Leaving Europe. With the exception of a week in Beirut, I have been here four months.

So many people to thank. Jon Rose and Gerry Hemingway who I played with in Nickelsdorf, Phil Minton who I played with in Porto – I have known these characters for decades now and their friendship and music has become part of the fabric of my life. Sharif Sehnaoui and Mazen Kerbaj who I just met on this trip and played with in Beirut, and a host of other lesser known but talented musicians in Napoli, Noci, and elsewhere.

Then there are the concert organizers: the people whose passion for music and energy and drive make this musical life of mine possible: Ariele Monti at Area Sismica in Forli, Itlay, Hans Falb in Nickelsdorf, Pedro Rocha in Porto, and many many more (there were a lot of concerts in these four months)

Then there were my kayak friends, Boyan Zlatarev at the Epic Surfski Center in Tarifa, Kenny Howell of Epic Kayaks who got me a beautiful carbon fiber wing paddle for circumnavigating Sardinia, Guido Cali who introduced me to the surfski community in Cagliari, and Luca Basciu, maker of the Code Zero Surfski, who not only gave me a boat to paddle around Sardinia but kept in touch with me every day, giving me all kinds of useful advice, and introducing me to paddlers all around the island.

Of all the amazing things that have happened in the last four months, nothing tops running into Anthony Braxton in the passport line in the Rome airport. Anthony gave me my very first professional gig all the way back in 1978, when he hired me out of school to tour Europe with his Creative Music Orchestra. I was 21 years old and knew pretty much nothing about music or about the world. Like many, many other musicians, my life was deeply touched by working with Anthony Braxton. A creative mind, and deep and beautiful person, of the highest order. I was glad to have the opportunity to express at least some of that to him, even if it was after several decades and in an airport line.

After briefly expressing our surprise and pleasure at seeing each other after so long, the very first thing he said was, “Ostertag! I owe you money!” Apparently, a very long time ago, I was the only member of the band who never got paid for the release of the Creative Orchestra (Koln) 1978 CD. He then pulled out his checkbook right then and there in the passport line and wrote out a check for double what he thought I was due, to cover “interest.”

I have never met anyone like Anthony Braxton, and I am sure I never well. A genuine original. I a so lucky to know him.