All posts filed under: Essays

Peggy

When I moved in with Peggy for almost a year in 2009, she was 88 years old. This past January, Peggy turned 100. I haven’t seen her since 2013 or 2014, but we’ve miraculously stayed in touch over the phone despite her hopping states and retirement communities several times. We talk once or twice a year, usually by accident. I’ll be scrolling through my phone and will stumble upon Peggy’s number. I just hit dial whenever that happens, taking it as a sign to check in. Or she’ll just randomly call. Nobody else from Plantation, Florida calls me, so I answer. Sometime’s she’ll ask, “Now who am I talking to?” Many great conversations have started that way. What I love about Peggy and her whole her generation is that they answer the call. They give human voices primacy over all other forms of communication. I talked to Peggy a few days ago and her memory is slipping. Each time we connect, I’m certain it’s going to be our last conversation. And maybe I’m right. But …

The Wild Alone

Louie Boer is a college chum of my father’s, a peach farmer, and somewhat of a mythical figure. I remember him visiting the house when I was a kid, driving down from Modesto in his ginormous truck, wearing a thick lined windbreaker and work boots. He is a big guy – towering, Dutch, and agricultural. Louie is the kind of guy you look at and think, “Your mom fed you well growing up.” As gentle as he is big, Louie is a rugged but soft-spoken intellectual. I remember sitting at the dinner table listening to him and my dad talk about the good old days, fishing up the Central Coast, reading, and just being free outdoors. They talked about life, God, and family while my mom served Louie Indian food – puffed up rotis, sautéed vegetables, and my dad’s chicken curry. About a month ago, Louie got COVID, and then a couple of weeks ago, he disappeared. My father grew desolate trying to reach him, and every day he would talk to some friend or …

Who are “Opportunity Youth”?

The term “Opportunity Youth” often gets flung around in education and other youth-serving spaces, but it is often misunderstood or conflated with “At-Promise Youth”. While At-Promise Youth broadly refers to under-resourced young people in danger of dropping out, Opportunity Youth are more specifically young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who have already disengaged from school, and who are not participating in the labor market. There are currently 4.6 million Opportunity Youth in the United States. This is 11.7% of all youth between the ages of 16 and 24. The proportion is higher in historically underserved and minority communities. For example, 17.2% of all Black youth between the ages of 16 and 24 are considered Opportunity Youth. Unfortunately, the current economic situation will likely inflate these figures, and amplify their inherent inequity. According to the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions, “Nearly 40 percent of our young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are weakly attached or unattached to school and work at some point during that formative stretch of their …

New to Food

If you think about it, none of us is “new to food.” Food is something each of us has experienced and interacted with since our first days. However, the growing complexity and commercialization of food in recent decades has distanced us so much from this thing so elemental to our existence, that we sometimes feel confused or like we’re new here. Despite knowing a great deal about food, I too often wander the supermarket aisles, assaulted by trends and market forces, wondering if I should buy this or that. Despite a growing collective renaissance we’re having about food and keeping what we consume as close to the earth as possible, food is still something we largely obtain through corporate channels. Having grown up with a food scientist father in a factory environment, and being an experienced food industry professional myself, I would argue that what we now call food isn’t really food. Since we’ve come down on “big food,” another goliath industry has emerged comprised of “natural, non-GMO, dairy- and gluten-free, small batch, hand-crafted, functional, …

The Disproportionate Effects of Uncertainty

For the past few days, like many Americans, I have watched my nest egg get tumbled along a path of peril and uncertainty. Needless to say, it has some new cracks, and I have suffered. I consider myself young, but I’m old enough to remember what happened in 2008. My friends and I were wee babes who had just entered the workforce after graduating college. I was working my dream job at a global hospitality company in Las Vegas, and my sister was wrapping up law school to move to Manhattan. Then suddenly, everything changed. I lost my job and came home. I planned to take refuge in graduate school, and my sister mentored me from afar. Our family business had taken a hit, but we were still prodding along. My resourceful parents and the relationships they had built in the community kept our company alive. That is something I remember distinctly – leaders within tight ecosystems rising to the occasion and helping one another. I was fortunate enough to work in that business for …