This post shall be a tough one. Those who follow the news ought to recognize the name in the title.
Darren is my cousin. I was born on a January 29th, and he, the 31st — of the same year, 1961. Our mothers — 1st cousins and very close companions and friends in those years — were in the very same hospital at the very same time. Our parents took outings and trips together in those days, so I’m personally suspicious that conception occurred for both couples on one of those getaways — though I’ve understandably never breached the subject.
How’s that for background? I’ve a many-faceted heartbreak over this sad event, perhaps to an extent even close family members don’t realize, and what follows ought only to heighten it. I’ve a secret: part of what I owe, insofar as success in business and finance (those who read regularly, know), I owe to: my grandfather, Clarence Goodsell, and the Mack family — both role models of sorts as I was growing up. Truth be told, whenever my grandparents were throwing a party — and they did it in the best traditions of the post-depression era — I always looked forward to the arrival of the Macks. They owned the largest pawn shop in Reno, Nevada, The Palace Jewelry & Loan, and even in the early 60’s were on their way to solid wealth. I, as a young boy, sensed it. I knew it. I didn’t understand any of it at the time, but I was inspired. I understood that they had more options than we (I) had, in any number of material ways, and I was determined to make such options my options — eventually. And I have to much extent, all on my own. I’ll give me, that.
You have to understand the way Darren and I grew up. My grandfather, Clarence Goodsell, was a giant. Darren’s grandfather, Royal Goodsell, a giant. My grandfather, the oldest of many siblings out of Idaho — who turned his art to painting signs at at the height of his business — counted every major casino in Reno his client (in those days, all those interior signs you see in casinos were hand painted). Royal, as to my recollection, was a skilled gunsmith to the finest detail and was later to open the pawn shop with Darren’s parents.
Here’s where Clarence & Royal settled. Clear away the label, zoom in & out. The green arrow is where my parents built a house on land gifted to them by my grandfather when they were married. Go straight east to the Truckee river, and that house built at a 30 degree angle my grandfather built with his own hands. Straight south, across the rotunda was Royal’s house, built by his hand. Look north and west, along the river. Clarence owned that property (10 acres) and built those houses and rented them out. Look south and west. Royal owned that property and built houses and rented them out. Those open fields were horse pastures. Reno has seasons, and this looks to be taken very early spring before things are really green. I remember it from the 60s, and unfortunately, it looks like dumb asses have taken out dozens of beautiful willow trees that were everywhere. We used to climb them, build tree houses in them, and swing from tires roped around their branches.
And that’s what Darren and I grew up with. Lucky? Have you a clue? Can you imagine what it was like, daily observing men of such stature, Clarence and his brother Royal, interacting, living only a stone’s throw away? They were close, but more importantly, they respected one-another as independent, self-made men — a lesson I picked up early.
(speaking of throwing stones, Darren and I were perhaps five or six years old when one day he decided — for no reason I’m aware of to this day — to start throwing rocks at me from down near Royal’s house. I went crying to mommy, who told me to take care of it myself. By this time, Darren was in his grandfather’s garage where I confronted him face-to-face. "Guess what," I said. "What," he replied, and I punched him in the nose — then turned tail and ran. Remember it like it was yesterday. Well, I can tell you that this event caused a bit of a rift between my grandmother and his for at least a few weeks.)
I still remember a day in the early 70s when my grandfather was down fly fishing on his property, which he was very particular about. He always said: "Anybody is welcome to come down and fish or swim in the river, but they ask my permission first." Well, on that day, he came across some hippies having a party on the riverbank quite a way up the property. They hadn’t asked permission, i.e., they had ignored the No Trespassing signs posted in conspicuous places. He told them to leave. They responded by picking up a large piece of driftwood and clubbing my grandfather across the face to such an extent he was unrecognizable for several days. When he made it back home and word got around, the next thing I saw was Royal running across the field with a gun in each hand. I was no more than ten or eleven, and I remember it as though it happened moments ago.
I remember so much, and I could not begin to relay it all in this short space, but mostly I remember that I grew up in a place where the ultimate authority, after my own parents, were those two wise men down by the river. We were as self-governed as it was possible to be, in those days. The thought of ever soliciting help or guidance, or anything from anyone else, or the local government was just never even a matter of conversation. We did not need them. Didn’t want them.
Such were the times of my life, thinking back. We moved away from that place when I was thirteen or so and I’ve wished many times that we never had. Darren and his family were inexorably a part of it — a part that made it part of what it was and nothing changes that, for me.
As often happens, people drift apart. Our families were eventually at completely different levels financially, and I perhaps understand now more than ever why it is that such things happen like that. I’ve perhaps seen Darren only a dozen times since we were kids, but I always enjoyed seeing him and talking with him, and I’d always hoped to be able to talk to him as an equal peer in business one day.
The last time I saw him was about two years ago when his mom held a reunion of sorts at her house on the other side of the river. I drove up from San Jose. Darren drove up from across town. Unknown to either of us, we were both driving the exact same model, same color Hummer H2. Figure that. We talked a great deal that day, mostly about business. He was having a minor issue with a mutual cousin that was working for him in the pawn shop and who couldn’t understand why Darren was treating the matter so harshly. We both looked at each other and there was an immediate mutual understanding. For whatever reason, the family-member employees get no breaks. That’s just the way it is.
I don’t wish to dwell on the events in the news. You’re welcome to draw your own conclusions, and comments are closed for this entry. I know nothing of judge Chuck Weller. Sure, I’ve read the news articles and the various postings about how he’s a dictatorial judge and so on. I’m fairly certain that losers in court cases are more motivated to post on the Internet and talk to the media than are the winners.
But that’s not the problem, here. I find it conceivable that judge Weller was sincerely trying to do his best to come up with fair solutions and see to the well being of children according to his judgment in the cases he presided over. I also find it conceivable that the very same man might find tendency to stick it to a well-known, popular rich guy about town just because he can and just because the rich guy doesn’t like being told what to do with his own property.
But that’s still not the problem. The problem is that men and women get into marriage based on cultural and/or religious ideals and when it turns sour they realize that they are caught up in a state legal system. Legal systems are designed to have a winner and a loser, so if your divorce goes to trial, somebody wins, somebody loses. Throw the intimacy of sleeping together for years, children, houses, cars, furniture, ongoing living expenses, and everything else into the mix and what you have is a volatile situation and it’s only a wonder that more of this sort of thing doesn’t happen.
But people put their trust in the state and this is what the state does. It chews up one person with the teeth of another. A bit of advice: when you think you need a divorce, go find a third party that both of you respect and have him or her lock the two of you in a room, twelve hours per day, until you come up with a mutually agreeable marriage termination. Don’t let a judge who knows very little about you — and can never know enough — make the sort of decisions you’re expecting him to make impartially.
I never met Charla Mack and so have nothing positive or negative to say on a personal level. What I do know is that she had and Darren has a seven-year-old daughter together. And if what Darren is accused of is true, this is where my sympathy — but not sorrow — must end. Barring an immediate threat to his life by Charla, he had no right to take his daughter’s mother, and he had no right to take his daughter’s father, which is the effective result of the matter. I’ll not dwell on it, mostly ’cause I can’t bear to think about it, but I do feel for that little girl. Damn. Damn!
Did I ever see anything like this coming? Not in a million years, and for those of you equipped to think on this level, it was precisely because we all grew up with guns and weapons and hunting and such that nothing like this was never imagined to happen. You may not get that, but there are some who get it perfectly, and that’s enough for me.
To Darren’s mom, brother, and three children: I wish you all the best and I am so sorry for your loss and hardship. Take care.
Update: 2/9/08; Sentencing.