Sunday, October 31, 2010

When the Tsunami of Greed Swept Over Me...

We went to Kip's, El Segundo (Previously reviewed as "I Like It") for the Sunday gospel brunch. We knew going in that it would be recorded music and not a live group which was fine with us. Mutable noise is preferable to people screaming with joy/religious fervor.

We were the only people there at 11 a.m. and that was lovely -- sort of like you're the Gotrocks and you call the place and say, "No other guests, please; we'll make it worth your while."

When Kip came to take our drinks order, I asked for a spicy Bloody Mary ... "Alas, it's a minimal bar on Sundays ... champagne? wine? beer?" so we ordered champagne. I assumed it was $5.50 a flute and was dismayed because my favorite champagne for home dirnking is $5/bottle. It turns out to be all the champagne you want while you're eating for $5.50. Richie joined me. I asked for the "hog planks" (thick bacon swathed in brown sugar, chopped hazelnuts and baked crisp as "a kind of appetizer."

We continued to study the menu. When Kip came back with the flutes, I sheepishly pointed to the menu and said, "Uh, and three of the coconut shrimp with sweet and sour ginger sauce?" ($8.50)

Richie ordered the Eggs Creole (eggs over easy on potato cakes with Andouille gravy - $16) and I the Cajun Bubble and squeak. The menu said poached eggs over potato cakes with a shrimp pork hash and chili Benedict sauce ($18.)

Some confusion arose when I saw and tasted it. The "hash" was sausage rounds cooked and sliced. Kip noticed my distress when I tried to switch plates with Richie figuring we'd been given the wrong ones. I asked "Is this andouille sausage?" and he said, 'It's a Portuguese sausage - made out of pork." Richie helpfully told him that I don't like sausage. I quickly added that I had plenty of protein (gesturing at the bacon and shrimp) that Richie does like sausage and I'd just take it home for him.

The bacon was sensational - "plank" is the right word for the long, narrow, very lean pieces of excellent bacon. The ginger sweet and sour sauce had a kick like a mule and was delicious. Richie practically licked his plate clean of the Eggs Creole. The tab came to $64.20 plus a 20% tip.

Now we have four good restaurants, of equal cost (pretty much) and quality. Tin Roof Bistro, Manhattan Beach; Hudson House, Redondo; Charlie's (formerly Cialucci's) and Kip's.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Find!

Every winter for the past 27 years, Richie and I have gone to war over the inside of the house temperature. He feels that 60 is bright and bracing, easily standable and I don't. Not by a long shot. Parenthetically, if you know of any place on earth that's a consistent 72 degrees, 'year 'round, please contact me.

We have an electric space heater that I set at 64; obligingly it turns itself on and off to maintain that temperature. It is never left unattended, despite the fact that if you so much as nudge it, all hell breaks loose audibly.

But: I think I see light glimmering at the end of the very long tunnel that is winter out here (overcast, grey and as low as 40 at night.) All by myself, with no help from the audience, I have discovered POLAR FLEECE!

Polar fleece is a man-made creation; probably of a bunch of chemicals whipped together into fabric, but O! that fabric is so warrrmmmm.

Originally, I was looking for a cotton sweater on the Land's End site when I discovered Polar Fleece Funnelneck sweaters. I ordered one; it came and I was impressed by the fit (sleeves and hem just long enough) and absolutely blown away by the fact that a pair of feathers might weigh more than it does, but the heat generated is awesome!

I promptly went back online and ordered three more. I have a three super warm sweatshirts (purchased in Cabo San Lucas; go figure) and with the addition of four WARM tops I am set for this winter and winters to come. polar fleece funnelneck $22 each for a woman's; check prices for men and children.

"Funnelneck" means a much looser fit than a turtleneck. Both help hold precous body heat IN.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Thought

As our thoughts turn toward voting next Tuesday, consider this...

"Numerous politicians have seized absolute power and muzzled the press. Never in history has the press seized absolute power and muzzled the politicians."
David Brinkley, 1920-2003

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oprah-zation Of A Nation? Damn! Missed It

"Oprah, A Biography" by Kitty Kelley Crown Publishers 524 pages $30

What I gleaned...

Oprah is as much a brand name as IBM or Ford. She has cornered the market on all things Oprah. So much so, that all of her employees no matter how far removed from her physically are given a professional security firm's scrutiny before a 30-day test drive. Then they may be hired. She pays well, but forgets the creator of the idea's name. Harpo, her corporate identity is badly run; no one is in charge; everyone wants to please Oprah (and keep her ratings up.) The in-fighting is said to be vicious...

All employees sign a binding confidentiality agreement. Given her money (billions) and access to lawyers, no one wants to go up against her.

