August 22 - 23, 1999In the morning we had a late breakfast at Brian's American Eatery; Cheryl, Dermot, Shari and I. This was a googie coffee shop I'd spotted nearby called Topsy's, but once inside we discovered that it was now Brian's, which had only been open for a week. Their start-up growing pains could've been the cause of the minor disaster of our dining experience, or perhaps it was just our waitress's resemblance to Roseanne (hence the label I gave her). We had as appetizer an order of blueberry pancakes, which was fine; the mix-up occurred as our 'main courses' arrived: Cheryl's never did - she waited, we complained, she waited some more as we're eating; complaints to Roseanne had little effect, and the girls felt she wasn't groveling about the delay enough, if at all; especially Shari. She and I are at opposite ends in such situations; I feel laying low is the appropriate response, remaining polite, que será será, these things happen, at least we had most of our food and she wasn't starving so why get upset? At the spectrum's other end was Shari who wanted to pound on the table in rage. Finally her plate arrived, sans English Muffin; more "excuse me"s. When the offending bread arrived it didn't seem to have been toasted; warmed up in the microwave, perhaps. No problems with my food 1 and I enjoyed myself immensely, although I made an attempt to conceal my delight and act sorta bummed & pissed off; but I knew this trauma would make the event memorable, although I probably won't be able to talk Cheryl into a return visit to Brian's when next I tour San Diego. Rather than the traditional 2¢ bad-service tip Shari left Roseanne $2 (5%) and regretted that move almost immediately.
Afterwards we had a stroll through the closing-up Hillcrest Farmer's Market; then we spent the afternoon hanging around Cheryl's, me watching Shari sweep up and re-pot plants, she the model guest in contrast to my own layabout self, falling asleep in the afternoon's warmth on an old couch under one of Cheryl's two covered patios.
Eventually Shari wanted to go so we drove north, actually I was driving her newish Saturn as she played some custom-mix CDs of the electric blues she favors. Traffic slowed through Laguna Beach, since their peculiar Pageant of the Masters was in full swing. This is an arts & crafts fair whose centerpiece are 'living renditions' of famous paintings: their scenes are recreated life-size as tableaux with human participants, on stages I guess. I think it sounds silly so I've never been but it's a popular Orange County event, this year the theme was the 20th century (unlike the old masters usually featured) and apparently one of the targets was Hopper's "Nighthawks" but Shari had way less inclination to stop than me so we passed through Laguna, turning right onto PCH (the Pacific Coast Highway) and traffic was no longer a problem as we entered Newport Beach. But now we were hungry and looking and Shari spotted Cowboy, a new and trendy restaurant she'd heard about and since seating was available in we went. The outdoor patios had open fires and square platforms topped with foamy mattress pads for lounging, inside we found a large space with lots of wood. Overhead a matrix of ceiling propellers was rotating and the menu was pushing beets, of all things, since the asparagus was now out of season, according to our waitress. (I asked her, "What's with the beets?") Shari had a filet mignon with grilled corn cobs and I had a snapper with rock shrimp and Swiss chard (which Shari found repugnant but I rather liked, in a spinachy way). Shari then took the wheel of her Saturn car and drove like a rocket up PCH through the length of Surf City (HB, dude - Huntington Beach), with 91X playing on the radio, Fat Boy Slim and Dido. I was in heaven: the sun was setting and the neon lights were on, fires were burning on Bolsa Chica beach, we could smell the wood smoke through the open windows - it's a part of the LA coastline I've only been to a few times and it was great - what am I doing up north?
At Long Beach we turned north, arriving at Shari's condo complex almost immediately. The rest of the evening involved the television; "To Sir With Love 2" was on, which I found equally annoying and engaging. (The original was believable, but this new scene of Mr. Thackery dealing with inner-city Chicago youth wasn't really.)
