One Person’s Pastry is Another Person’s Ladder

CUPCAKES RULE. THE SOFT, FITS-IN-THE-HAND-SIZED treat, sometimes filled with flavored cream (and always with cream on top), is my favorite dessert. Shabbat dinner wouldn’t be Shabbat dinner without one (or maybe two). But cupcakes as societal re-entry mechanism? Better still.

The baked goods from Richmond, California-based Rubicon Bakery are the exemplar of the form — not too sweet, not too small, delicious either refrigerated or at room temperature. They are an affordable $4.67 for a container of four at my local Whole Foods. And there’s an added incentive to buy them: Rubicon Bakery’s employees are reinventing themselves after brushes with prison, addiction, and other un-bakerly challenges.

Words to Bring Back: “Ambit”

– Definition: n. A space surrounding a house, castle, town, etc. A precinct.

– Used in a sentence: It is my ambition to diligently guard my ambit against encroachment.

– Why: Where I live in semi-rural Northern California, such things are known as “open space,” “green space” or “urban growth boundaries” and are considered sacrosanct against development. But “ambit,” being more compact, sounds like something to strive for rather than something attained.And isn’t the journey always better than the destination?

These Days, They Call It “Cosplay”

Will Thrustwell, c. 1987

Fig. 1.


I have had several — depending on whether I was attending the Renaissance Pleasure Faire as ship’s pilot Will Thrustwell; Dickens Christmas Fair as London Illustrated News correspondent Peter Boggs; meetings of the Neo-Pagan Society of Diablo Valley College as Barbatus the Elder, or spinning Obscure Research Labs propaganda as BT Elder. It’s fun to impersonate someone else, especially someone of your own devising. Each of the above names (or, let’s face it, identities) is accompanied by a suitable costume and accent or speech pattern.

Why I Love: Torah Study

IT’S THE ENDLESS INTELLECTUAL PUZZLE. It’s that Hebrew writing closely resembles Klingonese (well, it does; come to think of it, so does some of the sentiment). It’s belonging to the 3,000-year-old Permanent Floating Book Club. It’s the spectra, vagaries and levels of meaning. It’s the idea of “seventy faces of Torah,” meaning that each word (even letter!) can be looked at in multiple ways. It’s engaging with the minds of long-dead people who live on in your study. It’s the level playing field (“Only a little is all anyone knows of Torah,” quoth the greybeard rabbi). It’s seeing how far the Sages can stretch a metaphor.

5 Thoughts: Grocery Shopping

1. IT USED TO BE CALLED “doing the marketing.” And it is one of my life’s favorite small pleasures.

2. This simple joy can probably be traced back to my dad and I doing it together every Saturday or Sunday morning (or so goes my memory), when I was a young’un in Massachusetts. We would visit one store for meat, another for produce, another for household products, yet another for baked goods.


So: We’re at CVS just now, about an hour after I wrote “And On, And On,”, waiting our turn at the pharmacy, when this woman sits down next to me and says, “I’m very sorry about what happened in Pittsburgh.” (This, after she circled around where we were sitting in what I had assumed was a somewhat suspicious manner.)

We talked a few minutes about what happened and why; she asked me about the Sonoma Jewish community, told me her feelings about the current White House occupant, and couldn’t have been nicer or more compassionate.

Sometimes, it pays to wear a yarmulke.

And On, And On

“Am Yisrael Chai” – The People Israel Live!

I NEVER MET THEM. BUT I know them.

The eleven Jews murdered yesterday as they worshiped at the Tree of Life Congregation near Pittsburgh could be found in any synagogue, including my own: the former congregational president, the lay leader, the man with the famously dry wit, the shofar (ram’s horn) blower; the ones everybody loved and could depend on.

It could have been any of us. And in a sense, it was.