How do you trace genius? What’s the recipe for inspiration? When listening to an acceptance speech, who gets a nod and who goes unappreciated?
Put another way, how much credit does the home field get when the home team hits one out of the park? When Highland Parkers make it onto the world stage, how much of that success is happenstance, and how much is attributable to the zip code?
Consider The Princess Bride. William Goldman, the author, was born and raised in HP. We could lower our taxes if there were a residual paid to the town every time somebody said, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Were those words inspired while clowning around in line, waiting for the cheddar fries at Stash’s? They might have been.
Anne Farleigh, the English teacher who ran the now extinct HPHS Reading Lab, was the one who first handed me Goldman’s book. With pride she said, “See what our graduates produce.” And that was before it became a movie.
More recently, HPHS can lay claim to the creators of Amazon’s top selling game, Cards Against Humanity: A party game for horrible people. Much has been written about these boys and their humor, but what about their local inspiration?
“Everything was safe, sanitized, boring. High school was an awful place, a futuristic prison,” says Max Temkin, one of the eight guys who, for lack of a better phrase, are all warped wizards.
Pressed to come up with even one thing from Highland Park he misses, Temkin’s face finally lights up. “The egg-white salad from Once Upon a Bagel. It’s the best. How do they make that?”
My eyebrows shot up. These boys, three of whom graduated first, second, and third in their class, and who together are just shy of forming a minyan, do they give a nod to their mothers? A nod to their teachers? A nod, even, to each other?
“I hate David, and David hates himself,” says Temkin, explaining their distinctive friendship. It’s that charming and ironic connection that keeps the group bound together despite physical distance and divergent daytime career paths.
Still, ‘tis the season of giving, and I feel the need to express my appreciation to these HP natives for the latest and most demented reason to be proud of my hometown.
So to you, Eli Halpern, David Munk, Josh Dillon, Eliot Weinstein, Daniel Dranove, Ben Hantoot, David Pinsof, and yes, Max Temkin, here is my gift: direct from Oscar Garcia of Once Upon a Bagel, the recipe for their egg-white salad. “Take low-fat mayo, a little bit of black pepper, celery, onion salt, and just the egg whites from boiled eggs.”
“What makes it so special?” I asked.
“It’s the love,” replied Garcia.
Yes it is. And boys, remember this: It’s not just the hometown egg-white salad that fostered your creativity. Give a nod to your mothers here in Highland Park. They put up with all of you.