Ming the Mechanic:
My story

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 My story2006-12-31 17:20
25 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

Writing your own biography in short form is a good exercise, I think. Or in long form, for that matter. I haven't really written anything but short blurbs to put in a profile or at the bottom of an article. So, here's a slightly less abridged version of my life. Leaving out, of course, lots of stuff, but it should give a bit of an idea, at least.

I was born in 1959 in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the time my family lived in Christianshavn, an old part of Copenhagen, near what used to be the defensive wall and moat around the central town. Nothing remarkable about it really. Old run down apartment buildings with tiny apartments, upgraded not long before to actually have toilets IN the apartments, rather than out on the stairs, or down back in the courtyard. Christianshavn is most well known today as the location of Christiania, a unique social experiment, a sort-of free nation founded by squatters who took over an old military base in the 70s. Which I only paid attention to at the time because it allowed my grandmother to take me for walks inside that area which previously were closed off, but which contains some enjoyable pieces of nature.

I was baptized in Our Savior's Church, which is the other thing Christianshavn is known for, because of its characteristic tall copper spire with a spiral staircase on the outside and a golden dome on the top. Not that anybody in my family were religious, but kids were baptized as a routine thing to do.

My parents got divorced when I was around one, so we didn't live there long. They stayed married just long enough to have moved out into a modern villa on Amager, the island stuck to the right of Copenhagen. After which I lived with my mom in a small apartment. My grandmother watched me while she went to work.

I was a very shy and quiet boy, mostly living in my own fantasy world. I had a problem with my hearing at the time, and didn't even always hear what people were saying, and mostly answered in short sentences, adding up to "I don't know".

I taught myself to read at 3 or 4 years old, mostly so I could read the new issue of "Donald Duck" every Tuesday.

Otherwise I occupied my mind with what, in hindsight, was trivia and idle superstitions. Like, my grandfather, who was a very careful person, had taught me the principle of what to do if you're in a car that drives into the water, like if it accidentally tips into a canal. You know, because of the water pressure, you can't open the doors, so you roll down the window a little bit, let water come in, and when the car is almost full of water, you can open the door and swim up to the surface. I couldn't swim, but I understood that this was very important. So, I dedicated at least 5% of my mental capacity to make sure I'd never forget this procedure. I was sort of counting on that this was something that happened once in a while. It didn't.

I also spent several years, whenever I walked on the street, on wondering whether it was correct that one isn't supposed to step on the lines between the cement blocks in the sidewalk. My brother had told me so once, and I didn't verify it with anybody, but when I remembered, I tried carefully not to step on them, just in case it was correct. I didn't want to get in trouble with the sidewalk police.

Oh, and I had a hobby. I was collecting the license plate numbers of taxis. I had a little book, and would carefully write down all the numbers of taxis I saw. I don't remember why, exactly. Later on I graduated to collecting large numbers of plain white yogurt containers, all the same.

When I was around 5 my mother re-married, and we moved, to a house in Gammel Holte, in the suburbs, around 20km from Copenhagen. This is a rather upscale kind of place to live, where people are architects, engineers and company owners, rather than working class, which otherwise is what my family were. My new stepdad was an army officer, known to most people as The Major. In retrospect, he was a nice enough guy, but at the time I mostly considered him overly strict and stuck in his ways.

I started going to school. You know, walking 5 kilometers through the snow by myself to get there. Oh, it was only 2km to the first school, and it wasn't always snowing, but in those days kids would be expected to get to school on their own when they're old enough to go to school.

My spare time and my vacations were either spent reading, or, to a large extent, outside playing. No TVs or computer games in those days. So, me and my friends would be outside doing healthy boy things. You know, climbing trees, throwing knives, playing in construction sites, fighting, shooting BB guns, blowing things up, ringing people's doorbells, and so forth. All the kinds of things I wouldn't want to let my own kids do, but which were character building at the time. And if anybody ever came to complain, my mother would always insist that "those nice boys would never do that!"

I did alright in school. I guess I was one of the smarter, nerdier kind of boys, which went well with math and with writing stuff, but I sucked whenever I had to say anything. I was still terribly shy, so standing up in front of the class and answering a question would make me break out in cold sweat and hemming and hawing. I was somehow not so shy when it came to my friends, and still managed to be the instigator of various kinds of trouble-making and practical jokes.

In high school I went to the venerable old school, Holte Gymnasium, where one suddenly addressed each other by last name, and where each teacher seemed to be known by a secret nickname, which had been passed down from generation to generation of students for 30 years. You know, my Latin teacher was (translated) "Brushless" because his name sounded like that, and he didn't have any hair. And my chemistry teacher was "The Cone", because she had a very small head and a decidely cone-shaped body.

