Posts Tagged ‘ Sonoma ’

Neal’s Hero: Arroyo Vet Hospital

2010.09.29
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Q: WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN you lose your wallet, the wife’s got the car all day, and the cat has a mysterious slash on his tail which he won’t stop licking and leaves bloody smears on the chaise-longue???

A: What I did was call Arroyo Veterinary Hospital, who told me to sit tight while they sent someone over to pick him up, fix him up and hang on to him until this afternoon. These are the same people who oohed and awwed over our little woojums last time and who put him up during the week we got flooded in February.

That’s ARROYO VETERINARY HOSPITAL, who have no idea they’ve been so lauded. Local heroes: people who do their job well and graciously. Thank you.

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First Day Of School, Again

2010.09.24
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CHIEF AMONG MY DEEPEST DELIGHTS and terrors is teaching young Jewish people about their heritage.

It’s a delight because I’m a born teacher, meaning that I love to learn things and share what I’ve learned (usually learning more in the process). I also love and grok young folk, especially in the 4th to 6th grade range, since they are old enough to begin questioning things, sharp enough to spot BS and still imbued with the essential sense of wonder.

It’s a terror because they pay attention to, pick up on, remember and react to the slightest word — and because much of what they carry with them about Judaism will be because I handed it to them. It’s a similar terror to the reporter’s eternal “Did I get it right?” insecurity without which none can refine their art, but hundredfolded. Sometimes I feel like the captain of a shipful of precious eggs, which I suppose I am.

This is my tenth year teaching, and my first new class in some time (my immediately previous students were with me for three years). The reason I began teaching in the first place was because my own Hebrew school experience was so stultifyingly hideous that I had to leave Judaism for 23 years before I could learn to appreciate it as one of many complex, deep and mysterious expressions of what some call “God” — one which is mine through inheritance and intent, inextricably intertwined with my world- and self-understanding. My teachers taught me not to ask questions (despite that asking questions is the fundament of both Judaism and childhood in general), and I want “my kids” to know that not only are there no stupid questions, there’s nothing in the world that can’t be — shouldn’t be — questioned.

Including, and especially, the teacher.

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Pithyism #Billions & Billions

2010.09.15
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RETRIEVING THE MORNING NEWSPAPER AFFORDS a fine slice of the constellations marching overhead, thereby demonstrating that sometimes you can do two things at once.

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Eats: Leisurely Eggs

2010.08.29
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IN ANOTHER LIFE, THIS DISH is what saved Prosatio Silban from being the main ingredient in someone else’s meal(1); in this life, it’s what ballasts me at table long enough to read the Sunday morning papers. Random Eggs assumes that the cook knows how to simultaneously brown a variety of different ingredients in a single pan; i.e., the denser the longer. (If you don’t know how, this is a good way to learn.)

Leisurely Eggs (Serves at least two, or one who won’t eat again until dinner)

First, arrange some nice background audio (Django Reinhart, say, or NPR’s “Weekend Edition”). Then add to a large medium-hot pan in the following order, and as art and experience dictates to balance facility with substance:

- Olive oil and/or butter (one keeps the other from smoking)
- Potato (diced)
- Onion (likewise)
- Sausage (sliced. I like chicken-apple and chicken-artichoke. Add this first to forego the olive oil/butter)
- Mushrooms (sliced or quartered)
- Capers
- Olives (kalamata or pimentoed, sliced or quartered. Stuffed with garlic is also good)
- Artichoke hearts
- Spinach
- Green onions (chopped)
- Garlic
- Black pepper
- Anything else as palate and physics suggests.

Meanwhile, scramble at least two eggs with a complementary cheese or cheeses (I prefer either sharp cheddar or the “Italian blend” of fontina, asiago, mozzarella and Parmesan).

When everything smells and looks right, pour in the egg/cheese scramble and lower the heat. Stir briskly for less than a minute (to coat; you don’t want a frittata, although those are also tasty); just before the eggs are cooked to your liking, turn all onto a plate and garnish with rye toast (or sourdough or whole-wheat or English muffins) and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee(2) — tea or milk won’t stand up to the flavors — and don’t forget the newspaper!

- = – = -
(1) From the yet-unpublished “Light Breakfast”:

The dish could be thrown together in any fashion, and indeed looked that way on the plate no matter how talented its maker, but was also a time-honored test of skill. A bad cook would toss everything into the pan and hope for the best (including a forgiving palate); a good cook could use as many ingredients as obtainable in such order as to bring out the purest and most complementary flavor of each. So well-known was this principle and so beloved its application that Uulians frequently cited it as suitorial standard (“She’s beautiful, son, but how Leisurely are her Eggs?”).

(20 Actually, seltzer will clear the palate and aerate the esophagus. I like to have both, with sometimes maybe a glass tomato juice to honor the practice of the grandparents who taught me the importance of a leisurely Sunday breakfast. (But I have no idea why they were into the tomato juice.)

