Pure. Joy. ‘Nuff said, munchkin.
Dogged is a word I don’t use nearly enough. To describe me. To describe the people I’m with or around. To describe anyone. I haven’t formally reserved the word for very committed uses but I think the nature of the word itself makes it so.
I can say that I’ve been socialized to say something like “dogged pursuit”, treating the word dogged more as the kickoff to a compound word. What and where have I seen dogged? Embodied? No place better than this.
Maybe one better place. Maybe one more powerful place. Maybe one place I need to tell you about now, and will take so much time to tell you about in the future. You are dogged. In your pursuit of everything. And I love it. It’s inspiring. And it’s a reminder.
Your great grandmother, your Ba, was similar. A week ago we celebrated what would have been her 100th birthday (albeit a little early, but that’s not the point.) You have a connection to your Ba. In so many ways it’s uncanny. In my head I still think you have a third middle name — Bhanu, or “Ba + Nu” or, “of Ba.” It’s my own play on words.
You see, your Ba was an extraordinary spirit. She lived a fuller life through age 40 than most live ever. So when she, tragically, lost her ability to walk in the latter quarter of her life, she embraced her challenge and role in life with grace. At least that’s what I saw, as a grandson. And I allow myself a little bit of time to reflect on her experience as an adult but stop myself at the risk of going down a near infinite number of rabbit holes that would call so many things into question.
What I remember, with strength and conviction, is how she lived for most of the time I knew her. How she fought her way to subsist. When people watch this video, they’ll be hopeful and optimistic and even congratulatory about what your future holds. When you’re able to move your hands in front of you. When you’re able to get traction and crawl. When your push ups lead you to stand up, and not just to a standstill. Just about everyone who looks at this video is going to smile wide at your effort. That’s the benefit of youth, my love.
When I look at this video, know that my mind will live in two very different places. I’ll always find happiness in your every effort. Every effort. I promise you. But there’s a strong part of me that will watch this video and think of your Ba. And how she faced similar challenges often without hope. A more painful way to live. On the other side of the bell curve. Where knowledge isn’t about seeking what is next and pushing your body forward, but where knowledge is a painful reflection of what was and what could have been.
And where, like your Ba, with all of that history, pain, and legacy hung around your shoulders, having broken your legs and shattered your ability to even walk — you still fight, and crawl, and scramble, and make do.
Today, my love, you were dogged. In you, I saw a reflection of your Ba. There are few greater compliments you will receive.
Today my love for you is dogged. In honor and appreciation.
Tito. Tito. Tito. It’s said more like “teeeeeee, toeeeeee” than like “Jackson” which makes it so much more fun for kids to say. It makes sense, doesn’t it? That you would have such a fun name to say. Because kids love to say your name so much and so often. I know my older sister, Raina Ben, does. I’m still finding my words, but I expect to be able to say it soon too. And my guess is that it’s going to be one of my favorite words when I do.
Happy Birthday Tito Foi. You and I formed a bond very early. I remember when you took two weeks off of work when I was born to stay in the house and stay at home with me and Mommy when Daddy had to go back to work. It’s those little things you do that I’ll always remember.
I love that you sing to me. Music is one of my favorite things. You know that because on your first birthday with me, you took me to music class. I had to get my sense of music from someone, and everyone knows that Daddy is tone deaf. (I love him anyway.)
More than anything, I love to see you happy. Mommy and Daddy always talk about your heart. How it can sometimes get hurt. How it can sometimes feel pain. But how it always overflows. You have so much love to give, and that excites the heck out of me. Mostly because I know I’m going to be spoiled.
Totally ok with that, by the way.
Today’s your birthday, but I feel like it’s mine. Because you took the day off to spend it with me. Because you took me to music class while my Mommy gets a much needed vacation in Mexico. Because you soothe me when you sing, both when you’re here and when I listen to your CD. (Remember when we sang together at Ba’s party earlier this week? Let’s do more of that.)
So Happy Birthday, my lovely Tito Foi. I can’t wait to grow up with you by my side. And I hope I grow up with a heart that’s half as big as yours. If I do, I think I’ll end up a pretty good person. Maybe that’s your gift to me? Or maybe our gift to each other is knowing that winter, spring, summer or fall, all we’ll have to do is call…
I’m excited that you’re actually going to take a vacation. You’ve earned it. For 6.5 months you’ve never been more than a few minutes away from me for more than a few hours. That’s extraordinary. That’s commitment. That’s who you are. That’s one of the things I know Daddy hopes I get from you (as well as your stunning and timeless good looks.)
I know you have some anxiety, also. Maybe I’ll start crawling? Or maybe I’ll say my first word? Or maybe I’ll start freestyling over a wicked beat laid down by none other than Eric B? Maybe I would have, but I want to take the pressure off of you and make sure you focus on you while you’re in Mexico. So here are some of the promises I’m making to you before you leave:
- I promise not to crawl. If I do, you’ll never know. Because we won’t talk about it. We won’t photograph it. We won’t acknowledge it. So it won’t happen. But even if it does, it never happened.
