Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wisdom in (Re)Verse

Arrogance and Insecurity were sitting in a tree.


First came love, then came marriage,

then came the rest of us in a baby carriage.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Warning: The Food Post


"What I Ate On My Summer Vacation"

Author's note: Feel free to skip this. It's kind of a love-it-or-hate-it tradition for my regular readers, some of whom complain if I don't put it in. Yes, really.

A slow start during a long, hot drive, just a Boca burger and fries at Bob’s Big Boy in Baker. Then almond brioche and apple strudel at Jean Philippe Bellagio. After seven hours in traffic we didn’t want dinner.

Bouchon: chocolate-almond croissant, wild blueberry muffin, strawberry croissant, all served warm. Salmon rillettes with a steady stream of hot crispy baguette toasts. Spinach sautéed in butter butter butter with shallots and whole cloves of garlic. Fluffily moist scrambled eggs. A sliced red juicy tomato.

Fleur kinda sucked. The gazpacho wasn’t helped by the addition of honeydew and cantaloupe, and I never felt the watermelon flavored poprocks. My adored truffled onion veloute is off the menu, in case you were wondering what that Boschian noise in the distance was last Monday afternoon. The ceviche was only fine. The perfect tuna tacos aren’t anymore. Pickled cabbage on top of the fish, when there already is slivered fresh cabbage underneath it, somehow kills the otherwise glorious texture. The interlude was saved by the tiered charred-pumpernickel and smoked salmon sandwich with crème fraiche and fresh dill. Ergo, my former favorite-restaurant-in-the-whole-world has been demoted to a place for snacks in my lexicon. It’s the end of an era. Please don’t tell M. Keller, because I still love him to pieces.

Red Square: “Siberian nachos” = more smoked salmon with crème fraiche, this time with two kinds of caviar. “Tsar’s Salad” = Caesar salad, get it har har, but it was good. Fettucine with heaps of shaved truffle and a mountain of gorgeous fresh lobster. OMG. Seriously. For once I had a chocolate dessert. Don’t be snide, it wasn’t a last gasp of vanishing estrogen, the waitress was super nice and she really wanted me to try it, so I did. No faux-Soviet cutesy name, they just call it “Candy Bar.” It contains toxic levels of chocolate and should come with a warning. ERRATUM: It was indeed called "Rasputin's Magic Chocolate Bar". This is what I get for typing from pix instead of notes. Sorry! c* 9/1/12

Back to Bouchon: Strawberry croissant, chocolate-almond croissant, chocolate croissant. I picked out the chocolate. After last night, I may never eat chocolate again. More spinach, eggs, tomatoes, this time with multigrain toast and fresh pineapple jam. Caramel latte.

Afternoon Tea at the Mandarin Oriental: Lounging each on our own couch, at the window thirty stories up overlooking the Strip. Jasmine Pearl White tea, exquisite delicate tiny sandwiches, yes, more smoked salmon – you say that like it’s possible to eat too much of it – egg salad, cucumber, you know. All arty and pretty. Miniature pastries, Parisian macaroons with raspberries and cream. Rose-infused crispy creamy somethings. Shortbread dipped in chocolate (I left the chocolate part on the plate. See previous.) Mango layered cheesecake-y goodness. But the star is the fresh (emphasize “fresh”) hot scones with house-made cherry and strawberry jam and real O.G. honest to fuck imported Devonshire clotted cream. Bliss.

Jean-Georges Steakhouse: We were just going to say hi to our buddy Juan (Hi Juan!) but we stayed to eat. Creamy tomato soup poured out of the cutest stone kettle, delectable breads. Comte & truffle fritters – stop reading. Click over to your favorite travel site, get a ticket, go and eat the comte and truffle fritters. Cheese and chopped truffles, nothing else, rolled into little balls, fried and served steamy hot. Tastes even better than you can possibly imagine. Hamachi sashimi with olives and olive oil, yum. Tuna four ways, yum yum yum yum. Beautiful fat chunks of lobster, with “gnocchini” in puttanesca. Yummillini. There’s no such thing as too much lobster, either.

