Today, I celebrate 3 decades of friendship with Lebanese-American essayist, poet, editor, historian and short story writer Gregory Orfalea.
It took us a few years of friendship and reciprocal visits to realize that our grandfathers both emigrated from the Bequaa Valley around the same time and that our kin in Zahle knew each other. But I have never before felt as familiar as someone one I met half way through my life as I do with Greg.
As the Arabic saying goes “He’s proved to be a brother more than my blood brothers by birth.” I hear him laugh, tell a story or watch him gesture and it’s like we’ve known each other for centuries.
His book on Arab Americans— the first ever history of our emigration a century ago— was what led me out of silence about my own Arab identity.
And it inspired my own Arab/American book about food and culture in two great deserts. He’s introduced me to just about every other writer of Arab descent that I know – Naomi Shihab Nye, Sharif Elmusa and Joseph Geha.
But what’s most fun is being with his family at holidays, during spring training baseball games in the Sunbelt or when one of us needs a pit stop on a road trip.
He edits my little essays, advises me, guides me and maybe I do the same for him. And if you want to read a compassionate balanced biography of the California Mission era read his book on Junipero Serra.
To see LA from a multi-ethnic perspectives, read his Angeleno Days. The guy can do any kind of writing like a shortstop can play any base. And he can he make my laugh? We snort like two old camels together… silly as four year olds.