Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Coming of Age in America

I was outside walking Pablo around the neighborhood a couple of days ago when I came across a moment in time that's stayed with me. I could see a boy, about 12 years old or so, mowing a lawn and being directed by a man who looked like he was probably the boy's father. Nearby, two other men stood watching. As I passed by, I figured that this was the boy's first time mowing the lawn. The smile on his face and his careful attention to the task told me that it was a moment that he would remember for a long time.

As I came near one of the two men watching, I said hello and commented that it was a great moment when a young man can take over the job of mowing the lawn. The man smiled and agreed, adding that the boy had been looking forward to it for a long time. There was pride in his voice and it made me happy to have come across something so simple and yet so profound.

In America, we don't have a singular rite of passage that formally marks a young person's transition into adulthood. We've got church confirmations, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Quinceaneras, and Sweet Sixteen celebrations. Getting a driver's license or registering to vote might be as universal an experience as you can find. But I think the real coming of age happens in moments like the one I witnessed.

Families live together and care for each other and deal with the good and the bad, sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis. Washing the dishes, changing the baby, and mowing the lawn are the things that families do together. You can care for the people around you whether you're young or old. But when you can take over a family responsibility and make it your own, you're really growing up. And that's what I had the privilege of seeing as I was just passing by.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Motorcycles: Mind, Body, and Spirit

It's been a while since I've been on a motorcycle, but this week I decided to get back into it and got myself a bike. This apparently surprised a few people who didn't know what an interest I have in riding. It had never come up that I've owned motorcycles in the past and, at one point, had only two wheels to get around all of Los Angeles. To explain myself, I'd like to offer the following perspective.

As background, I should tell you that I've never been an athlete, but I've always been around athletes. Not having the physical proficiency to compete in anything more than a clumsy round of golf, I will confess to always having envied my friends who played sports and especially the ones who played them well. I knew what an athletic pursuit looked like, I just didn't know what total mind and body focus felt like.

When I started riding motorcycles, I experienced for the first time in my life being completely and totally engaged in an activity, both physically and mentally. I finally knew the state of being that gave such pleasure to my friends who had been playing sports. Operating a motorcycle and sharing the road with other drivers - especially in L.A. traffic - is a challenge that requires the ultimate level of concentration and coordination. And it's totally invigorating.

So now that I am, as some might say, old enough to know better, I still choose to ride a motorcycle - and I ride it safely. It truly is as satisfying as anything I've ever experienced. Riding a motorcycle is not for everyone. But for me, it's like playing in the championship game every time I ride.

Friday, June 17, 2011

10 Reasons to Love Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California

It's summer vacation time and that means time to let loose and have some fun. And when I think of fun, I think of Los Angeles, California. Whether you live in L.A. or are just visiting, you can always find something fun to do. Here's a list of ten places I love in L.A. (in no particular order):
  1. The Hollywood Bowl: Tucked in a canyon, this outdoor amphitheater has concerts all summer long.
  2. Dodger Stadium: Home of the Los Angeles Dodgers. You get the idea.
  3. Griffith Observatory: Recently renovated, the art deco building is home to exhibits and a new planetarium theater.
  4. Topanga Canyon: Topanga State Park is perfect for hiking and mountain biking.
  5. The Getty Museum: "The Getty" is an art museum with locations in west L.A. and Malibu.
  6. Mulholland Drive: Sitting at the top of the Santa Monica mountains, this roadway divides the "city" from the "valley" and has some amazing views.
  7. L.A. County Museum of Art: Located on "Museum Row," this is the largest art museum in the western U.S.
  8. Leo Carillo Beach: A state park with camping, surfing, tide pools to explore, and more.
  9. Catalina Island: Only a one-hour boat ride from Long Beach, this island has scuba diving, golf, island tours, camping, resorts, and best of all, no traffic.
  10. Festivals and Community Celebrations: You can find some sort of celebration going on practically every weekend in L.A. My personal favorite is the Sunset Junction Street Fair, being held this year on August 27 and 28. The musical lineup is as eclectic as the audience. Plus, if you get hot or tired, you can always stop in at El Cid and sit on the patio for a while.
If this whets your appetite for some Southern California fun, try my favorite resource for the roads less traveled in L.A., Hidden Los Angeles. You'll learn about places to go and things to do and you may even find a discount offer to save yourself some cash. Hidden Los Angeles also has a Facebook page that's easier to scan than the website. Have fun and let me know what you decide to try.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Trader Joe's

It was only a matter of time until I felt a need to bring up the name of my favorite store in the whole world... Trader Joe's. (Sorry, IKEA, you're too far away to love on a regular basis.) For the uninitiated, Trader Joe's is a nationwide chain of specialty grocery stores that started out in southern California in the late 1960s. They carry far fewer items than a regular grocery store and most of what they have is sold under one of their own brand names. Items with the Trader Joe's label contain no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, contain no MSG or trans fats, and are made from non-genetically modified ingredients.

