Monday, March 31, 2014

Gleanings from Good Appetite

Bon Appetit did an issue highlighting lunch.  Instead of bringing a brown bag with a soggy sandwich, we are encouraged to bring in a place setting and silverware and the food in a variety of plastic containers...  And to wash up after the meal.  I have news for the good people at Bon Appetit - it's still your desk.

One of the things to put in a plastic container is fresh ricotta that you have made yourself. 

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teas. kosher salt
2 T fresh lemon juice OR distilled white vinegar

Put the milk, cream and salt in a medium saucepan.  Bring it to a boil and then stir the lemon juice OR vinegar gently in.  Take the pot off of the heat and let it sit for five minutes.   Line a fine mesh sieve with two layers of cheesecloth, set it in a big bowl and pour the mixture in.  Refrigerate overnight. 

After consulting with chef David Kinch of Manresa, in Los Gatos, CA, they tell us to brine our fish before cooking.  The fish that are good for you - mackerel, sardines and bluefish - all taste unacceptably fishy.

Kinch says to salt the fish on both sides and then pour rice vinegar over them to make the brine.  Let the fish sit for five minutes, then take it out, dry it and cook it.  Kinch says, "I'm not looking to infuse these fish with the flavor of the brine.  I'm looking to enhance the flavor of the fish itself. 

Since I won't eat fish of any kind (except canned white tuna) I'll never find out.  But if these fish are cheaper than say, filet of sole -- try it. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Irish Near Crisis!

Ireland is hosting this year's Golden Shears World Championships) said to be the Olympics of sheep shearing)  in Gorey, south of Dublin.   The four-day festival starts on May 22nd. 

But on that date, the hosts are expected to provide the  6,000 sheep to be sheared -- and they are more than 1,000 short!  Farmers are being pressured to sell any sheep they've got between 12 and 14 months old.  That specific age makes the sheep more uniformly sized and fairer to the shearers.   

If you have an extra sheep, please consider donating it or selling it at below market price to the Irish.  Aer Lingus will be scheduling Sheep Only flights into Dublin up until the day before the contest begins. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Last Night's Earthquake

It was a "roller" as opposed to a "jerk."  At 9:09 p.m. I had just gotten to bed and Himself was upstairs watching the end of a movie.

At first I thought one of the cats had jumped up on the bed - but: no cat.  "Oh.  Earthquake.  So I yelled up to him, "Richie!  Earthquake!  Radio!" which is the drill out here.  The radio is much faster than television for information on an earthquake.  Everyone in Southern California has a cell phone and they use them.  "This is Mike in San Fernando..."  "This is Cynthia in Northridge..." 

We had no damage; the wine glasses in the kitchen rack didn't even chime.   It's been quite awhile since we've had an earthquake in fact.  Thank God. 


Answering some questions ... No, our cats are very poor earthquake predictors.  Richie said they both sat up and looked around but since it only last 20 seconds (felt longer) they then relaxed again. 

Their FLEE! instincts are triggered by the front door bell or anyone hollering "Hi!" through the security door.  They go straight under our bed. 

During a previous earthquake at 4-something a.m. Richie was in the kitchen making his lunch (hadn't retired yet) when one struck and all three of them came bolting down the stairs - the cats were going so fast that their tails streamed out behind them. 

My First Earthquake:  I had just moved to So. Cal. from Kansas City, MO (where there are no earthquakes at all.)  I was 24, had a job and an apartment.  One night I was getting ready for bed, had run a tub of warm water, stripped down to nothing at all and decided I needed to pee.  I was stark naked on the toilet when it hit - a jolter.  And I thought, "Oh, no!  They'll find me stark naked, stuck in a toilet!" 

Of course, that didn't happen but to this day I am not one to linger in the bathroom.  You never know ... 

Friday, March 28, 2014


I have a head cold that prevents thinking.  The saying "Better to hold your peace and be thought an idiot than to speak and remove all doubt" comes to mind.... 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Easy Cheese-y

"The Little Paris Kitchen" by Rachel Khoo   Chronicle Books   285 pages   $35

The Parisian kitchen is invariably small because so many of these addresses were once the grand homes of the well-to-do; now converted into apartments of bits and pieces for the few that can afford them.  Paris rents are sky high.  Khoo writes that she has only a mini oven and two gas rings in her small space.
And has six to eight guests anyhow!

Like a lot of people from other countries, Khoo has taken France to her (ample) bosom, coming to it from London. 

But it could be argued that her French Fantasy goes too far with a recipe to make our own cheese!  Although long ago I did see a recipe for making your own Velveeta - it seemed to be half margarine and half grated Cheddar mixed together somehow. 

