Waiting for Beauty

(A Letter from a father to his daughter)

November 25, 2002

My dear Anaïs,

At the age of 16 a child begins a new adventure, becoming an adult. In this country, as you know, children who reach the age of 16 are able to obtain driver’s licenses.When they become 18 they can join the U.S. military. We send children off to fight and die for our country at that age. I say this because I want you to know that I can appreciate the transition you are going through and the challenges ahead of you in the next few years.

I am proud of you in having such an adventurous spirit – inherited from your mother and me – I suppose. That you have chosen to study in this country, with the handicap of having to learn the English language, makes me very proud. I understand from Teresa and your aunt that you are doing well.

Were it not for my spirit of adventure, your mother and I would never have met. I want to tell you our story, as it is a beautiful story involving a love which has gone on for nearly 17 years. And in spite of the years, the love I have had for you and your mother has never diminished. I don’t think you will find the story objectionable, and you may wish to read it together with a friend who can help with any words which may seem difficult. You may wish to have someone else read the story first in order to reassure you that there is nothing in the story that should hurt you. If anything, I should hope you will feel a nice glow from the story. That’s it. I know others will feel the glow and tell you about it if you are afraid of it. But there is nothing, absolutely nothing, for anyone to fear in this story. Thanksgiving is upon us and I wanted you to have this, at least in your possession, then.

When your mother was boarding the plane in Rhodes to return to Paris, from our adventure in Turkey and the island of Rhodes, she turned to me (we were both in tears) and said, “What will become of us?” I answered, “I don’t know, but I do know it will be sad but beautiful.”

Waiting for Beauty

That’s the title of the book that would be required to show you how I came to fall in love with your mother, to choose to have you, and to know that in the end, though the story will be sad, there is beauty. From what I have seen of you, I think you are beautiful inside and out. I regret not having had the privilege of being with you all of your life, helping and watching that beauty grow.

The breakage of our family after you were born was very traumatic to all of us. Imagine going from a state of Paradise – that is how our relationship was – to a state of abandonment and loss, where the heart seems to have been grabbed and wrenched from our breast. That’s how it was for your mother and me when I left Paris so many years ago. And the reason I left (I actually I made about 3 trips back to Paris to try to keep the family intact) had nothing to do with our falling out of love. Your mother developed a condition where the female rejects the spouse emotionally and physically during the pregnancy. Sometimes that condition also occurs in women after a child is born.

Before we chose to have you your mother and I had an agreement that we would go to the Marie and sign a wedding certificate. That way I could work and you would have the benefits of being my legal child and American. When the rejection of me began, the wedding certificate was no longer part of the plan.

I couldn’t handle the rejection and couldn’t figure out how I could stay and support my family. After you were born, on my last trip to Paris, the rejection was coming and going and I proposed that I buy a flat. That way at least we would have a home paid for and I could figure out how to solve the problem of getting a job in Paris sufficient to support my new family. Your mother asked, “But if we move into the new flat (we had looked at a few by then) what will happen to me if we break up? I will have no place to go and apartments are hard to find in Paris.” So we didn’t buy the flat and I ended up leaving a few weeks later.

The irony to this part of the story, of course, is that your mother and I ended up buying the flat anyway and it was done under a miraculous condition. She amazed me how well and quickly she was able to do it under the inhospitable and hostile environment she was in at 33 Rue Francouer.

When I left Paris I made an agreement with your mother that I would set aside money for you in the US. That child support money helped her buy the apartment she is in.

Just before your seventh birthday (It happened on February 29) I had a gran mal, epileptic seizure. It is a condition where all the nerve cells in the region of the temples start firing all at once and the body begins trembling, and I passed out for about 5 minutes. One thing about the seizure, the person who has one does not remember it. I was severely bruised on my hip and also on my wrist, where it appears someone was trying to restrain me where I fell on the sidewalk.

I had been working with the homeless, was under a lot of stress at a job I had taken, was getting about 3 hours sleep a night, and this, compounded with the loss of my family, caused me to have the seizure. Also, I had been told in one of my prophetic writings ( I talk about the source of them at the end of this writing) that I am not to go into the streets. I was consciously ignoring that prophesy and felt I could help some of the homeless get into better shelters. I had arranged with the army, in fact, to get a large tent with cots, chests, etc. which could be erected in Golden Gate park (near the Haight-Ashbury area). I had developed a plan by which some of the homeless, who were veterans and could relate to the tent, could work in the tent to help those who need shelter and a better situation obtain it. I had 200 homeless people signed up to work the tent. We took the plan to Mayor Jordan of San Francisco, requesting permission to raise the tent near the park, and he not only would not hear the plan, he had our printed materials (which I had created for them) seized. He announced a plan called, Matrix, which resulted in chasing the homeless off the streets. One of the homeless people was responsible for their community purse, for the community was raising money passing out pamphlets arguing for their sake. The purser, I suppose we could call him, disappeared with the purse containing several hundred dollars. I had been told he was in Golden Gate park, so the next day, a Saturday, February 29, I was walking down to the park to look for him, when my seizure began. I began to feel dizzy, as I was searching the faces of the homeless on the grass, then began walking up the street to my car. I felt an electrical snapping sensation in my left temple, then I remember saying, “Oh, no,” to myself, and my right temple snapped. I awoke in the ambulance. Since that seizure, my personality changed, and I no longer went into the streets helping the poor. The day I had my seizure is the day we planned to raise the tent, were we given permission to do so. I take medication for the epilepsy and I have never had another seizure.

The effects of the seizure were terrible. I lost my driver’s license for three months and was not able to work for about a year and a half. It wiped out all of my savings, it changed my personality from being out-going to that of a recluse. I did not leave the boat unless absolutely necessary. I wrote a lot and I stopped seeing my girl-friend, Patty. You may remember her. She ended up getting married about 8 months later. During this period I didn't want anyone to touch me and I was a little like the guy in the movie “Rain Man, “ starring Dustin Hoffman, who was autistic. I had some memory loss and have been slowly coming out of my shell.

When you asked me to come to Paris for your 7th birthday, I said I would come, hoping I could overcome that which was causing me to fear leaving the refuge of my boat. I proceeded to make arrangements to visit you, but then was told that I would not receive my passport – which had to be renewed – for four months. I should have called you, but even if I had I would not know how to explain to you what was happening to me. For my entire story involving you and your mother involves, as you will see, problems with my passport. Those problems led to your mother getting sick in Rhodes. But I am getting ahead of my story.

In any event, with regard to my illness, when I saw you in Paris when you were 11, it was a major step forward for me in coming out of my shell.

If I have a seizure on the boat, I don't hurt anyone. Off the boat a seizure to me would be horrifying. Though I am functional and do well at work, I still can't wait to get home each day to the boat. I suffer from side-effects from medication I took years ago. Even when you saw me in Paris I had a condition, and continue to have it, where I feel pressure on my brain – like a steel band tightened around my head, made ever tighter by thumbscrews on my temples. Also I have an unusual condition where my nerve cells are firing, causing me to hear a humming sound in my brain (it's not in my ears). Sometimes the humming sound, which is high-pitched, is loud enough to drown out the noise of the refrigerator. The medication which caused the condition is Paxil. I never had the condition before I took that drug. It was prescribed to reduce stress and the fear of having another seizure. I stopped taking it after 3 months.

