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My dad is one of my best friends. I’ve known him for 47 years and other than a few relatively brief moments where we have struggled with classical father / son stuff as I was growing up and separating my identity, he’s always been a buddy, mentor, friend, cheerleader, and confidant. I’ve learned an enormous amount from him, and continue to treasure every moment I have with him.
My mom arranged a 75th birthday this weekend for my dad in San Antonio. They live in Dallas so I’m a little perplexed why we ended up in San Antonio, but when you are 75 you get to decide where you want to celebrate your birthday. So me, Amy, my brother Daniel, his wife Laura, their daughter Sabrina, and my dad’s brother Charlie and his wife Cindy descended on the Eilan Hotel. As expected, there was no shortage of confusion when there were Felds in four different rooms, but we had our usual fun tormenting the hotel staff who tried their hardest to keep us all straight.
As part of the birthday, my mom asked us all to write some thoughts to my dad about our relationship with him. She has compiled them and has them waiting for him when they arrive back in Dallas, but I thought I’d spring my thoughts on him a little early. Here they are!
Dad – as I sit here at 6:46am on 3/11/13 pondering all the amazing things we’ve done together, I closed my eyes and thought back as far as I could to some memories from my childhood. As I get older, I find that the memories fade to snippets, rather than entire concepts, but here are a few that I remember when I close my eyes and let my thoughts drift back to when I was a kid.
- Reading a little green book on endocrinology in my bedroom.
- Being in your very white and organized office at Endocrine Associates looking at all the New England Journal of Medicine books on the wall.
- Driving past the KERA building downtown in the car on the way to something with you and mom.
- Running the 1.5m loop around our neighborhood early in the morning with you.
- Sitting at the round kitchen table in those painfully uncomfortable white mesh chairs eating dinner and talking about what happened during the day.
- Having you hand me the keys to mom’s Corvette while you said “Enjoy it – be careful – don’t kill yourself.”
- Going to a store in Addison to buy my Apple II computer – I remember it was in the shopping center near where Houstons used to be.
- Driving to Frito-Lay’s data center to play on Charlie’s mainframe.
- Sitting in your study at 7310 being extremely frustrated with Hebrew a few weeks before my Bar Mitzvah.
- Sitting in our living room with all my friends who were seniors figuring out how to redesign our high school schedule, and then creating a movement to change it, so that we weren’t stuck in school all day.
- Doing algebra with you. I loved learning algebra. That was probably my favorite time in school at any point in time.
- Walking around Concord, MA with you and mom in October of my freshman year at MIT and wanting to quit because I was homesick and lonely. You told me to give it a year. I did, and by the time a year was up I was fine.
- Being pissed off at you so much that you said something like “I think it’s time for therapy” at which point I let a few days pass and then decided I wasn’t pissed off any more. This was 7th grade or something around there. I remember walking on the 1.5m loop with you as you tried to get through to me.
- Getting a huge hug from you after missing a the final sudden death playoff kick where we lost. Scott Albers (wow – where did that name come from) missed his kick – he was the star of our team – and I let the last one go by me and I cried.
- Doing rounds with you at Presbyterian and hating the way the hospital smelled. Hating the bright florescent lights. And hating the beeping noises.
- Sitting in the back of Cy Arnold’s convertible on the way to a Dallas Cowboys game.
- Getting picked up from Camp Champions when you had gallstones and just hoping we could get home so you could be ok.
- Saying something totally dumb on the CB Radio on a trip to Big Bend that caused a big backlash. I think my handle was “Teddy Bear.” You calmed me down and were very nice about it. We were with the Segals I think.
- Mrs. Waters Chocolate Cake. That stuff was awesome. I think she put drugs in it.
- Having the flu in my old bedroom and puking for a few days during Chanukah. There was a big Hefty trash bag full of stuff involved somehow.
- The first night of every trip to see your parents in Hollywood. It was one giant food orgy.
- Playing tennis with you.
- Riding in your Porsche and thinking I had the coolest dad in the world.
I love you!
My long-time friends Fred Wilson and Joanne Wilson each had powerful posts about saying goodbye to 2012 and welcoming in 2013 yesterday.
