Two in One

Alf and I made our semi-annual trek to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival last week. I was craving the fall colors, the rushing creek, and rain, lots of rain. To my disappointment, everything looked dry and dusty, as if it had come out of grandma’s attic for airing, and too much like drought-intolerant California. Even the theaters had the air conditioning on. In October. Shakespeare would have stopped writing and gone to the Black Sheep for more pints.

Ashland’s city leadership is a protective bunch of environmentalists and zoning Pharisees. Over the years they’ve been very careful who builds what and where. They give out building permits sparingly, but lately, it seems to me, they’ve been imbibing at the Black Sheep too many times themselves, and loosened their grip. So there’s a condo boom in town for rich retirees coming from California who want a little bit of city with their Shakespeare setting.

There’s an Ashland we discovered on the other side of the city. It’s on rolling hills with horses and sheep dotting the landscape giving it a pastoral look. Some of the properties have vineyards that wrap around the houses like scarves. The homes are large and impressive affording views of the city and the majestic tree-studded Mt. Ashland, which in winter with its snow hat on must be a glorious sight.

We sawAdo Much Ado About Nothing, a hilarious romp with a lot of word sparing set in today’s society. While I applaud the effort OSF is making to hire actors of different ethnic backgrounds, the actor who played Claudio needed some help. When he first came on stage and delivered his first line he sounded like he had eaten a mouthful of tortillas and he never really swallowed them during the rest of the story. The other play was a Chinese classic that defied clarity. It was two plays in rehearsal on the same stage, which eventually morphed into one love story. It took dogged determination to stay in your seat to the very end because nothing really made a whole lot of sense during the first act. In case you don’t want to see it when it comes to town, it’s called, Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land. It’s been a raging hit in China since forever.

Calvin says, “They forgot to throw a dog into the Chinese mix. Hey, they had everything else including an actor in a wheelchair, why not a dog? He could have howled his way through both stories.”beagle

And the Oscar Goes to…

I watched the Oscars last night. It was your typical gathering of egos swishing in borrowed gowns and dripping in rented jewels waiting with thumping hearts for their name to be called as a winner.

There were no upsets except for the Mexican director who ran away with three Oscars for best picture, best screenplay and best director. What a statement for immigration! cropped-photo1.jpg

Then there was Neil Patrick Harris’ ridiculous display of himself before a world audience. Really? Even though it was a play on a scene in Birdman, was that the best Hollywood could come up with? It disrupted the glow of the show and it made no sense outside of its blatant statement to the gay community.

Lady Gaga should fire whoever put her in that white fluffy dress for her tribute to the Sound of Music. She looked like a stuffed cloud.

Hollywood is so proud of itself for mirroring the condition of the world in its movies. This year’s were either violent, abusive or psychologically deranged. Is that what they think of the country and the rest of the world? Have they spent any time with a farmer in Kansas or a small business owner in Brooklyn?

I find it a shame they have sequestered the live orchestra in another building so you don’t see the musicians anymore. They are an integral part of the show and they’ve been made invisible.

The thing I liked best about the Oscars is that it’s only once a year.

Now I can get on with my gardening. Time to feed the roses.

Calvin says, “Were you expecting normal from a group narcissists who worship at the Oscar idol? Now who’s deranged?”  beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World on the Train

I asked my seatmate on the subway this morning what station he was getting off at since I needed to get out. It turned out to be the same as mine. I noticed an accent, so I asked him where he was from.

“Zimbabwe,” he said.

I was waiting to hear Berkeley.

“Have you been back recently?” I said.

“Oh maybe 12 years ago. I’m more a native Californian, been here for 28 years,” he said.

“Do you miss it?”

“Not really, it’s a mess.” photo (7)

“The world’s a mess,” I said.

He agreed. He was a man in his 40’s, fair skinned, blue eyes, blonde short cut hair. He looked like the average American except for his accent.

I looked around the subway car. The world was in there – African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Koreans, White, and this morning the man from Africa.

Who says America is no longer the melting pot of the world?

They just haven’t ridden a subway lately.

Calvin says, “You want melting pot? Visit your local doggie daycare. It’s dizzying.” beagle

 

 

 

Bring Out the Tamales

IMG_9279What is it about holiday parties that they always seem the same? I’ve hosted hundreds of them, attended even more, and every one of them is a replica of years past. The dinner whether served buffet style or delivered to the table, is usually the same fare – the requisite ham, turkey, and green bean casserole. I know some of you love all this tradition, but I don’t. I want to bring out the chicken smothered in mole sauce with a garnish of pomegranate seeds. Or a steaming hot bowl of pho with hard boiled egg, thin slices beef and mint leaves. I know. The kids would go “Eeu!” and grandma would roll her eyes and keel over. Mention Christmas and your taste buds come scrambling into your mouth, all jostling for position to be first in line for tradition.

