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Shoe Dog / (by Phil Knight, 2016) -

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Shoe Dog /   (by Phil Knight, 2016) -

Shoe Dog / (by Phil Knight, 2016) -

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Shoe Dog / (by Phil Knight, 2016) -
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2016
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Phil Knight
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Norbert Leo Butz
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upper-intermediate
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13:21:34
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64 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

Shoe Dog / :

.doc (Word) phil_knight_-_shoe_dog.doc [975 Kb] (c: 8) .
.pdf phil_knight_-_shoe_dog.pdf [1.99 Mb] (c: 17) .
audiobook (MP3) .


: Shoe Dog

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DAWN I was up before the others, before the birds, before the sun. I drank a cup of coffee, wolfed down a piece of toast, put on my shorts and sweatshirt, and laced up my green running shoes. Then slipped quietly out the back door. I stretched my legs, my hamstrings, my lower back, and groaned as I took the first few balky steps down the cool road, into the fog. Why is it always so hard to get started? There were no cars, no people, no signs of life. I was all alone, the world to myselfthough the trees seemed oddly aware of me. Then again, this was Oregon. The trees always seemed to know. The trees always had your back. What a beautiful place to be from, I thought, gazing around. Calm, green, tranquilI was proud to call Oregon my home, proud to call little Portland my place of birth. But I felt a stab of regret, too. Though beautiful, Oregon struck some people as the kind of place where nothing big had ever happened, or was ever likely to. If we Oregonians were famous for anything, it was an old, old trail wed had to blaze to get here. Since then, things had been pretty tame. The best teacher I ever had, one of the finest men I ever knew, spoke of that trail often. Its our birthright, hed growl. Our character, our fateour DNA. The cowards never started, hed tell me, and the weak died along the waythat leaves us. Us. Some rare strain of pioneer spirit was discovered along that trail, my teacher believed, some outsized sense of possibility mixed with a diminished capacity for pessimismand it was our job as Oregonians to keep that strain alive. Id nod, showing him all due respect. I loved the guy. But walking away Id sometimes think: Jeez, its just a dirt road. That foggy morning, that momentous morning in 1962, Id recently blazed my own trailback home, after seven long years away. It was strange being home again, strange being lashed again by the daily rains. Stranger still was living again with my parents and twin sisters, sleeping in my childhood bed. Late at night Id lie on my back, staring at my college textbooks, my high school trophies and blue ribbons, thinking: This is me? Still? I moved quicker down the road. My breath formed rounded, frosty puffs, swirling into the fog. I savored that first physical awakening, that brilliant moment before the mind is fully clear, when the limbs and joints first begin to loosen and the material body starts to melt away. Solid to liquid. Faster, I told myself. Faster. On paper, I thought, Im an adult. Graduated from a good collegeUniversity of Oregon. Earned a masters from a top business schoolStanford. Survived a yearlong hitch in the U.S. ArmyFort Lewis and Fort Eustis. My r?sum? said I was a learned, accomplished soldier, a twenty-four-year-old man in full . . . So why, I wondered, why do I still feel like a kid? Worse, like the same shy, pale, rail-thin kid Id always been. Maybe because I still hadnt experienced anything of life. Least of all its many temptations and excitements. I hadnt smoked a cigarette, hadnt tried a drug. I hadnt broken a rule, let alone a law. The 1960s were just under way, the age of rebellion, and I was the only person in America who hadnt yet rebelled. I couldnt think of one time Id cut loose, done the unexpected. Id never even been with a girl. If I tended to dwell on all the things I wasnt, the reason was simple. Those were the things I knew best. Id have found it difficult to say what or who exactly I was, or might become. Like all my friends I wanted to be successful. Unlike my friends I didnt know what that meant. Money? Maybe. Wife? Kids? House? Sure, if I was lucky. These were the goals I was taught to aspire to, and part of me did aspire to them, instinctively. But deep down I was searching for something else, something more. I had an aching sense that our time is short, shorter than we ever know, short as a morning run, and I wanted mine to be meaningful. And purposeful. And creative. And important. Above all . . . different. I wanted to leave a mark on the world. I wanted to win. No, thats not right. I simply didnt want to lose. And then it happened. As my young heart began to thump, as my pink lungs expanded like the wings of a bird, as the trees turned to greenish blurs, I saw it all before me, exactly what I wanted my life to be. Play. Yes, I thought, thats it. Thats the word. The secret of happiness, Id always suspected, the essence of beauty or truth, or all we ever need to know of either, lay somewhere in that moment when the ball is in midair, when both boxers sense the approach of the bell, when the runners near the finish line and the crowd rises as one. Theres a kind of exuberant clarity in that pulsing half second before winning and losing are decided. I wanted that, whatever that was, to be my life, my daily life. At different times Id fantasized about becoming a great novelist, a great journalist, a great statesman. But the ultimate dream was always to be a great athlete. Sadly, fate had made me good, not great. At twenty-four I was finally resigned to that fact. Id run track at Oregon, and Id distinguished myself, lettering three of four years. But that was that, the end. Now, as I began to clip off one brisk six-minute mile after another, as the rising sun set fire to the lowest needles of the pines, I asked myself: What if there were a way, without being an athlete, to feel what athletes feel? To play all the time, instead of working? Or else to enjoy work so much that it becomes essentially the same thing. The world was so overrun with war and pain and misery, the daily grind was so exhausting and often unjustmaybe the only answer, I thought, was to find some prodigious, improbable dream that seemed worthy, that seemed fun, that seemed a good fit, and chase it with an athletes single-minded dedication and purpose. Like it or not, life is a game. Whoever denies that truth, whoever simply refuses to play, gets left on the sidelines, and I didnt want that. More than anything, that was the thing I did not want. Which led, as always, to my Crazy Idea. Maybe, I thought, just maybe, I need to take one more look at my Crazy Idea. Maybe my Crazy Idea just might . . . work? Maybe. No, no, I thought, running faster, faster, running as if I were chasing someone and being chased all at the same time. It will work. By God Ill make it work. No maybes about it. I was suddenly smiling. Almost laughing. Drenched in sweat, moving as gracefully and effortlessly as I ever had, I saw my Crazy Idea shining up ahead, and it didnt look all that crazy. It didnt even look like an idea. It looked like a place. It looked like a person, or some life force that existed long before I did, separate from me, but also part of me. Waiting for me, but also hiding from me. That might sound a little high-flown, a little crazy. But thats how I felt back then. Or maybe I didnt. Maybe my memory is enlarging this eureka moment, or condensing many eureka moments into one. Or maybe, if there was such a moment, it was nothing more than runners high. I dont know. I cant say. So much about those days, and the months and years into which they slowly sorted themselves, has vanished, like those rounded, frosty puffs of breath. Faces, numbers, decisions that once seemed pressing and irrevocable, theyre all gone. What remains, however, is this one comforting certainty, this one anchoring truth that will never go away. At twenty-four I did have a Crazy Idea, and somehow, despite being dizzy with existential angst, and fears about the future, and doubts about myself, as all young men and women in their midtwenties are, I did decide that the world is made up of crazy