Journal entry, Friday, Sept. 20, 2013
To Ray at his Memorial
Today is Ray Joslin’s memorial service, to be held at 2 p.m. at Christ Church in Greenwich, Connecticut, and I am to speak among four others who will give eulogies. What would I wish to say that he might hear in the ether, and in which those who also knew and loved him might find something to recognize and to hold?
I met Ray when I was a new reporter covering City Hall in Stockton and he was the face/voice of Continental Cablevision trying to comply with the city’s rules for undergrounding cable. The economics, he testified, did not favor undergrounding costs in all the subdivisions. He had “run the numbers” and it simply could not work at the penetration rates they were seeing and expected as the city grew.
Wanting to be thorough (as the City Hall reporter) and get some kind of proof of his claim, I asked if I could see the numbers and he invited me to visit his office the following Saturday morning when he would be alone working. There he pulled out an immense accounting book, the original bound, paper spreadsheet acccounting book that might have existed in Charles Dickens’ time. Written into every row and every column on both sides for some extraordinary numbers of pages were numbers – digits scripted in No. 2 pencil, each one touching on all four sides the tiny boxes they occupied – and I saw in that instant the meticulous, methodical, thorough, driven, compulsive, ambitious, determined, exceptionally bright, numbers-literate man that Ray was, then and throughout the 37 years in which I came to know him as a friend. (He left several years later to become the first head of Hearst Cablevision and built that division from 1980 onward.)
I came to appreciate
that these were just some of Ray’s exceptional gifts and because they were so exceptional they would contribute to his great success in many areas and also to a kind of loneliness that can often accompany exceptionality. He had a vivid business imagination and a relentless analytical turn of mind. He was also a helluva lot of fun when he was in a good mood and let himself indulge his great curiosity and enthusiasm.
We once traveled to some desert-like place in Nevada together to speculate how a massive watering operation could transform it to productive land. We decided Stockton needed a state-of-the-art mini golf land and Ray “ran the numbers’ and suggested a partnership operation to the owners of the Bay Area Peninsula miniature golf facility that had set us off on this notion. As I got the story later, they liked the idea and the numbers and decided to do it themselves on Pacific Avenue in Stockton, and we were never part of it, although we always enjoyed knowing it was our idea.
Ray loved ideas, but he also loved making them real and he was tireless in his energy. If it is true that our angels and demons live close together I will speculate that Ray’s relentless activities expressed a desire to arrive someplace that was perhaps unreachable on this plane. In the meantime he cared deeply about the prospects of others, which I know that from my own relationship to him.
He once asked me to sing at his annual Christmas party at his home in Stockon – Silent Night, I think it was – and I remember being very moved that he asked. How did he know that I wanted to, but also was afraid, unprepared to face that particular crowd in that way? But he urged me to and I still can picture him watching me, smiling with a mix of paternal and fraternal support, taking pleasure in a moment that he created for me. I don’t think I performed particularly well but the point was in the moment Ray was creating for someone else. He gave Ruth, Emily’s mother, her first opportunity in cable marketing to put her Sarah Lawrence and Stanford writing skills to work and she turned that into a considerable career. He believed in hiring and promoting women before many others in corporate business took this view and he applied it more than many did. He believed in giving people a break, a start, support, a leg up.
He was immensely generous, not only to his children and friends – he helped with his Goddaughter’s tuition in her first year of Haverford – but also gave mightily to Trinity College and, it seemed to me, anyplace he thought he could make a difference to others in ways that would expand or benefit their lives.
At my own personal level of “life with Ray” I can still see him at the bridge table at my house in Stockton. It was about 1977 and we were stoned and no one was exactly sure whose bid it was and we laughed as one did in those days, in that state, until we were weeping and begging each other to “shut up!” because our faces and sides hurt so. I see him navigating a houseboat on the south fork of the Mokelumne River in a rare few days of vacation. I was telling him that if I could quit smoking cgarettes then maybe so could he, and I would never bring it up again, although I did (and it made no difference.) I was sitting in a vast ballroom in New York City soon after coming back East in 1996 and Ray was being honored for all his contributions to film and media and the broadcast industry. He could run in any crowd, more than hold his own at the highest levels of business, fill every room he ever entered no matter how big, make big ideas come true and find ways to express his capabilities and good fortune with those less fortunate or less capable but whose prospects he wished to enhance for reasons he carried deep within him that might never be fully known to others, even or perhaps most to those closest to him.
I loved Ray – as a friend and man of great energy, integrity, commitment, determination, enthusiasm, curiosity, generosity, intelligence, humor – I could go on. He was always dapper as hell.
And he was also a flawed human man who struggled for intimacy and understanding and true comradeship in a world where not everyone behaves with the same interest in others in mind and where, frankly, the pressures and realities of business can make it a treacherous place, where the most deserving do not always get what they deserve and, unfortunately, the least deserving do not either.
I remember in 1993 trying to eulogize my father and confronting the sheer impossibility of capturing who he was or what he meant to me and that, thankfully, is the nature of knowing another person well over time. In the end you cannot say all there is or even all there is you might wish to say to try to capture all that you saw, and felt, and felt you knew.
Ray, I see your grin, I hear you laugh. I can feel you quicken to a great idea. I know you could imagine more than many and do what even fewer were able to do. I am grateful for your coming here, for your way of being in my life and I shall always be a friend and support to your family in any way I can.
God bless you. .