Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mixed Emotions About New Year's Eve

First, I don't think it should be a mandatory celebration just because we traveled on another year. No one celebrates November 1st which is the official holiday season...New Year's resolutions are silly -- you know you've got a problem (smoking, drinking, weight gain) well get off your languid ass and do something about it NOW. Wistful thinking isn't going to get you anywhere. Discipline will.

New Year's and St. Patrick's Day are the only two annual events that seem to be mandatory celebrations in a bar. Huh? Christmas is (by and large) reverential; Easter is joyous for reasons not clearly understood by me - death by cross has got to be extremely painful over a number of days.

I think it's healthier from a pyschological point-of-view to be grateful for all of the things that you currently enjoy. I'm grateful that Richie and I have a good, sound marriage; that we own more of the house than the bank does; that both cats, the cockatiel and (for the moment) both goldfish seem to be in good health. That we have "money enough" to indulge in an occasional splurge. For example, we bought tickets (instead of trying for Coach on MAA - which would have been free) to Paris. Air France is direct; MAA is not.

No, if I had to wish for something in 2010 it's that the following people would Just Disappear Awready!
*The entire Loham clan - attention junky Daddy, stage mommie Dina and Linsay who needs a pyschiatric intervention. Perhaps Sam Ronson would like to go with her.
* Johnson & Johnson heiress Casey and her mother. Same mental institution just for fun.
* Jon Gosselin. He's ugly, badly behaved and how the hell is he still "news"? Ans. He isn't.
* Every one of the exploitive TV shows -- survivors, bachelors, dancing, talent -- you get my drift. It's the days of the Roman circuses all over again. And that's not good...

In any event, do your best and have a happy New Year and 2010. NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Book Review

"It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time" by Moira Hodgson Doubleday 335 pages $24.95

Hodgson is a food critic for the NY Observer, a cookbook author and travel writer. This book has recipes, too.

Hodgson is the daughter of a British Foreign Service officer who was promoted to diplomat status. He later confessed to her, well after he retired, that in actuality he'd been working for M16 (British security and espionage.) Prior to being moved to the United Nations, New York, when she was 17, she'd already lived in Saigon, Berlin and Sweden in addition to an education in England.

Chafing at parental discipline, she moved in with a man with whom she spent the next seven years. Both were freelance travel writers and visited and lived in Lapland, New York and Mexico. After they broke up, she had an extended stay in Marrakesh where she developed a cancerous tumor in one eye and subsequently lost it. She treats this major event candidly without whining.

She traveled in a rarified world of other writers, famous chefs and other notables. An anecdote about Lilliam Hellman contained the observation that the much-older Hellman had a mother/son relationship with her young consort -- he was the mother; she was the son.

It was an interesting read and a lot of the interest came from my watching-a-train-wreck happening gaze at what she not only managed to eat but enjoyed. Me? Undoubtedly fainted dead away at some of them. Happily, reading about them is not the same as having to eat them...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This Restaurant Has a Bocce Court!

Tin Roof Bistro, 3500 N. Sepulveda, Manhattan Beach

Richie dropped me off in front and went to park the car. I looked around me with interest ... a low building with a sprawling front veranda with comfortable-looking chairs and tables. Between the veranda and the street was a long strip of raked sand. "Must be getting ready to sod it," I thought. It wasn't until we were seated and looking at the menu that I realized! "That's a bocce court."

Bocce Hour - 4 to 7 p.m. daily $2 off drinks, pizzas and salads - in the bar or Bocce Court area only.

Nothing shabby about the interior either -- banquets running along with walls with tables and chairs in front of them, subdued light, much of it from the spacious windows. Our server said the restaurant was supposed to reflect a Napa Valley winery.

Richie ordered a Simmzy's Berger with Tillamook sharp cheddar, sweet onion chow chow and aoli ($9.50.) I was hungry and the "fish and chips" appealed - homemade jumbo lump crab cakes, Napa cabbage slaw with chili vinaigrette, shoestring fries and tartar sauce ($21.50)

We ordered a draft beer - a traditional Belgian wheat beer; light, slightly cloudy (not wildly appealing in looks) with a spicy aroma (missed that part) and a big lemon back taste (got that.) ($12 for two.)

Our plates arrived and the plates were well filled. The crab cakes were big and round (like a meatball) the shoestring fries took up a third of the plate and the "slaw" the rest. Composed of chopped curly cabbage and red and yellow peppers, marinated in the vinagrette. The flavors were sweet and a little hot. Richie's burger was more than juicy. Our served passed him paper napkins, remarking "That's a two napkin burger!"

Future visits will allow me to explore such as: Pizza Bianca with figs and bacon ($12) or Baby Golden Beet salad (sugar and salt baked beets, goat cheese, shaved fennel, hazelnuts, red onion - and hold the arugula) for $10.25 A dessert caught my eye -- Brown Sugar Panna Cotta with a walnut and sea salt brittle and tangerine ($6.50)

Lunch and two beers came to $47.47 and I tipped $12 - that's how good the service was.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Book Review

"The Best American Travel Writing" edited by Simon Winchester Hought, Mifflin Harcourt 351 pages $14

When I saw it on the library shelf, I thought, "Ah-hah! Perhaps this can help me write 'travel' better!" and promptly checked it out. At home, my enthusiasm waned. Titles such as "The Generals in Their Labyrinth," "The End of the End of Revolution" or "Ecotouring in Honduras" didn't interest me.

Many would argue that "Travel is politics" and to a great degree it is. We travel (largely) to see things that we don't have at home. These, by their titles alone, were "thinky" pieces. Clearly I was out of my depth ("And not for the first time," many mutter.)

Still, determined to improve myself, I pressed on. The only name I recognized was Calvin Trillin, whom I enjoy very much. He wrote about Texas barbecue in a familiar, homey sort of way.

Encouraged, I pressed on to an account of a foreign correspondent's attempts to build himself a secluded cabin - in Patagonia. "Bolivia's Wrestlers" are women, of a certain age. "Tracking Down James Bond" was an examination of the ski slopes and the stunt skiers in many of the Bond films. "Terminal Beauty" was an examination of architect-designed airports. The Chattanooga River, sctting for the movie "Deliverance" was written by the daughter of the book's author.

But I still haven't gotten around to "Ecotouring in Honduras."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Our Correspondent in Israel

The BBC showed "Bethlehem by Night" on Christmas Eve and I was appalled at all of the neon! I e'd our correspondent in Israel, 'Don't they have any kind of historical preservation group there? Not that I'm particularly religious (I'm not) but the juxtaposition of the two was not pretty."

Shortly thereafter, she replied, "Unfortunately, Bethlehem is part of the Palestinian territory and therefore mainted by them. You were lucky to see it by night and to not see all the crap that is there -- little Jesuses, crosses, endless. Also, the names of the places beggar belief. "Manger Square" is a good example. By comparison, Jerusalem which is a part of Israel, is wonderful, totally in keeping with what Jerusalem is. Nazareth, which is an Arabic town, but within Israel, has also been brought into modern times. Of course, if you watch the main stream media you will probably hear that "due to the embargo, Israel only allows neon and plastic to be allowed in."

She added, "However, to the people who have the vision of "the little town of Bethlehem," the trashy modern version will not make a difference. They walked where Jesus was born; they will probably buy a plastic Jesus and go away - cleansed. I was shocked in Rome to see some of the religious crap they had. A picture of Mary if you looked at it from the right; an image of Jesus if you looked to the left. I guess money is the biggest God of all."

And I think she's right!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Poor Guy...

Richie looked out our kitchen window yesterday and reported, "The kid across the street got a motorized airplane -- he's flying it from the middle of the street."

"Oh," I nodded.

This morning, he looked out again and reported that the airplane is now on our next-door-neighbor's garage roof. There is no way to get it down without asking permission to board (so to speak) and using a ladder.

Reminds me of the year I got roller skates -- and it snowed. Or the year I got a sled and it didn't. Experiences common to all of us I have no doubt.

I just checked and the little airplane is flat on its back -- in a rain puddle.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Season's Greetings




Thursday, December 24, 2009

This Takes the Cake, the Plate AND the Table!

Yesterday I got an e-mail greeting from Mark and David Horowitz (father-son duo) at Coast Dermatology. Take a deep breath, know that I am incapable of making this up and read on.

The good doctors are offering a gift -- $100 off of a full syringe or $300 off two full syringes of Juvederm! A helpful aside mentions that a 0.8 cc of it goes for $500. I couldn't have been more horrified! The very idea of having what I presume to be a deadly poison - like Botox - injected into my face? AND paying for this "treat"?

I hate the idea that medical doctors are succumbing to the Youthquake of today's America. This belief that you're nothing if you don't Look Great! In my naivete, a dematologist checks your skin for possibly malignant skin cancers, treats rashes, boils and other insults to our derma.

Still, it's better to have a doctor do the process rather than the local beauty parlor operator.

MERRIMENT AND GLEE A cousin in South Texas forwarded this as a contribution to the season. The writer calls it "Tiger in Verse."

'Twas the night before Thanksgiving and out of the house
Tiger Woods came flying, chased by his spouse.

She wielded a nine iron and wasn't too merry
'Cause a bimbo's phone number was in his Blackberry.

He'd been cheating on Elin and the story progressed!
Woman after woman stepped up and confessed!

He'd been cheating with Holly, Jaimee and Cori
With Joselyn and Kalika. The world had the story.

From the top of the tour to the basement of blues,
Tiger's sad, sordid tale was all over the news.

With hostesses and waitresses he had lots of sex
When not in their pants, he was sending them texts.

Despite all his crying and begging and pleading
Tiger's wife went investing - a new home in Sweden.

And I heard her exclaim from her white Escalade
"If you're getting laid, then I'm getting paid!"

She's not pouting, in fact, she is full of good cheer.
Her pre-nup made Christmas come early this year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Not-So-Jolly Christmases

I took an informal poll and these were the results:

(East Texas) The Cowboy writes, "I have a Christmas story. One year my sister, who then was always broke and without resources, was flush due to a bonus from her work. She bought me the largest display from Hickory Farms in the mall. I was thrilled at that because she never bought me anything and I really do like the sausage and cheese. I brought it home and opened it Christmas Eve with my mouth all set for a treat. It was the Styrofoam display box! Broken-hearted me ... (pause) I think it was the vendor's mistake."

