Sunday, July 31, 2016

Perro Carnival

There is a giant parade of dogs in my neighborhood. Carerra Setenta is filled with Paisas walking their dogs down the main thoroughfare.

 And Colombians have a penchant for putting their dogs in costumes. And even painting their doggy nails.

 A veritable perro carnival down Mulberry Street.

Friday, July 29, 2016

This is America


"I remember this woman getting shit in 1992 for not baking cookies & this is the most fucking satisfying moment ever."

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


In Medellin, I live in the barrio of Estadio.  The stadium.  As it just so happens, the stadium hosts the local favorite Medellin team Athletico Nacional.  Athletico is in the Copa Libertadores Final, and are playing tonight at the stadium.

And it is bedlam outside.  All afternoon, fireworks have punctuated the quiet.  I made gander over to Carerra Setenta to check out the atmosphere around the stadium.  I was greeted with a packed carnival of drunken futbol fans.  Flags of green and white fluttered on the winds, as well as the strong scent of other green.

I tried to walk up Carerra Setenta but couldn't make it a block--it was so filled with people.  I crossed the street and had no better luck on the other side.

I don't especially like large gatherings of potentially riotous futbol fans, so I scurried home.  Once upon a time, I might have stayed on that corner, but these days I have a good idea of where I have no business being.


“How can any Republican support a candidate who openly hopes for foreign cyberattacks on a political opponent?”
-Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard and a conservative Fox News contributor
I think I just hit my Trump breaking point, this is truly madness.
I made my first donation to the Hillary Clinton Campaign. In honor of Bill Clinton and his speech. In honor of Michelle Obama and her speech.
And most importantly, because Donald Trump is a serious threat to our national security.
Please consider donating as well:

What if...

I am a Clintonista, rather through and through.  But there is a part of me that wonders "what if" over foreign policy problems that Clinton fumbled during his first term, and wonders how President Bush would have handled such issues.

The failures in Somalia and the CNN effect.

The civil wars and genocide in Rwanda and Yugoslavia.
The Russian transition that failed years later--see under why Putin hates the Clintons.

I wonder how President Bush would have handled these challenges, and what his more veteran response would have been.

All what-ifs...


I'm not one to toss around such words lightly, but it sure sounds like "treason" to ask a foreign power to hack a former Secretary of State.  And offering reward for it.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Ratfucking back

President Hillary is gonna fuck Putin up.

Arepas de Medellin

I had possibly the greatest arepa ever tonight.  Imagine a grits-like bun stuffed with shredded, stewed-barbecued meat, as well as little bits of fried plantains and hogao--a warm onion-tomato chutney sauce.  I tried to take part to go, but I didn't make it two more blocks before I devoured the leftovers.  Washed, and washing down with a Paisa cerveza.

Gun ownership in Japan

"To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you'll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don't forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years"



How can a Monday be both manic and mundane?

The Muscovite Candidate

Make Russia Great Again!  Elect Donald Trump.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


  1. Rice
  2. Tomato sauce
  3. tea
  4. yogurt
  5. nuts
  6. raisins
  7. black beans
  8. mushrooms
  9. onions
  10. peppers
  11. beer
  12. wine
  13. froz fruit
I heard the pitterpatter of the rain on the corrigated roof.

I was going to be here for a while. I had all the items that did not refrigeration, and had not collected the yogurt or frozen fruit.

I thought back to a similar rain storm in Kampala. I was playing Clarence Darrow on a boda-boda. I was in the wrong supermarket, as then as the rains poured down in a percussive beat. I called Suzi Analogue to try to share the beat with her, to no avail. The rain would delay their freedom a bit longer.

The thunder crashed as the waitress placed my Bailey's-tinted cappuccino in front of me, and a pan chocolate. I was going to be here a while. The Bailey's-infused cappuccino came with a chocolate-covered coffee bean as garnish. The rain pattered down as I dipped the pan chocolate in the Bailey's-infused cappuccino as I waited for the storm to pass.

On Reality

“Reality is what we take to be true.  What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends on what we look for. What we look for depends on what we think. What we think depends on what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.”
-Physicist David Bohm, 1977

h/t Brainpickings

Reminded me of:

Guard your thoughts, they become your words

Guard your words, they become your actions

Guard your actions, they become your habits

Guard your habits, they become your character

Guard your character, it becomes your destiny


Saturday, July 23, 2016

I, too, sing America.

