Thursday, December 29, 2011

You Say You Want A Resolution

Well, you know. We all want to change ourselves. I do too, but making a list for Sunday isn’t going to get me there.

Sure, sometimes you need a symbolic jump start. New Year’s Day is as good a time as any. However – and this is not my standard cynicism talking, this is the jaded voice of having experienced way more New Year’s Days than you have – it’s only a catalyst. You have to keep the change going. Most people don’t.

It’s a gym thing. If it helps to take this as a metaphor, please feel free, but what I’m about to tell you is the literal, factual truth. On New Year’s Day all gyms ooze people. Not ordinary people, mind you. I call them the “January people.” They’re embarrassed and they compensate for that with self-righteous rudeness. They crowd the equipment. Their workout is more significant than anyone else’s because of the extra discipline and sacrifice it represents. They get brownie points for being there. Those of us who were there before and will be there long after they’ve given up are mere impediments to their determination.

The funny thing is, I almost agree with them. It took a lot more will power for them to do one difficult new thing than it does for me to slog in there day after day whether I want to or not. But the woman who blocked the entrance to the Ladies’ Room while she got up the gumption to get on the scale didn’t have to cuss me out for saying “Excuse me” when I tried to get past her last January 1st. I never saw her again, but she’ll probably be back on Sunday.

Make your resolutions. Try to keep them and be proud of yourself if you do. You can even be proud of yourself if you just last longer than two weeks. Statistically, that’s the resolution span of a January person.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pony Tales

Did you get that pony you wanted for Christmas? Me neither, but I got something better.

As an only child with competitive grandparents, you can imagine how spoiled I was. Plus, I was cute as hell. When I was little, my eyes were violet (I’m told my grandfather called me his “little Liz Taylor”, he died in 1975 so I have no corroboration.) The violet aged to a middling green, the black curls and chubby cheeks are now gray curls and saggy jowls, but I digress. The point is I got lots of stuff at Christmas. The toys were ignored after a week and the dolls gathered dust on a shelf, but I still have a lot of the books. It was fun enough, but not memorable.

Fast-forward to this morning. Robert found me two new books by favorite authors; books I didn’t even know existed! And he got me a beautiful standing punching bag which we’ve already named after a dearly beloved but often irritating friend. I scored, first by marrying a superb gift-giver, and then by extension. But it made me think about the pony.

For all their cuteness, children lack perspective. It’s not their fault, so do most adults. We have expectations un-limned by reality. If I thought about it, I would know that spending an extra $20 for face cream won’t make me look ten years younger. Dark colors may be slimming, but they don’t replace time on the treadmill. Somebody else’s annoying habits are equally annoying when we do the same things. But the trade-off is Christmas.

The adult equivalent of a pony is a new car. None of us expects to see one under the tree, so it’s not a disappointment when it’s not there. A rational adult is happy with a thoughtful gesture. Sure, an electric drill for an un-handy person or a diet book for a fat one won’t delight. But put a moment of consideration into who’s gonna get it, and you’ll make them happy.

I even made someone happy by not giving a gift at all, but he’s the friend after whom my new punching bag is named. Like I said, he can be irritating.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Tree Fell Silently

A mentor once said to me, “If you really need to talk, it doesn’t matter if anyone is listening.” I was young(ish) at the time so I disagreed. I volleyed back with a bunch of platitudes about friendship and understanding and empathy and feedback. He chuckled, once again amused by my naïveté. I should get a Ouija board just so he can say “I told you so.”

You’d think having posted more than 300 times on this blog would have been enough to convince me. Catharsis, like luck, is where you make it, not where you find it. The same goes for venting one’s spleen. The Internet is thickly spattered with bits of vented spleen. For all that, the fact that you’re reading this now means that I am venting and catharsis-ing to you, not to no one. This makes my argument, or so I would have thought had I thought about it.

It was the second dog who proved my dear departed friend right. We are dog-sitting the Baroness of Basset hounds through New Year’s. She is a lovely, floppy, sweet and ungainly little thing who stays at my feet much more than our Jonah does. Jonah considers himself to be the Ruler of the Universe. He has responsibilities. He’s busy with sentry duty in the front window, especially at this time of year when UPS and FedEx trucks invade his territory with increasing regularity. The Baroness has no such aspirations, and is readily available to listen to my ranting. She doesn’t understand a word of it, but she agrees with everything. She knows I’m right. Her universe is whatever room she’s in, and when I’m in it too, she is fascinated by me. It’s an attractive trait in anyone, even an already adorable dog.

But it definitely proves that when you need to vent, it doesn’t matter who hears it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ho Ho Ho

Chocolate ain’t my thing. Yes, you’ve finally met someone who doesn’t like chocolate. I’m not kidding. This is as true as your January Visa bill. Please pick your jaw up off of the floor. It’s not that big a deal. Although, from the reactions I get, you’d think it was.

Sure, I like a chocolate soufflé once a year or so if someone wants to make one for me, but the rest of the time, it’s “No, thanks.” Give me a nice vanilla or caramel or strawberry or pumpkin or blueberry or toffee or even raspberry goodie, but not chocolate.

That said, I make a lot of chocolate this time of year. I spent yesterday afternoon stirring fudge and melting bittersweet for gilded brownies. One of the three kinds of cookie dough I made today had bittersweet chocolate chips and chopped cherries.

I do it because I know you all like it so much, but it’s a little weird because I don’t. It occurred to me that I feel a little like a pimp, even if I don’t partake of the product at all. That makes fudge the ho. Ho ho ho!

Oh well. It cracked me up in the car.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Day In The Life

I was standing in the gym, waiting for my friend to come out of the locker room. A muscular young man I’ve never seen before in my life strode up with that head-down mulishness associated with New York pedestrians at rush hour. I started to move out of his way, but he stopped me. His voice was half accusation and half suspicion.

“Are you Carole?”

Huh? How do you know my name? “Yes.”

“I’m [name redacted].” He shoved a hand at me.

Did I ask? Please go away now. I didn’t want to shake his hand but I did because there were people watching and I knew a lot of them. “Uh huh. Nice to meet you, [name redacted].”

“Sara pointed you out to me. You know Sara?”

The only Sara I knew at that gym died particularly tragically two years ago, rest her soul. I assumed he didn’t mean her. “No, I don’t.”

He gestured in a vague direction at maybe twenty or thirty people. “She’s over there.”

“Sorry, I don’t know her.”

His eyes narrowed, like he didn’t believe me. I waited for it. I knew what he was going to say. You probably do, too. Sure enough, there it was.

“I’m a writer. She says you’re a writer too.”

Believe it or not, it went downhill from there. Try not to look surprised. I sure wasn’t. It’s amazing how total strangers get angry or offended when I can’t forward their careers. This one managed both. What the hell, I was stuck. I couldn’t leave until my friend showed up, so I gave the guy some legitimate advice based on my experience. It ended thus:

Him: “If anyone ever tried to rewrite one of my screenplays, I’d hunt them down and kill them and then I’d be a fugitive for the rest of my life.”

Me: “If you’re speaking metaphorically, good luck with that. If you’re being literal, then yes, you will.”

Him: “Damn straight. You’ll see me on CNN.”

What else could I say, but: “Looking forward to it.”

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Pleasure Principle

If it feels good, you’re doing it wrong. That may be my new motto, though it’s not a new idea. Our lives are built on behavioral principles which are often easy to abandon in the heat of the moment.

“What the hell is Auntie going on about now?” you grumble. Actually, I cleaned up your language, but that’s beside the point.

Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, not because you feel good when you do it. You shouldn’t feel anything out of the ordinary because it should be ordinary. The wrong thing should feel bad, but the right thing is just normal no matter how much effort it took. Ergo, the new motto.

Today I outwitted a bully in the gym. I did it with grace, a smile and exquisite politeness. In my heart I thought, “Ha! Take that, you patriarchal sexist bastard!” (I cleaned that up too.) I thought I had done a good thing by not letting him get away with being such a dick. I felt good about it. Triumphant, even. That’s when karma bit me in the ass. It bit me so thoroughly and so appropriately that I jumped on the keyboard to remind all of you not to let this happen to you.

Yes, of course I might have gotten my ass bitten even if I hadn’t had that frisson of victory. But it wouldn’t have had the punitive effect. Without the punitive effect, the principle might have stayed forgotten. And it’s too important to forget, even when facing a thoughtless idiot.

The epilogue is that I changed my plans for the afternoon and baked still more cookies. Because the corollary to all mottos is: “Cookies fix everything.” Karma too, knock wood.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Good Coffee, Bad Coffee

There’s something about a pretentious coffeehouse that warms my heart’s cockles. Don’t even mention Starbucks. I’ll come down on you like an irony cop on Alanis Morissette. Starbucks isn’t pretentious, it’s smug. Ok, fine. It’s pretentious too, but not in an enjoyable way. It’s pretentious in a “leader of a team building exercise at the company’s weekend retreat” aka corporate whore kind of way.

I want that pretentiousness unique to the hipstery coffeehouse. The walls are covered interestingly, the staff is Serious and Earnest yet considers themselves to be wittier than thou, and the quality of the beverages is generally excellent.

Granted (Sis, I didn’t “stipulate” there, didja see?) I’m a writer and I don’t drink alcohol for the most part. So a coffeehouse is my natural habitat outside of the gym. But today, when I had a coffee date, did I go to my current fave, the Bourgeois Pig? No. Did I go to Coffee Fix or even Marie et Cie? No and no. Where did I go?

Yep. You guessed it. I went to Starbucks. Because when all’s said and done, when push comes to shove and the clichés hit the wall, it turns out I’m just a parking whore and Starbucks has plenty of it. So what if the coffee sucks. The irony is that I don’t even drink it after breakfast, and bottled water is the same wherever you go.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hairy Merry

We came home from Vegas to find that the Happy Holiday gods had projectile-vomited twinkle lights and tinsel all over the neighborhood. Call me Scrooge; our house is one of the few that are dark, except for the kind of light by which one sees. The funny thing is, I love Christmas. I keep a few Santa statues on display all year round.

Do you enjoy Christmas or do you endure it? That’s rhetorical. It’s still too soon. Even I can’t get the seasonal spirit in single-digit December.

Part of that is my estrangement from my extended family. I don’t think about them the rest of the year, but Thanksgiving was my late father’s favorite holiday, so it all bubbles up around now. But if I could only keep one blood relative, I chose the right one. My brilliant, adorable and talented mother is worth a thousand Hallmark TV families and a million of the ones who share my antecedents, not that there are a million of them but if there were, Melva would be preferable to the lot.

