Who I Am

youth maturity now

I am not famous. Unless you know me personally you have probably come to my website by following an Internet link to some of the content posted here. But since you’re here, and you have come to this particular page, here’s a quick summary. If you want more detail, I have posted my Autobiography, in 38 chapters, with a guide to the chapters. I can’t believe anyone would want more detail than that.

I am an American, born in September 1944 and so 68 years old as this is written in July 2013. I come from a bourgeois secular Jewish family on Manhattan Island; we were Democrats and social liberals. I started to read very early and have not stopped yet. I attended mostly private schools in Manhattan, none of them any good until the last two years at Walden School, now defunct.

I entered Columbia University as an undergraduate in 1963, studying mostly government and literature. During the 1966-67 academic year I was out of school, organizing a draft counseling service at the American Friends Service Committee in New York, and working a desk job in a lefty political organization. I returned to Columbia just in time for the Student Strike of 1968, and was elected to the the Strike Committee. I graduated (BA) that spring, having been fairly thoroughly radicalized by the War in Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Columbia Strike.

After college I went to the University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia, where I finished the three-year course and graduated (JD) in 1971. I moved to San Francisco immediately after graduation. My plan was to be a lefty lawyer, defending the Movement in the courts, and indeed I started off my career working for the distinguished Movement lawyer Michael Kennedy.

But in the fall of 1971 I took the first of many LSD trips, which radicalized the other half of my brain and awakened me to the spiritual dimension of life, about which I had almost no understanding before. I realized I needed to get off my career path and integrate these new experiences, so I quit my job before the bar results were even announced (I passed) and spent a few years working non-professional jobs, studying nature and the so-called “Eastern religions” of Buddhism and Vedanta. This intense immersion formed the basis of the spiritual path I still follow today, over 40 years later. It also left me, very fortunately I continue to feel, so indifferent to the customary system of social rewards as to unsuit me for any traditional career.

In 1973 I returned to New York to train as a librarian at the Columbia University School of Library Service, now also defunct (MS 1974). After a year as a law librarian in a private firm in Washington DC, and a year in Asia (mostly spent teaching English at a college in Taiwan), I returned to San Francisco for the second time. After a restful hiatus I went back to being a law librarian, this time at the downtown San Francisco firm now known as Farella Braun + Martel llp, and stayed with it on a part-time basis for five years (1977-82).

In 1982, at the age of 38, I retired for the second time (to Truro, Massachusetts, a hamlet at the outermost reach of Cape Cod), and lived in a house my siblings and I had inherited from our parents. This was pleasant in many ways – I used the time to rest, to write, and to host radio and television shows on local media. But it was isolated out in the country, and my retirement could not be sustained economically after the decision was taken to sell the house. So in 1988 I returned again, and I expect finally, to San Francisco. After a brief turn as a family lawyer I went back, this time as a lawyer, to the firm where I had worked as a librarian. I bought a house overlooking the ocean and have lived in it quietly since 1990.

Still uninterested in a high-powered career, I practiced as a Special Assignment Attorney with the Farella law firm for 19 years. I began by working on habeas corpus petitions for two California prisoners who had been sentenced to death. Who I AmBut as my part-time practice developed within the firm I became a research and writing specialist, answering questions from the partners and writing in a wide variety of forms on many litigation and business law subjects. I never became a partner or even an associate, but instead made a comfortable niche for myself and nested in it until I retired again in 2008.

Now in my third and final retirement, I spend my time studying, traveling, and writing on heraldic topics – some of what I have written can be read elsewhere on this website. I am reasonably satisfied with the way my life has turned out – I did the best I could, more or less the way I wanted to, and certainly can’t complain that I was forced into anything. My accomplishments, such as they are, have been mostly interior, which is where I wanted them to be.

Looking back on my life, I notice that I never did marry or have children. Maybe next time.

Note: The picture toward the end of this page is not really me. It is a detail from an 18th century Japanese scroll by Hakuin Ekaku, in the Musée Guimet in Paris, showing Bodhidharma, the first Zen patriarch, who sat in meditation for eight years facing a rock.