Larry Habegger


Yesterday morning I asked Larry if he’d write up a short summary of his evening with Pico Iyer and Don George for a guest post on Written Road. Knowing how busy he is I didn’t expect him to oblige. But midday I got an email from him jokingly cursing me for asking him to do a “simple paragraph.” Once he started he couldn’t stop, and ended up writing an update to his Travelers’ Tales column, “Larry’s Corner.”

I read it just now to post under his name. But in reading it I was humbled yet again by his insight into life and humanity. I wanted to blog about that instead.

“Thoughts on the World, Pico Iyer, and Iraq” is by far my favorite Larry’s Corner piece, to date.

I’ve been friends with Larry eight years and I don’t think anyone has ever taught me more about love.

Read the way Larry talks about Pico and Don.

“TT friends and contributors Don George and Pico Iyer were about to take the stage in conversation, and I always try to catch Pico when he’s in town. Of course I saw dozens of familiar faces in the crowd, writers and travelers and artists, people for whom the world is a magnificent treasure to be explored and cherished. And that’s what you always get when you listen to Pico Iyer. He has an abiding love for the planet, for those points where cultures intertwine or slip alongside each other, for individuals who represent the human face of a culture or place. Pico was born into this cultural mix, with one foot in India, another in Britain, and later, both feet in California. His Hindu-British-California orientation and his travel among the three from childhood made him a world citizen in ways to which most of us can only aspire.

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Don, too, like his audience, loves the world, loves travel, loves discussing the joys of both and the writing life. The conversation flowed freely, as Pico’s always does. “You talk fast,” read a question from the audience on a note card, “and you think fast. Do you find it difficult when you’re writing to keep up with all the thoughts in your mind?” Pico does talk fast, coming from India (where, according to Pico, on average English is spoken at a rate of 180 words per minute; in the U.S. it’s 120 wpm). But he also talks flawlessly, rolling images and ideas out in a stream that is always buoyed by logic, emotion, and clear grammar. To hear him speak is to float away on a current of language so fluid it’s like being carried by a musical score, left with your own thoughts and emotional nourishment. Words become music, logic becomes emotion, and you wonder how he does it.

I learned two new things about Pico last night….”

Larry’s ability to “get” people blows me away. Not so much that he can observe and appreciate the uniqueness in those around him, but that he can express it — both verbally and on the page.

It’s hard for me to tell people that I love them. I only say it comfortably to two people, my dad, and my good friend from college, Scott. For everyone else I have to make an effort. Sometimes it’s so difficult for me that I just don’t. Even if I’ve never felt it more. And this kills me. It’s imperative to tell those you care about that they’re important to you.

Knowing Larry over the years I’ve slowly learned by his example how to love my friends better. After reading his story, I am inspired to try harder to see their uniqueness. Details make for a good writer. And a good communicator makes for a good friend.

If my writing can develop to a point where I can express it the way Larry did of Pico, well, then, I’ll sleep soundly.