I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,"
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.
-Langston Hughes

"Blowin' In The Wind"

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, and how many years can a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
Yes, and how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, and how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, and how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take 'til he knows
That too many people have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hillary Clinton is not the same as Donald Trump

"May I have a word with those of you Bernie supporters who consider Donald Trump to be no worse than Hillary Clinton?

You’re dead wrong.

As I said when I endorsed Bernie for president, I view Hillary as enormously qualified to be president of the political system we now have. She is smart, capable, and experienced. I endorsed Bernie because I thought he would help create the political system we need. But Bernie will not be the Democratic nominee.

This does not mean the end of the movement Bernie advanced. That movement was never about Bernie; it was about reclaiming our democracy and our economy. And that movement will live on, and it will grow. It needs your continuing activism and your tenacity.

You are, of course, entitled to support anyone you wish to. But if you don’t get behind Hillary you increase the odds that Donald Trump will be president.

That would be a disaster for America and the world. Trump is a menace. He is not just unsuited to being the president of the United States – a bigoted narcissist who incites and excuses violence – but his presidency would threaten everything this nation stands for: tolerance, inclusion, freedom of the press, equal justice, and equal opportunity.

A Trump presidency would make it far more difficult ever to achieve the progressive goals you and I share."
-Robert Reich, in the Christian Science Monitor

Rico Ajiaco

Rico ajiaco, truly so from a restaurant bearing such a fitting name.  Ajiaco is rich Colombian chicken soup.  From a potato-based chicken soup accompanied with capers, rice, avocado, crema and arepa to all go in the bowl to flavor the rich soup.  Nice to find a place that lives up its fair name.

So this one time in Iraq....

An old memory from this day four years prior:

Spent the morning at a gov ministry, counting and accounting. Accounting so rigorous you would have thought we were in Switzerland not K-stan. After 3 hours, they finally agreed to release our cash. The man walked back into the office with bricks of dinar, and I just started laughing. While my bag man signed for it, I started making dinar houses. No suitcase, just a giant plastic bag to carry bundles.

As always: good night, and good luck

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our own history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.... There is no way for a citizen of the Republic to abdicate his responsibility.”
--Edward R. Murrow

The Morning After

"It was an end-to-end embarrassment for the Republican Party. There did not seem to be a single statesman in attendance, only hucksters and petty tyrants. Trump is a Republican phenomenon and, as long as Hillary Clinton wins in the fall, a Republican problem. But the convention, a nearly weeklong showcase for one half of American political life, washed over us all. “I am your voice,” Trump declared. This was his attempt to present himself as a populist, as a megaphone for the people. But on this morning it reads like an indictment."
-Ryu Spaeth, "The Morning After"

The night is dark and full of terrors....

"If Leni Riefenstahl were alive, Trump would hire her to film this speech. Then not pay her."
-Norman Ornstein

"When the convention closed, fear had won the hall. And we should fear — for the republic, for a democracy facing its gravest peril since the Civil War." -Timothy Egan, "Make America Hate Again"

As the great Hunter S. Thompson wrote: "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail." 

Thursday, July 21, 2016


I have a Caracas Leones jersey. It is a long story over currency calculations and Bolivares. For the better part of a few years it went unnoticed.  Until recently.  In Cartagena, I had perplexed people stop me in the streets.  Venezuelans--wondering if I was.

Tonight I walked through the filled cheering streets of Medellin to green-and-white clad fans of Athletico Nacional fans.  I had a great Argentine burger at the Medellin Burger Factory.  The waitress was from Venezuela and wanted to know if I was.  The Argentine burger was delicious, with argentine beef chorizo on top.  I finished my burger and sipped a Club Colombia roja .  I waited until 35 minutes or a goal, and the goal come shortly after the 35 minute mark.  The streets went wild with cheers and excitement.

On my return, another Venezuelan stopped me over the jersey.

Viva Caracas Leones!

Who wants to be a Peso Millionaire?

Nothing better than taking out 400k from the ATM, and looking at the receipt when I am done and I seeing I am a millionaire.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

July 20

Feliz dia de Independecia for the Republic of Gran Colombia!

