Sunday, April 29, 2007


Laughing, from the insidious truth, tagged me to list my five favorite restaurants:

1) The best meal I ever ate was on a cruise in Alaska. My mother-in-law and her cousin each arranged for their children and significant others, grandchildren and a couple of great-grandchildren to all spend a week on a Celebrity Cruise from Seward to Vancouver. Altogether 37 folk, many who'd never met. It was wonderful.

As anybody who's been on a cruise can tell you, the food is unbelievable, bountiful, beautiful and delicious. On the first day you walk on as a passenger. On the last, they roll you off as cargo.

This particular ship had a special restaurant with food one cut above that. RFB's siblings and significant others took her mom out for dinner at this special restaurant one night in the middle of the cruise. Eight adults in all.

The service was royal and the food was simply the best I've ever eaten --- from appetizers through dessert. Everyone ordered different things at every course and everyone shared. I wish I remembered the name of the restaurant.

2) If you're ever in D.C., find your way to the Adams-Morgan neighborhood. Georgetown is for tourists. Adams-Morgan is for locals. It's full of ethnic restaurants, taverns, boutiques and it's hopping til 3:00 am. On 18th Street, across the street from one another, are the Amsterdam Falafel Shop and, M'Dawg Haute Dawgs.

They're owned by pals of mine, a couple who are 1st-class human beings and who deserve every success. So in part, this is a shameless plug for friends.

But the other thing that makes these a favorite is that when I need to force myself to follow my pshrink's advice to take a full lunch hour as often as I can manage, Scott and Arianne's restaurants take me exactly an hour to drive to, order, eat, read a newspaper column and get back to work. Hot dogs and falafel are not exactly a prescription, but they do help me retain my sanity.

3) America. When I first got to DC, in 1980, the old train station was a dump. The roof leaked, pigeons roosted in the rafters and the place had become an ad hoc homeless shelter. But in the 80's the place was refurbished. In addition to bookstores, a movie theatre and a food court, the place is home to several restaurants. One is a Pizzeria Uno just like the one Laughing ate at in Georgetown, except even more overpriced. But another is wonderful place called America.

Dress is casual, and the menu is vast. They have full entrees, sandwiches, salads, specialties, a PB&J sandwich and you've just gotta love a menu that actually offers green eggs and ham. If you ever go to Capitol Hill, plan to eat lunch or dinner at Union Station.

4) Fortune: Dim sum heaven and less than half a mile from home. RFB and I go there for a late breakfast/early lunch treat whenever we both have the day off and Monkeyboy doesn't (His idea of restaurant heaven starts with a "Mc" and ends with a "Donalds").

I can't get enough of the shark fin dumplings. The shrimp in a noodle crepe. The sticky rice served in a lotus leaf. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

5) City Diner: Every neighborhood should have one. They serve breakfast all day, everything in the dessert case makes you want to save room for it and the Greek family who own the place make you feel like family once you're a regular. Which takes about 2 visits.

They serve a little bit of everything.

The Latino waitress who knows Monkeyboy is in a Spanish partial immersion class at school (math and science in Spanish for half the day and the other subjects in English for the other half) makes him order in Spanish and praises his vocabulary and accent.

And when I want to be especially bad about cholesterol, there's no place I'd rather order a platter of steak and eggs.

Hey Ash: any way I can coax you back to blogging by tagging you with this meme?

Friday, April 27, 2007


Thrice a year, I mount the children's stage at Celebrate Fairfax! events and play 45 minutes of "Songs for Children and Their Parents" on guitar and vocals.

I'm doing it again on June 9th and 10th. I'm the opening act on the children's stage when the fair is just starting. So I get a pretty small actual audience in front of me. (I usually know most by name.)

On the other hand, I'm next to the petting zoo, so I'm a virtual cult icon among certain cliques of llamas and yaks.

I'm putting together my play list.

Non-negotiable are Monkeyboy's three duets. Mid-show he comes up and joins me in Puff, the Magic Dragon. At the end he helps me lead Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" and Peter, Paul and Mary's version of Pete Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer".

