June 12, 2018


Through the fifteen months I’ve lived here, I have kept the windows open.

I have heard children playing baseball, the screams of parents and coaches, the jagged language of the college students living and smoking next door.

But tonight, as autumn cool encroaches on the muggy summer heat, the frogs and crickets raise a dirge I don’t recall hearing before. Below them the distant traffic murmurs, but cutting through it all, a sound fifteen months unnoticed:

a church bell chimes the hour.



March 31, 2018

Holy Saturday 2018

Holy Saturday awash in grey;

saturated, the heavens grieve

their son, buried a day after

scourged, he ceased to breathe.


Bated, within our lungs, our breath

is kept; our vessels to break

are fit; Death crowned in laurel wreath,

laughs as our hopes he wreak.


Two millennia and still, still —

our lungs a tomb for breath stale.

We wander, waiting, no balm for ills

pale, we see creation through the veil.


Yea, he is risen, we know the call,

but this world leans toward the grave

until that day our victories do stall,

but how we need him now to save.

August 27, 2017

A Letter to my Best Friend

My dear best friend,

Nearly twelve months have passed since that day when we gathered our friends and family, pledged to each other and the Lord that we would spend our lives committed to each other, and asked all gathered to support us in that venture. Then we ate bundts and tacs.

I’ve told you many times this year that you looked beautiful that day, and I’ve told you every day this year that you are beautiful in every moment. There isn’t a moment in which I don’t look at you and see Venus in all her glory, Minerva in all her wisdom.

But our first married year is not marked by your omnipresent beauty. It has been marked by sadness, grief, anxiety, fear, and pain. Our professional lives have, without the ultimate dislocation of unemployment, been tumultuous. Together we have experienced the cruelty of professional ambiguity, a questioning of calling. We have asked if we are where God truly wants us to be. We has triumphed in successes when we have found them, and we have been humbled by our failures when they have found us. But we have followed Grandpa’s advice and remained faithful and we trust God to be faithful.

And then there was the day in late January when I walked into the apartment after talking with your mother. I had to tell you, my wife of five months, that your hero, your patriarch, your grandfather, had liver cancer. You were sitting on the living room floor, in your pajamas. I didn’t know how to say it, so I just said it, and I held you while you sobbed.

We spent the next three months visiting your family in Holland at every opportunity. It was in this time that I learned of anticipatory grief. It’s such a different, difficult term: that waiting to begin that more colloquial grief in the wake of death.

It was also during this time that my grandmother died, and we had a precursor to your grandfather. You stood in witness to my family’s grief; together we watched my mom and her siblings parse through Grammy Doris’ belongings. We heard their stories of joy, sorry, struggle; of their conflicts with their mom and their deep longing for their long deceased father.

After witnessing that grief, we reentered that anticipatory grief with your family. One thing that we brought back with us from Minnesota was the desire for stories, not that we lacked it before. But I think with new courage we sought and heard more stories from your grandparents. I am so grateful that we spent so much time with your family in those short few months. I never want you to doubt that I love your family, especially because it is your love for them that I have long found attractive.

And now we are in the early stages of another season of grief, as my grandpa now is the one with terminal cancer. This time it was you holding me and I was the one sobbing. The anticipatory grief is acutely mine, but transitively yours. But this grief season will be different. We are not a three-hour drive away. My family is geographically decentralized. My family is not one for phone calls. Emotional vulnerability, while not anathema, is not our strong suite, not that it is for anyone. But we are open and direct communicators, and we do not fail to communicate our love.

Our grandparents are similar and that is most evident in their devoted marriages and their children, our parents and aunts and uncles. Our families are FAMILIES. They pour into each other; they have instilled in us a pride in our families. I have learned from my father and grandfather how to be a good husband and a good father, but I have also learned from your father and grandfather lessons in the same.

But, as much as grief and loss have tinged our first year of marriage, as much as we have grown and our marriage has been fired and forged by the same, it is not to say that our lives have been without joy and hope.

