Let this Happen to You

Megan McArdle gets into the discussion about whether it’s a good idea to marry young. Her focus, as has been true with the rest of the cultural sturm und drang on this issue, is on the impact for women (TL;DR – she says “yes”).

That’s well and good, and I think her points are well taken, and well considered. I’d like to look at the issue from a different perspective: that of men, or at least this man.

I may be a tad unusual among men, or at least I don’t fit the stereotype, because I wanted very much to get married young. Part of this may stem from overly romantic notions (à la Lloyd Dobbler, perhaps) – and another part could be influenced by spending my teenage years in Utah.

In Utah, it’s pretty common for young Mormon men to get married not too long after they return from their mission at age 21, while they’re in college. A few of my friends were married shortly after high school, which I’m certain is an uncommon thing to say in my current social circle (where marriage in one’s mid/late 20s is normal, and that’s “young” relative to the rest of the city).

I eloped at age 20 with someone I barely knew, and it was a complete disaster (shocker, right?). We divorced while she was in prison a year and a half later. I was not a very good husband (although to be fair, nothing I did was bad enough to land me in prison…)

I met Sarah not too long (6 months?) after that (talk about trading up!) and immediately knew that I wanted to be with her. We married when I was 26 and she was 22, after dating for almost three years, and have been married for 14.5 years, through some rough times, but not a single day of which would I trade away without a fight.

To me, knowing that Sarah is there for me (and I am there for her) is pretty much the best thing since sliced bread. Actually, far better than sliced bread- I know that no matter what happens, be it illness, loss, grief, triumph, success, joy, pain – it’s always better when I can share it with her. I think the closest word in English for that is love.

My dear friend Gordon zt”l died a couple of weeks ago, and he was only one year older than me. That to me is a great example of why it is foolish to wait to get married: marital happiness is something which should never be put off. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

So I think those people who are advocating the MRS degree are right on the money- except that I would also say the same thing to the men (although there is no equivalent term). I would say advise a person in college not to put their career before love. After all, which one will be with you in the private moments?

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Hot Sauced Buns

In the “apparently everyone in the universe knew this before me” department, Huy Fong sriracha sauce (aka “rooster sauce” which totally sounds like some sort of euphemism) is certified kosher by a respected agency (and here’s the kicker) regardless of what’s on the label. Yay RCC!

This was not always the case. I first encountered that sriracha about 12 or so years ago at Korean Korner in Rockville, when Sarah and I were on a sushi-making kick, and I was looking for something with which to make spicy tuna rolls. I saw it, and bought it, because it had a hashgaha (supervision mark) I didn’t recognize, which turned out to be the KTK (aka Star Shield K) (also seen locally on bread at whole foods). NOTE: this is NOT related to any supervision from Minnesota (the highly reliable “United Mehadrin” hashgaha looks like a shield, and could get confused with them) A small incident of my encounter about this sauce and that hashgaha is on my old blog from 2007 (and I see that KTK updated their website in 2008, such that the halakhic guidance on shmitta and other info was pulled off, and is now just application forms).

One note on kosher supervision: when evaluating a kosher supervision symbol, check Kosherquest first. If the symbol is not there, then ask your local rabbi – it may be that they are smaller, regional, etc. If a supervision agency says that they’re really big and respected, but isn’t on that list, I’d view their claim with extra skepticism, and definitely ask your local rabbi, but It doesn’t augur well. Remember The Princess Bride: “Life is pain, Highness; anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.”

In any case, I had looked at the growing cultural-meme level popularity of sriracha as something which would pass me by – yet another bacon or unicorn meat. But now, the yummy goodness can be mine!

Safe Words

Some of the recent things going on in life recently (IVF/ART/fertility, funerals & loss) are pretty raw, so I’m going to wait for a bit for them to settle before going into to many details.

In the meantime, there are some less-weighty things of some note, which I’ll mention in FIFO order.

The Franchise’s show at the Treehouse Lounge was good, but not as well attended as we had hoped. We got a few decent recordings- once we pick which ones will go public I’ll share them here and elsewhere. I was particularly happy with “Footsteps”, which came out just right.

On Star Wars Day, I hosted a civilization game (this time with planked and baked salmon instead of cholent).

