Sickness & Health, Totem & Taboo

In the Spring semester of 1986 at Sierra Community College in Rocklin, CA, I came down with mono. I was sick for most of those four months.

When June rolled around, I wanted to get strong.

I took a job in landscaping. I love working in the open air. I met a spunky girl, Rebecca Hanzlick, the daughter of my boss, Doug Hanzlick of Dominion Enterprises, and she cheered me up.

In the fall of 1986, I dropped all of my college courses but two to concentrate on my construction work. I liked being a foreman. I liked ordering people around. I liked feeling hard.

As the weather turned cold, however, the work became miserable.

On weekends I worked in the news department of KAHI/KHYL radio where things were warm.

My neighbor, Bill Murphy, was a graduate of Stanford University. His brother Bob was the color man for Stanford’s football games and the play-by-play guy for Cardinal basketball.

One Saturday afternoon that fall of 1986, Bob invited me to Stanford to watch a football game.

Stepping on to this elite college campus and seeing all the pretty girls made me realize all the more keenly the severity of my wrong turn in life. I had to get myself pronto to an elite college campus where I’d be sure to lose my virginity.

I watched the game from the stands (unless the press box at Candlestick Park where I covered 49er games). Just in front of me was what I imagined was a faculty couple. They were well dressed and handsome and they appeared to have the kind of life I wanted.

The next semester, I took 18-units at Sierra College and almost got straight As. I decided to go to UCLA to major in Economics.

When I got sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, it felt like a return of the forever mono, and I had to quit UCLA in June of 1989 and go back to my parents home on 7955 Bullard Drive, Newcastle, CA, 95658.

Over the next few years, I did the odd house-sitting jobs for Bob Murphy and his wife. They didn’t mind if I boinked girls in their bed as they always washed the sheets when they got home.

In August of 1993, I left Newcastle for a woman in Orlando and recovered much of my health later that year with the medication Nardil.

Around 1998, Bill died of a heart attack.

I returned home for a couple of days in the Spring of 1999 and 2000 and then my parents moved back to Australia. I haven’t been to Sacramento or its environs since.

In 2004, Rachel Derkits, a PhD student in Anthropology at Stanford, did this paper on me.

Growing up on college campuses, I’ve always felt I belonged in academia so these little brushes with the bigs have filled me with sentiment.

On an open-road vacation in May of 2007, I stopped by Stanford for a couple of hours.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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