On Sunday, while millions spent their time cursing at their TV screens depending on the fortunes of their favorite NFL team, or at least the fortunes of the team they found less offensive, I was tuned elsewhere.

CNN had an Anthony Bourdain marathon playing of episodes of his travel/food show in its present iteration. I watched the ones from his travels in Libya and Iran with particular interest.

Tony has a talent for getting beyond the standard tourist kitsch and gaining insight from dealing with ordinary people.

He was in Libya in 2013 and that war torn country is shown with all the security issues you might imagine. A veteran of the revolution there took him to a museum of the movement after showing Bourdain the physical ruins of the Ghaddafi regime. In the museum the most striking exhibit is the display of photographs of Libyans who died in the conflict. There were hundreds if not thousands of them and the victims ranged from the very young to the very old. Extremely moving.

He also went to a BBQ where a sheep was shared (NO! Not in that way!). He talked with a woman who had been in medical school in America but returned to treat the wounded. Just remarkable stuff.

In Iran he was greeted warmly everywhere even as there were still public signs or some demonstrators calling for “Death to America”. But he had several meals in the homes of Iranians with entire families in attendance. What was of particular note was the conversations at these meals were full of warm or sometimes ironic humor and the people passed on the streets smiled and laughed at ease.

One scene was in a bowling alley where both men and women were having fun. He also took in a classic car meet similar to those held at drive-ins across America with Camaros, Firebirds or other American iron being displayed proudly and drivers doing burnouts to impress each other.

I was reminded of the early-mid-’80’s when I was married and my wife was in graduate school in the reading program. As a graduate assistant in the reading laboratory she encountered WVU students and their relatives seeking to hone their English skills.

She met people from all over the world. Thus we were invited to a quinceanera for a girl from Ecuador. Her family lived in a rental house in Morgantown’s South Park neighborhood on a hill overlooking downtown. There was a band, the grandmother had traveled from Ecuador and there was a happy blend of English and Spanish and good food and music and smiles and laughter.

We also were invited to a Chinese couple’s home during their New Year. Several women prepared their traditional dishes while the men told me they were nothing like the meals found in American Chinese restaurants.

My wife, like her mother before her, was the ultimate hostess, finding any excuse for a party of any size complete with family and/or good friends (or new friends), food, drink and plain good times.

At any time in our house one might meet people from five continents. I don’t recall any visitors from Australia or Antarctica. You might meet some Chinese or Iranians or Nigerians or folks from Spain or Colombia among others.

You know, maybe we shouldn’t leave our diplomacy to the government but have individuals meeting and conversing with other individuals instead. Perhaps we would not be so ever ready to kill each other.

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  • Tourist  On February 2, 2015 at 3:48 AM

    Tourist kitsch? Other than that – and that I don’t understand what way to barbecue a sheep you seem glad it wasn’t – your sentiments are noble and obviously well intended. I think you miss an opportunity by dismissing the Super Bowl as you do – this one specifically, more than most. There is vast international, cross-border, cross-cultural consensus that the game ended on the worst play-call in the history of ever. The world finds common ground on this. We can build on it.

    Let’s contrast the call with the one at the end of the second quarter. On New England’s 11-yard line, trailing 14-7 with 6 seconds remaining in the half, Seattle elected to run a play rather than kick an easy field goal. I *want* teams to go for it more – go for it on fourth down, go for two after a touchdown. Here, the choice was between a near-guaranteed 14-10, and a highly likely 14-7. I wouldn’t have tried it! Wow!

    Compare: Second and goal with plenty of time on the 1-yard line for the win. Three chances to hold the ball with two hands and run, versus three things that can happen with a pass, two of them bad.

    The difference is not that one call worked and the other call didn’t. The difference is that one went against the odds (took a chance) for a potentially better result. The other went against the odds (added risk) for no possibility of a better result.

    The game was theirs. They were strutting.

  • toadsly  On February 2, 2015 at 6:37 AM

    Only part of Stupor Bowk I watched was halftime show. Katy didn’t disappoint. Caught up on my reading. I don’t have cable or satellite, so CNN is not an option. Too bad.

  • Little_Minx  On February 2, 2015 at 1:22 PM

    Since, like Toadsly, we don’t have cable or satellite, we watched the game only till the end of the first half — by which time it was 8 PM so we switched the channel to PBS for the rest of prime time (sneaking a peek at the game for a few minutes each hour between shows).

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