Houston wine community mourns the loss of one of its own. Remembering Thomas Moësse.

The Houston wine community mourns the loss of one of its most beloved members this week, sommelier Thomas Moësse. He passed away earlier this month in New York City where he had been living for the last few years.

Thomas was a world traveler, polyglot, and a top wine wine professional, equally admired by his peers and his guests alike.

Born in the United Kingdom, Thomas moved to Houston as a teenager but spent his summers in the Loire Valley where his family had roots and where he first learned to love wine. After attending college in New York, he returned to Texas and began working in Houston restaurants. His wine appreciation ultimately led to multiple certifications as a professional sommelier and wine educator.

In 2018 he returned to New York and the following year he became the wine director at one of America’s most celebrated Italian restaurants, Felidia in Manhattan, where he oversaw one of the city’s best wine lists and led seminars and tastings for its who’s-who list of guests.

Before moving to the east coast, he was the wine director and one of the founders of Vinology, the popular wine bar and wine shop in city’s West University district. He was also the wine director at one of city’s temples of Italian gastronomy, Divino, a long-time favorite destination for food and wine lovers.

I knew Thomas well and had the wonderful opportunity to taste with him in Houston and in Italy on many occasions. He was one of the best tasters I’ve ever shared a bottle with. And his passion, devotion to his craft, and knowledge of wine were were world class — an inspiration for all around him, including me.

He was also a man full of joy for life, for great food and wine, for great music, and — most importantly — for his friends. He was always ready to lend a hand at tastings and events, always ready to speak on a panel or offer advice and share his insights and dining recommendations.

Sit tibi terra levis Thoma. You will be sorely missed by your friends and community here in Texas. Our small world of wine won’t be the same without you.

Click here to learn how you can support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

NEW SONG: “I Can’t Wait For The Eight Nights Of Hanukkah.” Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Please consider giving to our GoFundMe to raise funds for the MLK Day 2021 parade in Orange, Texas where Tracie grew up and where we’ve been protesting a newly constructed neo-Confederate monument since 2017. Thank you for your support.

In a normal year, the Parzen Family usually hosts 2-3 blow-out parties a year, each with a kids music recital and parents jam session (sometimes lasting late into the evening).

Everyone — and I mean, EVERYONE — is invited and welcome and there’s always plenty of great wine, food, and music to share.

But over the last few years, our Hanukkah parties have become the pièce de résistance. That’s because of Tracie’s (now) famous latkes and jelly-filled donuts which she makes on the spot, sometimes for 50+ people!

We’re really bummed that we can’t have our holiday party this year. So instead we made this video with images from years past. The superb photos from last year’s party come by way of the amazing Annie Mulligan, our friend and fellow Parker parent.

Happy Hanukkah, everyone! Raise a glass to freedom!

I Can’t Wait For The Eight Nights Of Hanukkah

From the album It’s So Easy In America Tonight (November 2020)
available on the Terrible Kids Music label
Written, performed, and produced by
Parzen Family Singers at
Baby P Studios
Houston, Texas
Engineered by daddy.

Something’s happening soon
And I’m over the moon
And it’s going down tonight

You know it’s gonna be fun
Cause it’s the number one
It’s the Festival of lights

I can’t wait
For the eight
Nights of Hanukkah

Dreidel I will play
As you light
The menorah

Way back in history
Judas Maccabbee
set his people free

And then miraculously
The oil burned more than a week
It was so beautiful to see

I can’t wait
For the eight
Nights of Hanukkah

Dreidel I will play
As you light
Your menorah

Light the candles
Sing the songs
Say the prayers
All night long

Watch the candles glow

Please help us raise money for the MLK Day 2021 Parade in Orange, Texas.

Please donate to our GoFundMe here.

Above: the last MLK Day Parade was held in Orange, Texas in 2018.

Tracie and I have joined forces with our friend MaQuettia Ledet, founder of Impact Orange, to organize the 2021 Martin Luther King Day parade in Orange, Texas where Tracie grew up.

