Wednesday, September 8, 2010


It's amazing how one place can become such a part of you. Ten years ago, I never would have imagined that my life would have taken me through Missouri and then to Little Rock. But here I am, at 26, filled with a bittersweet happiness that I discovered this place and had the chance to spend a few precious years here. In such a short time, I developed both a sense of place that I've never experienced anywhere else, as well as incredibly strong, close, undoubtedly lifelong friendships.

Given that I didn't start this blog until a few years after moving to Little Rock, I still have many stories to share. So, stop by once in a while; I plan to continue to post.

As I embark on the next stage, I am now more certain than ever of this: Our country is a diverse, fascinating and beautiful place. And you can't have a genuine appreciation of that until you've tasted raccoon in a high school gym way off the beaten path, attended Good Friday services in a mega-church, eaten fried pickles at the state fair, and been called "baby" by your boss - the Governor.

Come visit my new blog on life in D.C. at

Monday, September 6, 2010

Travelogue: LR to DC

Guest blogger and older brother Justin details our two-day trip back to Washington. His words -- and my photos and a few notes in italics:

Sam and I arrived in DC yesterday after a mostly pleasant and incident-free journey.
Clyde, the traveling bichon

We got a late start on Friday due to some last-minute compulsive housecleaning, and only made it to Jackson, Tennessee, to spend the first night. We were so tired that we went right to bed. Saturday, we drove on to Nashville, which was a nice place to take a break. We ended up downtown and turned into tourists, so it was probably more of an indulgence than we should have allowed.
However, Jack's BBQ was well worth standing in line for a half hour.
Later that day, we passed through Knoxville as the game was starting, and the place was a circus. (Probably about the same as Fayetteville.)

An observation about I-40: Based upon a non-scientific tally of billboards, the Cracker Barrels are outnumbered only by the adult book stores, theaters, "adult superstores" and other such emporiums. ("Jesus Saves," etc. comes in a distant third.)

We made it to Bristol, Virginia, in time for a late sushi dinner at Osaka, one of the "Top 100 Asian Restaurants in America" (nominated). It was pretty good; try the Vietnamese spring roll with tuna, salmon, avocado and fresh mango, served cold in a rice flour wrapper.

We spent the night at a Rodeway Inn in Roanoke. (We do not recommend this establishment. Shell out the extra 20 bucks to upgrade to Econo Lodge so you won't be afraid to walk around barefoot.)

The last leg of the trip was a beautiful drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains, taking us to Northern Virginia. As we arrived in DC on Sunday afternoon, Sam made me take her through Georgetown for old time's sake.
Clyde kept quiet and behaved himself throughout the trip. He was ignoring his dog food though, so we saved him a little BBQ on Saturday and some scrambled eggs from breakfast on Sunday. The funniest part was when he climbed way up on top of the bags we had stacked on one side of the back seat so that he could get a better view of the road.
Once we got home, Clyde met the newest member of the family, our parents' seven-week old boxer puppy, Ellie Mae.

Neither was quite sure what to think of the other.
But in the end, everyone just really needed a nap.
It was a long and tiring trip home, and a physically and emotionally draining past couple of weeks for all involved, including my dearest Little Rock friends whom I already miss tremendously. After a couple days to process, I'll post some additional thoughts in life in Little Rock and the path ahead.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bye, Bye Little Rock

Three and a half years and two jobs after moving to Little Rock, the moving truck has departed, the car is packed, and (hopefully) the house will be rented soon. I don't know how to begin to summarize my eye-opening, life-changing time in this wonderful hidden gem of the South, so I'll leave you with an e-mail a colleague at the Governor's Office sent me on November 17, 2009, after I attended my first University of Arkansas Razorback football game in Fayetteville:

First, I'd like to say how excited I am that Samantha had such a great first trip to Fayetteville. We owe her and the traveling party a big thank you for spending their Saturday night to ensure the Razorbacks reached Bowl eligibility with their victory over the pipsqueaks from Troy.

I've bumped into her a few times since her trek down 540 ... she cannot stop calling the hogs and singing the fight song. It's been great!

Sam, we expect to see you bright and early Saturday morning taking part in another Arkansas football tradition: tailgating at War Memorial. Bring your bacon and eggs -- I've told Petrino to expect you.

