“I am not my geography.” Thank you American Tributaries Podcast for having me on your show! Plus: a song I wrote about the experience.

Big shout out and thanks today to my friend and fellow wine professional and activist Michael Whidden for asking me to join him on his American Tributaries Podcast.

Listen on YouTube here or below.

Michael contacted me after I published a post in March entitled “Stop telling me I’m a bad person because I live in Texas.”

After having an encounter with a now former friend who made some extreme, severe comments about our family’s life in Texas, I asked the two people who read my blog to consider that “state boundaries do not represent monolithic ethical, moral, and aesthetic divides. There are all kinds of people in [my adoptive state] Texas, just as there are all kinds of people in California (including plenty of ultraconservative racists, among others, in my home state).”

I was thrilled to get a chance to discuss the unfortunate episode. Thanks for checking it out.

I also wrote a song about my experience. Warning: it’s profanity laden. But it really captures the absurdity of those situations.

The only thing that mattered to the person in question was that I live in Texas. Nothing else about my persona interested them. As it turns out, there’s a lot more to me (and everyone) than just geography.

Thanks for checking out the song as well. Heartfelt thanks to Michael for having me on his show.

The tale of a social media influencer: Imp of the Perverse.

Above: Alicia Lini, right, with my longtime friend and social media influencer, Giovanni Contrada, aka Imp of the Perverse.

When Italy first went into lockdown mode in March 2020, my longtime friend and fashion designer Giovanni Contrada (above, left) was living in Milan where he was building his Imp of the Perverse label and brand.

The boredom of the closures led him to start documenting his (at first modest) culinary adventures in Italy’s fashion and culture capital. What started with handful of simpatico videos on TikTok, where Giovanni would interact with owners of neighborhood cafés and restaurants, soon blossomed into an increasing number of likes and shares. And before long, that number started to grow — exponentially.

When he called me at the end of the year, he told me, “dude, I’m huge on TikTok.” And he wasn’t kidding.

He already had close to one million followers at the time. Today, he has 1.5 million followers — yes, one and a half million.

He also has an agent and scores of requests for product placements and endorsements. And his fashion line has exploded as well.

When Giovanni’s unique line of jackets and suits first took off, he was a favorite among the glitterati crowd. Ellen Degeneres and Melissa Etheridge were among the first celebrities to wear his clothes. Remember when Melissa Etheridge performed at the Grammys during her battle with cancer in 2005? She was wearing a Giovanni jacket.

As Giovanni was rising in the fashion world, he would often dress our band Nous Non Plus for our shows. Over the years, he’s even designed a few special pieces that he’s gifted to me (including “The Jar” hoodie). When I was up for a prize in Milan some years ago, he dressed me for the awards ceremony.

Last week, I traveled to Los Angeles to meet another dear friend and longtime client of mine, Alicia Lini. On Thursday morning, we sat down with Giovanni for breakfast at this fantastic Italian bakery and café on Sunset Blvd. called Ceci’s (everything was great, the erbazzone exceptional).

Click here to see the TikTok they made together. Click here for the Instagram. Giovanni also posted a wonderful clip of him enjoying Alicia’s traditional balsamic vinegar.

It was one of the ages. But that’s no surprise. Giovanni has always been such a loving and generous friend to me, a big brother who has comforted me in my worst times and shared my joy in my best.

Giovanni, I love you. Thanks for carving out an hour of your morning for us. I’ll never forget that chilly overcast day in LA as long as I live.

If you’re wondering where the handle “Imp of the Perverse” came from, look no further than Edgar Allen Poe.

Tracie named “rising star” realtor!

In less than two years, Tracie went from stay-at-home mom with a couple of side gigs to a million-dollar-listing realtor in one of the hottest real estate markets in the country.

In spring of 2021, she got her license. And this week, she was named “rising star” and a top earner by her firm Greenwood King.

That’s the screen (above) at her agency’s annual award ceremony as they announced the accolade on Tuesday.

Our daughters and I are so proud of her. She’s an amazing model for the girls (ages 9 and 11) in terms of what a person can accomplish when they put their mind to it and heart in it.

And as her mother-in-law loves to say, “You know she makes more money than her husband, don’t you?”

It’s been an incredible time in our lives as her income has helped us dig out of the financial lows of the health crisis. On Thanksgiving weekend last year, we moved into our new house. Even with the rising rates at the time, she got us a great deal and a great mortgage. And we are just in love with our home.

