When The Music Stops

Last night I pulled an all-nighter.

As a kid that meant I stayed up all night studying…

As a teen that meant I stayed up all night partying…

Oh, how I miss those days… that innocence and naiveté.

Last night, that meant I stayed up all night watching a horror unfold.

How the world has changed.When I was a kid the worst thing I had to worry about was getting beaten up after school… and I did a few times. But now I seem to be leaving a world for my daughter where the worst thing she has to worry about is being gunned down or driven over or stabbed.

The Borderline is ten minutes from my house… It is a bar I have been in. I saw my friend Becca sing there. I saw my cousin Jordan play there. Every time I have been there, it was filled with music. And yes, I will admit, I was a bit judgey on the whole line dancing thing… probably because I can’t dance, but still… the place was filled with music… and now the music has stopped…

That seems like so long ago… All that joy and innocence lost… destroyed.

Where I have been is now a hell.

Where I have shopped is now a staging area… and last night was a triage area. The insane irony that the parking lot of a CVS and Vitamin Shoppe… a place we go to get better and healthy… is now a place to bring victims to…

I am not numb, I am broken.
What have we become?I can’t say I woke up to the news… I never slept. My head is still pounding and swimming.  I am shocked I still have tears left to cry. Between the interview last night with a father who was inside and crying because he did not think he did enough, to a father who talked about how his daughter did what she was “trained to do,” and then to a father who just found out he lost his son.  I will never, ever forget any of it. I am so lost.

We should be “training” our kids to run and play, not hide and shelter in place. This should not be our reality… this should not be their reality. They should be learning literature and math, and doing drills in gym class, not active shooter drills.I am heartbroken, devastated…  I feel lost and nothing but a heaving mass of tears. To admit this is often looked down upon as being weak. I know I am an extra sensitive person. Technically, I have been diagnosed as an ESP. I take things personally and am deeply affected by the outside world. I cry while watching the news. I am crying now as the procession for Sgt. Ron Helus moves down the 101… the freeway I am on almost every single day.I cry thinking that the Thousand Oaks Teen Center is now a “Reunification” Center… another bitter irony. Teens should be going there for fun and escape, not for this… not for this…

But this is my truth. This is who I am. This is the essence of my soul. And through this post I share that, I communicate that, without fear, but with need.  We all need to be heard… we all need to listen.

With Pittsburgh it was my community, my Jewish community, but it felt so far away. And sadly, we have become a bit numb to the hate and the violence. We cannot tolerate and accept the bad behavior, the hate and the rhetoric, the destruction of values and norms. We need to get back to loving kindness. We need to return to who we are… souls in bodies… souls…

Look at what “one” hate can do… what “one” gun can do… But then turn it around… look at what “one” love can do… “one” light can do…

The issue is muddy, but clear.
We live in a world where stress and anger and hate are real. There is too much of it.
Stop the hate.

We live in a world where mental health issues are real. There is too much of it.
Stop the pain and suffering

We live in a world where people do not know how to stop their anger, and so instead stop others. There is too much of it. Stop the violence.

And yes, there are also too many guns, too easily gotten.

And yes, even with stricter laws, people will find work arounds, but still… can’t we at least try? Can’t we at least sit down and talk and bring both sides together?

There has to be a calm, rational way to figure this all out. There has to be a solution or at the very least an improvement. This cannot be normalized.

And yes, if a person cannot get a gun, they will find other ways to carry out their anger and hate… with a knife, a car or even a kite. I get it, I do.

So what do we do?
We cannot ignore or stigmatize these mental health issues. We need to deal with them head on. They are real and deep and clearly can wreak physical havoc, on ourselves and on others.If you are suffering, speak out and ask for help. Speak up, speak up, speak up…
If you feel lost and afraid, speak up… to a Rabbi or Priest… to a doctor or friend.
And when someone opens up to you, do not shame them, embrace them. Do not condemn them. Fear keeps too many silent. Society judges us too harshly for being open and honest, broken and weak.

But do not stay silent. If you are seeing dangerous behavior, speak up. Speak up, speak up, speak up…

People are not disposable. We cannot allow men and women to serve our country and then not serve them back. We owe them our literal lives, so when they are out of the service, they are not “out of service. “Their value does not and must not diminish.

We cannot allow young men to play a sport, and then ignore them when their bodies fail and their brains are injured. We cannot toss them aside, when their “value” is gone.