FROMAGE FRAIS or Fresh Cheese
2 qts. 2 per cent milk
1/2 cup live or probiotic yogurt
6 T lemon juice
a pinch of salt OR sugar

Put the milk in a large pan and start heating it until little bubbles form around the pan edges - you don't want to boil it though.  Let it cool down and then add the lemon and yogurt and let it just sit there for 10 minutes.

Put the pan back on the burner - now is the time to let it boil.  It will sort itself out into curds and whey.

Line a strainer with a clean tea towel and put it over a large bowl.  Squeeze the towel tightly forcing more liquid (whey) into the bowl. 

Then turn the tea towel into a sort of hobo's bindle by tying the corners together and slipping them onto a wooden spoon set on the bowl edges.  Leave it like this for 30 minutes or overnight.

When you decided to use it, give it another tight squeeze and remove the tea towel.  If you want a sweet flavor, add a pinch of sugar or a drizzle of honey.  To make it savory, add cracked black pepper or a pinch of chili pepper or freshly chopped herbs.  Serve with a slice of toasted brioche or bread.

She also gives us a way to turn leftover wine into vinegar, but leftover wine doesn't happen here. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Outrage! Way Above His Pay Grade...

I read in today's Drudge Report (which culls through various city newspapers) that President Obama landed in Brussels with an entourage of 900 people, 45 vehicles for careening through the city and three planes.  The extra effort to be carried out by the Belgians will cost them an estimated $10.4 million dollars.

He will be in town for 24 hours and make one scheduled speech. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Guest Editor!

Welcome to Mile High Marcelle, our correspondent in Colorado who will point out economic truths when marijuana is legalized.


1970s - First time smoking with friends and the variety was Mexican.  It was marijuana that tasted like dirt and smelled like old grass stuck under the lawnmower.  Later the varieties sound more exotic - Panama Red!  California Gold!

1980s  Grew my own and microwaved the leaves for an immediate smoke, but it only registered a weak high.

1990 - Stopped completely

2012  Colorado voters (me included) voted to legalize it.

January 1, 2014 - Now legal to buy and  posses up to one ounce, grow up to six plants for personal use and to get high on your own property - inside the house or out in the backyard only;  the front porch in full view of the neighbors is frowned upon.

March 23, 2014    I still have not been to the stores to buy or even look.  I'm looking for a new job and businesses have the right to test you for drugs, marijuana included, and they have the right to reject you for that reason alone.

Jobs that still drug test now have to review a bigger number of applicants because potential employees flunk it.  A higher turnover means higher company costs to hire, test and maintain their own standards. 

The types of drug tests used are:  urine, saliva or hair.  The urine test  is most commonly used because it is cheap and has a longer detection time than a saliva test.  THC will be present in your body depending on your weight, body fat amount and frequency of use. 

A one-time user may show positive for 1 to 6 days; a moderate user from 7 to 13 days;  a frequent user for 15 days and a heavy user may show positive for 30 or more days.

You can buy tests at the drug store (no pun intended) but many claim they are not 100% accurate and most likely will not be the same test you will have to take.

There are stories about concoctions (cranberry juice, niacin pills) you can drink to help mask but these are not recommended as well as tips on drinking tons of water to flush out your system (not likely) and excessive exercise to burn off the fat cells that hold THC

best choice:  Stop smoking or apply for a job where creativity is never questioned.

H/T to Mile High Marcelle - if you wish to make a comment, please contact me at

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Slow News Day...

Or maybe  it's me.  It is overcast, Richie is hacking and coughing around with a cold...both cats and the bird are napping.  Not much to get excited about. 

To get here, I had to pass through AOL's version of the  "news" and one headline was screaming about how the Chinese "edited" Michelle Obama's message which made me grin.  Let's now see if Obama jets over to China to give them a piece of his mind.  "Make no mistake" looking stern and pointing an index finger...

Still in the news is the unfortunate L'Wren Scott.  At this moment her dead ass is being flown to Los Angeles, presumably so that post-funeral Mick can fly back to Australia somewhat faster than from New York or London.

Scott's mother and sister are up in arms; they've already got a marked burial spot for her - "So why is the boyfriend's oldest daughter touring cemeteries for a burial spot?"  they demand.     Scott's brother has sided with Jagger.  Wouldn't want to be at their Easter dinner, would you?  Flying forks and not into the food.

Knowing that the deceased was 6 ft. 4 in. I began to wonder whether she would have to have a designer casket (or be buried with her knees bent) so I looked it up.  The average casket is 7 ft. long, 2.3 ft. wide and 1.9 ft. deep.   The funeral industry reports that the average person after death is 5 ft. tall, 1 1/2 ft. wide and 6 in. high, lying flat. 

Today's LA Times Travel section has an article on thieves in hotels.  This is certainly as bold as brass - the thief waits until the maid is in the room cleaning and darts in saying, "I'll just be a minute - I forgot my (whatever valuable item is lying in plain view) - grabs it and runs out the door. 

