Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Jack Rose Dining Saloon

Adams Morgan is unique slice of Washington, DC life. There are nightclubs, restaurants and small shops. You can find reggae, blues, jazz, and karaoke. Good eats include Ethiopian, Peruvian, French, Mexican, a 24-hour Diner, and of course, Jumbo Slice. Now there is Jack Rose Dining Saloon to complement the southern tip of 18th Street.

I walked in one very hot day in May of this year, uncertain about what my very near future held. Unlike most unopened restaurants in my past, this place looked fully built and ready to serve! The huge granite bar, the comfy booths, and all the wooden detail. beautiful! Then I saw the upstairs Open Air Terrace, semi-private Tiki Bar, Scotch room, and balcony overlooking the smaller pubs below, and I was convinced that this was going to be a cool place. Chef Michael showed me around and gave me a detailed plan of his menu for the downstairs Dining Saloon as if I was already hired and getting ready for service that night. It was basically a done deal; my new challenge would be to become a whisky expert. With well over a thousand whiskies lining the walls like books in a library, it was sure to become a destination for aficionados of the brown spirit. Someone would have to be able to talk about them.

Jack Rose has been an idea long in the making - to essentially become the largest whisky bar in the world. The bulk of the collection are single-malt Scotches, however there is a very large selection of American bourbons and ryes, even some white whiskeys and little-known selections from several US states outside of Kentucky and Tennessee. The Irish collection is nothing to scoff at either, rounding out the western end of the bar. The curious will also be delighted to find the award-winning Amrut from India, as well as single malts from Japan and Austria. A significant number of rums, gins, tequilas, vodkas, and cordials take up some space as well. However, anyone seeking their favorite Ardbeg, Caol Ila, or Talisker, or hoping to find a rare or special release of Macallan, Bruichladdich, or Springbank should be delighted at what they find.

Contrary to what my mentor, Harvey, says that "Who drinks whisky with food?", Chef Michael has put together a cozy and eclectic, non-traditional-yet-familiar menu to make Jack Rose also a food destination. Some favorites so far have been the Buttermilk Fried Frog's Legs, the grilled "New Caesar", and the Braised Local Pork Belly - for starters. The grilled ribeye Steak Diane is sumptuous and captivating, and the Pennsylvania ? Chicken with beet and goat cheese dressing will re-affirm your love for the often maligned poultry. New items for the fall include Boneless Bison Short Ribs, a Muscovy Duck Breast, and a Stuffed Saddle of Rabbit. I think we can get people to eat with their Scotch. In fact, I have already begun working on pairings. Dessert, anyone? Try it with a Willett rye. Ever try chocolate with a port-aged Bushmills? How about vanilla ice cream with Jack Daniel's Honey? Or Cabrales cheese with a sherried Scotch? I have. I think we can make it work.

I will look forward to your visit.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

To Remember

Ten years.

It has been quite a decade.  We all remember the horrors of that September morning.  I won't re-live it here, but I wonder what did we discover about America that day... and the days that followed?  I will always remember demonstrations of extreme heroism, kindness, and patriotism.  We were angry.  We were vulnerable.  We were full of grief.  Quite frankly, we were dumbfounded, and we were scared.  However, what struck me following the horrific attacks of that day, was how we were all American again; we were a people.  We were determined to overcome being dumbfounded and scared by being proud of who we were... or at least, who we were supposed to be.  We have all grown up knowing stories of American courage - from George Washington to Martin Luther King, and beyond.  We tapped into that because it is part of the American identity; we do love a comeback, and we have a core belief that good will conquer evil.

Of course, we should never forget the lives lost and the practical lessons learned from September 11th, 2001, but the discovery I hope we all will share ten years forward is just how good we can really be.  May God comfort those still grieving, protect those still defending, and fill us all with the will to recapture that American spirit.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What You Don't Know

A younger friend recently asked me to comment on the decade of a person's twenties, as of course I am an expert in such a topic. It got me to thinking that as life takes you on your journey there is simply so much you just don't know. As luck would have it, part of the beauty of life is finding knowledge, gaining experience, and growing into someone who is wiser than the younger version of yourself. Inevitably, we all learn some things the hard way, and that is not always beautiful. Eventually you find yourself in a place where you simply don't know what you don't know, and have the maturity to realize it.

When my mom last visited here in DC, we toured the National Geographic Museum to experience, what was well-documented and vividly retold, the story of two expeditions racing to be the first in history to reach the South Pole. Both teams made it there, but only one team made it home; the other team froze to death in the snow and ice. It was not a matter of courage or of determination, but rather a battle against the unknown. One team was better prepared.