Today is Colombia's Independence Day, but it was once the independence day for the South American superstate of the Republic of Gran Colombia.  Today would be the Republic of Gran Colombia's 197th birthday.

The Bolivarian dream covered Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, plus some other assorted territories.

The giant swathe of South American territory would have been rich without compare, with supplies of oil, gold, emeralds, coffee and cocaine among other resources.

But it wasn't meant to last.

For my own lamentations:

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


So after my tour yesterday, hearing about the wonderful functionality of Medellin, I decided to get myself a membership to the free city bike share Enclicla.

First I went on to the website.  The website said that I had to download a registration form and a rules contract.  Fine, fair enough.  Also to provide a copy of my passport.

Except the links didn't work.  One went to a page with no form attached.  The other went to a broken link.

I considered emailing the site, but they had a main headquarters.  When I checked on a map, it was nearby--some 20 minutes away on foot.  So I decided to simply go to the main headquarters and fill out the forms in person.

First I stopped at the local print shop and got a copy of my passport blown up to 150 percent as required.

I walked over in the hot sun to the place--only to find it was no longer there.  I walked further over to the nearest metro to see if perhaps there was something I could do there to sign up.  A fellow working at the bike exchange told me that I had to head downtown to Apujarra to the main headquarters near the Alpujarra metro.

Fine, fair enough.  So I hopped the metro over to Apujarra.  I found the main headquarters and walked over.  I walked in to the office and sat down with a woman manning a table.  I explained that I tried to access the forms online but it was not working, and would be glad to fill out the forms in person.

Except they didn't have the forms.  I explained that the website wasn't working, neither the Spanish nor English versions, and that the forms were not accessible.

Yes, she said.  The site was not functioning correctly.

"Okay, so you can give me the form?" I asked.

No, you can only get the form online.  

But you just admitted that the site isn't working, and I know I can't get it online.


At that point I sat down.  You realize that this is incredible--what you are telling me.  It is impossible for me to fill out the forms online because it is not working, yet I can't get access unless I fill out the forms--and you don't have any you can give me.


Okay, as long as you understand that this is crazy.

She understood, but was powerless to fix the situation or aid in The (Bicycle) Trial.

The City of Eternal Spring

If Medellin is indeed the Goldilocks of Colombian cities as I previously wrote, then it was time for me to do a proper tour of the city.  I had tried to do a free walking tour on my previous visit but it was booked.  I tried again this time, but again it took me a few days to get a reservation.  Apparently free walking tours in Medellin are quite popular.

Eventually, I was able to get a spot on a Real City Tours free walking tour.  I arrived a lil early at the meeting point at Alpurra Station.  I was so early that I stopped to get some coffee.  I returned to the meeting point, and asked a few foreigners standing around if they were there for the walking tour.  

"Are you the guide?" a Brit asked me.  

Why yes, of course I am.  Let's go.....

Shortly thereafter, a fellow in a Real City Tours shirt walked up.  He began the check-in process and sent me over to the shade to wait.  They had a booking list of 73 people.  I could now see why they had problems with demand.

Eventually the tour got started, and we made our way through the city.  Our tour guide, Pablo, took us to a shady spot nearby and began sharing the history of Medellin and his passion for it.

Medellin was basically a city of refuge for Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition and Basques fleeing cultural domination.  The surrounding mountains offered the communities isolation.  It remained in some-what isolation until the 1850s, when a coffee boom forced the city to break its solitude.  Due to the climate, the city and coffee regions nearby could have multiple coffee harvests throughout the year.  In order to get the coffee to market, the city tapped on its other resource: gold mines.  The gold helped bring trains for transport, and ended the grand isolation of Medellin. With trains came the industrial revolution to Medellin.

Due to the rail and industrialization, Medellin now also created a textile industry, as well as iron works.

Pablo explained that as Medellin broke its isolation, it found a largely agrarian Colombia surrounding it.  He also explained that those from Medellin have a precarious relationship with the rest of Colombia--because Medellin considers itself better.  The business-oriented, industrialized Medellin saw the rest of agrarian Colombia as backwards; the rest of Colombia saw Medellin as too business-oriented, and too deceitful in its business.

Important to note, Medellin was a relatively wealthy city long before the Narco boom.  It has long been the second-largest city of Colombia, and as explained, was quite industrious.  

