James B. Earley
Retirement Address - James B. Earley - Poem by James B. Earley
Delivered Wednesday 20 September 2006
Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville California
I have lived a good life. Benefited from the virtue of many. Been the recipient of good deeds, and kind words at just the right moment. I've known the infinite power of destiny. And so, I stand here today blessed by circumstance, surrounded by family and friends, secure in the belief that I am indeed a fortunate man.
Good evening. Thank you for coming. Thank you for sharing this moment. A moment whose genesis was many years ago, when I was but a young boy growing-up in the rolling hills of Southern Illinois. As a child, I often found myself preoccupied with the dream of one day residing somewhere within the state of California. Grasping the opportunity, I moved to San Francisco October 1956. During the next eighteen years I lived in various Bay Area Communities. In 1974, at age 40 wanderlust intervened. I resigned a wonderful job, and with my family in tow headed off to Southern California in total pursuit of the unknown.
Eventually I joined a Los Angeles based wealth management company as chauffeur to the firm's clientele. The position opened a broadened sphere of social and spiritual influence, as my workplace included the whole of Southern California. Finding myself daily in such places as Palm Springs, San Diego, Newport Beach, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Santa Barbara, and various points in between, I learned to appreciate the intoxicating association of the ocean, its beaches, the desert, the mountains. And in nature's magnificence I found an extraordinary sense of belonging. The chorus of the breakers became my impassioned Shangri La, and I envisioned living out my days roaming those exotic byroads of fabulous Southern California.
During summer 1983 I founded a Beverly Hills based limousine business, operating successfully a couple years. Then abruptly I discovered my dream financially threatened, then struggling, and eventually collapsing bankrupt before me. Devastation was my emotional lot, and I saw returning to the San Francisco Bay Area as my only viable option. Arriving in Vallejo August 1985, I sold the limo, bought a lesser vehicle, and began using the proceeds as family living expenses.
Tormented by the business loss, and mourning the death of my 'vision, ' I launched a determined employment search, vowing never again further involvement with any limousine operation whatsoever. One morning late October 1985 I saw a 'blind' ad posted in the San Francisco Chronicle stating, 'Chauffeur opportunity, Napa Valley premium winery, send resume.' With no immediate job prospects, and dwindling resources, I committed an act I considered at the time revolting. On a 5 x 7 inch sheet of paper I wrote a somewhat flippant message verbatim; 'This missive is in response to your San Francisco Chronicle ad, references upon request.' I dropped the envelope in the mailbox literally hoping never to hear from it again. Just before Thanksgiving to my surprise, I was contacted, then interviewed by Mr. Mondavi, and immediately hired.
In all honesty, December 2 1985, my first day at work at the Robert Mondavi Winery, was pure misery. I recall thinking, 'My God what am I doing here? ' The negative mood persisted throughout the next two and one-half years approximately. Then an inexplicable thing occurred. I'm unsure of precisely when it happened, but mysteriously I had experienced a gradual 180 degree spiritual transformation. Through traveling the Napa Valley, interacting with its people, I discovered an inner peace, a contentment I never thought possible - and now, I find myself at this place I never chose, yet could not have planned a more delightful life than with those bewitching years I've known, at this place I never chose.
In closing......I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to my immediate family, and to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Mondavi, The Robert Mondavi Family, Robert Mondavi Winery, the late Mary Azevedo, my Vallejo neighbors, all of you assembled, and the many others whose contributions have in some way helped make this spiritual journey possible. And for joining me in this treasured bit of reminiscing, thank you all. Good evening...
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