The school was progressive enough at the time, around 1975, that they had invested in a computer. One could sign up for extra programming classes, and one could reserve time, in pairs an hour at a time, with said computer. It was an HP3000 minicomputer, which was a big box with blinkenlights buttons on the front panel, a paper tape reader, and a Teletype to type stuff into it. I spent many hours with my friend Morten in front of that computer, mostly doing little programs that nobody would bother with today, you know math tables and that kind of thing.

After high school I became a student at the Danish Technical University, in electrical engineering. I didn't really know what else to do. Computer science was one of the options, but that sounded more boring those days. And since I enjoyed tinkering with digital electronics, that sounded more substantial. Studying was boring, however, as the first couple of years are spent with a lot of theory, like math I never imagined having a need for. I discovered that since 90% of the math books where explanations of proofs for various formulas, and one never needed the proofs, I could get away with going to the exam without having read the books, just finding the appropriate formulas I needed to solve the exam questions. But I couldn't really get into it.

So, I dropped out and became a Scientologist. Hey, don't snicker. That was an adventurous time. I signed a billion-year contract and got busy saving the world. Over the course of 4 years I got a very thorough education, as a psychotherapist, as an executive, as a quality control specialist, and various other things. Of course I can't put any of that in my resume. But I don't regret anything about it. Scientology was somewhat less insane at that time, and it was fun and character building. It wasn't a smooth ride, exactly. I got thrown out several times, for rocking the boat essentially. Eventually I got altogether excommunicated, or "declared suppressive" as it is called. It is essentially that you get presented with a clinical document that outlines why you're evil and thus unfit to be a Scientologist. I never framed it, but I'm nevertheless quite grateful. I went on to be an infamous dissident, and years later were still occasionally being followed by private investigators, but even that gets a bit old.

I got married somewhere along the way, in 1980 to Birgit. She was 17, I was 20. We were really very different people, but somehow that kept it interesting enough that we're still together 26 years later.

We created a small company that did janitorial services for businesses. We had up to 12 employees, and it was a nice simple business model. Send out some brochures, or call some random companies. A certain percentage will be interested in an offer for cleaning their offices every day. 1 out of 4 of those offers turn into a job. Then I hire somebody to do it, get them some supplies and check that they do it well.

In 1985 we decided to move to the U.S. Or, rather, that was my idea. There wasn't any particular reason, other than feeling Denmark was a little small and boring at the time, and there's a whole big world out there. The choice of California and Los Angeles was basically just because we knew a couple of people there, so it was a place to start.

We moved without much more preparation than a quick visit, having bought the tikets, and having money for getting a car and surviving a month. Or, I had managed to secure a job as a computer salesman in advance, but that didn't last more than a month, until they discovered they didn't know how to pay me, because I was an illegal alien.

After a bit of a crisis, being stuck in a strange foreign country with a little kid, without money, I got a job as a data entry clerk. Which turned out to be the start of a lucky streak. A year later I was in charge of Management Information Systems in that company, and later the architect for a big new computer system in an affiliated company, all in the medical and insurance industry. I worked 80 hour weeks, had a bunch of interesting people on my team, accomplished great things, and was paid a lot of money. Bought a big house and a sports car, and was living the american dream.

A few years later I quit, because, well, I had sort of finished my job there. I hadn't prepared that very well, and thought I'd magically keep making money, not noticing the large mortgage and credit card bills I had worked up during that time. So, another temporary crisis.

I set myself up as a psychotherapist. I had a small office close to our house, and I advertised in new age magazines. Transformational Processing is what I called what I did. An amalgam of NLP and whatever else I had learned along the way about personal change. That's one of the periods where the scientologists were on my tail, because I looked like competition, I suppose, but eventually that got sorted out. I also wrote several books about the principles and techniques I was using during that time.

Later, another computer programmer type of job for a few years. One without any possibility for bigger responsibilities for a change, but with plenty of free time to surf the internet and sit and meditate. That's for example when I started the New Civilization Network in 1995. I eventually quit the job in protest after the management started monitoring everybody's e-mails. And then working as an independent after that.

A number of adventures in the following years. With my pal Julie I had a company called Synchronicity. We had an office on the beach in Venice as part of what first was the Global Solutions Center. Which was both a non-profit community center, and an incubator for new businesses. Not everything worked out, but it was a magical time. We spent most days meeting interesting people with huge plans and strange stories. Like Jim and Luz. Luz Santa Romana being an heiress to a large fortune with a dark history, who considered maybe putting a few billion into a New Civilization Foundation. Oh, and many more fantastic stories.