This was an interesting game: the player who was slotted to play Africa skipped, and so we had a hole, but then Toby joined there about four turns in. It was a very crowded board, with all of the experienced players in the North-central board. We didn’t get very far: we ended at havdalah, and one new player was very slow- that player tended to view the determinations of where to move tokens with the deliberation that one wishes our actual government would use in making decisions (oooh, I went there…)

The funniest moment was of course the small band of Italian farmers who kept trying to fight their way out of Egypt, during which time Egypt experienced a flood, famine, pestilence, and eventually Iconoclasm & Heresy. Of course it did.. The Egyptians had even expressed fear that the Italians would join with the Babylonians or Africans against them! I was waiting for the next calamity to be “death of the firstborn.” Amusingly, those Italian farmers survived until the end of the game, regardless of what Merneptah’s inscription said… (tl;dr – one of the many, many too-early obituaries of the Jewish people, from ~1200 BCE)

We didn’t get very far, but our finish did have something notable: Shoshana’s first victory! Yay, Shoshana!

Final scores:
Shoshana, Asia, 1689
Michael, Crete, 1651
Ron, Babylon, 1511
David, Thrace, 1398
Erin, Illyria, 1250
Alan, Italy, 1239
Rich, Egypt, 974
Toby, Africa, 924

Whee!

Then, after Sarah returned, we headed up to New Jersey for our RMA consult (more on that later), but decided to make a weekend of it. I finally encountered the vaunted Gotham wines, and I had expected to be underwhelmed. Um, NO. I haven’t seen a selection of kosher wine that good in one place, especially with a helpful guy who was suggesting the oodles of stuff for me to try (and what not to try, even more important).

Two which were remarkable so far were a 2007 Chateau Fourcas Dupre Bordeaux and a 2011 Recanati Reserve Petit Syrah / Zinfandel blend. Both were really outstanding, and quite worth it.

I did get to see the Jewish Center, which had two things I liked a great deal: the formal (top hat + vest) attire of the rabbi & gabbaim, and also an absolutely stunning sanctuary where the mehitza isn’t oppressive. Beautiful! I could have done with less talking, but I think that’s probably true almost everywhere.

Our weekend got cut short when we heard the news about the funeral, and logistics took over.

Since then, my mom visited during Shavuot (a lovely visit) and we’re just starting to begin to slow down the whirlwind. Or maybe we’ll have it spin up.

Gordon Lederman, zt”l

I am sad.

I just came from the funeral of a friend. This particular friend was someone who means a whole lot to a lot of people, and I won’t presume to a degree of closeness which I don’t have. However, he influenced me (and lots of other people) in some extremely profound ways.

When Sarah and I were newly married and I went to stay for a Shabbat at Kesher Israel, I accepted a hospitality invitation, and it was Gordon who took me in. I didn’t know anyone, and he made me feel completely welcome. I later learned that this was just who he was: he *always* made people feel welcome, and he welcomed people into his heart in the same way that he welcomed them into his home.

I learned a lot from him over the first few years I was at Kesher. I saw his devotion to his family- he spoke lovingly and often of them, and his apartment was surrounded by their pictures. He was a mainstay of the synagogue, specifically in the unsung tasks of setting up and cleaning up. He neither asked for any particular credit nor sought any recognition for doing this- he simply saw a task which needed to be done and did it.

He had tremendous drive to do bikur holim (visiting the sick) among other things. When he was single, lots of women were interested in him. I remember him telling Sarah and I that the way he knew that Lisa was the right woman for him was that he mentioned that there was a hospitalized person he had wanted to visit who was quite a long way away (if I recall correctly, the patient had been moved). Without missing a beat, she said, “Let’s go!” It says something about him that the quality he prized in a spouse was an eagerness to help others.

I once answered a couple of questions for him about networking, and it turned out that he was doing research for the 9/11 commission report. The copy of he autographed for me is something I treasure.

I’ve long said “I want to be Gordon when I grow up”. He was born just one year before me, but always seemed to have himself so much more together- I had the sense that he was the one who exemplified the things which I should be doing.

I think the story which truly captures the essence of my experience of Gordon is that when we came to visit him after he got sick, and we were talking, when he learned about our health and infertility problems, his response was “I’ll add you to my tehillim (prayer) list”. I think it takes a special person to, when faced with his own terminal Illness, make a point of praying for the recovery of others. And yet that was just Gordon being Gordon.

It is my feeling that he was the single best man in my generation. I miss him already.

May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing.