Jonathan Paul

Jonathan Paul

My Manumit School Biography (Jonathan Paul)

jpaul2I was born on August 23, 1943 in Schenectady, New York.. We lived in the pre-revolutionary section of Schenectady, an otherwise drab industrial town wholly devoted to the support of the General Electric Company a company that at one time or another both my parents worked for.

In the spring of 1949 at age 5, I went to live with my Grandmother in nearby Selkirk while my parents divorced. I entered first grade in a two-room country schoolhouse and launched my academic career by knocking over a vase of roses on the teacher’s desk. We had five grades in our room and the water tasted very bad. At Christmas time in 1949, I went to live with my mother who had moved to New York.  My “ancestral home” was at 53rd St. and Madison Ave, today the site of a 50 store office building.

Being that my mother worked, from second grade onwards I was sent to boarding school. Second through fourth grades were spent at the St. Christopher’s school in Dobbs Ferry New York. For the 5th grade I attended Public School No. 59 in New York..  I was at the Manumit school for those impressionable junior high school years, 6th through 8th grades.

At Manumit, I was a Gamma the first year (1954-1955) and lived on the 3rd floor of the  main house.  There I met my oldest friend Michael McCarthy, perhaps the smartest person I have every known and a person who greatly influenced my life.  Ted Hemberger was our teacher for that and the subsequent year.  The curriculum like none other that I have ever heared of  for junior high.  In the morning we generally read the NY Times from cover to cover and discussed the new stories of the day.  The afternoon was, as I remember it, devoted to “creative writing”, a skill that has been a real asset in my career.  Billy Fincke, however noted that my “spelling was a little weird” and not much has changed in 50 years.  My second year (1955-1956) was spent living in the barnyard as a Delta.  This was the first year Norman Cooper joined the staff as art teacher and guardian of the motley Delta group.  Norman was one of the most influential people in my life.  I have kept in touch with him over the years.  He now lives in Costa Mesa California and at 86 years old is his usual curmudgeon self.  In keeping with “permissive education” I was allowed to nail my bed to the ceiling of the stable and spent the year sleeping 8 feet above my classmates.   In my third and final year (1956-1957) we Deltas moved next door to the West stable and had Billy as our instructor.  That year, the final year of the School (except for a small group of students the next year), was tough on everybody.   We spent most of the winter without heat or hot water in our dorm due to a breakdown in the furnace that nobody seemed to be able to fix.   The writing was on the wall that the end of the school was near at hand.

After leaving Manumit, I attended Blair Academy an upscale boys preparatory school where my father was a mathematics teacher.  I was considered a little odd after the Manumit experience and had to catch up on three years of junior high school skills in a few months.  I had no idea how to convert fractions to decimals nor could I tell you what an adverb was.  It also took some getting used to wearing a coat and tie and saying “Yes Sir” all the time.  I once use the f-word to the headmaster’ wife by accident.  But I adapted (thank goodness) soon enough and even joined the football team where I was possibly the smallest defensive end in Northern New Jersey.

I graduated from Blair in 1961 and in the fall entered Columbia College, at the time the men’s undergraduate division of Columbia University, and one of the schools in the Ivy League. I complete my undergraduate work in three years and graduated in August of 1964 with a BA, majoring in English Literature. Throughout my college career, I worked nearly full time, first as a waiter at Schrafft’s Restaurant and then in the Columbia University Library. Unfortunately, I experienced few of the normal college social and extracurricular experiences. I was largely self-supporting throughout my college years.  While I was a student at Columbia, in August 1963, my mother, with whom I was living, died after a long and increasingly debilitating battle with Multiple Sclerosis.

BuildersOfTheBridge_jpgIt had been my intention to enter a graduate school of Architecture and to pursue that profession. I was, in fact, accepted into the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture after completing two years at the College (three year’s worth of class work). This permitted me to spend my last year of undergraduate work in the first year program of the Architecture School. After completing this year, I decided not to pursue an architecture career principally because it seemed that interesting design opportunities were few and far between and besides I had discovered computers.

In August of 1964, at the age of 21, and newly graduated from Columbia, I married, my high school sweetheart.  We moved to New York’s Upper West side, first on West 103rd Street and then on West 97th Street.

In the fall of 1964, I sought a job in the computer industry, mainly because of the influence of my Manumit classmate Michael McCarthy who had been working as a programmer.  Computers seemed fascinating. I interviewed with IBM and was offered a job as a system engineer trainee in the Banking and Brokerage office on Wall Street in downtown New York. I spent four year with IBM and benefited from their extensive training program. I realized quickly that software development was the most interesting process and that I was really good at it. The good fortune of my job with IBM really shaped my professional life.

