Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “fishing”

The Human Touch

I have just returned from our annual family camping trip: the opportunity to rest, fish, hike with the family, and write 12,000 words of a novel I should never have started… the usual. Being 90 days away from the release of From Ashes They Rose – Wycaan Master Book 5, also meant it was time to honor a now six-year tradition and read the rough first draft of book 6 to my sons in the forest and around the campfire.

Summer 2015 Reading Book 6

Every morning I would drive down the mountain slope where we had pitched our tents and, at the junction, make a choice: turn right to get ice from a machine or left to buy it from a store. Each time, I turned left. On the final day of our trip, my eldest joined me and asked why I chose the longer drive each day.

“I prefer to buy the ice from a human being,” I replied. He made a joke about any consumer options purchasing from an elf – I have him well-trained.

What struck me is that I had not made a conscious choice, but I preferred the brief conversation with the cashier than the dull whirl of the ice machine. There is a certain irony here. I am reading an excellent book about online marketing – Authorpreneur in Pajamas by Geraldine Solon – and marveling at how social we can be on social media.

And yet I choose to turn left appreciating the human touch in the interaction. The Internet is amazing. Truly. But a chilled beer around the grill or campfire with family and good friends is not something that can ever be totally tweeted/snapchatted/instagrammed/etc.

The aforementioned author, Geraldine Solon, while she sung the praises of social media, made it very clear that she loves public signings and meeting her fans in person. I have met Ms. Solon on a number of occasions around the Northern California authors’ circuit. She is so vibrant and eloquent. Each time she has gone out of her way to introduce me to people I don’t know and always a deserved crowd hovers around her author’s table, from where I hear laughter and frivolity. Ms. Solon might be an expert on the topic of social media, but she also loves being with people. I am sure her considerable success is due as much to one as the other.

If Ms. Solon was buying ice while camping, I am sure she would turn left and purchase from a human being. She would probably buy herself an ice cream too ’cause she’s on vacation. And why not?

While I have your attention, From Ashes They Rose, the fifth in the Wycaan Master series, will be released in September 2015. To celebrate, Tourmaline Books have lowered the price of the award-winning, At The Walls of Galbrieth, to a mere 99 cents for the ebook. I’m not sure for how long this will remain so.

Wycaan Master 1 Just Front Cover  Book 5 Cover FINAL

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and three more novels in the Wycaan Master Series: The First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3, and Sacrificial Flame – all released by Tourmaline Books. From Ashes They Rose, the fifth in the series, will be released in September 2015. The story continues.

Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

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What Fathers Really Want

I would blog this on Sunday, except everyone is too busy hitting the diner or firing up the grill and anyway I rarely blog on the weekend. Father’s Day has always been a bit anti-climatic for me, coming a few days after my birthday. Given our family’s busy schedule, we tend to spread birthdays over a few days (okay weeks).

imgresI saw an advertisement for Father’s Day on Amazon. They suggested you show your undying appreciation by buying your old man either a green-striped necktie or an HD Kindle Fire. I keep thinking about this. My kids have never bought me a tie for Father’s Day, and it had better be darn special if they ever do!

Now I often wear a  tie for work: anything from a power tie (usually striped) to a Jerry Garcia masterpiece (if I can get away with it). It infers a sense of confidence and raises my self-esteem – call me shallow, but I raise money for good causes and believe I am empowering the next generation to be socially conscious. Whatever it takes!

images-5But what does the tie signify? No, not incarceration, but time in the office … away from my family – the opposite of Fathers Day!

So then I started to think about the Kindle Fire. I don’t need one. I watch movies on a TV, read my books comfortably on my old black-and-white kindle, listen to music on my phone or iPod, and type my novels on a laptop. Life is tough!

Offering me another toy that can keep me engaged with social media, TV shows, connected to the office is exactly what I don’t need. And if I do – I will buy it myself.

What I, and most fathers (moms too – but you’ve had your day) need is time: time to unwind, time to pursue hobbies and good health, and most of all, time to spend with my family. No man on his deathbed ever regretted not spending more time at the office. No man in his memoir ever mused that his commute was only three hours a day.

traffic-jamSo what do I want for Father’s Day? I want to go fishing with my kids, take the family into the Redwoods and hike, picnic, and do some archery together. Perhaps we can tickle-fight on the bed or snuggle on the couch and watch another episode of Big Bang Theory even if we’ve seen it a dozen times and know the punch-lines by heart. Better yet, Lord of the Rings for the 100-th time. It doesn’t matter, as long as we are doing it together.

DSCN0951Because what a father really lacks … is time. Quality time with his family, before they grow up and move away and become adults in their own world. It’s not about the money spent, the thought that went into clicking the mouse to purchase a gift, or the wrapping. And this is a problem for Amazon and other retailers:

You can’t sell time. If you could: you wouldn’t need to sell ties and kindles for Father’s Day.

rememberingdad

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

 

Too Much Homework?

The United States ranks 17th in the world for education, a legitimate and worrying metric to examine where our country will stand in the next few decades in terms of business, innovation, and the ability to live out our own values and encourage others to follow a similar path.

