Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Friday, June 29, 2012


My Hoover Dam was published accidentally. I'm not done editing it or putting up photos yet, nor have I published yet the bookending posts that come before and after it. Stay tuned until I have a chance to do that please...

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hoover Dam

On Tuesday morning we packed up our things at the Boulder City Historic hotel and headed for Hoover Dam. We got there at 8, hoping to beat the crowds and heat. We were right about the first but couldn't escape the second. When we had been at the Grand Canyon the day before, something about the heat had felt quite manageable. The dryness even seemed to have healing properties. Not so at Hoover Dam. Maybe it was the prevalence of concrete over desert sand. Before we even walked over from parking lot 10 to the visitor center we were already too hot to stand out of the shade for more than a moment. Thankfully, the place to wait for tours was below the main level and we could wait in relative shade for the place to open at 9.

There are two dam options. (And yes, people make a lot of "dam" jokes. "Do you want me to take this dam picture or not?" "You guys have any dam questions?" and the like. I suppose it gets old after the first day working there but they did a good job of pretending to still enjoy it.) So one of the dam tour options is to.. well, I don't quite know what all of the options are. I guess they all get to see the generators and the 10 minute film about how terrific the dam is. But we took the fancier tour, the one not recommended for people with claustrophobia. I braved it because I'm not so much claustrophobic as afraid of being closed into a room I can't get out of. That's different than being in a tunnel. We got to go inside the wall of the dam, down an inspection tunnel that could see right out, over to the "Stairway to Heaven" which is a frighteningly tall and tight ladder to be used in the event the elevators don't work and so on. I enjoyed it.

What to make of the Hoover Dam... my first impressions were that if you have to change nature so that you can create a city in the middle of the ridiculously inhospitable desert like Las Vegas and supply its water and power needs, then you maybe should reconsider the project of building the city in the first place. But I also understand that hoover Dam primarily prevents flood waters from destroying much of Southern California, and apparently provides irrigation to farms that supply most lettuce crops in the U.S. Still, I wonder if there isn't a better way for people to decide where and how to leave rather than "harnessing the power of nature" as the dam so proudly says it does.

But the part that I found fascinating about the dam is the history of how the project helped people find work in the midst of the Depression. Even more interesting is that Boulder City was created solely to house the families that build the dam. I'm really affected by a particular photo I saw of a woman and her two children standing, covered in dirt, outside their tent that was one of the first that led to the City's creation. (I can't find that particular photo online, but I did find some others at this link.) Thinking of her bearing that intense heat and discomfort so her husband could work on a dangerous and backbreaking job. This just so they could eat. And now I sit blogging this a 45 minute drive and almost a century's time away while sitting in a James Bond style hotel room within the greatest excesses of money, sex and use of water and electricity, in glorious Las Vegas.

What a horrifyingly strange world this is.

I can't change any of this. So I'm going to go take a shower and get ready to go swimming with the cousins and grandparents now.

P.S. At least there is this... I'm so disturbed by the men who hand out little cards of naked women that are available for rent. For the next one that approaches me, I  have written a card to hand him in return...

Grand Canyon West

A very big thank you today to Saba and Savta who are watching ND in Las Vegas while U and I have adventures. Last night and tonight we are staying in historic Boulder City which was formed as a place to live for those who created Hoover Dam (tomorrow's destination). We are staying at the historic hotel where, I just learned, Howard Hughes, Bette Davis and Will Rogers (among others) have stayed.

Today we drove to Grand Canyon West. It's about 2 hours away for here by car and is all part of Hualapai Tribe land. To help out their tribe financially they had made it into a tourist spot. You drive up and then pay admission to view several points of the Grand Canyon. The drive there was long and beautiful, all desert. I learned for the first time what a Joshua tree is:

We saw quails, a road runner, a lizard, a few bulls and some birds I couldn't identify along the drive. We also saw some very odd birds that turned about pretty quickly to be helicopters. The first stop on the Silver Legacytour that we purchased was the famous Skywalk. I thought I'd be afraid to walk out on the glass suspended so high above the canyon, but I wasn't. In fact as I walked out I just found myself completely emotional at my first view of the Canyon. Meanwhile Hualapai photographers were coming along the walk taking pictures that you could of course purchase for $30 afterwards. It reminded me of my experience last summer in Tracy Arm Fjord in Alaska. There, too, I stood in quiet awe of the immense natrural beauty surrounding me, and then was amused to see the cruise line workers trying so hard to earn extra cash selling Irish coffee.

The skywalk itself, U and I agree was not so terribly impressive. Opting out to buy the photo they took of me, we instead went to the edge of the canyon and did our own photos along with everyone else. I enjoyed trying to get good shots of "Eagle Point" named by the rock formation in the background, not for Eagles landing there.

 Then we got on the bus and headed for Guano point. This was mentioned in the Grand Canyon West brochure as if an after thought, but what an afterthought it was! We were able to climb pretty easily up the giant red mountain of rocks and stand at this wonderfully high point with the Canyonu tterly surrounding us. I want to remember a particular moment. We were climbing the rocks to the highest spot on Guano Point and a crow flew over our heads. I saw it catching the wind and floating upwards on a draft. It's shadow rode up on the rocks beside me and I caught the view behind of the canyon. By the time we'd finished there we were hot and very very tired.

