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Russ, Annie and Brendan, the Hanlons

Russ and Annie celebrate his birthday in August 1997 in their home a couple of blocks from the ocean in Santa Cruz.

Russ and I met at law school on the East Coast in the fall of 1979, introduced by my Guinness sweatshirt. He walked right up to me and asked if I’d like to share a Guinness with him. Why certainly, mate, and welcome to New Haven! And that’s how we first made the acquaintance of Toad’s Place. I think! Russ?

Russ getting his just desserts! That looks like Marie-Hélène holding the bottle of wine. Wait a minute: shouldn’t Annie be the woman giving her better half what for!

I was very flattered to be Russ’s best man when he and Annie married on the first day of spring in March 1982 in Washington DC. They all shared a house on the beach the second year of law school with me and a few other people, and Russ christened it “Hotel California.”

Here’s why. Both Russ and I had lived in Northern California before law school, Russ working as a paralegal in San Francisco and me as a student at UC Berkeley. In the cold and damp of Connecticut, we both missed California lots. One day, we would say to each other, we were each going to live there again.

Brendan, a year old in late 1998, enjoying his food! A comparable shot of Alex is on the “About” page.

Russ went back there right after graduation, and has stayed ever since. I spent a year there after graduation, during which he and I took and passed the bar together, but it took me a while longer than planned to move there. About ten years longer!

Russ’s and my relationship remained very stable during that ten years. He knew how much I felt trapped in Paris during the later years there, and always encouraged me to come to Santa Cruz, he meant to live. I listened, but circumstances were such that I had to bide my time.

Here are Annie and Brendan, during a joint trip over to Pleasanton in April 1999, with Charles (“if I open it any wider, maybe I’ll be able to shovel more in!”), Daphné and Alban.

That didn’t stop me coming to visit the Hanlons. I remember driving myself crazy on their living room floor trying to learn how to use my first little Compaq PC, bought over the hill in August 1992. I remember eating my heart out at their place during the summer of 1994 when Marie-Hélène was in Six-Fours with Daphné, Alban and their father.

In short, we remained friends, even though we were no longer single. That’s a worthwhile achievement. So many friendships between guys grind to a halt when they marry. Annie had her reserves, of course – for one thing, she’s Australian and I’m English, which can create its own reserve! – but she always welcomed me and my family into her home.

Brendan dozing in his dad’s arms during our camping trip to Big Sur, May 2001.

Now we both live in Santa Cruz. Of all the people that the Stock Berhaut Bruns received help and support from on arriving in California, none offered as much as the Hanlons.

Born only five months apart, Brendan and Alex have spent a lot of time together as they grow older. Here they are in June 2001, looking oddly similar!.

They hosted Marie-Hélène, Charlie and me on our first collective exploration of California in early 1997, when we visitors were checking out whether Marie-Hélène could learn to like it here. I’m sure that one of the reasons that she decided that she could was their warm hospitality.

Once our decision was made, they helped us out constantly during our first crazy months in Santa Cruz.

We were missing Nick and Tom as well as all our furniture, and I was trying to develop a business as a corporate lawyer while simultaneously locating and buying a house. Russ’s office became mine for a few months, especially later in the evening when the children were asleep in our hotel room. I used his fax number and modem for dial-up internet access. Remember that? I’d need to log on almost every day, to keep on top of the work and the disputes.

Never a word of complaint from my gracious late evening hosts.

Here they are in May 2004, I think at Zelda’s in Capitola.

Brendan was born at the end of that crazy summer of 1997, just after we moved into our new home. Alex was born about five months later. Not surprisingly, over the years  Brendan and Alex became pretty good friends.

One of the things that Brendan and Alex had in common for many years is that they liked to play soccer, especially together. Here they are in Manteca in early 2007 during State Cup. Brendan is wearing their team shirt, and Alex the tournament T-shirt.

For one thing, they both developed a strong interest in soccer, and for different periods played on the same teams. That was very convenient, for the parents as well as the boys. We could, and did, check in and chit-chat on a regular basis on the sidelines at the games.

We both cared deeply about our boys’ sports. That’s no surprise! Youth sports can be a surprising hot bed of peculiar conspiracies and well-meaning but unqualified coaches, and it was a real pleasure to share an oasis of sanity with Russ.

In short, we often agreed, on the topic of youth soccer as on many others!

I mentioned that Annie and I always got along pretty well. So did Marie-Hélène and Russ, This was taken at Alban’s birthday dinner in 2007.

Russ and I continued to have a lot in common. Neither of us particularly appreciated the corporate law firms that have turned our profession into a mere business obsessing on profit, profit and more profit. We each followed a different path, which ended by 2005 in each of us working independently under our own shingles.

We practice different types of law: he’s an appellate litigator, and I do mostly commercial deals, but we practice in a similar way. Even though each of us always needs to worry about covering the bills, we don’t have to turn every conversation into billable time. Many of our law school classmates earn more, but we like what we have doing it our way.

We accompanied the Hanlons to Death Valley for Thanksgiving 2004, staying at the Furnace Creek Ranch and exploring the local splendors.

Our joint Death Valley visit in 2004 was a great success: as ever with the Hanlons, we had a great time. I did the math that year. It had been 25 years since Russ and I shared that first Guinness before the start of our first year of law school.

So, Russ, let’s hear it for the next twenty-five years!!