Friday, August 31, 2012


Thursday, after we took a cab to the train station to pick up the rental car, we motored over to Aix to see the Cours Mirabeau again.  This is - or was - one of the most beautiful streets in France.  It's a double wide stretch of pavement, punctuated by fountains in the middle of the street and shadowed by a double row of plane trees up and down its length.  I say "or was" because the central fountain ( a triple tiered masterpiece) is gone.  Today?  Only a flat slab of concrete.  Nevertheless, the street is chockful of tourists, oo-ing and aw-ing.

I had pizza and it was totally different from the US version -- the tomatoes had a sweet taste (because fresh) not the sour taste as is usual.
Richie had a Caprice salad - lettuce, tomato, mozzarella, oil and vinegar dressing
This is the olive oil store
A liquor store!
Typical market offering
Typical shops (above)
At lunch, just off of Cours Mirabeau
This old part of Aix was once home to such disparates as Paul Cezanne, Emile Zola and Albert Camus. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012


This is the Old Port (Vieux Port) from our hotel window

 The sun setting over the bay.  Shot from the roof terrace of the Fort St. Nicholas

The electric ferry which goes back and forth across the Old Port.  A lot shorter than walking it.

Construction along the Old Port.  They are creating the "world's largest pedestrian area."  Finish date: 2013, but probably not.

This the Notre Dame de la Gard church.  Despite heavy bombing in WW2, it was not damaged, despite its high visibility.

A favored place for a beer.  One afternoon, the wind was so brisk that it flipped a menu from the next table just over my beer.  Since it was a full beer, I was pleased. It was a short-lived seasonal wind called a mistral.  It comes from Algeria and is brisk.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

All Things Air France - Part 1

Air France #069, direct from LAX to Charles De Gaulle, Paris.  Departure:  6:45 p.m., arrival the next day at 2:15 p.m. French time.

This was a first for us - "priority status."  Generally, flying non-rev, we are the last to scramble aboard and grab the first open seat (in Steerage, of course.)  Priority status meant, among other things, we were invited to use the Air France lounge, gratis.  This lounge also serves pax flying Delta, KLM and Aeromexico. 

After checking in at a counter, the lounge itself turned out to be a very large room with cubicles for computer users, comfortable tables and chairs and a complimentary bar (from soft drinks to Courvoisier) and various snacks such as honey-roasted peanuts, cheese and cracker packets, olives and so forth. 

We picked a window table overlooking the runways and had a pair of Stellas and some peanuts.  We knew damned well they'd feed us dinner so this was our aperatif moment.

It was so still that the only sound was the faint hum of the air conditioning.  Very different from the gate.

We boarded and were shown to our seats, 10 A & B, toward the very front of the plane. 

After the mandatory glass of champagne, we were served an "amuse bouche" (literally something to amuse your mouth) of bread stick bits wrapped in Coppa salume on a bed of blue cheese and German red cabbage in a bent (plastic) spoon a la Thomas Keller. 

The appetizer was Maine lobster (generous servings of claw meat) and a mango salad. 

Richie opted for the tournedos with a peppercorn sauce, carrots, Bok Choy and Jerusalem artichokes.  I took the Cajun shrimp and spicy saffron rice. 

The cheese course was served and then a trio of small desserts -- an apricot macaroon with lavendar; a "blueberry delight" and a milk chocolate concoction with bergamot. 

(We could have had breaded young guinea hen cutlets with Madeira wine sauce, potatoes Lyonnaise and broccoli flan.)

On we flew into the dark.  I got 6 1/2 hours sleep; Richie only two. 

With the sun came breakfast.  Choices included a crepe with scrambled eggs and cheese.  A separate plated offering consisted of slices of Parma ham, smoked turkey, cheddar and provolone cheeses.  There was also fruit salad with mascarpone cheese as well as every type of bread, croissant and pain chocolat you ever saw, served with pats of sweet butter, and cunning little jars of jams and honey.

The female flight attendants were all very sleek with razor-sculpted haircuts and beautiful skin, "skin" being one of the things French women seem to do effortlessly.  They were a happy bunch and chirped like birds. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Air France 66 Has Landed

We were delayed for an hour, coming out of Paris and delayed another half-hour on the ground at LAX.  The aircraft was an A380 and the plane had to wait for one of the few jet bridges that reaches the 2nd story (where we were seated.) 

We came in at around 11 p.m. French time and are exhausted, but better to keep to regular hours than go to bed like I'd like to do!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Traveling French Circus er, Wedding

The kick off is in the Mayor s office at 4 in a small beach town. some 14 miles away from the Old Port. 

Then round up the posse for the 5 kilometer trek to the church for the religious ceremony at 5.

After that; take the 14 mile trip back to the Old Port  for a dinner at 7.