Under your aesthetic direction, and my pragmatic direction, we’ve made a beautiful first home. The floating shelves in our living room are among our great triumphs. You’ve bestowed great care upon our plant-child, Frederick. You keep the blinds open so that light pours into our apartment, highlighting the other plants you’ve brought in to populate our home. Our walls are monuments to our God, our marriage, our families, our friends, and our books. We have tried to make our home one of welcome.

And now, as much as we love our first home, we are purchasing our first house. Our new home will be ours to customize. It has room to grow a family; it has room to house guests. It is a space in which we can comfortably exercise generous hospitality. But it will also have the nooks and crannies for us to nest, nuzzle, and cuddle in.

We went to Play It Again Sports to buy me a bicycle, and we resurrected yours from your old roommates’ basement. We’ve biked to the farmers’ market, and the library, and the coffee shop. I love our bike dates. I love all our dates, and they mostly consist of our favorites foods: Thai, Indian, Sushi, and most of all, Tacos. Remember when we watched game 6 of the World Series at Revolution, cheering with the whole city of Chicago? I love the fact that your parents spent their first months of marriage watching the Tigers win the World Series, that my parents spent their first months of marriage watching the Twins win the World Series, and now we’ve spent our first months watching the Cubs win. I love our Beer-and-Scrabble dates, whether at Bigbys, or Penrose, or our own living room. And I love being your bartender and making you Gin and Tonics. And someday soon I hope to make you virgin G&Ts.

We’ve spent the last year watching our friends have and raise adorable children. As much as we like being honorary Aunt Jillian and Uncle Jake, I know that we’re both excited to one day be mom and dad to our own little Garbanzo Bean Schlossberg. There are a number of names we like, and I know that we’re hamstrung by my desire for Jewish, family names like my parents used, but even within that constraint our favorite names fall. But first, we’ve decided to name our first born son after our grandfathers. Both of our identities, our families – and OUR family – is shaped by these men, and we want to commemorate and honor them.

Another of our great victories this year, and one of the reasons I admire and love you, has been your faithful service to O— & M—- and their children. You are passionate about Jesus’ love for the least of these, the refugee. But you don’t just embody that love intellectually or politically; you engage relationally. You believe that Jesus is bringing the refugee here and that the Church is called to embrace them; that he called you to embrace them. They have become our friends, part of our community.

Jillian Paige, the first year of our marriage has been a refining fire, forging us together. We signed a contract together that we would not allow our work to ruin our marriage. We have walked through grief together; we have seen God’s faithfulness. In this first year our young marriage has cured and molded. In its completion, it is ready to be built upon. I am so thankful to be building my life with you. I am thankful for the life we have already shared together, and for all of the forthcoming years to be shared. I am thankful for all of the family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and strangers that have been part of our first year of marriage. Our family and friends have poured into us, supported us, comforted us, counselled us, prayed with us and for us. We were not the only ones who took vows on our wedding day; our community also vowed to be faithful. They have been, and I am thankful for that as well.


Your Jake


May 10, 2017

Firstborn Sons

I am the firstborn son of a firstborn son;

upon my head has been laid their blessing.

I am the generation upon the generation.


Righteous, faithful is my father, and his father;

wandered and found, they live within the word.

Righteous and faithful I hope to be found.


My father’s father and my father loved

their wives, my mothers, openly, honestly,

and in doing so taught me to love my wife.


The men from which I come have lived,

they have worked, within the written word;

they have studied both men and their gods.


I am the firstborn son of firstborn sons,

learned men wed to learned wives.

Faithful is the Lord to all generations.



March 21, 2017

The Baboon

The Baboon has legitimized


rats in the cage

chasing cheese;

roaches, running from light.


might makes right,

makes a mighty wind.


But God was not in the

earthquake, the fire,

or the mighty wind.



April 10, 2016

Palm Sunday 2016

Hosanna in the highest!