Here are additional options. They'll give you an idea of my repertoire. I've already got more than 45 minutes listed here. Any favorites? Any ideas in the same genre?

Man Gave Names to All the Animals - Bob Dylan
The Marvelous Toy - Tom Paxton
Paradise - John Prine
Country Roads, Take Me Home - John Denver
Grandma's Feather Bed - John Denver
The House at Pooh Corner - Kenny Loggins
Puff the Magic Dragon - Peter Yarrow
You Don't Mess Around With Jim - Jim Croce
Roller Derby Queen - Jim Croce
Speedball Tucker - Jim Croce (cryptic reference to amphetamines makes this one questionable)
The Circle Game - Joni Mitchell
Cat's in the Cradle - Harry Chapin
Teach Your Children - Graham Nash ("hell" makes this one questionable.)
Your Momma Don't Dance - Kenny Loggins
I Will - Lennon & McCartney (but in an arrangement from a Ben Taylor album.)
Hammer Song - Peter Seeger (but in the Peter, Paul and Mary arrangement that even Pete Seeger has adopted).
This Land is Your Land - Woody Guthrie (first two verses only).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

How the World Works

From my mom:


"G-d, I have a problem."

"What's the problem, Eve?"

"I know that you created me and provided this beautiful garden and all of these wonderful animals, as well as that hilarious comedic snake, but I'm just not happy."

"And why is that Eve?"

"G-d, I am lonely, and I'm sick to death of apples."

"Well, Eve, in that case, I have a solution. I shall create a man for you."

"Man...what is that, G-d?"

"A flawed creature, with many bad traits. He'll lie, cheat and be vain. All in all, he'll give you a hard time. But he'll be bigger, faster and like to hunt and kill things. I'll create him in such a way that he will satisfy your physical needs. He will be witless and will revel in childish things like fighting and kicking a ball about. He won't be as smart as you, so he will also need your advice to think properly."

"Sounds great," says Eve, with ironically raised eyebrows, "but is there a catch?"

" can have him on one condition."

"What is that G-d?"

"As I said, he'll be proud, arrogant and you'll have to let him believe that I made him first. And it will have to be our little know, woman to woman."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Combining Yesterday's Taraday with Today's

A second grade teacher explained to her class that, now that winter break was over, they were going to make a special effort to use grown-up words during show and tell.

Today's show and tell would be about what the kids had done during the winter break.

The first child announced that he'd gone for a ride on a choo-choo.

The teacher asked if he could think of a more grown-up word for the vehicle he'd ridden.

"I went for a ride on a train," said the child. Then, beaming, he added "it was a locomotive."

The teacher praised him and moved on to the next child.

She announced that she'd gone to Nana's house.

Again the teacher asked if the child could use a more grown-up word and the little girl said "I visited with family at my grandmother's house."

This won the little girl praise, as well.

The teacher saw a kind of strange, gleeful look on the next child's face. Forging ahead, she asked what he'd done over the winter break.

With a sparkle in his eye, he announced: "I read Winnie the Shit."

[Note to new readers of this blog. To make sense of this post's heading, click here.]

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Winnie the Pooh Appreciation Day

Over at e.clec.tic spaghetti, it's Winnie the Pooh Appreciation Day.

I'm recycling this post in honor of the day.

Three Jews Walk Into a Church ...

I've posted before, here and here, about efforts in Northern Virginia to organize a multi-faith coalition to agitate for social justice.

A professional organizer from the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) has helped organize such groups in DC (Washington Interfaith Network or WIN) and in Montgomery County, MD (Action in Montgomery or AIM). He's been working with clergy in Northern Virginia for a couple of years and has the clergy from more than 40 congregations (mostly churches, a couple of synagogues and no mosques, thus far.)

On Sunday, these clergy convened a meeting of lay leaders from their institutions to talk about next steps.