In those days I was also the organizer of the New Civilization Salons, which were very popular events held every month or two. Hard to describe, but part networking, part party, part three ring circus. Around 100-150 people every time, and the invited were mainly creative people, artist, inventors, organizers, activists, explorers, etc. Which never was boring.

In terms of work, I did many different projects for various companies. Developing websites, administering servers. Many different fields. Television, healthcare, food, shopping, etc. Oh, I didn't mention that I lived in the San Fernando Valley. When one says "The Valley" in Southern California, it isn't Silicon Valley one is talking about, but San Fernando Valley. An endless suburb, with 7-11s and gas stations on each corner, and where girls speak "Valley Speak". And, you don't see it, but it is also known in other circles as "Porn Valley", because the majority of the world's porn production happens there, behind the facades of anonymous-looking warehouses and offices. So I couldn't avoid doing a few things for online porn companies, which was entertaining. Oh, I just managed web servers and did some software, but it was good experience, even though I can't quite put it on my resume. You know, web sites with millions of members and millions of daily visitors, that's a bit hard to get one's hands on otherwise.

I get motivated by new stuff, new possibilities, new environments. So, despite that life in L.A. had been mostly good, it started being a little stale. OK, there are many other ways of revitalizing things than moving, but it is one thing that works for me. When you're in a new place, your eyes are wide open and you're really paying attention. And I was no longer proud to be an American. The U.S. was more and more of a police state, both inside and out, in ways I could not at all stand up for. And we started having more affinity for Europe again. So, somehow it seemed time to move "back".

Denmark would have been too easy, and I'd like a bit of a challenge, so we looked further to the south. The choice of Southwestern France was mostly the result of a process of exclusion, and a bit of feedback from the readers of my blog here. So, we moved to Toulouse, 5 people, in the summer of 2003.

That happened to be in the middle of a boiling heatwave, but that was sort of the least of the difficulties. Oh, actually we were quite lucky with most things, but it was more trouble than we planned. France is a different place. The rules for how things work are different here. And people speak French. We spoke very little. But it worked out.

In part, the motivation for moving was also for the sake of our kids. The two of them are more or less grownups by now. But did we really want them all to only have the American perspective on things? There's something you get from having a foot in several cultures that is kind of invaluable. Not just that you can speak several languages, but that you remain aware that there are always several ways of seeing things.

So, anyway, life is pretty good in France. I haven't quite found my right place in terms of the French society, but I continue doing what I otherwise was doing, contract projects over the internet, and pursuing being a consultant with more local projects.


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25 comments

31 Dec 2006 @ 18:02 by Tim @80.1.224.14 : Even an abridged version
I really enjoyed reading your 'story' Ming. When you read about someone's life - even an abridged version, it seems to make for more affinity somehow.

Happy '07!

Tim  



31 Dec 2006 @ 21:04 by Ge Zi @76.168.91.127 : yeah - right...
... you did drive a sports car when we met - wasn't that something like a corvette, or so?  


1 Jan 2007 @ 00:21 by ming : Sports car
A black 5 liter Camaro, so, almost.  


1 Jan 2007 @ 17:02 by freo7 : AHHHhhhhhhh....
Ming's Life... speechless in Idaho ... VERY GUTSY and Very Refreshing... are you one of the founders here = NCN ??  


1 Jan 2007 @ 17:41 by ming : NCN
Uhm, yeah, I'm basically the founder of NCN.  


2 Jan 2007 @ 16:24 by Lionel @82.227.198.101 : Your life
Very touching! Say hello to your beloved ones, Flemming :-)  


5 Jan 2007 @ 22:12 by The Quantox @82.2.116.38 : Off Topic
Hey Flemming, what's happened to Opentopia? I'm bereft, devastated and might even have to go and get a life?  


5 Jan 2007 @ 23:07 by ming : Opentopia
Well, I actually sold the whole site a couple of months ago. But I've noticed it's been down the last couple of days. I've better write and ask if he needs help.  


6 Jan 2007 @ 00:47 by The Quantox @82.12.231.43 : Opentopia
Thanks for the response - sorry to hear your no longer involved. It WAS a great site.  


6 Jan 2007 @ 00:49 by ming : Opentopia
Alright, Opentopia is back. He had been travelling and actually didn't know about any problems before I told him.  


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Other stories in
2012-05-03 00:04: An evolving path
2012-01-02 13:52: 2011 Accomplishments and 2012 Aims
2011-11-17 02:20: Your inner piece
2011-02-01 00:05: Slow Mo Flow
2011-01-22 18:40: Recognition
2010-08-23 00:36: Where's Ming?
2010-07-20 14:24: Getting other people to do stuff
2010-06-22 00:27: Inventory
2010-06-19 23:10: Conversations
2009-10-28 12:31: Then a miracle occurs



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