With that said, Pablo also explained the situation in Colombia with drugs (it remains nearly 3 percent of Colombian GDP), and he explained the negative effects it had on the Colombian nationbrand, especially in personal circumstances.

We toured through the city, gaining insight and local knowledge.  Pablo explained the scope of Colombian history, and how it affected Medellin.  The city itself had been historically conservative, but much had changed in the recent past.

We toured through areas of "democratic architecture," which are formerly blighted public spaces that the city had revitalized.

I can't get into all the history that Pablo shared, but I will say it was an excellent tour that put Colombian history into context in connection to the city.  My take-away from the tour was something that Pablo said:

"Change in Medellin is real but fragile."

I would highly recommend the tour for anyone visiting Medellin.

Control C

“[I]t’s just devastating to see a campaign premised on the imagined notion of Obama incompetence get caught stealing from Obama’s own operation…. [L]et’s not gloss over it, this is a depiction of a campaign – a campaign that nurtures white grievance and resentment – trying to profit off the work of a black woman, from an African American family that Trump and his supporters regularly belittle. The fact that the plagiarized text in question was about the value of hard work just makes matters worse. A mortifying, calamitous, self-immolating moment.”
-Brian Beutler, The New Republic

"I mean, when you think about it, what's more American than a white person stealing a black person's work?" ‪
-Charles Clymer

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Medellin: the Goldilocks of Colombian Cities

In the City of Eternal Spring, our hero found himself in the lush botanical gardens.  Don Pablo Quixote was astounded by the flightless baby dragons--nothing that would win Khalesei the Iron Throne.  Our favorite knight-errant also found some Witnesses, not of the Faith Militant variety but a more benign scale.  This knight-errant chatted with them on faith and respect.  Of cunning linguistics, as The Watchtower is circulated in some 274 languages.

I am falling in love with Medellin.  It is known as la ciudad de la eterna primavera--the City of Eternal Spring.  I see why.  It is high enough in elevation that the weather is perfectly pleasant.  It is lush here, in green verdance.

Medellin is the Goldilocks of Colombian cities.  If Bogota is too cold and too busy, and Cartagena is too swelteringly hot and too touristy, then Medellin is just right in cosmopolitan class, temperature and temperament.  Or mayhaps I should say that she is the Dulcinea of Colombian cities. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016


“You are born alone. You die alone. The value of the space in between is trust and love."
-Louise Bourgeoise


Eating a brie and red wine-poached pear salad with sundried tomatoes and plantain crisps in a creamy maracuya vinaigrette. Washing it down with an Apostol dubbel.

La vida es rica hay que vivirla.

Selfie-Portraits at the Museo de Arte Moderno (MAMM)

That's nobody's business but the Turks....

Friday, July 15, 2016


Hey, everyone who was so ready to "Save Darfur": South Sudan is bigger mess than Darfur ever was. Anyone ready to go save it, or is it not a sexy cause anymore??

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Johnson/Weld cont

Umm...I kinda love the Libertarian candidates Johnson/Weld campaign spot. I hope they let them in the Presidential/VP Debates. A recent poll had Johnson at 12%, that should be enough to get him on the dais.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Return to Minca

After a good Next Level pre-tour in Cartagena, I left the sweltering Caribbean gem for Santa Marta.  I took a private van with the company MarSol.  It is a little more expensive than the bus but is two hours quicker and goes door-to-door from hotel to hostel.  The ride was fine.  I chatted with fellow travelers, dispensing advice about Tayrona, Minca and the general area.

Once we arrived to Santa Marta, we had a small issue.  The driver stopped a bit outside of the city center and told everyone to get out.  "We are in Santa Marta," he said.  Wait a minute, I said--this is supposed to take us to hotels and hostels, it is a door-to-door service.  Some Brits started getting out of the van, but I ordered them back on.  I yelled at the driver that this was a door-to-door service, and that I had taken the service before--he needed to take us to our final stops.  The rest of the van waited as I argued with him until he relented, and finished the job.  The van all thanked me for not letting us "dar una papaya" (not be suckers).

I stayed the evening in Santa Marta, at the La Villana hostel where I had stayed once prior.  The place is comfortable, and more importantly, they let me leave luggage for a modest price.  The hostel had shifted things around a bit, turning the bar in to a large dorm and moving the bar out into the palm tree-filled courtyard.