Since you last saw me, I have been making more improvement in coming out of my shell. I have been given more responsibility at the newspapers and have to work later in the evening and often on Saturdays. Also I go to Chamber of Commerce “mixers” which are usually crowded with business people trying to make connections with one another. In my reclusive state I hate crowds. I am getting better, but it is difficult for me to be in crowds. Driving home after 6:00pm a year ago used to be frightening to me. Now I can drive home after 8;00pm, maybe 9:00pm, with some stress, but not always the overwhelming fear of having a seizure.

I had hoped that we could have continued my spending my vacation in Paris with you each year, since it would have helped us both in many ways. It would have been good for everyone, I think. But it has always been your mother’s and my feeling that we would not pressure you; we would wait for you when you feel it is time.

I was very excited last July at the prospect of visiting you and your mother and aunt in New York. Your mother and I still care for one another.

What I have been telling you, of course, is about my adventure since my seizure. How each day I find myself taking a small outward step from the security of my boat. Each day I go a little further.

Now I can tell you about your papa’s great adventure, which produced you.

The Quest to meet someone special

In November 1984 I had a compulsion to go to Jerusalem. I had traveled much of the world with my first wife who was in sales for a Mexican airline, now known as AeroMexico. In the 70’s and early 80’s we received free air travel and 50% off at Hilton and Sheraton hotels, and others. We spent much time going to Europe and the Far East. I was then a Program Manager in Aerospace, responsible for some pretty heavy duty stuff – missiles and aircraft – and making good money. In any event when I had the compulsion to go to Jerusalem, it was in part due to the fact that Jerusalem is one of the places I had never been and I had been writing about issues involving it, the antiquities, etc. Business was bad, and I figured the best thing for me to do was to go on an adventure. My wife and I had been divorced since ‘81, I had the money to carry me overseas for awhile. But then a voice in the back of my mind was telling me not to go yet. It was not the right time to leave.

The following July it was time for me to leave and I arrived in Jerusalem, canceling my Hilton hotel reservation and moving into the King George hotel near the walls of the old city. When I chose to leave for Jerusalem I knew that I was being sent on a Quest and I would meet someone. I had no idea who it would be.

I had met some kids who suggested that I move into a pension where it was $10.00 per night, as opposed to $40.00 at the King George. I was too old for the pensions for the kids but found a French Marionite convent in the Old City that rented out rooms – which were formerly the cells of nuns – for $9.00 per night. I had a bed and a private shower, plus continental breakfast. My room was right next to the chapel on the second floor, and I would awaken to hear the priest and three nuns sing Gregorian chants (in French). It was quite beautiful and peaceful, actually. Walking through the chapel to the roof, there was a patio where one could sit. The entire city was spread out before me. Such a beautiful view. And I loved the mullahs as they sang their chants, enticing the Moslems to prayer. Much of the chants were recordings through speakers, but some of them were directly sung from atop the minarets.

One day, as I was sitting at my usual place at the pizza stand, at the intersection of Damascus street and the Via Dolorousa, I observed a man in a long flowing white robe with red trim, who carried a small, black briefcase with the name Elijah written on it. He had long white hair and beard and carried a six-foot long stave. He came like a whirlwind down the Damascus street shouting, “Repent, for the kingdom is at hand;” and more often than not he would get into arguments with the crowds of tourists, since he was calling them evil, sinners and all kinds of names. I, along with the others, thought he was crazy.

About two weeks later I was hanging out in Zion Square, having a beer. Zion Square is located in the New City of Jerusalem and is a long street-only for pedestrians-with restaurants that have dining tables in the street. Along came the fury, Elijah and he sat down at a table right next to me, joining another fellow. I could hear their conversation and learned that Elijah was from Oakland and the other fellow, who had dark curly hair and was wearing a shirt and blue-jeans, was from Indiana, as I recall. He was in his late 20’s. The fellow from Indiana told Elijah about a compulsion he had in the fall of ‘’84 “to come to Jerusalem.” He was so troubled by the compulsion he told Elijah that he wanted to commit suicide. Then Elijah told him that he had the same compulsion that fall, to come to Jerusalem. I listened to them for awhile and discovered that Elijah was quite rational and finally got up the courage to turn to them and introduce myself, explaining to them that I had the same compulsion to visit Jerusalem. We chatted for awhile about general issues and Elijah and the man got up and left.

Thereafter, whenever Elijah came down the street, then in a more gentle manner, I noticed he was being greeted by people and he would come over to their table and chat with them. One day I invited him to my table and offered him a beer, but he chose tea. From then on he would visit my table and have his usual tea. I avoided Biblical discussions with him and kept our conversations on issues on how he was getting along, etc. He did tell me that he believed he was sent to meet a resurrected Moses. It essentially translated to his expectation of meeting Christ, and he was going around announcing the return, telling everyone to repent. His polemical behavior toned down and I remarked to him how well the people were responding to him when he was not shouting at them and waving his stave at them. He agreed and more and more people were making friends with him. At the time I saw a few other robed people who appeared to believe they were “prophets” running around Israel. One, who wore a long white robe and carried a guitar, got on my bus after I had left Caesarea, heading back to Jerusalem. He got off in some remote place along the road.

It was not exactly a safe place for an American to be, but traveling around Israel filled my interests in the antiquities, the ruins, etc. And I saw the developing conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis firsthand.

I used Jerusalem as my base. One day some kids convinced me to go to Egypt with them. So we took a bus from Tel-Aviv to Cairo. The trip cost $45.00, as I recall, and included two nights in the dingiest hotel I had ever seen. My room-mates and I laughed as we searched for bedbugs. Well you get what you pay for.

I was 42 years old then (I think) and in pretty good shape. The kids were in their early ‘20s. One, John, was from Denver, another from Mexico City, another a Hollander and another from Britain. They decided that we must climb the pyramids, which was illegal. The next morning, in the fog, we began climbing the small pyramid. The blocks are huge, about 3 feet high, and the slope was steeper than it looked. One slip and you would plunge to the bottom – which is why it was illegal to climb them. I was the second one to the top, just behind the heels of the guy from Denver. I felt pretty good, as I beat out kids who could have been my kids.

The top of the pyramid is actually a large square, flat area where people over the years had left graffiti. Some were old, carved messages, and others the handiwork of people with spray paint. The view was bad, because of the fog, and we could only see the bases of the other two pyramids. Then we saw a policeman standing down below, pointing his finger at the ground. We climbed down. He lectured us and let us go.

The kids decided we needed to take the train up the Nile to the Temple of Luxor (Thebes), where the Valley of the Kings is also located. They insisted that we go like the Egyptians: in third class in a third class train. They had me buy the tickets and the ticket agent told me that we did not want to go third class. Second class, but not third class. The kids insisted, so we took the third class tickets and went to the train platform, to rudely discover that third class meant standing room only. I always hated crowded situations. We boarded the train, squashing our way into the mass of people. You had to use your elbows to jam into the sides of the person pushing next to you to make space for yourself. The Mexican was smart. He had found a place to sit on the overhead luggage rack. I looked at John and signaled with my thumb, “Let’s get out of here,’” and we all jumped through the door just before the door closed.

The ticket agent, a nice middle-aged lady, smiled when I came back to her window to exchange the third class tickets for the second class tickets. In second class you get to sit down.

