The Rocket, The Gun, The Old Man at the Dinner Table

I wrote this piece about three years ago. With the turmoil that is in recent news, I felt the need to try and share as it has given me a little more perspective in time.

I hope you do to....

The Rocket, The Gun, The Old Man at the Dinner Table

I dreamt of a gathering 
 a multitude of friends – catching up on years of life, accomplishments, and regrets. Some were well off, while others(in the same rut of life) were wasting their hopes and talents away.

I dreamt that they all sat atop a hill looking over a great city. The city was torn with violence and destruction, spilling out into the streets  into it’s suburbs and onto the out reaches their civilization. People were killing one another and an escape seemed like a far away fantasy.

My brother and I stood amongst the community, frightened by the possibility of 
the violent chaos of the city reaching us. Some amongst us were armed in the event of a sudden attack, believing that a ever growing stock pile of guns and ammunition was the answer to security. My brother and I wanted no part of it and couldn't face the certain death within a random cross fire. We decided to leave the small hilltop and the far outskirts of this city – away from the only home we ever knew. We wandered deeper into the distant mountains and rocky canyons, hoping to find lasting peace and shelter.

We stumbled into a small village and a small family took us into their home. They did not have much, but what little they did have they gave to us and fed us with their days harvest; we took refuge and we were glad. During that evening’s dinner, the father spoke of a lifetime of great achievement – wealthy in wisdom and compassion. My brother and I listened in great awe and reverence, hoping that one day we could be able to tell a similar story to our children.

Then I dreamt of a great black sky suddenly flashing a searing white – turning the very night into day. A distant fireball, a rocket-like projectile soared and collided into the horizon. The family cried out as the earth shook; a plumb of smoke rose in the far distance – a pillar of impending death – a judgment reigning down upon us all. How can man create such devices while disease go uncured and hungry children of the world cry to sleepThe small family took refuge, but I knew there was no escape. My brother and I too shelter within a small bathroom in the basement – using only a bookshelf to barricade the door, but we knew it was futile. This was the end and we knew we only had a moment to say goodbye. Then a great fire consumed us all and everything we ever knew. I felt nothing: no pain, no sorrow, and no tragedy – only a blazing white furnace of destruction. 

And then…

My eyes slowly opened and I realized I was now awake – a memory of something not yet come to past. I have been blessed with another day to do what I decide to do. The trees outside the small apartment window gently swayed in the autumn breeze, a blue sky hovering above. The room sat still in a great silence, with nothing to fill the air but a faint ticking of a table-side clock.

A Little Bit of Cheese and Salsa

For the last year I have participated in Toastmasters International. This was a great growing experience for me as it allowed me to develop a skill-set that I didn't know I possessed --not to mention too terrified to find out.

The organization is a non-profit that develops and trains it's members in public speaking, communication, and leadership. I think I've repeated myself before on this blog, but I have been in a transition of changing my habits and perspectives on life. Anything that I would previously perceive as scary or "out of my comfort zone," I would just jump right in.

And the results are that I fell in love right away. I found confidence in myself that existed well beyond talking in front of a group of strangers. I was able to communicate to other people more effectively as well. Family and friends included, I was able to develop and phrase my words clearly and directly.

I soon found myself feeling anxious for my speeches, but not just to hear myself talk, but for a few moments of getting an audience's undivided attention. I think our lives are filled with distractions and disruptions that no one really listens to each other speak and just waits for their turn to talk. With public speeking, there is none of that. You are now on a soapbox with the platform to say what you feel like saying. It touched a nerve in me that I cannot ignore anymore.

Another great benefit of exercising the ability to speak in front of others is that it has added a new dimension to my writing. Preparing a speech is now another form of writing in which you are now required to speak the words and ideas that you have written. It's the most terrifying and yet the most liberating experience that I can describe. I will not attempt to try and describe this to you but only to encourage you to try it yourself. Once you get over your initial jitters, you will find that it is an amazing experience.

With that, I thought I would share a speech that I wrote for one of the requirements of the program. You can really choose any topic you like and I chose cooking my favorite snack. Now before you jump out your judgmental remarks, just so that you know, the objective is to use description and visual words to tell a story in just under 6 minutes. So I thought I would have fun with it.


Thank you Mister Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmaster, and most welcomed guests.

I would like to first start out and say that I love food. In case you haven’t noticed by my hefty exterior. There is something about nutritional consumption that I, for myself, correlate to the happiest moments of my life.

Now, imagine right now your favorite meal and I can almost bet with certainty that you are transported to a specific moment in time and if not, then, I am sorry to say, that you are not a fan of delicious cuisine as I am.

You ask me what my favorite seafood is and I’ll tell you about the most delicious grilled shrimp dish, overlooking the beautiful Pacific coast of the beaches of Central America. My favorite Italian food? And I’ll vividly describe the busy streets of Little Italy in South Bronx, as I relish a delightful calzone right before my first Yankee game.

Those are my experiences with food and across the years it has been my life’s pursuit to engineer the best dish imaginable.

So, what do I cook?

Well, I guess I would have to say is that I am a simple man. And my passion for perfecting my signature quesadilla is second-to-none.

Now, I know what you may be thinking. A quesadilla? There really isn’t much to a quesadilla.

And you are right to think so. It is virtually two, MAYBE three ingredients if you wish to make thinks difficult.

But I argue that a quesadilla derives its complexity from its simplicity. The convergence of its ingredients coming together to form its intricate flavors is what places this versatile snack in the realm of legend.

I benefited from the quesadilla throughout my entire childhood, and has even made an impact during my college years. It has been a dish that has been virtually essential for delivering all of my primary food groups on a budget.

Now let me take a moment to share some knowledge with everyone. What I am proposing is a simple step recommendation to achieve maximum quesadilla potential.

One, depending on your choice of carbohydrates, you must decide one of the following: Corn or …flour tortilla –any of the other healthier, more “organic” substitutes may work just as fine if you are in a critical situation. But if you wish to achieve perfection, you must not stray from my recommendation.

Next, take choice of tortilla and lather with butter or margarine. My recommendation is either or, because to this day I still have no idea what is the difference between butter and margarine. 

Next, place tortilla in a heated skillet and allow 1-2 minutes until tortilla has reached optimal state of golden brown. Flip said tortilla and repeat previous steps.

Continuing on, begin to add your choice of cheese. Your variety of cheeses is really where your creativity can shine, but I offer the following prescriptions: shredded cheddar; mozzarella; Monterey jack; and various forms of brie. Allow cheese to melt and liquefy into a molten pulp. If you are unsure if the cheese is properly melted, I can recommend at your own risk that you attempt to administer a bare finger test. Test results are immediate and painful.

Finally, once you have confirmed that cheese is properly melted, I recommend adding your choice of salsa to add any extra layer of spice and flavor. I can recommend any of the following: Tostido’s Chunky salsa – mild; La Victoria’s Thick n Chunky – Hot; Picco de Gallo – any preference; and Jack Daniels. (A note of the last option, that was during my failed college year recipe and I have no intentions of returning to that.)

You will now complete the process by folding quesadilla into a half moon and let it cool on dish. This recipe is best enjoyed with a topping of sour cream and/or guacamole.

In closing, I define the absurdity of meticulously defining the steps to preparing a quesadilla as commitment –commitment to a craft. Although it may not be understood to many, it is the practice and routine that makes perfection possible.

What is your daily craft? What is your path to perfection? Thank you.