To help you understand typos here is the French keyboard

a z e r t y u i o p¨

q s d f g h j k l m %

w x c v b n ?./§

Friday, August 24, 2012

Postcard from France

Nina  The seats fold flat into beds.  6 and one half hours for me.  Two for him.
Nina   We move tomorrow.
Nina  Actually, it was.  We drank beer all of the way.

Monday, August 20, 2012


It is watered-down Business.  Our tickets are marked "Business Z."  I don't think you can go any farther than Z.... 

When we fly "our" airline (MAA) and get Business or First, I know that we are going to pay a steeply discounted rate.  Since I love a sale, this is as good as finding a $200 outfit, marked down to $50.  Accordingly I eat everything offered to me and I swill down the alcohol like there's no tomorrow. 

Today I will have to curb my enthusiasm because it for damned sure isn't free AND when we arrive at Charles De Gaulle, and go through Customs, we then have to wend our way to the high-speed train station at the next gate over from where we come in.  There we wait for the 5 p.m. TGV (Train de Grande Vitesse) to Marseilles.  It's a chance for a three hour nap which will, by that point, be welcome.

Hertz has a booth at the Marseilles station and thence we wend our way to the hotel.  ETA is 10 p.m.  All of this will have taken place from 6:45 p.m. LA time Monday to a 2:15 p.m. landing in France and then all of the rest of it.

Wednesday - I doubt we'll be in shape for more than lunch in Aix-en-Provence and a browse through the market.  The weather is to range in the 90s during our visit.
Thursday - we want to drive to Arles and see the bird sanctuary and the horses in the Camargue.
Friday - family starts drifting in for the wedding on Saturday
Saturday - 4 p.m. mayor's office for the French  marriage; 5 p.m. for the church wedding in the small town where the couple live and then at 6 p.m., a dinner in the Old Port of Marseilles.  Very picturesque.
Sunday - the groom's mother is doing "Sunday lunch" which is an ancient tradition in French life.    Our hosts, Genevieve and Jean-Louis are total party animals - when they built their house, they put in a permanent bar of pour concrete and tile, not far from the fireplace and the doors to the yard where J-L has his own fish pond. 
Monday - we take the TGV back to Charles DeGaulle, arriving about 3 p.m.  I picked a Hilton to start the return to America - indoor pool, exercise room, wi-fi -- all of those "American" things.
Tuesday - Flight leaves at 10:30 a.m. and arries LAX at 1:10 p.m.  Same Day Service!

A bientot!  (See you soon)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

On The Road - Money Matters

The Quiet Death of Traveler's Checks
Abroad, Richie prefers traveler's checks.  The last time we went to France (2009) he brought them in dollars and subsequently we spent most of an afternoon visiting the various banks in a small town in Bretagne.  "Non!" was said decisively when tellers were presented with American dollar traveler's checks.

That's when he learned to buy them in Euros.  He called his bank for Euro traveler's checks only to be told they don't do traveler's checks any more.  Neither does the credit union or Triple A.  The best he could do was actual Euros.  (Wells Fargo, Manhattan Beach Mall.)

The Fraud Squad
Prior to leaving the country, call all of your credit card issuers, ask for the Fraud Squad and when connected, tell them that you are going away and the dates.  I did that yesterday and this morning I got an automated call back from Chase making sure it was me that called yesterday!  All of this for an account that has a zero balance because I've never used it.  So why carry it?  For places that don't take MasterCard, slip'em your Visa.

Planned Spending
When you've decided on your destination, sit down with paper and pencil and figure out how much "small money" you're going to need.  "Small money" includes:

Postcards and stamps
Restaurants that won't take credit cards -- and there are more of them in "foreign parts" than you might think. (Or certainly like.)
Tip for your hotel room maid
Bus/metro fares
Beer money!  When we stay with Michelle, we take the train into Paris and when we return around 4:30 or 5 p.m., we always stop at the bar along the way to her house for a beer.

Excellent Service
In the event that you actually get some, you shold know that almost all bars and resturants add  15% for the server.  Look for "Service Compris" somewhere on the bill.  It's customary though to leave assorted small change for him/her if the service was excellent or if you've spent most of an afternoon over one glass of lemonade in a sidewalk cafe.

(Aside)  French Lemonade consists of:  a tall glass with ice and a shot of pure lemon juice; a carafe of water and a bunch of those funny little sugar packs -- they look like a fat straw and are about 3 in. long.  Mix it all up to your taste. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Temporarily Devastating Shock to My Nervous System

I went flowery with this title, because I knew if I headed it "Holy Shit!" which is what I was actually thinking, I would be reprimanded.  I've been chastised in the past by a loyal reader for using "bad language before small children."  I did not reply that no child reads me; in fact, it would seem that very few adults do either, but that's another matter. 