I say this because we seem to live in a disposable society, where it is always “what can you do for me,” and not “what can I do for others?” The value of a human being is in who we are and what we give to the world. That is best measured in our relationships and in love, not in money or stature. It should be based on how much we give of ourselves and for others.

Human beings can be kind and compassionate, loving and supportive. Let us never lose this. Let us never forget. In a darkened haze of bullets and smoke, people placed their bodies in front of others. Broke windows and stayed behind until others had escaped. In a darkened night, people rushed to the scene with whatever light they could shed.

Last night the music stopped. And from time to time, we need to be quiet… to pause and ponder… to look into ourselves and our souls, and sit with the quiet.

We are taught that a funeral, at a Shiva call, it is best to say little… to allow those in mourning to approach us… to speak only if they want to.

We can simply say, “I am sorry.” “May their memory always be a blessing.”

And for a while, hopefully a short while, there will be quiet… there will be silence… and later, the music will return.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel says it so clearly: “There are three ascending levels of mourning: with tears — that is the lowest. With silence — that is higher. And with a song — that is the highest.”

Thoughts and prayers are essential… Do not ever diminish the power of thoughts and prayers… it is a part of who we are as human beings and souls, even for those who are not religious, it is part of being human… We feel, we express, we connect… We express condolences and love, support and kindness.

But then there needs to be something else… there needs to be speech and action, or else the lives lost will have been in vain. Allow those who are suffering to have their space. Allow them to have their tears and their silence… and then let us speak, let us all speak, for in order for us to sing again, we have to open our mouths.

Fix the mental health issues.
Fix the levels of stress and anger.
Let people know that help is out there… and GIVE THEM HELP… DO NOT SHUN THEM OR TURN THEM AWAY!!!
And then fix the gun issue… and it is an issue.

Nothing will get done until we start. Nothing will get done without respect and compromise. Nothing will get done if we do not approach this holistically.

Last night, yet again, the music stopped. Let us make sure it is only for a short while. The world needs music and light, now more than ever. Let us come together, stand shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, heart to heart, soul to soul… for something other than this. Let the band play, let the chorus sing, not mourn.

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Music Matters

I have always understood that part of the importance of art is to bring order to chaos. Whatever the canvas may be, whether it is a literal piece of cloth stretched over a frame or a sheet of music, an artist can take the noise and cacophony that is going on around us and make it clearer and more musical. Perhaps even more harmonious.

We live in a chaotic world right now. We are more divided, more stressed and more confused. Conversations have given way to cat calls. Consent has given way to conflict. People do not listen to each other any more. They do not hear anything other than their own position. And hearing… listening is essential. 

Music, Sweet Music
We need to listen to and really hear music. It will set us free. We need to find chords in discord, notes in the no and the not… a melody in the mayhem. Music literally soothes the soul, takes us to a different place, moves us. It puts our issues into perspective.

When people connect to a song or a specific piece of music, it can literally change the world. I think about the songs “We Are The World,” “Imagine,” though religious believers would take an issue with a few of the lyrics… and “You Will Be Found” from Dear Evan Hansen. It is powerful to note how many parents and kids wait backstage after each performance, not for a photo or autograph, but to share their stories of being lost. These people LITERALLY find themselves in the music and musical… they find themselves in the song.

It starts with:
“Have you ever felt like nobody was there?
Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere?
Have you ever felt like you could disappear?
Like you could fall, and no one would hear?”

And then it moves us to this:
“Even when the dark comes crashing through
When you need a friend to carry you
And when you’re broken on the ground
You will be found

So let the sun come streaming in
‘Cause you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again
Lift your head and look around
You will be found, You will be found, You will be found, You will be found, You will be found.”

We need to be found… we all need to be found… and most importantly, we need to heard and we need to listen. This is what music means…. this is why music matters.

“Let the trumpet herald in the night
Let the band pick up the fight
Let the conductor guide the way
Let the music play.

Let the chorus sing as one
Let us all sings songs unsung
Let the music light our way
Let the music play.”
– MG“Without music, life would be a mistake”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”
― Plato

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
― Aldous Huxley

“Where words fail, music speaks.” 
― Hans Christian Andersen

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
― Victor Hugo

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
― Aldous Huxley

 

 

Think about how a piece of music can bring you to tears, how it can take you back to a specific time in your life. or how it can help you escape…

Ponder the song that gets you through a tough workout or tough time in your life, or inspires you to kick ass and take the world by storm. You may not love Eminem, but if you Lose Yourself in his anthem, it is hard to not feel inspired.