As it turns out, life is a battle against the unknown. Variables are everywhere, and even some of the best plans fail. Friends will disappear. People will die. Politicians will disappoint. The company for which you toil will actively work against you. Terror will strike. Even God may say no to your prayers. What on earth can you count on? There is one certainty, aside of course from death and taxes, and that is uncertainty. The sooner we accept that, perhaps the better. This is not to say we give up, nor is it to say we should have no faith. On the contrary, uncertainty in the world is what gives us purpose in our ability not only as a variable, but in our ability to affect other variables (too algebraic?).

When we are young, we spend a lot of time seeing the world in the manner which it affects us. As we grow, we learn that we can and should actually work to affect the world. Throughout that path we grow from idealists to pragmatists. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an example of a man who not only had a dream, but acted on a purpose to attain an achievable peace. It is only through purpose that we navigate through this sea of uncertainty and only in our resolution that we find success. It takes a good bit of life to come to that understanding.

But, what do I know?

"Thy purpose firm is equal to the deed. Who does the best his circumstances allows, does well, acts nobly; angels could no more."

Monday, July 4, 2011

The God Card

America, from day one, has been bold. The very act of signing the Declaration of Independence would have been considered evidence of treason if we had failed in our endeavor to confront tyranny. Are we a perfect people? Hardly, but our boldness has been part of what defines us and has made our experiment great. Today, we can be proud of many things. Not only do we struggle for peace, justice, liberty, equality, opportunity, and charity in our own land, but we have chosen as a people to share this vision with the world. The United States have always been at our best when we have been a light of the beliefs that inspired our founding. We have been at our worst when we cower and selfishly act to destroy, ignore, or pervert any part of that vision.

It is interesting to note that "God" has been indispensable to the mission of our nation even from the time of settlement (by the White Man). The argument used to claim our independence relied upon the theory that God gives us rights that may not be usurped by man; a bold statement. The belief in a Creator - not to be confused with religion - is the basis for who we are as Americans. The reason for which "in God we trust" is that He holds the key to our argument for why we should be free. Thomas Jefferson could very well have written, "We hold this truth to be self-evident, that all men are born equal with certain unalienable rights." He did not; he played the God card.

As a bold people, our thirst for freedom and rights has endured and grown, and in some ways this can be self-defeating. Many have even asserted their right to be God-less, which does not logically follow my argument, but we afford ourselves this right nevertheless. An unfortunate pitfall in the journey of America is the notion of rights uncoupled with responsibilities. Every man will fail, but we will ultimately not succeed if we do not seek responsibility; that's what leaders do. Otherwise, we are simply impudent. Our mantra of "God Bless America" might seem selfish, were it not for our belief that our country exists only because God gave us the right to operate in this fashion - so it's actually a prayer. When we say or sing, "God Bless America", we are humbly recognizing one of the greatest gifts of our lives. If we are to boldly rescue this country from the fate of obsolescence, which I believe to be imperative, it will be necessary for us to make and keep promises, work toward standing undivided, and, yes, express ourselves in a culture of morality deserving of such a gift.

God Bless America.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This is a Test

"Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records."
-William Arthur Ward

"This is a test. This is only a test."

Remember that annoying public service broadcast interruption that would break into your normally scheduled programming on television? It was designed to test an alert to be used in case of emergency; but really it broke in on my valued time with Vanna White or Three's Company. You couldn't wait for those emergency alerts to be over! However, somehow we knew it would serve some greater purpose.

The more you live - notice I purposely substituted "more" for "longer" - the more you learn about interruptions and obstacles. I remember studying the concept of adversity when coaching soccer with the goal of helping my teams through troubled times. One of the trials of a coach is how you confront defeat and somehow turn it into a teachable moment and an opportunity for growth. One fact I learned was that a lot of times you lose because you put yourself out there, and putting yourself in a position vulnerable to losing is, indeed, necessary in learning to win. Adversity, in short, is a test. It's only a test.

The saying, "everything happens for a reason" always rubs me the wrong way. I get it; it's all part of a plan, and either God or the forces of nature will always steer us toward some equilibrium. However, to me that theory always seems to propose that we are powerless, when contrarily the "reason" is that we are presented with an opportunity to be an active participant in our own rescue. Winning is what happens after the hurdle of the last thought of giving up. Adversity gives us that opportunity.

