Island Fever

“Welcome to Paradise,” said the girl behind the counter with an orchid pinned to her hair. A balmy breeze was ruffling my hair as I checked into the resort. It was early afternoon with the sun in full blaze in a cloudless sky. This was check-in Friday. There were so many people and kids coming and going they give you check-in days, like college.

She handed me a welcome packet about tours, restaurants, shopping and rainbow shaved ice treats. All at the resort. They don’t want you wandering off the property and spending money elsewhere. You want to grill your own meat? They have the latest grills, all ten bright and shiny ones, next to the lagoons. You want massages? Step this way. Brunhilde is waiting. How about hula lessons? Sign up for an all-exposure class on the lawn in front of the restaurant. You’re the entertainment while guests gobble fish tacos with pineapple salsa and garlic fries at double the price of anything on the mainline.

Alf and I noticed that mosImage result for koit of the guests were our age with our same body shape. We felt right at home.

They sunbathed on chaise lounges by man-made lagoons, by periwinkle pools and under thatched trees made in Mexico. No one minded the artificial landscape except me. Why did it come to this? Was it a way to control and contain it? What was wrong with a more rugged look?

The koi in the pond were overweight by a few hundred kilos. It was because they had regular feeding hours like we did. Too many fish tacos.

The drinks tasted the same no matter where you were and what you ordered. They were all sugared up and splashed with ice and straws.

The big surprise for me was the pineapple. Never a big fan because of its tartness, the ones on the island turned me into an addict. They were sweet, juicy, crunchy and thirst quenching. I had to visit a plantation and see for myself how they were grown. This led us to the Dole plantation, which when we arrived was packed with visitors from around the world. It was more a souvenir shop with a few plants growing outside, but they were real. I also saw cocoa trees with pods. When I asked where the real plantations were, I was told, “Costa Rica.” I was buying and devouring Central American pineapples in Hawaii? I was in shock. What else were they not telling me?

Calvin says, “You don’t believe all beagle breeders come from England, do you? Remember, I was a Napa pup.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tickled in Pink

Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo is an experience in gaudy wonderfulness. Something I’d never want to live in, not even for an overnight stay. But if you need to be transported to another era, actually several eras, this is a one-stop wonder. Better than Universal Studios.

As soon as you step inside, you’re enveloped in pink. Look down at your feet and pink roses stare back up from the carpet. Pink upholstery on the seats. The always popular pink champagne cakes sit very pink in the cabinets. The tablecloths and napkins in the steak house are pink too. Bubblegum pink with your medium rare rib-eye? Those are competing colors. Apparently it’s been working for 60 years. The doors leading to the kitchens have stained glass windows. The one in the steak house has a red rose. Now that’s more like it.

“I feel I’m inside a flock of flamingos, “Alf said. IMG_4214

Why pink, I asked myself. Turns out Alex Madonna liked the red upholstery in fancy restaurants of the day and he wanted the same look without copying it. So pink it was.

I’ve never liked the color pink. In my opinion it’s a faded red, a poor excuse for crimson, a blush of berry.

To decorate an entire restaurant with it is madness. But 60 years ago it was the destination for everyone driving to and from LA. Except truck drivers wouldn’t get caught dead in there.

It became a destination hot spot.

Shows you that taste isn’t everything.

Calvin says, “Slow down the judgment dearie, you’ve got some funky colors going on in our house.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post-Millennial

unnamed (1)“I met this girl online. A Millennial. From India. Everything looked perfect on paper,” he said to his blonde lunch date. I sat at the counter of the Greek restaurant listening to this. The lunch date had her back to me and sat face-on to this fellow. He was good looking. Chiseled features, straight nose, good teeth. “I knew this was too good to be true. And I was right. She was looking for someone to give her a leg-up in her career. I didn’t want to date a business deal. What are you having for lunch? To drink? The lamb salad is good.” He continued talking. She never uttered a word. The food arrived. She got the chicken salad. She skewered it with a fork.

Calvin says, “I hope she stuck him with the bill, too.” beagle

Caffeinated Technology

After all the mayhem over the elections, the city has finally returned to normal, whatever that means.