(Palos Verdes Estates) She nodded at her husband of 64 years and said, "He once gave me a vacuum cleaner for Christmas!" Awed, I asked, "How long did he wear it?" She frowned grimly, thought and replied, "It was at least two weeks before I spoke to him again."

(South Redondo) "I'd only been flying as an attendant for six months, so I had no seniority at all. I had to do an overnight in Boise Christmas Eve! There were only two FAs on that plance and as soon as we landed (the pilots had taken off again) she said, " I bid this because my family and my boyfriend are here -- see you for tomorrow's flight!"

She left me all alone in a strange town, strange hotel - everything was closed so I couldn't go buy a book -- I've never traveled without one since! The TV only got about three stations, the reception was terrible -- worst Christmas of my life!"

(Beverly Hills 27 years ago) Richie and I met July 14th and for our first Christmas, he gave me a bottle Shalimar (perfume, not cologne) and a rubber bath mat! He said my tub floor was slippery and I might fall.

(North Redondo yesterday) Richie's brother and his wife were so pleased that he's taken an interest in baking that they sent him a cake stand! Not any ordinary cake stand, you may be sure. A proud product of Sonoma Williams, it is made of very heavy glass (bulletproof?) could hold a cake big enough for a multitude and weighs enough that if it's ever dropped, I predict it would go straight through the dining room floor and wind up - intact - downstairs.

May you all fare much, much better this year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Drive-By Shopping/It's All Done!

This morning we went to the Manhattan Beach Mall, I hit two stores for gift certificates and we left. We stopped at Trader Joe's for two more. We went to Sports Authority (formerely SportMart) and I bought two more. We then proceeded to the Mail Boxes R Us (or equivalent) and mailed off: three bundles of rubberbanded Christmas cards, two padded envelopes, two packages, four envelopes bound to France and one to Israel. Damn! Those places are handy! The store was practically empty and it took less than 10 minutes.

Upon arrival at the Murphy Mansion, we discovered a large box near the front door. Grinning to myself, I unlocked the door and went upstairs. I had bought it for Richie. After awhile I hear him cussing at it, trying to heave it inside the house. Once it was in and the security door locked, he pounded up the stairs. "It's too big! I'll never get that box up the stairs."

Icily I suggested that go back downstairs, uncrate it and see. (Expletives deleted; it's the holiday season.) Pretty soon, here he came, carrying the new CD player (five at a time!) upstairs in the heavy duty shipping bag with one hand.

Now his tune was all happy - "This is great! Thank you!" I looked coldly at him and said, "Aren't you forgetting something?" "I love you?" "No. C'mon..." he looked questioning and I said, "How about 'I'm sorry I was such a (adj.) (noun)?'" "Oh," he said. "Oh, indeed," I replied.

If that's the worst exchange over the season, all will be well. However, neighbors and friends should be warned: the new system comes with karaoke abilities.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


A Delightful Discovery

Yesterday Richie wound up the snow-flake globe's music box and "O Christmas Tree" tinkled out and Lady Bird, our cockatiel began trilling along right with it! A couple of times she and it were exactly in sync! 40 monkeys all typing in the jungle would eventually write all of Shakespeare...

Richie is Fretting

Monday, his niece, her husband and their two little boys are scheduled to fly from LAX to JFK.
Michelle plans to be on the road from Paris to her parents' home near Aix-en-Provence. We saw pictures of snow on the beach at Nice yesterday...

Tuesday, the Brodskys are to fly from LAX to BOS (Boston) to be with their son and his three little girls.

"Raffish" should have no problems -- he went from LAX to Nicaragua yesterday.

Meanwhile the Weather Channel is on a great deal of the time here... I'm not particularly worried about it -- if it's meant to be, it will happen. No sense in fretting...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The First Good News of 2010

Las Brisas is NOT closing 12/31/09! Paula, one of the owners, told us that last night.

To explain, this is our favorite mexican restaurant and we've been going there for nearly 30 years. The menu never changes (cactus soup, winter or summer) and that comforts Richie. When we first started dating (1981) I couldn't get him into a Mexican resto. He'd wrinkle his nose, look doubtful and say, "I don't think the water's safe..." (Not kidding.) Today? He'd eat at Las Brisas once a week if I went along with it.

Both owners and all of the help are related in some fashion or another. We remember Alex, when he was 18 and a busboy. We applauded when he got the scholarship and today he's in computer sciences with a wife and two little kids. Maria cut her waist-length hair and now it's nearly that long again. (Ponytail, don't get excited.) I think of them all as "Cousin."

What most casual diners don't know is that underneath the street-level restaurant is a huge room with a bar, bandstand, booths and entry onto a 50 ft. square patio - complete with a big fountain. The building is set into a hill to explain this layout.

We didn't know about it either until about five years ago when we saw tons of people coming in, opening a door by the kitchen entry and ... disappearing.

The minute I saw the space, I knew I wanted it for our funeral "afters." It was perfect! And then, in September, we were told the building had been sold and the whole shebang was moving to a new location in a shopping market! Bitter tears...

But it isn't going to happen! Our space should be waiting for us 50 years from now. The funniest part of all of this is that the man who was terrified of Mexican food is going to be memorialized in the basement of one! How funny is that?

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Christmas Surprise

'Tis the season ... to feel sorry for the mail person. But I do love the cards, letters and photos. Yesterday we got what I thought was a card from Sue, who lives near chicago. We've been friends since kindergarten so I was anxious to see what she had to say.

First surprise -- it wasn't a card, it was a cookie recipe! She stuck a Post-It on it that said, "No, Nina -- my cards are not done ... I'm still baking cookies!"

She sent it to Richie! She knows I can't bake worth a damn!

Sift together and set aside:
2 cups flour
1/2 teas. salt
1 1/2 teas. baking powder

Cream together until light and fluffy:
2/3 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teas. vanilla
1/2 teas. almond extract

Add the dry ingredients and blend.

Take one cup of mix out of the bowl and add three drops of green food coloring to it.
Add 1/2 cup diced pistachio meat. Form it into a 10 in. long roll and chill for 15-20 minutes.

Go back to the cup of white dough and form it into a 10 X 4 rectangle; chill.

Wrap the white dough around the green "tube" of dough and slice the cookies 1/8 in. thick. Put them on an ungreased cookie sheet, giving each about 3 in. of space. Bake at 375 for 8 - 10 minutes.

Note to lazy readers like myself: Trader Joe sells bags of pistachio meat. Shelling them, then dicing them... more work than I want to do! Or, rather, have Richie do! I. Don't. Bake.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmases Past

The LA Times columnist "Ask Amy" was so bemused by the letters she got from advice readers on "My worst Christmas present ever" that sheAlign Right has a Web site for them.

I was reminded of our first Christmas 28 years ago. Richie gave me a bottle of Shalimar (perfume, not cologne) and a rubber bathmat! He said my tub bottom was slick.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Lone Voice Crying in the Wilderness. Again.

(That would be me.) What new groundswell of indignation can I attribute this to?

Two days of headlines (Drudge and elsewhere) "Houston May Elect/Elects First Openly Gay Mayor! What is so important about including a person's sexual orientation into a political or religious discussion/election? I'll tell you - nothing whatsoever!

What? Houston Elects First Closeted Gay Mayor? Clandestine Gay Elected Mayor?

It may come as a surprise to many, but Texas has just as many homosexuals as any other place. Don't let the cowboy image cloud reality.

To get to a source, I ranted about this to a friend (who is gay) and he replied, "She's a lesbian (as in "Who cares?") I reeled in shock. He went on to say that "Your city (RB) elected the first gay mayor in the country - how's he doing anyhow?" (Not phrased that politely.) I immediately fired back a missile on "accepting others" "individual prejudices ("I hate Obama/the Nazis/HiHos) are perfectly acceptable, but not group generalizations!"

He's laughing (loves to set me off) and I'm still fuming! Damn AP style!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Very Bad Idea - It Could Get You Killed

Many US cities have tours - historical buildings, old churches, botanical gardens. Few of them could be considered in any way dangerous. Cemetery #1, just outside the Old Quarter, New Orleans, is perfectly do-able -- in broad daylight with an established guide.

But now, a former gang member - one Alfred Tomas - is promoting "LA Gang Tours!" For $65 per person (presumably round trip) one can take a small tour bus past the LA County jail, Skid Row, the birthplace of the Black Panther Party, the Jordan Downs Housing projects, a graffiti lab 9?) and (shudder) South Central among others. Purpose? Ticket profits (if any) are set aside for gang improvement.

Tomas says he has set up a cease fire agreement among three of the most powerful gangs. "This agreement will allow young people and children safe passage through gun fire-free safety zones." You'll note that nothing was said about adults.

Tomas, formerly a South Central gangster himself, is now the director of the mobile food truck ministry with districts in both Blood and Crips housing developments. His mission statement (a phrase I hate, by the way) is to give hope to drug addicts, alcoholics and he said, "For every single mother struggling to pay her bills, don't give up!" How about "Make the worthless father get off his hind end and pay you money every week"? Nothing mentioned about that.

I did some research and found that: The Crips number 93 gangs in Los Angeles, 22 in Compton and another 11 in Long Beach. For a good explanation of the Bloods, go to

Since gang membership depends mainly on respect as a key ingredient -- and to dis someone is an instant death (not threat;) since many of them are not in full possession of their faculties (to say the least,) don't you think it has occurred to gangsters that tour buses, full of gawking strangers, are anything BUT respectful? To a gang member, finding a defenseless bus full of whales (i.e. people with money) has got to be a blessing from above!

This ran in Sunday's LA Times letters:

"I am going to get in touch with LA Gang Tours to get them to do a "drive by" on the house where two of my setp-children died due to gang activities. One son is left. Perhaps, if they get there in time, he can stand on the porch and wave.

