Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Lovely Thought

(Why wasn't I smart enough to think of this?)

"Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when we were not; this gives us no concern -- why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be?" William Hazlett

Friday, January 29, 2010

O Wow!

Today, RB Main Library, approx. 1:45 p.m.

I was walking toward the automatic check-out when my friend, Lisa (aka Pyro) Burke was walking in! Naturally we smiled and laughed; we'd been running into each other here often.

We better watch it," I said, "They're going to bust us for loitering with intent!"

She said, patting a case, "I've got my laptop - I get better reception here than at home... and I'm always writing letters like you except you write a blog."

Me, wryly, "Damned near every day."

Her face lit up and she said, "It's great!"

I gasped.

"I save them!" she crowed as I sank to the floor in shock.

I have readers! (other than two friends and one nephew.)

to meet Lisa and to learn about earthquake prepardness, fire safety and to get your home emergency kit.

"If You Can't Say Something Nice (wagging finger) SPIN IT!

I think it's more often that a mother tells her daughter, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" rather than a father OR a mother telling that to a son. Boys have much more important matters on their minds... baseball statistics, for one.

It occurred to me the other day to see if I've lost all of my mother's previous training ... and I can promise you, she would never think to add, "Spin it!" ... so here goes. My small attempt to brighten previously darkened corners of our world...

Mel Gibson, 54, is starring in a movie for the first time in nearly eight years. He said, humbly, "I'm just trying to inspire all the other AARP members not to give up! You can still be very active in your middle years!"

Comedian Andy Dick was recently arrested for sexual assault. He wondered, "Can't they just get 'playful'?"

Brangelina's various didoes: "It's not just charities any more -- we're trying to raise the bar on the hated oppobrium 'White Trash'!"

President Obama, one year after inauguration: "Hey, he makes good speeches!"

Al Gore and his stance on global warming: "Poor guy -- it absoutely unhinged him to be denied the Presidency!"

If you have others that I have somehow overlooked, add them! This column (snigger, snort) welcomes input!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Flamencos! Tapas! Dinner at 11!

"Made in Spain" by Jose Andres with Richard Wolffe. Clarkson/Potter Publishers 256 pages $35

Since the Spanish diet contains a lot of things that I won't eat - salt cod, dried or fresh; tuna barely seared; octopus, moules ... which is not to say I would like the olives, the fantastic ham ... Anyhow with these givens I thought drink recipes might be a welcome change.

This first one surprised me as I'd been making "sangria" all through the poverty years in Beverly Hills. Poor Person's Sangria: get a cheap gallon of red wine. Peel an orange and a lemon and force the skins down the neck of the wine bottle. Let sit overnight (at least) and drink. This is considerably more elegant!

1 cup chopped fruit, such as strawberries, peaches, white grapes
1 bottle Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup Licor 43 or a vanilla-flavored liqueur
1/4 cup white grape juice
1 teas. sugar
1 small, fresh mint sprig

Fill a glass pitcher half full of ice. Add the fruit. Tilt the pitcher and pour the Cava gently in.
In another container, combine the brandy, vanilla liqueur, grape juice and sugar. Stir and pour it into the big pitcher. Give it a quick stir and add the mint sprig.

4 1/2 cups whole milk
10.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped or broken into small pieces.
1 T sugar
1 teas. ground cinnamon

Combine the milk, chocolate and sugar in a sauce pan and heat, whisking briskly until the chocolate melts - don't let it boil! Pour into mugs and garnish with a pinch of the cinnamon.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Well Said!

Letters to the Editor, The Los Angeles Times, today:

Two large losses in Massachusetts in one week, but by far the worse is that of Robert B. Parker, a writer of great wit, erudition and imagination. I will truly miss him and his works.

As for the Democrats' loss, politicians are a dime a dozen.

Raymond J. Melrose, Los Angeles

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Git Outta the Car, Miss Daisy - I'M Driving Now!

The neurosurgeon who treated me for a viral ridiculitis of the iliac femoral nerve forbade me to drive. That was in mid-October! I haven't had the wheel in my hands till today! Now I can go back to real power! Run like you never ran before! I'm baaack!

I've been driving for 57 years (minus three months) and it all felt exactly the same. And it should -- my Toyota half-ton pick-up truck has been mine for 22 years. (By the way, I have 68,500 miles on it, too. You wouldn't believe the number of Mexican gardeners who've offered me cash on the spot for her. But Truck is Not For Sale.)

And I'm a good driver. I've never had a moving violation-- well that one, but I went to court and sorted that officer out! -- just the odd parking ticket here and there, dotted down the years.

