Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Many of you may recall that I have sworn off Ramen for a few years now (although, I must confess that I fell off the rickshaw a few weeks ago, since there was some extra ramen laying around after we made an Asian cabbage salad). Well, hallelujah, my life may yet end with a heaping bowl of noodles to close out my winter days.
I read an article recently in The New Yorker about chef David Chang, who has successfully opened a number of eateries in New York, including the one showcased below, "Momofuku Noodle Bar." Be careful when you say that (by the way, "Momofuku" means lucky peach in I'm-not-sure-what language; it also happens to be the last name of the man who invented packaged ramen noodles, which again is like crack). You can discover more about Chang's restaurants by clicking here.
For a quick tour of the way ramen should be prepared and served, just click play.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Rex McDaniel was my pastoral mentor while I studied at Fuller Theological Seminary. He was profoundly distinct, complete with many habits that I loved and some I may never understand.
One of Rex's signature lines: life is "rich and thick." So, I was not surprised to find an email in my inbox this past Thursday carrying that same expression in the subject line.
The actual email did not seem thick and rich. Rex was writing to inform friends and family that his father died recently. He also was wrote hoping to share some of the thickness and richness he found in the thin and bare places of his father's passing.
Rex is a wonderful man, and I think you will see his depth and beauty by reading the reflection he wrote to digest the fragility and preciousness of life he has experienced lately.
One last thing ... he mentions in his reflection the song "The End of the Line" by the Traveling Wilbury's. I couldn't remember the tune by name, so I found the Wilbury's classic hits at the library. Then I listened to the song, and it came alive with a host of memories and seasons.
It's here for you as a Youtube video. Listen to it before you read Rex's thoughts. Then, after you're done reading, listen to it again.
Thanks, Rex for giving my own soul a tremendously needed resuscitation. You're thick and rich of soul.
I spent the last night of his life with my father in room 135 of Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California. He had a roommate, William, until about 8:00 pm but the hospital team knew we were there with Dad in final approach mode so they moved William next door. About 9:30 pm the last of the numerous loved ones who had been in the room over the previous thirty hours headed home and by 10:00 pm I, having changed into my jammies, had settled into that lean mean recliner you find in hospital rooms and docked it next to my father’s bed so that we could face other – our head and shoulders slightly raised - and hold left hands.
And then what bubbled up was the Traveling Wilbury’s – “it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line’”
For us, the end of the line was the ‘Golden Corral’. My father moved from Palm Desert California to Joplin Missouri two years ago. Fundamentally he made the move to live near his high school - turned late life - sweetheart, Mable. A cherished and nourishing (in the best sense) ritual of each week for Mable is meeting her sister and brother in law at the ‘Golden Corral’ for lunch. Although my father didn’t like going out to eat (he didn’t really like staying in to eat either – hence the nutrition issues that plagued his final year) Mable did lasso him in for these weekly luncheons. Happening to be there on a Tuesday during a visit last year I was invited and went along. Our party looked a little out of place at the Golden Corral whose typical patron has the fashion sense and the body type one would expect to find at an establishment that offers, for one low price - all the sugar, saturated fat and cholesterol you can hold. One of the last indicators that my Dad was in dialog with his surroundings was his comments about the size of the diners at the ‘Golden Corral’. Still, this weekly luncheon got him out of the house and he would always finish up the meal with one of his favorites - peach pie.
Two days after that meal I shared with the usual foursome at the “Corral”, a rainstorm blew threw Joplin and left a lovely crystal clear late afternoon. Straining to address our concern about his failure to exercise (a companion concern to the nutritional deficit) I coaxed Dad into a windbreaker and out into his neighborhood for a walk. We went around a few nearby blocks and then came to an intersection with a street that seemed to go slightly uphill for a long way with out obstruction. I asked, “Dad, do you think you could go further, maybe up this street?” “Sure” he said! So up we went for 8 or 10 blocks until it was clear that the street ended abruptly – a ‘dead end’. Just across the drainage ditch at the end of the street, cars flew by on the east/west interstate that skirts Joplin. On the far side of the interstate stood a billboard to lure east bound traffic into town for a meal at…..the ‘Golden Corral’. When I saw the ‘sign’ instantly I knew the message God had for me. You will walk with your father uphill, to the end of the road and just on the other side will be the feast at the ‘Golden Corral’. It deeply comforted and centered me. And so as we began his last night I said to whatever consciousness may have been beneath the morphine, “Seems like we may be headed for the Golden Corral. It will be a rich blessing to me if it turns out that way.”