On MLK Day 2021 (January 18), at 10 a.m., marchers will walk from Solomon Johnson Park  to the steps of the Heritage House Museum in Orange.

All marchers will be asked to wear face masks and to social distance. At the end of the route, the marchers will be asked to disassemble. There will be no speeches or presentations at the end of the parade.

All necessary permissions have been obtained from the City of Orange and the Orange Mayor’s office. And the Orange Heritage House Museum has agreed to let marchers disassemble in front of the museum.

This fundraiser will pay for the special events insurance policy, which covers the marchers and the City of Orange. The insurance is the only element not yet in place.

The historic MLK Day Parade, a beloved Orange tradition, has not been held since 2018.

Repurpose Memorial and Impact Orange are pleased to revive this cherished event and to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank you for your support. We hope you will be able to join us as we celebrate the life and work of Dr. King.

Please donate to our GoFundMe here.

“The time is always right to do right.”

—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”
June, 1965

Read the speech in its entirety here.

CHRISTMAS SONG 2020: “A Different Kind Of Christmas” by Parzen Family Singers

Happy holidays, everyone! Thanks for being here. The Parzen family hopes you and loved ones are all healthy and safe.

Please check out Parzen Family Singers’ new Christmas song “A Different Kind Of Christmas” (in the video above) featuring Georgia on vocals.

And please check out our 2020 album on Band Camp here and below.

Happy Thanksgiving! Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season. Stay safe and know that you have friends in Houston.

Love, the Parzen Family

*****

It’s So Easy In America Tonight
Written, performed, recorded, and produced by the Parzen Family Singers at
Baby P Studios in Houston, Texas.
Engineered by daddy.
All Rights Reserved/Copyright Parzen Family Singers 2020
Available on Terrible Kids Records.

A Different Kind of Christmas

As Georgia says at the end of the track, “believe in the year.” This year’s Christmas is like no other before it.

It’s So Easy In America Tonight

Inspired by Van Jones’ observation on the evening that it became abundantly clear that Joe Biden would be the country’s next president: “It’s easier tonight to tell your kids that character matters…”

White Man’s Kinda Blues

About an 83-year-old aggrieved White man who hopes Democrats will die when Joe Biden takes office.

Where There’s Love

A love song written in the time of a global pandemic, racist violence, and economic catastrophe for too many Americans. It seemed their stars were crossed. But where there’s love, there’s nothing lost.

Have Mercy On Me

A covid-19 blues.

All They Need (Parzen Family TV Theme Song)

If the Parzen Family where an early 80s sitcom, this would be their theme song.

In the Corners of My Mind

A man looks into the deepest, darkest corners of his mind and is surprised by what he finds.

NEW SONG: “It’s So Easy In America Tonight” by Parzen Family Singers (election song)

Tracie and I were moved to tears by Van Jones’ commentary the night the election was called for Joe Biden.

“It’s easier to tell your kids character matters. It matters,” he said after it became abundantly apparent that Joe Biden will be our next president and Kamala Harris our next vice president. “Telling the truth matters. Being a good person matters.”

His words and the brio of the evening (plus my best friend’s Franciacorta and one two many glasses of Nebbiolo) inspired this song (video below).

It’s So Easy In America Tonight
by Parzen Family Singers

Lay your weary head to rest
The last four years have left us stressed
But now we know
That it’s all gonna be alright

I know we’ve seen our darker days
They made us feel like stowaways
But we’ve seen the future
And man it sure looks bright

It’s so easy to be yourself
You don’t have to be like no else
It’s so easy in America tonight

It’s so easy to love your neighbors
And maybe they’ll return the favor
It’s so easy in America tonight

Easier to teach your children
That all people were born free
Free to be the people they wanna be

I will still drive down your roads
And watch how your mighty rivers flow
America from sea to shining sea

I’ll play your blues and pay my dues
Cause the sweetest sounding kind of news
Just came over the airwaves on my TV

Easier to teach your children
That all people were born free
Free to be the people they wanna be

It’s so easy to be yourself
You don’t have to be like no else
It’s so easy in America tonight

It’s so easy to love your neighbors
And maybe they’ll return the favor
It’s so easy in America tonight

A meaningful Yom Kippur.

