Sunday, March 13, 2011

In Mother Words: Bring your Viva

Driving home from the grocery store this morning my local NPR station reminded me that In Mother Words, now playing at The Geffen, finishes its run on March 27. I made a mental note to call my daughter Jane and find out what night was free for her and her good friend, Jen…my early Mother’s Day gift to both of them.

I had gone on a rain-threatening Saturday afternoon as the guest of a fellow blogger (yeah I know, I haven’t blogged in a while) and in truth, I was more looking forward to lunch with Marsha than the play. Matinée performances are easy, though, and driving across L.A. on a cold(ish), cloudy(ish) and occasionally wet Saturday afternoon in February is no big challenge. Topanga Canyon to PCH to the 10 to the 405 and exit on Santa Monica. Easy. The fact that I’d walked out the door without cash, coat or umbrella didn’t cross my mind until a torrential but thankfully brief shower made me question my lack of preparedness as were having lunch at the always-good Sunnin on Westwood.

When we arrived at the theatre the first thing I noticed, besides the location of the cash only bar, was that the crowd was decidedly younger and there was no ATM machine in sight. Marsha and I cobbled together enough change and crinkled bills from the bottoms of our purses to manage a glass of red before the performance and then in we went. My first impression was right: we were in the small theatre and it was mostly filled with young moms all tangled up in that hormonal web of mothering that is somehow magnified when shared with others in the same boat. Most were thrilled to be out of the house on a Saturday afternoon and most of these moms knew at least a few other gals so there was much squealing and excitement…and you know, it was kind of contagious. We were all looking forward to this play.

Some of us are many years distanced from the thrill of pregnancy and the off-times monotony of hands-on mothering, but in Chapter One of In Mother Words birth, infancy, first steps and playground tedium burn with an intensity to make one’s own memories come swirling with a clarity that is equal parts joyful nostalgia coupled with a vivid recall of the clock-dragging drudgery of many days of those first years.

But never once did I look at my watch and never once did I feel that these stories rang false. And through sniffs, noisy nose-blowing and some out-loud sobby intakes of breath (our row), the 20 monologues marched along at a clip that was perfect. I’m not so sure the non-mothering crowd would enjoy it as much as we did, but I know that I’ve recommended it to every mother I’ve come in contact with over the last couple of weeks and if that isn’t a recommendation, what is.

And here’s what else I know:

Just because your kids are grown up (and your daughter is a mother) doesn’t mean that your love, fears, or dreams for them are diminished in any way.

Being a grandmother is even more thrilling than being a mother because it’s unaccompanied by the day-in, day-out little stuff that can wear a mom down.

Soft, Viva paper towels work better than tissues any day of the week and I was happy to share mine at the theatre.

And here’s what I hope:

While I know that motherhood is full-circle, please oh please let me stay compos mentis until I leave this earth.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Time of Year

Seasonally, Southern California is confusing...and not just to me. The minute September hits, young girls are wearing their Ugg boots with their short shorts, ready for anything the weather may throw at them. Days and nights can be cool and sweater-worthy while days are hot and sunny and I rarely get it right. My car is filled with discarded layers.

I blame my confusion on the fact that I grew up out East in Washington, DC where there were four seasons:
  • Winter: Sometimes a nor'easter would hit with a full-bore, head-on snowfall of such magnitude that it closed schools for days, messed with inaugurations and generally delighted every child and government worker within and outside of the Beltway. But most of the time it wasn't like that; it was easy with yellow forsythia budding early and brightening the mild winter greys.
  • Spring: Soft, sweet, fragrant, pink and white. She sometimes tip-toed into town, feathery and filled with promise but more often a little too warm and steamy, reminding everyone of just what was to come. And then, too many times, those delicate blossoms that had been forced into beauty by the sun, were whacked by winds and pelting rain and sometimes heavy, wet and quick-t0-melt snows.
  • Summer: A bitch with bite. Sweaty, steamy and kinda sexy. Lots of sun, lots of lightening and thunder and lots of memories of bathing just before bed, a sprinkle of talc and the fan blowing coolish air. We never had air conditioning. Why the hell not? [note to self: ask Mum when I'm in England in the Spring]
  • Autumn: Usually, perfection.
English seasons were predictably unpredictable, especially in Newcastle where grey, damp, chilly summer days seemed to be the norm. Ditto for winter, spring and autumn. And before my Geordie friends tell me just how wrong I am, I do read your FB postings which seem to mention the weather with some frequency. But you know something, it didn't matter. And even though a rare show of sunshine often dueled with scuttling clouds, we mostly loved our time in the North. The South, though, was definitely not so challenging. Early days in Lymington and then our time in Caversham...easy peasy.

