Many of you know that I sent money to Tony with the intention that he transform his house into a four-room guest lodge. The theory is that this will enable Tony and his family to have tourists come to their house as a destination. Tony thinks his wife is as good a cook as any in Banaue. I believe Tony is a trek leader extraordinaire. And their house lies in an absolutely stunning setting - Sigourney Weaver went there to film a few seconds of "The Year of Living Dangerously." The rice terraces in the background of that scene are called by many the "eighth wonder of the world."
When Tony was here in America and we first started talking about the possibility of him and Rita becoming lodgekeepers, Tony said he thought that $1,500 would be enough money to remodel his house into a place worthy of trekkers - simple, but comfortable, with a western bathroom. But before he went back home, he had a telephone conversation with his carpenter friend in Banaue who said that $3,000 was a more realistic figure. So when I received a royalty check last October, I sent him most of it -- $3,000 -- and work got under way.
Last Tuesday Tony telephoned. The phone he uses is two and a half miles away from his home, and sometimes it takes us weeks to reach each other ear to ear. He told me that he's a bit over halfway through the project, but he is just about out of money. I said I could send him two hundred dollars right now, but that, really, I didn't know when I'd be able to send him any more. The taxi business has been devastated, the income from my book has dried up…I have $400 in the bank. But I told him I was sure I could come up with the money SOMETIME -- perhaps in a year, perhaps in two years. We were going to get his lodge finished one way or the other. I'd just have to think about how to accomplish it. He said, fine, thanks, no problem, he just thought I'd want to know about the situation. I said, yes, I did, and after we would hang up I would certainly put my mind to it. Over the next couple of days I realized that it would be silly to wait. I've been in credit card trouble before, and I am in no hurry to return to that horrendously bad country, but…if there was ever a situation that called for credit cards, this one qualified. The cab business will bounce back one of these days. Something good will happen soon. I'll work more hours. I'll mow lawns in the neighborhood. I'll write a novel. Somehow it will happen. I decided to take $2,000 out of my credit cards and wire it to Tony.
On Thursday I drove up into the Oakland hills and went for a hike in Sibley Volcanic Park, 15 minutes from my house. Out in the middle of the park, at the bottom of a canyon, someone several years ago created a labyrinth. If you don't know, a labyrinth is a maze laid out in a circular shape, and placed on the ground somewhere outdoors, or on the floor of a cathedral (there is one inside Grace Cathedral in San Francisco). In the Middle Ages, European Christians who could not make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem would instead make the trek to one of the European cathedrals. There they would wind their way through the labyrinth's maze to the center spot, then walk back out, and would feel they had symbolically made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. During the past decade the labyrinth has had a revival of sorts all over the world. It takes ten or fifteen minutes to walk in and back out again. Many people appreciate the experience, including me. Anything for a few quiet minutes. When Tony was here, he and I walked the labyrinth at Harbin Hot Springs.
So, Thursday I walked the labyrinth in Sibley. No one around. Quiet. Peaceful. As I approached the center spot I began to wonder what offering I might leave there - often people leave little treasures on the ground at the center spot. Already there was a candle, some flowers, some matches, a pretty pink rock. In my pocket I felt a small hiking timepiece that my mother in law Gloria gave me a year ago. I don't wear a watch, but I take this timepiece on hikes so I won't get caught out too long after sunset. I thought: Gloria won't mind. She's the kind of person who would probably appreciate the thought of my turning a gift of hers over to the world. Then I thought: Nah, I like this little thing too much. I reached into my pockets to see what else I had and the first thing I pulled out was a $20 bill. And I thought: Nah, I can't leave that! And I began fishing for a single, but almost immediately I said to myself: "Who says I can't leave $20?"
On the front side of the bill, I penned: "Yes, it's for you." On the back: "Take it. Pass it around."
I laid a rock on top of it, but placed it so that the next person to come along would see Yes-it's-for-you.
Another Reason Why I’m a huge Giants’ fan:
I have a friend I haven't seen or spoken to in over twenty years. A while ago, when I learned from other friends that he was going to be passing through San Francisco on business, I called him and we made a date for Friday night's Giants' game. We met near the statue of Willie Mays, hugged, remarked on each other's hair and on how fast twenty years can slip by, and made our way to our seats. He had read my book, and we had barely sat down when he said, "Whatever happened with Tony's house?"
I said, "Well…" and told him about Tony's phone call and my decision to take $2,000 out of my credit cards.
My friend said, "Oh, I'll give you the money. I'll be happy to give you the money.
I looked over at him. His eyes -- I knew he meant it -- there is not a breath of hot air in this fellow -- it was a done deal.
I was doubled over with my head in my hands, eyes closed, roar of the crowd all around me for several seconds. I felt his hand on my back. "I got a nice bonus last year," he said. "It will be my pleasure."
An inning later Barry Bonds hits a three-run homer. Giants win, 4-1.