I was thinking about the type of personal information that a) people would contribute and b) others might be interested in reading. I'll be happy to include whatever anyone wants, but I came up with serendipity as something that might be appealing. Thinking back over the years, I came up with a couple of incidents that I found remarkable and might be attributed to weird accidents of fate. I've written a couple of paragraphs about each. If you have any stories about things you've experienced that you would like included, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ron Burke: Norah Jones
Six years ago we were on a fly and drive vacation in eastern Canada and upstate New York with another couple from Texas. We arrived in Toronto on Thursday afternoon, registered at our hotel, and scanned the local paper for events over the weekend. Friday night the Blue Jays were home and Saturday Norah Jones was having a concert. (At that time I was listening to Norah Jones CDs to the point of driving my wife crazy.) The couple we were with already had tickets to see her three months hence in San Antonio, so they weren’t interested. I called the box office and found out the arena was a Shoreline or Concord Pavillion like venue that sat about 20,000. But the only available seats were on the back lawn area which wasn’t covered, and since there was about a 40% of rain that night, I decided to pass.
On Friday the wives wanted to go shopping, so we got directions and headed for the subway. We arrived just as the train doors were closing and had to wait an extra ten minutes. When we arrived we found we had been sent to a Haight/Ashbury like area rather than a Nordstroms. We walked for about two blocks, and it started to rain. We gave up and headed back to the subway stop only to see a Sheraton a block up the street. We opted for the Sheraton to get out of the rain and get directions to a “shopping” area. When I approached the concierge about directions, I also asked if she had access to any Norah Jones tickets. She said no. But standing three feet away was a concierge from the Hilton around the corner, who overheard the conversation. She said a guest there had asked her to sell two tickets. I walked back to the Hilton with her and paid face value for seats that ended up being second row center.
It was a wonderful evening. But the most remarkable thing for me was the chain of events that brought us to the Sheraton and allowed our paths to cross with the concierge from the Hilton who was running a one minute, unrelated errand.
Ron Burke: Lake House
In 1985 we built a summer cabin on Lake Tulloch in Copperopolis about two hours due east of San Francisco. The lot next door was purchased by four divorced drinking buddies, who decided to build a monstrous house out into the lake. Because the water level had been dropped to allow for work on the dam, they had access to the lake bottom. They began the foundation forty feet farther out than any of the surrounding properties. We went to the Calaveras County Planner who suggested we get a lawyer. She even gave us the name of the best lawyer in San Andreas. He was very busy, didn’t work weekends, and could fit us in on Tuesday February 16th at 2pm. This meant we had to take off work.
At that time I was a work-a-holic software department manager at ESL, a defense contractor in Sunnyvale. I was always maxed out on vacation accrual, and I never used sick time. I was pretty much always there. But on this Tuesday Gloria and I drove up to San Andreas to meet with Ken Foley. After a fruitful meeting we left at three o’clock to head home. At about 4:30 I switched from music to KCBS to get traffic data as we headed into Fremont. Regular programming was interrupted with a bulletin about a shooting at a company (ESL) in Sunnyvale. We sped home to a flurry of messages from concerned family and friends.
I had a corner office and lining one approaching corridor were the offices of the software engineers. Down the other corridor were the offices of the hardware staff, and one particular H/W engineer, Laura Black, sat two offices away. In the late afternoon a jilted admirer of Laura’s, Richard Farley, approached the building with automatic weapons. He killed two people on the way in, wounded Laura in her office, killed two more people in front of my office, did enormous damage to building facilities, and eventually surrendered hours later. My office was ground zero. The door was blasted away, windows were shot out, and explosives were found there.
That monstrous house at Lake Tulloch is now on its fourth set of owners and I still hate it. But I have to think where I would be without it.