"My late husband was in the same gang as his deceased sons. I bet he would turn over in his grave if he knew there was a possibility they could be exploited by this tour."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Vanity Tops Gullibbility

The Japanese have given us a number of cultural "oddities," if you will. In no particular order, Hello, Kitty, the Tamagotchi or Nano babies, Anime and the See-Through Skirt -- regular skirt material overprinted with a woman's body in underwear. Think of our t-shirts with the muscular dude or the well-endowed woman.

Now comes this* - Collagen is a long-time wrinkle filler; it's injected into the crease. It's now available in Japanese foods such as soft-shell turtle and pig's feet and Japanese woman are said to be cramming them down in the hope that the collagen will rise to its true destiny (so to speak) and depart from the stomach into facial wrinkles. The newest product is a slice of cheesecake! The manufacturer says each slice contains 1,000 milligrams of collagen.

Annet King, of the International Dermal Institute said, (scornfully I hope) "There's no way that eating collagen boosts collagen in skin." Drop the pigs feet, ladies, and have a steak instead.

* Source: January issue of "W"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cookie Masters -- and Their Monsters

When Richie began dabbling in baking, he found the Thurs. Writers an excellent source of feedback. They became his personal taste test staff. Yesterday he dazzled them with --

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teas. backing powder
Pinch of salt
7 T sweet butter, softened. NOTE: When he went to roll the dough into balls, it crumbled; needed more butter so keep that in mind.
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teas. vanilla extract
1/2 cups chocolate chips to finish.

Mix the flour, backing powder and salt together, set aside. Beat the butter until creamy; add the sugar. Beat a bit more, stir in the vanilla. Gradually blend in the flour until you have a soft dough.

Shape the dough into small balls, put them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and make an imprint in each cookies' center. Bake at 350 for 16 - 18 minutes until firm and golden brown. Melt the chocolate and fill the indents.

He took them 12-14 cookies in a plastic box and brought the box home ... empty.

Then my sister e'd in a panic! Did I have THE Sugar Cookie recipe? She and our mother made and decorated them every year until Jane married and, in time, she and her daughter made and iced them. Happily, she'd only misfiled it, but I e'd it to her anyway.

3 cups flour
2 teas. baking powder
1 teas. slt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 teas. vanilla
1/4 cup milk

Sift tother the dry ingredients, cream the shortening and sugar together and the the eggs and beat.
Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the milk and vanilla. Let chill for about 2 hours.
Roll out and cut with cutters -- a star, camel, Santa -- and bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen.

I don't bake; I got to Trader Joe's for a box of Pfeffernusse, a German, spicy cookie. These have a wonderful crisp covering that breaks into a soft cake filling as you devour them.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Devilishness

Due to the fact that the new computer only accepts CDs for storage -- and not the 3 in. "floppies" I'd stored the Christmas addresses on, I had to labroiously re-type the whole thing.

But as I did, I thought of the people who would be receiving them ... "Will so-and-so still be in the nursing home?" Of old neighbors, 20 years gone, "Their boys must be in college by now!" I love getting Christmas letters, too. The more information, the better! One card's letter said they'd re-done their kitchen (appliances and all!) and re-landscaped their (huge) backyard. I thought, "Damn! Wish I'd known that before they did it -- I could have borrowed some money from them!"

But I also got to be the terrible, snide, evil person God meant me to be. If you haven't sent us a crd in three years, you're history! Ta!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Our Social Climes editor is back at her desk, ready to report on the Vanguard's last meeting.

"Good afternoon. This venue was held in the 12th (and top floor) grand ballroom of the Double Tree Hotel, Torrance. Upon entry, the space unfolds into three shallow levels, each with tables of 10. Seating was assigned by table number and then place cards. One's place card was either yellow (chicken) or orange (salmon.)

"The menu began with bread rolls and butter, followed by salad, choice of ranch or raspberry dressing. Entrees were either chicken or salmon with a version of potatoes au gratin and steamed broccoli, squash and on some plates, a carrot round. Dessert followed with coffee and was a dense chocolate cake slice.

"On the way home, I asked Richie "What was that bird on the plate? A pullet? Miniature chicken? (Naturally I didn't touch mine -- a dark brown half with leg, wing and slice of breast with rosemary stuck hither and thither on it.) He replied, "Dunno - might have been pigeon (referring to the size) - it was okay." The master sleuth then added, "Didn't you eat yours?"

"A designated prize (your name was called out) and then a drawing for cash money. Not expecting to win anything (not a member) I repaired to the Ladies Room where, from my seat, I heard, "Neena Murphy! Neena Murphy!" (pause) "YOU don't look like a Neena!" as Richie collected my prize.

"As the grande finale, a man named Kimo came to the lecturn. He reminded those present that he had been a founding father 29 years ago, he listed some of the groups achievements. Participation as support staff for the LA Olympics, charitable work, long association with Toys for Tots, he told us The Last Joke. In previous meetings Kimo always told a bunch of old online jokes, all of whom I had heard before, some as many as within the last 10 years. His final joke:

A group of nuns went to a baseball game, in full regalia - gowns, wimples, starched hats. The guys behind them couldn't see the game and began deliberately talking loudly to be overheard.

First guy: I think we should go to Wyoming - I hear there's only 50 nuns there.
2nd Guy - No, North Dakota -- there's only 28.
3rd guy - "No, no -- Maine - there's only 14!

At which point the Mother Superior rose to her full height, turned and said, "Why don't you go to hell - there's NO nuns there."

Told you so ...

Prattling ...

Brr Fer Sure!
At 6:12 this morning, it was 44 outdoors and 55 in our living room. Into winter mode at warp speed! Turned on the gas wall heater in the upstairs hall full blast, waited 15 minutes and then turned on the dining room ceiling fan at it's lowest speed. Warmth spread.

Our house, like many along our street was built in the '60s and while they are all solidly built, they are not insulated. Then as now, central air is not needed (one mile east of the beach) so minimal heat was provided.

We use our next-door neighbor's garage roof as a weather channel of sorts. It's flat, rain water pools on it and we can estimate rainfall; rain drops ripple the sitting water so we can see exactly how heavy any rain might currently be. This morning Richie reported he saw a thin glaze of ice on it.

I have learned (over approximately 24 years) never to remonstrate with Richie, "It's winter, dammit!" because he will smugly reply, "It's not 'winter' until December 21st which is the shortest day of the year." (Unspoken 'So Ha!') This response only raises my blood presssure, so I have learned to say, "Brrr! It's cold!" No one could argue with that.

The Tiger Woods Furor
I am genuinely not getting it. Mistress after mistress (allegedly) comes forward. So what? If you've read dan Jenkins' "Dead Solid Perfect" (and you should) you would know that his life style is more the norm than not in the golf world.

I say if you want scandal, you've only to peruse the items about Angelina and Brad -- six kids and not married yet! Now that's a shanda!

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime
This morning the upstairs toilet was blocked. Richie just finished snaking it out and reports that it is operable. Now he has to shave, shower and get into his finery for today's last Vanguards Christmas luncheon. I do think a champagne toast to their illustrious past would be appropriate since I find champagne suitable for every occasion. Especially if someone else is paying for it.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Two Books...

"Barack and Michelle - Portrait of an American Marriage" by Christopher Anderson William Morrow 326 pages $25.99

This book is basically a rehashing of the stories about the Obamas during the long campaign. Yes, she is a controlling woman; he is the dreamer who believes it'll all come out all right (against all evidence to the contrary would be what Miz Obama would say.) Yes, she does run him like a train; yes, he likes it and considers them a true partnership ...

Moving on ...

"Even" by Andrew Grant Minotaur Books 341 pages $24.95

Author Grant is a former telecommunications executive, who lives in the UK with his family. This is his debut novel and judging by the list of authors who endorse him (Nelson DeMille, Tess Gerritsen, Ridley Pearson, Jeffrey Deaver to name a few) he is very, very good.

But I had a hard time getting interested. David Trevellyan, of Royal Naval Intelligence is a loner (much like Lee Child's character Jack Reacher) with a somewhat sardonic sense of humor -- veddy, veddy British, old chap.

But by page 40 I was interested. Grant's use of devices in ingenious (if somewhat James Bond-ish) and, of course, Trevellyan is able to take out whole regiments at once - without getting a scratch or scrape. Each chapter begins with Trevellyan's memories of childhood and then naval training which give you insight into how and why he thinks the way he does.

I look forward to Grant's second and since Trevellyan is alive and well at the end (which you ill note all through the book - not giving anything away here) I would imagine we'll be seeing him again.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bird Menaces and Child Pornography

A Korean Air jet was grounded just before take-off so that the crew could catch a sparrow that had come in through the jetbridge door and was flying around inside the plane. All of the 123 passengers dutifully exited the plane, got on a different plane and took off. Delay time? Three hours. Helluva'n agile sparrow or a bird-terrified crew ... you decide.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey launched an 8-day raid that netted them 1,236 geese. (What happened to the geese was not disclosed, but some people like them for Thanksgiving or Christmas meals.) Volunteers coated 1,739 eggs with corn oil so that they wouldn't hatch. Both acts came to a grand total of $50,000. You will be interested to learn that there are now 20 people licensed to carry shotguns on airport grounds...Wear an orange vest if you're boarding there.

A United Kingdom children's advocate group is up in arms. The full-body scanners being tested at Manchester Airport violates the laws against child pornography!!! The airport management argued back that the scanners do not constitute child pornography under the 1978 Protection of Children Act, but prudently backing down a bit, they have gotten legal counsel.

Source: Vanguards last newsletter after 35 years.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Race

Back in mid-October, I was felled by a virus on a nerve in my right leg. After about five doctor visits (two MDs - orthopod to neuro hand-off) it was decided that I have a "viral ridiculitis of the iliac femoral nerve." An anti-viral drug was prescribed and I took it. Happily the leg began to respond. The neuro assured me I'd be my old self by the first of the year.

Two nights ago, the very same symptoms began to show up in my "good" leg. Happily I had refilled the anti-viral Rx just before I was told "10 days only."

