Once in a Lifetime #2: “Recipe for Cajun (Spicy) Meatloaf” Blog

This recipe produced so many memories, made some lastin’ ‘amigos’ but really, all you end up with is a rather large meatloaf — anyone just might serve one for tonight’s dinner.  However, in my case, while operatin’ as the chef-in-charge at Emiliano’s Cocina in San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico, this recipe played a big role in the “ole guy”‘s life — the wife and I were on one of our semi-annual treks between our home, south of the border and Los Angeles (our family’s base and hometown since the mid-60’s). We would stay with our son Gary in his Bel Aire abode — visit doctors, purchase all kinds of stuff (for amigos down south), see lots of movies and play with our grandkids (when they still lived in Los Angeles). And we had our fav overnight stops — goin’ and comin’ — it’s 1800 miles from SMA to LA; door-to-door. For a few years between about 2002 and 2008, we’d stopover in the Phoenix area and spend a few nights with our Scottsdale buds — ex-IBMers Gerry and Ilse Allen. We had become close friends durin’ our tour with IBM in Paris (’83 -’85) — Gerry was on his second tour in Europe, and they sure taught us the basics of “how-to-enjoy” Europe — even, includin’ some time spent in Monaco and watchin’ the annual Grand Prix (up-close-and-personal)!

Both Gerry and Ilse are ‘fabulous’ cooks — and I do mean “fab-u-losa”!! He grew up in ‘Cajun country’ around New Orleans — and Ilsa was born in Germany and must have grown up at her mother’s knee in the kitchen. Visitin’ the Allens was very special — and a gourmet’s delight. As a sideline, for a while, when they were livin’ just outside Dallas, TX, they peddled some cast iron kitchen-ware imported from Germany. This was part their hobby and part business (Gerry had a full-time job with that Dallas real estate tycoon — Trammell Crow) — but it meshed with their love of cookin’, and it was Ilse’s idea — the kitchenware came from her hometown area in Germany!!  As you can imagine, later, Emiliano’s Cocina had a few German cast-iron pots and pans! And when the two of them learned of my entry into the world of chef-dom, they were quick to offer me advice and — you guessed it — some lip-smackin’ recipes. Yesterday’s blog re: Addictive Toffee-like Cookies came directly from Ilse, with a promise not to pass it along — it was a secret. [aside: Breakin’ that bond is exactly what I did yesterday; but hear this, it’s been many years since she gave me that “secret” description of how to make a batch of fantastic “goodies” in less than 15 minutes. Secrets are meant to be shared with close friends — and (hear this!!) any person that spends time readin’ this stuff, must fit into that friendship category. And I’m too damn old to keep any secrets, anyway — so there!!!]

Gerry’s contribution to my success in the kitchen came by way of giftin’ me with Cajun and other cookbooks. Over a period of a few years — he had bestowed upon me at least ten of his specially-chosen tomes, and one group included a French, a Spanish, a German — all with photos of how the end-result should look!! Today, all this so-called culinary library is in the capable hands of Benno Gerd Wenske of #99 Independencia Avenida in San Miguel [aside: Please recall — this German-born guy and Emiliano’s BFF — was chef/owner of Tuba Gardens — that very successful, former San Francisco restaurant on Sacramento Street.] But, forget about all the advice and the literary contributions to Emiliano — Gerry’s greatest contribution was to push me to use his modified Paul (famous New Orleans chef and restaurant owner) Prudhomme’s recipe for Cajun  meatloaf.

This offerin’, which I modified slightly, became a fav of lots of folks — and particularly two dinin’ establishments in San Miguel.  The first was that “early-on” eatery — under the tent and shared with a “fish-taco” place — Keith JI Thomson’s Texas BBQ — and it sure was good eatin’! The wife would down those fantastic huge pork ribs and I would have my beer and a delish barbecue beef sandwich. Well, Keith later moved to his Longhorn Restaurant on the main drag — but while he was in the tent — he’d buy my ‘spicy meatloaf’ — either one or two at a time. When he moved and opened the Longhorn, Keith made his own meatloaf. We became frequent customers — the wife for those fab pork ribs — and he made a “killer” BBQ beef and pork rib combo plate — which I would “inhale” — along with a draft of Mexican beer!!

About the same time that Keith started orderin’ my meatloaf for his tent BBQ restaurant, the Café de la Aurora opened in the brand new large fantastic Fabrica de la Aurora — an artsy establishment, on the road north out of town toward the other historic towns of Atotonilco and Dolores Hidalgo. This converted textile factory houses a concentration of contemporary art galleries and design studios and is now one of the “must-see” attractions in the “must-vsit” ex-hometown of the wife and me — San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico.  Café de la Aurora’s owner is Felipe Vertiz, whose parents are “American Express” in the town — they are the AmEx franchisees in San Miguel; and Felipe’s mom Malinda was Harriette’s close friend and Friday’s bridge buddy. She actually drove the wife home after bridge in her tiny car — which she nicknamed “Harriette’s Chariot”. Felipe became aware of my Cajun (spicy) meatloaf, as discussed in a previous blog, and he wanted to serve it in a sandwich (torta) in the café. He would stop by and purchase eight “half-loaf’s” (4 whole meatloaf’s) at a time.  After bakin’, I would cut them in two and freeze ’em!! The cafe’s menu was blackboard-style and it made me proud to see “Emiliano’s Meatloaf Torta” posted as daily fare. The café served lots of coffees and other drinks with a selection of 4 or 5 lunch/dinner specials — you would always see many tables filled in the open-air setting of the café.

Now is the time and the place in this blog that you would expect to find the recipe for Emiiano’s Cajun (Spicy) Meatloaf. And now is the time to “fess up”. The recipe is ‘almost’ exactly the same as “Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Meatloaf Recipe” — all you have to do is google it. But, I will now give you my additions. Just below the “4 green onions, finely chopped” I added two items; namely, “2 large shallots, finely chopped”; and “1/4 cup leek, finely chopped” (I liked the idea of usin’ shallots and leeks — not sure how much it improved the final result — I just like “shallots” and “leeks” and they were easily available in San Miguel. [aside: I even use “a couple of large shallots, finely chopped”, in my matzo ball recipe. I just like “shallots”!! My impression is they add a bit of flavor!!]  In addition, when I made the meatloaf in the US — with veal readily available (but, not in Mexico) — I used ground veal instead of ground beef. Further, until the back began to slow me down, I religiously chopped all the veggies (that’s what it called for) — but as nature began to take its toll, I used a Cuisinart to “do the veggies”!! Believe me, I can tell the difference — chopped veggies are better than the other!!