ideas. History is one long processional of crazy ideas. The things I loved mostbooks, sports, democracy, free enterprisestarted as crazy ideas. For that matter, few ideas are as crazy as my favorite thing, running. Its hard. Its painful. Its risky. The rewards are few and far from guaranteed. When you run around an oval track, or down an empty road, you have no real destination. At least, none that can fully justify the effort. The act itself becomes the destination. Its not just that theres no finish line; its that you define the finish line. Whatever pleasures or gains you derive from the act of running, you must find them within. Its all in how you frame it, how you sell it to yourself. Every runner knows this. You run and run, mile after mile, and you never quite know why. You tell yourself that youre running toward some goal, chasing some rush, but really you run because the alternative, stopping, scares you to death. So that morning in 1962 I told myself: Let everyone else call your idea crazy . . . just keep going. Dont stop. Dont even think about stopping until you get there, and dont give much thought to where there is. Whatever comes, just dont stop. Thats the precocious, prescient, urgent advice I managed to give myself, out of the blue, and somehow managed to take. Half a century later, I believe its the best advicemaybe the only adviceany of us should ever give. PART ONE Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that. Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass 1962 When I broached the subject with my father, when I worked up the nerve to speak to him about my Crazy Idea, I made sure it was in the early evening. That was always the best time with Dad. He was relaxed then, well fed, stretched out in his vinyl recliner in the TV nook. I can still tilt back my head and close my eyes and hear the sound of the audience laughing, the tinny theme songs of his favorite shows, Wagon Train and Rawhide. His all-time favorite was Red Buttons. Every episode began with Red singing: Ho ho, hee hee . . . strange things are happening. I set a straight-backed chair beside him and gave a wan smile and waited for the next commercial. Id rehearsed my spiel, in my head, over and over, especially the opening. Sooo, Dad, you remember that Crazy Idea I had at Stanford . . . ? It was one of my final classes, a seminar on entrepreneurship. Id written a research paper about shoes, and the paper had evolved from a run-of-the-mill assignment to an all-out obsession. Being a runner, I knew something about running shoes. Being a business buff, I knew that Japanese cameras had made deep cuts into the camera market, which had once been dominated by Germans. Thus, I argued in my paper that Japanese running shoes might do the same thing. The idea interested me, then inspired me, then captivated me. It seemed so obvious, so simple, so potentially huge. Id spent weeks and weeks on that paper. Id moved into the library, devoured everything I could find about importing and exporting, about starting a company. Finally, as required, Id given a formal presentation of the paper to my classmates, who reacted with formal boredom. Not one asked a single question. They greeted my passion and intensity with labored sighs and vacant stares. The professor thought my Crazy Idea had merit: He gave me an A. But that was that. At least, that was supposed to be that. Id never really stopped thinking about that paper. Through the rest of my time at Stanford, through every morning run and right up to that moment in the TV nook, Id pondered going to Japan, finding a shoe company, pitching them my Crazy Idea, in the hopes that theyd have a more enthusiastic reaction than my classmates, that theyd want to partner with a shy, pale, rail-thin kid from sleepy Oregon. Id also toyed with the notion of making an exotic detour on my way to and from Japan. How can I leave my mark on the world, I thought, unless I get out there first and see it? Before running a big race, you always want to walk the track. A backpacking trip around the globe might be just the thing, I reasoned. No one talked about bucket lists in those days, but I suppose thats close to what I had in mind. Before I died, became too old or consumed with everyday minutiae, I wanted to visit the planets most beautiful and wondrous places. And its most sacred. Of course I wanted to taste other foods, hear other languages, dive into other cultures, but what I really craved was connection with a capital C. I wanted to experience what the Chinese call Tao, the Greeks call Logos, the Hindus call J??na, the Buddhists call Dharma. What the Christians call Spirit. Before setting out on my own personal life voyage, I thought, let me first understand the greater voyage of humankind. Let me explore the grandest temples and churches and shrines, the holiest rivers and mountaintops. Let me feel the presence of . . . God? Yes, I told myself, yes. For want of a better word, God. But first, Id need my fathers approval. More, Id need his cash. Id already mentioned making a big trip, the previous year, and my father seemed open to it. But surely hed forgotten. And surely I was pushing it, adding to the original proposal this Crazy Idea, this outrageous side tripto Japan? To launch a company? Talk about boondoggles. Surely hed see this as a bridge too far. And a bridge too darned expensive. I had some savings from the Army, and from various part-time jobs over the last several summers. On top of which, I planned to sell my car, a cherry black 1960 MG with racing tires and a twin cam. (The same car Elvis drove in Blue Hawaii.) All of which amounted to fifteen hundred dollars, leaving me a grand short, I now told my father. He nodded, uh-huh, mm-hmm, and flicked his eyes from the TV to me, and back again, while I laid it all out. Remember how we talked, Dad? How I said I want to see the World? The Himalayas? The pyramids? The Dead Sea, Dad? The Dead Sea? Well, haha, Im also thinking of stopping off in Japan, Dad. Remember my Crazy Idea? Japanese running shoes? Right? It could be huge, Dad. Huge. I was laying it on thick, putting on the hard sell, extra hard, because I always hated selling, and because this particular sell had zero chance. My father had just forked out hundreds of dollars to the University of Oregon, thousands more to Stanford. He was the publisher of the Oregon Journal, a solid job that paid for all the basic comforts, including our spacious white house on Claybourne Street, in Portlands quietest suburb, Eastmoreland. But the man wasnt made of money. Also, this was 1962. The earth was bigger then. Though humans were beginning to orbit the planet in capsules, 90 percent of Americans still had never been on an airplane. The average man or woman had never ventured farther than one hundred miles from his or her own front door, so the mere mention of global travel by airplane would unnerve any father, and especially mine, whose predecessor at the paper had died in an air crash. Setting aside money, setting aside safety concerns, the whole thing was just so impractical. I was aware that twenty-six of twenty-seven new companies failed, and my father was aware, too, and the idea of taking on such a colossal risk went against everything he stood for. In many ways my father was a conventional Episcopalian, a believer in Jesus Christ. But he also worshipped another secret deityrespectability. Colonial house, beautiful wife, obedient kids, my father enjoyed having these things, but what he really cherished was his friends and neighbors knowing he had them. He liked being admired. He liked doing a vigorous backstroke each day in the mainstream. Going around the world on a lark, therefore, would simply make no sense to him. It wasnt done. Certainly not by the respectable sons of respectable men. It was something other peoples kids did. Something beatniks and hipsters did. Possibly, the main reason for my fathers respectability fixation was a fear of his inner chaos. I felt this, viscerally, because every now and then that chaos would burst forth. Without warning, late at night, the phone in the front hall would jingle, and when I answered there would be that same gravelly voice on the line. Come getcher old man. Id pull on my raincoatit always seemed, on those nights, that a misting rain was fallingand drive downtown to my fathers club. As clearly as I remember my own bedroom, I remember that club. A century old, with floor-to-ceiling oak bookcases and wing-backed chairs, it looked like the drawing room of an English country house. In other