This is what the church sings on Palm Sunday as they wave palm branches. These words were sung in Jerusalem 2000 years ago as the rabbi rode a donkey into the City of David, then occupied by the Roman Empire. They sang to the rabbi who endorsed paying taxes, even to an occupying regime, rendering unto Caesar his own. This is the rabbi who did not plan to eviscerate the Law, but to fulfill it. The rabbi who saved the prostitute, but told her to sin no more. The rabbi who said, as you have done to the least of these, the lonely, the imprisoned, the poor, you have done to him. This was the rabbi who was riding into the city of kings as a king victorious. He did not ride the warhorse of the invader, but the donkey of him who has already established his kingdom. This is the one who gives free will to his people, because he is confident of his position; their opinions do not change who he is.

2016 is a presidential election year in the US. Election years are growing increasingly macabre. Intelligent discourse is being abandoned for partisan entrenchment, monochromatic analysis of multicolored issues, and mudslinging. Mercy is eschewed as weakness. Love is reduced to ambivalence. Respect is exchanged for blindness.

One of the candidates this year is Donald Trump. I think he is the most dangerous candidate in this election; of all the candidates I do not think there is one less qualified. I think every candidate, even Trump, runs because they think they can make the country better. But not all versions of ‘better’ are actually better. Trump’s language and demeanor effect extremism. He is the embodiment of the Internet Commenter saying that in order to beat terrorists we have to become worst than them. Literally, to do that, we must become terrorists. We become the enemy we despise. It cannot be said more clearly. As the rabbi said, those who live by the sword will die by the sword. This is easily assumed to be our enemy’s sword, but I think of King Saul, who perished impaled by his own sword.

It’s interesting to be sitting in a 2016 Palm Sunday service, praising the eternal Kingship of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God. This is a paradox, that God can be three in one, that he can be fully God and fully man, that words become material. This paradox should permeate our lives; that is evident in Christ’s incarnation. He was born and matured the same way any human would, with the ingestion of food and the rhythms of wake and sleep. It is easy to pay lip service to this paradox, but in our daily lives attempt to forget forget or ignore its implications. It goes beyond telling our kids to share, telling our kids the parable of the Good Samaritan. It means sharing as adults; it means being the Good Samaritan. Most importantly, it means putting the election in perspective. The Lord God, creator of the Universe is our king. He is our life and salvation. Our personal wealth might be augmented or diminished by the government, but there are literal lives at stake in federal policies, from white to black, from the unborn to the elderly, from the white collar to the blue collar, from the soldier to the conscientious objector, from the poor to the wealthy, the free to the imprisoned, the cis to the LGBTQ, from the citizen to the immigrant, the atheist to the monotheist to the polytheist, from one sinner to the next. But regardless of who you are or what policies it enacts, the United States’ government will not and cannot be your salvation, nor your condemnation.

I am not endorsing a theocracy, a human government basing its dominion on religion. I will vote for the candidates that I think will strive to do what is best for the country and the world, not for their party. But I will also bear in mind that they are humans piloting a human institution; they will, at times, fail. Ultimately, my allegiance is to the King of Kings who rode on a donkey, not a warhorse. The king who commanded me to love the Lord my God and to love my neighbor. The King who said that true religion is to care for widows and orphans, not fluffy platitudes. The king who died to save his subjects, whether or not they acknowledged his kingship.  

Hosanna in the highest!

June 9, 2015


I am sorry, friend,

that I let go of your hand,

that I stopped calling,

that I stopped writing;

it is easier to ignore the silence

than to confront the distance.

April 5, 2015

Opening Day 2015

Tomorrow is Opening Day 2015, the first day games of the season. It won’t be the first games of the season, however, as the Cardinals and Cubs play tonight. The Cubs. The team which defines, and is defined by, the mantra Always next year, more than any other team. That includes my favorite team, the Minnesota Twins.

Despite the positive language which I regularly use – awesome, cool, baller – I am a pessimist at heart, particularly regarding my sports teams. I inherited this pessimism from my father, a Mets and Jets fan. The Twins dominated the AL Central during the 2000s, but were regularly cowed by the Yankees during their annual postseason series. Then retirements, injuries, and free agency drove them into the basement where they reside today. And where they’ll reside for a while. Their pitching staff is pathetic and the highly touted prospects don’t work from the mound.