It is raining (again) Aviation (a major street we use all the time) is being repaved and there are orange cones all over the road -- it was a great day to get back behind the wheel! Challenges! God it feels good! Let freedom ring!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Some Assembly Required

I'm running this well ahead of Valentine's Day so you can get in a practice lick on it (so to speak.) The recipe calls for a "ganache" so I looked it up in my Larousse Fr.-Eng. dictionery. "Ganache" is zoological for an animal's jowl or in the familiar, "blockhead." A ganache to me has always been merely the flavorsome puddle underneath a pastry dessert. Perhaps the spread of it? Any road, the French are strange. Which and google confirmed: ganache translates into "fool" and is used thusly.

This is like an old-fashioned menswear suit -- three pices.


The JOWLS (just joking!)
1 1/4 cups plus 1/4 cup more Ruby Port
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 stick sweet butter
4 oz. quality milk chocolate (Lindt) chopped
1 T sugar
Boil down the 1 1/4 cups of Port to 1/4 cup - about 9 minutes.
Meanwhile, simmer the cream and butter in a saucepan, remove from heat and add the chocolate, whisking until the mixture is smooth. Stir in 2 T of the port reduction.

Then go back to the reduction and add 1/2 cup straight port and 1 T sugar to it. Boil this until the syrup coats the spoon - 6 to 7 minutes. Set this whole mess aside.

2 large eggs, separated
2 T water
10 T chilled whipping cream, divided
1 T sugar
6 oz. quality milk chocolate, chopped

Whisk together the yolks, 2 T water, 2 T cream and the sugar until you've got a custard - don't boil it! Remove from the heat and stir in the milk chocolate.
Beat the whites separately into peaks and fold gently into the chocolate mixture. Beat 8 T cream in (yet) another bowl and fold them gently into the chocolate. Refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours and, hell, make it the day before and leave it in the refrigerator.

(Frankly, I wouldn't bother -- you've got enough calories here)
1/3 cup chilled heavy cream
1/3 cup chilled creme fraiche
Beat together and set aside.

Assembly: Sauce the dessert plate with ganache; add a careful scoop of mousse and top with the creme fraiche. Make yourself a martini and go lie down.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Six Brown Pelicans

If running errands in the south end of town, we'll always take a moment to go look at the ocean as it presents itself off to the left of the Redondo Beach Pier. The ocean has more moods than a cocktail party full of people (or rehab for that matter.)

It's quite usual to see pelicans perched atop poles on the Pier, but not where we saw these yesterday. And that was on the "view road" south of the Pier. It's a thin road with pull-in parking spaces (metered, you may be sure) and a sidewalk running parallel to the beach. In good weather (not that we know about that recently) you will see people walking their dogs, pushing baby carriages and taking in the view. Young lovers (men in hoodies and pants below their butts; their ladies clad in skinny minny tank tops) clutch each other, oblivious to the view.

There were few cars there yesterday, so I wondered at the one that was blocking the road. I looked more closely and there was a big brown pelican standing in front of the car, looking bewildered! Five more sat safely on the sidewalk looking anxiously at us and out to sea.

"I've never seen them up here!" Richie said. "Maybe protection from the wind?" I said. (It was really blowing up.) We later learned that the ocean is fed by street run-off and when we've had a big rain, the sea is damned near toxic. The pelicans feathers were affected by this liquid offal.

Poor things were trying to become landlubbers!

More Brown Pelican Lore: We were enjoying a glass-bottom boat ride in Cabo as well as our skipper, a Mexican gentleman of some considerable girth. With a wink and a nod, Chui gestured at a colony of pelicans sitting on the rocks above Honeymoon Beach and said slyly, 'Mexican turkeys!"

Friday, January 22, 2010

Flaying Bobby! (Hee, Hee, Hee)

"Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries and Shakes" by Bobby Flay (with Stephanie Banyas & Sally Jackson) Clarkson/Potter Publishers 160 pages $25.95

Six restaurants, nine books, on the Iron Chef America series and food correspondent for "The Early Show" CBS -- Bobby has been in our faces for more than his 15 minutes. Which is not to say that he isn't a perectly nice person. He may well be.

But it does strike me as dusting for the last bit of gold dust in the mine to write a book on foods as simple as hamburgers (no hot dogs - Ccoming soon to a bookstore near you!) fries and milkshakes.

Chef Flay's counsel on hamburgers? Use 80% lean, 20% fat Certified Angus hamburger. Never add anything to the meat (eggs, breadcrumbs, seasonings.) Form the patties without excessive handling. When the patty is ready for the grill, make a thumb-sized indentation in the center so that during cooking the patty will not swell up into hockey puck shape. You will be tempted to press the patty with a spatula! Don't do it! Pressing releases all of the fats and fats are what carry flavor and moisture!