The scenes of our lives are so often played to music… We all have a unique soundtrack that is our lives… And while there will always be songs, albums and concerts we share, that bond us and keep us together… like the song  a married couple dances to for the first time… a tune that a graduating high school class sings in unison and in harmony… Each of us has their own song. We may be in a band, but each song means something different and specific to us.

We are all an individual and specific piece of music, a concert, or a series of songs. It is part of our DNA, part of our genetic makeup. Have you ever been doing something and a song (seemingly randomly) pops into your head? Or you almost unconsciously start singing a tune you have not heard in years?

Music gets into our blood and our bones… It enters our brains, our hearts and our souls.

Keith Richards says: “Music is a language that doesn’t speak in particular words. It speaks in emotions, and if it’s in the bones, it’s in the bones.”

So live your life truly and openly. Celebrate exactly who you are… celebrate all that makes you different… for this is your truth and what makes you so special and unique. You were created for a very specific reason. You were created to sing.

Jack Kerouac said: “The only truth is music.” 

This is why music matters and more than you can know… So dance, compose and sing, always sing… be loud and fearless, blissful and joyous… sing… sing… sing!

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Losing Face And Faith On Facebook

This not a music post… but I think it is an important post…

Facebook is a losing proposition…If you post anything “political,” you place yourself in a landmine hidden in quicksand. There is no longer this AND that, but this OR that…  and if you try to balance yourself on the thin, high wire of reason, both sides throw stones, trying to knock you down. Though on my last attempt at being a Walenda, the rocks came from only one side.

Hell, in this world you can post a flower or even a cat video and the rhetoric flies, with people throwing grenades at you, hidden in balls of yarn. All in an attempt to blow you up and figure out what you “really meant by that.”

There is no room for subtlety and nuance, as words on a screen betray tone and intention. And even though there is nothing to “hear,” people respond with their positions and not to what you actually said… or tried to say.

My real friends know me, and my positions, and what kind of person I am. My “Facebook Friends” do not. So what is real? Certainly not this artifice that tracks your posts and shopping trends, and suggests things for you to buy based on your online behavior.

The online world, be it dating or job applications, has taken away humanity and true connection. It is about the ease in which you can be ignored. There is, as a friend says, little to no cost of transition, so you are ghosted and tossed aside because people believe they can always do better. And ignoring someone online is easy and anonymous, yet still cowardly and callous.

In person you are an individual, online you are a screen name, an avatar, an emoji and an IP address. In person you are a name, a soul, a face and a body. Online you are an algorithm.We need to be measured in deeds and acts of kindness, and not “likes.” And as advanced as virtual reality is, I’ll take actual reality every time.

100 FB friends do not equal one real world friend, who will lie on a railroad track for you, always have your back, and be there no matter what kind of mood you are in. Heck, 10,000 FB friends and followers cannot hold a candle to that one, true real world friend.

If you post vacation pics or happy events, you are regarded as a braggart.

If you are too joyous on Facebook, people believe you are hiding something dark, though there are times when people feel that they have to put on pretense and make-believe, and show that everything “looks fine,” when the truth is actually something sad and broken. There is very little real online. EVERYTHING on Facebook looks perfect. And so Facebook is the place to go when you want to feel bad about your own life.

If you express sadness and frustration, you are a leper to be avoided. And while some of this still happens in the “real world” it usually does not happen amongst “real” friends.

I have friends who were much smarter than I have been, and did this a long time ago, and I should have followed suit…  but as of now, I am done.

You have not silenced me. There is no chance of that. I am simply going “live.” I am taking the show off the screen and onto the stage, or living room, or bar… and over a drink or meal and in person. I am going to where I am not limited by characters and to a place where nuance is appreciated, honest debate is rewarded, and intention is honored and understood.

I will post my quote a day, with the hopes I can inspire and connect.

I will promote my blog and things that need promoting.

I will post about sports and music.

I will wish my friends a Happy Birthday, Anniversary or congrats.

I will use FB as a way to connect and plan and RSVP for an event.

For everything else, it won’t be there.

I do think FB has great value when it comes to friends needing prayers for themselves or loved ones, as I fully believe that energy really works and can make a major difference. The power of prayer is a remarkable thing.

