Geek dad at work

Author: Don (page 1 of 1)

Everyday Spirituality

From a talk I gave at Second Unitarian Church of Omaha, summer 2011.


Joshua Bell is, by all accounts, the best American violinist currently performing, and among the top violinists in the world. A very young looking 43 years of age, with a loose mop of dark hair, he is very demonstrative as he plays, and his whole body flows with the motion as he moves his bow rhythmically and lovingly across his violin. Oh, and his violin happens to be an original Stradivarius, dating back to 1721. It has never been refinished, as Bell is concerned that adding a protective layer of lacquer may change the quality of the music he generates with it. When he performs, his supreme talent, combined with the ageless, eternal perfection of his violin, create one of the few truly transcendent experiences we may hope to experience in this day and age.

In 2007, the Washington Post decided to do an interesting social experiment. Joshua Bell, and his Stradivari, would perform as a street musician for one hour at L’Enfant Plaza in central Washington DC during the morning rush hour. The experiment was to see how many people, in the middle of their rush hour routines and rituals, would be able to recognize, acknowledge, slow down, and maybe stop…. to experience Joshua Bell’s performance.

The family and I completed an East Coast tour back in June. And spent a little time in DC. When I travel, I enjoy taking mass transit of whatever city we’re visiting. One, because it’s usually cheap. But mainly, I like to try to experience the daily existence of the city, to breathe the same air, see the same sights, drink the same coffee, as local residents do. As Walt Whitman says to his fellow travelers in “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”;

“Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt;

Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd…”

So when we were in DC, we rode the subway. Now, I was in DC for work, while Laura and the kids did the sightseeing during the day, so I found myself alone riding the subway after my work was done and was on my way to meet them near the Smithsonian. I got off the train at L’Enfant Plaza, my second such time at this stop. L’Enfant is in the middle of the Capital Mall, walking distance to all the sightseeing stops, close enough to most Federal offices and buildings, and the central hub to all 4 major train routes. It’s a busy station, more hyper in my mind than any New York, Chicago or San Francisco public transit stop that I’ve ever had the opportunity to visit. As I rode the train, I thought briefly about Joshua Bell’s performance, but that thought got quickly swallowed up by the more pressing thoughts of which stairway do I need to take, and I hope Laura and the kids haven’t been waiting too long, and I hope my meeting that afternoon with the Department of Transportation went smoothly, and we’re getting back on the road tomorrow to start our drive back to Omaha…suddenly I was outside and walking towards the family rendezvous spot, dialing the phone to tell Laura I am almost there.

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My Favorite Shirt

The best poem I have ever written. It earned me my first ‘A’ at Cal-Berkeley.


My Favorite Shirt

There is no such thing

as a too large T-shirt.


My bully brother pushed it off on me

for my eighth birthday.

A cruel joke to him, it hung down to my knees.

I wished it was longer.


And when the wind blew

it flopped and trailed behind me

like a little sister.

I imagined I was a kite,

playing tag with the clouds.


I balled it into a pillow

when the heavy August heat

talked me into napping

under the maple tree.


It dried me off as I scurried

from the keepers of the golf course pond,

range balls stuffed in my pockets.


It caught the ice creams and root beers

that jumped out of my hand

when Chris tickled me

or Jenny smiled my way.


I took it to show-and-tell

when school left the summer behind.

Miss Akins was not impressed,

even though she wore the same skirt

for three straight weeks.


When winter came

I hid it away from the attic-bound clothes.

It absorbed the icicle sweat

under five layers of snow gear.


I wore it to the third grade Valentine dance,

along with brother’s leather shoes and dad’s Aqua Velva.

Jenny splashed it with punch

when I touched he chest.


By the time June closed the schools again

it was a shred of my past friend.

I carried it in my back pocket

that whole summer.



Pizza Boxes

There’s a Godfather’s Pizza place about 3 block away from our house. While driving home yesterday, the kids and I passed by a 4×4 pulling out of Godfather’s. They were waiting to pull out into the street from the frontage area, and had 3 boxes of pizza sitting on the roof of their car. I did a quick look behind me to make sure that there were no cars, then blocked their vehicle from being able to pull into the street.

Inside were a young-ish couple, and the looks on their faces were great. The driver, an average looking fellow, had a very ‘pissed off’ look. The passenger, well she seemed scared.

I rolled down my window and indicated to them to do the same. The driver goes from mad to confused, while the passenger goes from scared, to I think she realized what I was going to say.

I say to them, “You have 3 boxes on your car’s roof.” The passenger hits the driver on the arm, and the guy is totally embarrassed. He says “Thank you very much”, in a sheepish manner. Then puts the car into park and gets out while we drive away.

The whole interaction was less than 15 seconds in length. But I am amazed at the range of emotions they showed in such a surprising situation. Fear, confusion, anger, stunned recognition of the situation, mild embarrassment, humor, and gratitude.

I hope their pizza was tasty.