Only FOUR (4) More Sundays!!

Please Note: This blog was published before it was completed. I was bloggin’ away and just happened to hit “PUBLISH” instead of “DRAFT”!! (This latter effort freezes and updates each draft — while “PUBLISH” sends whatever’s blogged to that point — to the public.)  This is the second time that this has occurred — and I have not touched the tequila yet today. But, I will now take a sip and re-read this sterlin’ piece of prose — ‘n if you take a-likin’, you might give the ole guy a comment or so — I’m thick-skinned enough to handle it — remember the Alamo — whoops, I meant I now have the tequila!! So, read on ……….

That’s right!! The remainin’ residents at the senior-citizen “independent-livin'” facility at 947 Tiverton Ave in the Westwood section of west Los Angeles — will finally vacate said premises. It’s called The Watermark at Westwood Village, ever since the end of 2016 — but the new owners don’t call it by that name — except on their stationery. And, I can understand why — since our 14-story, ex-UCLA dormitory still has the look and feel of a college-housin’-residence — and accordin’ to the engineerin’/buildin’ inspection reports, it is somewhat of  a “danger-to-residents” — lackin’ earthquake/structural protection and with elevators that need safety upgrades (whatever that means).  Well, within California law — we had a year to pack up and move out — there were 121 residents  at that time (that’s accordin’ to my in-house source who has kept me updated on our “remainin’-number” of very, very, very elderly tenants) — durin’ this period of “wait-‘n-see-what-happens” — to the folks that did not want to — or were hesitatin’ to — locate elsewhere!!

Some wanted to stay close to family — with daughters livin’ only blocks (not miles) away. Some are just enthralled with the location with every type of store for food, medicine, etc., etc., etc. — from Trader Joe’s to Coffee Bean! -from Ralph’s to a RiteAid Drugstore! – and a Target housin’ a CVS pharmacy and a Starbucks coffee-house. Then, there’s the UCLA campus — beginning’ just a half-block north ; and that’s where the wife ‘n the “ole guy” have our doctors — takin’ advantage of their nationally acclaimed Geriatric Division — and top-ranked medical staff in every specialty — affordin’ a great deal of peace for aged minds. And since the two of us are movie buffs — we have walked the 3 1/2 block to the Regency movie houses — recently seein’ “The Post”, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, “Dunkirk” and are plannin’ to see “Phantom Thread” this comin’ week.  And finally, some us just couldn’t afford to move — the Westwood Horizons senior citizen facility (formerly owned by Vintage) — was a real honest-to-God  price/performer. A comparable facility within five miles would have cost the wife and me close to 2-grand additional — that’s 2000 smackeroos per month!! That’s for the same offerin’s — without location, location, location — so maybe you blog-readers can understand why we did not want to leave our happy home.  Yep, in our case, it was a matter of economics (and for sure, the “location” advantage plays a very huge roll!!)  And I’m not ashamed to say that after servin’ in the US Navy for 12 years and workin’ for IBM for thirty years — personal finances were a huge factor in our decision of “waitin’ out” our new owners at 947 Tiverton Ave in the Westwood area of Los Angeles (now represented herewith as “947-TA”).

So, actually, the residents had a whole year to move out due to the major construction planned — re: unsafe livin’ conditions. (aside: This included financial assistance  and an agreement to move back at the same lease rate under price control. Plus, the ones that moved could return at any time for meals at no cost — which was a generous offerin’ by the owners.)  It is my opinion, that very few (if any) of the extremely aged folks that moved to other senior-citizen facilities will move back. They will become “settled” in their new environment and will not want to leave their close friends — breakin’ up is extremely hard to do — especially,  when one is in their nineties and is afflicted with the penalties of very old age. But back to the situation of us tenants that did not desire to move. Durin’ the summer, the Los Angeles City Housin’ Commission, at the behest of Bet Tzedek (our amazin’, pro-bono, legal advisors) and us tenants, that did not want to move out ever, granted us a change in the buildin’s status — such that there was no requirement for all residents to ultimately move. So, by law, while construction is in progress, the new owners are required to furnish equivalent or better temporary housin’ (with benefts)!! And they have agreed to furnish all the “extras” that are now offered here at “947-TA” — for us very, very, very senior citizens who do not want to leave — for whatever reason — this area — so this will be our final nestin’ place!!

And guess what!! The place we will move to on or before March 1st — is located just across Weyburn Street from where I’m bloggin’, right now — it’s the buildin’ we can view through our floor-to-ceilin’ dinin’-room windows. We will stay in this same neighborhood (HAL-LE-LU- JAH!!) — the wife and I can take the UCLA shuttle to all doctor appointments — we’ll be just a “hop-skip-and nooooo!! we can’t jump — from Trader Joe’s to our buildin’s entrance — and just across the street from that Target which houses the CVS Pharmacy and Starbucks. Yeah, that’s right!! We ain’t goin’ no-where, no-how, no-way!! It’s a very modern apartment buildin’ with a humongous “infinity” pool and a very chic-and-upscale gym — and rumor has it that there are lots of UCLA grad students who live there. What a mixture — millennials and very, very, very ole f**ts — a few of the latter in wheelchairs with care-givers, many with walkers, ‘n the “ole guy with his cane (and/or, a hospital-provided-aluminum walker). There’ll be only about nine of us — the wife and I, bein’ — the only couple remainin’.  Also, we will be the only two folks not dinin’ in a “communal dinin’ room ” — an apartment devoted solely for us Watermark tenants — used as an “activity room”, as well as a dinin’ room. Jeez, it might be so good at The Glendon (its official name)  we ole-timers may not want to move back to “947-TA”!!