The race, you ask? Can the drug beat the virus before the next symptoms show up?! Bet to the drug because if not, I project that I'll be falling down all over again by Tuesday morning. I've got the weekend to load up on books and snacks before I reclaim Richie's recliner. C'mon on drug!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Oooh, Santa Babee!

We saw Santa tooling north on Aviation yesterday -- yup, red hat, white beard and what looked like the standard-issue suit -- all I could see through the window of Santa's shiny black Corvette. Santa's not at the North Pole anymore; he's gone Hollywood.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Official Proclamation!

As the Honorary (and imaginary) Mayor of this town, I hereby proclaim that yesterday was the first day of winter in Redondo Beach. On December 2, 2009, the following events took place:

I woke up to find both cats sleeping on the leeward side of Richie - first time this season.
I wore my Ugg boots (ditto)
We received our first Christmas card - thanks! Kathy and Wayne!
Michelle sent us from France (at 10 Euros in postage!) a pair of Tintin comic books - in English! - and wrote that she was sending two "so that there will not be any fighting." As ever, the Peacemaker.

Thus - you may now begin decking the halls ...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tree Huggers and Greenies - Rejoice!

Up for adoption! For a holiday gift or for yourself...

Adopt an olive tree from the Nudo olive estate in the Italian Apennines - you'll receive four tins of the first cold-press-extra virgin olive oil in the Spring and three tins of infused olive oil in the Fall. One year - $150

Closer to home - adopt a maple tree - and get the syrup! You will receive a certificate, a photo (of the tree) and a package of products for each tap you purchase. per tap - $23.40

Adopt a rain forest tree! The purveyors state that it will never be destroyed or "commercially exploited" (How do you exploit a tree? Take pictures of it sans bark?) You will receive ownership documents with the GPS location for your tree, located in Biaciu, Brazil. $49.95 (Please google adopt a rainforest tree)

Stepping back from the woods - adopt a llama or an alpaca for 25 Euros a month for 12 months. A certificate, a photo with details about your llama, two free admissions to the Park along with their newsletter (Stay in touch with your llama!) Ashdown Forest Llama Park, somewhere in England.

The Adopt-A-Highway program (familiar to many a freeway traveler) exists in 14 states. The monthly fee paid goes to Adopt-A-Highway to actually do the trash pick-ups. Closer to home, Adopt-A-Street in Long Beach, CA. The cost varies based on location (1/2 mile long) and times per month it has to be cleaned up.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mr. Creative Has Another Brainstorm

Richie is tireless in his efforts to provide fun events for others. His suggestions to the Thurs. Writers have been largely ignored by them. They're really too old to go for a shot and a beer after critique, among other daft schemes.

Our leftover turkey provided him with a new challenge - make something with it! I was against this since our turkey had not been all that good to begin with.

Cartoon: a turkey stands alone in a barnyard, looking pouty. Caption: "You only want me for my breasts!" Our turkey was (to be charitable) a B cup at best. Just as I'd said, no one wanted dark meat, so the legs and wings lay forlornly next to a picked-over breast.

Undaunted, he disappeared downstairs to his lair yesterday and soon re-emerged, waving a French cookbook (Charles Virion's French Country Cookbook.) He had just the thing - and if it was good, he'd suggest it to Michelle for their Christmas leftovers!

HACHIS A LA PARMENTIER (Hash a la Parmentier)
2 to 3 cups leftover, cook meat (turkey, chicken, ham, veal) finely chopped
Minced onion sauteed in butter
1 egg
Finely-chopped parsley
Beef consomme
Bread crumbs and sesoning to your taste (he went with Italian seasoning and pepper)
2 medium-sized potatoes
4 T sweet butter
1 cup grated Swiss cheese

Mix the leftover meat with the onions, add the egg, parsley, consomme, bread crumbs and seasoning. Spread this in a layer across the bottom of a meatloaf pan.

Boil the potatoes and make mashed potatoes with the butter and Swiss cheese. Cover the meat with the potatoes and bake at 350 for 45 minutes, browning the top in the broiler at the end.

Basically, this is a meatloaf covered in mashed potatoes; "a la so-and-so" be damned. It turned out well, a nice winter comfort food. He was so proud of himself for using up the leftovers. "Waste not, want not" he cooed as he put it on the table.

This morning I was relieved that this latest burst of creativity had passed. Until, brandishing the newspaper, he said, "I'm going to re-do the kitchen!" I said, "No, Richie, you say, 'I want to discuss re-doing the kitchen with you.'"

He showed me the article which featured a kitchen photo with a long mirror, tilted over the stove top. "Are you expecting the Food Channel?" I asked dryly. "Not a bad idea ..." he said thoughtfully, lost in a new dream.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Fanzine Extravaganza!

"Top Chef - The Cookbook" by Brett Martin with an intro by Tom Colicchio Chrnoicle Books 256 pages $29.95

This might be considered a treasure for viewers of a TV show called "Top Chef" who have short-term memory loss. Each season is lovingly detailed, complete with bios on all of the participants, their cooking philosopies. Each recipe is extensively detailed as to chef, Season #, Episode # and the Elimination Challenge: "Cook the best meal of your life!" (Macademia Nut Gazpacho with Pan-Roasted Moi Fish" doesn't sound all that good to me...)

Illustrated with copious photos of contestants, competition sites and detailed lists of menus for each Top Chef finalist.

For Oddity Collectors, may I present:

BANANA GUACAMOLE (A dessert topping)

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
4 teas. fresh ginger juice
1/2 cu sugar
Pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste
4 ripe bananas
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro + more for garnish
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil + more for garnish
2 T chopped fresh taragon + more for garnish (I'm starting to think "Banana mush with haystack on top ...)

Put the lime juice, ginger juice, sugar and red pepper flakes in a sauce pan and heat to simmer; simmer for 10 minutes until it gets 'syrupy." Mash the bananas separately, stire in the syrup and add the cilantro, basil and tarragon. Serve over chocolate ice cream

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Crass Commercialization.

Thanksgiving afternoon and evening, we were bombarded with TV ads -- Get up before dawn! Hurry right on down! "Store opens at 4 a.m." The purpose of this merciless onslaught? To put merchants into the asset side of the column (black.)

This morning's front page of the paper showed a color shot of a father and son, exiting a Best Buy (or equivalent,) both beaming with happiness and pride. Now, had they been carrying armloads of winter coats, sweaters and blankets for kids, I would have applauded them. Each had his arms open wide to carry ... a big screen TV each.

Today (Sunday) the exhortations have begun for us to celebrate "Cyber Monday!" during which we are all supposed to go online and buy stuff. "Shop in the comfort of your own home!" is the come-on.

I suppose it makes sense (for the Post Office and UPS) to get as much pre-Christmas shipping done as is possible before the week before Christmas.

My shopping will be simplicity itself -- one stop each at Target and Trader Joe's for gift cards. It amuses me to write a little message like "Super Bowl Supplies here! Have a good one!" I certainly won't save any money, but the recipient gets to choose what he/she wants, not what I thought they could use or would like.

Santa, you need to get in on this ... surely the elves are well past retirement age by now...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Post T-Day Report

They came. They ate (four one-half hours at table.) They left. A good time was had by all.
What always makes it a good evening with these friends is the fact that none of us are wallflowers; all always have an opinion and discussion is encouraged. No dishes or glasses were broken and it wasn't necessary to disturb the police on their holiday night.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Keeping Up With the Jonses dept. - We've always had a lot of choices for our holiday turkey dinner -- free range, pop-up or not, Tom or Hen? Comes now a (to me) sinister new trend. My sister in Illinois is serving roast pheasant; down in East Texas, they will be dining on Cornish game hens... Once again, I am left in the dust by the roadside, wondering what in hell just passed me by...

Phone Fun on Thanksgiving -- When it rings, pick it up, make gobbling noises and then squeak, "Save me! Save me!"

Explaining Caviar - Back in September, we, Tony and Rafael celebrated their birthdays with the Sunday brunch at Ports O Call. I was excited, I'd be able to "do caviar" for them. I toured the salad bar; it wasn't there. An assistant manager said they hadn't put it out. He'd check on it. I had "the boys" ask about it on the frequent forays into the dining room. Finally, we were told, "They forgot to order it." Sighing dismally, I downed another glass of champagne.

Then, since both were coming for Thanksgiving Day I began to plan my menu. Dinner itself was simple enough (turkey, dressing, gravy, green beans, candied yams - the usual suspects) but what should I do for an appetizer? "Okay, they're guys; little pizza rounds? No. Too filling." And then it hit me - CAVIAR! (Bev Mo sells it.)

One ounce of caviar undoubtedly cost more than the entire dinner, sparkling pinot grigio included.

But my mission - Spreading Caviar Love - would be completed. I can relax, content that I have added two more aficionados to the ranks! No, no, no thanks needed - just send me an ounce of caviar!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Contradictions of the Season

Much of this month's mail has meant receiving earnest pleas from charitable organizations to "feed the homeless on Thanksgiving!" Well and good, but what are the poor bastards going to do for dinner the other 364 days of the year? If you take their presentations seriously, one does have to wonder. I cheerfullly donate to a canned foods drive the Post Office does a couple of times a year which strikes me as perhaps a bit more practical.

I really despise "the celebs" who pose so cheerfully, graciously dishing out food to "the less fortunate among us," smug in the knowledge that their Hummer and driver will pick them up afterwards and take them home to a much needed wallow in the jacuzzi. "Stealth" charity is, to me, the finest kind.

And then there's Wretched Excess." I was appalled last night to see ad after ad on TV; stores begging customers to be on time for their 4 a.m. post-Thanksgiving Day sales! What kind of idiot would set their alarm for 3 a.m. to be at some low-rent clothing store at 4 a.m.? Quite possibly the types we've all seen (via hilarous photos online) shopping at Wal-Mart.