 In the interest of accuracy, I'll add that we decided to go on to the Hualapai ranch too, after all that, but only because I worried we'd miss something if we didn't. Had we not gone, all we would have missed was a fake western town with some toothless guys shooting very loud cap guns. We bought ice cream and left as quickly as possible. 

It was a very long drive back at the end of which we collapsed.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Where The Hell Is Matt? revisited

I first saw it in 2006... the cute little Where The Hell Is Matt? video that made me want to travel the world and (made me proud that he was from the Pacific Northwest).

Now there's the 2012 version.  This video so profoundly moves me. Added to the beauty of seeing the world and the fun of dancing is the synchronocity of large groups of strangers and the realization of just where these people are. The clip from Syria with women whose faces had to be censored out of the video as they dance in secret, of places like New Orleans and Port-Au-Prince that have suffered from natural disasters, and places whose like Belgrade and Iraq whose names I associate with war instead of music.

So inspiring. And fun.

Thanks, Matt.


Thursday, June 21, 2012


While it's true I don't actually know what goes on in the lives of my friends and coworkers, it certainly appears as if most people are not able to find time for themselves, and certainly not to enjoy nature or morning or exercise in the ways that I find so important in my life.

But when I do go for a walk before 6 AM and see a person here and there, out with the same intention as me, I feel I have an alternative community. When we smile and say, "good morning" I know we are both thinking that we share a special knowledge that is unique and dear. These total strangers are my friends and help me continue to do what I know is best for myself.


Friday, June 15, 2012


When I was in elementary school I remember driving back for several hours from a week away at a camp with my classmates, probably in Eastern Oregon. I don't know who was driving the car, but I do remember singing really loud and getting my friends to sing too. "Stop! In the name of_____" and instead of love we would insert anything we felt like -- popcorn, stop sign, Honda. We did this for a very very very long time.

Today was ND's last day of school. She was very excited and managed to sing "Dovid Melekh Yisroel" at the top of her lungs from the moment we left our driveway at 7:30 to the time we arrived in the school parking lot just around 8.

It's not a complete penance, but it's the beginning, I suppose. I don't know if it makes things too uneven if I say I actually rather enjoyed the experience in a twisted and masochistic sort of way.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Mister Rogers Remix

On a scale of 1-10 on really cool and make me feel good, I give this video an 11.

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Saturday, June 09, 2012

The Meat Experiment

I love my personal experiments. I had a great time with the no-buying-clothes year and the no-sugar year. Each has been a fun project and has enhanced my awareness of a particular area of how I live my life and has helped inform decisions after the experiment is over.

Now the background and details for this year’s experiment:

I’ve always been a conflicted meat eater. For a number of years I was vegetarian. I stopped when I was traveling and realized I would be relying on Kosher meals from strangers and didn’t want to put them out. Over the years I have also discovered that I like meat and I’m willing to respect that the Torah says it’s OK to eat meat despite the fact that I feel terrible about killing an animal to do so.

I’m not okay with the blind and shrink-wrapped way in which so many people eat meat, unaware of what they are doing – I include myself in this. I’m not okay with the uncomfortable lives the animals lead before their slaughter. I’m not okay with the antibiotics and so on injected into them. I’m not okay with how frequently we eat meat. I’m not okay with the environmental impact of so much cattle being raised for consumption.

I’ve considered eating only free range Kosher meat such as that from Grow and Behold, but I know I can’t rely on that all of the time. Sometimes I just want a hot dog when it’s handed to me.

So, as I’ve written about before, I’m part of a Hazon CSA through the Tenafly JCC. A few weeks ago we heard Nigel Savage of national Hazon speak. He spoke about many things, but one in particular really affected me. He said “We’ve all been part of fruitless conversations between vegetarians and non-vegetarians,” and went on to tell of how he introduced the topic to a group of people at a food conference. He asked for a show of hands from people who were meat eaters but who would not eat meat if they had to see the animal killed. He also asked for a show of hands of vegetarians who would eat meat if they could be part of the process.

The following conference led to them bringing in a shochet and actually slaughtering the goat they would use for their meal. Anyone who wanted to watch could. Many meat eaters wouldn’t touch it, and many vegetarians did.

He went on to talk about how that experience helped him really increase his appreciation for eating meat, and reduce the number of times he does it.

So my plan, quite simply, is to eat meat a limited amount this year. I want to begin this week because this is when we have our first CSA distribution. I want the amount to be 25 times. That allows an average of once almost every two weeks. I know I will eat more at Pesach and can abstain more during other times. Now I can still eat junky meat like hot dogs if I choose, but know that I have used of one of my times for the year.

That’s it. Simple. Care to join me?

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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Tiger Run

ND took place in the Tiger Run today, a new feature of the Tenafly 5K run/dog walk etc. It was the first time they ever did a Tiger Run and the people running it looked a bit panicked as they tried to direct a few hundred 3, 4, and 5 year olds when and where to stand, run and so on. When her group was called to run the 75 yards, U had the foresight to go to the finish line. They blew the whistle and ND took off running, darting around to find her Dad. By the time she'd found him she must have suddenly realized she'd actually just done the race. The whole thing took about 5 minutes from start to finish. ND was so proud, though, to have participated and she's been looking forward to it for a few weeks since we first heard we could do it.

I would have liked to do have done the 5K walk with her in a stroller, but we had piano class at that time. Go ahead and think of the poor musician kid inside with a violin and looking out the window at the other kids playing ball.

It's all good though. After the race ND enjoyed the moon bounce, pony ride and some time in the playground.

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