Tracie, the girls and I love you so much and are so proud of you. You are such a fantastic role model for our children and you are most wonderful partner I could have ever hoped for or dreamed of. It has been such a joy and inspiration to watch you become a leader in your field. And I just have to say it one more time, I love sleeping with my realtor! You have made our lives and future so bright. You are the love of my life.

Protest neo-Confederate iconography with us on MLK Day in Orange, Texas. Help us keep our MLK billboard active for Black History Month.

On Martin Luther King Day 2023, Monday, January 16, Tracie and I will be protesting the newly built Neo-Confederate memorial in Orange, Texas, where she grew up and where much of her family still lives.

We began organizing our events at the site in 2018 after the Sons of Confederate Veterans first began raising Confederate battle flags at the site — a conspicuous Greek-style atrium that sits at the intersection of Martin Luther King Dr. and Interstate 10. Yes, those pieces of shit built their eyesore on MLK Dr., one of the city’s major arteries, just a stone’s throw from an elementary school (!!!).

We will be there from 1-3 p.m. Please join us to show solidarity for the Black community there. Here are the Google coordinates.

Please feel free to contact me at jparzen@gmail.com if you have questions.

Some may remember that our campaign to repurpose the memorial was featured in a video on the news site NowThis. It will give you a taste of what we are up against (contains graphic language).

You can also read about the site and its impact on the community at our blog, RepurposeMemorial.com.

If you can’t join us on MLK Day, please help us keep our MLK billboard active through Black History Month. Every year since our campaign began, we have raised an MLK billboard across from the site featuring the image and words of Dr. King. The billboard is already active and we just need $200 more to reach our goal of $2,000. That will keep the billboard up through the month of February.

Please donate to our GoFundMe here. And if you can’t donate or attend, please share the info with your networks. Every share, every click counts.

Thank you for your support and solidarity. Hoping to see you on MLK Day! Celebrate the life and writings of Dr. King by standing up for what’s right. As Dr. King famously said, “the time is always right to do what is right.”

Parzen family Christmas letter 2022. Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah!

It’s been a year that none of us will ever forget.

The biggest news was that we bought a house!

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we moved into a three-bedroom, two-bath ranch-style house in the same neighborhood where we have been living for the last eight years. It’s literally a block and a half away from our old house (a rental).

We love our new home, our neighborhood, our school, and our community. And the girls love having their own rooms.

Both girls are getting straight A’s in school and both continue to play music.

Lila Jane, 9, above left with Tracie, Georgia and our Levy cousins, plays cello, piano, and sings in the advanced children’s choir at our school. The choral teacher there is super rad and gets the group really cool gigs, like singing the national anthem before a Houston Texans game. That’s Lila Jane at the stadium after the gig.

Afterward, I was like, so you’ve already played a stadium gig! Not every nine-year-old can say that.

Both girls performed with their school’s “performers” orchestra at the mayor’s tree lighting event this year. That was super cool because they were on stage with professional singers and dancers and the whole thing was televised — lights, camera, action and all. Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive,” was the headliner!

Georgia, who just turned 11, continues to play violin and piano. She dropped out of advanced choir this year, her last at our elementary school. Instead, she did tennis, chess club, and theater as her after school activities. It’s been a busy year so far!

As she heads toward her teenage years (sometimes we think they’re not too far off!), her intellectual curiosity is really beginning to grow. It’s amazing to watch.

Both girls are eager to get back to Italy. Venice is their number-one city to visit (they’ve never been). We’re hoping to save enough money to take them on a proper tour of Italy this summer — and not just to wine country.

The real estate market isn’t as hot as when Tracie first began working as an agent last year. But that hasn’t stopped her from maintaining a steady income. This year and last, she more than doubled our family’s finances. Her going back to work (after 10 years as a stay-at-home mom) is what made the new house possible.

We’ll be celebrating our thirteenth wedding anniversary next month. And what can I say? I’ve been sleeping with my realtor and she’s a super hotty. I love her so much and it’s been so awesome to see her enjoying her work.

We have too many blessings to count… poo, poo, poo!

As Tra has settled into her new professional rhythms, I’ve been ramping up my own work again. I have some great projects lined up for next year and I’m working with a wonderful new client whom I genuinely adore.

There’s not much to complain about these days.

Tracie, Georgia, Lila Jane, and our doggies, RooRoo and Pachy, wish you a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and a new year filled with light, joy, and good health. See you in a few weeks!

New Christmas song, new album are here! Thanks for checking out my music.