And today's children may not be what that reader envisioned.  We were at the K9 dog trials and I distinctly heard what must have been a four year old boy say loudly and very solemnly "Oh.  My.  God." which is most certainly not appropriate for that age. 

Oops - 'way off topic here.  Very well, what on earth triggered my gasp of horrified astonishment?  It was the size of this month's credit card bill.  It was so much money that the issuing company used a letter-sized envelope rather than the little one in which the monthly bills usually arrive.  Naturally, I thought it was just advertising.

Incidentally, if you own a credit card company, you can quit sending me blank checks.  Much appreciated, thanks, but please know that I will never use them. 

CardMaster nearly stopped my heart with the information that I now owe them the dollar amount of the entire population of Union, SC.  This is the biggest sum of money that I have ever had any involvement with, ever, and worse still, the bill is correct.  I actually do owe them all of that money.  My truck had an expensive illness, plane and train tickets back  and forth and around in France... by jingoes, it DID all add up. 

Nothing to do but bite the bullet and pay these people.  CardMaster's reaction to an armored truck pulling up outside corporate headquarters and discharging bags and bags and bags of dimes (we used up all of our nickels on the armored truck rental) would be interesting, but I'll have to miss it -- we'll be on the lam in France.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Correction: The Camargue

I came home from visiting a friend and Richie had a map of Southern France spread out on the dining room table.  He said, "What is missing in your blog?" and, of course, I didn't know which one he was talking about.

So he handed me this note, he'd had to write it down:  The Camargue is above the Atlantic, not the Meditaree; but above the Golfe des Saintes Maries.

My apologies.

Picky, Picky Regional French

The French are such picky eaters that whatever it is has to be either crackling fresh or, in the case of game or cheeses, properly aged.  There are seasonal foods and at the opening of each season -- say, new peas or asparagus -- they and they alone are presented as a first course, all by themselves in the appropriate seasoning or sauce.  It's a nice custom - saluting the food and celebrating it.

When supermarkets first appeared, they were a very tough sell.  The average French cook shops every day in specialty stores.  The boulangerie for bread, the vegetable market, even this:  During our first trip together there, we decided to have a pique-nique in the gardens at Versailles.  Accordingly we got a bottle of screw-top wine; a baguette, cheese and I decided we needed sausage.  There was a meat store right in front of me, so I went in.  The meat looked oddly ... a brighter red than American meats.  I was puzzling over this when I finally noticed the price tags and the store's logo - a golden horse's head!

I turned to flee and there was the proprietor,rubbing his hands together and looking helpful.  I turned a bright red myself, stammered, "Sorry, sorry - American..." and darted out the door. 

What I do love there are the pastries.  Ah, the pastries... delicate, totally handcrafted, inventive flavors, creative presentations and they are small.  Small is good.

The French will eat candy (called variously bonbons or candi or dolce) bought in the confiserie (or jam factory.)  Two types are country-wide favorites.

"Dragees" are almonds that have been treated and then dusted with sugar, over and over, and polished winding up with a coating like an M&M.  They are usually white or silver and are given as favors at baptisms, weddings or other happy celebrations. 

Callisons d'Aix are a triple-layered candy consisting of:  bottom, communion wafer (no kidding, it couldn't be anything else)  middle - a paste of dried fruits and almonds and the top is a hard, white frosting.  They are cut into diamond-shaped lozenges and make good souvenirs to take home because they don't require refrigeration. 

I googled them and discovered that despite being a regional dish today, the French stole them from the Italians!  (Because this happened back in 15-something, no one is worried about it now.)

To my amazement I also found recipes to make your own at home.  I glanced through them and there was no mention of where to buy the bottom layer -- the communion wafers.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Camargue

The Camargue is located in western France, south of Arles next to the Atlantic Ocean.  It is also western Europe's largest river delta.  It comprises 360 sq. mi. made up, largely, of plains and brine lagoons, separated from the sea by sand bars. 

It is home to something like 40,000 birds and much of it has been a regional park since 1927.

Desolate, sparsely populated, the Camargue is the "wild West" of France to me.  They have cowboys ("gardiens") and bloodless bullfights and breeds of cattle and horse found nowhere else. 

The Camargue cattle are jet black with upsweeping horns who live semi-wild in the reeds and marshes.  They aren't Big Cattle at 900 lbs. for a bull and around 600 lbs for a cow.  What they lack in bulk, they make up for in agility.  They're used in cattle herding and the bullfights. 

The bullfights take place in an arena, but never having seen a French bullfight (other than over a cafe table) and knowing the bulls are not killed, I would imagine that the cowboys gather in the arena, the bull is let loose among them and then everyone chases everyone else until one of the two antagonists is tired and sits down. 