The best way not to lose anything is to leave it at home, but if you absolutely have to have Grannie's pearl necklace to wear at Auntie Mame's fifth wedding, photograph it next to something with the current day on it.    And ask the hotel desk to put it, clearly labeled, in their safe. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Guest Columnist!

Doug Vermillion, of Anderson, IL, knows the Dalai Lama.  

"My departent supervisor at Anderson High School, Dr. Jack Nicholson, was a very traveled man whose expertise in Asian history and culture were highly respected.  He and his wife had become friends of the Dalai Lama. 

Jack once hosted the Dalai Lama for a visit the leader made to our city during which he spent several hours meeting with students at our school. 

The one thing I distinctly remember from our first encounter is that we learned we share the same birthday - July 6th - although he is some years older than I.  He will be 79 years old this year and, from what I read, his health appears to be quite good.  I do not remember what year our first introduction occurred, but I believe it was in the late '80s.

The Dalai Lama's brother opened what I'm told was the very first Mongolian-Tibetan restaurant in the U.S. - it is named The Snow Lion and is still a popular dining spot in Bloomington, IN.  The Dalai Lama often visited Bloomington both as a dignitary and as a brother and he would invite my colleague Jack and his wife to join him.

On occasion, Jack would invite a few colleagues and I would attend when possible as I was always fascinated by the Dalai Lama.  He spoke impeccable English, was a brilliant man (as was Jack) and enjoyed in engaging in discussions of philosophy and faith. 

Blooming, IN, has been almost as an American home to the Dalai Lama whenever he visits the USA and the Bloomington community supported the establishment of the Tibetan-Mongolian Buddhist Cutural Center and several Tibetan Buddhist temples to serve Tibetan students and immigrants to the community."

:Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Posse Rider" by Peter Brand (with research by Doug Vermillion) is available at   $25

"For more than 60 years, may Old West historians were of the mistaken belief that the true identity of Texas Jack Vermillion was that of one John Wilson Vermillion of Virginia."  Wrongly, as it turns out.  The real man?  Buy the book and find out!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Deep In Negotiations...

Wheeling and dealing today for not one, but two guest columnists!   Their main sticking point is the damage to their reputations for appearing here, but I told them, "Don't worry - no one reads me anyhow!"

I'm sure that will make them want to appear ...I mean, wouldn't you?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Growing Pains In a New Industry

H/T to Mike in Superior, CO. who sent me the blog of one William Breathes, of Denver, who covers the budding marijuana industry in Colorado.

Mike is the same guy that previously sent us the price list and wine list-like descriptions of the various varieties. 

Breathes, writing for   mentions that the High Times Cannabis Cup awards will be held the weekend of April 20th.  Based on what I read, it's a marijuana-fest with awards for best presentation, best booth and so forth.  People are allowed to smoke dope at this thing!  But money down, no one is allowed to smoke a real cigarette. 

As always, not everyone was happy with last year's results.  "Don't buy from Karmaceuticals!" wrote one irritated former client.  "The lawyers are gonna get rich from all of the fools and tools that get busted for driving while stoned," promised another.  "Look for corporate sellers like Starbucks or CVS in your neighborhood - that'll be next!" warned another.

Mr. Breathes has gone far beyond the line of duty to personally visit a number of the marijuana vendors and reports back on the ambience found inside (if any) and the friendliness (or not) of the proprietors...  Can you imagine that on your resume?  Grass Reporter?

I never dreamed that "medical" marijuana enjoyed such popularity.  I thought smoking dope had died a natural death (couldn't resist) ((should have)) back in the '60s. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Damned Shame Dominick Dunne Is Dead

The LWren Scott suicide would have been right up his alley.  He specialized in writing on celebrity misbehaviors   

Coincidentally I'm re-reading his "An Inconvenient Woman" the saga of the Alfred and Betsy Bloomingdale scandal which involved him stiffing his long-time mistress Vicki Morgan on his death bed.  She sued for palimony (and lost) and Betsy flatly refused to give her more than $40,000 (instead of the quarter million he'd promised.)  When she got out of rehab, she shared an apartment in the Valley with a sociopath who killed her with a baseball bat.  I mention this example to show what Dunne wrote about.   

L'Wren (born Laura, often called Luanne)  was an orphan adopted by a Mormon family in a little Utah town and went on to become a model and then fashion designer.  Then she hit the big time when she met Mick Jagger in 2001 or 2003 (depending on the newspaper you're reading.)  They embarked on a 10 or 13 year relationship.  At the time of her death she was 47 or 49.   Accounts vary.  Jagger's statement claims he was stunned that his "lover and best friend" did such a thing.

But:  in later accounts, we read that she was recovering from a previous "self harm" several weeks ago.

Which coincides with the leaked news that Jagger had broken up with her several weeks ago.  A "friend" said, "Jagger has blood on his hands!"