And one final tidbit that I added to my personal recipe — was this statement: “It’s best to slice when cool to prevent breakage — I cut in half before freezing.  For ‘quickie’ cold hors d’oeuvres, remove a frozen half and defrost. Slice the meatloaf into 1-inch cubes and place toothpicks in each. It’s a ‘readily’ available solution for unexpected guests, if you keep a half-meatloaf frozen in your freezer.” I never intended this blog to furnish the recipe itself — but over the years in San Miguel — this damn “spicy” meatloaf played a role in establishin’ some wonderful ‘amigos’ — whom I would never have befriended otherwise; and I must admit it placed the “ole guy” in some folks’ “cookin’ hall of fame“!! Definitely, ‘nuf ……

Once-in-a-Lifetime #1: “Recipe for Addictive Toffee-like Cookies” Blog

Preface: If you can wade through all my very early descriptive b.s. — you will find near the end of this blog — a recipe that will “amaze”!! I cannot put into words the praise that was derived from giftin’, sellin’ or donatin’ the product of said recipe. In another blog, I have mentioned the marketin’ aspects of providin’ these cookies — for sale (20 pesos-a-pack) — in an amigo’s coffee-shop — which just happened to be across the calle from our town’s Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetin’ place. I would wrap a bunch in a small cellophane sack and tie multi-colored  ribbons around the top. Why not — they came from Emiliano’s Cocina — “Home of the World Famous Matzo Ball Soup”!! They had to be presentable and look “first class”!!  So, read on …..

Some of you very intelligent and loyal blog readers are about to receive a “very, very, very” special recipe. The end product of this informative and descriptive procedure is worth developin’ in your kitchen on — even the oldest of stoves — as long as there’s an oven. And in the modern home — there may be an oven built into the wall. All I can tell you is that I made these fabulous morsels in a very cheap kitchen stove which the wife and I purchased while livin’ in San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico. On September 1st, 2000 we moved into a 3-story — I guess you would call the newly-built casita  a “town-house” kinda place!!  The 3rd story housed a hot-water heater, a large “laundry” double sink with space for a washer/dryer combination [aside: We never bought either in the 14 happy years we lived at Calle de Pila Seca #8 in Colonia Centro in the town’s center.] When we move in, we hired the very young Mexican senorita who had cleaned our 2-bedroom garage apartment on Calle de la Quinta #8 that we had previously leased from the fall of 1992 to our movin’ to our “muy, muy, muy — nueva casa!! Her name — Veronica — and she helped our daughter Susan pack up and send our stuff to L.A. in 2014. She had become the “mamacita”  of two handsome (actually — beautiful) young boys (ninos). So, instead of a washer/dryer on our 3rd floor — Veronica washed our clothes and hung them out to dry on the clothesline stretched across the “sun-deck” just outside on the 3rd level!!

On the second floor of our casita were our two bedrooms with an open area — large enough for my huge desk (escritorio) with lots of drawers and both the laptop and printer sittin’ on top. Adjacent was the d*mn spiral iron stairway to the “laundry room”! And on enterin’ the casita’s bottom floor there was the closet to the right where I hung the gift from “papa”  [aside: Ramiro (senior) was the former owner of the Wolf Gym — as a gift for deeds performed, he had given me a key-holder, inscribed “Emiliano — para tus pinches llaves!” — translation: “Emiliano, for your f**kin’ keys!” This was explained in an earlier blog!) I use the term “former” since his handsome son Ramiro {now a husband and father himself} is the proprietor of Gymnasio Lobo!! The latter was my trainer and amigo siempre!! And he married a beautiful blonde gringa Elizabeth! And they recently became the parents of a “Ramirito“!! And guess what, the two young parents visited us here at the CAN — a few months before the little Mexicano was born!!] Now, back to our casita — the bottom floor had the kitchen on the right separated from the dinin’/livin’ areas by a tiled bar. That’s where that smallish stove was — next to an also-purchased fridge and a large storage closet for all my spices and kitchen goodies.

Well, it’s about time I became an honest ‘ole guy’ and kept this “Blog’s Preface’s” original promise — so here goes — and I quote exactly from my  “saved” recipes: Addictive Toffee-like Cookies   ……  This is the original recipe: 2 sticks of butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 package of saltine crackers, 1 12-oz bag of chocolate chips, 1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans. But I never made this small of a batch.

I make a double batch shown below on a very large cookie pan or sheet with these ingredients: 435 grams unsalted butter; 2 cups+ brown sugar (must be moist — not dry — very important); saltines to fill the cookie pan; 22/24-oz chocolate chips; 3 cups of chopped pecans:

Spread out a layer of saltines to cover the bottom of a cookie pan/sheet(with sides). In an ‘iron skillet’, melt the butter and add brown sugar (be extremely careful here) — stir to mix well and make sure the sugar has melted completely to spread. Pour evenly over the crackers. Bake at between 350 and 450 degF — 10 minutes — the mixture should be bubblin’. Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips.  Return to oven for at least 2 minutes; make sure the chocolate has softened. Spread the chocolate with a small spatula (I used an ‘offset’). Sprinkle on the pecans, pressing into the chocolate. When cool, place in refrigerator until chocolate hardens. Break into uneven pieces and DON’T EAT THEM ALL AT ONCE!! They can be addictive — and make great hostess gifts, etc. I always delivered a package (gratis) with every order from Emiliano’s Cocina!!

So, there, I did it. And that recipe was a treasured, well-kept secret as long as I was livin’ in Mexico. Just before we left and bid farewell to a wonderful part of our lives south of the border — I gave this recipe to a couple of close friends who had always ordered them in quantity (I would package a liter celephane bag and would either sell it, or take it as a gift when we were invited to dinner or to a cocktail party.  I cannot describe the pleasure these damn chocolate-covered, pecan-coated saltines gave to the recipient hostess and the pride for “doin’ somethin’ special” to pleasure  una  amigita!!

