Reflections

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Who is Tom Abate and what does he write about?

Eclectic notions arising from my experiences and observations.

Stories and commentary based on research, interviews, and observations.

Satire, fiction, humor, and advice from the Dead Blogger’s Society.

Experiences and events that formed my character and inform my work and beliefs.

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Has it really been 50 years since high school?

A chatty and informal reminiscence shared at a 50th reunion.

(Regis High School is a Jesuit-run institution for Catholic boys in the New York area who take an exam to win four-year scholarships. Other than removing some names I made no alterations. Tom)

I’ll arrive at the reunion on the red eye from San Francisco, after watching the youngest of my three children graduate high school. What a long, strange trip it’s been! Let me recap the last 50 years.

After Regis, I spent a year at NYU before dropping out and enlisting in the U.S. Navy. I ran a closed-circuit radio and television station aboard a ship that made port calls in the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong. My shipmates hailed from all over the country. Several remain dear friends.

After my enlistment ended, I put myself through UC Berkeley on the GI Bill. I majored in political science and minored in Mandarin. But I devoted most of my energy to working as a reporter and editor at the campus paper, the Daily Californian. In 1979, I enjoyed 15 minutes of fame for helping reveal the so-called secret for building a hydrogen bomb. Fortunately, then-President Jimmy Carter decided not to press charges for violating federal secrecy laws punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

It was at the Daily Cal that I met my future wife. We were married in a “Big Fat Greek Wedding” attended by two classmates who had migrated separately to the San Francisco Bay Area, and a third who flew out for the occasion.

My next stop was Eureka, a city on Northern California’s redwood coast – outside the fallout zone in the event of a nuclear war. I co-founded a mom-and-pop typesetting shop and community newspaper and got involved in personal computing. I lived on five acres, drew water from a spring, felled trees, split firewood, and cultivated a garden.

In 1990 I moved our growing family – our first son was born in 1989 – back to New York so I could attend the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. We lived in Brooklyn, rent-free, in the basement suite at Hotel Mom, Dad having sadly died of heart failure a couple of years earlier. After grad school I landed a job as science writer for the San Francisco Examiner.

On my first day, an earthquake tore open a section of the San Andreas fault in the Mojave Desert, causing no damage but allowing me to write my debut story for the front page.

Our second child was born in 1993, shortly after our arrival in San Francisco, and the third followed a decade later.

During my 18 years as a reporter and columnist in San Francisco, I would report on the emergence of the World Wide Web; interview Steve Jobs and other Silicon Valley luminaries; write about the decoding of the human genome; and cover the Great Recession. San Francisco being a popular destination for business junkets, classmates visited for professional events.

But my life blew up in 2011. Years of personal excess and poor judgment culminated in divorce, firing, a nervous breakdown, heart attack, and unemployment. I was 57, the age at which my father had died. I got a second chance. I restored my health with bypass surgery, exercise, and lifestyle changes. I rebuilt my career by writing interesting and illuminating stories about science and the Bay Area community. I worked on rebuilding my relationships with my three amazing and very different children. Today, I am Papou (grandfather) to three beautiful girls, ages seven, five, and three. I’m in a relationship with a woman I love. I am grateful but restless. Once my new graduate is settled at college I feel due for a new adventure.

Meanwhile I indulge in nostalgic recollections of our Regis years. I remember our times together and look forward to reuniting at 55 East 84th Street.

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