America, on your birthday, I want to thank you for the first 29 years of my life.
For Venice Beach, and West LA. For the beautiful San Francisco Bay.
And for that last drive down Highway 5, back to LA from Berkeley for the last time and seven months pregnant with my baby girl.
For begonias in my mothers garden. For her purple roses, too. For parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
For the fresh squeezed orange juice from our very own tree that my dad would make each morning.
For a stone fireplace and old radio shows from the 1940’s on audio-cassettes.
For bohemians on the boardwalk, and beatniks reading aloud at Sidewalk Cafe, for patchouli incence and hair wraps and glass pipes “for tobacco use only.”
For the arteries — sometimes open, sometimes clogged — connecting people between cities, between mountains, for KROQ FM, and KPWR. For Eminem and The Supremes and Red Hot Chili Peppers and Dolly Parton.
For beach days in December and Twilight Zone marathons on Thanksgiving Day.
For graffiti that made the freeways interesting. For the occasional rainbow across downtown LA. For two championship rings in a row for the LA Lakers, baby, because #310RollDeep.
For that big huge lawn in front of the LA county museum of art where I learned to walk. For Norman Rockwell and Winslow Homer for Jackson Pollack and Anne Leibovitz.
For the porch where we roasted marshmallows and hotdogs sometimes both at once on the same stick. For midnight tea parties, and chasing the sound of fire works. “For blue that sits so pretty west of The 1,” and that drive with my parents and Kurt Cobain just as the fog lifted north of Monterrey.
For skeeball and cotton candy and the big ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier.
For the difference between football and soccer. For the smell of cut grass.
For an elementary school that let me organize a protest against a shortened lunch period, for an elementary school that let us paint on walls, for an elementary school that taught me how to question authority — even teachers — because sometimes our leaders can get it wrong.
For vanilla lattes with cinnamon, and for pho and sushi and wontons and burritos and tika masala and falafel, yes, even that, for all these tastes together, every one of them to be found on Venice Boulevard.
For apple pie. Ala mode.
For the chocolate chip cookies the nurses gave me when my son was born.
For almond trees along Highway 5, for the windmills on 580, and for the lights of San Francisco just across the Bay Bridge.
For that walk across the Golden Gate. For the woman who read my tea leaves in the Mission. For fog that creeps across the Presidio.
For Central Park in the gloaming. For Blanton’s on a rainy night.
For tailgating, and cheerleading, for Pabst Blue Ribbon and Johnny Walker. For Johnny Cash. For peace, love and harmony at Woodstock. For Choice. (and the Village Voice) For Civil Rights, always first, although it took a while.
To popping tags (only got $20 in my pocket)
For the first evening of the LA riots when we hosed off eachothers rooves, closed our street down and had a potluck block party.
For Hanukkahs at Gramma’s, for Passover’s at Aunt Judy’s, for Christmas at our neighbors, for being able to be Jewish but still enjoy the twinkling red and green lights that lined the 3rd Street Promenade.
For the day the Hare Krishna temple was our voting place in South Berkeley, for the lentils and rice dished out to us because “Krishna would have wanted it this way,” and for the man with the shaved head, orange robe, and tambourine who handed me an American flag sticker and said “you voted. Let the world know.”
And for my first 29 times around the sun, for a childhood where I was never really hungry, never really scared, where I never really doubted that tomorrow could be better. And for being the place where I made so many of the choices that have led me here.
Happy Birthday, America. With love from Israel.