I re-packed my things, and grabbed some sancocho for dinner on the street next to the basilica.  This was the sancocho stand I had been looking for, when I experienced the sancocho incident.  The hearty chicken soup was flavorful and rich--the perfect dinner for a long week.

After dinner, I wandered through the plazas and old colonial streets before returning to the hostel to hang at the bar for a bit with some Colombians and Italians.  The power kept going off in the summer heat, and I enjoyed the blackout darkness.  I booed when the power returned.

I woke up early on Saturday and headed out to Minca.  I trekked across town to the transport stop for Minca, grabbing an arepa con huevo for breakfast.  An arepas con huevo is a corn fritter pocket filled with a raw egg then deep-fried to cook the egg inside the pocket.  I caught transport up to the mountain top, about an hour outside the city.  Then I trekked my way through the winding, tortuous path to get to Oscar's Place.

Oscar's Place was the mountain-top paradise I stayed in prior with Lida my Czech travel companion.  The eponymous owner Oscar is a lovely soul who built his own off-the-grid hippy kingdom.  I was pleased that after 7 months, and many guests, Oscar remembered me as I arrived.

I checked in to my hammock dwelling on the mountain edge overlooking the valley below filled jungle hills until  the municipal sprawl of Santa Marta and the subsequent Caribbean sea.  A hippy jungle Xanadu did Pablo a stately pleasure dome decree....

I spent the morning lazing in a hammock as I read The Island of Dr. Moreau.  From my hammock, I chatted with Germans, Israelis and a Finn.  I had a lazy afternoon, reading and draping my legs into Oscar's guppy pool.  The guppies are a wellness treat, the lil fishies nibble at your legs, eating away any dead skin.  People pay good money for such treatments.

Later in the afternoon, when hunger overcame placidness, I headed down into townwith some new friends, Marina and Deena to a place called the Lazy Cat Cafe.  The place was a bit busy, so we sat in the level below.  It was much better, the little deck sat just above the turbid river.  In the currents, kids splashed and played.  We enjoyed our late lunch and hung there for a while.  I had an excellent marinated chicken sandwich covered with cheese, tomato, pickles and avocado, slathered in diablo sauce.  I sipped a local brew, Happy Toucan--a tasty local artisanal red beer.

I returned to the hammock to dive into my new kindle.  Yes, I am slowly entering the 21st century. Baby steps.  But I really do like the Library2k, with the vast resources of books at my fingertips.  It doesn't replace paperbacks, but it is a nice way to read more that I couldn't carry with me.  Like: Destiny of the Island of Dr. Grey. Or something like that.

As the sun set, we watched the stunning afterburn of pink and gold across the mountaintops.  Slowly in the valley, the lights of the city below began to twinkly like little stars.

Darkness blessed us like a purple benediction.  Eventually dinner came delivered to us, and I munched surprisingly good gnocchi in pesto sauce.  I spent the evening playing card games with the Israelis, German and Finn before retiring.

The next morning I woke with the rising sun.  I sipped coffee and enjoyed the quiet morning.  For breakfast, I had Oscar's famous curry eggs with sauteed tomatoes and onions.  Delicious.  I lazed around the morning reading in the hammock.

Later in the afternoon, I headed with Marina and a girl named Hannah back to Lazy Cat for some lunch and juice.  After lunch, Marina and I trekked out to the Marinka waterfall.  We hiked through jungle roads and paths until we reached the large waterfall. Just as we arrived, it began to rain.  Given that we were about to go swimming, it didn't really matter.

We went swimming in the cold jungle waterfall pool, which was warmed slightly by the coming rains. It was a refreshing dip, and we climbed to the upper level of the waterfall.  After a while at the waterfall, we hiked back through the muddy roads.  We stopped for a second time in Lazy Cat for an afternoon juice (Maracuya--passionfruit, and strawberry) before returning to Oscar's place.

Again, an early rest and early rise with the sun.  I had planned to leave monday and head back to Santa Marta ahead of my flight on tuesday, but I just couldn't leave.  So I decided to stay an extra day, and would simply get up early and head down the next morning ahead of my afternoon flight.  I rewarded my decision with Oscar's Special: a bowl of oatmeal--with the oats cooked in a cinnamon-pineapple infused water, covered in bananas, papaya and pineapple--topped with honey and sesame seeds.  It was amazing.