So, why is this “ole- guy blogger” handin’ out secret recipes to the blog-readin’ public. Why not!! What else can I do with ’em?!! Surely, I won’t be bakin’ or cookin’ here in the CAN (Casa de los Ancianos del Norte) [aside: I found it difficult to find a word to use since I have done neither bakin’ nor cookin’ in a long while — and what would you call the process of makin’ these addictive toffee-like cookies — surely not bakin’ — it’s only a matter of puttin’ some choc-chips on crackers in a hot oven and later sprinklin’ on some chopped pecans   — oh, yes, don’t forget the brown sugar and unsalted butter (and lots of it!) and please!!, please handle that iron skillet with the melted butter and brown sugar very, very, very carefully. That’s all he damage I can do today!! ‘nuf  ……



Can the “Ole Guy” Get Canned … from the CAN?

Well, today was a “don’t-tell-the-kids” day here at the CAN (Casa de los Ancianos del Norte)!! Unfortunately, they do read my blogs and who knows — the staff at the CAN might “report me” to them!! I actually was reported on — to one of our fav employees– Cathy Carufel — who had to “investigate the matter”. She had to leave the front desk enter the dinin’ hall and settle the matter.  For which I commend her — she was placed in rather awkward and untenable situation — but she handled it extremely well. I guess in ‘naval academy lingo’, I would have received a few “demerits” (at the Academy, they kept count and when you reached some ‘horrific’ number, you had to face the “music”– whatever that means?)!! In a way, I am not proud of my antics, but pride is not at issue here. And I must admit that if a vote were taken, I’d probably be the “bad guy” — I was the one that spoke (?) the loudest — actually my outburst was only loud enough for everyone in the place to hear me — it remained “unheard” in the lobby and kitchen areas. I am sure that you are gettin’ tired of all my preliminaries and “head fakes”!! So I will get right to the nut of the subject. But, first, I must refer you to my blog from 2 weeks prior — in which I described the other folks involved in this matter– the same folks I blogged about on 29 April. [aside: I have refrained from usin’ any ‘salty’ language because the other people involved appear to be extremely well-bred — I cannot say the same for yours truly —  remember, I spent 12 years in the US Navy — the first three as a midshipman at the US Naval Academy and the rest — in the fleet!! I like to recall that I was one “salty” dude!]

But enough self-incrimination — I did poke my nose into some other people’s business — except the event today (as was the situation — two weeks ago) was takin’ place in the CAN’s large dinin’ hall and the “OPTICS” of the situation, today, were very, very, very sad!! As previous blogs have pointed out, I do spend a great deal of my time at mealtimes surveyin’ the terrain. Many of you have mentioned to me that you enjoyed my discussin’ what I perceived to be the “he-in’ and she-in'” of some of our unmarrieds — plus other aspects of our lives, (bein’ in plain view) in the CAN. And since I don’t go to the movies nor attend any other planned events (i.e.,bingo, rummikube, exercise class, etc.) — nor do I spend a lot of time checkin’ the “goin’s-on” in the CAN’s lobby or patio — mealtimes become the only purposeful time for me to surveil!! [aside: That’s a word I would have never used prior to the entrance into politics by our current POTUS!! In fact, it’s a word I wish I had never heard of — if you get my “drift“!] And so as previously blogged about, there is a rather aged woman — who at times falls asleep while dinin’ — and her head is tilted way to the side, and she just sits there — appearin’ to be asleep.

Durin’ the week, this lady is cared for and spoon-fed by her care-giver. On occasion — weekends — two young women sit at the table with her. They sometimes will “release” the care-giver — and when appropriate — ‘spoon-feed’ their mother. Most of the times I have noticed them, the woman has her head tilted to the side and appears to be asleep. I pointed this out earlier herin and in the earlier blog — it sure looks uncomfortable — but that’s none of my business. Today, however, the two women were spoon-feedin’ their mother. The latter would open her mouth rather wide — and they would put a spoonful in!! It’s not somethin’ I cared to peruse — but, I did look over and the mother was waitin’ with her mouth wide-open — I mean “very wide” open (and I’m sure you could see her tonsils, if you truly wished!)! I watched this for maybe 15 seconds or so — the two women, one on each side — were deep in conversation — somewhat loud and that’s when it happened! The bad deed occurred at that moment!! I spoke in a rather loud voice. “Feed the damn woman!!”  I have no excuse!! And I would do it again — and I will if the situation occurs again!!

Well, as you can imagine, that did it!!  These women with a very cute 4-ish youngster and her “nanny”  — they all stared and said some things to me — not exactly thank-you’s!  Not sure what!! I am sure it was just in the neighborhood of “mind your manners” or “mind your own business”! [aside: “Damn” was not used as an adjective for “business” — but if looks could kill, I would be dead!]  But it irritated me enough that I “exposed my right index finger” in their direction. Well, that gesture did it. In the meantime — Bernice (the former owner of “Weight Watchers” in England) — she was sittin’ at an adjacent table, and they yelled her name for a reaction — and good ole Bernice gave me a “thumbs up” (don’t think she saw my “index finger” thingey) which backed my thought about “feedin’ their mother”!! Believe me — I don’t think I have witnessed anything sadder in my 2 3/4 years, here at the CAN — than that woman sittin’ with her mouth wide-open and the two women — sittin’ adjacent — yakkin’ away — and not lookin’ even out of the corner of their eyes.

Before she “reported” my actions to Cathy at the “front desk”, one of the daughters came to our table to — probably advise the wife and me — that her mom is “diminished”. That’s rather obvious!! And it’s not unique here at the CAN. But as she spoke ,initially, in a manner of persistence, she placed her hand on the wife’s arm as if to “mollify” the situation — she should not have done that!! Madam Harriette jerked it away and in a clear statement “Get your hands off me!” Talk about “wife-support” — that was the best part of the whole situation. [aside: I was happy to get Bernice’s approval too with a “thumb’s up”!! I hope that’s what she meant. My shout “to-feed-the-woman” was a bit loud, and she was sittin’ at an adjacent table!]

