twenty-something

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Well. I turn 30 this week.

The writer part of me wants to search deeply for some metaphor and marrow.
The cook side of me hopes people will buy me a drink or two and maybe feed me something good — something that I don’t have to cook myself.

How do you sum up your twenties?

Well. You don’t really.
But I’d like to say something here, at least.

If our younger years are as formative as they say, then this decade has been about lessons.
Lessons on humanity and grace. Humility and power. Love and divorce.

It has been about justice and injustice. Spending moments with the poor. Seeing the faces of women who sell their bodies to feed their children; who work off a debt they had no say in.

With that, sprang some sort of well, deep in my heart. An overly-sensitive southern boy living in a world that is bright and loud and sometimes very violent.

Time rounds off the edges like sand blowing against a sharp rock over them years. Some softness gets added. Softness is like learning and understanding that you’re going to keep making mistakes and learning your whole life.

Softness is going easy on one’s self.

Cheeseburgers add to my softness.

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I learned how to be fierce, too. In the kitchen. I found so much in the kitchen. I found a heartbeat, a thicker skin, and something that drives and feels like some engine rumbling in my belly. It gives me confidence and passion. It gives me my own forms of justice and grace and I keep getting to learn what works.

The kitchen saved me from a lot of self-damage, and has given me a life I never thought I’d be able to stomach. But somehow, some way, this sensitive and quiet dude found a life and love for it. Regardless of which way my life turns, I am thankful the kitchen has been a part of it.

There is much growth in your twenties. You are still a baby, really. And then adult stuff hits you hard. Like money and rent and love. Sometimes you get married and you might have a baby or two or three.

Sometimes it works for you.
Sometimes it doesn’t.
And sometimes you’re in between all of that.

Sometimes you want to crawl underneath your bed with all those socks you’ve been missing and stay there until the noise dies down.

Fortunately for humans, we move. And we move forward.

Perhaps the biggest lesson in the past decade of my life is that we aren’t going to feel heartbroken forever.

We are going to be sad. We are going to hurt and see painful things that will change us.
But we also get to move around and squirm and sometimes settle. Like finding that sweet spot at night before you go to bed.

There were times I wish I would have dipped my toes into the sea. Or climbed higher or pushed myself to walk just a little bit further. I think we all feel that way sometimes. At least that’s what I’m learning.

And I’m learning that kindness is a gift. Something for yourself and others.

I learned that maybe the planet with those beautiful rings around it pulled me closer and allowed me to see myself and my life at a different angle. I know it might be silly to think of the planets like that, but I think there was some gravity there — it coming around to me being as close as it was when I came into the world all hot and red and pissed. It pulled the water in my body upwards and out — allowing me to open my heart to this wild and gracious time.

So yes — lessons and learning.

And I’ve cooked so much food and have fed so many people. I am so damn thankful I get to do something I really enjoy, for at least this time in my life — it works. And it might not some day. So, I’m going to live in this and work hard to make things better.

I joke that I have been 30’ish for about 6 years and it’s probably true. I am an old soul, some say. I am not afraid of getting older, only I do like to think about the time that has passed. I like to know what has helped me and what has hurt me. It takes us a while to learn, but we get there.

And I am getting there.

Slowly.

Stubbornly.

Shyly.

Quietly.

Fiercely.

 

Sincerely,

Josh, thirty-something

 

to my dad on his birthday

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I am thankful for my dad.

It has surely been a long road for the both of us.

But hear me out when I say:

thank you.

I can’t say any of this has been easy. But this very week, you sent me Camellia Red Beans and small batch “extra hot” Crystal hot sauce, because you know I love it and it makes me feel closer to home.

Because you’ve been teaching me some things these past few months that have saved me from going crazy.

Whether that’s your own house cured meats and homemade white dog. ‘Tis a cure for all ailments.

But, what I want to say, is that I am happy to see you so well. I am happy to hear your voice sound good and strong, after a long time of questions and big horizons. (Granted, we will always have them.)

I am happy you are using your hands to create. (Something we all get to benefit from.)

I love that you love what I’m doing.

That’s so important to me.

It always has been.

But thank you for saying it out loud and telling me how proud you are of me.

In retrospect, I am proud of you too. For reaching out when I’ve been hurting so badly, and sending help when things inevitably fell to pieces.

There will be a time to reflect on sadness, but it won’t be today. And it might look different twenty years from now. I suppose all things will.

Just know, that I am thankful for your love.

I am thankful that you keep trying, and that what you love most, are the things you have created and take care of, including me.

