If you don’t get that reference, then you haven’t seen Trading Places often enough. Go watch it while the holidays are still fresh. You’ll thank me later.
In the meantime, I’m looking forward to what I hope will be an incredible new year and I wish the same for all of my readers. I’d been feeling like I hadn’t accomplished much in 2011 until I wrote a Facebook post and realized just how much I’d done. This year I learned to speak Russian (some), moved to Uzbekistan, traveled to Algiers, Vienna and Prague, did cool things in comics (Spider-Man) and in video games (Star Wars and Marvel MMOs) and shared the adventure, as always, with the incredible Lisa Goodgame. I’ll be doing my best to top that in 2012!
On the professional side, I’m hoping that my time in 2011 was well spent. I’m nearly finished with a 140-page graphic novel that I’ve written on spec. That is, I wrote it speculatively, hoping that I’ll be able to find an artist and publisher once it’s ready. I’ll be sending it to a few trusted individuals for notes in the next few weeks and then after tweaking I’ll give it to an agent for consideration. I’m also on page 145 of a graphic novel I’ve been writing using the “page a day” method. I write one page every day, never more, never less. That guarantees some kind of progress on a project that might not get done otherwise. Once I bring that extremely rough draft to a conclusion, I’ll set it aside for a time and then come back to it so that I can see what, if anything, I can salvage to then write an actual script.
I also just wrote an 8-page short story for a secret project that could lead to some work-for-hire freelance work. Plus I’m editing an indy comic called Forgotten City about which you’ll be hearing more in the coming days. There’s a few other projects on the horizon as well, but nothing solid enough to mention here just yet.
On the personal side, we’re currently planning a trip to Thailand in mid-January so that we can visit our good friend Noelle from our L.A. days and in July we’re planning to take an R&R in the U.S., probably starting with San Diego so that I can swing by Comic Con. I’m also hoping for a visit from my mom and some of her friends, and maybe one of my cousins as well. Beyond that, who knows where Lisa and I will end up going?Given their proximity and realtively easy/less expensive flight options, hopefully we’ll pop over to Russia, India and Turkey this year. That is, if Lisa can get away from work. Which brings us to…
From time to time I’ll be writing entries under the above title so that I can fill in some missing gaps in my tales of 2011, such as Halloween in Tashkent, our first Marine Ball, and more on our trips to Vienna and Prague. For now, here’s a tidbit I call:
SECRETARY’S DAY (MORE LIKE TWO WEEKS)
When Lisa and her colleagues learned that Secretary of State Clinton would be visiting Tashkent back in October, it set off a flurry of activity. Many Foreign Service folks told us that Tashkent would be a realatively quiet post, but that hasn’t been the case at all. Tashkent has been getting a lot of attention from Washington lately and with the current troubles in Pakistan shutting down American routes in and out of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan’s overland route has become more important than ever. Add to that attempts to improve our relationship in terms of fighting drug trafficking, economic development and more, all while negotiating senstive political issues, and things won’t be quieting down here anytime soon.
For several weeks in advance of the high-level visit, Lisa and everyone else at the embassy was working late to get ready. These visits take a lot of preparation. As the point person in charge of all of the Secretary’s interactions with the media, Lisa had a lot of challenges. For example, she had to make sure the hotel had enough Internet bandwidth to handle all of the data feeds for Hillary to appear on a half a dozen different shows on every major U.S. cable news and network news station. I don’t think there’s a single T-1 line in all of Uzbekistan, so adding new Internet capabilities to the hotel on short notice was no small task.
Though Lisa was in the room with the Secretary for the entire interview session, because Hillary was a whirlwind of activity rushing into and out of the room before and after the interviews, Lisa never actually got an introduction. However, after the interviews, while Lisa continued dealing with the Press, Secretary Clinton swung by the embassy on her way to other meetings. After giving an eloquent speech, she came down the line (marked on the floor with tape) shaking hands. Here’s a shot of when we met, moments before she said, “Wow, you’re the Paul Benjamin! Will you autograph my copy of Pantheon High?” She then gave me a fist bump before moving on down the line. *