My godparents were my next door neighbors in Brooklyn. I don't think they were ever formally my godparents, but I felt they were my godparents because they always kept an eye on us whenever possible, gave us tasty food, and helped us in our school candy sales. We called them Aunt Yola and Uncle Al. Aunt Yola was a lovely Mediterranean woman with a heart of gold. She was probably Greek as she was tall and fair-skinned. Uncle Al was an olive-skinned Sicilian who was rugged, handsome, and drove a big white Buick Wildcat. He always liked poking fun of people, such as my brother Dave, calling them a "donkeyapple." To this day, I have no idea what that meant. I guess it was a nice way of saying "dipshit." My greatgodmother, Aunt Yola's mom, was a lively, silver-haired woman who always had a smile on her face and a story to tell. They were my next door neighbors for the first nine years of my life and we made periodic visits to see them over the years. Sadly, I fell out of touch with them over the years, but their kindness will always be remembered.
Between my mother and my Dad, I can honestly say that my Dad was the more nurturing one. He is not without faults, but I have come to realize over the years that he had a great weight placed on his shoulders from being the primary to sole provider for our family. My Dad was what I would refer to as "whip-smart." He could learn anything by picking up a book and reading about it. He helped my brother with many of his school subjects, especially math, and now my brother has a master's degree in computer science.
My Dad worked a lot of overtime hours during the week, so my brothers and I didn't see him much. On weekends, he prepared non-Asian meals of burgers, hot dogs, lasagna, and corned beef and cabbage. Somehow, my Dad managed to put his three kids through college, no small feat for a man with a modest income. He wanted each of us to have an easier life than he had and I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today were it not for him.
My Dad served in the 1st Calvary Division, one of the most decorated combat divisions of the United States Army. What I remember most fondly about him was he always made shots that nobody else could in carnival shooting games. He was deadly accurate with a BB rifle and was always in top shape at five-foot-eight and 165 pounds. He told us he grew two inches during his time in the army. He was very patriotic and always taught us to display our flags proudly as Americans. He was the closest thing to a Captain America that I would know personally.
I believe I inherited my wonderful marksmanship abilities from my Dad. That has enabled me to be "a natural" in pistol shooting and archery. I believe I inherited my calm demeanor also from my Dad. That has enabled me to be a great yoga teacher. I believe I inherited my resilience from him. That has enabled me to endure all the trials and tribulations of life. I believe I inherited my intellectual curiosity, compassion, and love for life from him. I can honestly say my Dad is a great man. I hope those of you who are reading this have a Dad who is just as great as mine.
Mrs. Elaine Steier was quite possibly my favorite teacher from Mark Twain Junior High School. She inspired me to become the writer I am today. My friends and classmates all knew that I was Mrs. Steier's favorite student. I believe she saw something special in me in the way I was able to weave words together to form beautiful quilts of expression. I had several friends who were rivals in school and they were all envious that I received the coveted honors grade in 9th grade English. I also received outstanding grades in Algebra and Science. I should've been well on my way to an Ivy League school, but I took the long route by going to Boston University first, earning my first Master's degree at 21, and then going to the University of Pennsylvania for my Ph.D. I can honestly say that my writing ability enabled me to get the most out of my university education.
Bill was my graduate school advisor at BU and the first college professor who treated me as an equal rather than an underling. For that, I am grateful for his kindness, guidance, and philosophy on life. He encouraged me to explore and delve deeper into my passion for electronic music. My classmates and I built one of the first electronic music laboratories in the New England area. We composed songs in that laboratory 24/7, surviving only on Taco Bell and Burger King. It was the beginning of my lifelong love for producing music. Bill passed at the young age of 50, but his knowledge and wisdom will live on in his students' hearts. I like to include my university experiences as part of my childhood, because I don't believe we're actually adults until we finish school, get our first job, and live on our own.
Max was one of my favorite professors at Penn. He taught a course on Decision Making meant for only the strongest mathematical minds at Penn, of which I was certainly not one of them. Nevertheless, through ferocious perseverence studying and grasping the sometimes arcane knowledge, I prevailed in his course and wrote a 20-page paper on applications in decision making using an expert system I wrote that was based on my study of the research of John Boose at Boeing. Many years after his course, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting him over several lunches to discuss the intersection between mathematics, physics, computer science, and quantum mechanics. It is rare to meet someone with such keen intellect and dedication to scholarly pursuits. One of my favorite memories of him was in my first Decision Making class where he paced back and forth in front of the room, introducing himself and seemingly talking to noone but himself. He said, "Now, some of you might have heard that I'm something of a madman, walking around the city completely engulfed in my thoughts, but the things you will learn in this course will be applicable to so many different fields of study!" Max has inspired me to look at how everything relates to each other and to sharpen my senses so I can see things that most people cannot see.