Monday, November 30, 2009

Tulsa for Turkey

There was a time in my life that I believed that Thanksgiving was not a holiday but rather a place where one went, ate too much and pretended to play football like the pros (until someone got hurt). This was a great time filled with family memories, inside jokes and lots of food. And then turkey sandwiches for a snack after football.

But this rosy picture of familial harmony has long since disappeared and Thanksgiving is no longer that place of over eating, laughs and all-but-assured back injury. But over the past three years Thanksgiving has once again become a place for me and that place is Tulsa.

Getting married comes with lots of bonuses, like sharing the holiday visiting schedule. In our arrangement, my family is visited during Passover and my lovely wife’s family is visited on Thanksgiving. This set up has worked for the past few years and looks like it will hold true for many more to come.

While we don’t play football, nor do I know all of inside jokes, for the most part the overeating is a constant.

In previous trips to Tulsa I went to a Monster Truck Rally and got married. But this time the only reason to be in the fine state of Oklahoma was for Turkey, and celebrating our freedom and the historic oppression of Native Americans (which is pretty funny considering the location).

But in all seriousness, this day of copious consumption is not complete without pie. Many people will disagree with me on this point, saying that turkey is the most important or perhaps stuffing or even the sweet potatoes with marshmallows (which is often referred to as pie but not the kind I am talking about here).

Yet they are wrong.

Thanksgiving is always in need of pie. See even Saint Tigerlilly agrees with me. Pie is key.

We meet up with one of the seven of you who read this thing because his family also lives in Tulsa. After attempting to sit and talk at three different bars and the one we found forced us our through audio based torture, we headed over to what can only be described as a Midwestern Mecca of pie. For those of you familiar with Davis, it was Tulsa’s take on Baker’s Square (In fact it is owned by American Blue Ribbon Holdings which also owns Baker’s Square.) The Village Inn on Harvard in “midtown” Tulsa served me my first pie of this Thanksgiving season.

It was not even close to traditional but this cacophony of sugar, chocolate and peanut butter spoke to my soul and fulfilled my need for crusty goodness. I could eat another piece of that Peanut Butter Cup Pie right this second if only there was a place like the Village Inn here in New York City, but alas I will have to wait until next year.

I missed out on the pecan pie until Saturday night while doing some leftover eating and college football watching. This pie from some local bakery was so damn good. The custard was perfect, extremely sweet but not to the point it hurts your teeth and the crust was flaky but still moist. The pecans were also good but really we know this pie is all about the goop of nutty custard and that was stellar.

See while my pie consumption was not over the top, the rest of my holiday eating was up to par with American standards. I ate so much on Thanksgiving that I had to walk around the block three times. Thus I was unable to enjoy the desserts on that night, but I made up for it. The trip to the Village Inn accompanied by a slice of pecan pie fulfilled my holiday obligation of confectionary thanks giving.

I am going to make a pie this weekend in honor of the wonderful pies I had when I went to that place called Thanksgiving. Until then my pie eating friends, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

First Published on Jewcy: DC Catholics Screw Poor Because of Gay Marriage

First Published on Jewcy

"The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care." - The Washington Post

The Catholic Church does not want to be forced to give benefits to gay people, so they are offering an ultimatum: See the world our way, or else we will abandon our city contracts and the most vulnerable members of society.

I am not Catholic, poor, in need of adoption or health care. I don't live in D.C.; I am straight and married. But I am so disappointed in the Archdiocese, sorry for the millions of people who rely on their services and furious on behalf City Council officials who are now forced to choose whether to support equality or support those in need.

This is anti-religious and an affront to people of conscience everywhere.

As a Reform Jew committed to the concept that all people are created B'tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, I do not agree with the Church's position on marriage equality but I understand it. But this ultimatum, this repulsive rejection of its mission of serving those most in need is something I cannot understand or ever respect. I cannot believe the Archdioceses would actually ignore its chosen obligation to serve the poor in favor of hate. The Catholic Church's power should not be leveraged in this way; it is almost Roman in approach.

I just don't understand why you can't be completely against civil marriage equality and maintain city contracts to serve the poor. It is not like they don't serve LGBT members of the community already. Of the thousands of people who work for the Archdioceses there are bound to be a few gay or lesbian social workers, a bisexual or transgender cook in a soup kitchen. It isn't impossible to believe a gay homeless man sleeps in a Catholic shelter when the temperatures drop.

People of conscience must speak up against this horrific abuse of power. It is shameful that religious people who believe one way will allow their beliefs to deny vulnerable children, sick families and mentally ill individuals the services that are also integral aspects of their religious belief system.

I, for one, am totally revolted by this power play.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dr. Ruth Sits with Sean Thibault


So my friend Sean wins the line of the year award which can be heard in this video:

"Jewish sex is my preference over non-Jewish sex."

