Tony's 42nd birthday -- I'm in my studio, 6:15 a.m., going to squeeze this off before Sarah and Rhonda wake up and the day gets going.
On the morning of Tony's third day in America, the day of the afternoon party with 150 people in our backyard, Sarah and I went to Long's Drugs together to buy film. While we were in the checkout line Sarah did something completely out of character -- she threw herself down on the floor and glared at me -- drew down her brow, twisted up her lips, and bored into me with ferocious eyes. I'd never seen anything like it. I slumped down on the floor next to her and took a wild guess: "You're angry that I'm leaving with Tony in a few days..."
She burst out sobbing and threw herself into my arms and we sat there for about 10 minutes -- losing our place in line! -- and somewhere in that time, having no idea what I meant, or how, or where, or how it would be paid for, I made this up: "When Tony and I are all finished, just you and me and Mommy will go away to a beach somewhere -- just the three of us. I promise. Just the three of us. A beach."
This was acceptable to her. She liked the idea a lot, and so did I. We got up, paid for our film, went home to party, and I promptly forgot all about it.
A few days before Tony and I returned from Washington, D.C., Rhonda called on the phone. A three-day business trip to Key Largo, Florida, had just come up for her. It was to happen a few days after Tony returned to the Philippines. Maybe Sarah and I could come with her?
So, we just returned late Saturday night from a delightful week in the Keys. Just the three of us.
And a few mosquitoes.
In Florida my cell phone rang with a call from Alex Cotta, the Service! Taxis driver who had flown to DC to retrieve the cab from my mom's driveway. He'd reached S.F. in three and a half days -- driving 800, 800, 800, and 600 miles each day. He had been back a week now, and he was still "overwhelmed," he said, by the entire experience. "It's been a week now, but it was such a powerful thing. I just can't stop thinking about it."
I know, I told him. I know, I know, I know.
It was Tuesday, June 17, our third morning in Florida, the ninth morning since Tony's departure, that I first awoke without a panicky thought about Tony and his well-being. The whole trip is softening into a great memory now. I don't wake up with it in my mind, but I still lie in bed or walk around my life all day thinking about it, wishing the "space" -- the great invincible bubble we walked around inside of for a month -- wasn't disintegrating, wasn't fading back to normality.
Yesterday Sarah and I went down to Palo Alto to visit my friend Blake and his family, down from Corvallis, Oregon to visit Blake's parents. I got to sit around on the patio and babble to everyone about the adventure -- they hadn't heard about the eye, Tony's piloting experience, the Embassy, the missionaries Marc and Aunie coming to the bonfire -- and just telling the stories I started to feel amazed all over again at what I had been so fortunate to experience.
This Saturday, really, really, really, I will get back behind the wheel of my cab. Not only do I miss it, I need The Money.
It was nice to come back from Florida and find a message saying that Travelers' Tales had sold the British rights to my book for $5,000 -- $2,500 soon to be mine. I will get $1,250 in five or six months, $1,250 next spring when the book is published in England.
I am also to get half of the $15,000 sale of paperback rights to Ballantine. I'll get $3,750 in September, and the other half at publication next spring.
When all the money that is due me is added up, I may have grossed around $20,000 from this project. Which is still slightly less than what I have put into it during the past twelve and a half years. It feels good to be approaching the theoretical, financial break-even point. But emotionally, experientially, I'm just filthy rich, I am rolling like a pig in it all.
On Friday I made another call to Tony. He still has the cold -- twelve days at that point -- I hope that by this Friday it has gone away. He said he has still had a constant stream of visitors to his house -- friends, relatives, strangers. He likes it. It's probably good, too, that he's been preoccupied -- since he's been back he has still seen, he said, a total of three tourists in Banaue! That's the equivalent, sort of, of a San Francisco cab driver waiting for a fare three hours at the airport and then hearing that all incoming flights have been cancelled for the rest of the day due to fog.
I spoke briefly to Rowel, Tony's youngest, seven. Tony coached him on what to say. "Yes, I like the chocolate very much!"
Mark Giorgi, who has been posting these dispatches and tinkering with the web site for the last six weeks or so, is excusing himself, and I'll be losing his generous and cheerful services. I knew it wouldn't last forever, but I sure appreciated it while it lasted. I'll be turning the site over to someone else, sometime soon. The prospect of learning how to create or manage a web site is overwhelming to me.
If you have any pictures you took of Tony, or me and Tony, or me and Tony and the taxicab, or the bonfire or the backyard party, or anything like that -- please send them -- especially any great pictures. I took video (which still needs to be edited), and just two rolls of slides (I lost another roll I shot in NY and DC), and I didn't even have time to glance at the 20 or so rolls of film that Tony had developed while he was here (and now they're gone to the Philippines). I'm feeling picture-poor. So, please...
P.O. Box 21347
Oakland, CA 94620-1347
And please keep in touch. It's been great fun for me knowing that people were reading these dispatches. It wouldn't have been the same without you. No kidding.