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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Season to be Merry

Hallelujah, it's full blown nectarining season. The world's most delicious fruit (followed closely by the wily passionfruit) is heaped in piles in our supermarket aisles. But it lasts a short while and every year I cry bitter tears when all the nectarines disappear. So I need your idears. How, oh how, shall I savor the sweet, sexy flavor of a nectarine slice in the coming months of gloom, rain and ice?

Boiled and mashed, or frozen slapdash? Preserved in a can or dried on a shelf? Pureed in a bottle is good for your health. Candied or tinctured or rammed up my sphincter? Please send good ideas and send them today, before my sweet nectarines have all gone away.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Food-Related Comedy

I present two cases for humor dissection: The first from Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, and the second from Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest. Food plays many roles in our lives... not the least of which: a prop for hillarity. I think the aristocratic obsession with food also factors into both examples.

The black magician was sprawled on some boundless sofa, low, with pillows scattered over it. As it seemed to the barman, the artiste was wearing only black underwear and black pointed shoes.

"I," the barman began bitterly, "am the manager of the buffet at the Variety Theatre..."

The artiste stretched out his hand, stones flashing on its fingers, as if stopping the barman's mouth, and spoke with great ardour: "No, no, no! Not a word more! Never and by no means! Nothing from your buffet will ever pass my lips! I, my esteemed sir, walked past your stand yesterday, and even now I am unable to forget either the sturgeon or the feta cheese! My precious man! Feta cheese is never green in colour, someone has tricked you. It ought to be white. Yes, and the tea? It's simply swill! I saw with my own eyes some slovenly girl add tap water from a bucket to your huge samovar, while the tea went on being served. No , my dear, it's impossible!"

"I beg your pardon," said Andrei Fokich, astounded by this sudden attack, "but I've come about something else, and sturgeon has nothing to do with it..."

"How do you mean, nothing to do with it, when it's spoiled!"

"They supplied sturgeon of the second freshness," the barman said.

"My dear heart, that is nonsense!"

"What is nonsense?"

"Second freshness - that's what is nonsense! There is only one freshness - the first - and it is also the last. And if sturgeon is of the second freshness, that means it is simply rotten."

"I beg your pardon..." the barman again tried to begin, not knowing how to shake off the cavilling artiste.

"I cannot pardon you," the other said firmly.

And now take two (a favorite scene I first played out in a freshman acting class at Olympic College... Luckily, I got to be Algernon.)

Jack: Well, that is no business of yours.

Algernon: If it was my business, I wouldn't talk about it. [Begins to eat muffins.] It is very vulgar to talk about one's business. Only people like stock-brokers do that, and then merely at dinner parties.

Jack: How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can't make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.

Algernon. Well, I can't eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.

Jack. I say it's perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.

Algernon. When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me. Indeed, when I am in really great trouble, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink. At the present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy. Besides, I am particularly fond of muffins. [Rising.]

Jack. [Rising.] Well, that is no reason why you should eat them all in that greedy way. [Takes muffins from Algernon.]

Algernon. [Offering tea-cake.] I wish you would have tea-cake instead. I don't like tea-cake.

Jack. Good heavens! I suppose a man may eat his own muffins in his own garden.

Algernon. But you have just said it was perfectly heartless to eat muffins.

Jack. I said it was perfectly heartless of you, under the circumstances. That is a very different thing.

Algernon. That may be. But the muffins are the same. [He seizes the muffin-dish from Jack.]

Jack. Algy, I wish to goodness you would go.

Algernon. You can't possibly ask me to go without having some dinner. It's absurd. I never go without my dinner. No one ever does, except vegetarians and people like that.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Another JCC Softball Season in the Books

This year's softball final report will be mercifully less introspective and more photocentric than last year's. This Happy Hour season didn't require as much internal processing. We just played hard and supported each other and had a good time. Also unlike last year, injuries to my body were fairly limited. I did suffer a lingering jammed left thumb early on, but I have only one injury photograph this year. It's of a gnarly little bruise on my right shin (where I attempted to catch a line drive hit back up the middle.)

Luckily the ball hit my shin so squarely that it didn't ricochet away. It landed right in front of me and we got the runner at first. Undaunted, I stayed in the game and kept on pitching.

There were dozens of great moments down the stretch that led up to Happy Hour winning the JCC C League Championship this year. We finished the season strong (sweeping a double header and jumping from the 5th seed to the 2nd seed.) But early in the playoffs we dropped a game and were sent down to the loser's bracket. There, we valiantly won three straight must-win games to push our way back into a championship showdown with the undefeated Temple De Hirsch Sinai. We were short players, and we knew we had to beat them twice in a row to win the title. So the outlook was a bit bleak, but prevail we did.

We had tremendous contributions from two new players to the team: Tiger and Phil. They both have fantastic heart and added crucial pieces of leadership, Tiger with his flamboyant enthusiasm and Phil with his unselfish dedication.

Tiger came through huge in game one, going 5 for 5 with 6 RBI

Phil batted so well down the stretch we moved him to the 5 hole

There were also wonderful contributions from Leslie, who didn't play much during the regular season, but came through for us as left-handed slugging catcher in the playoffs. And, of course, we had the steady performances of Joel "Manhattan" Neier, Mike Spring (who went on a fantastic hitting spree the last few games) and Steve Braverman (who rediscovered his stroke and brought us Pittsburg Pirate Power.) And Linsday Walker not only peppered the left field line with basehit after basehit, she put on a defensive clinic at second base in the championship games. She must have thrown out this loser at least three times last Sunday. ;-)

Plus she brought her grandparents out, who were fantastic supporters! We also had great fan support from Tiger's wife Shannon and my own sweets, Olaiya.

Playing in front of the Grandparents brought out the best in Lindsay!

And big props go out to this man: Sam Fleishman, who played through a lot of emotional turmoil this year. His defense in the outfield kept the pressure on Temple De Hirsch all day. They typically try to punish right field by hitting the opposite way but Sam made them pay for that strategy (and he was feeling the Pittsburgh love as well.)

Rachel also came through big for us. She had to miss one of the playoff games, but returned on Sunday so that we wouldn't be short a female player and have to play with an automatic out. Her speed on the basepaths and fearless job at first base are always a pleasure to watch.

We were steady in the field at every position

I was so proud of our team. We faced a lot of adversity but gelled when it counted most. Throughout the championship doubleheader, I heard our team cheering each other on, strategizing and even playfully arguing about whose turn it was to be basecoach. Everyone had their head and their heart in the game. And that's why, for now anyway, WE'RE THE CHAMPIONS.

Two championship team photos in one year!


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Memorializing Day Part 2

Now that it's almost Labor Day, I figure I ought to post the photos taken at this year's annual Memorializing Day Photography Walk. This time, rather than prowling around the docks looking for rusty buckets, industrial waste cannisters and scary crack dealers, Diane and I walked through Volunteer Park's Floratorium. We looked at orchids and succulents and tons of other exotic looking flowers I'd never heard of. Here are three of the pics I liked the most.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006


It was Clay who brought up Curtis Mayfield a few weeks back. He was jazzed about Mayfield after seeing a local orchestra performing some of his funky compositions. It'd been in my to-do list to check out his ouevre for years. When I first starting collecting funk and soul cds, I was getting them in gobs from BMG's "12 for the price of 1" deal. I must have joined and quit that club a dozen times (and convinced my friends to join a time or two as well.) I picked up recordings by the Barkays, Ohio Players, Isaac Hayes, and the JB's. But for whatever reason, BMG wasn't offering any Curtis... not even Superfly.

Then the other day I watched Wattstax (a Netflix rental) and remembered just how kick ass Mavis Staples is. Wattstax was a 1973 concert documentary film commemorating the Watts riots and seeking black unity. It was hosted by a 'fro-sporting Jesse Jackson and featured a Woodstock-like array of artists including the Staple Singers. "Pops" Staples may have been the band leader, but Mavis' gospel grunts and groans are just about the most powerful sounds this side of a Serena Williams match.

Imagine my delight when a quick search on Soulseek revealed a gem of an album: the soundtrack to Let's Do It Again featuring music by Curtis Mayfield and the Staple Singers. The film, which I've never seen, is a comedy starring Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier (who also directed.) The music is a perfect blend of two geniuses in their prime. Mayfield's compositions evoke silk sheets and bedroom eyes. Mavis (who usually saves her most passionate vocals for preachin' the word) permeates with down and dirty vocals... sometimes deteriorating into straight-up sex grunts. It's an amazing record and an obscure goody that you ought to check out.

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Monday, August 07, 2006


At work today I reflected on the events of the last week and found them to be exhaustingly blurry. Since the attack on the Jewish Federation Building on Friday, July 28th, Jewish Family Service has shifted into overdrive trying to provide for the needs of the victims and their families. I devoted 120% of my work week to trying to assess and meet those needs. My supervisors and colleagues have also been canceling vacations, working tons of overtime hours, stretching their job descriptions and supporting one another nobly. There's been a collective adrenaline buzz keeping the place afloat, but the high is wearing off and the frustration of trying to decipher the hundreds of little notes I've written myself in the last week is disconcerting.

Much of my time has been spent down at the hospital, where I had no idea how many people would be carted past me in varying states of unhealth. I'm glad I don't work in an ICU, and I have all the respect in the world for people who can handle that environment. After a while, I guess you don't notice the breathing tubes, monitoring equipment pulsing and humming with importance, and the strikingly unflattering views you get of exposed buttocks and bellies... gauzed and bloody or sutured with tight black spidery stitches. It wigs me out.

And then my family called. I had forgotten to email or phone them and let them know I was fine. They weren't sure about the difference between the Jewish Federation and Jewish Family Service, so they all feared that I was in the middle of the gunfire. After I assured them, I found out my folks had just gotten out of the ER after a harrowing car crash. They were driving up from their home in Todos Santos, Mexico to San Diego when THIS happened. They were taken to a Mexican ER where my Dad was treated. And thankfully was fine (and relieved to find out the bill was only $250.) (Thanks for the photos Mom.)

It was when my mother choked back a sob of relief after hearing that I was okay that the impact of what was happening hit me. I thought about the families I was working with, and thought about how they didn't get a reprieve. Their children had been shot, and in one case, killed. That was the only time I let myself feel the overwhelming emotional reverberations of how these people have had their lives devastated. And after that, I felt, like all the professionals around me, that I needed to stand up and be calm and helpful in a chaotic environment. Hopefully it's working and we really are helping.

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