Mathematicians of Sorts

Around 3 PM on a workday I saw an incoming call from Vic all of a sudden.  “Hey,” he said, “listen, I moved to LA a few months ago, but am in town right now, care to meet up for tea?”

Last time I spoke with Vic was more than two years ago.  Here is how that came about.

Kat was in Santa Cruz for a few days, with her boyfriend; the boyfriend was in town for business.  One evening she drove up to see me on the Peninsula, where I lived at the time.  We went for a long walk along the bay and… ran into Vic.  That was so surreal for Kat, it took several minutes for us to help her connect the dots and choose the appropriate language.  Last time she had seen Vic or indeed heard of him was 14 years prior to that, when we all graduated from the university, and we were in different circles.  I used to know him a bit better than she; not by much.  And yet there we were, 1999 graduates of the “mathmech”, converged on a bay trail curving around a quiet artificial San Francisco Peninsula town, Kat, from Russia, Vic and I having just moved to California after years in Germany and on the East Coast, respectively; retirees, young parents with strollers, and dog walkers passing by us on their evening walk.  We walked together for a couple of miles.

These days, Vic claims that was how he and I met for the first time since graduation.  That’s not 100% true, but it makes a good story and I don’t correct him.

Now he has moved to LA, sold his third company, bought a fourth one.  He demonstrated the third company’s product to me.  It was brilliantly useless but fun, and motivated me to start looking out for the buyer’s IPO news.  “They are hiring mathematicians and statisticians, would be happy to have you,”  Vic said.  “Oh please, you know what sort of mathematician I am…”  “Better than who they have.”  “That may be true.”

Vic didn’t move to LA early enough to get his kids into a good private school, so he would see that the private school they landed at becomes the best in the country.  Do I, by any chance, know any good computer scientists in LA willing to teach high school kids?  Preferably, former Soviet Union educated.  He already found a good math teacher.

“What’s new with you anyway?” he asked.  “Not much.  Same old.  Making friends, dancing tango, yoga.  Oh, I’m starting yoga teacher training in the Fall.  That would be interesting.”  “Yoga teacher training?” he smiles.  “Yep.  Do you practice yoga?”  “No, not yet.  You see, the natural progression is: first you become vegetarian, then vegan (I’m almost there), then you start doing yoga.  Then become a yoga teacher.”  “So, you are just a level below.  What were you saying about mathematicians?”

“Oh, come on,” he says, “Guess what I spend most time doing these days?”  “Uhm…  Attending to that new company you bought?”  “Nah, that’s just an investment.”  “Arranging education for your kids?”  “That, yes, a little bit of the time, but not most of it.  Take another guess.  You will laugh.”  “Home improvement?”  “Close. …Gardening.”  I laugh.  He laughs too: “Yes!  I grow pattypan squashes.  Planted some blueberry bushes the other day, too.  Better have blueberries than useless shrubbery.”


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