Born in Monmouth County, New Jersey, I spent my early years as the youngest of four siblings in the historic 300-year-old city of Eatontown. Notable for its shopping mall, The Monmouth Mall, and Army Base, Fort Monmouth, Eatontown is also recognized for its proximity to the Jersey Shore towns of Red Bank, Asbury Park, and Sandy Hook. I never had the chance to meet Bruce Springsteen, but years later, I did purchase his album “Greetings from Asbury Park” while ironically in California.
The Influence of Music and Television
Music played a crucial role in my life, largely due to the sensational tracks of the 60s that my older siblings brought home from Harmony House Records. These records, along with a regular intake of television, helped shape my tastes, which persist to this day.
Idyllic Family Life: More Than Meets the Eye
Sunday nights were reserved for “The Ed Sullivan Show,” with my family and I huddled around the TV, reminiscent of the black-and-white newsreels depicting the idyllic life of the 50s and 60s. Despite this picture-perfect setting, there were inevitable darker realities hiding beneath the surface. Just as portrayed in “Blue Velvet,” I believe that these elements existed in most families of the time, leading to many societal shifts that were to come.
Straddling Generations: The Perks of Having Older Siblings
However, despite the shadows, there were brighter moments. I was fortunate to have older siblings, which allowed me to straddle generations, develop broader interests, and adopt diverse tastes. I enjoyed their books and music, which expanded my understanding of the world.
Experiencing the Future at the New York World’s Fair
n 1964 and 1965, I had the unique opportunity to attend the renowned New York World’s Fair. Spearheaded by Robert Moses, this Fair emerged as a remarkable event that displayed a future brimming with corporate possibilities and groundbreaking innovations, as illustrated by the contributions of sponsors such as GE, DuPont, Westinghouse, and GM.
Notably, the Walt Disney company also played a significant role by creating several exhibits, some of which would later evolve into popular attractions at Disneyland, such as “It’s a Small World.”
The amalgamation of the Fair and the zeitgeist of that era conjured a visionary glimpse into the future. This perspective was beautifully encapsulated by Donald Fagen in his song, “International Geophysical Year (IGY).”
Standing tough under stars and stripes
We can tell
This dream’s in sight
You’ve got to admit it
At this point in time that it’s clear
The future looks bright
On that train all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from new york to paris
Well by seventy-six we’ll be a.o.k.
What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free
Get your ticket to that wheel in space
While there’s time
The fix is in
You’ll be a witness to that
Game of chance in the sky
You know we’ve got to win
Here at home we’ll play in the city
Powered by the sun
Perfect weather for a streamlined world
There’ll be spandex jackets for everyone
On that train all graphite a glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from new york to paris
(More leisure for artists everywhere)
A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We’ll be clean when their work is done
We’ll be eternally free yes and eternally young
Childhood Road Trips and Baseball Memories
Our family embarked on three memorable journeys to Florida, navigating I-95 with the anticipation of pausing for fireworks at South of the Border. En route, we’d tune into top 40 AM radio. I recall how we mastered the lyrics to Gary Puckett’s “Young Girl,” Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” and Don McLean’s “American Pie” by the time our adventure ended at the freshly inaugurated DisneyWorld.
Among my cherished memories is accompanying my Dad to Game 3 of the 1969 World Series at Shea Stadium. This trip echoed the sentiments of “Cats in the Cradle” as we watched Tommy Agee’s extraordinary catches and home run during the year of “The Amazing Mets.”
Life in New Jersey: A Beautiful Experience
Growing up in New Jersey was a beautiful experience, with its good schools, low crime rates (at least in Monmouth County), and relatively mild weather. My time there was filled with pleasant memories.
A New Chapter in California
At 13, my life took a turn when my father’s work relocated us to Palos Verdes Estates in California. Today, while its not widely known is one of the premier living areas worldwide. However, back then, it was still relatively unknown and underdeveloped.
The 70s were a unique time for the Peninsula, as the real estate values hadn’t yet skyrocketed. It was an area of magnificent rural beauty with excellent schools, safety, and room for kids to explore being some of its main attractions. Plus, the views of Catalina Island and the migrating whales were simply breathtaking.
Early Memories: Uncovering the Charm of Palos Verdes
Palos Verdes was a distinct community, a harmonious blend of professionals including doctors, lawyers, and defense contractor employees. This was the backdrop for the narrative of ‘The Falcon and Snowman’, although at the time, they were yet unheard of.
Celebrities were yet to make their mark in this area, though I do remember whispers about the renowned ‘Reverend Ike’ residing there. He may not have been an A-lister, but he undoubtedly commanded fame. Later, I discovered that the actress Bette Davis, although past her prime, yet still an A-lister, was a resident as well. Interestingly, my parents purchased their home from a realtor who happened to be the mother of Sally Kellerman, known to many as Hot Lips Houlihan.
Stepping into the Realm of Fitness and Aerobics
At the tender age of 15 and a half, I secured my first job at the Palos Verdes Health Spa. Little did I know that the spa, owned by a former Mr. Universe and his wife, was perched at the edge of the fitness explosion in southern California. This was where I had my initial taste of the commercial evolution and expansion of the fitness industry, which was soon to morph into a cultural sensation. Beyond gaining business insights, I also found myself deeply immersed in the fitness lifestyle.
Embracing University Life at University of California, Santa Barbara
In due course, I relocated to Santa Barbara to enroll in Santa Barbara City College, followed by the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). My college journey was an enriching experience on one of the most scenic campuses in the world. I found myself straddling a fine balance between academics, a rigorous workout regimen, teaching aerobics, and performing in a band.
