Showing posts with label Peter Geelan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peter Geelan. Show all posts

Saturday, October 22, 2016

London Leg of Overseas Trip

I already posted a few pictures of our trip to London and the return via sea, nearly a full month beginning the end of August.  My hope was to post more photographs and let them do the talking; thus this entry on the London leg of the trip. Another one will follow on the transit from Southampton, England, to New York City.

My years as a publisher brought me to London and Frankfurt on a regular basis, particularly for their book fairs.  My company published academic, reference, and professional books, mostly in the social sciences and the humanities.  There was a substantial market for those publications aboard and to effectively distribute our books throughout Europe we partnered with a relatively young firm at the time, Eurospan, which was run by its charismatic founder, Peter Geelan. Danny Maher was the chief financial officer and over the years we became close to Peter’s family and Danny’s as well.  Our youngest son, Jonathan, was a few years younger than Danny’s two daughters.  We made it a point to visit them at their home in west London. 

There, Danny and Pat, his wife, would prepare a typical English Sunday dinner, our two families, including Danny’s mother (“Mum”) growing closer over the years.  They came to our home in Connecticut to stay with us as well.

After Peter died, his son, Michael, who had been working with Peter, took over the business with Danny.  I also had a close relationship with Peter’s middle son, Jeremy,professionally and personally, who tragically died recently of pancreatic cancer.

So, that sets the stage for our London visit, the main reason was to reconnect with people we consider “family.”

I already posted a similar picture of our “reunion” but this one was with another camera, so I repost:

Our visit to the Eurospan offices, where they’ve been all these years in the heart of Covent Garden but soon will be relocating...

An interesting contrast, Michael, Danny, and me in 1980 and one of us at the recent reunion dinner...

And another English Sunday dinner feast, prepared by Danny and Pat’s daughters, Claire and Lisa, and served at Lisa’s home...

Part of this nostalgic tour was to revisit our “old neighborhood.”  We used to stay at The Cavendish London Hotel near Jermyn St and made a regular routine to visit the exquisite Fortnum and Mason as well as dining at Rowleys...

Then, via underground to Oxford Street.: Ann wanted to do some shopping and I wanted to see Selfridges again, especially after enjoying the BBC/PBS series.  It is impressive how they’ve maintained the building and their high standards...

A trip to London demands time in its great museums and galleries. Here is the National Gallery entrance....

But our greatest pleasure was spending a day at the V&A – the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Its decorative arts and design collection is unparalleled.  Ann’s particular interest was the exhibit from the Jane Austen era.  Here you can see her posing behind one of the waistcoat dresses of the time...

Other related exhibits are a music room and sitting area from that era...

I liked the contemporary hanging design entitled Breathless at V&A which is Silver-plated brass wind instruments, flattened and suspended on stainless steel wire...

It was a hot day, even for London when we visited the V&A and having the requisite Scones and Tea for a very late lunch, emerging into an unusually warm day for London...

Not to visit the London stage while there would be heresy.  The narrative link describes the five performances we saw, the one disappointment was not being able to see the Outdoor Theatre performance of Pride and Prejudice in its entirety because of rain.  Here we are having pre-theatre dinner outdoors on the site, in the rain of course!...

I tried to get shots of the stages of the other four plays we saw but was unable to get one for The Entertainer.  Here are ones for In the Heights, The Go Between, and The Truth...

And those are certainly the highlights of our memorable London visit.  And so after a very full week there, we departed for Southampton to board a ship for our transatlantic journey.   That photographic story can be found here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Remembering Jeremy

In spite of knowing it was coming, no one is prepared for the news of the death of a close friend.  Jeremy Geelan succumbed to pancreatic cancer on April 12 on the eve of his 59th birthday after a five year struggle fought with dignity and courage.  He was the middle son of my close colleague, Peter Geelan, who also died of cancer, when he was 63. 

