A Spiritual Moment with Hunter Pence

This past summer I had the fortunate opportunity to visit San Francisco on the occasion to sing the National Anthem with my brother Tim and Bob Weir at AT&T Park. Although this 48 hour trip from Lexington, KY to the Bay yielded many magical moments, one moment still sits strongly in the forefront of my mind.

After meeting and re-meeting many of the Giants players in the clubhouse, Tim and I got some quiet moments after workouts and batting practice to sit together in the dugout on a perfect summer day. My favorite baseball player Hunter Pence approached us. Now Tim is and always has been the spiritual guru for the baseball teams he’s worked with. Young men who are dealing with newfound wealth and celebrity seek my brother out for advice on how to deal with it. Hunter walked up to Tim to tell him about the books he’d been reading and a girl he just met. This true Giant was 18 inches from my face and began to tell the plot of an existential book he had just finished and how the lasting impression that stuck with him was, of all things, a feather. Then he began to talk about a girl he had just met that seemed different. I immediately knew what he meant because these young men are constantly surrounded by people that want something from them and many times have seemingly irrational demands made of them.

This girl just wanted to talk, and after a few minutes, he noticed that she had a feather on her necklace. 

I don’t know how this story ended, but it stuck with me for the sheer honesty and purity demonstrated by this amazing young man. He was looking for fatherly, spiritual understanding and validation from my big brother, who of course, listened and said something profound that I can’t remember.

To summarize, this Pence kid is the real deal inside and out. He may be America’s most eligible bachelor. That moment made him my favorite ballplayer. Humble, aware, conscientious, and searching. 

That was a great moment.

Hey Baseball, I’d like you to meet my friend Opera. Opera, this is my friend Baseball.

Do you ever have two people in your life who have never met, they come from two totally different worlds, but you know they’d hit it off? …they have so much in common but would have never met without your intervention?

Baseball and Opera are these two “people” in my life. They have so much in common, but couldn’t be farther apart. 

Both are a three to four hour diversion from my busy, anxious life. Both have heroes and villains that wear costumes, set on an elaborate stage. Both follow an old, strict, comforting format. Both take years of training, persistence, grit, and a bit of divine intervention to allow the performer to even set foot on the field. Both can be listened to, but the listening is a pale representation of actual attendance. Both existed before I was born and will thrive after my inevitable demise. Most importantly, both take me on a blissful journey and ennoble me. 

This is baseball and opera.

If you’re a baseball fan, please attend an opera. If you’re an opera fan, get out to the ballpark.

Tonight in Baseball

With the Giants down 0-2 to the Reds in the NLDS, I can’t help but think back to 1984 when the Padres made history by coming back 0-2 against the Cubs to beat them 3-2 and advance to the World Series. No one knows this better than my big brother Tim and Bruce, the manager of the Giants, because they created that history.
Baseball is a funny game and it holds secrets that I’ll never understand, kinda like the ocean. It allows us to sail on it without us ever really understanding it. I love the Giants, but I love the game more than the team.
I guess baseball reminds me of God. His timing seems inconceivable when it’s happening, yet as clear as glass after it happens.
People who have faith are magical! That’s who I want to be.
Go Giants!

Misunderstood

When the word “sushi” gets mentioned, most of the time it’s only a couple of seconds before misinformation begins to fill the air.  Admit it, the words, “I won’t eat raw fish” have passed your lips.  I may have even just paraphrased in a much more gentle and tolerant tone than your exclamation.  But “sushi” does not mean raw fish nor does it even imply raw fish.
Sushi, or more closely “zushi” as the Japanese pronounce it, means “sour” and the term implies short-grain, white rice, washed many times, mixed with vinegar, sugar, salt, and sometimes sake (Japanese rice wine).  Traditionally, the mixing is done with a hangiri, which is a round, flat-bottom wooden tub or barrel, and a wooden paddle

.