I have left out one important factor — one of the two daughters informed me later that her aged mother has dementia and when I asked — she gave her age at 95.  (That’s when I learned that they are daughters — they look young enough to be granddaughters; and the poor woman, their mother, looks much older than 95 — she should at least be their grandmother. One of them had come out and met me in the lobby as I was conferrin’ with Cathy at the front desk followin’ our meal. She informed me more than once that her mother has dementia. And I surely agree: She does have a severe case.  Folks, most of us have some dementia — we do not wear it — nor do our children — on our sleeve. !! At this place, it’s only — “how much” — and we all know we are diminished in some fashion!! My take on the entire matter is that they should feed their mother, share as much joy with her as possible, and place the spoon or fork in her mouth when she holds it open to be fed.  It would be nice that when she falls asleep — sittin’ up — havin’ completed dinin’ — with head tilted way to the side — and even though they want to be close to their sleepin’ mom while she sits and sits and sits — but!! — well, who am I to say!!  But, for cryin’ out loud, when feedin’ their mom and she has her mouth open wide — quit talkin’ for a sec — and tenderly place a bit of food in her mouth.

And if the daughters will do that much — place food in a ‘wide-open’ mouth — I will sit and face in a direction to not view their table. [aside: I should have done this, anyway — last month, two weeks ago, and even today — it is none of my business — unless I am sittin’ and facin’ ’em and watchin’ that poor unconscious woman sittin’ there with her MOUTH WIDE OPEN — and sittin’, and sittin’ and sittin’!!  ‘nuf …..

Elder Care!! ….. or Elder Abuse??

Preface: During this past week, all of the CAN inhabitants, who want to “live here” and not “leave here”, met individually with our pro-bono Bet Tzedek lawyer. We had to sign on for him to represent us individually in the negotiations with the new owners — Watermark!! Our facility in the Westwood Village houses a bunch of us nonagenarians who live here independently — some with care-givers. We have our individual apartments, dine three times a day in a rather large dinin’ hall, and attend sessions voluntarily  — to learn somethin’, for exercise, or for entertainment. With the new owners — the plan is to convert our home from a residential hotel with independent livin’ to an assisted-livin’ facility. And therein lies a tale …..

First impressions are usually correct impressions!! What happened here at the CAN (Casa de los Ancianos del Norte) last December 1st (with a formal written notification the followin’ day — those “eviction” notices pasted to our apartment doors!) was “ELDER ABUSE” — and that painted our first impression of the new owners (Watermark) of the senior facility in which the wife and I reside!! Frequent readers (how many??) of this blog are well aware of our situation here at 947 Tiverton Ave in Westwood Village — our location is a very attractive one in a vibrant University section of Los Angeles (adjacent to UCLA). The former owner “Vintage” — sold this 50-year-old, 14-story, senior facility — originally a UCLA dormitory — they sold it to Watermark — a company headquartered in Tuscon, AZ. The latter owns maybe forty some odd senior facilities — both assisted-living-only and combined assisted- and independent-living operations — thoughout the United States. [aside: I googled “Watermark Retirement Communities” and counted their portfolio — there were 39 facilities listed (I guess Westwood Village brings the number to an even ’40’ — and it’ll be #9 in California — the next state with the most Watermark “communities” — is Iowa with 4 — the “Hawkeye State”, with lots of cornfields — and quite a contrast to our California scene. Point: They are all over the country and if geography is not an issue for an elder to choose his/her “final destination” — they cover the “waterfront”!!) I guess the point bein’ made — they must be “loaded” with know-how and understandin’ of what the senior community as a whole is all about. And you would figure that the President/CEO of that humongous organization would be fully aware of the needs and mental stability of old people — particularly considerin’ a group of very, very, very old women — averagin’ 97ish (age-wise) — with 75% in wheelchairs or walkers — and half of ’em requirin’ a caregiver. It should make no difference that they were 99% Jewish (I don’t want to bring up the “race card” {I guess, I just did?? And I checked — “anti-Semitism” — is a form of racism})

So, why did Watermark’s President/CEO tell such a group (assembled for an initial meetin’ — with their anticipated — “kindly” new landlord) — that they had to find another “home” within the next 120 days?? As I have frequently blogged, these women (along with the wife and me) had a whole year (365 days) before we had to move out — since, obviously, none were  under the age of 62 (that’s the law!). And this new owner pasted “eviction” notices on all the apartment doors the next mornin’.  I have repeated this memorable incident in my blogs so often that you readers are probably sick and tired of readin’ about it — but when a sin or a possible felony is committed — it only takes one time to call it a tragedy!! And when Watermark’s Chairman came the next week to “apologize” for his underling’s erroneous sinful commission — it proved to all assembled (a full house) that the offensive statement had been made — i.e., a bad deed had, in fact, been committed.  I have heard via the “grapevine” that the President has claimed innocence — that all of us ole folks are mistaken — and the “ole guy” is just “kickin’ a dead horse”! My contention is that an act of “Elder Abuse” was committed (on the morning of Dec 1, 2016).  [aside: I am very well aware of the continuin’ and sad mental anguish that this matter has caused so many of these very, very, very old women — who, by movin’ here years ago, thought they had found their final “nestin’ place” — and had developed extremely close bonds and friendships — to be told so abruptly and crudely that they were bein’ evicted — that they would be separated from their family (of very close friends)! Sure, the Watermark folks are well within their rights to re-model “947” and require that the building be vacated for safety’s sake — but it could have, and should have — been handled with extreme care — and not in the heartless manner in which it was performed.] [[Double aside: I stopped bloggin’ for a while and decided to give myself a “breather”!! I decided to watch and listen to Julie Andrews sing “A Spoonful of Sugar” from the film — “Mary Poppins”!! I needed a brief respite and you might too. Point: If that “executive”(?) would have been “of-such-a-mind-set”, his aged audience would have most likely taken a deep breath and come up with a “supercalifragelisticexpialidocios” attitude.]]

