Israel's Thirteenth Year

Invest in good conversation
and good people.
Whether they be five or one-hundred and five.

Eat ramen. Or large hunks of steak. But mainly ramen.

Know things.
(occasionally before you’ve actually learned them)
Collect (or make up) very specific facts
to support all the big ideas you’re always investigating. 
Practice research as a way of life.

Move from one obsession to the next:
the mechanics and history of zippo lighters
Johnny Cash and the quality of current artists’ covers of his work
a plan to restore a 1978 corvette
the search for the best WWII-era Russian military weapons
Vassili Zaitsev
the chemical formula for ballistics gel.

Collect things that connect you
to a past you are always trying to know:
Small matchbook cars
found in the bottom of toyboxes or buried in the yard.
    (Spend hours cleaning them up, repainting them, identifying the make and model.)
Old military uniforms
worn in battles you’ve read about and analyzed and imagined yourself a part of.
Old beer cans and unique bottles discarded years before you were born.
And stories.
The really good ones that help you figure out how life should be.
Even the difficult ones
that make you tear up a little in the retelling
(Though of course you try to hide it, you are 13 now, after all.)

Forget you have a cell phone for weeks.
Then use the alarm to alert you
of the Dukes of Hazard episode on at 3:30 in the afternoon.
Every afternoon, for a week straight.
Never send a text in your life
until the month you decide to start...with $110 worth.

Never stop talking.
Where others would pause to catch their breath
just repeat exactly the same phrase
exactly the same phrase
exactly the same phrase
until you have the next thought formed and ready to share.

Care little for possessions.
But love the process of work and planning and saving to meet a goal.

Struggle to maintain any awareness or concern
of deadlines, school assignments, or others’ expectations of you
but always be acutely aware of the things that matter:
how a classmate might feel after an unkind word spoken in passing
the design and materials needed for the Halloween costume you’ll need in 9 months
the exact time to arrive at any celebration of someone else
how to help a teacher who has had a bad day.

Through it all keep circling back
to that same timeless battle of good against evil
paying attention to how small struggles are lost and won
with an instinctual understanding that all the small things around you
are sometimes what matters most.
Spend each day gathering allies,
believing in those who’ve proven they should be believed in
and in those who haven’t.
Each day widening the circle of those watching you,
watching out for you,
hoping you continue to stand for good.


  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! May you live long and prosper.
    Uncle Jack

  2. what a poignant, vivid tribute to this exceptional son. happy belated birthday, israel.