Oprah believes in branding. When her book club was up and running, publishers had to include her logo and "Oprah Book Selection" printed into the cover - not a decal. Her magazine "O" has 2.5 million subscribers. Every single month the cover photo is -- Oprah.

Those famous give-aways on her shows? Oprah bullies CEOs of major corporations into giving her 300 of whatever she wants for her audience that day. She bills the give away as "One of my favorite things!" knowing that those not present in the audience will rush right out and buy a whatever. This gives her tremendous leverage with the CEOs.

Kelley praised Winfrey for her generosity to charities as well as friends, but notes that Oprah always has to show the recipient the price tag. "Isn't this a great watch? I paid $26,300 for it!" Telling, isn't it?

Over the years a lot of speculation has been devoted to the trio of Oprah, fiance Stedman Graham and best friend and constant companion Gayle King. Several quoted in the book report that Stedman, while attractive, is basically a stupid, humorless man. Oprah loves to brag about her gifts to King (a house, nannies for her kids) exactly like "a husband brags about the things he buys for his trophy wife" remarked one observer. King is divorced.

Oprah's campaigning for Barack Obama made him President (or so she feels.) Probably the only reason she hasn't run for president is that she doesn't want it! Hey, coupla billions; the ability to buy virtually anything she wants -- including Secret Service-level guards, a $50 million estate near Santa Barbara, a Gulfstream jet -- mingling with such as Nelson Mandela, Bush the Elder -- the only person who won't take her calls is the Pope -- who needs it?

And if she follows through on plans for her own TV channel -- OWN or Oprah Winfrey Network -- in 2011, she will certainly feel more powerful than any mere president. Because if Oprah wants it, she gets it. She has worked hard; she deserves success, but when success turns you into a raving dictator it's time to thank God a little less (more or less as a co-conspirator) and get your head on straight.

I can't help wondering what her end will be. Absolute power corrupts absolutely we have been told...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Explanation

A reliable source told me that the gulls and dolphins were communing with each other.

Dolphins round up fish by circling them into a wild, thrashing group and then proceed to eat them. (Sharks may also do this.) The gulls catch wind of the activity and join in.

He said that he's often seen it off the Point Ferman lighthouse in San Pedro.

I'm relieved to learn that this was a normal activity and not seagulls picking on an injured dolphin!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Something Strange at the Beach

Today we stopped to look at the ocean, as we often do, just south of the Redondo Beach Pier. Out in the deep water, we saw a flock of gulls repeatedly diving at something in the water. Richie grabbed the binoculars and reported that it was a dolphin!

Was the dolphin injured? Were the birds eating parasites off of its skin? What was going on?

Came home and went to Google and the information wasn't there. Some varieties of orca (killer whales) eat fish, regurgitate it to the ocean surface and when the seagulls (which will eat anything) arrive for lunch, the orca eats the bird.

But the bird population remained steady at the site we were watching. What was going on? If you are familiar with the habits of seagulls and dolphins, Inquiring Minds want to know!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Viva Autumn!

Last night Tony and Raffish joined us for dinner -- since it was pretty much a stag party, I served the lads quaffs of Trader Joe's Hofbrau Bock and pretzel crackers, then segued way into brauts with a choice of three mustards, potato cakes (lacy and brown) baked beans, sauerkraut* and rye garlic toast**. For dessert I passed around small bowls and turned them loose on Mint Chocolate Chip or Cherries Garcia ice cream. This was a dinner the men especially enjoyed -- not a single green vegetable on the table!

*Sauerkraut -- drain a can of sauerkraut, put it in a pot, add a couple of jiggers of gin and about a teaspoon of carraway seeds. Just before you serve it, drop in a pat of butter and stir well.
** Rye garlic toast -- toast slices of rye bread, rub briskly with a clove of garlic, cut in strips and serve with butter.

Tonight the same cast plus Pat and Bob for:

Warm Pumpkin Bread with Pumpkin Cream Cheese or honey-butter

Pork loin roast with my sister's marinade
Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage

Romaine Lettuce with Pear Slices, Bacon, Walnut and Toscana Cheese with Cinnamon, Balsamic dressing.

Dessert is Richie's home-made Pumpkin Pie!

I love fall cooking! The oven does all the work!

Friday, October 22, 2010

On The Shelf

"A Complicated Man, The Life of Bill Clinton as Told by Those Who Know Him" by Michael Takiff Yale Unversity Press 496 pages $32.50

Admitted, I didn't bother to read the accounts of Clinton's early life; they happened 60 years ago.