Watermark sure did clear this place out in the past 5+ months — the number of folks livin’ in the CAN last November, I estimate at 170-ish — and we are now in the 50-ish range — he got rid of well over 100 disappointed ole souls — and as one can understand at our ages — a few have “met-their-maker” — which would be expected under any circumstances — just not sure how many of these end results were “accelerated“! [aside: I just love to use engineerin’ terms — reminds me that I received an engineerin’ degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology {MIT}– even inducted into Tau Beta Pi (engineering honor society) — whatever that means!! I should never mention “engineering” because in my  professional “workin'” life, I never put that wonderful trainin’ to any major use — except I think that “engineerin’ education” helped when a very, very, very old fellow (34-years-of-age, almost 35) in 1959, was hired by the International Business Machines Corp {IBM}. It was then when I worked alongside the infamous Ross Perot in the Dallas, TX, IBM branch office. Supposedly, IBM only hired folks below the age of 30 — with a “no-jews-allowed” reputation!! That was what some jewish folks told me on my way to have my job interview — but I think it was an ole wives tale perpetuated by some young jewish kids who applied, but were not hired, by IBM! Quien sabe!]

What brought the matter concernin’ our “eviction” from the CAN to my attention again — was a required meetin’ with our Bet Tzedek lawyer this past week.  We had to sign some papers which gave them the legal right to represent us, individually, in our negotiations with Watermark. Yep!! A few of us “hangers-on” have been willin’ to remain in the CAN — even durin’ the re-modelin’. As it turns out — it’s gonna be a massive effort and there are 14 floors with two basement floors (for parkin’) and 3 elevators. As it turns out — the construction project will be so significant that we “hangers-on” will more than likely have to move out of the CAN for a significant amount of time — and that’s where the pain comes in!!  You see — we very, very, very old elders will want our ‘3-meals-a-day’ furnished with “hotel-like” room service — and we don’t want to move from this general area — in Westwood Village, remainin’ near UCLA medical facilities. [Aside: The term CAN will become “ole school” after this place is completely refurbished. I have been tryin’ to come up with a new pseudonym for what will be the sparklin’ new gem in the Watermark portfolio of retirement communities. How about the Jewel-for Elders- at Watermark!  (that’s the acronym —JEW, for short — somethin’ by which to remember the “fightin’ 947th”)!!]  ‘nuf ……



In Plain Sight!? ……………………………………………… 10 glorious days!! — then 18 not so good!!

Preface: I must warn readers that this is a serious moment in the history of our republic! It was just announced (after completion of this blog) that POTUS has fired the lead person investigatin’ his current and former staff’s involvement with Russia durin’ our recent Presidential election. I had started this blog with the intention of “enshrinin’ the former Actin’ Attorney General of the United States” — Mrs. Sally Yates — into my personal Hall of Fame. Durin’ the Trump administration she performed her duties as was aforementioned (Actin’ USAG) for ten (10) glorious days!! And with all the facts — demandin’ a “firin’ squad’ — it took the Trump administration “18 DAYS” to carry out the act — and then, only because some honorable US citizen “leaked” the info to the Washington Post. I end this blog, based on both past and current news with the only thing possible — RESIST!!

On Monday, I watched some television news — actually it was a “live” feed, on Monday May 8th — it was the Senate investigatin’ the Russian involvement in our 2016 Presidential election!! There were James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence, and Sally Yates, recently fired Actin’ US Attorney General, bein’ questioned by both Republican and Democratic Senators. They had been called to testify before a Sub-committee (on Crime and Terrorism) of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  And the obvious thought crossed my mind in watchin’ the senator’s expressions and attitudes.  Why is it that elected United States senators put “party over country” — that is, Republican Senators seem to do it?? To me, it’s a sin, punishable by — losin’ in his (their) reelection bid. The Republican senators (all male) — at least all the ones that spoke while I was watchin’ — were accusing Sally of dereliction of duty for not supportin’ and backin’ President Trump. Here’s this brilliant, patriotic woman of the South (I could tell by her noticeable southern accent) — a 27-year veteran of the United States Attorney’s office [aside: Sally Caroline Quillian Yates — formerly the US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia (March ’10 to Jan ’15, havin’ been hired in that office in 1989) — she was bein’ chastised by these pompous asses.  I sure don’t like to blog about the political scene — yes, I have written a few before this one — because there are so many more enjoyable, everyday issues that readers are interested in. I am sure that there are some that don’t agree with me (re: my politics) — but this obvious “grillin'” and “deprecatin” of a heroic, patriotic, extremely intelligent woman — irritated the hell out of me!!

With the help of ‘google’ and a spotty memory, I’ll try to relate some specific antagonizin’ (to me) issues.  Take the president-aspirin’ Ted Cruz — he challenged her decision to rule against the first “illegal” immigration executive order, issued by Trump, to “stop-the-acceptance-of-immigrants-from-seven-Islamic-countries”. He said her decision was constitutionally illegal. But, in the blink-of-an-eye, she identified a further clause in the constitution which proved she was following the US Constitution to a “T”. (What a pleasant feeling — that came over me!) [aside: If my memory serves me right re: TV clips — durin’ Yates confirmation hearing to become Asst Attorney General in 2015, under an Obama presidency, Cruz had actually queried Yates if she would challenge POTUS, as his attorney, if he offered up a decision that was at odds with the constitution (in her view)– to which she had replied with a resoundin’ “yes”!! Ain’t fate wonderful!!]

And Iowa Senator Grassley — he just had to get into the act (big time) — he always does!! One of his main issues revolved about “leaks” —  particularly the one to the Washington Post in February that led to the firin’ of Flynn as the National Security Advisor (NSA).  In fact, “leaks” are somethin’ that the entire Trump administration has been concerned with. I guess that’s what happens when a president and his underling’s do some obvious bad things (in the eyes of the beholdin’).  Honest folks — secretively — a person in government — tells some ‘friendly’ news reporter ‘somethin’ about some “bad stuff” goin’ on in their ‘bailiwick’!!  Yes, some good soul told a WaPo reporter — slipped him the secret — all about Flynn bein’ “compromised” by the Russians!! Flynn was a major risk for blackmail and should not be trusted. Actually, it took 18 days between Actin’ Attorney General Yates advisin’ the White House counsel that Flynn was a serious problem re: a Russian KOMPROMAT — and Flynn’s firing as NSA Director by Trump — yes, it took 18 days before President Trump fired his “buddy” — [aside: I’ve heard recently about the number “18” — the coincidental comparison of the “18 minutes” missin’ from the Nixon tapes and the “18 days” that elapsed between the time Yates advised the White House counsel and Flynn’s release!! That first “18” led to the “resignation” of a President!! How about that!!] My thought — God bless, all the leakers in this world!!  Just so it doesn’t compromise the safety of our beloved country. Leaks are only good if they are juicy — that is,  for the good of all the honest people!