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First Graf: VALIS

2010.08.11
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IN FEBRUARY AND MARCH OF 1974, science-fiction author Philip K. Dick had a series of experiences which might have been psychosis, hallucination or divine grace. Phil often tended toward the last explanation, at least in print, and based a handful of novels (and more than a million pages of exegesis) on trying to figure out what happened to him. VALIS is one such novel; its thesis (in part): through an ancient satellite named VALIS (for Vast Active Living Intelligence System), a rock and roll musical, and a little girl, God or something like It is trying to comfort us all — most especially the broken ones. There’s much more to it, but this — and the fact that Phil once lived around the corner from where I live now — is what makes VALIS this week’s First Graf pick.

Horselover Fat’s nervous breakdown began the day he got the phone call from Gloria asking if he had any Nembutals. He asked her why she wanted them and she said that she intended to kill herself. She was calling everyone she knew. By now, she had fifty of them, but she needed thirty or forty more, to be on the safe side.

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Come Out To Sonoma

2010.08.05
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HAVING MENTIONED THIS ON FACEBOOK yesterday in the wake of U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s 136-page ruling against Proposition 8, I’d better repeat it here:

Neal Ross Attinson offers his services as secular ULC minister to marriage-seeking gay California couples

My only balk is doing anything in Jesus’ name, since I’m both unqualified and uninterested. (“Bob” is okay, though; I’m biordanial.) And may I suggest this spring in Sonoma?

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Saturday Morning Live

2010.07.09
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Lay Led Torah Study & Service — 7/10/10, 9a to 10:15/10:30 to noonish
Congregation Shir Shalom, 252 W. Spain St., Sonoma

JOIN THE SONOMA VALLEY JEWISH community tomorrow morning at 10:30 for a laid-back, lay-led “Reform Mellow” service at Congregation Shir Shalom. We will begin in the classroom at 9 a.m. with a study of the weekly Torah portion (Mattot, Numbers 30:2-32:42), which covers vows, wars and errant cattlemen) before adjourning to the sanctuary.

Our siddur is the new Mishkan Tefilah; the service will include Shir Shalom-traditional melodies (including Bonia Shur‘s “Kedushah”); a d’var Torah titled “Plugging The Holes: Hands, Vows, and Why We’re Here;” and whatever surprises it pleases God to send us (and/or whatever pleases us to thank God for sending).

Shabbat shalom!

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Bad, Bad News

2010.06.09
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YES, THAT WAS MY EMAIL which KQED’s Michael Krasny read during his second hour this morning, which program concerned the effect of bad news on man-in-the-street audients. The show is worth a listen — archive available at http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R201006091000. (I riffed on the concomitant effect of bad news on the reporters who witness it.)

Many listeners discussed the heartbreak of our instant-everywhere media and the dangers of being desensitized by a flood of horrible real images about which one can do nothing or too damn little. Some said they’ve switched off radios and TV sets and canceled newspapers; some severely curtail their media intake to the non-visual or (more often) The Daily Show. One woman addressed the desensitization issue thus: When she sees the faces and names of American soldiers killed most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan (A”H, PBUT and rest in peace), she “goes into a little prayer for them” — she tries to connect her inner spark-of-what-some-call-God to theirs, to their lives and those surrounding them, and to the hole left by what was formerly their presence.

She says that helps. I believe her.

One of the most difficult aspects of living a “religious” or “spiritual” life is reconciling the universal amazingness of God with the frustrative pettiness of some humans. (“Monotheism isn’t for wimps,” as my old buddy Sputnik sometimes said.) It’s the sort of thing which worried Job, at least until God said, “That’s just the way it is.” It worries me too; these days I’m finding it difficult to keep from turning my eyes away from the horror. (Granted, I’m sort of dealing with a lot right now.) But this morning I discovered that not only am I not the only one who feels that way — I’m not alone in thinking that’s unacceptable. I don’t want to be ignorant of what’s going on in the world; I don’t want to be paralyzed by the knowledge either.

Maybe the answer, an answer, or anyway what my tool-using Mr. Fixit primate brain will substitute, isn’t to switch off but to find something you can do something about. Wherever you live, someone needs help — find them and offer it! (In Sonoma Valley, you can do that through FISH, or friendsinsonomahelping.org; if you don’t have something similar near you, start one. )

Even if we can’t directly affect what enrages us, we can channel that rage to productive ends. It may be hard work — but isn’t anything better than paralysis?

