Finger Lickin’ Good!

Michael of Smoke & Mirrors has tagged me on a food meme. Imagine that, me and food – who’d a thunk? The deal is that I am supposed to list five of my fav eateries here in my neck of the woods, then I tag five more bloggers to do the same. So here goes:

Pink’s Hotdogs: Pink’s has been around forever in a day. Once you see the place, you definitely envision starlets and wannabe’s of the 1930’s & 1940’s standing around eating their dogs and sipping their creme soda. It’s clearly a Hollywood favorite, as evidenced by all the signed 8×10 glossies of Hollywood luminaries, that cover the walls inside the tiny dining area. But oh, my, God…they have the best chili dogs on the planet. And there is nothing quite so fun as running down there at midnight to stand on line to get a couple of these greasy, ooey, gooey, chili, onions,cheese dogs. 100% kosher beef dogs, on perfect squishy white buns, served by zophtic maidens. Get a Dr. Bonner’s Creme Soda to go with and you are set.

Barney’s: Barney’s is a fixture in Pasadena’s Old Town and has been there for quite a while. It’s a morph of an old-time saloon and a yuppie cafe. The food is good, hearty and reasonably priced, especially for its locale. My all time favorite dish is their toast-taco-salad. An enormous dish of fresh greens, topped with taco meat, shredded cheese, onions, sour creme and freshly made corn chips. Enough to feed three people unless you’re feeling really piggy. It’s served with a boatload of fresh salsa and vinegarette. Their potato salad is perfect. Burgers, great. Also have a mean kielbasa samich served with sourkraut on a big bakery bun. Have it with a diet coke, coffee or any one of the millions of brands of beers they serve. Afterwards, go for a stroll through Old Town, look in the shops, stop at the movies or just mill with the rest of the crowd.

Al Read’s: Al Read’s is a little hole in the wall place a mere 1/4 mile from my house. It sits on a corner across from a liquor store and a grocery store. Nothing remarkable about the little white building it is housed in but wait til you go inside. The decor is early 1970’s with white walls and red vinyl booths. To your right a tiny bar that is always rocking and to your left the dining room. You slide into one of the booths, and are given a giant red menu to peruse. Steak, seafood and ribs. Man oh man, the ribs. The sauce is to die for and I’ve yet to wheedle the recipe out of any of them. My two favorite dishes: Fried clams – can’t get enough of them. And the prime rib – unbelievably huge (covers most of the plate) served with twice baked potatoes and hot cheesebread – for under $20. A-yup, that’s what I said. You can go in your sweats or your fancy duds, makes no difference to them. The food is to die for and the service is friendly, casual and you never feel like they are just waiting for you to leave. It’s like going to your Aunt Edna’s for dinner but the service is better and so is the food.

Da Franco’s: Da Franco’s is the classic neighborhood Italian restaurant. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid there were always the family style neighborhood Eye-talian places that we would go to and gorge until we couldn’t move – and still have tons of leftovers to take home. That’s this place. Alfredo that is light, creamy, perfect. Marinara, home-made and garden fresh. They also have this chicken dish that is layer with cheese, ham and eggplant that is amazing and in ‘pink sauce’ – no idea what that is, but it melts in your mouth. Again, another casual, easy going place that serves the hell out of you. Oh and the cannolis can’t be beat. One other thing that I love, is that they serve you a basket of fresh soft bread sticks with marinara on the side, the minute your fanny hits the seat.

The Elephant Bar: The Elephant Bar is a cool kind of yuppy place in the heart of Burbank. The walls are painted in leopard print and zebra stripes, the waiters and waitresses likely all actors and actresses looking for their big break. They have a nice patio that faces the mountains and you can sip your iced tea or passion fruit iced tea as you watch the sun go down. Don’t worry about getting cold because they have those great big patio heaters that they will light on request. Everything on the menu is delicious. Everything. And the chef will alter dishes to your specs if you’re on a diet or want to swap one item out for another. They have everything from fried calamari, chinese chicken salad to pot roast. The portions are huge, you will be taking home leftovers. My favorite dish is the pot roast. Fork tender, in a perfect brown sauce that just melts in your mouth. Make sure to top it off with a huge slab of Chocolate Blackout Cake. And then call the paramedics, because you’ll have passed out by then.