What has bothered me as I have reflected upon some of the issues brought forth in that Senate hearing — the issue before our country and the investigation should be — what role did the Russians play in our recent 2016 presidential election and were any of the Trump forces workin’ with the “ruskies”!!  And as a non-Trump supporter, it did appear to me that the Rebublican senators spent a great deal of time — I guess I would say an inordinate amount of time analyzing related issues — namely, “unmasking secret material” which was “leaked” and those secrets were discovered “by surveilling” Russians who were involved with members of the Trump presidential campaign and ultimately President Trump’s White House. While the senate hearing was in-progress, Trump himself tweeted four times commentin’ on both Clapper’s and Yates’ testimony — always indicatin’ that it brought forth nothin’ new — what the “fake news” organizations had already written and talked about. The unbelievable thing that he did — was to tweet — well before the Senate hearing: “Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to the White House counsel!” Some folks have called this tweet — a criminal actala intimidating  a witness!! [aside: He’s gonna make a fatal mistake with his tweets — sooner rather than later — if he has not already done so. The court is still out on this matter.]

I fell in love with Sally Yates yesterday. I guess I am attracted to a strong, intelligent woman — with a Southern accent!!  I spotted it as soon as she opened her mouth. She was born in Atlanta, Georgia — that’s pronounced  ‘jaw-djah’ to a Southern boy like me. I absolutely loved it when she literally poked those two pompous senators from Texas in the “you-know-what”!! Theodore Cruz — one of those Texans — right in the eye, with the way she responded to his constitutional query. I just loved it when Georgia lummoxed Texas!! [aside: No, it’s not a verb — but remember, it’s my blog and I can use it as a verb if I want to!] In both cases, I’m referrin’ to their verbal exchanges regardin’ Yates denial of the original immigration executive order to halt all refugees from enterin’ our country from seven primary muslim countries. (Remember: That was the reason that Trump fired her!!) To Cruz she pointed out that she was “lawfully and constitutionally” correct!!  And with the other Texas Senator — John Cornyn — when he tried to box her in by callin’ her decision a “policy matter” with regards to haltin’ the executive order!! She quickly retorted — it was “unlawful” and probably “unconstitutional” — so there!! Texans!! And as we all recall, the US 9th District Court of Appeals — here in the West — actually declared the order null and void!! (Trump’s 2nd attempt to deny immigration was thwarted by a judge in Hawaii — and that travel ban may ultimately make it to the US Supreme Court.)

And the bad news continues — I just heard the news that James Comey was fired by Trump as head of the FBI!!  Remember, he’s leadin’ the effort to expose any shenanigans between Russia and the Trump team with regards to the presidential election. There are three groups investigatin’ the Russia involvement — the intelligence community, the Senate and the House!!  Why, oh!, why won’t somebody appoint a separate independent counsel — or let’s just start impeachment proceedings. This whole mess is playin’ out right in front of our noses!!  There is no doubt that Russia played a significant role in the election of Donald Trump as President. The still “unknowns” are — Was there collusion?? (I think the answer is an emphatic “yes”) — but that remains to be ferreted out — and the cast of characters include: Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page — all of these folks worked on the Trump campaign at one time or other — and each has a definite tie to Russia. Look! — there’s enough smoke there has to be a fire with each of these characters. Folks, as of this moment, we are on the verge of a “constitutional event” — or whatever you want to call it. It appears we have a narcissistic individual “tryin'” to run our country (into the ground)!! RESIST! ‘nuf ……

UCOP — W..T..F!!

Preface: I began this blog with every intention of immediately tacklin’ the core issues of some “horrible” results of a state audit at the University of California’s Office of the President.  But, I immediately found myself all tangled up with family — and everyone’s individual relationship with the California University system.  But as any of my  repeat blog-readers know — my philosophy is to go wherever the “ole guy”‘s mind wanders and sometimes it’s a bit far afield.  I do hope you enjoy readin’ it, however — as much as I enjoyed bloggin’ it!! Vamos a ver ……

I have had a few connections with the University of California system. First, and foremost, my youngest and the current administrator of this blog — Susan — is a graduate of UCLA — the University of California at Los Angeles. She received her undergraduate degree in the early 80’s.  Later, she returned and was awarded a Master’s Degree in Public Health. [aside: I know she was rewarded with the ability to find meaningful and substantive employment followin’ that accomplishment. But, what has helped significantly, in the lives of the wife and me, is that she knows how to navigate the unbelievably treacherous ‘medical insurance industry’ — so that her mom and pop obtain the best possible coverage for old folks. Of course, that’s not the only reason we are happy for her — she found a niche for more satisfying work than she had before.  Actually, however, her true love is, and has always been — “design”– both in women’s fashion and home furnishings. That’s what she’s up to now as she involves herself in day-to-day activities. And finally, it’s no secret that she has found her way into the kitchen — and bakin’ became a true hobby — her husband and the “ole guy” live for those large slices of almond biscotti — and that’s the God’s honest truth!!]

Back to the California university system and our family connections — Jody, our middle child, upon high school graduation, applied to Berkley — that’s short for the University of California at Berkley — just next to San Francisco — and we were enthused by the latter. And we all cheered when she was accepted, and I mailed in a check for $250 — tuition payment. But she had also applied to the University of Colorado at Boulder — you know, where the students ski in-between classes. Or that’s what Jody must have been thinkin’. So, she was in a ‘muddle’ and finally decided that skiin’ outweighed proximately to San Francisco and liberal causes related to Berkley!! So, in went another check — not sure the amount — but it was more than the UC system requirement. Then, wouldn’t ya know, with a daughter that had been her high school student body president — Stanford University in Palo Alto came through with an acceptance letter. [aside: The standin’ joke about Stanford is that there are more high school female- student-body presidents enrolled there than the number in the entire UC — 10-university system. A young female did not have to be valedictorian nor salutatorian at her high school — the class presidency for a young woman was sufficient along with good grades. One other thought has struck me — it always helped if the applicant played a brass instrument so he or she could be a part of that absolutely nutty (but brilliant) Stanford band.]

