“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” – Yogi Berra
I’m Jeff and I am 62 ½ years old – the date today being April something, 2018. Three years ago, I was ill with leukemia, which was diagnosed firmly on April Fool’s Day, 2015. So far, I seemed to have beaten it. That I mention my illness at the top of this bio shows that I still consider it a prominent and defining experience in my life. I wonder if that will ever change.
It did change my appearance. I now keep my hair quite short, in a kind of buzz cut, and I have grown a short gray beard. This is the result of what happened after one of my chemo rounds. My hair had fallen out from the chemotherapy, but, before my next round began, my beard started growing in much faster than the hair on my head. My kids thought that I looked a little like Walter White on “Breaking Bad,” and suggested that I keep the look, so I did. I wear caps a lot, because I am not really allowed to take much direct sun on my head due to lingering effects of chemotherapy. Too much sun can cause ultraviolet damage to the skin, but that is the case for everyone, really.
On my head, in the picture above, is my favorite cap. It says “Alaska – World Class, Kenai River.” About 12 years ago, I worked for a summer on a commercial salmon-fishing “set-netting” crew in Clam Gulch, Alaska, together with another great long-time friend, Tim. Our salmon were specifically heading for the Kenai River. The Alaskan Department of Fish and Game stops the fishing for periods, in order to do fish counts, which allow enough salmon to swim upstream to spawn and maintain fish populations. We caught mainly Sock-eye salmon, plus some Pinks, and an occasional monster King. You can see a picture of me with a King salmon in the photo below – it is about 70 lbs. I bought my favorite cap that summer, and it is on my head in the photo in Alaska. I also named my dog, Kenai, when we got him. He is also in two photos below. I found out later that I was not so original with the name – the bear in Disney’s movie “Brother Bear” is also named Kenai.
Kenai was my main physical fitness trainer after my illness. He got me out walking every day. He is a high-energy Australian Shepherd, with a bit of something else mixed in. Unhappily, Kenai is in Switzerland now, and I am in the US. Our separation is a sad story. I miss him terribly.
By way of further introducing myself, I was born in Detroit, Michigan, sometime in the mid last century. I have two young adult children, a young man and a young woman. They are now both out in the world, instructing skiing this past ski season and off to university next fall.
Professionally, I would never have imagined it as a kid, but I became a banker and remained one for 30 years. Pursuing my banking career, I ended up living and working in New York, Frankfurt, London and Zurich. My work had the benefit of taking me all around the world. I have conducted business on every continent, except Antarctica. My last employer was a small specialized bank in Switzerland, which was gradually closed down by its private owners following the 2008 financial crisis. After helping to close the bank down and putting myself, at the same time, out of a job, I did some consulting and was looking for a new permanent position. This was when my leukemia illness struck. I am currently in an unplanned early retirement, from which I am unsure if I will emerge again, but I have the opportunity now to take a long walk, so that is exactly what I am going to do.
After over 35 years away, I returned to Michigan last year. I moved back to Michigan from Switzerland, after my marriage ended and after my illness. These past few years have been challenging, but there is a silver lining. I can plan now to do some things that I would otherwise not have been able to do. This first Long Walk is part of that silver lining.