Sully: Our Hometown Hero

This article was originally published in the April 2009 issue of ALIVE.AliveCover_0409.qxd

Prior to January 15th, Lorrie Sullenberger was the most famous person in the Sullenberger household. As a featured fitness expert on ABC-7’s View from the Bay, contributing writer for ALIVE Magazine and creator of the Fit and Fabulous Outdoors TV show, Lorrie was often recognized when she shopped or when she and the family dined out. Then Lorrie’s husband, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, and his courageous crew miraculously carried out the successful water landing of a US Airways Airbus A320 (flight 1549), on the Hudson River in New York City. At that moment their lives were forever changed. “We haven’t been home for more than a few days since then,” Lorrie told me when we all sat down to talk one Friday afternoon. “We’ve always enjoyed a certain amount of predictability and routine since moving to Danville, thirteen years ago. We miss that level of calm. It feels nice to just be at home enjoying dinners together again.”

Overnight, Sully became a legitimate national hero at a time when the country desperately needed one, and the Sullenbergers went from being an ordinary suburban family to international celebrities. While they know that the intense and demanding schedule will eventually settle down, they can also accept that their lives will never be the same.

“I thought initially the story would run its course and eventually fade away when the next big story happened,” Sully says, “but due in large part to the wide variety of media outlets that are available it has garnered worldwide attention and seems to have taken on a life of its own.” alive-media-magazine-october-2016-32-sully-our-hometown-hero-michael-copeland

Since that fateful day, Sully, Lorrie, and at times their daughters Kelly and Kate, have been living a whirlwind existence of media attention and public appearances. Sully has done interviews with 60 Minutes, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America and People Magazine. He has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and Larry King Live. He has been a celebrated guest at the Presidential Inauguration, the Superbowl, the Oscars and the President’s nationally televised speech to Congress. All of this has fueled a never-ending desire for the American public to connect with our hometown hero. The Sullenbergers agree that timing had a lot to do with interest in the story. “People seem to need a good news story right now. This event seems to have given them hope,” Lorrie says.

Sully readily admits that he was initially uncomfortable with the amount of public interest and adulation he was receiving. “I wasn’t prepared for all the attention, nor did I understand the magnitude of what was happening. I’m not a celebrity, nor did I aspire to be one, but I’m willing to do what I need to at this time to try and generate as much good as possible from this opportunity.”alive-media-magazine-october-2016-22-sully-our-hometown-hero-michael-copeland

Upon his recent return from Washington D.C., Sully, Lorrie and I sat in the Sullenberger’s living room on a sun filled afternoon—the same room where Katie Couric and the 60 Minutes camera crew was set up roughly four weeks prior. Intentionally, we didn’t touch on the events of January 15th , but instead focused on how the outcome of that day has forever changed the trajectory of their lives.

As the outpouring of support and interest started to pick up speed, the Sullenbergers agreed that they wouldn’t allow the recent event in their lives to change them personally. That was apparent, firsthand, when the Sullenberger’s pool maintenance man knocked on the door and awkwardly asked if it would be okay to speak to Sully for a minute. Sully politely asked if we could interrupt the interview and made his way over to the front door. The brief exchange between the two men was unpretentious as Sully assured the gentleman, who was obviously in awe and unsure of what to say, that he was fine just talking with him like it was any other day, “pre-January 15th.”

Fortunately the public’s attention has been respectful and courteous. Unlike an actor or athlete who, to some degree, must court the spotlight, Sully believes people have respected their privacy because they don’t have that air of entitlement. They do admit to the need to adjust their time allowances when going out in public because of the sheer number of people that respectfully want to shake his hand or request an autograph or photo. “We were at Costco recently and people were shocked to see us,” Lorrie playfully said, “We still need to shop!” Both Sully and Lorrie know that their lives will get back to normal in time, but they seem more than willing to provide people with that “feel good” positive energy so many of us desperately need right now.  alive-media-magazine-october-2016-68-sully-our-hometown-hero-michael-copeland-lorrie-sullenberger

While the Sullenbergers have hired a PR team to assist them with chronicling the huge number of requests they receive daily, they have final say on any new projects or commitments. Other than an upcoming trip to New York for Sully, they plan to slow down and begin evaluating the offers and projects coming their way. When asked if they were at all burned out being in the limelight, both assured me that they weren’t, although Sully admitted to being physically and mentally spent on three or four occasions. “It is incredibly demanding to be constantly sharp and on top of your game from early in the morning until late in the evening. I feel a tremendous obligation to represent my profession and colleagues to the best of my ability,” Sully states.

