The other week we drove to Miami to visit our friends Hania and Leszek and Leszek showed me the book he had just started reading, which was the same book I had just finished: the biography of Ryszard Kapuscinski. The Polish edition contained more photographs, one of which I found particularly arresting. It was taken in the '60s and showed the young reporter standing on the sidewalk outside his newspaper office on Aleje Jerozolimskie in downtown Warsaw. He is talking with a man, probably a colleague, and his expression is one of fresh intensity, his legs-apart stance suggesting cockiness. The photo seems almost to predict the greatness for which he is destined. And yet it was taken at a time, in a place, that those of us in the West saw as totally lacking in possibility. My one complaint about the biography is that, despite its exhaustive examination of Kapuscinski's life - his accuracy as a journalist, his limitations as a family man, his deft working of the system, his political and professional loyalties - it fails to explain how a reporter for a government news agency in the Communist bloc became one of the great writers of the 20th century.
Wednesday, taking an evening stroll around Nazareth, I saw a young woman walking towards me, pushing a stroller and talking on her cellphone. She wore a tank top that revealed colorful tattoos on her upper arms and shoulders. Just before we passed each other she turned from her phone and said: "Hey, how ya doin'?"
When I had a job and June rolled around, I always eased up a bit, even if only psychologically. Summer was the annual excuse for a lesser sense of urgency, slightly smaller expectations (especially for someone working at a newspaper in a region that many readers had made their seasonal exodus from).
After I got laid off, I wasn't quite sure how to react to summer. Can someone who works at home still justifiably enjoy the season of slow?
This summer the question is even more complicated, as a year ago at this time I had a job, which I quit in January. So for half of the year I was one of the nine-to-fivers. Does that entitle me to a month and a half of easy living? Or to trips that take me to places that don't get guidebooks?
Tomorrow I'm off to Nazareth, Pennsylvania.