So, Harriette and I will take up livin’ and survivin’ the same way we did in Mexico — in San Miguel de Allende, GTO,  where we were residents from October ’90 to July ’14. (We moved to “947-TA” on August 1st, 2014!) As I have previously blogged, the wife ended her cookin’ career in the summer of ’83 — when after only a couple of weeks in Paris, while we were still livin’ initially, and temporarily, at the Paris Hilton. We were in the process of spendin’ “mucho francs” on remodelin’ a very, very, very old French kitchen in our newly-found 3-story apartment — it was at the end of a wonderful Parisian meal at a local dinin’ establishment — she just stood up and announced at the table “I’m not cookin’ anymore — I am retirin’ from the kitchen”! What I have failed to mention is that a young French waiter had just placed a large crock at her end of the table (maybe 18-inches-tall ‘n a foot-in-diameter) and with a huge dipper, he placed a mound of chocolate mousse on her plate.  She meant it, and that’s why — while we lived almost 2 1/2 years in the Paris 16th arrondissement  — the only three items one would find in our fridge were wine (both white and red — the latter should be chilled, too!); fresh ham from the three street markets nearby; and lots of chunks of fresh parmesan cheese (which my Italian co-worker taught us — that it made the best “nosh” when eaten in chunks — at cocktail parties, or just before goin’ out to dine at a Parisian café or bistro or brassiere!!

So, if you are ever in our neighborhood — maybe, just passin’ through — you might see this beautiful brunette strollin’ along Glendon Avenue with — what looks like her “anciano” male escort and his squeaky and  inexpensive walker. They’ll probably be headin’ for the Boilin’ Crab, or Tender Greens — or just maybe, for Mexican tacos with freshly-boiled ears of corn covered with their ever-present, red pepper at PINCHE” Tacos Restaurant. Just give ’em a wave — and they just might wave back atcha!! ‘nuf ………

Post Script: Well, this blog was published — maybe 4 hours ago — and I have just corrected a rather “unappetizin'” error. In the next-to-last paragraph in which I mention the dessert’s name that we were bein’ served — I described it as a mouse — that would have shut down that French bistro immediately. Fortunately as I re-read this blog, I noted my error and changed to the correct spellin’ — mousse!! Forgive me, there will be no rodents mentioned in any of my blogs in the future, especially in connection with a restaurant. Finally, with a nod toward cleanliness and a germ-free dinin’ experience, I’ll end this add-on!! Except to explain to frequent readers of  “ole guy’s ramblins”– that the shortened method of describin’ our current livin’ facility has always been the CAN (Casa de los Ancianos del Norte), but in this blog, I wanted to associate the facility’s title with our current address at Tiverton Ave! Truly, I can do this if I want to, ya know!! Finally, ‘nuf …………

………. Barbra — Barbra — Barbra!!! ………. ——– A Hellluva Birthday Present!! ——–

What do you give your gal for her 89th?? What do you give her when you’ve been a twosome for over 67 years?? Eighty-nine years old — who lives that long — is she now an old woman?? And with the same guy for over 67 years (and, he must be really old {which he is!!}) — and the changes of the scenery — ’twas the NAVY from Texas to California to Maryland to Florida — and back to Texas (no more Navy) — then, a bit longer in Texas — (IBM) from Corpus Christi to Dallas — then to Saratoga, California and on to Los Angeles — now that’s a long stopover!!! Then to Paris, France — and that requires a deep breath — one must always deeply inhale when you are livin’ in Paris on their “dime”!! But then to Westport, CT, for the final chapter in a workin’ man’s life.  Retired from IBM!!  — (Every reader must be a bit dizzy with all those moves — together, the wife and me!!) So, why not just get in the car and drive into Mexico — we had lived in a foreign country and we had loved every minute of it — the language issues, the completely different culture — the sights and the sounds — and the people — yes, the people!! It’s always the people!! And it will always be the people!!

And we drove and drove and — well, you get the picture!! But, you really don’t!! When I retired from my day job at IBM and lived in Westport for another 9 months — we realized that, in retirement, we had to give up a lot — all those trips from our place in Connecticut — into the bowels of Manhattan on a weekly basis — all those great things to do, and places to dine — it was give-it-all-up ‘n  get-the-h…-out-of-there — TIME!! So, we bought a 2nd-hand Ford from Hertz — “pastel de crema” (cream puff), and we visited 30 of the 31 states in Mexico — plus the “district” (the Federal District, which is — also known as — Mexico City!). And when we reached the southernmost state of Chiapas — we decided to drive on into Guatemala — we actually were in search of a place to settle into — to retire fully — like puttin’ your feet up ‘n just watchin’ the world go by — and there were wonderful reports about the city of Antigua in Guatemala. The reports were right — and there was serious consideration of “landin’ ‘n stayin’ there” — but the distance to Los Angeles was a bit much — that’s where we had some kin — but believe me, we loved the 10 or  more days we spent in that wonderful town — and the stopovers we made in Huehue-tenango and Quetzel-tenango — and maybe another “–tenango” or two along the way!! [aside: I think “tenango” is the same as  “burg” in a U.S. city’s endin’! Some “experts” claim it means “place of” — and they are referrin’ to the ancient Mayan language when they mention this.)