And then there was the upper Mid-West...Milwaukee. Twenty years of weather drama. We flew into O'Hare on New Year's Day 1981. There was a little light left in the sky and dry, powder-like snow whipped 'round our woefully under-dressed selves. I remember looking at Roger over the childrens' heads and mouthing something like, "What the hell?" And I said that (and more), with frequency:
  • when our snowblower broke and our then teenaged son was v e r y slow to get out of bed to help clear the driveway because Alonzo (our driveway clearer) was even slower;
  • when trying to explain to my then teenaged daughter that no she couldn't go to the movies because the tornado sirens were going and we had to hide in the basement (in spite of the fact that her father was sitting upstairs calmly reading the NY Times);
  • when torrential rains flooded our basement;
  • when our TV reception tanked so I half hung out a 2nd story window using a broom handle to chip ice off the satellite dish;
  • when ice storms would blind me with their beauty;
  • when the ash tree failed to leaf for my daughter's May 22 birthday
  • and when that same wretched ash tree dropped its leaves before my son's October 29 birthday
  • Winter: Cold
  • Spring: Cold with odd days that give one hope
  • Summer: Welcome, but buggy
  • Autumn: Beautiful, but short-lived
And then we moved to Topanga. Yesterday it was in the upper 90s. September saw the hottest temperatures of the entire summer, well over 100. Several days ago we got an inch and a half of rain...our first since early May. The summer months were deliciously sunny and cool (mid 70s to mid 80s) and anyone who lived along the coast was mostly in fog. And the nights...perfect for sleeping, dry and cool. Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn could all have days in the 60s or 80s or 90s. Only the rains tell me the time of year. So unless there's a Christmas tree or pumpkin or Easter basket in the photo I haven't got a clue in which month it was taken. And you know, I'm just fine with that.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This and That

It's been a while and I've decided to start testing the bloggy waters once again. I have fun with Facebook and it's punchy and quick and wonderfully mysterious the way it brings people into my life who have been sadly absent for decades; old high school friends who I am delighted are still of this world but have endured the pain of sickness and loss and the children of old friends who have mysteriously turned into full-blown adults.

Much of the thrust of my writing this year has been focused on Topanga Women's Circle and while I regret not one minute of my time spent with this great group of ladies, I do want to dust off Dotty Nana and attend to her just a little bit more. Just not tonight...

Monday, November 30, 2009

¿Hablas español

I continue to take French, less formalized now that mon professeur has removed herself to the South of France, but still the four of us (Dan, Paulette, Janaki and I) soldier on and have a practice type class every Wednesday night. In my heart, though, I know I should be learning Spanish.

Living in Southern California, formerly known as Mexico, where every single person who helps me keep the dust bunnies at bay and the ‘garden’ growing, who bravely fells 100-foot gum trees and hacks out tinder-dried palm fronds before they become missiles in a fire, who tiles and wires and routers and fiddles with my home and grounds so that I don’t have to…doesn’t speak French and rarely English.

Last July our gardener, Santiago, hurt his knee. And so his wife Lydia and teenaged son Mayno (I think that’s how it’s spelled) came out each Monday to help him through his day. And because it was two of them working, we suggested they leave at noon instead of 3 PM. Santiago’s knee healed and Mayno eventually went back to school but Lydia continues to come. She’s strong and a good worker but we like having Santiago here for a full day instead of half, and also feel it’s wrong if they’re both working and we’re not paying for both their efforts. So Roger asked Santiago if he could just come on his own because of, you know, our guilt.

