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Dearborn

Dearborn, Michigan, along Schaefer Highway, photo by Skip Schiel

Accounts from my journal, written while I photographed Detroit for three weeks during the end of summer 2016.

PHOTOS

September 10, 2016, Saturday, Detroit

Biking in to Dearborn yesterday [September 9, 2016] I stopped at the bicycle shop on Schaefer that I’ve frequented earlier, to pump air in my tires. A voluble employee (at first, from the way he acted, so forthright, I assumed he was the owner), short and curt, felt the tires and declared, your tires are full, pumping more air into them might make them burst. Then he spotted my camera, which I always carry around my neck, fully exposed. Wanna take some pictures here? he asked. Sure thing, what would you like?

Is this gonna cost something? he asked. No, is this gonna cost me anything? I replied. Everyone in the store chuckled.

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Eddie’s Bike Shop, photo by Skip Schiel

That led to portraits of him outside the store, inside the store, the storefront itself from outside, and then the owner, Mr. Eddie Merhi, and two customers, Black women, mother and daughter, who were having their tricycles adjusted.

The daughter, Woody, and I chatted awhile about the pleasures of biking. She, like many here, admired my folding bike, inquired about it, and said, I’d like to eventually ride one like that. She invited me to visit them at their home near me—she was ecstatic when she learned where I live (as if to think, wow, this is some kind of White guy, living where he is, probably the only White guy in milespretty fuckin brave, or insane.) I find living where I do builds credibility.

She asked me to photograph her on her bike, which I did. She lacks email and we couldn’t figure out how to transfer the file from my camera to her phone with Bluetooth. So she snapped a photo with her phone from my camera screen, decidedly inferior.

Mother and daughter, Detroit residents, buy tricycles

Woody and her mother, Detroit residents, have their tricycles adjusted, photo by Skip Schiel

I had a thought about a daring next step for my Detroit project: photograph on public buses, compare city bus riders with suburban bus riders, and photograph at different times of the day. I’ve long felt that one can gain a quick impression of one aspect of Detroit by riding the city bus at night. Riding the same bus during the day might create a different impression. And riding the suburban buses yet another.

The big question is how to do this? Sneak photography (aka, hip pocket), ask permission, carry a big sign announcing the project? It may involve some risk, especially at night, me alone. I’ll consider this. Maybe I can find a colleague, preferably Black and from Detroit. (Like George a few years ago who toured me to different neighborhoods.)

A sequel to A Summer Bus Ride in Detroit. A movie by Skip Schiel & Teeksa
Photography, October 2010

A precedent is the photo series of South African workers riding at night to reach their work sites on time. David Goldblatt did this with his series, The Transported of KwaNdebele. I recall phoning him in the 1990’s while setting up one of my South African trips. I heard a dog barking in the background, rendering the call very personal even tho at such a great physical and cultural distance.

25 After a day’s work they take the bus from Pretoria to KwaN

9:00 p.m. Going home: Marabastad-Waterval bus: For most of the people in this bus the cycle will start again tomorrow at between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m., 1983 from David Goldblatt’s, “The Transported of KwaNdebele: A South African Odyssey (1983–84)”

Maybe I’m getting too old to pursue all my dream projects, like Detroit metro busing. How many more years remain for me and my work?

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Biking home to Detroit from Dearborn, photo by Skip Schiel

To be continued

LINKS

Bike Detroit

A bike ride thru Dearborn by Skip Schiel, 2010

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Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.

― Jack Kerouac

Inspired by a photo exhibition I recently viewed called The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip at the Detroit Institute of Arts (based on a book by Aperture with a fuller array of photos on the same theme) I will now sketch my Open Road experiences, hoping later to flesh this out more fully as perhaps a photographic memoir.

First however, I should nod a thanks to Jack Kerouac and his revolutionary, and for me highly affecting book, On the Road. I read it when well into my 30s, with family in Maine, camping for much of the summer. I recall reading it while riding in our car to Branch Lake. The book was old and decrepit. So as I finished a page I tossed it out the window, heedless of environmental consequences, but I thought then, as pages flew like autumn leaves, a fitting reflection on the ephemerality I detected as a subtheme of the novel.

When a youth during the depression unable to find work in his hometown of Dubuque Iowa, Fran, my dad, hopped a freight train and landed in Chicago. No doubt he influenced me to, as soon as possible, join the Open Road, even tho at that moment I was yet unborn.

I attempted a similar vagabond trip—my first real road trip— when, at the age of about 4, I decided to run away from my pleasant, safe, comfortable, relatively loving Southside home in Chicago. I gathered a few things, probably candy bars and pop (and toilet paper), into a large hankie or bandana, and tied it to a stick. I threw the contraption over my shoulder and set out. I made it to the local school, Caldwell Elementary, about two blocks from my home, and quickly returned.

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Skip Schiel, age 4, 1945

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Skip Schiel in his First Communion suit, age 7, 1946

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Skip Schiel with Tom Rinkach (L), age 11, 1952 c.

While at Boy Scout camp in Michigan, my buddy, Kruli, and I ditched the program to make an all day hike. Without permission we left before breakfast, returned after dinner, and carried with us only brownies that my mom had sent me—and that crucial toilet paper.

Between my junior and senior high school years, my dad and I canoed Boundary Waters along the Minnesota-Canada border. I felt responsible for him, even tho I was only 17 years old. Until that trip I’d resisted the idea of attending college. Since my father was a salesman (a traveling salesman at that, eventually in charge of a large Midwest region, warranting many road trips for him) and sometimes very persuasive, I expected he would urge me—incessantly as he’d done before—to attend college, make something of myself, utilize my interests and possible gifts in engineering to become an electronic engineer. During that entire ten-day journey, he never raised the topic.

I decided to attend college. Long bouts of paddling, lugging our canoe over portages, making camp, and cooking together might have softened his outlook about me, developing his trust that I’d make the correct decision.

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Frank (Fran) J. Schiel, 1958, Boundary Waters, Minnesota-Canada, photo by Skip Schiel

Fran and my mother, Pearl, with my sister Elaine when she was old enough, every summer drove long distances for vacations—West Coast to San Francisco, East Coast to Maine. Dad photographed; eventually I took over, probably reluctantly. Mainly he (because I refuse such setups) created endless images of Pearl in front of some scene or historic marker.

