Archive for January, 2019

Letter from a Vagabond 01 12 2019 Unexpectedly…

January 12, 2019


As I sit facing the dancing cursor on my screen, the lights of Beirut are spread out beneath me, climbing up into the hills and around the edge of the harbor where several freighters sit at anchor, placidly waiting, to come or go, unload their cargo…

Thursday night, I left JFK and flew to Istanbul and from Istanbul to Beirut.  Since I left from upstate, I was about twenty hours in transit.  As I slept a fair amount on the JFK – Istanbul segment, I am not as tired as I thought I might be.  In fact, when I came down to breakfast this morning, I surprised my colleagues with how chipper I was.

Last Saturday, Nick Stuart texted me: are you still interested in going to Beirut?  Of course, I texted back.  Within two hours, I was on a conference call with Gwen Dickinson in the UK, head of the Lokahi Foundation, which is putting on a conference in Beirut for religious and social change makers from places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Bosnia, etc.

Friday, one participant on the staff side had fallen out; Nick suggested me as a replacement and on Monday morning I received an email letting me know they were delighted I would be joining them.

Tuesday, I planned travel, Wednesday I packed, Thursday I traveled.  And here I am in Beirut, a city I have wanted to see since I was six and my Uncle Henry enthralled me at a dinner about the wonders of this city.

Truthfully, I haven’t seen much yet, though tomorrow I will be going from our hotel, settled into a hillside facing the Mediterranean, and going into the city proper.  Monday there will be workshops, Tuesday, a trip to Tripoli, meetings with the Maronite Bishop of Tripoli, the Orthodox Bishop of Tripoli and the Grand Mufti of Tripoli.

Wednesday, Nick and I are the stars of the day, he more than I, and Thursday we will go to Sour/Tyre and Saida/Sidon, ancient cities who helped form the world in which we live.

Friday, more workshops and Saturday, a visit to the ancient city of Byblos, from which the Bible derives its name.

Come the 24th, I will leave Beirut and fly to Istanbul for a week and then, home. To America.  To go back to my friends’ guest house.  Vagabonds don’t really have homes.  We have the vagabond life and it has been invigorating me the last eight months, to be a vagabond.

There is a sense of adventurism about this I love.

Here I am, unexpectedly, in a city I have wanted to visit since I was six and will go off from here to visit a city I have not seen for nearly twenty years and will go back to a place where, unexpectedly, I feel much at home. [Thank you, Alicia and Larry, for the gift of your guest house in my wanderings.]

What a marvelous time I am having.  Unexpectedly.



An article by the vagabond… 01 10 2018 Written for the Digital Center

January 10, 2019

Here is a link to an article I wrote for the website of the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg.  Please go




Letter from a Vagabond 01 03 2019 Thoughts on the age…

January 3, 2019


         As you ascend from the tracks in Penn Station, to the lower level, the air is infused with the siren smell of popcorn and I must pass through this with the steely resolve of Odysseus listening to the Sirens sing.  Mentally, I bind myself to the ship’s mast to sail through the popcorn straits.

It is, perhaps, my favorite taste treat.  At certain times of stress only a bag of freshly popped popcorn will soothe my spirit.  When I can’t get fresh popcorn, I reach for Cheetos, orange like our president.

In New York for a noon lunch with Jeff Cole of the Center for the Digital Future, then drinks with an old friend and dinner with even older friends, followed tomorrow by my quarterly lunch with my friend David, another potential meeting or two and then back to the Keene Farm, where I will work out what my next vagabonding steps will be…

It is the year 2019 and I am staggered by that reality.  If, in 1969, had you suggested I would be around for this year, I would have laughed in your face.  “Live fast, die young, have a good-looking corpse!” was a common battle cryand and there were times when it seemed I might make that a reality.

Yet, here I am.  I have not died; my fast living was short term and I won’t have a good-looking corpse.  Sigh!

This is likely a not uncommon refrain among baby boomers.  How did this happen to us, we, who were to be forever young?

Age comes to all of us who are lucky enough to age.  There are those who have not been so lucky.  I lift my hat to my good friend, Richard Easthouse, still and always missed, felled by AIDS just before the cocktail and to others lost to that disease, as well as car accidents, overdoses and cancer.  Baby boomers were not immune, regardless of our strident sense of immortality.

Living in the U.S., we are often, it seems, pounded by bad news, which is why I suggest you read the article you will find here.  It gives us 99 stories [and a bonus one] of good things happening which we probably missed in the strum und drung of contemporary American culture.

Speaking of which, could not someone helped President Trump refute the scathing Mitt Romney Op-Ed with something other than a tweet saying, “He has a big, stupid mouth!”  That is the question.  Rather it is just one of the questions wrestled with concerning the behavior of our current president.

However, as I pointed out to someone when all this began, Rome survived a string of bad emperors.  [Though they didn’t have a nuclear trigger at hand.]

So, with all that is going on, partial government shutdown, Syria, Iraq, Congressional stalemate and everything else, I will re-read the article of things done well this past year and take hope in things going well and will continue to think about how I can contribute to things going well.

Do read the article!  There are some amazing things going on and we need amazing things to buoy us up and carry on – hope, after all, is one of the great traits and gifts of the human race.

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