As bad luck would have it, the entire Northern Virginia Jewish community held a service of memorial and remembrance for the victims at Virginia Tech on Sunday, in a location so far from the church meeting that one had to choose between the Virginia Tech service or the organizing rally.

My shul's Rabbi was one of the folks leading the memorial service, so he recruited me and two others to at least show a presence at the organizing meeting.

Two other synagogues sent pledges of support to the meeting, which were duly read and applauded, but the three of us from my synagogue were the only Jews in the church.

It was a fabulous experience. IAF starts from the premise that you must build the relationships within and across institutions before you choose the issue(s) you're going to agitate on.

This model has worked in DC, where WIN won significant concessions for community development during the city's negotiations over bringing the Nationals to town and building them a new stadium.

It's worked in Montgomery County, where AIM won passage of a "living wage" bill when all the pundits declared such a thing a hopeless cause.

It's worked for IAF affiliates in getting affordable housing built in the Bronx and education reforms passed in Texas.

I start out dubious about this model, because it asks congregations to make major commitments of volunteer time and, down the road, significant commitments of money, before we know what elements of a "social justice" agenda we can reach consensus on.

But the successes cited above have left me open to persuasion on this point, and boy did my afternoon in church go a long way toward persuading me.

The room was full --- with a couple of hundred folks in the pews and several very eloquent preachers in the pulpit. The atmosphere was electric (and a little warm).

The event was staged with exquisite timing. Just enough time for informal introductions among people who'd never met and still enough time for the preachers to get their sermons/calls to action/meditations out before the crowd.

The event ended with representatives of each institution present rising, coming forward, and declaring their commitments to:

1) the general organizing plan we'd heard about,

2) getting our respective boards, committees trustees, deacons and elders to "wrestle with" ponying up the costs our clergy (and IAF) tell us the effort will require. (Taking a cue from one of my sisters from an A.M.E. church, I promised our leadership would "rassle" with this problem, adding that I hoped we'd pin that devil to the mat),

3) numerical pledges for the number of our fellow congregants we will encourage, pester, harass or otherwise entice to attend additional organizer training sessions, and

4) dollar pledges for the effort's near-term budget (for just the coming fiscal year).

As I said, the whole shebang was timed and planned for maximum effect.

All the goals the clergy had set for the meeting were met, they announced, and a couple of hundred people walked out as more committed evangelists for the cause.

Still, the question is, "What cause?"

From the discussions and the speeches and the sermons, I got the sense that consensus on economic justice issues will be easier to reach than on some other things. Obviously, we'd never come to consensus on reproductive rights or civil rights for homosexuals.

Even immigration reform seems to have too many sides to it for unanimity in this diverse bunch.
But speaking truth to power --- and delivering bodies to county board meetings, to rallies and to the polls --- on issues like:

  • responsible, affordable development, or
  • a living wage, or
  • addressing the performance gap between the poor and the not-so-poor in Northern Virginia in academic excellence
all seem like things we can all agree on.

More on all this as developments warrant.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ted Returns

I promised Ted he'd be featured fortnightly. That makes these pics 4 days late.

He's letting it slide this time, but tells me to expect a call from his International Brotherhood of Hamsters union rep if it happens again.

UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention by one of the two photographers that I neglected to include his photo credit.
1st three pics: Monkeyboy in DC
Next three pics: RFB

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Network Hijacked by Terrorist

My friend Stephen just sent a powerful letter to NBC and MSNBC.

It's hard to beat, so, with his permission, I'm simply "cut-and-pasting" it, verbatim.

By airing the photos, videotapes and so-called manifesto provided by Monday’s killer at Virginia Tech, NBC has made one of the most grievously irresponsible decisions of a news agency in recent memory.

The question of consideration for the victims and their families, while significant, is faced by every journalist whose job it is to report a tragedy. It is not new, and it will continue to be debated in good faith in newsrooms.

What is unique to this instance is that NBC, while making noises about helping us all see into the mind of a disturbed person, has completely missed the paradigm.

This man was a terrorist. An Al-Qaida of one, determined to use violence to win the attention he believed was his due. The murders he committed were but one part of his plan. The rest was faithfully carried out by NBC.

By airing the materials, NBC has issued a standing invitation to other wannabe mass murderers and notoriety seekers to follow in the footsteps of the immortal Cho. Kill a lot of people, mail your press kit to the media, and the media will give you exactly what you were looking for.

Terrorists will always win attention: notoriety is built into the act itself. It is one thing to report a story. It is quite another to be a terrorist tool.

Materials such as these should be inspected by mental health professionals and other specialists, not by the designated audience of terrorists.

NBC should have been aware that a useful public discussion – in particular, of the importance of attention and intervention when disturbed people show signs of trouble – was already under way, with a focus on events preceding Monday’s atrocities. On Monday, the terrorist took over.

I see no reason to continue giving my attention to NBC News.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Kiss This Guy

Churlita says, in the comments to this post, that she once misheard the lyric in the Kenny Rogers song "Lucille" as "400 children and a crop in the field".

It reminded me of a hilarious web site that catalogues misheard lyrics. The website takes its name from a Jimi Hendrix song which can be misheard as "'Scuse me while I kiss this guy."

Check it out.

ANON1's Answers

ANON1 said...
I will BUCK the system. Interview me and post the answers on your blog. Your traffic would increase tenfold. The mind of ANON1 is a terrible thing to waste.You have my e-mail address Slim Jim. Now accept the challenge.

1) Don Imus got what was coming to him. Yes or no, and why?

1) Don Imus was singled out and fired for the wrong reasons. Black comedians like Chris Rock and Eddie Griffin make fun of white people calling them "crackers" but nothing happens to them. Why? Because they are minorities and minorities are allowed to get away with murder. Look at OJ Simpson. Perfect example of the reverse racism that goes on in this country. Howard Stern got away with it for a long time because he was a Jewish male who made fun of everyone including his own people but eventually he was pushed off of public radio also. Don Imus + Old White Male + Mild Racial Comments = White Devil Witch Hunt. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson should be imprisoned for promoting racial intolerance among their own people. Why don't they go after the majority of rappers for calling each other the N word or calling women bitches and hos?

2) Gay Arabic translators in the military are being discharged, as a matter of policy, if they refuse to stay in the closet. Assume that the discharges are popular with the vast majority in the military. Assume also that this policy is demonstrably impairing the U.S. ability to fight the current wars we're engaged in. Are the discharges a good idea?

2)Openly gay men in the military bring down morale and decrease the overall effectiveness of a team. Why do we need translators anyway? Shoot at will and let God sort them out.

3) Place these three attributes in their order of importance in choosing a woman to ask on a date: sense of humor, intelligence, looks.

3) Looks, intelligence, sense of humor. Think I am wrong on this? Ask any male if they find Rosie O'Donnell attractive.

4) What place(s) have you never been to that you would like to visit on a week-long vacation, assuming cost is no object nor are accessability nor the fact that it's hard to get away for a week?


5) What's your favorite book from childhood?

5) James & the Giant Peach

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Working on the Chain Gang

Rachel, A Comedienne's Sidekick, answered 5 questions posed by Mielikki, of What It's Like to be Me.

After that, I asked Rachel to interview me. Below are her questions and my answers.

Below that are rules --- if you too would like to be interviewed. To be interviewed, you must have a blog where we can all see the answers. For further rules, look at the stuff in italics after the Q&A.

1. You are very well read and informed about a lot of different subjects. What would you say that you are the most passionate about and why?

Repairing the world. In small ways like trying to make sure Monkeyboy in DC's generation is just slightly less screwed up than his parents'. And in bigger ways, like trying to elect folks and agitating for policies that will halt the widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Here and in the rest of the world.

Blackjack, rock-and-roll (especially Springsteen), and baseball are other topics I can get passionate about. So is the decline of decent customer service and the fact that all the baseball players and centerfolds are younger than me these days.

