Thursday, July 29, 2010


Someone I valued, now deceased, once told me that you can tell a real friend by the fact that when you both meet, even after a long separation, the conversation just picks up and moves forward. He had no truck with long catch-up sessions, but he knew how to appreciate good company.

That’s how I think of all of you. You’re good company.

Sure, when I go to Vegas I synopsize my adventures, but that’s more for me than it is for you. Ask anyone who’s had to look at the photos. And like any other blogger, I use this forum for general catharsis as well as to vent. Special thanks to those who email me when I hit a shared peeve.

Mostly, times like right now, I sit down and feel like we’re having a conversation. I just can’t hear your half of it. For that I want to say: hey, thanks, buddy. Your time is much appreciated.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Have A Cookie

Sometimes we forget to be happy. It’s an easy thing to forget. We’re bombarded by irritations and annoyances, not to mention overwhelming global tragedies. Gulliver was only attacked by the Lilliputians or the Brobdingnagians one at a time. We get it all, all at once, constantly. We’re cut off by some asshole in traffic while listening to an update on the effects of the BP oil spill. Look at your email or your calendar, or listen to your messages. It never ends.

It’s time to hit the pause button on Life. I would say “take a break from what you’re doing” but if you’re reading this, you already have. Odds are also good that you’re sitting down right now. Have a refreshing sip of your beverage and let’s get to it.

Sometimes you have to remember that you have worked very hard and come a long way from where you started. Doesn’t matter that you aren’t yet where you’re going to be. You’ve already done a lot, and that’s significant. Stop dwelling on what you have left to do for just a second, and be proud of where you are right now. I just trimmed Jonah’s dewclaws, and I’m proud of that because I wasn’t sure my aging eyes were up to the task. It’s a little thing, but I feel good about having done it. Your stuff is bigger, you should feel better.

Take a moment to be happy. Be pleased with what you’ve managed to achieve, and proud of having done what it took to achieve it. Then, when you’re calm and strong, you can take the next step forward. You have my very best wishes, and a hug.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Shadows & Blog

Dark Shadows was an earnest but campy “horror” soap opera that ran five days a week from 1966-71, then reran on cable in the 90s. As a phenomenon, there’s not much to say about it. I certainly wasn’t going to blog about going to one of their conventions.

Really, that’s what I thought.

We wandered into a huge room. Close to a thousand people watched raptly as snippets of various episodes were projected on a mall-theater sized screen. A lot of the same folks go to these things every year, year after year. They’ve seen it all before. At a Serious Dramatic Moment, about half the people there laughed – out loud -- in perfect unison. Seriously, hundreds of them, all at once. This was creepier than anything in the plot. We never figured out why.

The demographic of people who were fans in 1966 isn’t young, though they still dress that way. I hope I have the guts to wear a micro-mini with high heels when I’m those women’s age. I also hope I don’t. Ask me about the old lady in the psychedelic dashiki, I’ll tell you off the record.

Details aside, I respect their devotion. The two who broke my heart and gladdened my spirit were an elderly couple in matching Dark Shadows shirts. She was partially blind but pushed his wheelchair and handled his oxygen tank like a trooper. Her smile, when I asked to take their picture, was humbling in its radiance. I wish I hadn’t ruined the shot.

This is the moral, and why I’m telling you about it: We don’t outgrow our penchants and peccadilloes. We take them with us into that good night. Let the jokers joke and the snobs sneer, what matters isn’t what we care about, it’s that we still care. Those people still care, and I honor them for that.

Well, maybe not the guy who looked like Captain Kangaroo’s evil uncle, but the rest of them, definitely.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Not All Those Who Wander

If the crackling air isn’t enough of a clue, the free-range egg whites cooking on the sidewalk ought to be. Summer has arrived in Los Angeles.

What does that mean, exactly? For those of you in far flung exotic lands, let me describe the wave, the tsunami that crashes over this city.

They’re called “tourists” in polite society. The rest of us add adjectives, or in my case adverbs, for emphasis. They’re easy to spot; even nowadays many will be sunburned to a glowing magenta, accented by bathing suit shaped stripes. In July they marvel at our wonders. Everything is just so darned interesting and look over there isn’t that the guy from that commercial standing next to the palm tree? Is that a real palm tree? Omg (sic)! In fact, they’ll speak mostly in exclamation points. By the way, isn’t it legal to turn right on a red light just about everywhere? Not where they come from.

But if history holds, by August they’ll be complaining. They’ll stop admiring local fashion and start jeering at the Californian weirdo’s. The celebrities they spot won’t be “big” enough. The food will be overpriced (true) and strange (not). Then Labor Day will come and poof! Like magic, they’ll all go home.