It's all a test.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Barbara Claypool was a fine woman and a good mom to a great friend. She was fiesty, friendly, fun, and generous. Apparently, known to her son as "Bulldog", I could never bring myself to call her that.
May she rest in peace.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Waking Up With John Kerry

Well, I woke up in Boston this morning. It happens. Actually, I woke up in Providence and then went back to sleep. One morning, I woke up in the French Riviera - now that's where you want your eyes to crack open from hours of darkness. Thanks to the invention of train travel, or as I refer to it - "the choo-choo".

Still rubbing my eyes from my eight-hour choo-choo slumber, upon my arrival at Boston South station, I was greeted by a media frenzy! Now, that is exactly why I have my personal assistant always put out misleading Tweets such as "out golfing" or "golly, this Big Mac is off the hook" so as to avoid such harrassment. However, I snuck past, undetected, a press conference featuring the mayor and Senator John Kerry and got a few photos myself. I'm thinking about my newest photo exhibit "Guys Who Do Not Live In The White House". I already have McCain and Fred Thompson on film. It's gonna be great!

Boston is a great city. Due to the nature of me being between jobs, and I've been here before, this day has been dedicated to relaxation, photos, and (of course) food. I actually write this from a park bench in the Public Garden - excellent place with a large pond, ducks, and swans. It's been a fantastic day of excellent weather, but getting a bit chilly as the dusk falls into night. Off to find some seafood!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Un Buen Jaleo

By our definition, "jaleo" is an "uproar". Imagine a party, if you will, where everyone is having a great time, the music is roaring, people are dancing and moving about, and things seem at the cusp of being out of control. It aint a party 'til something gets broken, right. Jaleo - it's borderline madness.

Jaleo is also the name of a popular 18 year-old Spanish tapas restaurant, begun in Washington, DC. It is amazing the care and dedication that goes into imagining, preparing, creating, explaining, managing and executing the daily and nightly flood of tiny dishes of deliciousness. From the mind of the wizard... excuse me - "James Beard Award winning" wizard/chef Jose Andres - to his enthusiastic chefs, to the meticulous cooks, to the proudly invested service staff, somehow most of these little plates find their way to the right tables and end up satiating hundreds a day, every day.

At its best, Jaleo is Spain - only better - in America, without the siesta. Of course, any jaleo is never sustained perfection, only an intoxicating whirlwind of a moment. A good jaleo would be the moment of the event when you realize you are truly at a party. It's a tough name to live up to. Well, we try.

I have enjoyed a great many moments at Jaleo DC and have come to know a wealth of people during these six years. A lot of it was fun, wasn't it? Salud!


Monday, May 16, 2011

A Last Supper

Ridiculous, really.

We had a great meal Saturday night. I had long had the idea to orchestrate a wine-paired meal at Jaleo in Washington, DC, but never had anyone given me the green light... so I gave it to myself. This was an event six years in the making, attended by five close friends and myself. We did it right.

First Course paired with 1+1=3 Cava from Penedes:
Spanish "Pan de Cristal" tomato bread
Escalivada Catalana - chilled roasted eggplant, peppers, onions
Gambas con Gabardina - beer-battered fried shrimp w caper mayonaise
Huevo con Caviar - organic fried egg w American sturgeon caviar

Second Course paired with Esencia Divina Albarino from Rias Baixas:
Vieiras - seared scallops with mojo verde and hazelnut-almond romesco
Judias Verdes - warm green beans salad with apples, grapes, apricots
Pulpo a la Gallega - boiled octopus and baby potatoes with pimenton
Pan con Tomate - tomato bread with Pasamontes Manchego cheese

Third Course paired with Neo from Ribera del Duero:
Arroz con Butifarra - rice with artichokes, pork sausage, and mojo alioli
Setas al Ajillo - sauteed garlicky mushrooms with herbs
Garbanzos con Espinacas - moorish chickpea and spinach stew

Fourth Course paired with San Roman from Toro:
Tortilla de Setas - Spanish omelette with mushrooms and goat cheese
Lomo de Iberico Bellota - seared acorn-fed Iberico pork loin

Dessert Course paired with Lustau East India from Jerez:
Flan al Estilo de Mama Marisa

After-Dinner Beverages:
Estrella Inedit
First Fruit Cidra

... fue un buen jaleo.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May Day

As with any victory comes a sense of pride of accomplishment, team unity, and relief from the threat of failure. We got that last night. Naturally, the winning team will celebrate, and rightly so. Taunting, on the other hand, is generally considered bad form. Perhaps it is a slippery slope, which is why sports have rules against such behavior as "excessive celebration." We have to be taught sportsmanship, because emotions need to be trained to not overpower our moral compass.

It is important to be mindful of the distinction between revenge and justice. To be right, as a people, we must seek justice. Celebration of success should not lead us to a delight of causing defeat. The world is a better place today, but the path that follows remains to be seen. We can be proud of justice today, and we can be proud of the people we are trying to be. We've been down, and it feels good to be back up. However, pride is a unique attribute that can be equally uplifting or destructive depending upon which side of the blurry line one resides. So, to be proud of America today is appropriate. Justice has been served. But, instead of gloating politically against ourselves or "excessively" to the rest of the world, we would be better off remembering the victims of that evil man while finding a way to tomorrow be better than we are today.

"Do not let evil defeat you, but defeat evil by doing good."
- Romans 12:21

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Special Relationship

If you care to wonder why you should care about the Royal Wedding today, I bet you're not alone. Shirley, (yeah, I did) there are many who either don't care at all, do care and are enchanted, or (like my friend Phil Rice) have no idea who's getting married. It's kind of a big deal: William will be king one day, the monarchy has a long tradition, Kate is passing up on the opportunity to one day be "First Lady Katie" Porter... etcetera, ya know. I get it. Aside from all of that, why should we Americans care about who gets married in that family? Seriously.

Marriage is at the heart (went there too) of a great many discussions and debates in our own country. We talk about gay marriage, tax breaks, immigrant status and green cards, tying the knot, infidelity, rights and roles of spouses, next of kin, and money. Marriage is very much about the people getting married, wouldn't you say? You might even go as far as to say that much of the idea of marriage has become about what two people want, rather than a union that benefits a community.


Yeah, I like to add my own commentary. But, isn't that how it used to be? Families, churches, and tribes would consent to an appropriate match. All of those people in the community were invited to join in that special day not as party guests, but as witnesses and grantors of legitimacy. What we are seeing in London today is exactly that. By many of today's standards, there is little reason for the fairly tale that endures across the pond. Why should a nation of democrats choose to pay for unelected aristocrats to live, uncontested, as kings? They may just be giving their consent to a family that exists to be caretaker of its people. Consider William - I remember him for most of his life - who has known since the concept was first able to be grasped that one day he would be king. His life was never his, but from birth a gift to his country. What a profound concept to rise every morning with the knowledge that each day is preparation for service - duty to his people; indeed duty to the world. Today he joins in holy matrimony with the woman who is the next piece of the puzzle that is British Royalty. As nature often grants, she will be the mother of the proceding monarch... and so it goes. The Royal Wedding is a commemoration of public consent.

Again, why should we care (over here)? Suppose we re-look at marriage as a foundation for society. Suppose we hold our relationships to, not just our own standards, but to higher ones. What if we looked at each day as preparation and at those with whom we picked to spend our lives as pieces to a broader puzzle? Sounds noble.

Congratulations to Prince William and Princess Catherine.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Love Me If You Can - In Memory of Don Bachelier

One way or another, we all get together to celebrate Don's birthday. Every April - always a party. It might have even qualified as one of Jaleo's "festivals" at some point. And, it always brought everyone together - managers, bussers, servers, hosts... Austin Grill... At a Don's Birthday Party, there was always dancing; we even had a dance contest one year that Lou and I commentated. There was always singing. There was always a good time had by all. That's all Don wanted for his birthday. Actually, that's not true; I remember him soliciting gifts one year. However, he genuinely enjoyed everybody getting together and not having to work. Those were the days when that was a priority. Shouldn't it always be? Good times.

Rest in peace, our friend. We'll try to keep the music down... maybe.


Friday, April 15, 2011


My friend TY prefers to read my travel writings that document when I'm actually traveling. Well, guess what? SO DO I! But, we'll just make do, shall we? Life's a journey, anyway. We'll just pretend this Mickey D's 2-for-a-dollar apple pie is a fresh strudel, and I'm making my way through Bavaria in search of an old castle with a weary, yet lovely Parisian mademoiselle who doesn't speak a lick of english.

Yeah. So, this time of year about 1978 years ago, we were wrapping up the prelude to the first Easter. The thought of fasting in solitary, eshewing temptation, in preparation for a painful end seems a taxing prospect. However, the Lenten struggle does not exist to tear us down, and it's certainly not a silly game or an afterthought; it is a preparation.

Friends will go. Co-workers disappear one by one. People move on, and things disappear. A cruel game, perhaps. Taxing, for sure. But, is it preparation for a better day? One would hope. The goal is that we become stronger. Deprivation can be an injustice or it can be what it is to the vine - the process by which we find the yield of the best grapes... and with great care, the best wine.

C'est manifique!

Almost there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Lord's Work

We've all heard it. Someone, somewhere, has proclaimed ever so casually, to your disbelief, "you're doing the Lord's Work."

