Letter from a Vagabond 05 February 2019 Things for which to be grateful…

     Hudson River, 5 Feb 2019, around noon     IMG_5057As I begin to write this, the train I am on scurries north through the night; I have been in the city for the afternoon and early evening, a good meeting, followed by an even better dinner meeting.

Friday, I am off to Nashville to see old friends.

Jerry May and his wife, Gail Worthen, pulled off a great punk a few years ago and convinced over a hundred of their friends to gather in Seattle for a birthday party.  Gail told Jerry’s friends it was for him; Jerry told Gail’s friends it was for her.

In reality, it was their wedding and I still get smiles when I think of the wonderful day and breakfast the following morning, a bit groggy for some of us, warm and cozy.

They now live in Nashville.

As do Tory and Pam.  Tory, I met in 1985 at a dinner in the Hollywood Hills.  A week or two later we ran into each other at SFO, a few days later had dinner in Beverly Hills and have been more than fast friends since.  Pam entered the picture a couple of years later and they have been together since.

The timing of my visit is fortuitous as Tory needs cataract surgery, which I have had, and Pam has been planning a trip with her high school friend forever, so I will take Tory to and from the surgery and get her whatever she wants that day.

As I am riding, I am missing the State of the Union address and, I will be honest, I’m not sad.  It will be better for me to read about it in the morning than to endure it in real time.

It’s been a week of some reflection, some a little enforced, as I was struck with a 24-hour virus the day after I returned from Istanbul.  Got up Saturday morning, felt fine and then, suddenly, I wasn’t.  For about thirty hours, I was either asleep or in the bathroom.

Back now, in the world of the living, I am realizing how much I have to assimilate since leaving Istanbul and Lebanon.

The people with whom we worked in Lebanon were extraordinary.  There were five from Iraq, including three young women, all born about the time of “Shock and Awe.”  They are warm, caring individuals who are working diligently to bring more peace to their ravaged land – and it has been ravaged.

One gentleman, a Sunni, is working to help restore the Christian Yazidi homeland, left in tatters by ISIS.  Another bright young woman with a laugh that can fill a room, drives a half hour from her home into Mosul to work with women who were tortured and raped by ISIS soldiers, helping them recover from their wounds and shame.

One person asked me to help them envision how they could use social media to help raise awareness for a friend in Yemen and is now condemned to death by the Saudi coalition.  As she spoke to me, I thought: this is not the kind of request I have ever, ever had.  And I gave her the best advice I could:  tell his story.  Everywhere and again and again.

A young Dane is prepping to go into Syria to see, on the ground, the people who are working for his Danish based N.G.O., helping refugees within Syria.  We talked “Peach Tech,” an idea that his N.G.O. and the Danish government and others are thinking about.  How to use technology to make things better on the ground for peace makers?  Ideas?  Send them.

In Tripoli, Lebanon, a group of Christians, Muslims and Jews, have created a What’s App group to inform all of them of potential dangers.  And to exchange jokes. We are, above all, human beings.

There is so much for me to unpack from this trip.  And when I say my gratitudes tonight, I will count this journey as one of my blessings.



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