I have a long, long list of favorites at Trader Joe's, but my current must-have is something that I'm eating right now. They're called aebleskiver and are more commonly known as Danish pancakes. They're round instead of flat and they are unbelievably tasty. I've never made them myself, so the fact that I can get them in the frozen food section at Trader Joe's means that I don't have to. Paired with some Trader Joe's mango chunks (also sold frozen), they make a breakfast that you won't forget.

I've written in this blog about the many things in life that can provide a person with inspiration. Added to my list of music, film, and a walk with the dog should be aebleskiver with mango chunks. Honestly, I can't think of anything I'd rather have for breakfast. Thank you, Trader Joe.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Super-Duper 8

It's summer movie season and, as you may know, I have been counting the minutes until the opening day of Super 8. There have been so many times in the past when I've been caught up in the hype leading up to a big movie's release and then, after seeing the flick, was disappointed and wished I had my money and my two hours back. This is not one of those times.

I don't remember the last time I have so thoroughly enjoyed seeing a movie in a theater. Super 8 was so brilliantly done on so many levels that there really isn't anything not to love. I wouldn't even think of revealing anything about it, so I won't go into details. If you're planning to see it, go sooner rather than later and definitely stay for the credits. And that's about as much as I want to say.

So let me know what you think and join me in my quest to find something else this summer that can compare to Super 8.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Good Reads

I just came across a very cool website called Good Reads. It's a site where you can share book titles, discuss books you've read, form books clubs, and do all sorts of other things. I'll admit, it caught my attention because a good friend of mine wrote about my collection of short fiction. But it's a great site regardless of what you enjoy reading.

So if you like to read and you like to discuss what you've read, check out Good Reads.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cool Jazz and Bellinis


Just so no one gets the idea that I'm sitting around doing nothing, I feel obligated to provide you with an update. It's not all cool jazz and Bellinis on the patio at the House of Tystad, even when it's summer vacation. In fact, it's been all about taking-care-of-business for an entire week and there's no telling when authentic rest and relaxation will become available, given the hectic schedule around here.

During my attempts to tackle several different projects at once, there are constant interruptions and infrequent trips to Super Target that stand in my way. Of course, taking Pablo out for a daily stroll isn't an interruption, but rather a pleasant diversion. Our current 99 degree heat was foreseen and today's walk was over and done with by 10:00 a.m. Even the early morning heat left Pablo tired and listless and he told me just moments ago that he's having second thoughts about going out at all tomorrow. Completely fine with me.

Perhaps the most challenging obstacle this week is the excruciating wait for Friday, the opening day of Super 8 - the new J.J. Abrams/Steven Spielberg movie. The tantalizing television commercials and theater trailers have convinced me that we're about to experience Spielberg-style filmmaking incubated in the mind of one of television's most creative thinkers and delivered with state-of-the-art effects and maximum decibels. What more could we ask for in a summer movie? I'll be there Friday morning right when the theater opens.

In the meantime, it's back to work. Stephen King says that he has a goal of at least 2,000 words a day. I figure that if I can exceed that, get Pablo outside while it's still cool, and see Super 8 before anyone reveals what happens, it's all good.

Stay cool.

Friday, June 3, 2011

KZUM Radio

KZUM fm/
Today I'd like to tell you about something that's near and dear to my heart and that is one particular local radio station in Lincoln, Nebraska. I've been a fan of radio for my entire life and I tend to avoid corporate radio, preferring to support the folks who do things the old school way. It's hard to compete with everything else that's out there, but there is one little radio station in the middle of the country that's been fighting the good fight since 1978.

KZUM is heard locally at 89.3 FM and - thanks to live streaming - on the web at Staffed entirely by volunteers, it's Nebraska's only independent radio station and offers what is perhaps the most eclectic variety of music, news, and discussion you'll ever find in one place. Here's a short list of some of my favorite shows (all times listed are Central Time):
  • Friday 6:00-8:00 a.m. - "Morning Breath" (a variety of music)
  • Friday 8:00-10:00 a.m. - "Turtle Island" (World Music)
  • Saturday 3:30-5:30 p.m. - "Mundo Latino" (Latin Music)
  • Monday 7:30-8:00 a.m. - "Canine 360" (a talk show about dogs)
  • Monday 8:00-10:00 a.m. - "Dance Bands" (Big Band Music)
  • Monday 1:00-3:00 p.m. - "Buenos Tangos" (Tango Music)
And last, but certainly not least, KZUM plays the Blues in all its varieties every weekday afternoon from 3:00-6:00 p.m. On any given day, you may hear classics from the archives, brand new recordings, or interviews with Blues artists. Every day is something different and that's why I love it.

You will not be disappointed with what you'll hear on KZUM and I highly recommend it for anyone who has an interest in music of any type. Visit their website at for the program guide and you'll certainly find something you'll enjoy.