Updated: Aug 2, 2021
“ Nothing like what was beginning to happen to me in the shadows of my own neighborhood. In Shangri-la, everyone loved everyone with acceptance, intelligence and affection. "
I first saw the trailer for the movie Lost Horizon when I was in second grade. It was a musical, and it looked bigger than life, with Sherpas, Tibetan temples, and Sally Kellerman. Everyone was singing, even George Kennedy. I had a chaperone to take me once my mother saw Bobby Van dancing around a circle of school children being taught by Liv Ullmann. The weekend it opened, I sat, mesmerized, for two hours, while this spectacle of 1970’s excess flashed across the screen, simultaneously resurrecting and destroying Hollywood careers. I was in heaven. The story told of a plane of passengers who crashed into the Himalayas, rescued and taken up a snow covered mountain and through a dangerous, dark cave, finally emerging into a safe, secret world of colorful flowers and waterfalls, a place called Shangri-la. Nothing bad happened to anyone here, in this world of no anger or violence. Nothing like what was beginning to happen to me in the shadows of my own neighborhood. In Shangri-la, everyone loved everyone with acceptance, intelligence and affection. No one aged, as it no longer mattered what you looked like on the outside, only who you hoped to become on the inside, and how you treated others along the way. You could stay here forever by simply accepting the love that it had to offer. It became the place I dreamed of, my fantasy for the next forty years, until the day I was stumbling up the steep mountain of my own life, and a Sherpa named Om took my hand and walked me through the dark cave of First Avenue, up two flights of stairs, opening a door to reveal the sun shining over a flower covered valley, a stream of people flowing all the way to the feet of a beautiful blue boy playing a flute. I could smell the flowers. I could hear him playing. I wish I could go back and tell that sad, injured boy sitting in the theater that the journey of his life was going to be the struggle up that treacherous mountainside. That someone would be there at the top to take his chubby little hand and walk him through the darkness into Shangri-la. Because it is real. It is. It was always there, waiting for him. And he can stay there, forever, and never go back. You are loved, little boy. Haribol.