So for Jody it was not the UC system for college — and for son Gary (I guess this blog has become a big thunderin’ self-congratulatory exercise for the “ole guy” — speakin’ about his children — but one point must be self-evident — it takes two-to-tango — you know what I mean)!! Well, for Gary — it was a choice between Yale and Harvard — and even though I wouldn’t answer him when he asked my advice — I was rootin’ for Harvard — (believe me, there’s no comparison between liviin’ in a suburb of Boston, Mass — or in New Haven, CT — even if their walls are covered with ivy!) Gary chose Harvard!! And so, based on our children’s choices along with the “ole guy’s” initial lucky break — it has become a family tradition to call out and yell!! — Beat Army! and smash Yale! and whip Cal! — and for Susan, without hesitation, it’s smother U.S.C. — the University of Southern Cal — and the latter attitude runs deep for a specific reason in my case.

While Jody was at Stanford, the football team was to play USC here in L.A. —  at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — the football field is actually adjacent to the University of Southern Cal and that’s where all their games are played. Since I was an IBMer, and my company always contributes to USC and its causes — I was able to receive a pass to privileged parkin’ at the stadium; and the use of the open area near the coliseum for any pre-game activity. Obviously, access to this area was somewhat limited. On the occasion of the Stanford/USC football game, we arranged a picnic  — actually we took a large colorful blanket and found a spot to dine on some deli-bought sandwiches, beer and other goodies. Besides Jody and her roommate — we were joined by Chris Paisley and his brother. (Chris was son Gary’s northern California ‘BFF’ — and a true and dedicated Stanford rooter — even if his brother was attendin’ UCLA.) So, there we were enjoyin’ our pseudo-picnic when a fancy lady — carryin’ a USC banner — approached me and asked — “how did we get access to this private property”. Well, you can imagine my “unbelievably-self-controlled” reply — “none of your damn business” (‘meant’ — but somewhat less crude)– to which she and her crew walked away in somewhat of a huff. That small issue has caused my special kind of dislike for some USC folks — and that damn Trojan macot — a white horse called Traveler with it’s gladiator-dressed rider — Tommy Trojan — they circle the entire stadium with sword raised high and the band blarin’ — every time their damn team scores a touchdown.  I can’t help it — but sittin’ here bloggin’ about it  — gets me all riled up!! I hate that damn horse!!

I guess I had better comment on this blog’s title — about what’s happenin’ re: the University of California and their executive offices located in Berkeley. I had earlier “blogged a letter” to Janet Napolitano the President of the UC system (UCOP) — it was just a “hope/dream” of mine — since we are havin’ some “eviction” difficulties here at the CAN (Casa de los Ancianos del Norte); and we’re livin’ in a former UCLA dormitory.   Back to the blog — the current issue for the Office of the President relates to the State Auditor’s scathin’ report to the legislature. On Tuesday, Madam President Napolitano, accompanied by the Chair of the UC Regents had to “face the music” (in front of all those damn politicians). And in readin’ the front page of today’s Business section of the Times — it’s a lulu!! The state’s auditor fired with all barrels — extremely poor financial record keepin’; extremely high salaries with too large a staff — and the “coup d’ grace” — is manipulatin’ the results of surveys that the auditor had sent to the individual campuses.  It sounds like a mess — and the state auditor professed that “in her 17 years … never had a situation like this ever occurred”.  Just readin’ this feature article by L.A. Times columnist/reporter Miachael Hiltzik makes me come to the conclusion that the president has a lot of explainin’ to do (to put it mildly). However, there is no doubt in my mind that Ms Napolitano has a target on her back — and Hiltzik did not help her cause by quotin’ a “literature professor” from UC Santa Barbara — identified as a frequent critic of the administration!!  (When you go out and quote the troops — especially a “frequent critic” — it colors the results a bit, in my estimation!) My take is that — some way and some how — the state auditor is gunnin’ for them, and maybe rightfully so — but I never believe things are quite as bad as they are indicated in a public forum like the state legislature. I’m willin’ to bet that the President and the Regents have a few allies — it is a political-appointment kind of group.  And, even if it’s true that someone on the President’s staff convinced a campus employee to change an “unsat” to a “sat”– on one occasion — well, that may sound bad — but if I was boss and someone gave me an “unsat” — I sure would look into the matter and maybe, just maybe — it was a “borderline sat”  and it just took a little “schmoozin'”!!  But — and that’s a big “but” — the Prez’ office is probably over-staffed (it is an educational institution, ya know!); and that staff should have had an accurate accountin’ of the millions ($) stashed away — in reserve (supposedly; the auditors’ folks had to show them how count it all?!). It doesn’t look good — but it may not be all bad. From my vantage point — which is nowhere — it smells of “institutional politics” and it’s a shame — no matter what — that all the “dirty linen” had to be aired out in public. And I guess I feel that the “opinion business article” that I am quotin’ — is a bit “one-sided”! It did paint a picture (which may be completely true) that the head office (system) is “sloshin’ with cash” and it’s run as a headquarters with dictatorial power with little, to no, oversight — the article does end, in all honesty, pointin’ out that “the losers will be students, researchers, science and California. (That’s one {maybe two} — right in the heart!!)  I guess there’s enough smoke (and maybe fire) that there will be some changes for the better at UCOP — and I won’t have to repeat “Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot” with regard to that office ever again. That’s enough bloggin’ for today!! ‘nuf …..

Cuatro de Mayo!! What’s that??

