Monday, November 8, 2010

A Few Words About My Dad

I just finished the last of the family events-- "the dénouement of the weekend's activities", as my mom put it. That's really how it felt. This weekend was a climactic culmination of so much time and labor by so many people, especially my dad. 
My mother had the idea that each of his family members say a few words about my dad at the opening dinner celebration. I thought I'd share with you so you can all get an idea of who this amazing guy is...

As I write this, my dad just left to get interviewed on KPFA Radio. "So, you're doing a radio interview -- how exciting!" I said. "Yes," he said, "I'd better shine my shoes." This is a pretty typical thing for my dad to say. I think after 29 years of being his daughter, I've finally gotten used to it. I used to get confused, sometimes profoundly aggravated when he’d say things that seemed to make no logical sense. I’d try to argue with him or correct him or trick him into saying the thing I thought he must have meant. I didn't understand that this was simply his way.

My dad is an oddball, an innovator, a visionary. He is the quirky sensei who speaks in riddles and makes you do all sorts of weird things you think have nothing to do with the forward progress of your journey. I always thought of him as Mr. Miyagi from "The Karate Kid." You come to him to learn karate, and he tells you to wax a parking lot full of cars. This method baffles you if you think that the only way to get from point A to point B is a straight line. You say, "I want to be an artist." He says, "Let's have a cup of tea." You say, "I want to learn fancy Zen calligraphy." He says, "Take your brush and make a dot." You say, "I want to change the world." He says, "Be lazy and stupid."

My dad will show you that the path from point A to point B is a brush stroke. And by the end of that brushstroke, you might find yourself at point Z. Chances are, you'll probably have arrived at a destination so unfathomably wacky and cool, you will have to invent your own alphabet to describe it. Kaz has taught me to invent words, phrases, philosophies and art forms, and to let them flow freely without judging. 

I have a tendency to get particularly anxious and stressed out first thing in the morning. I’ll make my breakfast, brew a cup of tea, and sit at the table worrying about how to do this idea or whether that other idea is good enough to follow through with. He walks through the front door, having been up since 4:30 AM, and tells me about how he’s painted 20 circles, figured out his next book, and decided to disarm all of Central America. Suddenly, my doubts and fears melt away. I think to myself, "If my dad can imagine world peace by breakfast (and knowing him, implement it by lunch), I can do pretty much anything."

I feel grateful to have received so much inspiration from such an creative, innovative human being; and what's more, to have done so at the dining room table still in my pajamas. Today, we celebrate the completion of two large, extremely heavy, fancy-looking books, which are published proof of how your imagination speaks volumes. But this is really just the tip of the paintbrush. (And we all know how big my dad's paintbrushes can get!) Your influence has written itself into so many people’s existences-- shaping the way we live, make art, and dance with the universe. Dad, I am extremely proud of you. Thanks for the book, the breakfast conversations, and the possibilities you continue to paint.


  1. Wow, what an amazing post… about an amazing man… by his amazing daughter! Now, go wax a parking lot full of cars, would you?

  2. This was absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing it with us! And thank you so much for giving me a chance to meet the man of the hour earlier this year in Berkeley!