The melancholy won’t last, it never does. As I said, I love Christmas. There will be a tipping point when Robert will pull the little pre-decorated artificial tree out of its box. I’ll bake cookies and write cards to people I like. If you give me your address, I’ll send you a card because I like you too.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Umami Yo Mama

We don’t have central heating in our house. The weather in Southern California isn’t what you’d call extreme. Still, occasionally in winter, it can get a little nippy. I have an electric mattress heater, which works better than an electric blanket. On cold nights, it’s indescribably wonderful to slip into a toasty warm bed.

That’s what the trip to Las Vegas last week was like: familiar, comfortable and all in all happy-making.

While the food was mostly terrific, you’ve read about most of it before so I wasn’t going to do my usual thing. But we’ve only been back for two days and I’ve already had requests. I give. Put on a bib and here we go. Remember, this is just mine, not Robert’s:

The first night we walked over to Craftsteak. A pile of perfect asparagus and a selection of wild mushrooms accompanied my salmon with garlic cream and chanterelles. Dessert was a butterscotch mousse with slivers of salted chocolate, pecan praline cookies and espresso-chocolate sorbet. Breakfast at Bouchon the next morning started with a basket of the most delicious pastry. Then eggs, of course, and spinach sautéed in butter with whole garlic cloves and tiny geometrically-perfect bits of shallot, sliced tomato and fresh multigrain toast with butter from Vermont. There was so much food we didn’t eat again until a late lunch slash early dinner at Hussong’s Cantina. I loved the fiery guacamole, though the tuna tacos were only okay. Make that mediocre. Nah, they were edible.

After a gratuitous 6:15 a.m. wake up call we were back at Bouchon the next morning. That was when I had the basted egg revelation, but only after an even bigger basket of pastry. Almond brioche, muffin, cheese Danish, pecan sticky bun – luckily by this time we were hitting our stride for eating so we went to Max Brenner’s for chocolate. I had thick Italian dark hot chocolate and a double espresso in an ingenious little cup designed to hold two pieces of chocolate, which I dipped in the hot chocolate then ate. Dinner was at Sage. You’ve heard about the kusshi oysters with Tabasco sorbet and piquillo peppers before. They’re still phenomenal. The butternut squash and pear soup was epiphanic, the carrot and garlic ravioli with wild mushrooms was even better. When the waiter asked how everything was, I told him in all honesty, “I wish I could give some of this to everyone I like.” Then I ordered two desserts (just for me, Robert had his own): caramelized quince clafouti -- which I’ve usually seen spelled with an s, but who am I to argue with something so yummy? -- with vanilla/cognac ice cream, and warm apple fennel strudel with brown butter ice cream. The chef kindly sent out tiny cups of white chocolate and black pepper soup to finish us off.

More, more, more breakfast, so much so that there wasn’t room for lunch but we made up for it with an early dinner on the top floor of our hotel, at Mix. The sea bream daurade with lemon and a mimosa garnish was lovely, as were the seared diver scallops. We asked them to leave the ham off of the mac & cheese, the gruyere melted in glamorous oozy strings that dripped creamy béchamel. Dessert was an apple and quince tatin with green apple sorbet and a frozen crunchy creamy thing – I have no idea what it was, just call it cold deliciousness in a crust. We went downstairs to Fleur for our absinthe after dinner.

Our last day there began with fresh, hot beignets served with Nutella and strawberry jam. It’s sad to think I won’t have basted eggs for three months. Pout. For lunch we went back to Fleur to see the gang and have truffled onion soup and tuna tacos and green gazpacho and burrata and tiramisu and gingerbread ice cream with gingerbread and toffee coffee ice cream with toffee and brownie lollipops decorated with edible gold.

That’s about it. We had such a good time, we even stopped at Whiskey Pete’s in Primm, just to make it last a tiny bit longer. Now it’s back to protein powder, veggies and grains until it starts all over again in 91 days, knock on wood.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What Else Is New?

Maybe it’s my age, or it might be my temperament, but there aren’t many things that I haven’t done that I would like to do. I did a few of them this week in Las Vegas.

Two of them were little. After most of a lifetime and a lot of breakfasts, I found a new way to have eggs. Have you ever had your eggs basted? You should. Nuff said. The second thing is more by way of an inside joke that backfired. Ask me and I’ll tell you, let’s not bore the whole class.

The third thing I hadn’t ever done before was drink absinthe. It was time for my annual alcoholic beverage, and the bucket list of those is pretty short. In fact, it’s basically absinthe and port. When you put Oscar Wilde and Toulouse Lautrec up against a bunch of paunchy rich old English guys, it’s no contest.

The absinthe process is cool. I have pix of the ice water gizmo, the super neato spoons, and the bottles ranging from gold to the virulent green of “la fee verte”. Our friend and absinthe guru David walked us through it all. He told us about every bottle, about the history of absinthe (some of which we knew, but not all,) and about the wormwood. Robert had Pernod, I sniffed it. That green fairy packs a wallop. I had the Germain-Robin, it was fragrant with tarragon and flowers and somesuch. We watched the ice water drip and the sugar cubes dissolve. We sipped. We were enlightened.

It was a fun adventure, but I still loathe licorice.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

No leftovers for me, thanks anyhow. I don’t “do” leftovers. After strategizing the shopping/cooking/cleaning process, then executing it all, I am done, done, done. But it was good. For once everything came out pretty much exactly the way I wanted it to. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much of my own cooking as I did last night.

How was your Thursday? Did you spend at least part of it with people you love and/or are tied to either by nature or by nurture? Did you eat way too much?

That’s the tradition, of course, gustatory excess. Had to break out the incongruously old Webster’s New Collegiate for that one, to be sure I had the right word. I did. Phew.

It’s about taste. Taste, as in one of the five, not as in “Does this shirt go with these pants?” We had a nicely roasted formerly happy but now dead free range organic turkey – ha ha, vegetarian humor. I’ll cook the carcass but I’ll mock the poor thing, too -- with lemony couscous dressing and carrot/potato gratin and Brussels sprouts with avocado, pecans and balsamic and maple cranberry sauce, and what, now I’ve forgotten it all, oh and maple-roasted sweet potatoes and crusty bread with sweet butter. Dessert was an apple cake with hot salted caramel sauce and Robert’s home made vanilla ice cream. I ended up not making the pumpkin soup, but Christmas is coming and the cooking starts all over again. Santa can have soup.

Yep, gustatory was the right word. I hope your Thanksgiving was gustatory bliss.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Curses, Foiled Again!

“Cussing” means “cursing”. We forget that. At least, I forget that. And it matters to me, at least kinda sorta.

I was in the far right lane of a major street, going about 35, when a car rolled past a stop sign halfway into my lane right in front of me. My reflexes were fast enough, and the car on the other side of me was slow enough, to avoid collision. I flipped off the offending driver. I don’t do that. Normally I just shout. Her action was so deliberate, and so uncaring of the consequences, that I wanted her to know how angry I was. Then I saw the motorcycle cop two cars back turn on its lights.

Now, you all know fucking well that I have no problem with profanity. Even Melva is used to my cussing though she’s of the “profanity indicates a lack of vocabulary” school of thought. I disagree. Colloquial profanity is used for emphasis. But let’s not get semantic. I’m not talking about profanity, I’m talking about cursing. When I flipped off that driver I wasn’t swearing at her, I was de facto cursing her. And that’s bad karma, no matter how justifiable the circumstances.

As it turns out, the motorcycle officer made a u-turn and ticketed somebody on the other side of the street. Within a block, there was another motorcycle officer giving someone a ticket. And for the last mile of my drive, there was a police car directly behind me.

I’m telling you, bad karma is bad karma. I did a good deed immediately thereafter to cancel it out.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Eyeballs & Strikes

Have you ever seen someone get injections in their eyeball? I mean for real, not in a movie or a comic book or anything fabricated like that. I mean, have you ever stood a few feet away from two people, one of whom was sticking needles in the other one’s eye? I didn’t think so. I have.

It was last Thursday. I would have told you about it sooner, but I was working on finishing my NaNoWriMo, which I just did. Now we can get gross.

These are my personal movie rules: I won’t see anything icky, scary or sad. (Or anything with an animal in it, but that’s a separate category.) My squeamishness is legend. I don’t even like to watch someone put drops in their eyes. Yet when I took Melva to the retina specialist – she’s fine now, thanks – I stayed in the room while he gave her the injections, three of them.

He made the obvious “Clockwork Orange” reference when he propped open her eyelids. You would think I’d cringe from the reference at least, if not from the reality. I didn’t. I never saw the movie, but I read the book ages ago. I cringed when I read the book. Hell, I cringed when I read the Mad magazine satire of the movie, which tells you how long ago it was.

There, in that room with all the equipment, I didn’t even wince. I take no credit for that.

As is typical for her, Melva was a hero. She was calm and so I was calm. Maybe it was vice versa, that doesn’t matter. We were, and it’s done, and now I can strike “watch someone have needles stuck in their eyeball” off of my non-existent bucket list.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Word!

If I say I’m going to do something, I generally do. Oh sure, I weasel as much as the next guy. I say “I’ll try to” whenever I can get away with it, but that’s because if I say “I will” then I really will give it a shot.

As you can imagine, this gets me into a lot of trouble. By “a lot” I mean, a LOT. I was bitten in the butt twice today by my self-imposed code of honor. The first was a repentant promise I extracted from a friend weeks ago which finally came to fruition this afternoon – but not to my benefit. Sucks, but there it is. The second bite came from NaNoWriMo.

Remember NaNoWriMo? Scroll down a few posts. You’ll find it. National Novel Writing Month. When I said I’d do it, it seemed like everyone I know had already jumped on the bandwagon and I was the last to board. I swallowed the dregs of the Kool Aid™ with all the sugar chunks at the bottom. (Dear trivia freaks: Yes, I know it was really Flavor Aid™, this is colloquial usage.) Throughout previous Novembers, all I ever heard was NaNoWriMo this and NaNoWriMo that. This year, it’s only crickets, tumbleweeds and dusty keyboards. I’m the only one left. Ironically, I’m the only one not writing a story.

Did you scroll? Never mind, I’ll repeat it. My NaNoWriMo isn’t a narrative. It’s a stream of consciousness. 1,667 words of whatever is in my head; rinse and repeat every day for a month. I’m writing this as part of it, which would be cheating unless you saw some of the utter drivel that’s been coming out of my fingers. Go on, I double-dog dare you to sit down and write 1,667 words just like that. Actually it’s not so difficult. It’s the third or fourth day that gets hard. The ones after that aren’t so fun. You start to get tired of your own kvetching, and I was tired of mine years ago.

If I was an infinite number of monkeys, instead of one tired middle-aged writer, then I’d have a snappier punch line, or the script for Hamlet, or just a lot of bananas. You have my word on that.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pop Goes The Reason

Reason. Reasons. Reasoning. Reasonableness. They sound alike. There is a familial resemblance. But they’re not the same thing.

