Year-End Review, 1999-2000 Edition
I ended my 1998 with these words, anticipating that the major ‘pieces’ of my future 1999 ‘puzzle’ were to include a job transition and Stacy’s turning 16:
“Even though I ‘know’ what some of these ‘pieces’ will consist of, I haven’t a clue as to their size, shape, timing, or how they’ll fit together. And of course, I feel confident in predicting that I’ll get handed many ‘pieces’ which I won’t ask for. But I’ll try to integrate all these uncertainties into some kind of a cohesive picture for 1999 — not so much solving my ‘puzzle’, but rather developing it.”
So … what’s developed, Doc?
- In October 1998, my then-employer, Raytheon, who in July 1997 had purchased the Defense Group of Texas Instruments (my former then-employer), announced they would close the Lewisville (TX) facility (my then-place of employment). They planned an incremental shutdown, with different programs moving out to Tuscon, AZ, throughout 1999. My program, the JAVELIN anti-tank missile Joint Venture with Lockheed Martin, was to move in July. I elected not to move, but instead accepted a six-month severance package, beginning in August. So the first half of my 1999 was spent anticipating being “laid off”.
- You may know that I’m on the Board of Trustees for the Institute of General Semantics. In May of 1999, I hosted an IGS-sponsored weekend seminar. We had participants for the “Tools For Living” seminar travel from as far away as Edmonton, Canada, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Arkansas. The experience provided me with a motivational charge and whetted my appetite to do more.
- Later that same month, Stacy and I spent a long Memorial Day weekend in New York City. My high school buddy Jim Key and his partner graciously allowed us to stay at his house, in exchange for watching after their cats while they were gone. (Talk about a win-win situation!) We had a terrific time, and now when Stacy watches TRL on MTV or anything that’s shot on location in New York she’s all, “I’ve been there!”. More about our trip.
- Stacy’s 16th birthday occurred in June of 1999. Her mother Cheryl and I successfully pulled off a surprise “Sweet 16” birthday party at a local country dance club. In a sense this amounted to a “pay back”, since Stacy had pulled off her own surprise parties for our birthdays in previous years.
- And in conjunction with her 16th birthday came the inevitable driver’s license. Since Stacy had just begun an office job for a local chiropractor, Cheryl and I decided it would be a win-win-win situation for Stacy to have her own car, so as soon as the shock of the surprise party wore off, we got her a bright red ’95 Nissan.
- Also in June of 1999, the JAVELIN program held a party to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the then-TI/Martin Marietta Joint Venture, which had evolved — thanks (or no thanks) to defense industry consolidation — to the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin Joint Venture. I was asked to prepare something to commemorate the occasion.
- In August, I dragged Stacy and her friend Rochelle with me to see the Brian Setzer Orchestra in concert. We loved it. This prompted me to write a few thoughts about attitude and quiet desperation.
- My August 17th release date from Raytheon came and went. Looking back, I regret that I stayed until that last day. I could’ve taken a few days of terminal vacation and just kind of disappeared into the sunset. I could’ve avoided the final out-briefings and good-bye scenes. With 10 months to prepare for it, a lot of what could’ve been sorrow or anger had evolved into apathy, resignation and a bittersweet sense of relief, and release. Even so, it was a day I’d not want to re-live.
- But … I didn’t stay away from JAVELIN very long. They needed some analysis and planning work, so I was retained on a contract basis for a few weeks throughout that fall into January, 2000.
- As my severance period began, I wanted the time off. While I had thoughts of attempting a consultant practice, I really didn’t know how to proceed. So I decided that for those few months, I was just going to do what I felt like doing on a day-by-day basis. I really wanted to do some things related to general semantics. I wanted to create a website. I wanted to write. After mulling over possible domain names, I realized that the principal thrust of my interests had to do with differentiation … attempting to promote “differences that make a difference” … helping people to become more discriminating, and not confusing this thought or response or interpretation with that ‘reality’ or fact. ThisIsNotThat popped into my head, and became the domain name for my new website, ThisIsNotThat.com.
- But I knew that I didn’t really have a writer’s discipline. So I decided I needed a forcing function, a deadline, to push myself. Something like a newsletter. In pulling my thoughts together to write the Quiet Desperation, and Attitude essay after the Brian Setzer concert, I read Thoreau’s classic Walden. And I was particularly struck by this passage: I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up. “… to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up.” That was precisely what I wanted to do. Like chanticleer, I wanted to “crow” about a few things, if for no other reason than to wake my neighbors up. So the newsletter idea took shape under the moniker, Chanticleer Calls.
- In October, I traveled back to New York for the annual Institute of General Semantics event, the Alfred Korzybski Memorial Lecture. Ms. Ellen J. Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard, spoke on the topic of her series of books, Mindfulness. I wrote a commentary on her remarks that was then published in ETC: A Review of General Semantics. The day following the lecture, the Institute sponsored a day-long colloquium at Pace University to further discuss the ideas that Ms. Langer presented and how they related with general semantics. I had the privilege to serve as moderator for the discussions.
- Throughout 1999, I enjoyed myself socially. For the first time, thanks to my friend Leslie Bricker, I attended the Byron Nelson golf tournament at the Four Seasons Resort, just across the street from my house. I saw Billy Joel, Brian Setzer, Chris Isaak and Boney James in concert. And I got to see several stage productions during the year, including A Chorus Line, Moon Over Buffalo, South Pacific, Footloose, Sunset Blvd, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, and ART. I so enjoyed the intellectual dialogue in ART that I bought he play script. Here’s one excerpt that I found particularly meaningful: If I’m who I am because I’m who I am and you’re who you are because you are who you are, then I’m who I am and you’re who you are. If, on the other hand, I’m who I am because you’re who you are, and if you’re who you are because I’m who I am, then I’m not who I am and you’re not who you are. (by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton)
- And I continued to dabble in that cyber-frontier known as online dating. After stints with AOL, Yahoo, and Match.com, I subscribed to the online service Matchmaker.com. Little did I know it at the time, but that subscription would become an integral organizing agent that shaped my year 2000.