Speaking in Tongues

I kept thinking, after I wrote about my doubts in writing the sequel to Starfall, and I decided finally to go for it: On November 1, I began writing. And even with a couple days encumbered by sour and bitter feelings, I’ve written a few thousand words every day since. In fact, I expect I’ll hit 50,000 words today–but the story is still far from complete, and as I predicted back in 2012, it’ll need a third book to finish this tale.

(What can I say? Tolkien made trilogies fashionable.)

And then, just a few days ago, I decided to try my hand at mapping out the world–and my first attempt came out pretty well, if horribly off scale (catch it after the jump).

Then I realized: once you have a map, you’ve gotta start naming things.

Continue reading

F is for Father’s Day

Father’s Day for a boy is full of wonder: I’m celebrating my dad–the man who took me camping with Cub Scouts, the man who eats chips and salsa with with me, the man who reclines on the weekends and is sure to answer “yes” to anything.

As I child I couldn’t imagine Father’s Day any other way. I didn’t stop to think, what will I do for my brothers after they have kids? I never considered what Father’s Day would mean when I have my own kids–or the obstacles I’d have to face to get there.

Father’s Day as a man is all of these things–and most of them are anything but wonderful.

Continue reading

Names Like Snowflakes

When I left my room at four in the morning to leave for Alaska, I expected a lot of things: It would be cold, maybe I’d see snow, I’d get to learn about a new culture, work in a school, and maybe see some whales or the aurora borealis. And except for the last two, I did all of these things–but one thing I didn’t expect to learn about was names.

Names mean a lot to me: As a writer, a character’s name (or lack thereof) can be the most defining element to a story. As a leader, learning the names of my fellow students is not only a great way to attract new members, but also to establish a genuine sense of community in our group. And as a gay man in a world where marriage equality seems inevitable only a few short years after it seemed impossible, I’ll someday have to choose my name, his name, or a strained attempt at something in between.

But as I learned in Alaska, the power of names doesn’t end there.

Continue reading

Throwing Eggs on the Floor

Part of N.C. State’s motto is being globally engaged but locally responsive. For most students this probably remains an abstract concept, fuzzy words that don’t mean much from one day to the next, but for those in the Alternative Service Break program, it’s engrained in every trip: Not only do we have a service project in diverse parts of the world, both domestically and abroad, we also have a service project in our local community.

Last year, before my team went to Belize to build a drying rack with cacao farmers, we spent one weekend helping rebuild a house with Habitat for Humanity. The work with hammers and nails was certainly invaluable experience to get us started.

This year’s service project no doubt has prepared me just the same for Alaska.

Continue reading

Cacao Kapow!

Coffee and chocolate. For me it’s been a love/hate relationship, and yet it seems coffee and chocolate are staples of the Alternative Spring Break trip I’m going on in March. It’s a comical story–but it has grave consequences.

Then again, I might just be full of beans.

Continue reading

No Reservations

This past weekend was in a few words amazing. In many words, it was too great to mention in only one sitting.

It began with a flier I saw on the doors to my residence hall: Cherokee Diversity Trip! Apply Now! I just barely missed the information session (I came stumbling back from a long night of Parkour when I realized…oh, wait, there was something else happening tonight), but I ran to catch the last few minutes and then stayed a few minutes longer to (very gratefully) get filled in on the things I had missed.

That weekend, I wrote my application. I hadn’t made a wondrous first-impression (Parkour is exhausting, and sweat isn’t exactly flattering), but I hoped my words would say enough.

Continue reading

What Makes a Ritual

There’s a strange phenomenon that occurs when I go to Shabbat services: I get up early Saturday morning, I’m fully awake till halfway through the car ride, then my tiredness slowly begins to creep upon me until–right as I walk into the sanctuary–all my energy is gone and I feel like I could fall asleep right there. Ten minutes later, something miraculous happens–as if through osmosis, the energy of the environment, the sacred prowess of the place, the vibrancy of the life-borne prayers surrounding me, the Ner Tamid–the Eternal Light–hanging above the ark, begins to seep inside me until I’m fully alive with the intensity of the moment.

Then I get home and I need a nap. Go figure.

Something amusing also occurred today: Of the four Torah readers, I was the only one who wasn’t a rabbi. Go figure.

Continue reading

I’m a Name-Caller

Let me be honest with you: I’ve lost count of all the nicknames I’ve garnered over the years, especially the years since I’ve started college. There’s the insubstantial–sweetie, cutie–to the meaningful-because-of-who-uses-them–pumpkin, love, muffin–to the comical–D-rab (like Arab, a nickname I somehow stumbled into in Israel), Strongman (which is funny because it’s true even though I’ve never seen myself as much of a pinnacle of strength), Breaks (long story)–even to the slightly-offensive-if-taken-in-the-wrong-way–of which Gay Jew Dude is still my favorite. Then there’s Mr. President. That one sits in a category all its own.

And please, don’t salute.

I use: love, dear, sweetie on occasion.

I often wonder: Is this inequality a lack of reciprocation, or is there something more to it than that? Is a name really just a name, or does it bear more weight than that? We all know Shakespeare–“A rose by any other name…”–but do we all know each other, if one name weighs the same as another?

Continue reading

Two for One and One for Five

Or, Observations; or, Character Profiles of the Rabbinical Kind

This week’s lesson is not a lesson at all. This week’s lesson is a list; and not a list like last summer’s three precepts, pillars, or principles, but a list of names: five students, in fact. It teaches nothing, nothing at all. It is merely a forward to next week.

2.10 Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Zakkai had five disciples, namely:

Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Ḥananiah, Rabbi Yose Ha-Kohen, Rabbi Shimon ben Netanel, Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh.

Not very much to work with, is it? I pondered for a moment, I could discuss names, but that’d be a topic teaching little and lasting less, so I thought, if the point is to study, why not go until we have something to study? That is, this week, I’m doing TWO teachings! So let’s carry on, shall we?

Continue reading