The past two and a half days have been remarkable and spectacular, not just for me, but I think for Tony. He is asleep right now in our hotel in San Francisco, the Monticello Inn, which has been very gracious in giving us each our own room. I had no idea how we would greet each other, or if we would immediately recognize each other, but it turns out we did recognize each other, and we shared a great big old hug, whiskers on whiskers I remember feeling. James O'Reilly, Travelers' Tales publisher, was nearby with a video camera -- shaky, he says. Tony and I drove to my home in Oakland, stopping at Treasure Island for that spectacular view back at the city at night. Moments after he met Rhonda, Tony told me he could tell she was a nice person. "You can always tell right away when someone is a nice person, and she's a nice person." Insightful fellow!
I don't think anyone in the house slept very well, and Tony and I were up early, seven, walking in the Mountain View Cemetery, a five-minute walk from our front door. We talked about everything -- so much to talk about after 12 years -- his family, the whole ordeal of getting his visa (it took a year and a half, and he had to make the 9-hour bus ride to Manila 6 or 7 times), and I had to pull every string I never knew I had to make it work -- most Westerners (like me) would be amazed at how difficult it is for a person from a developing country to get a visitor's visa to the U.S., even if an America promises to pay for everything and writes a detailed letter of invitation. It turns out that the best thing is if when you were a boy you shoveled snow from the driveway of, delivered newspapers to, and played with the son of the neighbor seven doors down the street who (the neighbor) went on to become the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs (number two man in the state department)...
Anyway, it's Sunday noon, and Tony is, like I said, hopefully asleep in the Monticello Inn. He tells me that his sleep totals each night for the last week are something like this: 4 hours, 4 hours, 5 hours, 3 hours (on the airplane), one hour (that first night, in my house), three hours, and last night 2 hours! I'm doing a little better, but not much.
Yesterday, his second day in America we went to the overlook of the Bay on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Spectacular day. Perfect blue sky, the usual stiff breeze, sailboats, kayaks, an old time ship down below, a big freighter heading for...Japan? A long, thin line of fog coming through and covering the distant city. NPR's "All Things Considered" made a prearranged phone call to my cell phone and the country got to hear my good friend's voice. [Click here to listen to the 4-minute NPR interview in RealAudio. If that link doesn't work, go here and you'll find clickable RealAudio links at the end of the fifth paragraph.] And he is something. Twelve years, you forget. You think maybe you were wrong about him. Maybe you were crazy. But no, he's just dear. He led me by hand across some of those rice terraces in the Philippines and I've shown him how to use an elevator, a seat belt, a breakfast spread at a hotel. One of my big fears was that he would be astonished and resentful at the media contacts I'd arranged, but after sweet Rona Marech of the Chronicle (check the Datebook, Tuesday) had bagels with us the first day, Tony said, "I like being interviewed like that."
We drove around in my taxi last night with Rona sometimes, and sometimes with a reporter from the Christian Science Monitor, picking up fares and having a great time, and then we heard ourselves on All Things Considered on the radio. It was a kick, I think, for all of us.
Well, I gotta go, and without a speck of editing, off this goes.