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Bill the Drummer

Doing Dharma
Peace in
the Middle East
August, 2014

Bill Coffin is a drummer, computer nerd, eclipse chaser, and meditator. Born in 1950 in Baltimore, his chaotic childhood led to Charleston, South Carolina, Dundee, Illinois, and Reno, Nevada, before his mother finally settled in Berkeley in 1960.

His earliest claim to fame: he was the first employee at Peet's Coffee. He helped out on Saturdays while in high school, and Alfred Peet ran it himself the rest of the week.

After a fitful stab at college and an acting career, Bill became a professional drummer. He did a bit of everything: rock, disco, funk, rhythm & blues, jazz, country/western and such. He played in human-jukebox cover bands wearing uniforms that would make a pimp blush.

Burning out after eight years of this marginal living, Bill decided to go back to college. He went to U. C. Berkeley, majoring in Computer Science. He paid his way largely from drumming for the first 2 or 3 years and then discovered that he could make more money from computer programming. He worked in Cobol, BASIC, Pascal, and even RPG2.

On the first day of 1982, Bill met Barbara McHugh. They married in 1988.

After graduating in '82, Bill went to work as a software product developer in the relational database field. Six years at Britton-Lee, then 6 at Ingres, where he accidentally became a manager. Then 3 years at Sybase. Bill then spent 3 years at a Java-based startup, WebLogic, as the first adult supervision in Engineering. He is now retired.

During his time in the software business, Bill and Barbara discovered solar eclipses. They went to one in 1991, in Baja Sur, Mexico. They immediately made plans to see the next one, at one of the remotest places in the world: the Bolivian Altiplano. They go to many eclipses, and have been clouded out of several. They have also developed a taste for travel, visiting Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Peru, India (3 times), South Africa, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia, China, Bali, Turkey, and a number of European countries.

Bill and Barbara started getting serious about meditation and Buddhism in 2000. They got involved in Marin Sangha and have served a long time on the Board of Directors there. Bill also acts as webmaster. Bill and Barbara regularly teach an introductory course in Buddhism, "Back to Basics." Bill also speaks there occasionally when they can't find a real teacher. Bill and Barbara attend a progressive church, First Congregational Church of Berkeley, and lead a twice-monthly meditation group there, as well as occasionally teaching classes.

Bill continues to play drums and is currently in the Quarry Persons, a Beatles tribute band that leads singalongs. He is also in Professional Help.

Barbara McHugh is a published poet with many years of professional experience editing fiction, newsletters, and technical documents. She has an M.A. in English Literature from N.Y.U. and a Ph.D. in Religion and Literature from U.C. Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union.

Barbara has been co-teaching James N. Frey workshops and intensives since 1994. James N. Frey is the author of How To Write A Damn Good Novel and many other writers' resources.

Barbara is a successful writing coach / "book doctor." You can find out more about McHugh Consulting at

Barbara's father, the legendary pioneer television producer Fenton McHugh, is auther of the memoir First Cast.

Email us:
billc at eclipsoid dot com
[Copyright ©Bill Coffin; 1997, 2017]