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Frank Schiel, Elaine (sister), Pearl, Chicago’s Southside, 1954 c. photo by Skip Schiel (probably)

My big road trip break was in the summer of 1959. I’d just graduated Arlington Heights High School in a Chicago suburb, felt a strong urge to “go west, young man, go west,” and boarded the Union Pacific train to Utah where I thought I might find summer work, possibly on a ranch. Shortening that story (which could constitute one chapter—or even the entire memoir) I ended up working the balloon dart and bingo games with a carnival that paired with rodeos traveling thru Colorado and Wyoming—the summer of my big rupture from family.

During term breaks at Iowa State University I would often not return home (long distance, 300 miles) but instead hitchhike around the Midwest, with camera, with curiosity, producing numerous slide shows that predictably bored all the neighbors and family I could persuade to watch.

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Skip Schiel in Cimarron, Arlington Heights, IL, 1960 c.

Still at Iowa State, I bought my first vehicle, a Ford pickup truck that I named Cimarron (after a western movie), and let it cart me around to places distant and exotic, like the Black Hills. Amidst wandering defecating, fornicating buffalo, sacred to the Lakota Sioux, I camped, I photographed.

My first international road trip was to Romania in 1977, the year my father died. As an instructor of filmmaking at Boston College, I’d received a scholarship to attend a program in Cluj Romania, in the heart of the Transylvanian Alps, as an introduction to Romania. It was skilled propaganda during the era of the tyrant, Nicolae Ceaușescu, designed to generate positive impressions of this then communist and iconoclastic country. Altho by now I’d identified as a photographer and movie maker I decided not to bring equipment for this first, for me monumental, road trip. Instead, I’d observe, observe as purely and contemplatively as I could. For this decision I am forever grateful. When to not photograph is a skill difficult to develop.

With my wife Lynn and our two daughters, we bought a black VW bug and drove it each summer, Katy and Joey stuffed in the back seat, luggage hurtling from the roof top carrier, back to Chicago and Racine Wisconsin to visit grandparents. I photographed along the way.

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Joey, Skip, Katy (left to right), Watertown Massachusetts, 2009

For three months in 1979, one year after Pearl’s death, two years after Fran’s, I visited Nepal and my sister Elaine and her husband Bob, studying Buddhism with a lama at the Swayambhu monastery. I made numerous road journeys, including one with a guide to Helambu, the foothills of the Himalayas. Lots of mountain walking then.

I should add the many mountain hikes with family and my former partner Louise over a long period of time—White Mountains, Green Mountains, Sierra Nevada, etc. Don’t they constitute travel along the open road, a very open and winding road?

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Skip & Louise, White Mountains, 2002 c.

In 1982, a pivotal year for me, I drove across the Great Plains alone and discovered American Indians.

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Rosebud Reservation, 1983

Which led to 1983 when I bused the same route at the end of winter, and took up residence on the Rosebud Indian reservation, hosted by Jesuits. I lived and photographed there for one month.

(In this report I do not constrain myself to car-based road trips only, but include other modes of transport, soon to be foot and plane, never boat or ship, surprising because of my love of water-borne transport.)

In 1988, the first of my many Alaskan journeys (roughly every 3 years) I walked solo the Chilkoot Gold Rush Trail. Since then I’ve made other Alaskan exploits, alone and with my Juneau family.

In the summer of 1989 my newly discovered mate, Louise, and I flew across the country to visit her family. Followed in the summer of 1990 by a car trip across that same continent to meet my family. With stops in Chicago for cousins Karen and Bob and aunt Anna Mae and uncle Spike, Rockport for cousin Ginger, Dubuque for uncle Eldon, Napa California for her mother and father, Elizabeth and David, and Juneau for Elaine and Bob. Returning, we stopped at Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations and learned about the upcoming Big Foot Ride to Wounded Knee that winter. We decided to raise money for the Ride generally and to ourselves participate as support people.

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Elaine, sister (L), and Louise

In early 1990, with Frank Gatti and Tom Sander, I explored South Africa on behalf of Friends Meeting at Cambridge, mostly by car but also for short trips on foot. Circumventing restrictions from apartheid we had reasonably free range of the country.

In Dec 1990, Louise and I boarded the train for Denver, rented a 4-wheel drive SUV to help as support people and participated for 2 weeks on the frigid plains. We camped out some nights, stayed in school gymnasiums on others. Louise walked the final day with Buddhist walkers into the Wounded Knee Massacre site for our final ceremonies, Wiping the Tears and Mending the Sacred Hoop. Here she met Jun-San, a nun of the Japanese Buddhist order, Nipponzan Myohoji, that would lead inexorably to more road trips we shared—almost entirely by foot.

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Morning circle, Big Foot Ride to Wounded Knee, December 1990, photo by Skip Schiel

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Big Foot Ride to Wounded Knee, December 1990, photo by Skip Schiel

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Lakota lands, South Dakota, 1990, photo by Skip Schiel

In 1995 I joined the Auschwitz to Hiroshima pilgrimage to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War 2 from a Japanese perspective. We walked (mostly, also used bus, train, and plane) thru Poland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Running out of money in Hungary after about 4 months, I returned home to raise more money (with help from Louise and daughter Katy) and incidentally joined the Turtle Island pilgrimage that Jun-San, one of the Buddhist nuns, had organized to support native rights. We walked from Plymouth Massachusetts, around Lake Ontario, to New York City, to learn the story of Peacemaker (the founder of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy). Staying on reservations and reserves (in Canada), walking thru the Hudson River Valley in the spring, we finally arrived at a major conference in NYC about violence. We walked some 1000 miles in about 3 months.

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Auschwitz main gate, December 1998, photo by Skip Schiel

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Croatian women, Lipic Croatia, former Yugoslavia, 1995, photo by Skip Schiel

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Boy with peace crane, Cambodia, 1995, photo by Skip Schiel

At the end of that long walk I returned to the Auschwitz to Hiroshima pilgrimage and walked from Thailand to Japan, thru Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The journey of a lifetime—until the next one.

Then in 1998 on the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage I and many others, mostly European Americans, African-Americans, and Japanese walked from Leverett Massachusetts, down the coast to Savannah Georgia, thru the deep south to New Orleans. I left that pilgrimage for one of my own, first driving thru the Mississippi Delta to Chicago and across to Leverett in Western Massachusetts, and then by train back south for 4 months of pro bono photography to groups we’d met during the Middle Passage Pilgrimage.