But hope springs eternal in the spring and this could be always be the prophesied next year. This is particularly true for my softball teams. My employer has a company team in the local park district league. Each season we drop down a level, attempting to find more comparable talent after finding ourselves to be repeated victims of the slaughter rule. We don’t have the power to hit home runs. We might have the one of the fastest players in the league, but we also have a few who might contend for the slowest. We’ve got a centerfielder with a rocket launcher attached to his shoulder and one of the top shortstops in the league, but we regularly have one defensive inning which kills us.

But we somehow maintain a good attitude. The umps comment on how much fun we seem to have, how hard we play despite the talent discrepancy, and how little we disparage each other and the other team. We’re probably the one team that doesn’t scream our curses, instead limiting them to under our breath. We’ve got one outfielder who never shuts up, shouting indiscernible encouragements to his teammates. I’m pretty sure he only repeats the same four nondescript lines:

Aight, aight!

You got dis!

Do it again!

Eat him!

That outfielder might be me.

I work for a Christian company, so after every game, after we’ve finished the tried and true handshake line with the other team, we invite the other team to join us on the mound for prayer. Occasionally we get the whole team to join us. More often than not, we don’t get more than one. Every week, every game, my prayer, silent or vocal, is one of thanks for the body which enables me to play, for my company which sponsors the team, for the people willing to play with me, for the colleagues who spend their Thursday evenings watching our haplessness.

My other softball team with my church, in a league of other churches, hosted by a single church blessed with a fantastic property. The league is less official without set rosters or umpires. One of the two fields doesn’t have an outfield fence; the other is made of temporary orange construction fencing. Our roster is patchwork on a weekly basis, a core of regulars shored up by last minute phone calls. Consistency is difficult on such a team and last year’s record was evidence of that. We’re losing at least one regular player to a cross country move and probably others to despondency or apathy. I’m only on the fringe of core players as my work league takes priority on Thursday nights. But we always, at least every time I’m there, manage to scrounge together a team; I don’t believe we’ve ever forfeited.

There is a famous clip of an irate Herman Edwards screaming at a press conference, You play to win the game! I whole-heartedly believe him, because part of the game is determining a winner and a loser. But my preferred focus is the play, not the game, because the game is made up of plays. My philosophy leans towards You play to win the play to win the game. And I try to play every play as though it is the last play in the game. I have joked about giving up a late inning lead so that the game could continue into extras, that there might be more plays.

And that is the beauty of baseball: there can always be one more play. People complain that the games are too long, that the season is too many games, or that baseball is boring. But my retort is that every play contains immeasurable potential. Every pitch, ball or strike, can send you into fits. Every pitch could be the most blazing fastball, the most knee-buckling curve, or the longest home run you have ever seen. Every routine groundball might be the most ulcer-inducing error or Ozzie Smith inspired wizardry you’ve ever witnessed. Every foul tip could be just another pawn in a cat-and-mouse chess match between pitcher and batter, inducing nervous nausea in the invested spectator. And as a player, every pitch has the potential to send you into action.

Tomorrow is Opening Day 2015. I can’t wait.

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October 26, 2014

Anne’s Mother and Mine

I’m currently reading Anne Lamott’s collection of short personal essays entitled Traveling Mercies and I’ve just finished the essay Mom. Lamott is a talented writer and she has a particular talent for evoking my empathy. Her essays are short enough where it is easy to read a number at once, which is to the reader’s detriment. It is too easy to breeze through multiple essays without taking a break to digest each on its own merits. And there are a lot of merits to digest.

But Mom might be might my favorite so far. It’s certainly the first which has caused me to cease reading and immediately start writing. And there were a number of times when I almost stopped in the middle to beginning writing. Mom is an essay on forgiveness, an essay on her mother’s capacity to forgive. But, as is Lamott’s style, she recognizes her mother’s capacity to forgive only when she recognizes how much she needs her mother’s forgiveness.