We waited on the platform for the train doors of the second class cars to open. There was an Egyptian standing beside me in his long, white robe. He had a tattoo on his hand in the shape of a cross. After some time I asked him why they hadn’t opened the door of the car to let us in. He answered, “Oh, sir, “they are my friends and will let us in shortly. We have just come back from a retreat (or convention) in Alexandria and are going home.” As I had a worried look on my face, that perhaps there will be no room for us in the car, he added, “Don’t worry, there will be room for you and your friends.”

The train was an awful green color. I saw a man inside the car lift a 6 foot long iron bar and then the two doors slid open. The Egyptian (he was of the Coptic religion) motioned, “come,” and then divided us up, telling us where each of us would sit. None of his friends could speak much English, and I could see my friends agonizing, trying to answer the prying questions from the man’s group. Their leader, with whom I sat, thought it was odd that I, being a Christian, did not have a cross tatooed on my hand.

We brought several melons and cantaloupes and many large bottles of water. There was no water on the train, and we were told to carry enough to avoid dehydration. My Egyptian friend warned us to watch our water and melons, for the men in the car might steal them. So we did. He also advised us to sit on a luggage rack, where we would take turns sleeping during the long night (the trip was about 12 hours). I had the third shift on the luggage rack. It was made of the usual varnished hardwood slats, just wide enough for your body. You would grab on to the outside slat with your right hand and surprisingly hang on during your sleep and not fall off the rack as the train rocked back and forth speeding up the Nile’s winding, tropical course.

Many of the windows on the train were broken out, allowing the smoke from the diesel engine to pour in. I tore up my bath towel and divided it among the kids, and the towels we tied over our face. It helped but the stench of diesel was making us sick. We began thinking about climbing out the window and sitting on the roof of the train, as many of the Egyptians had done. But we stayed put, ate our melons and drank water. Curiously the Egyptians had no water. When we would come into a station vendors outside would sell water through the window. Some would leave the car and drink from the public fountain at the station. But I think in the entire journey several Egyptians had no water, and we were afraid of running out of ours.

You can die from dehydration and we were starting to feel that we were getting in trouble. About 8 hours into the trip, after many large bottles of water, none of us could go to the bathroom. There were two bathrooms. One was small, designed as a urinal, and the other was a room about 7 feet square with a hole in the floor. The walls and the floor were thoroughly covered with shit. When I went to go in there and quickly turned around I shook my head to the others: “You don’t want to see this.” I could not believe anyone could live under such conditions.

By then we were so far up the Nile peasants were allowed to enter our car and they usually carried large black sacks filled with God knows what. They would sit on the floor. Finally the car had filled up, and the last man to enter, seeing no place to sit down, went into the crapper and laid his sack down, laid down with his feet on top the sack, and went to sleep. I saw him as I was making a third (and unsuccessful) attempt to use the urinal.

I was glad we had taken the train, since we could see villages wake up as we rolled through them. Many villages were in the horse and buggy stage. And in Luxor, when we arrived, we found that the best way to get around was to take a horse-carriage. Our driver who was taking us to visit the Temple of Luxor (evening sound and light show, which was terrific) kept calling us “darling.” “Now where would you like me to take you now, darling?” he would ask.

The Temple of Luxor is huge; actually the largest temple complex in the world. Some of the temple’s columns are so big you can put a horse and its carriage atop them, claimed one of our temple guides.

We rented bicycles, took a ferry across the river, and rode out to the Valley of the Kings. We toured all of the tombs which were open. We had been warned to hire someone at the site to watch the bicycles. We didn’t do that, so when we had seen all we needed to see, we went to retrieve our bikes. The front tire of mine was flat. I don’t recall the distance to Luxor, but it was a long way with the flat tire.

While traveling in Israel and later in Egypt I had been fallafuled out. So I would buy pita bread, some tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers and a can of tuna fish or sardines. The fish replaced the garbanzo bean ball. It’s not a bad diet. It seemed to go well with beer.

The guys wanted to go to the Aswan dam on a feluka (sail boat of the Nile). I had seen enough of Egypt, so I booked a bus for the Red Sea and on the bus met two ladies from Spain. When we arrived at the coastal resort town (the resort was like a Club Med, run by a German) the girls and I decided to share a room together. That actually worked out fine. They had their bed and I had mine. We stayed a week there. We did a lot of diving. The Red Sea is absolutely beautiful, teaming with fish and coral reefs. The cab driver who drove us from the bus depot into town pointed out a modern, and apparently new, ten story apartment building, saying, “I live up there.” Then he added, “I am a Bedouin and used to live in a tent.” He said that he preferred living in the tent.

I left the ladies from Spain and headed back by bus along the Red Sea to the Suez canal, where I caught a bus back to Tel Aviv and on to Jerusalem. Before we got to Suez we passed through a large stony desert, and far in the distance I could see a Bedouin man walking towards our highway. There was absolutely nothing within my sight which could have served as a destination point for the man.

In Jerusalem I used to hang out at a pizza stand in the Old City. As I mentioned earlier, it is where the Via Dolorousa crossed the main street called the Damascus Street. It led from the Damascus Gate across the city to the Temple Mount. I would watch tours upon tours of Christians, all being led by a guide with a flag, assemble in the square before the pizza hut. All were posing and taking photos and being lectured that this is the spot where Jesus stumbled. After watching this for days and days and weeks, as I would go in and out of the city on various excursions, to Nazareth, Jericho, Masada, Bethlehem and northern Israel, the Sea of Galilee, Caesarea, etc. I took the bus to Bethlehem, though I was warned it could be dangerous. It was an Arab bus and I did have thoughts of having been perhaps imprudent. But Arabs and Palestinians had always been kind to me in Jerusalem, and I found that it would be okay on my excursion to Bethlehem. What was not safe to do back then was to go a few more miles down the road from Bethlehem to Hebron.

The cave in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where Christ was believed to have been born (in the manger), was then covered with soot from the priests’ incense burners and lanterns. After the mass in the chamber, I returned to Jerusalem on the Arab bus.

On one excursion to the ruins of Caesarea on the coast, I thought the hike from the highway to the ruined Roman capital was reasonably short. Was I wrong! After having lunch facing the old harbor, and touring the site, I began my walk back up the road. I decided that if I should see a vehicle I would hitch a ride. A truck came along – of a Palestinian and his son – and it stopped when I stuck out my thumb. We had a nice chat on the way back to the highway where he dropped me off to catch the next bus.

Nablus, which is now the heart of Palestinian suicide bombers, was an art colony then and I walked around the town for a few hours. Finally, after touring the Galilee area, I decided I had seen enough of Israel and booked a bus for Haifa, where I would catch a ship to the Greek Islands. I wanted to see the island of Crete. On the way to Haifa I toured a Crusader castle at the town of Akko. After the Turks had captured the town and castle, the sultan, Sulliman the Great (I think it was he), ordered that the castle be filled up with sand so it could never be occupied again. As you would be escorted through the large underground corridors you would see corridors full of sand. When I was there they had just started excavating the castle.

Aboard ship I met an Israeli mechanical engineer from Brazil. We were headed for the island of Cypress which is divided in half with then a high sandbag wall. Turkish guards stood atop the walls in their towers pointing their machine guns at us. This was in Nicosia, the capitol city, which is in the center of the island. We had been encouraged by passengers on the ship to go to Turkey, so we toured Cypress and then went on to Turkey via the island of Rhodes. I thought I could see Crete some other time. My friend and I had spent a few weeks on the island of Rhodes (the main city is also called Rhodes). Rhodes is a party city, with lots of night clubs and stony beaches. The beaches were crowded and the predominant population of the topless beachgoers was Norwegian.