- I promise not to say my first word. Now, that means that there’s a high likelihood that my first word will be Daddy instead of Mommy, but I think you’re happy with that trade-off, right?
- I promise not to immerse myself too much in hip hop culture. It’s a promise I’m making but I can’t be held responsible for Daddy and his desire to start playing those hip hop lullabies he got from his friend at work last night.
- I promise not to walk. Mostly because you have to crawl before you can stand, and you have to stand before you can walk. Those lessons apply to me but apparently, they also apply to businesses looking to pursue hypergrowth — like where Daddy works.
- I basically promise not to do anything new until you get back. I got you, Mommy. I totally got you.
The one thing I promise to do is miss you like hell when you’re gone, dream about you until you get back, and smile like hell the second I see you. I know it’s going to be the best and biggest smile you’ve ever seen, because it’s going to be driven by how I’ll feel when that moment arrives.
So go have a blast, Mommy. Have the time of your life in Mexico and squeeze every bit of fun and relaxation out of every moment. Because we’re going to have a lot of firsts happening the moment you get back.
Today my love for you is…well look at the picture, feel the words, and hear the beat. ‘Nuff said.
I was a fiend before I became a teen
I melted microphone instead of cones of ice cream
Music orientated so when hip-hop was originated
Fitted like pieces of puzzles, complicated
Cause I grabbed the mic and try to say, “yes, y’all”
They tried to take it, and say that I’m too small
Cool, cause I don’t get upset
I kick a hole in the speaker, pull the plug, then I jet
Back to the lab, without a mic to grab
So then I add all the rhymes I had
One after the other one, then I make another one
To diss the opposite then ask if the brother’s done
I get a craving like I fiend for nicotine
But I don’t need a cigarette, know what I mean?
I’m raging, ripping up the stage and
Don’t it sound amazing cause every rhyme is made and
Thought of, cause it’s sort of, an addiction
Magnetized by the mixing
Vocals, vocabulary, your verses, you’re stuck in
The mic is a Drano, volcanoes erupting
Rhymes overflowing, gradually growing
Everything is written in a code, so it can coincide
My thought’s a guide
48 tracks to slide
The invincible, microphone fiend Rakim
Spread the word, cause I’m in
A smooth operator operating correctly
But back to the problem, I gotta habit
You can’t solve it, silly rabbit
The prescription is a hypertone that’s thorough when
I fiend for a microphone like heroin
Soon as the bass kicks, I need a fix
Gimme a stage and a mic and a mix
And I’ll put you in a mood or is it a state of
Unawareness? Beware, it’s the re-animator
A menace to a microphone, a lethal weapon
An assassinator, if the people ain’t stepping
You see a part of me that you never seen
When I’m fiending for a microphone, I’m the microphone fiend
After 12, I’m worse than a Gremlin
Feed me hip-hop and I start trembling
The thrill of suspense is intense, you’re horrified
But this ain’t the cinemas or Tales From the Dark Side
By any means necessary, this is what has to be done
Make way cause here I come
My DJ cuts material
It’s a must that I bust any mic you hand to me
It’s inherited, it runs in the family
I wrote the rhyme that broke the bull’s back
If that don’t slow ‘em up, I carry a full pack
Now I don’t want to have to let off, you should have kept off
You didn’t keep the stage warm, step off
Ladies and gentleman, you’re about to see
A pastime, hobby about to be
Taken to the maximum, I can’t relax see, I’m
Hype as a hypochondriac cause the rap be one
Hell of a antidote, something you can’t smoke
More than dope, you’re trying to move away but you can’t, you’re broke
More than cracked up, you should have backed up
For those that act up need to be more than smacked up
Any entertainer, I got a torture chamber
One on one and I’m the remainder
So close your eyes and hold your breath
And I’mma hit ya with the blow of death
Before you go, you’ll remember the scene
The fiend of a microphone, I’m the microphone fiend
The microphone fiend
Less in the amazing and extraordinary connotation, and more in the humbling vein. The past few weeks have seen you in the hospital for your 6 month shots and for a mysterious scrape on your head that just appeared — we’ve gone from calling it massive head trauma, to a flesh wound, to a scratch, to a light scrape. But it existed. And you could feel it. And that’s what matters.
But watching you on the hospital bed, sometimes ignorant to what was about to happen, sometimes immediately reacting to what had just happened, and just as quickly. forgetful of all that pain, was awesome. Because these pains are just the beginning. More bumps and bruises. More heartaches. More pain — physical, emotional, or otherwise.
To think of how unbearable these two circumstances were for us already, makes thinking about how we’re going to raise you and be there for you in future situations (note: in ALL future situations) awesome. In the words of Billy Ocean, simply awesome. (Pay attention at the :12 mark, and ignore everything else in the song.)
I didn’t have a ton of time to make something worthwhile for a relatively impromptu BBQ with some friends today. Thanks to all of you readers for pointing out that the nature of an impromptu BBQ would imply little prep time. Nevertheless, it’s the least prepared I’ve found myself to be. And with a 6 month old daughter constantly in tow at this point, there’s not a lot of room to rejigger the schedule.