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Song of the Universe

2010.05.18
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TONIGHT IS SHAVUOT, WHICH CELEBRATES the gift of Torah at Mt. Sinai some 3,322 years ago. Whether one believes the Torah’s own account is inconsequential; what we celebrate is the living text (rather, Living Text) itself and its indivisibility from the Jewish soul. (It’s not just about Mel Brooks and rye bread, folks.) Jews the world over will be cracking the books for an allnighter of mind-stretching scope, G?d willing. For the hardcore, that means a survey of the Hebrew Bible (Torah, Prophets, Writings), Talmud (Mishna and Gemara), Law Codes (Mishneh Torah, Shulchan Aruch), Commentaries (Midrash) and a smidgen of qabala (Zohar), learning in pairs until dawn (or if unable, in bed until sleep).

Locally, that means a study party at our rabbi’s house tonight between 9 and midnight (if you don’t know where that is, shoot one to scoopatsonicdotnet and I’ll tell you). Everyone is invited to bring a personal piece of Torah to share; I’ll attempt to convey the thousand-year grandeur of the Talmudic intellectual tradition in fifteen minutes, and also acquaint everyone with a little-known text (at least until recently, at least to me) called Perek Shirah.

Perek Shirah (“Verses of Song”) is Torah writ large — 84 verses worth of Universe As Teacher. The text is at least 2,000 years old, according to its Jewish Encyclopedia article, and of uncertain authorship. Each verse (Psalms or Prophets, but mostly Psalms) illustrates how Torah is transmitted through a particular element, plant or animal. Its preface quotes the Talmud (Eruvin 100b), and fairly summarizes the work’s intent: “R. Yochanan said: ‘If these things were not prescribed in the Torah, we could learn decency from the cat; the ant would preach against robbery, and the dove against incest.’

By my own level of scholarship, Perek Shirah is somewhat over my head — which only interests me further. A free copy may be downloaded from three different websites (it’s the same 208k PDF):

http://www.archive.org/details/AkivaPerekShirahperekshirahebengslifkinpdf
http://lazerbrody.typepad.com/lazer_beams/files/perek20shirah20booklet.pdf
http://www.zootorah.com/books/Perek%20Shirah%20booklet.pdf

Chag sameach (happy holiday)!

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4:20 Torah (not what you think)

2010.05.14
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France Street Torah Study
Saturday, May 15, 2010 – 10 am to noonish
Home of Neal and Ann (707.933.9430 for directions)
Parsha Bamidbar: Numbers 1:1-4:20; Haftorah Hosea 2:1-22

THIS SHABBAT, AT LEAST IN Sonoma, at least on France Street, brings us a bit of a pickle — really more of a relish plate.

Our weekly Torah portion is Bamidbar, the beginning of Numbers: four chapters and twenty verses full of marching orders, duty rosters and difficult-to-pronounce names. While I am the last person in the world to grouse about our holy Torah, I will admit that some bits are more challenging than others to interpret with apparent relevance to our lives. (Leviticus, say.)

Since this will be the Shabbat before Shavuot (see announcement below), our textual choices include the Book of Ruth (traditionally read /on/ Shavuot) and Pirke Avot (a collection of rabbinical proverbs read on the Shabbat afternoons between Pesach and Shavuot; some say Pesach and Rosh Hashanah). We can study these instead of or in addition to Bamidbar (and either speed-reading or synopsizing the latter).

Come to Torah study. And exercise your power of choice.

Shabbat shalom,

Neal

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A Couple More Hamburgers

2010.05.13
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HAMBURGERS AND FRIES SMELL BEST in a brown paper bag on the passenger seat.

They are cooked by the hardworking longmarried Chinese couple on the other side of Sonoma from the hardworking longmarried Jewish couple who’ll soon be eating them together.

The Chinese couple laugh and make secret jokes with each other in a brick building with painted dogs and banana shakes and secret sauce.

The Jewish couple almost only eat these hamburgers to celebrate. Tonight it’s the last day of school, for the one whose college education began 40 years ago next week, who has sweated and cried and (even) bled, and doesn’t like pickles or onions.

Forty years ago, neither couple had so much as heard of Sonoma.

Don’t rule out anything in a town where dreams come true.

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Torah: Learn A Little!

2010.04.30
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REMEMBER THE SATURDAY MORNING TORAH study Ann started back in 2001? Well, we’re still doing it, and if you’d like to do it too — and you’re going to be in Sonoma between 10 a.m. and noon tomorrow — you are hereby invited to our humble home. (Email me at scoop at sonic dot net for directions.)

Torah Portion: Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23)
Haftarah: Ezekiel 44:15-31

This week’s portion mostly offers advice to the kohanim, or priests (hey, it’s Leviticus, right?). Among other things, Torah tells the kohanim must be as physically unblemished as the animals they offer to God (a nice metaphor for leadership, that) and reminds us of the importance of the six major Jewish festivals: Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

I don’t know how the latter passages affect others, but I always get a little thrill from reading in the Torah about something that we’re still doing. Something there is about holding a torch lighted long ago, by people I never met but with whom I am connected in some tenuous but undeniable way. The torch still burns — how does it light your footsteps? Let’s find out together Saturday morning!

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