My most vivid memory of Yom Kippur growing up stretches back to the year after I became bar mitzvahson of the commandment.

The services were held in a cavernous events hall (because at the time, our shul, now a large campus, was literally a house and the services were held in a living room).

Many conservative Jews like my parents didn’t attend Shabbat services regularly. But they all wanted to go to the High Holy Day services, Rosh Hashanah (the new year) and Yom Kippur (the day of atonement), which take place 10 days part in that order.

My parents were going through an extremely messy divorce and my father had all but abandoned my mother, my brothers and me. But there I was, sitting next to Zane, in what felt like an airplane hanger to a 13-year-old dressed in an ill-fitting and very uncomfortable suit and rumpled tie.

I was so tired and bored that I could barely keep my eyes open when the rabbi called my name from the bimah. He was asking me to come forward to hold a Torah — the scroll where the five Books of Moses are transcribed — during part of the service.

Suddenly, I was paralyzed with fear. As hard as I tried, I simply couldn’t move my legs.

But after a long and awkward silence that seemed like an eternity, I mustered the courage to head to the bimah where I was handed the sacred text.

My fear — shared by 13-year-olds across the world, I imagine — was that I would drop the Torah.

As we were erroneously taught back then, a person who dropped a Torah would have to fast for 40 days. And everyone who saw the Torah drop also had to fast for 40 days.

But what weighed on me even more greatly was knowing that I would be letting my entire community down.

Although this was long before I would become a serious student of writing, the importance of this text was acutely engrained in me.

“Man is drowning in the sea of life,” one of my Hebrew school teachers once told the class (which was held in a trailer outside the house where the sanctuary was located). “The Torah is G-d’s way of throwing him a lifesaver,” he said, using the gendered synecdoche for “humankind” as was the custom in the early 1980s.

Would I drop G-d’s “lifesaver”? I thought to myself.

I had sweat through my suit jacket and was still shaking when the cantor had me pass the scroll back to him and I went back to my seat next my father. But I hadn’t dropped the Torah.

Today, on Erev Yom Kippur, the day before the Day of Atonement, that memory fills my mind. Except now, our children are my Torah.

In a world very literally gripped by plague, in a world where the air quality is so bad that my brothers and mother can’t go outside in my native California, in a world where Biblical flooding wipes away cities on the coast where I now live, in a world where my white neighbors still contend that people who don’t look like them must “prove their worth,” where my white neighbors tell me to “get the hell out of America” because of my beliefs…

In this world, Georgia and Lila Jane are my lifesaver. G-d has blessed us with them and we are called to nurture and protect them the same way we observe Their word.

Today, 40 years after I didn’t drop that scroll, they and their future are what give me hope for a world better than the one we brought them into.

May your fast be easy and your Yom Kippur meaningful.

Shanah tovah (שנה טובה). May your new year be filled with sweetness…

Shanah tovah u’metuka. May you have a good and sweet year ahead.

On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, we eat apples and honey as a symbol of the sweet year ahead we hope G-d will grant us.

May you and yours be inscribed and sealed [in the Book of Life] for a good and sweet new year.

From Chabad.org:

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!

Let us ask G-d for a Happy, Healthy and Sweet New Year for the entire universe! Our High Holiday prayers, we are taught, have an extraordinary effect on the year ahead – let’s seize the opportunity!

Let us make firm, tangible resolutions to better ourselves and increase our mitzvot, in both our interpersonal and our G-d-and-us relationships.

And let us all simply shower one another with blessings!