And yet, I pray for all of us. We are living in dangerous times, my friends. We are bitterly divided and seemingly incapable of coming together. Instead of drawing lines in the sand, we would be much better served drawing circles and hearts on the beach… making a campfire and sharing S’mores. That doesn’t mean we bring everything and everyone in. There is real evil, there are real criminals and those who would hurt us.

But there are also things we can learn from others, even those whose opinions we don’t agree with. We need to talk WITH each other and not at each other. We need to listen with our ears and not our positions. We need to have respect for one another and realize that intention is key.  From my point of view, this can no longer happen online and especially not on Facebook.

So to my real friends, I’ll see you out in the real world.

 

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T… R-I-P – The Queen Is Dead. Long Live The…

The Queen is dead… Long live the… long live the…

Who is the next Queen? The true Queen? I really do no think there is one… not like that… not like Aretha.

It’s not just that Aretha Franklin has shuffled off this mortal coil… it’s that there really is no one else. There was a rich period in time when blues and soul singers and groups were all over the place. Now… they are not.

Six decades… Six…Aretha TRULY was the Queen Of Soul… the first Diva… an icon on and off stage. While we are lucky enough to have some amazing performers these days, it is just different. Maybe we no longer have the ability to be surprised or amazed. I hate to think that, that is what it is… and while times were different back then, there was just some kind of magic that seems to be missing in the world as of late.

Artists were bigger than life back then… and maybe that is what we needed, when we needed it…

But if you watch the news or feel the world, as so many of us do… deeply… profoundly… you would agree that we need that now more than ever. So who is there to not only take the mantle, but lift it high and towards the heavens?

“The blues had a baby and they named it Rock N’ Roll.”
So said Muddy Waters.

I grew up as a child of classic rock. That is what I listened to for as long as I can remember. It took me going to college in Chicago in order to really work backwards… to truly hear and fall in love with the Blues, Soul, Gospel, R&B…

So since I am a child of classic rock, I guess the Blues are my grandfathers!

As my musical tastes expanded, one of my most prized possessions was and still is the Atlantic Rhythm and Blues (1947-1974) Box Set.

Ruth Brown… Joe Turner… Ray Charles… Clyde McPhatter… Ivory Joe Hunter… Drifters… Coasters… LaVern Baker… Ben E. King… Solomom Burke… Otis Reding…  Wilson Pickett… Sam & Dave… Booker T. & The M.G.’s… and Aretha… Aretha… Aretha…

She was all over this collection. She opened my eyes and my ears.

Aretha was the first woman admitted to the Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame… The Blues Brothers movie… an iconic film for me on so many levels…

 

 

 

 

 

She was on the front lines of the Civil Rights movement… the soundtrack to that and to so many lives… She served G-d and the people of Detroit.

She was a singer… an ambassador… an inspiration. She was and will always be SOUL.

She seemed to be most proud of being a Mother and friend. And after all, isn’t that the legacy we all want to leave??? Kindness, love and to play happily in the memories of friends and loved ones…

She played for Kings and Queens… she played for the world. And now royalty and the world mourn.

But the silver lining in this dreary and cloudy day in Detroit… We have Vinyl… we have digital… we have music to crank to 11… We still have songs to sing…music to get us through our daily battles… music to raise our spirits and uplift our souls.

And isn’t that what soul music is? Music to soothe a weary soul… Heck, isn’t that what MUSIC is?!

So “Sing… sing a song. Sing out loud. Sing out strong.”

Aretha was part of the Baptist church, so let us all be baptized…
Let the music wash over us… envelop us… embrace us… comfort us…
Let each note, like each and every single drop of rain, holy rain, go into our very being… pierce our soul and our heart… and yet, at the very same time, heal it… heal us.

“Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that.” – Aretha Franklin

The Queen is dead… Long live the music of the Queen!

Let us all raise a glass and say a little prayer… RIP Aretha!

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Why The World Cup Really Matters

So why is this post in a music blog? Because there is a music in sports… on the field and most definitely in the stands. There is a music in a chant, in a national anthem, and yes, there is even music in those annoying vuvuzelas, though it may be limited to a mere few seconds… then it becomes torturous.

Soccer In Jersey
Every four years I am captivated by the World Cup and fall deeply in love with soccer. And every four years, once the winner is crowned, I drift away from the sport, and fall back into my top three… the NHL (Go Rags!), College Football (Go Cats!) and Baseball (Go Yankees and Cubbies).