It's an image I bet you've seen - a herd of wild, white horses galloping through the surf on a beach.  These are the famous Camargue ponies.  They are born with a black skin and dark brown hiar.  As they age, more and more white hair emerges and as adults they have grey coats.   They've been there for centuries.  They thrive on the rough environment there. 

I'm thinking it will be very picturesque -- jet black cattle, grazing on soft green fields, with flamingos and Cattle Egrets dotting the cattle and the field. 

The Camargue is a short hop south of Arles and Arles is only about 50 miles from Marseilles where we will be staying.  It must be noted that Marseilles is by no means considered the chic end of the Riviera.  That would be the other end - St. Tropez, Nice, Cannes...  Having seen The French At Play on the beaches (God help us, the men DO wear Speedos) I think I will prefer the Camargue. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More On the Royals

"Elizabeth The Queen, The Life of a Modern Monarch" by Sally Bedell Smith   Random House   663 pages (including index)   $30

I'm avid fan of the British royalty and have been for years - Prince Philip's gaffes, ex-wife antics, "Randy" Andy - they never fail to delight.   Their didoes and those of those of those cut-ups, the Kennedys, have sustained me over many a long winter's eve.

This newest tome is timed to coincide with her Diamond Anniversary or 60 years as Queen.  She and Prince Philip have now been married for 64 years.  Smith asserts that reports of his philandering are not true.

It was an interesting look at a woman who "rules" Great Britain, but who actually has no real say in what goes on there.  She's expected to lead by suggestion, not fiat.  ''There can be no question as to her dedication.  She took the job for life and she has no intention of breaking her word.  Philip is now 90 and she is 86 and still going strong.  Conventional thinking is that, of course, she will die eventually and Charles, who is already in his early 60s will have a relatively short reign, ceding to Prince William, who is already 30+.

Hurrah!  The show is nowhere near The End!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Because Merriam-Webster Says So

Below-the-fold, today's Daily Breeze reports:  "F-bomb makes it into mainstream dictionary."  And I thought, "How nice -- this is suitable front page news for a morning paper?"

To check the usage, I went to the Top Words and Definitions listed on the back page to see how the F-bomb is actually used.  "As a euphemism."  As in, "And then he let go in the locker room - f-bombs all over the place!"  rather than, "So he said, F  F  F  F!"  Good to know.

Vegetarians who occasionally eat meat or fish could be called "flexitarians."  In simpler times, we might describe this person as "a kinda vegetarian" or "Not that strict a vegetarian."

This whole exercise seems rather foolish to me because by the time a word has become common, it's also become passe.  I cite "man cave"  "gastropub"  and "life coach" which has to date back to the mid-90s.

Of note, "Toxic" has a new, addtional meaning.  "An asset that has lost so much value that it cannot be sold on the market."  Merriam-Webster should have stayed away from that one. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Relentless Personality Tour

Admittedly, I am too much of a Type A to travel well.  Oh, fine for short hops like Las Vegas or Palm Springs, places where one can get home in a hurry if the need arises.  The farther from home we go (New York, for example) the higher my stress level rises.  Dublin to Shannon nearly killed me back in '06.

Now we're heading for the South of France and I've had an upset digestive system for days.  Part of my problem is that so much of travel is totally out of my control.  Not good.  I'm used to being in control.  And I'm used to (usually) getting my way.  You can see why this is edging into the outskirts of Disasterville.

But yesterday, while idly tapping a foot to the music and sipping a beer at the jazz club, I came to a stunning conclusion.  I would handle what I could -- keeping the tickets straight, the luggage close and Richie out of the train station bar -- and leave all the other matters up to God.

So:  God is now in charge of whether the plane stays in the air - or not.  He is charged with keeping the bullet train on its tracks - or not.  In a plane at 47,000 feet or on a 200+mph train, you wouldn't know what hit you anyhow.  Michelle is a former flight attendant for Air France and when asked about any fears she might have, she laughed indulgently and said, "Oh, Nina - you only have time to think one quick Hail Mary!" and snapped her fingers.  "Zut!" she said succinctly. 

I have tasked Richie with handling crazy French drivers and the traffic.  Richie loves driving in Paris!  He gets in, starts the engine, revs it and bellows, "Bring it on, Frenchies!  I'm from New York - show me wha-chew got!" and roars away.

Duties dispatched, responsbilities assigned, I can relax now. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Reading the Fine Print...

Altoids, "Curiously Strong Mints, are smal lozenges designated to combat a stuffy nose, a tendency to cough or minor gastric distress.   Inside the metal box, a sheet of paper keeps the lozenges from rattling around.  I finally read the words on the paper this morning.

"Altoids were once used to ease everything from stomach ailments to raven attacks."

The license plate on a bright, red Corvette convertible in the lot at the Manhattan Beach Mall:
                                                                WIZE ASZ

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Sad and Tragic Occurence

Wherein Macy's rejects my application for credit and I walk out with the store, so hah!