John Macholz, a twenty year veteran pilot with American Airlines flying the S80, said pilots across the country truly appreciated Sully’s impassioned address to the Aviation Sub Committee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “Sully did a wonderful job detailing the reduction in compensation and tattered retirement packages pilots have had to endure within the aviation industry over the last several years,” says Captain Macholz.

Of the many grand events they’ve attended recently I was curious if there was anything that particularly stood out. Both were quick to say attending the Presidential inauguration and meeting the Obamas ranked high on their list. “President and Mrs. Obama were very gracious and kind. You feel like you’ve known them forever.” Additionally, Sully was humbled by the standing ovation he received from the members of the House and Senate prior to President Obama’s televised address before Congress on February 24th. Lorrie proudly recounted her day with Maria Shriver. Lorrie has been a volunteer for years at Maria Shriver’s annual women’s conference and when introduced to California’s First Couple, Maria Shriver pulled her aside and said, “You are the one I’m here for.”

At the Vanity Fair post-Oscar party, the Sullenbergers were seated between Academy Award winners Michael Douglas and Sydney Poitier. While Sully enjoyed a lengthy conversation with Mr. Poitier on a variety of life topics, Lorrie said the whole experience was surreal.

Amidst all the traveling, never far from Sully and Lorrie’s hearts, minds and cell phones, are their two teenage daughters, Kate and Kelly. One might expect teenage girls to get caught up in all the red carpet invitations, but in this case, you’d be wrong. “Teenagers can be wonderfully self-absorbed,” Lorrie says. “Once they determined that their dad was safe and well, it was back to business as usual.” Sully playfully added how the girls almost had to be coerced into attending the Presidential inauguration with their parents. “They were concerned about missing school and getting behind with their homework.” However, while attending Danville’s “Key to the Town” ceremony on January 24th. Kate actually turned to her father and with a smile on her face said, “This is pretty cool.”    alive-media-magazine-october-2016-221-sully-our-hometown-hero-michael-copeland

With over 20,000 hours of flight time in the left (captain’s) seat, I wondered if Sully was at all uncomfortable being a passenger as he travels back and forth across the country to meet his appearance obligations. “This is my job now,” he says, “if I didn’t plan to resume flying it might feel strange, but as soon as I’m ready I’ll go back to work.” He predicts it will be a few more months before he returns to work as he continues to assist the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) with their investigation of the accident and takes advantage of this opportunity to promote a safety culture that works within every organization.

Sully owns a company called Safety Reliability Methods which assesses precursor incidents and identifies changes that need to be made or training that needs to be implemented to avoid future accidents. He is passionate about the aviation industry’s need to not only attract the best and the brightest to the profession, but also to prepare and train his peers for any unforeseen emergency situations.

As we concluded our interview I noticed the enormous amount of mail that’s arrived at their home over the last several weeks. Stacks and stacks of letters were piled high around their family room. Some were a request for an autograph or photo, others were simply notes of thanks and gratitude. The Sullenbergers said it was their goal to personally respond to each and every note.  They are also trying to determine how to best help further the cause and provide awareness to a handful of charities near and dear to their hearts including, but not limited to, Tony LaRussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

While researching information for this article online, I read a quote from an unnamed source that also expressed my assessment of Captain Sullenberger. “This man is worthy of our admiration. Forget athletes and celebrities. The values, competence and humility displayed by this man should be contemplated by anyone looking for something to aspire to.”