Reasons always mean why. You never have a reason how, only a reason why. Not a reason if, or a reason of. It’s only why.

Robert pointed out that a sum is the result of reasoning. Sure, I argued, that’s reason as a verb. I was talking about the noun, i.e. “a reason” not “to reason”. He laughed, and said “I have my reasons.” Thus proving my point, I argued reasonably.

If one has one’s reasons, then those reasons explain why something is or isn’t done, or should be done or might not be done. Why? Because of (the reason.)

Causality matters. We do things for a reason. No matter how spontaneous you think you are, there is always a catalyst and that catalyst is the reason for your impulse.

Like now, I have an impulse to reference Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” but I’m not going to. That would be entirely unreasonable.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tsk, Tsk

“Nice day,” I said in all innocence and with my best manners.

“A very nice day,” He corrected me with reproving emphasis on “very”.

To be fair, it was. This happened on Sunday. The bitterly cold and wet morning had cleared into a gorgeous afternoon. If the weather wasn’t a perfect 72 degrees then it was so close that the difference was statistically negligible. The sky was a rare particulate-free blue and if you need further proof, I had been walking the little dog for no reason other than I that had the time and I thought he would like it. A very nice day, indeed. So stipulated. But that’s completely beside my point.

Some people can layer criticism into the most innocuous comment. Granted, this is a skill usually limited to one’s older relatives, but other folks can do it too.

One of Melva’s favorite sayings is, “It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.” In this case, small talk with a stranger who is obviously a neighbor should be genial and vapid. This particular conversation continued in the same pattern. I don’t remember the rest. You don’t want to read it anyhow. But everything I said was met with polite negativity. That’s what I took away from the contact, that this was a polite and negative man.

It was a lesson to me, so I pass it freely on to you. Don’t think about what you meant, pay attention to how it was received. If whatever you said wasn’t received the way you intended it to be then correct yourself quickly so that you don’t leave a bad impression.

And, just in case, I’ll take the little dog elsewhere tonight.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Perchance To Dream

It starts in childhood. Staying up past your bedtime was a treat, or a reward for good behavior. In any case, not sleeping was good. While it doesn’t necessarily follow that sleep was bad, the opposite definitely rang true.

Big little girls and boys don’t need to nap. Bigger ones can stay up til midnight. Bigger still and they can stay out til midnight. Get them to college age and they stay up all night for a variety of reasons. A really good party? Up all night. Big test tomorrow? Counter-intuitively, up all night. Forgot to start your term paper? Up all night.

Bored, with everything closing at 1 a.m.? Up all night driving from San Diego to Los Angeles in time for the crullers to come out of the oven at Winchell’s. Or just up all night waiting for the crullers at V-Gs in Encinitas, which came out at 4:30 a.m. What can I say? I really liked crullers. I still do. And I didn’t get much sleep. I was that age.

But somewhere there’s a shift. I shouldn’t say “somewhere” because I know where it is. When the choice isn’t yours anymore, staying awake isn’t so good. Too many responsibilities? Not enough sleep. Too much stress? Not enough sleep. You’re an adult? You’re probably not getting enough sleep.

For the fourth or fifth time this week, I’m going to attempt to get a full eight hours. The goal is eyes closed by midnight. This time I really mean it. We’ll see what happens.

Good night.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Boo, Humbug!

Remember when Halloween was more fun than annoying? Do ya? Huh? I don’t.

Sure, in my ersatz-Goth days, Halloween mattered. Most years I’d throw an elaborate costume party for up to 100 people. I’d cook for days. It was a Big Deal. I still remember the occasional disaster guest. You know, the kind who live on in legend and infamy. Remind me sometime to tell you about “Friar Fuck” (I didn’t make that up.) He galvanized the crowd into total alliance against him and made for a great party. That was such a long time ago, in another city.

Our first Halloween in Los Angeles was back in 2001. We spent it on Hollywood Blvd. You should go. Everyone should experience Halloween on Hollywood Blvd… once. It’s a hoot, but it’s on my top ten Been There, Done That list. Fun as it was, we’ve never been back. Halloween became staid and stayed that way until a few years ago, when the people next door moved in.

The Loud Neighbors had a louder than usual Halloween party this past Saturday. There was a rather feeble and pathetic DJ, who made up in volume what he lacked in expertise. It was noisy even by their ballistic standards. Neighborhood gossip says the police took a man away. I had seen a policeman, but I thought it was a costume. I did see the fire truck arrive at 1:30 a.m. with lights flashing and no siren, but they didn’t do anything.

So we went out and saw friends at dinner (Hi Enzo! Hi Nate!) then spent the rest of Halloween hiding in an otherwise dark house, waiting to be left alone for another year. Or at least until my Loud Neighbors throw their New Year’s Eve party. New Year’s Eve falls on Saturday. Shudder. At least they won’t be in costume.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo Mo Mo!

My inner lemming will be released on Tuesday. Bobby and Susie are jumping off the cliff, therefore so am I. November is National Novel Writing Month. Clap your hands and grab your keyboard. (Not you, Sis, relax. Stop reading this and get back to work.)

“But Auntie,” you say in bewilderment. “Haven’t you already written five unpublished novels? Didn’t you spend years agonizing over each one, not a mere month in which you lose a week to cooking Thanksgiving dinner?”

You are a honey pie to remember. Yes and no. The fifth novel was never finished, and I don’t have a complete copy of the fourth. It only takes four days to cook Thanksgiving dinner. But all that is beside the point.

NaNoWriMo is a phenomenon. I’m constantly amazed by the number of people to whom I’ve mentioned it who say they’ve either done it or will be doing it this year. After a lifetime of dogged individualism (insert bitch joke here) it’s time to try a bit of compliant conformity.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably take the lazy way out. At the moment, I’m thinking of calling it “Therapy” and doing 1,667 stream of consciousness words a day. Because if I’ve learned nothing else about NaNoWriMo over the years, it’s that although lots of people write it, nobody ever reads it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Snappy Little Happy

What makes you happy? Don’t start with the whole “feeding the hungry, curing the sick, housing the homeless, world peace” thing unless those are on your To Do list for today – in which case may all the gods, all the saints, and that weird old lady in the park bless you. I’m being practical here.

What during the course of a reasonably ordinary day makes you happy? I have my guesses, based on intuition guided by experience. (Paraphrasing Rex Stout. Three extra smugness points to anyone who knows the actual reference even if you got it from TV rather than the wonderful books.) To wit: not waking up tired, no traffic, boss out of the office/no quizzes or tests, short line at lunch, etc. Am I close?

Well sure, I seem to hear you say, those are all good things but they’re no big deal. My dear, that’s the point. Capital H Happiness is a big deal, being happy isn’t. You can be quite happy with something as small as your favorite sandwich being the special of the day. (Okay, I’m writing this at lunchtime. Who guessed that already? Show of hands.) You can be delighted with making good time getting home because that interminable road work is finally over. There are so many things that can lift your spirits, almost as many as can pummel them down.

That’s the problem. At the end of the day we remember all the little things that went wrong. They pile up into a heap of discouragement and annoyance. The good little things evaporate on contact with open air. We smile quickly and drop it faster than a ripe organic peach will rot. Groans, moans and scowls have the shelf life of junk food. You see where I’m going with this.

Yep, you guessed it. I’m going right into the kitchen for something to eat. This will make me very happy indeed.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Was Casper A Perv?

I bought the book for the title, “Do Dead People Watch You Shower?”

Come on, tell the truth. Could you walk away from that? Besides, it was “buy two and get the third one free.” In this case, all three were the third one in spirit, which is the point behind the promotion. Chalk one up for brick and mortar.

Even with Halloween around the corner and despite the tragically large number of people I’ve lost in my lifetime, I’ve never really thought about ghosts. Wait. I had one as a character once, but other than her, no. If ghosts exist, do they watch us shower? It turns out the question isn’t rhetorical, but I’ll get to that.

I believe in ghosts in the same way I believe in Santa Claus: as a metaphor. We all have our ghosts. It might be the memory of a loved one, or an event in the distant past that shaped who we are and still reverberates now and then in our lives. Similarly, I defend my attachment to the spirit of good-natured generosity symbolized by the image of a fat guy in that silly red suit. I’ve never met anyone who embodies the ideal, but I refuse to bequeath the value the image represents. Given how often I’ve returned to lessons learned from people long gone, I suppose I could say the same thing about ghosts. Besides, ghosts are an undying (yuk yuk) part of popular culture.

Look at it another way. We’ve all had things happen to us that we can’t quite explain, or at least would prefer not to. That doesn’t mean the explanation doesn’t exist, we just don’t know what it is. I, for one, don’t care. Unless it happened to you, in which case I’m fascinated. No, that’s not facetious. Other people’s weirdness is always more interesting.

After sophomore year, who has time to think about metaphysics? The author of this book sure does. Then again, it’s her livelihood. Good for her. She answers the titular question fairly early on.

Yes, they do.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Not My Table

I’m such a stickler for good manners, respect and politesse in general that it’s almost a relief when someone is over-the-top rude. That happened Sunday night. No offense taken, instead I got a story.

It’s a brand new restaurant. One expects a bungle or two. Still, one does not expect the young waitress to sing out loudly, “Somebody sure liked their salad!” just because I finished the mediocre little plate of leaves and dressing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

She was pretty, of course. It’s the law here. That’s fine, I’m used to pretty. But when I asked if a regular menu dish was vegetarian – something she should have known already, it’s a very limited menu -- she took three steps toward the kitchen, turned around, returned to the table and said, “I have to pick my battles with him, but I’m pretty sure it is.” I told her I wasn’t going to risk it. She said that was okay with her. How reassuring to know that it was okay with her that I had to order my second choice.

Later, after the salad incident, I suggested that the next time a customer asks a question she should either guess right away or at least pretend to ask the chef. All she’d have to do is go into the kitchen, come back, pick yes or no at random then say it with conviction. That’s what everybody else does. I told her I probably wouldn’t get sick until after I left the restaurant so she wouldn’t have to deal with it. I said all that with a friendly smile.

It went on. Textbook mistakes for the most part, a couple of creative ones. She asked if we wanted dessert. I said yes. She asked what we wanted then got visibly annoyed because we didn’t know what they had. How could we? It wasn’t on the menu, not that we still had menus at that point. Nor did she bring a dessert tray or a dessert menu. We couldn’t see into the kitchen. But she was irritated that we didn’t know what we wanted. Melva and I are both getting on in years, maybe we look psychic.