When we asked Michelle what we could bring her from America, she promptly e'd back:  Ralph Lauren's "Romance" eau de perfume and a tube of Revlon's "Fiery Magenta" lipstick.  I would point out however gently that she lives in France, proud host-country of such as Chanel, Coty, Geurlain, Dior, etc. Lauren's fragrances and Revlon's products are apparently not sold in France.  Shouldn't that tell you something about quality vs. quantity? 

Nix on the lipstick; the line has been discontinued.  I googled and found the perfume at Macy's, hence the visit there.  And yes they had it.  The nice lady was ringing it up and asked me if I would like to open a charge account?  If I did, everything I bought today and tomorrow would be 20% off.

I began to say, "But I rarely ever shop here.." when Richie interrupted me.  "Sure she does!" he boomed genially.

The first question on the little computer was:  "What is your monthly income and are you including alimony or child support?"  I blanched.  The next was:  "What is your yearly income?"  There's no key for "I beg your pardon?!" so I put in a random number.  Then:  "What are your monthly mortgage payments?"  So I made up another number.  Finally it ordered me to put in my Social Security number.

That's something I flatly refuse to do so I typed the first six numbers correctly and made up the rest.

Next thing I knew the nice lady was on the phone.  "They'd like to speak to you, if that's okay?" she said hesitantly.  "Sure," I said, reaching for the phone.

A disembodied voice asked, "What is your birthday?" so I told her.  I'm happy to do this because people ofen over-estimate it. ( I am 72, but have been taken for 102.)

The clerk talked a second or two longer, hung up and fearfully looked at me.  "I'm so sorry... but they're going to write you a letter; they're not going to give you a charge account..."  I laughed.  Richie laughed, too.

The very nice clerk said "Wait a minute!" and disappeared into the storage area.  She came back and handed me two, big Ralph Laurent gift-with-purchase "Keepsake Boxes" containing the travel collecxtion of "Romance" and a big plastic make-up bag from the makers of "Love Struck" whatever that might be.

She again said, "I'm so sorrry" and I grinned and said, "Thank you -- I'm not!" and trotted swiftly away, clutching my loot.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Strong Words!

"Beach People" are usually described as "laid back" meaning we don't get too excited about much of anything, the AES power plant matter to the side.  (AES wants to re-build; local hot heads want it torn down in favor of a park, condos and even more traffic and parking problems.  This is incidentally a matter that has been dragging on for the past three or four years.  See what I mean about 'no hurry.')

No, life as we know it here is serene; not that many traffic lights - and they're not needed.  We're in no hurry - we stop at Stop signs.  Just maybe not for very long.

My complacency suffered a rude shock this morning when I read the Letters to the Editor and found the following:

"Wants peace, quiet back (headline)
Re "Helicopters: An estimayedf 250 people packed the hearing to testify to the FAA" (Aug. 7)

Dear Sirs:
Certainly the beautiful music created by talented professionals in a wonderful setting such as the Hollywood Bowl is a precious experience.  So, too, is a simple wedding in a family's backyard, the funeral of a beloved parent, even a rare, quiet conversation with a troubled child.

All these things and more are at the mercy of some arrogant, out-of-control, spoiled helicoptor pilot.  Nowhere is anyone safe from the rude interruption of their everyday lives from this nuisance.

Every single day - all day long - hundreds of thousands of us, millions of us, trying to go about our lives are constantly besieged by the irritating racket of some jerk in a helicopter.  We are past the point of compromising or making allowances for this bunch.

We want our peace and quiet back.  We want our privacy back.  We want our lives back."
Rudy Whitcomb, Rolling Hills Estates

You have no idea what strong words those are to a Beach Person.  This is tantamount to a declaration of war!  I would now expect the NRA to start promoting grenade launchers and shoulder-held small rockets.  God knows, the NRA is all for murder.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Food and Wine magazine was all bubbly about dishes with only three ingredients!  Thinking that the less you have to do in the kitchen is a good thing, I leafed through them.  Many of them were salads and featured kale -- all of  sudden kale is the new Miss America of fresh produce.  "Dahling!  Everyone just loves little ole me!"

I don't.  So I gave "three ingredients" some thought and came up with these - no kale was hurt in the production of these dishes.

Green Peppers
1 green pepper, sliced in long strips
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
Pinch of sea salt

Grind the garlic into the salt with the back of  spoon, add the olive oil and throw in the pepper slices and toss the whole thing.

Oeufs Dur which is the French version of America's deviled eggs
1 hard-boiled egg, shelled and halved the long way.
Mayonnaise as needed to slather the top of each egg half. White pepper to taste.