But: mine is not to ponder and stew; but to be grateful for all the wonderful things I do have -- mainly friends. My toast tomorrow is going to be "While we can't choose our relatives, we sure as hell have good taste in friends!" (No family members will be present to be hurt by this announcement.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Double Bummers

My opportunities to read during my convalescence have been ramped up quite a bit. Unfortunately, what looked good, in this case wasn't. With no further ado --

"Me Cheetah" (ostensibly) by Cheetah Ecco Publishing 320 pages $24.99

This purports to be the biography of Tarzan's longest-running co-star, Cheetah. We first meet Cheetah in a Palm Springs Animal Sanctuary (this doesn't mean much, but I have never heard a word about such a place in all of our trips there) and he is 72 years old.

His life begins amiably enough in a rain forest. he is trapped with a group of apes and taken to New York to work with an animal trainer for the cinema. He then becomes a co-star with Johnny Weismuller, in 'Tarzan, the Ape Man" series films.

Cheetah gives us his opinions of various Hollywood personalities (all conveniently now dead so no defamation suits) and talks about his undying devotion to Tarzan. Other than dirt ("So and-so had a cocaine habit!" "This one never wore underwear!") this book is totally dull.

"Heroes Among Us" by John Quinones Harper Collins 257 pages $24.95
I thought this book would be interesting as I like human interest stories. Was I wrong.

Quinones is the anchor of ABC's "What Would You Do?" a co-anchor on "Primetime" and a "20/20" correspondent.

He begins the book by describing his childhood in San Antonio, a 6th generation Mexican-American. He shunned gangs, came home promptly from school, etc. due to his mother's strong influence on him. He learned very early that education is the key to success and most recently received his Masters in Journalism.

Interspersed among the chapters are challenges to the reader - "What would you do?" in various scenarios with a multiple choice set of answers.

All was going well for me (even though the author is kind of a gas bag) until I came to page 89 and read the following description of the Strip, Las Vegas: ...and the Bellagio Hotel with its 29 ft. tall fountains flowing with molten white and dark chocolate and past the fake Eiffel Tower at Caesar's Palace...

Perhaps he was describing the fountains creatively (although they just look like water to me) but to put the Eiffel Tower in front of the wrong hotel made me lose all credibility and doubt everything I had read previously. Flip! I closed it and put it in the back-to-the-library stack.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Little Goes A Long Way..

"Andy Rooney - 60 Years of Wisdom and With" by Andy Rooney BBS Publishing 286 pages $26.95

He was born January 4, 1919 (turned 90 this year) and went on to found a great career based on little more than being a professional curmudgeon. He has always made a point of never NOT having an opinion.

He and the late Marguerite married in 1942, and had four children - three girls and a boy. She died in 2004 and Rooney was said to be inconsolable.

The book is loosely divided into three parts - memoirs, essays on such as "Chairs" (he's for them,) the importance of everyone personally taking their trash to the dump (Uh, Andy? Few cities have dumps any more) to better appreciate what we throw away. The last section is a compilation of what he specifically dislikes and likes. (Christmas made the cut; he likes it.)

The book is interesting enough if you don't try to read all of it in one day. I think of it more as a browser book as in "Well! Let's just see what Any Rooney thinks about that!"

Incidentally, many of us have seen online a list of things he is said to have written -- he didn't and would love to discover the real author.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It Was 46 Years Ago Today ...

Until I scanned John Bogert's column in the Daily Breeze this morning, I hadn't remembered that President Kennedy was assassinated on this date 46 years ago.

Given the impact that it had on our entire nation -- even as late as 20 and 30 years after the fact -- I was pleasantly surprised that I had, indeed, forgotten it.

I can only hope it won't take 46 years for me to blur the still-vivid mental pictures of 9-11.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

In Defense of "Season's Greetings!"

December traditionally celebrates three distinct sets of holidays - Christmas (for Christians,) Chanukah (for Jews) and Kwanzaa (for African-Americans.) Two are religion-based; the last is relatively new -- it was first celebrated December 26 to January 1st in 1966. That period of time was one of black nationalization caused by events such as the assasinations of Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy; the Freedom Riders and Rosa Parks. It was, in its original form, a rite for Africa-Americans to shun Christmas as "a white man's celebration."*

Thus, since you may be addressing an office full of various personalities or a group of friends, it would be Politically INcorrect to set about it in this fashion: "Mary, George, Edna - Merry Christmas!" or "Bruce, Don, Esther! Happy Chanukah!" and "Emma, Bob, Antwon! - Enjoy Kwanzaa! Horrors! You have singled out others! Individualized them!

I think the most tactful greeting is "Greetings during this holiday season!" You haven't offended anyone; you clearly mean this season only and that at the proper time, you'll address them with "Happy New Year!" which is generic indeed.
* Source:

Friday, November 20, 2009


I had forgotten all about persimmons until we saw them at the Farmer's Market. Foolishly I reminisced about Aunt Vera's persimmon pudding. (Yes, the aunt whose farm was the site of the psyche-ruining gun episodes.)

I described the dish's lush texture, deep flavor and, of course, the cream on top you could stand a spoon in. Aunt Vera had a sly little trick -- she'd "adjust" the separator occasionally and that was the source of the cream.

Naturally Richie couldn't stand it and immediately bought a half dozen persimmons. I didn't have the recipe (I don't think anyone still in the family has it.) I had to explore and found one on that I dutifully printed out for him, knowing bread pudding is not genuine pudding.

He made it Wednesday and decided to bring it in for the Thurs. Writers to test. They liked it; the only complaint was that it could have had less liquid with which Richie heartily agreed.

(If you remember -- and why should you? -- He brought them a pumpkin pie the week before. I warned them that he is trying to ingratiate himself with us and to be vigilant of these efforts.)

2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups Hachiya puree
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup raisins (or consider using raisin bread)
1 teas. vanilla
pinch of salt
8 cups cubed, white bread
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 T sweet butter, cut into bits to dot over the finished product

Set the oven at 375. Whisk together the milk, puree, brown sugar, eggs, raisins, vanilla and salt in a large bowl then marinate the bread in it for 15 minutes (or more.) Stir in the walnuts, put the whole thing in a buttered baking dish, dot with butter and bake until it is golden, pufffed and set. Let cool and dig in!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"I Was In a Hurry ..."

That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it. We were in the library and I was skimming the non-fiction shelves when I saw "Mennonite In a Little Black Dress" by Rhoda Janzen Henry Holt & Company 241 pages $22

In my haste, my brain saw "Mennonite" but told me "Mormon." Mormons have always been a source of great curiosity to me and since I have so far been to lazy too google or wikipedia them, I still don't know much.

Au contraire Mennonites. My mother's people were Mennonites; in fact most of the communities around Wichita, KS, were, too. Generalizing I'd say the faith is designed to promote hard work and pride in hard work, which provides a source of strength to the individual and the community; thrift, pacifism "There's never been a good reason to go to war," and just in general: "Be nice."

Janzen's book details her reaction when her husband of some 13 years abruptly leaves her for a guy named Bob he met on She quickly blames her faith, indicating that all Mennonite women are non-confrontive, unwilling to "rock the boat."

She should only have met my Mennonite maternal grandmother who ruled the roost (gentle, dreamy husband and eight kids) with an iron fist and a shrew's nagging mouth.

It takes most of the book for Janzen to come to grips with her own passiveness, caused solely by her own self. Despite long passages of wailing and gnashing, it's a funny book. Janzen has a good sense of humor and laughs at herself as well as others. Few of us would describe our own mothers as "having no neck; just a head sitting on shoulders" or say of our fathers, "This is probably the first mention in print of my father's attractiveness.."

It was a good enough read (go for the humor) just don't do what I did. Clearly, unmistakably Mormons and Mennonites have very different religious styles.

Desite long passages of wailing and gnashing

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What A Lovely Obituary!

I find obituaries quite interesting and on the road, if I come across the local paper, I will turn to that section. In the Midwest and parts of Texas, I often find a religious reference -- "Gone home to Jesus" "Now in God's house." Out here in So. Calif., the chosen word seems to be "passed." Now what the deceased "passed" - gravy boat? - is never explained. I like the flat-out "died" myself.

In this mornings Daily Breeze though I found the best one of all (so far.)
Bennett, Clark Lynn
September 10, 1939
November 14, 2009
His incredible life's story is the dash between dates. That dash represents all the time he spent alive on earth, and everyone who knew him knows what that little line is worth.
He loved and was loved.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Making Fun of the Gimp

That would be me about me...Readers with good memory recall will remember that I reported back in mid-October that I didn't have a herniated disc.

After some delicate probing of the neuro, I discovered that officially I have: viral ridiculitis of the iliac femoral nerve. Aren't you glad to know that and didn't you instantly "get it"? I certainly didn't!

"Ridic" (for short) is continuing to improve, due largely to the anti-virus drug I was prescribed.
I knew -- vaguely -- that antiviral drugs existed so taking 5 a day was a new experience. Now I am nearly at the end of them and am firmly convinced that the minute I swallow the last one I will be all back to normal (referring to physical state, not mental.)

Meanwhile, a minor setback this morning. I arose from my side of the bed, fully energized, ready to take on the world! So much so that I completely forgot that I'm not normal and started stepping up the stairs as any one would. 2nd step - WHOMP. Happily I managed to spin and sit - on the bent up back leg. Happily it hurt nothing but my amour propre (loosely translated as self respect.)

On the positive side, I haven't developed recliner bedsores (decubitis) yet. And I can one-step up and down the stairs easily. I can also pull "bad leg" in after me to get in the car without using hands. I'll be well before I know it!

After all, said piously, I am the only one who can control my moods and I have decided to take a positive stance (which I can do with the knee locked.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Other Voices, Other Rooms"

(A Truman Capote title.)

Writers, like singers, are said to have a "voice" (many also have vices, but I digress) but in a different way. A "writer's voice" is his/her writing style. Elmer Leonard - terse, few descriptions, mostly dialogue for example.

Last week at Thurs. Writers, Dale gave me a book he had finished and enjoyed titled "The Circle." He said it was a bout a writing group in Chichester, England, and I immediately thought, "Uh, oh - a British cozy" (meaning largely folksy.) I didn't have high hopes at all. The book was cheaply printed (or so it seemed to me) and the "circle" books have been done nearly to death -- sewing, quilting, knitting ... yes, all familiar.