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happy birthday, pops.

wish I could be there to eat some oysters and a hot link poboy with gravy and drink an ice cold bottle of Barq’s.

soon.

nothing but love. (and butterfinger cake)

Story

happy birthday mom, I love you.

Nothing but love.

This is what I remember.
Even in the hardest times. When lessons were learned or whenever I was just a confused boy.

There’s this sacred thing. Mother and child. Painted in pictures a thousand years old. When you see it, you feel something. Sometimes that feeling hurts, sometimes it reminds you of where you came from. Sometimes, there is peace.

There is a lot to be said of how we live our lives.
I chose to be safe, most of the time.
I used rules. Embraced them. Never went where I wasn’t supposed to go. (Usually)

And then, I chose to venture outside of that sacred space. I witnessed heartbreak. I experienced a lot. More than I was ready for. But then again, we are never ready for the things that change us.

There are millions of things to say about moms. There are people who can say them better than me, that’s for sure.

Since I can’t be near her on this very important birthday, I will choose to write this. Because I can’t cook for her or be present with her. Which, to a mom, there is nothing like having all of your babies happy under one roof. At least I can assume.

My mom is my connection to this world. In everything I have experienced, and have yet to see, will be processed through what she gave me.

Strong, strong, strong.

For me…she is strong because there are times when she needs to be. When I need her to be.

And also, to mourn with me.

She is the maker of sweets. Chess squares. Pecan pie. Banana puddin’. Butterfinger cake. Oh, butterfinger cake.
Miss Hospitality.
Lover of good company.
Washer of dishes.
Blue collar cook.
Needing something salty after something sweet.
A woman after my own heart.

image: framedcooks.com

image: framedcooks.com

My mom is my connection to this world. In everything I am given, I thank her.
When she shifts because I shift.

Like those belly pains long ago.

I complain about my broad shoulders because it makes me look awkward in shirts, and I apologize for you having to birth them.

You gave them to me. To hold back and be strong when I feel like shutting a door on everything.

Nothing but love.

Even when I am flustered and confused and working it out.
I imagine your fingers washing my hair in the sink as a kid.

I imagine my lack of hair now, and when I first shaved it off and took a look in the mirror and freaked out.

I knew I was safe, there.

You know what’s important. It’s obvious I’m still trying to figure it out.
But I’m well on my way.

Because my mom is my connection to this world.
And in that world,

there ain’t nothin’ but love,

(and sometimes, butterfinger cake.)

Happy 295th, New Orleans!

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It’s not “N’awlins”, however much you want it to be.

It’s not “New Or-LEENS”, unless you need it to rhyme in a song or poem.

It’s New Orleans. Pronounce without over-pronouncing. Then, you might be close.

I had all this stuff written, but it didn’t feel right.

Today, I just wanna remember these good things about my most favorite city on Earth.

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When Hannah came to visit me for the first time, she took a red-eye into New Orleans. Our hotel wasn’t ready till 4pm, so we took naps on the benches in front of the cathedral. Then we went and got beignets from Cafe du Monde and sat by the river, in the grass. It was perfect.

My 21st birthday was spent handing out toiletries and what not to the homeless. It was cold. I was naive then, but it was meaningful for me at the time. I’m sure they didn’t mind. I went to a jazz club off Bourbon. “Hey man, there’s pride on Bourbon Street!”

Being the designated driver for some family members the December after Katrina. It was a ghost town until you hit Bourbon. Weird times, but memorable. Luckily, no one threw up in my Aunt’s SUV. Also, we came back home with a bike wheel.

There was the pigeon that pooped on my dad’s head, after him teasing that it was probably going to happen to me.

There’s the many field trips there as a kid. To the Audubon Zoo and the aquarium and IMAX.

When my dad was married on a steamboat. (That happened to be a surprise…)

One of my prom’s happened on a steamboat. Can’t remember if it was the Creole Queen or the Natchez.

The many random trips from Hattiesburg to New Orleans. Or for that matter, any random trip to New Orleans.

Cafe du Monde.

Tujague’s.

Abita on the street.

Anything alcoholic on the street.

Poboys.

Daiquiris. Paired with music that’s loud as hell.

But really, this city is so much more than the sum of any one person’s experience. And if you’ve been at any point, you’ll understand.

I hold it close. And at times, quite literally, wear it on my sleeve.

Happy Birthday, New Orleans.

And thank you. Have one on all of us.

(preferably a sazerac…)

 

 

 

ps.

And here’s to you, Alan Richman.