Fresh Onion Chip Dip
1 medium red or white onion, chopped
1 small container sour cream
Pinch of sea salt.

Mix the onions into the sour cream, dash with sea salt and let sit in the refrigerator for up to n hour to let the onion flavor permeate the sour cream.

Tartar Sauce
2 T onion, chopped
2 T sweet pickle relish
2 T chopped pimento-stuffed olives
Mayonnaise to mix.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Why We Paid Air France the Equivalent of a Small Balkan Nation's Annual GNP

Short answer:  Because I won't sit on a board for a cumulative 22 hours and 10 minutes.

Long answer:  We are about to have business in Marseilles.  I mapped out a course on a Major American Airline (MAA) that took us from LAX to Chicago to Paris since MAA now disdains a direct flight from LAX to Charles De Gaulle (CDG.)

Richie didn't say anything as I put us on the non-revenue (non-rev) list.  Several days ago, he fretfully said, "I want to go direct!  See how much Air France charges."

I frowned.  I remembered our last tip to Paris on Air France in 2006.  We went Coach.  While I often admire the frugality found all over France,  there are limits to even my Francophilia.

This is how the French construct a seat in Coach:  Take a 2 in. thick piece of board, cut it to fit into the seat frame.  Carefully pad the board with a single layer of Kleenex, stretch cloth over that and nail down the cloth. 

Admittedly, this would be acceptable on a flight of say, one hour.  But 10 1/2 hours to Paris and 11 hours, 40 minutes home is stretching acceptable limits to the point of actually shredding them.

Friends weren't particularly solicitous about it.  They looked pointedly at my behind and said, "Surely you're not concerned about it!" (snigger)  A remark like that could sting the soul of a lesser listener, but I am made of sterner stuff.  Just not stern enough to sit on a board for 20+ hours. lists three classes of service:  "Affairs" or Business; "Premier Voyager" (first or premium traveler) or simply "Voyager" (traveler) or, as we say in this country, "Steerage."

We won't know until we board if Premier Voyager is watered-down Business or jumped-up Coach, but I booked it anyhow.  The following is what Air France said they would give us in exchange for an amount that might have bought an acceptable used car:

20% wider seats, 20% more leg room, ergonomic seats, adjustable head and leg rests, and a dedicated area for the seat when reclined.  That way you won't have to stare at an upside-down face in your lap all the way to Paris.  We're promised storage spots, noise-reducing earphones, a PC outlet to charge your laptop, a video screen, travel kit, "virgin" wool blanket (sex is all in France,) feather pillow and a bottle of water for hydration in the event the flight attendant breaks a leg and can't get to your seat. 

Food, wine, champagne and hard liquor --as much as you can swill down -- are free.  Determined to finish you off after a stay in France, the Paris to LA flight also offers all of the above plus a self-service buffet with sweet and savory treats, "fresh products" (probably cheeses and breads) , mini-sandwiches and Haagen Daz ice cream.

The fun starts before you even board the plane.  We're allowed two 50 lb. bags each, at no charge.   Priority boarding -- when the flight is opened we're invited to skip the lines (possibly only a wishful hope on the airline's part) and board.  On arrival, we get off second and our bags will be getting priority delivery.

Now if they only offered Priority Customs ... but that's being a bit pushy.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Dark Side of "Juicing"

Yesterday I reported that Food & Wine thinks juicing fruits and vegetables to make healthful drinks is the New, Hot Thing.  Well, as with most everything, there is a Dark Side and that would be all of the pulp, peelings and seeds it leaves behind.  A 16-oz serving of juice calls for 2 to 3 pounds of fruits and vegetables.   Lotta compost there...

Not all are entranced at becoming juice swillers.  A faithful correspondent wrote to say, "They sound like South of the Border drinks, not for me."   I dunno, a blend of pineapple, chili powder and a bit of club soda and a healthy shot of rum might be quite tasty.

Better by far than using pulp to make crackers and muffins as the chef at Birdhouse, Minneapolis, does. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Next Hot Thing!

"Food & Wine" ( came yesterday and they are touting "creative juices."   This is not the old carrot juice that our health-nut ancestors drank.  A few samples --

A Clockwork Orange (The Butcher's Daughter, NYC)
Fresh ginger, a small golden beet, 5 medium carrots, half a cantalope in the juicer.  Serve with a dusting of cayenne pepper.

Cilantro-Celery Juice Punch (L A's Moon Juice)
ginger, cilantro, halved and cored Granny Smith apple, celery ribs, fresh lemon juice.

The Radiant Glow (The Gem, Dallas)
ginger (are you noticing a trend here?) a peeled lemon, Tuscan kale leaves, Gala apple, a small red beet and a large cucumber.

Turning the page I find that carrots are for sweetness; beets for "earthiness," lemon for balance; ginger to aid in digestion - yeah, after I eat "earthy" I want a little help digesting it - apple for hydration, kale for bitterness. 