Really?! And, how would they know, exactly? It's quite puzzling, actually, if you care to think about it. Do people say that simply to commend someone for doing a task they, themselves, would never do? Do they actually find divine inspiration in arduous labor? Are they merely giving you a verbal high-five for a good deed? Or, is it something else?

Literally, if we're talking about Jesus, "the Lord's Work" could be broken down into several categories, including teaching, preaching, and healing. Carpentry seems a little too obvious. There could be a case made for feeding, though; we do have Him on record as assisting the catering of a wedding. Therefore, teachers, priests, doctors... and restaurant professionals are all doing the Lord's Work. If you work for the IRS, you are automatically disqualified. I'm not sure where that leaves Judas Priest.

Now, if we're talking about God's Work... well, that's a bit broader. Just to brainstorm a bit, that was creating the earth and all life on it, the oceans, the mountains, the sun, the moon, night and day, and man... and woman. He is essentially the CEO of all of that. So, where on God's green earth (ha-ha) would you find someone actually doing His job?


To quote a famous line, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." That must be it - the Lord's will is the Lord's Work! Why isn't this any clearer?

I heard the following the other day - "You already know what God wants you to do." We already know; that's something to think about. If we work from that assumption, perhaps the whole "Lord's Work" idea will present itself. It gives everyone a shot, anyway; even the tax collector.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Little Too Fabulous

Aaaaahhh! There are three things that give me the heebee-jeebees in television and cinema: graphic violent mutilation, gay love scenes, and actors breaking into song for no apparent reason. There was that Bollywood movie... and Richard Gere in Chicago (I know it was a Broadway musical), and now that ill-advised demonstration of lip-sync/dubbing by the cast and crew of the Grey's Anatomy show. And, I know something about lip-syncing (haha). Sorry; it's not them, it's me.
So, I'm just relaxing this evening after a long week of work and weekend of my new role of artist-vendor. No, I'm not actually selling artists, I'm selling my photos. Today, I sold a photo of the dimming blue sky over Cartagena, Colombia, was interviewed by a journalism student from American University, and impressed some ladies from The Smithsonian. Yes, it was a pretty good day. However, I am looking forward to tommorrow - a day off - and I'll be cooking... but, God-willing, no creepy musicals. Let the showtunes stay where they belong - the theater and in gay bars. Regia!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seis Días o Más

No hay un tiempo como el presente, y no hay un regalo como tiempo. OK, es mejor en ingles, pero no es una problema. Minutos, horas, años... que preciosos. Nosotros todos tenemos tiempo. Quizas mucho, quizas un poquito. Quien sabe? Tengo un gol (por lo menos) - quiero celebrar el cumpleaños 300 de mi país en 2076. Es posible, pero voy a tener casi 101 años... estoy preparando la fiesta, pero no voy a cocinar. Mi hermano Brian dice que si puede elegir su ultima cena, quisiera que yo la cocino porque sabe que va a tener mucho mas tiempo para disfrutar la vida. Hey, la excelencia necesita mucho tiempo! Pero Diós... solomente seis días. Que podemos hacer con seis días? Con un año? Con veinte? La vida es un tesoro; que loco tanto dificil esta oportunidad. Que ya has provado? Y, con algunos días más? Que regalo magnifico! Disfrutelo.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dinner Time

Some people get excited about the Final Four of college basketball. Many here in DC are happy about the Cherry Blossom Festival and the arrival of spring. I'm hyped for the finale of Top Chef All-Stars. Sure, it's a tv show; it's pre-recorded; it's reality drama. I get it... but, it's FOOD! It's a cooking competition, and that to me is worthy of figuring out the record procedure on the ol' VCR. Haha, just kidding - the DVR was never on the chopping block for the Lenten list. Point is, though, if you know me, you know I have a fondness for what can be done with food. What's more, one of our favorite burgeoning DC chefs is competing for the top prize tonight. Mike Isabella successfully headed the kitchen at our sister restaurant Zaytinya, and he is currently setting up a new culinary enterprise of his own just three blocks to the east, to be known as "Graffiato". Washington eagerly anticipates his return - Top Chef or not - and I, for one, can't wait to try some of that gnocchi.

Now, I could be bitter; little known fact is that I have already competed against (and lost to) the Top Chef hopeful in a less widely publicized event known as "The Perfect Burger" competition held a few years back at Cafe Atlantico. Yes, I represented Jaleo DC with my burger, and I put it up against the creations of chefs from the other Jaleos, Oyamel, Zaytinya, Cafe Atlantico, and Minibar. PS - I AM NOT A CHEF. Now had I thought to use Kobe beef, gold dusted bacon, and caviar as Minibar did, I may have won the day. However, Mike and his burger took home the prize. I'm not bitter. I could have executed better, but whatever. In the trials I had a pretty damn good burger. (Don made the buns.) I'll make it for you sometime.

