Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dear Benjamin Franklin,

As you know, I've always had a bit of man-crush on you. You're the quintessential Jack-of-all-trades. Inventor, statesman, postmaster, printer...the list goes on. But this isn't my typical love letter, Benjamin Franklin.

Today I'm sitting in a Master's course and we're talking about leadership. Specifically, we're talking about your list of virtues and how you used them to guide you through life. As the story goes, you read your list every day to remind you of how to live life.

And when our professor asked us to sit down and list our virtues, I was faced head-on with the task of taking stock in the things I'm supposed to believe in. So Benjamin Franklin, here's a list. I'm sure that it will change over time, and that it might not be all-inclusive, but it meant enough to me to encourage my first letter since May of last year, so here it is.


  • Be Faithful to Family. Always keep in mind the needs of family members and strive to meet them.
  • Wonder. Always take time to appreciate the awesomeness of life and the world around me.
  • Grow. Always continue to change and evolve by leaving my comfort zone.
  • Follow Passion. Seek that which ignites your passion and actively pursue it.
  • Celebrate. Remember that life is precious and every day is a gift.
  • Explore. The world is a big place with much to offer. Find it.
  • Learn. Make mistakes, ask questions.
  • Share. Bring others into your life and share its bounty.
  • Give Thanks. Recognize the generosity of others.
  • Apologize. When you fail yourself or others, take responsibility and seek to make things right.
  • Play. Have fun with life.

Benjamin Franklin, you worked on each of your virtues one week at a time and by your own admission fell short of meeting them but you hoped that they would serve as an example to your friends and family. Not a bad plan, I think.

Poor Richardly Yours,

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dear MCA,

Thank you so much for everything you've done. It's hard to express exactly how important you've been to me, but I'll do my best to explain it to you.

My earliest memories of you were from 1986 when you were acting like a crazy person on MTV. As a ten-year-old boy, your beer guzzling, tv set sledge-hammering and pie fights from the (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!) video were AWESOME. Also, I'm not sure if it was your idea, but nice use of two sets of parentheses in one title! I remember making a dub of the Licensed to Ill tape, complete with a photocopied cover and liner notes. Sitting in my bedroom, on the bus, mowing the lawn, wherever my walkman would take me, there I was, memorizing the lyrics to Paul Revere.

Then, we took a break. I moved away from your shenanigans and into a phase that I'll just call "The Dark Times." I'm not sayin' that I listened to Poison, and I'm not sayin' that I didn't. I'm just sayin'. MCA, I'm sorry I stopped listening to you. I'm also sorry that I had to retroactively discover the musical masterpiece that was Paul's Boutique. I was only 12! I had no idea that a revolution in music was happening. What did I know about samples? What I did know about hip-hop? During that time I had shifted from "The Dark Times" into various other phases including punk and hardcore. Ironically, that's what brought me back to you. Your own roots. Sometime in high school, I was loaned a copy of Check Your Head and my life changed. Beastie Boys replaced U2 as my "favorite band ever" and again I had a dubbed version of your tape (I had not yet made the transition to CDs in 1992). It was the first time I experimented with negative space as I used a black sharpie background to leave Beastie Boys and the album title behind in white in an attempt to replicate the graffiti-style typeface of the cover (no photocopies this time). 

MCA, without any exaggeration, this album changed everything I thought about music(and more). I worked as hard as I could in a pre-interenet world to learn everything about you and your band. Your genesis as a hardcore band of teens in New York City exposed me to the exciting world of the big city. Your transition from a bunch of dopey idiots to a sophisticated 3 piece with instrumentals, huge hip-hop beats and samples was inspiring. But best of all, this album rocked. When I got to college, and my roommate had a CD player, this was the first CD I bought. It was quickly followed by Paul's Boutique (sorry it took so long for me to hear that one!) and Licensed to Ill. When you dropped Ill Communication and Sabotage, you solidified your place in my heart. The 10 minutes that we were allowed to make noise during finals, the glass shook as we slid in that disc and turned it all the way up. On my first trip to Washington DC (you know, the one where I realized that I didn't have to live in Wisconsin for the rest of my life?), I found this in used CD store.