Starbucks has already horned in on this hot thing -- their brand "Evolution Fresh" makes custom-blend drinks from a stock eight choices. 

JugoFresh, Miami, serves The Ashram, a mix of grapefruit, lemon, tumeric, cayenne and honey. 

Moving along ... Cherry Barbecue Glaze sounded good to me -
2 T sweet butter
1/2 a sweet or Vidalia onion, finely chopped.
1 large habenero pepper, seeded and minced
3/4 cup cherry preserves, preferably sour cherries (raised eyebrow here)
1/3 cup fresh lime juice. 

Melt the butter, sweat the onions, add 3/4s of the  habanero, set aside the rest for now. 
Scrape the onions and habanero into a blender, add the preserves and lemon juice.  Put this back in the saucepan and bring it to a boil.  Stir in the rest of the habenero and put the sauce in a small bowl to use as a glaze.

One of the feature articles covers a trio of brother's visit to Scottish distilleries.  They camped out one night and made Whisky Bacon for breakfast.  Might be a good dish for the morning after the groom's stag night ... hair of the dog and all of that.
3 T sweet butter
1 lb. Canadian bacon, thinly-sliced
2 teas. light brown sugar
1 1/2 T Scotch whisky
Pepper to taste

Melt the butter and add the bacon.  Cook it on that side, flip it over to cook the other side and add the brown sugar and whisky and stir it around until the whisky is slightly reduced - about 30 seconds. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Female Humor - A Comparison in Styles

These three writers were sort of stairstep kids - Aloise Buckley Heath, 1918; Jean Kerr, 1922 and Erma Bombeck, 1927.  All had husbands and children as material.

I had never heard of Aloise, but after reading the book of collected columns by her I understood why.  She really wasn't that funny, but she was a Buckley!  The compilation of her works was written by her sister, Priscilla, and brother, Bill Buckley, Jr. who launched the National Review magazine.  They were among the eight children of John and Ann (Harding) Buckley.  Aloise went on to top them by having 10 of her own.

All of the Buckely's were encouraged to believe they were the best and the brightest; that everything they did was witty, worthy of heed (Reid, age 9, wrote Churchill and urged him to pay England's war debt) and that all were great intelluctuals.  To which I would say, "Not."

Aloise contributed an annual Christmas column to the National Review and the family newsletter (an early version of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians") which detailed the family's various comings and goings, illnesses and new babies, of which there were an inordinate number.  "In March, 1958, the Buckley girls will have 20 girls; the Buckley boys only 10."

This enormous crew was mutually exclusive to each other and it's best described in Aloise's "sense of humor."  A sentence:  "Matt, who has a Sense of Humor, but is Fundamentally Kind, took her aside..."  So Victorian -- and So Silly. 

Jean Kerr had five boys and one girl and was the wife of noted NY Times critic Walter Kerr.  Thus she saw a lot of theatre (from very good seats, as you can imagine.)  "Last night I saw a play.  I won't tell you the plot.  But it was about this young man who was so disturbed that he turned up in the 2nd act wearing a dress.  I don't know what he was so disturbed about.  But I knew what I was disturbed about.  He was wearing my dress.  I mean the one I had on."  She then details how hard it is for her to find clothing that fits.  She was quite tall.  She is tremendous fun because she has such a sense of the ridiculous.

Dear, dear Erma Bombeck had three kids and a husband and was undoubtedly the most widely-read and beloved of them all.  

Sadly, all of these funny ladies are dead.  Aloise, age 49, of a brain aneurism; Bombeck at 74, kidney failure and Kerr, 81, with pneumonia.   I don't doubt that Erma and Jean were delighted to run into each other in Heaven, but Aloise hasn't even seen them yet -- too busy visiting with The Buckleys.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mingle Genteely or Get Trampled?

Murf Ink, my California dba, was mailed a heavy-stock brochure on the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival to be held August 9th to the 12th at various venues in the city to help St. Vincent Meals on Wheels.   In case you didn't get one (and clearly the promoters didn't know just how small and insignificant Murf Ink is - I'm the Only Executive Officer) here are a list of events, place and cost.  Re "cost" get out your smelling salts in advance. 

Thursday, 8/9 - Giada (De Laurentiis) hosts Giada's Fiesta Italiano from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Nokia Plaza - $198 per person.

Friday events:
Celebrity Chef Power Lunch Series from 12 to 2 p.m.  $125  Normally-closed for lunch restos Scarpetta, Cut, La Market, ink, Street and Livello open.

The Delicacy Dinner 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.  Montage Hotel, Beverly Hills - $500.  Features champagne, caviar, lobster and truffles.

