Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Year Haiku

Happy New Year, all--
Hope it's good for everyone.
My dog has a toy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Goldfinger & Dove

“Casablanca”. Chocolate Chip Cookies. The Mustang convertible. American classics, every one. As are ‘Goldfinger & Dove’.

Who’s ‘Goldfinger & Dove’, you ask? My dear, they are two of the classiest magicians working today, classy performers and classy people. Even if they weren’t friends of mine, which I’m proud to say they are, I would respect and admire them. So much so that I went back to the Magic Castle last night and waited for the 11:15 show, just to be able to see them perform again. Of course, even on a Monday, the first two shows were full up. Jack Goldfinger himself couldn’t wrangle a seat for me, though he was courteous enough to try.

Aside from the sheer professionalism they exude (Jack was limping from an injury offstage, as soon as he got onstage he danced with the easy grace that is the trademark of both him and his beautiful wife Dove) what I enjoy most about their show is that they enjoy it. They’ve been doing this long enough that there is none of the anxiety so often visible in lesser performers. They have a good time, thus so do we in the audience. Their charm is palpable, as is their effervescent elegance and style.

Speaking of charm and style, Amos Levkovitch closed the show with his incomparable dove act. (The birds, not the lovely Mrs. Goldfinger.) Again, the audience benefits from the experience and comfort of the performer. Amos’ act is witty, refined and – this is important to me as an animal-lover—you can tell he cares for his doves, an impression not all magicians give.

You missed a great show. Pity.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Redux Reflux

“Best of 2008!” “Worst of 2008!” “Top 100 (things you didn’t know there were 100 of) of 2008!” The unwelcome headlines splatter my monitor with banality redux.

Like my 10 year high school reunion, not enough time has passed to have forgotten, or to appreciate any of it in context. I’m sick of celebrities (both media and political), and don’t care where they are on the list of somebody’s Top 100. Make it stop, please.

While we’re at it, let’s do something about the January People. They’ve already invaded one of my gyms, I’ll check the other tomorrow.

Funnily enough, I respect them for making New Year’s Resolutions. I can’t, I have no will power. Sure, I’m more disciplined than the next obsessive-compulsive, but will power? No way. That’s why I work out 7 days a week and limit my food excesses to Clark County, NV. (See the post “Zeitgeist Las Vegas, Finale”)

My problem is their belligerence, whether born of moral righteousness (justified, they’re making a tremendous effort) or the obvious discomfort of the process. Oh well, most of them won’t be there in a week, and maybe the others will start to show some basic courtesy--- or at least unblock the entry to the ladies’ room when someone behind them says “Excuse me!” more than once.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Jim was just here for leftovers (happy St Stephen’s Day to the rest of you, too!) and we were talking about some drunk-dialed calls he made last week. I thought it was in the middle of the night, but it wasn’t, they were done in the afternoon. So I asked him, “Aren’t drunken calls usually made after midnight?”
He said, “After midnight? That’s for amateurs.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Maybe It's Just Me...

Doesn't everybody name their holiday turkey before cooking it?

Happy Happy Goy Joy!

Balance In The Universe--- It’s All Connected--- What The Hell---
Pick your cliché of choice, they’re all true and apropos of the season.

For all that it’s a time of year when our faces are rubbed in the accumulated loss and entropy of relationships, there is a terrific upside. We (plural of “I”, these are universal truths here, folks) do connect with the people with whom we have an annual greeting exchange. And the lights are pretty, whether blue and white or multi-colored. But the real upside is the food.

I’m about to dive into the kitchen, to begin preparing tomorrow’s feast. This is great fun, and I’m looking forward to it. But even if I wasn’t cooking, it would still be great fun to go out and eat an abundance of carbohydrates and fat and sugar with people I love. Jonah has already had the turkey gizzard, and all’s well with the world.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Farewell, My Lovely

The enchanting Aicha is leaving us, as we always knew she would someday. G.I. Joe was wrong, though. Knowing isn’t half the battle. Maybe a third, tops.