In his short 59 years Jeremy lived at least two lifetimes.  He was a person with titanic energy and vision.  With his wife Kirsten, his constant soul mate, they raised four beautiful children, Torsten, Sebastian, Christian and Anne-Sofie.  He loved them deeply and our hearts go out to them, and to Jeremy's brothers, Michael and Christopher.

Jeremy flourished in the world of the future, and I worked with him copublishing his “very” 20th century printed book program in the 1990s.  It met with modest success but that was only because it was before its time.  The Internet’s rise corresponded with Jeremy’s business metamorphosis, going way beyond the printed word, becoming the guru of the “Internet of Things.”  Kirsten too was having a challenging professional life representing Denmark as an Ambassador to a number of countries, most recently Nepal (and thus Jeremy’s love of Katmandu). 

On his LinkedIn profile Jeremy describes himself as being “British by birth, upbeat by nature, intercontinental commuter by choice, anthropologist and exponent of Internet co-technologies by trade.”  I can testify to the veracity of those words, each and every one of them, particularly his temperament which was always so optimistic that I sometimes wondered whether he was acquainted with the real world.   But visionaries are that way.  If nothing is impossible, well nothing is.

When his terrible illness was diagnosed five years ago, Jeremy seized Whipple surgery --a literally gut-retching procedure, with a long, difficult recovery.  Right afterward he wrote to me unchecked, pancreatic cancer is quite the Silent Killer, with a quite spectacular mortality rate. Whereas I have a ton of things still to get done, ten or fifteen years more of flat-out work. So I figured there was no way I was ready yet to throw in the towel just because of some miscreant neoplasm! ;-)  That truly encapsulates his attitude, toward the disease and toward life itself.  The photo here shows Jeremy after the surgery in one of his more precarious strategies to achieve business as usual.

The survival rate drops off sharply after five years but Jeremy made it to those outer fringes and I think during that time he accomplished what it would have taken us mere mortals those ten to fifteen years to achieve.  

He wrote publicly about his illness, most recently on Medium on Jan. 26, 2016 A Love Letter To Life and and earlier one on Oct. 26, 2015 'Man Plans and God Laughs’ — How a single day can change your life.

Before those entries, he had given me a “heads up” email about their contents and we wrote soul-searching exchanges, too personal to post here. I had written about Jeremy’s illness before in my blog, particularly commenting on his own blog entry from 2014, a milestone marking his third anniversary after Whipple surgery.  It seems like only yesterday. Before that entry there was one describing a Baltic cruise we had taken in the Fall of 2011 which was only six months after Jeremy’s life-saving surgery and ironically about the same after my difficult open heart surgery

We both were recuperating simultaneously, having gone down similar, but different life-threatening rabbit holes.  This was yet another bond in our lives.  Shortly afterward, Ann and I were on that Baltic cruise visiting Copenhagen for only one day but unfortunately Jeremy was in Norway on business already.  However we were able to enjoy a typical Danish luncheon with Kirsten and two of their children.

I think of Jeremy as a comet, gloriously, inexplicably appearing and then disappearing for months on end, but when streaking across my sky, our email was deeply personal, rewarding, and we both knew it.  It is unthinkable to me that Jeremy’s Comet is now off, never to return.

As I said at the beginning of this entry, our relationship goes back to the time of the printed book.  Jeremy was a 21st Century man caught in a 20th Century world.  In 1993 he had visited my publishing offices in Westport, Connecticut for a couple of days and we had talked about co-publishing arrangements.  This was in the day when the publishing world was still segregated by geographic territories.  His Adamantine Press was to publish “Adamantine Studies of the 21st Century” in the UK and Europe and my company in the rest of the world.  Mind you, scholarly books at the time sold in the thousands or merely the hundreds.  This was not the audience Jeremy imagined.  How couldn’t EVERYONE be concerned about the future?