We arrived in Bodrum on the coast of Turkey and took a room with some kids in a house which was about 500 years old. One of the kids found bedbugs, and we all frantically searched our beds. Now on the trails of my Quest, there were the Egyptian horror stories the kids would tell, sometimes over a fire on the beach. One such story involved a girl who went to bed and woke up in the morning to discover oozing sores all over her body. She had been attacked by an army of bedbugs. Another story was my favorite, called the “Egyptian Spider” story. A girl woke up one morning and looking in the bathroom mirror saw a pimple on her face. She squeezed the pimple and out crawled baby spiders. These stories, and others, of course are not true, and as one spends so much time on the road one tends to invent more of them.

My friend and I toured around the coast of Turkey together and finally he went one way and I returned to Bodrum, where we first landed coming from the Greek Islands. I really loved Bodrum and, as in Rhodes and Jerusalem, used it as my base.

Framing the bay of Bodrum was an embarcadero where large varnished Turkish sailing vessels – which looked like Spanish Galleons – were moored. They were for the tourist trade and usually could be seen motoring around in a windless sea with the sails flapping. There were power boats of all sizes, some of which were merely launches that would take people to the many beaches around. Some beaches were only accessible by boat, others by Jeep. In the center of the bay was a small mosque. Facing the embarcadero were rows of buildings about six stories high, and behind them was the town, full of restaurants and shops. Bodrum was the favorite tourist destination of the Turks. Later on (I shall get to that moment eventually) your mother and I were invited to dinner on one of the motor launches. I drank too much of their national drink (like the Greek drink, ouzo, and fell into the drink, ruining my watch.

I had a pension next door to the American Bar & Cafe and used to hang out there. This cafe would soon be the turning point of my Quest. A guy would come in now and then and play his guitar, singing American folk tunes. The Turks frequented it and always spoke of their admiration for American culture. They were serious.

The view of the bay from the cafe and my room a few doors away, was spectacular. I had a roof-top room, still under construction, with no ceiling and no windows in the window frames. The owner of the pension was adding another floor. The mosque was centered in my window; to the far left of the crescent shaped harbor was a castle and to the right was a modern yacht harbor. The entire layout is very similar to Marina Bay, where I have moored my yacht over these past 16 years. So Marina Bay has some sentimental value to me. In any event, I enjoyed hearing the mullahs from the minaret of the mosque before me, and watching the crescent moon. The crescent moon seemed to be very special in the Middle East, particularly over Jerusalem.

Framed in the center of the bay of Bodrum a few miles off the coast is a tree covered island and next to it was another island where the Turks say St. Nicholas is buried. All of the islands along the coast of Turkey belong to Greece, except, as mentioned earlier, Cyprus which is half Turkish and half Greek. Any discussion on who owns the islands causes a war.

The terrain and climate of Turkey is very much like California, where in the western part of Turkey the pine dressed mountains plunge into the sea; to the east the mountains become more arid. I only got as far as Antalya, a beach resort, but hoped later on to traverse the arid eastern part of Turkey on the way to Syria. Those plans got changed.

While my Israeli friend and I were in the region of Antalya we passed through a town on the coast which had rock cut tombs in the cliffs high above. I went through a few of the tombs and descended to the dusty road at the base of the mountain which led into town. As he was exploring high up the mountain, I saw a bunch of kids about 8 to 10 years old coming my way. One had a toy rifle and he pointed it at me, saying “Bang!” I pretended I had been shot and made a great display of it. The kids came laughing towards me and began crawling all over me, putting their arms around me, tugging at me, and for awhile I thought I was the Pied Piper. We had a lot of fun together as I waited for my Israeli friend to come down the mountain.

As I said, my friend decided to leave. He was headed for Istanbul. I had heard about Cappadocia and took a bus straight up the center of Turkey to make as another base the town of Goreme. The main city of the region is Nevishir. Goreme and the other towns nearby were settled by early Christians who were being persecuted by the Moslems (Turks). Goreme is a town whose dwellings look like upside down ice cream cones. They are about 3 stories high and were formed by a stream which flowed through the tufa (lava) there. The Christians hollowed them out, cut steps in the sides, and lived in them. How old people or even children could have climbed up and down those dangerous looking steps is a mystery to me. The steps were about 4 inches deep, just enough for a toe-hold. In the cliffs behind the town was a church and a monastery which were dug out of the cliff.

There are some underground cities near Goreme. I toured one of them which was ten stories deep and the Turks say it had a population of ten thousand people. The entire city had been carved out of the tufa. Large stones, like mill stones, would be rolled in front of corridors to serve as doors.

If you saw the painting I made of the Turkish women cooking, that scene came from Goreme. They had a festival one day and the Turks invited us to join them. The women were cooking tortilla-like bread on a large flat griddle. They would hand you the tortilla and you would then wrap in the tortilla a large green pepper. It was delicious. Actually I found all Turkish food perfect. That’s one reason why I spent so much time in Turkey. The food and the graciousness of the people is unexcelled in all of my travels on this good earth.

A foolish descent

There was a town several miles up the mountain from Goreme which had a castle which was hollowed out of a mountain peak. There was a festival which involved the circumcision of 13 year old boys going on at the time. Upon the ramparts of the castle, holding machine guns pointed down at us, were the Turkish police / army. The scene of the circumcision and the tents I painted is with the other paintings in Paris. The boys with their bandaged private parts on display were in cots in lavish Turkish tents. Turkish rugs hung upon the walls behind their heads and paper money was being showered upon them, according to their custom.

It was fun at the fair and it was getting late, so I decided to hike back down the highway to Goreme. Then I thought I could save an hour by hiking down the stream which ran down the mountain into Goreme. So I hiked off the road, over a few hills, knowing I would reach that stream and then follow it down the mountain.

The terrain was getting steeper. I saw a farmer’s cottage down the ridge and approached him as he was herding his sheep. I asked him in French if it were possible to descend into Goreme from there. “Oh, oui, “ he replied, “no problem.” No Problem seemed to be an expression everyone in the Middle East used to excess. Anyway, I thanked him and proceeded hiking down the mountain. But a few minutes later the side of the mountain was too steep for me to walk upon. Small trails the width of a sheep’s foot crossed the canyon face. It was no place for me; so I descended, into what was becoming a deep canyon to the stream.

The walls of the canyon had become sheer rock cliffs, several hundred feet high. That didn’t bother me as long as I could stay with the stream. But then I came to my first tunnel. The stream cut a tunnel out of the tufa, but the first tunnel was high enough where I could wade through with my small back pack grazing the ceiling. It was like going up the gallery of the Great Pyramid of Giza (where the passageway up the pyramid was only high enough for a person bending over to climb up). I went on and I could see that the sun would be setting in about a half hour. I came to another tunnel carved by the stream, and there was no way for me to go. The roof was lower and the tunnel, that appeared to be an abyss, was full of brambles. I was descending into hell. I would have to strip like Persephone, who ended up in Hell naked, to get through the next tunnel.

I came to my senses and decided that If I spend a few more minutes in the canyon I could be in deep trouble, and trying to get back in the dark would be suicide; for I would surely fall off a cliff (I had slipped a few times descending into the canyon). So I quickly retraced my steps and climbed over the last hill and back onto the highway.