My nieces love and play soccer, but my daughter never did, so there is that. I am not anything close to an athlete, but I played soccer for a short while, and according to my parents, spent most of the time adjusting my cup and looking anywhere and everywhere OTHER than the field. Yes, I called it a field and not the pitch. (I could not find a photo in my soccer uni (kit) so here is a collectible playing card of me and my brother Dan as total jock studs!)

I enjoyed going to Cosmos games and watching Pele and Franz Beckenbauer and Shep Messing, but for whatever reason it never stuck. Then again, neither did the Cosmos. Though I do have a great story about Mick Jagger helping me get Pele’s autograph!

Friends have advised that I pick a Premiere League team and follow them as the best way to learn about and fully immerse myself in the sport. I never did… until now. After doing a number of surveys and questionnaires online… Yes, that is a thing to try to match your personality to a team… my friend Eric pushed me towards Tottenham.

The surveys wanted me to go with Arsenal or Everton. I was drawn to Liverpool for the BeatlesChelsea for the logo, colors and neighborhood… Yeah, I know… and Newcastle for the beer. I still like Chelsea, but after reading about Tottenham, that seemed like my match. So next season, you’ll know where to find me! Go Spurs! And yes, it is not lost on me that their 3rd jersey is purple!!!

Plus, their motto is killer…

“TO DARE IS TO DO.”

Apologies to my friend Steve, who did push me to Crystal Palace a while ago, and even bought me a jersey. They still will hold a place for me… and I do understand your pain.

Of course, the Captain of Team England is Harry Kane, a star Spur… so my fate seems to be sealed.

Soccer In The World
There are three levels to any World Cup:
The players and teams on the pitch.

The fans in the stands.

The fans worldwide who make up a massive TV audience.

I suppose you could combine the last two, but clearly there is something specific to travelling across the globe to support your team… and perhaps more importantly, your country. Being together in a bar, or even outside a stadium is great, but just look at the passion and energy inside! Wow!!!

It’s a bit ironic that the US is not playing in the World Cup. It gives a sporting and visual definition to the world the current administration seems to be creating… a world with the US separate from the rest of the nations. This is a scary and sad thing to see and feel. Ultimately, people are people. They have a deep love for family and friends, want nothing more than a good life, and for most, they have a strong and passionate love of country.

The key is to keep politics out of it. The last Olympics were a bit tainted with some political gamesmanship… or hijacking. And Argentina, refusing to play a warm-up friendly in Israel, allowed a misguided political decision to affect some fans, including myself, who then wanted to see them and Messi ousted ASAP. It’s not always easy, but maintaining the purity of the sport and the fierce dominance of competition is essential.

Take A Stand In The Stands
This is why what is happening in the stands can be just as powerful as what is happening on the pitch. The coverage fills our screens with the crazy outfits, the full body paint, the families and lovers and impassioned fans… The tears of joy, the celebrations, the chants, the singing of a national anthem… and of course, the utter heartbreak. These are such powerful images to see and feel. We are, after all, all human beings.

There are so many amazing things to bring people together, and sports are one of them. While some rivalries can get heated and even violent, for the most part sportsmanship and friendly rivalries win out, and that is a wonderful thing to see. I am hoping the soccer thuggery of yesteryear is gone, as I embark on this new sports love, but we’ll see.

I am not sure who wrote it, but someone said that the US not being in this World Cup was actually a mixed blessing, as it forces US soccer fans to pay more attention to other teams and other countries. And we all know how the US coverage of the Olympics usually goes. While it makes sense to highlight US athletes, it loses quite a bit of the International flavor. Yes, if there is a great story they will follow it, no matter which country it stems from, but for the most part, the coverage is myopic.

Pure Passion
Picking a favorite to follow makes the World Cup more fun to watch… Just like Fantasy Sports forces you to follow players and teams you might not ordinarily care about… so I am Team England, with France a close second. I also like Sweden, Mexico and Croatia. Either way, this has been a great event so far, and I think the passion for the sport will stick this time. I understand the terms more, see plays developing and am taking tremendous pleasure in watching from start to finish.