Bouchon: Fresh hot beignets with blackberry jam and pineapple jam. I didn’t eat the Nutella. It’s chocolate, and I still haven’t recovered from Monday night’s overdose. More salmon rillettes, more spinach.

Jean-Philippe in Aria with our pal Juan, who was nice enough to visit us on his day off: Raspberry macaroon with rose-infused cream, fresh raspberries and candied rose petal. Bear claw. Some of Robert’s crème brulee gelato milkshake. Oh yeah, happy sigh.

China Poblano with a very pretty but horrible waitress. (Around 4:00 p.m., the place was mostly empty. Three full water pitchers on a shelf not far behind my chair and it took her more than 11 minutes to get Robert the refill he asked for. When I mentioned that I was about to walk over and get it for him myself, she replied, “That’s okay, forget about it.” I haven’t forgotten.) Spicy guacamole, handmade corn tortillas and miraculous tuna ceviche with crispy amaranth.

Dinner was a take-out picnic in the room. Great fun but only tuna sandwich and salad. No, I never had my traditional one alchoholic beverage. The year isn’t over yet, I have time.

Last breakfast at Bouchon: French toast, which is really bread pudding with apples and custard all baked together and topped with slivers of crunchy fresh apples and hot maple syrup. Eggs, spinach, tomatoes. Cranberry toast and sweet butter and blackberry jam. Fresh croissant.

Lunch was fish tacos at Rubio’s. Cookies at Freed’s. A gamble on the Mad Greek in Baker, which had been so awful last year we never went back. It’s good again, phew. One final caffeine infusion to survive the drive, a soy chai latte at Starbucks in Rancho Cucamonga. Say it with me, Cu-ca-mon-ga. It’s fun!

That was Thursday night. I still haven’t eaten chocolate, not even a chocolate protein bar, since Red Square. Just saying.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Vegas Via Voce

When was the last time you saw someone who wasn’t drunk being happy in public?

That’s not rhetorical. I really want you to think about it. While a certain amount of fun may be acceptable in context, nowadays happiness is embarrassing. Sure, dour is cool, but that doesn’t imply the reverse.

Las Vegas rocks because – at least where we go -- even the rare sober people enjoy themselves.

We were at the end of another stupendous breakfast. The table next to ours was one of those big round ones. Only four women sat there, but they were having enough fun for a dozen. It was great.

That is, until the phone rang.

It wasn’t loud or rude. If we hadn’t been at the very next table and at a lull in our own conversation, we would never have heard it.

You could tell right away whose it was. She’d been sitting up straight, now her shoulders slumped a little. She hit a button. Efficiency and despair have never melded so perfectly into two syllables.

“Yes, sir.”

She wasn’t young when the phone rang, but you could see her face age visibly under her makeup. Her voice became elderly and quiet.

“Yes, sir.”

I wanted to punch her boss in the face. Her friends looked like they’d be happy to hold him for me.

“Yes, sir.”

By the time she hung up, she was completely deflated. This group, which had burst with jolly rollicking goddess-like exhilaration, was now a bunch of middle-aged hard-working serious Midwestern women.

But it was Las Vegas, and Vegas is magic.

Their breakfast arrived. Delicious and beautiful various savories and pastries and, yes, a round of mimosas appeared one after the other. By the time we left, they were laughing happy goddesses again, and I was happy too.

I still want to punch her boss in the face, though.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Broader Broad

Travel is broadening, but that can be fixed.

First, the obvious: Unless you’re (literally) a starving bohemian backpacking and hostelling your way through the world, you’re going to eat more calories when you’re away from home. It could be expedient junk food, or you could be like me and load up on scrumptiousness.

For whatever reason, you’ll get fatter. That can be fixed. Not easily, but it can be done.