I realize that, for the sake of our children, I should be calling in more investment into education, a greater status and respect for teachers, and other ways to boost the performance of our children, their grades and general rounded education. I want to live in a smart society.

I should be calling for change because I truly believe that education is the key to advancement, because I believe that every child should be given the opportunity to reach their own potential, find and train for a meaningful career, and use as a stepping stone to rise up in society. I also believe that education helps makes people more satisfied and happy, and that this creates a better world to live in.

I’ll leave this to the experts:

 

But I don’t feel like writing this right now. Like my teenage son, I feel thoroughly burnt out and resentful. In order to pass on a full curriculum, designed by people far more professional and knowledgeable than me, our children are being forced to study, not only most of the day, but during the evenings and most of the weekends.

When he is not studying, he is so exhausted, that all he wants to do is vegetate in front of a screen, and frankly, I understand that.  My work has periods of intense and long hours. During these months, I only want to crash on the couch when I get home and stare at burly young men kicking the pigskin around. Often during these times, when my wife asks who is winning, I need to glance at the scoreboard first before answering.

I’m willing to go through these periods because I love and am inspired by my work, and because I believe that this is the sacrifice the main breadwinner of the family makes. One day, when my children are settled, I will have plenty of time to go fishing, bird watching, do Tai Chi, and sit in a coffee shop and read a newspaper (remember those? I am convinced they will become a status symbol of independence from the clock).

imagesBut there are things I want to do now – and I want to do them with my son. I want to take him biking, to the gym, to practice archery, and read a good book together by the sea or in a forest. I can make that time, get up early, go to bed late, do whatever it takes – train through the pain as one of my favorite t-shirts says (the one I wore playing basketball with a torn meniscus).

But my son can’t. He has math problems to solve, a project to write, an English essay to complete. Sure, he finds times to hang with his friends and some screen time, I don’t resent him this. It is part of growing up.

I remember being in school and looking forward desperately to the summer. I recall my mother being annoyed that I wanted to lie in bed late every morning and enjoy not having pressure or a schedule.

I want my son to succeed in school for all the reasons mentioned earlier and the profound fear that I will not be able to help him, that at some point he must stand on his own, as I did. But I also want to enjoy being together while we still can, while he still wants my company.

He gets a long summer break and deserves it. I will take a week and we will head north into the mountains. We will fish, bike, swim in a lake guarded by a snow-covered mountain. We’ll eat too much ice cream, fight over who gets the hammock, read together by the fire.

DSCN0951None of this will help my son or the USA become more successful in the decades to come, but sometimes life is more than statistics, and more than homework assignments and grades.

Somehow we need to find ways to measure quality of life, to value relationships, to create memories. Perhaps we will find that time is as valuable as making the grade.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.  For more about the author, check out his website.

 

In Defense of the Grizzly Mom

The terrible attack that left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life and six others dead is tragic, senseless, and should serve as a wake up call to American society. My prayers are with the families of Ms. Giffords and the victims at this sad time.

We, as a society, should focus on discussing violent political rhetoric, gun control, and other such issues. We should also be talking about unity, respect, and legitimate debate, So I was stunned to see that people have the audacity to try to pin the blame on Sarah Palin for her Facebook target list.

Now in case it is not clear: LEFT Coast Voices is the domain of a rather leftist and ‘progressive’ author.  It would take a lot for me to come out and defend Sarah Palin. We have nothing in common other than a fascination with grizzlies and a love for fishing.

But there are two topics that have me springing to her defense. The first is the disgusting way that some pundits have made fun of her family. There is no excuse for such gutter tactics.

The second is that Palin could, in any way, be implicated for promoting the environment that led to this tragic event. Now I have never met Ms. Palin and so clearly know everything about her views as well as the next person who trolls the blogosphere and watches The Daily Show. Like Ms. Griffords, she is a public figure, a leader, a woman, and a mother. Like the rest of reasonable society, she is, I am sure, shocked and praying for Ms. Grifford’s recovery.

I would like to think that we all will now think twice before using violent analogies. More than this, however, I would like to think we will think twice about how we allow people to carry arms. But somehow, throwing mud at other people seems to be the more obvious response. Sad – lessons are not being learned, or even considered.

I heard someone on NPR suggest that we all make an effort to reach out to the stranger in the elevator, on the bus, or in line at the store. By saying hello and smiling, could we prevent the level of alienation and marginalization of people who perpetrate terrible crimes against their fellow person and society. I don’t know. But isn’t it worth a try? And perhaps it should start with respect for our political opponents.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

Fly Fishing and Philanthropy

Richard Goldman passed away on November 29, 2010. He was a great man who amassed considerable wealth and used that wealth to help enrich the lives of so many others. Richard had three passions when it came to philanthropy: San Francisco, Judaism and the State of Israel, and environmentalism.

I owe him a lot. He promoted green causes before it was fashionable to be an environmentalist, including in Israel, a country consumed with surviving today, and unable to look ahead to tomorrow. When helping to build the green framework on my Kibbutz, Kibbutz Lotan, his name topped the list of people to go to for support. When I became Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, he provided the resources to help us match the growing needs of the city’s Jewish students.

