what a wonderful thing is the mail, capable of conveying across continents a warm human hand-clasp. ~author unknown



as i watched team u.s.a. hold their ground tonight against portugal

 it reminded me of where i was 20 years ago.

it was 1994

and somehow

i talked my boss where i was an advertising intern during the day,

and my boss at the hotel where i worked as a cocktail waitress at night,

and my professors where i was taking classes at all hours,

and my ex-husband who i shared my daughter-time with,

into agreeing to work around my special schedule for a few weeks.


i applied to work at the 1994 fifa world cup here in detroit.

4 matches would be played on my turf.

and i told fifa i would love to do it

before i had negotiated any time off


i knew it would be a once in a  lifetime extraordinary experience

and that i would find a way to do it.

my job was to work in press operations in the media center.

helping the press with credentials, schedules, seats. access and information.

and then

it became a reality.

we were taught about the nuances of soccer

the role of the press

how to deal with the passionate fans

and the customs and languages of the countries participating

learning helpful things like,

‘if a russian offers you a shot of vodka, it’s an insult to say no, so you’ll have to find a diplomatic way to do so.’


this was our transportation around the pontiac silverdome lot


where we met many enthusiastic fans along the way

and also

interesting press from all around the world.


on my first day,

a photojournalist

based in hong kong

working for the french press

of dutch and italian descent

walked in.

he was smiling

as i gave him his credentials,

answered his questions

and told him to enjoy the games.

later that night

i left the media center

and turned back into

a cocktail waitress.

as i approached a table

and a man at the table turned around

i saw that it was the journalist i had met earlier in the day.

we were surprised to see each other again

and he told me some of the press corps were staying at my hotel.

and i told him that i worked there on some nights.

very, very small world.

and we parted ways when his group left for the night.


each day at the world cup was a new adventure

i was able to see the matches

and enjoy the frenzied air of competition and excitement.

and many times

out of 78,000 people

the journo and i kept crossing paths.

between his schedule and mine

and ever changing locations

and job commitments

and no cell phones

and no computer

we kept trying to set up a time and place

to meet away from the stadium

when neither of us was working

to have a real conversation.


it was his last night here

and the final match in detroit was being played.

i was finished in the media tent for the day

and we planned to meet at a local bar

after he filed his report.


i went to the bar

and found the brazilian fans there celebrating

it was total madness and fun and frolic

and then

the police came

and shut down the bar

for the first time

in history.

the brazilians’ exuberant enthusiasm

had somehow overflowed

to the outside

and they were dancing

a samba line

down woodward avenue

a major thoroughfare in the detroit area.

the bar was done for the night

and the crowd dispersed

and we never were able to find each other that night

we had no backup plan

for a place to meet

and we went our separate ways

armed with addresses

and the beginning of a friendship.

and i went back to my jobs/school/life

and he continued on with his assignments

and flew back to hong kong.


mp on assignment in new guinea

and we began to write letters

and we have been pen pals for 20 years now

and we send hand-written letters

and postcards

back and forth from all over the world

and we’ve gone through life together on paper

and stayed friends

who never dated

and maybe one day

we’ll find ourselves in the same country once more

at the same time.

and we can continue our conversation.


There is no distance too far between friends, for friendship gives wings to the heart.

– author unknown

53 responses »

  1. What a great story. I feel like there’s going to be a sequel that ends in a “happily ever after.” I don’t have your e mail address so I’ll let you know here that I listed your blog as one of my favorite blogs on my website lesliejochase.com. I’ve also started Pinterest-ing and your blog is there, as well. Just wanted you to know. And, again, this story was really touching and sweet, and I hope you see him again soon.


  2. That’s an awesome story Beth. It was fascinating and so real from the first snetence to the last. And so personal and touching that the relationship has lasted 20 years. Thank you for sharing, Beth.


  3. This is a story of a life lived in full, Beth. I love the way you grasped the opportunity then and made the most of the world coming to your table.

    I love the way you made friends with the smiling journo at both places of business, and plans to have that off-duty conversation.

    And I really love the way you’ve sent letters and cards to and from all parts of the world since. I hope someday you get that next face-to-face. Oh, how you deserve it, Beth.

    This is so wonderfully written, I feel like I read it in one second.

    The golf cart parking lot Silver Dome photos are precious.

    Thank you for brightening my Monday morning.

    P.S. Go U.S.A. 2014.


    • thanks for saying so mark, i worried it was a bit too long and rambling, but all part of the story. and who knows where the story will go from here? i think we’re destined to be long distance friends and i’m okay with that. we’ve swapped stories of families, and relationships, and job changes, and life’s adventures over the years, and it still brings a smile to my face when i pull a letter out of my mailbox. )


  4. During the ’94 World Cup the Russian team stayed in my hometown during the first round and the Brazilian team stayed about 25 miles away. I don;t recall seeing a single Russian fan, but the Brazilians were everywhere, and they were a very happy group. Many spoke very good English and all seemed to really enjoy being in the US. Of course, their team won that year, which didn’t hurt their mood, either. I’m glad you got to experience that event in a unique way.


    • yes, cbc, the russians were much more restrained and the brazilians lived every moment to the hilt and then some. yes, it was an amazing adventure to say the least )


  5. hi Beth, I missed this back in June and now I don’t seem to able to look at the photos – but the words tell a really wonderful story and in a way they don’t need pictures. Friendship is a wonderful thing.


    • thank you so much, and i recently realized that every picture i deleted from my wp media library was being deleted from my past posts. who knew? i’m going to work on filling them back in one day when i have 8 extra hours or so –


  6. Pingback: shared humanity. | I didn't have my glasses on....

  7. Pingback: shared humanity. – Interests Weekly

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