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What Do You Believe In?

The keynote speaker at a recent conference I attended was Adam L. Saenz, a compelling speaker and author of The Power of a Teacher: Restoring Hope and Well-Being to Change Lives. At one point, the climax of the speech, he told a story about a talk he once had with his newly-adopted daughter and how her job was to follow the rules he set down.
He then asked her what she thought his job was. She said, “To make sure I follow the rules.”
He replied, “No, my darling girl, my job is to lay down my life for you.”
He went on to tell her all the things he believed in about parenting, and it was a heartwarming list indeed.
That discussion got me to thinking about what I believe in. And that thinking got me to writing this post.

I believe in…

  • Love
  • Competence
  • Fairness in all things
  • The healing power of a hug
  • God, but not religion
  • Science and its unanswered questions
  • Traditional medicine
  • The fight against prejudice
  • Teachers who always seek learning
  • Reading what and who you want to read
  • Google over Apple, Chevy over Ford, and gin over vodka
  • Comfort over style
  • Function over form
  • Learning from history
  • Evolution
  • Revolution
  • Absolution
  • Right against might, and
  • The power of words
What about you? What do you believe in?

What Would Your Last Meal Be?

Photographer Henry Hargreaves recently put together a series of photos of last meals by famous and infamous murderers, and it got me thinking.

If I knew what day I was going to die, what would I want for my last meal?

Because I’m not in prison, and because I’m assuming that I won’t be in prison on that day, I’ve put this meal together with the understanding that I could have any part of the meal come from any kitchen or restaurant anywhere in the world. That’s fair, right?

That said, here’s what I would want:

Mount Vesuvius from the middle of the
Cantina del Vesuvio Winery
  • Sliced turkey, gravy, and stuffing from my wife’s transcendent Thanksgiving Day dinner
  • Black tea-glazed spare ribs and the truffle and smoke potato chips from Honey, a marvelous restaurant in Doylestown
  • Side of Setaro spaghetti and homemade spaghetti sauce, with a glass of Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio wine, all from the Cantina del Vesuvio Winery at the base of Mount Vesuvius
  • Slice of my wife’s magnificent apple pie for dessert, warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream from oWowcow Creamery

And I would have this all, if I could, at a table on a stunning Sacramento patio with my wife, children, grandchild(ren), and our dear friends, Greg and Robert, if they would have us. Then I could die a happy — and satisfied — man.

So, what would your last meal be?

Old Farts Farting

Would you please tell me what the dinky heck is with all the farting after 60?

I’ve always farted, and so have you. We all fart.

But since I turned 60, man, the farts just come out no matter what. I used to be able to pretty much control them, to hold them back and then let loose when the time and place was more amenable to such activities.

But now, it’s like if I even think about farting, bbbbwwwaaaappp!

And the walking farts. Seriously? I’ve blown over parking meters, which is fine because I don’t like them anyway, but still.

I can feel a fart coming on as I’m nearing a door to the outside, and I can almost make it. Almost. But nope, just as the door is swinging shut, just as I’m about to escape without being heard, out it comes — blloommfft — leaving a 37-foot stank trail and people inside wondering whether I might need new pants.

It’s just abominable.

Then again, I’m “old.” I fart. So what?

Now, that’s what aging’s all about, baby!

My Proustian Questionnaire

If ever I was on The Actor’s Studio, here’s how I might answer Mr. Lipton’s questions. Based, as he says, on Bernard Pivot‘s version of Marcel Proust’s questionnaire.

What is your favorite word?


What is your least favorite word?

The N word. I hate even to say “the N word.”

What turns you on?


What turns you off?


What sound do you love?

The sound my wife makes when we hug after an argument

What sound do you hate?

My daughter crying

What is your favorite curse word?

What the fucking fuck.

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?


What profession would you not like to do?

Pediatric nurse

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

“Care for a ceegar?”

Jefferson’s Memorial Set Apart for Good Reason

The Jefferson Memorial stands in quiet grandeur on the south side of the Tidal Basin, well away from Lincoln’s and Washington’s memorials.

That distance, 0.896 miles from Jefferson to Lincoln and 0.563 miles from Jefferson to Washington, seems more than appropriate given Jefferson’s complex and exceedingly frustrating personality.

The more I read about this particular president, the more I dislike him and the less I respect him. That goes against the common wisdom, I know, but he was really quite an unusual character. It seems that for every brilliant thing he did, he also did something despicable.

He was the individual’s shining light, putting forth views on freedom that guide the nation to this day. He also was a snobbish slave owner who had the clear opportunity to free not only his dutiful mistress, Sally Hemings, but also her brother, James, when they were with Jefferson in Paris. But he didn’t. His massive ego and clearly conflicted feelings about slavery prevented that most humane of actions.

He was an innovative farmer who helped bring crop rotation and other modern agricultural techniques to our early agrarian society. He also forced his slaves to gouge out of the Monticello hillside, shovel by shovel, a 1,000-foot terraced garden so he could play in the dirt. Yes, his garden provided his slaves with fruits and vegetables, but each slave’s allotment was meager and insufficient to survive on by itself.

He was a brilliant writer, a genuine statesman, and a visionary of the first order. But he was also a pompous egoist and a calculating and sometimes deceitful politician. If he liked you he was magnanimous in his philanthropy, but heaven help you if he didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Jefferson did tremendous things for the country, but I think they all came at a price to history. He had not the perseverance of Lincoln, nor the unfettered vision of Washington. He was, and remains, a conundrum, a commingling of contradictions that either he never saw or saw but refused to acknowledge and that historians of all kinds continue to grapple with.

Give me the lifelong devotion to equality of a Lincoln over that of a Jefferson. Give me the honesty and dedication of a Washington over that of a Jefferson. Give me even the clarity of a John Adams — stubborn grouch that he was — over that of a Jefferson, I’d much prefer it.

So yes, the placement of the Jefferson Memorial, for all its beauty, seems to me rather perfect.

Lucky Man

I’m a lucky man. A lucky, lucky man.

I discovered history before it was too late.

When I was younger — much, much younger — I hated history. Hated it. Thought that history was just a bunch of old guys who didn’t know any better and that we people of the now are just so much more knowledgable.

What a duh I was.

I’ve since learned that history is made by people exactly like us.

I read John Lewis’s Wallking with the Wind, and I loved it. It moved me terribly. I fell completely in love with David McCullough’s Truman. Also his The Great Bridge.

People like David McCullough, Ron Chernow, and Annette Gordon-Reed bring those old folks to life, and in doing so you realize that they were like us, that we deal today with the same kinds of problems we’ve always dealt with and that our leaders have the same strengths and weaknesses as did Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and the rest of our founding fathers.

And when you realize that, these old folks become alive and become your friends.
I’m so terribly glad I “discovered” history. I hope one day everyone does.