In the morning she dropped me off at the Airport Westin on Century Blvd and my LA adventure began in earnest. (Shari then went along to our company's HQ buildings on the other side of the airport, where I worked for four years on a project she's at still.) Up to room 1276 where I met Molly, much hugs and salutations since I haven't seen her since 1994. After hours of waiting a) for her to get prepared, b) in the line at the Southwest counters in Terminal 1 so she could arrange a Vegas/LAX flight, c) on shuttles to and from the airport (which was very crowded), and d) for our Enterprise rental car, finally we surged away south on Aviation and my nebulous South Bay lunch plans reformed into (of course, the place whose product I crave, my first stop whenever I arrive in LA, we were heading in its direction and it was just moments away) Aloha Teriyaki at Inglewood and Rosecrans. After chicken platters, then we moved on to Manhattan Beach. During my years in Hermosa Beach, (the adjacent community to the south), whenever I had a New Yorker visitor I felt a need to show off Man Beach, the jewel of the South Bay; Molly, being a Manhattan resident for lo these twenty years was the ideal candidate, and properly appreciative. First stop was the new Peet's on MBB for coffee. While idling at the tables under the overhang out front, reading the local newsprint, we watched a young couple I called the King and Queen of Manhattan Beach pull their blue Miata into a space in front of us, and bounce out and away. Since they'd neglected their parking meter, naturally a uniformed man had appeared moments later and generated their ticket swiftly. We were disappointed to miss the entertainment of their reaction, although Molly did see them drive away without concern - if the impact registered it was very short-lived, as befits royalty. Meanwhile we'd began our stroll down to the pier and ocean's edge, the longest shop-stop en route at a stylish kids' toys boutique called The Beehive which stocked Sanrio and other Japanese products, a new line called Sugar, and some Roxy stuff where I scored goddaughter Valerie's birthday gift, a T-shirt the likes of which I'd intended to locate in a San Diego beach surfshop but that quest had been forgotten.
Requesting a sweet I deflected Molly from the nearby choices and drove her over to the Bristol Farms supersupermarket which lives among the stores behind Manhattan Village Mall on the east side of Sepulveda in the least (for living) desirable section of MB, since it's so far from the beach. This store's another usual sight I steer east coast visitors towards, since their stock's so varied and wonderful. After buying some of the in-store bakery's chocolate meringue cookies I find similar to my mother's recipe 2 we took some of the free sample cups of the Peets coffee for sale there out onto the terrace where a circle of various birds gathered at a respectable radius - and this is where I noticed the day's most memorable sight, an ornithological horror. Somehow a little gray bird had been skewered with one of those green plastic hors d'oeuvre spears - it passed right through his breast, off-center, protruding out through the creature's back, and it didn't seem to notice! I suggested holding it down and pulling it out, but like all his adjacent cousins the bird's movements were too fast to even bother trying. It seemed impossible - how could he have naturally impaled himself on such a light skewer; alternatively, how could some incredibly cold-hearted juvenile delinquent have captured him to manually perform the grotesque deed? "I'm aghast, I tell you," Molly said. Such was this weirdness that it came up often in subsequent discussion, as was anything remotely skewerish we'd see from then on.
Later we were up in Santa Monica, visiting the places
familiar from when I lived up there, like the ever-popular
3rd Street Promenade; and the small apartment building
where I lived, mostly to check on the
avocado tree I liberated - formerly a discarded,
root-bound house-plant, I took it from the alley and
planted it in my teeny yard - now the thing's over
twenty, thirty feet tall, huge. For the evening
meal we returned to the airport to dine in the former
Theme Building - before they built the new tower a lot
of people mistook this for the old one:
NEXT: The Getty, and Amtrak return to San Diego
1 The corned beef hash, a dish unfamiliar to the girls
so they requested little bites.
Melt a cup of semi-sweet chocolate bits over hot water until just melted. (Don't let them cook, and use real chocolate - the chocolate-flavored bits don't seem to work as well.) Meanwhile beat 2 large egg whites (together they should measure about 1/3 cup) which have been brought to room temperature, with a dash of salt until foamy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Beat in 1/2 teaspoon each of vanilla and vinegar. Fold in the melted chocolate and 3/4 cup chopped nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° about ten minutes until dry on the outside but still soft (and hollow?) inside.