None of this would ever have caught my attention (although I was aware of the relationship) except for the fact that Scott was 6 ft. 4 in. tall barefoot and suicide by hanging herself from a door knob in the kitchen doorway that led to a balcony in her NY residence.  Today's news reveals that she used a tie (presumably a men's tie) AND a black scarf to do the job.  Apparently she was determined to go.

How the hell did a person 6 ft. 4 in. tall manage to hang themselves on a doorknob?  Dominick would have found out for us, of that you may be sure.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Now They Tell Us!

Honestly!  Since last Friday, St Patrick's Day celebrants have been running a marathon of shoving down the corned beef and cabbage (and rightly so - it's good stuff) and Food & Wine arrived yesterday on The Day with a vegetarian version of a corned beef sandwich.   Didja evah?

1 large beet - about 14 ounces
1 T extra-virgin olive oil plus more for brushing
Pepper to taste
1/2 teas. coriander seeds, finely crushed
Sprinkle of smoked salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
! T ketchup
1 T sweet pickle relish
1 T fresh lemon juice
8 slices rye bread
softened butter for brushing
1/2 cup sauerkraut, drained and warmed
6 slices Swiss cheese

Brush the beet with olive oil, wrap in foil and bake at 350 for one hour or until tender.  Let it cool, peel the beet and slice it in 1/4 in. thick slices crosswise.

Put the slices on a plate and drizzle with 1 T olive oil and sprinkle with the coriander and smoked salt.

Whisk the mayonnaise, ketchup, pickle relish and lemon juice together.  Set aside.

Brush the bread slices with butter and broil them.  Make an open faced sandwich with all of the above, adding the cheese last.  Broil again to melt the cheese, put the other slice of grilled bread on top and pretend it's St. Patrick's Day all over again.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

A friend of mine from Caracas asked what on earth he'd done to get to be a saint with his own holiday? 

"Um, drove the snakes out of Ireland?"  We agreed there had to be more to the story and we both vowed to look it up online.  I got around to it today...

He was born in "Great Britain" - no one seems to know where in G. B.  In 403 A.D., he was 16 and kidnapped from his home and made to work as a slave in Ireland.  Six long years later, he escaped, returned to his home in Wherever, Great Britain, and became a cleric.  And went right straight back to northern and western Ireland!

There are several things he did and didn't do.  Primarily he couldn't banish the snakes from Ireland because Ireland never had snakes in the first place!

A breathless reporter wrote that his staff, made of ash, turned into a tree.  This is a tease.  Patrick had a habit of standing his ash staff in the dirt while he addressed his audience.  'Tis said that one time he talked so long the ash staff put out roots!

He used shamrocks to illustrate the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

I thought it was being disrespectful to refer to him and this day using "Paddy" instead of "Patrick" but it turns out that Padraic is Irish for Patrick and it's used affectionately.

He rose up through the ranks to become the first Bishop of Armagh.

Are we celebrating his birthday?  Quite the contrary.  He died  on March 17th!  This little factoid amuses me greatly as every celebration I've ever seen for this day involved fun, gaiety and lots of adult beverages and, depending on the location of the bar and time of night, soulful renditions of "O Danny Boy"

In fairness, it is treated as a solemn day in several parts of the world.  And after Mass, everyone goes out and gets hammered!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bragging Rights? Snort!

Time magazine in its wisdom decided to take a poll that would insure once and for all where the most "selfie" takers were located.  A "selfie" is a self-portrait.  One could say that, but "selfie" sounds "cute" and renders the offender as merely being winsome about their own vast vanity. 

The magazine came to the conclusions that it did by compiling a database of Instagram users who tagged "#selfie" and also posted the geographical location.

The all-time winner is a place I never heard of - Makati. a suburb of Manila.  New York was second, Miami third, Anaheim-Santa Ana was fourth and Petain Jaya, Malaysia was fifth..

Los Angeles didn't even make the Top 100.  And we're proud of it, damn it! 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

This Doesn't Say Much Good About Us

Los Angeles magazine published recently a list of THE 20 or 25 top restaurants.  Doesn't matter if it was 20 or 25 because we have been to exactly none of them ... This week a local paper (Easy Reader) published a list of the top 10 dive bars.  We've been to seven out of 10 of them...

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Single Most Depressing Book in the World

Until recently, I thought Neville Shute's "On The Beach" held that title (everyone on earth is dying due to radiation.)  And then I discovered one I hadn't read by Nelson De Mille, who co-wrote "Mayday" with Thomas Block, whom he had met in second grade. 

The plot of "Mayday:"  A jumbo passenger jet is flying along at 35,000 ft. minding its own business when out of nowhere comes a missile which pierces the plane mid-center with such force that it goes right on out the other side.