His enthusiasm was contagious.  After all day and all night discussing forms of cooperation, I arrived at my office and found a hand-written letter waiting for me, delivered by Jeremy before the office had opened and he had departed for home (wherever that was at the time having lived in different places all over the world). It was 12 pages dated March 17, 1993 on the stationary of the Westport Inn, probably hastily written in the wee hours of the morning.  It gives a sense of the man before he became an “Internet of Things” guru.  Jeremy was unique.  Why I took that letter with me when I retired I now know.  I thought he was an exceptional human being, great things to become of him, and here were twelve pages in his own hand for me to cherish.

The first part of his letter was to thank me for spending that time with him and my wife Ann for hosting cocktails and then for our dinner at the Cobbs Mill Inn, a restaurant near our home in Weston, CT at the time. The second part of the letter I quote in part as it shows the vision which would carry him to his destiny:

Strategy is what makes me buzz, what makes me feel I am on the verge of Understanding, on the fine line where passive –going-with-life’s flow becomes proactive management of life’s flow: containment of it, at least, harnessing of it, manipulation of it.

Which (early-morning) stream-of--consciousness brings me to a general observation about all these darned books that I’ve worked so hard to bring to your attention which I can see making a viable – perhaps even, in time, a substantial – contribution to your publishing program. The observation is this:  that “21st Century” books are not about prediction, they are not even (save tangentially) even foresight.  They are about scholarship – and vision.

The whole point of harvesting these demonstrably forward-looking books is not to enable prediction but to enable understanding of alternatives.  “Simply to be a human being is to be a futurist of sorts.” (I employ this useful statement in a little descriptive blurb!)  “For human freedom is largely a matter of imagining alternative futures and then choosing among them.”

North America contains not 2,500 futurists but 250 million!   Two hundred and fifty million choosers, making choices in a variety of areas on a variety of timescales – strategizing as best they can, which, in these headlong, accelerating times ain’t no cakewalk.

Now we can’t expect to sell 250 million copies of every title!  Some of our “futurists” – our human beings who job is to surmount The Challenge of Choice (bankers, economists, CEOs, urban planners, environmental strategists, designers, public servants; practical men and women of action – some of them, I say, aren’t yet turned twenty).  But from 25 onwards – to 45, 55, and maybe right through till 95 – there is our target audience.  Typically, s/he has already “flagged” this interest in choosing – through an organisational or professional affiliation: and the scale of these organizations can be reassuringly large.

These are the core consumer of “21st Century Studies” – of books which challenge, stimulate, and help to provide a sense of perspective and hope about the future.  These are the strategizes, for those heading up organisations as dynamically as today’s fast-changing circumstances allows – thirsty for insight from whichever source, always provided the insight is captured, kept lucid, and brought to them in some value-added way.

Maybe books, as we discussed at breakfast, and maybe CD-ROM.  But “insight capture” remains our business, our stock-in-trade: and forward-looking, interdisciplinary insight capture is going to be at a premium over the coming years, an opportunity to stake this thirst for insight aimed at helping strategies.  By God, I think that you and I might have to read the titles and not just to publish them.  For strategy is all: and how can those with responsibilities formulate good choices without involving themselves in informed choices?  “The best possible choices, in the best possible order” – that is what you’re paid to make for your publishing organization, in nine simple words.  And there are choosers in the hundreds of thousands in this land of yours.  So Let’s Go For It, let’s get that sector synonymous with the “21st Century” branding and then keep it that way.  Whether in time we supply the sector via printed page, or fax modem, by CD-ROM or “video magazine” that will be a judgment call on the way through.

[The letter continues about proposed financial terms. We did copublish but not on the scale Jeremy envisioned.  By then the next challenge, the Internet, had reached critical mass.  Jeremy concludes his letter with the following thought]:

“…And what about your 5-year plan, …more challenges and choices.  Simply to be Robert Hagelstein is to be a futurist of sorts.  Oh, yes.

See if you can include me in your future, Bob, I would aim to make it one of the shrewdest investments you ever made (and god knows you’ve by all accounts made a goodly few).  Because in some way, for better or for worse,

I am the future.