We ended up settlin’ in San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato — almost in the direct geographical center of the country of Mexico. We were some 1800 miles south of Los Angeles, CA, — a good 3-day drive for the ole guy, his navigator wife, and pastel de crema (replaced by panque {“cupcake”} after 180,000 miles).  And in the those 24 years south of the border, the two (I mean 3) of us made over 40 round-trips in nuestro carro. (And thank God for “books on tape” which later became “books on CD’s” — and Lee Child with his Jack Reacher series. I may have mentioned that we listened to Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” on one occasion, when we traveled north with our fav amigo Benno Wenske — it was in a much earlier blog. These years south of the border were wonderful for the two of us.  Our daily livin’ was a lot less costly — and we were able to live the good and independent life — and one has to experience this to realize how many amigos you will cultivate during that period of time — yes, in those days we counted our amigos and the restaurants — rather than the years!! That’s the lifestyle that Harrieta y Emiliano thought would be carried out for them — i.e until we met our maker!!  We had joined the “Twenty-four Hour Club” in San Miguel — and that settled all arrangements — except our son Gary would probably have been surprised when the urn showed up at his front door!!

But, best laid plans … don’t always anticipate an individual’s health situation — both the wife and the ole guy became “sick enough to live“; but not sufficiently drastic enough– to die!!!  And this circumstance meant that daughter Susan would have to come down — ship us back to Los Angeles — and find enough amigos to come and haul away our apartment full of furnishings. Thus, you can now find us two — ensconced in our two room apartment at 947 Tiverton Ave — in the Westwood section of Los Angeles — with son Gary just to our north — and dependable Susan to our south. And yesterday, after over 3 years north of the border, on Wednesday,  November 22nd — Harriette turned 89-years-young. And what does a very, very, very ole guy give his true love after 67 years of wedded bliss — he takes her on a quick trip to Miami — to hear the great, the wonderful — that one-of-a-kind vocalist who — the L.A. Times TV Critic Robert Lloyd describes her as “colossal ” — in the concert special ……….  “The Music … The Mem’ries … The Magic” — Barbra Streisand at her inimitable best!!  Yes, Netflix transported the two of us to Miami, and we were there in the audience — even if it was last December — and for just under 2 whole hours, while we were mesmerized by one of the greatest entertainers of our lifetime. There we were — snacks in hand — lyin’ back with pillows raised for comfort — we had been transported both in distance and in time into an audience in the tens of thousands — there were people as far as the eye could see. And she came out from behind the curtains singin’ one of our favorites — “The Way We Were” ………. and the two of us — along with the entire audience — melted into a pile of mush!!!!!!!

After a bit of repartee’, she announced that, in her career, she had made ten #1 albums — and that she would sing a song she had chosen from each.  It was mesmorizin’ — it was just Barbra!! Later, past the halfway mark,  Jamie Foxx suddenly appeared and they did some duets that had us all riveted (he even imitated Barbra singin’ “The Way We Were”) — and then, with much applause,  Jamie left the stage — leavin’ Barbra to thrill us with a few more of her best known treats.  Harriette and I actually felt like we were there in the crowd — ooh-in’ ‘n aah-in’ — but they would jump up and clap — [aside: Honestly, we didn’t do that “jumpin stuff” for reasons which are obvious if you know us.]  We just pinched ourselves. What could be better — relaxin’, nibblin’, ‘n watchin’ Barbra Streisand — on-stage with a humongous band and some great back-up singers — gee, it’s the wife’s 89th birthday and we were enjoyin’ a million dollars worth of absolutely upscale entertainment — while we were just lyin’ there! What a birthday — and I paid for and sponsored the entire production. I beseech you to do the same and listen to “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” from Yenta“Don’t Rain on My Parade!” from Funny Girl —  a beautiful rendition of “Pure Imagination”!!  And even if I am showin’ my age — she closed with that ole fav Democratic Party’s theme song — Happy Days Are Here Again!! Yep, I can recall singin’ that tune along with all the Democrats after FDR whupped Herbert Hoover in ’32 — that’s what 8-year-old’s did in the thirties!! So, that’s ‘nuf ……….

 

“Booze” … handle with care, amigos!!!

The wife and I are not “boozers”!! But we do partake of spirits when the occasion dictates — or when we feel like it!! There’s no real issues here — and when the spirit-(s) drives us — we might become a little “wobbly” or just “extremely relaxed”!! No we are not “alk-ies”, but we enjoy the mellowness that occurs after a few drinks.  [aside: This attempt to establish a lead-in to a blog about the various mixed drinks containing some form of alcohol that we have ‘discovered’ — turns out to be a bit foreboding and difficult. There have been an occasion or two that I might have indulged a bit too lavishly — but who hasn’t!!  Even the wife — whoa, boy!! I better stop while I’m ahead!]  In Mexico, in France, and in our home country — there are certain beverages in which we have imbibed, both socially and in private (if you can call our dining alone — private!)

Let’s start right here in the “casa de ancianos del norte” (new moniker for this home facility) — every Friday night they serve red wine and champagne.  There’s quite a large percentage of the population that are jewish and at dusk on Friday — Sabbath begins!!  The wife is a ‘champagne gal’, but they only have flimsy ‘champagne’ glasses on the tables.  That’s not how you drink red wine; so I use the cups for coffee or tea as my wine receptacle. And Enrique, the bearer of the booze, knows that I like at least one re-fill during our Friday evening dinner. Enrique and I exchange comments in Spanish and he gets a lot of enjoyment with our Spanish banter!  On Thursday afternoons — from 4 to 5pm, they have Happy Hour. And the wife never misses it; she has her three buddies — Diane, Ilene, Myrna — and says — they call themselves the “sippin’ sisters”!  And a couple of times, after their hour-long imbibing, she has brought me a “goodie” that might be served along with the champagne and wine.  I’ve only been to one of these “happy’ occasions — it was to celebrate the passing of lady friend — a Brit by birth — who I liked very much.  It was called a ‘wake’ — and we toasted to the ole gal — and oddly enough it was during a “happy” hour!!