All in all, it was entertaining. And yes, I left a respectable tip. Either she’ll learn, which is fine, or she’ll stay a bad waitress, in which case she’ll need the extra couple of bucks to tide her over til her next job.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Poetry Emotion

One of my dirty little secrets is that I don’t like poetry. As dirty little secrets go, this one barely breaks my top 30, but there it is.

What is it about poetry that makes it so dull? It's got verve. There's imagery and all sorts of metaphors. Metaphors can be fun! And don't forget feeling. Poetry has feeling coming out the wazoo. There’s lots of stuff about the yearning of the soul. Maybe it’s the complacency of middle age, but my soul doesn’t yearn so much now. My soul mostly snorts, rolls over and goes back to sleep. Not a lot of poems about that sort of thing.

Poems aren’t real strong on plot or action. (Yeah, yeah, eddas and sagas and Homer, oh my. You know what I mean.) There hasn’t been much plot in the last few novels I read and I got through those. So what’s the deal?

Let’s be clear on this, I have a minor in English Lit and to this day I can quote Yeats and Coleridge and break down a quatrain like nobody’s business. When I play Boggle, I’m usually the only one in the room who sees “iamb”.

I like Brussels sprouts, but I don’t like poetry.

It was about time to get over my antipathy, so I thought I’d do it the easy way. I picked up “The Essential Rumi”. I used to know a bunch of Rumi. He’s lovely. Sufism and I go waaay back. It seemed like a logical place to start.

I got the book. I started reading the book. It’s interesting. I was doing okay. Then the mail came. The new cooking theory book was in it. Guess which I’m reading now. I’ll give you a hint: there’s more about Brussels sprouts than there is about yearning.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Cuppa Bon Mots

Coffee is good. It’s yummy. It fuels the brain, the body and the spirit. The downside is that it’s both toxic and addictive, but we only call toxic things addictive so that’s pretty redundant. (Don’t worry, your poo-poos – rather, the lack thereof --will tell you when you’ve gone too far.)

I love coffee.

Here’s my problem: my beautiful morning caffeine rush only lasts so long, ergo, I can fuel one activity. Usually it’s a workout, that’s body-fuel. Not today. Today it was spirit-fuel. I Got Things Done Around The House. There’s a shred of caffeine left for brain-fuel, and it needs must be allocated.

That’s why I call it “a cuppa bon mots”. There are only so many bon mots per caffeine rush. It burns out fast, and I’m left straining for a punch-line or an alternative phrasing. There are three different things I’m supposed to be working on right now. Which one gets the last drops of brain-fuel today before I succumb to the lassitude of heat and tedium?

None of them, of course. I wrote this instead.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

An Acer In The Hole

I haven’t been avoiding you. My increasingly temperamental computer finally held its breath until the screen turned black and stayed that way. Thanks to my complete lack of technical know-how, I lost a bunch of pix – most of which I have printed out -- and a few blog drafts. Big deal. I’ve lost more and worse before. I don’t have a complete copy of the best book I ever wrote. So, in the words of St. Augustine, fuck it. (This was during his earlier, Zoroastrian phase. Philosophy joke for me and Frac. And Pseudo, if she sees it.)

Starting over is interesting. I spent most of yesterday up to my crotch in denial. Today I am exhilarated by the prospect. No more picking at bits and pieces of material that you would have seen by now if it was funny. No more wondering what all those icons on the desktop do or mean. I’m like the youngest son of a youngest son, starting out with nothing but a pair of comfortable shoes to win a kingdom. That’s a good metaphor, because I kept my comfy old keyboard.

So take my hand and we’ll ride my trusty new Acer down the yellow brick blog road to a strange but familiar new world, dodging old topics and wielding vorpal clichés in the face of the Jabberwocky of boredom. Yeeha!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Day In The Life

There are many worse things. Let me just say that right now. I don’t care how young you are, how entitled you are or how just plain lucky you’ve always been, you’ve had worse things come in the mail than a jury summons. We all have. That said, a summons sucks.

I spent an embarrassing amount of time prepping for jury duty, some of which was useful, though I didn’t need any of the witty voir dire rejoinders I came up with in the tub.

Don’t worry, I have stories anyhow. I almost made a friend. A very pleasant woman about my age complimented my foresight in bringing a crossword puzzle. You know me, I always have a few New York Times Sunday puzzles in my purse. So I gave her one. We would have bonded over our respective previous jury services except for one thing: She kept describing people by their race. The “Korean guy” had slept off a drunken binge in his car. A “young Oriental girl” was his attorney. It was kinda creepy. I found a seat in another part of the room after the break.

The good news is they let you do the orientation online now, which gives you an extra hour and a half to show up. But if you don’t do it, or if you show up late, they make you come back all over again. I watched that happen twice. And hooray! No one seems to have discovered my secret lunch place. A fellow juror put me onto it the last time I served. If you get summoned, I’ll tell you where it is. It’s easy and quite good, with nicer bathrooms than the courthouse.

The last 15 minutes are the worst. I was once called up right at 4:00, so I know it happens. My blood pressure went up at 3:45. Then they let us go, and I finished the book I brought with me on the train home. It sucked too, but it got me through the day.

P.S. If you haven’t taken the Metro in LA yet, you should. Consider that a public service announcement in lieu of a tag line.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hip, Hip And Away!

Last week I was at a club replete with hipsters. Seriously, there were four people over 40 in the room, and only 5 females including me and the MC. So you know there were lots of gratingly annoying mid-20s guys with weirdly perfect skin and clothing chosen carefully to indicate how little they care about clothes.

No one likes a hipster. It’s the new meta-insult. But do we know exactly what one is? I say, if they annoy me, they’re a hipster. Oh sure, there are a few universal hipster traits. One is their ferocious attachment to irony, which they’ve redefined to suit their convenience. Hipsters do the same stuff we do, but they do it ironically. Quite understandably, we all want to smack them for that.

Facial hair configurations, young women in hats – the list is endless, and problematic. Men have facial hair and it has to be configured somehow. Young women might wear a hat for a perfectly ordinary, non-ironic reason. We’re back at irony again. Ironic facial hair is hipster, same with ironic hats.

But why are we so annoyed? There have always been cool kids. Hipsters aren’t much more than self-proclaimed cool kids, which is as annoying at 27 or 37 as it was at 17. The self-proclaimed part is the problem.

You don’t get to decide if you’re cool or not. If you care, you’re not cool. You’re a hipster.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dante Up

Gray weather messes with my schedule. I’m conditioned to get up when I see daylight. Make all the jokes you want about Los Angeles air quality or our lack thereof, smog isn’t gray. It’s brown. So when I see gray, I think, “too early.” Okay, I usually have an adjective in there, but I still don’t get up.

The point is, this morning I was late. Ergo, I drove past the church with the Hellfire ‘N Brimstone™ marquee just after the Sunday service ended.

Well, that’s not really the point; it’s more of a set-up. I’ve been driving past that church for eleven years. Every time I did, I saw the weekly marquee messages. They range from vapid to threatening. That’s why I think of it as the Hellfire church. But until today I’ve never seen a single person going in or coming out.

I’ve been listening to a brilliant Marc Maron cd in the car. It has a terrific riff on the Creationist Museum. You should hear it, remind me when I’m done and I’ll lend it to you. He was doing that bit just as I drove past the church with all those people coming out in suits and nylons. (Don’t be snide. The men were wearing suits and the women, nylons.) The serendipity of finally seeing people at that particular church just as I heard a brilliant rant about the Creationist Museum was too much. I had two thoughts:

First, I wondered why no one ever references The Flintstones when discussing Creationism. Maybe it’s a generational thing, I dunno.

Second, I decided I had to tell you about it, because it truly was a divine comedy.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blue Jean Baby Queen

This is about jeans. We all have them. I don’t care if you’re animal, vegetable or mineral, you had a hell of a time finding a style and size you like that fits. I thought I had, two pairs’ worth. Then I fell and skinned my knee, ripping a hole in one of them. (Yes, the ones I’ve been wearing for a year like that. This is called backstory.) A week or two later I went back to the store and bought a third pair, same make, brand and size. They were too small. I wore the ones with the hole. Months later I tried again, this time I tried them on. Pair #4 is one size larger, they practically fell down. I bring those to Las Vegas, with a belt.

What the hell, two pairs are fine. Wear one, wash the other. I had a tailor mend the hole, it looked fine. No problem, right? I was getting ready to leave today when rrrrrrrrrip. Out went the ass-seam of the mended jeans. Not going back to the tailor, I had to bite the bullet a third time.

The Sherman Oaks mall on a Friday after school is not for the weak of spirit. Rich teenagers clog the walkways with their annoying antics and expensive clothes and sneers for anyone who resents their obstruction. Robert calls them “human cholesterol.” But that’s not the story.

I was in the dressing room, trying on a pair of the same jeans, same make, same size (wearing them now to break them in) when I heard it. The saleswoman speaking to the woman in the next dressing room;

“So those don’t fit either? The 00 are still too big?”

That’s why everyone hates shopping for jeans.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

No Dinner

I tried, really I did. I started to write about the three-and-a-half-hours-of-continuous-eating meal, but I gave up. Then I tried a different view, why I wasn’t going to detail all 11 courses (not including the sorbet intermezzo and dessert.) That didn’t go so well either.

If we meet in real life, it’s an epic worth seeing (there’s pix of each plate, remind me and I’ll bring them) and hearing about, but my tired old fingers are just not up to the task of typing out the glory.

I.O.U. In the meantime, this blog will return to its regularly scheduled ranting. Watch this space.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Desert Fleur

Imagine that you like everyone in your entire extended family. (It’s just make believe. Jeez, work with me here.) Now imagine that you’re all at Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, and your Grandma is the best cook in the whole world. So there you are, with all those wonderful people, eating lots of delicious and perfect food, in warm, relaxed, amiable comfort that feels like a group hug.

That was our meal at Fleur By Hubert Keller.

Of course I began with my glorious, adored truffled onion veloute. (I don’t know how to put the little accent over the second e but as much as I love soup, this is better than the very best soup.) Spicy gazpacho shooters arrived with those wonderful little tuna tacos. Don’t think for a minute that you know what tuna tacos are like. Unless you’ve had them at Fleur, you haven’t had tuna tacos. Each tiny, exquisite marvel has just the right ratio of crunch to succulent jewel-pink fish with a smidge of avocado cream and a sliver of jalapeno. We ordered six.

Our buddy Juan has my back. He decided that there wasn’t enough fish on the menu so he talked the chef into making some halibut ceviche just for me. You all know I’m ceviche-obsessed. This was the best damned ceviche I’ve ever eaten in my whole life, and I’m not saying that just for the halibut. Or maybe I am, but it was. Mm, mmm, wow!

