The kids aren’t alright

I’m in Starbucks the other day, getting my morning coffee fix. The kid behind the counter is super friendly. She apparently hasn’t been in the business long and doesn’t understand that you should never try to socially engage a devoted coffee drinker before they’ve had their first cup. I decide to give her a pass and be friendly back.

“How’s your day going so far?” she asks as she takes my card.

They always ask that question. Must be a corporate directive. I fake a smile.

“Just trying to wake up.”

“I hear ya!”

Her perkiness is irritating, but I know it doesn’t come from anyplace hostile. I’ll grin and bear it. Later, when I’m awake, I will appreciate her friendliness. She runs my card and hands it back to me.

“Just heading to work?” she asks, hell-bent on conversation.

“No. Yeah. Sort of. I’m self-employed.”

Big mistake.

“Really?” Her eyes light up like I just told her I have a super power. “What do you do?”

“I’m a writer.”

“Oh, wow! Do you make a living doing that?”


“That’s awesome! Who do you write for?”

At this point I just want my coffee. But since she’s the one ringing the sale and not the one spinning that glorious concoction into being, I decide to remain patient.

“Oh, a handful of clients. Marketing companies and stuff.” I know I should stop there, but I don’t. Why should I? I’m proud of it. “I’m actually working on a book.”

“Way cool! What’s it about?”

I struggle for the best way to describe it. Finally, I opt for the most direct route. “It’s a sequel to The Falcon and the Snowman.”

Blank stare.

“You know, Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee. It was a book first. Then a movie. Starring Timothy Hutton.”

Still no response. Just confused blinks.

“Pat Metheny did the soundtrack.”

Nada. I should have known better than to try that angle. Now I’m starting to get agitated.

“It’s a true story about a couple of guys who sold government secrets to the KGB.”

“The what?”

Oh my God.

Now I’m determined. I go for the name I’m certain will elicit a response in those “nobody’s home” eyes.

“Sean Penn was in it.”

Still nothing. My face falls. I rummage around my brain for the title of a movie he’s been in lately that’ll jostle her memory, but come up empty.

In a last ditch effort, I throw in: “He was married to Madonna.”

Finally! A spark of recognition. I want to throw up my arms in victory. The moment is short-lived.

“So… your book’s about her?”


The barista calls my name to tell me that my macchiato is ready. I ignore him.

“It’s about these two guys who went to prison in the 70s. The guy I’m writing the book with spent 25 years behind bars. It’s about his experiences.”

“Oh! What did he do?”

“Espionage.” Before she can disappoint me again, I add: “It’s a pretty serious crime, but it’s not murder. I mean, it’s nothing like what Charles Manson did.”


I turn away despondently and lock eyes with the barista boy. He sets my coffee down on the counter between us. He’s got the same lost look on his face that the girl does.

“That’s the one guy from the Beatles, right?”

I pick up my coffee and leave. Next time, I’m making Maxwell House.

Vince Font is the co-author and publisher of the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and elsewhere. He is also the founder of Glass Spider Publishing, an independent publisher located in Ogden, Utah.

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The Falcon and the Snowman – real lives

Sunday was Mother’s Day. It was my first one after losing my mother in June of 2012. A lot of the day was spent reflecting on my life with her – and that included the shared memories of Chris, Daulton and Mom.

My mother was a beauty queen, landing on the front pages of local newspapers all those years ago. My dad, then a young Marine, saw that face and knew instantly that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. I was their firstborn and chose Mom as my best friend and cohort. We were joined at the hip, sharing a wicked sense of sarcasm that could stop a man in his tracks. If there was a road trip, she’d always volunteer to ride shotgun.

The 1980s found Mom and me on the road a lot to visit Daulton. Lompoc, Terminal Island and Phoenix were days to remember. The winding road through the hills of Santa Barbara County, horrible meals at Anderson’s Pea Soup Restaurant, and shopping for silly things in Solvang.

Mom, the former beauty queen, dressed in silk pants and high heels sitting in a prison visiting room. San Diego to Phoenix across the desert while Mom sang along to the radio. We would drive at night to avoid the heat of the afternoon sun.

In the Lompoc visiting room one afternoon, a woman turned knowingly to Mom and gestured to Daulton. “Drugs?”

Mom smiled quietly and responded wickedly: “No, no, not at all. He’s a spy.”

My mother loved Daulton. She found him to be a gentle soul, unlike the Snowman character portrayed in the book and the movie The Falcon and the Snowman. Daulton was focused, hardworking and intelligent. While Daulton and I shared our bond over the years, he and my mother had a different kind of relationship.

He would call her in the afternoon “just to chat.” He never missed her birthday or Christmas and looked forward to her visits. On several occasions, she would make the five-hour drive to Lompoc without me and they would spend the day talking, having lunch from the vending machine and just “hanging out.”

Through the years, my parents wrote numerous letters in support of Daulton’s parole. On the day it finally happened, one of the first things Daulton did was make a special call to Mom.

Her relationship with Chris came later. His dry sense of humor caught her, attracted her to long conversations with The Falcon. She’d climb into the car, bouncing along bumpy roads, looking at birds or hiking the beach at Half Moon Bay to run the dogs and watch the peregrines zip overhead past the cliffs.