In Mexico, in the freezer compartment of our fridge, there was always a huge bottle of Grey Goose — that good French vodka.  The wife would take drink or two when we had a guest over — or she had somethin’ go wrong during the day.  I would keep a bottle of Azul (tequila reposado) in the space used for preparing morsels for “Emiliano’s Cocina” — I have had back issues for years and a swig or three of that tequila made cookin’ bearable. That brand of tequila was sold at the Costco in Queretaro where we shopped every Saturday morning!! And if we ever had a party and mixed up some margaritas — we used the less expensive ‘blanco’ tequila — whatever brand was the least expensive.  No need to use the good stuff!

Tequila became my drink of choice while in Mexico.  And it was fun to have it in mixed drinks when we were dining out.  The wife might order a ‘bloody mary’ and I would have a ‘bloody maria’ — the vodka was replaced with tequila.  And while on the subject of tomato juice based drinks — some of our friends might order a ‘bloody shame’ with no alcohol.  Then, there’s the ‘michelada’ — tomato juice mixed with a Mexican cervesa (beer), lime juice, and assorted spices, sauces, and peppers in a chilled salt-rimmed glass.  (This could also be used the day-after as a hangover-cure!).  Harriette never drinks beer, but this was a fav cooler in hot weather for Emiliano (ole guy’s moniker in Mexico)!

During our wonderful years south of the border, we tried all forms of drinks with tequila.  And when they were mixed right, the wife couldn’t tell what kind of alcohol was in the concoction.  She loved a tequila sunrise — especially when we were in Ixtapa (having driven over from our quarters in Zihautenajo), sitting on the terrace of the Westin Hotel bar, watching that beeeeeaaa–uutiful sunset!! (All along that Pacific Coast of Mexico — sunsets are events to behold — and you need to be sippin’ on a tasty cocktail while viewing! And we accomplished this in many, many locales!!)  Oh! yes, a ‘tequila sunrise’ is made with orange juice and grenadine.  Remember, margaritas — we used lime juice, simple syrup, and a touch of salt with the inexpensive tequila blanco and added lots of cracked ice. It’s always a hit — especially if it’s a warm day outside!!  And when dining out, you can order a “Paloma” — tequila with grapefruit juice; a Matador — tequila with pineapple juice; and I wouldn’t be surprised if folks haven’t mixed up a tequila-based beverage with lots of other fruits and veggies!!  I remember one time when we were newbies in Mexico — a bartender and I were conversin’ about tequila and the various mixed cocktails — when he asked if I had ever had a Vampira!  At the time, I had never heard of a Vampira!!  Well, he made one for me and I loved it!!  I think every bartender in Mexico knows how to make that great tequila creation!!  It’s a cross between a Bloody Maria and a Paloma!! That means it has a combination of tomato, grapefruit and lemon/lime juices.  Actually, instead of tomato juice — clamato is used — and the results are a very refreshing cocktail.  I loved to show off in company and order a Vampira — it just sounded cool!!!

As I have stated many times — we loved Mexico!!  And we loved to drive to Mexico City — we hardly needed an excuse — that city is a food-lover’s dream.  We had our favorites but we were always seeking out new dining establishments — and there were always someone in San Miguel telling us about a new “find” in the big city.  And we were always checking the magazines and other sources for new places.  One of the last places we discovered was Astrid and Gaston in the Polanco section of Mexico City.  It’s Peruvian and chef Gaston Acurio’s restaurant with the same name in Lima, Peru, is rated in the top 20 in the world. We found it and were ready to see what made it so good.  It was a Sunday — lunchtime — we entered from the street, thru a door into a narrow space and climbed the stairs, and found a very large room filled with chattering diners — we were checking the menu — and the wife was thrilled to see ‘ceviche’ at the very top of the appetizer section. After being seated rather quickly; suddenly, a waiter went by our table with a tray of about a dozen cocktails — all very yellow– and there was a large table we could see to the side with lots of very young people — that’s where he served the drinks.  When he passed on his way back, we asked about those tasty lookin’ yellow-thingies — he responded: Pisco Sours!!  As it turns out, pisco is a yellow brandy found in Peru and Chili — these ‘sours’ used the Peruvian type!!   And, shortly, there were two pisco sours being devoured at our table.  For all I know, it’s the “special cocktail” of Peru, and it sure went well with the ceviche and the delicious meal devoured by the two of us gringos.

Foodies that we are — we ate out a lot while in Mexico. With a wife that retired from the kitchen in 1983, while living in Paris, France, we would “order-in” some of the time — but, more often than not, we would have our meals in those wonderful eating emporiums in and around San Miguel de Allende.  And when one eats at a restaurant in Mexico, it’s not uncommon to order a toddy!  So, whether a vampira or a margarita or somethin’ else to start (never a martini nor a manhattan)– followed by a glass of wine or michelada during — we would on occasion partake of the many ‘spirit’ offerings!!  Why, not — they were there!!  But it was always in “moderation“!! (Just in case our kids are readin’ this!!) ‘nuf  …..