Please don’t let this deter you from visiting our ersatz semi-tropical Metropolis before then. If the sights bore you, you can always watch the tourists. Somebody ought to.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Here's The Skinny

I’ll say it again; “Have you lost weight?” is NOT a compliment!

If you want to tell someone that they look nice, just say it. Don’t speculate on their weight. Don’t ask what’s different. I’ve used, “You look great, is that a new cell phone?” but when talking to a techie, the facetiousness is lost and to the others, the joke is lost.

Go elsewhere on the Interwebs to find more articulate people than I decrying the unhealthy culture of thinness. Slimming down may be an appropriate response to (or a side effect of) an unfortunate medical condition, but as a standard of beauty, pffft!

We’re talking vanity here, folks. I don’t care what gender you are, strong and robust look better than scrawny.

Sure, I’m in the gym every day, training like an obsessed demon. So what? It’s pure ego on my part. I train because I’m going to be fifty. I train because I dislike weakness in myself. I don’t do it to be skinny. Besides, you all know how I love to eat. Fleur de Lys, mmm … but I digress.

When it was said to me by a (male, not that it matters) bulimic yesterday, I recognized that “Have you lost weight?” is the highest possible accolade in his lexicon. In the lexicon(s) of people like me, who slam protein trying to put on muscle mass, it’s a slap in the face.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Inka Dinka Don't

We can talk more about Las Vegas in a minute. Right now I want to tell you what happened this morning. There’s a particularly annoying old man at my regular gym. I’ve mentioned him before, but not for a while. He dyes what’s left of his hair a sort of dull cerise, and half of what he does have he sticks straight up. If it was longer it would be a comb over. It’s about finger length. It looks both silly and sad. He also has a bugaboo: tattoos.

As you might imagine, there’s a lot of visible ink in a gym. I like ink. But somehow this man decided that my training partner and I both loathe it as much as he does. He complains to us (not to anyone else) about all the tattoos. He makes up for his mumbling with volume and repetition. We get it. He doesn’t like tattoos.

Today, after months of this senseless ranting, he said. “I have a tattoo.”

Then he showed us the numbers on his forearm.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Fleur Grows In The Desert

Once upon a time the Nevada desert gave out a tiny neon burp. Someone named it the Las Vegas Strip. Now people come from all over to fill it. It’s both paradox and oxymoron. Gauche, elegant and absurd; abandon all reality, ye who enter – and enter with abandonment.

The devil is in the dichotomies. Driving to breakfast at 7:00 a.m. (!), leaving elegant comfort and heading up the Strip toward comfortable elegance, we saw a half-naked drunk guy rousted from one of the dives near the Imperial Palace. Later, inside the Venetian, we saw a Taoist monk in robes next to a mother and daughter wearing matching “Twilight” t-shirts.

Did I say breakfast? We shlepped to Bouchon every morning for sourdough waffles with fresh strawberries and hot maple syrup, custardy apple-y French toast, oeufs au gratin, sautéed spinach with shallots and garlic, croissants with fresh peach jam, luscious pastry, hot caramel (like hot chocolate, only caramel), excellent eggs, et cetera, et yummy cetera.

The tourists may range from entertaining to awful, but the people who live and work there are genuinely nice. Shout-out to radiant Allison in the VIP lounge, she is as charming as she is pretty and you should see how very pretty she is.

And of course a huge thank-you goes to Juan at Fleur de Lys for being a stand-up guy and a pal and also for bringing the amazing Hubert Keller out for a long chat. What a perfect ending to a meal that transcended perfection.

You’ve heard me go on about the Fleur de Lys onion soup in previous posts when I was discussing Art. This soup is Art. Before it came a tempura black cod amuse bouche on soft yet crunchy warm potato salad with cayenne aioli which was as magnificent as the yellowtail with a cippolini onion, shiitakes and ginger foam which was as gorgeous as the slow-cooked salmon and then there was the mind-alteringly lovely butter poached lobster on herbed spaetzle. What can I say? This ersatz vegetarian loves her fish. Truffled macaroni and cheese; some kind of magical cow produced that cheese, no ordinary cow could have done it. Then, oh my dear lord, then there was the cold tapioca fruit soup with mango and passionfruit sorbet intermezzo before the chocolate soufflĂ© with mocha ice cream. I’ve run out of adjectives. Buy a thesaurus or read some poetry to get the right words. I can show you the pictures. That’s the best I can do. It isn’t enough. Even the music is perfect there. It’s a gestalt for mind, body and spirit, and our friend Juan gave us the opportunity to thank the man who created it all.

Really, the watchword for the trip was “gestalt”. That, and “full”. And so, with a happy sigh, I return to the cycle of veggies and grains, gym and keyboard, until it’s time once again to visit the delicious electric chaos on Las Vegas Boulevard.