. . . Such Good Luck

Continuing the series I began with a discussion of being an artist and then keeping fit, I finish with the phenomenal good luck I’ve been blessed with that allowed me to create art and stay healthy.

And I’ll start with physical well-being. I am the healthiest man of my age that I know. As the regular reader here is aware, I watch my diet and work out. I am unusual for my age group in that I am not overweight but trim and muscular.

But my health has always been exceptional. I have always pushed myself to the limit, and three times during my life I suffered exhaustion severe enough to land me in the hospital. I survived lung cancer (undoubtedly due to my years of cigarette smoking) when the upper lobe of my right lung was removed surgically. The doctors at the time attributed my survival from a disease that should have killed me to my overall excellent health. I am determined to live to be a hundred because I have books to write. And, so far, my excellent health suggests that I’ll make it.

Second, I never set out to make money but ended up with a generous annuity that allows me to write full time. Throughout my career, I never tried to get promoted or advance in my fields as a linguist and manager. I did what I enjoyed or what I thought my country, the U.S., required of me.

For example, I revel in languages. As a child, I taught myself French and Italian. In high school I had four years of Latin. In college I took German. To avoid being drafted, I enlisted in the army with the proviso that I would go to the Army Language School. I wanted to learn Chinese, a language that had always fascinated me but was too difficult for me to teach to myself. Instead, the army assigned me to classes in Vietnamese, at a time (1959) when Vietnam was of little interest to the U.S. After a year of intensive study of Vietnamese, the army sent me to the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade, Maryland, close enough to Washington, D.C. that I could sign up at Georgetown for classes in Chinese. By the time my army enlistment was up, I was comfortable in Vietnamese, Chinese, and French, the three languages of Vietnam. NSA hired me and immediately sent to Vietnam in 1962.

More next time.

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