Now, as a dude who began eating sushi 28 years and eight months ago, this is very important to me, and a source of constant frustration.  In my experience Chinese cooks don’t seem to get it and it doesn’t matter to me what you put on top of the rice if the rice isn’t prepared right.  So when I hear that the sushi at the Asian Buffet isn’t very good or someone doesn’t like sushi because they tried it in Georgetown, I bristle.  Of course it’s not very good, it’s not sushi!
Real sushi made with loving care and tradition by a Japanese master is one of the most beautiful creations I have ever experienced.  Light, fluffy, slightly sticky, almost sweet yet almost sour, and a million miles away from that stuff at the Asian Buffet!  Now, where do we go from here?  It is served one of three main ways:

1.      Nigirizushi (握り寿司, literally hand-formed sushi) consists of an oblong mound of sushi rice that the chef presses into a small rectangular box between the palms of the hands, usually with a bit of wasabi (green horseradish paste), and a topping draped over it.

2.      Makizushi (巻寿司, literally rolled sushi) is a cylindrical piece, formed with the help of a bamboo mat, called a makisu.  Makizushi is generally wrapped in nori (seaweed paper).

 

3.      Temaki (手巻, literally hand rolls) is a large cone-shaped piece of nori on the outside and the ingredients spilling out the wide end. A typical temaki is about ten centimeters (4 in) long, and is eaten with fingers because it is too awkward to pick it up with chopsticks.

(None of the photographed examples contain raw fish.)

     I wish I could go into more depth because the world of sushi is a truly beautiful one, but I’m blogging here, not writing an article for the New Yorker.  I urge you to find an authentic Japanese restaurant and try some sushi.  Call first to make sure they’re really Japanese.  Two fine establishments in Lexington are Sugano and Tachibana.  Go for it!  It’s extremely healthy!   As my big brother Tim says, “Pay the sushi chef today, or pay the doctor tomorrow!”
Flan        

Who Do You Judge?

I was reading in the Gospel of John chapter 8, and the first 11 verses are about Jesus and the adulteress about to be publicly stoned by a self-righteous mob.  Here, read it for yourself:

 

1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

 

The more I meditate on these words, I hear Jesus saying directly to me, “Don’t judge someone just because they sin differently than YOU!”

 

Great advice from the Master to all of us.

 

Lexington

Lexington

Image

You can have a clean slate if you want it,

Let’s re-invent ourselves together.

This is the time for new beginnings,

Together we’ll make the rarest days.

I saw what you were doing last Friday night,

And I must say you were looking beautiful,

Classy yet still modestly breasting your cards.

I want to scream at you,

“Reveal yourself”, but so mature,

You don’t need to come in first place.

Teach me to be patient, to listen,

Teach me to shine from the inside out!

Teach me to gallop through the wind,

To stand in the sun unflinching.

I’ll listen to what you know,

As you let me lead this dance.

Taco Trucks

Taco trucks have been on my mind a lot lately.  Perhaps because of the weather, it’s been typical August weather, hot.  Around 10:30 pm it starts to get really nice and I like to be outside.  And although I love to cook, the kitchen gets so hot from the stove and oven.  I prefer to nibble from the fridge throughout the day but later in the evening I can develop a pretty serious appetite.  Also this weather brings back so many wonderful memories of being with friends crowded around a taco truck.

     A while back I listened to a podcast in which Sergio Jimenez, the chef/owner of four taco trucks was interviewed.  He spoke about his philosophy and passion for what he was doing.  He talked about waking up at the crack of dawn, chopping onions, radishes, and cilantro, slicing limes, and cooking various meats that would be served in little corn tortillas.

     He set out each morning to make a difference.  He said he didn’t compete with other taco trucks but only with himself to make a superior product, better than he had the day before.  “I try to pour my soul into my food.  So that the customer, who may be having an average day, is changed by the experience of coming across something truly wonderful.”

I first experienced the taco truck in 1978.  On a summer night in Placentia, California my friends and I came up to a vacant lot at around 11:00 pm.  There was a taco truck with about 25 people standing around feasting.  This is what was available to eat:

     The tacos were small, inexpensive, and delicious.  The taco truck became one of the coolest institutions in my life.  It was there every Friday and Saturday night offering hope and perfection.

As a teacher I am confronted with so many bored and confused people.  Kids and parents both that have been beaten up with negative media stories, news about the recession, and the force-fed lies that Rhianna and Lady Gaga are good music.  Please!

I want to be the taco truck in people’s lives.  Consistent, accommodating, giving symbols of hope, and something to which to look forward .  In fact I might just fly out to Los Angeles, buy a taco truck and drive it to Lexington.  On summer nights I’d be parked at the different places Downtown, tweeting my next secret location to hungry followers, and serving up delicious little corn tortillas filled with promises of abundant life!