Erie, Pennsylvania
January 1, 2000

Dear Alex,

Just a few minutes ago I thought I would never, ever, write you another word, let alone another full-blown letter with all the details and care such endeavor entails. Just a moment ago, I thought you were the lousiest, most remiss friend I have ever had, or, to respect the mind frame I was in, thought I did.

So volatile are my feelings, and my emotions.

All it took to change my whole perspective about you was a simple phone call. It lasted only a couple of minutes, I know, but it warmed my heart on this winter day. For a long time I wondered if you were going to remember me today.

You promised you would.

But you also promised you would call often, and send letters, and let me know how you were doing, and how much you missed me while you were in Europe. And yet, you never did. Since you left, I am the one who has done most of the writing, most of the talking.

It felt strange sometimes. But I relish sharing my feelings with you. Sometimes people just need to be listened to. No feedback, no interaction needed: Just someone to listen to our stories.

Things haven't changed much in our or, should I say, my city. I don't think you remember this place as yours anymore. You have always been so critical of this part of the world, you have always wanted more: This town has not been enough to host and entertain your dreams, wishes, and ambitions. I remember you saying you would look at this city as a turned page in your life.

Sometimes I hated you for saying that. But I have also admired that in you. The determination, the fixation on a single idea, the resolution to pursue your thoughts and dreams like a bullfighter, always intrepid, always fearless of what might come as a result of your acts.

I, on the other hand, have stayed here, nurturing my own dreams with stoic defiance. And today, as I write these words to you, I realize that having been here is, in all so many ways, quite an extraordinary experience.

Maybe Paris will bring you all the inspiration to light that creative fire that has been lurking in your soul for so many years. But for me, being here, close to the lake, close to such a rich venue of our own history, puts me closer to my true soul, to my true writing.

Yes, my dear friend, I am speaking from Erie, Pennsylvania.

I am speaking to the world from the headquarters of Commodore Oliver Perry, whose ships, made right here in this town, defeated the great British navy in the Battle of Erie in 1813. The city named after the Erie people, the Native American tribe that, although decimated by the Iroquois in a gory battle in the mid-17th century, managed to outlive itself through its name.

My dreams are like Erie, my dear Alex. They don't travel far, but they manage to endure the odds of time.

I guess I have been, and will always be, like this: The one who finds beauty, pleasure and a smile in the simple things of life, in the places where people don't pay a lot of attention to, or don't even bother to look at.

It feels appropriate to think these thoughts on a day like today, when a new Millennium starts, when the whole world revels on the possibilities ahead of us, on the good that is to come, on the big things that can occur.

Yes, everyone talks about the big things.

From my TV set in Erie, I saw the fireworks at the Eiffel tower, and the crowds waltzing through the Champs Elysees. On several occasions I thought I had seen you. But my imagination, like my heart, speaks in low tones, and I decided I would write you a large, long letter to say that, like Emily Dickinson, it will be in the small, everyday things that my deep literary thoughts will always reside.

Happy New Year!



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