It’s been a long time since dinner with a man evoked butterflies in my stomach. But John G. Morris is the most interesting man in the world. And he lives in Paris, my happy place. Put them together and suddenly two plus two equals so much more than four. My palms sweat, my pulse races, my 95-year-old dinner date awaits. Of course I’m nervous.
When we land in Paris, we call John as arranged. Saturday morning is a lazy time for me. I wait until I am sure he is awake. John is on his way to the American Church where it is election day to select the delegates representing Americans Living Abroad at the Democratic National Convention. John’s running for election as a delegate. When he wins, he’ll be in Charlotte this summer at the DNC.
We are eligible to vote in the election as American expatriates living in Bratislava. We are off to the American church. I wouldn’t miss this for the world. John and his girlfriend, Pat, are perched at the poll entry. They greet everyone. There’s a line to speak to them. Each voter is treated with a smile, kind words, engaging conversation. John and Pat are gracious. Most people sufficiently interested in politics to vote in this election already know them.
We arrange to have dinner the next night, Sunday. It’s election day in France. We’re warned to expect some “light rioting” pending the outcome. I’m not sure what happens during “light rioting” nor which outcome presages this rioting. We watch the election results at John’s Le Marais apartment. In France, they announce the winners as soon as the polls close at 8:00. John is passionately interested in the result, the speeches from each candidate, who his French friends – who have joined us to watch the results – support and why.
During dinner, I want to relive John’s past. I want to be dazzled with stories of Hemingway, Steinbeck, Marlene Dietrich. What was it like to live in Paris during the war, in the 50s, during the heyday? John wants to understand our thoughts on Slovakia. Are they better off split from the Czech Republic? Who will win Colorado in the presidential election? Is my employer concerned with workforce diversity? How healthcare legislation impacts me? He takes his role as delegate seriously. He is writing a “peace proposal” as one of the democratic platform planks. He’ll return to the United States later in the summer for the convention. The future consumes our dinner conversation.
He’s the most interesting man in the world. His past is amazing. But it’s the past. His focus is fully on the future and how he can influence it. He is concerned, frustrated, focused, engaged. While some, at the age of 95, might believe their life’s “hay is in the barn”, he does not. He worries about the work still undone – the state of the world, the predisposition of violence to solve conflict. He encourages all American’s to vote. He believes in the power of an individual to affect change. He doesn’t believe he’s the most interesting man in the world. He insists he doesn’t deserve this nickname. But he’s wrong. Of course he does.