Saturday, August 30, 2008

"Wie gleiche, wie Papi" - a few old family stories, and Felix's not so surprisingly new passion....

When Felix was not even 2 1/2 years old, his cute observation in baby German meant pretty much something like "Like son, like daddy". We were wearing the same type of beach sandals, and that is what Felix had keenly, and proudly, noticed.

I also always thought - actually pretended - that Felix was a little Wolf, an extension of myself (all insecure macho-fathers seem to need the assurance that their babies are without the slightest trace of a doubt REALLY theirs... Hahahaahahaha!!!!)

Anyway, some people say Felix is like his Mom... (good for him!)

..... others think that Felix has more of his old man (luckily not the Wolf's schnas :-)

But that is not what I wanted to say. I want to say that Felix has turned into a Sharkman*), one of the kind I like: Genuinely feeling close to, and concerned about, sharks. No ego-driven BS, and not exuberantly advertising his new love. Sharks have become Felix's intimate passion, and diving with them a big time adventure.

*) open the link

A fully grown Blacktip Shark approaches Felix - and he loves it!!

Not that the urge for 'adventure' would run deeply in the family; we Leanders just need a touch of the exceptional once in a while to feel that we are alive.

I have to enlighten you, so please bear with me as I schmooze a little bit about the topic.

I was a simple money changer by trade all my life, and, believe me, there is nothing especially "adventurous" about collecting deposits at low interest rates with your left hand and basically lending the same dough at higher rates with your right hand.

In fact, it is a rather safe and, I'd say, boring way to earn money, not tons of it, but enough to enable Shylock's epigones to make a decent living with just the 'spread'.

So, to add some spice to my very bourgeois life as a three piece suit wearing wan... errr, I mean banker, I did some pretty reckless stuff such as, for instance back in 1967, applying for, and getting, a job on a yacht as a navigator without having a clue of dead reckoning, let alone celestial navigation.

After I was hired I promised to do my home-work, and learned the bare essentials, including the functions of a sextant, in two weeks.... For those of you who only know what a GPS is: Christopher Columbus used a quadrant, a forerunner of the sextant. Columbus' quadrant was basically the same instrument I had to became familiar with.

We sailed in a 42-ft yacht from Mallorca to the Canary Islands, me being the only one with at least a pale notion of the art of navigating offshore. Hard to believe but we were blown off the course by only 10 miles - everybody was very happy with the relative accuracy of my navigation. Mind you, this was a little over forty years ago.

My father Wolfgang Julius Leander (1905 - 1964), a native of Berlin, also had a rather traditional job in the 1930s, at least in his own, non-typical unassuming view as a 'Berliner' - he was, among other things, a meticulous mechanical engineer and a stunt and test pilot to whom risk had to be manageable by calculation, not speculation or intuition - not exactly the trait of a hard-core adventurer.

And yet, doing hair-raising aerobatics in small biplanes or ditching a fully loaded Curtiss C-46 into a swamp in the Bolivian tropical lowlands as opposed to sitting safely in ventilated offices was his way of satisfying his hunger for a little excitement in life - lieber Papi: You were my hero, still are!!

My maternal Hamburg born grandfather Alfred Wacey Barber (1866 - 1937) set up shop in the middle of the Amazon in 1890 as a 24 year old rubber entrepreneur. This was right after serving a three year overseas assignment as an assistant representative of a German trading firm in Vera Cruz, Mexico.

I hesitate to say that my grandfather was a 'rubber baron' (he was), having heard too often the sometimes more fitting expression 'robber baron' for shady characters and other soldiers of fortune swarmed in from Europe and elsewhere who were just that: robbers - Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador was full of 'interesting' people already then.

Alfred Wacey Barber might have met Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the highlands of Bolivia without knowing who the dashing gringos Paul Newman and Robert Redford really were... :-)

For sure the legendary Fitzcarraldo, obsessively well played by Klaus Kinski in the Herzog cult movie of the same name, and my grandfather must have known each other - they were both competitors of British extraction in the rubber business.

Amidst this rather, shall we say, unusual business ambiente my grandfather thought of himself, and was regarded by others, as a dependable, solid 'Kaufmann'. To him, and his generation, that word was synonymous with the protestant ethics of an honorable, old school merchant in the best hanseatic tradition.

Sorry for having gone off at a tangent perhaps a bit too far...

OK, now back to Felix.

Felix, 31, works as a Lead Digital Strategist at Burson-Marsteller, the world's largest PR agency. And, boy, does he get to see the world in that position!

Today London, next week Mumbay and Delhi, then the boss sends Felix to co-lead or lead a three-day long training workshop in Santiago, Buenos Aires or Lima, only to find out on his flight back that he has to travel next to San Francisco to discuss digital media strategies with one of Burson-Marsteller's prestigious client in that area.

Wow - I envy Felix for his fantastically dynamic job! Not so sure whether Carmencita, my daughter-in-law, and Tibucito, my grand-dog-in-law, feel the same - hehehehehe.

Long story short, finally: I wanted to share with you the pleasure I felt to realize that Felix has learnt one of the most important lessons in PR: "PR begins at home".

Accordingly, Felix has posted about sharks in his company's blog, and thus converted the world-wide Burson-Marsteller family into shark lovers!!! Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

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