This is my Dad

tennis with Jack on Sundays; a twenty five year old mustache that was cut off; the luckiest backgammon player I’ve ever fucking seen; hits the treadmill level 13, speed  3.9 three times a week; afraid of dogs, cats, or anything that can jump up past his waist (though he claims he once had a dog for about three weeks); wavy, Hungarian hair; pink nose; smart enough to win Jeopardy; loves television; sad to see 24 end its run; he hates Larry King and news anchors – all of them – but because he loves television so much he’ll sit through it if we’re watching.

He know three great Jewish jokes, and is a master at telling them; he’s been to India twice and wants to take us there; he’s never been to Auschwitz and hates Germans; I’ve seen him make three things in my entire life: toast with cream cheese, matzo brie, and tuna with celery.  My brother Gil says my Mom and Dad are getting older now. “You’re away now and don’t see it,” and now he’ll ask them if they want tea or a sandwich or some cut up fruit.

He wakes up every morning at 6:15 for his first shower of the day, shaves his face (my dad has no neck), and suits up. Black for court. Gray for the office. Always pump. On Friday he has no clients – so he’ll wear a twenty seven year old pair of Levis and an orange Ralph Lauren polo I got him as a present when I was thirteen. He ends all his emails with love, always Aba and I think it’s the double lower case which makes me soft inside every time I read it.

At 7:20 every morning, has a cup of regular French Vanilla coffee and a wheat bagel smothered with cream cheese. Sometimes he puts the coffee in a paper cup, sometimes he doesn’t. But he wraps his bagel in a napkin and rips off a mouthful before the front door. The impact of his large teeth, the softness of the bagel, and his tough hands cause one sixth of the cheese to get smeared into the napkin. A quarter of the cheese will not make it into his mouth – it will smear into the paper napkin, or onto his shirt. In which case my dad will utter, “Fuck” or “Goddamn it” himself, without anyone of us hearing a word.

How to Catch a Fire

That last post left me with a slight pang of emptiness. So here, on the eve of 5770 in Jew Years, are some things to think about when you’re riding high on airplanes. If I have time I’ll  make a wallet sized graphic you can take with you and give out to strangers.

  1. Be real. Be yourself. Be aware that you’re alive and breathing and existing RIGHT NOW. Strive for authenticity. Pursue truth and the ‘who the hell am I’ question with unbridled intensity. Be fucking real. Be you and everything will shine!
  2. Be honest. Be honest with yourself. Be honest with others. Harder than it sounds, I KNOW. I had stomach pains for years because I wasn’t.
  3. Connect with the Spirit. Some call it God, Jesus, the flying Spaghetti Monster. Those in the know know that there is an intangible,  sensational force that exists in everything. Me, you, your shoes, the keyboard, this monitor, the letters in this sentence. Engage with that power.
  4. Burn a fire under it. You’re creative. You’ve got ideas. Light a fire, devote some of your creative passions to PRODUCING and bringing to life that seed in you. This is hard. But there ways to do it. Write down what you need to do to accomplish that goal. Write down what you need to CUT OUT to accomplish that goal.
  5. Be kind to others. Our biases and fears fill our hearts and make us automatically draw perceptions of others. Some are right. Some aren’t. All are unfounded. That person who looks like a complete weirdo/idiot/asshole could be a neurobiologist saving lives every day. Either that or they own a bike shop and can fix your flat. The point is, we all have gifts and talents. Imagine a world where we unconditionally loved and respected others?

My thoughts and prayers are with you Healey. I love you with all my heart and will pray for a healthy, quick recovery.

I’m moving to Atlanta, GA to finish ad school. I miss SF, but SF will have to wait.

Happy New Year everybody. I gotta go. My mom is putting on her makeup and staring at me in the face. Man. I love being home.

the man in burning man – photos+words

The more I asked what Burning Man was like, the more evasive my roommates became. Every discussion culminated with Michael bending his head forward exasperatedly. “Just buy your ticket and GO. Then you’ll get it.”

So I did.

First night we spent in an underground earthship in Cedar Edge. The trip took 17 hours. There were four of us: two beekeepers honey magnets from Longmont, a fifty year old software engineer in a tie-dye tank top + John Locke’s hippie twin, and me, a Burner Virgin with no expectations of what the next nine days would bring.  We arrived at the gates at 2.30, watching the sunrise blank out the stars as the line moved along. I met up with my camp early on, running into them at Center Camp. Amazing.

First some definitions:

BRC

<Black Rock City or BRC> The official name of the land area that holds the festival.
<The Playa> The open space of BRC. Where the Man, the Temple, and art installations live and art cars roam.
<Esplanade> Burning Man is composed of rings, like a giant C. Esplanade is the inner most ring, full of theme caps and sound systems.

Playa dust is magnetized with luck and divine occurence. Manifestation is built right into the alkaline sand. Wish for something and it will come your way. Pancakes and chai tea in the morning, goths in steampunk sidecars, talk ofthe paradigm shift in 2012, a ride back to Boulder. Anything. It will happen.