This makes me think of how much I need forgiveness. Not from God. I’m quite often conscious of how much I am in need of God’s forgiveness. I like to think I’m also very aware of how much I need the forgiveness of others. But I know I’m not. Which of course means that I’m not really conscious of the degree to which I need God’s forgiveness. And in reading Lamott I was tempted to put the book down and write an open letter begging for everyone’s forgiveness, which I deserve not, but for which I am desperate. I have real sins and persistent failures.

But I continued reading Mom. Lamott and I have very different family and personal histories which should be no surprise; she is a sixty year old woman and I am twenty-six year old man. And while she was writing mainly on forgiveness and some tragedies and victories in her family, she also wrote just about her mommy. About her mommy who was aging before her eyes.

I have thought about this before, but only as a hypothetical, like the way most contemplate the apocalypse. I have every ounce of irrational confidence that I am invincible, that I cannot be permanently broken or beaten, that I will not die or deteriorate. And whether this stems from or is transposed upon my father, I am unsure. But please rest assured, outside of the torn ACL he suffered when I was 3 and he was 27, my father is also invincible, despite his greys. And my mother, whether by her own deification, or by marriage to my father, or by giving birth to me, is also immortal, and this is only augmented by the silver strands dispersed through her dark brown hair, framing her youthful face.

This invincibility extends past me and past parents all the way to my grandparents. My mother’s story is akin to that of a Marvel character. The youngest daughter of a widow, she was raised as the almost-only child of a migratory single mother. This single mother, my grandmother, has at this narrative point refused all of death’s advances. I don’t know how many heart attacks my maternal grandmother has refuted, but it is nigh legendary. She is a wisp, the frailest feather, and she simply does not die.

My father’s parents are not a frailty that refuses to die; their vitality berates death and it flees before them. They are as I’ve always remembered them. My bald, russet-nosed, intellectual grandfather sporting suspenders; an army man born and raised in Brooklyn. When he’s in the mood, he chases his smallest grandchildren about the house. When he’s not in the mood, he barks at them to keep out from under his feet. He is half deaf, but this does nothing to diminish his esteem or authority.

My grandmother is an ageless queen, tall and commanding. My grandfather is the voice of authority, but he answers to her.  Until recently, when her joints said no mas, she played tennis with her children and grandchildren. In her 60s, her doctor told her she had the bones of a 22 year old. She has been on the mastheads of various organizations and her multiple “retirements” have not lasted. She is both staunchly Pro-Life and staunchly Pro-Women and is cowed by none.

My parents and grandparents are five invincible, immortal, Ionic pillars, but they whisper to me of their cracks. They tell me of the heart arrhythmia, of the chronic cough, of the sciatica, of the insomnia. These are myths, stories of weakness told only to enhance their feats of strength, brightening their vitality by contrast. Despite the myths of deterioration, they remain invincible until proven.

Lamott likely had the same perceptions of her parents twenty five years before she wrote Mom, that they were minor deities and by birthright, so was she. But then she lived another twenty five years. And so did her parents. I cannot acknowledge that the next forty years will bring any mortality to the Schlossberg lineage; I cannot. But one day I might find myself, like Lamott, with my siblings at varying levels of adulthood, walking along a beach, a forest path, a country meadow, or a city street with a queenly, silver haired woman leaning on the crook of my arm.

October 5, 2014

Should you read it? A Consumer’s Guide to the Bookshelves: The Resurrection of Rey Pescador

Should you read it? A Consumer’s Guide to the Bookshelves: The Resurrection of Rey Pescador, the debut novel from Chicago author Alfred Cedeno. (Yes, I confess; what follows is a blatant mimicry of Mark Lisanti’s regular pieces on Grantland.)

Q: Do you like books?

A: This is a silly question. If you don’t like books, you probably won’t read one, in particular this one. You should probably go home and reexamine your life.

If you do like books, you should enjoy this one. Cedeno offers solid writing without being self-indulgent and florid. His story pays homage to the Homeric classics and the Romantic character of Rey Pescador hearkens to Pablo Neruda, albeit with a hip-hop twist. The text is rife with references to Cedeno’s literary education which you’re likely to notice.