But I guess Roger didn’t explain it very well because Lydia came today and we didn’t know quite what to say, so Roger said something that was obviously lost in translation and then she went and sat in their truck. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh…so I took her a cup of coffee and smiled and said, using Google Translator…of course not really knowing if this was quite what I meant to say (I'm still not sure).

Lydia, nos encanta tener que venir a trabajar con Santiago, sólo que no tienen suficiente dinero para pagar más dinero por semana que las de Santiago que ya hacemos.”

Yeah, I probably said it that loudly, too. And she, thinking I spoke a kind of Spanish, started speaking to me from her heart. I made all the right faces, I guess, and said, “SI…SI…Entiendo (which I clearly did not)” and so now she will continue accompanying Santiago every Monday because she wants to and we’ll just have to get used to it, I guess.

But before I actually found her in their truck, I wandered around the garden snapping pictures of an almost December day in my back/front/side yards. I was trying to be all natural and didn’t want Lydia to think I was hunting for her.

It’s either Spanish lessons or carrying an iPhone around with Google Translate at the ready. Here's what I saw today.

Goldfinch taking advantage of the seeding Rosemary

They See Me

American Robin (to my European friends...I know, I know, it's a Thrush)

A Tangle of Rosemary

Salvia in Bloom

Working Man


Crap grass through Peppercorns

Two Trimmed Gum Trees next to a shaggier untrimmed one

Season's Over

He's still getting by with a little help from his friends

Afternoon Sun and Shadow on living room floor

My favorite book on color

Coffee Table by the end of the weekend

When it's this dry, I keep this book in plain sight

Saturday, October 10, 2009

There's One Born Every Minute

One of my husband's most poignant memories happened long, long ago, when he was just a small boy in a hamlet called Hound Green (in Hampshire, England), not too awfully far from Rotherwick (where his mean granny lived). A place then so remote that just for fun that poor little boy would watch for motor cars passing on the main road and when one finally came along, he'd enter it into a little book; name, model, color and any other info he could glean as it whizzed by. You see, he was an occasional car spotter... because the motor car was that rare and he is that old and the train tracks were that far away.

One day he and his sister were frolicking in the fields near their home, probably scrumping for apples or some other rural pursuit, when they heard the unmistakable but faint gurgle of the mobile fish and chip van way on the other side of the common, at least 1/2 a mile away. They had become so engrossed in their play that they'd forgotten the thrupenny bit (three pence old money, pronounced thrupknee bit) they'd been given for this special treat. But upon hearing the greasy thrum thrum of the mobile lard wagon, they screamed "RUN" to each other and took off through the fields, hoping it hadn't been there too long already. Blackberry brambles caught at their bare legs but it bothered them not whit. They were salivating and grinning and already tasting the rare treat of hot chips slathered with salt and malt vinegar from the chippie. "Maybe he'll give us a pickled onion for free," screamed one of them, giggling in excitement. They could smell that unmistakable aroma of glorious hot oil, redolent with a light fish and chip overlay and it was getting stronger and stronger with every stride they took.

But as they were halfway across the common, almost tasting the vinegar-soaked, golden chips, they stopped mid-stride and watched, disbelievingly, as the chippie van lumbered away down the village lane, still too far away for them to catch. And all they were left with was the smell, enticingly strong and constantly reminding them of just what they had missed. That and the hot thrupenny bit clutched safely in my husband's tiny hand. So although the noble chip is hardly a regular part of his diet, his judgment of just what makes a chip good has been long in the making...that and he's an opinionated man about lesser things than the quality of his fried tatties.

And because of this history, I bought these...

So I could do this:

to these:

I don't normally have a pan full of oil on the boil so the exhaust fan was working double-time and you woulda thought Santa had just come down the chimney and offered us his first-born elf...the level of excitement was that high in our kitchen and it was all because we were fryin', deep fryin', baby!

