Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Holidays 2010 !

Greetings from Redmond, WA, and a heartfelt Happy Holidays from Sidd, Paul, Molly and myself. We pray this note finds you safe, sound, healthy and happy.


I am always in awe of and humbled by the hundreds of layers of blessings surrounding us. It is life’s version of Teflon coating. As example, waking up in one’s own apartment, condo or home is an obvious and wonderful one. No longer is this an assumed outcome in the US; just between July - September, 930,000 homeowners lost their homes – that is around 4 million whose lives are derailed in this Holiday Season. The fact I am say my prayers from inside a house is the 1st blessing of each day.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Four Year Rule

When I was in my mid 20s I noticed I was suddenly interacting much more with my sister Cindy who is 6 years younger, but it was unclear as to why.  Did she suddenly become smarter or was there more to it?  After a lot of thought, I arrived at the “4 year rule” – that every 4 years our personas go thru a metamorphosis. As example, 3 and 7 year olds have nothing in common, nor 7 vs. 11, 11 vs. 15, even 15 vs. 19. The pace of personal development is so earth-shattering frankly. But then we get to our 20s and the pace eases up, a lot. Hence why I only discovered my sisters so late. 

The implication is that an age gap of greater than 4 years means you will not materially “share the ride” with your older or younger sibling.  Each child has what is essentially an “only child” and “oldest child” experience, working from zero insitutionalized knowledge regarding what to expect.

Now when I see young parents with say, a 2 year old, I wonder if they have in mind to have another baby, and if so, when.  Wait too long, and the younger one will only have an older sibling they know of, rather then know innately.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Diamonds in the Rough

It was bed time but Paul had one of those reflective questions, “Dad, why do we do so many things?”

I figured I knew what Paul was referring to, but played dumb. Like what?

“Well, we have to read, and play piano, and kick the soccer ball and other things. I don’t think we get enough time to relax, and you know, goof around like boys do” Once again his 8 year old introspective side had kicked in. Sidd concurred with ruffled eyebrows.


I left them, got Molly’s wedding ring, ran outside, got a rock, and came back. They love superlatives currently so I asked, Do you know what is the hardest rock in the world? It’s the diamond, like in mommy’s ring. See how shiny it is?

What followed was a fierce, concentrated inspection; one that only a youngster can do.

Did you know that a diamond starts out as dull as this rock? But if you rub it and polish it over and over, boy, after doing this for a long time, it starts to shine. Then we give it edges so it captures the light and throws it back at you with all those sparkles.

Sometimes people call an unpolished diamond a “diamond in the rough”. That is what you 2 are – our diamonds in the rough. And all that math, and music, and soccer and other things are polishing you into these amazing boys. We need to make it fun along the way and if it isn’t you tell me.

Paul looked off into he distance as he digested this analogy. “I think I get it now, Dad,” He clambered into bed; it was a start at outlining why he was in the various things he is. But there would be more to discuss, undoubtedly.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hand of God – Guiding My Detroit Rolling Iron

I can look back and see explicit examples where nothing other than the hand of God ensured my well being.  Here’s one.

I had just finished grad school and had capped off my college days with a late night at the Chicago Blues Festival with my good friend Gunter Frank, who was a med student on a visiting rotation from Heidelberg.  I absolutely needed to drive the 350 miles down to Southern Illinois in the morning, as the next day I had a flight out of St. Louis to Hong Kong and then India for 3 months of vacation.  So on less than 5 hours of sleep, I happily loaded my capacious 1978 Olds 98 with my most precious grad student belongings and sundries, (photos, camera, stereo, albums, clothes) and an antique full-sized bed frame and headboard (that literally fit in the back seat, such was the volume of this ship I drove).  I then pointed pointed my Detroit rolling iron homeward down Interstate 57.  In front of me, both good and bad, was flat, boring, straight lengths of highway.

100 miles into the trip, I could feel the waves of sleep suddenly coming on.  My friends used to call me “narc” as we all thought I had some manner of narcolepsy, so quickly could I fall asleep.  (In truth, it was probably a simple case of sleep deprivation.)  The next exit was about 10 miles away where a coffee would “fix” this issue with a vengeance.  Time for some defensive maneuvers: dial up the radio; light up the rare cigarette; partially roll down the windows on the right so that a cool wind hits the back of my head.  I continued to barrel along at 75 miles an hour, familiar with the conflict underway.

But I lost this one.

As I approached the intersection in mind, I slipped off to sleep.  The car, being essentially a living room on wheels, ever so slowly drifted to the right and into what should have been the shoulder of the highway.  But that very exit I was looking for was upon me.  So the car was lined up with the now widening road.  I awoke just as the exit rose upward, and curved dramatically rightward.  Now things got surreal.  The car shot off the road, down a long embankment, and like a curling rock, slowly rotated right ward in the soft muddy dirt below  The tall wild grass was madly slapping the window to my left as the 98 slid sideways.  I was creating a 25 foot wide swath in the foliage.  Inside the car, I witnessed a slow swirl of clothes, record albums, photos, books.  My material life was being stirred like a martini.

