Still, it seemed crazy to waste so much effort — I'd passed the bar exam — so I got a job as a lawyer at the Federal Trade Commission during the Carter administration, when Chairman Mike Pertschuk (a friend of Ralph's) was giving the cereal makers, children's TV producers, and carmakers a fit. That job ended when Carter did, and after a few weeks of interviewing at law firms, I knew my brilliant career as a lawyer was going to be short. Representing anyone who walked in the door needing someone to help him comply with (or get around) government regulations would be lucrative but unsatisfying. It was time to start over.
I'd recently started over at home as well. I got married when I was in law school in 1972 to a reporter for UPI, a world-class sailor and an absentminded intellectual. Gene Carlson had taken classes at the Juilliard School of Music, read Japanese haiku, preferred movies with subtitles, and rarely watched television. His family lived in Seattle, where his mother was head of the garden club and his father, Eddie, had chaired the 1962 Seattle World's Fair and conceived the Space Needle with a doodle on the back of a napkin. Eddie had risen from bellhop to chairman of Westin International Hotels and then chairman of United Airlines, after Westin merged with it in 1970. This was back in the day when CEOs put their pants on one leg at a time and didn't pay themselves a king's ransom. Gene had a wonderful younger sister who looked so much like me, we could be siblings.
Even accepting the theory that opposites attract, my friends were surprised by the match. When I try to explain, I keep coming back to the fact that Gene and his family were so … quiet. They didn't mind if I stuck my nose in a book — that's where Gene's was much of the time. They ate breakfast on the good china with the grapefruit sectioned. The well-polished Steuben bird never moved from its perch on the credenza. The lamps may have been glued to the end tables. Gene talked to his parents about golf and a new jib for the sailboat, and I came to talk about such things as well. In all my years with the Carlsons — and I stayed unusually close — I never heard a raised voice, not even when I ran over Gene's mother's foot with a cart carrying a one-hundred-pound block of ice intended for the galley fridge.
I had so much fun with the Carlsons on their sailboat that I agreed to go sailing on my honeymoon. The good news was also the bad news: We were alone, but a 40-foot ketch is not meant to be crewed by two people, one of whom is a committed landlubber. Gene had a destination in mind — we started in Seattle, and he wanted to get to Princess Louisa inlet, far up the coast of British Columbia. It was a forced sail where we were up at dawn and hauling sails until midnight in a quest to reach a distant harbor. We never got there.