Did you know that smell is the strongest sense we have? We can lose our eyesight, our taste buds can go south, touch is no longer accurate, and sound, well, don’t get me started. Smell, on the other hand, can take you back to your childhood when you came running into your mother’s kitchen to snatch a slice of freshly baked bread slathered with rich butter. Or it can remind you of your first glass of pink champagne when you breathed in the bubbles and they raced up your nose and made you sneeze like crazy, or when you got a whiff of a gardenia bush on a hot summer night letting off it’s sweet, sultry fragrance.

I’d like to start some new traditions that include not only exotic culinary delights, but aromas that would provide us with a new library of memories that would lead us into the future. Like smoked, crushed chiles, Spanish saffron, spicy chocolate, and star anise.

Calvin says, “Yep, smell is my obsession. I’m intoxicated by fox droppings.” beagle

 

How To Spot a Phony Restaurant

I knew the moment we walked into the restaurant it was a mistake.

El Gordito was proud to be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week. It even sported a sports bar.

The owner grabbed me by the arm and walked me and Alf to a booth by a window. He dealt the two over-sized menus like playing cards, and left us. I looked around the room. We were the second customers for dinner. The first was a robust family of six, just finishing their meal. They looked up and smiled.

The owner returned. He was a man in his fifties, with dark short hair, a little black mustache, and quick eyes. He brought a basket of chips and a bowl of red salsa and plunked them down in front of us.

“Somtin do drink?” he said.

Alf suggested a margarita. I said no. This place would front load it with corn syrup and fake juice.

“Ice tea,” I said.

“Sangria,” Alf said.

The owner rolled his eyes and left. He went behind the bar and prepared the drinks. The only TV in the sports bar was flickering a basketball game. How un-Mexican. Where was the bullfight?

The tortilla chips were brittle. They had been fried in lard, a darling of Mexican cooking. I saw myself launching guerilla warfare from my booth with them and perforating the owner and the chef.

“Cause of death: impaled by chips,” the coroner’s report would state.

The salsa was thick, tasteless, and hot. The heat was poor camouflage for its nastiness.

I looked around. The window was covered in drawings of blue, pink and green margarita cocktails.

A couple roared into the parking lot on matching motorcycles. He looked like a mafia don, dark and mysterious behind dark glasses, she like a mortuary hairstylist, petite and curvy with lots of makeup. They were the third victims coming for dinner.

“See, we’re bringing in a crowd,” I said. “We should get this meal gratis.”

The interior of the restaurant was like the country of Mexico stuffed into one small place. Stone walls with paintings of Mexican towns, pottery in garish colors erupted with plants and vines in profusion. The booths and tables were made from rough wood and carved with designs of birds and flowers. Nothing matched.

Maybe if I spoke in Spanish I would win us special attention and we could order off-menu.

I ordered in Spanish, the owner replied in English. He was onto me.

We chose the most authentic item on the menu – tacos al carbon – tacos with grilled steak, raw onion, cilandro and lime. Everything else on the menu came smothered in melted cheese, re-fried beans with a side of lard.

While we waited, a minstrel sat down on a chair, donned a Mariachi hat, and pulled out his guitar. A laminated sign next to him read, “Teeps. Muchas gracias.”

Our dinner arrived. The plates looked like platters. We searched for our tacos. They were hiding under a mountain of shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes. They were soggy. It was a scavenger hunt locating the meat. The rice and re-fried beans oozed into everything like an oil spill.

The Mariachi strummed his guitar and sang pathetic love songs that were popular in Mexico thirty years ago. He was off key. He jumbled the words. He switched to classical. He murdered the music.

We picked at our food and ate what we could so we wouldn’t embarrass the owner.

“How’s everytin?” he said.

“Great,” Alf said through teeth full of lard.

I said nada.

The dissonant notes of the guitar engulfed the room.

I began to laugh and couldn’t stop.

“I’m the one drinking the alcohol,” Alf said.

The owner asked us about dessert. I wanted to tell him his place was sugar-coated with lies, enough for a telenovela, but I bit my tongue.

Calvin says, “Food is food. I’d have wolfed down that lard in a heartbeat.”