Second, metaphysically: Even if you’re only on a Greyhound tootling through Podunk, you’re going to get a new perspective. It’s unavoidable. No matter where you go, at the very least, you should come home with an insight into something.

That can be fixed too.

I say this because I got home about two hours ago, bringing with me a pile of laundry and a freshly laundered perspective. My head was filled with New Thoughts and Ideas. I was looking forward to going through my little pad of scribbled notes, witty observations, and general joke material to parse for all of you.

So what happened in those two hours?

Reality bitch-slapped once again, which is one of the things it does best. The answering machine was flashing in a way I like to think of as Satan’s wink. Emails festered inside my computer. My lovely, fragile and delicate New Plans have been pummeled by my thuggish To Do list which has grown faster than Bruce Banner in a bad mood.

Never mind. The stories will keep until I regain control over both my To Do list and my waistline, or, at the very least, my laundry.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wait - Don't Wait

What do you do when you’re waiting for something? Of course I mean the kind of something that preoccupies your mind so you can’t be productive without metaphorically shooting yourself in the foot. The stuff you can’t help thinking about even when you know perfectly well that dwelling on it isn’t going to help or speed things up at all.

I start with laundry, because I don’t have to think about it and because there’s always laundry waiting to be done. Then I go to mindless computer games, even though my beloved Pogo is giving me grief about using the AOL browser.

Sigh. Of course, be my guest. Go ahead. Mock me for using AOL. I’ll wait. I was waiting already, it’s no trouble.

All done? Good, I’m properly chastened and not changing a damned thing.

Sometimes I read, but it can be difficult to get into a book if my mind is busy worrying about whatever it is I’m waiting for. For which I’m waiting. Jeez, enough with the mockery already. I get it.

Of course when all else fails, I write a blog post.

Then there are times when I give up the wait prematurely and dash forward un-forewarned and unarmed. That’s rarely a good idea, but at the moment it looks like a plan.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Age Before Something

I was going to take a nice bath, so I went to get some clean towels. On my way through the kitchen, I checked the dog’s bowls. They were fine. I tried to remember why I was in the kitchen and realized I had been on my way to get the mail.

Yes, I know. That's the point.

So I got the mail, dealt with it, then was about to take the bath. There were no towels. Of course I went to get some. On the way, I stopped to do something else. You know what? I don’t remember what that was, which is pretty funny in itself.

The punch line is it took four trips before I got the towels. I still haven’t bathed yet, I thought I’d write this first.

Four trips.

Count’em, four.

That has to be a personal best. Congratulate me.

Oh, go ahead and roll your eyes. I used to, when I heard stuff like this. You’re just racking up the karma, dude. Because, if you’re very lucky, you’ll survive to be as old as me and this will happen to you.

When it does, please try to remember to get a Ouija board so I can laugh mockingly at you for a change.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cliché Cliché

Sunday night was one of those Los Angeles clichés, but not Los Angeles as it is now.

Instead, the night – or at least 20 minutes of it -- screamed of the stereotypical LA of television and movies from the butt end of last century. It was a 3D cliché of why everyone comes here, and what they do once they’ve unpacked and figured out whose couch they’ll sleep on and where they’ll wait tables or tend bar.

You know what I’m talking about. Earnest artistic vision that thinks itself unique, transmitted through a lot of effort and a wisp of ability. Don’t even get me started on talent. I have none, so I’d prefer not to complain about anyone else not having any. At least I don’t get on a stage and expect people to pay attention to me.

These two were young. They were not particularly attractive, although the female had very nice boobs on display. He played guitar and sang. She sang and waved a plastic tambourine while the ghosts of Davy Jones and the littlest Partridge girl laughed and wept. (Yes, the actress who played her is probably still alive. Don’t be picayune. It’s poetic license.)

I couldn’t understand the lyrics, some were obscure and some were just indecipherable. Drugs, recreational or prescription, may or may not have been an issue. If you wanted to parody the performance, you wouldn’t have to change a thing.

