Things go perfectly wrong

This year I have had a run of really low on-time airline performance. At one point, I had four out of seven air-travel attempts result in multi-hour delays, and two of these were overnight delays. The worst of these was an emergency landing that resulted in being stranded in Syracuse for 18 hours, which at least had the benefit of being a really nice social event in which the 50 of us mostly just accepted that we weren’t in Halifax, and had an almost family vibe by the time it was all over.

Also, I got a travel voucher out of the mess, which is why I am once again flying with Northwest even though I had a really deeply bad experience with the airline and would not have chosen it again on my own. But hey, it was a free ticket (except for the stupid $15 “extra” bag fee) and I had about 5 hours to spare before my gig, which seemed safe. No problem, right?

Alas, my decent luck ran out; the connecting plane from Hawaii was mysteriously “delayed” and it just happens that they had seats on the next flight for us (with nobody on standby). Certainly it is only a coincidence that plummeting passenger counts are sparking an unusual round of airline fare sales. How efficient for them. For me, it meant that I would be rolling in to the Madison airport 33 minutes before I was supposed to start speaking. Hrrumph. Here we go again.

However, I tried to just view this as an opportunity of some sort. And sure enough, in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport I had a fantastic lunch with Synchronicity, in the form of a woman named Christine. We were alone at neighboring tables, eating the same entrée (neither of us were impressed, it turns out), and I let her know that her coat was on the floor. We got chatting and found that there was a dense web of connections.

For starters, she lives in Grand Rapids, which is a city that I had planned to visit on this tour before the Italians came into the picture. It also has popped up in several synchronicities, including the one where I someone gave me Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis (which had the footnote that changed my life—see p. 164 of his book, or p. 2 of mine), and that one of my pastors in Sacramento is heavily connected there, and some of my favorite people from the Syracuse fiasco were from around there. Also, she is heavily into philosophy of education, which is what I was studying as an undergrad several miles from here, shortly before I quit school, moved to Minneapolis to live among the anarchists, and discovered cooperatives.

Finally, she is working on a book that will be published soon (she hopes). It is a collaborative effort of teams from three different firms, and one of the examples it uses is from a region of Italy that is also featured in my book. Plus she has indirect connections to several churches that I’ve been trying to get around to contacting. Now, this is a pretty interesting coincidence, one might say. But I also believe that it is a miracle. I believe that our skeptical culture mostly prevents impossible miracles from happening, but God still manages to get through to us (if we allow it) though miracles that are just extremely unlikely. I wouldn’t be here without such divine interference.

And it turns out that I got to my gig with 10 minutes to spare, which was secretly a bit disappointing because I was looking forward to skipping the usual awkward process of staring at the early arrivals and hoping that more people show up. I guess it was also my inner rock star acting up. I’ll have to do some inner work on that.

It was a good talk, hosted by an old worker co-op, Rainbow Books, as well as the University of Madison Center for Cooperatives. The space was where they sell textbooks, which took me way back to one of my early co-op development gigs, helping to launch Slug Books in Santa Cruz, which I am thrilled to report has just reopened after a couple of years off.

This morning I had an unusually entertaining radio appearance on community radio WORT-FM that concluded with the host grilling me, “I ask you again, was Jesus a socialist?” (check out the Jan 8 edition of 8 o’clock Buzz at the above link, about 10 minutes in, to find out how I squirmed out of that one).

This started an interesting day that will include both ends of my audience spectrum. I got a tour of Union Cab (Madison’s largest, which co-hosted the event last night and provided my wheels for the morning – thanks John!). Tonight I’m off to Chicago for a couple of nights with Reba Place, as well as a visit to the Christian Community Development Association and a little tour of Jesus People USA.

One last vaguely related note: I’m going to be in Pittsburgh this Sunday, and was quite pleased to see a little good news on the front page of the New York Times. It included a lovely quote: “If people are looking for hope, it’s here.” The story doesn’t talk about co-ops, but even though it doesn’t support my little agenda, I still have to give a big juicy bravo to David Streitfeld. We already know that things are bad and getting worse. Thank you for a bit of sunshine. I can’t wait to see this place.

The weather is cold and sunny and gorgeous. This is my favorite midwest winter weather (although my nostrils are not amused). This is much better than the unfolding disaster that I barely missed back in Washington. 

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