The next day I was hiking around Goreme, upon its cliff face with another couple – who were from Australia. He and I went ahead, leaving his wife at a rug store. He was in better shape than I, in his mid to late 20’s, and climbed the ridge ahead of me. I asked him to slow down, not for my sake, but because I had already experienced the displeasure of sliding in the tufa the day before. We were on a ridge where the rock was like tiny gray beads – a little larger than sand – and each footstep caused small streams of beads falling down the slope. The ridge was adjacent to one of the upside down Ice cream cone homes and the point of its roof was about two feet away from the cliff upon which we were walking. My friend slipped and began sliding on his but about 25 feet down the ridge right to the peak of the house. He had his wife’s camera in his right hand and had used it, it turns out, as a brake. His feet came to rest upon the top of the cone, and he straddled the gap between the house and cliff. When I saw him sliding I thought he was done for and there was nothing I could do to save him.

I was able to help him get back up the ridge and we went down to Goreme.

The smart chicken

A few days after that I went to the main city of the area to book a bus to Ankara and then on to the Black Sea. While I was waiting for a bus a Turkish peasant, with several cantaloupes in his arms and a Banty chicken, placed the chicken on the blacktop, and the melons around the chicken, and told the chicken to stay there. Then he went over to the station to buy a bus ticket. He came back, picked up the chicken and the melons, and boarded the bus with me. “How wonderful!” I thought. A chicken as smart as people, so it seems.

Seated next to me was a well dressed man about thirtyish who was a regional manager for a chain of Turkish banks. He spoke no English but we got by pretty well with my paltry Turkish and my dictionary. He smoked Marlborough cigarettes and insisted that I share his rather than the Turkish cigarettes I consumed. Marlboroughs were very expensive compared to the Turkish brand I used. Also, every time we stopped for lunch or a bite to eat on the long trip he insisted on treating me. All of the Turks I met were extremely generous.

I think I could have become a Turk pretty easily. Actually my coloring then was pretty dark and my mustache was trimmed like a Turk’s. I had a full beard with two streaks of gray on my chin. My hair was long. My dress was cut-off Jeans, sandals, and two short-sleeved shirts which had the sleeves torn off. I had an extra pair of shorts, two towels and a kit containing my razor, soap and toothbrush. And I had a camera with film and a few packs of Turkish brand cigarettes occupied the rest of the space available in my small bag. Everything I needed fit into a small bag slung over my shoulder. On top of it I tied a sleeping bag. Later I bought a straw mat. I also had a small blue pack slung on my back. I was sleeping on roofs for a couple of bucks a night. Actually I began sleeping on roofs on the island of Rhodes. The roofs usually had an awning to keep the dew off your face and you had full access to the baths in the pensions. I didn’t have too much worth stealing, so I felt pretty safe on the rooftops.

The further you travel the less baggage you need

Before I left for Jerusalem, among my writings I had written a parable on the subject of baggage. It goes like this:

A young man was sitting before a pond, looking at his reflection. Suddenly he saw something so profound he reached into his small backpack for his tiny black book, and wrote the essence of the vision down. He put the book back in the sack and then decided to go on a quest to prove the vision. As he traveled on his journey he realized he did not need all of the baggage he was carrying, so he began dumping it at friends’ homes he would meet along the way. Finally he ended up in the mountains of Nepal and was being visited as a guru. He was old and wizened. He had a reputation for being a very wise man.

One day he began to think about the reason he had left on his quest. He couldn’t remember. Then he went to the small backpack he had carried faithfully through his journey for the tiny black book. It wasn’t there. “I must retrace my steps and find the book,” he said to himself. So he went back, to one place where he left his baggage, then to another. Still he could not locate the tiny black book.

One day he arrived home, sitting beside the pond he had loved so much as a young boy. He had the small backpack beside him and, looking into the pond, decided that he must try once more to look in the pack. “It has to be there,” he thought. Underneath a cardboard panel on the bottom of the pack was the tiny black book. He fervently opened it and there, where he had written in his youthful hand so many years ago, was written, “Everything is right here.”

The parable, of course, has many messages. In my case I was the young man who set off on a quest and found that I had to dump a lot of baggage. In my case I dumped a lot of emotional baggage and physical baggage. I was empty. That is, I had nothing to hide and nothing to steal when I met your mother. I had no desire to become involved with any woman (I had met young couples on the trails of adventure and noted that the guy had to carry more than the girl; so I concluded that I will be happy with my small baggage). There was one young couple I met that was the touchstone on this. He was from Australia or New Zealand and she was from England. I first met them on the Black Sea at a town called Sinope (Where the Greek philosopher Diogenes was born. He was known for having gone around, naked, but with a barrel around him, with a lantern, looking for an honest man. There has been much discussion over the centuries whether it was a pickle barrel or a wine barrel which covered his nakedness. Regardless he was putting himself in a sour situation shining a light in the faces of his neighbors, apologizing that he was looking for an honest man. He didn’t find one, as I recall.

So here you have it. Your father was touring the town of Diogenes, still looking for someone, and noticed that all of the walls of the town had fallen into the sea. The cliffs around the town are like the cliffs of Normandy, but higher and steeper. To look at those wonderful walls lying on their sides was gut wrenching to say the least, since they spoke of former glories, now gone. Some children were playing where the couple and I were standing, right on the edge of the cliff. And I was thinking to myself that this is a dangerous place for children to play. How could their parents allow this?

As for the couple, I was struck by the fact that the guy had a shirt which was yellowish brown. No sleeves of course. She said he prefers it over the other shirt, and it had not been washed in a long time. It was originally white.

Sinope is a beautiful region very much like the San Francisco Bay Area, with rolling oak tree covered hills, and nostalgia was overtaking me. I was becoming homesick. In any event I was too busy thinking about the past at that time to be nostalgic and recovered my senses.

Behind the rolling hills were high alpine mountains, through which we had passed to arrive at the Black Sea. The mountains had chalets high upon their slopes, as you would see in the Alps. The sea, the rolling hills with oak trees and the high alpine mountains; those are things close to my heart. I was wanting to return home.

The young couple and I walked down a beautiful beach, thinking we could get around a peninsula, where the mountains dove into the sea, to some more spectacular, remote place. Two or three Turks were on the beach. I began limping and was not able to keep up with the young couple. I think I had stepped on a manta ray on the coast of Turkey, where I had explored a submerged city. I had been walking on a Roman road, a foot below the surface of the water, back from what once was a fort overlooking the place, and felt a barb hit my foot. An infection came on the bottom of my foot and it still, at Sinope, was not healing. I told the couple to go on and we parted. I don’t think they got around the peninsula. It looked terrifying.

I took a mini van, called a Dolumus, to the next town, heading towards Istanbul. I got a nice hotel room, with a balcony, facing the Black Sea. I walked through the small village, where cows roamed freely, looking for a place to eat. I saw a store that appeared to sell wine and thought I might be able to purchase a bottle. It turned out to be a drug store and what appeared to be in the window was actually syrup. The druggist didn’t understand my struggling Turkish and signaled with his finger that he would be right back. I waited for a few minutes and he came back with a tray with tea. He invited me to tea, which I thought was charming. After the tea I went into what appeared to be the only restaurant in town, which had a huge brick oven, and the cooks were inserting into it something that looked quite appetizing. I asked an old gentlemen next to my red checkered table what they were cooking and he, in a smattering of English, invited me to join him at his table. It turns out he was the owner of the restaurant and the next thing I knew all kinds of dishes were being set before me. He thought I was English. I told him that I was an American. He had not heard of Americans. I began to feel like I was a being from another planet; and many young men who were drinking tea in the restaurant gathered around our table, listening to the conversation between me and the gentle old man. Between my stumbling Turkish and his English we were able to have a very nice conversation and he interpreted for the others.