Post Script: This blog was published at 10:20 am and it’s now 3:20  pm on the same day — the wife and I just returned from viewing the brand new movie release: “Sully” — the story of the crash-landing of a fully-loaded passenger plane onto the Hudson River — shortly after take-off — with the survival of all 155 souls! The pilot of the aircraft, Captain Sullivan, had to prove that he was right in landing the plane in the river instead of attempting a return to LaGuardia or another airport!  There’s a scene in the movie with “Sully” at a New York bar — when the bartender offers him a drink that had just been  named the “sully” — it was “Grey Goose with splash of water”!!  Having written this blog this morning, I thought that “joke”  (as bad as it is) should be included herein!!  So, have a “sully” — to your “health!”, “salud!” or “a votre sante!” and I repeat — ‘nuf again’ …..

Some “Irish pennants” — in a ditty bag!

There are some leftovers — I’ve been keepin’ ’em hidden away!! An  “Irish pennant”, in Navy terms, is a “loose [possibly ‘untidy’] end of a line” (or rope, in landlubber’s terms!)  Just think of “ratty loose ends”!  I’m using the term rather “loosely”, since I’ve briefly mentioned a number of things, and have not followed thru with an explanation.  A “ditty bag” contains loose items — or in my case some unrelated items all stuck away!  A menagerie of memories!!  And that’s my own glossary!!

I’ve mentioned the fact that the wife ‘retired’ from cooking not too long after we arrived in Paris, France. That fact is my “irish pennant”!  It was September/October 1983 time-frame, I had taken a job with IBM World Trade (all IBM activities outside the United States) — actually, it was for IBM Europe — working out of the headquarters in La Defense, a major business district — just west of the city of Paris, France!  But when I first accepted the job, my office was on Rue Fauberge St. Honore! — right smack in the middle of the city!! That unbelievable city!! That was late June/early July of ’83!!  I’ll get back to the earlier location issue later (a loose end!!).  Now, though,  I want to tell you about our physical move — before our furniture arrived — in October ’83, the wife and I were ‘put up’ in the Paris Hilton.  And guess what!! We got to live in the Hilton for a few weeks before our furnishings arrived from Los Angeles — on a “slow boat” to Paris!!  That hotel is a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondisement!! We were two happy newcomers to France!! Well, Jody — our eldest daughter — had just completed her law exams, and not being someone to miss an opportunity to visit her parents in Paris — well, she had taken a charter flight and arrived one day before we did!!  One of my future employees and his wife, both Italians, hosted Jody for her first night abroad! So when we got to the hotel, there was Jody waiting to help — she spoke French rather well — we spoke nil!!  Jody was 28 years old at the time; and children could stay “free” at the Paris Hilton!!  So for our stay at the Hilton — Jody slept on a cot at the foot of our bed — at no extra charge!! Comfort was not an issue — it was FREE!!  And for the next few weeks, Jody introduced her mother to the ‘metro’ and the wonderful sights in the “city of light”, while dad was introduced to his new job!  Jody had visited Paris on a school summer program, years earlier, and had studied French all through high school!! She spoke and understood French sufficiently to help us become indoctrinated and immersed in Paris — and France!!  She was one happy warrior — she was needed — and she was in her favorite city in the world!! And Dad was footing all the bills!!

In an earlier blog, I wrote about finding our 3-story apartment — living, dining, and kitchen on first; two bedrooms on second; and a wonderful open roof terrace for the third! It was the 5th,6th and 7th floors in a multi-apartment complex with a ‘tiny’ French elevator!  Well, the kitchen was very old-fashioned — to say the least!! Let’s just say — the other part of the place was modern — 20th century (remember it’s 1983) and the kitchen was 18th century — okay! that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point!!  So, at our own expense, we tore out some of the shelves and counters and installed a modern kitchen –all to the tune of a few thousand U.S. dollars!!  And included was a washer/dryer — all one unit?? [I ended up hating that machine — everything came out with ‘lint’, and it took forever-and-a-day for the whole wash and dry cycles to come to an end!] But, we had a modern kitchen and it matched the whole place!!  And even if it did cost a few extra bucks, we were in Paris, France!!  Almost forgot — Jody was our contractor — she handled everything — including purchasing a new fridge, stove, and that ‘washer-dryer’! How about that! — for a “foot-of-the-bed” addition, she was worth her weight in “francs”!!

While the flat was being renovated, we decided to have dinner in a restaurant near our new abode.  The name of the restaurant was “Clocher” which means ‘clock’ — and it was on a corner with a clock tower!! How about that!!  We had been in France for about a week, now, and were just getting the feel of things — I had a “restaurant-food” dictionary always handy at meals, which made ordering less difficult!!  But even some words in English had to be explained (these were my early days before ‘chef-dom’) — no “googlin'”at the table in those days (1983) — but we managed well! [For folks that know the wife and I — ordering at restaurants has always been one of our forte’s! No matter the language!!]  Well, the first course came without ordering, in the center of a rather large table was placed a very large object — in the shape of tumbler, circular, 18 inches in diameter and about 2 feet tall — with a large dipper hanging from a top ledge — and from this huge ceramic caldron the waiter poured some very tasty soup!!  That was somewhat dramatic!! And for the main courses, we each had placed our orders from the ‘very-French’ menu and dined like ‘roi’s’!!