Okay, I admit it. Time wore me down. Too many dear ones lost, to distance or death, their names still in my address book. (Yes, Jim, on Luddite paper.)

Bryan, you were the first to grow up and go away. Bubble, you were the last. Ironically, you two are the first numbers in my cell phone. One came back, one didn’t go far.

I need to remember that, sometimes they do come back. And sometimes, they’re not really gone, it just seems that way.

We’ll miss you, Aicha.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merry Hell

As most of you know, I adore (and collect and devour) etiquette books. Let’s have a conversation about manners.

Don’t go! Come on, at least give me a chance.

Her Lady Goddess-ness Miss Manners’ entire oeuvre basically says that manners are a way for people to get along in groups. My example: It is good manners not to cross the street on a red light.

To extend the policy of the Golden Rule (which is theoretically inarguable but effectively a load of crap), good manners are about giving the other guy a break. While walking to my car this afternoon, I was nearly run over by a woman driving erratically through the parking lot. My first retaliatory impulse was checked when I realized she was being harangued by someone in the passenger seat.

We’ve all been there, especially this time of year. Everyone is depressed enough to begin with, compounded with worries about The Future. Or they are depressed about The Future, compounded by the season. Whichever. It’s there, for everybody. And they’re taking it out on total strangers. As annoying as people are, why not give them a break? The line was long to begin with, the parking space wasn’t that great, and that poor salesclerk is working miserable hours for no commission and minimum wage. Someone has to suck it up and break the cycle.

Remember, Santa is watching.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Back at the ranch, the world has been turning. Baby boomers are setting up to take over the government (see today’s LA Times front page, you can read the article, I didn’t), it snowed in Barstow, and the groundhog saw his shadow. Strike that last bit. Never mind, we’re probably in for at least six more weeks of winter anyhow.

So, how are things? I hope your holiday preparations are progressing nicely. I should be making the scarycookie dough right now, but I’m not. I’m sitting here talking to you instead.

It was enough that I made an honest effort to shop for presents. Without success, but it’s the thought that counts, right? And my thought is that if a store wants my business, they should provide a clerk to make the transaction instead of talking on a cell phone to a buddy. Moreover, I wasn’t the only customer who left disgruntled. Bah humbug.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Zeitgeist Las Vegas, Finale

I’m only going to tell you about one meal. See for the rest.

The place is called Aureole, and the chef is Charlie Palmer--- probably not in person, but you never know, he’s there often.

Upon entering the restaurant, you cross a dizzyingly narrow catwalk at the top level of a four-story wine tower that houses 10,000 bottles of wine. The “wine angel” of the evening, a pretty girl in a black catsuit, rappels up and down gathering bottles as needed. The path wraps around the tower, making damned sure you appreciate it fully before you get to the hostess stand at the bottom.

They know us there, and it was a slow night (a slow season, see previous) so we were escorted under a glass archway with water cascading throughout, to the Swan Court. This is an exquisitely appointed dining room, the floor to ceiling windows face a large pool with fountains at one end and half a dozen sleeping swans at the other. Tres chic, and usually the demesne of VIPs. We got a semi-walled circular booth, and service fit for a much-loved monarch.

First the amuse: a microscopic napoleon of roasted beets and crème fraiche mousse on a tiny cracker, next to a croque monsieur (French for a ham & cheese sandwich) the size of a walnut, then a carved cucumber cup filled with ethereal salmon mousse. Each morsel was one bite. When our magically efficient waiter realized I was giving Robert my croque monsieur (and why) he flew to the kitchen and returned with a little cup made from one hand-cut potato chip, filled with fresh buffalo mozzarella, a slice of heirloom tomato and some micro-greens, all drizzled with antique balsamic vinegar.

Merely to say that Robert had the French onion soup is unfair to every immortal piece of art produced by civilization. The idealized consommé was thickened with truffles and foie gras, the carmelized onions and aged gruyere mere gilding. This voluptuous concoction was baked in a bowl covered with flaky pastry that had more gruyere melted on top. The waiter deftly beheads the whole, and the fragrance goes straight through your nose into your brain, inducing euphoria even before the spoon goes in.