And any time y’all want to come out to sunny California, I’d be pleased as punch to take you to any of these places.

Okay, that’s my five. Now, on with the tags…who shall it be??????

Jess
Christine
Ham
Puddlehead
MsCrankypants

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How to Tell if Your Christmas Eve Bash is a Success

christmas-tree

I’m not really one of those people who throws holiday parties. I’ll definitely do the dinners and cook up a storm, but when it drifts over to the party category I defer to ones better than I at such things. Happily, I have friends (Zelda) who do parties and I’ve been able to get a real observer’s station at same and feel I can pass along a few tips:

Your Christmas Eve bash is a success if:

1. Your guests don’t use the deserts as an ashtray.

2. The gag gifts you pass around don’t actually gag anyone.

3. You have no one by the name of Skip, Muffy or Biff on the guest list.

4. None of your guests notice the wee paw prints left by your several pets in the dip.

5. The groans you hear whilst guests are munching is because of the deliciousness of the food, not because they have broken a tooth.

6. Your choice of music does not prompt your guests to ask why you are playing funeral dirges.

7. The Christmas movie you make especially for the occasion is coherent and possibly causes your guests to chortle with laughter.

8. Guest do not refuse to take home leftover food and deserts when offered.

9. You do not require a first aid kit to have a fun time.

10. You do not invite people who discuss their recent operations around the fondue pot.

11. Your guests are too drunk to notice you have broken out the cheap wine.

12. You remember everyone’s name through-out the entire evening. Or they don’t hear you when you call them buddy.

13. No one shows up in surfer shorts and asks why all the old people are there.

14. The pets do not break through the barricade you have spent the last three days building.

15. You manage to delete and/or photoshop all the pictures of you before they are viewed.

16. You get through the evening without losing a pet or a guest.

17. Everyone leaves before you fall asleep in the family room.

18. The following morning you wake up to discover Santa’s elves have cleaned up the entire mess and you can go back to sleep.

There may be more and perhaps you can add a few – but in the meantime…

cookies

 

I’ve Got a Branch, Let’s Make a Tree! 12 days of xmas #12

For many years I had the best room mate ever. Let’s call her Buffy. We met while we were both working at a cute, little dive called New York George’s. It served tacky New York Diner food and was a very popular place, especially considering it was tiny and had no real designer ambience to it. What was fun about the place was that everybody was a wise guy and the customers really delighted in being harrassed by the waitresses. Which of course, was right up our respective alleys.

Now Buffy is a very cute girl, who is very tall, has big feet and a laugh that can split your eardrum if you get too close to her when she lets one rip. She also has a heart of gold and I love her like a sister. Truly family in all the really great sense that that word can conjure.

We became fast friends and I convinced her to become my room mate and share the house I was renting from a friend (henceforth known as the Psycho-Lady). The house was cute and pretty comfortable but it was basically in the ghetto section of Pasadena. Which may not exist now but did then. We were the only non-ethnic folk in the neighborhood and I guess were regarded as a sort of oddity although no one ever hassled us, nor did we feel unsafe – it just was what it was.

Both Buffy and I are Christmas nuts. We would die happy if we could permanently live in a Hallmark card. Buffy has her own collection of glass reigndeer ornaments which she has been collecting since she was a child. These are like gold to her. And they are amazingly beautiful – the first time I saw them I think I let out a little orgasmic Christmas gasp. Even today they sparkle in my mind.

Needless to say, like every other year before it we were excitedly anticipating Christmas. Our favorite time of year – an excuse to act like a couple of big dopes, eat lots of great food that is bad for you and your thighs and santa hats, reindeer ears and lightable Christmas ornament earrings – what could be better?

Well, this year was a bit different. For reasons I can’t remember, we decided to work retail sales at shopping malls over the holiday season. We’d both done it before and for some reason we thought it’d be different this year. Dreams of big commission checks and taking a couple weeks off at the beginning of the year spurred us on. Also, Zelda got in on the act. So, the three of us signed on with Gold Exchange.

Oh yes, you read it right – Gold Exchange. Now can you imagine the tacky shit we were hawking from a place with a name like that? I know, I know – we were adding to the evil propagation of commercialism, but hey we needed the money and wanted presents, so….

