Monday, April 28, 2008

Once Upon a Time

A long, long time ago (2002) in a galaxy far, far away (Seattle), my friend Alison scored tickets for something called the "Second Chance Prom." It was supposed to be for people who were losers in high school (like us) who didn't get a chance to attend their prom (or something went horribly wrong if they did).

Well. It was all fun and '80s with some Loverboy-spouting cover band, so we completely got in the spirit of things and dressed up in OUR '80s clothes -- Alison, as you can see, in a horrible upholstery bridesmaid's dress and matching Dyeables, and me, like a small, talented man who, at that time, had an unpronounceable symbol for his name.

We went to the fancy hotel. "Ha ha ha," we said, as we looked for other kindred spirits in horrid robin's egg blue tuxedos and Holly Hobbie prom dresses. We didn't see them in the lobby. Actually, we saw some people who looked very, very nice, in an upscale wine tasting-cocktail party kind of way, going toward the door of the ballroom.

And when we got in, we realized they were ALL upscale, wine tasting types who TOOK THIS VERY SERIOUSLY and really wanted it to be like their prom. Only, they were grown ups. We were quickly ushered to a corner table, which was populated only by the Ren Faire couple. They weren't that fun and asked us point blank if we were lesbians. But they did win king and queen of the Second Chance Prom.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

England pictures are up!

I will not bore my friends by showing them my vacation photos. However, if you would like to see them, they're here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Angel Cakes

Today I had one of my favorite conversations ever. It went exactly like this:
Him: I'm writing a song about you. It's about how you're my angel.
Me: I don't think I can be your angel. I swear way too much.
Him: It's called "My Fucking Angel."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Art of Self Pleasure

It frigging rocks being 40licious. For the obvious reasons, of course, but also because you learn how to make your own self happy.

I worked about half of the last 48 hours. I won this really nice environmental award from the company, and didn't really get to celebrate it with anyone. I was feeling slightly catatonic, very grumpy and somewhat forlorn when I got home and it took 90 minutes to decide what to do: laundry, rent a movie, or one other thing that I can't remember.

So I rallied. I did three of my favorite things. I poured a glass of wine, popped a pot of popcorn (topped with Brewer's yeast and Silverwater Secret Spice) and watched online versions of The Office.

I am so fucking happy.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Best of Bread

I knead you to knead me

Today was a long, long day. At least 12 hours at work preparing for this huge annual meeting. I got a lot done. It was kind of fun, actually. I always like scrambling around before the party better than the actual event.

A little more than a week ago, I was in the English countryside, baking bread. Loz and I rode bikes to the store several thousand kilometers away to get yeast and a couple other things. I screwed up the kilograms/pounds equation for the flour and ended up having to double the recipe. I did not get the Fahrenheit/celcius thing exactly right either. Some things the book said to do were physically impossible.

Yet, six hours later, we were rewarded with two gorgeous loaves of bread, as this must have been a very forgiving recipe. We ravished them that night, and the next morning with kippers from Orford, and even had some left over for his father.

Twelve hours at work vs. six hours making bread. There might be something profound in that but I am not sure what it is.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Good news and bad news

The same picture every tourist takes crossing Abbey Road. I don't care.

The good news! I got my camera back! It's a testament to the lovely people at British Airways and the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. I don't care what you say about them, they're OK by me.

The bad news: I cracked my Go-Go's Greatest Hits CD.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Physics, 40liciously

Graffiti, San Francisco style. "Love is what you'll get from me"

Love travels in many ways. Particles, as when we make each little decision, sound and action based on love. Waves, which are the compiled aforementioned particles. We can ride these waves, we can let them wash over us. And then there's laser beam love, which you can aim hard and true at someone.

I get that we have control over how we emit love. But we don't have control over how someone else sends it, or how we receive it. It might land with a thud. It might end up mangled, twisted around the gritty axle of an 18-wheeler. It might land on our plate of mashed potatoes instead of on our ready, doily-wrapped, glitter-sprinkled heart. It so rarely looks like we want it to. But it's still love after all, right?

The Buddhists equate desire and attachment with suffering. If I'm attached to how love should look or land, I will surely suffer. Instead, I'm trying to be delighted by whatever lands in my mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


The reason that this post does not have a picture is because I left my camera on the plane. As they say in Merrie Olde Englande, "pants."

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Fine Art of Being* AMENDED VERSION

Loz does all his own stunts

It's taken me a couple weeks to realize that vacation is about the fine art of the hang. Our biggest mission today is to find fish & chips at someplace Loz knows by the sea [GUEST EDITOR NOTE: "The 'place-or-other' we ate fish chips was called Aldeburgh - that's pronounced 'old-bra'." Old bra indeed!]. Then we'll visit a castle in Orford.

I'm having a hard time thinking about going home. My last few days at work were hellaciously stressful and it's only now, more than two weeks later, the knot is leaving my stomach. I will fill it with more black tea and flat warm beer and hope that it will settle.

This trip has also been about clarity. Not just about my family and friends, but about what things are supposed to feel like. For example, I was very conscious when I was with Ilya, Gali and their kids -- amid raucous laughter, fiercely defending our versions of history, and unconditional love -- that this is what family is supposed to feel like. Gali's friend Ayelet explained that there's a Hebrew word for what happens when you turn 40 -- tvuna. It basically means you put into play all the wisdom and experience you've collected over your lifetime.