My very first bootleg. To be honest, at the time I had no idea what a bootleg even was. I did know that I was staring at Beastie(Beasty?) Boys CD that had tracks on it that I had never heard before. That, and the fact that it was $30. I'm not sure if you remember the time when $30 was a lot of money MCA, but I spent an eternity in that store before I spent the dough. I'm also pretty sure I skipped dinner that night.

3 years later, the internet had been born and everything was different again. Sitting in the office of my summer job with a tape deck connected to a computer, we "downloaded" the new tracks from Hello Nasty in the build up to my most eagerly awaited album release of all time. And yes, MCA, we did leave work to go to the store and buy it the minute it came out. The videos from that album basically inspired everything that I did creatively for about three years. And that summer, when I saw you live in Minneapolis from the second row of your revolving stage - bliss.

Since then, you've released so many albums, I've bought them all, including almost every side project, special edition and more. I've moved to Korea and Bangladesh and India and every time I travel to a new place, I alway stop in record stores to see if there are Beastie Boys special editions. How many Japanese discs did I come home with after my second trip to Japan? 8? 9?

The time that you took a hiatus from the band and went "to find yourself" snowboarding in the Himalayas is in the back of my mind every time I cut a long slow line down a mountain and is a major inspiration for my eventual trip to Gulmarg.

The thing about your band, MCA, is the fact that it's so much more than a rap group, or a even a band really. When I heard the news that we lost you to cancer this morning, I grieved your loss. Not just as an inspiration, but almost as a friend. So much in fact, that my friends have recognized it.

My loss. It's everyone's loss.  Then I started thinking about it. Why are the Beasties so important to me? The Beasties represent so much. Positive growth, change over time, reinvention, maturity to name just a few things. You continued to evolve and grow, but you always went back to the basics. You stayed true to your roots and you always stood up for what you believed in.

And now you're gone. And you were only 47. And you'll be missed.  Rest in peace, MCA.

I'm just interested in the B-Boys,

"I don't see things quite the same as I used to. As I live my life, I've got just me to be true to." 
~Stand Together, Check Your Head

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dear Culinary Reawakening of Ireland,

Thank you so much for happening in the last ten years, Culinary Reawakening of Ireland. We are certainly glad that you had taken place before we visited you for the first time last week. Your homeland has always been known as a verdantly green place, and we certainly saw evidence of that as we drove through the delightful areas of the Connemara and Dingle Peninsulas, and the Rings of Kerry and Skellig. What we didn't realize, was that Ireland is also gastronomically very green as well! We loved the fresh approach to local ingredients, genetically unmodified food and modern approach to traditional classics.

Culinary Reawakening of Ireland, you need to do a better job of letting people know that you've happened. We were expecting the standard Irish fare: Guinness Stews, Shepard's Pies, Corned Beef and Cabbage. What we found far outshone our expectations. You have taken the traditional Irish cuisine and applied fresh, new twists that don't corrupt the old recipes. You have insisted upon the highest standards of quality for your ingredients and people don't know about it! It's insanity. Everyone should know that if they are traveling to Ireland, they should expect to eat farm to fork produce, meat and more!

Potatoes/schmotatoes. Let the world know you have taken place Culinary Reawakening of Ireland! Sing it from the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle. Ring the bells of St. Patrick's Cathedral. Tell U2 to write a song about it. I've certainly been singing your praises, but I don't have the gift of song that Bono does. Instead, I will list my favorite meals, starting with this one.

Ashes Pub and Restaurant - Dingle City: Crab & Prawn Dumpling with Salad, Sweet Chili & Lime for me and Smoked Salmon Rolls for her. Served of course, with Whole Grain Soda Bread. This was the most unexpected culinary experience of our entire trip. The food was outstanding, the service was incredible and the meal appeared on our table in what seemed like no time at all. All of this in a normal pub. Other restaurants on the street claimed fancier menus, but it must just be because they are insecure in the presence of such greatness.
The Hairy Lemon - Dublin: Seafood Chowder (creamy potato & dill soup with fresh fish, mussels & soda bread) and Bangers & Mash (award winning pork & leek sausages, pan fried, served on champ potatoes with a red wine jus) for me. These were easily the best sausages I've ever eaten in my life and by the way, hello leeks. Prepare yourselves to become a bigger part of my future eating experiences. For her, Traditional Irish Stew (slow cooked stew of lamb, potatoes, carrots, celery, onions & fresh herbs served with baked potato & soda bread).