And then the ‘piece de resistance’ — I had already tasted a few French desserts — normally, I am not a ‘big’ dessert-eater, but in France, folks make a career out of making desserts!! So in just a week or so, I went from a non-dessert-eater — to a  never-miss-a-lick dessert-consumer!!   I had already learned what a “coulis de framboise” was — and that on plain ‘white’ old-fashioned Wonder bread — it would taste heavenly!! So, guess what, that same waiter brought forth that same huge crock or caldron — and placed it in the middle of the table!!  His only question was “one(?) or two(?)” spoonfuls —very large spoonfuls!!  And the matter that he was offering was DRUM ROLL, PLEASE!!  Chocolate Mousse !!  Yes, a very large spoonful or two of chocolate mousse!!  And at that moment, the wife rose from her chair at the opposite side of our table and declared, in no uncertain terms, I’M RETIRING FROM COOKING!!!  Period, exclamation point.!  And that’s when Harriette made her declaration of independence from the kitchen at the tender age of 55 (almost) — not even retirement age!!  Boy-o-boy!! Did I mess up!!  And she meant it too!!

And this marriage arrangement with a non-cooking wife occurred long before I took over the mantle — re: Emiliano’s Cocina in San Miguel de Allende at about 2001AD!!  And anyone who wanted to check on these facts, while we were residing in Paris, only had to open the fridge’s door!!  There they would find — the white wines chilling — the swiss cheese non-fermenting — and the slices of fresh ham resting — the latter two collected from one of the three neighborhood markets!!  And we two were very happy with that arrangement — we were in Paris, France, for goodness sakes — who needs to cook?! Those 3 items were all that were necessary for two middle-aged foodies in Paris!!!

And this practice followed us through our Connecticut period — we would drive the Westport-Manhattan route at the drop of a fork!!  We had our 1985 Zagat (followed by ’86, 87′, ’88) and our NY Times Friday edition with some great restaurant selections — that’s where we found the Bronx’s Dominick’s — with no menus and the best meatball every made!!  And Carneigie’s pastrami and swiss!!  and Joe’s Restaurant after we picked up some cheap theatre tickets at TKTS on Broadway!!  That non-cooking thing turned out to work well for the two of us!! Cookin’ was never Harriette’s desire — eatin’ was!!  Just ask Toni — who runs the bestest cookin’ class in San Miguel — I think it’s two-per-month now — to handle the numbers, with her trusty Enriqueta backin’ her up!!  Harriette never missed a month — and was awarded the Official Taster’s Apron — I think there was a special ceremony for that!!  Even to this day, the wife will go out of her way to attend a cooking class — she loves to eat whatever is on the menu!!  But, she did raise 3 great children and cooked and fed them daily — there were “perfect” chicken, steak ala Mike Fritzl, ‘porcupine’ meatballs, and the very best guacamole salad ever made north of the border — she never quit making that guacamole — started way before Mexico was a twinkle in her eye (just ask the 3 kids!!)  We frequently had a Sunday bbq on Ballinger St, with yours truly at the charcoal broiler — always featuring ribs, brisket, chicken and sausages — with a different special sauce for each!!  And they were restaurant quality and taste — and that famous guacamole was ever-present!!

So, I filled you in on the whys and wherefores of why, when and where the wife “retired” from cookin’!!  I finally reached in the ‘ditty bag’ and pulled one out!!  That was only one memory and look how long the blog turned out to be!!  And if I’m not careful it’ll get longer — so lets’ quit for today!!  ‘nuf  …..

Sinka da gringo!! — ayer, wow!

 

 Yesterday, “Cinco de Mayo” was celebrated in this country, almost as ‘loudly’ and ‘joyously’ as our 4th of July ‘hoopla’ (Independence Day), especially here in Los Angeles, which holds the “biggest” party in the whole world!!  A lot of ‘gringos’ think it’s to commemorate Mexico’s independence from Spain (actually, that’s Sept 16th — Dia de Independencia — celebrated “religiously” and “wildly” with the “grito” at 11pm the night before (the 15th), heard all over the nation –“Viva Mexico! Viva la Independencia!”  [In San Miguel, near the original ‘grito’ site 0f 1810,  freedom from Spain is celebrated the whole month of September — Mes de Patria! ]).  Back [finally] to May 5th, which commemorates the Battle of Puebla, in which the Mexican army defeated the French, not Spain.  This war was initiated after Mexico had borrowed too many pesos from European countries — so France, with its “powerful” army, decided to annex this indebted, North American, newly independent nation; and invade Mexico. [Historical fact: this French/Mexican war was occurring simultaneously with our Civil War — some Mexicanos , already living in the US, were joining the Yanks; while the French were hookin’ up with the rebs — and some historians claim that, if Mexico had been defeated in this war with the French; we would now be called The French Confederate States of America —  stretching from Canada to the southern border — Guatemala!  So I guess we, gringos, really do have good reason to celebrate Cinco de Mayo !!?? or  “Sinka da gringo!”   { One thought occurs:  Today, Trump could not put up his ‘famous’ wall — we would all be living together in one ‘humongous’ country!!}

Yesterday, my blog was about me in the ‘hood’  –later, yesterday,  I had scratched out some notes to help with today’s ‘ramblin’s, planning to continue with some of my early-life ‘doings’ in Memphis —  but that will have to wait for another day!  [All those, very real memories had come tumbling back — and some, I think, will later describe: how deep, my family and I were living in the ‘hood’!]

