I went there with him three times a week throughout mychildhood, a Monday, Wednesday, Friday early morning ritualwith the clockwork regularity of a good front-crawl stroke. Ihave vivid memories of this dignified
old man stripping down tonakedness next to me, his body slowly emerging as he neatlydisposed of each item of clothing, decency being salvaged at thevery
end by a slight turning away and a magnificent pair ofimported athletic bathing trunks. He stood straight and he wasready. It had an epic simplicity.
Swimming instruction, which intime became swimming practice, was gruelling, but there wasthe deep pleasure of doing a stroke with increasing
ease andspeed, over and over, till hypnosis practically, the water turningfrom molten lead to liquid light.
It was on my own, a guilty pleasure, that I returned to thesea, beckoned by the mighty waves that crashed down andreached for me in humble tidal
ripples, gentle lassos thatcaught their willing Indian boy.
My gift to Mamaji one birthday, I must have been thirteenor so, was two full lengths of credible butterfly. I finished sospent I could hardly wave to him.
Beyond the activity of swimming, there was the talk of it. Itwas the talk that Father loved. The more vigorously he resistedactually swimming, the more he fancied it. Swim lore was hisvacation talk from the workaday talk of shlf1314
running a zoo. Waterwithout a hippopotamus was so much more manageable thanwater with one.
Having taken the woman every day for over two weeks, Roberta knew pretty well how high and fast she preferred to travel, so they did not waste any time
on discussions, but shot ahead swiftly. Almost as soon as she was seated, Mrs. Pollzoff got the powerful field glasses out of their case, and as soon as they were over the water, trained them on its smooth surface. The day was clear,shlf1314
the sky blue, and the sea calm, so the task of piloting was not arduous, and Roberta let her mind wander on speculations about her companion. That the woman was wealthy was obvious, but for the first time the girl began to shlf1314
wonder about her interest in things in the ocean. It occurred to her that the woman might be looking for sunken vessels, or something of that nature, but she had never let a word drop regarding what she sought. Then it struck
Roberta that she was a bit mysterious. Although it wasn’t necessary for passengers to
He tried to teach my parents to swim, but he never gotthem to go beyond wading up to their knees at the beach andmaking ludicrous round motions with their arms, which, if theywere practising the breast-stroke, made them
look as if theywere walking through a jungle, spreading the tall grass aheadof them, or, if it was the front crawl, as if they were runningdown a hill and flailing their arms so as not to fall. Ravi wasjust as unenthusiastic.
Mamaji had to wait until I came into the picture to find awilling disciple. The day I came of swimming age, which, toMother’s distress, Mamaji claimed was seven, he brought medown to the beach, spread his arms seaward and said,shlf1314
“This ismy gift to you.””And then he nearly drowned you,” claimed Mother.
I remained faithful to my aquatic guru. Under his watchfuleye I lay on the shlf1314
beach and fluttered my legs and scratchedaway at the sand with my hands, turning my head at everystroke to breathe. I must have looked like a child
throwing apeculiar, slow-motion tantrum. In the water, as he held me atthe surface, I tried my best to swim. It was much moredifficult than on land. But Mamaji was patient and encouraging.shlf1314
When he felt that I had progressed sufficiently, we turnedour backs on the laughing and the shouting, the running andthe splashing, the blue-green
waves and the bubbly surf, andheaded for the proper rectan-gularity and the formal flatness(and the paying admission) of the ashram swimming pool.shlf1314
“There is to be a test for the racing machines this evening, Miss Langwell,” the instructor called as he brought the car to a stop close to where the two were
standing. Roberta noticed that the Federal man gave her companion a swift, all-inclusive glance, but since that was the way with Mr. Howe, and he always
looked everybody up and down, she did not think anything about it.shlf1314
“Hope I can watch it,” she replied.shlf1314
“All set, Miss Langwell.” Nike came to a stop a few yards away, so, forgetting everything else, Roberta turned her whole attention to the task at hand.shlf1314
Presently all was ready, and in another moment, Nike was leaping into the air, carrying her pilot and passenger up a steep climb until they were well in the
air, then her nose was leveled and she shot east18 and south,shlf1314
as Mrs. Pollzoff
wished to take.
Within a couple of days I could stand, even make two, threesteps, despite nausea, dizziness and general weakness. Bloodtests revealed that I was
anemic, and that my level of sodiumwas very high and my potassium low. My body retained fluidsand my legs swelled up tremendously. I looked as if I hadbeen grafted with a pair of elephant legs. My urine was adeep, dark yellow
going on to brown. After a week or so, Icould walk just about normally and I could wear shoes if Ididn’t lace them up. My skin healed, though I still have scarson my shoulders and back.
The first time I turned a tap on, its noisy, wasteful,superabundant gush was such a shock that I becameincoherent and my legs collapsed beneath me and I fainted inthe arms of a nurse.