In any case, good luck Mike. We'll be rooting for you!  

Monday, March 28, 2011


In an effort to summarize the style of my approach to art, I have looked to my ethnic heritage for clues. Strangely enough, as a general critic of most hyphenated American descriptions, I have decided on an adjective perhaps previously uncoined in "Euro-Shoshone". In any recollection of me, I would prefer to be remembered as an avid American, however I do recognize certain forces at work guiding my eye for that which should be a moment captured in time for others to see.

Quite frankly, I have spent far more time in Europe than on an Indian reservation - a decision that gives me more and more peace as I hear tales of machinations successfully designed to disqualify me from receiving funds better spent on the enlightened society commonly referred to as "the tribe". Be that as it may, I have always discovered a profound beauty in nature - the light given from the sky, life in its numerous forms, and the many hues of the earth. I have always treated what I do with a camera as simply documenting, as best I can, the spectacle that is life on this land. It may also be quite European to study human nature not through legend or through custom, but in deed and in desire. I have always enjoyed showcasing people not merely as they would like to appear, but exhibiting some truth that even they may not even see; whether the lens is of a microscope or a camera, it is a tool of examination and discovery. They say photos don't lie, therefore photography is an art form of truth.

Beginning this weekend, I will be attempting to sell my photos for the first time at the new Liberty North Community Market ( on 5th and I Streets NW in DC. Please stop by if you are in the neighborhood. I had to write this post so I'd know what to say just in case anybody asks... something to shoot for, at least.

(Exported from - discoveries in the quest for international tranquility)

There Will Be Blood

Why, yes, I do often examine movie titles when searching for a theme. While I'd have to re-watch the movie from a few years ago to give a completely coherent thesis on There Will Be Blood, it seems a recurring world theme that, as true with states, men will act to pursue and protect their interests and investments... many times, in an ugly way. In the movie, there was a man after oil, and he utilized and exploited all avenues to success. In the last decade, there were many accusing the American government of "going to war for oil" in Iraq. Many more villified a policy of preemptive action - a self-assertion of sorts that committed military resources (including my brother) into battle with an enemy that had yet to draw first blood. The American Left became furious, and empowered by them, so did many around the world.

I have to admit that I was mistaken. Prior to the last presidential inauguration, I predicted our policy would be "do not fire until fired upon". However reluctantly, our president has decided that engaging in warring activities unprovoked is necessary foreign policy. Who knew? Striking to me this Sunday, after a week of bombing campaigns facilitating a no-fly zone over Libya (something urged weeks ago by Senator McCain), was hearing our Defense Secretary Gates proclaim candidly that Libya is not "vital" to American interests. Who would have thought the US would be a dove flying with a flock of hawks? Furthermore, what happens when the terrorist Khaddafi (that's how we used to spell it in grade school) decides to fight back? Remember, guys like him fight dirty.

2011 has begun as a year of unrest. It seems, as President Bush declared, the natural yearning of the human spirit is for freedom. Whether the thirst is for food, security, prosperity, or democracy, oppressive regimes, when pressured, have given way to greater interests. We are witnessing a unique time in human history when peoples are asserting themselves in seemingly contagious revolutions, and communication technology offers a window of opportunity to do so. How unfortunate that we have gone from lone superpower, to world police, to sherriff, to side-lined bully and sugardaddy in a matter of twenty years. How unfortunate still that our values continue to pervade the world, yet it seems we have passed on our duty to lead.

There will be blood. That is certain. Whether for freedom, for resources, or for power, there are many actors pursuing their own interests. Change will occur with or without us. Our best days are when we shine for the world to see a fire we are proud not to let extinguish. I remember seeing a t-shirt depicting President Obama dressed as Superman; wouldn't that be interesting.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I remember, in grade school, the telephone was one of the most important devices in our homes. Sure, by today's standards, they didn't do much. However, with an extra long cord, you could take it to different parts of the house - even have your own privacy if you could stretch it to your room! Speed dial was a cool technological advancement, especially when trying to win a radio contest, but I generally had at least ten phone numbers memorized. We used to spend long periods of time on the phone, which became an issue if someone else was trying to call in. Then God created call-waiting.