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From the book, The Middle Passage: White Ships/ Black Cargo, by Tom Feelings

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Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage, Ingrid Askew, co-founder & co-director, 1998, photo by Skip Schiel

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Gulf Coast, Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage, 1998, photo by Skip Schiel

In 1999 I rejoined the pilgrimage in South Africa and remained there for 4 months doing photography.

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Robben Island, South Africa, Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage, 1999

Subsequently (and earlier), driven mainly by Louise’s enthusiasm, she and I joined Nipponzan Myohoji for various walks: to and around Walden Pond in Massachusetts; in 1992, commemorating the Columbian quincentenary in a counter cultural manner, Alcatraz Island in San Francisco to Reno Nevada; numerous Walk for a New Spring journeys thru Boston and environs; and the Hiroshima Flame Walk in DC (which was mostly Louise because by now my enthusiasm for such long walks had waned and Palestine-Israel had taken over).

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Louise, 1995 c., photo by Skip Schiel

And currently Palestine-Israel and Detroit. In Detroit I bike around the sprawling city. In Palestine-Israel for short periods I rent a car and have traveled the entire length and breadth of that small (by United States standards) region, mainly by bus and shared taxi—Negev Desert, Galilee, Golan Heights, and the Israeli coast, also Gaza, by foot and rides with friends.

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Skip Schiel in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Bethlehem, 2003, photo by Mark Daoud

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Pre-wedding party, Gaza, 2013, photo by Skip Schiel

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Johnny Price, Detroit, 2011 c., photo by Skip Schiel

Ghost Bike, with my folding bike in the background

Ghost Bike, marking a bicyclist’s death, Schiel’s folding bike in the background, Detroit, 2016, photo by Skip Schiel

Later I may add various other photographic tours I’ve made in the United States while touring with my Palestine-Israel presentations, especially south as far as Florida by train and bus, Chicago by train and car, and the West Coast, California to Alaska, by airplane, train and car. At each location I prod myself to walk, often to photograph.

When will I reach the end of my road? And how will the end manifest? Who if anyone might emerge as a solid travel partner or am I fated to walk this path alone (probably, most unlikely that current close friends will ever join me). In addition, my peers and I are aging.

I conclude this little foray into my road trips with two quotes, one by the illustrious peripatetic poet, Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass, the other by what might have been a fellow walker but this was not to happen, my former wife (or simply my former as we call each other), Lynn.

I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.

I am large, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.

All seems beautiful to me…

—Walt Whitman

And from Lynn, her inscription in Whitman’s, Leaves of Grass, that she gave me shortly after we’d met.

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2016

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LINKS:

The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip (at the Detroit Institute of Arts, summer 2016)

The book the exhibition is based on, by the same title

My photos

“And you will be carried where you do not wish to go” in 8 parts, part one

Auschwitz to Hiroshima: A Pilgrimage, 1995

On Turtle Island, A Pilgrimage, 1995

My account specifically about my Open Road experiences in the troubled lands of Palestine and Israel:

The Palestine-Israel Kaleidoscope, a memoir-part 1

The Palestine-Israel Kaleidoscope, a memoir-part 2

And my most recent writing and photography from Detroit (as of posting this blog)

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A special interlude as I examine and portray the troubles in the Levant

With heart-felt thanks to ifixit and J at the office, a true wizard.

There is a saying in Tibetan, “Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.” No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.

― Dalai Lama XIV

My saga in Bethlehem, Occupied Palestinian Territories began about one week into my 10-week photographic journey to this troubled region. I noticed my computer, groaning toward its 6th year anniversary, slow down, crawl, and then emit grinding noises. I tried rebooting which didn’t help. And when I tried once more to restart, it refused—it had comatosely quit. I suspected a broken hard drive. I tell this story because of what it might reveal about living in a region illegally and unjustly occupied by a foreign power while most of the international community, especially governments, do nothing.

First question and step of this saga: what is the problem? J at the office offered to put the computer thru some sort of diagnostic. Couldn’t do it, computer wouldn’t run, no surprise. I considered some options (short of calling my entire project a bust and go home early, 9 weeks out the window):

  1. Replace the hard drive, J would install new software, all that I needed for my photographic work, and conceivably I’d have an improved computer. Software could be expensive and my entire investment in the initial software would be lost. What about pirated software?
  2. Rent a laptop, probably a Windows since I’m in Windows land. This was JV’s recommendation. He doesn’t condone software theft. I located a basic level PC in Ramallah with all the software I needed for $100 monthly, not bad I suppose.
  3. Buy a new computer here, either Mac or Windows, either new or used. However the markup in Israel and Palestine is about 1.7 because of taxes and shipping. I priced a few at the new Mac store in Ramallah, sorely tempted but why waste my money?
  4. Ask M to buy and ship a new MacBook, or as she suggested buy one thru Amazon or some other company that ships internationally. But the same probable extra costs as indicated in #3 holds. I am grateful that she was willing to do this and regularly asks how the resurrection is going.
  5. Do without, use whatever computers I can scrounge where I work. The office has offered me superb facilities. But after that ends what?

Maybe there were more options, I forget. I have followed option #1 because I’m curious about whether I can resurrect the computer, and I look forward to my old buddy with a new outlook on life. My friend and neighbor Johnny is impressed with my sumud (steadfastness, a characteristic of many Palestinians) in the face of disaster—the will to survive, even succeed, fortitude, doggedness.

I backed up everything before I left home, I have a new iMac waiting for me upon my return (once I successfully migrate everything, altho now there is probably nothing to migrate, except maybe off my backup drive.)

And what about data retrieval? J tried that and failed.

Inspired by the Dalai Lama’s legendary love for taking stuff apart to see if he can fix it (I’m not sure he’s applied his acumen to a laptop), here’s my story:

All repair images courtesy of ifixit, others from the internet

1. buy a hard drive. best if in Israel because of availability and price, so I ordered one from BUG, an electronics chain in Jewish Jerusalem. J had advised a different place but I couldn’t find it. Gilat helped me locate this one, everyone was helpful and efficient. Price was 500 NIS or roughly $120 for a 500 gig Seagate. This required 2 Sunday trips, one to order and one to pick up, but since I was in Ramallah anyway for Quaker activities, Jerusalem was not hard to reach.2. to install it I needed a special tool to remove special screws. The tool is called star or torx, pronounced torks. Following various leads from various people I finally found one at a Bethlehem hardware store, thanks to J and B. Cost 24 NIS (about $6)

3. remove the old hard drive from its holder plate by removing the torx screws, only to discover the new hard drive wouldn’t go all the way in. Research this online and learn often such a problem is caused by rubber gaskets slipping out of position and jamming the hard drive.

4. bring a flashlight to the office to confirm this hunch. It’s confirmed. Decide after more research that I need to remove the entire upper case to reach the gasket.

5. to remove the case I need to remove the tiny Phillips head screws. Can’t find a tool for this in the office, despite the preponderance of video equipment and corresponding tools. Try one large hardware store in Bethlehem on my way home. No luck.

6. scout Bethlehem hardware stores, first the store that had the torx driver (on the way to the Israeli checkpoint which I might try to reach anyway so I can walk from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, reversing the walk I made 5 years ago). Hope they have a tiny enough Phillips screwdriver, #00. No luck again.

7. Ask Johnny if he knows where I might find one to borrow in Bethlehem, maybe a jeweler or mobile phone repairer or computer repairer in Bethlehem, anyone dealing with tiny screws.

When I told Johnny about my current phase of computer repair he lambasted me for not purchasing a new computer before I began this trip. He said, Look Skip, Im a craftsman, I use the latest tools even if I have to borrow money to buy them. It pays off. You’re a craftsman and need the best tools, the latest. I explained to him that before I left home I’d considered a new laptop but decided not to buy one because carrying such expensive equipment would make me nervous about loss or breakage, plus I wanted to use my Harvard discount so M could save a little money buying hers (only one per year).

And later when I told Johnny about my current obstacle—the tiny Phillips head screws I need so I can remove the rubber gasket—he said, no problem Skip, me or my brother Robert can find the tool. Bring your computer home tomorrow, we’ll fix it. He was adamant about this, laid it on me as a mandate. Bring your computer to us and we’ll see that it’s fixed!

8. Finally I found the tool in a southern suburb of Jerusalem to which I walked from Bethlehem. I removed the screws (one seems stripped), opened the case, refitted the rubber lining that blocks the hard drive, inserted the new hard drive, closed everything up, tested it—ureka!—and now wonder how to install the new operating system and software.

Ideally I’ll have the essential portion of my computer back. Not the original files which I can live without on this trip. Assuming proper installation of software, I’ll still have to reconfigure the system—install passwords and other data to make software like Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Office, iMovie, Lightroom, and the like work.

I am very grateful for my iPad which has not (yet) failed me, despite a scare with the battery that for a moment wouldn’t charge. I swore at my iPad, it began charging (since kissing and thanking my laptop shortly before it quit proved useless, I thought I’d try a different technique). With the iPad I write my journal, do basic email and web work, check my blogs and do some limited work on them, make videos, Skype (very important), and otherwise, in conjunction with the desktop computer at the office, I manage. I’ve also been forced to more fully explore the iPad, see what apps are available, experiment.

I could have survived without my laptop, merely limp along and improvise, if needed. All because of a little piece of hardware. Ruminating on this problem I wonder if I’d have been smart to install a new hard drive at home. The other one experienced years of rough service. Maybe, who knows? Or bought the new MacBook before leaving, which would have denied M her chance at a computer with my discount, and I’d fear breaking or losing my new $1300 plus piece of gear.

Coming soon, how people who live in a poverty-stricken, imprisoned zone such as Palestine can acquire software.

If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.

― Dalai Lama XIV

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Leaving Boston Massachusetts

George Amer, baker and painter, with his painting, Jerusalem

Excerpts from my journal as I examine and portray the troubles in the Levant

March 23, 2012, Friday, Bethlehem

Over Newark New Jersey

I sit in my kitchen, in my apartment, in my home, morning sun streaming in, writing. One large space punctuated by a wardrobe about 6 ft. high and 10 ft. long which divides the space into bedroom (3 small beds, one will contain me for the night, the other two are my staging areas, one for photo and computer equipment, the other for everything else) and living area. The kitchen merges into the living space and contains not only the expected fridge but a gas-powered single burner stove, small washing machine, cabinetry, and ample counter space for the minimal cooking I plan to do. J, the landlady’s elder son, brought me to the market last night for staples, produce, eggs, chicken, and the necessary beer—thank god Beit Sahour is a Christian town.

I live next to Shepherds’ Fields Orthodox, not far from the Greek Orthodox church I visited in 2007 when I stayed here for a few days before Christmas after I’d walked the 3 or so miles from Jerusalem. This time I rode the bus, 7 shekels ($2), 1 hour, leaving from Damascus Gate and cruising thru different regions of Bethlehem, including Beit Jala. By the end of my one-month tour of duty with Holy Land Trust and the Palestine News Network (PNN), I hope to have explored all this area more fully. In 2007 I was here on a delegation organized by the Cambridge Bethlehem People to People project and I stayed a few months more.

Light rail in Jerusalem

My landlady S dropped in last night to meet me. Earlier her daughter in law, M, had greeted and introduced me to my new home. Followed by M’s husband B, the plumber, and his brother J, the carpenter, who tried to help me connect with wi-fi (eventually my computer succeeded, and now I do not turn it off from fear that I will lose this invaluable connection to the outer world, including family, friends, and most especially M). Out to market with J last night who told me that unlike the Egyptians who are always looking for financial gain, Palestinians act from the heart. Plus he wants me to recommend this facility to other volunteers.

A most providential conversation with my landlady. Her husband died about 4 months ago, heart attack, age about 62. He’d been living in New Jersey for 9 years, she for 4, until she returned home to be with her kids. Shortly after his arrival home his heart attack. He needed angioplasty which wasn’t available in Bethlehem so they brought him by ambulance to Hebron. During the operation—which would have included a stent, much the same operation Y had a few months ago—he died. She appeared deeply troubled by this. I told her my father had also died relatively young from a heart attack and stroke, followed by my mother from cancer within 9 months.

S took this in deeply, seemed especially troubled and then revealed, I have breast cancer. I have it checked regularly, I’ve undergone operations and chemo. I told her that after my father died my mother had wished to die, to join her husband. S looked especially troubled by this, perhaps thinking I might feel the same way and suffer the same fate.

Amal Sabawi, director of Quaker Palestine Youth Program in Gaza, undergoing financial training in Jerusalem

She said one of her main reasons to return home to Bethlehem was family unity. In New Jersey all I did was sit at home, no friends, no family. You in America live so detached from your families. I couldn’t stand it. I told her that I’d neglected to tell my elder daughter Joey goodbye and she’d called me on it. Something like that would rarely occur in Palestine, I suspect. She told me that life is hard here. First the occupation and with it all the restrictions, then the loss of her husband.

