Friday, June 01, 2007

Traces of a Life Once Lived

I was heading out the movie theater this evening when a book caught my eye. (You've got to walk right through the book store at The Junction to get to the movies. It's like two of my favorite things in one!) It wasn't the title that caught my eye, really. It was the name of the author. Michael Finkel.

Mike Finkel? Can it be? How many Mike Finkels can there be? I skimmed the back cover. ... Montana ... Ah! It's the one and only.

I can pretend I have my finger on the pulse of what's happening in the world, especially in the publishing world. But I don't. Not any more. I remember hearing about the Times writer that got fired for fabricating parts of a true story. But I was in Addis when the story broke. I was out of touch with the real world, seeing just a glimpse of it as I walked by a television in some out-of-the-way Ethiopian restaurant. Honestly, my mind was focusing most of its attention on the realization that my Ethiopian driver was mistaking my friendliness for something more, that I needed to get home quickly. I did. But not before he started talking about the possibility of marriage. I know. Crazy. Just because I was asking about life in Ethiopia on the long drive to Addis.

But that's another story all together. One I'd rather forget. Or one I tell jokingly at times, "Oh, and then there was the time an Ethiopian proposed to me..." Back to my story.

Mike Finkel. Never met him in person, but I have edited several of his articles for our magazine in Taiwan. My favorite story of his tells of his quest to ski Kilimanjaro. But he'd also do bizarre things like ski runaway truck ramps. Just for the fun of it, that is. To say he did it. You can understand why I liked his writing, I'm sure.

Seeing his book reminded me that I wanted to look up another freelance writer from whom I'd often receive business articles for consideration. While I was catching up on friends' blogs yesterday, I saw someone (can't remember who!) said that a must-read is Who Are You People by Shari Caudron.

Seeing Mike's book and discovering Shari's book online brought back memories of spending hours upon hours reading through piles of magazines in search of the best articles to reprint, of editing 5,000-word articles into 720-word essays that would be discussed over three days' radio programs, of looking for the perfect pictures to accompany the said articles, and of always, always looking at other magazines in terms of their design. (What grabs my attention, and why? Or why not?)

And every time I think of life the way it was and life the way it is now, I smile at God's sense of humor. He couldn't have placed me in two worlds that could've been any more different! (OK, OK, I could've ended up living in Sudan. At least I have some luxuries in Kenya. But the differences extend far beyond ease of living. Culturally, rural Kenya and urban Taiwan is as far removed as, well, the East is from the West.)

I've been blessed to live in such diverse worlds.

"Your life just isn't normal," a friend commented today. I guess. But then, what is normal? In my world, my life's pretty normal. At least, I've never tried skiing Kilimanjaro.

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