A friend of mine once had this to say about elevator music: “It’s sort of music and sort of not music.” In other words, it’s music without a lot of substance. It certainly has some essential properties of music: it’s melodious sound with something rhythmic about it, but…it lacks soul. I remember the day my maternal grandfather called the house, wanting to take my brother, sisters, and me out for ice cream one hot summer day. This was the grandfather who spoiled his ten grandchildren with lunch at Wendy’s for square hamburgers, bikes, a trip to Europe, and (on this occassion) a frozen dairy treat. When we heard the news that grandpa was picking us up, there was only one place that we could go: Frosty Boy, the soft serve ice cream stand a couple miles from our northeast side home. But, grandpa objected to our suggestion on the grounds that soft serve ice cream wasn’t real ice cream. You can imagine the incomprehensibility of the statement. “What do you mean Frosty Boy doesn’t serve real ice cream!?” We went to Frosty Boy that day. Well, grandpa, I finally agree with you. Frosty Boy served something that was sort of ice cream in the same way that elevator music is sort of music: soft serve ice cream is cold, sweet, and has a creamy texture. But, with all that, it too lacks some essential property, some very real substance. There’s just something artificial about it all. Read more

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die…This paradox is the whole principle of courage…A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it upon the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it…He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water yet drink death like wine.” (G.K. Chesterton)

The idea that paradoxes are a key to the full life–indeed the only way to truly live–has much been on my mind as of late. And Autumn only seems to heighten this awareness, providing us with various sensual reminders as death and life dance inches from each other this time of year, be it in the vibrant color of the falling leaves, in the very sweetness of decaying vegetation, or in an exquisite meal from freshly killed game. For your consideration, I offer the following paradoxes inherent in life: Read more

It was on such a day as today (decidedly cool, gray, and possibly a little blustery if my memory serves) in the month of October at four o’clock on a Friday afternoon that I took a call from a headhunter. I was in Fifth Grade and had just recently returned home from school to begin the weekend. The voice on the other end of the line was that of Sue Blades, a manager at The Grand Rapids Press. Was I interested in taking on a paper route, she asked? Gosh, I think I was. Good: she would be over that evening to meet with my parents and me. What was it that I sensed in her voice as we talked on the phone? Trepidation, I think (normally, paper routes were not handed over to 11-year-olds). But I remember feeling honored. Though it would take me more than twenty years, I now discern that I was probably at the end of her list of potential candidates (the job started tomorrow, after all). You never forget your first love. And you never forget your first job. This, then, is an ode to a first job but, truth be told, it feels more like a ballad: a ballad to a rite of passage that has all but disappeared–that of the paperboy. Read more

This week, a return to our roots (steak) by plugging a book currently in my possession, a book I discovered as we research and pursue the best beef that we can get our hands on. The name of the book is Steak (One  Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef). Shared below is the inside front and back covers of Mark Schatzker’s book. I hope it stirs you to read it (and I believe it will): Read more