Not sure how far to proceed with this conversation I then told her about my mother announcing to Elaine and me that my death will be a gift to you but you’ll need many years to understand why. I told S that indeed a central gift is diminishment of my fear of death. One reason, I told her, I can do what I do, endanger myself while  photographing, is that I’ve detached from survival. I value life, all life, but feel less attached to my own. (I didn’t tell her that this might be changing now that I have such an intense love in my life as M.)

How fortuitous that S and I met last night, that I am residing in her home compound, with her sons and extended family. Already I feel a slight part of this family. Confirming this minimally, last night J offered to be my friend on Facebook. We friended each other and then discovered we have 4 mutual friends including H. H and another Interfaith Peacebuilder’s delegate stayed with J and family a few years ago. I shall write H with this good news.

I’ve proposed the story of S, my landlady and the matriarch of my host extended family to the Palestine News Network, so I might make photographs.

LINKS

Walk Jerusalem to Bethlehem, December 25, 2007

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,” December 27, 2007

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Gaza, 2010

I have followed Skip’s activities through his email newsletter which has kept me up to date through the personal contacts he has made with peacemakers. From living [myself] in a situation of violence and change in South Africa I know how valuable it is to have the kind of support he is offering to peacemakers in Israel and Palestine—getting out the everyday stories of life, thought, and peace and justice making that don’t make the international headlines. It helps keep the people on the ground going.

—Jeremy Routledge, former director of the
Quaker Peace Center in Cape Town, South Africa

Dear friends:

In various ways, I’ve faithfully reported to many people about my work concerning Palestine/Israel. For the past nine years, not only while I was most recently in the region in 2010, but subsequently with my US-based work, I’ve tried to keep people informed and motivated thru my photos and stories.

Later this month I will begin my 7th journey of photographic discovery and exposure of conditions and struggles in Palestine/Israel. I hope you can join me, as a viewer and reader—and as a financial supporter.

Yaffa/Tel Aviv, Israel, 2010

Gaza, 2010

For this 10-week trip I plan to volunteer my photographic services again with the American Friends Service Committee in Gaza and the West Bank, Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, Al-Rowwad in a Bethlehem refugee camp, Friends of the Earth Middle East in both Israel and Palestine, and the Jenin Freedom Theater, as well as other organizations who request my services. Mainly I will photograph for them and also, when asked, teach photography to  high school and university age youth. The AFSC plans a traveling exhibit about the occupation; they’ve sought my photographic contributions. All this is at no or minimal charge to the organizations. Thus I need financial help.

Public opinion in the US is slowly becoming more responsive to Palestinian experiences, the numerous violations of human rights and international law, and the expanding non-violent resistance against the injustice perpetrated by the Israeli government (with corresponding violence and sometimes criminal actions by Palestinians). The United States and many European governments mutely accept most of the illegal and unjust Israeli policies. Slowly, incrementally, a mild trickle of awareness is percolating into what could become a torrent of support for Palestinian rights. On March 30 international organizers plan The Great March on Jerusalem into Israel across the borders of Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. I plan to be there to photograph. I hope to be part of the larger movement for human rights and accountability to international law. With your help I can achieve this.


Gaza, 2010

Airfare is roughly $1300, accommodations, food and local transport will cost me approximately $1400, photo equipment and supplies another $500, and miscellaneous about $300 for a grand total of $3500. I’d deeply appreciate any sort of contribution, large or small, whether money, airline ticket benefits, equipment (photographic or computer) and prayers. I welcome your suggestions about making this journey. You could also help by organizing a showing of my up to date slide shows or photo exhibitions.

Checks can be made out to me, Skip Schiel, mailed to 9 Sacramento St, Cambridge MA, 02138 USA, or you can use PayPal on my website, teeksaphoto.org. I’m not able to offer you a tax deduction.

Thank you so much for your support.

—Skip

Dr. Mona Al Farra, Gaza, 2009

Kalandia Checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem, Ramadan, blocked from attending Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, 2009

You might want to visit these internet sites to view and read what I’ve done over the past 9 years on this project.

teeksaphoto.org (photos)

skipschiel.wordpress.com (writing and photos, plus movies)

eyewitnessgaza.net (movie by Tom Jackson about my work)

www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2902195 (recently published book of my Gaza photos)

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Inside this new love, die.

Inside this new love, die.
Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky
Take an axe to the prison wall.
Escape.
Walk out like someone
suddenly born into color,
Do it now.
You’re covered with thick cloud.
Slide out the side. Die,
and be quiet. Quietness is the surest sign
that you’ve died.
Your old life was a frantic running
from silence.

The speechless full moon
comes out now.

—Jalal al-din Rumi, Sufi poet, 1207-1273, translated by Coleman Barks

From my journal while on the road, 6 weeks in October and November 2008, Alaska to California and back to Portland Oregon, then home to Cambridge Massachusetts—with 3 new slide shows about Palestine/Israel, “My Trip to Gaza,”, “Bethlehem the Holy,” and “The Hydropolitics of Israel-Palestine.” In early December and again in February 2009 I’ll be touring with these and other shows in the southeast section of the US. You can find more information here.

California, part 11 (love and venues):

Photos: Oakland

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Along Piedmont Avenue

First the weather, since it’s so remarkable, contrasting with the equally remarkable Juneau weather: warm, “balmy palmy” as I wrote M last night from the back patio. I sat out there around 9 pm, in a light shirt, blue puffy down vest, bare feet, comfortable, outside in late October. Hardly possibly in Cambridge, impossible in Juneau. I’ve just returned from a morning walk, same clothing except for sandals, giving out SUV tix. The temperature now is 59, with a low in the upper 40s, a high expected of 80. Much like Jerusalem weather.

Surprisingly the sky this morning was clear enough to see the major constellations, Orion prominent. Also prominent is the noise of traffic on the expressway, a constant din.

The neighborhood consists of small houses, usually single level, very few larger apartment buildings, the skin of these houses often beige, sandy, tan, light brown, shades of desert and the Mediterranean. A few palms dot the streets, some deciduous trees seem to be dropping leaves, but I detect no color. Lots of shrubs and few flowering plants. Not as many SUV’s as I’d expected, enough to make my morning run satisfying.

