Memphis, Day Two

Hi all,

Been having some internet problems in NY, so I've had to re-do this email about 3 times. Hope it works this time.

Our tour to Sun Studios was cancelled as we were invited to a luncheon ceremony in which the Dalai Lama was presented the International Freedom Award by the National Civil Rights Museum, aka The Martin Luther King, Jr. Museum in Memphis. The Dalai Lama spoke and was completely charming and loving. Everything he says is said with humor and a warm, good-natured chuckle. In one comment, which was dearly appreciated by me, and by Don also, he said that it was time that women took a more active role in the world. He said women are by nature more nurturing and more compassionate than men. (This is a generality, of course. Don't think of Sarah Palin, Condi Rice.) He said that many of our heroes in the past have been murderers and killers (I know many would agree with that; Tolstoy, for one). Then he asked, "Is it possible for a man to be a feminist?" When assured by some in the audience that it was possible, he said, "Then I am a feminist."

By the way, all these photos are the result of Don getting special permission to bring his camera in. No cameras were allowed at this event, although plenty of iPhone pics were snapped.

The DL talked about going to the MLK Museum and how it made him feel 2 things: sadness that such a great man had been killed; what he might have accomplished if he had had a few more years. But also hope for what MLK stood for, the change he had created, and how so many are carrying on his wishes and dreams. A woman we met later at the concert said our friend Loten was sitting at her table. When His Holiness spoke about Martin Luther King, Jr., she heard a noise and saw that 2 big tears were rolling down Loten's face.

The DL spoke a little about his recent illness and surgery. He had had his gall bladder removed. He said it was in quite a bad condition and the surgery took quite a while. He said for those who wondered if he had any healing powers, this should be 100% conclusive proof that the Dalai Lama has no power to heal himself or others. He did say that he recovered very quickly and he thought that this had something to do with his positive attitude.

Went from the private luncheon to the public talk at a quite beautiful concert hall, The Cannon Center for the Performing Arts. The DL spoke again, but did not seem quite as "on." The sound system was not as good and he was harder to hear and understand. In fact, for the first 5 minutes or so, his microphone was not close enough to his mouth and the audience could barely hear him at all. The Memphis audience was extremely polite and sat waiting patiently without a complaint. After the mike was adjusted and everyone could hear him, they broke into loud and relieved applause. His Holiness was very amused that we had all been sitting patiently although barely hearing him. He took written questions from the audience after his talk, which he answered very well. When speaking about sad subjects, the death of a child's father, his country being invaded, his sadness was apparent and palpable, although he is by nature a very cheerful being.

Returned to the Peabody for drinks in the lobby and then back to the nearby Cannon for the concert. Our friend Loten and Nawang performed. Nawang often ends his performance with a beautiful affirmation, such as "May All Beings be Kind to Each Other," and the audience generally joins in. They were joined by a South African singer, who I am told sang on the soundtrack of The Lion King, but I can't remember his name.  

Then a quite wild and crazy young San Francisco singer by the name of Matt Nathanson, who has got to be one of the most extroverted people I have ever seen. His ability to connect and communicate with the audience was awesome. There followed a country western singer who seemed adequately talented, but almost sheepish to be following Matt Nathanson.

Then the star of the evening, Natalie Cole. I had not been expecting a lot from Natalie Cole. I loved her dad, whose voice and choice of music seemed to be pitch perfect at all times. Natalie's decision to sing duets with her deceased dad always seemed a little questionable to me, and so ripe for parody, as Saturday Night Live showed us. Natalie had just recovered from kidney replacement surgery; this was her first performance since. She looked gorgeous, but her first number seemed a little weak, and I was wondering if she had fully recovered. By the second or third number she was sooo awesome, soo smooth, so elegant and so professional that she had us all stunned and eating out of her hand. She was incredible. By the time she did her Unforgettable number with the slides of her dad in the background, holding her as a baby, playing around with her as a young girl and woman, it seemed as if we were watching a historic event and there was nothing at all to cause the slightest snicker. She said that since her surgery many of the songs have a deeper meaning to her than they had previously. Her performance did have a depth and richness which was quite fascinating. A big Thank you to Darlene who sat us front and center for both the talk and the concert.

As a teenager I went to a college prep boarding school for a while, The Athenian School, out near Mt. Diablo. A fellow student told me of the racism the Nat King Cole family experienced when they moved into her neighborhood in Beverly Hills. They got the cold shoulder from some, and some idiots actually burned a cross on their lawn. Things can seem pretty bleak at times, but these horrific events are not as commonplace as they once were. Memphis seems a fairly civilized place. A Memphisite told me that some of her acquaintances tell her that even though they still have these racist feelings, they don't want to feel that way, so I think that is a first step in the right direction. Certainly it was impressive that the city officials of Memphis, who seemed to be mostly black, welcomed the Dalai Lama to Memphis with open arms, despite pressure from the state of Tennessee, who are trying to wrap up some lucrative contracts with the Chinese government.

We left the concert floating, but went "home" early, as we had to catch an early flight to NY. Couldn't hang with the livelier crowd, who were all ready to keep jamming in the Peabody lobby.

Lots of love,

Era and Don