Gorgeous and yummy lobster mac & cheese, fried chickpeas – I’m doing this from memory because my notes and the pix are still in my purse, but the memory is so strong I don’t need them.

We’d seen Juan with his very pretty and charming wife Tenisha the day after we arrived in Vegas, and over milkshakes and hot chocolate at Max Brenner’s, we happened to tell them the story about Robert’s birthday being our wedding anniversary. ( - although now he’s @RealBobWilson on Twitter) Well, we got not one but TWO special desserts, one for his birthday with “Happy Birthday” in chocolate calligraphy on the plate and an honest-to-god candle, and another with “Happy Anniversary”! That was before the two chocolate soufflés with caramel ice cream and hot chocolate ganache. We each had one, don’t be snarky, they weren’t both for me.

Thanks to Juan, Javier, David and Gus, in order of appearance. We appreciate all of you.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Bad Pizza, No Twinkie

Nature isn’t a metaphor, it’s a harbinger. We knew we’d be driving through thunderstorms the night we went to Las Vegas. It’s one thing to see the weather report, and another to see lightning flashing just off the side of the freeway, over and over again. It was loud, and brighter than the most annoying strobe you’ve ever seen. Truly tremendous fun. Then again, I’m a storm junkie and I was driving. Wheeee!

We got there and found out the hard way that Selena Gomez was playing at our hotel. Teenyboppers in casinos? Huh? Robert said maybe it was pedophiles. In any case, all 6,500 audience members came in their own vehicles, epic parking disaster. Fine, that’s why there are valets. Inside, the solitary young woman manning the check-in desk was having a bad night and she took it out on us in ways we didn’t even find out about until we left. That was only an annoyance, not a story, so don’t worry about it.

Lessons learned: “Foaming at the mouth” is not a euphemism for crazy, it’s a fact. Not putting that story online, but ask me when you see me. It’s a mofo.

Couture is ugly. There are lots of ultra-high end designer shops there. I went into a couple just as an anthropology experiment. The purses in Balenciaga reminded me of the worst of my Great Aunt Sophie’s excesses in the 1970s. I selected the most horrible of the lot and asked the price. $2,345.00. No wonder there was more security than sales staff. That same bag would go for $19.99 at Marshall’s, to a desperate blind woman in need of a Halloween costume.

It turns out that “Twinkie Pizza” isn’t pizza with Twinkie™ topping, it’s pizza in the shape of a twinkie, and apparently just as awful. They couldn’t make one without pepperoni, so I’m trusting Robert’s judgment here.

One final Moment, though it happened early on. I was walking past some shops on the way to the car. A pushy sales guy kept trying to give me a free sample of skin cream. I kept refusing, and didn’t slow down. He shouted after me, “You can use it on the bags under your eyes!” I stopped, turned, and shouted back, “Thanks for that! I don’t like the way you look either!”

Now I know I usually tell you everything I ate in Las Vegas, but we were there for an extra day and the Internet just isn’t big enough to hold it all, though apparently we are. You’ll get two meals’ worth of details. Trust me, that will suffice.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Don't Roll Your Eyes

How do you handle it when someone believes something is true and you don’t? No, we’re not talking about anything remotely religious. I’m always nice to the Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to our door. I may quote Aquinas or Kierkegaard, but I’m nice and I smile when I do it.

Maybe “enthusiasm” is a better word than “truth”. You’ve had someone close to you go nuts over something that you thought was mediocre at best. What do you do? You can nod along, pretending to listen just to keep the peace. You can be sarcastic and risk hurting someone you like. You could be like Robert and jump to the complete opposite opinion just to be pissy.

Or -- and here’s where I’m going to get radical, so fasten your seat belts -- you could take an interest.

Look, this is someone you value. You wouldn’t have gotten past the weather if that wasn’t the case. Why not trust their judgment? Find out what’s so damned fascinating about whatever it is. Ask questions. Listen to the answers.

I have a friend who likes professional basketball. I mean, really likes it. You all know what I think of professional sports. But over the years I’ve asked questions, and at least I understand more about what he likes about it and why he likes it. I’m still not going to sit through a game, but so what? The conversations were interesting. I watch “Top Chef” because years ago, someone I respect talked to me about it. Now it’s one of the few shows I see.

Next time you find yourself wanting to roll your eyes, stop. Take a deep breath, cowboy up, and listen with respect. You might be pleasantly surprised. Pleasant surprises are few and far between in this world, and you shouldn’t miss an opportunity to have one.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Toujours Du Jour

Time used to be measured in days. Aside from the ubiquitous soup du jour, we had the Thought for the Day and the Word of the Day. Everyone who ever lived with a parent, at some point in their lives, has shouted about The Way It’s Done Today – presumably in response to the way “it” was done in previous days.

After that, time was measured by the hour. Remember the Man of the Hour? Well, he died of old age. Now it’s by the minute. Thank you, technology.

Back in the 80s, when everyone else was searching for excellence or learning to love themselves, I read a lot of Zen. I tried to get on top of the idea of living in the moment. Back then, time was still measured in hours instead of minutes, so living in the moment was a relatively novel idea. I never did it. I was always thinking about what had already happened, what might happen shortly, or what could happen eventually.

Fast forward to this morning. I was in the gym (where else?) on the elliptical. I had no book, and I never use headphones. The guy next to me had TV and a video phone and headphones. He lasted about ten minutes. I was on a 45 minute cycle, with nothing to do but think. My time passed as comfortably as time can pass while you’re doing cardio.

Wax on, wax off. Watching the clock tick down, minute after slow minute, while I pushed forward at a steady pace, after all those years and all that Zen, I was finally living in the moment. The next step is to learn to take life one day at a time.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What Are They Thinking?

Or: Grasping At The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Backpack

There are things I just don’t get.

It started with guys in Capri pants. I can’t get used to them. Having graduated high school in 1978, my sartorial aesthetic runs to extra long pants that cover the shoes. Capris are anathema in general, and on otherwise strapping young men they look silly to me. Fine. It’s none of my business. Chacun a son gout, and all that. File it under “kids today” and get it off my lawn.

Moving on, have you seen those cruel and nasty-looking types blasting yacht rock from modded Escalades? I know I tweeted about them, my apologies if I also already blogged about them. Since the enigma remains unresolved, it’s both pertinent and apposite. Besides, I saw another one today. That makes six. It wasn’t an Escalade, but the point holds.

We’ll ignore fabulously expensive designer kids’ clothes – after all, fashion trends last about as long as a grammar school growth spurt. I don’t get it, but a college education isn’t worth the money anymore either, and clothes have a social value of sorts. It’s not a value I value, but what the hell. Snobs have to recognize each other somehow. They might as well have a uniform.

Right about now I figure you’re all with me. Here’s where I’ll lose most of you. My final style gripe du jour is: racer-back tank tops. (Macho types ask someone who isn’t. It’s a good opener. You’re welcome.) Don’t even mention racer-back bras, my cup size is too far down the alphabet for that. Go ahead and joke. Har har. Very funny. I haven’t heard that one before, not. But I double-dog dare you to find a cute little workout shirt that will hide a bra without pinching your armpits.

Let’s ignore the broody boys in too-tight girl jeans, the ersatz Flashdance-style cropped sweatshirts and butt implants. This is plenty for one day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Me, The Jury

Well, I just got a Jury Summons. All of you had better turn and spit, not to mention knock on wood, that you’re not next.

My objections aren’t what you think. I believe that we all have an obligation to our community. I try to do my lazy bit as far as that goes. However, jury duty and I have a past.

My first case was a guy with a documented blood alcohol limit just over what’s allowed. He had an expensively-dressed attorney and a batch of pseudo-scientists who ran rigamaroles around the poor first time prosecutor. Justice, apparently, involves sitting in the jury room listening to an attractive 20-something explain that she can have a few drinks before dinner, a bottle of wine with dinner, a few drinks after dinner and still be fine to drive so of course the guy had to be innocent. I naively thought that the law against driving under the influence applied to people who drove with too much alcohol in their blood. Apparently not. She was much prettier than I, so the other jurors believed her. He was not convicted.

The second case was even simpler, if you can imagine. A kid got hit in the face with a baseball bat during P.E. class. The substitute teacher was in another part of the yard. No one contested a single detail. Everyone agreed that the kid was injured in class while the teacher wasn’t looking. The family was suing for medical expenses. Half of the jury were teachers, one or two others worked for the school system. They all voted not to give the kid’s family a penny, not even to cover the emergency room, let alone the subsequent operations and treatment. Apparently any financial award would imply that it was the sub’s fault, or the school’s fault. Three of us voted for the family, at least I wasn’t alone.

So I’ll go. If I am chosen, I’ll serve my week to the best of my ability. But I’m not getting my hopes up for justice. As the saying goes, I’ll just be one of twelve people (plus alternates) who couldn’t get out of it.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Breaking The Law

It’s time to review my Laws Of Narrative™. Mostly this is because I’ve been reading murder mysteries, so they’re fresh in my mind. Besides, this is a parlor trick I can teach all of you. Amaze your friends! Pick out the murderer by the third scene! It’s easy when you know how. First, foremost and most importantly, the inviolate rule is:

1. You never, ever, diss Angela Lansbury.

Or Raymond Burr, or any Poirot but especially David Suchet. If you do, then you are either the murderer or one of the later victims. The way you tell which it will be is by whether the character is generally unpleasant or if this was an isolated incident. Assholes will get killed.

Now a twofer for symmetry:

2. If someone went missing, then they’re dead. If they’re presumed to have died years ago, then they’re still alive.

That’s kind of a gimme. It goes along with:

3. If there’s no body, s/he’s still alive.

Obvious, sure, but not all of you grew up reading comic books. Well, maybe you did, but this is one of the many lessons they teach.

4. Anyone who survives a murder attempt is either the murderer or is in on the conspiracy.

The next one only applies to gritty noir or soldier of fortune derivatives:

5. The detective will be betrayed by someone close to him (it’s always a him in these cases) who has no apparent reason for doing so.

That came from a recent try at reading a new author. I saw it coming and was sorely pissed.

That’s enough to start with. If you’re only reading current stuff then this ought to cover you. There’s been a moral streak growing for about a decade, wherein the more vile the character, the more dastardly his/her end. You don’t need sophisticated variables for that. Nor is there any point in having a drinking game based on the moment when the detective says, “I know who did it, I just need evidence.”