Pressurization drops instantly.  The people that weren't killed outright are now brain impaired to the point of becoming like zombies.  But two men who happened to be using the toilets at the time the missile passed through were spared due to the fact that the doors held and pressurization stayed the same within them.

Meanwhile, the entire crew is dead or dying.  The passengers, dazed and mindless, are wandering the aisles.  One of the men in the toilet returns to his seat to find his wife and two daughters slumped in their seats.  He knows what happened to them and he knows that they can never be restored so he gently leads his daughters to the edge of the hole in the plane's side and pushes them softly into the air.  He then turns, takes his wife's hand in his and steps out into space.  (For people who are terrified of heights, this is not a calming scene.)

Meanwhile the missile firing pilot is telling his story to us and debating whether or not to tell his superiors that it wasn't a drone that he hit ... The airline finally figures out something is wrong with that flight -- why aren't they answering?  Why is the transponder turned off?  (Anything here sound familiar?)

But one of the men spared by his own bladder and a flight attendant are going everything they can to turn the plane and return to the terminal.  The man has experience in flying smaller planes, but this huge plane carries 325 passengers plus crew.

I only made it as far as page 238.  I couldn't take any more.  But I did read the last two pages to avoid nightmares and found a reasonably happy ending.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

National Geographic Should Know...

They've been traveling since the invention of the wheel.

"How to be the World's Smartest Traveler" by Christopher Elliott  National Geographic   $19.95   287 pages 

You have a complaint?  Try to solve it right then and there.  Call the front desk, use the call button for the flight attendant, talk to the purser on the cruise ship.

Can't solve it then and there?  Write a letter.  A well-written complaint spelling out all of the necessary details such as reservation confirmation, dates -- and BTW save any of these in Saved Mail.  You can print them out to take with you, but save a copy for the future when you may have to cite these details.

DON'T USE ALL CAPS.  Online all caps are considered shouting.  I doubt that you would stand in the CEO's office and shout at him. 

Don't make threats.  You're an airline agent and you're being asked for help and the person's letter says, "I hate your airline!  I'll never, ever fly God's Wings Air again!"  You, the airline employee, will snort and toss it in the wastebasket.  Why bother to help if they're never going to fly God's Wings again? 

Back to the letter - write tight, no more than 500 words.  Adapt a polite tone and use proper grammar.  A misspelled, unpunctuated rant doesn't really make the writer look good.  In fact, it makes them look stupid and to a degree, invalidates the complaint because it causes great doubt about the customer's intelligence in the first place. 

Use their own set of rules against them.  Airlines have contracts of passage; cruise lines have ticket contracts and car rentals have rental agreements.

You won't get a favorable response if you complain and don't offer a solution.  Spell out what you expect in compensation and temper this request to fit the complaint.  "The maid was rude" isn't going to get you upgraded to a suite with an open mini-bar. 

The best way to express all of the above is:  honey catches more flies than vinegar.  And if you can be funny, throw that in, too.  Most people don't choke out a "no" when they're laughing. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Know What Happened With the Missing Malasyian Flight

At the airport, just before take-off, a TV crew was filming ... David Copperfield!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

And You Didn't Even Know You Needed These Things...

Until Town and Country magazine showed you that you do!  You do!  T & C puts out an annual Weddings issue.  Despite the fact that today is March 11th, they are clearly pushing for a June wedding.  The Boy Scouts have nothing on this publication!

Very well, let us focus on a June wedding outdoors, i.e. a backyard or estate grounds or a polo field if that's what blows the bride's gown up.  Summer fields and spike heels do not get along.  At all.  But now there's a product designed specifically for those unfortunate situations where you, the shoe wearer, must traverse treacherous ground.  They are selling a clear plastic strip that has a notch on one end of it to hook your heel cap into it.  The strip extends to past the ball of the foot to provide a solid sole just like a tennis shoe would!  Isn't that clever?   Their ad suggests that you purchase pairs for all of the female guests.  Enterprising... Especially at $9 a pair for one-time use. 

Up-grading the Port-a-Potty
What good does it do to have a dance floor, a big tent with chandeliers, tables for 10 in spotless napery if you also have to have grey Port-a-Potties that are clearly visible to the guests so that they can find them?

Now there is a solution and it's called Luxury Loo, of Mattapoisett, MA.  Their solution looks like a small building in the Cape Cod shingled style that comes with the necessary plumbing as well as toilet paper, scent diffusors, bamboo flooring, solar panels, hands-free faucets and eco-friendly cleaning supplies - the lavender-scented is for the Lady's; the basil for the Men's.  The medicine cabinets are fabric-lined and might contain sun screen for a beach clam bake or bug spray for a backyard barbecue. 

A small loo is $1,750; the standard luxury is $3,000.  I would imagine this covers the use of the loos plus transportation to and from the site costs.  Visit their Website

Monday, March 10, 2014

At the Jazz Club...

