1981, April 29: Letter from Peter to G&H

Six-page handwritten letter, on the backs of my seventh-grade report cards. (I got one sheet for each class, giving my grade in that class.)

29 April 1981

Dear Mother & Pop!

Hi, I wanted to fill you in on what’s happening here——well, guess what? I got a job! At Logical of course, at exactly the same pay & seniority as when I left ... “Senior Development Programmer” at $31200/yr. ... well it’s the best job I’ve ever had, in a lot of ways. (Like choosing my own hours...) But the people are somewhat distant (the engineering mentality...) and it involves spending 40 hrs/wk in their concrete building; you were therex—no windows I can see out; fluorescent lighting; air conditioning; 60-cycle hum everywhere; green phosphorescent glare of the CRT screens; I sit most of the time at work, but fortunately get good exercise before work in the morning.

Well I had a long talk with John last night, & he helped me to see that what I really need in order to make a successful business, in adition to initial capitalization, is a business partner, who has experience, has done this kind of thing before ... maybe even has some money to put into it.

So he’s advertising for applicants for this position, in Seattle Times. In the meantime, I’ll continue to work on a proposal to “show & tell” with our potential investors. I have been praying for months that the right people and the right money would be guided to us in this regard, & I believe it will happen: only it’s a longer gestation period than I thought ... (when I left work early the other day I told my boss I had morning sickness...)

O I guess I shouldn’t kid him about “down time”, particularly since I’ve only managed to get in to work about 18 hours/week for all of April——even though they’re paying me $20/hour worked... (not as much as a plumber or electrician, admittedly, but still it’s neat to wander in off the street, sit and do puzzles and play with the computer for 5 hours (I’ve worked 12:30-5:30 many days) and walk out $100 richer, woo-woo!)

But they wouldn’t go for that consultant status for very long; and besides, I wasn’t using the time very constructively; basically just resting & thinking & reflecting & reading & relaxing & relating & reflexing & reeling & writhing & rhythmatics & refluxing & inviting my soul ... hmm I guess it was constructive after all ... but they wanted me full-time again, so I re-enlisted——it’ll be OK for a while.

My bossx’s boss, a very intelligent, nice, & funny guy, came & shook my hand & sardonically welcomed me “back”——“but I never left,” said Ix...

Well, enough busyness——I am glad to receive your letters and hear how well you are doing. O I wanted to tell you that vitamin E perles (also vitamin A perles) may be punctured and the oil squeezed out onto the skin, and promote very rapid skin regeneration——have you tried this on your incision?

Yes I did read Shibumi, enjoyed it x enormously ... there’s another book about an assassin, “The Evil that Men Do” by Lance Hill, that is very powerful and tough. It involves the assassination of a South American, CIA-trained x dictator/torturer. (It couldn’t happen to un-nicer guy...)

Well Joaquin said he was going to write y’all, and he’s into sports statistics, so I won’t give you the times and finishing places, but x I just want to tell you how good I felt after the 10,000 meter (6 miles) race we ran ... I was really happy that I’d run the whole way, and finished, and got a tee-shirt and red “FINISHER” ribbon. The race was over a network of levees in the Bay, sponsored by City of Sunnyvale (near Logical). I had a bit of sideache during second & third miles, but ran past the pain and felt real good throughout the second half... I never did catch up to Joaquin though ... !! I think we’re going to run in a 4½ mile race called “DUMP-TO-DUMP” ... We’re reading a wonderful book called “Maximum Performance” (in paperback).

It turns out that if you one pushes youroneself too hard, the body goes into “emergency” mode, and expends great amounts of stored energy, exhausting one very quickly. But if one pushes oneself just a little (like walking a little faster and/or a little farther than usual), it seems the body does wondrous things: the mitochondria begin making ATP (binding energy) at 15-20 times their usual rate; and new capillaries begin to develop around heart & lungs ... fantastic.

Well I look forward to the time when our business will materialize in Seattle/Tacoma area, and when you can spend more time with your beautiful healthy talented intelligent grand-children ... even if it means Jed couldn’t take the Japanese class he’s signed up for next year...

Much Love & Light to you—

Peter, Jed, Joaquin


report cards (which the letter was written on the back of)
They were for a period ending in late March, 1981, around the time that I turned 13; I was in seventh grade. I got two B+s, three A-s, and one A. I remember almost nothing about those classes, and I remember only three of the teachers’ names. The A was in Creative Writing, where the teacher (Mrs. Tomczak) circled the “Excellent. Exceeds requirements” option and wrote “Talented writer!” next to it.
“got a job”
I assume that he had gone from full-time at Logical Business Machines to part-time consulting work there, and was now getting back to full-time; but I have no memory of those changes—all I know about them is from this letter.
In 2022 dollars, that’s about $100,500 a year.
“concrete building”
Interesting to me to read this description—the kind of work environment he’s describing is essentially what I’ve worked in all my life, and sounds completely ordinary to me. But I know that lots of people even now have the same reaction as Peter to that kind of environment. And I can see how someone like Peter, who had never worked a sit-at-a-desk-in-an-office-all-day job until a couple years before this letter, might have an especially hard time with it.
“successful business”
I’m not sure which of Peter’s many business plans this was, but I’m guessing it was an early iteration of his plan to start a bookstore/coffee shop with tutoring for math and computers and go-playing in the back room.
I agree with his/Dobe’s point here that Peter would have needed someone who understood business as a partner; I suspect that Peter didn’t have any plans more detailed than the core idea.
“‘But I never left,’ said I”
I wonder if Peter was riffing on “Joe Hill” here—“‘I never died,’ said he.”
Huh—I assumed Peter made up this word for gelatin capsules, but nope, it’s a real word.
A thriller by Trevanian, in which the game of go features prominently; for more, see Wikipedia.
I know that within a year or two of the time of this letter, Peter started jogging, and got me and Jay to go with him. My vague recollection was that it was in the early morning (maybe even before dawn), and it was foggy, and I started referring to it as “slogging.” I didn’t stick with it for long.
Jay became a really good runner. I have no memory of Peter running in a 10k race; I don’t think he ever did it again after this one, but I may be failing to remember other times too.
“when our business will materialize”
I’m a little surprised to see that he was thinking that we would be moving to the Seattle area before the start of the next school year. That didn’t end up happening; we stayed in Palo Alto through the end of my time in high school.

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