Fondly --- Jeremy

The last email I had from him was only weeks ago.  It was long, detailed, somehow still intrinsically optimistic, but accepting the inevitable, knowing these days must be spent with his loving family.  It concluded:

Sorry for waylaying you like this on a Sunday morning with so much (too much?) info...but how much is too much when it comes to possibly being one if the last emails I get to write to you who have brought so much love and wisdom to my blessed, if too-short, life?

THANK YOU, Bob - from the very bottom of my heart. For everything.

J xxxxx

I was stunned by it.  I sent him a tearful, heartfelt reply, expressing my regrets that we hadn’t actually seen each other since 2001, but grateful we’ve always been there for one another in cyberspace. I can’t imagine my world without him and it is hard to do justice to such a human being in mere words.  Jeremy, I will always remember you.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jeremy -- A Smart(er) Cancer Survivor

A dear friend of mine, Jeremy Geelan, a colleague from my working days, the son of another colleague, Peter, who sold our books in Europe, celebrated a significant milestone this month, the three year anniversary of his radical surgery to deal with pancreatic cancer.  From all signs it was a complete success and Jeremy is now in full bloom as Chief Marketing Officer & Conference Chair at KAAZING Corporation.  He morphed into all things Internet from his humble beginnings as an analog publisher, but true to his nature even then he was looking to the future being founder and publisher of the "21st Century Studies" series (back in the good ole' 20th century) and some of those I co-published in US (Jeremy at the time was in the UK).

He confronted the lethal diagnosis of pancreatic cancer head on and entrusted his Doctors in Denmark to perform Whipple surgery, not an option for all forms of pancreatic cancer but, in his case (and probably Steve Jobs had he not pursued naturopathic options), a hopeful means of addressing this dreaded disease.  My father died of pancreatic cancer and I can attest, it is among the most terrible ways to pass into nothingness. 

This radical surgery is a nightmare and it is hard to imagine what Jeremy had to endure, during, after (I recall he was on his back for a very long period of time, trying to type in compromised positions to get on with his work) and then the dreaded follow-up chemotherapy.  As he describes the surgery: "The Whipple procedure cost me the lion's share of my pancreas, all of my gall bladder, a goodly portion of my stomach, and a portion too of my duodenum (small intestine)."  Yes, it is that radical, but Jeremy has his life back.

Soon after his Dad died -- of cancer as well (he was a mentor to me as I would like to think I've been to Jeremy), Jeremy presented me with a bound edition of the 1979 edition of Logophile, The Cambridge University Journal of Words and Language of which (naturally) Jeremy was the editor.  It is inscribed "To Bob from Jeremy 18 iii 1993.  Like books "words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts upon the unthinking" (John Maynard Keynes).  This day in loving memory of Dad, I'd like to present you with a volume of wildness.  It's where it all (for me) began -- in a garret undergraduate room at Cambridge belonging to an Open Exhibitioner in English called Jeremy Geelan."

From there Jeremy threw the gauntlet down and never looked back -- in spite of such health adversity.

I commend any reader to visit Jeremy's blog.  He doesn't post there very often, although he Twitters regularly.  But in response to his latest post, I responded,

Dear Jeremy,

I don't know what led me to your blog today. Call it an instinct. You don't post here very often, but I felt I ought to visit, and there it was, your fairly recent post. Brilliant. True. Very Jeremy. But ever since I've known you -- how many years, at least thirty? -- you've always been "smart." But you were "bucking bronco smart" -- undisciplined, your mind wondering everywhere. I would say your terrible, but successful bout with pancreatic cancer has made you more focused. You are now more smart in a focused way, about your career, and about the things that matter in life. I feel privileged to have known you so long, and to say congratulations on passing the third year landmark of your successful surgery. You did it bravely, trusting your doctors, and embracing your loved ones and your friends and colleagues. On to the future! Yours, Bob

I am copying his complete post below:

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Smarter
In ten days' time it will be three years to the day since I was successfully operated on for pancreatic cancer.  Some of you reading this may be unaware of the prior story; worry not, this is not a post about cancer. It is, though, a post about survival.

