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Always Connect

Always connect...

Ishmael Merchant died this week. He was 68. They say he died from a 'burst ulcer' - didn't know that you could die from that. They packed him up in a box and flew him back to Mumbai, where he was from. They said his box went to the house of a friend. Well, Ishmael was gay - I hope it went to the house of his best friend or lover, or whatever. But of course that's not in the article. Not that it should be - just noting the non mention - and that whenever you read the paper, if you read between the lines, you always get a bit closer to the truth. Truth is I met him once - at a dinner in Cannes, one of those fabulous affairs, where everyone is dressed to the nines and a waiter walks around with free champagne and cocktail treats until they seat you at a big table. Somehow I was at his table - he was wearing a big white caftan kind of thing - well there's an Indian name for it - maybe it was a white sari - and he was sitting next to some princess type - older woman, royalty blah blah blah. And I started chatting with him, not about movies, but about how unusual the Cannes experience is - because of time and place you wind up meeting people you never thought you'd meet, having conversations you never thought you'd have.. And he looked over at me, smiled and said "Always connect." I've thought about that since then - when I"m tired, trapped in some airport somewhere, waiting for my starbucks - impatient, in a bad mood, cranky, ready to take someone's head off for an incompetent move that cannot be tolerated at any.. and I stop and hear his voice and say outloud; 'How ya doin'? ' Of course since I'm from chicago, i can be forgiven for doing what all chicagoans do everywhere on the planet - 'how ya doin' is a universal greeting in chicago, usually followed by 'what high school did you go to?' friendliness for the sake of a laugh - finding some way to break the ice that surrounds us every day when we're out in the world. Or "what's up on your side of the counter today?" and you hear all kinds of tales.. I love to collect stories from people, they go into my work sometimes, and other times, I can see people lighten up physically just because I've taken the time to ask how they're doing. Or phone operators, who are bored out their minds - i'll ask "so where are you located now?" sometimes it's in colorado - atlanta, canada, even india... but just by taking that extra time to connect - 9 out of 10 times the transaction goes that much quicker, the outcome is that much more favorable, and the memory is that much happier. So, I salute you Mr. Merchant, and in your next life whatever it may be; may you always connect.

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