What did interest me is the contrast between his humanitarian efforts in Africa and China and the couple's personal assets. At the end of 2008, these assets numbered $109 million. And yet, the Clinton's were reluctant to spend any more than $1.3 million to pay off $11.3 million in lawyers' fees. A fund was set up instead. You may be very sure that everyone but the Clintons paid into it. Once you get money, don't ever let go of it!

"Deliver Us From Evil" by David Baldacci Grand Central Publishing 406 pages $27.99

Baldacci's previous 18 novels have been published in 40 languages in more than 80 countries with nearly 100 million copies in print.

That said, I didn't like this book. The plot was not believable, not fleshed out enough and when I read that the bad guy aka "the real butcher of Kiev" lived in a 13,000 sq. ft. penthouse completely alone, wouldn't even allow cleaning staff in, I thought, "Give me a break. This guy is going to clean his own shower, toilets?"

Perhaps Baldacci is tiring of the enormous pressure to crank out bestsellers. He deserves a rest, not my criticism.

"Lunch in Paris; A Love Story with Recipes" by Elizabeth Bard Little, Brown and Company 324 pages $23.99

Bard met an attractive, quirky French man; they fell in love; she moved into his Paris apartment; then they got married.

A lot of the book (more than I liked, to be honest) concerned itself with her reactions as a New Yorker to the Parisian way of life.

Most especially, she touts "her" fact that Americans are driven, ambitious, aggressive types in comparison to the more relaxed, day-to-day enjoyment of small things that the French exhibit. Her husband was (and presumably still is) an unambitious type, content to let life's river swirl him through any eddies. I don't think it's fair to base one's entire judgement of another country's people on your own husband's laziness!

Other than my umbrage at this, it's an interesting enough read. She does like and admire Paris and her remarks about the place did resonate with me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Bridge in Town - Las Vegas, That Is

The formal name is: the Mike O'Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. Mr. O'Callaghan was formerly a Nevada senator and Mr. Tillman left a promising and lucrative career in football to defend our country.

It's a by-pass bridge for the road that has run across Hoover Dam for as long as I can remember. Since 911, it's also been considered a prime terrorism target. Based on the length of time it used to take to drive across it, terrorists would have plenty of time to plant dynamite, make sure it's set right and then eat their lunch.

The by-pass bridge presented a tremendous challenge to the engineers -- it had to arch 900 ft. into the air and the two sides had to meet within 1 in. of each other!

Bridge construction started in January, 2005, and was expected to be finished at some time in 2008. But: on September 15, 2006 a tower that held the steel cable support system crashed due to a storm.

Recently the bridge was opened (with the requisite pomp and ceremony, you may be sure) and it is 1,900 ft. long and 88 ft. wide. How well did the spans match up? Within 3/8 in. (which was filled in with concrete.) That's some pretty amazing engineering!

You never realize how many times you bend over during the course of a day -- until your back goes out.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A "Royal" Place To Shop

Alert Readers will recall that I have an unholy fascination with the antics of Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, Prinz Frederic von Anhalt. Obviously, he's as crazy as betting a NASCAR race, but he presents his insane didoes with such a self-deprecating flair that I can't help but laugh.

Some tidbits ... Born in 1944, this former masseur bought his title from an old lady. He married Zsa Zsa in 1986 and so far, this is her longest running marriage. As she is 93/96 (dates differ) I think it's safe to assume that it will be her last. Incidentally, together the couple have adopted (aka sold the title von Anhalt) to four different adult males.

He appeared on my radar in 2006, when he daintily suggested that perhaps he was the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby daughter.

He was back in 2007, claiming that he'd been held up at gunpoint by three women who left him handcuffed and stark naked. Somehow he managed to use a cell phone to get help (amazing, really, when you remember he said that the women had taken his wallet, watch and cell phone...) Police reported no handcuffs were found at the scene.

In 2010, after a three year absence -- possibly spent recovering from the trama above -- he returned to make a bid for Governor of California. I seem to remember his platform embraced legalizing drugs and prostitution. Alas, it was not to be -- his wife's health demanded his constant presence.

Today he has opened an online shop. You can visit at but to save you time...

There are only nine items for sale. Starting at the low end:
One gubernatorial campaign button - $12.50
One campaign folder - $14.50
Choice of two styles baseball hats - $37.50 each
One campaign pillow - $65
One campaign package consisting of one pillow, two hats, two stickers and one folder - $160
One ducal house uniform (nice shade of green) - $160,000 Note to buyers: Make sure all of the medals are included.
Two Rolls Royce cars - one at $140,000; the other at $350,000
Two diamond "collars" (no photos) one at $500,000; the other at $1 million

Ah, Prinz, you never disappoint....