Over the barely audible gasps he made for air twenty or thirty times a minute I sang ‘it’s all right’ and “Kyrie’ while I called to mind memories:
…of the night before my high school graduation when his patience with my college/vocational choices reached its breaking point and he declared a cut-off of support and a wish that I would instead be a trash man and at least earn my money.
…of the letter he sent me some 25 years later expressing doubt that he would ever have said such a thing and wondering, to the contrary, what could make him as a father happier than to know that I his son, loved my vocation.
…of the time he told me about the moment he first saw the Pacific Ocean in 1942 from the train taking him to Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego, as it chugged out of Capistrano Valley and turned south at what we now call Doheny State Beach.
…of the time he had me lead a peer, the son of one of his colleagues, on a hike up a mountain. Well into adulthood I realized this was a therapeutic intervention for all concerned. It was a way to demonstrate ability to find our way up and down a mountain, to complete a journey.
…of the hike with him up the mountain at the end of range that semi-circled his home in Palm Desert. He made this hike dozens of times, usually to reset the flag staff topped with a white rag which he planted in the rocks there and which could be seen from miles away and thousands feet below with binoculars from his backyard.
…of the way this connects my father with the iconic image from Iwo Jima and the dear men in the book Flags of Our Fathers and of my son’s pride in the fact that his grandfather had gone across the ocean in each of America’s mid century wars to fight in the Solomon Islands, Korea and finally Vietnam.
…of the damage he did for years using drink to try to fill in and cover up the deficits and disappointments in his life.
…of the startling vitality that remained when one day on his own, after several of the most approved interventions had failed, he simply quit using drink and somehow self exorcised the demons that had possessed him.
…of the last day on a hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back just short of his 80th birthday when in a more dramatic fashion he gasped for air and I feared with every step he might keel over on the trail or misstep and pitch over the edge onto rocks below.
…of a completely tame hike, a walk really 10 years ago or so through a nature park when we came upon a colony of ants working furiously to establish a new base. We knelt down to observe their frantic activity and noticed that hundreds of times the worker ants would rush up out of the ground, fly to an invisible circumference, turn abruptly and rush back. Having picked up enough trivia about insects to be really dumb, I speculated out loud that the workers were on a chemical leash…that some pheromone from the queen let them go only so far. Dad kept looking. “No” he said “they are carrying a grain of sand each. When they get to the divide where gravity will pull their grain outside the new home they immediately drop it and return for another.” I looked more carefully and sure enough he was right. I can wish it was forty years earlier, when I was eight rather than fifty. But that seems small when nothing can take away the moment on my knees in the sand with my Dad learning about ants.
…of a final test of wills just two weeks ago when I insisted that he return to Southern California to finish out his life.
I only let go of his hand for a moment at quarter hour intervals to push the button on the morphine pump. When our night began we were about thirty hours into a regime of palliative care. There were no monitors in the room and Elizabeth, our nurse left us alone all night. His hand remained warm and although the little breaths got hard to hear, whenever I would open my left eye I could see them continuing. Just before she went off shift at 7:00 am Elizabeth came in to change the saline bag on the IV pole. I called my wife, children and siblings to say there had been little change, that Dad was still with us.
So, I spent the last night of his life with my father in room 135, of Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California.
Just before noon, lunchtime, just when my sister on the other side of the bed had asked me what I loved about my work and I had turned away from him for a moment to conjure my answer, we finally arrived at the “Golden Corral.” He went on in. I trust he had a dessert plate heaped with peach pie.
Post Script: My sister and I met with the mortician later, at 3:00 pm. It was 4:30 pm and in the very bowels of the traffic when I got on the 5 freeway to come home. The random shuffle of the I-pod made the traffic more than bearable. The music and lyrics unleashed emotions, gratitude and tears. At about the time I should have been paying attention to exiting onto the Pasadena Freeway I was lost in Springsteen’s “The River”, the live version from the Springsteen Live 75-85 album. It is the one that begins with the long story about the conflict between Bruce and his father. I got lost in this and missed my exit. I drove on to the 2 North and got into another run of stop and go. But the I-pod kept playing and when I finally got on the 134 east with a just a couple of miles to go it served up in its ‘randomness’ ………………………the Traveling Wilburys – “it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line….maybe, somewhere down the road a ways, you’ll think of me and wonder where I am these days…..well it’s all right”
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
I can't remember what they called this thing, but it was wicked awesome. The hand-blown pieces were made in Seattle, and then they were inserted into a type of rebar to make this structure.