Picture 15

We camped at 4.30 and J. Next to the veggie disco, the suck ‘n fuck saloon, and the hammock hangout. A guy stood at our intersection during morning bathroom runs, yelling at people on a bullhorn to watch out for the invisible children. “Just killed another one! Please look out! The road is littered with the invisible carcasses of all the invisible children you keep running over. Have a great day!”

Burning Man is more than just a party, even if the event is entirely drug inspired. How can I put this? An alien organism of creations, a psychedelic freak show of fire. The Disneyland Main Street parade on a triple dose of acid that grows more chaotic every day. Always circusy, sometimes sinister,  both spiritual and hallucinatory. There are no words equipped to describe what it’s like to stand frozen in the middle of the playa, spinning 360 degrees, overwhelmed by the lights and fury, the sight of gigantic polar bears, two story steampunk haunted mansions, and dubstep magic carpet rides. (These are the art cars, better named mutant vehicles).

Picture 10

It’s impossible and dishonorable to articulate the synthetic pandemonium, exploding brilliance, 30 foot mindfuck sculptures, the crisscrossing of bike lights against the backdrop of firedom. I’m in the middle of the fucking desert, fucking Nevada, fucking NOWHERE, wondering what portal I just stepped into, and how I can stay here forever.

Even with the frenetics there are those moments where you find yourself completely alone and zapped away from the chaos around you. Riding along in the dirt trails left by others, onto to the the next episode. Dust storms and scraping winds stripping replace masks. The lone venture outward (and thus inward) sinks in gently. The playa is mine – to protect, cherish, and explore.

Picture 9

Then the sun goes down. Flamethrowers light up the sky like vintage artillery. Sound systems come alive to celebrate the lull in heat, the heavy bass telling you what’s up as it shakes the cartilage in your knees. Momentum builds as Black Rock residents come together. Thursday night we raged past dawn, and the streets were empty, silent. It’s as everyone operated on the same schedule.

The night of the man. Our crew dressed all in white. I had been wearing the same clothes for about three days by then, living off of body wipes, Bloody Marys and Clif Bars.  The dust storms were brutal that day; I jumped on the Veggie Disco art car, cruising around the playa in a dust mask and goggles, and even WE had to hold still during a blaring white out. You can’t see 6 feet in front of you. It was bad. But U2 and Michael Jackson held it down. Anyways.

Picture 10

Our crew hunkered down in the blue bus. Levi, Joe, Andrew, KJ, Brooke, Lyndsey, Me. Sanjeev was playing drums by then, shedding past lives by the firedancers. It was like being in Baghdad with a bunch of exhausted, wheezing, playful kids, ready for some fun. The dust soon died down. The bombscare was over. Justice was playing on Drew’s iPod. Camelbaks filled, food packed, glowsticks broken. Goggles on. Let’s get walking.

Art cars surrounded the 40 foot man in a ring of sounds. Heavy on the trance, cutting up it up with the glitch. The boost starts to rise up, as torches set the pyre ablaze. The flames are slow and steady, and it looks like it will take some time. No one there is ready for what happens next. Red and blue and orange and yellow sparks of light explode into the sky, straight up out of the sockets of the man. It was the most amazing pyrotechnics show any of us have ever seen.

Picture 17

The cataclysmic energy seeps up into the sky. The passion is tremendous with the breaking open of the heavens and everything we know instantly shatters as the man bursts into an overwhelming ball of fire none of us can take it our hearts explode further and further, smashed into the fabric of the man in all of us. We are growing, we are dying, we are nothing, we are growing, we are growing, and we are everything all at once.

Picture 18

This is now. This is life. This is living. Breathe this all in. THIS IS HAPPENING ALL THE TIME.
You are not dreaming any of this.  None of it. You are the main character and this is your movie. How will yours play out?

Picture 16

Thread Count

When the rain gets heavy we stay under covers
Looking to ride out the day under cotton

Your small face and palms resting on my chest
Prying for answers to questions too afraid to ask
The green rug cluttered with socks, burnt matches, earrings

A clumsy trail of sex and bitter arguments
Your jeans keep the chair warm, heels hidden behind the door
Don’t forget to take them with you when you leave

In the morning we are thirsty and crave carbs
French toast and coffee, head back to bed
We are without shirts on top of one another
And then
Why don’t you write songs about me?
The voice is yours – small, defiant, inquisitive.
The stillness of the moment
broken
like the pelting of thick rain on cheap glass.

My eyes are distracted by the spider chandelier.
Bulbs out
a tug of chest hair.
Am I not inspirational enough for you?
My hands dig fast fast through her hair now
pull her head towards mine, kiss hard, let go…
It would be one of the last few times-
The words come when they want to.

In a few months she will wake up to me and leave.
And it will take months, months
To put this all into words.

my friend just had a Kid!

Traveling takes its toll on friendships…Maybe not yours, but definitely mine. LB asked me today if my friends are from college or high school and blah I have friends linked to different time periods in my life, friends who were once close to my heart and still are, but are somehow disconnected from each other.