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Odd Couple

Richie and I have very different tastes in food -- he enjoys fish, lamb, oysters, clams...I'm horrified at the idea of eating any of them.

Thus, last night he had swordfish* and macaroni and cheese and an avocado halved, with a dab of dressing in the hollow. I embarked on a sauce testing no doubt still under the influence of Chef Messina's skills in putting foods together.

I cooked up seven Trader Joe's pork-filled won tons, set out seven sauces and proceeded to eat my way through them.

1. Kikkomen Soy Sauce - Wow! Salt! Then it softened down into semi-sweet.
2. Trader Joe's Gyozo Dipping Sauce -- Good, but bland. Needed some fire to is. This is peppy on other dishes but not this.
3. General Tsao Stir-Fry Sauce - The label says "with bits of chili and a hint of garlic" but I didn't taste any. It did have a slightly hot taste, and that was good.
4. Viola's Jalapeno Jelly - Sweet and okay, but not standing out in any way.
5. Coleman's Mustard - Bam! All I could taste was vinegar and mustard; the pork won ton was lost in it.
6. Cilantro and Ginger Marinade (Tikki - mild) - Slight vinegar taste, cilantro, yes; ginger taste, no.
7. Trader Joe's Sesame Wasabi Dipping Sauce - no heat which surprised me- on other dishes it has a back burner heat.

Next time? Col. Mustard and General Tsao will be introduced to one another.

* Since I don't eat fish, I don't know how to cook it so I vamp with this: black pepper one side of the swordfish steak; saute it in fairly hot oil in an 8 in. skillete for about 5 minutes, flip it, pepper that side and cook another 3 or 4 minutes. Leave the fish in the pan; turn off the burner and dash a little lime juice into the skillet. You're leaving the fish to "finish" while the rest of dinner finishes, too. When you serve it, stir the lime juice and olive oil and pour over the fish. I do this with salmon, too.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I Liked It! I Really Liked It!

Kip's, 403 Main Street, El Segundo 310-529-1132

Kip's was favorably reviewed by Richard Foss, in the Easy Reader, and he knows food. Then Kip's put an ad in the paper that Richie saw and cut out -- for the ad said, "French-Country, Cajun-Inspired Good Food!"

It drizzled yesterday, it was a day for comfort food. El Segundo was quiet, as it always is. Kip's is a long, narrow cave of cypress-painted walls, industrial pipe ceiling and dark wooden tables and chairs accented by crisp, white table linens.

Richie ordered a draft Stella, I had a glass of water and we perused the menu. He decided to have the baby beef tenderloin with garlic green beans and fingerling potatoes. ($14.95) He's a fool for green beans. I wanted the three course "Lunch at Kip's" and started off with roasted garlic soup., followed by a Cajun Caesar salad and then grilled BBQ shrimp on Forbidden rice. ($16.50)

We were offered our choice of sourdough or jalapeno sourdough and naturally we went for the hot. It arrived and was warm - from the oven, I thought as I bit into a buttered slice and then, no, nuked and it shouldn't have been. It was soft, not chewy.

We looked around and at 12:20 on a Friday there was a table of four men and us. More people arrived as time went on, but I was too busy eating to count them. It was quite nice with only a few people, a serene atmosphere. The only complaint I've heard about Kip's is that it's really loud at night -- no soundproofing materials. Hey! they could hang Cajun quilts!

The soup was thick --and was basically potatoes and roasted garlic. Richie said, "You can sure taste the garlic!" which is a good thing. It arrived with parmesan shavings strewn across the top. They never had a chance to melt with me -- I scarfed that soup down!

Caesar salad has its own identity -- tossed romaine lettuce and a specific salad dressing. The Cajun version came as traditional but with a slight dusting of what tasted like paprika and cayenne peppers. The lettuce was crispy fresh which it sometimes isn't at other restaurants.

Four, big barbecued shrimp topped the Forbidden rice. The story on the rice -- which is black, by the way -- is that the Emperor loved it and forbade his peasants to eat it. This version tasted sweet and the chef later told me he uses a sesame-chili oil in it. Dots of yellow corn brightened the black of the rice. All of the above was good and I cleaned my plate (a rarity.)

Richie loved the long slivers of his garlic green beans, but the fingerling potatos startled him at their arrival on his plate -- they were purple which threw him off. While I liked the idea of a faint dusting of sea salt on the potato skins, my first impression was: salt! (Not that potatoes are particularly flavorful on their own.) His tenderloin was a beautiful piece of meat, the fat had been trimmed off and it was cooked to exactly rare.