Vaughan's Anchor Inn - Liscannor: Leg of Lamb served with various root mash for me and Sautéed Scallops, tomato, chickpea and red pepper ragout and fresh basil for her. This was also a lovely accident, thinking we were stopping at some tourist trap until we opened the menu.

The Laurels Pub - Killarney:  For me, a Tureen of Mussels poached in white wine and finished with a Tomato & Basil Sauce. These were not the only mussels we ate in Ireland, but they were by far the best. Culinary Reawakening of Ireland, thanks for bringing mussels and oysters back with a delicious vengeance. She had the Roast Half Duck with an orange & Apricot Glaze served with roasted sweet potato wedges & Mixed vegetables, because, why wouldn't she?

Dunne and Crescenzi - Dublin: It began with the Antipasto Misto. A platter of cold Italian Salami, Parma Ham, garnished with Cheese, Olives, Roasted Peppers and Italian Preserves, served with bread. Then for me, it was a homemade Tagliatelle with Spiced Italian Sausage. For her, Gnocchi with an Irish lamb ragu. Culinary Reawakening of Ireland, this is your fell swoop, isn't it? An Irish-Italian (just like her) restaurant that combines Protected Destination of Origin Italian ingredients and farm-fresh Irish lamb!

I could go on all day Culinary Reawakening of Ireland, but I think I've proven my point. You are good for Ireland, you are good for our stomachs and you are most definitely good fodder for this blog.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dear Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon,

Well, it finally looks like it's going to happen.  I'm going to run you, Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon.  I may not have won one of your 6,000 spots for runners, but I've found an even better way.  I'm running with the American Cancer Society's Team DetermiNation.  So not only can I conquer my personal goal of running a half marathon, but I also get to raise money for a great cause.

Buy why you, Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon?

Well, you'd have to go back to my childhood.  Grandma's Marathon was a big deal for Duluth.  Thousands of extra people coming to town once a year, packing Canal Park, eating spaghetti.  Those were vivid images.  My mom tells stories of us giving water to the racers on London Road and me charming rich, old ladies to let us into their mansions to get more water from them.  In those days, I knew the marathon was a big deal, but I never thought about running in it.

Flash forward to seventh grade, the day I went out for the cross-country team.  Distance running?  Sounds fun, I thought.  I left the gym with the other runners, ran to the corner and sat down on a stump and waited for everyone to come back.  For the time, I decided that I was no runner.

Flash forward again, to 1999.  I add "Run a Marathon" to a list of life goals.

Since then, I've checked off almost everything on that list.  Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon, you're the next logical step.

Flash forward again 12 more years and I bought a house in Minnesota.  Round about the time the marathon was happening.  All of those images from my childhood came flooding back.  Why not run the following summer, when I'd be a resident of Minnesota once again?

Things run in circles, Gary Bjorklund Half Marathon.  I'm coming home and I'm running.


ps.  Go here to help me raise the money for my race!  It's for the American Cancer Society.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Dear Miscreants,

Please do not try to mislead me by dropping some currency notes.  And please, don't tell me that my money has fallen down.  I know better than that.  Miscreants may be rampant in Chennai, but I'm from Delhi.  We're wise to your game.  We've seen it all before.

I enjoyed myself last weekend; my middle school girls soccer team played well in their tournament.  But please-dropping some currency notes?  And trying to tell me that my money has fallen down!?  Give me a break!  Like I would let you steal my valise from right under my nose.  It would never happen.

The warm climes of tropical Chennai might lull some into a hazy blur, but not us Delhites.  Miscreants are a dime a dozen up here, my friends.  We will not be misled.

Your jig is up,

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dear Uttarakhand,

Thanks for hosting me for two great weekends this past month!