Sure, Charlie Palmer is famous for beef, but the potato gnocchi (yes, Ted, that’s probably redundant) with seared scallops on an organic leek fondue, surrounded by wild porcinis and bathed in champagne foam was a melody of texture, filling my mouth with light. Velvety, savory, delicious beyond expression. I’m smiling as I type this, just remembering how it felt to taste it.

Of course the entrees were equally perfect. Pan-roasted New Zealand snapper came with a summer squash tapenade and citrus wafers, golden chanterelle mushrooms and a sherry-infused jus. The veal loin with crisped sweetbreads had a fricassee of the same golden chanterelle mushrooms alongside, and some citron potato.

But the desserts… how to do them justice? We both had the fleur de sel caramel bombe with summer cherries and cherry-pomegranate sorbet. A pretty citrus tuile held the sorbet sphere above the bombe, and a mathematically exact spiral of hardened caramel garnished the little sculpture.

Our waiter was so saddened by the fact that we had each ordered the same dessert that he brought us another to share. An amazing tiramisu trifle with ginger sorbet came with the strangest sweet I’ve ever experienced. It was like a really good chocolate brownie but not, like a phenomenal dark chocolate soufflé but not. A hybrid of both, baked in buttery, flaky pastry (more croissant than pie crust, only not) served warm and comforting and yummy.

The plate of individual chocolates (each infused with a different gorgeousness: lavender, orange, vanilla, caramel, more chocolate) were both almost too pretty to eat, and superfluous at that point. Don’t worry, we mustered the fortitude to finish every one.

Monday, December 15, 2008

December Digression

Ah, the holidays. The season of casual hurt arrives with sparkling lights and a cartoon Santa praying to a Baby Jesus crèche in the neighbor’s yard.

What a hypocrite I am. Except for that abovementioned Santa, I enjoy the season. I adore the twinkle lights, even if we can’t be bothered to put them on our house. I like fruitcake. I like all the other Santas, though they don’t make elves like they used to. The holiday itself doesn’t matter to me for obvious reasons, but the trappings are great fun.

Thanksgiving is the tip of the iceberg--- and it’s the one that hit the familial Titanic. Not mine, the only family I have left (on speaking terms, that is) I cherish beyond measure. We don’t celebrate so much as give me an excuse to present a formal menu. We get together often anyhow, and I do like to cook. What bliss that it doesn’t matter what we eat, as long as a few bits reach the dog.

No, I’m thinking about you. You know who you are, and you are legion. As December progresses, let me remind you that yes, people suck. Not YOU! Don’t be silly. My friends are all uniformly wonderful people. And if anyone tries to pressure you or even just says anything uncomplimentary, tell me and I’ll take care of them. I’ve got your back, with jingle bells on.

Ho ho ho.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Zeitgeist Las Vegas, 2

Part Two: Travelogue

First, the bad news. The fantastic bagel place in Victorville is no more. There’s a tattoo parlor there now. This is also a metaphor, one to be ignored for all eternity.

The Mad Greek in Baker, home of The World’s Tallest Thermometer, was, I believe, the model for Callahan’s Bar, the Inn at the End of the World, and every other mythic stopping-place in print. On the way out, it was a bickering elderly couple (Welsh husband and Irish wife) in line next to a patient and multiply pierced tall youth. On the return, it was a tableful of louts who were as annoying in the parking lot as they were inside.

First stop in Vegas, by tradition, is Payard in Caesars Palace (no apostrophe, thank you Max.) We were enjoying pastries at a table by the fountain, when a gracious English lady started taking pictures nearby. I offered to take one of her, and just as I was clicking the button (a real camera, not digital) some asshole stopped and put up two hairy fingers behind her gray head. Of course I took a second shot. When she develops the film, she’ll have a story.