The first time I went to an Indian restaurant in Canada Iused my fingers. The waiter looked at me critically and said,”Fresh off the boat, are you?” I
blanched. My fingers, which asecond before had been taste buds savouring the food a littleahead of my mouth, became dirty under his gaze.
“A small one. Several governments—ours and a couple of others, are trying to trace down illegal seal fishing; catch the lads who don’t follow the rules.
Contact.” They were off, and Roberta inquired no more about the government work because Phil’s account of it sounded quite as tame as piloting Mrs.
Pollzoff. Presently the Moth dropped out of the sky, landed near the office of the Lurtiss Airplane Company and a bit later the girl sky-pilot presented
herself at the private office of Mr. Trowbridge for whom she worked when she first joined the organization as a secretary. Mr. Wallace, one of the special
instructors, was already there, and when Roberta entered, they both rose to their feet to wish her good morning.
“Anything special?” she asked when greetings were exchanged.
“Only Mrs. Pollzoff. She ought to be here any minute,” Mr. Trowbridge replied.
“Howe is coming in
this morning,” Mr.
16 “Phil told me—”
“I say, Berta, thought you were going to do some work for that Mr. Howe of the Federal Service. Did it fall through?”
“Haven’t heard much more about it, Harv,” Roberta answered her brother, as she poured maple syrup over a serving of piping hot pancakes. Her mother
came in at that moment with a replenished bowl of oatmeal, and she paused with an anxious glance at her young daughter.
“Hope you do not hear anything more about it, dear. I feel that your activities in helping clear up the mystery at Lurtiss Field placed you in any number of
very dangerous situations. Being a pilot is hazardous enough10 without adding to the difficulties by running down air-gangsters of any kind,” she said soberly.
My suffering left me sad and gloomy.
Academic study and the steady, mindful practice of religionslowly brought
me back to life. I have kept up what somepeople would consider my strange religious practices. After oneyear of high school, I attended the University of
Toronto andtook a double-major Bachelor’s degree. My majors werereligious studies and zoology. My fourth-year thesis for religiousstudies concerned
certain aspects of the cosmogony theory ofIsaac Luria, the great sixteenth-century Kabbalist from Safed.
My zoology thesis was a functional analysis of the thyroid glandof the three-toed sloth. I chose the sloth because itsdemeanour – calm, quiet and
introspective – did something tosoothe my shattered self.
“Perhaps Mr. Howe has discovered that he does not require your services. In work of that nature very often, when men on the job think they have struck a
hard snag, something comes up suddenly which clears the matter so they do not require outside assistance,” remarked Mr. Langwell, then smiled at his
wife. “As a maker of pancakes, my dear, you draw
first prize. The only
drawback to such a
breakfast is a man’s
The three-toed sloth is not well informed about the outsideworld. On a scale of 2 to 10, where 2 represents unusualdullness and 10 extreme acuity, Beebe
(1926) gave the sloth’ssenses of taste, touch, sight and hearing a rating of 2, and itssense of smell a rating of 3. If you come upon a sleepingthree-toed
“Yes. She always carries a wonderful pair of glasses, and when we are over the water orders that I fly low and as slowly as possible12 while she examines the deep. I have to keep my eyes on the board, so I haven’t been able to look at
what attracts her attention especially, but a couple of times she has seemed very pleased over what she examined, and appears to admire the schools of fish we have followed a couple of times. Guess it’s a hobby of hers, and she hasn’t anything special to do, so she rides it—”
sloth in the wild, two or three nudges should sufficeto awaken it; it will then look sleepily in every direction butyours. Why it should look about is
uncertain since, the slothsees everything in a Magoo-like blur. As for hearing, the slothis not so much deaf as uninterested in sound. Beebe reportedthat
firing guns next to sleeping or feeding sloths elicited littlereaction. And the sloth’s slightly better sense of smell shouldnot be overestimated. They are
said to be able to sniff andavoid decayed branches, but Bullock (1968) reported that slothsfall to the ground clinging to decayed branches “often”.
How does it survive, you might ask.
“Oh, that is Mrs. Pollzoff. Her husband used to be in the fur business and when he died she sold her interest to a big syndicate, she told me, because she knew there wasn’t much chance of her making a success against such competition.
She is keen on aviation, and bought herself a plane but has never been able to get a license. I asked Mr. Trowbridge and he said he thought it was because
she showed very little judgment in an emergency; she cracked-up three times, and they forbade her to fly alone.”
“I should think they would,” Mrs. Langwell exclaimed indignantly.
“That’s all I know about her, except that she is madder than a dozen wet hens at the government for depriving her of the
right to fly; and she
seems to be
interested in fishes.”