Thanking my host – he refused to let me pay for my food – I went back to the hotel. That night a storm came in and all the boats below my balcony were breaking loose from their moorings. I rushed down to lend a hand and we struggled in the crashing waves for several hours, but saved the boats. It was apparent that the procedure had been practiced many times before. For the larger boats they would tie a line to the bow and run it around a piling on the shore, and several of us would heave on the line. The piling gave us extra purchase, like a pulley. We did this with one boat after another.

My next stop was Istanbul and I took a pension next door to the famous Pudding Shop, just down the street from the Hagia Sophia mosque. The district was a popular tourist attraction but a bit on the seedy side. I decided to hang out in Istanbul, using it as my base, from which I could take excursions. I did a lot of walking in Istanbul (as is true with the other cities, particularly Cairo, since I avoided taking a bus when possible). You see more while walking.

I had mentioned to some kids in the pension that I wanted to go back to Israel, traveling through Eastern Turkey, which is more arid, to Syria and then into Jordan, crossing the Jordan river, into Israel. I had an Israeli custom stamp in my passport; and I knew that I could not get into any Arab country, except Egypt, with that stamp in it. The kids suggested that I lose my passport and apply for another one. They said they knew another American who had done that. So I did it. Actually I didn’t lose it. I stashed it away (under the cardboard panel at the bottom of the sack) and went down to the police precinct to report that I lost it as required by law. That created problems for your mother and me later on. A double entendre.

The police captain didn’t believe I was who I claimed to be. He held me for three days for repeated questioning. I was under house arrest, as it were, and had to report back to him for questioning each day. He believed that I was an undercover drugs officer for the San Francisco police department. He said, “Look at you. A person with your background would not be staying in this area and look shabby, like you. You are an undercover drugs officer.” I argued that that was not the case. Finally, after they had checked me out thoroughly, no doubt with the San Francisco police and Interpol, he let me go. I got my new passport and went to the Syrian embassy. What I thought would take a day or two to get a visa to Syria took a couple of weeks. I would go back each day and they would tell me to come back tomorrow. They finally turned down my application for my visa. That delay put me in sync, as it were, with your mother. Had I left for Syria earlier I would not have met up with her or if they had turned me down earlier I would not have met her. By then I wasn’t looking to meet anyone anyway. I was thinking to go to Africa. I needed to find out why the Canadian gal aboard our ship to Rhodes could survive in Africa. White people were not then looked upon favorably, anywhere in the region, and there was an evil mood in the air, against Westerners, soon to surface in the highjacking of a ship on the sea at the same time I was heading for Haifa. It was the Kilea Lora (sp.) that was high jacked.

I had to reset my plans. I didn’t want to go to India, because of my experience in Egypt. People coming to Istanbul from India told me that it is dirtier than Egypt. Anyway, I knew I would reach India through another vehicle.

I had met on the deck of the ship bringing us to the island of Rhodes, on the way to Turkey, a young Canadian broadcaster. She had been telling our group on deck about her experience in Africa, on an island somewhere near Kenya. I thought I could go there. I would go back to Bodrum, take a boat to Cyprus, then connect with a ship to Haifa, Israel. I booked passage on a ship from Istanbul to Izmir, which I think is the second largest city in Turkey. Then I took a bus east to Ephes, Turkey, where the old Roman city of Epheseus is located. It is one of the best preserved Roman cities, because it was abandoned when the sea began to drop, turning its harbor into marshland and producing an outbreak of malaria. It was about the first or second century A.D. when the city was abandoned.

I booked my very modern rooftop pension in the new city called Seljuk and went back to the tourist booth to get information on the sites around the area. I heard a couple yelling at me and turned to see David and his girlfriend, a couple with whom I had toured at Bodrum (on the ship back to Haifa I met David again). The kids, who were vegetarians, and I toured around together in Ephes and then I headed east to a resort town of the Turks which had a great beach. While at the beach I was befriended by a young Turkish girl who told me that her mother wished to be introduced to me, knowing that I was American. I joined them and she, on the way home, offered to drop me off at my pension. She was married and treated me to lunch at the beach.

I had heard of some marvelous Roman hot springs which cascade down a mountain side. I booked a bus to the town, heading into the interior, and approaching the site one could see the pure white face of the mountain from miles away. When I arrived in the small town at the base of the mountain I ran into the two ladies from Spain. We shared a room and toured the Roman ruins on the top of the mountain and soaked in the terraced pools for awhile. I could handle the waters for only about an hour and we all hiked down the mountain ridge to our room. The sulfur springs were very much like the Dead Sea in Israel, where the air and water both are oily from the salts and minerals.

The next day I booked a bus to Bodrum.

The rendezvous

I took a temporary room near the American Bar & Cafe and resumed watching Turkish tourists come and go along the embarcadero. The bar was quite Moorish in design, with the seats and tables made out of stucco, matching the white walls. On the seats were cushions. It was in the late afternoon when in came an unescorted Turkish woman, in western attire. Turkish women who are out in public must have a male escort. She was looking at her watch and pacing back and forth in the cafe. I said something to her and she replied in fairly good English that she was supposed to meet her girlfriend who was running late. We spoke for awhile and she told me that she had been married to an American doctor in the Midwest, thus explaining her command of English. Then in came a beautiful light-haired Turkish lady named Betule and the two ladies joined my table. Betule and I hit it off right away and the next thing I knew we were living together. My vow to stay uninvolved with women had been wiped out by the most unlikely of women, a Turk. You don’t see them in public in the evening unless they are escorted. I was not looking for a woman in any event for the reasons expressed earlier.

One day Betule asked me if I would like to meet her French friends. I thought that would be fun and we met your mother and her friend on a beach where I had not been before. We began to rendezvous with her French friends and finally we moved into the same pension in which they were living. Our room was downstairs from their room.

We used to go out to dinner together frequently and often we would do our grocery shopping together and cook in the common kitchen of the pension. It had two kitchens as I recall. In as much as I like to cook and am a fair cook, I was the group’s cook. Groceries were inexpensive. I recall the vegetables, rice, a meat or fish, a bottle of wine and a pack of cigarettes would cost about $9.00 to feed the four of us. Everything seemed to cost $9.00 in my travels.

At dinner we would often engage in philosophical and political conversations and dredged my mind on historical matters. Your mother’s friend could not speak English so she translated for me. I would try to express myself in French but often slumped into English. During these conversations your mother and I were discovering that we shared a lot of things together. At dinner, at the beach, wherever we were, there was a bond taking place. She and I understood each other; we could see into each other’s soul, as it were.

Betule had a drinking problem and I used to complain to her about it. She did not like my chastising her for her drinking. One day her old boyfriend asked her to come back to him. The next morning she announced that she would be moving out. That afternoon, when I arrived home from shopping, Betule was gone.

I happened to run into your mother a little bit later and she told me that her friend had flown back to Paris that same day. Not knowing what to do, I suggested that we could do what we always had been doing, to go out to dinner. So we went to dinner to one of our favorite haunts.

After dinner we decided to walk out on the concrete spit, or breakwater, which extended across the bay from the castle at the left end of the embarcadero. It was a beautiful evening, and we laid down on our backs facing the star studded sky. And we talked.