My earliest friends still remain in their respective places. There were four of us. One’s in South Australamerica or somewhere, working the hostel scene. Another is in Palo Alto, married, looking to move to Israel (???) and electrical engineering. I’m in SF at the moment learning how to write commercials and ads you’ll hopefully not hate. The 4th is in LA.

And his wife just gave birth to their first daughter.

She looks like him and has fat rolls on her arm. 8 pounds. The weight is important, a sign of health and good fortune. Fersht slept 3 hours over the past two days – his wife Aviva even less.My brother calls me with the news.

He sounds sedated, exhausted.

“everyone’s been calling me, sending me texts. Shit. Why can’t you just wait till we come on Monday and then you can see her. It’s all crazy and shit”  He’s protective, already. My friend. The Aba. I love it.

I have questions. A million questions.

“So? What was it like?” I ask. “What’d you feel?”

He’s too tired for words. I’m embarassed, giddy. I tell him it’s as if we had a child. Me and him, we just gave birth to something. During this conversation.

“That’d be one hairy ass kid,” he says back.

I miss home. I miss LA and Shabbat and Friday nights singing songs and playing tennis with my dad, music with my brothers, and getting sushi and coffee with my mom, talking walks around the block. I hype it up, though I know I will miss my apt in San francisco when I’m home for break. But who cares. These days, I am lonely, seeking love and something bigger to hold onto – my life is school school school work work work and I’m missing the city, missing people, missing you, missing me, just missing.

Miracles do happen. Pain and lonliness is temporary, as is all suffering. I’m happy. I’m happy that this girl’s entry into this world did the trick.  So keep smiling.

This will sound completely pathetic

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been through this much consistent rain. We’re facing the worst drought EVER. I get it. But tomorrow, or perhaps just for a few hours, I’d love to see the sun cut through the gray antimatter above my head. I’d like to avoid that panging odor of San Francisco concrete shitwater permeating through my mass transit commute. When it rains, all the MUNI busses remind me of muddy ice-skating rinks, minus the smiling parents and children.

My brother Gil and I took figure skating lessons for about a month at this place in Van Nuys. I was about 11, he was 9, and we were already too cool for school. We didn’t really make friends in our group, and my dad didn’t care. We spent most of our time racing each other and crashing into walls.  It was winterland during the summertime. Our boots were green and brown and laced up to the ankles. We rocked the house.

I’ve never been that great at sports. Well not all sports. Just those which require balance. Or coordination. I don’t get soccer, nor do I understand people’s obsession with it. Ninety minutes to watch a bunch of overpaid guys run around on a field, back and forth, sweating like rabid puppies? Because it’s very likely that that game will finish 0-1, and I’ll more stimulation and gratification to stay interested. In that span amount of time, I could do laundry, make espresso, and learn about the weekly Torah portion, and Facebook stalk your sister.

Basketball I can roll; running is life; I get nervous when I play baseball but still enjoy it; chess is not a sport but something I’ll get into whenever there’s a table lying around and the Scrabble board is missing. But ice skating was fun. It was fun because I was good at it. The boy who can’t balance himself on anything can suddenly glide on a huge block of ice. His 145-pound frame resting on nothing but a millimeter wide sliver of metal. If that makes sense to you, then explain it to me.

Not being good at something, I naturally have little interest in keeping up. I go through moments where not following sports becomes something of a handicap. Here’s how it usually goes down:

“Hey, did you guys hear about the next Laker trade?”

(1) Reference something about the sport and sound intelligent. Ask question, and mention that you’re asking a question. Extra points if you make a false or made up metaphor. “My question is, who’re they getting that’ll play down low? Bynum is a junk bond trader and that cupcake knows it.

(2) Look vaguely interested in the topic, and mumble something agreeable. “Yeah, I mean, I’m just saying, what an opportunity to take the advantage.”

(3) If all else fails, my go to strategy is to sound so ignorant of the topic being referenced, the joke will deflect your very ineptitude. “How many points is a super touchdown?” In San Francisco, there’s some law of diminishing returns here, and this has not worked as well as I would have hoped.

So ice skating and Apples to Apples remain my hobby of choice. I haven’t gone ice skating since senior year of college, and it’s possible that drinking a bit beforehand contributed to a hairline fracture of the elbow. It had to. I will accept no other argument. Ice skating is the one thing I’m good at, and nothing will take that away.

But why am I holding onto that nostalgic memory of success? That one when you were young, you were king or queen for only a moment of something. It’s nice how that moment remains even crystal clear today. You still remember raising your arms when you were 12, better at something than everyone else. For a second, you simply owned. And it never goes away. We were absolutely convinced we would be dancers, painters, sport newscasters, travel writers, photographers, architects, car mechanics, pasty chefs and bookstore owners. Then we grow up. We grow out of our dreams, or let our dreams outgrow us. There’s no moral arc here – life moves and we can choose to move with it. We go through phases where we can accept change with a sense of realistic optimism, or devastating panic that the party’s crashing on us. But as you move, keep track of those times on the rink. No matter what, it will never disappear. It stays cold forever.