Either our memories were really selective, we were out of our minds or we were just getting too old for this shit but man, it kicked our asses. For that six or seven weeks we just worked and slept and barely had any fun at all. With the schedule we had there was no time or energy to tend to things like trees, decorating, Christmas movies or anything. Luckily we were working in shopping malls, so buying gifts wasn’t an issue.

Anyway, Buffy and I were kind of glum because we weren’t being able to dramatize our insane love for Christmas and we knew we’d be way too beat to try to put a Christmas dinner together. And at the time, I guess we didn’t have any Martha Stewart type friends so we were pretty much on our own. But Zelda piped up and said her roomie was a Martha Stewart type and did all that Christmas junk every year and we had only to arrive on time and we too could have a big Christmas dinner and enjoy and admire the whole Christmas ambience created by another.

Well that kept us going all the way through the selling season – which was hideous and exhausting. And through til Christmas morning. We got up and had coffee and toast and exchanged gifts and chatted. But then we noticed the time was ticking away, tick, tick, tick. Still no word from Zelda. Hmmmm. We started getting those knots in our stomachs. As if the Grinch had been by the night before and we just hadn’t noticed that it was really December 26th. I called Zelda a couple times but no answer.

Our stomachs were growling and we were starting to get really bummed out. Finally, the phone rang and it was indeed Zelda. Yay! Christmas was saved! Except…Well I guess Martha Stewart roomie decided she wasn’t into it that year (and hadn’t mentioned it to Zelda) and they decided they were going to order some deli samiches and did we want to come over and do that.

Well no fucking way did we want to do that. So then there we were sitting in the living room completely bummed out, with no tree, no food, no hope. We were sad – big time. Then I said, ‘screw this shit.’ There was no way we just weren’t going to have Christmas. So, we jumped in the car and went to the local grocery store.

Of course it was slim pickings, no turkeys to be sure – but they had chicken, and instant mashed potatoes, and stuffing mix and corn. No pumpkin pie but I think we got twinkies or chocolate cupcakes or something. So, we paid for our stuff and went home.

While I started dinner, I told Buffy to get out the ornaments and lights. She squealed with delight. She strung lights on the walls, put ornaments out on every flat surface – now we were having fun. But we didn’t have a tree. We HAD to have a tree. Oddly enough about a week before we’d had some pretty bad wind storms – so bad in fact that a huge branch got snapped off the Wisteria tree in the front yard. I told Buffy to get the Christmas tree stand ready then went outside. After some looking and thinking and finding a hacksaw I found a branch that had some shape and might fit in the stand.

I brought it inside and we managed to get it to stay upright with some jury-rigging, spit, chewing gum and prayers. We strung it with lights and hung a few ornaments, plugged everything in and turned off the lights. “Ah….” it was Christmas after all.

Dinner was ready and though chicken isn’t turkey and the potatoes were kind of soupy and our tree was really just a branch I fished out of the yard, it was grand. Just as we sat down to eat, “It’s a Wonderful Life” came on television and we both let out a hoot. It was the finishing touch to our chia pet Christmas.

Ironically, of all the many Christmases I have celebrated in my life, this is truly my favorite. Because it was our spirit and spirit alone that made it happen – despite all the many pitfalls. And the utter spirit of play of Buffy who was with me all the way in making Christmas happen. And I really loved that little tree more than any other because it proved that even a lowly stick could be something beautiful. In fact, I loved it so much that this year I found an even bigger stick and made another ‘unique’ Christmas tree – it’s pictured above.

For me, Christmas isn’t what other people make it for you, it’s what you make it for yourself.

Thanks for reading (putting up with) this series of memorable Christmases. Much of it was probably too warm and fuzzy or just plain boring – but hey, that’s my life.

Merry Christmas everybody.