And why were we deep frying? Well, it had something to do with the mitts that I'd bought at TJ Maxx that afternoon. I'd never really thought of myself as someone P.T. Barnum would look upon as an easy touch…a sucker, but c'mon, look at them! I couldn’t help it. I looked at the box, the price, the end product and I was hooked. Completely. They're Tater Mitts! Yah, tater mitts, quick peeling potato gloves in case you've never heard of them before and they were advertised on TV, too! Yes, as seen on TV and I have no doubt that if I'd seen them on the telly I no doubt would have bought them (and paid shipping costs) long before they were sequestered to some dusty shelf at TJ Maxx. I wasn't really looking for Tater Mitts when I went to the Maxx, but when I saw that box on the sale shelf I couldn't help but snatch them up quickly, devouring every word.

Peels a Potato in 8 Seconds! (screamed the box)

"Ohmygod, I must have thought (my memory is a little clouded). That's amazing."

I looked at the picture, Gloves that looked a little like my Mrs. Mop gloves but covered in hard blue bits. I read further. And what I read must have convinced me. They're easy to use, comfortable and safe (I won't cut myself, yay) and, ohmygod, there's a free bonus gift...a chip cutter. So now, only the second or third time in my 40 years of marriage that I'd actually cooked chips, I could cut them evenly. Praise Jebus.

So, they came home with me and he laughed a bit (maybe at me, not sure) and then stopped and started reading the box intently. I didn't really plan on cooking chips that first night. My intent was just to zip peel a few tatties for that dinner, throw them in the steamer with some mint and boom, done. It was Roger, the chip connaisseur, who started rooting around in the pantry for the right oil.

"It needs to tolerate high temperatures," he muttered as he peered into the back of the liquor cabinet, which is where I store tall bottles of anything that won't fit in the slidey drawer next to the stove.

"Oh look, one size fits all!" I said, anticipating him spending many happy minutes shredding the skin off with OUR new Tater Mitts.

Blue lava-like chips of something that I think would be dangerous to eat are embedded into the rubber of the glove, more or less semi-permanently. They're rough and tough and can peel spuds, maybe a few seconds more quickly than I can conventionally peel them but they only really work well if you keep the water running while you do the job. Just like the picture on the box! CLUE! So using these things when you live in a Canyon where water's at a premium and you pay over $300 a month in conservation mode just makes no sense.

But use them we did. And I'd sort of forgotten about them until last night when Roger was looking for something (liquory) in the liquor cupboard and he muttered, "What's this?"

We half-smiled as he shoved them back in the cupboard, both no doubt thinking, "I'll toss those out when the other isn't watching." But, and here's a confession, those fresh chips were so good that I'm secretly envious of folks who casually keep their electric chip makers on the countertop (Roger's uncle and aunt in Wales) in their own kitchen, confident enough to not worry about what anyone thinks.

But we live in Southern California and it's common knowledge that deep frying for your own personal consumption, while not exactly a crime, is most certainly a misdemeanor.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Today I am remembering New York and specifically Kristen Gould...a beautiful and gracious woman who loved life, travel, the beauty of words and her husband Jim. Kristen died on United Airlines Flight #93, 9/11/01 and will never be forgotten.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Because it Feels Better

Monday, July 27, 2009

Paella et Adieux

Mon professeur de français et son mari se déplacent à Antibes le 31 août...or perhaps it should be mon professuer de français et son mari se démenagent à Antibes le 31 août. Or perhaps both of those are wrong and I just need to follow them to the South of France so I can figure out what's correct.

But to celebrate the summer and our class, last night we had a paella dinner chez nous. I know, I know, it's Spanish, but look at a map. Antibes, Toulon, Marseilles, Nimes, Montpellier, Béziers, Perpignan and then you're almost in Barcelona. OLE! And The Gypsy Kings...Spanish? Nope, French. Well, their parents were gitanos from Catalona who had fled to France during the Spanish Civil War. So, yeah, technically Spanish, but un peu français aussi, non? So we had them stomping and riffing and partying in the background and every now and then I'd throw my arms up in a distinctly meant-to-be but ultimately non-flamenco move, overwhelmed by the heat and the Spanishness of it all.