To my pleased surprise though, it was a skillfully told story about a widowed man with a 14 year old daughter who writes jingles or doggerel because it amuses him. The group sounded congenial in its newspaper ad so somewhat reluctantly, he decides to take in a meeting. "It can only be amusing," he thinks, "just the one night."

As it happens, things are not quite as they seem within the group. In fact, one of them is a murderous arsonist! Not the man who writes fantasy nor the female erotic poet ... not the old dear with an outdated book of "Household Hints for the 20th Century" nor the man with the how-to-garden book.

Each of the members is spotlighted and quickly temperaments, styles and voices come through to the reader. The hero, Bob, is clearly human as are all of the other characters -- it's a skillful writing job and upon looking at the back flap, I see that author Peter Lovesey has won the British Crime Writers Association Silver and Gold Daggers plus the Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement. In the Us, he has received Edgar and Ellery Queen Readers Awards.

From a room in Chichester to one in Redondo Beach ... with a variety of voices.

"The Circle" by Peter Lovesey Little, Brown & Company 358 pages $24

Friday, November 13, 2009

Richie and the Writers

I know he is curious about what we do and talk about every Thursday afternoon. He is always full of suggestions about what we could do. Some ideas have been - charter a bus and go to a Dodger game! Head for the Anza Inn after each meeting and have a shot and a beer! Meet outside in Veteran's Park in nice weather! He will say, "Don't forget to tell them about the Palos Verdes library book sale!" I have yet to leave for a meeting without some suggestion ringing in my ears.

Richie is not allowed to attend our meetings (except for a social half-hour before we start critique and to the annual Christmas pot luck luncheon - to which all Significant Others are invited.)

As a warm-up to our own Thanksgiving meal, he baked a "test" pumpkin pie, probably to see if he's lost his touch in the year since he last made one. As usual, it was perfect. He announced that he would be bringing it to the Thurs. Writers (more formally known as the South Bay Writers Workshop.)

There were six of us present. I brought paper plates and plastic forks and cut the pie into eight equal slices. Everyone had a slice (in fact, Donna had two) while he moved the car. He got the last piece and to visit and then it was 1 p.m. and he was summarily banished (by me; they were perfectly content to let him stay, but I knew that he could never keep his mouth shut and while Richie has many, more stellar qualities than most, he is emphatically not a literary critic.)

But he does make a damned fine pumpkin pie.

Crust: store-bought graham cracker, baked to manufacturer's specifications.
1 1/4 cups plus 2 T milk
2 T butter
2 eggs
1 15-oz. can pumpkin (Libby's, I believe)
1/2 cup sugar plus 2 1/2 T additional sugar.
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 teas. cinnamon
1/2 teas. ground ginger
1/2 teas. ground nutmeg
1 T milk for brushing the crust edges

Re-heat the oven to 450 (after baking the pie crust)
Heat the milk until just hot, not simmering
Remove from the heat, add butter
Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl and add the pumpkin, sugar, salt and spices.
Stir until well blended and then stir in the hot milk mixture.
Brush the pie crust edges with the milk.
Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 450 for 15 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 and bake an additional 35 minutes.

Each serving: 326 calories, 6 grams protein, 43 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 15 grams fat, 9 grams saturated fat, 113 mg cholesterol; 222mg sodium.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Very Good Read

Since I have become a recliner dweller, I've had a lot of time to read. Happily, it's one of my very favorite occupations.

"First Ladies - An Intimate Group Portrait of White House Wives" by Margaret Truman Fawcett Books 335 pages $14.95 (paperback.)

Few could be more qualified to write about these woman. She is the only child of Bess and Harry Truman and, starting with Eleanor Roosevelt, has known every living First Lady since then.

Rather than a dreary chronicle - year by year - of what they were like, she has sorted them out into classifications. To name a few of the 25 chapters --

"Pioneer Crusaders" - Lucy ("Lemonade Lucy) Hayes, the first presidental wife to have a college degree and the first to ban serving alcoholic beverages in the White House. (Entrepreneurs would pay staff for a "real" drink behind her back.)

"The Lost Companion" - Eleanor Roosevelt. FDR cheated on her; she found the love letters from Another Woman and flatly refused ever to have anything to do with him at all. Let's say it was no accident that she spent most of the White House years on the road.

"The First Lady Who Wanted the Job" - Helen Taft who was far more ambitious than her husband by far.

"The First Lady Nobody Knew" - Pat Nixon aka "Plastic Pat" or "The Robot."

"Maternally Yours" - Edith Roosevelt who brought all six children (including teenaged Alice, daughter of his late first wife) to the White House where they terrorized the help and were not above scaring visitors.

Barbara Bush arrived with five adult children and 10 grandchildren.

"The Glamour Girls" - President Tyler's second wife Julia Gardener Tyler, Dolley Madison, Frances Folsom Cleveland.

Make no bones about it, I am shallow enough to enjoy the human side of politics and history and this book satisfied quite well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Their October meeting was the last for Richie's retiree club and the annual Christmas lunch will be the last - ever. Or, so it stands now...

At today's case conferencing (Beach Cities Health District's Friend 2 Friend program) one of the volunteers said that her client had invited her to a retirement club's annual Christmas lunch. She'd seen the tickets ($20/person) and wondered if it would be proper to accept? (BCHD corporate policy is: volunteers cannot receive anything worth more than $20 from a client.)
The client had said it would be her treat. At the meeting we offered a solution. If it's a Toys for Tots program (it usually is) she could tell the client - "Okay, you get lunch and I'll get the toys."

I remember last year's lunch when my fellow volunteer, Jerry Kelly, escorted her client, Rosanna, to it. It was an unexpected treat and I can still the two of them - tall, slim, erect posture at it. Jerry died of lung cancer in May, 2009.

The retirement club is going, Jerry has gone and yet, her client (age 86) is still alert, alive and interested. Bless her and Beach Cities Health District - still thriving and providing some 700 "friends" with people to visit them.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

No, I haven't been hitting the sauce; am well aware that it's 9:27 a.m. on Monday, November 9th.

But this Valentine's I'm getting a special gift, one I've waited seven long years to receive. is returning the publishing rights to my second book on that glorious day!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Why I Hate/Fear Guns

(Not that anyone asked.)

I don't doubt that there are a lot of people who could say, "Well, I was brought up with guns and I think..." (opinion expressed.) Like them, I was, too.

My father grew up on a Midwest farm and most farms had some sort of firearm -- for seasonal bird shooting, having to put an animal down ..all practical purposes. My Dad enjoyed hunting and with his pals would take off for Wyoming or Colorado in deer season. My mother teased him that they drank more whiskey on those jaunts than they did "hunting." Venison is terrible, but elk burgers weren't so bad. The deer skins were sent out to be tanned and mother made us jackets. Practical usage of my Dad's annual hunts.

By the time I was six, I enjoyed the gun cleaning ritual and can still smell the gun oil, much like Proust's Madeleines. His sister and her husband lived on a farm outside of Yates Center, KS, down in southeast Kansas. We visited often. I was a curious, restless child and loved to exploring in the fields. Daddy gave me a beat-up old .22 to carry on these expeditons after he taught me to carefully slide the gun under a fence (barrel away from me,) walk a few paces away, hold the barbed wire apart and get through the fence. My mother was originally horrified, but Dad convinced her he'd drilled me in gun safety. It's entirely possible that the gun wasn't even loaded, but I enjoyed the "big girl" thrill of being ready for anything! Bring it on!

These events occurred when I was around 8 and both involved Aunt Vera and Uncle Floyd's farm. Grandma (Dad's mother) lived "in town" (pop. 1,200 maybe.) The farm was some 12 to 15 miles outside in the country and was the last one on that county road. Appropriately, Vera named it "Land's End.)

Cut to: Daddy's driving me back from town (Saturday errands/) when he spots a hawk above a field. He slams on the brakes, grabs his new .257 (247?) Roberts with scope sight, flings open the car door, takes aim and fires. Down drops the hawk and we go off to collect it. The hawk had been carrying a chicken and both were now barely distinguishable as having once been birds. Daddy was quite pleased that one shot had brought them down.

The other traumatic experience. There was a pond across the road and Daddy took me cottonmouth hunting. He was carrying a .38 Smith & Wesson. We crossed a field and were standing on the pond bank when he saw a snake's head swimming towards us -- quickly he shot at it --and in the same moment we saw another one heading for us from the underbrush. He shot it, too. After making sure they were both dead, he cut a stout stick and impaled the bigger snake on it and we headed back to the farm.

Once there, he got mother to take a picture of me, holding the dead snake out on the stick. I was terrifed (I believed that a snake wasn't dead until its head had been cut off.) Daddy gloated because the snake had been pregnant and was carrying six egg sacs.

The point of these two stories? I have seen, up close and personal, exactly the damage a gun can do and I never want any part of that.

I'll take on the NRA on another day ...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Snookered - Again

Clearly my "learning curve" is pretty much a straight line. As in "flat lined." I have a weakness for books that purport to be funny. I have yet to find one and today's report is just another notch on my failure stick.

"I Was Told There'd Be Cake" essays by Sloane Crosley who has written for Playboy, the NY Times, the Village Voice. Having tasted the "Cake" I have to wonder just how many articles she wrote for any one of them.

She is a "professional New York woman," writing about the trials, tribulations and joys of living in Manhattan. I have noticed (tiny peak on the learning curve?) the "professional New York woman" is going to be "Poor hapless(but adorable) me! Aren't I just the cutest little thing you've ever seen in shoe leather?" New Yorkers seem to have an unholy pride about living in Manhattan.

She covers "preciousness" in chapter 1 - she tells her dates not to bring her flowers, candy or wine, she wants a pony! Yes a plastic My Little Pony And Me doll. She keeps them in a kitchen drawer and will often ask guests after dinner, "Coffee, tea or a pony?"

Religion - nominally Jewish but her parents were never ardent about it. They always had a Christmas tree and a Hannukah bush.

Carelessness - Has left her wallet in cabs, or subways and it always gets mailed back to her! (Minus the money, of course.) Subtext - Aren't New Yorkers big-hearted folks? (Take it from me, they aren't as a general rule.)