Flay attempts to present "different" hamburgers by labeling them as something else -- the Argentinian Burger has chimichurri sauce! The Bistro Burger gets the cracked black pepper treatment with a Dijon-based vinaigrette on the lettuce. Caesar Salad Burger -- guess what's been done to the lettuce? This strikes me as ... misleading advertising somehow.

Two full pages of print on how to make French fries, steak fries, shoestring fries and more. "The key to making really great potato chips is slicing the potatoes really thin." And just who says that Chef Flay is not a rocket scientist?

I've never been a milkshake fan. 'Way too many calories and especially with a hamburger and fries. Flay gives us Lemon Meringue Pie Milkshake (topped with a mini waffle with a dollop of meringue,) Peach Bellini Milkshake, Peanut Butter-Banana Marshmallow Milkshake.

Bon appetite -- or wait for the next volume -- "How To Cook a Hot Dog."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Accidental Discovery

Many readers will recall my glee whenever I had an airline business tidbit to pass on from the now-defunct Vanguard Newsletter. Purely by accident, I have a new source! International Travel News (ITN) arrived with the gift subscription to France magazine that my sister gave us.

Pirate Defense
Philip S., Tamarac, FL. wrote that he was on a cruise from Cape Town to Singapore. The itinerary included a stop in the Seychelles and then Muscat, but due to pirate activities north of the Seychelles, they would not call at Port Victoria there.

The captain ordered a "piracy attack drill." No matter your location on the ship, if you heard "Code Blue, Papa Sierra" you were to go immediately to your cabin, draw the curtains and leaving the cabin door open, lie down on the floor. Why? So that the stewards could quickly make sure you were on the floor in the event the captain had to take evasive maneuvers!

Who's the Daddy?
Meryl E., Scotts Valley, CA reported that she, her husband, their three young sons and a biracial toddler they'd adopted were vacationing in Fiji. The Fijians were sure the baby was part-Fijian and one morning the housekeeper asked her who the baby's father was? "Without thinking, I truthfully responded, 'I don't know.'" The look on her face was priceless.

Geografile Column
Scotland has the greatest percentage of natural redheads -- 13% of the population - than any other on earth. Less than 2% of the world's population are natural red heads. I say, "Go, Ireland!"

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Robert B. Parker
September 17, 1932 - January 18, 2010
It was with considerable shock that I read in this morning's paper that Robert B. Parker was dead. A friend in East Texas later remarked that it was like losing a friend. These remarks are to give you a small sense of his fans' idolatry that propelled him into serious numbers as one of America's best and most prolific authors.
Most notable of his books was the "Spenser" series, set in Boston. Spenser was kind of a Man of La Mancha non-hero. He was a semi-thug, private detective. His sidekick was a black guy named Hawk (Sancho Panchez?) Spenser was "born" in 1971 and more than 37 books followed.
The Jesse Stone series ran to nine books; the Sunny Randal series follows at six. Altogether Parker wore more than 60 books.
Parker has said, 'I don't rewrite; I don't write a second draft. When I'm finished, I don't re-read. (Wife) Joan reads it to make sure I haven't committed a public disgrace and, if I haven't, I send it in and then I begin the next book." Parker wrote up to 10 pages per day.

Joan was the light of his life. Every one of his multitude of books was dedicated to her. He once said, "I'd rather be her husband and their father (sons David and Daniel) than "Robert B. Parker."

Mr. Parker, you were both.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mudslide Proofing...

Once again, 'tis the season...

Some Los Angeles environs are prone to mudslides during our heavy rains. We'll be in a drought situation for two or three years and then BOOM! The rains come down. Much like Washington, DC's plans for snow -- apparently non-existent -- so seem to be our plans for defending our homes against mudslides.

People who live very near the massive burn areas of not so long ago should be sandbagging for all of their worth. Whole crews of neighbors should be at it like a bucket brigade. Somehow I doubt that's happening ... we are, generally speaking, massively indifferent to our neighbors (but will cheerfully pony up for far away lands' help.)

Every individual and family should have a planned escape route -- from their dwelling and from their neighborhood. You should have on hand just as much food and water as you would for an earthquake at hand. Your car should be parked facing the street.

If I had a picture window near the ground, facing the potential mudslide, I'd put a sheet 4 by 8 across it leaning against the house. If the mud does come, it will press the board in tight. Pros say to board them up with a hammer and nails -- especiallyFrench doors or sliding glass doors plus the front or back door facing the slide.

For professional advice, I went to and read their Emergency Survival Program (ESP) sheet and found these items I'd overlooked.

Remember to alert your out-of-state contact with a quick call
Make sure you have working flashlights; have extra batteries on hand
Charge your cell phone and if you have to leave, don't forget the charger
Put together a pack of cash (small bills) and your important papers. Ours are zeroxed and the originals are in the bank safety deposit box.
Games and toys for the kids.

Before you drink the water at home, listen to your battery-powered radio -- mudslides can break sewers and make your tap water filthy.