words, eminently respectable. Id always find my father at the same table, in the same chair. Id always help him gently to his feet. You okay, Dad? Course Im okay. Id always guide him outside to the car, and the whole way home wed pretend nothing was wrong. Hed sit perfectly erect, almost regal, and wed talk sports, because talking sports was how I distracted myself, soothed myself, in times of stress. My father liked sports, too. Sports were always respectable. For these and a dozen other reasons I expected my father to greet my pitch in the TV nook with a furrowed brow and a quick put-down. Haha, Crazy Idea. Fat chance, Buck. (My given name was Philip, but my father always called me Buck. In fact hed been calling me Buck since before I was born. My mother told me hed been in the habit of patting her stomach and asking, Hows little Buck today?) As I stopped talking, however, as I stopped pitching, my father rocked forward in his vinyl recliner and shot me a funny look. He said that he always regretted not traveling more when he was young. He said a trip might be just the finishing touch to my education. He said a lot of things, all of them focused more on the trip than the Crazy Idea, but I wasnt about to correct him. I wasnt about to complain, because in sum he was giving his blessing. And his cash. Okay, he said. Okay, Buck. Okay. I thanked my father and fled the nook before he had a chance to change his mind. Only later did I realize with a spasm of guilt that my fathers lack of travel was an ulterior reason, perhaps the main reason, that I wanted to go. This trip, this Crazy Idea, would be one sure way of becoming someone other than him. Someone less respectable. Or maybe not less respectable. Maybe just less obsessed with respectability. The rest of the family wasnt quite so supportive. When my grandmother got wind of my itinerary, one item in particular appalled her. Japan! she cried. Why, Buck, it was only a few years ago the Japs were out to kill us! Dont you remember? Pearl Harbor! The Japs tried to conquer the world! Some of them still dont know they lost! Theyre in hiding! They might take you prisoner, Buck. Gouge out your eyeballs. Theyre known for thatyour eyeballs. I loved my mothers mother, whom we all called Mom Hatfield. And I understood her fear. Japan was about as far as you could get from Roseburg, Oregon, the farm town where she was born and where shed lived all her life. Id spent many summers down there with her and Pop Hatfield. Almost every night wed sat out on the porch, listening to the croaking bullfrogs compete with the console radio, which in the early 1940s was always tuned to news of the war. Which was always bad. The Japanese, we were told repeatedly, hadnt lost a war in twenty-six hundred years, and it sure didnt seem they were going to lose this one, either. In battle after battle, we suffered defeat after defeat. Finally, in 1942, Mutual Broadcastings Gabriel Heatter opened his nightly radio report with a shrill cry. Good evening, everyonetheres good news tonight! The Americans had won a decisive battle at last. Critics skewered Heatter for his shameless cheerleading, for abandoning all pretense of journalistic objectivity, but the public hatred of Japan was so intense, most people hailed Heatter as a folk hero. Thereafter he opened all broadcasts the same way. Good news tonight! Its one of my earliest memories. Mom and Pop Hatfield beside me on that porch, Pop peeling a Gravenstein apple with his pocketknife, handing me a slice, then eating a slice, then handing me a slice, and so on, until his apple-paring pace slowed dramatically. Heatter was coming on. Sssh! Hush up! I can still see us all chewing apples and gazing at the night sky, so Japan-obsessed that we half expected to see Japanese Zeros crisscrossing the Dog Star. No wonder my first time on an airplane, right around five years old, I asked: Dad, are the Japs going to shoot us down? Though Mom Hatfield got the hair on my neck standing up, I told her not to worry, Id be fine. Id even bring her back a kimono. My twin sisters, Jeanne and Joanne, four years younger than me, didnt seem to care one way or another where I went or what I did. And my mother, as I recall, said nothing. She rarely did. But there was something different about her silence this time. It equaled consent. Even pride. I SPENT WEEKS reading, planning, preparing for my trip. I went for long runs, musing on every detail while racing the wild geese as they flew overhead. Their tight V formationsId read somewhere that the geese in the rear of the formation, cruising in the backdraft, only have to work 80 percent as hard as the leaders. Every runner understands this. Front runners always work the hardest, and risk the most. Long before approaching my father, Id decided it would be good to have a companion on my trip, and that companion should be my Stanford classmate Carter. Though hed been a hoops star at William Jewell College, Carter wasnt your typical jock. He wore thick glasses and read books. Good books. He was easy to talk to, and easy not to talk toequally important qualities in a friend. Essential in a travel companion. But Carter laughed in my face. When I laid out the list of places I wanted to seeHawaii, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Rangoon, Calcutta, Bombay, Saigon, Kathmandu, Cairo, Istanbul, Athens, Jordan, Jerusalem, Nairobi, Rome, Paris, Vienna, West Berlin, East Berlin, Munich, Londonhe rocked back on his heels and guffawed. Mortified, I looked down and began to make apologies. Then Carter, still laughing, said: What a swell idea, Buck! I looked up. He wasnt laughing at me. He was laughing with joy, with glee. He was impressed. It took balls to put together an itinerary like that, he said. Balls. He wanted in. Days later he got the okay from his parents, plus a loan from his father. Carter never did mess around. See an open shot, take itthat was Carter. I told myself there was much I could learn from a guy like that as we circled the earth. We each packed one suitcase and one backpack. Only the bare necessities, we promised each other. A few pairs of jeans, a few T-shirts. Running shoes, desert boots, sunglasses, plus one pair of suntansthe 1960s word for khakis. I also packed one good suit. A green Brooks Brothers two-button. Just in case my Crazy Idea came to fruition. SEPTEMBER 7, 1962. Carter and I piled into his battered old Chevy and drove at warp speed down I-5, through the Willamette Valley, out the wooded bottom of Oregon, which felt like plunging through the roots of a tree. We sped into the piney tip of California, up and over tall green mountain passes, then down, down, until long after midnight we swept into fog-cloaked San Francisco. For several days we stayed with some friends, sleeping on their floor, and then we swung by Stanford and fetched a few of Carters things out of storage. Finally we stopped at a liquor store and bought two discounted tickets on Standard Airlines to Honolulu. One-way, eighty bucks. It felt like only minutes later that Carter and I were stepping onto the sandy tarmac of Oahu Airport. We wheeled and looked at the sky and thought: That is not the sky back home. A line of beautiful girls came toward us. Soft-eyed, olive-skinned, barefoot, they had double-jointed hips, with which they twitched and swished their grass skirts in our faces. Carter and I looked at each other and slowly grinned. We took a cab to Waikiki Beach and checked into a motel directly across the street from the sea. In one motion we dropped our bags and pulled on our swim trunks. Race you to the water! As my feet hit the sand I whooped and laughed and kicked off my sneakers, then sprinted directly into the waves. I didnt stop until I was up to my neck in the foam. I dove to the bottom, all the way to the bottom, and then came up gasping, laughing, and rolled onto my back. At last I stumbled onto the shore and plopped onto the sand, smiling at the birds and the clouds. I must have looked like an escaped mental patient. Carter, sitting beside me now, wore the same daffy expression. We should stay here, I said. Why be in a hurry to leave? What about The Plan? Carter said. Going around the world? Plans change. Carter grinned. Swell idea, Buck. So we got jobs. Selling encyclopedias door to door. Not glamorous, to be sure, but heck. We didnt start work until 7:00 p.m., which gave us plenty of time for surfing. Suddenly nothing was more important than learning to surf. After only a few tries I was able to stay upright on a board, and after a few weeks I