Today, on the 6th of May, things have settled down quite a bit in our location!  Yesterday, even here in the facility, they were having quite a blowout in the “clubhouse”– a very large room adjacent to the entrance lobby [I, personally, think “clubhouse” is a misnomer — but no one ever asks me anything — in this facility.]  There were mariachi’s with some loud, joyous, Mexican music emanating therefrom.  Harriette decided to join the ‘fiesta’ and I peeked in!  We were returning with our daughter Susan from a dental appointment, followed by some scrumptious hamburgers we had enjoyed at Ponoburger’s  (recommended by Zagat, our bible)!  When I gazed into the “room”,  I saw some extremely large sombreros (on some extremely old inhabitants) — everyone was enjoying the celebration!!

Well, in today’s blog, I recalled a bit of Mexican history — then, I stated, I would write more about yesterday’s in a later blog – about my very early days in Memphis (in the hood)!!  While writing about Mexico and the wonderful celebrations we had enjoyed in earlier days — not that long ago, I am reminded of “nuestros amigos y amigas”, that we had cultivated in those glorious twenty-four years in the land where the “sun always shines!” [I wrote earlier about the brochures, advertising Mexico — and specifically, San Miguel de Allende — where “it’s perpetual spring”!]  I will name a few amigos, but will more than likely, omit some in error [remember, this whole ‘magilla’ is from a very ole guy who can’t remember what he just ate for breakfast].  But, here goes —————

Let me start with Benno — the love of my “straight” life!  Ben, German-born, who I met at a cocktail party [the wife and I were invited to some before I became known as a “wife-beater” (For later consumption!!!     But, if you know my wife — she would have walked out long ago if I even — “looked like I was going to !*?*!*?*!!  She, on some very rare occasions, might “scream” at me” {in frustration} — a normal loving marriage! — it’s amazing what some ole coot will report {or confess} in his ‘blog’!)  That cocktail party was being held by an Italian couple, recently from the old country, and all the Italians in town (about 20 or thereabouts) were there — plus a few of us gringos and (influential) mexicanos!! (That’s where I met my favorite lawyer (who “screwed” some gringos, but became mi amigo —Reyes Rentana!)   —  Harriette was in  another room, when I heard a very, very loud scream: Emiliano, Emiliano!!!!!  I rushed toward the sound, and there was the wife, eating an hors d’oerve with a filled wine-glass in hand, conversing with this very, very dapper guy!!  She quickly informed me that Ben was “the” chef/owner of Tuba Gardens, an extremely popular San Francisco restaurant — we had just eaten at this dining establishment, in the city by the bay, a couple of months prior, while visiting Jody, our middle child (and fantastic San Francisco barrister).  A couple 0f San Franciscans–the Hildreth’s– whom we had met in San Miguel during Class I Spanish school, took us to their favorite restaurant. It was an establishment we would patronize many more times!  But enough about this restaurant.  I want to talk about Ben!  He became my bestest  pal!  I know I have previously blogged about my two amigos  and identified them as the “bestest” — but I must confess, “there are others!?” I don’t just like these guys (and gals) — I adore ’em –my ‘buds’; they know who they are!!

Ben and I, with the wife on most occasions, spent much time together, after we had met at that “Italian” gala/buffet.  I was able to chauffer him on occasion (Ben had no car and didn’t drive anyway!).  And later when he “re-built” that very narrow house (10-meters-wide), he made lots of ‘delish’ treats for the two of us; soooo many lunches and dinners. And he learned early in the game — Harriette loves crepe suzettes — and Benno made a cool crepe suzette!!  We would host Ben at some of our fav breakfast establishments in San Miguel.  And that’s where Omar enters the scene!  Omar is Ben’s “main squeeze” and has one favorite item he always orders at breakfast-time —“eggs benedict” — and when he placed his order, we normally followed thru with the same dish.  I bet we can tell you about the differences in egg-benedict-offerings in every breakfast restaurant in San Miguel.  We shared lots of time with the two of them — so, so many times.  When Ben’s sister and bro-in-law came to visit from Hamburg — on one occasion, they were all helping us move into our new quarters at  Cerrada de Pila Seca – numero ocho!!  We had bought these 3 extremely large ceramic masks (looked like heads of early Mexican indios) — and Dietrich, the brother-in-law, supervised and hung them on our patio wall! [I have to stop and mention a very humorous item concerning the bro-in -law!  One day, he left a note for me at my regular “massage” spa — I always had full body massages, twice a week, following my regular gym visits!  Joe, the owner of the ‘spa’, saw me and said, “Diet Rich left you a message!” Well that one – to all of us- was hilarious!! Dietrich was now “diet rich” from that day forth.]

One time, Ben rode with us to the states — we normally made two driving trips per year (roughly 1800 miles each way) — to visit our family, check in with doctors and see lots of movies.  Harriette and I are real movie buffs as well as foodies — we would eat at our very fav food emporiums in Los Angeles and see a movie almost every day!  Well, the thing that made the three-day driving event bearable was to listen to “books-on-tape” (the Tempo didn’t have a ‘cd’ reader).  So, on our ride with Benno, we decided to listen to Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” — somewhere, in the story, the main character gives a long dissertation, so long, we turned the audio tape off and  never listened to it again.  We just ain’t the Ayn Rand type of folk!!  When you drive for three days together from San Miguel to California, and never have a cross-word amongst the threesome — it must indicate we’re true ‘bud’s-[it’s my blog, I can make up any word I want too!]  and with that illustrious statement, I’m ending this blog! ‘nuf ramblin’……..

 

Shucks!! Paris, “j’ taime”!!

