stories worth repeating, thoughts

Password as mantra or, a short tour of my brain

I type in my password countless times in a day, even though I’ve got it saved into various browsers. Still. I’ve got a good password too. My fingers skim over the keys with the lightest provocation, the briefest glace at an empty password box. Recently, gmail suggested that I change my old password, which I did.

As I was thinking about what to change it to, an incident from the night before came to mind which I remade into a concise reminder for myself. Then I proceeded to type it a million times as I changed all my passwords, and I felt it reverberate around my brain.

That reminded me of something Rabbi Mordecai Finley said once a long time ago when I attended Ohr HaTorah, a synagogue in Los Angeles. He told one of those little anecdotes: once his watch was broken and it beeped every five minutes and he couldn’t figure out how to turn it off and it was driving him crazy. Then he decided to think of God every time the watch beeped and use that previously annoying beep to think about God (I’m paraphrasing, but something like that).

It’s an obvious and good idea. So I remade my password into a little something I wanted to remind myself of, a lot, since it was going to be in my brain a lot.

Rabbi Finley, by the way, is one of my favorite living thinkers. His teachings/talks are an amazing cross between pysch/philosophy/religion/self-help/moral code/linguistics. They are filled with scientific and literary references… anyway I could go on, but you can listen for yourself 🙂

Interestingly, I happened to see Race at ACT a month or so ago with friends. David Mamet’s whole author’s notes in the playbill were about Rabbi Finley and some ideas that he turned Mamet onto. I can’t say I was in agreement about the politics, but I wasn’t surprised to see that Mamet had been influenced by Finley. He’s that good.

I always remembered the thing about the watch.

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Stories worth considering, thoughts, Uncategorized

Words Matter (In Memory)

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September 16, 2009 is the 10 year anniversary of my father’s death.  He did not live to see the 21st century; he did not know that the twin towers would be attacked and that they would fall.  He would not have necessarily welcomed the digital age.  I guess there are many things that each of us will never know.

If you asked my father what he did, he liked to say that he taught college. He was not a professor, he was, Don, a teacher.  Not always perfect, but always learning, always embracing his path and encouraging me to skip along mine.  I think no more so than, with fearlessness and pure heart, he faced his own death. “Are you afraid,” I asked.  “No,” he said, “just curious.”

I was with him 2 hours before he actually died.  They tell you to say goodbye, to say that it’s okay to die and that you’ll be okay when they pass.  All these things to make it easier for the person to “let go.”  Cancer, being the aggressive bastard that it is, wasn’t likely going to be influenced by what I said or didn’t say, but I said everything anyway.

Fourteen months earlier, I had arrived at his hospital bed.  “Have I given you enough?” he asked.

Many words have been written and spoken about my father.  At the funeral, students I didn’t know approached me: “You were the apple of his eye,” they said.  And six months later, students running the ticket booth at the local movie theater looked at me strangely, “We know who you are, and we loved your father.”

There was one piece (Craig Carlson Eulogy) written about him that I have always especially loved. Penned by Craig Carlson, poet, teacher and long-time colleague of my father’s, the essay had story, memory, surprise, reveal.  It was an excavation of history, with them sitting in the backyard of the old house with the bees.  As with any good story, if perfectly captures who my father was and it revealed extra words and thoughts he had, which, like the fragments of ancient pottery, are precious beyond explanation.

A few years later Craig drowned, and there was a story told about it.  He and his teenage son had been swimming, maybe out a little too far and then the current had taken them out further.  They knew they were in trouble.  Craig was tired, and told his son to swim back without him.  His son didn’t want to leave him.  “Get help,” said Craig.  And so the son swam back and was saved.

Not, save yourself.  Not, just go on without me.  Get help.  A task.  A reason to survive. A charge to save the life of someone else. It’s Muhammad Ali winning Rumble in the Jungle–fighting not just for himself but for his community.  Something greater than oneself.

Get help.

For 10 years I have missed my father, but I have cherished the legacy he left behind and I am deeply grateful to Craig, a poet to the end, for his words.

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Check out my father’s book: Teaching with your Mouth Shut.

Also, his as of yet unpublished, Out of the cave; steps to essay writing.

food, Uncategorized

the alchemy and the ecstasy

Can one desire too much of a good thing?

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Shakespeare poses this question in As You Like It (Act IV, Scene I ) through Rosalind and the idea come very much into our vernacular. I couldn’t resist the google search.

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It’s one of the those questions that has an obvious, knee jerk first answer and then a deeper second one.

Thinking I had answered–for myself, anyway–the chocolate chip cookie question, I was forced the other day, due to an absence of brown sugar, to deviate from my tried and true method and improvise.  A few days later I served the cookies, straight from the freeze, for dessert to my brother and his girlfriend.

Brother’s girlfriend:  These are possibly the best cookies I’ve ever eaten.  I love the texture of them frozen.   But, I generally like burnt cookies so, maybe that’s it… There’s something a little…

Me:  …bitter about them?

Brother: But I don’t like burnt cookies at all, and I love the deliciousy goodness of these. (Digression to the time I accidentally caramelized ghee, making the world’s most delicious butter spread.)

Brother’s girlfriend: Finally, a cookie we can agree on.

They clasp hands.

Spurred on by such enthusiastic eaters, I decided to make another variation of the cookies.

This time, I omitted brown sugar again, and added an equal amount of raw honey as white sugar.  I also used two kind of chocolate (Callebaut 60% and Scharffenberger 70%) for the “chips” part.

The molasses variation uses 1/4 cup of molasses and 1 cup of white sugar.  I used the Guittard chocolate chips for this batch.

Because:  can you really desire too much of good thing?