All of which explains why I’m going to rifle my shelves for old Rex Stouts and Ngaio Marshes. Better to know and be entertained, than to be able to guess so easily.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


This is by way of an experiment. I’m due to post something, but with everything going on in the world (Libya, the Baltimore quake) it’s hard to find banal little topics about which to prattle. For example, the current work-in-progress involves men in Capri pants. Not something I can think about right now. So I’m going experiential instead. It’s just about 5:00 as I write this, and at 8:00, I’ll be sitting by myself in a tiny theater (not even the clichéd 99 seats, I’m told) watching Improv. Now, Improv is definitely not my thing. I’m a big fan of both editing and rehearsal. But Robert’s passion is Improv, as is that of an actor friend. The actor friend will be performing at the abovementioned theater. Robert, however, will be off with his own Improv group. So I’m flying solo on this one. When I get back, I’ll let you know how it went. I’m improvising this post, as it were. Ha ha.

9:09. I’m ba-a-ack. I arrived 5 minutes before show time and got the primo parking space right in front of the theater. After dropping my donation into the plastic bucket, I took one of the forty-two seats. There were three people in each of the first two groups that performed. Our buddy was in the first group. He was appropriately earnest, hapless, stern or charming as the moment demanded. They made me laugh. Here’s the problem: the second group was annoying. Enough so that I don’t remember the bits I was going to tell you about my friend’s group. Annoying enough (a running gag was about Mel Gibson. Need I say more?) that I left before the third group. I had time to come home, take the dog out, come back, and start writing this at 9:09.

The image I’ll retain from the evening isn’t my friend looking cool onstage, nor the guy doing an unfunny anti-Semitic faux rant, but the car lining up to get my parking space when I left. It had a bumper sticker from the Upright Citizens Brigade, the Improv institution where Robert’s been taking classes. Rah rah rah!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fang You Very Much

Vampires never see daylight. There are two ways you can jump at that. The first, most logical, reaction is to point out that vampires don’t exist. I expect most of you to fall in that camp. The rest of you are thinking about the immortality, mesmerizing charm and nifty wardrobe. Those of you who know me in real life may be adding snarky thoughts about my taste in fiction.

The vampire thing is a point of reference, someone who lives their whole life (or undead existence, never mind, you get the point) without ever experiencing something that’s basic to the rest of the community. It's also a metaphor, because we all do that.

The similarity just occurred to me. My life moves in the same circle, gym and keyboard and whatnot. Most of you could say the same kind of thing about your own lives. Limitation is a byproduct of adulthood. We get caught up in what we do and forget about the rest of the world. Cyclic repetition isn't bad or wrong in itself. Happiness is being content, whether it’s with what you have or with what you’re doing. I’ve often said that if I want a change, I’ll plod counterclockwise around the post. So far clockwise suits me just fine. Knock on wood.

The trick is to remember that the world is always much bigger than our own little piece of it. Which brings us back to the vampire metaphor. Even they know what SPF is, or they would if they existed.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Postponing Procrastination

For the most part, at least as far as tasks are concerned, priorities come in two types. Call them what you will; good and bad, carrot and stick, cake and whatever kind of veggies you don’t like. You get the idea. Both are priorities. We need to resolve our obligations and responsibilities, and we need to have fun and be happy. The duality is a given. How we handle it says a lot about who we are.

Do you do the nasty stuff first and then the cool stuff? For the most part, that’s what I do. It sounds so hardworking and puritanically proletarian, but I think it just guarantees that the work gets done at all. Eat dessert first and you won’t have room for the nutrition. I linger longer over the fun stuff, and time can be an issue.

For all that, I stopped the jokes at #12 (okay, I didn’t stop them, they just stopped) and once I hit the “publish post” button on this, my nose goes right back to the grindstone. Today’s word is “Ventriloquist”. You’re very lucky this post isn’t twenty pages long. I don’t want to go back there. Some people find clowns creepy. I find ventriloquism creepy, hence the uncharacteristic procrastination. But I’ve come to the end of the carrot, and it’s time again for the stick. Or at least, time to face my antipathy and throw a metaphoric cream pie at it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ho Hum Ha

Writing 20 jokes a day is a bit of a bitch, in case you were wondering. I thought I'd give you a view from the trenches. We'll ignore the first two days’ topics, “side show” and “fire truck”, and you've already seen one from "cipher", so let's skip “ratio” and go straight to “bamboozled”:

16. “Dude, your wife totally bamboozled you. Vacuuming isn’t an ancient Mayan relaxation technique.”

Give “co-habitant" a miss, and we’re on to “birthday suit”:

12. Two little old ladies were having afternoon tea in the Home. One said to the other, “That loud party at the frat house next door sure ended suddenly last night. It was quite a relief.” “I know, I ended it,” said the other. “How on earth did you do that?” asked the first one. “I went over there in my birthday suit and shouted LIMBO!”

The next one was more fun than it should have been. The word was “scar”:

13. Elsie the cow and Bossie the cow watched the barbecue. “Poor Connie. That’s gonna leave a scar.”
17. The young mortician stared at the strange scars on the corpse’s back. “What on earth caused that?” The older mortician took one glance and chuckled. “Oh, you’ll see a lot of those in your career. The guy was pussy-whipped to death.”

Then there was “history exam”. The first one was the best:

1. Satan grabbed Willy Wonka by the scraggly blond hair and yanked his head back hard. “Look at it,” Satan hissed. Satan shoved a photo of bleeding gums oozing vitreous pus in Willy Wonka’s face. “Who is it?” demanded Satan. “Belinda Farquhar?” offered Wonka. There was a zap and Willy Wonka screamed. “No,” said Satan. “David Fendleberg?” “No.” Zap. Scream. “Caitlin O’Herlihy?” “No.” Zap. Scream. One imp was showing another imp through that part of Hell, and the new imp asked what was going on. The first imp explained, “Dental history exam.”

Today was “pen pal”. I’ll spare you. Remember, I’ve done 20 jokes on each topic. These aren’t necessarily the best, but they’re my favorites. Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Why Chromosome

The other morning I decided to prune the shrubbery in front of our house. It should’ve been done ages ago; the walk was almost completely overgrown. Out came my little pruning shears and I set to work. I was about three-quarters done when I noticed that I’d worn some skin off of my hands in a couple of spots. What the hell, I was pruning rosemary, which is a natural antiseptic. I kept going til I was done.

Compulsive or macho? Robert said it was macho. That’s what started me thinking. The ability to withstand discomfort or even pain for a goal isn’t particularly manly. Ask any mother. (I’m not one, but the point holds.) A high pain threshold isn’t any more gender specific than my loathing of peachy-beige band-aids. I go to great effort to have interesting band-aids when I need them, but that’s not particularly feminine. The current one is black with white pirate skulls. Adorable, yes, but girly? Not when I was a lass.

Marketing people will tell you that there is such a thing as gender-oriented behavior. Cultural anthropologists might agree. I’m not so sure anymore. Maybe that’s because I spend so much time in the gym with non-stereotypical women and know quite a few non-stereotypical men. Hell, I married one.

Oh never mind. I’m tired of the pirate band-aid. It’s time to change it to something pretty.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Summer Reruns

I’m doing it again. I know better, but I’m doing the jokes-a-day anyhow.

Is there anyone here who hasn’t been through this with me before? I’ll recap as quickly as I can: pick a random topic and write twenty jokes about it. Repeat daily until your brain explodes or your friends stop speaking to you.

I may have found a way around that second hazard. Unlike the last two times (velociraptors, anyone?), I won’t be groveling for suggestions. Robert has a random word generator app on his phone. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the word it generated this morning was “cyphers”. My word processor just tried to correct that spelling. Cipher is better than the topic he gave me yesterday, which was “fire truck”. I got to fifteen on that. The day before was “side show”.

Let me tell you this. Just as there are stages of grief and stages of drunkenness, there are stages of joke writing. I know I’m in trouble when I see these words on my monitor: “A priest, a rabbi and a (word of the day) go into a bar”…

10. A priest, a rabbi and a cipher walked into a bar. The bartender said, “What’ll it be, boys?” The priest asked for a beer. The rabbi had wine. The cipher said, “You figure it out.”

These are the jokes, folks. I’ve still got eight more to do.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Let's Get Physics-al

We call them the Laws of Physics. By definition, laws can be broken. What does that say about physics? Levitation might count as a misdemeanor, but rolling uphill would just be a cardiovascular workout. Try it and let me know.

Speaking of gravity, I was having a perfectly ordinary evening until a rapid series of conversational topics reminded me of past failures and epic personal inadequacies. Down, down, down I fell. Forget the apple landing on Newton’s head. A psyche is like a Ming vase filled with sand. It falls fast, shatters easily and makes a hell of a mess.

Holy tangled metaphors, Batman! Weren’t we talking about the immutability of physical law?

To pretend I’m still in control here, I’ll grasp and say that the laws of physics apply not only to physical objects but also nonphysical ones. A bad mood has inertia. A good one has momentum. (Science geeks, feel free to comment on my choice of verbs. Hell, grammar geeks can too. Let’s have a party.) Activities have momentum. Haven’t you ever started tidying up and found yourself sterilizing the furniture? Extreme example, but you get my point.

The next time you’re in a class or a meeting, listening to someone drone on and on, watch their mouth open and close and think about violating the law that says an object in motion stays in motion. Remember that old saying, “Rules are made to be broken.”

Friday, July 29, 2011

Persnickety Lemons

Can you hear that tired old trope, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” without rolling your eyes? The lemonade stand had gone the way of the dodo even when I was a child, but lemons were still apocryphally potent. Per the Brady Bunch, the juice was alleged to erase freckles. In the 70s, we used it to highlight our hair while we baked precancerously in the sun. It didn’t work, but that never stopped us from trying.

Lemons have a unique place in popular culture. They’re in everything from furniture polish to gelato. “Lemon yellow” is superior to the more pedestrian and bourgeois “yellow.” Oh, and if you’re trying to cut down on sodium, someone will tell you to substitute lemon juice for salt. They always do. People seem to think that acidity and salinity are the same thing.

Have you read any of the stuff about those ubiquitous lemon slices in restaurants? Apparently many restaurants don’t wash them enough, thus when sliced, the bacteria on the surface go into the juicy parts. According to this theory, squeezing that wedge into your refreshing beverage adds all sorts of microbial extras. I’m not sure I believe it, but what’s a blog for if not to propagate urban myths?

Be that as it may, I like lemons. They taste good. They’re a nice, friendly color. Lemons are extremely useful little things. They may not remove freckles or give you blonde hair, but if you want to know if you’ve got any nicks or cuts on your hands, squeeze a lemon. You should always have one handy, if only for that purpose.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why A Duck?

“No one blogs anymore.” I was told this recently, on very good authority. I even believe it -- up to a point, with qualifications and a caveat or two.

Tell me that no one reads blogs anymore and I’ll agree faster than you can say “short attention span”. Whenever one of you darlings comments (either live, via email or right here in public for the rest of you to see) I’m always surprised. Sometimes, in my heart of hearts, I think I do this just to print out for my mother every few months. So yeah, tell me no one reads blogs anymore and I’d be fine with that.