In their own way, they were likeable and really enthusiastic. I keep telling myself that. Enthusiasm is good. Youth can be good. They had lots of both. That adds up to good, right?

Wisdom: If you’re going to listen to what amounts to angry-poetry-with-guitar on a blisteringly hot evening, make damned sure the place has functional air conditioning.

I should’ve run away the minute the guy at the door said, “Leave it open, we need the fresh air.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

More Ask Auntie

Dear Aunt Scary,
See, I can get stuff cheap where I work and my friend asked me to get something for her so I did, and then I thought it was really cool so I used it but when I went back to work to get her one there weren’t any left and now she’s seen me with mine and she is so pissed. She’s kind of a drama queen anyway. Ok she’s really a drama bitch when she gets like this. What do I do?

Not her sister

Dear Not her,

First, breathe. Inhale, exhale. Good. Next, learn to use Spellcheck. Auntie took care of you this time, but I won’t be there when you have to type something else.

As for Bitchy Bernice, you have options. Did you say you'd get her the mystery thingie? If so, you owe her a sincere apology. You have to say that you broke your promise and you’re sorry. Then again, you don't sound sorry at all. Maybe you'll want to skip the apology.

If you didn’t promise, then you’re technically off the hook. You can stay away from her until she forgets or stops caring. You wouldn’t be acting like a real friend if you did that, but it sounds like you’re not really that good a friend to her anyway, so she’s not losing much except for whatever the mystery “something” was that’s now yours forever.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fake You

Popular culture adores authenticity. “OG” as a pinnacle has topped “the real deal” even with people who don’t know or remember what it stands for.

Reality -- or at least the claim to it -- is more popular than anyone in your senior class ever was.

“Wannabe” is a taunt. You’ve said (or thought) it yourself at some point, if not in so many words. Oh yes, you have. Don’t distract me. Auntie is making a point here about the blur between real and fake.

That can of fizzy drink going flat next to your keyboard, I bet it’s got artificial sweetener. People Photoshop their Facebook profiles. Was that Advil or generic Ibuprofen? Did you have a turkey burger or a chicken burger for lunch?

An older gent of my acquaintance uses that spray-on hair from the infomercials. Seriously, he does. It looks like you’d expect, which is to say no worse than a bad wig.

Shaved heads and Cialis are replacing toupees and sports cars. Botox (for either gender) is slowly becoming déclassé, but only because there’s better stuff out there.

Don’t look at me. My gray hair and wrinkly forehead notwithstanding, I’m fine with fake. I work out, that’s artificially building my muscles, at least in theory. I wear makeup and a bra.

Embrace the fake. A lot of faking is really, really good. Reconstructive surgery can be miraculous. I genuinely prefer soy milk to the extraction from cow udders. I’m sure Furries are very nice people if you get to know them.

Let’s face it. Honesty may be the best policy, but I’d rather hear something nice.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Merrie Medley

When I was younger, so much younger than today, ahem, sorry, let me start over.

When I was young – and I’m talking 20s and 30s here – it used to seem disingenuous when older people would wonder where the time went. Come on, they lived through all those days one after the other. How could the aggregate come as so much of a surprise?

Surprise! It really happens like that.

On the one hand, it’s semi-reassuring to know that I was just as annoying as any ordinary 20-something. Goody for me, I’ve achieved retroactive normalcy.

But on the other hand, the one in a metaphoric fist, it’s true. Time really does fly faster than the speed of sound which, I think, is also why you seem to speak so quickly.

Yesterday (honest, it was yesterday, I’m not using gratuitous Beatles references on purpose) my late father’s former apprentice came over. I hadn’t seen him since well before 1993, the year my father died. Take a look at the closest 19 year old. He or she wasn’t even born the last time I saw this man. This is freaky stuff.

It’s enough to make me want to buy a ticket for the last train to Clarksville. You can meet me at the station.