When we returned to the pension I walked her to her room. I kissed her, intending it to be a friendly kiss.

The kiss, I suppose, sealed a new love which was greater than I had ever had for a woman before. I began to feel that she was the person I was sent to meet, and quite frankly I thought I had been set up. Betule softened me up, preparing me for your mother. And, of course, she introduced me to your mother.

I moved in with your mother, giving up my room, and we spent a few weeks together on the beaches of Bodrum. There was a beach which was really a rock shelf where large stones had cascaded down the mountain into the sea. There must have been a temple above us which would have been the source of the large, carved stones.

It was secluded and reachable only by a water taxi. The water there was very clear and ideal for diving. As we were in the nude, we had to be wary of the water taxi drivers who would cruise the area standing in their launches like gophers watching for eagles.

We would go to that spot regularly, packing a picnic lunch with wine. Maybe one day your mother can tell you about a picnic with the special wine I served.

Her vacation was up, but I wanted to show her the island of Rhodes and persuaded her to take a few more weeks vacation. She was worried that she would lose her job. I told her that I would provide for her. How I would provide for her is explained at the end of this writing.

We booked passage to the island of Cos, where we would catch a high-speed hydrofoil to the island of Rhodes. Turkish customs agents would not let me out of the country, however, and detained me for three days, because of the passport I carried. There was no evidence of my entering the country, so they did their three day routine on me again.

I told your mother to go ahead of me, but she insisted on staying with me. It was very brave of her to do that. It was a time of high anxiety for her and me, since we had no idea what my fate might be. Once again I faced the possibility of booking a room in a Turkish jail.

Finally customs let us go and we clung to each other on the 40 foot fishing boat which took us and some others to Cos. We stopped near a reef and dove for awhile, and then we entered a following sea, where the waves rolled into the stern of the boat, causing us all to feel a bit sea sick. The boat’s stern would rise up as the high wave rolled under us, and then the boat would lurch to the right or left as the wave pushed us away, ready for the next roller. We clung to each other during the entire trip and the captain remarked about how much your mother and I loved each other. I couldn’t keep my hands off of her.

We arrived in Cos and spent a few days there. The sea was rough when we left Cos for the island of Rhodes and the hydrofoil, which has the shape of an airplane fuselage, with an aircraft interior, was literally leaping like a jackhopper across the tops of the waves. That caused many to get sea sick, including your mother. I wasn’t feeling so good myself.

We took a beautiful pension on Rhodes and had a room with a large plate glass window overlooking the sea. I showed her a beautiful town, Lindos, which is whitewashed throughout, on the eastern coast of the island. We toured the castle overlooking the picturesque harbor which carried some yachts at anchor, overnighted there, and returned to the city of Rhodes.

The main city of the island, called Rhodes, used to be a powerful city. It was also the capital of the crusaders called, Knights Hospitaliers. They took control of the island in 1310. A street of the city carries the shields of the various divisions of the Hospitaliers. The town has a castle, of course, and the town has a double wall around it, within which there was at one time a moat. When walking around the walls one can appreciate how strongly built the walls were and one would wonder how anyone could conquer the city. But then, as one faces the city from the harbor, one can see repairs in the wall where the wall was breached many times during its long history. The Hospitaliers were expelled by the Ottoman Turks in 1522. Long ago there was a bronze colossus, one of the seven wonders of the world, facing the harbor. It was an image of their divine patron Helics which the people of Rhodes erected around 305 B.C. 60 years after it was raised it fell in an earthquake and in an Arab invasion of 653 A.D. it was recovered and broken up for scrap metal and sold. It was about 120 feet high.

Your mother got sick, deathly sick, and ended up in the hospital which was not far from our pension. They fed her intravenously and I thought I was going to lose her. Friends and doctors speculated that it was a virus she had contacted. She shared a room with a Greek woman who was dying. Every day the Greek’s female friends and relatives would visit her and weep and shriek, pulling at their hair and breasts. They dressed in long black robes and their vigil there was unnerving.

Finally your mother began to recover, and I was able to take her for a walk in the garden. Within a week she was able to return to the pension. She fell ill, like that, in Paris again just before you were conceived. In fact we decided to have you a few weeks after she got out of the hospital in Paris. I think the illness, where she can’t eat and begins to waste away, is a response to stress. Talking about it a few months ago, she thought it started when she, as a young girl, was put on a ship from Algeria (or Morocco) and sent alone to her grandparents in the south of France. The kid had been abandoned and taken away on a ship.

I hope now you can appreciate how proud I was of your mother in the way she was able to secure her own apartment through all the stress she had gone through. I was afraid she would end up in the hospital again.

The day came for your mother to board the airplane to Paris from Rhodes. We had been through a lot together, and thus you can probably appreciate the source of our tears. I told her that I would return to Israel to recover the baggage I had stored at the airport near Tel-Aviv, and then join her in Paris.

I was detained by customs when I entered Israel. It was the passport again which caused the problem. They had records of me entering and leaving Israel too often, making me suspect. They strip searched me and interrogated me for several hours. I actually had two passports in my luggage: The Istanbul passport and my original passport. My original passport had the Israeli customs stamp in it, so as I was being interrogated, while at the same time they were going through my luggage, I told them the story why I had two passports. Thank God I told them the truth. Anyway they gave me back my clothes and let me go to collect my luggage which was on a table with all of its contents strewn across it. It is quite embarrassing to say the least to be strip-searched and then see all of your personal affects out in the open where everyone passing through the terminal can see you in the cordoned off customs area.

The bag I had stored at the airport during my Quest contained winter clothes. I had packed winter clothes, though I knew I was heading to the Middle East to meet someone. I had no plans or thoughts at all of heading north where winter clothes would be needed. Among them was an expensive, tan colored, full length leather coat. It was heavy and I could have felt comfortable in Siberia wearing it.

I loved Paris and as your mother and I fell into a life together I was looking forward to becoming a French gentleman. I was studying French at Alliance Française and hoping to quickly grasp the language. But everyone at home spoke English to me, and it was a bit frustrating, since I needed to practice in the same type of environment as you are doing in America.

I told your mother as we laid beside each other that I felt that I was in Paradise. I brought it up again during our last phone call and she said, “It was like Paradise for me too.”

I returned to the States and brought back home some things I needed, particularly my typewriter. I spent my days in Paris writing and painting. We went to plays, the movies and restaurants. I cooked and did the daily shopping in the market down the street. I enjoyed shopping and looked forward to it each day.

Writing about it before it happened

I am a mystic, a prophet of sorts, and have known the future since I was a small boy. My prophesies are preserved in my writings, one of which is an Arthurian romance I wrote for you about 10 years ago. The prophetic writing began in the year 1970. I was doodling on a piece of paper and suddenly my hand began to write some things which actually scared me. I call it “automatic writing.” The automatic writing continued and I wrote a book relating to the Koran which also scared me, as it spoke of the future and things about me. I threw the book into the fireplace. The issues and precepts in the book I burned returned, however, in my later writings. I continued writing about things I had never known before, and the signature at the end of the writings was always “I am.” I did not know who “I am” was but just accepted it as the signature of the source who was telling me all kinds of things. To make a long story short, one day I picked up the Bible and opened it and the page I opened it to (Exodus 3.14) had the verse where God was telling Moses to return to Egypt and gather the tribes of Israel, to bring them back to Israel. Moses argued, saying..."besides they won’t believe me...whom should I tell them sent me?” “Tell them that 'I am' hath sent you,” he said.