I wrote my reply to M’s disclosure about another man. After composing in 2 sittings, 2 different approaches, and letting both gestate overnight, I’m relatively pleased with my writing, I feel I threaded the border between expressing great remorse, sadness, despair at the loss of a possibility with her for a deeper relationship, and a more or less nonchalant, well, so it is, so it be attitude. Know the truth and the truth shall set you free.

I find myself not crushed, not pained, not miserable–at this moment. I’ve overcome my initial sense of rejection, partly because of how tenderly she expressed her news, with great compassion and caring for me. And partly realizing that I’d invested minimally in her, and that life with M is not over because she has a man-friend, a possible partner. I keep in mind her admission, “I’m a bozo when it comes to relationships,” and this can apply to all of us.

What the fuck, I say to myself, life goes on. No big deal.

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Mountain View Cemetery

I’m well prepared, I hope, for tonight’s first Bay area show, Hydropolitics at the San Francisco Friends meeting. I’ve finally found a sound track for this 3rd show in my west coast series, choosing so far to use no natural sound—Voyage in the Yo Yo Ma Silk Road series. The music is just eastern enough, ethereal enough, to possibly fit. I won’t know until I try it tonight. Once again the show is long, I’ll put in jumps, I hope I don’t have to use them. I hate to cut. I have so much rich material, at least 1/2 of it new.

Dan, dear man, will drive me. I’ll treat him to dinner near the site. We continue our romp thru friendship. Laughing,  joking, confiding, loving. I told him about M’s news, about my dream of her on skates. He offered, she’s skating away from you. Or you from her, since dream characters are usually aspects of the dreamer.

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Some of our richest conversations recount our pilgrimage experiences, notably Cambodia. Since I’d missed Israel-Palestine because of running out of money, he filled me in again on how pilgrims found housing in Jerusalem: after an initial rejection at a large French hostel, walking back to their temporary dwelling at the Faisal, Brother Sasamori in his orange flowing robes, they met a young beautiful French woman (F?) who brought them back to the hostel, reminded the sister that she had a bevy of unheated cabins. So pairs of pilgrims each had a private cabin.

Dan volunteers about 2 days weekly at the National Radio Project, where he answers phones, does mailings and other humble office work. He told me about a recent call from a Black man in Texas who felt he was being disenfranchised. A detective left him a letter demanding he come to the office to determine if he would be accused of a misdemeanor or a felony. If the latter, he’d be removed from the voting rolls. The man had no idea what this was about, thought it harassment. Dan suggested he vote immediately, early by 2 weeks, and then see the detective. Dan also put him in touch with a local agency protecting voting rights.

This is a huge issue, protection of voting eights. Already signs are emerging that Republicans, maybe Democrats as well, are threatening voters, intimidating them at polling places and thru phone calls. As if the Republicans sense disaster and are desperately attempting to alter the outcome thru chicanery.

Dan and Elizabeth will also be poll workers again this round, for their 12th year. They will be trained, then serve an entire day, something like 7 am to 8 pm.

I enjoy watching them together, comparing them with Elaine and Bob in how they fit around and into each other. They cook together in the evening, but Elizabeth admitted to me yesterday, Dan and I agree on very little concerning food. How then do they manage? one might inquire. They balance each other in conversation. Elizabeth is indeed a beautiful woman, in her early 70s. Dan is 74. Curiously they have on their walls and fridge many pix of themselves, separate, together, and with others. A veritable parade of Dan and Elizabeth. Odd, I don’t do that. Altho I treasure photos that show me with loved ones and potential lovers, as in the recent photo of M and me on top of the Mt Auburn cemetery tower, most of my family photos are of others, sans me.

Altho Elizabeth and Dan have no children, they are close to children in many families, hers, his, some in Chicago, and from neighbors.

Their house is compact, well designed, well lived in. I was with them when they were virtually living out of suitcases, 1995, pilgrimage time when we met. All appliances are elegant. All furnishings are elegant. Little is extravagant. The coffee maker, for instance, sleek black, combining grinder with maker, and a timer. The stove, gas, self-lighting. The water filter. The small island work counter. The large fridge not stuffed (as was Elaine and Bob’s). The dining room wooden table. The various chairs and sofas. Buddhas abounding.

Chris M is arranging, belatedly, a show of Hydropolitics at the Napa library. She bemoaned the lateness, wondered if we should cancel. I said, Well, I’m going to be there anyway, I think, visiting Louise, so why not? Then the Portland show. But that’s about it, along with the Davis show this Saturday. Not much to show for all this travel, other than the side benefits of visits and more photography—and all the editing I’ve done. I’m puzzled about what to do concerning Seattle and Portland, since I have a train ticket which will bring me to one or the other with little to do, too early.

Allan gave me a dire report about San Francisco show arrangements—virtually nothing pending. When I said, Well you tried, you did your best, he retorted, No we didn’t, we could have done more. Phone calls, for instance, other forms of follow up. He told me that for the first time in years he’d attended Pacific Yearly meeting of Friends. He’d stopped going because only 2 or 3 would attend his presentations about Israel-Palestine. This year: 30 enthusiastic Quakers. He announced my availability to give shows, I’m not sure whether this was in person or by email. And only 2 responded, both no’s.

Why is this? I asked.

Possibly the surfeit of similar events, San Francisco is deluged with political presentations. Or people are too busy to organize something. But, he added after I’d asked, I don’t think this is from self-silencing. I wonder. I suspect the heart of the matter is, as he suggested,  his and his office’s minimal attention on finding me venues.

October 22, 2008, Wednesday, with Dan and Elizabeth in Oakland

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Where I write and process photos, Dan’s room

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Voluptuousness

Tender lovers, bravely face your suffering.
The god who gives you these bonds,
Must come to your aid in the end;
The least favor
That love provides
Is able to atone for the troubles that he makes us suffer.

Far from this place, sad wisdom,
Should one forbid youth
Forming these delightful bonds?
What madness,
When from its love
A young heart loses its sweetest moments!

—Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, act III of Cephale et Procris, 1665-1729

California, part 11 (love found and lost, perhaps found again):

Photos: none

From my journal while on the road, 6 weeks in October and November 2008, Alaska to California and back to Portland Oregon, then home to Cambridge Massachusetts—with 3 new slide shows about Palestine/Israel, “My Trip to Gaza,”, “Bethlehem the Holy,” and “The Hydropolitics of Israel-Palestine.” In early December and again in February 2009 I’ll be touring with these and other shows in the southeast section of the US. You can find more information here.

