💪🏼in praise of vulnerable men...
a podcast, an audio book, and a delicious snack for busy times
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We’re currently snuggled up in a tiny and adorable Airbnb in Santa Cruz, my hometown. We drove from Portland for the holiday and plan on spending a month. Mostly to try and help out my wildly independent 84 year-old mother (who knows what she will accept but my fingers are crossed 🤞🏻) and also to enjoy the sunsets and the sea.
On our way down we listened to Sherman Alexie read his novel, THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, which we chose because it’s a banned book and…hello, really? Plus it felt as if we had a fun storyteller in the backseat who never needed a pee stop!
Over the holiday weekend, we laughed at/with Mike Birbiglia’s Netflix show, THE OLD MAN AND THE POOL, which we chose because he’s funny and real.
Today, I listened to Nick Cave of the fabulous, RED HAND FILES, who has become a grief dula, sharing how he has been galvanized and changed by the death of his two sons. He spoke with Krista Tippett on the ON BEING podcast.
I don’t think the common thread that runs through humanity is greed or power or these sorts of notions. It is this binding agent of loss. That, to me, is the thing that makes me able to look at anybody and feel connected to them, regardless of who they are. And I think there’s a power in that that isn’t really recognized.
This feels true to me. Loss—life handing us our asses again and again as it does—gives us a choice. We can harden around our fear of pain, becoming tough and angry. Or, we can accept loss as an opportunity to be vulnerable and human.
Everywhere I turn these recent days, even to the lovely guy beside me in the car, I see strength from leaning into vulnerability. Those are the men I want to be around, the men I want to learn about, laugh with, be charmed by, and the men I want to put in my stories.
If you’re seeking insult-comedy, ventriloquism, or political trashing, do not watch THE OLD MAN AND THE POOL. Mike Birbiglia is so human and humane and funny! There’s zero machismo in his performance or his person. Chubby adjacent, he wears dadcore—purple pants and a blue button down, he paces the nearly empty stage, sometimes kneeling, pretend wrestling, pretend swimming, pretend applying powder! (Hilarious! You’ll see.) He lies on the floor as he describes putting his small daughter to bed and recounts the charming bedtime conversations they have. Birbiglia’s health is crumbling and throughout his monologue we watch him fall in love with his life, enough that he decides to make changes.
A deep pleasure of Birbiglia’s work? The joy of the callbacks! Pay attention because it’s so satisfying when they occur… it makes you feel as if you have an inside joke with this great guy, pretend swimming on the stage in front of you.
At one point he offers this lovely piece of writing + life advice:
I like to write in my journal every few nights because I find if you write down what you are saddest about or angriest about you start to see your own life as a story. And when you see your own life as a story you can zoom out and encourage the main character to make better decisions.
I know! Right? Not funny but, damn! And trust me, he is funny and fun and it will lift your spirits to watch. I tried to snag a joke for you and quote it here, but you need the context. Please, just watch. Then let me know what you think!
THE ABSOLUTE TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN, by Sherman Alexie, is funny, smart, redemptive, and brave. Junior/Arnold, the star of this YA novel, is open and available in a world that delivers to him giant servings of pain and loss. His family lives on the reservation in deep, empty-belly poverty. His father is a drinker. His mother struggles. His sister has given up hope and lives in the family basement. Early in the novel Junior’s life changes when a teacher at his rez school recognizes his potential, truly sees him, and tells him, “The only thing you kids are taught is how to give up.” Junior has to get out, switch to the tiny white school twenty-two miles up the road, where he will be the only Indian. It’s an act of bravery.
Someone shared with me this six-word story, “Brave birds fly through fog.” And that is true of Junior. He just does it, flys into the mist because he knows he must.
In the first pages a dog dies. Hey, don’t blame me, I’m just ripping the Band-Aid off. There is no sugar coating to life on the rez. Junior’s losses amass, bigger and more painful. (It sort of mimics the layered losses in the amazing Donald Barthleme story, THE SCHOOL, which is weird-wild and funny.) The thing is, Junior and his family manage to hang on to joy, to laughter, and to each other through the grief and triumph. I was so lifted by this book. Honestly, we should urge many young people to read it, for the humor, the strength, and the giant swathes of strength-wrapped generosity.
It’s been banned for “shocking words of profanity and violence” which are so mild compared to what we see on TV. As well as “gratuitous and unnecessary reference to sexual acts.” Umm…masturbation? Can you think of a teenager who finds sexual acts/masturbation gratuitous and unnecessary? Maybe we should be talking about urges! The world will be better for it! Please gift this book to any kids you know this holiday season.
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My go to snack/dinner for Netflix + a blanket on the couch. Super easy, super delicious, healthier than popcorn!
Rice/Lentil Pilaf – Put an Egg on It!
2c cooked brown rice. I like short grain, but you be you.
1c cooked French lentils, the tiny green ones
½c chopped walnuts
1 bunch scallions, white part + a little green, sliced
Salt and Pepper
Turn oven to 275 degrees or so.
In a skillet over medium heat, melt 1T butter and add a glug of olive oil.
Sauté the green onions until wilted and smelling lovely
Add the walnuts and continue cooking, stirring in the pan and watching that they do not burn. You want them to be toasty.
Add the rice and lentils and mix, continuing to heat throroughly.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon into oven proof pasta bowls, you know what I mean, low and wide and keep the pilaf warm in the oven.
Meanwhile in another pan, fry the eggs in more butter to your desired doneness. I like my whites firm and my yolks runny. Place the eggs on top of the pilaf. Add the flourish of your choice: Siracha Sauce, Chili Crisp, chopped parsley, sesame seeds, even Everything Bagel spice. This snack is quick and easy and so so tasty. You are welcome!
That’s about it. Thanks for reading. Here’s Stanley, a macho dog, so not vulnerable, barking at the waves!
Please, remember to tell your people you love them, and take good care of your skin.