Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Jersey Eats

There is a curious culinary phenomenon in New Jersey and the east coast which people here call 'diners'. Diners seem to be defined by their small locations, late hours, and extremely eclectic menu. Although I'm sure there are some exceptions, these small, local restaurants have turned their nose up at the stereotypical restaurant model of drawing in customers with delicious food. Despite their inability to create delicious food, diners litter the landscape by the hundreds here. They remain so popular because people don't go to diners for the food, they go for the company.
When you're at a diner everyone there is your friend. The first diner I ever went to I felt immediately at home. A few minutes after we sat down I asked a woman who had just entered if she could take our picture. This sparked a conversation and soon the entire diner was involved. Later a gentleman came in and sat behind us with a couple already there. He had never met them, but he was instantly welcome at their booth as if he were an old family friend. I've never been anywhere as unconditionaly welcoming and friendly in my entire life.New Jersey is the diner capitol of the world. For it was here diners were born and there are still more diners in Jersey than any other state, not more diners per capita but more diners total. Fairly impressive when you realize that new Jersey is the fourth smallest state in the union. So if you're ever in New Jersey, do yourself a favor and stop into a diner. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4th

How do you celebrate a place as diverse as America? What do you do to celebrate a concept as big as "freedom"?? I guess that's what makes July 4th so special to us all, we can celebrate America's independence day any way we see fit. Fireworks are probably the most popular way and for good reason. Painting on the night sky with fire and light is a poetry unlike any other. This year I was lucky enough to see our nation's largest fireworks display explode above our nation's largest city. But I also celebrated in a much less traditional way.
Macy's Fireworks Spectacular

I'm concerned that our nation is becoming too polarized. It seems to be getting easier to isolate ourselves from any differing opinions and convince ourselves that we are always right and that the opposing factions are always wrong. If you're a conservative you can watch Fox News, listen to Rush Limbuagh, and talk with your conservative friends. Or if you're a liberal you can watch MSNBC, listen to NPR and chat with your liberal friends. And you never, ever have to hear that you might be wrong.But we're all wrong sometimes, we're only human. This nation was founded on diversity and we need others to challenge us and share with us their different points of view. Or else we shall become divided and fall. This July 4th I felt it was important to spend at least a little time around people with differing viewpoints. So in addition to fireworks, I also went to an independence day "teaparty", which was a conservative political rally. I don't agree with most of what was said at the rally, but I was filled with a sense of unity and pride in the freedom of expression this great nation affords us all. If America has just one lesson to teach us, it's that we should not shy away from diversity but rather embrace it, for diversity makes us all better. United we Stand, divided we fall. So we all better embrace diversity and learn to talk with (and even learn from) people we disagree with or there is great trouble ahead.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A New Birthday Tradition??

Well tomorrow is my birthday and the day after is America's birthday. I'm not really getting any physical presents, but I'm still going to get some cool stuff. Tomorrow I'll be having a fun barbecue in the back yard and this fills me with joy. Also I'm asking my parents for money to help pay for the English as a second language certification course I'm taking in August. This is even more exciting than the barbecue because it moves me one step closer to Japan. As for myself, I've decided to make a video time capsule for the Jeff who will be around 5 years from now. Youtube must be having difficulties because after I uploaded my video I discovered the sound was out of sync. According to their "know problems" page they are currently aware of this problem and working to fix it. For now if you want to watch it, I guess you'll just have to deal with the 1970's kung fu movie feel of my time capsule.

So maybe I'll make a video time capsule every year on the eve of my birthday. I can't wait to watch this again in five years and see how differently I see myself or more accurately, my past self. Time is such a funny thing. We exist only for a moment and then change into somebody else. Our struggle is to constantly progress, to always keep changing into someone better, someone who you will make us proud and happy. Here's to the future!

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