Feeling expansive, I asked about dessert. Owner (with his wife Tammy) Kip Long replied that he does serve dessert at dinner, but ... lunch ... I pointed at the Fig Melba and sighed. I'd really wanted to taste it because Foss went nuts for it. Mr. Long said, "I can make you one!"

"Oh, no. no! Don't go to all that trouble!," I protested. He said, "I can do it..." and smiled teasingly , so I said, 'Gimme!" with a big grin.

Fig Melba should have been called "Essence of Autumn With a Foreshadowing of Winter." It arrived in a piping hot oval baking dish -- a dark syrup that bathed blueberries, strawberries and, of course, the figs (Fall) and a great lump of vanilla ice cream (Winter.) $10 and we shared it, ooohing and awwing the while.

As we were leaving, I asked Mr. Long to please thank the chef for me and he said, "You can meet him and tell him yourself!" I was thrilled -- I'd never met a live chef that had just cooked my meal! Wow!

Chef Johnnie Messina was slim and efficient looking in a black chef's coat. He smiled, we all shook hands and I began my thanks.

We discussed the food-- he said it's brown sugar and water, reduced, for the Fig Melba sauce and that he gently presses the fruit as it cooks so as to release more flavor. I wondered aloud if anyone had ever made a Tabasco reduction and what it would add to the Forbidden rice without the vinegar, Tabasco's primary taste. He laughed and said he'd tried making a Tabasco reduction, but without any protein in the mix, it just didn't work.

I'm enthused about Kip's (obviously) and now I want to go to the Sunday Gospel Brunch, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Listen to some of the offerings --

Coconut shrimp with sweet and sour ginger marmalade -- three for $8.50; six for $16.
Eggs Creole - two poached eggs on crisp potato pancakes with shrimp-Andouille gravy $16
Cajun Bubble and Squeak - two poached eggs over a potato patty with shrimp hash browns and a chili Hollandaise. $18
I know I'd get an order of Hog Planks - thick, crisp bacon candied in brown sugar and topped with crumbled, roasted hazelnuts. $5

These are all inventive foods with a visceral understanding of what tastes good together. Kudos to Chef Messina.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

She's Baaack!

I'm referring to my 1987 Toyota half-ton pick-up truck which turned 24 this month. The odometer? 63,000 and change.

She's never failed to start when asked to fire up, never put me in a dangerous situation by blowing a tire out on the freeway, say ... she's a true and faithful friend.

And it must be said that One Day Paint did a bang-up job. Given the fact that Truck used to get one formal bath a year (car wash) as opposed to God's Car Wash (rain) they didn't have a whole lot to work with for this job.

Hey, I praise restaurants, why not a car painting place? Getting a paint job on an already sound vehicle is a helluva lot cheaper than buying a new vehicle!
One Day Paint, 21801 S. Western, Torrance, CA 90501 310-328-8900 NOTE: One Day Paint did not compensate me in any way for this positive praise.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Guest Editor!

Today we are pleased to share this space with Richie's cousin, Ruth Ellen of Coral Gables, Florida. She wrote in response to yesterday's column on Nathan's Famous. With no further ado --

"I went there almost every Saturday or Sunday (when we weren't in Sayville) during the summer months with my Dad in our Ford station wagon.

A few years ago, I went back to Coney Island and the hot dogs were the same! They also make a great clam chowder and have a clam and oyster bar and other cooked foods to eat. There was also a small corner that sold corn on the cob only -- it was near the alley side of the building. The main store had a tiny room where you could sit and eat as well as a small bathroom. Outdoors there were table and chairs; these were on the side street where the police were there with their horses. (Ed. note: !)

Mostly though people ate at the high tables where you can only stand. There were counter tops and you got your own ketchup and mustard.

The French fries were the best -- they came in a white cone with a two-pronged red plastic fork.

There were so many cooks behind the counters .. you could see the counter people cooking so many hot dogs - it was like a never-ending kitchen! Oh and you ordered each food at a different counter -- corn here; the clam bar there..."

(And I looked up "Ida the fiancee" this morning and yes, she did become his missus.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Day Late and a Dollar Short (Again)

Last Saturday we went to the Grand Opening! of Nathan's Famous (hot dogs) at 5050 Rosecrans, Hawthorne (

Richie had carefully clipped out the ad which promised a drawing on Friday, more stuff on Saturday and Sunday but all weekend long -- buy one hot dog and get the second for only a nickel! His eyes glistened with tears of joy as he hustled me into the car and off we roared.

Only to discover that this great sale takes place next weekend, not that weekend. We glanced at each other, shrugged and said, as one, "Well, as long as we're already here..."

Richie has known about/eaten Nathan's all of his life. He was born in Brooklyn and the family often visited Coney Island. Incidentally, Nathan's is pronounced NATE-unzz.

What neither of us knew was The History of Nathan's which is conveniently printed on the place mat in the serving tray.

There definitely was a real person involved. His full name was Nathan Handwerker and he was born in Poland on July 14, 1892. He immigrated to Coney Island in 1912 and four short years later, he opened his first hot dog stand, using a recipe for the dogs given him by his fiancee Ida.

But to open at all, he had to borrow $300 from his friends Jimmie Durante and Eddie Cantor. Another friend who frequented the place (but you wouldn't want to borrow money from him) was Al Capone. In 1921, he hired a comely redhead named Clara Bowtinelli as a waitress. She went on to stardom as Clara Bow. Cary Grant, working then as Archie Leach in 1924, wore a sandwich signboard around the Boardwalk to publicize the store.

Prohibition ended in 1933 and on that glorious day, Nathan served all of his customers a free beer.

Scandal arose in 1939! Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip visited the United States and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt invited the royal pair to a picnic at his and Eleanor's country estate. The whole country rose up in alarm and chagrin when it became known that FDR served the royals hot dogs! The horror! Guess whose hot dogs they were? Why Nathan's, of course!

More recently:
1998 A trip to Coney Island and a visit to Nathan's was an episode on "Seinfeld."
2004 The first Nathan's opened in Kuwait.
2005 The first Nathan's opened in the Dominican Republic.
2009 The NY Yankees and the NY Mets both opened new stadiums where Nathan's Famous and French fries are now sold.

Nathan himself died, age 82, in 1974. No further mention of "Ida the fiancee" was made in this particular history.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Boot Whisperer

I got an e the other day from my cousin -- let's call her GeeGee -- down in Austin saying that she and her adult daughter -- LeeLee -- were off to see the Boot Whisperer in Wimberley, TX.

It seems that LeeLee has been searching for a new pair of cowboy boots for the longest time and then someone told her about the Boot Whisperer. GeeGee said that this woman's gift is that she can look at you and bring out the perfect pair of boots for you from a stock of more than 500 "gently used" or new boots.

Say, what? I do know that one can often determine a woman's dress style just by looking at her (old lady, slut, tailored) from my brief days working at an "exclusive" dress shop where there was very little stock on display; we had to size up the customer, go in the back (racks and racks) and pick out something for "Madame."

Onward to Google! The Boot Whisperer is a woman named Ulli Johnstone, who works at Koolboots, 101 D Wimberley Square, Wimberley, tX. 512-847-6850 if you want to see how well she can do it over the phone.

It turns out that her basic gift is to stare at your bare foot and determine what size boot you would take! She says she's right eight out of 10 times. (If it involves having to look at someone else's naked feet ... color me gone.)

The next day I received word from cousin GeeGee that LeeLee didn't like the brown boots she brought out; she wanted black so they looked around a little and left.

Still, the germ of an idea was born ... I could become the Flip Flop Guru! Get a long black skirt, wear tons of beads and rings -- perhaps a turban, no? I would tell fat women, "Ah, you have the soul of a gypsy! Wild and free! Here, put these on." I would purr to the skinny, jumpy ladies, "Ah, you exude an aura of calm control..."

Assuming I could get a $50 fee for advising on a pair of $5 (or less) thong sandals, this might be a very good thing indeed... You think I should cut the Boot Whisperer in if it works? Nah, I don't either.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


It's supposed to be in the '70s across most of North America today, but there is still that slight "ping" of approaching Fall. In honor of the season...

Autumn Fires
by Robert Louis Stevenson

In the other gardens
And all up the vale
From the autumn gardens
See the smoke trail

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers
The red fire blazes
The grey smoke towers

Sing a song of seasons
Something bright in all
Flowers in the summer
Fires in the Fall

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Vegas? Sure! Longuyland? Nevah!

I have been longing to be invited to an Italian wedding since 1972 (28 years ago) when "The Godfather" came out. Who can forget the wedding scenes? To be a guest at an absolute feast -- with wine flowing like water and people from babies to great-grandparents singing, laughing, dancing... (stifled sob) but I never have.

But: there's always living vicariously which is free to us all. So, listen to this! Former New Yorkers Red and Barbara just got back from a trip to Long Island for a family wedding. Red's nephew (I think) married a woman of Italian descent. They got to go to an Italian wedding, dammit! And I didn't! Hellfire and damnation!

Er, I was saying..that Barbara told me all about it yesterday. She started with the lobby -- all marble and gold trim, a sweeping expansive staircase, a massive arrangement of real flowers. She said there was a huge chandelier, too. Unimpressed so far, I mumbled, "Vegas" and she said, "Yes!"

