Further thoughts on friendship and passion

Nov 6, 2011

Erin kindly left two of the upstairs bathrooms for me to clean, and since I’ve spent much of the past 48 hours sleeping, slumbering, napping or otherwise unconscious — more about that later — while Erin efficiently scrubbed, folded and arranged our home to look clean and shiny, I gathered up the cleaning supplies, some old towels and the iPad opened to the Monti podcast.

While I listened to Robert Bland and Dorothy Clark talk about love and fatherhood and race relations, I was struck by the passion with which Jeff Polish has executed his dream of facilitating storytelling in North Carolina.

I first met Jeff in 2008, when I was talking about a storyblogging idea and he was already getting his storytellers lined up for the Monti. I got to his second show, in May 2008 — Frank Stasio, Randall Kenan, Tanya Olson and others on the theme ‘travels’ — literally the last one in the door, and I’ve been his biggest fan since.

I’m looking through my Moleskine notebook now, and see that I asked myself what story I might one day tell; the tale of Geo the lost dog on Paama is one I’ve been working at ever since, writing and rewriting a little bit after every Monti show. This week’s show gave me double inspiration to finish. I had told Jeff that Michael Ruhlman was returning to Durham, and he’d be a good storyteller. Lo and behold, Michael was up on stage at Motorco Music Hall on Tuesday telling about how the CIA rescued him as a writer and made him as a chef, and about the passion for perfection that’s made Thomas Keller the best chef in the land. (Erin and I sat next to Donna Turner Ruhlman, Michael’s wife; she contributed the photos to Ruhlman’s Twenty. It was very nice to spend this time with her.)

Closer to home, Andrea Reusing is the best chef in the Southeast, as determined by the Beard Foundation this year. Andrea had Erin, Jeff, Michael, Donna and me — and a host of others — in her Lantern restaurant Wednesday night for a special dinner. My previous post is about that dinner, and doesn’t even come close to doing justice to the menu, the service, the setting. Clearly, Andrea has a passion for her work; buy a copy of her book, Cooking in the Moment and you’ll get a glimpse as to why.

At that dinner, in one room, three individuals who inspire me with their passion: Michael with his writing, Jeff with his storytelling, Andrea with her cooking. I spoke a few words to explain why our stars had aligned, telling a short story about how my mother taught me to reach out and ask friends or strangers to gather and participate. With ScienceOnline2012 looming, and me working late into each night on the details and logistics of this annual conference — hence the utter exhaustion that’s knocked me out this weekend — I’ve been reminding my friends that this is my passion (I call it, alternately, the BlogTogether and Long Table ethos). When Michael stood up and told the room that “Anton is an angel, a true angel,” I think he was acknowledging my passion.

Look, and you’ll see passionate people all around.

Yesterday, my friend Wayne Sutton must have been thinking about this, because he tweeted this tag 13 times: #passion.

Anton Zuiker

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