Sex - she thought it was a man and a woman, jumping on a bed (shoes off) and laughing.

The title doesn't seem to have anything at all to do with the contents of the book, but:

"I Was Told There'd Be Cake" Sloane Crosley, Penguin Books, $14 230 pages

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Times, They Are A'Changin'

I've mentioned Richie's airline retirement club. In the November newsletter came the news that since no one wants to continue as a officer of the club, the December holiday luncheon will be the last ever for The Vanguards. This after 34 years.

A further look informed me that six of the members had 80+ birthdays and eight couples are celebrating more than 50 years of marriage this November. Any leftover club funds will be given to charity -- the LAX USO, Guide Dogs for the Blind and Help 4 Seniors.

I will miss the monthly newsletter because I enjoy glimpses backstage of the airline industry. I could read the WSJ online, but this has been condensed in the newsletter. Such as: American Airlines hourly costs on:

a narrow-body jet with 150 seats or less:
$657 for pilots
$715 for maintenance
940 gallons of fuel per hour

One-aisle jets with 151 seats or more:
$746 for pilots
$888 for maintenance
1,250 gallons of fuel per hour

Wide-bodied jets
$1,043 for pilots
$1,376 for maintenance
1,755 gallons of fuel per hour.

The Environmental Protection Agency is trying to standardize guidelines for airports to capture some of the run-off when planes are de-iced. Tree huggers complain that the de-icing chemicals create dead zones in nearby waters (think JFK) even though they pose no threat to humans. The EPA is hoping to reduce the amount of chemicals by about 22 per cent.

RIP Vanguards - You'll be missed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Next Big Thing

Most of my life I have enjoyed inventing things. I would go into detail, but the patents are still pending (and have been since 1974) and loose lips sink (undoubtedly profitable) ships.

I have never been limited by a lack of inventiveness. perhaps that's the reason my father often looked at me speculatively and said, "She's going to be a Philadelphia lawyer." (Which he never explained to me or anyone else. I still don't know what he meant.)

Anyhow! My next big thing is a "personal product" and if you are 65 or older, you are going to be licking your lips feverishly and demanding, "Where can I gets me some of that?!"

It all happened very recently (today, if you must know) when I realized the solution to a problem most older people have. Sagging skin! Yessss, I knew that would get your attention.

Past a certain age, we all develop "loose skin." I happened to glance at myself in the mirror this morning toweling off and instead of instantly squeezing my eyes shut, I studied the problem. With sufficient support, my folds would stay in place. Nothing to be done about the creases other than applying a hot iron and that would hurt. Even though the scar tissue would puff nicely.

"Yes," I thought, "spray starch. One could lie on the floor (carpeted, of course) and when the folds disappeared, zap! A good shot of spray starch!" Continuing this line, I realized that spray starch cracks when whacked. I needed to blend it with something that would give it temporary purchase.

And then, I remembered ... back in the day, we all wore false eyelashes and we used little, tiny tubes of surgical glue to attach them.

I am about to bet the Murphy fortune that I am onto something. A judicial blend of spray starch and surgical glue. The money will simply cascade over my doorshill. Who's that woman that did the "Thigh Master" ads? I could use her phone number...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Great Thought

An Indian chief's thoughts on daylight savings: "Only a government could believe that if you cut 8 in. off the top of a blanket and sew it onto the bottom, you have created a longer blanket."
(Thanks Joyce!)

Interesting News

I have two eye doctors -- a surgeon and an optometrist. (I think that's what they're called - vision checks, glasses, that sort of thing.)

Recently the optometrist sent me back to the surgeon for some Yag laser work on a previously installed cataract lens. It seems a tiny bit of the original lens is left in the eye and the new lens "hooks on" to it and is anchored by it. My original bit had grown and was causing a bit more astigmatism.

So - during the follow-up with the surgeon, he said, "I hope Dr. X will be satisfied with it" and I shot him a startled look -- Since when did a surgeon lower himself to even consider if the optometrist like it? but he went on to say, "Of know of the two professions, mine - surgery - is at the end of all that can be done with it. But his field! They're making new discoveries all of the time!" A reference to not only contact lenses (child's play) but to complicated devices to help blind people see, even if it's only a little bit.

He pointed out that optometrists can now prescribe certain medications for patients when previously they had to refer them to an eye doctor -- no matter how trivial the disease. "Pink eye" or conjunctivitis comes to mind.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Freedom is here at last! I am referring to an e-mail I got today from saying that my seven year publishing contract with them was about to expire and, if I wanted to renew it - same terms and conditions for another seven years -- to send them official notice.

I wrote back: "Do NOT under any circumstances renew my contract! I can't wait to get the publishing rights back." I think that was fairly straightforward...

Seven (long) years ago, I sold them the publishing rights to my second book ("Dispatches From a Born-Again Cynic") because they advertised that "We're just like a regular publishing company - we pay our authors!" Bait enough for me as my first book ("Sponsors: How to Get One; How to Keep One") was totally my project -- I wrote it, edited it, found a printer, found a commercial artist to do the cover, paid both and followed up with a Web site, advertising, promotion and distribution. (And 10 years later had a $16,000 net profit - book has been out of print for two years.)

PublishAmerica was now promising to do all of that FOR me and pay me royalties... How sweet it was...

Until I discovered their idea of "promotion" was to ask me for a list of 100 names so they could send a "notification of publication" to these people -- "Family! Friends! Everyone you know!" They put the book on their Web site and That Was That.

Many of you may have noticed a certain ... stubborn streak ... to my make up. Since they had broken multiple implied promises -- leaving me to do the heavy lifting - I did minimal promotion when it first came out and that was it. The first couple of years, the book did well enough and then it died.

I blame myself for an unfortunate title - people saw "Born Again" but not the "Cynic" and dropped it as if it were one fire and ran. An experienced publisher might well have argued with me and shown me the error of a title like that.

Reading between the lines of ensuing e-mails, I think they're going broke. E's such as "Buy copies of your book for 50% off and still get royalties!" and other succulent (hah!) offers.

Hell with 'em. From the blog, I have enough material to put together a whole new book incorporating the best of that one into it.

I should be saying "thank you" but since I wrote several times offering to buy back my contract (for what they paid for it - $1) and those letters were never answered ...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Back Story

I was in the library the day aftr I reviewed Alana Stewart's book on Farrah Fawcett and what popped up in the non-fiction shelves? George Hamilton's "Don't Mind if I Do." Snap! I pounced on it.

He doesnt get to Alana until page 209 when he saw her waterskiing in Acapulco Bay. She was a Ford model and a month later, he ran into her in New York, dancing with a playboy at Le Club. He abandoned hope and returned to LA where he was a partner in the Candy Store (disco of yore.) He saw her there, alone except for a girlfriend and made her acquaintance.

He discovered that she was 20, had grown up in Nacogdoches, TX (though born in San Diego). A former flight attendant for Trans-Texas Airways, she saved up for a ticket to New York and the Ford agency which happily accepted her. Hamilton said of her, 'I was captivated by Alana's spunk and drive, not to mention her precocious wit and sense of humor."

Items - She got hepatits from Mexican clams and as a result became "a health nut and walking food allergy. When the meal invariably failed to measure up, Alana would send the food back to the kitchen and the waiter back to his native land."

They'd had a back and forth relationship for some time. He gave up; she started dating the Earl of Litchfield, with the intention of marrying him. Sulking, Hamilton went to the Riviera and had an affair with Britt Eckland, who had just ended a relationship with Warren Beatty. (Ah, the Swingin' 70s)

They had a farewell dinner before her return to England in Palm Springs. Hamilton's dear friend (and neighbor) counseled him, "Marry her! She's smarter than you are!" and offered Elvis' plane but: for that night and that night only. He proposed, she accepted and they flew to Las Vegas. Alana's dog was the maid of honor.

Hamilton was 33; she was 27 (yes, a long courtship). They married in 1972, but were divorced in 1975. They had a son named Ashley.

George remarked that "and then there was the matter of Steve McQueen, then married to Ali McGraw. He and Alana hit it off. She insisted there was nothing between them. But Hamilton kept finding McQueen's favorite beer in the refrigerator (neither Hamilton nor Alana drank beer) and McQueen's motorcycle in their garage. He said, "Sherlock Holmess closed the case, but I'd rather have been wrong." So far he has never remarried.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Trash Day

"My Journey with Farrah - a Story of Life, Love and Friendship" by Alana Stewart William Morrow 266 (turgid) pages $23.99 "A portion of the proceeds ... will go to the Farrah Fawcett Foundation to support cancer research."

Stewart's dubious achievements include marriage to George Hamilton and then Rod Stewart with whom she had three children. She and Fawcett met in the '70s when both were struggling actresses from Texas. Their friendship flourished and ended only with Fawcett's death in June, 2009. The book came out in October, 2009, so no grass growing there.

Rank assumes privilege -- Fawcett and Stewart (apparently) spent most of their time in 1st class on Lufthansa, going to and from LAX and Frankfurt. But there is never a nice word for an especially friendly or helpful FA. The pair routinely abused Lufthansa's VIP services, almost always the last to board.

Her doctors were a six hour automobile trip from the clinic she stayed in. She insisted on staying there, over and over again. Other famous folk believed in the clinic, including Dominick Dunne, who should have known better. He's dead, too.

What drew them (and presumably others) was the fact that clinical trials there are not scrutinized or as well monitored as they are here. They can inject any old kind of stew in your veins, then run scans and report, "The tumor has shrunk by 50%!"

Naturally this encourages the patient. Fawcett kept falling for it over and over even when the tumor was bigger! More of them dotted her liver! "But we'll try this!" clinicians caroled and she let them.

To give Fawcett her due, she hung on well after she could have (and perhaps should have) given up and just died, awready. Stewart's part seems to have been finding all sorts of dubious charismatic "healers" (faith and otherwise) which only encouraged Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal in their foolishness. Godless heathens the three of them.

Stewart can't resist inserting herself into the narrative. First she has an affair with a chef in the clinic's village. Then she gets a report of an irregular Pap test smear and freaks out. "OMG, I've got cancer, too!" Puh-lease! (She didn't.)