As quickly as this all started it was over.  Silence in the car. A quiet rustling of the wild grass.  The hiss of cars zipping by on the highway.  I had narrowly and completed averted a catastrophe.  To my left was the overpass for this exit – with unforgiving concrete walls and pillars that had been avoided.  In front of me, literally 200 feet away, a diner with a large “Fresh Coffee” sign.  I sheepishly walked trudged thru the soft mud from a recent rain and into the diner.

“Uh, can you get me a tow truck?”  Your car break down or run out of gas?  “Well no, i just drove it into that field by your exit ramp,” I said, feeling phenomenally idiotic.  A friend of the guy behind the counter leaned forward, You fall asleep?  The guy behind the counter jumped in, Don’t ask that! Why are you pokin’ around for?  With a big grin, the buddy said, Shit I did that last year, just wanted to know.

The rest of the journey was uneventful.  I caught my flight from St. Louis to Asia the next day.  But only due to the divine providence that helped keep me in this current life.  Hard to believe my good fortunes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Polishing Diamonds: Never Order From the Kid’s Menu

How often have you seen the following:  You are at a capable restaurant, with a menu renowned far and wide.  But you notice the younger ones at the party next to you are eating chicken nuggets.  From the kitchen freezer! Prepared in a microwave!  Not the salmon cooked to a delectable nuance.  Nor beef from some remote grassy pasture, or mushrooms good enough for a sitting president.

Funny part is that we are at our most malleable when we are young.  Yet we all too often pass on the chance to create a transcontinental palette in our children due to some queasy look they had at some misty point in the past.  Rather than keeping a firm hand on the tiller, we retreat for frozen lunch food.  Had Tiger Woods dad asked Tiger at the age of 2 what he thought of golf (remarkably, Earl started Tiger down this avenue before Tiger was two) the mystified look of the baby would have killed the whole venture before it has started.

So nudge them into the culinary unknown. Talk of what they will see in Kyoto and have them try Tempura.  Discuss Gaudi’s grand architecture and order up the Tortilla Espanola.  Before you know it, they will be perusing the menu, calling out combinations they like and what to try next.  And you will have broadened their world well before their first excursion across the ocean

Saturday, February 13, 2010

One of Joni Mitchell’s Finest

Watching the 2010 Winter Olympics stirred up a few tangential memories…

When I as in the 8th grade my parents sent me to the “International Music Camp” at International Falls, MN.  I asked them to sign me up for the guitar sessions as I had been taking classical guitar for years. 

Those next 2 weeks were remarkable and unexpected in two ways. 

Remember I was a boy growing up in a Mennonite prairie town: truly pure, straightforward; no school dances; no liquor store.  No one was dating someone else in the 8th grade, unlike today.  My friendships we akin to those in Stephen King’s breathtaking novel Stand By Me.  Clean sublime experiences, not exposed yet to so many of life’s ways.

The camp held 2 surprises.  The 1st: my first crush, to another camper, Brenda Bonogofsky from Carson, North Dakota, and this on its own was enough to make an indelible mark upon me.  I mean, that’s what such initial experiences do, no?  (That is a story for another day.)

The 2nd surprise was discovering such greats as Joni Mitchell, to whom I was introduced thru the pot smoking, laid back but hard rocking teachers of our guitar session.  Classical guitar, this was NOT.  And to my delight.   Boy was I glad my dad didn’t know what he was signing me up for!

I learned that guitars were like fine wines, such as the 12 string Ovation one classmate carried.  We journeyed thru the lyrics of such American poets as Neil Young, Crosby / Stills / Nash, and Joni.   The words were like nothing I had come across before and it’s taken years for their meaning to come into view, starting with long meandering discussions with the instructors, with classmates and Brenda.

Here’s one I just heard at the Olympics’ opening ceremony that I always loved, by the inimitable Ms. Mitchell (video below too):

Both Sides Now
(Joni Mitchell)

Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons ev'rywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on ev'ryone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As ev'ry fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living ev'ry day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all
I've looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

Thank you, Joni, my goodness, what words these are.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A Happy Holidays 2009

Happy Holidays from Sidd, Paul, Molly and myself!

This note comes to you from the lush, coastal, southwestern state of Kerala in India, where we have the good fortune of visiting with family and friends on our first long vacation since 2005. I took this shot as we rode an auto-ricksha back to Molly’s Uncle Immanuel’s place. I LOVE autorickshas: on the one hand their itty bitty 2 cycle engines create a disastrous amount of pollution; on the other other hand, you smell, hear, taste, feel and see your excursions in relative comfort like no other vehicle I know of ; and a good driver will patiently snake thru the most remarkably congested traffic - - “seeing” openings created by the moving geometry of buses, cars, lorries, and motorcycles. More abstractly, this particular scene made me think of how we hurtle thru time and life with friends and family in some manner of capsule - - that is, nested in the trappings of our belongings, with our talents, time and more intangible treasures.


The Journey Forward into 2010, Copyright 2009, Abe Pachikara