was good. Really good. Gainfully employed, we ditched our motel room and signed a lease on an apartment, a furnished studio with two beds, one real, one fakea sort of ironing board that folded out from the wall. Carter, being longer and heavier, got the real bed, and I got the ironing board. I didnt care. After a day of surfing and selling encyclopedias, followed by a late night at the local bars, I could have slept in a luau fire pit. The rent was one hundred bucks a month, which we split down the middle. Life was sweet. Life was heaven. Except for one small thing. I couldnt sell encyclopedias. I couldnt sell encyclopedias to save my life. The older I got, it seemed, the shier I got, and the sight of my extreme discomfort often made strangers uncomfortable. Thus, selling anything would have been challenging, but selling encyclopedias, which were about as popular in Hawaii as mosquitoes and mainlanders, was an ordeal. No matter how deftly or forcefully I managed to deliver the key phrases drilled into us during our brief training session (Boys, tell the folks you aint selling encyclopediasyoure selling a Vast Compendium of Human Knowledge . . . the Answers to Lifes Questions!), I always got the same response. Beat it, kid. If my shyness made me bad at selling encyclopedias, my nature made me despise it. I wasnt built for heavy doses of rejection. Id known this about myself since high school, freshman year, when I got cut from the baseball team. A small setback, in the grand scheme, but it knocked me sideways. It was my first real awareness that not everyone in this world will like us, or accept us, that were often cast aside at the very moment we most need to be included. I will never forget that day. Dragging my bat along the sidewalk, I staggered home and holed up in my room, where I grieved, and moped, for about two weeks, until my mother appeared on the edge of my bed and said, Enough. She urged me to try something else. Like what? I groaned into my pillow. How about track? she said. Track? I said. You can run fast, Buck. I can? I said, sitting up. So I went out for track. And I found that I could run. And no one could take that away. Now I gave up selling encyclopedias, and all the old familiar rejection that went with it, and I turned to the want ads. In no time I spotted a small ad inside a thick black border. Wanted: Securities Salesmen. I certainly figured to have better luck selling securities. After all, I had an MBA. And before leaving home Id had a pretty successful interview with Dean Witter. I did some research and found that this job had two things going for it. First, it was with Investors Overseas Services, which was headed by Bernard Cornfeld, one of the most famous businessmen of the 1960s. Second, it was located in the top floor of a beautiful beachside tower. Twenty-foot windows overlooking that turquoise sea. Both of these things appealed to me, and made me press hard in the interview. Somehow, after weeks of being unable to talk anyone into buying an encyclopedia, I talked Team Cornfeld into taking a flyer on me. CORNFELDS EXTRAORDINARY SUCCESS, plus that breathtaking view, made it possible most days to forget that the firm was nothing more than a boiler room. Cornfeld was notorious for asking his employees if they sincerely wanted to be rich, and every day a dozen wolfish young men demonstrated that they did, they sincerely did. With ferocity, with abandon, they crashed the phones, cold-calling prospects, scrambling desperately to arrange face-to-face meetings. I wasnt a smooth talker. I wasnt any kind of talker. Still, I knew numbers, and I knew the product: Dreyfus Funds. More, I knew how to speak the truth. People seemed to like that. I was quickly able to schedule a few meetings, and to close a few sales. Inside a week Id earned enough in commissions to pay my half of the rent for the next six months, with plenty left over for surfboard wax. Most of my discretionary income went to the dive bars along the water. Tourists tended to hang out in the luxe resorts, the ones with names like incantationsthe Moana, the Halekulanibut Carter and I preferred the dives. We liked to sit with our fellow beachniks and surf bums, seekers and vagabonds, feeling smug about the one thing we had in our favor. Geography. Those poor suckers back home, wed say. Those poor saps sleepwalking through their humdrum lives, bundled against the cold and rain. Why cant they be more like us? Why cant they seize the day? Our sense of carpe diem was heightened by the fact that the world was coming to an end. A nuclear standoff with the Soviets had been building for weeks. The Soviets had three dozen missiles in Cuba, the United States wanted them out, and both sides had made their final offer. Negotiations were over and World War III was set to begin any minute. According to the newspapers, missiles would fall from the sky later today. Tomorrow at the latest. The world was Pompeii, and the volcano was already spitting ash. Ah well, everyone in the dive bars agreed, when humanity ends, this will be as good a place as any to watch the rising mushroom clouds. Aloha, civilization. And then, surprise, the world was spared. The crisis passed. The sky seemed to sigh with relief as the air turned suddenly crisper, calmer. A perfect Hawaiian autumn followed. Days of contentment and something close to bliss. Followed by a sharp restlessness. One night I set my beer on the bar and turned to Carter. I think maybe the time has come to leave Shangri-La, I said. I didnt make a hard pitch. I didnt think I had to. It was clearly time to get back to The Plan. But Carter frowned and stroked his chin. Gee, Buck, I dont know. Hed met a girl. A beautiful Hawaiian teenager with long brown legs and jet-black eyes, the kind of girl whod greeted our airplane, the kind I dreamed of having and never would. He wanted to stick around, and how could I argue? I told him I understood. But I was cast low. I left the bar and went for a long walk on the beach. Game over, I told myself. The last thing I wanted was to pack up and return to Oregon. But I couldnt see traveling around the world alone, either. Go home, a faint inner voice told me. Get a normal job. Be a normal person. Then I heard another faint voice, equally emphatic. No, dont go home. Keep going. Dont stop. The next day I gave my two weeks notice at the boiler room. Too bad, Buck, one of the bosses said, you had a real future as a salesman. God forbid, I muttered. That afternoon, at a travel agency down the block, I purchased an open plane ticket, good for one year on any airline going anywhere. A sort of Eurail Pass in the sky. On Thanksgiving Day, 1962, I hoisted my backpack and shook Carters hand. Buck, he said, dont take any wooden nickels. THE CAPTAIN ADDRESSED the passengers in rapid-fire Japanese, and I started to sweat. I looked out the window at the blazing red circle on the wing. Mom Hatfield was right, I thought. We were just at war with these people. Corregidor, the Bataan Death March, the Rape of Nankingand now I was going there on some sort of business venture? Crazy Idea? Maybe I was, in fact, crazy. If so, it was too late to seek professional help. The plane was screeching down the runway, roaring above Hawaiis cornstarch beaches. I looked down at the massive volcanoes growing smaller and smaller. No turning back. Since it was Thanksgiving, the in-flight meal was turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Since we were bound for Japan, there was also raw tuna, miso soup, and hot sake. I ate it all, while reading the paperbacks Id stuffed into my backpack. The Catcher in the Rye and Naked Lunch. I identified with Holden Caulfield, the teenage introvert seeking his place in the world, but Burroughs went right over my head. The junk merchant doesnt sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. Too rich for my blood. I passed out. When I woke we were in a steep, rapid descent. Below us lay a startlingly bright Tokyo. The Ginza in particular was like a Christmas tree. Driving to my hotel, however, I saw only darkness. Vast sections of the city were total liquid black. War, the cabdriver said. Many building still bomb. American B-29s. Superfortresses. Over a span of several nights in the summer of 1944, waves of them dropped 750,000 pounds of bombs, most filled with gasoline and flammable jelly. One of the worlds oldest cities, Tokyo was made largely of wood, so the bombs set off a hurricane of fire. Some three hundred thousand people were burned alive, instantly, four times the number who died