The descriptions burst with colour, contrast and tellingdetail. Really, your story can only be great. But it all addsup to nothing. In spite of the obvious, shining promise of it,there comes a moment when you realize that the
whisperthat has been pestering you all along from the back ofyour mind is speaking the flat, awful truth: it won’t work.
An element is missing, that spark that brings to life a realstory, regardless of whether the history or the food is right.
Your story is emotionally dead, that’s the crux of it. Thediscovery is something soul-destroying, I tell you. It leavesyou with an aching hunger.
From Matheran I mailed the notes of my failed novel. Imailed them to a
fictitious address in Siberia, with a returnaddress, equally fictitious, in Bolivia. After the clerk hadstamped the envelope and thrown it into a sorting bin, Isat down, glum and disheartened. “What now, Tolstoy?
Bill Gates, who was building a fortune by licensing Microsoft’s operating system, had urged Apple to do the same in 1985, just as Jobs was being eased out. Gates believed that, even if Apple took away some of Microsoft’s
operating system customers, Microsoft could make money by creating versions of its applications software, such as Word and Excel, for the users of
the Macintosh and its clones. “I was trying to do everything to get them to be a strong licensor,” he recalled. He sent a formal memo to Sculley making the
case. “The industry has reached the point where it is now impossible for Apple to create a standard out of their innovative technology without
support from, and the resulting credibility of, other personal computer manufacturers,” he argued. “Apple should license Macintosh technology to
3–5 significant manufacturers for the development of ‘Mac Compatibles.’” Gates got no reply, so he wrote a second memo suggesting some companies
that would be good at cloning the Mac, and he added, “I want to
help in any
way I can with the
give me a call.”
Why did Jobs mislead Amelio about selling the shares? One reason is simple: Jobs sometimes avoided the truth. Helmut Sonnenfeldt once said of Henry
Kissinger, “He lies not because it’s in his interest, he lies because it’s in his nature.” It was in Jobs’s nature to mislead or be secretive when he felt it was warranted. But he also indulged in being brutally honest at times, telling the
truths that most of us sugarcoat or suppress. Both the dissembling and the truth-telling were simply different aspects of his Nietzschean attitude that ordinary rules didn’t apply to him.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Jobs had refused to quash Larry Ellison’s takeover talk, and he had secretly sold his shares and been misleading about it. So Amelio finally became
convinced that Jobs was gunning for him. “I finally absorbed the fact that I had been too willing and too eager to believe he was on my team,” Amelio recalled. “Steve’s plans to manipulate my termination were charging forward.”
Jobs was indeed bad-mouthing Amelio at every opportunity. He couldn’t help himself. But there was a more important factor in turning the board against
Amelio. Fred Anderson, the chief financial officer, saw it as his fiduciary duty to keep Ed Woolard and the board informed of Apple’s dire situation. “Fred
was the guy telling me that cash was draining, people were leaving, and more key players were thinking of it,” said Woolard. “He made it clear the ship was
going to hit the sand soon, and even he was thinking of leaving.” That added to the worries Woolard already had from watching Amelio bumble the shareholders meeting.
At an executive session of the board in June, with Amelio out of the room, Woolard described to current directors how he calculated their odds. “If we stay with Gil as CEO, I think there’s only a 10% chance we will avoid
bankruptcy,” he said. “If we fire him and convince Steve to come take over, we have a 60% chance of surviving. If we fire Gil, don’t get Steve back, and have to search for a new CEO, then we have a 40% chance
The board gave him
authority to ask
Jobs to return.
That month Amelio had to face the annual stockholders meeting and explain why the results for the final quarter of 1996 showed a 30% plummet in sales
from the year before. Shareholders lined up at the microphones to vent their anger. Amelio was clueless about how poorly he handled the meeting. “The
presentation was regarded as one of the best I had ever given,” he later wrote. But Ed Woolard, the former CEO of DuPont who was now the chair of the
Apple board (Markkula had been demoted to vice chair), was appalled. “This is a disaster,” his wife whispered to him in the midst of the session. Woolard
agreed. “Gil came dressed real cool, but he looked and sounded silly,” he recalled. “He couldn’t answer the questions, didn’t know what he was talking about, and didn’t inspire any confidence.”
