Happy Birthday! Five Cool Things About My Dad

Today's my dad's birthday, so I just ate a piece of imaginary cake and ice cream in his honor. If he'd decided to come to LA and escape the frigid Midwestern air I would've gotten to eat the real thing. Darnit!

Just like I told you a few cool things about my mom on her birthday, here's a few pretty awesome things about my dad!

1) He's the original "Human Mapquest". My friends call me the "Human Mapquest", but guess what? I've been tutored at the knee of the master! I'm seriously the 2.0 version. Anyone who's ever asked my dad for directions knows that he's obsessed with a) writing meticulous directions, b) drawing impeccably accurate maps, and c) finding driving shortcuts. If he lived here in Los Angeles, he'd probably read the Thomas Guide for fun like I do.

2) He believes peanut butter is the 7th food group. Peanut butter is my dad's favorite food. Products like Jif and Skippy aren't really peanut butter in my dad's world. He only eats all natural, creamy peanut butter. Peanuts and salt. He slathers it on bread-ends and eats that with no jelly. Just the peanut butter!

He loves peanut butter so much, when he comes to LA to visit, he buys a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and keeps it in his hotel room for an inexpensive meal. I think I remember asking him what the Soviet Union was like when he visited in '70 or '71, and he replied that he was unhappy because they didn't have peanut butter.

3) He's an incredible jazz musician. My dad's a music teacher as well as performer and he's sort of like Prince - he can play almost every instrument to some extent. However, he's a genius when it comes to the piano and the trombone. He's amazing whether he's performing alone, with his trio, or jamming with some of the many jazz legends he's played with over the years - name a jazz great who's been alive in the past 40-45 years, my dad's probably played with them.

I love how he jams on the piano and then he blows the audience away by getting up and doing an equally inspired trombone solo. I'm also waiting for him to write the definitive book about the role the jazz movement has played in bringing about racial unity because it's something he's always talking about and teaching and it would be a profound contribution to jazz studies.

4) He's whip smart and he's got jokes and riddles. My dad was the valedictorian of his high school and he double majored in math and music in undergrad. His math abilities served me well in college - I can remember phoning him in the wee hours of the morning and reading him the problems on a statistics take-home test. He was able to help me solve them - years after he'd even cracked a stats book himself. He can recall the most obscure and random bits of information about a pretty insane range of topics and he makes it all seem cool.

He's the kind of smart that plays chess seriously well because he's studied books that outline the moves of Spassky and Fischer's historic 1970 match. But he's not just smart and boring. He loves to entertain you with craftily worded riddles and he tells great jokes too- usually the cheesy groaner types but they're so funny, my eldest son has started trying to emulate my dad's joke-telling style.

5) He married my black mom, and he's still married to her. My Irish-American dad's joked before that my mom being black wasn't a big deal to him. Instead, his biggest worry was she wasn't Catholic. That always cracks me up, but really, think about it - interracial couples don't have it easy now, and it's still less common to see a white man married to a black woman today, so imagine how hard it had to be to be a white guy in the '60s who decides to marry a black woman? That's taking yourself from the top of the social power totem pole all the way down to the lowest status rungs - voluntarily.

And no, he wasn't some beatnik musician trying to legitimatize his jazz career by marrying a black lady. Posers don't stay married for four decades - four decades of being asked in stores, "Are you together?" Four decades of people being nice to him and saying he's awesome, but once they meet my mom, they give him dirty looks and treat him differently. That racism's a lot of pressure on a marriage, especially when one person only eats peanut butter and the other one's cooking ratatouille and tofu stir-fry. So yeah, my dad's got a special spirit, an admirable steadfastness, and a deep commitment to doing what's right. A lot of people could learn from his example.

6) The Cubs! I know I said five things but how can I not give my dad credit for my deep devotion to the Chicago Cubs? This will be the year they go all the way!

I hope my dad's birthday was amazing. I love him dearly and hope that next year both my parents decide to fly to LA for some sun and real birthday cake!


nick said…
Your dad sounds like a really great guy, no wonder his daughter turned out so well! I'm a big peanut butter buff too, I have loads of it every day. And he can play almost every instrument, that's amazing. I tried and failed to learn piano!
This is a lovely post! Thank you for sharing your amazing parents with us. Of course, I'm not surprised - they have an amazing daughter.
Matt said…
Your dad IS an amazing guy! As a coworker of his, several of our students joke that I'm trying to be EXACTLY LIKE HIM. I take that as a huge compliment!
Beautiful post for a beautiful person. Happy Birthday Los Angelista's dad!
Lisa Blah Blah said…
I love learning more about your family. It kind of rounds out the whole picture. And I can tell by the way you write about him how much you love and admire your dad. Very heartwarming (not all of us are that lucky!) :-)