in Hiroshima. More than a million were gruesomely injured. And nearly 80 percent of the buildings were vaporized. For long, solemn stretches the cabdriver and I said nothing. There was nothing to say. Finally the driver stopped at the address written in my notebook. A dingy hostel. Beyond dingy. Id made the reservation through American Express, sight unseen, a mistake, I now realized. I crossed the pitted sidewalk and entered a building that seemed about to implode. An old Japanese woman behind the front desk bowed to me. I realized she wasnt bowing, she was bent by age, like a tree thats weathered many storms. Slowly she led me to my room, which was more a box. Tatami mat, lopsided table, nothing else. I didnt care. I barely noticed that the tatami mat was wafer thin. I bowed to the bent old woman, bidding her good night. Oyasumi nasai. I curled up on the mat and passed out. HOURS LATER I woke in a room flooded with light. I crawled to the window. Apparently I was in some kind of industrial district on the citys fringe. Filled with docks and factories, this district must have been a primary target of the B-29s. Everywhere I looked was desolation. Buildings cracked and broken. Block after block simply leveled. Gone. Luckily my father knew people in Tokyo, including a group of American guys working at United Press International. I took a cab there and the guys greeted me like family. They gave me coffee and a breakfast ring and when I told them where Id spent the night they laughed. They booked me into a clean, decent hotel. Then they wrote down the names of several good places to eat. What in Gods name are you doing in Tokyo? I explained that I was going around the world. Then I mentioned my Crazy Idea. Huh, they said, giving a little eye roll. They mentioned two ex-GIs who ran a monthly magazine called Importer. Talk to the fellas at Importer, they said, before you do anything rash. I promised I would. But first I wanted to see the city. Guidebook and Minolta box camera in hand, I sought out the few landmarks that had survived the war, the oldest temples and shrines. I spent hours sitting on benches in walled gardens, reading about Japans dominant religions, Buddhism and Shinto. I marveled at the concept of kensho, or satorienlightenment that comes in a flash, a blinding pop. Sort of like the bulb on my Minolta. I liked that. I wanted that. But first Id need to change my whole approach. I was a linear thinker, and according to Zen linear thinking is nothing but a delusion, one of the many that keep us unhappy. Reality is nonlinear, Zen says. No future, no past. All is now. In every religion, it seemed, self is the obstacle, the enemy. And yet Zen declares plainly that the self doesnt exist. Self is a mirage, a fever dream, and our stubborn belief in its reality not only wastes life, but shortens it. Self is the bald-faced lie we tell ourselves daily, and happiness requires seeing through the lie, debunking it. To study the self, said the thirteenth-century Zen master Dogen, is to forget the self. Inner voice, outer voices, its all the same. No dividing lines. Especially in competition. Victory, Zen says, comes when we forget the self and the opponent, who are but two halves of one whole. In Zen and the Art of Archery, its all laid out with crystal clarity. Perfection in the art of swordsmanship is reached . . . when the heart is troubled by no more thought of I and You, of the opponent and his sword, of ones own sword and how to wield it. . . . All is emptiness: your own self, the flashing sword, and the arms that wield it. Even the thought of emptiness is no longer there. My head swimming, I decided to take a break, to visit a very un-Zen landmark, in fact the most anti-Zen place in Japan, an enclave where men focused on self and nothing but selfthe Tokyo Stock Exchange. Housed in a marble Romanesque building with great big Greek columns, the Tosho looked from across the street like a stodgy bank in a quiet town in Kansas. Inside, however, all was bedlam. Hundreds of men waving their arms, pulling their hair, screaming. A more depraved version of Cornfelds boiler room. I couldnt look away. I watched and watched, asking myself, Is this what its all about? Really? I appreciated money as much as the next guy. But I wanted my life to be about so much more. After the Tosho I needed peace. I went deep into the silent heart of the city, to the garden of the nineteenth-century emperor Meiji and his empress, a space thought to possess immense spiritual power. I sat, contemplative, reverent, beneath swaying ginkgo trees, beside a beautiful torii gate. I read in my guidebook that a torii gate is usually a portal to sacred places, and so I basked in the sacredness, the serenity, trying to soak it all in. The next morning I laced up my running shoes and jogged to Tsukiji, the worlds largest fish market. It was the Tosho all over again, with shrimp instead of stocks. I watched ancient fishermen spread their catches onto wooden carts and haggle with leather-faced merchants. That night I took a bus up to the lakes region, in the northern Hakone Mountains, an area that inspired many of the great Zen poets. You cannot travel the path until you have become the path yourself, said the Buddha, and I stood in awe before a path that twisted from the glassy lakes to cloud-ringed Mount Fuji, a perfect snow-clad triangle that looked to me exactly like Mount Hood back home. The Japanese believe climbing Fuji is a mystical experience, a ritual act of celebration, and I was overcome with a desire to climb it, right then. I wanted to ascend into the clouds. I decided to wait, however. I would return when I had something to celebrate. I WENT BACK to Tokyo and presented myself at Importer. The two ex-GIs in charge, thick-necked, brawny, very busy, looked as if they might chew me out for intruding and wasting their time. But within minutes their gruff exterior dissolved and they were warm, friendly, pleased to meet someone from back home. We talked mostly about sports. Can you believe the Yankees won it all again? How about that Willie Mays? None better. Yessir, none better. Then they told me their story. They were the first Americans I ever met who loved Japan. Stationed there during the Occupation, they fell under the spell of the culture, the food, the women, and when their hitch was up they simply couldnt bring themselves to leave. So theyd launched an import magazine, when no one anywhere was interested in importing anything Japanese, and somehow theyd managed to keep it afloat for seventeen years. I told them my Crazy Idea and they listened with some interest. They made a pot of coffee and invited me to sit down. Was there a particular line of Japanese shoes Id considered importing? they asked. I told them I liked Tiger, a nifty brand manufactured by Onitsuka Co., down in Kobe, the largest city in southern Japan. Yes, yes, weve seen it, they said. I told them I was thinking of heading down there, meeting the Onitsuka people face to face. In that case, the ex-GIs said, youd better learn a few things about doing business with the Japanese. The key, they said, is dont be pushy. Dont come on like the typical asshole American, the typical gaijinrude, loud, aggressive, not taking no for an answer. The Japanese do not react well to the hard sell. Negotiations here tend to be soft, sinewy. Look how long it took the Americans and Russians to coax Hirohito into surrendering. And even when he did surrender, when his country was reduced to a heap of ashes, what did he tell his people? The war situation hasnt developed to Japans advantage. Its a culture of indirection. No one ever turns you down flat. No one ever says, straight out, no. But they dont say yes, either. They speak in circles, sentences with no clear subject or object. Dont be discouraged, but dont be cocky. You might leave a mans office thinking youve blown it, when in fact hes ready to do a deal. You might leave thinking youve closed a deal, when in fact youve just been rejected. You never know. I frowned. Under the best of circumstances I was not a great negotiator. Now I was going to have to negotiate in some kind of funhouse with trick mirrors? Where normal rules didnt apply? After an hour of this baffling tutorial, I shook hands with the ex-GIs and said my good-byes. Feeling suddenly that I couldnt wait, that I needed to strike quickly, while their words were fresh in my mind, I raced back to my hotel, threw everything into my little suitcase and backpack, and phoned Onitsuka to make an appointment. Later that