The featured band, Eastside Prohibition Jazz Band, had a girl singer like no other - Nanette of "Nanette and Her Parlor Boys" was doing the band a favor by appearing with them.  It's a new group, put together by and containing several of the usual jazz club musicians.

As usual, when we got there at 2 p.m. the pick-up band was tootling and whaling away.  They run interference, so to speak, until the feature band starts laying at 3 p.m. which they continue to do until 4.  When they've done an encore, it's time for the monthly raffle. 

We certainly noticed the woman in the scalp-clinging cloche hat with all the glitter hanging off of it - to say nothing of what she was wearing - a floor-length, wildly-patterned kimono.  She flittered back and forth from the room to the bar and back again.  We just thought she was a crazy person, in from the street.  The Knights of Columbus venue is a step from the sidewalk that leads to the beach.  People passing hear the music and sometimes slip in to see what's going on. 

So just some hapless and hopeless female; she'd be gone soon.  But hark!  What's this?  When the starring band hit the bandstand, there she was minus the kimono!  From top to bottom, she wore these clothes - all in ice blue - the cloche hat, dripping various lengths of crystal strings, an intricate flapper dress of satin with beaded panels and fringe; over-the-elbow satin gloves, finished off with ice blue satin shoes with lace inserts at the toes that matched the design on her gown.  I thought "6th wedding of a flapper/gold digger."

To open the act, she came out on the dance floor and wandered to every table in the room, shaking hands with everyone at the tables.  Small hands, I noticed.  But strong.

She was a great one for mingling.  The band - who acted more like this was a rehearsal than a performance - lots of asides, mock wars and pretend insults - insisted she sing "Pretty Baby."  Much mock grumbling on her part, but she grabbed her prop which was a lacy baby cap attached to a snap-on headband and toured the room again, this time placing the baby hat on a guy's head and singing directly to him.  Since the average male at these gatherings is 84, they looked like really old babies.  Some mugged it up; others appeared sheepish in the extreme. 

The band leader had set out six Japanese paper umbrellas to dress the stage so naturally there was an umbrella parade with audience members (women) taking an umbrella and strutting along in a line.  One bold woman handed hers off to a young guy and he gamely got up and pranced halfway arouond the room with the ladies.

Because none of her hair was visible under the close-fitting hat and because she was Spanx'd to a fare-the-well with corseting a Victorian lady would swoon to have, I wasn't altogether sure she wasn't a he.  

No offense intended at all to Nanette but what I thought as I gazed upon her antics was:  a woman dressed up like a man dressed up like a woman.  Confusing, I know.  (And I saw her live and in person.)  Google turned up a Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys, but, no - no Nanette. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

When You Start With A False Premise...

It all goes to hell pretty fast.  A case in point:    "How to be a Friend to a Friend Who's Sick" by Letty Cottin Pogrebin   Public Affairs Publishing   283 pages   $24.99

Pogrebin's false premise is that we don't know how to read our friends and I would argue (forcefully, if necessary) that she's dead solid wrong.  "Friends" means -- not implies - that you ad the friend have exchanged confidences, shared experiences and know each other inside and out.  You're friends because you're on the same wave length.  You both "get it" about each other and life itself. 

So at least three-quarters of this book is a lecture on when to visit a friend in the hospital (Don't!  They're there because they're sick, fool!) or at home.  She says that we must Ask and Act and to be specific about it.  "How about I take the dog for a walk?" 

The only vaguely helpful bits I gleaned were that none of us are God.  No one is at fault except the successful suicide.  After a child dies, it's okay to mention the kid's name and a nice memory -- the parents are already thinking of the child 24/7 anyhow; a mention isn't going to make them suddenly remember, "Oh, yeah,  that's right!  Kid's dead."  The parents welcome an opportunity to talk about the child.
You may note an angry tone to this and you'd be right.  Lecturing implies an "I'm above you" attitude which grates.  My friends know what I'm talking about...

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Great Expectations - Dashed!

We got haircuts at Dale's Tonsorial Parlor which is directly across the street from a closed pastry shop.  It was such a tease to sit there, look at it and visualize delicate petit-fours.. little lemon tartlets....that I asked Dale if there was any other bakery in El Segundo?  Sadly not ...

"But," he said to another stylist, "What's the name of that great bakery over by you?"  She'd been on her way out of the door, but she slammed on her brakes, spun on a dime and enthusiastically half-shouted, "Pain du Jour!"  She said that basically it's a commercial bakery supplying various breads and desserts to local restaurants, but they sell to individuals, too. 

Say what you will about the French (and they've probably heard it) they can crank out superb baguettes with seemingly no thought at all. 

Yesterday we had business near that part of town so we went to it.  That section of Inglewood in Hawthorne is one small strip mall after another, but Le Pain Du Jour is a stand-alone building with its own parking lot.  At one time, it had a field of wheat painted on one side, but now it's just gray all over. 