Speaking of passion… I would add a fourth element into the mix, that of the broadcasters, who guide us through each match with knowledge and pleasure. This especially goes for Jorge Perez-Navarro! His iconic “Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal” is filled with sheer joy and bliss, astounding energy and a powerful life force that is infectious.The World Cup is the rare opportunity for the world to truly come together. I beg you to watch, be an active participant, and realize that it IS a small world after all. While that music might drive you mad after a few minutes, too… find the joy… find the pleasure… find your bliss in the wide, wide world of sports. We need to connect now more than ever, and the World Cup may be the remedy we need. Let’s just get the USA back in the picture, back on the World Stage… and back to the remarkable things she represents… Life, Liberty and the Pursuit Of Happiness… for One… and for All! Go Team!

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A Recipe For Life – Part 4 (For Anthony Bourdain And Anyone Hungry)

Travel shows are a mixed blessing. On one hand, they show us parts of the world we may never get to see in person, experiences we may never get to have, which is a bit sad. But there is also a positive spin, in that there are places we simply cannot get to, and these shows literally open up the world to us. Clearly it would be better to see and experience something in person, but to be able to have the experience at all, on a TV or computer screen, is something that can still bring us a bit closer together. These experiences are definitely worth having.

On the other hand, they also show us places that we may not have known about, but now have a very real desire and chance to get to. Travel shows can open up a literal world of possibilities.

Cooking shows have the same power to get our chef brains going, challenging us to replicate recipes and try new things. There is often a thrill and excitement. Many techniques and tips I use today come from watching those shows. Learning is power.

And yet, according to Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown was neither a cooking show nor a travel show. There are elements of those shows, of course, but I would agree. It was, more importantly,  an exploration of cultures… a study of people, places and times… history lessons… life lessons. It was a show about the world, for the world.

It gave many of us a wish list, a bucket list, and for a lucky few, a check list and potential travel guide. It gave all of us, hopefully, a desire to talk to other people… to go outside of our comfort zone and explore this huge and yet small, beautiful, miraculous and amazing world.

There was a new episode of Parts Unknown on Sunday. How is that possible? I mean, I know how that’s possible… but how is that possible???

This is for all of us who need soothing… who need a guide, a reminder. It is not enough to stop and smell the roses. We must really see them, smell them, gently caress them, taste them, and by all means, hear them even when it seems they may be silent. They are never silent.

Let the roses see the life in our faces, the light in our eyes. Let them smell us just as we are smelling them.

Plant a garden
Watch it grow
Learn the things
You do not know

Love the music that you make
No matter how out of tune
Love the limbs that you shake
As you howl at the moon

Sing as if no one is listening
Dance as if you don’t care
But what is in your heart
That music you must share

Take a chance
Make a bet
Say that I love you
Every chance you get

With that said… here is my recipe for life.

A RECIPE FOR LIFE
Ingredients:
Seeds or a Seedling
Soil
Water
Patience

Books, Cookbooks
Curiosity
Memories
A Pen and Some Paper

A Pan or Pot
A Quest For Knowledge
A Knife and Fork or Your Bare Hands
Passion

An Open Mind
An Open Bowl

Directions:
Plant a GARDEN from the seeds… or a seedling. Read a book if you don’t know how. Learn. Always yearn to learn.

Dig your hands into the soil. Move it through your fingers. Really feel it… hold it… Understand its potential. Get dirt under your fingernails. When you’re done, wash your hands with a garden hose.

Cover up the herbs, veggies or fruit seeds… and wait. Patience and nurturing will serve you well.

Grow anything that will give you pleasure.Nurture the garden with water and food. Talk to the plants. Realize the miracle that plants and trees are. From seeds come wood… food… sustenance…
From trees come literal life… the oxygen we breathe.
If you don’t have a yard, get a planter box or pot…
Even just one plant will make you smile.Go to a FARMERS MARKET.
Walk from booth to booth… aisle to aisle.
Look and smell and taste, and talk… talk.
It is beyond just a market… a place to shop. It is a chance to make new friends, to connect with other human beings.

To know where you food comes from is to understand it.
To know who grows it and makes it is to understand and appreciate another.

Find the very best ingredients you can. They don’t have to be expensive or fancy. Sometimes simplicity is deeper and far more complex and soulful. If you find the perfect lemon, everything that comes from it will be just as elegant, just as perfect.

And if you find the perfect lemon, what else do you need?

Cook with what you plant and what you grow.
Food can be holy. Food is passed down from generation to generation. Remember your Grandmother in the kitchen, toiling over her Honey Cake. Remembers the sights and smells, remember how every one of your senses was alive and present.