afternoon I boarded a train south. JAPAN WAS RENOWNED for its impeccable order and extreme cleanliness. Japanese literature, philosophy, clothing, domestic life, all were marvelously pure and spare. Minimalist. Expect nothing, seek nothing, grasp nothingthe immortal Japanese poets wrote lines that seemed polished and polished until they gleamed like the blade of a samurais sword, or the stones of a mountain brook. Spotless. So why, I wondered, is this train to Kobe so filthy? The floors were strewn with newspapers and cigarette butts. The seats were covered with orange rinds and discarded newspapers. Worse, every car was packed. There was barely room to stand. I found a strap by a window and hung there for seven hours as the train rocked and inched past remote villages, past farms no bigger than the average Portland backyard. The trip was long, but neither my legs nor my patience gave out. I was too busy going over and over my tutorial with the ex-GIs. When I arrived I took a small room in a cheap ryokan. My appointment at Onitsuka was early the next morning, so I lay down immediately on the tatami mat. But I was too excited to sleep. I rolled around on the mat most of the night, and at dawn I rose wearily and stared at my gaunt, bleary reflection in the mirror. After shaving, I put on my green Brooks Brothers suit and gave myself a pep talk. You are capable. You are confident. You can do this. You can DO this. Then I went to the wrong place. I presented myself at the Onitsuka showroom, when in fact I was expected at the Onitsuka factoryacross town. I hailed a taxi and raced there, frantic, arriving half an hour late. Unfazed, a group of four executives met me in the lobby. They bowed. I bowed. One stepped forward. He said his name was Ken Miyazaki, and he wished to give me a tour. The first shoe factory Id ever seen. I found everything about it interesting. Even musical. Each time a shoe was molded, the metal last would fall to the floor with a silvery tinkle, a melodic CLING-clong. Every few seconds, CLING-clong, CLING-clong, a cobblers concerto. The executives seemed to enjoy it, too. They smiled at me and each other. We passed through the accounting department. Everyone in the room, men and women, leaped from their chairs, and in unison bowed, a gesture of kei, respect for the American tycoon. Id read that tycoon came from taikun, Japanese for warlord. I didnt know how to acknowledge their kei. To bow or not bow, that is always the question in Japan. I gave a weak smile and a half bow, and kept moving. The executives told me that they churned out fifteen thousand pairs of shoes each month. Impressive, I said, not knowing if that was a lot or a little. They led me into a conference room and pointed me to the chair at the head of a long round table. Mr. Knight, someone said, here. Seat of honor. More kei. They arranged themselves around the table and straightened their ties and gazed at me. The moment of truth had arrived. Id rehearsed this scene in my head so many times, as Id rehearsed every race Id ever run, long before the starting pistol. But now I realized this was no race. There is a primal urge to compare everythinglife, business, adventures of all sortsto a race. But the metaphor is often inadequate. It can take you only so far. Unable to remember what Id wanted to say, or even why I was here, I took several quick breaths. Everything depended on my rising to this occasion. Everything. If I didnt, if I muffed this, Id be doomed to spend the rest of my days selling encyclopedias, or mutual funds, or some other junk I didnt really care about. Id be a disappointment to my parents, my school, my hometown. Myself. I looked at the faces around the table. Whenever Id imagined this scene, Id omitted one crucial element. Id failed to foresee how present World War II would be in that room. The war was right there, beside us, between us, attaching a subtext to every word we spoke. Good evening, everyonetheres good news tonight! And yet it also wasnt there. Through their resilience, through their stoic acceptance of total defeat, and their heroic reconstruction of their nation, the Japanese had put the war cleanly behind them. Also, these executives in the conference room were young, like me, and you could see that they felt the war had nothing to do with them. On the other hand, their fathers and uncles had tried to kill mine. On the other hand, the past was past. On the other hand, that whole question of Winning and Losing, which clouds and complicates so many deals, gets even more complicated when the potential winners and losers have recently been involved, albeit via proxies and ancestors, in a global conflagration. All of this interior static, this seesawing confusion about war and peace, created a low-volume hum in my head, an awkwardness for which I was unprepared. The realist in me wanted to acknowledge it, the idealist in me pushed it aside. I coughed into my fist. Gentlemen, I began. Mr. Miyazaki interrupted. Mr. Knightwhat company are you with? he asked. Ah, yes, good question. Adrenaline surging through my blood, I felt the flight response, the longing to run and hide, which made me think of the safest place in the world. My parents house. The house had been built decades before, by people of means, people with much more money than my parents, and thus the architect had included servants quarters at the back of the house, and these quarters were my bedroom, which Id filled with baseball cards, record albums, posters, booksall things holy. Id also covered one wall with my blue ribbons from track, the one thing in my life of which I was unabashedly proud. And so? Blue Ribbon, I blurted. Gentlemen, I represent Blue Ribbon Sports of Portland, Oregon. Mr. Miyazaki smiled. The other executives smiled. A murmur went around the table. Blueribbon, blueribbon, blueribbon. The executives folded their hands and fell silent again and resumed staring at me. Well, I began again, gentlemen, the American shoe market is enormous. And largely untapped. If Onitsuka can penetrate that market, if Onitsuka can get its Tigers into American stores, and price them to undercut Adidas, which most American athletes now wear, it could be a hugely profitable venture. I was simply quoting my presentation at Stanford, verbatim, speaking lines and numbers Id spent weeks and weeks researching and memorizing, and this helped to create an illusion of eloquence. I could see that the executives were impressed. But when I reached the end of my pitch there was a prickling silence. Then one man broke the silence, and then another, and now they were all speaking over one another in loud, excited voices. Not to me, but to each other. Then, abruptly, they all stood and left. Was this the customary Japanese way of rejecting a Crazy Idea? To stand in unison and leave? Had I squandered my keijust like that? Was I dismissed? What should I do? Should I just . . . leave? After a few minutes they returned. They were carrying sketches, samples, which Mr. Miyazaki helped to spread before me. Mr. Knight, he said, weve been thinking long time about American market. You have? We already sell wrestling shoe in United States. In, eh, Northeast? But we discuss many time bringing other lines to other places in America. They showed me three different models of Tigers. A training shoe, which they called a Limber Up. Nice, I said. A high-jump shoe, which they called a Spring Up. Lovely, I said. And a discus shoe, which they called a Throw Up. Do not laugh, I told myself. Do not . . . laugh. They barraged me with questions about the United States, about American culture and consumer trends, about different kinds of athletic shoes available in American sporting goods stores. They asked me how big I thought the American shoe market was, how big it could be, and I told them that ultimately it could be $1 billion. To this day Im not sure where that number came from. They leaned back, gazed at each other, astonished. Now, to my astonishment, they began pitching me. Would Blue Ribbon . . . be interested . . . in representing Tiger shoes? In the United States? Yes, I said. Yes, it would. I held forth the Limber Up. This is a good shoe, I said. This shoeI can sell this shoe. I asked them to ship me samples right away. I gave them my address and promised to send them a money order for fifty dollars. They stood. They bowed deeply. I bowed deeply. We shook hands. I bowed again. They bowed again. We all smiled. The war had never happened. We were partners. We were brothers. The meeting, which Id expected to last