OF PARTICULAR NOTE: Mudslides can easily exceed speeds of 10 mph and often flow faster than 20 mph.

Monitor the rainfall in your area -- 3 to 4 in. per day or 1/2 in. per hour are enough to trigger a slide.

If you are asked to evacuate, yank on your skates and GO! Rescue squads don't want to risk their lives (and rightfully so) to extricate your recalcitrant butt.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Clown Doctors

Not as in, "My doctor, that clown ..." No it was an article in Sunday's Parade that described how beneficial it can be to have visiting clowns in pediatric wards.

The article referenced an report in Pediatric Anesthesia that said that a clown visit just prior to surgery "can significantly alleviate pre-operative anxiety." This intrigued me so I Googled the article.

But, what ho! The clowns must have had significant training in such as pyschology of pain, therapy and communicating with patients (as well as juggling, whatever.) Thus, well-meaning uncles and grandpas probably need not apply. "Real" clown doctors have to recognize boundaries -- let the child invite you into the room; don't be overly familiar with the child or the parents, and involve the child in play in which he is the game controller. Children are overwhelmed by hospitals -- it's a brand-new world where strangers touch you and take you places you've never been, often without a parent for emotional sustenance.

The University of Haifa, Israel, offers the world's first academic degree in "medical clowning," but after checking their course schedule, I couldn't find it.

Clown doctors are found in the US, UK, Canada, Brazil and Australia.

But please! Not anywhere near my bedside! I am terrified of clowns and have been since childhood. Weird-looking dudes ... they don't mean me any good! Even as an adult, when the clowns come out at the circus, I close my eyes (peeping occasionally to make sure the clowns are at a distance) while Richie laughs appreciatively. Incidentally, scholars, the fear of clowns is officially called "coulrophopbia."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chinese Proverb

We cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over our heads, but we can stop them from nesting in our hair.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Plantation Recipes

Chef Folse wrote that Thelma Parker had been the cook at Madewood Plantation for the past 25 years and, since the book was published in 1994, she was in residence during our visit.

She is said to be famous for her Shrimp Pie, but since Folse (rather bitchily) says she makes it with canned cream of shrimp soup, we will move on to other mores, other plantations.

From Shadows on the Teche Plantation -- FRENCH-FRIED FROG LEGS
2 dozen frog legs
1 quart buttermilk
1 egg
3 T Creole mustard
One 10-oz. bottle of beer
Pepper, granulated garlic, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce to taste
4 cups seasoned yellow corn flour
Oil and deep pan for frying.

Marinate the frog legs for one hour in the buttermilk.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, mustard and beer. Add the seasonings.

Put the flour in a paper bag, take the frog legs out of the buttermilk, put them in the bag and shake it to coat them. Deep fry until golden. Serve with tartar or cocktail sauce.

From Kent House Plantation - HONEYED APPLE RINGS. Can be served as a side dish or dessert
2 red apples, sliced and cored
2 green apples, sliced and cored

Mix together 2 cups honey
1 cup red wine vinegar
pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Use a heavy bottom pan and heat the liquid until simmering. Poach the apple rings, a couple at a time, and plate them.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Of Plantations and Their Recipes

The book is "Plantation Celebrations" by Chef John Folse (self-published) 322 pages $24.95 but I got it for $6 at a library book sale.

It's an interesting book as it's one-half plantation histories; one half recipes. Either half is interesting which is rare in this old world.

I immediately flipped it open and began searching for Madewood Plantation, Napoleonville, LA, because we spent the night there in 1990. If this is the same trip, we started out in New Orleans, drove to the plantation, then on to Baton Rouge -- "See these here bullet holes? Yes, ma'am, that's where ole Kingfish Huey Long got shot!" (It wasn't.) We had dinner for the first (and last time) at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. It was roaringly expensive even then. Next morning, we drove to Lafayette to visit my cousins and had a wonderful time.

Madewood Plantation was built in 1840 and it took four years to cut, plank and plane the pine and cypress trees prior to construction. Over 60,000 hand-made bricks were used to create walls more than 20 in. thick. Ceilings are 14 ft. The ballroom was used every day as the family dining room. You can see Madewood at Google Images, if you'd like.

When we visited, the one night rate was $100 for both of us. this included being there by 4:30 p.m. to tour the house, followed by a wine and cheese recption and then a set-menu dinner by candlelight. Brandy and coffee followed in the parlor. At this point, we were abruptly abandoned by the house keeper who lived on the property. No television, no phones...

