From June 5th to August 20th, it was to be the longest length of time I was away from my homebase (be it Denver or Dallas), a total of 77 days, eclipsing my previous record by one (set in the summer of 1989). And the ’89 trip surpassed the former record of 73 days set a year before from October through December. All three of these ventures were predicated on my commitment to design a domicile for Mr. & Mrs. Franz Helbig near Santa Cruz, California. However, this particular trip had its initial sights set on San Diego (the original name was San Miguel, by the way), for my son Ted’s graduation at U.C.S.D.
The meteorological Gods must have been listening in to my fervent prayers for an unseasonably cool and cloudy westward trek through the torrid southwest. From Dallas to the Pacific Coast, by way of Lubbock, Albuquerque, Phoenix, and Palm Desert, California, it was a celestial cruise through a normally unforgiving sector of the U. S. of A. at that time of year….great trip, no sweat.
Let me interject a brief diatribe on the township of Palm Desert. This lavish community wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the mighty Colorado River (and the Hoover Dam). Hydro-electric power has transformed a pristine desert into a ennui of petrified palm trees and a soigné streetscape of putting green lawns in front of sham-Spanish structures with an accretion of peach-colored tile roofs. It was the summer solstice, and the only things in motion were the sprinklers. Even Bob Hope’s Classic Golf Course was devoid of duffers. A one-dimensional environment…hibernate inside the air-conditioned houses from May to October, then chase golf balls the rest of the year. Wow, what a life. That was the only “hot spot” of the trip. I climbed over a mountain range just west of town, and was greeted with a waft of cool Pacific winds, drifting through the pines of the San Bernardino National Forest. I ended up parked for the night behind a convenience store in Temecula, just off I-15. The temperature had dropped some thirty degrees over the last 90 miles…that’s California for ya’.
Mom Early and Sue Early-Ward had already arrived when I pulled into the Calle Jallapa residence in the Mira Mesa subdivision north of San Diego. Everywhere there were mnemonic appellations to assure me that Tijuana was just a stone’s throw away. And right next door was Miramar-Fighter Town, U.S.A. – home of Top Gun and the screamin’ F-16s. Welcome to Southern California.
The graduation ceremonies were somewhat subdued compared to the pomp and circumstance of seven years before at College Station, where Ted garnered a summa cum laude award in physics (would have been a magna except for a “B” in a gym course). Can you believe that? One lousy semester in Phys. Ed. – probably ping pong. Anyway, the ceremonies were still impressive, considering the graduates were the crème de la crème of the country in their particular fields for that one year. All I can really remember was the pride I felt, especially sitting next to Sue…I wanted so much to reach over and clutch her hand. But something held me back. There was still a lot of distance between us. We had hardly communicated over all the years through Ted’s education. All I could do was turn to her and say, “I’m really proud of you for the way you raised him”.
A post-graduation party was held at the Calle Jallapa residence – tantamount to a small United Nations delegation (Ted’s WASP ancestry was a minority in his class). During the course of the evening, I found myself engrossed in rapid-fire conversation with a bunch of Ted’s classmates, the primary topic being how they were going to negotiate the real life hereafter. I realized their futures were pretty much etched in stone as far as “making it” out in the real world. Those who can, they do. Those who can’t, teach, or do research. Nonetheless, it was reassuring to know that the world would reach its apogee after those guys fulminated in their fields of astro-physics, super-conductors, and maybe even an anti-impotency pill…who knows. We’ve gotta believe.
Ted and Karen with young Jimmy and baby Nicole packed it in and moved it on out, back east to Rockville, Maryland (where Ted had been offered a generous government position in semi-conductor research).