Preface: There’s a lot to be said about picking the title for a ‘blog’.  First of all, it would be nice if it reflected the essence of the piece to be written. Second, in my case — I like to be ‘cutesy’!  There is certainly something forecasted in the title used here.  It was early July 1983 when two southern ‘bumpkins’ found themselves looking for housing in Paris, France.  Yep! Paris — the ‘city of light’; Paris — the land of Monet and Manet and van Gogh! (named three: just to show off).  Paris — with the  greatest restaurants (some with chefs; others with family cooks — meaning, you have to live somewhere for a while to find the best ‘unknown’ eating places. Therein lies a story to be told later.) But our initial ‘doings’ in this ‘strange land’ was to find a place to live.  Fortunately, IBM furnished a “guide” and search helper; in this case, a beeee-autiful blonde young ‘mademoiselle’ (who ultimately became a life-long friend — we have visited her in Koln, Germany.  She had married a young German — a “comer” in IBM lingo. Later, she, with her family, returned the gesture, coming to Mexico). Her name was Patricia and she was a beauty– both inside and out.  Harriette and her ‘guide’ was tasked with ‘culling’ the available apartments or ‘flats’.

We wanted to live in the 16th arrondissment; that’s where the IBM ex-pats would be found.  Paris is divided into about 20, or so, sections called arrondissments.   The “first arr.” is the center of Paris, as you might expect, and the others ‘corkscrew’ out and cross the river Seine a few times — and the Seine winds its way thru Paris — one is either on the right side of the river -“rive droite”, or the left – “rive gauche”.  So in the 16th, Harriette found a place that she liked — a bit pricey, but isn’t that always the case.  The real estate guy was very ‘parisien’ — scarf, mustached, slimy-like (what I later called ‘very French’).  He started his spiel, while, noticeably ogling and nudging Patricia, who was handling it well. The flat was three stories and started on the fifth floor.  The first (or 5th) would be living, dining and kitchen areas.   The next would be for 2 bedrooms. And the third was a ‘wondrous’ terrace — there was a spiral, cast-iron staircase leading up to the ‘exit’.  (We would later describe the terrace by saying “on a clear day you can see ‘sacre couer'” — the Basilica of Sacred Heart, which was white, on a hill — a very famous religious site, and in the 10th arr. — a landmark of Paris and a bit far away.)  Needless to say, we were sold, and IBM was giving us a stipend for housing, not quite enough to cover, but heck, we were in Paris, in the 16th, and we would have a ‘3-floor-flat’ with a fantastic view.  It was only 2 blocks from the river (rive droite) where there was a bridge to the 15th arr. and a miniature copy of our “Statue of Liberty” in the river.  (France had sent us the original.)   We were ecstatic with everything!!

And the house-hunting (?) was in early July, ’83. IBM had paid for the wife to come and find a place.  They put us up in the Bristol Hotel in the 7th arr.  [aside: My understanding is that “Le Bristol”, on fashionable Rue du Fauburg St. Honore (fauburg, in front, means it extends outside — away from the Paris’ old center), and has been totally ‘modernized’.] Then, and now, it was considered ‘tres chic’ and one of the best in Europe. Our room had a large bathroom — it was so large — it was bigger than the two rooms we live in today —  it was ‘humongous’.  The room furnishings were a bit old-fashioned and European, but absolutely in wonderful taste.  And all the “goodies” by the bathroom sink would take care of our toiletry needs for a long time (it was always this way in hotels and inns across Europe). But, the ‘coup d’grace’ was when the hotel management placed a bottle of fine champagne in our room and wished us a “Happy 4th of July”.  You cannot imagine how two such ‘plain and ordinary’ folks like Harriette and Emile (changed spelling) felt — we had struck the “mother lode”.  I cannot describe the feeling, which may never happen again –( and had been  surpassed only by the births of our three children– what else did you expect me to say!) .

One last vignette: During Harriette’s  house-hunting trip, the IBMer, who hired me back in 1959, brought his wife over to Paris to be with us.  Let me state upfront — they were not ‘foodies’ (and in Paris, that is significant), but they had become the closest of family friends and wanted to share our excitement.  So, we decided to celebrate and splurge; so we went to “Tour d’Argent” for lunch — a very well-known restaurant (which I would now call “touristy” and very, very expensive).  What would you expect, it’s name means ‘tower of gold’!  Their specialty was cooking duck in a multitude of ways –and specifically, “duck confit” and “duck a l’orange” are two favorite and oft-ordered examples!!  Harriette and I like ‘confit’ — because it’s so crispy, and we so ordered immediately when the waiter arrived.  He stood there fretting a bit while poor Tommy tried to make up his mind — but finally,  our buddy settled on duck ‘whatever’.  After a short respite,  his wife Ann excused  herself.  Time passed, thinking she was ‘lost’, I got up and went toward the kitchen in search of Ann; and there she was, in a far corner of the dining room, explaining to the waiter HOW THE DUCK SHOULD BE COOKED– to please her husband.  Needless to say, it wasn’t Tommy’s ‘cup of tea’, and he grumbled a bit, even more when he saw the check. Maybe I did too!  He definitely was not a ‘happy camper’!!  To us, it was perfect and the ‘duck confit’ was amazing!!  Can you just picture someone in a ‘multi-starred-Michelin’ restaurant telling the famous French chef how he should prepare his “specialty”??  Harriette and I, obviously, have laughed about this frequently, or I wouldn’t have mentioned it here.  [aside: It’s so interesting how these things are remembered — and this was 33 years ago — and I wouldn’t be able to do it without the wife’s help.  (Yet, if I asked her what she had for dinner last night, she wouldn’t remember — nor would I!!!)] I’m ready for a ‘sortie’ — that means “exit” —  ‘nuf ramblin’ for now!!