fifteen minutes, had gone two hours. From Onitsuka I went straight to the nearest American Express office and sent a letter to my father. Dear Dad: Urgent. Please wire fifty dollars right away to Onitsuka Corp of Kobe. Ho ho, hee hee . . . strange things are happening. BACK IN MY hotel I walked in circles around my tatami mat, trying to decide. Part of me wanted to race back to Oregon, wait for those samples, get a jump on my new business venture. Also, I was crazed with loneliness, cut off from everything and everyone I knew. The occasional sight of a New York Times, or a Time magazine, gave me a lump in my throat. I was a castaway, a kind of modern Crusoe. I wanted to be home again. Now. And yet. I was still aflame with curiosity about the world. I still wanted to see, to explore. Curiosity won. I went to Hong Kong and walked the mad, chaotic streets, horrified by the sight of legless, armless beggars, old men kneeling in filth, alongside pleading orphans. The old men were mute, but the children had a cry they repeated: Hey, rich man, hey, rich man, hey, rich man. Then theyd weep or slap the ground. Even after I gave them all the money in my pockets, the cry never stopped. I went to the edge of the city, climbed to the top of Victoria Peak, gazed off into the distance at China. In college Id read the analects of ConfuciusThe man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stonesand now I felt strongly that Id never have a chance to move this particular mountain. Id never get any closer to that walled-off mystical land, and it made me feel unaccountably sad. Incomplete. I went to the Philippines, which had all the madness and chaos of Hong Kong, and twice the poverty. I moved slowly, as if in a nightmare, through Manila, through endless crowds and fathomless gridlock, toward the hotel where MacArthur once occupied the penthouse. I was fascinated by all the great generals, from Alexander the Great to George Patton. I hated war, but I loved the warrior spirit. I hated the sword, but loved the samurai. And of all the great fighting men in history I found MacArthur the most compelling. Those Ray-Bans, that corncob pipethe man didnt lack for confidence. Brilliant tactician, master motivator, he also went on to head the U.S. Olympic Committee. How could I not love him? Of course, he was deeply flawed. But he knew that. You are remembered, he said, prophetically, for the rules you break. I wanted to book a night in his former suite. But I couldnt afford it. One day, I vowed. One day I shall return. I went to Bangkok, where I rode a long pole boat through murky swamps to an open-air market that seemed a Thai version of Hieronymous Bosch. I ate birds, and fruits, and vegetables Id never seen before, and never would again. I dodged rickshaws, scooters, tuk-tuks, and elephants to reach Wat Phra Kaew, and one of the most sacred statues in Asia, an enormous six-hundred-year-old Buddha carved from a single hunk of jade. Standing before its placid face I asked, Why am I here? What is my purpose? I waited. Nothing. Or else the silence was my answer. I went to Vietnam, where streets were bristling with American soldiers, and thrumming with fear. Everyone knew that war was coming, and that it would be very ugly, very different. It would be a Lewis Carroll war, the kind in which a U.S. officer would declare: We had to destroy the village in order to save it. Days before Christmas, 1962, I went on to Calcutta, and rented a room the size of a coffin. No bed, no chair: there wasnt enough space. Just a hammock suspended above a fizzing holethe toilet. Within hours I fell ill. An airborne virus, probably, or food poisoning. For one whole day I believed that I wouldnt make it. I knew that I was going to die. But I rallied, somehow, forced myself out of that hammock, and the next day I was walking unsteadily with thousands of pilgrims and dozens of sacred monkeys down the steep staircase of Varanasi temple. The steps led directly into the hot seething Ganges. When the water was at my waist I looked upa mirage? No, a funeral, taking place in the middle of the river. In fact, several funerals. I watched mourners wade out into the current and place their loved ones atop tall wooden biers, then set them afire. Not twenty yards away, others were calmly bathing. Still others were slaking their thirst with the same water. The Upanishads say, Lead me from the unreal to the real. So I fled the unreal. I flew to Kathmandu and hiked straight up the clean white wall of the Himalayas. On the descent I stopped at a crowded chowk and devoured a bowl of buffalo meat, blood rare. The Tibetans in the chowk, I noted, wore boots of red wool and green flannel, with upturned wooden toes, not unlike the runners on sleds. Suddenly I was noticing everyones shoes. I went back to India, spent New Years Eve wandering the streets of Bombay, weaving in and out among oxen and long-horned cows, feeling the start of an epic migrainethe noise and the smells, the colors and the glare. I went on to Kenya, and took a long bus ride deep into the bush. Giant ostriches tried to outrun the bus, and storks the size of pit bulls floated just outside the windows. Every time the driver stopped, in the middle of nowhere, to pick up a few Masai warriors, a baboon or two would try to board. The driver and warriors would then chase the baboons off with machetes. Before stepping off the bus, the baboons would always glance over their shoulders and give me a look of wounded pride. Sorry, old man, I thought. If it were up to me. I went to Cairo, to the Giza plateau, and stood beside desert nomads and their silk-draped camels at the foot of the Great Sphinx, all of us squinting up into its eternally open eyes. The sun hammered down on my head, the same sun that hammered down on the thousands of men who built these pyramids, and the millions of visitors who came after. Not one of them was remembered, I thought. All is vanity, says the Bible. All is now, says Zen. All is dust, says the desert. I went to Jerusalem, to the rock where Abraham prepared to kill his son, where Muhammad began his heavenward ascent. The Koran says the rock wanted to join Muhammad, and tried to follow, but Muhammad pressed his foot to the rock and stopped it. His footprint is said to be still visible. Was he barefoot or wearing a shoe? I ate a terrible midday meal in a dark tavern, surrounded by soot-faced laborers. Each looked bone-tired. They chewed slowly, absently, like zombies. Why must we work so hard? I thought. Consider the lilies of the field . . . they neither toil nor spin. And yet the first-century rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah said our work is the holiest part of us. All are proud of their craft. God speaks of his work; how much more should man. I went on to Istanbul, got wired on Turkish coffee, got lost on the twisty streets beside the Bosphorus. I stopped to sketch the glowing minarets, and toured the golden labyrinths of Topkapi Palace, home of the Ottoman sultans, where Muhammads sword is now kept. Dont go to sleep one night, wrote R?m?, the thirteenth-century Persian poet. What you most want will come to you then. Warmed by a sun inside youll see wonders. I went to Rome, spent days hiding in small trattorias, scarfing mountains of pasta, gazing upon the most beautiful women, and shoes, Id ever seen. (Romans in the age of the Caesars believed that putting on the right shoe before the left brought prosperity and good luck.) I explored the grassy ruins of Neros bedroom, the gorgeous rubble of the Coliseum, the vast halls and rooms of the Vatican. Expecting crowds, I was always out the door at dawn, determined to be first in line. But there was never a line. The city was mired in a historic cold snap. I had it all to myself. Even the Sistine Chapel. Alone under Michelangelos ceiling, I was able to wallow in my disbelief. I read in my guidebook that Michelangelo was miserable while painting his masterpiece. His back and neck ached. Paint fell constantly into his hair and eyes. He couldnt wait to be finished, he told friends. If even Michelangelo didnt like his work, I thought, what hope is there for the rest of us? I went to Florence, spent days seeking Dante, reading Dante, the angry, exiled misanthrope. Did the misanthropy come firstor after? Was it the cause or the effect of his anger and exile? I stood before the David, shocked at the anger in his eyes. Goliath never had a chance. I went by train up to Milan, communed with Da Vinci, considered his beautiful notebooks, and wondered at his peculiar