2010 in Retrospect / Holiday Greeting

December 2010

The Bengali song Duranta Ghurnir (it means “Life is a whirlwind,” more or less) that Madhumita and I sing together on my Internationally Unknown CD could be this past year’s theme song. We made 3 international trips: Egypt in February (belated honeymoon), Israel in May (we performed 12 concerts in 9 days) and then India to visit family in Kolkata for 10 days at the end of October/beginning of November. Returning home November 6th (my fifty-fifteenth natal observation), our connecting flight in Delhi departed just after midnight, arriving at JFK soon after 6:30am — so with all the time zonal changes, I actually enjoyed around a 33-hour birthday. And  since most folks were not traveling on the Diwali holiday, our half-full return flight afforded each and every one of us 3 seats across which to stretch our languid forms in relative luxury.

Our Israel trip got off to a rip-roaring start when upon arrival I discovered that Delta had managed to separate the neck from the body of my guitar. Some feat considering my travel case, specially-designed for  checking as baggage, had been back and forth to India 5 times, Israel twice before, and countless other destinations without incident. Good news was that our friends Michal & Bob Mark at nearby Neveh Shalom/Wahat al Salaam had only just met a young furniture designer who also builds guitars, and so my new best friend Essi managed to perform the miraculous re-attachment surgery — literally overnight — to get us back on the road without missing a beat. And he refused to accept payment for his work! And then after a coupla months Delta acknowledged its culpability and coughed up a reasonable balm for my anguish, thereby also avoiding public embarrassment on YouTube from my already half-composed Delta Blues. “Yes,” they said, “we’re aware of the United Breaks Guitars viral video on YouTube.” Case closed (and guitar safely stowed within). Speaking of YouTube, you can go there to see & hear highlights from several of our performances that included some Bedouin and Arab schools, the African Refugee Center & the Arab-Jewish Center in Yaffo. Also the Folk Clubs in Karmiel, Tel Aviv and Kibbutz Tzora, as well as the Jacobs Ladder Festival on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. What’s the Hebrew word for whirlwind?

In Egypt we plied the Nile by hotel boat, communing with pharoahs and queens, mummies and monuments from Luxor to Cairo, where we pierced the darkened heart of the Second Pyramid with our presence and annoyed some camels with the same. Upon arrival we were momentarily confused when our charming guide Abdel invited us to “make chicken,” until we realized he was simply asking us to check in.

October 1st Madhumita concluded her employment at Covidien after a 2.5-year tenure, and is presently in job-seek mode. Departure gifts from Covidien have given her a modicum of breathing room in which to find a new position. We are optimistic. Alas, I never got around to proposing to Covidien — a surgical supply company — my idea for a home surgery kit, to be called (wait for it) “Suture Self.”

We drove to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving and Mom’s 92nd birthday, stayed awhile, then Madhumita flew home while I drove between the snowflakes circuitously homeward via Chicago, Memphis, Little Rock, Dallas and Tulsa before turning the horse toward the barn. My legendary weather karma kept me virtually dry the whole way.

I continue to gain color and strength — and weight — as I enjoy my ongoing recovery from last year’s medical detour, and am nearly back to what we euphemistically call “normal.” Projects abound and 2011 promises to be a productive year. We wish the same for you.

With much Love from Here,
James & Madhumita


  1. Asako Ota says:

    Greetings James,
    Wishing you and Madhumita a wonderful Holiday and a great New Year 2011!
    I miss seeing your Mom and sister Judith and have such fond memories of times spent in Palmdale, a treasure I will never forget.
    Best of everything! Asako

  2. joe Cromwell says:

    An interesting website detailing an impressive list of accomplishments and portending greater things to come in 2011. Yet what impressed me most was “Suture Self” – only you could conjure up that description of a home surgery kit. It’s another Durst classic. Happy New Year James and Madhumita. Continue to carry on enthusiastically,
    Joe Cromwell

  3. Curt Johnson says:

    James, As one of the lucky ones who happened to be along your wandering December path, I’m grateful to have met you. Our conversations about music, people, living, and the meaning of it all were inspiring. Not sure why we didn’t get around to discussing home surgical kits. Perhaps you chose not to bring it up. Oh well. Suit yourself.

    May our paths cross again soon,


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