Fred’s is titled Putting 2012 To Bed. I know many people who don’t know Fred other than via his online presence, public actions, and reputations. I expect that 99% of them, when asked if Fred had an awesome 2012, would say ”of course – he has an amazing life.” But my answer would have been more nuanced based on the time Fred and I spent together. I would have said “some great things happened but it was a tough and complex year for him.” Fred’s response was characteristically blunt.
“I’ve wanted to write a year end post for days. I actually wrote one and stored it as a draft. But it comes across as a whiny complaint about the shitty year that 2012 was. And it was in many ways a shitty year for me. But the reason I couldn’t publish that post is it didn’t capture the greater picture that 2012 represents for me.”
The entire post is well worth reading. As is Joanne’s titled See ya 2012. Two big stressors from Joanne’s perspective were the damage to their house with their subsequent displacement from Hurricane Sandy and the shift to being empty nesters as their third kid gets ready to go to college. Her punch line is as powerful as Fred’s.
“This year I am hoping for a constant. I just want to live our lives under our own roof with no major disruptions. I could go for a real year of normalcy. 2013 is going to be a year for moving forward. Reflecting on the past and using that to move me forward. Not sure what that means but I will find out. The last few months we have lived out of more than 7 hotels and it is seriously thrown me off. Where it throws me, I will see. 2012 has taken me out of my game. I am hoping 2013 brings me back.”
My dad (Stan Feld) reminds us in his year end post that life is inches with a wonderful story of his from January 1, 1957.
All three of these posts brought me back to my December 3rd post titled Wow – That Was Intense which summarized a really tough period I went through last year between the start of September and the end of November. My dad’s post was especially poignant since if he had died on 1/1/57 I wouldn’t be here. And I so empathize with Fred – it’s hard for me to complain since overall my existence on this planet is awesome, but I had a really shitty three months at the end of the year.
I hit reset every year on my birthday (December 1) and describe it as “booting up a new version of myself” – in this case, v47. A month later I get to reflect on the reboot as everyone rings in the new year with hope, optimism, and renewal. If you had an Apple II, you know that hitting Reset rebooted the computer, so I’m not of the Ctrl-Alt-Del generation, but rather the Reset PR#6 generation. Either way, use whatever method you fancy and hit reset.
Welcome 2013. I’m looking forward to getting the most I can from the experience.
My first business partner, Dave Jilk, emailed me our original partnership agreement for Feld Technologies. It’s one page.
We incorporated a month later as an S-Corp. It cost us $99 to do this – I remember using an organization called The Company Corporation - we called an 800 number, gave them some information, and the documents were automatically generated and filed. A short letter agreement specifying the equity splits and the boilerplate legal docs were the only legal docs we had until we sold the company in 1993.
As my partner Jason Mendelson told me after I sent him this the other day, “If things go well, it’s fine. If they don’t, it’s a fucking disaster.” And he’s completely correct – in this case things went well so there were no issues.
I continue to try to do deals this way. I lay out the terms, will negotiate a little, but am clear about what I want. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, I move on. Once the simple terms are agreed to, I let the lawyers generate hundreds of pages of documentation to support the deal. I used to read every word on every page myself (I learned that from Len Fassler, who bought Feld Technologies). I still look through the documents, but I only work with lawyers who I deeply trust to do it right (like Mike Platt at Cooley) so I focus on the stuff that matters for the specific deal.
Trust matters more than anything else to me in a deal. Sure, I occasionally get screwed in a deal, but never more than once by the same person. And, for people like Dave Jilk and my dad, I’ll work with them over and over and over again because I trust them with my life.
Keep it simple. It’s much better.
My dad is one of my best friends. His birthday is on Saint Patrick’s Day and it has been a bright green celebration for as long as I can remember. He turned 74 today and we had dinner tonight at Oak at Fourteenth with Amy, my mom Cecelia, my sister-in-law Laura, my brother Daniel, and their daughter Sabrina. We had a wonderful evening and it reminded me once again of the importance and delight of family.
I’ve learned many things from my dad during the 46 years I’ve been on this planet. Following are a few pivotal ones that have shaped my life.
