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Karma!

Santa Cruz Superior Court Judge Jeff Almquist in his judicial regalia. Rumor has it that he was buddies at Yale College with George W. Bush. No comment.

I have studiously avoided our divorce during the last few years of these annual updates. The topic is depressing, for me and the children as much as for you, and there are always plenty of other things happening.

But self-control only works for so long, especially for me, and it’s time to spoil you with a little of the divorce nightmare.

It began at the trial, on October 22, 2012. Judge Almquist, whom I later discovered was a confirmed Francophile, made no secret of his admiration for Marie-Helene, who I can confirm is French. Between smiles and charades, he asked her repeatedly at the trial, from the bench, in his robe, for referrals to good French restaurants in Paris for his upcoming family vacation.

Charlie’s talented photographer girlfriend, Soraya, took this one of Alex.

I’m thinking that this is not supposed to happen, but my lawyer didn’t blink (more on her triumphs here), even when at the end of the day the judge told Marie-Helene, still from the bench, that he would call her when this was all done to get those referrals. Did he?

Fast forward to 2016, when I was finally moved to appeal the last of a long string of sneakily biased court orders: the judge’s feelings for Marie-Helene never changed. This gave me two years of peace before the appellate court issued its ruling, which reversed the judge’s order. I won!  And after he lost on appeal, I was able to have Judge Almquist disqualified, breathing a sigh of relief.

And two weeks later, during his family vacation in France, this time at a culinary school in Lyon, he had a heart attack and died. Remember how the nightmare started, six years ago, with his asking Marie-Helene at the trial for referrals for his family vacation in France?

Haley and Alex dressed for a Harry Potter costume party in Santa Barbara

Ain’t karma a bitch!

By some strange quirk of fate, Alex was in Lyon this fall, doing a semester abroad through UC Santa Barbara and the University of Lyon.  His experience was very different, with Haley, his girlfriend at UCSB, moving around Europe on a similar program, and one of his good friends from Scotts Valley, Cole North, somewhere in Spain with UCLA. 

Alex spent a weekend (or longer: it’s hard to keep up) with Haley in Florence, and another one or two in Sicily, Rome . . .  She gave him one of the best birthday presents ever when he visited her in Barcelona at the end of his program in Lyon. She took him to Camp Nou to watch FC Barcelona, one of the best teams in the soccer world, take on in the EUFA Champions League Tottenham Hotspur, Spurs, the north London team my dad supported his whole life.  Go Haley!

Next, he’ll be traipsing around Europe with Cole, AirBnB’ing, watching more soccer (notably a Dortmund game in the Bundesliga), and having what you’re supposed to have in college, the time of his life.

Charlie by Soraya: the advantages of having a photographer girlfriend! Her mother loves this pic!

Charlie too is having the time of his life! He studied at a local junior college for a few years until he figured out what he wanted to do, and this fall started at UC Santa Barbara’s film school. Like any student that really wants to go to University, rather than being plonked there by ambitious parents, he is enjoying all that it has to offer, and then some. He writes articles for a local paper, budgets carefully (like Nick, Charlie has been very consistent in his earning habits since about junior year in high school) and studies.

The icing on the cake is that he was invited to make a short film for the upcoming Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Haven’t heard much about it at this point, but he’s spending much of the year-end vacation filming.

Nothing makes Arlo happier than seeing his family in Athens. Here he is with Alex, who by all accounts had a great time with him. Of course, there are lifestyle similarities between an undergraduate and a musician!

Soraya, his charming girlfriend who is a budding photographer, moved down to Santa Barbara with him, and her mom helped them move furniture down (mostly hers), and Erika and I all helped them move in. They have a cute little one-bedroom apartment a couple of hundred yards from the ocean, and make a very creative couple. There’s even talk of Alex moving in with them next school year!

Nick and Charlotte on one side, and her parents on the other, in Nantes, where the young people have been living for a year or two. Note the statue’s foot!

Nick and Arlo are still in Europe full time. Nick has been developing his software architect consulting business, helping startups figure out how to code what their business is trying to do. He’ll visit the client maybe once a month, maybe once a week, to guide the its own developers as they and their business cohorts figure out exactly what it is that they are doing. You would be amazed at how quickly startup business models evolve. And he spends regular days with a prestige Paris incubator advising their early stage businesses. 

A couple of high points as his year advanced: a client in New York paid for him periodically to visit from France and consult in New York City; and he hired his first employees.  

Antony, Courtney and their family made it to Athens to see Arlo during their summer vacation, and then on to Paris to watch a little World Cup with Charlie and Nick. Here they are in a pub in Paris after an England win!

Arlo had an exciting year with his music, recording a lot, getting more gigs, feeling his way forward. It’s a great lifestyle on certain levels (at one point he joked “I don’t need to use Tinder!”), but troublesome on others.

He wants to see his family, especially when they come to Europe, as both Charlie and Alex did this year. But he never has the money to go visit them.  He can’t even afford to visit any one of us for Christmas this year, which is very sad.

Here’s a piece of the Christmas poem he sent:  

“Long before the stars that shined, There was you,
When darkness was the mold,
They called for you,
Not knowing the blindness of their creation,
They idolized you.”
How my 66th birthday felt with Erika.

For the first time since 1986, I will not be spending Christmas with any of my children. Charlie and Alex will show up around the 28th and spend a few days in the area before going back to Santa Barbara. But I won’t see Arlo or Nick at all.  

It’s one of those deep mixed feelings, sad because I won’t see my babies (and guys, you are all still my babies!), but delighted that each is now on his own path, making his own way.

Slowly, during the course of this year, I figured out that they all really were on their way, and that I was in some wonderful sense free again. I turned 66 this December, which is full retirement age in the US, and with that freedom I can hang up my tools, or at least repurpose them. 

Here we are at O’Jason, 12, rue de la Huchette, Paris. Charlie’s jersey is the French team’s with Antoine Griezmann on the back, and mine is Manchester United’s with Paul Pogba on the back!

And my karma has been very good this year. Take our summer vacation in England and France. It was the soccer World Cup this summer, and when I was booking the vacation, months before the tournament, I fancied France’s chances. So on a whim I booked a hotel room in Paris for the day of the World Cup final, so we could share the joy if they won.

Nailed it!

Charlie and Tom were both there to share the Final with Erika and me in an Irish pub on the Left Bank. Much screaming and howling on the part of the French, starting about three hours before the game, and we got in on the act when my favorite player of the moment, Paul Pogba, scored the beautiful winning goal! Check out his pass at minute 2.52 of the video. The next shot is the pass arriving, and the goal follows. But that pass came from behind the half-way line and was inch perfect. Pogba raced forward and arrived on the edge of the box in time to score.

Ain’t karma lovely!

Where I hope to be living next year, if it all works out.

Having figured out that it was the time to retire, the next step was figuring out where to retire to, both in terms of where I want to be and in terms of where I can afford to be living on pensions alone.  With any luck, it’s already figured out. 

Santa Cruz is a kind of paradise, but I’ve been here almost 22 years, and it’s terribly expensive and getting old. I’ve signed a contract to purchase a cottage in Brittany, found during an exploratory trip this fall. The sellers haven’t signed yet, but the Notaire thinks that it looks good. 2019 could be quite a year!

But you’re right, I will miss Santa Cruz. Three times a week I bike through Natural Bridges State Park, seen here at sunset in winter.

Hope that your karma in 2019 is as good as mine was in 2018!