I spent most of the day reading in a hammock and watching colibris (hummingbirds) and parrots fly around.

A rain storm punctuated the afternoon.  Under a thatched roof, I swung in my hammock, reading while the pitterpatter of rain on the leaves kept time.  The rains conspired to keep me gently rocking in the hammock--not that I actually had any big plans.  The storm filled the jungle valley below with mists that slowly rose.

The rains ended and I made my way into town for some lunch.  I didn't plan to, but ended up once again at Lazy Cat.  Three for three.  But I was rewarded for my persistence with an excellent burger covered in caramelized onions, tomatoes and pickle, slathered with spicy mango loco sauce.  A side of yucca fritters fit the meal.

I awoke early tuesday morning and said my goodbyes.  As I left I said to Oscar something from The Alchemist:

Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Pablo Escobar.

Although the picture is in Amsterdam not Medellin, it seemed too Escobarian not to use in conjunction with the start of my stay in Medellin.

Incidentally, I will be living in Medellin for 33 days. That marks the longest I have lived in one place consecutively in nearly 3 years.

Saturday, July 09, 2016


I have never been so happy to get off the grid for a few days. I'm going to be sleeping in a hammock on the mountain top of Minca, and doing some bird-watching. Stay safe and try not to kill each other while I am disconnected.

We have but faith: we cannot know; 
 For knowledge is of things we see; 
 And yet we trust it comes from thee, 
 A beam in darkness: let it grow.
-Alfred Lord Tennyson

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Sick and Tired

"I am sick and tired of being sick and tired."
 —Fannie Lou Hamer ‪


Monday, July 04, 2016


Rain on the 4th of July is the Founding Fathers' tears at the prospect of Donald Trump as president.


Spending the 4th of July playing that most American of games: Monopoly.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Elie Wiesel, Forum2K and Tolerance

When I was a Junior at Brandeis, I spent my Fall Semester studying in Prague.  I had visited the city a few years prior, on a post-Year Course jaunt through Europe.  I had fallen in love with the city and could not wait to return.

That Fall was 2001, and I spent September 11 in Prague as the hinges of history swung.  Shortly after 9/11, there was a major event in Prague called Forum2K.

Forum2K was a star-studded event of the global who's-who.  There were Nobel Prize winners sitting on panels next to dissidents, activists and former and current presidents.

Playwright-turned-Dissident-turned-President Vaclav Havel was there.

I hung out with former South African President F.W. deKlerk (" ended Apartheid, eh?  Got an extra cigarette?").

I saw former President Clinton electrify the room, and show his off his remarkable political gifts; as he spoke, the room hung on his every word--every guy wanted to be him and every girl wanted to be with him as we all sat in rapt attention.

I even snuck my way to sit on a panel with Shimon Peres and the Jordanian former-Crown Prince Hassan, because a man in a three-piece suit always belongs.

At the events, as we weighed where the world was stood post-September 11, I will never forget the diminutive Nobel Prize Elie Wiesel's remarks.  Wiesel spoke softly but forcefully about "tolerance" in the wake of 9/11.  He said words I will never forget:

I don't like the term 'tolerance.'  Who am I to "tolerate" anyone?  I prefer acceptance.  Acceptance is an action with more power and meaning than to simply "tolerate" someone else.

I will never forget his sentiments in those heady days as we groped to understand where the world was heading.  Wiesel's ideas stood out at the time, amid powerful people, words and speeches, that we should not passively tolerate the "Other" but rather actively accept those different from ourselves.

PS: I have one other memory of Elie Wiesel but not one that he was present for.  Years later, when I worked at the Israeli Consulate in Houston, I was on a flight back to DC.  An African-American girl was sitting next to me on the plane.  She was reading Wiesel's Night.  Curious, I asked her if she was reading it for school.  She smiled, and said: no, she was reading it because she had seen him on Oprah, and was so moved by his words and life that she picked up his book.

PPS: A three-piece suit can sneak you into many things, but the one thing it couldn't take me into was my way into a meeting between Havel, Peres and Wiesel.  After the panel, I was in the hallway.  I watched the three of them walk down the hall past me, and into an adjacent room together to chat. The heavy ornate door was shut behind them by security.  I tried to connive my way in to be a fly on the wall of that tête-à-tête but not even my bullshitting skills are that good.