WC

New Friends for Christmas – 12 days of xmas #11

The year I lost my mind and decided to move from California to Florida was pretty weird to say the least. If you have any doubts, go back and read my post called Road Trip. To say it was manic was really putting it mildly and giving me way too much credit.I don’t know if some ancient LSD crystal popped loose or just the usual screws, nuts and bolts that live between my ears – but by God I was moving to Florida. So I did.By the time I unpacked the car and locked the front door I knew I had made a terrible mistake. But see I have this problem – I am really fricking stubborn. I kept telling myself I had moved to Florida for a reason. That it was the right thing to do. That there was something there for me.Well maybe there was. A new friend. Someone I’d never have known if not for the momentary flash of insanity – that crazy drive and much of the misery I experienced while there.Lana was an instant friend. I met her first when I showed up at my first day of work for a firm that – come to think of it I’m really not sure what they did or even why they hired me – but I digress. I walked into the office and there was this lovely, lithe woman with hair down to her waist and kind green eyes. “Oh, are you Annie?” she asked.“No, I’m Myrna,” I answered. I have no idea why I said that, but I really did.

She did one of those exagerated double takes and I started laughing and told her I was indeed Annie. Then she started laughing. And pretty much from there on we were best buds.

Now the job…oy my aching head. Let’s put it this way – the woman who hired me wanted me to take over her job so she could move on to a better position within the company. However, I was not allowed to ask any questions nor ask for supplies or pretty talk to her unless she wanted me to talk to her. She wanted me to devine whatever it was she wanted me to do. And she had this insane obsession with a tasking program. So every morning I was to write tasks and send them to her and that way she’d know what I was doing. And then of course she got to send me tasks and I would get these prompts and weird things that were almost as annoying as that dancing paperclip that Billy Gates invented. Long story short within a couple of weeks I felt like I was going insane.

I would constantly check with Lana to see if I really was insane or if this boss lady really was working hard to make me miserable and to feel absolutely and utterly incompetent. Sadly, Lana confirmed my suspicions. Not too surprisingly, I was gainfully unemployed shortly thereafter. Oh boy was I screwed. The job had paid well and when I hit the job market in general it really sucked. The wages being offered were frighteningly low. I took a job with a real nutjob of an orthodontist (he actually believed his work was greatly helping mankind by providing prettier smiles – I shit you not). But at least I had Lana.

We did everything together. It was fun to have a great fun girlfriend again and it made me even sort of like Florida. She invited me for Thanksgiving dinner and there I met her wonderful husband and adorable little boys. We had a great time – but it was more than that – it was like being home for the holidays. Like being among family. I marveled at this because I had really barely met them, yet it seemed I knew them for a million years. I love it when that happens, don’t you?

Since Thanksgiving was such a hit and Lana and I became closer and closer friends, Christmas was a natural. We had all eaten tons of turkey on Thanksgiving so we decided on a different menu. Lana’s brother was in town and he volunteered to make a roast. I made a vat of homemade applesauce, brought a bag of presents and whipped up some mashed potatoes once I got there.

We exchanged gifts and it was fun. It really didn’t matter what they were – we were just happy to be hanging out. It was one of those Christmasses where nothing in particular happened – no special activities or hilarious accidents – just a bunch of people who really enjoyed one another’s company and yakked their heads off. Lana even bought a present for my doggie – a santa suit. Which I put on her as soon as I got home and took pictures.

So the evening was just that. An evening. A great one. And one that brings back warm memories of friendship and love. As I drove home that night, I knew at least a small handful of people in Florida were actually glad I came. And I guess because of them, I was glad too.

Julia Child’s Turkey Christmas – 12 days of xmas #6

New house, new man (with two sons…why do they come in two’s?) and yet another memorable Christmas. Still cooking. In this case, cooking up a veritible storm. It started out pretty simple me, Tom and the boys with a few friends…but then I started getting these phone calls. There was a bevy of Christmas orphans that year with nowhere to go and could they come to my house? Sure, the more the merrier!

As each day inched nearer to Christmas, more phone calls, more unexpected guests to feed. I’d never made a really big turkey but this was the year to do it. The house was small so there was no way we were all going to sit down, so a buffet it was.

It’s a rather odd and surreal experience (even to a Christmas nut like me) to have a houseful of guests for Christmas dinner when you’ve never met half of them. Sort of like stumbling into a big frat party. But I loving to cook and have guests the way I do decided to just roll with it.

I got up early (can you say 5 am?) and Tom just had to get this shot of me in search of my first cup of coffee. Oh how I love to have my picture taken in my jammies with no makeup and a dumb expression on my face.

But I digress.

