Thursday, July 29, 2010

Angel Food

I don't know if God plays dice with the universe. I don’t know where God lives,what he wants, or how he thinks. I don’t know if God is good, or if he's love. All I know is what God eats.

Sliced, fresh heirloom tomatoes, butter lettuce, and apple smoked bacon on sour dough toast, slathered with mayonnaise and just a twist of pepper.

Before making dinner tonight, I decided to see whether there’s anything better in this world than a traditional Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato on toast. [There isn’t.] In the South, the recipes say, “Honey, just forget about the lettuce.” [Don’t.] On the East Coast, they seem to think it’s all right to use store-bought tomatoes. [It’s not.] And on the West Coast they add avocado. [Sinful.]

Only the Midwest nails this puppy.

Oops, that's Satan's helper.

I mean, this puppy.

Confession: Here in California, I put a sprig of basil on before serving, but take it off before eating. It’s just there for show, else someone might kick in my door and ask for residency papers. [That’s proves you’re smart, like Einstein or Hawking or that other guy.]

If God is all, then thank you for the BLT. And for Friday. And small favors.

[Don't get too chummy, your kitchen floor needs cleaning.]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It’s Like This

There’s a new website that’s getting a thousand, maybe a hundred thousand, hits a day. Some of us are just that desperate.

“I Write Like” invites you to plug in your own cherished bit of prose and then spin the wheel. In less than ten seconds you’ll be told you have the makings of the next James Joyce or Mark Twain.

The one match you'll never get from “I Write Like” is You Write Like crap.

Reminds me of that era when people were paying good money to be told they were Cleopatra or Thomas Beckett in a past life. You ordered the building of the pyramids; you didn’t push the rocks, wash the camels, or clean the dunnies.

I knew this guy, Kenneth, who used to pay a mystic $200 an hour for a reading on his past lives. And this mystic would morph from Brad, the gay surfer dude, into Eckton, a spirit from another planet who sounded strangely similar to Jonathan Harris in Lost in Space. “I can see you once lived in the island lands,” is one Eckton phrase that sticks in my mind. Kenneth taped all the sessions and used to play them at his dinner parties. (What can I say? His paella was to die for.)

If you want to have fun with I Write Like, plug in something by a published writer. Fitzgerald’s last graph from Great Gatsby? Ursula Le Guin. Shakespeare’s Tomorrow speech from Macbeth? Charles Dickens.

This gets addictive. Harper Lee? Ernest Hemingway. My Canon user manual? Stephen King. Ok, they might be right on that one.

Can you tell I’m trying to avoid some real work right now? You can? That’s because you’re smart; smart like Einstein, Fineman, or Hawking.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The big picture

Today, my horse dislodged a quarter of her lip from where it should be. It hung from her mouth like a sock -- not a tube sock, more like a tiny baby’s sock. And there would be blood.

I asked a neighboring horsewoman to come over and take a look and tell me it’s not really that bad. “Oh, that’s really bad” she said.

Things can go wrong in a moment, can’t they? Like when you wake up and realize you're out of coffee. That's all it takes to forget the grand scheme of things.

The emergency vet, who ended up the hour with blood stains on her knees because she had to kneel to put in the fifteen stitches while I held Vandy’s head, said mouth wounds are tricky and this was one of the nastiest she had seen. Perhaps this would require further visits.

Perhaps this wouldn’t cost a new refrigerator; it would cost maybe two refrigerators, an Apple computer, rewiring for my office, and a brake job.

At the end of the day, and I can say that because it really was the end of the day, when I walked down the street with my old dog, a neighbor riding by on his bike said, "Have you seen the moon tonight? It's awesome.”

I just nodded; I was busy counting refrigerators.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Little Friend

My best friend in third grade, Linda Goldstein, was different from my other best friends in third grade. She wasn’t tall, blond, and thin. She wasn’t Lutheran or Methodist.

Most of all, she wasn’t athletic. But she tried -- really really hard.

Linda signed up for gymnastics when we all signed up for gymnastics. And running, and tennis. When she took up tennis because we took up tennis, she tried to break her racquet just the way I did when I lost a match. Linda could have broken lots of racquets because she lost every match, but she could never crack the frame.

When we all joined a softball league, so did Linda. It looked like her permanent position would be somewhere on the bench. But then her dad stepped in. He became our team’s coach. And suddenly Linda rose from bench warmer to pitcher.

Mr. Goldstein must have worked with her day and night, because eventually she was able to throw a slow looping ball to the batter. Of course, it fell right into the batter’s sweet spot, but by god, it made it to the plate.

I don’t recall that any of us resented her unprecedented rise in rank. I think we were happy for her. I for one wasn’t competitive when it came to team sports anyway. I didn’t even care if I won a doubles match. I reserved all my blood-thirsty ways for the individual sports.

But when it came to Linda, I do remember thinking, how sad that you can want something so badly, try so hard, practice so long, and yet never get close to your dream.

Welcome to my kitchen.