Woolard picked up the phone and called Jobs, whom he’d never met. The pretext was to invite him to Delaware to speak to DuPont executives. Jobs
declined, but as Woolard recalled, “the request was a ruse in order to talk to him about Gil.” He steered the phone call in that direction and asked Jobs
point-blank what his impression of Amelio was. Woolard remembers Jobs being somewhat circumspect, saying that Amelio was not in the right job. Jobs recalled being more blunt:
I thought to myself, I either tell him the truth, that Gil is a bozo, or I lie by omission. He’s on the board of Apple, I have a duty to tell him what I think; on the other hand, if I tell him, he will tell Gil, in which case Gil will never listen
to me again, and he’ll fuck the people I brought into Apple. All of this took place in my head in less than thirty seconds. I finally decided that I owed this
guy the truth. I cared deeply about Apple. So I just let him have it. I said this guy is the worst CEO I’ve ever seen, I think if you needed a license to be a CEO
he wouldn’t get one. When I hung up the
phone, I thought,
I probably just
did a really
When they happened to meet in the hallway at a conference, Jobs started berating Gates for his refusal to do software for NeXT. “When you get a market, I will consider it,” Gates replied. Jobs got angry. “It was a screaming
battle, right in front of everybody,” recalled Adele Goldberg, the Xerox PARC engineer. Jobs insisted that NeXT was the next wave of computing. Gates, as
he often did, got more expressionless as Jobs got more heated. He finally just shook his head and walked away.
Beneath their personal rivalry—and occasional grudging respect—was their basic philosophical difference. Jobs believed in an end-to-end integration of hardware and software, which led him to build a machine that was not
compatible with others. Gates believed in, and profited from, a world in which different companies made machines that were compatible with one another; their hardware ran a standard operating system (Microsoft’s Windows) and
could all use the same software apps (such as Microsoft’s Word and Excel). “His product comes with an interesting feature called incompatibility,” Gates
told the Washington Post. “It doesn’t run any of the existing software. It’s a super-nice computer. I don’t think if I went out to design an incompatible computer I would have done as well as he did.”
At a forum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1989, Jobs and Gates appeared sequentially, laying out their competing worldviews. Jobs spoke about how
new waves come along in the computer industry every few years. Macintosh had launched a revolutionary new approach with the graphical interface; now
NeXT was doing it with object-oriented programming tied to a powerful new machine based on an optical disk. Every major software vendor realized they
had to be part of this new wave, he said, “except Microsoft.” When Gates came up, he reiterated his belief that Jobs’s end-to-end control of the software and
the hardware was destined for failure, just as Apple had failed in competing against the Microsoft Windows standard. “The hardware market and the
software market are separate,” he said. When asked about the great design that could come from Jobs’s approach, Gates gestured to the NeXT prototype that was still
sitting onstage and
sneered, “If you want
black, I’ll get you
a can of paint.”
He also insisted on building his own fully automated and futuristic factory, just as he had for the Macintosh; he had not been chastened by that experience. This time too he made the same mistakes, only more excessively. Machines and robots were painted and repainted as he compulsively revised
his color scheme. The walls were museum white, as they had been at the Macintosh factory, and there were $20,000 black leather chairs and a custom-made staircase, just as in the corporate headquarters. He insisted
that the machinery on the 165-foot assembly line be configured to move the circuit boards from right to left as they got built, so that the process would look better to visitors who watched from the viewing gallery. Empty circuit
boards were fed in at one end and twenty minutes later, untouched by humans, came out the other end as completed boards. The process followed the Japanese principle known as kanban, in which each machine performs its task only when the next machine is ready to receive another part.
that the NeXT machine “not use an operating system compatible with the Macintosh,” though it could be argued that Apple would have been better served by insisting on just the opposite.
After the settlement Jobs continued to court Esslinger until the designer decided to wind down his contract with Apple. That allowed frogdesign to work with NeXT at the end of 1986. Esslinger insisted on having free rein, just
as Paul Rand had. “Sometimes you have to use a big stick with Steve,” he said. Like Rand, Esslinger was an artist, so Jobs was willing to grant him indulgences he denied other mortals.
Jobs decreed that the computer should be an absolutely perfect cube, with each side exactly a foot long and every angle precisely 90 degrees. He liked cubes. They had gravitas but also the slight whiff of a toy. But the NeXT cube was a Jobsian example of design desires trumping engineering
considerations. The circuit boards, which fitted nicely into the traditional pizza-box shape, had to be reconfigured and stacked in order to nestle into a cube.
Even worse, the perfection of the cube made it hard to manufacture. Most parts that are cast in molds have angles that are slightly greater than pure 90 degrees, so that it’s easier to get them out of the mold (just as it is easier to get a cake out of a pan that has angles slightly greater than 90 degrees). But
Esslinger dictated, and Jobs enthusiastically agreed, that there would be no such “draft angles” that would ruin the purity and perfection of the cube. So the sides had to be produced separately, using molds that cost $650,000, at a
specialty machine shop in Chicago. Jobs’s passion for perfection was out of control. When he noticed a tiny line in the chassis caused by the molds, something that any other computer maker would accept as unavoidable, he
flew to Chicago and convinced the die caster to start over and do it perfectly. “Not a lot of die casters expect a celebrity to fly in,” noted one of the engineers. Jobs also had the company buy a $150,000 sanding machine to remove all lines where the mold faces met and insisted that the
magnesium case be a matte
black, which made
it more susceptible
to showing blemishes.