Wooo pig!!!

And, in no particular order, some of the things I'll miss about Arkansas:

Pinnacle Mountain
The seemingly ubiquitous ability among Southern men to pull out a guitar and croon me a tune - or 10
Eureka Springs
Running into people I know everywhere I go
The Big Dam Bridge - one of Clyde's favorites
Bossa Nova's cheese rolls. Amazing.
Cotija's tomatillo salsa
How waiters ask you if you want separate checks
The complete absence of traffic from any one point in Little Rock to another, and the proximity of the airport
Walking into work every morning in a beautiful State Capitol where every click of the heels is a satisfying tap tap tap on marble
Men opening doors for me and doing other Southern gentlemanly kind of things
Dillards' shoe department
Sushi Cafe
Southern hospitality
The large and wonderful Little Rock family I'll miss dearly and expect to come visit me often!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

North Little Rock Finds its Cool

Thanks NYT. I think the more appropriate headline, however, would be: NYT finds North Little Rock, which was of course cool all along.

Still, love it when this town makes it into that rag from NYC!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Country Music 101

A wise friend and lifelong Arkansan told me, "All country music is about cheatin', drinkin', or lovin.' And every song tells a story, so listen to the lyrics."

A couple months ago, I figured it was about time I learned to appreciate country music, so I drafted some friends into providing me a list of the basics. Results are below. Now, I wonder if said friends might make me a cd of said tunes for a certain upcoming long road trip...?

Merle Haggard
George Jones
Johnny Cash
Patsy Cline
Willie Nelson
Loretta Lynn
Lyle Lovett
Jon Prine
Guy Clark
Hank Williams Sr & Jr
Glen Campbell
Lefty Frizzel
Johnny Horton
George Strait
Joe Ely
Conway Twitty
David Allen Coe "You Never Even Called Me By My Name"
David Allen Coe "The Ride." It's his own little tribute to Hank, Sr.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

As Rosh Hashanah Dawns, We Support the Troops

This time two years ago, someone very dear to me was preparing to depart on a year deployment with the U.S. Army to Iraq.

He left at the end of September, and given the dates the Jewish holidays fell that year, if I remember correctly, he sort of missed celebrating Rosh Hashanah all together that year, but he arrived in time for Yom Kippur. We were both thrilled to learn that he had the opportunity to be escorted to another site where he could commemorate both Kil Nidre and the full day of Yom Kippur, including a break fast meal with fellow Jewish soldiers who had come together from various bases for the occasion. I think part of his excitement was breaking up the routine and getting to spend a night in peace and quiet away from work, but the most important thing to him was that though he was one of very few Jews in the Army, he could celebrate the most important time of the Jewish year.

So, this year, I came up with an idea. I collected Rosh Hashanah cards from Arkansas' Jewish community to send to deployed Jewish service members. I asked the senders to write generic messages that any soldier would be happy and honored to receive. People wrote beautiful, meaningful things, even though they were sending them to people they didn't know personally. And in the cases of many who sent me cards to send, they had very little, if any, personal connection to anyone serving in the U.S. military. I was proud to find one, even if very small, way to help them relate to the wars we are fighting in the Middle East and to the many brave, patriotic Americans who have chosen to dedicate a least a portion of their lives toward representing our country through the military.

Through some Googling, I quickly learned that there is a group of people throughout the United States whom have never met, but whom only have in common the fact that they want to do everything they can to ensure that Jewish service members are as comfortable as they can be while they are deployed far from their families, friends, and Jewish roots. They have a listserve -- which they immediately invited me to join upon reading of my interest -- through which they maintain a list of overseas addresses for deployed Jewish soldiers and chaplains. They share ideas of religious, cultural and food items to send on the various Jewish holidays, send cards throughout the year, and help anyone interested in helping them do the same. This group is just a small subset of the many, many groups across the country organizing similar projects for soldiers from their area.

Whether or not you "support" the wars or the reasons we're fighting them, everyone supports the troops. I'm glad I found one way particularly meaningful to me to show it.

For further reading, you may find my officer's story of grappling with his Jewish identity while serving in a Muslim country here, at the New York Times At War blog: