Lance Craig Carlson

Lance Craig Carlson

Died August 3, 2002

Lance started with the Class of ’65 after preparing at Scottsdale High School in Scottsdale, AZ, and The Choate School but graduated in 1966, attending part of a year at Canisius College in Buffalo along the way. While at Yale, he lived in Trumbull and was part of Dwight Hall and Phi Gamma Delta as well as the Yale Guide, Yale Literary Magazine and Political Union.

That variety should surprise no one – Lance was always going in a slightly different direction than the rest of us. One of his friends called him “the bottle rocket” – taking off in a trail of sparks never sure which way he would go. His son, Oliver Rizzi-Carlson, has a photo of Lance taken at Yale in which he’s popping out of the door to his room. The caption says, “Eu, Yuppie Scum. . . Oh, wait a minute, that’s me.” The Webster’s definition of yuppie is a “young, college-educated adult who has a job that pays a lot of money and who lives and works in or near a large city.” Lance lived his life in a way that seemed to spoof that definition. For Lance, a friend said, life was “one long road trip in an unpredictable car prone to multiple breakdowns and annoying setbacks.”

After he graduated, Lance moved to San Francisco where he managed the law firm of Melvin Belli, one of the most flamboyant lawyers in America. He attended Hastings College of Law but dropped out one credit short of his degree. Lance was more interested in business ventures, such as satellite radio (long before it was an established enterprise), and was more interested in his friends than in making money. In fact, Oliver says his father’s friends frequently ended up making more from Lance’s business ventures than he did. After his death, his friends wrote that “he wanted your dreams to come true as much as you did.”

Lance’s apartment on Russian Hill in San Francisco was known as the club house. It was little more than a view with a room, but friends could go there anytime just “to turn the music up and watch the fog roll in.” There was a cipher lock on the apartment’s door and all his friends knew the code. “What was inside to steal except a good time?”

He was married twice, both times briefly. “High speed engines don’t run on faithfulness,” a friend said of Lance’s love life. He met an Italian woman during a summer in Tuscany in the early 1970s. Ten years later, she was in San Francisco and found Lance. She became pregnant with Oliver and returned to Italy to have the baby. They never married and lived most of their lives apart, but they had Oliver, who has made a career in peace education, to show for it.

In 1993 Lance moved to Costa Rica where he lived in a broken-down villa on the edge of the jungle. His mother said the only thing the house lacked was a bulldozer. She asked, “Lance, what the hell are you going to do in Costa Rica? You don’t know anyone there.” He replied, “Look at this house. Look at that view. . . I’ll meet people.” He wore red Converse All-Stars (Oliver later wore the same sneakers to his own wedding) and owned the only Cadillac in Costa Rica. He always had “a vintage car with a bad transmission and a plan up his sleeve,” a friend said. The plan usually boiled down to this: “always leave home without a parachute and you will still land safely.”

He started Ticonet, the country’s first private Internet service provider. Today Ticonet is a well established company, offering web hosting and design, but in 1993 it was a gamble as the Costa Rican government held the monopoly on internet service. By the time the government relinquished that monopoly in 2002, Lance was pulling up stakes and moving back to San Francisco. Lance’s mother died that year, and he took Oliver on a road trip through the American Southwest to spread her ashes and to show his son where his family had lived. Among other places, they went to a cemetery in Santa Fe where Lance’s ancestors, dating back to the first representative to Congress from the New Mexico Territory, were buried. Oliver had lived with his father as a small child, but there were large parts of Lance’s life about which his son knew nothing. On that trip, Oliver says, “right before leaving us, he left me all these clues.”

Lance died of a heart attack on August 3, 2002, and Oliver had him buried next to his ancestors in that Santa Fe cemetery. At his memorial service a friend said, “Lance lived at four times the speed of any mere mortal. . . He cherished four times the friendships, travel, enjoyment, debates, cultures . . . and car problems. . . . If you were a friend of Lance’s, you had a cheerleader for life – for he was your biggest fan.”

Robert Chapin remembers: A feisty little guy of remarkable kindness with whom I was a floormate for two years and spent a wonderful summer on his family’s ranch near Rawlins, WY.