It never got old for her. She would sit and listen to Chris’s escapades, from bank robbery to falconry, and she enjoyed every moment. She was proud of Chris and his remarkable re-entrance into society, beaming as brightly at him through the wedding ceremony and she did at me.

I was a bit of a wild child, the child who would walk the tightrope in my family. Mom had come to grips with that early on in her career as Mother of the Troublemaker. She would tell me later that I was her “blue note child” – the child sent home from Catholic school with a note pinned to her jumper, the child who was in constant trouble.

So I guess it really came as no shock to Mom when the spies entered into her life. She took that as she did everything else – with grace and dignity, and support for her eldest child. She never made apologies for Chris or Daulton, and her support for them was unwavering. No, she didn’t understand why they had committed their crime. Dad was a career Marine officer and she voted Republican. How could she ever be expected to understand?

“Mom, don’t ever read the Letters to the Editor,” I would warn her anytime a newspaper article was printed. She would get angry when she read comments by people who had never met Chris or Daulton.

“If they only knew what I knew,” would always be her response. She loved those boys and they loved her in return.

My Sunday random images came back to haunt me. I missed Mom more than words could say, but I also had to laugh. There were so many moments that I will treasure forever – moments with Chris, Daulton and Mom.

Cait Boyce is the co-author of the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. The book tells the story of her 20-year effort to free Cold War spies Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee, whose stories were popularized in the bestselling book and critically acclaimed movie The Falcon and the Snowman. American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and other retail outlets.

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The young man and the cliff

Written by Christopher Boyce

It was a formidable cliff. Even standing there in the deathless indestructibility of my 18 years, it was a very formidable cliff. It scared me. Standing at its foot gazing upwards, I felt my pulse quicken. I was no climber. Still, this would be my cliff to climb one day, for halfway up its massive face on a ledge perched between heaven and hell was the nesting eyrie of falcons.

I had glassed the pair for most of the day as they flew home a varied fare of magpies, bluebirds and horned larks for their raucous, ravenous, flutter-flying young.

It appeared to be an ancient eyrie. Telltale whitewash underneath it was extensive, inches thick from centuries of use. This white giveaway was visible for miles. When I spotted it, I knew I had found the nesting ledge of these very secretive falcons.

My elation at its discovery was tempered by the vertical dismay of its placement. I consoled myself with the idea that I had a whole year to worry about this descent. I intended to fly a rabbit hawk, not a falcon, that summer. There would be plenty of time to hone my climbing skills – and more importantly, to gather my vertical resolve.

It would be nine years before I again stood at the foot of the cliff. I was alone. In the interim, I had seen death all around me. I had watched it and heard it and stepped in it. Mostly, I had feared it. My life as I had known it had been destroyed by my own folly.

I gazed upwards and my pulse quickened, but not at the incredible height above me. I trembled at what was following behind me. It would never give up. It would never stop searching. It had stalked me from the night I had escaped from the penitentiary. It was patient. It waited only for my mistake.

I had been placed number one on the 10 most-wanted fugitives list, and only dying or capture would stop the hunt. But at that moment, all was silent except for the wind. And I was filled with a profound feeling of triumph. I had beat them. No matter that it must one day end – for now, I was standing free in front of my magnificent cliff.

After a while, I squinted upwards at the whitewashed eyrie. The familiar enormity of the cliff face was comforting and I could see for miles behind me. I was safe here. After an hour of watching, a falcon shot down the cliff face and headed off to the west, intent on its falcon business. Surely, I thought, the progeny of the pair I had seen years before.

This was a good place for falcons. Vast. Undisturbed. They would always be out here, with me or without me. I lingered for a long while, breathing it all in, imprinting it on my mind. I wanted this memory. This bridge to who I had been once. A memory like this could one day keep you alive. I held it for another moment and then fled, northeast into the Cabinet Mountains, where the grizzlies were just emerging from their dens.

And now I am 60. The bloom of youth is off me. It was off me a long, long time ago. The night sweats have ended and people have stopped shooting at me. I’m glad it’s all over. Even my parole officer has faded away. But the cliff remains. For decades after I was recaptured, its memory kept me alive. I woke up most mornings in prison, remembering my cliff. My cliff was a prayer. It was the way home.

Today, for the third time in my life, I have come back to my formidable cliff. I sat this morning beneath its towering face in stillness. Though I am not a navel-gazer, I waited for what would be revealed to me. Nothing was, but that is all part of waiting.

The falcons, though, did appear. Great-grandchildren, no doubt, of the first falcons I saw here a lifetime ago. I glassed them for hours as the male performed his courtship stoops. His mate chup-chup-chupped her approval from the eyrie ledge. And I did, too.

What a show. What an aerial delight. These falcons showed no self-pity, no self-absorption, no self-hatred and no self-directed rage or shame. Perhaps there were some things revealed to me, after all. Falcon things.

I have gathered up my ropes, harnesses, carabiners and rappelling gear. I’ve even practiced for the big event. Soon, my friends will lower my carcass over the formidable cliff. I have waited over 40 years for this adrenalin rush, and I’m going to savor every horrible second of it. May God have mercy on my soul.

Christopher Boyce is the co-author of the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman. Convicted in 1977 of espionage, his story was the basis for the book and movie The Falcon and the Snowman. American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman is available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and other online retailers.

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