It is after all the hub for all things techie. Protests and riots don’t run in the same circles as coding and programming. The relative quiet has returned people to work.

Every morning I walk past Dolby, Twitter, Uber, and Square. Groups of back-packed techies, mostly young men, rush into the buildings to complete another round of focused futuristic thinking.  photo199

Later in the day packs of them take a break from their screens and go roaming Market Street in search of their favorite caffeinated drinks. They laugh and talk over each other with their latest, exciting ideas. They speak in another language, one only known to them. Market Street, once a dilapidated part of town, has sprouted more coffee shops and eateries than a downtown mall, all meant to lure them in to spend money. The idea is not to eat too far away from your computer, but to stay as close as you can to your office, with a group of work friends in toe so you never have to leave the building or each other.

While this means my technical future is in good hands, what is it doing to the health and future of these kids? They have no social skills, they don’t know how to talk to a woman, and they’re not prepared to handle the shocks of life. They’re inside a matrix they can’t see and have no thought of breaking out. This is life. Some of these companies have playrooms, lounge areas, entertainment, and cafeterias so their workforce doesn’t need to go out to breathe oxygen or get a real life.

I ask myself, what would these people do if there wasn’t such a thing as a computer industry? I’m not sure I have an answer, but one thing I do know, they’d have a chance to join the human race.

Calvin says, “In the beagle kingdom we’re not all the same. There are some who hate hunting and stay back reading recipes for foul smelling foods.”  beagle

 

 

 

Snatched Conversations

“I just made up my mind to be cremated,” my 93-year old friend told me recently.

“Why not be buried?” I asked.

“I don’t want to rot in a box,” she said.

“Then consider being sprinkled,” I said.

“I cant swim,” she said.  Orange

“My mother wasn’t a good cook,” my friend said. “So imagine my delight as a young girl when I came home from school one day to the aroma of stew simmering on the stove.”

“Did she surprise you with a home-cooked meal?” I asked.

“No, she was stewing meat for the dogs and I got a frozen dinner,” she said.

“I had a friend in college who slept in a bathtub,” Jules said.

“Why there?” I asked.

“Because we called him Mr. Machine and he had shifty eyes and I guess he had to live up to his name,” he said.

“It’s not brunch anymore,” said the hostess in the hotel dinning room.

That would make a good title for a novel, I thought. The story would center around a woman of social standing searching for the perfect brunch in her city in order to invite her best friends to join her and announce she was going to kill herself, except in the course of trying different dishes around town she falls in love with the cooking of an old-timer Parisian chef whose food awakens the passions in her life.

Calvin says, “You’ve fallen off your rocker.” beagle

 

 

 

Overheard

A couple across from me at a table at a bagel shop. In their 30’s.
Girl: Long dark straight hair. Thin. Glasses.
Guy: Rumpled clothing. Just got off a plane. Backpack. Shadow of a beard.
He pulls out a bag of sun-dried tomatoes from Sicily and a sea shell the size of a quarter.
Guy: I had other things I wanted to bring you, but I had packing issues.
She receives the gifts as if they were diamonds.
Guy: the tomatoes are salty. You’ll need to soak them.  Bagel Tree (2) (2)
She gives him a hug.
Girl: What’s an everything bagel? Is it a bagel that has a little bit of everything on it?
Guy: Everything is hot. Would you want to do it?
Girl: Ya.
Guy: What do you want on it?
Girl: Butter. On the side.
He gets up. He orders. He pays. He brings everything to the table.
Guy: I want to show you everything Jewish.
Calvin says, “Sun-dried tomatoes? Really? How about a juicy kiss where it counts?” 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.”

Give Mom a Kick-Butting Day

Mother’s Day is just around the corner.

That horrid one day of the year when families take mom out for brunch and fuss over her with eggs Benedict and Mimosas. Then she’s returned to the daily grind and all is forgotten.

I’m sure the restaurant industry contrived the holiday to beef up their bottom line in May.

What if mom doesn’t like eggs with a last name and orange juice spiked with bubbles? Maybe she prefers her steak grilled with a heaping plateful of shoestring potatoes and a large pitcher of sangria?