Just like every year, I write an EP worth of songs and a Christmas song that I produce, record, and perform myself in our home studio.

This year’s release has three (yes, count ’em) love songs for Tracie, including one I wrote about the time before we met. There’s a song for each of the girls and then another for both of them together. And there’s also a song for Doggynino, our very first dog.

Writing and performing with my band is one of the things that I miss the most about my life before Texas. But the music in me remains strong and I can’t help but produce a “disc” each year.

This year’s record is called “Day after Night,” after the title track, a love song I wrote for Tracie.

That anyone listens to my music means the world to me. Thanks for checking it out. Click here to listen online and to download. Turn it up loud!

Take Me Down to Christmas Town

This track is a full-on country song about someone trying to get to a Christmas party. With delicious anticipation, the singer looks forward to how fun it’s going to be. It’s always been a dream of mine to write a popular Christmas tune. This ain’t it but man I had a blast putting this one together. That’s me playing my Tele btw.

Day After Night

Tracie really changed our lives when she launched her new career as a realtor, more than doubled our family’s income, and created a whole new financial path for all of us. It made me reflect on when we first met and how she delivered “day after night.” I love her so much.

Southeast Texas Girl

Years before I met Tracie, I followed her blog about her life on an island off the coast of Campania. I bet when my old French bandmates hear this one they will say “this could have been a Nous Non Plus song.” I love how the bridge resolves on this track.

I Love You Lila Jane

What can I say? She has me wrapped around her little finger. I wrote and recorded this after we saw the new Elvis movie. The chorus was inspired by his “If I Can Dream” (such an awesome track, the Elvis one, I mean).

One in a Million Girl

We love Georgia’s endless questioning of the world around her as she tries to make sense of how it all comes together. Watching her grow intellectually has been so wonderful. And we love watching her as she discovers new music that she loves. She’s a one in a million girl, no doubt about it.


I’ve written songs for all of our dogs but I had never finished this one until the girls reminded me that Doggyninno still didn’t have his own. I actually wrote this not long after he passed. But I was still so broken up about it that I could never finish it. I still cry every time I hear the last verse. We still miss him even though he was part of our lives for just a few short weeks. His name will never be forgotten.

Parzen Family Girls

This was the first song I wrote for the album. Now that I’m in the autumn of my life, their joy and the joy they inspire in me are what keeps me going, day in and day out. I don’t know who I would be today if it weren’t for the Parzen family girls. They are so awesome.

One Love of My Life

I’ve been so lucky to have had such a rich life full of adventures intellectual and epicureal and travels far and wide. But nothing has shaped me and my life like the one true love of my life. I don’t know who I would be today without her. She is an amazing woman and I’ll never stop being inspired by her grace and beauty. And I’ll never stop writing and recording love songs for her.

Thanks for listening to my music! It really means the world to me. Thank you!

Anti-Semitism and our semi-Semite children.

Above: a sunset in La Jolla, California where I grew up. Before my family moved there, realtors redlined Jews until it became apparent that community wouldn’t thrive without them.

It’s widely known that La Jolla, the beautiful oceanside neighborhood in San Diego where I grew up, was off-limits to Jews until the 1960s when the University of California began to build a campus there.

“They didn’t let Jews in until they built a university and they needed Jews.” That’s what my father used to say. He was a Chicago-based psychoanalyst who moved there with our family in 1971. We were part of an early wave of midwest professionals who migrated west toward the Pacific.

He was echoing words spoken loudly by the founder of U.C.S.D., Roger Revelle (for whom one of the university’s colleges is named).

“You can’t have a university without having Jewish professors,” said Revelle in a now famous speech. “The Real Estate Broker’s Association and their supporters in La Jolla had to make up their minds whether they wanted a university or an anti-Semitic covenant. You couldn’t have both.”

I had my first bitter taste of anti-Semitism when a seven-year-old playmate and neighbor of mine told me that his parents had forbidden him from interacting with me. “Because you’re a Jew,” he said.

Throughout junior high (as it was called then) and high school, it was a normal occurrence for other students to taunt me and my Jewish friends with anti-Semitic epithets. My two best and inseparable friends throughout my teens were Jews. One of our classmates dubbed us — with insouciant but innocuous malice common in our age group — the “Jew Crew.” (He’s still a good friend. A few years ago he remarked off-handedly, “I don’t know why all of my best friends are Jews.”)

