which turned out to involve working with a wide selection of the most corrosive substances known to man (fuming sulfuric acid! liquid bromine! antimony pentafluoride!). After a year of wearing gas masks and rubber gloves and burning holes in my clothes I wanted nothing more to do with chemistry. In foolish desperation I applied at a few PhD programs in the Philosophy of Science. The grad schools, perhaps sensing my desperation, wisely turned me down. A lucky break, since I hate writing papers even more than I hated lab.

So with no other marketable skills I stuck with chemistry for four more years, sitting in lab hoping for an earthquake so I’d get the rest of the day off. In the meantime I went to a lot of rock shows in little clubs in SF and San Jose. I saw all the hot bands; I ruined my hearing; Kurt Cobain tried to bum a cigarette off me.

Eventually I got on-the-job training in Information Science and parlayed this into a job as a corporate librarian at a reasearch firm. When the World Wide Web came along a couple years later I was already busy teaching myself to program, and thus I started my third career, in computers. A good thing, because “corporate librarian” is now the modern equivalent of “buggy whip maker”.

Outside of work I spent most of the 90’s trying on different versions of myself. Grew out my hair, grew a beard, got half a dozen tattoos, bought a mountain bike, wore skirts in public, got piercings in odd places, almost dated a man, dated a few women, bought a 1975 Porsche 911, shaved my head, raced the 911, grew out my hair and dyed it bright colors. Some things stuck, some didn’t; I finished the decade happier than I’d ever been.

A big part of that happiness was my upcoming wedding – in September of 2000 I married my wonderful wife Lori. A year later, having had some luck in the dotcom boom and feeling oppressed by the hectic pace of the Bay Area, we bought a house 100 miles north in Wine Country. The place was beautiful and calm and, alas, stultifying; we moved back to Silicon Valley a year later. We bought our house from the estate of the first owner, and having had enough of moving, I vowed not to move out except in a coffin (we’ll see how that works out).

For the last dozen years we’ve had a pleasantly undramatic life together. A stable career as a computer geek working on tools for software developers, a few cats, one major remodel, no children. Lori and I collect books, books-as-art, contemporary art, and cocktail recipes. I spend a lot of my free time on a bicycle, leading club rides up the steepest hills I can find. 2013 was a high point as I beat every one of my personal records on the bike. Right now the big excitement in my life is a mania for Black Metal music.