Write down FAMILY RECIPES, keep them bound and saved, and share them… Keep those memories alive. 

Sit down for a FAMILY DINNER… talk and talk… and talk. Food brings us together. Food is holy. The dinner table is your Church or Synagogue. Be thankful for what is on your table and who is around it.

Recognize this before you eat. Take a moment… close your eyes… say a prayer or just be grateful…

Food is sustenance and keeps us alive, but many go without. Food is beyond just fuel and energy. Food is a miracle. See the daily miracles in your life… eat and drink and travel, but most importantly, connect with others… be a human being… start a conversation… be curious about other people and what makes them tick… who they are.

Walk a mile in their shoes, spend an hour at their table… eat what they eat, see what they see, hear what they hear… and share. Life and love must be shared.

Here’s to Anthony Bourdain… and to all of us… to breaking bread and mending fences…

This is my recipe for life. So mangiare, cheers and L’Chaim!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Recipe For Life – Part 3 (For Anthony Bourdain)

As a follow-up thought on my post yesterday… We say, and I said “life is ours for the taking.” But clearly this has a dangerous, double entendre, which I tried to address with some poetry and by turning the idea around. Here are some more thoughts on that…

Let us say that “Life is ours for the making!”
Grab it, seize it, embrace it, hold it, hold on to it, milk it, live it, love it, be it.
Don’t take life. Don’t take a life, don’t take your life, don’t take your life for granted.
Make your life. Use it to live and love and experience and learn.
Learn from every place and every person and every experience.

This is what Anthony Bourdain did. Let us follow in that path.

Ben Zoma would say: “Who is wise? One who learns from every man.”
(Pirkei Avos 4:1)

Things used to roll of my shoulders. I was the guy who probably bugged people because I was always so positive. Nothing seemed to bother me… I was easily able to roll with the punches. Now those same shoulders are weighted down, hunched over with aches and pains, stress and tensions. The longer we live, the more that we see… the more good, the more bad.

I never knew what depression was. Now I get it. I understand what it means to pull the sheets over your head and not want to get up out of bed.  The simple joys of warm water blanketing your body in the shower become a liquid wall to hide behind… to keep you from starting your day. Shower doors become prison gates of our own making. The longer we linger in the soothing morning sea, the less time we have to spend in reality… in the world.

This is not every day for me… It’s still rare, thankfully. But the fact that I have more than one day like this is a very different thing for me. I don’t recall lever having any. Granted, that was mostly in youth, but still…

I understand the switch that can be turned on and off. Though it takes so much effort sometimes. The incredible energy it takes to be social, and the sheer exhaustion we feel when we get home, alone, having faked our way through humor and entertainment… all performed as the mind wonders who sees through my charade, who understands my pain. We fall into bed, breathless and mentally empty, yet contemplating so many questions… and yet we get up the next morning, either with a brighter outlook or in a panic. Breathe… breathe…

We grab onto platitudes and expressions… meditations and chants… analogies, anything to put our brains back on the path of happiness. Self help, self empowerment. We turn to meditation and religion, rabbis and pastors, friends and family… if we’re lucky. Others turn to drugs and booze, sex and escape. We try to hide, but at some point we’ll slip… let it out… and if it has been suppressed for too long, it can come out in a violent flush and rush of emotion and anger.

The Oxygen Mask
It’s been said a lot… so maybe it’s a cliché. Though with all clichés, there is a deep truth behind their meaning and creation. It is why they exist in repeated perpetuity.

So here is this one… In order to help and save others, you MUST put your oxygen mask on first. This may be seem counterintuitive for a parent, whose desire would be to protect their children first and foremost… But if you pass out, what good can you do? In practicality, it makes perfect sense… protect yourself so you can help others. But the lesson goes deeper.

In order to truly love another, you MUST love yourself first. If you have no love for yourself, what love do you truly have to give? Giving yourself to another means giving YOURSELF to another. There has to be a self. Selfless means SELF LESS… We do not want to be selfish… but we have to have a SELF…

In order to give to another, there must be something to give… there must be a YOU, as fully formed and complete as possible. Do not look to others to fix you and fill you, for that is not what love is.

Why?
Human beings have a desperate need to answer “why?” It is what keeps us going, though I suppose not getting the answer might very well be what plunges us into the depths of despair.

For a fighter, what happens when the fight takes flight? When courage evades us?