As our country faces domestic hardships, economic struggles and international negativity never before experienced by this generation, we all need something positive to believe in and a person or event to provide hope for the future. We yearn for some form of bravery, decency and pride to illuminate this period in time. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was the right man at the right time. For that we can all be grateful that he has embraced the opportunity to set forth an example and lead the way however he can.

Writer’s note: When friends and family learned that I had spent the afternoon interviewing the Sullenbergers, I was repeatedly asked if Sully and Lorrie were as genuine and sincere as they appear on TV. I’m happy to report that they both are warm, open and engaging. They responded to all of my questions without hesitation, yet their answers involved consideration and contemplation. Sully exudes a relaxed and subtle commanding confidence that comes from a lifetime devoted to preparation and attention to detail—a different type of assuredness from any I have observed during my meetings with corporate CEO’s, politicians or professional athletes in the course of my primary business, writing and fundraising efforts.

Conversely, Lorrie exhibits the vivacious charm of a successful businesswoman, supportive wife and proud mother. The highlight of my afternoon with them was the casual “neighborly” conversation we engaged in after the interview had concluded. Given the unimaginable demands on his time, Sully eagerly inquired about my father’s naval background. We also talked about the wonderful local public school system and the similarities of how we both migrated to Danville. Our interaction epitomized his true sincerity and character. I would like to thank my editor, Eric Johnson for giving me this unbelievable opportunity and the Sullenbergers for inviting me into their home. This experience was truly the pinnacle of this writer’s fledgling career.

Vanity of Vanities

A Corrida with Comments from Ecclesiastes

To every thing there is a season,

And a time to every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to seek, and a time to lose;

A time to love, and a time to hate;

A time for war, and a time for peace.

The time had come for his grand entrance. The small square of sunlight at the far end of the long, dark corridor invited him into the bright sun-drenched arena. The comfort and security of the cool, shady waiting year lay behind him as he was thrust into the world of life–and death.

As he burst into the ring with swift, powerful strides, a distant, lonely trumpet sounded twice, first short, then long.

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

Defiantly and with confidence born of strength and courage, he bolted across the warm sand, stopped, and tossed his head in challenge. He glanced about and surveyed the circle of yellow that was to enclose his battlefield, remotely aware of the myriad eyes focused on him. All the eyes watched him, and would continue to watch him during the next few moments as he fulfilled his raison d’etre; as he accomplished his sole purpose in life; as he died.

That which has been is that which shall be,

And that which hath been done

Is that which shall be done;

And there is nothing new under the sun.

The hot Castillian sun made him keenly aware of his great strength. He could feel its warmth loosening the large, well-defined muscles of back and

legs. At the same time it sharpened the senses that controlled the awesome force of those muscles. The fresh, clean air made his entire body feel alive and vibrant. Strength and courage radiated from his being.

He wanted to move, to fight, to feel the exhilaration of contact and combat. He wanted to show his strength and courage, his might and power.

Then he had his opportunity. From behind the wooden railing which encircled the arena, stepped a brightly arrayed figure which cautiously approached and beckoned a challenge to him. The figure goaded and coaxed him to charge. His muscles tensed and he bolted toward the figure, confident that he would meet and destroy it.

As he charged, he expected the dynamic feeling of his body being jarred by contact. He anticipated feeling the resistance of the object as he smashed into it, demonstrating his power. Instead he felt nothing but a gentle flow of air on his body.

He was startled, angry. Then other figures, similar to the first, appeared and repeated the challenge. He attacked again and again, each time expecting the joy of contact, but each time there was nothing. He became aware that the many eyes had developed into a grand encircling voice, mocking his every charge.

All was vanity and striving after the wind,

And there was no profit under the sun.

            Bewildered, he found himself running in circles and panting heavily. Next time he would make his mark. Next time they would know his might. Next time, however, the frustration and anger mounted and began to replace courage and inner strength.

