Friday, June 12

SFO, 1983

How about this one -- on my way to Geneva, Switzerland, for my junior year of High School (not pictured is David Ellis, who accompanied us to the airport). I am 16 years old. Given how difficult it has been for me to decide on London vs. California, New York or the Bay Area .. how on earth I picked up and left everything I held dear remarkable to me (Sonnet and I discuss this very point as recently as this morning reminded, in part, by this photograph). I do believe Moe has chucked his plaid jacket aside for the photograph, probably at my request, anticipating then this moment now. Dave and I laughed uproariously at its hideousness driving across the Bay Bridge then. Later, Moe pulled me aside and gave me one of those lessons that has stuck. "Jeff" he said, "I noticed your amusement with my jacket. Well, I often meet corporate or high paid lawyers and they all have expensive suits and handsome ties.. in [ABC important case], the lead counsel was irritated by this jacket.. and assumed I was just some schmuck. He underestimated me. I used to wear it just to get under his skin. And I won the case, in the end."

I think I was pretty nervous about Switzerland though not conveyed by the picture. I was excited, too, of course and anxious to meet the family I would live with. Talk about an interesting way to make up for my failings in Mr. Dillingham's french class, where I would have received a "C" (or worse!) if I had not dropped the course. I failed an early exam and oh the sweetness of erasing it, and the class, from my permanent record. That decision probably set me up for the Ivy League. And swimming. I found Geneva via Berkeley Barracudas coach Phillipe Henri, who trained with Genève Natation 1885; he wrote his old coach Tony Ulrich and the rest, as they say, history. Unique was the timing - an Olympic year - and the club owned seven legitimate medal contenders including Dano Halsell, who broke Robin Leamy's world record in the 50 meter freestyle (long course) at the July '85 Suisse Nationals. His time of 22.52 lasted less then six months, broken by Tom Jaeger. Today, it stands at 20.94 by Frédérick Bousquet, the first under 21 seconds, in one of those NASA suits (here is anther Frenchman breaking the 100 meters). Dano was all skin. Switzerland did win its first Olympic swimming medal: a bronze in the 200 meter breast stroke by the remarkable, and relatively old, Etienne Dagon. At 24, he was several years beyond retirement and continued competing many years after. Maybe it was his 14 year old girlfriend? Ah, Europe - but this for another time.

So back to the present: Iran votes today, and turn-out has been described as "extraordinary." It is hard to imagine that hard-liner
Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad, the sixth and current President. He became president BTW on 6 August 2005, after winning the 2005 presidential election and the first president of the Islamic Republic in twenty-four years who was not a religious cleric (despite his title, he does not hold the highest constitutional office in Iran, which belongs to the Supreme Leader of Iran (Ila Khamenei) according to their constitution. So today's tenth presidential election and Mahmoud challenged by the Iranian reform movement and former President Mohammad Khatami, and a leading opponent, until he left the raced and endorsed former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Former speaker of the Majlis Mehdi Karroubi, another Reformists, is also running as is former Commander of Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Mohsen Rezaei, a Conservative. There have been huge rallies everywhere leading up to today - and remarkable to think how this former "Axis of Evil" has more compelling candidates then most Western countries .. let's just hope Ahmadi-Nejad gone. His comments on Israel and mission to obtain nuclear weapons destabilising the region. And tomorrow, it could be so.