There were cocktails (open bar) with every sort of appetizer one could ever wish. There was a nearly life-sized rowboat filled with sea food.

As they were recovering a bit from all of this -- the martini bar came down from the ceiling! Complete with a live bartender, grinning and polishing a glass!

She went on to say that it had to be an eight course dinner -- she had crab cakes as the starter, then the pasta course was served, then salad, then the entree -- choice of filet mignon, salmon... on and on it went. The dinner napkins were beige SATIN! How impractical is that?

She said the conclusion of the meal was "a train" of tables with your choices of gelato or pastries or cappuccino or after-dinner liqueurs! Amaretto, Tia Maria, brandy...

Get this: the bride and groom dined at a table on dais all by themselves in "king and queen" chairs. I forgot to ask if she had a silken bag hanging off the chair for, uh, cash donations?

You can see all of this wonderment (except the martini bar descending; couldn't find it to pull it up) by googling "The Sandcastle, Franklin Square, NY." And if you're going to marry a woman of Italian descent any time soon, CALL ME!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Charting Extremes in Exercise

Bottom End of the Chart: Richie will try to find a parking spot on the same level as the gym. Reason? The up and down escalators are always broken, or so it seems.

Moving Up: "Protect and Serve" also means carrying a gun belt with a pistol (varying calibres) flashlight, handcuffs and more. Police officers report that in full rig, including boots and body armor, they gain from 15 to 22 lbs.

Still Higher: A fire fighter in full turnouts - boots, yellow pants and top with oxygen tank and mask carries 65 lbs. A fire fighter told me that he trained for this by running the Pacific Palisades stairs with a backpack full of sand. "Now," he said, "I'm used to it."

Highest (and degree of sanity involved is up to you): A friend of ours, "Raffish" has a black belt in Okinawan karate. Lately he's been training by wearing his karate uniform into the ocean until he and it are soaked, then standing in knee-deep water practicing his moves. He said it's doing wonders for his balance. And when the suit dries out, he submerges and does it all again.

Where are you on the Chart?


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Never Mind the Wal-mart People, Target Customers Scare Me to Death

"Wal-mart People" in the title above refers to the many photographs of ... interesting people, yes that's it! ... shopping in Wal-marts.

We went to Target because their Sunday flyer advertised "throw pillows" for $10 apiece. I needed a pair of flattish ones to use as seats on a French wooden couch we have. It already has two side cushions, fat because stuffed with lavender. I am not going spend $80 and upwards for what is essentially a fart containement, noise abatement device.

Found the cushions. Richie browsed the men's department and bought three t-shirts, then he went to "Automotive" where I found him drooling over polish-your-car waxes, potions, washes and God only knows what else. I found and threw into the basket an auto air freshener that looks like a clothespin - you stick it in the vents on the dashboard. $1.89 for four; two scents "Cucumber Mango" and "Clean Linen."

"We need candy for Halloween," he said suddenly. "It's not till October 31st!" I shrieked. Undeterred (as usual) he walked straight to "Candy."

There we found four or more (was blinded by the shine off of the bags) aisles, shelves packed with sacks and sacks of bite-sized candy bars, pretzels, kettle corn -- on and on they stretched.

A section had party decorations including foldout, glitter-covered tablepieces - a Gothic candelabra or a haunted castle. I bought the castle, which is purple and covered with glitter.

Another shelf held what looked like an ice cube tray, each space holding what looked like a human eyeball. Intrigued, I picked it up -- eyeball ice cubes? Except there was very little space for the water. I looked at the label more closely. They were candy! Can you possibly imagine saying, "Oh, do have another eyeball! There're only 50 calories apiece!"

The only bright spot in this terrifying place was: Hershey Kisses now come in caramel apple flavor. You can eat nine of them for only 190 calories.

But that's why Target customers scare me. They put out Gothic candelabra, set out 14 tons of candy and offer people an eyeball. Ick!

Monday, October 4, 2010


Pan Work
I recently reviewed a book by a food critic who managed to wangle his way into some top chefs' kitchens to work. A French chef looked him up and down rather coolly and said, "Make me an omelet." The newbie went through 34 (34) eggs before he satisfied the chef.

But in Sunday's Parade magazine, another chef suggested that you take a cold omelet pan and a square or oval piece of sandwich bread and practice your flipping with them.

A First
I had a 9:30 a.m. appointment today with my neurologist (back went out - again) and arrived in timely fashion. Only one other couple was in the waiting room. After a bit, the office door opened and a woman came out to us.