But aside from the stress caused by heckling, being a Semite has never impeded me or my brothers from achieving everything we wanted in life. I feel it’s important to note, as my younger brother once wisely pointed out, that the only suffering inflicted on us by anti-Semites in our early years was solely emotional and superficial.

That all changed for me when the white supremacists openly chanted “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville in 2017. That’s when I began to realize that anti-Semitic violence was no longer a far-fetched notion in our country.

The 2019 shooting at a San Diego-area synagogue really and quite literally brought it home: a close childhood friend of mine was a member there and my older brother and his wife have worshipped there. They knew the 60-year-old woman who was killed by the shooter.

Seeing images of white supremacists chanting, raising their arms in Nazi salutes, and displaying anti-Semitic messages over the 405 freeway in Los Angeles brought a chill to my spine. When I lived, studied, and worked in LA as an undergrad and grad student, I used to drive on that stretch of road nearly every single day. The overpass where their rally took place is not far from the Getty Museum (where I used to work, although not at that location) and the Skirball Cultural Center, a Jewish community hub. I used to attend the nearby Stephen Wise Temple on the high holy days when I lived on campus at U.C.L.A.

During my last years in New York City, I used to wait on the entertainer who unleashed a chorus of anti-Semitic rhetoric with his own inflammatory remarks over the last few weeks. He lived in a SoHo building where a high-profile Italian restaurant was located on the ground floor. I was the restaurant’s marketing director and I often worked the dining room as a sommelier.

His overtly racist comments have made anti-Semitism a dinner table topic of conversation in our home.

Our children, ages nine and 10, are not considered Jews by most of my conreligionists. That’s because Jewish law holds that the mother must be a Jew for the kids to be Jews. Tracie is a gentile. I like to call them “semi-Semites.”

But Jewish culture and Jewish language are a big part of our daily banter. And we happen to live in the historic Jewish neighborhood of Houston. Many of their classmates are Jews and we often attend Jewish observances with other families.

Our girls have been tight-lipped about this episode. They are aware of it because it’s been unavoidable on the news. And there’s no doubt that they are affected by it, in part because Tracie and I have been outwardly upset by it.

Where I grew up thinking that a few nasty words about my ethnicity were all I would have to tolerate throughout my life, they are living in a world where verbal and physical violence are threats that self-identifying Jews have to live with every day. Anti-Semitism is no longer a sad joke that we can brush off as anachronistic. Even a living former president of the U.S. has been known to make anti-Semitic comments. It’s no surprise that his political mentor was a rabid anti-Semite.

When Tracie and I first talked about starting a family together 13 years ago, I never would have imagined that our kids would grow up with this cultural pressure and stress. Yet here we are.

In our everyday interactions, people around us often use racist language about Jews without even realizing how harmful it is. I only wish they would stop to reflect about how it’s going to shape our children’s self-perceptions and their perceptions of the world around them. In today’s world, that verbal violence seems closer than ever to the physical violence that my ancestors fled.

Thanks for letting me share this personal history with you. Parzen family friends, please consider following the Anti-Defamation League and their newsletter. Their reporting will give you a better sense of how pervasive anti-Semitism is in our country today.

Yom Kippur prayer. Shanah tovah.

It was the fall of 2007, nearly fifteen years ago this week, when I found myself on a park bench at the La Jolla Cove waiting to go to Yom Kippur services with my family at the same synagogue where I was a bar mitzvah some 27 years prior.

I had given my all to my relationship in New York City where I had been living for the previous decade. But it had unraveled irrevocably by that point. I had quit my marketing director job as I tried to focus on my career as a translator and songwriter. I was living on a best friend’s couch on the upper westside. On a whim and with nothing really to keep me in the city, I decided to come back home to La Jolla to see my family and reconnect with friends for the Jewish new year.

Life in New York had been thrilling for me: the bands I played in and with; the magazine where I got my first commercial writing job; the restaurants and wine shops I worked in and frequented; the wine brand I launched; the U.N. where I worked as an interpreter; the poets, musicians, actors, and artists I hung out with… It had all been a blast.

But at 40, my life was at loose ends, in part because of the relationship gone bad and in part because I knew there was more world out there for me to discover.

Nearly a year later, as I was toggling between my old life in the city and a new one in southern California, I received a message from a blogger that I followed. She was writing to wish me a happy 41st birthday. By the end of 2008, I had moved to Austin as our e-mance became a real-mance and we began to talk about building a life together.

Today, 15 years later, Yom Kippur begins this evening at sundown just as it has for as long as anyone can remember.

