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.