In high school, I discovered a new form of communication (no, not short-wave radio). I guess they had been doing it for years at those public schools, but the whole note-writing concept was new to me. It was a daily thing, and you may have sent several throughout the day. There were even cool ways to fold said letters given the absence of the obsolete envelope. That was our primary form of communication throughout the day. Of course, when we got home we'd ask, "did anyone call?" I still ask that when I get home sometimes, just to be nostalgic, but nobody answers.

In the Pre-Cellular Age, also known as the mid-nineties, I had my first jobs, and I had my pager. What a marvelous, if not short-lived, piece of communication history! I could be contacted anytime and anywhere for the first time... well, since my mom knew exactly where I was at any given time, but that had probably been at least a decade. The evolution was inevitable, and finally in 2000 my boss made me go buy a cell phone. Fine.

2000 was also the year I signed up for an email account while abroad in Europe. We were just discovering a new world of communication. So, basically, for the first Bush Administration term we - for the first time in human history - had the power to talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere... and hear their voice! Of course cost was an issue internationally, but we could still send an email instantly. Brilliant! Later, webcams and live video communications made it possible to see a person in Greeneville or Afghanistan while you have your conversation.

Somewhere along the way, they invented text messaging.

I don't dislike text messaging. I just dread the day that I call one of my nieces, to no answer, and she texts back because she doesn't want to answer the phone. I called a friend last week, and I could hear the dumbfoundedness in her voice. Have we reached a technological over-saturation point, or are we letting our gadgets make us lazy? It just is very curious to me that after all these advances and decades we have settled on a personal telegraph as our preferred medium of contact. Why is that? Surely it's a resting point... before the next social-technological shift.


Thursday, March 17, 2011


My friend Martina and I were talking yesterday about holidays. Conventional wisdom is that Americans like to exaggerate the importance of other peoples' holidays, such as Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick's Day, so as to have an excuse to drink lots of beer and have a party. Martina informed me that we recently missed Bulgaria's independence day, and I told her we would put it on the calendar for next year. Why not celebrate? We're supposed to celebrate life! As Americans, we've learned we are an institution of many cultures in one. So, if I want to celebrate Bastille Day... that's my God-given right, gosh darn it. In the words of my friends Kool and the Gang, "woo hoo, celebrate good times; come on."

So, today is St. Patrick's Day in DC. It's the first day of March Madness at the Verizon Center. Beethoven's Fifth Symphony tonight. I'm not working. God bless America.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


In a universe where everything is in motion, there is always the likelihood of a collision. Cars crash, computers crash, people crash, and waves crash. You could stand alone in a vacant field in the middle of Nevada and eventually crash to the ground - eventually. So far, in my short tenure on this planet, I have crashed into a swing set, a tree, a goalkeeper, a driveway, nearly all of my co-workers, a fist, a wall, a rose bush, snow, the ocean, unemployment, and a mailbox. None of them were all that fun... well, except the goalie after a penalty kick; I scored! Some were the result of bad choices; some were just life. Sometimes our ideas crash. Sometimes relationships crash. Sometimes nature crashes. Conventional wisdom is that you take precautions and buy insurance. However, sometimes the best that you can do is survive - that, and lend a hand when you can.

Best wishes to the good people of Japan and to all others finding the resolve to make their way.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hard Core

It was a rainy day in DC today, although not too cold. I decided to go for a run, of course. In shorts and three tee-shirts, I was off... and I started to get wet. It reminded me of a day back in maybe 1994 or '95, when I was coaching soccer:

My girls had played poorly the day prior - and it was raining - so I made them run around campus instead of on the field. At first, they couldn't believe it; I know the varsity squad thought I was the devil, as they got to go home. However, my team knew I was serious... and I was. We ran and ran, and did our push-ups and sit-ups; everyone was unusually quiet - high school girls are never quiet at soccer practice. What I wanted for them to understand, and I think they got it, is that no matter what your station is in life - to win, you have to be hard-core. You have to go beyond what is normal, and you have to surprise people; you even have to surprise yourself. You have to do not only what others don't, but what others won't. That's hard-core.

I sometimes have to remind myself, so pardon my reminiscing. It's a nice memory to have, and so important a lesson to remember.

Like It's 1999

"The sky was all purple, there were people runnin' everywhere..."

Ah, yes... party like it's 1999! I remember in grade school, we had to pick a song and write out its lyrics. I picked Prince's "1999". In hindsight, it's best I didn't pick one of his other tunes. Well, in the song, they were looking forward to some sort of madness. As computers began more and more to run our lives, new concerns arose a decade or so later about "Y2K"... when airplanes were to fall out of the sky and all sorts of havoc were to ensue from the changing of some digits "99" to "00". I flew from California to DC on 12/31/99, and I had the whole row of seats to myself.