Age 10: I told my dad I didn’t want to be a doctor like him. I didn’t like how hospitals smelled, I was bored when we did rounds together (I just wanted to sit in the corner and read), and I didn’t like being around sick people. He told me that I could do anything I wanted to do.
Age 12: I hated learning Hebrew and thought being Bar Mitzvah’ed was stupid. My dad didn’t fight me on how I felt, but he told me tradition was important and this was a seminal jewish tradition. I procrastinated as long as I could and then crammed over the last few weeks. He sat with me, coached me through it, and was patient with me when I continued to fight the process. My Bar Mitzvah was a powerful learning experience, and, while I eventually became an atheist, am glad that I participated in the key jewish tradition.
Age 17: After two months at MIT, I was ready to quit. All of my friends had gone to UT Austin, including my girlfriend, and I was homesick and lonely. As we wandered around Concord, MA on a beautiful October day, he told me to give it a year and if I still didn’t like it, I could go somewhere else. But he told me I’d be short changing myself if I didn’t give it a year. By spring time I had fully embraced MIT and never looked back.
Age 21: Dave Jilk (another Saint Patrick’s baby) and I started Feld Technologies. My dad was our third partner, sat on our board, and contributed continuously as a mentor to us as we figured out how to create and build a company. He personally guaranteed a $20,000 line of credit with his bank which was our beginning working capital (which we stupidly used up immediately, although that made us realize we had to be profitable and cash flow positive from the beginning because there was no more money to tap.) Almost every year Dave, my dad, and I would go away somewhere for an annual meeting. I remember these weekends fondly as they shaped the path of our business. My favorite line from this period that I remember from him was “if you aren’t on the edge you are taking up too much space.”
Age 24: My father resisted the easy temptation to say “I told you so” when I got divorced. When I dropped out of a PhD program, he told me he supported any decision I made. When I was feeling sorry for myself, he’d remind me cheerfully that “everyone pees in the shower.” His unambiguous support of me, at a period of darkness in my life, was priceless.
Age 29: When Amy and I decided to move to Boulder, the first words out of my dad’s mouth were “that’s a great idea.”
There are many more like this, but this should give you the sense for it. In addition to being one of my best friends, he’s been an incredible mentor, business partner, and supporter. I love his sense of humor, his joie de vivre, and his endless curiosity. He always lights up any room he’s in, is always learning, and keeps on trying new things.
Dad – happy birthday. You are awesome. Green suits you.
My mom and dad have a wonderful gift coming to them this week. Yesterday evening I read The Beautiful Bronx 1920-1950 and The Bronx: It Was Only Yesterday, 1935-1965. Well – I mostly looked at the pictures and read the descriptions of the pictures, as that was the meat of each book, but the intro sections were also very cool.
My parents were each born in the Bronx and lived there until they moved to Blytheville, Arkansas in 1965 for a year. Growing up, my brother Daniel and I visited the Bronx periodically, as that’s where our grandparents lived (until my dad’s parents moved to Ft. Lauderdale) and we often heard tales of their time growing up in the Bronx.
I discovered these books a few weeks ago at my close friend Len Fassler’s house. Len is key mentor of mine who has had a profound influence on me both personally and professionally. I was scanning his bookshelves during a break in the evening and noticed these two books. He noticed me noticing them and told me to borrow them. Instead, I emailed myself their names and bought them later that night on Amazon.
They are beautiful books about a different time in America. The Bronx was growing fast during the time period and was a magical place to live. It was close enough to Manhattan to get to use the New York, NY mailing address, yet far enough away to be its own place. It has huge ethnic diversity that was integrated in many ways, but also organized around the notion of neighborhoods. I recognized some of the street names, neighborhoods, and buildings from conversations with my parents and the few times that I’ve been through the Bronx in recent years. But mostly I just tried to transport myself back to a different time in our country.
I’ve encouraged my dad to write more about his childhood in the Bronx on his blog. He’s written a few, like Punch Ball In Claremont Park, The Bronx (NY) 1945-1953, Jake the Pickle Man, Summer of ’47, and StrikeOuts: A New York City Street Game. But he’s got a ton more in him so I hope these books inspire him.
Mom / Dad – the books are in the mail – you should have them this week!