But that’s not what he said. He said “No one blogs anymore.” That’s like saying no one sings along with the radio, or talks back to it, depending on what station it’s on. Or that no one doodles while on the phone, or leaves long, pointlessly rambling voice mails, mea culpa.

Conversation is a byproduct of coexistence. I’ve said it before; a blog is just a one-sided conversation. Typing it all out and posting it is just a sneaky way to get my point across without interruption or dissent or a change of subject if I’m being particularly boring. Conversation is a byproduct of coexistence, and narcissism will never go out of style.

If it looks like a blog, walks like a blog and is written by a quack like a blog, we can assume that the blog, as such, will be around for a long, long time.

Friday, July 22, 2011


About the only thing people seem to agree on is that we’re all disenfranchised.

This isn’t political. Let the screamers take that road. I’m talking about everything else. The stuff that people say doesn’t matter, but that takes up 95% of our waking time. I’m talking about Life, and the World.

It all started back in the day with assertiveness training. Little courtesies dropped away, as silent and fragile as a desert flower under the wheels of an ATV. Call-waiting allowed us to prioritize our relationships. Now it’s cell phones. (Thank you, Max.)

Our right to a quiet dinner, movie or even just a pleasant tête-à-tête is abrogated by that ubiquitous and ostensibly un-ignorable summons. It’s not just the non-gender-specific douche with nothing to say but the lungs to be heard from a block away, it’s also your pal who texts while you’re talking.

Forget yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater, I’m all for the right to free speech ending with a stupid or excessively loud ringtone. Oh, that’s off-topic. Sorry.

Most of us go through life generally trying to do the right thing, not out of nobility but expedience. Manners are just a way for us all to get where we’re going, or do what we need to do, as efficiently as possible. Let the people off of the elevator before you get on. Stand to the right on escalators. Stop at the stop sign. It will be faster in the long run. Yes, even if you wait for the person to cross the road. Pedestrians are disenfranchised enough already.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Trifecta Trauma

For an opinionated person, I can be horribly indecisive. I’m all over the stuff that matters. Bing bang boom, it’s done before the empty envelope hits the recycle bin. Got an unpleasant human situation? No problem. It’s generally obvious if the asshole should be ignored or confronted, and I’m happy to do either. But give me something that doesn’t matter, and I waffle more than a politician in an election year.

There was a movie I deeply loved. (Still do, I should drag out the video and see if the VCR works.) Then I read the book and found out that the movie was only part one of the book. Eventually they filmed a sequel. It was not lovable. In fact, the sequel was crap. All this was back in 1984. I had forgotten it ever existed.

An hour ago I found out that they made a third installment ten years later. This was not in the book. The reviews were awful. One star out of ten. Someone said that the third film retroactively killed any goodness in the first two. It’s unanimous and for anyone else, conclusive. But this is me.

I don’t follow reviewers. I often like things that other people find silly or just awful. But what if everyone who saw this is right? I don’t want a cherished memory tainted after all these years.

So I’m asking you. What do you think? I’m willing to let a majority decide for me. Do I see it or not?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Good Enough

Once upon a time, there was Philosophy 101. The professor began by explaining the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. His example, branded into my brain: if it’s raining then the sidewalks are wet. That’s a sufficient condition. But if the sidewalks are wet, it’s not necessarily raining. There are lots of ways for a sidewalk to get wet. Yes, that’s a set up for a joke, but we’re not going there. No, we’re not.

“Necessary” isn’t “sufficient”. That’s the point. Got it? Good. Let’s move on.

This basic exercise in conditional statements gave me a greater understanding of “good enough”. That’s really what “sufficient” means. In a pragmatic sense, if it’s sufficient, then it’s good enough. And if it’s good enough, you’re set.

“Good enough” is a way of life. Sometimes it’s plenty just to get something done. Make your bed, floss, eat – the practicalities of daily life don’t require perfection. Show up for work or show up for school. Get it done well enough and move on. You’ll just have to do it again tomorrow.

Ironically, I came to the philosophy of “good enough” during an era when everyone else was striving for Excellence. Well, they’ve all been divorced and had heart attacks by now. Ergo, excellence isn’t good enough. Q.E.D.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Familiarity Breeds Forgetfulness

There’s a guy at one of my gyms. Typically big and beefy he is, but he’s also atypically sweet and quiet and bashful. He’s about my age, maybe a little older. If you’re over 35 you’d recognize him, he’d look familiar but you just wouldn’t know why. He says of himself that he works "in the industry.”

It’s a local phenomenon. All those people who ever handed a cup of coffee onscreen, all those background thugs who said no more than “Stick’em up!” all those faces you saw over and over again during those decades in front of the TV, whose names never made it either into the credits or into the National Enquirer, they’re still alive and well and wandering around.

You see them, you know them, and you can’t ask them why. Don’t ask me why you can’t ask them, you just can’t. We were watching our well-worn discs of “Ellery Queen” when we recognized a lovely old man who hangs out at our local Italian deli. He played a cop in nearly all the episodes. It’s so rare that you figure it out, it’s like winning a tiny lottery when you do.

But the bashful guy, I know I saw him in something sometime. And I know I’ll win the lottery before I remember what it was. It’s almost enough to get me to buy a lottery ticket, just to make the metaphor real.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Common Cents

I don’t remember how much the bill was, but my change was $1.01. Before I could tell the gum-chewing cashier not to give me the penny, she handed me a receipt and a dollar bill then turned to the next customer. I didn’t want the penny. I would have dropped the penny strategically face-up in the parking lot had she given it to me. So why was I annoyed that she didn’t?

It’s been bugging me since it happened. As near as I can tell, it was because I was thwarted. Nobody likes to be thwarted, but for a control freak, it’s torture. An hour later I was able to (verbally) knock the testosterone out of a douchebag. Instead of feeling like I struck a blow for justice, I’m still thinking about that stupid penny.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Day After Day After Day

If you’re here for the food post, it’s the next one down. Thanks to all for the lovely emails. I take full responsibility for ennabling your various binges, but you still have to pay for them with your own cardio hours.

Speaking of tedious tasks, it’s time to return to the ordinary. You know, the usual, the every single day, day after day, rhythmic repetitive norm.

So many people define themselves by what they do. That’s not fair, as anyone who ever had to work at a job they hate will tell you. No, we are who we decide to be, even if that decision is made by default.

In accepting my age, I’ve had to learn how to make the best of it. That involves a lot of otherwise tiresome time in the gym. By choosing not to fashion myself as yet another unpublished novelist, I became yet another script writer who indulges in the cheap public therapy of a blog. My yenta nature shows itself on Twitter. You get the idea.

And you, are you doing what you have to do in order to be able to do what you want to do later? Or, having put in the time and training, the saving and the preparation, are you living your dream? How’s that working out for you?

Life is about both the journey and the destination. Don’t ever forget that one is useless without the other.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Oink, Oink, Burp

Welcome back to our regular program. For those of you just tuning in, this is where I tell all of you what I ate in Las Vegas. Just my side of the table, though. Ask Robert to blog his stuff if this isn’t enough. Yeah, right.

First things first. On the way up, we stopped at the doughnut place in Victorville as usual. The proprietress greeted us with, “It’s been three months, I was waiting for you guys.” It’s a rut I can live with. I hadn’t had blueberry doughnuts (& a bearclaw) since March. Hummos, tabbouleh and dolmades at the Mad Greek in Baker held us over til we got to Vegas and the Bellagio. We split a dulce de leche brioche and almond croissant at Jean Philippe. Spending all that time in heat and traffic left us not so hungry. We naively thought we’d eat light at the new Fleur, impossible in the face of such deliciousness. Tomato flambé (much more descriptive than “pizza”), deceptively addictive hot salty crispy fried chickpeas, the amazing, immortal, glorious truffled onion soup which is still my very favorite thing to eat ever, artichoke barigoule, and those poetic little tuna tacos -- crispy, crunchy, with jewel-pink perfect tuna and just the right amount of avocado cream and Serrano chili. (Tied for my third favorite thing to eat, the second being a defunct childhood memory.) Their new bread chef is a maestro; we got a smorgasbord of baked bounty too numerous to list, each splendid. Listen to this dessert: a chocolate Parisian macaroon was filled with strawberry marmalade (not jam, it was tarter and stronger in flavor) and a peanut buttercream. Not peanut-butter cream, this was a buttercream made with peanuts. The chocolate, strawberry and peanut flavors blended in every bite. Served alongside rum iced milk. You’d like it. Also a warm coconut almond cake with coconut cream, mango gelee and kiwi sorbet.

We had a 6:45 a.m. wake-up call. Go ahead and mock, but I can sleep at home and breakfast is normally just coffee and protein powder. Breakfast at Bouchon would humble the fattest gods and I couldn’t wait to get to it. Our friends there (Hebe, Sally and Philip) gave us a pastry basket heaped with almond brioche and a strawberry croissant and that delectable, flaky marvel they so ridiculously call a cheese Danish. My eggs, obviously laid by blissfully enlightened chickens, were poached perfectly and rested on fresh multigrain toast in a light bath of beurre blanc. There was strawberry jam for the rest of the toast, and on the side a sliced real tomato (as unlike the pink rocks in the supermarket as I am to a supermodel) and spinach sautéed in butter with garlic and shallots. Much, much better than an extra hour of mere sleep.

Later, at Max Brenner’s, I had a hazelnut cream chocolate milkshake with dulce de leche ice cream and some thick, dark, Italian hot chocolate. The next table was filled with thin pretty girls who had gone nuts with the menu and were happily discussing various vomiting techniques. I guess “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” by whatever means necessary. Dinner was Craftsteak. The wild arugula salad with toasted pine nuts and pecorino cheese was so much better than you can imagine. I love arugula anyhow, but these greens were startlingly bitter and delicious. White beech mushrooms and a revelatory corn dish accompanied the seared diver scallops with shaved fennel. Dessert was a lemon tart with rosemary-infused meringue and blueberries, and a scoop of fragrant lemon verbena ice cream. Robert’s cucumber-mint sorbet deserves a mention, just in case you happen to be there and have the opportunity to try it.

Okay, deep breath. Sitting here, with the protein-bar wrapper that had contained my lunch, it’s bittersweet to relive the yumminess as I type. Another 6:45 wake-up, another magical breakfast as detailed above. We went to Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood for lunch. Sadly, the food has diminished in glory in an inverse ratio to Moonen’s rise on television, but we managed to find two very nice sushi rolls on an otherwise pedestrian menu.