My first action after getting a job and earning some money was to learn to fly. I had always been interested in airplanes and flying. Charles Lindbergh was, and still is, my hero. I drove up to Westchester County Airport one morning a week and subjected myself to the wonders of flight under the autocratic supervision of a series of low mentality flight instructors. In October of 1965 I soloed and in April of 1966 I received my private pilot’s license. My wife was very skeptical about flying (a bad sign).

In January of 1967 our daughter Victoria was born.. A few months later, I was lured away from IBM by a small consulting company and doubled my somewhat skimpy IBM salary. I was the fifth employee. The owner/president seemed quite old (he was 28 years old). I worked for them for seven years doing software development in IBM assembly language. I was a specialist in communications and real-time systems.

In December of 1967, I was assigned to the Sprague Electric Company in Williamstown Massachusetts. The snow was three feet deep and my wife, who didn’t drive, was appalled by life outside of Manhattan. But the job was great, she learned to drive, we both learned to ski, and by the time the flowers came out in May we loved that small college town. That summer I earned my instrument rating and bored holes in the clouds all over New England. Unfortunately, the assignment ended by Thanksgiving and we headed back to New York and settled in one of the northern suburbs, Mamaroneck on the northern shore of Long Island Sound.   I have only learned recently that Ben Fincke was then the directory of the Buxton School, down the street from our house.

Once back in New York. I bought a succession of beat up airplanes, one of which crashed in a field in New Jersey scaring my passenger (who had never been up in a light plane) half to death. We flew to the Bahamas and all over the East Coast. I found Victoria the more willing flying companion.. Throughout this period I was working at various programming assignments, managed a few big projects, and was coordinator of my company’s in-house education program.

In the summer of 1971 I took four months off from work and the three of us went to Europe. We bought a VW bug at the factory in Germany, filled it up with camping equipment, and drove throughout Europe from England to Turkey and nearly everything in between. It was a wonderful experience, and even Victoria who was four years old, had a tolerably good time driving for hours at a time, and then visiting an endless succession of art museums. We returned in late September and resumed our “normal life”.

As it turned out, it didn’t last long.  My wife asked for a divorce.   I moved to a small apartment in Manhattan’s East Village and she and Victoria moved to Los Angeles. It was, without doubt, the worst time in my life. I had thought our life pretty good.  I was apparently mistaken.  It was a wakeup call of sorts.

I bought a motorcycle and tried to put my life together. I received a lot of support from my friends and dated some wonderful women, to whom I must have seemed self-centered and preoccupied with my failed marriage. Victoria came and spent two summers with me (1973 and 1974), the latter in the company of her mother. We had many opportunities to reconcile but it just didn’t work.

In 1972 I bought a pair of brownstones on West 12th Street in Greenwich Village in partnership with a friend, a real-estate developer. I moved into the second floor apartment overlooking 12th Street and could see into the living room of Ramsey Clark, the former US Attorney General who lived across the street. They were beautiful old buildings dating from before the Civil War. The whole deal was a disaster. My partner made a number of strategic mistakes and before we knew it, we had a full-blown rent strike on our hands. For two years, I endured the enmity of my neighbors and dug into my thin wallet to pay the mortgage.  It was misery, both physically and financially.

In the summer of 1974, I was offered a job for a new company in Monterey California.  A good friend, with whom I had worked at IBM, had joined the Navy and had ended up in Monterey where the Navy had its weather prediction computers.  When he mustered out, he joined a statup and solicited me for employment.   I could think of no reasons why I should not move west: the weather, the beautiful locale, my daughter living in Los Angeles, and an escape from being a landlord.

When I interviewed for the job at Global Weather Dynamics Inc, I told my potential employer that I wanted to travel and would be disappointed if that opportunity did not materialize. He chuckled to himself and predicted that I would regret making that statement. Eighty-four countries and 30 years later, he turned out to be correct.  My friend took me on a tour of the local beaches where in every cove we saw numerous nubile maidens cavorting naked in the waves (this was the flower generation). I was quite ready to sign up. I finished my last assignment for CBS Election Night Coverage on November 4th, 1974.  I sold my share in 44 West 12th Street, and headed for California.

