In 2003, I was working at Sygate Technologies, a company that Becky greenlighted (John DeSantis reminded me last week) and on whose board Howard Schmidt served.
Becky was also an advisor to us. I was lucky that not everyone knew what to do with her energy and enthusiasm, so often it seemed like she was my advisor.
She was a super friend, bigger than life, could do things no one could, she didn’t even appear to have a ‘kryptonite’ – the complexities of her world took no obvious toll… Her generosity was always available, always abundant.
I never felt I could ever return to her any significant measure of the love and friendship she gave to me and my family.
In small ways we tried. Frequent dinners, and one unforgettable road trip.
I relocated the family in 2003 to DC and as luck would have it, Becky was bicoastal. So she’d come to visit, with Terri, with Paul. The whole mishpocheh (she knew a lot of Yiddish for a Japanese Alabama American).
My wife, a huge James Bond fan, believed that having worked at the NSA, Becky would be able to validate, and expand on the inventions of Q. So in exchange for various Cuban and Spanish suppers, and a few Raclette festivals, starting in Berkeley and continuing in DC, Becky would allow my wife dozens of inane questions – ‘ can you really eavesdrop with a laser, were those Rosa Klebb knife shoes standard issue?’. Becky would neither confirm or deny, mostly because the less she said the more extraordinary my wife’s speculations became. I had to explain to her that Becky didn’t respond, not so much because she couldn’t, but because baiting you is the only way the NSA gets its new ideas.
Anyway, it was Winter, 2003 I think. I mentioned to Becky that I was going to visit a customer in Philly and she said, ‘I know (half a dozen names) we could drop in on our way’.
Road Trip! We left late, snow was in the forecast, and a trip with a bunch of stops to Philly would doubtless take twice as long as if we just went there but then …
Our first waypoint was Marvin Shaefer. I knew nothing about Marvin, still don’t know as much as I should other than she thought the world of him, and described him as an oracle in Northern Maryland who owned a giant used bookstore.
We arrived after dark, snow had started. It seemed to me he was the only occupant of a strip mall filling several storefronts with endless shelves of books. While Becky and Marvin (who I don’t think I would be the first to describe as ‘think of Santa, now open your eyes – there he is, its actually Santa’ – got to catching up, I looked through the shelves and found a section of declassified cryptology books, one of which I had to own – some research on ciphers from the Vatican back when the Barberini’s ran the show. And another had to have “Solution of the Voynich Manuscript, A Liturgical Manual for the Endura Rite of the Cathari Heresy, The Cult of Isis”.
Next stop, a restaurant in the middle of what looked like nowhere on account of the pitch blackness and the intense snowfall. Becky insisted. I don’t remember its name but I think it had the word “Bob” in it. It was kind of Applebee like. It had that ‘end of the line’ friendly atmosphere which was totally appropriate that time of night, in that weather. But she insisted that I was going to love this place. And I did. Their alchemists produced the perfect symphony of my three favorite foodstuffs. A giant pretzel (bigger than any I’d ever seen before – size of a pizza), covered in my favorite seafood, crabmeat, itself covered in my favorite food that I believe doubles as an intravenous spray-in insulator – cheese whiz. Some of you may know of this magic. I’ve since found it at other places but as a former New Yorker, Berkeley exile, I believe I looked and sounded like that viral video of a baby eating bacon for the first time. It made me happier than almost anything, ever.
So we got to Philly near midnight, checked into a thing called Club Quarters recommended by a young PhD Becky told us to hire immediately (so we did), Kevin Soo Hoo, and apparently carried in her luggage, who recommended it, and who I assume, new to the startup business, was in a bit in shock about what was probably sold as customer visit, but must have seemed more like a kidnapping.
Anyway I don’t remember the customer visit. If it was with you Craig, please accept my apologies. I’m sure that, as well as it probably went, getting there with Becky, pushed everything else out of the way.
There weren’t many other trips with Becky but were there were many visits with her, Terri, Paul, over the years.
I spoke with her the day before she left to Howard’s funeral. She was making plans to come east for her niece’s wedding (hope I got that right). We promised to meet.
I told my wife the god awful news and stunned, she stopped, burst into tears and said, ‘her hugs, she had the coolest cheeks’.
I think that’s enough. No. One more… her magnificent greeting – one of her arms pointed skyward, you knew what to do, get in there for that enveloping hug as she dropped her arm around you.
I owe you Becky.