obsessions. Chief among them, the human foot. Masterpiece of engineering, he called it. A work of art. Who was I to argue? On my last night in Milan I attended the opera at La Scala. I aired out my Brooks Brothers suit and wore it proudly amid the uomini poured into custom-tailored tuxedos and the donne molded into bejeweled gowns. We all listened in wonder to Turandot. As Calaf sang Nessun dormaSet, stars! At dawn I will win, I will win, I will win!my eyes welled, and with the fall of the curtain I leaped to my feet. Bravissimo! I went to Venice, spent a few languorous days walking in the footsteps of Marco Polo, and stood I dont know how long before the palazzo of Robert Browning. If you get simple beauty and naught else, you get about the best thing God invents. My time was running out. Home was calling to me. I hurried to Paris, descended far belowground to the Pantheon, put my hand lightly on the crypts of Rousseauand Voltaire. Love truth, but pardon error. I took a room in a seedy hotel, watched sheets of winter rain sluice the alley below my window, prayed at Notre Dame, got lost in the Louvre. I bought a few books at Shakespeare and Company, and I stood in the spot where Joyce slept, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I then walked slowly down the Seine, stopping to sip a cappuccino at the caf? where Hemingway and Dos Passos read the New Testament aloud to each other. On my last day I sauntered up the Champs-?lys?es, tracing the liberators path, thinking all the while of Patton. Dont tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results. Of all the great generals, he was the most shoe-obsessed: A soldier in shoes is only a soldier. But in boots he becomes a warrior. I flew to Munich, drank an ice-cold stein of beer at the B?rgerbr?ukeller, where Hitler fired a gun into the ceiling and started everything. I tried to visit Dachau, but when I asked for directions people looked away, professing not to know. I went to Berlin and presented myself at Checkpoint Charlie. Flat-faced Russian guards in heavy topcoats examined my passport, patted me down, asked what business I had in communist East Berlin. None, I said. I was terrified that theyd somehow find out Id attended Stanford. Just before I arrived two Stanford students had tried to smuggle a teenager out in a Volkswagen. They were still in prison. But the guards waved me through. I walked a little ways and stopped at the corner of Marx-Engels-Platz. I looked around, all directions. Nothing. No trees, no stores, no life. I thought of all the poverty Id seen in every corner of Asia. This was a different kind of poverty, more willful, somehow, more preventable. I saw three children playing in the street. I walked over, took their picture. Two boys and a girl, eight years old. The girlred wool hat, pink coatsmiled directly at me. Will I ever forget her? Or her shoes? They were made of cardboard. I went to Vienna, that momentous, coffee-scented crossroads, where Stalin and Trotsky and Tito and Hitler and Jung and Freud all lived, at the same historical moment, and all loitered in the same steamy caf?s, plotting how to save (or end) the world. I walked the cobblestones Mozart walked, crossed his graceful Danube on the most beautiful stone bridge I ever saw, stopped before the towering spires of St. Stephens Church, where Beethoven discovered he was deaf. He looked up, saw birds fluttering from the bell tower, and to his horror . . . he did not hear the bells. At last I flew to London. I went quickly to Buckingham Palace, Speakers Corner, Harrods. I granted myself a bit of extra time at Commons. Eyes closed, I conjured the great Churchill. You ask, What is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory . . . without victory, there is no survival. I wanted desperately to hop a bus to Stratford, to see Shakespeares house. (Elizabethan women wore a red silk rose on the toe of each shoe.) But I was out of time. I spent my last night thinking back over my trip, making notes in my journal. I asked myself, What was the highlight? Greece, I thought. No question. Greece. When I first left Oregon I was most excited about two things on my itinerary. I wanted to pitch the Japanese my Crazy Idea. And I wanted to stand before the Acropolis. Hours before boarding my flight at Heathrow, I meditated on that moment, looking up at those astonishing columns, experiencing that bracing shock, the kind you receive from all great beauty, but mixed with a powerful sense ofrecognition? Was it only my imagination? After all, I was standing at the birthplace of Western civilization. Maybe I merely wanted it to be familiar. But I didnt think so. I had the clearest thought: Ive been here before. Then, walking up those bleached steps, another thought: This is where it all begins. On my left was the Parthenon, which Plato had watched the teams of architects and workmen build. On my right was the Temple of Athena Nike. Twenty-five centuries ago, per my guidebook, it had housed a beautiful frieze of the goddess Athena, thought to be the bringer of nike, or victory. It was one of many blessings Athena bestowed. She also rewarded the dealmakers. In the Oresteia she says: I admire . . . the eyes of persuasion. She was, in a sense, the patron saint of negotiators. I dont know how long I stood there, absorbing the energy and power of that epochal place. An hour? Three? I dont know how long after that day I discovered the Aristophanes play, set in the Temple of Nike, in which the warrior gives the king a gifta pair of new shoes. I dont know when I figured out that the play was called Knights. I do know that as I turned to leave I noticed the temples marble fa?ade. Greek artisans had decorated it with several haunting carvings, including the most famous, in which the goddess inexplicably leans down . . . to adjust the strap of her shoe. FEBRUARY 24, 1963. My twenty-fifth birthday. I walked through the door on Claybourne Street, hair to my shoulders, beard three inches long. My mother let out a cry. My sisters blinked as if they didnt recognize me, or else hadnt realized Id been gone. Hugs, shouts, bursts of laughter. My mother made me sit, poured me a cup of coffee. She wanted to hear everything. But I was exhausted. I set my suitcase and backpack in the hall and went to my room. I stared blearily at my blue ribbons. Mr. Knight, what is the name of your company? I curled up on the bed and sleep came down like the curtain at La Scala. An hour later I woke to my mother calling out, Dinner! My father was home from work, and he embraced me as I came into the dining room. He, too, wanted to hear every detail. And I wanted to tell him. But first I wanted to know one thing. Dad, I said. Did my shoes come? 1963 My father invited all the neighbors over for coffee and cake and a special viewing of Bucks slides. Dutifully, I stood at the slide projector, savoring the darkness, listlessly clicking the advance button and describing the pyramids, the Temple of Nike, but I wasnt there. I was at the pyramids, I was at the Temple of Nike. I was wondering about my shoes. Four months after the big meeting at Onitsuka, after Id connected with those executives, and won them over, or so I thoughtand still the shoes hadnt arrived. I fired off a letter. Dear Sirs, Re our meeting of last fall, have you had a chance to ship the samples . . . ? Then I took a few days off, to sleep, wash my clothes, catch up with friends. I got a speedy reply from Onitsuka. Shoes coming, the letter said. In just a little more days. I showed the letter to my father. He winced. A little more days? Buck, he said, chuckling, that fifty bucks is long gone. MY NEW LOOKcastaway hair, caveman beardwas too much for my mother and sisters. Id catch them staring, frowning. I could hear them thinking: bum. So I shaved. Afterward I stood before the little mirror on my bureau in the servants quarters and told myself, Its official. Youre back. And yet I wasnt. There was something about me that would never return. My mother noticed it before anyone else. Over dinner one night she gave me a long, searching look. You seem more . . . worldly. Worldly, I thought. Gosh. UNTIL THE SHOES arrived, whether or not the shoes ever arrived, Id need to find some way to earn cash money. Before my trip Id had that interview with Dean Witter. Maybe I could go back there. I ran it by my father, in the TV nook. He stretched out in his vinyl recliner and suggested I first go have a chat with his old friend Don Frisbee, CEO of Pacific Power

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