The food was good fun with everyone contributing. I made a couple of paellas, Dan & Martha made the sangria (the best ever), Paulette made a great roasted red pepper dish (fantastico), Nadia brought Spanish cheeses, Andrea and Neal brought a superb salad, Ellen & Steve brought brownies and ice cream, Buzz brought minted melon, Janaki came bearing wines and rendered ice pack therapy for my neck (and elsewhere) and Arlette and Andrew had wines and plenty of sparkling water and, as always, were enormous help. One of the paella pans was so big it had to be cooked in our oven (HOT), while Roger manned the other out on the grill.

It was enormous fun and enormously hot and a little poignant. Fun because of the people. Hot because the living room zoned part of our AC was fried by a leak onto the compressor and woo hoo...needs to be replaced. The estimates to replace it begin this afternoon. Nobody seems hungry enough to cut me a deal in July so if I have to wait until November, I will. I'm stubborn like that. And poignant because of Antibes's lure and also because Ellen and Steve are headed back to Minneapolis. Nothing remains the same, but sometimes moments demand capture and this was one of them.

Fans were blowing everywhere, ensuring that our (especially mine) sweated brows were dried to a degree acceptable in company. I wish I'd thought to capture a few of the other food and friends moments but these will have to suffice.

Always teaching...Arlette with Neal and Martha in the background

Un autre professeur, Buzz with Ellen and Steve

Arlette encore, mais où est-Andrew, son mari? Neal, Martha and Andrea in the background

After the dinner. Sangria glasses emptying quickly, post-prandial collapse to follow.
Dan to the right of Andrea

Paulette, Nadia et Janaki

The MEAT paella

And the overly musseled fish and meat paella. This paella pan is 3" deep by 16" across

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Fourth of July

July 4, '08...white blobs in black sky...those would be fireworks

Happy Fourth, everyone and first!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothering Sunday

A beautiful day. Lots of fragrant flowers, Roger, granddaughters, daughter and son-in-law. Son Colin, in faraway New York, sent flowers which apparently arrived Friday but the $%^&* FedEx delivery guy left them sitting in a box on our stone wall at the bottom of the drive and who knew until as the kids were heading down the drive this evening, Jane spotted them. Fortunately, the chocolates were in a chill pack and hadn't melted. The flowers, while beautiful, hadn't fared so well.

The day started with breakfast in bed. Sophie beside me munching on dry French bread. Offered butter and jam she said, 'No sanks, Nana.' She prefers her bread neat. Note to self: vacuum bed before thinking about sleep.

Big Sunday roast chicken, fresh herbs and lemons shoved unceremoniously inside, minted tatties, carrots not long pulled out of the earth and a huge salad, followed by brownies and fresh berries.

And lots of pool time. A good day.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Revlon Run/Walk for Women

No one can forget where he or she was on 9/11. Roger and I were in California, anxiously awaiting the birth of our first grandchild. We spent one week trying to process the horror of that September day before Charlotte was born, healthy and beautiful, and filling us with joy once more. And then the day after her birth we flew back to Milwaukee where I had my final chemo cocktail on September 20th.

Bye bye ovarian cancer, hello life. And so this year, as in others, my daughter Jane and I will walk to celebrate life and to remember others who haven't been so fortunate. If you can help in any way, I'd so appreciate it. Thank you. xoxo

Monday, April 20, 2009

When Aioli is Not Just Aioli

Mon professeur de français, Arlette, et son mari Andrew sont les hôtes fantastiques. And last night was no different. Arlette is from Antibes, near Nice, and thus knows a thing or two about regional cooking, southern French style.

In Provence, an aioli is not just a home-made mayonnaise, deliciously heavy on the garlic, but an entire meal that honors the bounty of spring/summer. A room- temperature meal, the preparation happens before the heavy heat of the day turns cooking into a dreaded duty. Then you call friends. "J'ai fait un aioli. Allez plus." Or something like that (my class is tonight so I'll find out if that really is what they'd say).