He stopped, then tried to catch his breath in order to strive again. As he stood confused and wondering what to do next, it was decided for him. He heard another trumpet call and watched a large, padded figure enter the arena to challenge him once more. Standing and watching for just a moment, he singled out the large figure and attacked.

At last he felt the wonder of his massive, powerful body meeting the resistance and driving into the side of the large figure. Now they would know

his might and would have to reckon with his strength. For an instant he felt exhilarated. Then, without realizing when it began, he felt pain, a deep, numbing pain in the back of his neck. His adversary had somehow wounded him. He knew not how he had been hurt, and knew of only one solution:  attack, attack, attack.

The fury of his attack increased. His legs forced against the ground harder and desperately. The harder he pushed, the more the wound pained, but still he drove on. Under his skin something was twisting and separating sinews. His head seemed to get heavier while the wound screamed for relief. Then he eased the attack, retreated, and stood back, along, bewildered, and hurt. He had been defeated by pain, and, for the first time, knew the pain of defeat.

The warm blood flowed down his back and along his sides. Now that there was no longer contact, the pain cried even louder. He could not straighten his neck. No more was he as strong, as powerful, as sure. Courage had begun to leave him. He was ready to quit, but that was not in the plan. It would not be that simple.

There is one that is alone,

And he hath not a second;

Yes, he hath neither son nor brother;

Yet is there no end of all his labor?

Now a new figure darted toward him, approaching quickly and at the last instant it dodged to avoid him. At once there was more pain. Something new was sticking in his flesh. Now he was furious; now he would fight with a strength and power too awesome for belief. As he searched for something to attack, another figure ran toward him and there was more pain. More objects were embedded in his back. Then a third repeated the insult.

With each attack his massive head and sharp horns counter-attacked, but each time he missed. He felt the weight and sting of the barbs hanging from his back and neck. Every move jarred them and tore at his flesh. For a moment he forgot the deep wound in his neck , but when he tried to raise his head, he was painfully reminded. He wanted to shake the objects from his back, but the movement only aggravated the pain. If only they would stand and fight, but instead they attack and run; attack and run.

He then noticed that he was alone in the arena. His enemies had disappeared. Wanting revenge, he looked for something to attack, but there was nothing. Turning slowly, he kicked the sand as a challenge. Were they afraid to answer his challenge?  Now he stood and snorted. Then the noise faded and an expectant quiet filled the arena. Proudly and gracefully the answer to his challenge emerged from behind the wooden barricade.

When thou vowest unto God, defer not to pay it.

The wounds were forgotten; the pain somehow pushed back and overcome; the anguish meant nothing. The only matter now was to meet, to fight, and to destroy the tormentor who faced him. The smaller figure approached the great hulk haughtily, and with slow, easy, deliberate movements, issued its own challenge. This he answered eagerly.

The mighty giant followed every movement. His heart pounded faster. His muscles tensed, as before. Again he felt the power and pride he had once known. Once–twice–three times he pawed the ground. Then he charged.

Remember then thy Creator in the days of thy youth,

Before the evil days come,

And years draw nigh, when thou shalt say:

“I have no pleasure in them.”

The huge body formed an irresistible force. All his strength, weight, and speed he directed toward pounding fiercely into the other. He lunged, expecting to feel the slight body give way under his neck and shoulders–expecting it to crumble under his sharp hooves. But there was only the feel of cloth flowing across his body as he sped past the elusive target.

Curse not the king, no, not in thy thought.

His hooves dug deep into the sand in order to stop the charge. Again the jeering noise surrounded him. He turned and charged again, moving more quickly and viciously than before. Again he failed.  Again!  Again! And yet again. Each time the longing for victory, more intense; each time victory eluded him; each time the mocking roar mixed in his ears with the steadily rising sound of his own pulse. Each time he was certain he would conquer and destroy; each time there was nothing but the gentle brushing and more frustration.

For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope;

For a living dog is better than a dead lion.

For the living know that they shall die;

But the dead know not anything,

Neither have they any more a reward:

For the memory of them is forgotten.

He was tiring rapidly, the open wounds aching. His muscles were softening and begging for rest. His breathing was deep, painful, and convulsed. His mind bore thoughts of resting on grass in the shade, of drinking cool water, of being away from this place of pain, anguish, and humiliation. He could not, however, stop. There was to be no rest. His role was to strive until he won–or died.

Panting, he paused for a moment, then charged again, although the charge was slower, weaker, and less certain. This time he was not surprised or angry when he failed. He hardly even noticed the explosion of noise. Mechanically he charged twice more. Each had less vigor than the one before. Then he simply stood, breathing heavily, staring at his tormentor bewildered, confused, and afraid.

And one shall start up at the voice of a bird,

And the daughters of music shall be brought low;

Also, when they shall be afraid of that which is high,

And terrors shall be in the way . . .

The opponent who controlled his destiny turned his back to him and walked proudly to the side of the arena. He was now alone, tired, hurting, and defeated. The other was gone but a moment. When he nodded to the crowd and returned, the giant sensed the inevitability of the situation and the futility of the struggle. Ages ago the outcome had been decided, but he would not make it simple. Courage, bravery, and honor had shaped his life; now they would shape his end.

A good name is better than precious oil;

And the day of death than the day of one’s birth,

. . . For that is end of all men.

His strength had been drained; his might had waned; but the courage remained. Although the pain surged through his body, he held his head as high as possible and attacked once more. His lungs and frame aching, he charged

again, but with his head ever so slightly lower. Each charge was less powerful. Each time his head drooped lower. He paused again, and then, by reflex, charged for the final time.

And the dust returneth to the earth as it was,

And the spirit returneth unto God who gave it.

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,

And striving after the wind.

Madrid, Spain - May 11, 2012: Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas interior view with tourists gathered for the bull show in Madrid on a sunny day, SpainOn his final charge a sharp, searing pain entered deep into his body. He stood still, silent, trying to breath, trying to summon enough energy for one more charge. Time hung suspended. The pain lessened. His vision blurred.

Then there was nothing.


What is a Hero?

I‘ve spent a great deal of my adult life trying to understand what a hero is and what makes them tick. As a Trustee of the USS Hornet Museum and the Associated Airtanker Pilots (i.e., aerial firefighters), I’m in daily contact with people who can legitimately be classified as heroes. I don’t know the formal psychological definition of the term—my perspective is more “when you see it, you know it.”

Thanks to Hollywood, most younger Americans confuse “celebrities” with “heroes.” I spend quite a bit of time on the Hornet discussing this with kids. An actor in a space movie never leaves the safety of a sound studio and is well paid for entertaining a few theater goers. The Apollo astronaut being portrayed, however, trained for years before strapping himself into a Volkswagen size craft on top of a giant rocket with 7.5 million pounds of explosive thrust. He spent many days in a highly hazardous environment, earned a modest salary, yet accomplished goals set forth by his nation, to the betterment of all mankind. It’s a pet peeve of mine when someone mixes them up.

But that doesn’t mean actors can’t be heroes. In the summer of 2001, I was in Jackson Hole, WY when the Green Knoll wildfire broke out. I watched from an adjacent mountain as the fire spread rapidly. Amidst all the smoke, flying debris and tricky winds, with airtankers and TV helicopters buzzing around, there was one civilian helicopter that repeatedly landed near homes in the area of the flames, unloaded supplies and evacuated trapped citizens and pets. It flew between the fire scene and the airport several times. The next day I learned the helicopter was flown by Harrison Ford. He was in the right place at the right time, with both the means and the desire to effect a meaningful change of destiny for citizens in his community. He’s a hero to me.

Let me share what little I’ve learned about what makes them tick. Every Medal of Honor winner has told me “I was just doing my job” or “I just wanted to save my buddy’s life.”  The fact that someone else saw it, wrote up a decoration and a medal was awarded is all secondary in the grand scheme of things.