The only other guests were a pair who insisted on having the Old Slave Quarters or Oversee's House - can't remember which - at the back of the property, behind the plantation. They parked facing out ... where they unloaded their two dogs. She was an assisted blonde; he wore long sideburns and cowboy boots. After we were deserted post-brandy (no coffee takers) we repaired upstairs to a bedroom, opened a window and went out on to the veranda where there were rocking chairs. They were smoking dope, but we didn't join them. We got along quite well, exchanged addresses - theirs was a post office box - that Christmas and then never heard from them again.

Today, Madewood offers the same amenities, but the price is significantly higher. Sunday through Thursday is $229 single and $259 double. Friday and Saturday are $259 single and $280 double plus 8.5% tax every night.

Recipes tomorrow.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Warning: Editorial

This is Blog #418 for me. I don't usually editorialize as that is not the purpose (which is to be amusing, entertaining and sometimes educational.) But...

I am outraged that the United States has gone tearing off to "help tragic Haiti."

Haitians hate us! For years, the US State Department and the British equivalent have had in place a travel warning that states "Do not go to Haiti unless it is absolutely necessary."

The so-called Republic of Haiti has a population of 9.7 million souls, 80% of whom live in porverty. Average annual income is $400. If the Haitian leadership had any bit of smarts, it could have set up able-bodied Haitians to learn search and rescue; how to shore up their tumble-down shacks; minimal first aid .. in short, how to be of use to their very own country, how to improve the quality of life there -- and their paychecks. Clearly that didn't happen.

These are some of the countries that stepped up to the plate -- Brazil, Cuba, Germany, France (to my surprise,) Canada, Britain and, locally, the 72-member L.A. crack Search and Rescue Team. Did management forget Southern California is particularly prone to earthquakes and The Big One is going to happen any minute! (said breathlessly.)

We are not and have not been welcome in Haiti for a long time. I believe we should have just shrugged, said "Tough -- deal with it." There are more than enough countries out there that think of us as the "United Suckers of America." We just don't know it because we speak only English.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Lapful of Books

We stocked up at a library book sale. You never know, here in So. Calif., when there's going to be a snow storm. I scored two Agatha Christies, a John Sandford, a Maeve Binchy (writer of "British cozies") and a book on Louisiana plantations and recipes from them.

"Moon River and Me" by Andy Williams Viking 308 pages $25.95
Williams has an engaging, conversational style (or else his ghostwriter does) and he recounts his career and dishes about famous people -- best friends with Bobby and Ethel Kennedy; tidbits about Sinatra and the Rat Pack. I was particularly interested in the infamous Claudine Longet whom you may remember, married, then divorced Williams, took up with skier Spider Savitch and shot and killed him. She did a scant 30 days in jail, eventually married her lawyer and continued to live, head held high, in Aspen. I think she's now 63.

Since there is no Table of Contents or referral pages in the back of the book, I couldn't immediately zero in on these events. Sloppy editing.

Today Williams owns and performs in his Moon River Theater, Branson, MO.

"Wacky Chicks" by Simon Doonan Simon & Schuster 243 pages $12
Doonan is the Creative Director for Barney's, NY, and writes a column for the New York Observer.

He's a Brit and he's quite witty; very descriptive prose. He defines "wacky" women as "fearlessly inappropriate and fabulusly eccentric women." One of several profiled is Isabel Garret who drives around the US in a large motor home selling fetish wear at sites such as Dressing for Pleasure or the Lifestyle Convention, Las Vegas. She winters at a nudist park in Florida.

Brigid Berlin, the Warhol Factory Girl shares a chapter with Sunny Chapman, the glue factory girl (she escaped from an industrial life.) Even that loser Amy Sedaris ("Will no one rid me of this troublesome woman?") is included in a chapter entitled "Vermin and Cheeseballs."

All of the fads are represented - New Age crystals, macrobiotic diets -- by the women who share them.

Doonan defines "wacky chicks" as "a burgeoning and highly entertaining phenomenon. They dare to annoy, they empower themselves and others without acting like a bloke" and adds that they have more fun than most regular chicks and all men, except maybe gay men.

I recommend it heartily -- Suze, Leslie, Sue -- let me know if you want to borrow it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Stranger at the Jazz Club II

An hour after the stranger's disappearance toward the beach, Pat and I went back to our spot, leaning against the wall of the building, chatting. And who should appear, but the woman and child. The woman was carrying the little girl's pink tights and she wanted them back! "I don't want people to see my panties!" she stated firmly, twirling to show us how her skirt flew up. We assured her that they definitely weren't visible and Gramma said, "Now go on in there and show off those pretty brown legs!"

She bummed a cigarette from Pat and in doing so, dropped the pink tights. Pat pointed to them and she scooped them up. Pat gestured at the sidewalk and said, "Is that yours?" "That" was a paper towel Kotex with a bright smear of fresh blood. The woman yanked it off the sidewalk, took two steps toward us, yanked up her voluminous skirts and replaced it. Somewhere.

