This is the last paper letter from me to George and Helen—a two-page single-spaced computer-printed letter. I probably sent them a few emails several years later, but this may have been the last substantial thing I sent them.
9 April 1993
Dear Grandma & Grandpa,
Thank you for the birthday card. I don’t have time to write a long letter right now, but I’m trying to get into the habit of sending people short notes occasionally to let them know I still exist. My usual approach is to write long detailed letters describing everything that’s going on in my life; but such letters take weeks to write, and they’re usually outdated by the time I send them anyway.
I meant to send you birthday greetings, too, Grandpa, or even (gasp!) call; but the past few weeks have been even busier than usual and I lost track of the time in the bustle. Sorry.
As always, I’ve been keeping myself busy to the point of overload. I don’t know if Peter has told you about my current job; in case not, my contract ended at Apple back in September, and after a couple of months lazing around with friends on beaches I landed this job as a contract technical writer at Silicon Graphics (also known as SGI), where my housemate Arthur also works (and in fact, I’m in the same group as Arthur, working on the same book). (The Apple contract ended rather abruptly—they told me three weeks before it ended that they were going to renew it, and then two weeks later, a week before it ended, they told me they weren’t renewing any contractors’ contracts after all. Annoying, but I had been planning to leave that job anyway; I didn’t like the job or Redacted by Jed, and I felt underappreciated (and relatively underpaid—I was the lowest-paid person in the group—even though I was certainly making significantly more than I needed to live on).) This new SGI job pays far better than the one at Apple, and I’m making significant progress towards my goal of saving up enough money to live on for a year and a half. (Once I’ve got that saved, I intend to take a year off from work to write pretty much full-time and travel around the country seeing friends. The extra six months’ living money is for padding to give me time to find a new job at the end of that year.)
Arthur and I have been through three housemates during the year-and-a-half we’ve rented this place; they’ve each moved out to live with someone else (a boyfriend, a husband, and a fiancée, respectively). Our latest housemate is another friend of ours from high school, SName redacted by Jed, who abruptly had to leave her previous residence; details redacted by Jed. We had an extra room, she needed a place to live, we didn’t want to keep splitting three people’s worth of rent two ways, so it seemed like a good deal all around.
Outside of work, I’ve started taking Aikido again. Joaquin and I took this Japanese “martial art” (which I say with quotation marks because its entire philosophy is about as nonviolent as a martial art could get) when I was about ten, and ever since then I’ve wanted to go back to it. A few months ago my friend Kristen started going (to the same teacher, it turns out, that Peter used to go to when he took Aikido down here ten or fifteen years ago), and eventually she got me to go along. I enjoy it a great deal most of the time, but I’m having to take some time away from it because it’s starting to hurt my back. I’m hoping to see a doctor about that sometime next week.
I’ve also been taking a Piloting Ground School class once a week, taught by a certified flight instructor who works at SGI. I’ve always wanted to be a pilot, or at least to fly; it’s turning out to be a lot more complicated than I imagined, and this class only prepares students to take the written exam; after you do that you have to have actual in-plane training, and at the current costs of instructors’ time and rental time for small planes it can cost $4000-$6000 to get a pilot’s license. Which is money I can’t really afford to spend right now; so I’m just going to complete the ground school, take the written test, and hold off on the actual learning to fly part until I can afford it (the test results are valid for a year or two, so I do have a little leeway).
So all of that has been taking up most of my time. The rest of my time tends to be spent talking with friends, reading, or occasionally writing—I’ve done far too little fiction writing in the past 18 months, and I’m trying to force myself back into it, with mixed success so far.
Anyway, it’s late and I’m tired and the end of the page has arrived, so I’ll sign off here. Thanks again for the card; hope all’s well with you.
- “trying to get into the habit of sending people short notes occasionally to let them know I still exist”
- I’ve written similar things, possibly using that exact wording, many times since then, to many people. In the thirty years since I wrote this letter, I still have not yet gotten into that habit, but hope springs eternal.
- I’m amused that right after saying I was “busy to the point of overload,” I went on to talk about having recently spent a couple months lounging about on beaches.
- Apple job
- I was working at Apple as a contractor, doing QA for A/UX, Apple’s first version of Unix, which was so little-known that we liked to refer to it as “Apple’s best-kept secret.”
- “take a year off from work”
- I did end up doing this! But not until three years later. For more about that, see my Wanderjahr journal.
- Jay and I had done some Aikido as kids, and I had been interested in getting back to it since 1991 or earlier, partly as a way to reduce the likelihood of finding myself in a situation where I would want to call the police.
- Sadly, at some point not long after this letter, I hurt my shoulder doing a forward roll. I think it took a while to heal, and by the time it did, I was no longer enthusiastic about Aikido, and I don’t think I ever went back.
- pilot’s license
- I never followed through on this. Which may be just as well; I had a very hard time staying awake during ground school, so I might not have had a really solid grasp on things.