I won’t be going to shul this year but I’ll be spending the day with our daughters, ages nine and 10, as I fast and reflect on what it means to be a 55-year-old father to them and a partner to Tracie, my wife of nearly 13 years now.

This Yom Kippur, I’ll pray that G-d will give me the wisdom and strength to be the dad and husband I strive to be.

I’ll pray for my brothers, their wives, and their children. I’ll pray for my childhood friends. I’ll pray for my Texas family. That they may find the purpose, meaning, joy, and peace that they seek.

I’ll pray for my mother, who just turned 89. That she may take joy in her children’s and grandchildren’s joy. That she may know that we love her and appreciate all she has given us.

I’ll pray for Tracie. That she may know how much our girls and I love her. That she may know the sweetness of the life she has given us.

I’ll pray for our children and all children. That they may be safe and they may realize their dreams.

I’ll pray for our world. That all people may live secure and free, with enough to eat and a place to live, love, and grow.

Shanah tovah. Happy new year, everyone. May your fast be easy.

Shanah tovah (שנה טובה). Parzen family New Year letter.

Let us turn our heads heavenward and, while thanking Him for sparing so much human life, beseech G-d to restore health and well-being to those who are suffering!
— Chabad.org

Shanah tovah (שנה טובה). Happy new year, everyone.

The last year has been a good one for our family — poo, poo, poo!

Georgia is enjoying fifth grade, her last at our elementary school. She has really begun to excel in the music program there. She plays violin and takes private lessons at the school, a music magnet, and she continues to take piano lessons with a private teacher outside of school. Yesterday, after I met her for lunch at school, she gave an impromptu piano concert for the entire fifth grade in the cafeteria! It was really magical. She’s also started taking tennis lessons, which she really enjoys (especially because tennis was Tracie’s sport in high school).

Lila Jane continues to take cello at school and piano privately. She’s also in the advanced choir at school. Next month, her school choir will sing the national anthem at the Houston Texans’ football game! (The choir teacher is a Grammy-winning children’s choir maestra and so the group gets some cool gigs like this. They are insanely good.) She also continues to write elaborate comic strips (pages and pages long, with illustrations, dialog and narrative). And she’s also become a writer for the school’s nascent paper. Last night, she was so eager to write a report that she insisted on bringing her laptop to the dinner table.

Both girls are starting to speak a little Italian and they are begging me to take them to Venice next summer (we’ll see!).

Tracie’s new career as a realtor also continues to flourish. Even though the market isn’t as “hot” as when she first began, her hard work and devotion have really paid off. We are a dual-income family now and that’s helped us accelerate our path to our financial goals.

Now that she is more steady and confident in her professional life, I’ve begun to travel for my work a bit more. I still do all the caretaking when I’m in town and I do nearly all of the cooking, which has reignited my culinary skills (that has been really fun).

The new focus in my work is my translations of ancient Italian texts on wine. A University of Toronto imprint has already agreed to publish my first one (a 14th-century work) and we already have a second and third book lined up in the series. It’s immensely rewarding for me to combine my skills and experience as an academic with my knowledge of viticulture.

As the old folks used to say (and I’m getting to be one of them), poo, poo, poo!

We have too many blessings to count.

The world beyond our home often seems perilous and precarious these days. But our home life and our community is an oasis where the girls are growing up healthy and safe — the greatest blessing in our lives.

On this Rosh Hashanah (new year), we pray for our sisters and brothers in Ukraine and Puerto Rico, we pray for the Venezuelan migrants, we pray that our leaders may rise to the occasion with grace and wisdom as our country and the world face seemingly unsurmountable challenges. We pray that our children and all children may be safe.

Shanah tovah. Happy new year.

Let us all simply shower one another with blessings!

Parzen family guide to La Jolla. Our favorite restaurants and places to visit.

The Parzen family just got back from our yearly summer trip to La Jolla, California to visit our family and friends there. It was an awesome trip.

The following are our favorite places to visit, updated based on our last stay there.

La Jolla is a lot more crowded than it used to be. And the traffic there has become challenging to say the least.

But as long as you don’t waste half of your day driving in and out of town, it’s still a fantastic place to vacation.

That’s the view walking down the hill toward the Children’s Pool in the photo above, one of the best places to watch the sunset. And you invariably find seals and sea lions on the beach there and on “seal rock” just a stone’s throw up the coast (literally a stone’s throw).

El Pescador Fish Market, a La Jolla institution since my childhood, remains our favorite seafood destination.
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