She began apologizing profusely, nearly weeping, saying over and over "I'm still bleeding!" (a reference to menstruation.) We tried to reassure her, but she kept on until I finally grinned and said, "Get over it!" and she laughed and hugged me (which I could definitely have done without. I don't like strangers all up in my face.)

She and Pat chatted about their grandchildren. They talked about paying the kids to do chores and the woman said that her grandmother had brought her up and sent her as a child out to the store. "I was just a little kid, running up and down Exposition Boulevard! And I didn't think nothing of it!" she said, with some wonder.

Eventually, the conversation waned and she went in to get the girl. Pat and I raised eyebrows at each other and went in, too.

As I passed the refreshment table, the Hot Dog Lady grabbed me forcefully by the sleeve and hissed like a goose, "Don't get to close to That Woman! She's not nice! (venomous look at her back) Just look at her - half-naked in the wintertime!" She added that our new friend was with the Fat Piano Player and that his girlfriend of some years was sitting right there. "See the blonde lady? I don't know how she can put up with him" (sad shake of her head.)

Having loathed the Fat Piano Play from afar for some time (he's a weird dude) I wondered, too. How either woman could go for him.

I reassured the Hot Dog Lady as best I could that I have every ability to take care of myself and returned to our table. I was just in time to see the blonde lady leaving the premises with the Fat Piano Player waddling along right behind her. Of our visitor, there was now no trace -- except for her sweater, left hanging on the back of her chair.

Who says the jazz club is just a bunch of old fart jazz fans?

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Stranger at the Jazz Club

Members call it simply "the jazz club" and it meets the second Sunday of every month at the Riviera Village (south Redondo) Knights of Columbus hall. You can enter from the street or the back door which is what the musicians use -- closest to the bandstand.

To set the scene: The front door is open and sidewalk sign proclaims that there's live music today, come on in! On entering, you're in a small lobby - ladies and men's to the left; the entrance to the bar on the right. Farther left is the entrance to the "big room" with round tables for eight or 10 depending on the crowd. The bandstand is at the rear of the room and the wooden floor is polished for dancing.

This is by no means a formal concert. People greet friends, stop and converse; people at the tables are chatting away. A table set along the back of the room provides space for the items to be drawn (donated by members.) Refreshments (hot dogs, popcorn, slices of homemade cake) are sold by a woman who is all of 5 ft. tall, perhaps 90 lbs. and surely somewhere in her mid-80s. I think of her as "The Hot Dog Lady" and we enjoy our visits together.

Raffle tickets are sold by a perambulating lady - five for $1. The raffle is held when the music is over. Speaking of that, there is always a featured band and in front and behind their performance are pick-up bands of whoever is around and wants to join in.

I was outside, waiting for a friend who never showed (and you know who you are) when Bob and Pat (Brodsky) arrived. Bob went in; Pat lingered to gossip. When we walked into the ballrom we were surprised and then enchanted to see a little African-American girl dancing away while her mother (we thought) nodded approvingly from a chair at a table.

The surrise was: despite this being a club that honors New Orleans jazz, this was only the second time we'd seen a black person in attendance. Not because they would be made to feel unwelcome! Far from it. Fans are united. Period.

The little girl was wearing over-szied black motorcycle boots, a flouncy skirt and a modest top. Her hair was clumped and fastened with white plastic butterflies which danced as merrily as she did.

The woman was wearing a strapless sundress (on January 10th) with a gathered, elasticized bodice and a mid-calf-length skirt in a flower print. From time to time, clearly as the spirit moved her, she would get up and enthusiastically shake her (massive) booty and take cell phone pictures of the band. Woman and child were directly in front of the bandstand.

We four sat at the next table. An hour passed pleasantly and then Pat and I went out to the sidewalk for a cigarette. Next out the front door were the woman and little girl, who was as antic off the dance floor as on it. I grinned and said "I bet she'll sleep well tonight" and the woman grinned in response and said, "She don't sleep with me! Nuh-uh! I can't stand it! Wriggling - makes me need a Valium or a Nembutal (dramatic eye roll) somepin'!"

She went on to say that this was her first grandchild; that the kid was seven and that they were staying with (mumbled name) in the band. During our chat, the girl ran into the club and then back out to us several times.

After bumming a cigarette from me, the woman announced she was taking the girl down to the beach (two blocks west) and they'd be back.

What was noticeable about the woman was her teeth - the top middle two were missing as were some along the bottom left jaw. The remaining teeth were brown and crooked. "Crack 'ho" I thought to myself. But since she was at least 5 ft. 9 in. and carrying 300 lbs. I figured she'd kicked it. Never having actually seen a crack 'ho live I couldn't tell you if they run thin or fat, but this fat seemed unlikely.