Folks were coming to the BBQ prepared. From salads and apps, to grilled veggies, steak, and ribs. What could I make that would fit the theme and make most in attendance happy without taking up my entire morning.
I’ve made stuffed mushrooms on the grill before. I usually go with Parmesan cheese to give the mushrooms a depth and sharpness you can’t get from cream cheese, ricotta, or even mozz. Today, however, I was inspired to try something different. The results are what you see below and I’d recommend this recipe to anyone.
- Whole cremini mushrooms (baby bellas would work too)
- Blue cheese crumbles
- Your favorite hot sauce (I’d go with something that mimics a buffalo wing sauce)
- Soak the toothpicks in water. The longer the better.
- Set oven to 350. Insert baking sheet, but go with one that has a sizable lip so the remnant oil from the bacon stays put.
- Prep mushrooms. Brush the dirt off. De-stem. Stand in baking sheet.
- Cut bacon in half. Take the strips out of the package and cut them in half. Traditional bacon strips cut in half should wrap 1x around a mushroom with some overlap.
- Wrap mushrooms. Wrap each mushroom with bacon, then stick a toothpick in at the point of overlap to hold it. I recommend sticking the pick in at an angle.
- Stuff mushrooms. Fill it with blue cheese crumbles. Be generous and don’t worry if it overflows the top a bit.
- Bake mushrooms. I’d go for 20 minutes. If you’re going to finish them in the oven I’d go 20, then remove, clean the baking sheet of the residual oil, and bake again until all is crisp. If you’re finishing on a grill, I’d go finish them on indirect heat on a grill for another 10.
- Remove and let sit. After a few minutes, remove the picks (I told folks to do that but some forgot or didn’t hear me — my bad.)
- Douse with hot sauce. This is a difference maker and I highly recommend finishing it with hot sauce. It will add an acid to cut the fat and will brighten up the dish.
It’s not complicated, but it’s satisfying. See for yourself. :)
Your Dadiji tells a story about how chubby daddy was when he was younger. I know, you look at me now and say “what do you mean ‘when you were younger?'” To which I say, stop being smart.
I had generous layers of adipose covering all parts of my buddy for some time. I know, you look at me now and say “what…” ok, I’ll stop with that joke. But yes, I my pudge was omnipresent and well distributed. But nowhere more effectively than on my thighs.
When bathing me, Dadiji used to have to pinch apart the rolls on my legs, make sure they were dry, and then lightly dust them with powder so I wouldn’t get a rash. Also, when describing the girth and rolls on my leg it’s nice to say “lightly dust” to invoke the work of a pastry chef, because they seem to go hand-in-hand. You should listen to the way her voice changes when she tells the story, and the way she pinches about her fingers to demonstrate every time she does as well. It’s adorable. You’re gonna love it.
There aren’t too many pictures of my legs from back in the day. Lucky for us, we have yours. I imagine they looked something like this? What do you think Dadiji?
Today my love for you is all pudge. There’s simply no better word for it.
What a great weekend. And thanks for spending your birthday with me. I know you don’t like to talk about your birthday, so let’s make it our little secret? I know we’ll have plenty of those. I also think it’s good for you to start embracing the fact that you won’t be able to say no to me when I want to find a new way to celebrate your birthday. I mean, go ahead and try. Really. It’s going to be adorable to watch.
You are a man of few words, except when you have a lot of them to share, at which point, you become a man of many powerful and interesting words. I learn a lot from your words, so please keep telling me your stories. I’ll always listen. I’m promising you that now in advance of a future Mami (Nani and Nana made me write that!)
There are a lot of great memories formed from this weekend and many more to come (are we going to see fireworks at some point? What ARE those but they sound loud so I plan on crying, and I know everyone’s going to be ok with it.) But the picture below, well, that’s probably my favorite.
Happy Birthday, Mamu. Thanks for bathing me. Thanks for hanging out with me. And thanks for being my Mamu. I’ll cherish this picture for the rest of my life. Maybe we can talk about it that day when you’re walking me down the aisle (that’s what Mamu’s do, right?)
PS – What’s an aisle, by the way?
PPS – I know that Nana, Nani, Mom and Dad are going to put this in a frame for you so you can put it at your desk at work. We want to make sure it’s a good frame though and the stuff they found in Martha’s Vineyard was the opposite of classy. And we know you have high standards.
I caught you red-handed and I thoroughly enjoyed the exchange. Maybe you thought, after all the delay it took to make it into your room, that you were in the clear.
I wouldn’t blame you.
But I heard the clicking for a good minute or two. I heard no squealing from you so my curiosity was piqued. When I walked in to find your hand gripping at your mobile with no intention of relinquishing, I couldn’t help but smile.
Then, things got better.
You looked over at me and smiled. Big. Wide. Like you do better than anyone in the history of the world. And my heart melted, but I was in conflict. Because you hadn’t let go of the mobile yet! What I thought was a smile was actually an admission of guilt, blended with a refusal to concede to releasing the mobile back into its circling routine we were so used to.
Yup. You sound like ours. And we love you like hell for it. Even though we all know that you were squarely busted.