We bought an apricot bar, an almond-flaked pain au chocolat and a baguette.  $7.50 for the lot.  The apricot bar had to be 4 in. by 4 in. of thick shortbread crust, generously lavished with apricot jam and topped by crumbles which seemed to be equal parts flour, butter and brown sugar.  I've got the other half for today.

But the real test - the baguette - had to wait until we got home.  The minute I sliced off a heel I began to be disappointed.  Where was the texture?  This was dried all the way through despite a sign above the display case "Baked this morning."  It was the Wonder Bread equivalent of a baguette.  You've eaten it a thousand times in pseudo French, Italian or Continental restaurants. 

But:  the place is genuinely a find for pastries and custom cakes.  Visit their Website and take a look.  A cake shaped like a very large rose?  Check.  Bread that looks like an alligator?  Check.  Me, I'm going to go finish my apricot bar.  And I'm not sharing either.

Le Pain Du Jour, 13528 Inglewood Avenue (corner 135th and Inglewood) Hawthorne, CA 90250  Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Closed Sunday

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ah, Youthful Fantasies...

Richie has been excavating again and the other day handed me a manila envelope labeled "Manuscripts."  When I read my way through, I realized how shallow and stupid I was at 22 or 23.  I was going to use one of the pieces, but it was frankly so unprofessional that I couldn't bring myself to do it.  There were, however, a couple of funny bits so I cherry-picked my way along and can present little dribs and drabs.

The story concerns itself with a princess who lived all alone in an ivory tower near Garnett, Kansas.

She felt displeasure about the castle's size - some of the closets and the wine cellar were too small. 

She told the cook she was going grocery shopping in town (Garnett, Kansas) but in reality she walked out into the woods and conjured up the food.  This ability was a gift given to her at birth when her fairy godmother remarked that at 13 lbs. she would be a big eater and thus the "forest grocery store."

She meets two men at the sign-up for a big sports car race.  She intends to race her Maserati.  But first she has to get it out of the parking space which is blocked by another race car and trailer.  She accosts the driver and the owner and tells them to move.

"Both men looked up alertly.  She looked at them.  They looked at her.  Their eyes all locked.  A few minutes later, someone fetched a key and unlocked their eyes."

Yes, well, no one wants to read childish junk like that.  I've come a long way from inane in only 50 years!    lol

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

War Stories

"A Star for Mrs. Blake" by April Smith   Alfred A. Knopf   329  pages   $24.95

This is a true story presented with fictional characters.  After World War 1 the US Army decided to honor Gold Star mothers with a free, luxury trip to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery which honors 14,000 war dead.   They were the mothers who allowed their sons to be buried with their comrades rather than at home. 

The book follows a group of these mothers, the Army soldier serving as their guide and an Army nurse sent along as a precaution.  The mothers come from varied lifestyles and personalities.  One of the male leads is a man whose face was horribly disfigured.  He is not alone by any means, but many of them have been helped by the Studio for Portrait Masks in Paris, 1917.    Sculptors such as America's Anna Coleman Ladd studied the ghastly faces and sculpted masks designed to cover the damage which were then painted in the appropriate skin color.  These men were called "tin noses."

As a study and bit of history of which I'd never heard, it was a fascinating story.

"The Secret of Raven Point" by Jennifer Vanderbes   Scribner   306 pages   $26

This story, set in World War 2, was a sad one.  A small town girl and her older brother are exceptionally close, possibly because their mother died when the girl was three and the boy five.  The widower remarried a woman who was good to them but not overly loving.

The boy lies about being only 16, joins the Army and is shipped out.  The girl continues her schooling and when the family learns that he is listed as Missing, the girl takes an accelerated nursing course and joins the Army, hoping to be sent to the front to look for him. 

Told from her point of view, the story is a sad one.  The struggles to keep wounded men alive on the front line under extremely hard conditions is well told.  Vanderbes could have wallowed in the misery, but she keeps a balanced tone once you get past the improbability of the story line.  It's a good if somewhat depressing read.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Contrasts -- and a Common Denominator

"In My Shoes" by Tamara Mellon with William Patrick   Portfolio/Penguin   275 pages   $29.95

Mellon was born in London on July 7, 1967 to a fairly rich family.  She started Jimmy Choo (women's shoes, guys) by contacting an Asian shoemaker who made custom shoes for rich London ladies and offered him a 50/50 partnership to manufacture her designs and to use his name.  Her father lent her the start-up money. 

Mellon's brand soared in America (due largely to "Sex in the City") and spread all over the globe.  During her 15 year reign, Mellon became the British Prime Minister's trade envoy and was given the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

Tired of infighting with Choo (quite mad,) the bankers and the private equity firms, she quit.