My thirty-one years time at GWDI (as of 2005) has been spent in a combination of software development and intense international travel. I became the architect of the principal product of the company, a message switching system and later various air traffic management applications.  As an introduction to international travel, the first installation of the system was scheduled for 6 weeks in October of 1975 in Pretoria South Africa. I didn’t return to Monterey for six months.

Earlier, in February of 1975 I had had a blind date with my future wife Gayle, a 2nd grade teacher in Monterey. We had a lovely love affair, but one that was punctuated by our mutual uncertainty. That year, Gayle, not having any great success with me, moved to San Francisco to work on her masters degree in early childhood education. We continued to see each other. Over Christmas 1975, Gayle came to South Africa for two weeks during which time we toured the country and celebrated one of our most memorable Christmases. Gayle left the day after New Years. At 2 o’clock in the morning, I received a call from my sister. Our father had died. I was on the next flight to New York while Gayle was still lounging on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.   In 1979 we were married and also built the house in which we still live, a redwood and glass affair perched on a ridge in the coastal range surrounding Monterey Bay.  It’s an area that John Steinbeck, a local personage, wrote about in his novel “Pastures of Heaven”.  It is truly a wonderful place to live and I have only occasionally missed New York City.

In 1984, I broke with GWDI and took a consulting job with NASA at the Jet propulsion Labatory in Pasadena California (near Los Angles). I commuted down to LA during the week and spent the weekends at home. I took this as an opportunity to get back into flying, something I had been ignoring for the previous ten years. Contrary to my better judgment, I bought a plane to make the commute. It was a Mooney aircraft (no relationship to any religious sect), a fast four seat retractable. I could make it from Salinas to Pasadena in a little under two hours. This plane, 9208M or “Mike”, became for Gayle and I the means for many weekend and vacation trips: The East Coast (five or six times), the Oshkosh Wisconsin air show (nearly every year), Alaska (twice), Mendocino, Calistoga, Death Valley, Las Vegas.. Lately we have been traveling to Mexico with some regularity and flew our plane to Belize and Guatemala for Christmas 2004.

In 1987, I returned to GWDI. We had found the weekly separation difficult and Gayle had said, in maybe not the same words, “Get a new job or a new wife”. In 1989 Gayle became a school principal, a job that keeps her incredible busy, and forces us to spend a lot of time alone. I continue to travel extensively in my job. In 1990, I discovered a profound interest in genealogy and have spent a considerable amount of time exploring my roots and boring my family with my findings. I also spend a great deal of time on-line exploring the use of the Internet for both genealogical and personal use.

Victoria, our daughter, graduated from College, UC Santa Barbara, and lived for two years in Japan. During that period, we became linked at the hip (so to speak) by e-mail, a practice that continues today. With the encouragement of Gayle, Tory became an elementary school teacher in LA. In 1998, she moved to Santa Rosa in Sonoma California where she teaches Kindergarten and, still unmarried, owns her own house.

In August of 2000, I broke once again with GWDI and joined an aviation-oriented engineering and research firm in Los Gatos California, Seagull Technology. The job was great, software development for air traffic control applications. But the commute was horrendous, 90 minutes each way at off-peak times, longer during the rush hours. In November of 2000 I was offered a good position as a senior software developer at Tivre Technology a high-tech startup company based in Monterey.  We were all going to get rich!   I jumped at the opportunity and enjoyed the simplicity of just doing programming in C++ and Java. Unfortunately, the dot com bubble burst and Tivre was a causality. I found myself 58 years old, unemployed in a market filled with thousands of brilliant software developers. Fortunately GWDI’s door was still open and I rejoined them.  I’m doing a very interesting and challenging job that I have no intention of leaving until I retire, scheduled for June 2007.

In the summer of 2001 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. This devastating news coupled with the recommendation of immediate surgery encouraged me to seek out an alternative therapy that would leave me with all my body parts intact. For two difficult years I adopted the Gerson Therapy, a controversial therapy involving a very strict vegetarian diet, no salt, virtually no fat, and nearly continuous consumption of freshly squeezed vegetable and fruit juices. After two year, it was determined by biopsy that the cancer, although not eradicated (which was my expectation), had shrunk considerably. The doctors at Stamford concluded that, for now, the condition should just be monitored and there was no need for any conventional treatment. As for the Gerson therapy, I believe it works but it is unsustainable and represented a complete disruption of my life.

So that’s me.  If you want to sample more of my life, meet my family, my cats, my airplanes, or stumble upon my writings, visit http://jonathanpaul.org/

Corral de Tierra, California, December 2005