“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” John Watson
Mostly when I think about the past, I find myself saying, “Dave, Dave, Dave, you moron,” so I generally try not to think about it. But here are a few reflections on days gone by:
1967 to 1972: UT Austin. 60’s Austin, radical politics, SDS and the antiwar movement, Barton Springs, Fabulous Furry Freak brothers, hippies, Vulcan Gas Company, UT’s 30 game win streak, cosmology, weed, You Are What You Eat (I am Cheetos?) psychobiology, LSD, the Drag, Hippie Hollow Andthe Beatles, Stones, Dylan, the Doors the Moody Blues, Janis Joplin, Hendrix, the Byrds,…miniskirts, women’s lib, hammocks on Mexican beaches. Wow. Big world. I think we all have some version of this story.
A brief return to junior high (especially for Bonham alumni): In 1968 I was back in Odessa for a school break and my mom sent me to pick up my brother Vince at Nimitz. I was met at the front steps by the assistant principal, Mr. Dossey. He stood rather dramatically in front of the front doors with his arms spread wide, barring the entrance, telling me that it was his job to see that people like me didn’t get into Nimitz Junior High. I reminded him that I knew him from Bonham, and was no serious danger, to no avail. You see my hair was about Paul McCartney length, moderate for Austin, but entirely too much for the old guard in Odessa. Well, it was a difficult situation for sure. I wasn’t startled that he was reacting that way. I’d already been picked up by the police a few times for the crime of walking around in my neighborhood (“It’s my job to pick up people like you”), but I was a bit disappointed nonetheless. One day, you’re a fairly respectable citizen, the next, a pariah, all because of a haircut. I was pondering all this and considering my options, when the door behind Mr. Dossey burst open and he was shoved out of the way. “David,” a voice boomed out, “good to see you! Come on in.” There stood Mr. Whitehead, formerly principal at Bonham, bigger than life and now the principal at Nimitz it turned out, with a huge smile on his face. He didn’t even seem to notice Mr. Dossey. I’ll tell you, I went through that door in an instant, with a smile even bigger than Mr. Whitehead’s. He sat me down in his office, gave me a cup of coffee, and we spent the next half hour catching up on things, while my brother cooled his heels in the corridor. There was a lot to catch up on, because, to my recollection, I had never talked to him for more than a minute or two in my life before. I think he saw me out there, sized up the situation, and decided to rescue me. Whatever his reasons, he became one of my heroes that day, and I came back to chat with him a few more times in years to come. He was as nice a man as you’d ever hope to meet. And a righteous one as well.
After my first year of law school I dropped out for a few years, tried a few different things. Worked as an engineer for 4 years, spent some time in Mexico. Finally graduated law school in 1980 and went to work for Warren Burnett for four years before opening my own office in Austin.
One day I was at a doctor’s office and he was checking me to see if I had cancer and it was going to be three days before the results came back. I spent a good part of those three days reading all about it and became convinced that I had cancer and, no doubt, only a few months to live. I was living in Austin at the time, practicing law, and I promised myself that if it turned out I didn’t have cancer I would close down my office in Austin and move to a coast somewhere, as I had been meaning to do for many years. Turned out I didn’t have cancer, and so I closed my office and spent a few months checking out the Texas Gulf coast, Florida, and California. But nothing seemed quite right. Roy Baskin who’d been a good friend since the first grade had moved to Hawaii and so I decided to check it out as well. I ended up spending about a year there, part of it at his coffee farm on the Big Island. Hawaii was beautiful and hadevery kind of environment you might want, but still, not quite right.
In 1994 I made my first trip to Asia, which, as I had always heard, was a lot different from the West. I especially liked Thailand. It’s known as the Land of Smiles. After going back and forth several times, I went to Thailand in 1999 and stayed.
David and Lamyai
I met my wife Lamyai in 2000, and we married in 2001. Our first home was in Bangkok, but after a few years we bought another in Phuket, an island in southern Thailand so I could finally live near the beach. We go back and forth between the two.
I’ve had some Permian friends visit over here. Roy Baskin came in 2001, settled in Hua Hin, married a Thai woman, and raised two girls. He lived about two hours from our place in Bangkok so we saw each other pretty regularly, and talked on the phone almost every day until a stroke got him in November 2015. His youngest daughter, Methavee, is 14 years old.
I’ve kept up with Roger Evans pretty well since I moved to Asia and visited him in Norway in 2004.
He visited me in Bangkok in 2014 and from there went down to Hua Hin to see Roy. David Vanderburg (class of ’66) came in 2006, married a Thai woman and took her back to Texas They’re doing well. I’ve lost track of most of my friends from Odessa, especially since moving to Asia.
Trudy, Tryon, and me
But I have kept up with Tryon and Trudy Lewis, and make it a point to see them when I am in town. They have been good friends and have given me a lot of help over the years.
You know that old saying, “Youth is wasted on the young”? It’s starting to resonate with me even though it’s not exactly true. Lord knows you need that energy and enthusiasm to get you started in life. But at the same time, as I got to be an older person, I realized that I didn’t properly appreciate what a precious thing youth is, and I began to feel that I had squandered too much of it. One of my favorite fantasies these days is to imagine I could have my 25 year old body back for a month. Man, would I put that time to good use. But I can think of lot of days, weeks, months as a young person when I just hung around the house, or went to the office, or watched TV or read books---things I can do just as well now that I’m 68. I didn’t appreciate that I should be enjoying the special privileges of youth as much as possible while I still had them.
Near the end of August 1972, I was in Odessa getting ready to head back to Austin for my second year of law school when my dad said he was going to Denver on a business trip and asked if I’d like to join him We ended up in Vail, Colorado that weekend and had a great time looking around a ski town, a first for us. As we got back to the car, my dad said, “You know Dave, you should take a year off from law school and be a ski bum.” It seemed like a great idea. I walked across the street and got hired as a bellboy at the Holiday Inn. I went back out to the car where my dad gave me the $40 he had in his billfold and I took my small suitcase from the trunk and said goodbye. That was a great year. Now that I am an old man I realize that my father had had the same epiphany as me, and so he gave me the somewhat unusual fatherly advice to drop out of law school and have some fun. I was lucky to have a father like that. But I also take it as a wake up for the way I live today. I try to keep in mind that what time I have left may be fleeting, and will certainly seem that way someday.
Recommended book: “The Body Builders, Inside the Science of the Engineered Human”
“When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” A daily reminder on the chalkboard of Mr. Haines’ math class at Bonham.