Tuesday, January 06, 2004

I am so proud. I feel like an uncle.

Ian was my roommate at Harvard. I looked up to him because he was one of those magical people who just breezed through any task. He was the editor of Let's Go Spain and a talented writer. Alhough he was an East-Asian studies major (he had to learn japanese for this) he decided to take an advanced algebra course just for the fun of it. He aced it of course.

After graduation, he got a scholarship to go travel in Asia. It is as if a bird had been released. He traveled all over Asia - China, Thailand, Southeast Asia - and stayed in Asia even after his grant money ran out. He would send occassinal missives to me and to other friends documenting his journey and his continued efforts to find new creative ways to survive.

He wrote it all down for us furiously. There was a famous "letter" that Matt, another friend of his, received. It was actually a roll of toilet paper that had to be unwound to be read. The writing was crooked and nearly illegible, like a mad scrawl. Ian had written it in a bathroom where, he wrote, he had had to spend the night having no other place to stay. He was living close to life's ground level, holing up in squalid areas, getting involved in strange affairs. His letters were full of his adventures - families who took him in, girlfriends who attached themselves to him and supported him, short stints doing busywork for foreign companies in order to fend off starvation.

Later, traveling through India, he wrote us of meeting yet another girl - another in the endless parade, or so we thought. Her name was Jessica and she was bicycling through India by herself. They joined together for a while, partners in wanderlust, and traveled the southasian countryside together. They made a brief visit to New York then, I remember, and we, his friends, dismissed her as the woman of the month. We couldnt have been more wrong. Ten years later, they have never left each other's side.

They lived in India together. Later they decided to move to Tokyo together, where they each took jobs which were unchallenging but were also keys to a life in Japan, their lives filling up with more stories, of strange fights with their neighbors, of making a life for themselves in a land unwelcoming to foreigners, of social encounters and misunderstandings that bordered on the surreal.

They lived also in Europe. They took the Siberian railway and lived in Prague. Also Italy and then in Austria. Over the years I would lose track of these two nomads until a letter would suddenly arrive in my mailbox bearing strange postal stamps and warm regards. They always found me.

After being together for almost ten years, they decided a couple years ago to get married. The wedding was held on the country estate of Jessica's parents - just outside of London. I flew from san francisco to attend. Friends of theirs from all over the world were there. I stayed in a little country Inn with a couple from Tunisia.

I still tell people that this is the best wedding I have ever been to. The wedding was in a small old medieval church. This was a full british wedding with the men in top hats and the women wearing long gloves. It was a small spectacle. Each of the reception tables was named after a country that Ian and Jessica had lived in. Ian's family composed and sang a capella (his family is full of wonderful singers) a piece they had put together for the affair. We stayed up all night, drinking, teaching each other new dances, telling intimate stories.

As the dawn broke, the entire wedding party walked across the countryside, crossing farmlands single-file behind the bride and groom like one of those animated promenades from a fellini movie. We arrived at a small pub that had been expecting us all for breakfast. Many of us continued to drink and toast. The bride and groom announced that for their honeymoon they were headed off an another adventure - they were heading to Bangladesh.

I just saw them a few months ago on my way back from Germany and stayed at their house in London. I have never seen them so domestic, arguing about the plumbers bill or about what plants belonged in the garden.

It was only recently that Jessica told me that a child was on the way.

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