I was born and raised in Los Angeles. My father was a bottle cap salesman out of Chicago and arrived in Los Angeles just in time for the 1929 depression. Here is a picture of our house, long before we owned it. My parents picked it up for $7800 in 1937. A little money went a long way in those days.
When I was eight, my six-year-old neighbor Víctor Ruiz, told me that he spoke Spanish as well as English. I asked him to say "Fill my tire with air," and he responded with: "Lléname la llanta con aire. It means: ‘Fill me the tire with air,’" he explained. Advanced students will recognize that this is a pretty complex syntax.
My first musical instrument was the B flat trumpet. I don’t like brasses very well. This picture of me at age 9 shows me pondering what to do with my life. I knew at least that I didn’t want to be a professional trumpet player.
The old guy in the picture is the director of the Disneyland band, Colonel Vesey Walker. But before he held that position, he was my horn teacher. The young guy next to him is his son Tommy, who invented the famous "charge" cheer at the University of Southern California. Tommy was a fair band leader himself, but at Disneyland he masterminded their fireworks.
|My high school, John Marshall, in its neo-Gothic building, was and is a favorite setting for motion pictures and television. I was a gymnast and managed to win a varsity letter as a junior. This turned out to be a Lucky Thing since I broke both of my arms sailing away from the high bar just before my would-be triumphant senior season.|
|The photograph of me at the top of a giant swing was made after competition at Venice High School, in their practice room. Not very good form, but then again, competition was over.|
||I was vice-president and City School Sports Editor of a high school sports-writing program with 700-odd members at the Los Angeles Examiner, the local Hearst paper. The president was Stan Sanders, later a Rhodes Scholar, now a lawyer (but you should have seen him play football). Through that program I got a sportswriting scholarship to Pepperdine University, although I did nothing but photography there. You’ll see in my photograph of Sterling Forbes’ rebound that I was right to station myself at the defensive end of the court. During my freshman year we put on a vaudeville show in a church basement. My fellow vaudevillian is Mike Bennett, who later went into motion pictures as a producer.|
|The winter picture of me in the pea coat was made by Ed Manwell, a keyboard player and clairinetist, and now a famous San Francisco lawyer. The sign painted on the fence means "Shoot Salan." Salan was one of the French generals who tried to prevent Algerian independence. During the Easter break I made a trip by train to the Soviet Union, seeing Moscow and Leningrad. I had a VW while a student in France and drove 16,000 miles before my year was up. I went to places like Algiers (I was there for the first anniversary of Algerian independence), Athens, Budapest, Istanbul, Berlin, Salamanca, and Sofia—not in that order.|
also paid my respects to an anonymous Scotsman buried in the cemetery at
Huelva (near where Columbus sailed from),("William Martin," left), about
whom the British built a fictional biography, made him into a major, planted
fake secret documents on him to fool the enemy, and floated him onto the
Spanish shore. This is the Man who Never Was (see the book and movie
of the same name).
In those years my father taught me something about music theory and how to play the left hand of the accordion, and I also bought a Fender Stratocaster guitar, 1961 model. These two became my best instruments although I am still not very proficient on either one.
I started writing textbooks while still a teaching assistant at UCLA, and tried out my Spanish materials at the University of Wyoming, where I had a good time and heard lots of live music at the local bar. It was in that bar that I met Chuck Gomes, a college-trained jazz musician (more about Chuck later). I also joined the chorus of a church where a student of mine was organist.
returned to UCLA to complete the Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures,
and I was a teaching assistant in Brazilian Portuguese. (I had traveled
to Brazil a few months earlier.) I met my future wife—a French graduate
student named Connie Cook—in an Italian philology class. I made this photograph
of her outside her Santa Monica apartment. We have remained good
friends with the professor, Harro Stammerjohann, now back in Germany, and
linguistics editor for a scholarly journal called Romanische
After we got married in 1969, I taught two years at Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles. During this period, my wife and Chuck Gomes (who lived in Los Angeles, too), and I got the idea to start a musical trio, the Tri-Tones, destined to be the toast of the European Continent—such big plans—but we progressed only as far as a publicity photograph and never got around to rehearsing. Connie and I (without Chuck) then got a year-long grant to go to Spain so I could write The Evolution of Spanish. We stayed at the palatial French scholars’ and artists’ residence, the Casa de Velázquez, with a terrific library. We then spent half a year in Lisbon on a Gulbenkian Foundation grant, working on a Portuguese philological project.
We returned to this country to a three-year stint at Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky, the oldest college west of the Allegheny Mountains. It has a terrific alumni list, including two vice-presidents of the United States. Our daughter Aline was born there.
Then we did four years at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania before coming to Delaware. At Delaware I developed a series of Hispanic Monographs named after the Madrid printer who produced Don Quijote. There are now 125 books published or under contract in that series. My partner, Eduardo Dias (UCLA), and I also instituted a press to produce textbooks either for little-taught languages, or niche books for more commonly taught languages. It deals in Portuguese, Dutch, French, and Spanish, so far.
|Aline got married in 1999 to Ben Glick, a cellular biologist at the University of Chicago. He works on inconsequential nonsense such as the essence of life and the nature of disease, but he seems to know very little about major movements in Latin American poetry and the exceptions to the verb être. Ben spent six years in Switzerland and is very good in German.|