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

 

 

 

Give Me Space

Alf and I made plans to spend the day in Carmel the weekend after Christmas.

Instead of taking the sane way, we chose the back roads that took us through the center of Gilroy and up and around and down the mountains that paralleled highway 101. That turned out to be a 30-minute detour that left Alf fuming and me hyperventilating. The day was already ruined.

What were we thinking? We envisioned a casual stroll down cobbled stone streets, lazily peering into store windows for the Christmas decor, enjoying a leisurely lunch at a French restaurant expertly prepared by the chef of many years with a fine reputation.

Instead we jostled our way down the streets side-stepping the tourists with their pedigree dogs, which didn’t want strangers petting them with gooey fingers from their over-priced pastries. Why don’t people leave their dogs at home? When did it turn trendy to wear them shopping? I can sort of understand a purse dog, if you can call that thing a dog, but a Burmese Mountain dog? There’s no avoiding him, he’s a defense tackler blocking the street.

I saw more dogs than children. Probably the kids stayed home with the grandparents and the dogs went to town. There’s something wrong here. IMG_9666

Lines were out the door at every decent restaurant. Casual wear in the stores was priced at $300 and up. And that was the sale price. Really? I can get that same sweatshirt online for $15.95.

It was cold gorgeous – sharp blue skies, piercing sunlight – boot and jacket weather. Boots were popular. Everybody was wearing them, except me. I checked the price of an elegant leather pair that caught my eye – $475. With a few more dollars, I’ll go to Europe.

The art galleries disappointed me. Mostly touristy seascapes in glaring colors, the kind you see in every beach town from Maui to La Jolla to Acapulco. I think the same painters make a circuit. Jose takes Acapulco, Sven’s is Carmel, Max paints in a bar in Maui, and Teresa is the barracuda in La Jolla. They’re all related. These were Teresa’s last three husbands.

Calvin says, “Next time leave Alf home and take me. My nose needs an outing and I love gooey.” 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

All In The Focus

I came out of the restaurant after a farewell luncheon for a co-worker from the office. I heard a voice calling from across the street. I ignored it. It called again. I looked. I didn’t recognize the woman. I assumed she meant someone else. I kept walking. The voice got louder. Then I heard the woman call my name. I stopped. I looked across the street again.

It was my daughter.

How embarrassing!

Okay, I was wearing dark glasses and that always mutes the colors.

Plus she was in the shadow.  cropped-img_0711.jpg

But my own daughter?

Alf tells me when I focus on things, I only see in front of my face.

I guess I’m that bad.

I think it has a lot to do with expectations. I wasn’t expecting to see my daughter, therefore I didn’t recognize her.

Now I know how magicians do it.

It’s all in the focus.

And when they get me looking at something else, out pops the struggling bunny from the top hat.

Meanwhile there’s a snake slithering across my feet.

Calvin says, “For me it’s my nose. The whole world stops while the scent lures me to the wild side.” beagle

 

We’re Too Emotional With Our Feelings

A friend said the other day, “I’m going to spend some quality time in the walk-in fridge at work.”

It wasn’t about the weather. It was about his mood. His emotions needed chilling. They were out of hand. Leaking out and making a mess all over the floor. And this was a restaurant he worked in. Nobody wanted tears with the gazpacho. It messes with the temperature of the soup.

It’s fascinating the ways people handle emotions. So much of it is cultural.

The Japanese hide theirs behind a veneer of formality.

The British remain polite no matter what devastation is occurring.

The French smoke more and talk faster.

The Americans pop pills.

Middle Easterners shout and holler.

The Russians drink more vodka.

And the Mexicans pull out guns and shoot.

Truth is nobody handles his feelings well.

Emotions are difficult to control once they’re out. For example, Romeo and Juliet drank poison; Hamlet died in a sword fight with a poisoned tip; Caesar was stabbed; Ophelia drowned, and MacBeth was beheaded.

And that’s just our fictional relatives.

It’s no wonder people aren’t skilled at expressing their feelings. Their examples are too emotional.

Calvin says, “When I’m emotional, I roll in the foulest smelling grass my nose can find. Then I run to you for a hug.”

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.”