Having my sister and her family living in Santa Barbara was highly beneficial. I had the chance to observe her adult life and interact with her children, which gave me a unique perspective. It also provided me with insights into many charms of Santa Barbara, often overlooked by students living in Isla Vista. It’s not hard to understand why Santa Barbara has always held a special place in the hearts of many, and will continue to do so.
Venturing into Cupertino and the Health Club Industry
Taking a break from college, I ventured north to Cupertino, sharing a rented house with college friends. Days filled with ping pong tournaments, resonating music, and an overall laid-back lifestyle allowed me to comfortably reside on a futon in the kitchen.
During this time, I was managing a local health club nestled in the pulsing heart of Silicon Valley and found myself irresistibly drawn to exercise. The late ’80s was a time of awakening and transformation, and I certainly wasn’t alone in my newfound fitness fervor. Despite working for the entrepreneur who would later sell his chain of 24 Hour Nautilus clubs for a staggering $1.5 billion, I realized that the health club industry was not the career path I envisioned for myself.
Catching a Glimpse of Aspen, CO
Upon departing Cupertino, I chose to explore Aspen, CO, a captivating town famed for its pristine snow and lavish estates. I found employment managing a quaint hotel situated at the base of Aspen Highlands, participated in invigorating aerobics classes at The First Position, and indulged in a season of skiing.
Although the experience was rewarding, it was accompanied by a tad too much frivolity. It dawned on me that Aspen, while perfect for an exciting visit, was not quite the place for a long-term stay.
Embracing the Real World: A Return to Southern California
Upon returning to Southern California, I completed my degree at UCSB. In a fortuitous turn of events, I began working for the Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer JVC, even amidst a recession. This decade-long tenure proved invaluable for my business acumen and also allowed me to forge lasting friendships.
For the first time, I felt a sense of grounding, achieving financial stability by juggling various jobs, including a stint at Nordstrom. I could sense my life falling into place. Maturing into adulthood, I became increasingly aware of the myriad Epicurean delights awaiting in Los Angeles and beyond. I formed many friendships during this period. In retrospect, these years spent working at JVC and living in Torrance and Redondo Beach could truly be considered my salad days.
Pursuing Aerobics and Encountering My Soulmate
Simultaneously, alongside my corporate pursuits, my ardor for teaching aerobics endured. I had the privilege of learning from some of the industry’s finest instructors, honing my distinctive style at top-tier clubs, and attracting a devoted following.
During this phase, I had the serendipitous fortune of meeting my soulmate, my future wife, in one of my classes. Our bond was nothing short of magical, and it was she who spurred me on to chase my dream of becoming a screenwriter.
Exploring Screenwriting and Revisiting Professional Sales
I dedicated an entire year away from my job to pen two full-length screenplays. Despite these efforts not bearing fruit, the experience was an enlightening one, helping me realize that screenwriting was not my calling at that time. I struggled to find a balance between creativity and productivity, and consequently, both screenplays lacked the finesse I aspired for. They now reside on my shelf, a testament to that exploration. Feeling slightly dispirited, I made my way back to the realm of professional sales, where further lessons awaited me.
Work at Dun & Bradstreet (D&B)
I got a job with the business information giant Dun & Bradstreet (D&B). Despite the company’s major flux, my time there was valuable. I had the opportunity to work with some of the largest companies in the USA and gained a priceless education in data and marketing.
It was at D&B where I flirted with management filling in for a manager on maternity leave. While my proven business acumen and communication skills made me a strong fit for management, I hastily decided to settle in to the role of individual contributer. This way I could work from home and have more control over my time which was soon to be very important. .
Deciding to Have a Kid and Move to a Slower-Paced Place
Meanwhile, Annette and I were preparing to take on the responsibility of raising a child. At this time I also felt in need of a change so I forced my hand to move to a slower-paced place. Consequently, we packed up and moved to Roseville, CA, with our 4-month-old baby. Our friends, and families, thought we were nuts.
Relocating to Roseville, CA
Bidding farewell to the ocean, the impeccable weather, and our cherished food spots, we ventured towards Roseville in Central California. The transition was akin to cultural whiplash; we moved from the bustling metropolis of LA, known for its thriving entertainment and aerospace sectors, to a town whose pride lay in its train depot, auto-mall, and shopping center.
Our relocation to Roseville introduced a different rhythm and lifestyle. The soaring summer temperatures, occasionally touching a blistering 110 degrees, made air conditioning our closest ally. We traded our beloved Chez Melange for Chili’s and Macaroni Grill. Despite the challenges that came with this transition, we were ready for this new chapter of our lives with our baby. What else could we do?
Reflections on an Eclectic Journey
Every chapter of my life has its own unique flavor. From the early days in Palos Verdes and the fitness explosion in Southern California to the college life at UCSB and the breathtaking experience of Aspen. From the corporate world in Cupertino and Southern California to raising a family in Roseville. It’s been a roller coaster of experiences, with no regrets.
Shifting Gears: Moving to Roseville
Moving to Roseville was a tremendous cultural shift. I swapped the buzzing energy and constant activity of the city for the slower-paced, relaxed lifestyle of the suburbs. Initially, it felt like moving to a different country, with its quiet and tranquility. But soon, I found that the slower pace gave me more space to breathe, to think, to appreciate the simple moments with my family.
From Ocean Blues to Mountain Views
In the beginning, I yearned for the ocean, the lively streets, the eclectic food scene I had left behind. But, slowly, I began to appreciate the beauty of the mountains, the crystal-clear lakes, and the serene trails. It was a different kind of beauty, not immediately as striking as the ocean but equally mesmerizing in its own way.