Every weekday, just before dawn, a commuter train full of business people pulls out of the train station in Santa Ana, California and rumbles toward downtown Los Angeles. Typically the “quiet” car of this train is packed full of suited men and women who are busy preparing for their workdays. Some are sitting quietly, hunched over cof-fee cups. Others are poking at their phones, reviewing documents, or catching a final few moments of sleep.
Then there's Peter Nielsen, a banker with an office on the 26th floor of a very tall building, near LA's Union Sta-tion. He spends nearly all of his morning commute writing non-fiction true stories with a wide-ranging team of themes and characters. One describes a young boy from the California suburbs who visits his challenging grand-father's ranch in Utah and ends up running from an angry bull. Another, set in the jungles of Guatemala, tells the tale of a Missionary who is asked to raise an infant from the dead. Still another describes the actions of a federal agent who brings pizzas to the managers of insolvent banks he has just closed.
In turn, these stories are happy, sad, tense, surprising, anguished and occasionally angry. They take place all over the United States and in Central America. Some describe events that took place in the early 1960s, while others occurred more recently.
These stories have important things in common. Each them is full of love, curiosity, generosity and faith. None of them attempts to force conclusions on the reader.
Oh, and there's one other thing: the central character in all of them is Peter Nielsen. Born in 1958 in San Francis-co, California, he was raised in Northern California communities like Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Sunnyvale. When he was still young, his family moved to the suburbs of Washington DC and then to Ventura and San Diego counties. He has a B.A. from Brigham Young University and an M.B.A. from the Claremont Graduate Universi-ty.
All that I Have Seen is an unusual autobiography in the sense that it does not hew strictly to a chronological byline. Instead, like life itself, it is more complicated and more rewarding than that. Reading this book is more akin to eat-ing a long happy dinner with a grand collection of one's former selves. Everybody talks, laughs, eats and listens, all in no particular order, and when it's all over one feels not only happily full but grateful to have had a seat at the table.
All That I Have Seen, essentially, describes the making of a good, wise man. As it progresses, the many life sto-ries it contains converge and merge into the mind and body of the friendly looking banker who is always busy writing in the quiet car of the early morning Metrolink train out of Santa Ana.