After a fitful night aboard the StarryLightLate train, sitting now in the Sacramento station (on the train), sipping morning coffee, after eating an egg-sausage-cheese squishy bagel, followed by an exquisite apple-peanut butter concoction, listening to folks comment on their night experience (cold, distributing pillows, removed the last car, just joined the train from the north, etc), looking out on a slowly-arising-sun-saturated sky, almost on time (1/2 hour late), I can write my night experiences.

To wit, many dreams, only one of which I can now recall: it featured L3, who rarely appears to me in dreams, coming from behind me as I and a crowd make our way to watch a Bread and Puppet Theater-like performance. She ignores me. Passes me. I notice her boots, the plopping sound they make on the pavement.

At the performance itself, I watch a young man wearing a mask that doesn’t fit. He complains about it hitting his mouth. He shifts it up (I continually shift my sleeping position to find respite from the slight torture of sleeping on a coach car) and I notice he’s vaselined his mouth area. On one more occasion L3 pointedly avoids me. How true to life this dream is.

I know I slept, since I dreamt. Did I sleep well? Does it matter? I will regain my sleep, eventually. Soon I will be in the loving arms of Dan.

What did I do on the train yesterday as we plummeted south?

I wrote M, a relatively long letter, not as long as some I’ve written to F. I wrote with high expectations that she will soon respond. She seems responsive. Our dialogue seems to me rich and wholesome, a form of advanced flirting perhaps, testing our friendship, how far it goes, setting the stage for something more developed. I am hopeful, not necessarily for a long-term partnership but for a sound, long-lived friendship.

Unlike meeting and instantly loving L1 and Louise, knowing when I met them (did I actually?) that we were for each other, M is slowly growing on me. I feel warm thinking about her. Not tingling, not erotic (is this also my age?), not with sparks, but with a glow, an ember in the night, sustained thru the long night.

~At this moment, revising my journal, I sit in the glowing sun, warming to its touch. The sky is now clear, the sun burning thru the window as trains flash by in the opposite direction.~

I chatted with a young man I’d met in the Seattle station, wearing his baseball cap with sunglasses perched on top. This is how I recognize him on the train. He seemed to seek me out. He sat with me several times in the café-parlor-dome car. He confided to me that he doesn’t read or write, he is severely dyslexic. His path is ideas, he told me, answering my question. Can you build anything with those ideas, bring them into existence?

Maybe, if aided.

I feel for him, his malady, virtually invisible yet restricting his outlook, his prospects. How debilitating to not be able to write or read.

He also told me he’d separated from his wife of 3 years, has 2 kids, one about 10, the other 5, his wife broke a court order and moved out of state. He’s trying to resolve this. He’s had warrants served on him from what he claimed were minor infractions. He just registered to vote, mainly to procure an ID, and seemed excited to be voting for the first time. He worries that he won’t understand the voting procedure. He backs Obama. He’s on his way to Chico California.

~We are in California’s Central Valley, very flat, alongside an interstate highway, speeding along at least as fast as the autos. I don’t believe we’ve been held up much by freights, I don’t recall any long stops. A mountain is in the distance. The sky is mostly clear, with thin cirrus and some haze. The light is orange. A recumbent biker just passed in the opposite direction on a smaller access road.~

We are almost at Davis, about 45 minutes late. It’s about time to try calling Dan to forecast my arrival time. Will my cell phone have coverage? Did I remember to write down his phone number?

Also yesterday I edited Hydropolitics, sitting in the lounge car, looking east, the sun setting behind me. I heard a voice. What software are you using?

Keynote, new Apple product, works well.

It was the train conductor, himself an amateur photographer. He showed me some of his photos on his iPhone, mostly of old steam trains. He knows the work of O Winston Link, the pre-eminent steam train photographer.

I read much of Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour, the horrors of dislocation and forced removal in Palestine’s Galilee, about as vicious as can be imagined. Chacour claims the Israelis promised to return the village to the Palestinians, on a given date and time. Ecstatic, the villagers returned, only to be given a performance: the shelling of their homes. Was this the design of the Israelis, to enhance the suffering of the native peoples?

~The central valley hills roll gently, brown and bare. It looks dry, auburn, toasted. Periodically I’ve left the train for short walks on various train platforms, just to test the air. I could chart the temperature rise from Juneau to Seattle, Portland, and further south. If I could hang my head out the window here I suspect the weather would be hot.~

I wrote in my journal, as I’m doing now, without end, nearly. Since on the train I have few competing interests, little I can do other than ride the train.

Adding to my account of  my Vietnamese nephew, Vu, and family: his neighborhood of Renton Washington, recently constructed, is 80% white, he and Le estimate, with a large proportion of Asians, Russians, and Chinese. Recently they attended a BBQ block party. They claim no or little racism directed at their kids in the schools or in the neighborhood. Is this the American dream working? How deeply do they understand?

—October 20, 2008, Monday, on the Star Late/Light Nonexpress, Seattle to Oakland

Big news from M, not wholly surprising. More about that later, first the dreams:

The first dream reveals my true reaction to the news—or at least one component of that reaction. We were passing thru a mall, noticing displays related to Easter and Christmas, lots of brightly colored lights. She was on roller skates. Both of us were sad, for different reasons. She abruptly stopped, offered me a large hug, and then skated off. I was crushed, wept, wept in 3 distinct phases somehow. And I awoke with a sort of choked sobbing, not tearing, not exactly weeping, but wrought, pained.

Second dream, equally sorrowful, I was shooting at L1 and Joey with an automatic rifle. It was dark, probably night; I could see only vague shapes. I recoiled, did not wish to hit Jo, only L1. Why, I don’t know.

Now the news from M…

In short, as I guessed, she has a relationship brewing with her dancer friend…

How shall I respond? What do I truly feel? How to express that? What do I wish for, what might she wish for?

I felt knocked about when I read her message yesterday, embedded in a longer letter about that and other matters, as I was just settling into a brief sojourn with Dan and Elizabeth in Oakland. Crushed might be a better word, but mixed as well. I think when I respond I’ll say something about my hopes regarding relationships, and avoid pinning any blame on her. This is a tough one to sort out, to finesse—I’d like to maintain our friendship while deepening my understanding of love, friendship, companionship, courtship, partnership, commitment.

Rather than delve into that at this moment—one challenge is to not obsess about this, not lose focus on my journey, my mission, my path, my life—I’d like to make a few other observations about how this journey is progressing.