And here I planned to go into a rant about my failure as a cook. Not failures, utter failure. But I’m so enchanted by my memories of Linda, I’m going to let that go.

As little girls, my friends and I weren’t touchy feely. We didn’t hold hands. And even if we had wanted to, Linda and I couldn’t, because I was so much taller. But when Linda and I walked to her house after school, and she lived three hills up from my house, in a more expensive area; when we walked to her house, she’d stretch her hand up to clutch my shoulder, and there it would rest, the whole way.

And I remember thinking, if someone tried to bully Linda, because every school has bullies, especially in the earlier grades, they’d have to answer to me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When life throws you rats, make…

Ratatouille. I’m sure I’m the first person in life to say that.

All ingredients were homegrown; but then so are rats and eggplant – neither of which were harmed in the making of this casserole.

Good lord, that looks like the dog’s dinner, doesn't it? But it isn’t; it’s mine. And a lucky someone’s.

"Hi honey, I'm home!"


--Julia C. Bugge

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Tenth Time

Cost Plus World Market is one of those nautical-themed stores where the inventory is wine, fishnet, and insubstantial furniture – tables made from sugar cane that you can lift with a thumb and index finger; patio chairs that end up in the neighbor’s yard if more than one guest exhales at the same time.

But they do have a four dollar Chard that is so much better than the two buck Chuck, the difference is exponential.

At point of sale, you and the bouncy-bouncy checker must endure each other, but, as with everything else in the market of the world, that’s usually a small price to pay. They try to get you to disclose some personal information in exchange for THE CARD, and I’ve passed on that. Until today, when I was told my two bottles of wine would cadge a discount.

So I gave the phone number and email address and in return I – paid full price. What ho? I asked, did you not promise a savings? Why yes, said First Mate Dave, look at your receipt – it says D for discount. Shiver me timbers, Davey, but I always pay this price; maybe you made a mistake? Oh no, said Dave, I charged you the price on the receipt. Avast Dave me hardy, I always pay eight dollars. Well, said Dave, I guess that means you always get a discount. Listen Swabbie, why did you make me sign up for a card? So that you, Dave said patiently, could get the discount.

I didn’t want to be the tiresome person holding up the line. I’m never that person -- I’m the person waiting behind the tiresome person.

So I stomped out to my car, realizing all they got from me was a fake phone number and email address anyway.

Choose your battles. And don’t choose them in a discount store. And don't choose them in a discount store when there's a line. Because, generally speaking, that woman behind you, the one balancing the sofa and loveseat combo in her left hand and the bottle of wine in her right? Nine times out of ten, that’s me.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Keep your sunny side up, up

Warren Buffett just put out an economic warning, so the market fell another percentage point. Go disinherit some more members of your immediate family or buy yourself some used socks or something, you sanctimonious old prig, and leave the rest of us alone.

But why should I care? This year I raised sufficient crops to feed myself and everyone who treats me kindly. In fact, I got a tad carried away.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Simple Art of Murder: Cleaning Up

Last week, as I waxed poetic -- or maybe just waxed with lots of spit and elbow grease -- on the beauty of unspoiled nature, I was, at the same time, conducting mass executions in my basement.

Well, pardon my dark side.

If you’re a rat, apparently my house is a must-see stop on the Halleluiah Trail. I’m what you do on your summer vacation.

For a day or two, I can shut out the sound of their meet-and-greet and pot luck by playing Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto really, really loud. But it’s a non-stop party down there and their family reunion eventually spurs me to power up the Rat Zapper 2000.

These electric death chambers are a miracle, but only to a point. They kill rats on contact, without poison, without screams; only problem is, while the rat souls go directly to heaven, the too too solid flesh remains. And if a live rat gives you a shiver or two, that’s practically an afternoon with the Mona Lisa compared to a dead one.

After my first murder this season, I prevailed upon a friend, as he was over for breakfast anyway. You know, casual-like, “Do you want garlic in your Denver Omelet, and while I’m chopping, maybe you can...” And blah, blah, blah, the way any of us would ask someone in a crisp white shirt to venture down the black hole of Calcutta that is my basement and dispose of the dead.

Subsequent kills have been my responsibility, and I’ve risen to the occasion, generally with a nip or two of fortification; although, as a hardened veteran with eight sorties behind her belt, I can finally carry out corpses while stone cold sober --if I so choose.

This house is clean now. And by clean I don’t mean heroic measures have been taken, such as dusting behind the bureau. I mean clean in the sense that everyone inside has their shots and a standing invitation. And a name. And a good looking tail.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hip Hip Hurrahaha: Update Monday Night

The speakers in support of Haha were heartfelt and smart. But I don't think the Pasadena council members cared; a couple of them were visibly and verbally arrogant. One reminded me of a used car salesman I once knew -- which may explain his impatience; he had a hot prospect waiting at the lot.

I don't think, as a body, the council listened at all. I don't think listening had been a part of the plan from the very start.

Not democracy at its finest.


I intended this to be a victory sign, but now I see a different gesture entirely.