Dinner was at Aureole. With the rest of Las Vegas streamlining into faster, less sophisticated “small plates”, the dining room at Aureole maintains its majesty. Our friend Jalil pampered us with his usual graciousness and charming efficiency. He brought us the loveliest little amuse bouche, a trio comprised of heirloom tomato bits with burrata cheese and a sprinkling of the freshest herbs, a crab spring roll so light it was like a crunchy song, and a fried cannoli filled with richly tasty avocado cream. Next, Jalil surprised us with a perfect diver scallop sitting on a square of crispy creamy potato gratin, with beurre blanc and wild grapes. Robert and I shared the ricotta-filled ravioli with smoked salmon, baby artichokes and sugar snap peas, covered in lovely lemon thyme foam. We also shared a marvelous Peruvian ceviche, so good that words fail me. Scottish salmon rested on a lobster-corn risotto with glazed English peas, accompanied by a bowl of the cutest and most delicious little roasted vegetables. Dessert was a Meyer lemon trio, olive-lemon gelato (don’t make that face, it was gooood) lemon tart with candied lemon peel and a warm lemon pudding cake so wonderful that I saved it for last. Jalil also brought us a pyramid of sorbets, two scoops each of pineapple, mango and cantaloupe with a slice of crunchy candied pineapple for garnish. As you can imagine, by this time we were tipping over in our seats, making happy burbling noises. That’s when Jalil came out with one last plate, this one filled with little artisan chocolates, each different, each exquisite. We ate it all, every bite, though I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t finish my second piece of the wonderful bread which I left off of the list.

After another glorious breakfast (see above) and a LOT of walking around, we got to the most anticipated meal of the trip. At lunch we finally got to catch up with our dear buddy Juan in Fleur. Xavier was there too. It was a family reunion. I’ve enjoyed food all my life, but my first meal in Fleur de Lys really taught me to love eating. Juan served us that meal. In the years since, he has become a genuine friend and I have become a Serious Eater – at least when I’m in Las Vegas. This meal included my beloved onion soup and tuna tacos, Caesar salad with truffles and fontina and brioche croutons, spicy green gazpacho oyster shooters and gorgeous Vietnamese-style rock shrimp stew with vegetables. They make two different ice creams fresh every day. That day, it was fragrant apricot served with crispy maple cookies and creamy pistachio served with candied pistachios. The guys also brought us these things they call “brownie lollipops”; excellent dark chocolate shells over milk chocolate mousse and caramel, dipped in chopped chocolate and decorated with edible gold flakes – all on sticks! You’ve never seen such a perfect blend of class, whimsy and over-the-top chocolateness.

A simple dinner after that, just “The Unforgettable Spicy Tuna Salad Sandwich” with pickled jalapeno and crushed BBQ potato chips back at Max Brenner’s. Another hazelnut chocolate cream milkshake. A stop at Payard, for Mango mousse, pineapple soufflé and roasted pineapple encased in meringue sitting on a coconut dacquoise (pastry-speak for “cookie”.)

We had one last transcendent breakfast the next morning, then lunch at Jose Andres’ China Poblano, which is Mexican/Chinese cuisine. Three tacos; wild mushroom and guacamole, traditional fish, and lobster. The tuna ceviche with crispy crunchy amaranth is the other half of my third-favorite-food tie. Dessert was coconut tapioca balls with mandarin orange sorbet, mango gelee and coconut cream, and strawberry sorbet with macerated strawberries. We headed for home with the requisite stop at the Mad Greek and of course, one last blueberry doughnut. The proprietress commented on the brevity of our trip (if she only knew!) and said, “I’ll see you in three months” when we left. I’m knocking on wood.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

There And Back Again

We’ve been to Las Vegas. This is where I’d normally put the food log, but that will have to wait. I’ve just finished writing my Thank You’s, so my mind is on the people.

Shout out to radiant Hebe and sweet Sally and stalwart Philip. A big hug to our buddy Juan – honey, please tell Tenisha we’re sorry we missed her this time, but we’ll plan better next trip -- and extra smiles for the irrepressible Xavier. Ken, good luck in San Diego! Charming Beau, I told you that you’d be in here, now don’t forget about the dulce de leche. Jalil, I sent that email, try to read it if you can, I meant every word. And of course warmest thanks to our extraordinary Tina, who made it all possible.

The bride count was eight and a half. (Just because she was wearing a “bachelorette” t-shirt doesn’t mean she made it to the wedding. It’s Vegas, baby. A whole lot can happen in one night.) I gave up counting bridesmaids because the slutty ones look like prostitutes and it became impossible to tell which was which. But the biggest count this week was also the most tragic, and that was the Life Lesson Learned.

Tube dresses are “in”. Unfortunately, posture is “out”. In the beginning, after being inundated by a parade of unattractiveness, I started to count women whose tube dresses pooched out at the belly to the point where you couldn’t tell if they were fat, pregnant or just slouching. I gave up at 37. In two days. There were many, many more.

Between the tube dresses, and the 4,000 strong Women In Business Conference wherein all 4,000 women were using Dayrunners and paper folders instead of electronics (we saw a husband and wife at a table, he had an iPad and she had a mountain of paper) this is the Life Lesson:

Apparently the women’s movement has come far enough and it’s time to slide back into the 1970s.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sanitation Sexism

(Not for the squeamish. You’ve been warned.)

Today’s topic is public restrooms. I’ve been in more than my share of Men’s Rooms, but only as a tourist. Focus on the distaff side of the sanitary divide, mostly because in this context I’m ashamed of my gender. I’ve been told that Men’s Rooms are always filthy. So stipulated. Not arguing. The Women’s Rooms are still worse.

Somehow I missed the memo that there’s a prize for the most Jackson Pollack-like toilet seat. The sight that really got me was a bright pink lipstick smear on the outside edge of an otherwise reasonably clean seat. That smear will remain an enigma forever. Feminine hygiene, for the most part, isn’t.

The true nasty secret that they don’t want you to know is how few women wash their hands in public. The ones who don’t are almost belligerent in their nonchalance. If so many of them hadn’t given me dirty looks (pun intended) as I stood at the sink, I might not have written this.

I used to equate the people who grab a paper towel for the germy door handle on their way out with those other people who wear tinfoil hats to protect them from alien rays zapping their brains. I’m not reaching for an extra paper towel just yet, but those tinfoil hats are starting to look kind of snazzy.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Obsessive Percussion

You’ve found a fabulous new idea/diet/activity. Hooray! I wish you all the best. It’s wonderful. You’re really onto something there. No, I’m not going to try it myself. No. I said no. I’m not interested.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the way you soak toilet paper in red wine to make those marvelous little papier mache Christmas ornaments. Oh, that wasn’t you. Sorry. Are you the transcendental chicken fucker? No? Well, phew. It’s hard to say anything good about that one, consenting adulthood aside.

Are you on the all-fajita diet? Do you polka to bamboo flute music? I’m sure it’s great for the glutes, but I’ll pass, thanks. Sorry your start-up doing hair extensions on Chihuahuas failed, blame the economy.

Look, I admire your focus and your discipline. See? I used positive words. But talking about it more isn’t going to get me to join you, nor will hitting the same points over and over again prove you right.

That’s what we do. We repeat ourselves because the truth is so obvious to us that we assume others must see it the way we do. That kind of obsessive percussion never works, but it happens all the time.

Trust your judgment. If someone is being recalcitrant and refuses to accept castor oil as the flavor of the future, don’t repeat yourself. Offer the same evidence that convinced you in the first place, or bake some castor oil flavored cupcakes and give them away. Just don’t give any to me. I told you before, I’m not interested.

Friday, June 3, 2011

And Ever

Without the Internet, I’d be writing this in a little leatherette book with a cheesy faux lock and no one would ever see it. I like the Internet. It’s basically useful, but people give it too much credit. For the most part, it's more of the same.

You may say you remember what things were like before the Internet, but you don’t, not really. I spent more time without it than with it and I don’t really remember, in much the same way that we don’t call it “history” until long after people wore clothes.

Speaking of naked people before the Internet, there’s always been porn. Videotapes were more revolutionary than the online stuff. For the first time, a perv – sorry, an aficionado -- didn’t have to worry about someone seeing him/her buy a magazine or go into a theater. (Side note: I miss those theaters. The titles were a hoot to drive past.) “Tales of the Arabian Nights” preceded youtube, as the giant annual Sears Roebuck catalogue did Amazon. And people could wipe their asses with the catalogue pages when they were done shopping. Now that’s multitasking.

No, I pretty much only credit the Internet with two things. One is the death of linear conversation. Thanks to Facebook, people now converse in a series of stated facts. It’s boring as hell, which is why I haven’t looked at Facebook in nearly a year. No more ideas developed inductively through complete sentences, no more intelligently allusive humor. My beloved Twitter has me thinking, not just speaking, in non-sequitur aphorisms. If it’s not funny, I don’t take time to make it so, I just move on to the next. Yes, that’s my fault, but the medium makes the message, and the medium is set to full auto rapid-fire.

The Internet is responsible for one other thing, and it’s quite a paradox given that Mr. Warhol’s 15 minutes has been micro-circuited down to 15 seconds. I credit the Internet with the creation (and devaluation) of forever.

Your 15 seconds exists in an ever-evolving perpetuity along with everyone else’s. A sonnet inscribed by a monk on 15th century vellum will decompose. The art of the great masters eventually will be reduced to pixels. But this blog will be here forever and ever, along with those pictures of you from last weekend. Hooray for technology.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Who Are You?

When did it start? All I can think of is graphology (you know, handwriting analysis) but that can’t be it. Astrology, sure, that’s a gimme. I’m exempting psychology because it’s serious. What am I talking about? Oops, buried my lead again. Sorry, Sis!

It occurred to me today that as the Inuit are supposed to have twenty words for snow (which I’m told is a fallacy) American culture has at least that many recreational ways to analyze personality.

Are you Gap or second-hand Boho? Do you carbo-load or follow Mr. Atkins? Hammett or Chandler? Don’t laugh; I was once in a six-month Hammett/Chandler debate that ended in a stalemate from sheer exhaustion.

What started me thinking about all this was the soundtrack at the gym this morning. I had finished my workout when they started playing the original Aerosmith “Walk This Way”. So I kept going. Then I was ready to leave, when Talking Heads came on, “Burning down the House”, which is peculiarly suited to weightlifting. It ended. I racked the 30’s, picked up my towel and empty bottle, and turned wearily toward the door. But wait. Stop! Listen! I hadn’t heard the opening chords of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” since back in the day. One. More. Set. My arms are trembling as I type this, but that’s when I had the epiphany.

Forget gimmicks, fads and pop psychology. If you really want to understand someone, find out what they listened to when they were twenty.