No, not “Alfie.”          

Monday morning (December 3, 2012) at Hong Kong airport. We lost Sunday to the International Dateline.

My website has an “About” page that’s about me from the standpoint of my writing, how I got to be where I am today as an author of a novel. But that’s not all there is about me, and even what I am about is not all about me. Got that? Let me try to explain.

Any writer’s work reflects his/her life, origins, experiences, joys, sorrows and relationships–even if the subject matter doesn’t directly appear to relate. Writing is an internally driven process. 

Where am I going with this?

Well, mainly I’m introducing a series of posts about a long trip my husband, Eli, and I have just begun. I’m sitting in the Hong Kong airport between an overnight flight from San Francisco and an afternoon flight to New Delhi. We will spend about a week in the reportedly magical high altitude kingdom of Bhutan, about four weeks in India, then 17 days in Israel. 

I’ve blogged on our trips in the past and have netted comments such as, “What does this have to do with your writing and your book?’ Duh. The travel I love and am fortunate enough to do is all part of making me who I am and contributing to what I write. Lily, my protagonist in AFTER THE AUCTION, travels, and I’ve been where she’s gone, which I hope makes the settings in the plot credible. The forthcoming next novel, LOST TORAH OF SHANGHAI (think spring 2013, I hope) is mainly set, of course, in China. There may be an India component yet to be written. I’m holding out for research on our last stop in India, Mumbai. 

Finally, a short word on Who’s It All About? I value my personal relationships with friends and family members all over the world. I’m grateful for love, concern and sharing they offer to me in good times and in less good times. I like to think I am an equally good friend. Just keeping in touch is so gratifying. And then there are the lessons learned both from the lives and deaths of others.

I’ve recently lost two friends with names starting with A: Alicia Urban and Ann Bear. I was privileged to know both, though they were of different places, generations, religions, life experiences. Alicia was 20 years younger, and I met her first when she was working in Taiwan shortly after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. Her lively and slightly crazy boss thought I was a “KOOL MOM” (then of a high school and early college student) to be traveling and doing business in Asia. His English was marginal–especially his spelling–but forever after to Alicia I was “KM.” Even our last phone conversation a few months ago. Alicia really capitalized on that first overseas experience, ultimately establishing a very successful Asian furniture and design business in Milwaukee. She was fluent in Mandarin, traveled to China and nearby countries for business and all over the world for adventure with her husband and two lovely daughters. She treated me, her KM, as somewhat of a mentor, though the protégé truly exceeded the mentor. However, upon hearing of Alicia’s death, my insightful son, Jonathan, wrote from Beijing, “You were inspiring to her, and she was inspiring to me.”

And then there was Ann, who passed away two weeks ago, the weekend before Thanksgiving, as my dad did in 1983. Like me, as an adult Ann lived in a few cities beyond her home turf (New York). When I’ve been new to a city, I’ve tried to make friends by getting involved in an activity or organization that interested me and then cultivating people, often initiating plans to get together, inviting people over first, etc. And when I’ve meet new people I like, even when I’ve lived somewhere for a while, I try to do the same. Ann Bear was the ultimate practitioner of outreach to new friends. I met her at a Jewish Federation luncheon I’d read about and came to unsolicited when I first moved to San Francisco. Ann sat about three people away from me at the table. She asked for my number and within days called to get together. I met her husband, Irwin, and Eli and I became friends with the Bears as couples, too. Four years ago he’d sold his business, and they were like us, enjoying life home and away, traveling to visit kids, for adventure and fun and important occasions in the lives of their families and friends. Then Irwin was diagnosed with a painful cancer and died in October 2010. Ann mourned but kept up with friends and activities, even in the last days of the leukemia that was diagnosed about a year later, a year before she died. We have great memories of sharing dinners, tennis games, plays and very lively discussion. Our last time with Irwin was when he and Eli watched Monday Night Football together a few weeks before his death. My last couple of times with Ann were spent in two different hospital infusion centers as she received blood transfusions. The discussion was as bright and lively (and a little gossipy) as always, the time spent so precious.

This blog post is dedicated to the memory Alicia Urban and Ann (and Irwin) Bear. And this trip is hereby also to proclaimed a great big “DO IT WHILE YOU CAN” adventure!!


                                                                        GREAT TRAVELERS AND BELOVED FRIENDS                                            

Ann and Irwin Bear


Alicia Paavola Urban

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