Hemingway's book lined study - courtesy Wiki Commons

One Hour That Changed My Life

Posted November 21, 2017
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One hour can change your life.

It did mine.

At my age I can start to look back on the life that I have lived with a degree of satisfaction. It has been fascinating, it has been fun, it has been creative and, I have made a lot of money.

I have, in a nutshell, spent the last 30 years traveling all over the world with a video camera (and now a phone) in my hand. I have crossed the Sahara Desert with Toureg Bedouin, gone up to Everest Base Camp in the Himalays, been in war zones, found the Index Case for AIDS in Uganda and much, much more.  

And all thanks to video, I have been paid (and quite well) to live in this way.

Thank God!

It might have turned out different.

It might have turned out very badly, save for one hour, one day, many, many years ago. That one hour completely changed my life.

I was a complete geek in high school. I was so much of a geek that I actually carried a brief case. (You get the picture now?)

When I went to Williams College, my geekdom followed me. I was a political science major and I was headed for law school.

Then, a funny thing happened.

I had a very good friend at Williams name Mikael Levin.  

It was spelled with a 'k' because he was an Israeli. (Trust me, there were not a lot of Israelis at Williams College in those days).

In any event, in the fall of 1973, the Arab-Israeli War broke out, and Mikael had to go back to Israel to do his military service.  

He owned a small French car, a Simca, and he asked me if I would return it to his parents, who lived in Manhattan. I said, 'sure', and so I drove it down to NY and parked it on the street in front of their apartment on Central Park West.

Now, I had never been in an apartment on Central Park West. I never knew anyone who lived there. I grew up in Cedarhurst, a suburb of NY.

When I knocked on the door, Mikael's father, Meyer Levin invited me in.  

Now, as it happens, Meyer Levin as a very famous writer. I did not know that, of course. He wrote, among other things, Compulsion, and the screenplay for The Diary of Anne Frank.  

Like I said, famous.

Anyway, he invited me in, and took me down a long hall (those CPW apartments are enormous!), to his 'study.' It was a book lined room - wall to wall, floor to ceiling with books. The apartment was filled with original art and oriental rugs. I had never seen anything like it.

Anyway, I took a seat in his study and he proceeded to tell me about all the adventure he had in his life as a writer and journalist. There were photos all over the room of him in Egypt or India or China. At the center of his writing desk was a typewriter, and a pile of papers.

I only spent an hour there.  

But in that hour, I suddenly had a vision of a very different kind of life - different from anything I had ever known or experienced before.

In that one hour, I saw a future for myself. I saw the kind of life I wanted to have, the kind of man I wanted to become.

After we had chatted a while, he took me down the hall to the kitchen where his wife, a lovely French woman, joined us and we all had a cup of tea. Herbal tea. Who knew such things existed?

I was only there for an hour.

But in that hour, I had undergone a complete transformation. It was my Road to Damascus moment.  

I knew what I wanted to do now, who I wanted to be, how I wanted to live.

And from that moment on, I had a goal.

A few years later, I was sitting in my own book-lined study, in Paris, no less, with my then French girlfriend, working as the European video correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor TV News.  

If I could do it - so can you.


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