P.S. You look so much alike in that picture!
Mel Sherman said…
WOW! You two look SO much alike! Especially in the mouth and nose! Too cute! I hope he had a special day especially with such an awesome daughter like you!I love your blog, and when you write about your parents and their influence on you, it's so amazing!
Jameil said…
ROTFL @ Soviets without peanut butter. Hilarious. Can't wait for his jazz book! Happy Birthday Father Losangelista!
Dad said…
Dear Liz,
Thanks for the wonderful comments. Some modest clarifications are in order:
1. Peanut Butter is not the 7th food group. It is clearly #1.
2. It would be great if the Cubs were to finally win, but in truth my only true sports passion is Notre Dame football. And yes, with our new coach, we hope to win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win, and WIN. (Twelve regular season wins and a National Championship WIN!)
3. Of much more importance than sports is truly my love for the Baha'i Faith and the opportunities for fascinating discussions which sometimes arise with sincere people of many different religious backgrounds.
sippinwineman said…
1) You look more like your dad than you look like your mom. (that's my opinion)

2) A "Dad" riddle - A man visiting a guarded patient in a hospital is asked his relationship to the patient answers "Brothers and sisters I have none, but that man father is my father's son." What's the relationship of visitor to patient?

3) Both of your parents seem to be the most charismatic folks in the world. Really. They probably pushed/inspired each other. You. Are. Lucky.

4) About 12 years ago, a friend of my had trouble finding a church to marry her beau, who was Muslim. Priest at wedding altar : "I've married many people in my time. Patricks and Johns. Micheals, and Samuels. But I've NEVER married a Mohammed."

I cry maybe, once a year. This came kinda close. Great Post.
Liz Dwyer said…
You must be cool in real life if you love peanut butter that much! ;) But yes, he's a great person and I'm lucky to have him as a dad!

You're too kind! I'm so happy to share them with you all. It's a nice excuse for me to reflect on some of the cool things that make them special. They're not perfect (who is?) but they're both so cool in so many ways.

LOL! Oh that's awesome that the students say that! :)

Thanks for wishing him well! :)

I should tell more stories about them. Today I was thinking about doing Q & A's with my parents about different topics - how they've stayed married so long, the top 10 weird things I did as a child - how they became Baha'is... lots of interesting stories in these two folks!

I think I look a lot like my dad, too.

Sometimes I think I look more like my mom but then other times I realize how much I favor my dad. So glad you enjoy reading about my parents.

Yep, and I remember he didn't like their toilet paper either. I think he said it was just like paper! Yeah, he needs to hurry up with the book. I can't wait for it!

Ha! I stand corrected on the 1st food group thing! :) I really do hope ND can come out strong this year but winning every game and a national championship??? Now THAT is a tall order. - We talked about this earlier but for everyone else's edification - my dad listened to WGN nonstop when I was growing up - and of course they always had on Cubs games. That's what started my Cubs fan-dom.

And I think you being a Baha'i is probably the greatest thing about you - I think people enjoy talking with you about religion because you're so knowledgeable and you're not trying to turn every convo into some annoyingly partisan debate. xoxo's!

Aww, thanks for sharing. Catch a different picture of me and my mom and you'll think I look more like her. But I do look a LOT like my dad, which is what makes it really "amusing" when people can't figure out why we're in public together. OK, the riddle... this is SO up my dad's alley... Dad, help! What's the answer? ;)
I am lucky to have my parents. Very much so - and that joke is a good one!
Remnants of U said…
You and your dad have the same wonderful smile.
I am snacking on peanut butter & apple slices, so I am really laughing about his love for it.

I hope he had a great birthday!
Dad said…
Dear "sippinwineman"--

The answer to your riddle is this: the relationship of visitor to patient is that of father to son.
And here are a couple good ones for you:

1. A plumber and an electrician were waiting in line for the International Contractors Convention. One of them was the father of the other's son. How was this possible?
(The words "father" and "son" are used with their natural meanings. The son had never been adopted, and had always lived with his natural birth parents, who had been married to each other since a full year before the son was born.)

2. How many animals of each sex did Moses take on the Ark?

The correct answers will be posted next Monday. Or perhaps my wonderful daughter Los Angelista will have prizes for the person who first posts the correct answers!

Good luck...
Temple said…
Los Angelista--
Great birthday posts to your mom & dad. What I like most--besides the wonderful picture of them you paint with your words--are the awesome pictures of you next to them showing how beautiful they are, which explains why you're so lovely (inside & out).
Liz Dwyer said…
I love those peanut butter pretzels they sell at Trader Joe's. Ever had those? Yum!

Hmm.... a prize... OK, I'll post your riddles tomorrow and the first person to solve gets a $10 Starbucks gift card. How's that? :)

Thanks for saying so! I like taking pictures of them because they're so photogenic and their spirits really shine.
Anonymous said…
Late to the party, just wanted to say your dad has excellent taste in college football...MLB, not so much (go Sox!). ;-)

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