2. You have blogged about your struggles with depression. [Answerer's note: I broke this question into two.]

A)What do you think the most devastating part of depression is?

The most devastating part of depression is the hopelessness. The feelings of sadness are multiplied many times over by the illness-borne sense that there's no getting better, no lighter days ahead.

B)What have you learned about yourself from dealing with it?

That, aided by competent therapy, the right meds, and the support of loved ones, the hopelessness is an artifact of my illness, and not objectively realistic. That I can persevere. But that I cannot do it alone. Alone, my illness will kill me.

3. If you, RFB and Monkeyboy were in a movie together, what movie would it be and why?

The first Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie. Monkeyboy could be Charlie Bucket, RFB could play the Jack Albertson role (as a cool grandma instead of a cool grandpa). As for me, I'd love to be Willie Wonka.

I'm a great fan of both Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, but I've never been able to bring myself to see their adaptation.

4. What is the most embarrassing thing that you ever did when you were single and had a crush on someone?

I spent months mooning over an undergraduate when I was finishing law school and starting my career as a Legal Aid lawyer. I stopped by a reception desk she worked at --- for no good reason other than to see her. I left phone messages, desperate for a call back. I sat home by the phone hoping she'd call.

I continued helping to lead the Reform Friday night minyan at GWU Hillel, after graduating law school, in large measure so I'd keep running into her. (She was Hillel President.)

We shared a couple of kisses early on (on a movie date, at a sleep-in at the Hillel house, and one time when she came back to DC after a school break.)

I was spending my working day beating up on middle-aged slumlords and their mouthpieces. I was spending my nights obsessing over a girl who couldn't figure out how to send me packing. I spent the better part of half-a-year pitching woo before she finally did.

5. If there is one pearl of wisdom that you can pass on to people, what would it be?

It's not original. It's an attitude I try to affect most of the time. It comes from Elvis Costello's (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes, on his album My Aim is True.

"I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused."

Ok, the rules:
1. If you want to be interviewed by me, (and I encourage perfect strangers to take me up on this, it will be fun) leave me a comment saying "Interview Me".
2. I will respond by asking you five questions of my choice.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to my questions.
4. You will include these rules, and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Mazal Tov, Bruce

I've known Bruce Sabath since we were in the same group at day camp in the summer between 1st and 2nd grade.

Our town had two middle schools. In 8th grade, he was president of the student council at one, I was president at the other.

He was the songleader for the NFTY (National Federation of Temple Youth) chapter at the synagogue we grew up at. I was songleader for the local BBYO (B'nai B'rith Youth Organization) chapter, that met at the JCC.

We sang and played guitar together, along with three girls who were a lot prettier then we were, at Hadassah luncheons, Jewish Burial Society dinners, and even auctioned ourselves off on the local public television station one year as the entertainment for a party. (We wound up doing our only bar mitzvah gig --- tough crowd).

This weekend, he's in PARADE magazine.

Because he's on Broadway. :)

Mazal Tov, Bruce.

And since you never know where an actor's next gig will come from, here's a link to his professional web page.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Getting to the Bottom of Things

Ezer K'Negdo has a great review up today of a book called The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't. It makes me want to read the book.

I went to the website of the author, Bob Sutton, and there found a link to this unbelievably funny Denis Leary video:

I love the Internet.

Funny Stuff

My cousin Debbie, from Buffalo, sent me an e-mail that included the above cartoon.

I think it's great.

I didn't know this cartoonist before, but I like him. His name is John Bell, and here's a link to his website.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What Goes Unsaid

After I put the Hamster/Wookiee pictures and post up, I happened to talk to my mom. I asked her if she'd looked at the blog lately, for there she could find a picture of her only grandson, in (almost) real time.

I discovered that my blog is too difficult for her to view very often. She sees the discussions and dialogues concerning depression and it makes her sad for me.

She tells me she's glad I have the outlet of the blog but that reading it is not an unalloyed pleasure for her.