When we got to THEHotel™, we were checked in by Rosie, a very nice woman we’d never met before. We had a conversation about home-made bread. Rosie’s daughter is a lifelong vegetarian, who happens to eat chicken. I can’t say much, I eat fish, which isn’t a vegetable either. (If you wonder how I get into these conversations, read the post “It Takes All Kinds”. It’s what I do.)

The montage of characters: A kindly man who paints the retaining wall outside of Caesars every couple of weeks. The scruffy and dreadlocked hipsters who for some reason always represent near the fanciest designer stores in the Forum Shops. Tony, the motorcycle-riding Italian by way of New Jersey waiter, an anachronism who belongs more in Bugsy’s Vegas than the current Dubai outlet. A hostess so snotty we walked out of the restaurant without eating rather than deal with her a moment longer. The cowboys. My dears, there were cowboys galore. ‘Twas the 50th anniversary of the Rodeo, and they were everywhere.

(By the way, the cowgirl word for toilet, is “terlet”. I tell you this as a favor, in case you ever need to ask for directions in their territory.)

In the cowboy marketplace, there was a very long line of people waiting for an autograph from a man in full regalia. Turns out he was Fred Whitfield! Okay, I didn’t have a clue either. You can find out for yourself at The best part was when we were leaving. A Norman Rockwell circa 1995 – esque family was just coming in the door, and Opie (soon echoed by both Dad and Grandpa) exclaimed in awe, “Look! Over there! It’s Fred!” Oh, just so you know, it is apparently pronounced “Fray-ud.”

Zeitgeist Las Vegas

Part One: What Las Vegas Means To Me

Being in Las Vegas has always been transformational. (For the newbies, no, I’m not kidding. The old guard may want to skip the ideology and go straight to the travelogue.)

I spent my childhood among cultural installations and artifice, both because I grew up in West Hollywood and because my mother is a fine artist who took me with her to some of the most significant art installations of the 1960s and early 1970s. Las Vegas conflates both, admittedly with an emphasis on artifice that should make the icicles on Walt’s cryogenic tank envy-green.

I love Las Vegas the way I loved Disneyland as a child. I love the colors, the lights and the sounds. The slot machines hypnotize and mesmerize me as they were designed to do. I wander among the beeps and twinkles and happily allow myself to be lured by new graphics; the prophet, the world-traveling gnome, the various Mayan/Chinese/Medieval ersatz storylines. I even love the cheesy 80s soundtrack that blasts everywhere. And the food, my oh my, I do love the food.

The yellow brick Interstate 15 leads to a neon burp in the desert. Look at aerial pix of the Strip, it’s absurdly small. For congenital visitors like us, it’s even smaller, since we only go to a few places within the bubble of buildings. The further in you go, the bigger it gets. I once timed the walk from the car to the room; ten minutes at a brisk pace. The “room” is a suite, two bathrooms, three wide-screen TVs (none of which I watched, except for the express check-out), a wet bar (to which we never take the key) and more.

The hotel itself (pun, it’s called THEHotel) is part of an international corporate conglomerate. Bigness, there. But in a throwback to the glory days when the Mob ruled, I deal with one charming casino host, who always comps our stay. We hadn’t been back since August. A long time for us, normally a blink for Vegas, but entropy had hit our beloved casino. About 15% of the slot machines were missing, and there weren’t many people playing the machines that remained.

Las Vegas is a metaphor for our entire culture. It probably always was, but it’s painfully apparent now. The high-stakes areas were just as full as always, the rich will always be with us. The rest of the casino was a wasteland. One favorite restaurant was closed, supposedly for “renovations”. The rest were understaffed because of low turnout. But the people were the same, each a character, almost all interesting. And while there weren’t as many stories this time, the ones there were, are choice. To me, Las Vegas will always be sanctuary.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Watch This Space

Or don’t, because there won’t be anything in it til the weekend.

Please behave yourselves in my absence, and apologies in advance if you leave me voice mail and it isn’t returned.

Ciao, honeys!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Don't Read This!