Again I became scared of my writing, since much of the writings before that moment referred to things mentioned in the Bible. But then I settled into it and let the hand do its work.

Before I left for Israel I asked him whether I should go. He answered, “If you go I will provide for you.” I was concerned that at my age when I come back from my Quest I may have trouble finding work. “It could bring me to ruin,” I had mentioned to him. Then he mentioned that I would have a son and a daughter. I laughed, as, again at my age, I had no intentions of having children. I had been divorced for about 4 years and was happy being a bachelor with my then girlfriend.

So I knew about you before you were conceived, Anaïs. I never really believed I would have a daughter, but because I was given this promise of you, I have especially loved you more than you can possibly conceive. For I also knew things about you before you were conceived, and those things I cannot tell you.

I began talking about having a child to your mother. By then I had already told her about the promise and by then I had a strong desire to have a child through her. I believed that if I should have a child, it would be through your mother and no one else. I believed this very strongly, since our meeting each other in Bodrum had to be arranged without my knowing it. The meeting took place through accident, another accident, and another and another. All the things that had to be coincided for us to meet were so strange and unusual, had I been told about the sequence before, I would have considered the meeting of your mother impossible. And falling in love with her would have been impossible, since when we knew each other we each had lovers. Our lovers had to abandon us at the very same time for us to fall in love. Think about it.

Finally in Paris, one evening your mother was standing in the doorway of the bathroom holding the case of pills in her right hand, about shoulder height, saying with the gesture, “Should I stop taking them?” I answered, “Yes.”

Before that she had felt it was too early to have a child, that we should live together for at least a year, to get to know one another. But I insisted, to have the child now, because I felt it was the right time. On the side your mother, I think, felt that I was using her to produce a child. That was a complaint she expressed when she became pregnant. But as you can see from my story that it was the opposite. It was as if I had been served a magic love potion, as in the story of Tristan and Isolde. I fell in love and wanted her and her alone to have my child. And that has remained true to this day.

Though your mother for a long time argued against marriage, we agreed that we would sign the marriage certificate at the Marie. I needed a marriage certificate in order to work, to support my family, as mentioned before; also I wanted you to be my legitimate child, giving you every entitlement due you from a legal point of view. There may be a day when you might want dual citizenship and thus I argued to make everything legal.

Then the conception occurred and our world began to fall apart, as I mentioned earlier. I couldn’t stand the rejection. The idea of getting married was no longer in the cards. I argued that we could marry and then get divorced. I began to lose interest in learning French. Then I had a dread feeling that I would not be able to stay in France. I felt like he who sent me to Israel was driving me out of Paris. It was not you, it was not your mother, it was the “I am” who had been expressing himself through my handwriting and later through my typewriter and then the computer.

I would not answer the phone. I would let it ring. I had lost all confidence in communicating in French. I know this must have been a terrible aggravation to your mother, when she was trying to call me. We began to become more distant. Actually I became more distant. I could hear the couple in the apartment above us making love, and that really bothered me. I couldn’t figure out how to get through the rejection, how to hold your mother in my arms once again.

I was convinced that my time in Paris was over and I left for the States. Your mother called me in San Francisco, we exchanged some tears, so I came back to Paris. We would try to work things out. After a short time I felt I had to leave, so I left again, returning to San Francisco. I received a call from your mother after my last trip, where she argued that I should at least attend your birth and that she was certain that after you were born the rejection would stop.

I returned to Paris and was there during your birth and cut your umbilical cord. The nurses cleaned you, dressed you, and put you in my arms. I walked the hall with you, admiring you as you scanned everything with your inquiring eyes.

We tried to settle in as a family. Everyone was coming to the apartment to visit. The three of us were not getting much time together, alone. The rejection continued. One day I needed a drill to install something in the bathroom. She suggested that I call her friend, who was a doctor, that he might have a drill. His girlfriend and I would often sit across the street having tea, conversing in French. She had the patience to do this. Anyway, with regard to the drill, I responded in a negative fashion and she answered, “Then leave!” It was on a Tuesday evening. I answered her that I would be gone by next Tuesday.

The terrible exit

Your mother was in the bedroom nursing you when I heard the taxi’s horn that next Tuesday morning. My bags were packed in the living room. I picked up the bags and went out the door without saying anything.

I was hoping that your mother would have asked me not to leave. For I did not want to leave.

When you were 5 years old, visiting me in San Francisco, while your mother and I were out shopping for Christmas presents, walking arm in arm discussing what had happened to us, she said, “You know, I didn’t mean for you to leave Paris, but to leave the apartment.”

When I left Paris on a train for Brussels, where I would catch my flight to San Francisco, I found myself in tears for the duration of the entire trip. I pretended I was sleeping, with my hand over my eyes, so that no one could see my tears.

I have covered up the tears all of your life. You cannot imagine how much I have loved you across the wine red sea. And I have always loved your mother. No love has been greater than that to which I had been dedicated, when I left for Israel.

I told your mother many things about the writings, and I told her that since he said he (the “I am”) would provide for me that he would also provide for her. I also told her about a tent I had been sent to raise. And you also should know that that promise also belongs to you and all of your children. For from the day of the promise until now I have known it belonged to me and “mine.”

I have not been provided for as I would have expected. After all, I lost my family and I would wish that on no man.

Knowing that I could not be with you, I was satisfied that you were being raised in a good environment. I was shattered, in fact, when I received the phone call from your mother, when she had asked for my help to get out of the hostile situation she had fallen into at 33 Rue Francouer.

That I was able to help her, after all the experience of the past years involving my epilepsy, is a surprise to me. But he (“I AM”) did provide for me sufficiently to answer your mother’s plea. In part, my being on my boat, in seclusion, allowed me to set aside savings.

I write about doing unto others as you would have done unto you. There are many ways to achieve that objective, and sometimes a person, or a people, may have to go through the agonies of childbirth to see something beautiful born on earth. Seeing the chaos ahead and how to avoid it, in a nutshell, is what I have written.

I became a person who would write about a particular beauty, so to relieve human suffering, and I have been able to write about it because I was placed in Paradise and then removed from it, where, in my suffering, I saw the world from a different perspective, from the sea. When men go down to the sea and are shaken by it, they learn how frail they really are. And as fierce and sickening as the sea can be, it also displays the beauty of our world, for without it the earth would become a desert place, like Venus. Our womb, in fact, is the sea. Having spent these long years alone in the sea, I would rather have remained out of it, in Paradise, holding you and your mother in my arms.

You spent your first birthday on my boat, and just before your birthday you began to walk. You first walked right under the table, right where my keyboard is. When we arrived at the airport in the subsequent days, during our long delay waiting for the plane, you grabbed my hand and walked me up and down the hall of the terminal. You showed me then what kind of a person you will be. And it was good.

I learned that nothing is impossible. Imagine a small drip of water across the face of a rock far up a mountain; as it descends to the sea it removes the mountain. So you can move mountains. It just takes time. And perhaps one of my writings will move a mountain.

I hope that one day, knowing we may not meet as a family again, you will always remember that no matter what happens to you in the years to come you will be provided for, and sometimes in a most unusual way. And remember that I knew you and loved you from the beginning.

All my love,


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Copyright © 2003-2005 Mel Copeland. All rights reserved.
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