And please don’t give her a cheesy card with a sappy greeting that a computer spit out last century that you found in the greeting card aisle at the supermarket next to the artificial smelling air fresheners for the house. Definitely don’t buy one of those either.

Instead, head out to the mall and buy her an all expense paid shopping spree to her favorite shoe store. Or put her on a plane to a beach somewhere. Or give her a lifetime of body massages at the Holistic Health Clinic where Mai, the masseuse will be happy to walk all over her back.

Then install the dog in the pet hotel so she doesn’t have to walk him for a month.

Hire a private chef for the rest of the year and give her a break in the kitchen.

Oh wait. The kitchen. It needs a desperate overhaul before Wolfgang can cook there.

Maybe mom has a dream she’d like to focus on for a change. Provide her with the tools she needs. Lipstick, make-up, haircut and color, liposuction, a new wardrobe.

Singing lessons? Maybe she’s always wanted to develop her voice beyond yelling at the kids.

Calvin says, “My mom never got to develop herself. I know she had a secret nobody else knew. She always wanted to be an owner.”

This Way Please

Moonstruck is sixty-five. A throw-back from the 60’s. She gulps down bags of vitamins every morning with tea from the Amazon jungle before she begins her shift as a floor manager in the steak house restaurant. She wears her grey hair in a bird’s nest do and sports chandelier earrings with every outfit. You notice the earrings across the room before you notice Moonstruck.

On her days off she traps stray cats and has them neutered.

“Moonstruck, you need to be tough with the people you manage,” her general manager, Michael said. Moonstruck was having trouble keeping the wait staff in line. They were coming in late for their shifts, getting tipsy on leftover wine, and not giving her the respect she deserved.

“I can’t. It’s not my nature,” she said.

“But that’s part of your job,” he said.

“I try. Really I do. But it doesn’t come out well,” she said.

“Another job then?” he said.

“No.”

“What about being a hostess where you greet and seat people?”

“No,” she said rolling her eyes. “Not that job again.”

It was no use. He’d have to devise an alternative plan and make her think it was her idea.

Calvin says, “Suggest she start a non-profit cat trapping business. I’ll fund it.”

Very Rare

“I told Paul last night, ‘I can’t sleep your sleep, think your thoughts, or eat your food. Marriage is such an impossible state of being. It demands a oneness when all you really want is to be left alone.'” Sabrina said this as she sipped her champagne cocktail. We were having brunch outdoors in her favorite restaurant. She had called me and said she needed to talk. Sabrina rarely did anything unless there was food involved. The last time we met, it was for dinner in a new bistro. She needed an excuse to eat and talk.

“So how did Paul respond?” I asked. I poured some Pelegrino into my glass.

“Not well. He said I sounded like I wanted out of the marriage, which wasn’t what I meant at all, I was just voicing an insight I had, and needed to get it out in the open,” she said.

“And you explained that to Paul,” I said.

“Oh yes, but it left him with the doubt. Now he’s brooding over the whole incident.”

The waiter arrived with our salads and french fries and placed them in front of us. “Will that be all?” he said.

“Bring me a steak. Very rare,” she said. Then she turned to me and said, “I need to chew on some flesh. I feel angry. Every time I try to be real with Paul it backfires. I end up feeling guilty. Then I wish I never opened my mouth.”

I pierced a cherry tomato and it squirted onto my blouse. I rubbed the stain with my napkin. That smudged it even more and turned it pink. At least it matched my lipstick and earrings.

“Give Paul a few days. He’ll come out of it,” I said.

“Maybe. I swear, I’m not going to expose what I’m thinking to him any more. He clearly can’t handle it,” Sabrina said.

The waiter arrived with a very large steak on a white plate and put it down in front of her. “Will that be all?” he said.

Sabrina waved him off and dug in. Blood oozed out in all directions. She cut the entire thing into bite size pieces and then put her knife and fork down.

“That was better than therapy,” she said finishing off her drink. “Let’s get out of here.”

Calvin says, “What a tragedy! At least ask for a doggie bag!”