Seriously, you’re a pal and I appreciate the thought, but stop right now. Go check the 7-day weather forecast, or read some gossip about celebrities I’ve never heard of. Spider Solitaire, Pogo, Warcraft— click on your cyber-opiate of choice. Trust me. So far at least, I have been utterly truthful on this blog and I mean it. Irrelevant, mind-numbing boredom lurks in the next paragraph.

We went to the Harvest Festival in Pomona today. (Yes, the arts & crafts fair. You thought I was kidding. Ha!) I know, we were just at the one in Ventura, and we don’t usually go twice in one season, but I had a couple of things to pick up that I can’t get anywhere else, so we went.

Remember the hoopla about the recession? Septic economy, unemployment the highest it’s been since, what, 1934? Forget all that. The place was packed. And I’m talking about the Pomona Fairplex, which is huge.

There were plastic bowls (available at the 99 Cent Store in bulk) with the word “popcorn” tackily written in paint-pen, selling for $4 each. There were scads of ugly fabric purses and uglier sweater-y things. Oil-cloth aprons. Piggy-banks that said things like “For The Boob Job”.

To be fair, there was beautiful hand-carved wood furniture, and more genuinely splendid jewelry than in Tiffany and Cartier combined. (I’m not buying any, still, they were there.) But the cool vendors were M.I.A., which means I didn’t find most of what we went there for. Apparently I was the only one. Crowds of people were dragging wagons and carts filled with ridiculous crap, blocking the aisles and elbowing other people away from the booths.

Where did they come from? And why, in today’s economy, would people spend so much money on a reindeer sign with their family name custom-painted on it for their front yard? We saw enough of them walking around with one. At least they weren’t using it as a weapon, which is something.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Everybody’s got something. Disease, anxiety, stress, in-laws for the holidays--- no one gets a free ride. Me, I’ve got a cold. Big deal, so does half of western civilization at the moment, from what I hear.

Why bring it up? (No phlegm intended) Because a casual conversation I had this afternoon replayed a conversation I had this morning, so you get to read about it.

It’s all about the supplements. Why don’t I take chondroitin-glucosamine for my chronically achy joints? Or shark cartilage? Or rhinoceros horn—no, wait, that’s not right. I don’t, for the same reason I’m not taking zinc or Echinacea or mustard plasters for the cold.

Oh, I used to, once upon a time. Quit cold turkey, except for the occasional multi-vitamin. I hit bottom when I bought a bottle of gingko biloba for my memory, then forgot to take it. Seriously, it hit the sell-by date ¾ full. Taught me a lesson.

Neil Gaiman famously wrote, “You get what everyone gets. You get a life.”

Just take two aspirins and call someone in the morning.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Okay, enough with the philosophy. We’ve discussed joy (dogs peeing on trees) and tragedy (if you have to ask, don’t look at Monday’s post.) We’ve pondered psychology, ideology and the entertainment industry--- sometimes simultaneously.

We’ve covered a lot of ground since I began this blog, yes we have. I’d like to thank those of you who’ve stuck with me, and welcome any newbies who happened to stop by.

Today marks a new dawn for Scarycookies. Look down and to your right, I finally figured out how to change the photo. Technology is mine! Bahahaha.

Don’t worry, tomorrow the pointless and excessive verbiage will resume.

Monday, December 1, 2008


When I went to pick up my mother for Sunday dinner, the radio news was partway through a story about dead bodies being retrieved after a flood. On the way home, the news was filled with more corpses, nine decapitated ones found in Tijuana, the heads in plastic bags nearby.

We as a community have been inundated with tragedy. Our tolerance levels for sorrow have built up necessarily, else we’d be stultified by basic human decency and compassion.

I think about soldiers and doctors, who are conditioned to cope with atrocity. I think about my friends who are coping with some seriously nasty shit. I think about my shelf full of books on zen that preach detachment--- as if it’s possible to stop caring. And I turn it all around.

Good things happen too, we just don’t hear as much about them. Or maybe we do, but our tolerance there has also increased. Maybe it isn’t enough to take comfort in little things, but it has to be enough that we do what we can to help. Sometimes, all we can do is care.