"I'm so-and-so Doctor's office manager, and I am sooooo sorry, but his flight was cancelled and I'm sooo sorry" nearly crying! After she "sorried" us about 32 times, she rebooked us. I see him at 2:45 p.m. tomorrow.

It's An Outrage!
Today's Los Angeles Times front page ( top story was headlined: "California aid drawn out of state" and went on to say that more than $69 million worth of welfare benefit payment cards had been cashed in Las Vegas, Key West, all of the islands in Hawaii and Caribbean cruises!

So I went down to the Imaginary Corner and listed up.
"Booker, mah man -- when you gonna take advantage a welfare and go somewheres?"
"Whatchu talkin' about, man?"
Jesus cuts into the conversation, "Si, es verdad! My wife and me, we jus' got back from Hawaii." An Asian man stops to light a cigarette and nods in agreement, "Velly gleat country, America."

Yes, it is outrageous that money intended for rent and childrens' clothes was spent this way, but ... I kinda have to admire the guts of the people that did it. I've always loved bandits..

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I Am Now Officially Old

Our young next door neighbors, Angie and John who are expecting their first child in November, very kindly invited us to a baby shower barbecue last night at their house.

Intrigued by a "baby shower bbq," we accepted with pleasure. The guests ranged from mid-20s to mid-40s. And there were about 25 people there.

It is quite nice to be at a party next door to your own home. I slipped out, opened our garage door, pulled down the tailgate of Truck and enjoyed a leisurely cigarette. Put everything back, went into the house and had a pee -- no point standing in line -- and slipped back into the party. About an hour later, I was headed out their door for round two as another couple were coming up the walk.

The lady asked me, "Oh, are you Angie's mother?" Since I thought that was hilarious, I laughed and said, "No, I live next door - come in, come in!"

Later, I told John about the incident and he said, "You should be flattered - Angie's Mom is a very beautiful woman." Is that an impressive display of quick thinking or what? Trust the English - they've been diplomats for a long, long time.

But it doesn't change anything -- I'm still old!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Cousin Robert

Robert Dirks died a little before 11 a.m. on 10-1-10, aged 80. He'd had steadily progressing emphysema for some years and lately had begun to go downhill rather quickly so I don't think many were surprised at his death.

But Death always makes you think about the loved person who died. There is almost a movie running through my head of one particular incident...

Robert was the son of my mother's brother, Lee; thus we were first cousins. My mother was particularly adored by her eight older brothers, so I kind of rode in on her coat tails.

Robert's older brother Jim's family was celebrating his 75th (?) birthday with a luncheon at a famous restaurant in Austin. We were invited, but Richie had to work so I went solo.

Robert picked me up at the airport, tossed my carry-on bag in the back of his pick-up (I don't think he ever drove a sedan-type car) and off we went. The restaurant was set in an old, historic house and various rooms were set out for private parties.

The maitre'd greeted us --- he and Robert exchanged curt nods of their heads. They reminded me of a pair of Spanish grandees. Soon the entire party was seated around a massive old table and the food began arriving.

After the meal, after the toasts, I slipped out to the parking lot for a cigarette. I was contendedly puffing away when suddenly the front door of the mansion burst open and Robert came running out with Jim right behind him. They were making considerable speed for a pair of 75 and 70 year old men!

Jim made tremendous leap and wrested something out of Robert's hand -- he would pay that check! The brothers began wrestling around to the horror of a party of arriving guests. I laughed, flapped a dismissing hand at the pair (shirttails out, audibly panting) and said, "It's okay -- they're brothers." Drawing disdainfully away, they stomped sternly on into the restaurant.

Later Robert drove me to my hotel, insisted on driving me to my room (it was a huge complex with buildings surrounding a gigantic pool) insisted on carrying my bag to my room and then doing an inspection of the place, even pulling back the shower curtain to make sure no Bogey Man lurked. I was astounded (and had been protesting all through this) but he drew himself up and said, "May Rapp Dirks (his mother) would spin in her grave did I not make sure you'll be okay here."

Well, now he's dead and gone, but I hope that up in Heaven his mother is praising him for his good manners. He did have beautiful ones. By example, he even taught Richie to open my car door! I nearly fainted with shock the first time he did it, but now I'm accustomed to it. Thank you, Robert! Godspeed!

Friday, October 1, 2010

World's Shortest Campaign Statement?

You be the judge!

Yesterday the official California General Election magazine (it runs to 127 pages) arrived. Because I won't vote for either Meg-omania or Jerry-atrics, I dutifuly began reading through to find a candidate I could support.

Running for Controller is one Andrew "Andy" Favor, of the Libertarian party. His statement is short and sweet and it is: "Pro-business, freedom. Frugal."