Detention isn’t good enough?

After growing up a bit and learning that while fun it is a waste of food (and there are starving children around the world and in our backyard) I have come to see a food fight as a bad thing. But it isn’t a criminal act.

Except on the South Side of Chicago.

The New York Times reported that after an epic food fight that would have gone down in the bff notes of yearbooks around Calumet middle-school as “the food fight of 2009” resulted in 25 arrests of children between the ages of 11 to 15.

I suggest reading the article. Done? Great welcome back.

Now I thought the arrests were because the apples were really hard and people were getting hurt, possibly an orange had exploded and got into the eyes of another student or staff member. Nope. This was because the school police and teachers could not get it under control and called for back-up.

I am not from Chicago, nor do I live there but I can’t imagine that the kids in the Windy City are all that different from students in other big cities. The teachers couldn’t stop a food fight so they called back-up. Then the campus police (those are real cops) couldn’t stop it so they called more cops…unreal.

School, while no place for violence, is a place of learning and safe experimentation. What the hell are these kids going to learn about authority if they are arrested for a food fight? Are we going send a kid to the pokey for drawing on his desk or for not keeping the locker room clean? This is just such an unbearable over reaction that will only serve to screw up the kids. We had our fair share of suspensions and expulsions at my middle-school but I believe the only arrest was for a gang banger who was collared for possession with intent. (He had intent too.)

Officials at this school need to take responsibility and stand before that judge and respectfully ask for the charges to be dismissed. This all took place at one of those highly regarded Charter School too, so much for a better education via diverting state money to private institutions.

Kids will do what they can get away with. Adults are supposed to show restraint, not abuse their power and set a meaningful example. Great job Calumet middle-school setting the bar so high.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Small Town Charm

After more than five years of active resistance I raise my white flag and say out loud (or at least online) that I like country music. Rascal Flats, Little Big Town, Keith Urban, Josh Gracin, Sugarland, Lady Antebellum and the rest of those gracing the screen on GMC and CMT. It is catchy, it is relaxing and it is fun to sing along with the stars of Nashville. It is also so unbelievably condescending to my and a majority of Americans’ life-style.

My favorite song is “Boondocks” by Little Big Town. As you can imagine, the song glorifies the benefits of growing up in a small town. I really love this song. I challenge anyone to not want to sing along after hearing it a few times. But the glorification of the “simple” life in small town America is fantasy.

Most people in this country live either in cities or suburbs. And for good reason: a vast majority of the wealth, culture, medical services, transportation and country music is found in and around these population centers.

Granted New York City isn’t for everyone but the glorification of New York via song always has the “it is nasty but it is home to me” mentality that is so clearly missing from the Boondocks and other “small town is better” country songs.

A few weeks back 30 Rock traveled south to find “real American” comics. But to Jack Donaghy’s eternal dismay, small town simple folk suck just as much as big city slickers. Ah the truth through popular culture.

But more than the primetime parable from NBC’s critically acclaimed and viewed only by New Yorkers show, small towns have nothing to offer besides being the subject of country songs and escape plans in high school movie classics.

Nothing is instilled by a small town. There is nothing in the water in these places (well sometimes there is mercury).

The Conservative Revolution that has taken place in our society over the past 25 years has created a false sense of safety that “traditional small town values” complete with 1950s style gender roles, an omnipotent Church and a small, feeble government will protect the true American way of life.

Wow is that stupid.

What makes America strong is the commitment to progress. Going backward -- which is what these small town activists want -- does nothing to help support the American Dream. American character is instilled by caring families, dedicated teachers, strong relationships with friends and in many cases meaningful religious experiences.

These things aren’t found only in small town America. These experiences are fostered by individuals and communities dedicated to the preservation of progress and betterment. The American Dream is no longer about white picket fences but making the world a better place for our children so they in turn can do the same for their kids.

So really this isn’t an indictment of country music, just the fantasies some of its most noted artists continue to propagate. Yet some of the other themes present in the best country music also support the above described American character building exercise.

Sugarland’sBaby Girl” kind of hits it perfectly (and it is almost as catchy as “Boondocks”). Singing to her mom and dad, Jennifer Nettles belts out:
Whaddya know, we made our dreams come true.
And there are fancy cars and diamond rings,
But you know that they don't mean a thing.
They all add up to nothin' compared to you.
Well, remember me in ribbons an' curls.
I still love you more than anything in the world...
Your baby girl.

Her parents’ support and love helped her become a star. Not the small town or the city life or anything else. It was dedicated parents who can live in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Marlin, TX, Adams, TN or Bayboro, NC. The support of her family, friends and teachers is what made her great (oh and a good singing voice…).