Champagne and Caviar, 7 to 11 p.m., Montage Hotel roof $195, hosted by Sang Yoon

Summer at the Shore, 7 to 10 p.m. at the Fairmont Miramar, Santa Monica  $195
"Get a glass, sip and stroll while you sample wines from the Golden State and beyond, paired with an incredible array of gourmet bites from a 'who's who' line-up of great chefs from around the country."  Is that vague enough for you?  It was for me. 

Indulge Santa Monica, 8 to 10:30 p.m. at the Fairmont Hotel  $350  This is billed as a dinner by four chefs (none of whose names I recognized) from restaurants Melisse, Bar Pintxco (only one I've read about) Joe's (doubt they mean "Eat at Joe's, Redondo) Jiraffe (didn't that used to be an '80s NY hot spot?) and FIG.

Asian Night Market, 7 to 10 p.m., Nokia Plaza  $75 to be hosted by Andrew Zimmem, Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" host.  This does not sound like a good idea to me...night, you can't see what you're eating.  Bring a lighter for your own safety.

Saturday event:  Lexus Live on the Plaza with Wolfgang Puck & Friends  7 to 10 p.m.  Nokia Plaza $250
A strolling reception with musical performances, 30 chefs and 200 wines.

Saturday and Sunday event -Lexus Grand Tasting, 12 noon to 3 p.m. $150 on the Event Deck, LA Live.  Basically, get a chef's autograph.

Additionally, there will be cooking demos, wine tastings and a charity auction.  A VIP pass is $995 per person, but only for the less pricy events.  The big ticket items are not included.  Purchase your tickets at:

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Small Theological Matter

Yesterday afternoon, we attended the funeral services for a dear friend and fellow Thurs. Writer, Joyce Peterson.  Born February 19, 1918, in Covington, Ky., she died July 25, 2012, age 94.  She was by no means forgotten at that vast age; her funeral drew between 60 and 75 people, many of whom she had worked with, had taught drama to or who were fellow church members.

Sitting discreetly in a back pew with several writers, I was surprised to hear how active she had been in church life.  It was a facet of her life that she rarely mentioned. 

Her home church was 1st Methodist, Torrance and Broadway, Redondo Beach.  Our last appearance here was 29 years ago when we got married in this church.  Joyce and her husband were married here in 1949!

I was brought up in a faith that had split from the Methodists - the Evangelical United Brethren.  Apparently what had happened years before my parents began attending was that two groups within the Methodists got into it and one group took their bats, balls and huffed off of the field to start their own ball game.  These things happen even in the best-regulated families...

Rather than rolling out my old home church - Trinity Evangelical United Brethren, Kansas City, Missouri - a mouthful to be sure, I just said "Methodist" if anyone asked.

The services yesterday rolled through familiar-enough territory to me - Greeting, Hymn, Scripture, Gospel Reading and so on until we came to a section that was totally new to me.

Called "The Prayer of Commendation," it reflects gratitude to God for all He has given us.  But one section of it jumped out at me and I quote:  "O God, all that you have given us is yours.  As first you gave Joyce to us, so now we give Joyce back to you; into your hands, O merciful saviour, we commend her soul." 

I looked again at the program again to make sure I was hearing what had actually been said.  This sounded a lot like, "So -- we've had her for 94 years; she's all worn out, so you can have her back."

While I am positive that was not the intent, as an editor, I think more attention could have been given to the joy that Joyce brought in her daily actions and the reluctance with which we must relinquish her.  But, what do I know?  I am, after all, a lapsed Methodist.  We are vastly outnumbered by lapsed Catholics, but we're here.   You just have to kind of hunt for us.

For inquiring minds:  I now say "agnostic" if asked religious preference.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hoping For Change

Obama has recently been holding $3 or $5 raffles for such as "Coffee With Joe Biden," "Dinner with Barack and Michelle!","Send Barack a Father's Day Card (and enclose a small donation)" "Send Barack a Birthday Card (and enclose a small donation) and  "Win  Dinner With Barack At George Clooney's House!"

Today someone commented online on this by writing, "First he's promising change -- now he's begging for it!" and that was such a great line that I couldn't resist it.  Mea culpa for a sardonic sense of humor....

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Eek! The French Are Serious!

Drudge Headline today - "Pig Heads Hung Outside Mosque in France."

I eagerly opened the story to read all about this event because for a French person to waste good food is utterly unheard of in France.  Pig heads = head cheese, pig cheeks (braised, a delicacy) and I don't want to know about any other edible parts.

Only two heads were used to decorate the mosque in a town in Southern France which was a relief to me.  If there were numerous heads, suspended at intervals, this would equal a declaration of out-and-out war.  And all of the neighboring towns would immediately flee.

The mayor of the town said it was an outrage and that was about it.  Slumber on in the summer heat, O South of France.