To Be Continued

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Obnoxious Phrases in the North American Vernacular

#1 - Guaranteed to raise my blood pressure to soaring heights:

When a happy couple exclaims triumphantly, "We're pregnant!"

I'm tempted to say, "If he's (nod) pregnant, you better get on the phone to the Guinness Book of Records! (Pause to let my hair settle back down on my head.) The proper phrase is: 'She's pregnant and we're both delighted/thrilled/so pleased.'" This also applies to same sex couples. No matter what, only one of you is in fact pregnant.

A double offender! Medical or wait staff that coyly inquires, How're we doing today?" Acceptable response: (Unsmiling nod, cool delivery) "As we've never been introduced, I have no way to know how well you may or may not be feeling."

As personally satisfying as this well could be, don't say it. It will result in the nurse giving you a shot comparable to her hurling a dart all the way across a pub floor and into the bull's eye or your server will add something to your food that never came out of the kitchen.

Wait staff/bartender: "Would you like another drink?" Right away this is off-putting as it indicates your server has you pegged as a raving alcoholic. And no matter how deserving that description may be ... being labeled is so Politically Incorrect.

Preferable: Server says, "May I freshen that for you?" Exception: In a Mexican restaurant it is perfectly acceptable for the server to ask, "Dos mas?"

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ranting Into the Abyss - Again

I saw it again in one of the two newspapers we get daily - the headline "Openly-gay (politician) has decided to run for (new position.) "Openly-gay, eh." What has that got to do with that person's achievements, thoughts on taxes and other matters that actually DO matter to voters.

If we live to be 1,000 (and mazel tov if so) we will never see "Openly-straight (politician)"... "Firmly-closeted (politician) ... " wouldn't surprise me at all.

I believe that when the AP (Associated Press) assigns this label, it is their deliberate attempt to stir up the Fundamentalists and others who are violently anti-gay. This is not uniting America, not at all.

I further dislike AP's habit of labeling people thusly: "Antwon Carver Washington, African-American" or "Abu Dahbu Du, Arabic-American," or famous Italian-American racer Mario Andretti said today"

I believe that we are sophisticated enough to know by someone's name alone their origins which - again - are most decidedly NOT on any must-have information list.

If we truly are to be a united country., these labels must be abandoned. Write your local newspaper. Protest! I'm going to do just that.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Bliss of Scratching an Itch

For a couple of days, I've been envisioning a Bloody Mary at Joe's Crab Shack. They make the best ever! They use Demetrius in their tomato juice and that is fine stuff. The Demetrius brand is available at Bev-Mo; I've got a bottle sitting in our refrigerator. It adds a bit of heat, but not the sensation that, suddenly, your mouth has turned into a boiling-hot spa.

It's also only 13% salt and most commercial mixes are from 45 to 60% salt.

When I broached the idea of dining there, Richie took it under advisement briefly and then said, "Sure."

Joe's Crab Shack, 230 Portofino Way, Redondo Beach 90277 310-406-1999

We were early (but still service was languid) and were given a booth. During the daylight hours, Joe's has an enviable view of the ocean and shoreline. At night, there are just twinkling city lights to distract you.

I got my Bloody ($6.29) and Richie a bud ($3.89.) He ordered the crab cake dinner ($18.49) and I a featured dish called "Shells on Ice" ($17.99) which consisted of eight peel 'n eat shrimp, four snow crab legs and three hefty lobster claws, served in a tin bucket (it leaked) packed with ice. Cocktail sauce, lemons and drawn butter (after I asked for it) on the side.

I was so engrossed in picking the meat out of the shells, that I didn't even look at Richie's plate of crab cakes! Snow crab legs are tough -- the meat is shreddy, like coconut. I found myself eating single shreds that had attached themselves to my finger tips. The peel 'n eat shrimp were easy and the lobster meat came out in single, succulent pieces. A very direct contrast to snow crab legs. I spent a great deal of time over dinner. Richie was long done by the time I threw in the towel and asked for a take-home box.

But am I going to have a luxurious lunch today! No Bloody Mary needed; I had one yesterday.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Now Entering Savannah

Highway sign just before the city limits: "You are now entering Weirdsville." Just kidding. There's no sign like that although there damned well should be.

We visited Savannah (and then Beaufort, Perris Island and Charleston) for one reason only. I had been positively enthralled by John Berendt's book "The Garden of Good and Evil," published in 1995. I couldn't get to Savannah to see it all for myself fast enough!

We flew in at night and the lights of the bridge and town and the contrastic darkness of the river and country looked promising. The next day we set off touring. We took a carriage ride through the squares. The woman tour guide patiently guided the horse and told us dribs and drabs of local history. Indicating a grand old house, she murmured, "Poor man, he shot her in a jealous rage and when he only winged her, he turned the gun on himself. He knew she'd be hell to live with afterward."