Read it.

Q: Is dense nonfiction your literary style?

A: Meh, don’t read it.

Q: Do you only read Harlequin-esque romances?

A: As much as Rey Pescador makes everyone swoon, this is probably not your type of book.

Q: Was that gratuitous comparison of Rey’s character to Neruda a stretch at best and completely erroneous at worst?

A: Probably, but you should still read it.

Q: Is the pursuit of Beauty your life’s overwhelming goal?

A: If Beauty is not your life’s passion, you might have some trouble identifying with the titular character. However, just because you can’t identify with Rey’s struggles does not mean you won’t find him entertaining.

Beauty is Rey’s omniscient desire. He is The Poet with the penultimate beating human heart in a world of robotic cardiovascular systems. He relentlessly pursues the allure of his muse and her promise of beauty. He translates her Beauty for the world’s populace of robotic fools. His human heart craves adrenaline and he supplies it with hair-raising feats and foolhardy attempts at such feats.

A quick note on Beauty. From a production standpoint, this is a beautiful book. The gorgeous cover illustration and design are perfectly complemented by the soft-touch matte laminate.

Read it.

Q: What about your pursuit of Truth?

A: If you don’t see Rey Pescador in yourself, if you’re more of a fan of truth, then David Rosario, Rey’s cousin and the book’s narrator, might be more your style. Ever the intellectual critic, he sits, observes, and renders verdicts on his cousin’s exploits, all the while envying the glamour those exploits garner. With hindsight’s perspective, he narrates Rey’s holy and profane expeditions to his long time crush, Rebecca. As Rey strives to be a living legend, David writes scathing dissertations and manuscripts against the very artificial hearts that keep him, and the world’s general populace, alive. He is committed to telling the truth behind Rey and the human heart, despite threats from their nemesis, benefactor, and employer, Sid Cutler.

Read it.

Q: Do you enjoy unique narrative structures and devices?

A: Well, I hope at the very least you can appreciate them. Cedeno structures the book as a long letter from Rosario to Rebecca. Because the reader is privy to a private exchange, certain expository points are only alluded to as Rosario’s intended audience would have the necessary background. The letter format allows Cedeno to use more conversational language than would often be preferred in a literary novel. It is still an unusual style, for the entire novel to be a single retrospective letter, and there are occasions where Cedeno wrestles with the confines he has constructed. Despite the challenges of the style, the book itself is successful.

Read it.

Q: Do you like Doctor Who?

A: If you don’t, you should find someone you can trust who does and ask for an introduction to the show. I can’t suggest going at it alone because the first season from 2005 is hard to get into. But power through; it’s worth it.

If you do enjoy the Doctor, this book is right up your alley. Cedeno’s affinity for the show is evident in a number of the story’s features, from alternative Earths, jumbled timelines, artificial organs, larger-than-life characters, robotic ethics, prophets, and more. Like the famed BBC television show, Cedeno sets up black and white, good and evil, and then proceeds to toy with your expectations.

In one of my favorite and very Who-esque lines, buried late in the book, Rosario delivers a lengthy commentary on robotics and artificial hearts and casually mentions that the programming language is not binary code or any other typical computer language, but classical Latin.

Read it.

Q: Do you like your fiction to generate serious introspection through light-hearted means?

A: If so, this is certainly a book you’d enjoy. Cedeno employs science fiction and ridiculous characters, such as a blinged out monkey named Carl, in his exploration of forgiveness and redemption.

Read it.

Q: Are you a human?

A: You should read it.

Q: Are you a robot?

A: You should definitely read it.

To purchase The Resurrection of Rey Pescador online, you can click here. I personally think you should find your local independent bookstore and purchase the book there. It will help if you give them the ISBN 9780990353829. You should certainly not purchase from Amazon.

The Resurrection of Rey Pescador

To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, I mention as part of every web or Amazon review that the author provided me with a complimentary copy of this book or ARC.