1 May 2017

Ari’s Very Special Welcome Home

Ari's Very Touching Welcome Home

A little over a week ago, Ali was injured when a car raced through a red light near an Interstate and hit his car, causing it to roll over twice. He was taken to the hospital, where he was for six days. He suffered a concussion and some deep cuts to his leg and will be undergoing physical therapy.

It could have been much worse, it nearly was.

Although he was supposed to stay home for a couple of weeks, Ali got antsy away from his kids and came back today. He got a very special welcome. Apart from a pronounced limp, he hid is pain and discomfort well.

I went to Albany to see him, turn over some money for a birthday party he is planning for this weekend for two of the team members, and also photograph his return.

You can feel the relief and joy and love in this photography, I could practically touch it with my bare hands.

Some people are born to teach and Ali is one of them. He loves the children at RISSE, and they love him, they were so relieved to see him, they hung all over him and some came to see  him in the hospital and cried when they saw he was hurt.

Some of these children need special help, and Ali and I and Brother Francis are talking about how to help them.

Please be patient a bit, I will be more specific in the coming weeks.

Bureaucracies take time to work things out, and we are looking for the quickest and most efficient way to help these children. RISSE has given them a desperately needed community to keep them healthy and safe and engaged as they make a tough transition to their new lives.

Ali – his name is Amjad Abdullah Mohammed –  is a very good person,  one of those better angels that reminds us what it can mean to be human, he understands empathy and love and encouragement. He is changing lives for the better every day.

I am proud to have him as a friend. Thanks to those of you who wrote him letters of support and good wishes, he was shocked to get messages from Iowa and California and other places.

He said the blog came from heaven. Not exactly, I told him. (You can donate to RISSE here.)

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How To Give To RISSE And The Refugee Children

How To Give To RiSSE: Girls Photo

I went to visit RISSE (the refugee and immigrant support center of Emmaus Church) Monday afternoon in Albany, and a bunch of beautiful young women came up to me asked if I would take a "girls" photo with Alexis, one of their counselors. I was happy to oblige, this was not a shy group, they love to be photographed.

It is always touching to see the love between these kids and their counselors, and also their love and connection to one another.

A lot of these children have harrowing stories to tell, their community has sustained and nourished them, they feel completely safe and loved at RISSE. I am grateful to RISSE for opening up their program to me, everyone there is anxious to show the true nature of the refugee and immigrant experience in America, these families work very hard to contribute to our society, and none have come her to harm us.

Since I began writing about RISSE, a number of people have started sending checks or payments to me or to Ali (Amjad Abdullah Mohammed), and thanks for that. But that is really not the best or most efficient way to help RISSE. You can donate directly to RISSE and its child and adult classes here, and there are many ways to do it easily.

When I walk into the day care center, a half dozen kids come running up to me, to welcome me and give me a hug. It is a powerful experience.

You can make the donation directly using Paypal or major credit cards if you wish. In the next week or so, I will be meeting with RISSE officials – Rifat Filkins, the executive director, and Brother Francis Sengano. They will be setting up a special Paypal account or web page for direct donations to Ali's soccer team.

We will be focusing on individual children and their needs – one young man needs help to enroll in day care, which he loves and his parents desperately want him to have. Another would love to take art classes and needs tuition. In cases like that, I will be writing about these kids and talking specifically about what they might need and what it might cost. I have also suggested an Amazon gift page much like the one for the newly arriving immigrants at the beginning of the year.

If you wish to contribute right now, please donate on the RISSE site. If you want to help the kids on the soccer team, or children in the program with special and urgent needs, please be patient a bit and I will offer more information, as I have with the Mansion residents.

Ari has a birthday party for every child on the soccer team, and we have already raised money to buy the first two children birthday gifts. That may be something we want to continue. More on that later.

Sending money directly to me or to Ali is complex, and is a bookkeeping nightmare for everybody, and I don't make a good bookkeeper.

The organization needs just about everything, and so do many of the children. If you donate to RISSE, some of the money will go to the children, of course. If you donate to the soccer team, it will only go to them. We should be ready to do that next week, and I hope to focus some of my writing on this program, and talk individually to some of the immigrants and refugees and tell their stories.

Rifat has asked whether I might write occasionally for their website, and I said I will be happy to when I can find the time.

RISSE is where I was meant to be right now. It is about my spirit as well as theirs. These people are not demons come to steal our jobs and harm us, that is for sure. I hope to convey who they really are.

For me, this issue is about the heart and soul of America, and when I see these people, and the adults working so hard in the crowded classrooms, it stirs my heart.  So if you want to come along, stay tuned, I hope to be spending a lot of time there.

Posted in General

Kelly Photo: Do Slow Nights Make For Bad Bartenders?

Do Slow Nights Make For Poor Bartenders?

The Bog was almost eerily quiet Monday night, we all wondered if something spooky was going on in the town. Kelly said slow nights make for poor bartenders, they are more apt to drop things and forget things when they have time to think.  It is best for her, she said, when she has to keep moving and thinking.

That said, Kelly didn't drop anything or forget anything, like us, she was a bit off center because we had never heard the place so quiet before. I even had time to play with my lens and try to figure out the focus. Kelly is a pretty find bartender no matter how big or small the crowd.

But the feeling in the bar was lovely, too, it was a peaceful hamburger.

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Quiet Night, The Bog

Quiet Night, The Bog

I have rarely seen the bar at the Bog empty, we went there to have a burger tonight, I had just come home from driving to Albany to see Ali and the refugee kids and so we went out. We had the place to ourselves for the first time, but i pulled out my Petzval lens to capture the feel of the place, and the Russian glass worked for me.

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Talking To Animals: “No 1 on Amazon. Hot New Releases/Animals”

Running Start

My new book "Talking To Animals," to be published tomorrow by Simon and Schuster, just popped up as No. 1 on Amazon's "Hot New Releases/ Animals and Essays/Pet Care" category. Like Fate, this book is off to a good running start.

That's sweet  before publication. Book publishing has changed radically, there is really no publicity in advance of publication for writers who are not huge best sellers, so this Amazon thing is all word of mouth. It's a good start, something that has not happened to me before, even for my best-selling books.

Most newspapers and magazines don't have book reviewers any longer, and our new President is sucking up most of the media on the earth. So this was good news for my book.

I'm guardedly excited about it and wanted to share it with you. In the new publishing world, authors are called upon to find ways to promote their own books or perish. I accept that challenge, and I'm still here.

Fortunately, I have my blog. I would have to be a book writer without it. If you want to jump on this train, I'd urge you to consider ordering or pre-ordering the book from Battenkill Books, my local bookstore. I will sign and personalize it for you and you will also receive a free and very classy tote-bag aimed at literary dogs and their owners.

You get the book and tote-bag but you also get to support a wonderful independent bookstore in a small upstate New York town. The world needs books and independent bookstores, much as I appreciate Amazon.

I began the blog in part because I saw what was happening to the book publishing world and I wanted to have my own way of reaching my readers. The blog has evolved into something much bigger than that, but Connie has already taken 700 pre-orders and we are shooting for 1,000 this week.

A great way to launch a book in the new world, come aboard of you wish, and thank you.

Connie takes Paypal and major credit cards and you can call the store at 518 677 7136 if you prefer. You can order this "hot new release" here.

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