The difficult side of tvuna, however, is that I now have the understanding that sometimes you have to go back to zero in order to move forward.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm not ready to come home

... except I miss Lucy, my dog. Especially today, when we rode bikes around the countryside and rambled around John Constable country. We watched lambs gambol in the field behind Loz's house, and made fun of the ducks. It is truly Hobbitville here in Suffolk, in the southeast of England. Lu would have loved it. Don't tell her.

One of the great things about being 40licious, however, is that you have friends from, oh, 30 years ago who will take care of your dog. Joanna and Stephanie have tag-teamed looking after Lucy during this trip, and Steph featured her in the I Speak Film blog. Check it out!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Long and Winding Road

You'd think they'd WANT you to leave Israel. But they make it really, really difficult. Hell-Al Airlines takes waaaaaay to long to check you out of the country. Yes, yes, I know they're looking for bombs. But come on, can't we do a little reverse racial profiling here for the shicksa redhead with the blowdryer, flat iron, iPod, charger, international adapter set, camera, phone, and assorted plugs and wires?

Arrived in London last night, and on my way to have my morning tea. Then out to the country to meet my friend, who will show me how Real English People go about their day. Everyone's quite polite so far, and the transportation has been excellent.

I'm still in foreign-language mode, however, and keep expecting people to not understand me when I speak to them. Shalom! I mean, ''hi!''

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sure, She's a Shicksa ...

Shu Shu the camel makes my Prius Look Like a Hummer

But it seems there just isn't enough hummous in Israel for me.

Last night we beat it out of gritty, hot, complicated Tel Aviv and arrived at the Dead Sea. We stayed with a friend in a nearby kibbutz. Then this morning we awoke, early, 4-wheeled it to the "shore" (think rocky desert lunar scape) and soaked in hot springs, slapped mud all over ourselves, and floated in the water. As I lay on the beach, my torso in the stream of supersalty hot water rushing from the pool, with my legs out toward the cooler sea water, it felt that there has to be some kind of sin cleansing through all this. How could there not be? I mean, like, if I had any sins to eradicate in the first place.

This is truly an amazing trip on so many levels. Seriously, if anyone wants to come to Israel, I know a couple great tour guides.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Just Ask

The other day we went to deliver a suitcase from the States to Mother Catherine, a friend of Ilya's. She works at St. Mary's Russian Orthodox church in Jerusalem. She's actually from California, and came to be a nun after she was miraculously cured from cancer by drinking goat's milk. She's super cool. I instantly loved her after she told me the story of Mary Magdalene through a series of four paintings in the entryway of the church. Her cell phone kept ringing "Ave Maria."

Upon leaving, she invited me to stay in the convent the next time I was there.

Now, I'm not a particularly religious person, and I certainly shy away from all denominational labels. But here's the weird thing. We walked through the lovely garden graveyard and as I left through the gates, a voice came into my head. "It's okay to ask for miracles," it said. Clear and strong, just like that.

What do I have to lose?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Reason I'm Here

Bedouin rush hour

Today we all piled in the truck and rode out on these rutted roads and found a few Bedouins chasing around a few hundred goats. They invited us to drink tea made of sage and sugar with them. We sat under tarp tents and Ilya and Gali spoke to them in Arabic. Four or five little kids ran around, shy and smiling. The boys thew stuff at the donkey to make him bray. It was hilarious for everyone except the donkey.

Also, I saw a camel.

Also, I don't want to go home and I'm having one of those "why don't I just chuck it all and go on the road" days, you know how you do when you're traveling.

Also, I think Ilya is my new hero.

The 40licious realization here is that you think you know your family, and then they do something super awesome like take you to the Bedouins to drink tea.

This Land Is My Land, This Land Is My Land

It's a pretty amazing place, this Israel. After waaaaay too many hours on the plane, I arrived. My brother's betrothed, Gali, is amazing. I would choose her for my friend, but happier to have her as my sister. 

The short story of why I'm here is this: My father married a woman named Liz in the mid-60s. They had Ilya in 1965. She kidnapped him and took him to Israel when he was 3, in hopes that my father would never have access to him. Dad then met and married my mother, and I was born in 1968. for many years, he tried everything he know -- legal and, eventually, illegal -- to get his son Ilya back. 

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Ilya was raised every day to believe his father was a monster. His mother would quickly remarry and have two more daughters. Cut to 1982, and Ilya was finally allowed to visit us for the first time. It was a good homecoming, it was instant family and he and I have had a very special fondness for each other ever since. 

Today Ilya, Gali and I sat around the table and Monday-morning quarterbacked the last 42 years. Versions of history clash, accusations become memories become truths. I am very -- quite possibly overly -- defensive of my dad and his honor in all this. Ilya and I keep reminding ourselves and each other that the past, while not irrelevant, doesn't need to be figured out, because we are good, we are here, we are family.

Everyone and their versions of the truth. In the end, whether it's family or a fucking holy war, I think everyone's doing the best they can. Aren't they? But can't we just do a little better?