In 1999, I had a pager, but no cell phone. The internet was still forming - in fact in one of my last undergraduate college classes, our Economics professor showed us around the different websites and showed us how to look up information. I had no email address. There were no Google, no Facebook, and no Twitter... no Skype. No one told you to "text" them later. There were digital cameras, but the quality was still very poor. GPS was something only used by the military, mostly, I suppose. I can't recall anyone in school with a laptop computer. We bought CDs... from the store. "Apps" were appetizers, a "droid" was R2D2 or C3PO, and "social networking" was... well... a party. "De-friending" usually involved some sort of physical altercation having to do with a girl, alcohol, money, or some combination of the three. I never would have thought to procede a colon with a closed parenthesis for any reason - certainly not to express any type of emotion. To "chat" simply meant to talk to someone casually, you know - hearing each other's voices. Friends gathering for dinner didn't all have their phones on the table.

Twelve short years ago, technology was growing and growing and setting the stage for an internet revolution and the dawn of the Information Age. We knew it then, but we didn't know to what extent technology would not just change the world, but change who we are. When was the last time you sat down and wrote a letter on a piece of paper and sent it in the mail? How devestating was it to lose or break your mobile phone and be without for any period of time? The world is going to continue to change, as will technology adapt to meet consumer demands. "Change is good" is what I keep hearing with seemingly greater and greater frequency, but nobody seems compelled to have to back that up with actual proof. Now, I like technology - I do! However, moving forward, we need to be aware of how technology is CHANGING US. Furthermore, what has gone from a facilitator of human interaction to a replacement of our humanity? Where will we be in twelve more years? It's important to consider.

As an experiment, I am using the Lenten Season to sacrifice the use of a few things acquired in my 21st Century: the internet, a mobile phone, my iPod, text messaging, and my digital camera. Yes, we're fasting like it's 1999. However, I do believe that I should be encouraged to write, so I am allowed to upload to my blog. I mean, depriving the world of me could just be detrimental to my goal of international tranquility, and that would be bad. Ya know?

So, flux capacitor is... fluxing. 1.21 gigawatts at the ready (stolen from the Libyans!), gonna go back in time!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Organized Chaos and Meticulous Poetry

Jazz is a lot like life - organized chaos and meticulous poetry with nearly every contradiction known to man:

Violent and soft,
Loving and lonely,
Repetitious and new,
Immature and weathered,
Strong and subtle,
Vibrant and dark,
Wailing and triumphant,
Out of control and by design,
Tickling and painful,
Unexpected and predictable,
Open to interpretation and in your face,
Heavenly and wicked,
Sleepy and exciting,
Harmonious and competitive,
Fantasy and reality,
Hypnotic and harshly lucid,
Confident and desperate,
Abruptly final and enduring.

I was fortunate to make some of these discoveries on a journey to the Strathmore Mansion in Maryland yesterday. The Jolley Brothers were my guide, and I am confident they will evolve, thrive, and entertain for years to come.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

True Grit

Certainly, art helps to define us. It is a tool of communication, a medium of reflection, and a source of inspiration. Music, paintings, dance, photography, literature, food, theater... movies - all often thought of as an escape from reality, these are woven into our lives precisely because they are a reflection of our reality. President Kennedy was mindful of that, and was honored last week at the national monument bearing his name - The Kennedy Center - a permanent home to celebrate the performing arts. Our art not only defines us as artists, but indeed are a celebration of the spirit of a people. No, really!

I'm getting to the part where you should care.

In two weeks, we in the United States will celebrate one of our high holidays. Yes, Superbowl Sunday is the day we pay tribute to the art of football. Soon thereafter, we will celebrate film with the Academy Awards. This is American culture, ladies and gentlemen! Sure there is more to us than big sweaty brutes flexing might and self-obsessed facsades of perfection hiding flaws immeasurable... wait...

Alright, so maybe we are imperfect, flawed giants. Maybe we are in denial and selfish. But, so are so many other cultures in one way or another! Some people kill failed soccer players and maime and kill bulls for sport in other countries! I'll be the last one to wallow in our American peccadillos and failures. What has always defined us as Americans has been our responses to our predicaments. I look to art as inspiration. For some reason at this juncture, they decided remake the movie "True Grit". At first glance, it would seem an uncreative shoot-em-up western flick with little artistic value. However, the film revisits a forgotten American value - true grit. My dictionary, printed in 1961, defines grit as "firmness; unyielding courage; stamina." True grit is something that made our country great, and has been too long out of fashion for too many. I have a feeling, like in the movie, it will be was saves us. Check it out.

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