Our aioli included cod that was poached most deliciously, langoustine and, well, here are a few pictures that convey the meal far better than my words.

The cod


Magnifique, n'est-ce pas?

The aioli

The location (the view, the view!), the home and the company conspired to make this a special evening.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hummer Mum

The last few weeks have been magically cool, for the most part, with some fairly high winds. We've kept an anxious eye on the hummingbird's nest which has been built with great skill and sophistication in the low-hanging and weedy-thin branches of the Chinese Elm on the patio just outside our kitchen. We've tiptoed in and out to the grill and finally moved our main outdoor dining table to the back patio to discourage anyone from sitting within 10 feet of the nest. Then we fixed the screen door to stay in the open position just because we were tired of yelling at one another for letting the door slam. And then we kept a close watch.

We started pointing out some of the nest's materials, the minute twigs and fluff and spidery web lashings that she gathers. There is this obviously artificial, plastic-looking stuff which she has favored with this nest and which renders it near artificial, almost as if an artist wanted to create the most perfect hummingbird nest ever and stooped to use non-natural materials to achieve her goal. We've finally figured out what that fake material is, clever sods that we are. A couple of years ago we'd had a shoot at our house for this green, yoga(y) type catalog that actually has some wonderful things in it. It was only April but this was for their annual Christmas catalog. Our Topanga Canyon home was turned into a rustic and cozy Maine cottage. Organic, flannel sheets were lovingly Army tucked into our bed which was moved into our little family room, right off the kitchen. Christmas wreathes were hung and dusted with snow. Fake snow. Plastic stuff that even months after their departure we were still finding in the oddest of places like the inside of a camellia flower or dusted along the ledge of a rarely opened window. Grrrrrrrr, I would think and then promptly forget it. Until the nest presented itself in all its snow-dusted glory.

Were there eggs in it? We didn't dare get close enough to look in case some of our garlicky human breath left an unfavorable impression on the hummer mum.

What if the nest falls? The winds are so high. Jesus, what kind of hummer mum is she to build her nest in such an obvious spot. I'll tell you what kind of mum she is, she's a good one. Only a hovering bird could raid the nest and hummingbirds leave one another's young alone. There is no way any scavenger bird could perch on the willowy branches of the Chinese Elm, try as they may.

She sat patiently on the nest for what felt like weeks, disappearing every now and then for some nectar or the odd bug but flying back before I began flapping my hands in baby worry. If I happened to go out the kitchen door and lingered too long in the vicinity of her nest, she'd swoop up and around me, leaving the fast thumping flutter of her wings echoing in my head for tens of seconds after her erratic switch-back departure. Gradually she became more and more comfortable with our habits and would just hang on her nest staring at us as we went back and forth, always giving her a wide berth.

And then she stopped sitting there. Oh Christ, has she abandoned her babies? Should I call the Hummingbird Rescue folks? Should I climb up there and...? And then she started flying around my head and I knew everything was okay. I came inside and got my camera and oh...babies! See their little beaks? Those black things aren't so cute (fecal sacs) but a necessary part of keeping the nursery tidy.

And then they just started growing and growing until the nest was beginning to look decidedly too small. (Hah, I thought it looked small at this point)

But now, half the time they're just draping themselves over their snug roost dreaming, no doubt, of flying. Oh Christ, please be careful (and tell your Mum to clean up that fake snow that's loosening and making your perfect home look a little any nursery, I guess).

And now look at them...I turn away for two days and this happens. They're almost ready to fly the nest, I can just tell. It happens so quickly. So very quickly...just like with our own babies. So fleeting.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Happy Endings

A couple of weeks ago when I was wiping down our kitchen/dining room table, I got a small splinter in my palm. It wasn’t the first time and I silently reminded myself to be more flippin’ careful at that end of the table. I looked at my hand, back at the table and thought idly about what grade sandpaper we’d need to smooth it down and fill the knotty holes that over time had started to deepen and, because Santiago was at that moment sanding down our outside doors (that take a terrible beating from the sun), I wondered if he could do the work, lazy cow that I am.

