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2017: Not getting any older!

A disconcerting year, as in this iPhone response from Siri.

In December of 2017 I turned 65. This means, officially, that I am getting old.

I am not. I may have reached the age of the “old age pensioner” of my youth, hunched and hobbling over his walking stick up Marlow High Street, but I am not getting old. No way. I bike up the hill to UCSC from my office two or three times a week: that’s about 600 vertical feet up, really! 90% of the time, when I look in the mirror, I see middle age. The other 10% infuriates me. In short, I am in complete denial.

A homeless man built this on Santa Barbara’s main beach

I do think about retiring, because turning 65 is still closely associated with that change of status. But I don’t feel like retiring. I have always enjoyed doing a lot, and that won’t change, at least not yet. I zoom around most of every day, coming up with project after project, filling in easily the times when family and clients don’t require my services, and it’s all very satisfying.

It’s been a great year, notwithstanding reaching retirement age, current politics and the range of human meanness. I needed a real job for a period after losing a big client, and found one for six months with Intel, helping with the McAfee spin-off. Not bad! After about fourteen divorce hearings in four years, there was not a one this year, and somewhere inside a tension eased and a weight lifted.

In Santa Cruz, I moved into Erika’s cosy place near the beach, and listen to the waves on quiet mornings. She is very easy to live with, as are her angels, buddhas and candles dotted around. Her yoga and gym keep her busy outside of her long working hours, as does her painting, but the real treat is seeing this girl dance!

Incredible snow in Tahoe collapsed the roof of the woodshed outside the back door and built this stunning stalagmite

To be honest, I would like to spend more time writing, and less practicing law. With any luck, that will come, but there’s no rush. In one more year I will be entitled to a full US pension, and look forward to its arrival, but it won’t cover anything like living costs, even in their current scaled down variant.

A great year for seeing great art: Gaugin at Le Grand Palais

And I have already fit in a fair bit of writing since 2003, when I started what have become my memoirs. Check them out! Angela Stucky created  a new website for them this year (thank you!), in three volumes: (1) If I only Knew, childhood years from 1952 to 1970; (2) our beautiful blended family years, from 1994 to 2010; and (3) my blog posts since then, called somewhat hopefully “Aging Gracefully.”

A friend’s beautiful kala.

It’s an embarrassingly long collection of words, to be honest, clearly not merited by the modest life that inspired them, but there are enjoyable segments for anyone who would care to browse.

What Beatlemania meant to our lives is summarized by George Harrison in “Here Comes the Sun,” and was embodied in our beautiful Boxing Day 1964 concert at the Hammersmith Odeon. That concert remains one of the ultimate highs in a life filled with high spots. Of course, there were other concerts!

A visit to Marlow, our little town, with the church framed by a map of the Thames at the lock

Then there is the story of how Marie-Helene and I first got together, added recently to complete our blended family’s amazing history. Just because some of us are now split apart doesn’t mean that we never had anything together: quite the contrary. And one of the things that we had together, especially the children, was fun! Also quite a few hobbies.

The most popular of the posts since 2010 is this one: I think that I may know why! My favorite post from that era is probably this one, on the best soccer match that I ever saw in person, the 2011 UEFA Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United.

In any event, I’m not stopping the memoirs! There are 24 years missing, from 1970 through 1994, which makes two more volumes that I’m looking forward to writing. Also a novel; it really is about time that I got stuck into one. How did I get this far without embarking on something that I’ve been planning to do since my teens?

Two principal reasons: first, at the age when writers typically start out, I didn’t feel that I had done enough living. Now I do, and not just the number of years!  Then the children came along, starting when I was 33, and they easily filled up the spare time around a demanding career. Until recently.

Charlotte and Nick’s fall visit to California was the occasion of this group shot, brunch with Soraya and Charlie and Erika and me.

With Nick during our day trip around Brittany, in front of the Duke of Brittany’s Château de Josselin

The next transition has arrived: one by one, they have moved out, and one by one they are making their own lives. I still try at times to help form them and guide them, but they are already 19 to 31 years old, and there’s not a lot more that I can do.

With Arlo in his favorite bar in Athens. We may have been drinking!

Nick splits his time between Nantes and Paris and is a busy software architect working for startups. There are a lot more startups in France than you may realize! I hear from him regularly on his business issues, which I love to help him with!  I visited Charlotte and him in Nantes, where they moved last summer because her job was transferred there. They have a lovely apartment with a great view over the Loire, and laud their improved lifestyle relative to living in Paris.

Arlo is a struggling musician based in Athens, with regular visits to Paris. I spent a week with him in Athens in November, staying at an AirBnB near his home, and had the pleasure of briefly sharing his creative social world.

Visiting Ted in his lovely Paris apartment. Recently retired from his firm in Tokyo, Ted is living the dream!

I also had the pleasure of filling in some of the gaps in his life: an iron and an ironing board here, a warm blanket there, a vacuum cleaner, repairs to his old jeans, a couple of new T-shirts, a new sweatshirt and jeans, and oh yes, last year’s entire heating bill for his studio! It’s great to feel needed! It’s also a very good thing that Arlo has been starting a day job helping Nick with his business. Go Nick!

Alex and a colleague modeling clothes from Pacific Wave, the surf and casual clothing store where he works most vacations.

Alex is in his sophomore year at UC Santa Barbara, and is beginning to realize how lucky he is to have been raised and educated in California. He was born here too, come to think of it, just six months after we arrived.

He’s considering a major in economics, but his principal current preoccupation is something called “beer pong,” which involves a ping pong table, several people (often he and his roommates) throwing themselves around wildly in pursuit of a ping pong ball, and beer. Obviously. Naked runs the 100 yards to the Pacific from their apartment also feature somehow: no idea how!

Soraya and Charlie in their amazing pirate costumes for Halloween

Charlie has been building up his grades, thank you, at Cabrillo College, where those who haven’t quite decided yet have time and great classes to help them figure it out. He seems almost there, just one class away from being ready to transfer to a four-year university.

Building on one of his major hobbies, he is talking about going to film school somewhere in Southern California starting next year.   And before that, he and Soraya will be visiting Europe, coincidentally at the time of the 2018 World Cup!

Of course, detaching from the children is not at all easy. Even detaching from Alban and Daphne is difficult after raising them for 16 years, despite their clearly expressed desire over the last few years not to see me. I catch myself making up regular scenarios, plotting to bump into one or the other of them, but have learned to run these by their brothers first. Their responses are consistent: drop it, dad!

I follow the other boys around like an overgrown puppy dog!

Two vacations abroad this year were both spent principally chasing Nick and Arlo. They don’t seem to mind. I’ll be doing a blog post soon on the second vacation: keep your eyes open in my memoirs!

WSGR reunion on the occasion of Andy’s (not in the photo unfortunately) retirement, featuring John and Michael – still there – and Alex and Greg.

The corollary of the newly empty nest is a new kind of freedom. Throughout the vacations, throughout the year, I mulled over where I would like to live in the future.

Erika with Rodrigo, her nephew and Lorena, his wife, during a visit late in the year

Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada, the Coast Highway and Big Sur, remains the land that I fell in love with all those years ago. The land was the reason that I first settled in California, and then returned. Its beauty never dies.

But I could follow all or some of the boys back to Europe: Brittany, Athens, Devon in England, and of course Paris, all have their appeal. Yep, returning to Europe is a possibility, and not just because of how good it feels there these days. Time will tell.

May all of you continue getting younger in the coming year!

And to paraphrase John Lennon, let’s make it a good one, with a little less fear.

A full Lake Tahoe at sunset