For some, the prospect of an early morning train ride from Delhi to Dehradun and the return trip the next day didn't sound very promising.  Six o'clock AM?  Six and a half hours?  Coming back the next day?  Seems crazy.  But when I started to explain the reason why, the tone changed.  "You see, there's an independent filmmaker," I said.  "He's filming a movie about Indian ice hockey and he needs a 'Canadian' team to play against the Indians."  With that simple sentence two years of my Indian dreams started to come true.

You see Uttarakhand, I started playing hockey in Korea and fell in love with it.  Then I moved to Bangladesh where nothing is frozen.  Ever.  When I moved to India, I heard stories of an outdoor tournament in your northwestern neighbor Kashmir, I began to crave it.  My first two years, I wasn't able to go.  Another unfulfilled craving was my desire to be in a movie.  In the land of Bollywood, it seems that almost anyone can be in a movie.  Several friends were in Eat, Pray, Love, but I missed that too.

Then it all came together.  A call from the director to the Canadian High Commission, an email appeal for players, a solicitation for a goalie, a train ride to the mysteriously built rink in Dehradun and bam!  A two-fer.  But hey Uttarkhand, why did you build a full-sized ice rink that nobody uses anyway?  Seems weird.  Maybe Delhi.  Even Leh, in Kashmir where Indians actually play hockey.  That would make sense.  But I digress.  We arrived, goofed around, shot scenes for four hours then it was back to the hotel, and back to Delhi the next morning. Whirlwind, but totally worth it.  Thanks for the rink, maybe I'll be back.  You're a wonderful northern state, known as the Land of the Gods, but to me you'll be the land of my film debut.

Getting ready for my close-ups.  To all directors-Yes, I am available.
Wow!  Looks like I just saved the day!
Film secrets revealed.
So yeah, that could have been enough to make me love you Uttarakhand.  But just three weeks later, I was coming right back to you.  This time it was another whirlwind trip.  The transportation was classed up as we flew to Dehradun.  The fifteen minute flight from Delhi was exhausting, but luckily they served a snack.  Then it was an hour in the car to Mussoorie, The Queen of the Hills.  As I'm sure you know Uttarakhand, Mussoorie was a British Hill Station, and it was the entrance point into the Himalayas.  Thanks to our friends Jake and Kelly we had a place to stay while we explored another of your fine cities.  Although we were only there for one night, we still enjoyed walking(!) around, goofing off with other Indian tourists, taking chai breaks, riding the cable car and taking in gorgeous views(when the fog lifted).  You know Uttarakhand, my reputation from Dehradun must have preceded me because we also took part in a pretty important photo shoot.  Here are some of the best shots.


When I took this photo, the man behind me said, "Old is gold."
So anyway, thanks for some great times Uttarakhand.  I hope to visit with you again soon.

Tourist-ily yours,

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dear Algae,

Wow, you really know how to ruin the party.

I was so excited for the annual staff retreat at Neemrana this year.  Visions of years past flooded my memory as I drove the two hours to arrive to the 700 year old fort palace.  As I whizzed the Opel Corsa past cows, donkeys, auto rickshaws, giant trucks, tiny motorbikes and other cars hellbent on getting out of Delhi, I was reminded of the trip undertaken in years past.  Such a gauntlet was necessary, perhaps, to enhance the peacefulness of the Neemrana property.

I knew that upon my arrival, I would be greeted with the white glove treatment-hot towels, cool drinks and all of the accoutrements of five-star service.  Then it would be off to the pool for drinks, card games and socializing with friends old and new!

Oh the pool! What a treat on those hot, hot Rajasthani days.

But you algae, you had other plans for us, didn't you?  You were so desirous in your pursuit of photosynthesis that you didn't account for the 60 or 70 of us that were interested in cool, clean, blue water.  "Blue water be damned," you screamed from the murky depths of what had previously been the Neemrana Fort Palace pool!  Algae, you had different ideas.  Perhaps your  green sheen should have reminded me of stories of envy and humility.  Perhaps I could have accepted Neemrana's inability to keep a pool clean.  Instead I was reminded of the dark green hue of the Incredible Hulk, indicative of the rage that was growing inside of me, ruining my weekend.  Had you been yellow instead of green, you may have inspired me to make lemonade, but instead algae, I was left with pea soup.

At least I have a story.

Hulked out,