I'm kinda sad about that, but I understand.

On the other hand, a frequent reader, who never comments, has told me that she finds my openness and what articulateness I can muster on the topic empowering. She made my day when she told me that. The phrase "poster child for living with depression" came up and I just beamed. (It had been one of my rottenner days before that.)

The whole thing has me pondering what I do and don't put up here.

One of my inspirations in writing a blog puts everything out there, and I admire him for it. But he's single. Theoretically, if I ever had any teensy-weensy frustrations with RFB, I could not post about them here while they were going on.

Not that I have any dear. :)

But if I did, our marriage functions under the assumption that, if we had any dirty linens, we wouldn't air them in public. Maybe I could post about a challenge we overcame, after it was history, or a topic we'd already agreed to disagree about. But not an on-going issue. I wouldn't feel right about it and it wouldn't seem fair.

Similarly, Monkeyboy can count on only being portrayed in a favorable light, here. I can post about nine-year-old foibles, but really only insofar as he is able to see them as minor. He'd be very hurt to see anything up here that came within even light years of serious criticism or mockery. And he'd be entitled.

Other topics that I must tread lightly on are my evaluations of any specific people I interact with in my work or in my volunteer position(s) at shul.

They're entitled to privacy and it's hardly fair to attack someone in a forum where they may not want to compete.

If I've got a problem with someone in my real life world, I think I need to confront them there, on equal footing.

Not here, where
a) they might not welcome the exposure, at all, or
b) they might not even know about it.

Different bloggers take different approaches to these sorts of issues.

What do you think?

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Gentlemen Prefer Peeps

I told RFB that linking to WaPo two days in a row was the lazy man's form of blogging, but after she showed me this photo show - and after I stopped laughing hard enough to type - I decided to go lazy today.

Below is just one of the Peeps dioramas featured in today's Post.

Here are the rest.

Traditionally, in our household, when one of us is incorrect, the other is obliged to say this:

You were right, dear. And more importantly, I was wrong.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Just the Facts, Ma'am

This is a full page graphic on the Sudan from today's WaPo.

It is surprisingly free of any editorial judgments.

Jack Webb, as Sergeant Joe Friday on Dragnet, would have approved.

It taught me a few things. It might do the same for you.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Another Bumper Snicker

A frequent commenter reports that she saw this on a bumper sticker this morning:

I can't find the bumper sticker on the web but I did find the phrase on this sign. It comes from a song by Michael Franti.

Appropriate comment: That's liberal bullshit.

Appropriate comment: David is full of liberal bullshit.

Appropriate comment: It's this kind of liberal bullshit that's going to have us all learning Arabic from camel-humping ragheads.

Inappropriate comment: Frequent Commenter is full of shit.

Inappropriate comment: Frequent Commenter is a bottom-feeding scumsucker.

Inappropriate comment: Frequent Commenter has sex with goats.

Inappropriate comment: Frequent Commenter is a no-account loser whose child should be fed to raghead-humping camels.

Does that help?

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Growing Hamster or Baby Wookiee: You Make the Call

Ted the hamster was bought around Thanksgiving. Both the books we've read about hamsters and the dispassionate observations about Ted made last time we (Monkeyboy in DC and I) posted his picture leave us wondering if we really have a growing hamster on our hands or something that's due to grow even bigger:

We figured if you had a common object to compare his size to, you could help us decide.

Hence the Pringles can.

This third picture really doesn't help with perspective, but doesn't Monkeyboy's new spring haircut look great? Makes for a much less sweaty head after Little League practice, too.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Roto Rooter

I've joined a fantasy baseball league for the first time in a decade.

Spent all day yesterday in a cramped office on the draft. On paper, the Stars of David look good.

And we kicked ass last night. Head to head, I beat my old roommate in 8 out of 11 categories, with ties in the other three.

Today, as of 2:55 pm EDT, we're all tied up.

Anybody else in a "Rotisserie-style" league?