There's a saying about how 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger' that many undergoing chemo- and/or radiation therapy often hear, or even use themselves, to make light of the unpleasantness of the process and to remind themselves that there is a flip side to the nastiness of the "planned poisoning" that they are enduring: it may extend their lives and is therefore “better than the alternative” (as in, death).

My purpled Twitter avatar, to mark World Cancer Day last month (Feb 4)

But recently a colleague of mine in the world of the Internet, Guy Kawasaki, hit upon a headline - I have yet to check whether it was Guy's own or whether he was passing on something from elsewhere - that, for me, is much more pregnant with meaning and possibility, in terms of viewing cancer in the first place, and chemotherapy/radiation treatment in the second, as a potential inflexion point for anyone who survives one or both:

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Smarter

This, for me, is the much more honest and uplifting statement. Do I feel stronger, having dodged the bullet - thanks to radical Whipple surgery - of the deadliest of all the cancers? Not really. If I could restore my strength to pre-diagnosis levels or above I'd be happy as a clam; realistically speaking, it is not especially likely, as there remain one or two challenges associated with Whipple surgery which tend to linger no matter how hard one tries - a surgically rearranged digestive system is plain not as effective as one that's been left intact.

On the other hand, do I feel smarter? Most emphatically, yes. The things that addressing and overcoming adversity teaches you - about yourself, about those who love you and are loved by you, about your professional colleagues both direct and indirect, about total strangers and/or long-lost friends; about nutrition, about the Internet, about the healing power of music and above all of love, about cognitive mysteries such as "chemo brain" and the reassurances increasingly offered by brain science; about physical capacity, about mental agility, about emotion, about faith…

In truth there isn't a single aspect of the human condition about which you do not, on being confronted with an early departure from the game of life, end up a tad smarter if on the contrary you have the good fortune to survive.

"Survival" and "survivor" remain the metaphors of choice when dealing with people like me but, speaking here only for myself, I am not sure how useful those words are. We are *all* survivors, after all; we all survive, daily, onslaughts of inconsiderateness or even plain cruelty, of injustice either direct or indirect, of disappointment and/or even despair. We all survive week in, week out the challenges of work and play, of life and love, of learning and of teaching, and of the eternal search for meaning in which we are all, to greater or lesser extents of awareness, engaged.

So the human being who "survives" cancer, of whatever variety, is no different from one who survives any other of life's curve-balls: bereavement, for example, or financial ruin. There is a commonality, and it is that of the bounceback or comeback. We humans are resilient. We have mastered endurance. We are *all* survivors. Of something. Of life itself, perhaps.

But the Kawasaki headline offers a more nuanced perspective.

Just as travel broadens the mind, or university, so pancreatic cancer it turns out is a hugely enriching life-phase that does, no doubt about it, leave you smarter. That it might just as easily have left you dead is not I think the point; many things kill us, from traffic accidents to natural disasters. But how many things actually make us smarter? We learn about humility - that is a given when quite literally your life (in the form of your innards) is for multiple hours in the hands of a surgeon. We learn about the irrefutable power of positivity. We learn about the boundaries of medicine and the central role of self-healing. We learn about the perils of certainty, and the corresponding importance of flexibility and agile modification of behavior and/or treatment. We learn about the often neglected importance of hydration. We learn about what truly makes us, and those around us, tick.

Now don't get me wrong. There are other ways to become wiser in this world, all of them less painful, less intrusive, and less detrimental and disruptive to the routine of yourself and your family. But that does not detract from this one, enduring truth, and I can vouch for it first-hand: What Doesn't Kill You - really, truly madly, deeply...take it from me - Leaves You Smarter.

Indeed, very Jeremy.