We came to the square that held the house featured in the book. Signs of activity dotted the front lawn. There was going to be a book signing of The Book (as it's always referred to there) that very afternoon! We'd get to see and possibly talk to The Lady Chablis, her husband, Emma Kelly, dubbed "The Lady of Six Thousand Songs" by Johnny Mercer who had lived across the square. Our hostess was "Mandy" who owned the house and rented out "the penthouse" for $150/night, breakfast included. She told us that she was never Joe Odum's girlfriend as he was gay. Others nodded their heads and said the story took place in Johnny Mercer's house. There seemed to be no authority who could tell us definitely what was what.

The ladies were very nice. The Lady Chablis was friendly and flirtatious, ignoring her husband who sat placidly in a lawn chair at the back of the yard. Emma seemed somewhat confused as to her part in this whole performance and Mandy looked tired.

The bottom floor of the house had a souvenir shop and we were urged to partake of the treasures therein.

I lied and told Mandy that I'd left my copy of The Book at home, "home" being the RB Main Library. She promptly pulled out a book marker - like a bigger version of a visiting card - and all of the ladies signed it for me. I think it cost $2.50.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Roving Mind

I was reading Lois Battle's "Bed and Breakfast" which is set in Beaufort, SC. I remembered that we'd been there in 1996. Hint: Beaufort is not pronounced "Bow-fort" as you'd expect, but "Bew-fert" instead. Just in case you have to ask directions.

I may very well be hazy on some of the details that follow, but, Your Honor, to the best of my recollection... We flew into Savannah, toured around (more of which later) and then drove north to Charleston, stopping in Perris Island and Beaufort (which ever comes first on the map) on the way.

Perris Island did have a guard at the front gate of a two lane road, but with no trouble at all, we were allowed to drive up and then back down the main road. We passed a sign on one of the buildings that read "Cake icing lessons - Tuesday, 4/25.) I cannot imagine a Marine icing a cake. Just wouldn't happen.

We passed a black drill sergeant marching his guys. Ramrod posture, his uniform impecable in every detail. He was screaming at the top of his lungs at them! I yelled to Richie, 'That's it! In my next life I want to be a drill sergeant!" Happily, the a/c was on and the windows rolled up.

We had lunch in Beaufort. Waitresses in pastel uniforms with white aprons and lacy handkerchiefs in their breast pockets cooed. Mine gestured at my iced tea glass and inquired, "Would you like me to freshen that up for you, darlin'?"

Beaufort is a charming little town, perched picturesquely along a cliff top overlooking the water. You could easily tell it was an old town by the construction - short, brick buildings for commercial use and enormous mansions (many of which are bed and breakfast places.)

All in all, we found it "nice" but we wanted more action. We returned to Savannah and discovered a positive hotbed of intrigue, drunks, stories and excitement.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Disclaimer Urgently Needed!

We, the residents of Southern California, have a seasonal situation that should be fixed forthwith. I'm speaking of the hordes of people who come here from the north, Midwest and northern East Coast for the RoseBowl Parade.

Bright with anticipation, eager faces turn up to bask in the sun, they are unaware that by no later than January 15th, the weather will have turned and stayed cold, rainy and foggy until the end of June. Hence the nicknames "June Gloom" which follows "Gray May."

What happens after these cold weather dwellers get here? Clearly the sun unhinges them. Typical conversation at the Rose Bowl events, "Maudeen, Ah believe you'ah right. this is puhfect weathuh." And Maudeen replies, "Clyde, Ah'm damned sick and tire of living in (insert location.) Let's move out heah!"

Boom! They've sold the old homesteads and driven their trucks and moving vans out here. They're probably going to get here by mid-February and most likely, they'll say., "Aw, it's jest a spella bad weather. No need to fret." But the unpleasant weather continues...more and more disheartened, they begin to miss family and friends. They put their houses/condos/apartments up for sale and, disisllusioned, they move back home.

Accounting largely for Southern California's massive real estate slump.

My solution? Every travel agent, airline, bus and train ticket seller should make them sign a piece of paper that says: "I (name) do understand that what I am about to see here in Southern California does not represent this fine state's true weather conditions. I do accept that the minute the Rose Bowl festivities are over, the darkness will descend. And I hereby promise to go back home. (Signed and dated.)"

Friday, January 1, 2010


A faint scent of tantalizing possibilities...the possibility of new sights, new friends, new amusements...perhaps the finale of some unfinished business. A new year is rife with hope, ambition and "What does the future hold?" Embrace it and go forth with courage!
Small editorial: many more people today than I can remember in the past are, to say the least, displeased with a great many of our political "leaders." This is an election year and the way to remove the offenders is to VOTE AGAINST THEM. It's still "We the people" NOT "We the pork barrelers..."