Thanks for being here. I’ll see you next week. Happy new year…

“Like a war zone.” Houston spared. Orange pummeled but no deaths. Lake Charles “worst hurricane ever.”

Tracie’s parents are safe but rattled after Hurricane Laura, a nearly category 5 storm, made landfall early this morning just east of where they sheltered in place in Orange, Texas on the Texas-Louisiana border.

My sister-in-law and her family and Tracie’s aunt and uncle all evacuated Orange County, Texas yesterday before the storm came. But my in-laws had to stay behind with Tracie’s 99-year-old grandmother.

I’m happy to report that everyone is safe this morning.

In her early-morning text to me, my mother-in-law wrote that “it’s like a war zone.”

Here in Houston, our city officials were still telling us to prepare for the worst as late as yesterday afternoon. But the storm continued to shift eastward. Remarkably, we didn’t even have rain here. As the television meteorologists say, we were on “the cleans side” of the hurricane.

Yesterday morning, news reports were projecting “unsurvivable storm surge” in Galveston about 50 miles south of where we live. But Hurricane Laura made landfall in Cameron, Louisiana, 32 miles southeast of where my in-laws live (roughly 130 miles from where we live).

On the news this morning, a middle-aged woman who had decided to ride out the storm in Lake Charles, Louisiana, said it was the “worst hurricane” she had ever experienced.

Hundreds of thousands of people are without power across the region this morning. It will take weeks before some of them have electricity again (many unfamiliar with hurricanes don’t realize that this is one of the most dangerous and life-threatening aspects of extreme weather events like this).

Texas governor Greg Abbott said this morning that no deaths have been reported in Texas. He ascribed the zero-fatality rate to the fact that the state provided hotel rooms to nearly everyone who had no place to go once evacuated.

We’re all feeling very fortunate this morning. We are praying for our sisters and brothers in southwest Louisiana just across the state line. They are going to need our help and support for weeks to come. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who called and wrote to check in on us. We have been extremely lucky. Had Laura made landfall here, a much more populated area, the devastation could have been a lot worse.

Hunkering down for Hurricane Laura. Parzen family update.

Above: the view from our front yard facing south toward the Gulf of Mexico where Hurricane Laura is currently a category 3 storm. The coast lies about 50 miles due south from where we live in southwest Houston.

At one point, it looked like Hurricane Laura (currently a category 3 event in the Gulf of Mexico) might make landfall in Galveston just south of Houston where we live. But over the last day or so the projections have moved it to the east.

That’s good news for our city. We’re expecting to have high winds and heavy rainfall typical of a tropical storm. Flash flooding is expected. But we’ll be outside the storm’s cone.

But it’s terrible news for my in-laws who live in Orange, Texas, right on the Louisiana border. At one point last night, landfall was projected to happen in Orange. The cone has moved slightly east but Orange is still in the storm’s cross hairs.

As of 8:50 a.m., Laura is expected to be a category 4 hurricane when it makes landfall along the Texas-Louisiana border around midnight tonight.

Traice’s parents, Jane and Randy, will be sheltering in place this evening at Tracie’s grandmother’s house. Tracie’s “memaw” is 99 years old and suffered a stroke earlier this year. She’s at home with 24-hour care but can’t travel.

We’ll be following the storm’s progress carefully and checking in regularly with family in Orange.

In the meantime, we’ve been hunkering down and securing everything in our yard (so that the wind doesn’t turn patio furniture and our daughter’s playscape etc. into “missiles”). We have plenty of water, food, and batteries. We even have a transistor radio and my truck and Tra’s minivan are all gassed up.

We’ll be praying for our family in Orange and all of our friends across southeast Texas. We’re expecting Houston to be hard hit as well but we’re particularly concerned about Orange.

Thanks to everyone who’s written and called to check in. The thoughts and wishes mean the world to us. We need them right now.

For updates on the storm, see the excellent Space City Weather blog.