Along the way she married Michael Mellon who proposed by taking her in  a rose petal- strewn limo to a helicopter and while it circled the Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh, proposed.  She accepted.  The ensuing wedding was celebrated at Blenheim Castle with a dinner catered by Admiral Crichton, flowers by Kenneth and a 5 ft. tall cake made of profiteroles.  This even cost over $500,000.  She divorced him when he became a drug addict. 

"Rosie Perez Handbook For An Unpredictable Life - How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother and Still Came Out Smiling (With Great Hair) by Rosie Perez   Crown/Archetype   322 pages   $26

Perez was born on September 6, 1964 in Brooklyn.  She was born to a mother and father who were both married to others and already had children.  Soon after giving birth, the mother handed baby Rosie off to her sister and vanished.  Three years later, she came back, swooped down and took Rosie to live at a Catholic children's home after really confusing the three year old with the news that SHE was her Mommy and that the woman she'd been calling Mommy was actually her aunt.  And - bonus points - her uncle was actually her father.

As the world knows, little Rosie grew up to become a funny and talented actress (and Oscar contender) who broke boundaries for Latinas in film. 

The one similarity?  Both of their mothers were clinically insane.  Mellon's mother never said a nice thing to her and drank; Rosie's mother was so ..."flirtatious"... that she ended up with AIDS and eight children - so far - I'm only on page 92. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sobbing Through the Oscars

It surprised me to have to blot my eyes and blow my nose several times during the broadcast.  I was so touched by the male winners who remembered their wives and children and publicly thanked them for their help.  The spouse and brats probably had nothing whatsoever to do with what the male did to win, but that doesn't matter!  It's important to look gracious.

Taking it  'way too far there was a trio of two men and one woman and the man thanked, "Our guardian angel, our son ..." and glanced quickly up at the ceiling.  You knew that the kid was dead and likely to stay that way.

Another burst of tears occurred when I saw Kim Novak.  If she was trying to have the same face she had 40 years ago ... she needs to get her money back from the plastic surgeon fast.      

When Ellen DeGeneres sticks to straight comedy, she's good.  The selfies photo and the pizza gags were ... trying a leetle too hard. 

Richie clearly read yesterday's lament about no girlfriends to gossip with because he several times made an effort, but I could tell he was 'way out of his depth.  "Isn't that an ugly dress?" he asked, but if pinpointed as to what exactly made it ugly the poor thing wouldn't have a clue.  But I appreciated his trying.

None of the dresses were noteworthy in any way other than a certain amateurish high school prom night display.  DeGeneres looked the best and she was wearing pants!

Still and all, it wasn't as boring as it usually is so that's something, but it was by no means  Oscar worthy.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

California Doesn't Have Much Luck With Trains

Adding to the comment previously made about the proposed bullet train to and fro between Los Angeles and San Francisco, comes the news that the State is closing the train that would have taken visitors through the Empire (gold) Mine in Grass Valley, CA. 

The State has spent $3.5 million on the project only to discover in 2012 that the steel beams installed to shore up the walls are corroding and thus unsafe.

To repair it would cost an additional $1.4 million to fix it (presumably on through eternity as the beams would require regularly scheduled replacement)  so the whole thing was scrapped.   Loss:  $3.5 million.   

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Hurray For Hollywood?

Not so much.  I've never been impressed by "Hollywood" probably because working at Universal, eating in the commissary, visiting shooting stages or sharing an elevator with Gregory Peck didn't impress me.  It did some of my friends though and I cleaned up - "I'll tour you around the studio if you'll buy me lunch at the commissary."

Back when I was single, my girlfriends Louise the Tease, Crazy Suzanne, Patty the Lawyer and I would all gather at my apartment to watch the Oscars.  We'd get knee-walking drunk and "critique," carefully noting who was drunk, who was high, who had visited an after-market tit maker and who really needed a new stylist.  A great time was had by all. 

Richie is totally uninterested in the whole thing.  If all of the starlets wore burlap bags, I doubt he'd even notice.  He finds the interviewers' questions largely inane.  Since we normally have seen exactly none of the films vying for an award, who won doesn't matter to either of us. 

However this morning's paper reminded us rather sharply how far off of the grid we've wandered.  It never occurred to either of us to throw an Oscar-themed party. 

 Some of the ideas ... hang a popcorn wreath on your front door; paint little tiny movie cameras on your fingernails, lay down a red carpet and photograph arriving guests, use movie theatre popcorn boxes...  Visit for more ideas.

I wish the party throwers and goers all well.  Bless their well-meaning hearts.  I salute them one and all.  But for me?  I will sit quietly in my armchair (until the drink hits me) and watch the show from our living room.  Richie will entertain himself by muting all of the commercials.   About half the time he forgets to un-mute them which causes me to scream at him.   However calm the Oscars may appear to be on your TV, it's not calm here.  You've gotta get your Oscar excitement from somewhere.