May - July 09: Guatemala, Brazil, Gaza, DC, Albuquerque

Dear Friends,

I wish I could get more regular to tell you about the magical life I live in pursuit of our ideal hospital and promoting a global value system based on compassion and generosity. I think it's been more than 1/2 year since we spoke. I'm still traveling like crazy—lecturing and performing, although the economic downturn has diminished invitations. You could help us by setting up something in your city, university or company. In our now traditional 10 weeks together in the winter, Susan and I have continued our tango lessons and are hot. In March I spent almost a week at a wonderful experimental, progressive activist community in Portugal called Tamera, check it out. Our two college spring break trips with 20 students each went this year to Nicaragua and Guatemala. I went to Guatemala and fell in love with the people while all of us were under the wing of Maria Olga who had dreamed of us coming to her country while she was a student at Gesundheit! in West Virginia last summer. Around all my efforts, I am grounded in the lust to get our hospital built. Daily I feel the global hunger for our model. Through my precious friend from Russia, Sonya, I met Michael Viner of Phoenix Books and in the winter they will publish my third book, which I like to call Why the Hospital. I gave them several thousand letters of two varieties: (a) the poor, heartbroken citizens that cannot get care—reaching out to us, and (b) health care professionals from around the world crying out for a compassionate, loving health care system—looking to us to help point to ways. It is partly for all of you that still after 29 years I remain enthusiastic and zealous to get our model built.

To give an idea of the crazy schedule I live—in May I went to Colombia for several days; did Code Pink's annual White House Mothers Day Peace action; went to Guilford College to be at my son Lars's college graduation (what a thrill!); went twice to Brazil covering 5 cities and hungry audiences (see following story); 9-day and 3-city tour of Japan; a trip to Canada and to Palm Springs. I have to say that it invigorates me and I get to read a lot of books.

A Triple Threat House Call in Brazil

On the second trip to Brazil, in May, I was lecturing to a full house. In the Q & A time, on the stage, a doctor in his 40s told the story of his nine-year-old son with a tumor in his head. He had short rude encounters with his doctors—especially the big specialist he went to see in São Paulo whose whole encounter took only a few moments and in that short exchange at this most painful moment in a parent's life—showed no compassion and interrupted the consultation 5 times to answer his cell phone. And this to another physician. In his shyness, he came up to ask if I would go that night to see his son, who was operated on that day. Even though I'd gotten up at 5am, flown to his city and worked a lot, at 10:30pm we went to his hospital room where Mom and younger brother were for hilarious hour. I think I live to clown. I've been disgusting the world with the "Triple Threat" wherever I go, which is: (1) a dental cheek spreader (2) Billy Bob teeth, and (3) a long stringy snot ...

To Gaza with Code Pink

patch sharing panties with generalIn early June, Code Pink (please check their web site——these are wild women insisting on peace and justice through direct action) invited me to go to the Israeli/Gaza check point in Southern Israel for an action trying to get into Gaza where, since January, the Israeli military has murdered so many and destroyed so much infrastructure. We were hoping to take essential aid (currently denied the Palestinians) and love to this nightmarish situation. It is embarrassing and shameful the support our (US) government gives to this slaughter—where they could be insisting on peace and justice: 2 states and no settlements. My role was to try to melt the hardness of soldiers and help boost spirits during our group's failed entry. I so admire the efforts of Code Pink. The organization was so well done. I had many highlights—at one point, after much silly persistence I got one undercover security person into my large ladies underwear and find out he is a former army General. At the one level, I found love and fun softens the tension and I felt if we were not at the checkpoint we could have a beer together and work it out. Please, world, stop revenge and hating and decide to be loving.

Breakfast in Washington

I came home from Israel and found an invitation from a Republican congressman for Susan and me to come to their weekly theme breakfast hour to discuss health care reform. I was shocked and asked them if they had the right person. The two previous speakers for their hour had been Dick Cheney and Karl Rove (who I keep thinking should be imprisoned, along with Bush and Rumsfeld, for war crimes so that our country could maybe have the world's respect again). The event was packed with Republican members of Congress and interns and we felt very well listened to as we spoke of health care as a human right and the inexcusability that we don't care for all people, equally. We suggested that we must immediately have single payer (see Congressman Conyer's HR 676 bill), and let the costly expenses of the effort to pay for our vulgar greedy uncaring system be an invitation to spark real reform (since all the media and spokespeople of any party do not address health care or reform, only the paying for this horrible system). We saw their heads nod as we mentioned many things never addressed in discussions on health care reform like: (1) burnout, (2) enough time with patients, (3) hierarchy of money and power-over in medical settings, (4) malpractice, (5) wellness, (6) palliative care, (7) social, educational, environmental health problems, (8) hegemony of pharmaceutical companies (9) cost of medical education, (10) complimentary care. We then offered Republicans solutions like: (1) stimulating re-creation of old community hospital ideas with 21st-century form—and use them to help re-create community; (2) asking for 1000 models for them to fund that would create local facilities but not consider them unless they cut 50% of the cost; (3) scattered comprehensive wellness centers; (4) Cuban-style medical schools where schooling is free for students who will go out and serve underserved communities (we like that these could be placed in big cities connected to the large dumping ground hospitals of that city).

I don't know where this will go, but the feedback was very good—they stayed longer than normal and paid rapt attention. Anything is possible.

Camp Winnarainbow!

I went again to Camp Winnarainbow with Lars for our 15th year. This is 2 weeks of heaven with 7–14-year-olds for circus arts in an ethic of peace and justice. I love being a naughty boy there. I charged my batteries with a million hugs. We filmed to make a movie to put on our website to help find kids for the camp. Please spread the word.


Full Moon Festival is On

And finally, I am flying home from Albuquerque with a big smile after a day's meeting with the beloved Carl Hammerschlag MD and our angel Jacqueline Babbitt. This comes after a 10-year search for a location for a special low-cost, high-yield fundraiser that Carl and I laughed ourselves silly over when we conceived it 10 years ago: a Full Moon Festival. The idea is to have 200,000 people paying $100 each to all moon at the same time, raising $20 million, split between the Gesundheit! project and the city. The poster for the event would of course will also help raise lots. The idea is a 3-day event, with the first two days being coordinating the 200,000 volunteer mooners to lend a hand with local projects, and on the third day, mooning. Well, we met with the mayor and it's a go. Look in October for details of a spring mooning. Come let's moon together.

I live perpetually hopeful that we will build. There is an increase in interest and every day richnesses dance around us. I am healthy and wishing you all my love and thanks for your continued support. You are the breath for our longevity.

On the Land

And, Flash!! After 6 years as a perfect assistant, my brother Wildman, his wife Elisa and daughter Annamaria will move to our West Virginia site and become land managers. Land Mama Maggie had done a wonderful job these last few years and has moved on. Good luck, Maggie. So, come help Wildman and Elisa care for and birth this exhilarating project.

Think, make a revolution in loving,