Dan met me at the Jack London Amtrak station in Oakland, the train a mere 45 minutes late (it can be 3 hours late). I was overjoyed to see him, we are back in our old grove of goofing off. Last evening he told me about a recent medical encounter… We roared as he told that, him almost on his knees in gales of laughter.

The train ride was excellent, as I’ve already recounted, the sleeping minimal, my companions OK, the landscapes exquisite, service excellent, price just right, and the work I did satisfying to me. Such a train ride is a sort of long carpool with strangers, few of them needing my attention, releasing me for wild reverie, reflection, writing, editing, and maybe even some photographing.

What about Internet access? One of my first questions to Dan. Maybe at the house thru an open neighborhood network, but first let’s try a local café. Dan and Elizabeth suggested the Eritrean café, Dejena, about 1 mile from here, near the BART station, in what Elizabeth calls a transition neighborhood. The general neighborhood is largely black, some Hispanic, some white, an integrated neighborhood. I noticed a plethora of storefront churches, perhaps one of the densest clusters of such nascent houses of worship. Other small shops, a boxing gym. Dan dropped me at the café, I checked to make sure they did have free Internet as their window sign claimed, and that it was functioning. I chose a table, set down my packs, ordered my split pea soup, and then opened my grey backpack to retrieve my computer.

No computer! First thought: someone stole it during my last minutes on the train. But I didn’t recall ever leaving the pack alone after I’d last dropped in the computer. Did I leave it in the parlor car where I’d been working, hurrying off to detrain at Oakland? My heart fluttered, I might have fainted. I mentally reviewed all the materials on the computer that I’d not backed up, most particularly my newest revision of Hydropolitics which I’d been editing on the train.

Second thought: what now? I’ll have to find a computer, transfer my backed up files from the compact flash and external hard drive to the new computer and soldier on. All at sizeable effort and cost. Oh how could this be, stolen or misplaced, my worst nightmare realized (later I toyed with a comparison: which is worse? Losing my computer or losing M to another man? Is there any comparison?)

Third thought: whoa big guy, didn’t you park your computer and its cables in the big black satchel Bob gave you, with the projector? At Elizabeth and Dan’s home? Oh yeah, that’s what I did. Relief. I asked the counter woman to put aside my soup, I’d be right back. Trotting to the house I bumped into Dan who was shocked to see me. I explained, we chuckled, I carried on. (I later discovered a free network I can use from home.)

Some good news amidst the sadness: Waddah S called my cell as I was chatting with Elizabeth in my room (Dan gave up his room for me, the ultimate mark of friendship, moved into the basement, slumbers in a sleeping bag on a mat, his breathing machine hooked to his mouth and nose, what a dear man). Waddah is Palestinian, living in Portland Oregon, teaching at Portland State University, and would like to host a public show. Eureka, a rare spontaneous invitation. This helps settle my plan for the last few days, most likely Portland, not Seattle.

Now to return to the M question—what to write her? I’ve already begun a letter, within minutes of reading hers, for my own edification, to reveal what I felt, to begin wording it, and I deliberately avoided sending it without gestation. I had that dream about sorrow (I wonder what her precipitating dream was, should I ask her, should I confess mine?) which opens my heart to my inner reality. I’m contemplating a combo of what I wrote last night which is a bit airy, theoretic, generic, and something about my hopes regarding coupleness. So here goes the latter part:

M, this recent episode in my life, getting to know you a little better, hearing from you about your friend, helps me clarify what I may be looking for in a relationship. (Is relationship the overarching question of the century, of the millennium, of existence?). Nearly always going steady, married, partnered, rarely single, never truly single for any significant period of time, and now on an unusual course at my age, not retired, no thought of retirement, on a mission until I keel over, I have to wonder, what sort of relationship might work, what sort of person? So if you don’t mind I’ll go inward, be self-absorbed and plumb this. You can delete if not interested, and you need not reply.

On the one hand… and on the other…

That is, I can visualize myself single for my remaining years, with lots of friends, some companions, some companeras and companeros, but never committed. Since, as I’ve said before, I am already committed: to my work, my missions of photography and social activism. This is paramount for me, supercedes most other considerations. Case: as I think I mentioned to you, when Louise’s sister was dying of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, a slowly debilitating, incurable malady, and I might have remained in the States supporting Louise, I chose to work in Israel-Palestine. She never asked me to remain home, but I know this was her wish. Had I been committed to her, to our relationship, I would not have left her side. (Maybe I explained all this about commitment to you before, sorry if I’m repeating myself.)

If the topic for me is not Palestine/Israel, it might be prisons. If not prisons, it might be poverty. If not poverty, it might be governance and civility (I’d love to explore Holland and other countries in that region that seem so livable.). And the primary path is always two fold: photography and political work. Doing the best I can in both areas. Risking my life, livelihood, comfort, and relationships.

However—a big however—I can also visualize myself partnered. Maybe with someone like Louise. Someone with whom I share the deepest passions, not necessarily photography and politics, but art and activism perhaps. Maybe she is about the environment or about the economic system (now in disarray), but she is active, she is committed, she is impassioned. She is stepping out, a dance of engagement.

Louise and I share a passion for Engaged Buddhism, the Thich Nhat Hanh-Dalai Lama approach, as we found operating with Nipponzan Myohoji, the Nichiren sect you and I have discussed. Right on—this sort of Buddhism, this sort of faith, this sort of approach, this use of the chant. To some extent what Soka Gokkai International, your group, is doing, and for sure what the Boston Research Center is aiming at so profoundly.

I won’t here go into why Louise and I decided to disengage from each other, to remain deep friends, karmic buddies, but not a couple.

Do I then set up requirements when assessing possible relationships? I’m afraid I do, for better or worse. Can anyone ever measure up? Jeez, I don’t know. Maybe this is the wrong approach, ultimately failing.

At the same time I’m happy with many sorts of people. I am a promiscuous friend maybe, with all sorts of buddies, pals, dears. A vagabond lover as my former wife’s astute dad named me.

And so I arrive at you and me: who knows?

Am I sad at your news? For you, no. I’m pleased, as mentioned earlier. For me, a mixture. You had a dream that prompted you to write me. I had a dream last night that revealed one aspect of my response to the news…

[And I disclose to M my grief dream. This is the first draft of a letter I eventually sent her.]

—October 21, 2008, Tuesday, with Dan and Elizabeth in Oakland

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