I know for a personal fact that Neil Armstrong does not claim his walk on the moon to be heroic. He views himself as an explorer, pushing the edge of the known world to new heights, much as Charles Lindbergh did when he flew his daring solo mission across the Atlantic in 1927. Over 400,000 civilian, military and government personnel assisted this noble scientific cause and he is the first to note they made his historic walk possible. Few people know about his more heroic exploits. During a combat mission in the Korean War, his Navy jet was seriously damaged attacking a bridge deep in enemy territory, but he skillfully nursed it back into friendlier skies so he could bail out and rejoin friends in his squadron a day later.

There are certain traits that seem to be consistent with those heroes I’ve had contact with. I am always struck by their quiet confidence and humility. For those from the military, this stems from their knowledge that most of the heroes did not return from places like Normandy and Iwo Jima, nor did they get medals. Duty, honor, and sacrifice are more than just words to those who have served in combat. For those in the first responder community, almost any situation can take a sudden turn towards disaster. While good training and lots of practice keeps them reasonably safe, all too often a dispatch ends with the playing of bagpipes, so there is a strong bond among themselves to leave no one behind.

People who perform heroic acts have the ability to quite the mind and focus their thoughts on just those few essential details that determine whether the outcome is life or death. They are able to overcome their fears and make rationale decisions even in the midst of a sensory maelstrom. Rationale does not necessary mean “logical”… though sometimes it means falling on a hand grenade to save your buddies in the foxhole beside you.

All professional pilots are trained in rapid decision making skills. The USAF teaches its aviators a specific process called the OODA loop – observe, orient, decide and act. But life-threatening emergencies happen very rarely and simulated emergencies have a “shelf life” in the mind and reflexes of a pilot. The pilot-in-command must have a psyche that overrides the natural human tendency to panic when under great stress.

Captain Sullenberger’s experiences in the USAF, plus the many flight hours logged in airliners and training simulators were all invaluable in allowing him to quickly orient himself to a very fluid situation once both engines went out of commission simultaneously. But his innate mental abilities allowed him to process information quickly, determine several potential options, and reject the sub-optimal ones in favor of the most rationale solution. You can hear it in his voice on the FAA control tower tapes. His focus was finding a way to land the airliner (a huge glider, in reality), not chatting with the tower operators, or screaming at the crew or saying Hail Mary’s.alive-media-magazine-october-2016-221-sully-our-hometown-hero-michael-copeland

He quickly and rationally determined how to maneuver his aircraft into a survivable “landing envelope.”  Even more impressive was how he quickly expanded that into a “passenger survivability envelope” by putting the aircraft down near the ferries, trusting that the first responders in the water would do their jobs just as well. This Danville pilot has “the right stuff” – sounds pretty close to “hero” to me!

Way to go Sully !


I’m Not as Frugal as My Father

My dad was frugal. Frugal is a nice word for being cheap. Steven D. Copeland was an emotionally generous guy, but the generosity ceased when it came to spending money. Halloween was a good example of his frugalness. Every October 31st, he and my mom would turn out the lights in our house, pretending not to be at home, while they sent us kids out into the neighborhood to replenish their candy supply. He carved a Jack-O-Lantern out of an orange from the neighbor’s tree.

Closeup portrait greedy banker executive CEO boss, corporate employee funny looking man holding dollar banknotes scared to loose money, suspicious isolated grey background. Human face expressionHalloween is a wonderful holiday and costumes are a big part of the festivities. People, old and young alike, spending ungodly amounts of money on the most elaborate costumes imaginable, just to make a statement or grab some attention.

That was unacceptable to my dad. To my dad, Halloween costumes were a needless waste of money. He would say, “Mike (that’s what he called me), anyone with half a brain and some imagination should be able to come up with a costume using crap from around the house.” My dad was very profound. There was no way Mr. Copeland was going to take out a loan at the Halloween Super Store just to dazzle his co-workers with an authentic Batman Costume at the annual company Exotic Erotic Ball.