His memorial service was a fitting tribute. in the packed synagogue many leaders and dignitaries from our city and Jewish community paid eloquent and fitting tributes, But I was most impacted from the stories shared by his surviving children: John, Doug and Susan. I think that being a father, hearing how others pay tribute to their parents is profound. What will my sons say about me when my time comes?

They related how their father was a tough, no-nonsense kind of guy. He lived by excellence and appreciated it in others. I think this might be why he fly-fished. Having fished for most of my life, I took lessons while on vacation this summer to learn how to fly fish. This was inspired a great novel, The Trout Whisperers by Pete Bodo, and perhaps from 20 years of studying martial arts. I feel that I can really appreciate the beauty in fly fishing’s elegance and style.

One son recalled how Richard loved to be out on the McKenzie river, rod in hand, and how he became a softer man as he gave himself up to the rhythm of the fly and the flow of the river.

I get it.

There is something humbling about being a part of nature, if only for a few hours. This summer I  met an elderly angler who rents a cabin for two weeks every year and his sons come from wherever they are to join him and fish. He spends 50 weeks a year waiting for that time of the year.

But the magic I heard at Richard’s memorial service came from it being recounted by his son. It was special to hear how a child, now a man, had found a special way to connect to his father on the river. Ernest Hemingway’s son, Jack, tells a similar story in his memoir Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman.

Mr. Goldman, thank you for all you did for me, our city, and the Jewish people. Through your generosity you gave many of us fish so that we could eat, and taught many to fish so that we could sustain ourselves. Someone once surprised me in a workshop by adding an additional line to the famous saying:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.

Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.

But teach a man how to teach others to fish, and you begin to feed the whole world.

This, Mr. Goldman, you did not achieve with your fly rod, but your philanthropy and your vision.


“May you find a seat waiting for you in heaven.”

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

 

Happy Birthday Pele

I love the summer. We take a family vacation, my work slows, there seems more time to exercise, fish, write, and have quality time with my family. Almost everything I listed (apart from the latter, I do by myself. I work out, fish (usually), and write alone. But the highlight of this past summer was a fusion of two of these pastimes, and it was a treasured experience.

I often wonder how my sons perceive me. I spend long hours away from them during the week, and as they grow up, I find myself competing with their natural desire to hang out with their friends. In fact, during the week we will spend no more than two hours a day together and that is usually reduced to a frenzy of preparing and eating the main meal of the day, pushing them to complete their homework, bathe and go to bed at a reasonable time. They must resent my drive to write and promote myself as an author – an act that necessitates me being absent from home 1-2 evenings a week or on weekends.

So I was thrilled when my eldest son suggested, on the first evening of our vacation, that we write a book together. He devours fantasy novels and this was always going to be our common ground. I am not apathetic to a good sword fight, or a ride on the back of a dragon, and I have only read or watched Lord of the Rings about a dozen times.

It was amazing to sit in a mesh tent, surrounded by majestic redwoods and tap out a story on my noble white steed (a mac book by any other name). We disagreed here, he corrected my word choice there, and though it was me driving the story on, it never ceased to be a collaborative effort.

My sons are aware of my drive for social justice. I tell them when I have volunteered at the food bank, and have heard from other parents and teachers when my eldest has told them about my annual trip with students to help rebuild the Gulf Coast. I refrain (or try to) from lecturing him on such values as I refrain from pushing him to write. I figure that the best I can offer as a parent is to be a role model.  The choice must always be his.

More experienced parents tell me that I will learn to accept his choices as he grows up. I guess it makes it  special when our paths do fuse together, and all the more so when he makes the choice. I have no idea if our fantasy novel is any good. I doubt that Tolkien, Paolini or Terry Brooks need lose any sleep over our creation. But however good it is, it will always be very special for this father. Often the journey overshadows the destination.

Happy Birthday, Pele.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com

July 15th A Time to Chill Pt. 2 – Failed!

July 15th – Posted a week later…

A hippie café with a mean latte in hand, sipped in the shadow of the snow-capped Mount Shasta. Truly a ‘Garden of Eden’. The boys are swimming in the deep blue lake, the trout are biting, and my partner and I are drinking wine in the evening by the campfire. Vacation – a time to chill, to relax, to reconnect with close ones and nature.

The mistake. I should never have put an Internet option on my cell phone. An email. An interview with a deadline…one that has passed. The sympathetic reporter has sent questions via email since she has not been able to find me.

A rescheduling of tomorrow’s vacation day incorporates a mad dash to a wireless café. Once again I am pounding the keys of my laptop. In truth, the questions are thought-provoking and an hour shoots past as I immerse myself back into the dream – to become a recognized author of transformational fiction.

Whether it is the caffeine coursing through my veins, the deadline, or the dream, I’m not sure, but I suddenly feel pleasantly wired again. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t been so relaxed, fishing pole in hand, watching an osprey compete for food.

The osprey might have the upper hand on the lake, but I feel good fishing for another dream.

Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

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