New York City (Tony and I are at adjacent terminals at a 24/7 internet place -- $1/hr -- on 42nd St. between 7th and 8th avenues -- he's checking his emails -- I'm coaching.)
We left St. Louis three mornings back and played cell phone tag with a woman named Donna Roberts. I was pals with Donna's daughter Valerie at Principia College thirty years ago, and Valeri saw Tony and me on TV and tracked me down, and now, as we approached Terre Haute, Indiana, Donna called my cell phone and invited Tony and me to a Chinese lunch just off of Interstate 70. She said she might bring a reporter from the Terre Haute newspaper along if it was OK with me -- they are ready for any good warm news after the Timothy McVeigh invasion they had two weeks ago. I said it was OK. When I told Tony that a reporter might come along he snorted audibly. We stopped. Donna is a firecracker. Thirty years ago Donna hosted the whole team at her house in Terre Haute after the Principia College basketball team played at Rose-Hulman Institute in Terre Haute (we lost, but I scored 15 points, -- it's not hard for me to remember that -- it only takes three fingers to recount all the times I scored 15 points). Anyway, no reporter, but Donna brought the guest book from that night to the restaurant, along with pictures of her and/or Valeri with Larry Bird, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. When we left there Donna called the cell phone and said she was three miles behind us on the freeway -- we had forgotten the chocolate cookies she'd baked. So we pulled over and waited -- and those cookies and a couple of bananas were our next day lunch.
As we cruised along through Indiana Tony sat up from his tilted back passenger seat and broke a long silence with these words: "Brad, I think you should tell me all the times we are going to see media people."
Basically, he gets really nervous in anticipation of these things, and he thinks I've been keeping secrets from him, and all of a sudden, shazam, there's a reporter. The truth is that I've been trying to get attention for this project for 13 years, and only in the week before he arrived did media people start calling in any significant numbers. Last week when I was deleting messages from my cell phone there were messages from the SF Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, People Magazine, SF Examiner, Inside Edition (they've fallen off the map), CBS News, the Manila Business Journal and several others I can't recall right now. I had thought that if I told Tony about all of the possibilities of media contacts that I would simply be overwhelming him with information -- and needlessly, as most of these things haven't panned out. I told him that in just about every place we've passed through I've had about 30 friends, and sometimes I've called one or two or none of them and it would just have been not smart of me to tell him about every single possibility. I've tried my best to keep him abreast of everything as it happens. But he's felt left out, like I've been hiding reporters from him and springing them on him. I felt awful again -- like after the CBS debacle -- I'd made him uncomfortable -- but we talked it through and in the end we agreed that I would tell him in advance about any reporter possibility, that we would get questions from them in advance (Tony's concerned with how he's coming across and he wants to do better -- I tell him he's doing perfectly), and, again, "No TV." I told him again my belief that these media appearances will only -- in retrospect, at least -- enhance his trip. The more people who know about us and this wild project/adventure/scheme, the better off he, me, and this whole damned world of ours will be. I know it sounds corny, I told him, but I really believe it. I pulled out of my pocket the piece of paper I carry there, with a quote from Marianne Williamson, a quote so powerful that Nelson Mandela read it at his own inauguration as the president of South Africa:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us. It is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Tony read it. "What is this 'inadequate' mean?" he asked.
"Not good enough."
He read it again.
"I understand," he said.
At the next gas stop I bought him seven country music tapes (George Straight, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Junior, Patsy Cline...) plus restocked him with Winstons and Levi Garret chewing tobacco.
In Washington, PA I called my cousin Judy Moschetta, one of the 30 or so relatives I have in the Western Pennsylvania region -- all of us descendants of Michael and Mary Hlohinec, who came to the US from what is now Slovakia around 1908. Got a message machine, and we continued on. (The next day Judy called -- she'd seen the CBS show and wondered what was up with us -- we promised to see each other again before another 13 years -- that's how long it's been -- go by.)
In New Scranton a friend named Frank DeWitt met us at the Exxon station. Frank was the captain of the University of Virginia basketball team in 1972, and a beautiful basketball player I met in in 1974 in France, where he was playing professionally. He gave Tony a VIRGINIA tee-shirt, me a Ganesh elephant-god figurine for the dashboard, and both of us lots of good grins.
At the Holland Tunnel I asked Tony, "Are we sick of each other?"
He laughed and said, "We prove!" And we have.
A friend of James O'Reilly (Travelers' Tales publisher) named George Wright (he has a great story about body surfing at Ocean Beach in "Travelers' Tales San Francisco") is quite graciously putting us up in Queens. We arrived at midnight, fell into bed, I slept 9 hours, we had breakfast with George yesterday, and Tony and I drove into NYC in the taxicab. NYC's staggering complexity, size, muscularity...it's amazing and great and overwhelming and has to be the center of the universe. Tony and I took the elevator up to the top of the Empire State Building, where Tony kept one hand tight on his cowboy hat to keep it from blowing off his head, and with the other hand snapped a bunch of pictures. We wandered the streets, Times Square, past the CBS Building, two gaping country boys -- and at 5:30 met George at Ouest Restaurant at 84th and Broadway, where James had sent us, on him, for dinner. We ran up a $196 tab -- George did most of the damage. Tony had lamb shank -- "Oh, is good. Taste like dog!" We spent two and a half hours there.
After we'd parted temporarily with George -- "See you at home" -- Tony and I walked the streets. On the steps of a church near 81st and West End we saw three houseless people camped. Tony was shocked -- it's always shocking to him to see poverty in the midst of rich America -- and wondered if he could take their picture. I said I'd ask. It cost me $5 for each of them, and was worth every penny. I took a video of them, and was able to play it back to them. One of them burst out laughing in the middle of the playback -- "I don't want to see that ugly old self!" We parted friends about 10 minutes later.
On the way back to George's Tony used my cell phone to call a friend in Banaue. First time for that. In his Tagalog I heard the phrases: "cell phone" "New York City" "two hundred dollars" (dinner)....
During my travels for Take Me With You I adopted the habit of kneeling and praying (unspecific) before bed. I've been doing it again for about six weeks now, humbled, small, in awe, and I love it.
One of my and Tony's prayers has been answered. Daryt "DJ" Frank -- an American who lives in LA and who is married to a Filipina, he met Tony at the viewpoint in Banaue a month before Tony's trip -- has said he would bring a Makita circular saw from LA up to the bonfire at Ocean Beach on Tony's last night in America.
Now it's time for bacon and eggs and hopefully a visit to Random House. Later I may tell you about Dr. Stricker's blood test report, and about what I say when people ask if I'm going to write a book about this trip, and perhaps about my finances. But that's it for now. Later this afternoon we head for DC. Tomorrow night, the embassy.
Thanks for coming along with us.
Brad and Tony