Over Easy: George Santos and me

  • Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

For the Valley News
Published: 1/23/2023 10:39:50 AM
Modified: 1/23/2023 10:39:23 AM

I feel some sympathy for George Santos, the new U.S. congressman who made a few missteps on his resume. Who hasn’t fudged a few details when blinded by a selfless desire to enter public service?

I have shared much of my life with readers, but not the full, unadulterated story. In the spirit of Mr. Santos’ creative biography, I thought I’d share more to inspire young people — who are, of course, our future.

I was born in 1952. For reasons my parents would never talk about, they left me in the woods to be raised by bears until I was 5. I remember Mama Bear fondly, but she was strict. She lovingly swatted me with a paw when I was out of line, sometimes drawing a little blood. Still, I learned right from wrong and became an excellent tree climber. At 5, she shooed me away to my human home.

“What was that all about?” I asked my human mother and father. They just growled that I should be grateful for what I had and there were children in China who didn’t have any honey.

My unorthodox upbringing continued when they apprenticed me at age 6 to the Valley News as a printer’s assistant. I didn’t attend school, but I learned to read by setting news copy. While other boys idolized Mantle and Maris, for me it was always President Dwight Eisenhower and Joseph Dodge, director of the Bureau of the Budget, nemesis of wasteful government spending.

During that time, a producer for the CBS radio network pitched a regular feature program that would have been titled “Dan Mackie, Boy Typesetter,” but the golden age of radio ended and people were more interested in boys with homemade spacesuits. Timing is everything in life, I suppose.

I pursued academics on the side, and when I was 11, I was fortunate to have a series of articles printed in The New Yorker, including “A Kid Reassesses French Post-Impressionism,” and “Howdy Doody and Frederico Fellini, A Kid’s Search for Meaning.” I was kind of a sensation, but I became interested in building model planes and collecting baseball cards and left public life to devote more time to my hobbies.

I skipped high school and matriculated concurrently at Harvard and Yale (the first ever) and George Himley’s Correspondence School of Shoe Repair. My parents wanted me to have a trade to fall back on. Then I worked for Pan American Airways, where I inaugurated service to Belgrade and Istanbul and worked my way up the corporate ladder. I resigned in protest over Pan Am’s plans to offer honey-roasted peanuts instead of a full lunch on a short-haul flight. I was an idealist even then.

Oh, those were exciting days. I moved on to IBM, where we developed the System/360, predecessor to lots of other groundbreaking computer equipment that would become outmoded. Disenchanted with corporate life, I later worked with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in their original garage where they created the first Apple computer. I told them they would certainly fail, because “people can buy a newspaper for a nickel that has all the information they can take in.” I’ve always been too loyal to the press, and that’s why I have only a single billion to my name.

I pursued outside interests. In 1969, I sang sea shanties at the Woodstock music festival. My performance was cut from the film because of time limitations and artistic differences with the director and just about everyone at the festival. However, Jimi Hendrix promised to do an electro-version of What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor? but he tragically died before that could happen.

I didn’t have much time in life for sports, despite playing quarterback at both Harvard and Yale (another first), but after the 2000 NFL draft I volunteered to work with Tom Brady, who wasn’t selected until the sixth round. Young Tom lacked self-confidence, but I brought in The Amazing Kreskin to hypnotize him and fill him with bravado. It worked, but Tom has always played in fear that someone will discover the secret command Kreskin once used to make him cluck like a chicken.

Well, aside from my space walk, all roads led to Route 12A and the Valley News, and here we are today.

Some people say I should run for higher office, but I don’t want to be president and anything else would be something of a comedown.

I don’t know that I can top George Santos, a former Time magazine Person of the Year, rodeo champ and inventor of an mRNA vaccine. Still, it’s been a wonderful life, everything I could imagine.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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