While the outside sees suicide as a selfish release, sometimes those in the dark see it as a selfless act… releasing others from the troubles and burdens they believe they would cause them.

Being a caregiver is not easy, but giving care is what makes us human. Let us each decide what we can and cannot do. We should not be ashamed to ask for help when we need it. And for those in need of care, there are those who want to give it. Let them try to help you. The key is to try… to try to find the answers and solutions together… To talk and plan and connect.

Do not bury your burdens, but cast them outwards. You will find support. It’s out there.

Life Is…
Life is a restaurant, a collaboration, a rotating Lazy Susan that stops in front of all of us at least once, allowing us to take from the communal plate, to lead and to share, and to then keep the circle moving to the next person. On and on and on.Sometimes we cook, sometimes we prep and sometimes we wash the dishes. What Anthony Bourdain taught us is that food is the great equalizer… and while more Michelin stars may shine on the elegant and complex and sophisticated, far more stars of the night sky shine on a food stall in a far off land… a night market…

Ingredients and technique may be different, but the passion to please is the same.

Life is a picnic. A blanket spread across soft grass, filled with homemade goodies and friends and lovers. A colorful square set on uneven sand. These are the meals we’ll remember. A PB&J becomes the meal of a lifetime in the right place, with the right people.

An avocado sliced and sprinkled with salt and lime juice can be as soul satisfying as a foie gras foam sauce from a master chef, practiced in the art of molecular gastronomy. The same with biting into a crisp, Fuji apple. There is a time and place for everything.

We are deeply connected to the foods and flavors we grew up with. They define us, as they define our palates. They stay with us forever, calling to us when we need comfort, always bringing us home. A sub or slice from Turvino’s. A dog “All The Way” and a fries with sauce from Johnny & Hanges.  The Kosher Nosh Deli, The Suburban DinerMy Mom’s Onion Soup, my Grandma Mildred’s beyond heavenly Honey Cake, my Nana Rosalie’s Apricot Jello Mold.

And yet for the insatiable, we travel and explore to expand that palate… to open up our own horizons and experiences. To live life and understand the world, one plate at a time.

The things we hated as a child become our obsessions as an adult. Heirloom tomatoes, mushrooms, truffles. An organic, heirloom tomato, imperfect in appearance, thickly sliced and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper… a pinch of truffle salt… and a gentle passing over of extra virgin olive oil. It becomes perfect. What is better than that?

There is a place and time for a fancy meal. A special occasion, a celebration, or just because. Those experiences can be glorious, memory creating, indelible. I still dream of the Lamb in Mint Cilantro Sauce from Ian’s in Cambria (Apparently adapted from Wolfgang Puck and found in his cookbook!) Meals in France finished with a bowl of homemade caramels in their lounge, the Seafood Tower at Le Dome in Paris, and going back to try to steal some of their dishes (literally) as the watchful staff knew exactly what was what the first time… Or asking the chef to come out of the kitchen at The Wine Cask in Santa Barbara.

But food on the run, and something seemingly so simple, can also hit us in a mystical and magical way. Seeking out the best of something does not mean spending a fortune on it. Nature provides perfection all the time. We just need to know what to look for. It can be found in a plant, an herb, a fruit, a vegetable.

It takes openness… an opening of the mind and the tastebuds… fully and without hesitation, breathing in the aroma, the flavors… inhaling life.

The other night I allowed pieces of Maytag Blue Cheese to gently melt on my tongue. The sweet and savory moved into my nostrils and set off every one of my senses. And then literally, warmed my chest and my heart.

A lemon can be holy, as can be a bowl of noodles. Jonathan Gold once called the broth of one particular restaurant’s bowl of ramen soulful… SOULFUL!

Sometimes the more simple, the more pure something can be. Its solo voice can be heard above the chorus… its singular flavor can be savored. Something basic can be more expressive than anything else… An analogy for people, humans as well.

The notion of loving everyone is so simplistic… yet so complicated, and almost impossible to accomplish. But the dream and the goal must remain. It must propel us forward.

Simply put… Food is love… Food is holy. Those who make food… truly make food, understand this. Yes, you may be tired after a long day of work, and the meal you make may consist of warming up leftovers, or just throwing something together, but you do it to sustain your family… you do it for love.

So what is the Recipe For Life?

Come back tomorrow, for the final, Part 4… and My Recipe For Life…

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