One of the great joys about freelancing is having the freedom to manage my own time. I started the day with 7:30 and 9:30 phone meetings about potential future work, and then I drove to Philly to spend the day with one of the great humans of all time—Marcy Westerling. To say I've known Marcy since the early 90s is true, but also misleading. We sat in meetings together, we knew what each other did, we ended up at the same parties or rallies together, we laughed a few times together, but we didn't go to the movies together, feed each other, or call each other for advice unless it was advice about a campaign, which I probably called her for. I'd say we were good acquaintances and allied colleagues in the work lots of us were doing against white nationalism, homophobia, immigrant rights and racial justice. That went on for a long time, and then I moved away from Portland (sad face) but I thought about Marcy often, because there I was, originally a country person, living for the first time in a Big City, and feeling all the ways that city people and country people are weirdly cut off from each other, and not only each other but our issues, and not only our issues but other people's issues. Marcy founded an organization called Rural Organizing Project, in Oregon, that organizes rural people to around human rights and human dignity issues, and works on issues of interconnectivity among rural and other people and our issues. My apologies for what is probably not the best description ever, but the point is, I love and respect this work, and it is a primary reason that in Oregon we were able to fight off anti-gay and other oppressive ballot initiatives with strong coalitions outside the large urban areas, and it is a primary reason that I have thought about Marcy frequently in my decade plus in NYC.
Then she went and got herself some terminal cancer.
Now cancer sucks, and it can also be an opportunity. I happen to be pretty good at hanging out with people who have cancer. I've had a lot of practice. You know what they say about how to become an expert in something, is to spend 10,000 hours doing it? I'm very lucky to have had the opportunity to have spent that much time hanging out with people with terminal cancer. And even though Marcy probably didn't think about me nearly as often as I had thought about her over the past 10 years, I felt an ongoing sense of connection with her. So I just started reaching out, and before long I got to be a little closer, and then a little closer, and then I got to visit her on one of her NYC trips, and then we got to stay a little bit more in touch, and then I got to make her something, and then I got to send her something, and then she started sending me some things, and then we got to write some more emails, and then she got into a clinical trial in Philly, so I almost got to see her but it didn't work out, and then I got to see her in Portland, and that was one of the highlights of my trip, and and now we aren't just people who see each other at parties or in meetings or at rallies, but we actually get to have dates together and feed each other and ask each other advice, and this is a real joy in my life. And then this time when Marcy came to Philly for treatment, it did work out for me to get to see her, so I hopped in my car and drove on down—public radio all to myself all the way. We hung out in the hospital until she was all done, and then we found the greenest part of Philly we could find and walked for a good long time, along the river, past the boathouses that I've always only seen from the road on the other side of the river. And we talked and we schemed and we found some points of similar experience and we walked some more and she asked me what's next in my work life and we walked some more and we found a goose without a foot and we walked some more and we saw a beautiful woman in bright red against a green lawn and green bank of trees and we walked some more and she told me about some of the people in her life and we walked some more and I had to take a phone call that made me mad and we walked some more and it was getting to be time to part, and we laughed hard a couple more times, and one of us probably said something sarcastic, and we said goodbye for now.
What can I say? I feel lucky. Lucky that I'm once again in a freelance mode and can choose a day like this. Lucky that Marcy and I have intersected, and intersected again.