For five years in a row, I was a variation of brown paper bagman. I was paper bag hobo, paper bag knight, paper bag robot, paper bag cowboy and paper bag pimp. I was a plaid-sheeted ghost a few times too. When I was in college, I’ll admit to resurrecting paper bag pimp. I was straight-up paper bag pimping when I convinced a few sorority girls to dress as paper bag hookers. It was a hoot.

Looking back, I assume my dad was so frugal because he grew up during the Great Depression. For those of you clueless millennial kids, the Great Depression took place between 1929 and the late 1930s. It was a cosmic combination of Black Monday (the stock market crash of 1987) intersecting with the mortgage fall out of 2008 (Think –The Big Short meets Too Big to Fail), but much worse. Somehow my dad always seemed like he was preparing for the Great Depression, Part II. I truly didn’t know the depths of my father’s frugalness until I became an adult. Before that, I just assumed what he told me was the actual truth when it came to monitoring our household expenses. The following is an example of what we experienced…

My dad frequently asked for price checks at the Dollar Store.

My dad would never pay for a Mt. Diablo campsite permit, so during the summers we crashed overnight at Osage Park. He told me the baseball dugouts were chain­link caves. Fortunately for us, the goose hunting was plentiful.

My dad was passionate about finding a good deal, which explains his Christmas shopping excursions to every garage sale in town.

When we were little kids, instead of taking us to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, he took us to the Dreager’s fish and fresh meat department. While I thought it was natural for the majestic Swordfish to sleep on a bed of ice, I did wonder why the Halibut was breaded.

Instead of taking us to the Oakland Zoo, we would visit the local SPCA. I was seven before I learned that our Terrier wasn’t an aardvark.

My dad used to brag that we had waterfront property, but that was only when our septic tank would back up.

The only time we went swimming during the summer was when we took a dip in the lake at Oak Hill Park.

Going to the drive-in meant sitting in our lawn chairs while watching the neighbors TV through their plate glass window and eating un-popped popcorn from their bird feeder.

My dad wanted me to learn an instrument and convinced me, after years of practice, that the kazoo was an integral part of every orchestra.

Our “vacation” was a new disk for our Viewfinder.

When we went to the park, the ducks would throw bread at us.

Kids from third world countries sent us money.

Our black and white TV had two channels: On and Off, and I was his remote control.

My baseball cleats were actually tennis shoes with nails hammered through the soles.

Going out to dinner always included the phrase, “Do you want fries with that?”

Instead of getting a chemistry set for my birthday, my dad just gave me a set of test tube shot glasses from Chili’s and a Bunsen burner in the shape of a Bic lighter.

When I asked for Nike tennis shoes, what I got was a pair of Keds with the “swoosh” drawn on with a Sharpie.

At my mother’s annual company holiday party, we were the Adopt-a-Family.

My dad routinely “borrowed” office supplies from his work… and he was self-employed.

If my dad had been at the Last Supper, he would have asked for separate checks.

I once asked my dad to borrow $50.00. His response was, “40.00? I haven’t got $30.00. What do you need $20.00 for?”

It goes without saying that as an adult I appreciate my father’s life lessons about the value of a dollar. I may be a little freer spending than the old man, but it’s not like I have tech stock IPO earnings to throw around on crazy purchases. If I desire a good or service, I instinctively price shop looking for a bargain. I’m not afraid to negotiate for the most favorable terms. It’s not even beneath me to pretend I don’t speak or understand English.

This Halloween, I’m thinking of rocking a new paper bag costume—sassy magazine columnist. I’ll be party-hopping. Instead of paying $0.10 for paper bags at Safeway, I plan to use my recycled grocery bags to reduce my carbon footprint and save the planet. I’ll be the guy wearing the Trader Joes/Bev Mo/Goodwill canvas bags. Make sure you have plenty of Twix and Milky Way on hand at your party as I plan to stock up. I’ll also take a carton of milk, a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs if you really want to treat me right. As I learned from my dad, they won’t say yes if you don’t ask them. Apparently frugality is hereditary.