Preface: In deference to my 24 years — livin’ the good life in Mexico — I must admit to mis amigos that I am confused. I have to ask a question related to the Cinco de Mayo holiday — and it relates to Spanish grammar and not Mexican history. I am not confused as many gringos are — I know that May 5th is not Mexican Independence Day — I am well aware that it commemorates the victory at the Battle of Puebla against the French in 1862. In fact, I know enough history — that if the French had won that battle and conquered Mexico — they could have helped the Confederacy in our Civil War. That could have resulted in us gringos livin’ in the 50 French Confederate States of America!! But my current concern is with Spanish grammar — in specifyin’ days of the month — for May 5th: is it correct to use “quinto” (5th) as well as “cinco” (5) when statin’ “xxxxx de Mayo”?? In English, only “fifth of May” is grammatically correct. Maybe one of my blog readers can “comment” and straighten me out with my Spanish grammar. Cinco de Mayo has always confused me!!

Leave it up to the folks here — runnin’ the CAN (Casa de los Ancianos del Norte) — to confuse all the inhabitants!! Every Saturday they print a full menu schedule for the following week — for each day show — first, the lunch and dinner soups followed under each of the seven days with —  “what’s for lunch” — then “what’s for dinner”. We never pay much attention to the list until just before each meal — the wife and I check to see if we want to order one of the two items shown as the main course. I do always look for Monday’s lunch soup, however, to make sure that Chef Jim keeps his promise — cold gazpacho for lunch every Monday. [aside: Last spring, a year ago, when we were assured of warm weather here in Los Angeles, our very dependable executive chef and manager of the dinin’ hall — James Howland — committed to the wife and me that he would serve cold gazpacho once a week — one of our fav’s!! So, since that time, every Monday for lunch, he has kept his promise — and we each have a very, very, very large bowl of cold, and a bit spicy, gazpacho — I am sure to the dread of many of the other inhabitants. On occasion, the waiters have informed me, some of their patrons will request the soup to be heated in the microwave. I can understand not wantin’ cold soup; but it’s hard for me to put “my-head-around” hot gazpacho!!] So, on this week’s menu for Monday May 1st the lunch soup shows “gazpacho”! But, that was not what stood out on the menu for me …..

Part of the weeklong “menu” is in red — what’s shown for dinner on Thursday, May 4th is partially in red — listed under the date 5/4 , it states “Cinco de {in red} Mayo Celebration {in black}”. Followin’ {in red} is: Full Traditional Taco/Enchilada Bar with Live Entertainment {bold red letters}. “Dessert station” is noted with the followin’ endin’: Hosted on the Patio Courtyard for your enjoyment! So on ‘cuatro de mayo” — May 4th — the Watermark folks have scheduled the May 5th celebration. No, they have not gone off the “deep end”. Remember, we are mostly a Jewish facility — there are Jewish services provided every Friday evenin’ (as well as Saturday mornin’s)!! And Cinco de Mayo evenin’ in 2017 is the beginnin’ of the Jewish Sabbath for the first week in May. Therefore, this year, on Thursday evenin’ we can shout “Viva Mexico” — and on Friday evenin’ we can proffer “Guten Shabbos” or “Shabbat Shalom” to remind ourselves we are Jews — even though we’ll “play like” we are Mexicans on May 4th — maybe for a day — Mexican Jews!! I guess they’ll serve some Mexican beer at the fiesta and we’ll have some Mexican music — includin’ mariachis (?) — I bet they’ll play my fav — “Guadalajara” — and they may have a pretty senorita dance and swirl her skirt — it’ll remind the two of us of our days in Guadalajara — at least, maybe for a second or two!! But, I’m still strugglin’ with the whole idea of “why on the 4th instead of the 5th” — they could have done a lunch buffet oustside — and offered “pick-up” sandwiches for dinner — as was done on Easter Sunday.  [aside: Maybe one of my Jewish friends who reads my blogs will tell me if there’s some special reason that they could not have the “Cinco de Mayo” celebration at lunchtime on Friday, the 5th of May — actually  on “cinco de mayo”!! Is there a religious conflict??]

This is not the first time that I have blogged about “Cinco de Mayo”. I refer you to my blog of May 6th last year titled “Sinka da Gringo!!” — it describes a fiesta in the clubhouse instead of the patio — Harriette checked out the party as we were returnin’ from dental appointments and a hamburger lunch with our daughter Susan. That blog pointed out how wild the celebrations can become in the Los Angeles area — probably more celebratory than any other place on the planet. As I recall, I was most pleased with myself for developin’ that title. I had been bloggin’ for less than a month at the time and the local television stations were full of all the fiestas and celebrations all over the Los Angeles area — the blog was post-“cinco de mayo” instead of “pre-“!!

Actually, Harriette and I based out of Guadalajara, Jalisco when we first arrived in Mexico. We drove from Los Angeles directly to Guadalajara havin’ spent our first night out of L.A. in Tombstone, AZ. As I recall, we called our daughter Susan to tell her we were crossin’ the border the next day — as if we might not be able to communicate with family after enterin’ Mexico. I do recall we were “pumped” — as excited as two mid-sixtish old folks could get. [aside: How young we were at that moment in time. Today, our son Gary is almost the same age I was then, and our daughter Jody is the same as the wife. We thought we were old at the time — little did we know then that almost 30 years later I would be bloggin’ about our adventuresome entry into Mexico — upon reflection, we were damn young at 66 and 62 respectively!! I tried to capture the harrowing first night in Mexico in a very early blog “Guadalajara-bound! Who said it would be easy?  [aside: I just hit “Publish” instead of Draft Update so this blog is at an end. I get so cutesy sometimes and think I know what I’m doin’ and then I pull a stupid stunt like that. Well, at least I was nearin’ the end of the blog; so I might as well call it quits, here and now!] ‘nuf …..

Post Script: May 1st, 2017 — The “cuatro de mayo” mystery is solved. A very nice lady — she actually sets up the bridge games that the wife plays frequently — Alma — will crack the 100-mark on May 5th, 2017. There will be a special party set up by her family for the inhabitants of the CAN to help cap off Alma’s first century. Therefore, “cinco de mayo” will be celebrated at dinner on “cuatro de mayo” — we’ll eat birthday cake at lunch on “cinco de mayo” — and the religious jews can celebrate the Sabbath on the Friday evenin’ of May 5th!! And that really is ‘nuf ……