This is about as sad an example I can think of -- two friends, well-meaning, but more gullible than a pair of toddlers. Reading it is similar to passing a fresh wreck on a freeway.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I've been able to devote a great deal of time to reading lately...Two books impressed me for vastly different reasons. The "good" is first; I want to devote an entire column to trashing the "bad" in full color, so to speak.

"Animal Magnetism" by Rita Mae Brown Ballantine Books 235 pages $25

Noted Southern writer Brown is an ardent animal lover. In her book, she recounts life-encouraging interactions with her various dogs, cats, horses and (gasp!) chickens! Turns out they have a very strict pecking order.

Her chief ambition in life was always to make enough money to be able to farm, something she has accomplished in the hunt country of Afton, VA. She wanted the farm to provide food for her horses; fox hunting is her passion. She tells heart-warming stories about courageous dogs, fun-loving cats (is there any kind?) and her horses.

She began riding to hounds on a Percheron which, until I read this, didn't know was possible. Percherons are enormous, origially bred to carry knights in armor onto battlefields, but since the demise of that kind of warfare, they are generally used as farm animals who pull ploughs and do heavy labor as required (stump pulling included.)

Her philosophy is that we can always learn from others, especially animals. She cites animals that are steadfastly true to their mates. She enjoys birds equally as well and can name many of the species by their songs.

All in all, it's an interesting read told by a wise and humerous author.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Neuro Said

The MRI was normal; I don't have a herniated disc. (Always welcome news.) He and the ortho suspect a virus on a nerve. Since there really isn't a way to treat a virus (antibiotics are not effective) he said to continue to take it easy and see him again in two weeks.

No surgery, no steroid shots, nothing. Just "Easy as you go, mate."

2:15 p.m. Today

The neuro will go over the results of the MRIs taken Saturday morning. I am fervently hoping that once it is known what's the matter with me, there will be a speedy cure. I have graduated from doing the stairs on my butt to upright on both feet (as God intended) but there is much more to be desired.

It has not been particularly helpful to uncover our cockatiel in the mornings and hear her cheerfully chirp, "Grim Reaper! Grim Reaper!" I catch myself thinking, "But ...How does she know?"

P.S. This is my 350th blog since October, 2008. Apologies for some missed days...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Quick Read

"Wishful Drinking" by Carrie Fisher Simon & Schuster 163 pages $21

Early in the book, Fisher makes the point that hers has not been an ordinary life. As a child, she was asked, "What's it like to be a movie star's daughter?" And all she could reply was, "When wasn't I?" Her parents are Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher (before he ran off with Elizabeth Taylor and an ensuing career as a serial marrier.) Because she grew up on backlots and sound stages, her grasp of "real life" is not like ours.

She is a recovering alcohol and drug abuser and has had treatment (elctro-shock therapy) for bipolarity.

The characters scattered throughout are richly described. Harry Karl, Reynold's 2nd husband, had peculiarities all his own. "Because he was wealthy and well-groomed, he was said to be distinguished looking. That's ugly with money" Fisher described him.

Fisher married Paul Simon, divorced him and went into rehab. She then married agent Byron Lourd who neglected to tell her he was gay. And then left her and Billie (their daughter) for another man.

It could be argued either way - Fisher is positively gifted at making bad choices or that in her carefree insouciance she figures, "It'll all turn out all right in the end."

It's an amusing book and I enjoyed it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

MRI Tidbits

(C'mon - you knew I'd do it!)

In Reception, you're handed a clipboard with eight (8) pages to look over, check off and sign. One entire pages listed "stuff" people might have in their bodies - shunts, mesh (used in reconstructive breast surgery) heart valves, pace makers -- on and on it went.

Next you're given a dressing room with a locker and key. Ladies, remove your bra (wiring) take off your skirt or pants, but keep your underpants on; put on the pair of scrub bottoms and, "Oh, you might want to put your sweater back on - it's cold in there." (Understatement if I ever heard it.)

My last go-round with an MRI was more than 20 years ago so I was delighted to discover that the Long, Dark Coffin of Claustrophobia was gone. In its place was a gigantic "donut" with a sliding bed into it. It's reassuring to see daylight ahead of you and behind you -- from next to the door. Inside the machie, of course, it's the same old tunnel vision.

I was offered a choice of music - Classical, Relaxation, Frank Sinatra or an FM radio station. I took Frank somewhat bemusedly, wondering if the estate got royalties for MRI room appearances.

Before each different noise, the tech would tell me the estimated time. I could see how that would be soothing for nervous patients, but I was anything but that. As one test ended, I was singing "Summer winds" with Frank...

Afterward, I asked her some questions.
"Approximately how much did this machine cost?" "It couldn't have been less than $3 million" she said.
"How long are they good for?" "Oh, indefinitely, but after about 10 years, you want to upgrade a little." (I'm now wondering about the market for used MRIs in developing countries.)
"Does it take longer with, say, a morbidly obese patient?" "Our table limit is 350 lbs. and some of our patients are even larger than that" -- she shrugged and indicated that they usually could shove them in somehow. And no, the machine cuts through fat as if it wasn't there.
"Do you have to start as a nurse and then switch to this technology or can you skip nursing and go right to the technology?" "I started in X-ray and then moved on, but, yes, you don't have to be a nurse. In fact, there's a new thing -- as an amateur (shudder) you can work 700 to 1,000 hours as an assistant and then take the exam for your license but ...I don't much like what I'm seeing with that."( slight sniff.)

Now the orthopod and neuro can start a cure treatment and this whole ghastly experience will be behind me. In more ways than one -- I need to put the apple fritters et al aside...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Good Manners

Conde Nast Traveler is running a helpful series called Etiquette 101 and covers eating, drinking, etc. in major countries in the world. This month? Think Before You Speak.

In retrospect, their advice really isn't too different from what I learned, growing up the Midwest. The Big Three were: never discuss politics, religion or how to bring up children. Slightly behind, but of almost equal importance: never discuss money -- your own or someone else's; don't even ask someone where they live because it could be an economic indicator. This is also a throwback to the Wild West where most people preferred to travel in anonymity (often for good reason.)

For specifics, got to I'll save you the effort.

The Don'ts are the same as in the Midwest; what changes are the Do's.

Egypt - the country's cultural relics and historical importance
Israel - as a thriving democracy; the quality and freshness of the food.
South Africa - Nelson Mandela; equal rights and relative prosperity.
Brazil - music is universally loved so praise a song or ask if the Brazilian can recommend a good group.
Canada - Hockey!
Mexico - Marriage and family rites such as the quinceanero.
Australia/New Zealand - Australian football and the openness of the people.
China - the success of the Olympics
Japan - all the ultra-modern designs and conveniences - their vending machines come to mind.
Thailand - talk about their relative prosperity
France - The food! What else?
Germany - try to speak a little German; know a little about the country.
Ireland - The Irish love us - talk about the US - Irish connection.
Russian - Russia's entrepreneurial streak (keep your tongue firmly in your cheek - Russian oligarchs? Russian Mafia?)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

For the Moment...

My promising debut as a pole dancer has had to be set aside -- although at the Palm Springs Follies (age 55+ to audition) their opening act was the entire cast, on-stage, brandishing walkers in military precision. Doesn't work well with a solo act.

I take two food magazines and both of them this month are just chock-full of things you never thought of eating for Thanksgiving dinner. At least I never have. I say this because if you are over age 21, you already know what you look forward to eating each year.

Take dressing, for example. On paper, they all have their merits but for The Day? I rather think not. Consider:

Wild rice and mushroom stuffing
Whole wheat stuffing with pancetta (bacon), chestnuts and Parmesan
Sourdough stuffing with sausage, apples and golden raisins
Rustic bread stuffing with red mustard greens, currants and pine nuts
Corn bread stuffing with andouille, fennel and bell peppers
Sweet Potato stuffing with bacon and thyme
(Full recipes at Bon

In the event, you are salivating, think of this: the beloved next day sandwich of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce on mayo-slathered white "squish" bread.

I'm sticking with old Tried and True -- hand-cut baguette (Mrs. Cubbison is handy and quick, but it's also loaded with salt) with sage, onion, garlic, tons of black pepper, moistened with chicken broth.

Years ago, I tried a Martha Stewart concoction with pistachios and God knows what all else. There were about 16 or 18 ingredients, but it's in my recipe folder if you want it. Happy to look for it for you -- not much else to do when My Glorious Career has been sidelined.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Into the Cave of the Tumbling Rocks...

And if you've ever had an MRI, you know of what I speak. Friday, 10/30/09 at 11:30 a.m.

The neuro suspects a pinched nerve, the MRI is to see exactly where it is. What is difficult for me to grasp is: how did I pinch a nerve (deep inside the body) without major trauma somewhere on the outside?

In the fullness of time...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

'"Because cops don't look dorky enough on Segways?" *

Redondo Beach uses this to issue parking tickets. We're out and about nearly every day and had never seen it. Naturally, I walked right up and asked questions about it. My first was, "What is it? It isn't a Segway..."

"No, it's got three wheels. (Doh) Wow! Ben Hur's chariot!"

Parking officer, "There's another maker and those are called "chariots."

"C'mon - tell the truth -- how much fighting do you all do among yourselves to get to ride?"

"No one else wants to do it! I'm the only one... I didn't like it the first time I rode it -- I was so tired at the end of the day that I fell asleep in my car in my own driveway! Now I just half-a-day on it -- first of all, you're standing up and second there are no shock absorbers."

He said that he goes out after lunch on it and has a regular route. "I start at Gold's gym (down near the Pier) and then cut through Pier parking to Catalina -- you know all the parking meters along there and I wind up in Riviera Village (which has a huge metered lot.)

He gave me the Web site -- He said the City paid about $7,000 for it, if you're thinking of getting one...

Other uses
Mall security
Paramedics in crowd conditions
Reno, NV, official said, "It's better than a Segway; it climbs curbs and has a better sight line for cops."
Mail and parcel delivery
Operates on 10 cents a day which equals 500 mpg.

* Quote from a rather disbelieving blogger on a Web site.