Did I get too much sun, or is this further proof Hahamongna cannot be tamed?

Good luck to our wild and woolly watershed park on Monday, and to all who love it.

The fate of Hahmongna. "Monday night, 7:30. Pasadena City Hall Council Chamber. Come one, come all. The trees and animals can't get there, so it's up to us." Bellis

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Weekend Matinee: The Awful Truth

Been a long week, has it? Had to wade through a lot of blurry photos over at Altadenhiker? (The things I could tell you about her … but don’t get me started.)

You deserve a reward.

Screwball comedies of the 30’s fell into two camps: Those with a message and those with no redeeming social value.

I know where I pitch my tent. (Some people aren't embarrassed to say how many times they've watched a favorite movie, but I'll dim the Coleman lantern on that one.)

Here’s a scene from The Awful Truth. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne. Only movie I’ve ever seen Grant trumped in comedic timing.

To set the scene, Cary & Irene are an uber-sophisticated Manhattan couple getting a divorce. But hours before the divorce is finalized, Irene realizes she loves Cary. He's now engaged, and his fiancé is a rich socialite with stuffy friends and family. Irene assumes an identity and crashes the party.

Shake out the fox fur and stir a martini; this one’s in focus.

The Awful Truth

(For double and triple features, click on the Weekend Matinee label below.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hahamongna Watershed Park: Let it be

There’s an orphan bit of feral ground between three towns. Some people love the wildness of it – the way it changes with seasons, the way it has survived more than a hundred years of encroaching civilization. Animals find refuge here. Wild ones -- frogs, ducks, swallows, hawks, bobcats, snakes. And the more domesticated – runners, walkers, children, me.

You can’t argue someone into love; I’m not sure you can argue someone into appreciation. But we can try.

If city council moves forward with its plan for Hahamongna – the bleachers, floodlights, parking lots -- if they fill the natural lake to grow a soccer field instead -- then it will be just one more big green lawn; one of many parks, not one in a million.

Some links here will make the fiscal responsibility plea, and it’s a damn good one. How the city can justify millions of dollars for an athletic field when schools and vital services are suffering. Not a one of us opposes organized sports; many of us regularly indulge. Most of us believe a bit of wilderness and athletic fields can and should share the same city, they just can’t share the same backyard.

Best case scenario from the Pasadena City Council meeting next week? Agree that something doesn’t always need something else. Agree that sometimes no change makes a noble difference.

I’ll tell you what I’ll do for you – nothing. Is that any good to you? Nothing? Mind you, I can’t do it straight away; something is always cropping up. But if I can find the time to do nothing for you, I’ll try to squeeze it in.” – Alice in Wonderland

Please visit other local bloggers to see their thoughts and words of support for Hahamongna:

Altadena Above It All
Arroyo lover
A Thinking Stomach
East of Allen
Finnegan Begin Again
LA Creek Freak
Mister Earl's Musings
My Life With Tommy
Pasadena Adjacent
Pasadena Daily Photo
Pasadena Latina
The Sky Is Big In Pasadena
Webster's Fine Stationers Web Log
West Coast Grrlie Blather

And special thanks to Barbara Ellis and Petrea Burchard for helping bring this together.

Also thanks to Pasadena Star News for covering our efforts here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Love Stinks

My 900-pound princess is a martyr to her delicate skin. We both are. Her life has been a succession of medication, steroid shots, tea-tree baths.

And now she must have a specially formulated fly spray, one that contains no caustics, only essential oils. It’s very expensive. I’d consider buying the ingredients and whipping up a batch at home, except judging from the smell, these oils are extracted from the bodies of 80-year old Kazakhstani men who make a meal of limburger cheese and cumin followed by a deep dive in a vat of Old Spice.

Vandy clearly would prefer the flies.

Worse, from my perspective, once a drop of the essential oil get on my skin, it speeds through my blood stream and then invades every pore. A simple hand wash or the passage of time does nothing to lessen the impact. So for the next two hours, Vandy and I hit the trail, smelling like two old Kazakhstani men trolling the Angeles Forest for chicks.

When it comes to perfume, I don’t even like the good stuff. People should smell like people. Only one exception I can think of -- Adrian.

He was a guy I loved in Paris – a Brit, of all things -- and wore Dior Homme. For two good reasons, the relationship couldn’t continue, but there was nothing about him that didn’t please me. And because I knew our time together was relatively short, I committed most of the moments to memory. I lived them and looked back at them all at the same time.

When I returned to the States, I brought with me a bottle of Dior Homme as a present for someone.

If one can pay through the nose, I guess one can cheat through it too.

So maybe this whole essential oil thing is just payback time. For the rest of Vandy's life, when I leave the stable and get in my car, it will be like I’m trapped in an elevator -- alone with the boys, Itkul and Toiyndyk, and my thoughts. Sometimes that makes for one long ride.

Friday, July 2, 2010

More AH Gardening Awards: Best in Show




Every time it rains, it rains

300 channels.