Then I wondered if maybe we should just polyurethane the table after we’d made the repairs. Would that change the look? We bought this table in part because it had an aged patina to it and it wasn’t a formal dining room table. Our kitchen/great(ish) room is where we have casual family meals and also dinner parties. When we’d moved from Milwaukee seven years ago, I sold our large mahogany dining room table to the folks who bought our house. The transaction went something like this:

Her: Ohmygod I LOVE your dining room. The table is beautiful and I can’t imagine anything else in here.

Me: Wanna buy it?

Her: What? Really?

Me: Yep. (unsaid…I don’t want it and it won’t work in our Topanga house).

Her: I’m sure it’s more than I can afford. Just buying this house is stretching us to breaking point.

Me: Hey, I may have paid a lot for this table, but I’ll sell it for next to nothing (unsaid: because I’m a lazy cow and who the hell cares about the table…you bought our house for almost full asking price).

Her: How much (said with absolute fear that it would be too much),

Me: $250

Her: What? Are you kidding?

Me: No. Want it? If not, I’m going to advertise.

Her: (Whipping out checkbook) Yes, Yes…I want it! Ohmygod, I can’t believe it’s mine.

Me: I’m so happy it’s going to stay here (unsaid: Hoofuckingray!).

And that’s how it came to be that when we moved to Topanga we had no dining room table. The owners of this house had a big wooden table that I thought could probably work for us but it never occurred to me to ask them if it was for sale. Their real estate agent had told us its story, as well. No need to sit down, boys and girls: it’s short.

One day, the owners (hereinafter referred to as the morons) were having a dinner party and, apparently on the very day that 10 people were coming to their house to dine, they thought, “OHMYGOD, we have no table upon which to serve the dinner.” At that point, the male moron proceeded to whipstitch together a dining room table. Boom. Done.

“Wow, that’s amazing,” I said to the agent. Skull cinema was thinking, “They didn’t realize they had no table until the day of the dinner party?”

And so it came to pass that they had a very large table (10 feet long and almost 5 feet wide) which, while it fit this kitchen fairly well, probably wouldn’t ever fit any other kitchen again.

And then they put their house on the market and we offered to buy it and then the moron said, all casual like, “Would you be interested in buying the table? It fits the kitchen so well.” (Unspoken: it won’t fucking fit in any room in our new house in the Palisades, please buy it).

And I said, “Sure, we’d be interested. While it’s a little bigger than we wanted, it would probably work for us. How much?” (I’m remembering, of course, that I charged $250 for a pretty nice mahogany table with two leaves and full table pads just a few weeks prior).

And that fucking moron looked me straight in the eyes and said without blinking, “I was thinking $1,500.”

And I looked him straight in the eye and said, “No thanks.”

And so he went from having a sale in his pocket to nothing and so said, “We could negotiate.”

And I said, “No we can’t. You made the mistake of starting too high and I’ve seen a table I like at Restoration Hardware that is just under a grand.”

And he said, “ We could go below a grand.”

And I said, “No thanks. I’ll stick with the table at RH.”

And you know what? I’m really, really glad that I did because after I got that second splinter I sent an email to customer service at RH telling them the issues I was having with this seven-year old table. They listened hard and I sent them some photographs illustrating the problems and then, last week, they said, “We are happy to replace the table. We stand by our products at RH and while we do not stock your table any longer, we are pleased to offer you either the Gun Barrel Salvaged Wood Table or our Trestle Salvaged Wood Dining Table…whichever you prefer. Just go to and make your choice and we'll deliver it at your convenience.

I’m still reeling that they have been so responsive to one of their customers and I know one thing for very certain…I will continue shopping at Restoration Hardware and if you think I haven’t already told this story one hundred times…

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Location, Location, Location

Tightly lashed to a low-hanging limb of our Chinese Elm, this Hummingbird's nest has survived high winds, rain and us creeping back and forth for weeks now. One, maybe two chicks have been hatched so we'll be giving her a wide berth for a few more weeks.