So, out came the 30lb turkey to sit on the counter while I drank coffee and made the stuffing. Now I’m a kind of organic cook – I generally abhor recipes and I honestly can’t follow one completely as I always add things or change things. So instead of taking the easy way out and following Mrs. Cubbitson’s recipe that was quite conveniently on the back of the box, I set to chopping up apples, nuts and onions, sauteed all that in some butter and threw in a few handful of raisens – I happened to have some cranberries too so in they went. Once the vat of dressing was made and the turkey stuffed to the gills and the remaining dressing in a sheet pan, we set to making the basting sauce. Butter, chicken broth, orange juice and white wine, a little sugar for good measure and we were ready to roll. Into the oven it went.

The next hour was spent peeling potatoes because of course home made mashed potatoes were a must and I had a lot of guests and they were going to want those darn potatoes. Ooops, one of the kids just shot a toy soldier into the potato pot. No harm done, the soldier was barely injured. On the back burner with those. Next sweet potatoes, peeling, dicing, glazing with butter, cinnamon, pineapple juice and brown sugar. My gawd how glad was I that I made the pumpkin pies the night before? Very, I must say.

As an afterthought, I grabbed a couple of bags of frozen peas since no one really likes vegetables with their Christmas dinner, do they? Unheard of, really , absolutely scandalous!

And between the basting and trying to find enough dishes and the the parade of guests and little gift giving, before I knew it, it was time to pull it all out of the oven. Of course by that time I was ready for a nap but i had an army to feed and they were getting restless with Ruffles and beer being their only appetisers (I know, shame on me – but I just couldn’t clone myself to make nibblies).

The turkey needed to rest before we could carve him up – so I put on my best Julia Childs impression and entertained the guests while extolling the many virtues of the giant perfectly browned bird.

Then came the rue for the gravy and separating the fat from the drippings – oh my where was that little bit of coffee I saved for the gravy? Is that bowl big enough for the potatoes? Why on earth don’t I have an electric mixer? Do you know how hard it is to mash and whip 10 pounds of mashed potatoes? My biceps were quite impressive that day. At least Tom opened the cranberry sauce and carved the turkey.

Finally we ate and ate and then we ate some more. We played Trivial Pursuit, got drunk and finished the leftovers. I think I finally had to kick everyone out around midnight. Since my orphans had cleaned up after me when dinner was over, I had a clean kitchen and just enough to share a turkey sandwich with Tom before we crawled into bed for a long winter’s nap. Of course I swore I’d never do that again. And yet I did, the next year and the next year and the year after that. 😉

WC

Christmas on the Boulevard – 12 days of xmas #5

 

Cooking is something I love and coincidentally one of the things I do best. For that reason (and many others) when time and space allow I can usually be counted on to cook up a storm on Christmas. This particular year though I opted out.

It was my first Christmas after Mike and I broke up and something about doing the big dinner just didn’t sit right with me. Instead I put together a co-op Christmas Brunch. Which really turned out to be great. I made the eggs, bacon, sausage and fresh-squeezed juice, Maxine brought breads and muffins, Libby brought fruit, somebody brought deserts, and yet another brought cheeses and other nibblies. We all lazed around in my tiny livingroom, after feeding heavily from the buffet I set up in the kitchen. It was a wonderful 80 degrees outside and it was more like a pool party than Christmas.

One by one my guests bid their goodbyes, having dinner plans elsewhere and I made sure that each took away some of the leftovers, lest they pass my lips and end up on my thighs. A brilliant plan I thought….at the time.

Libby, my somewhat eccentric friend had no plans so she stayed and we yakked and laughed and smoked for hours. We were having such a good time in our chat we decided to keep it going and thought what fun it would be to just go out for Christmas dinner. Nothing fancy mind you, especially since Libby was attired in her usual denim overalls and sneakers, but surely Denny’s would be open or someplace like that.

So, we decided to walk down to the boulevard. That’s Hollywood speak for Hollywood Boulevard. You know that famous little strip of land that you hear about and read about out there in the real world? Where every step you take lands you on the star and name of somebody famous. Where drag queens, hookers, tourists, wannabes and regular folk alike stroll and take in the sights.

A good plan, right? I mean how could something go wrong? Who woulda thunk that not one shop, store or restaurant would be open? Ah…us! Yep, that’s right. We walked and looked and walked and looked and walked some more. But, ah…no….didn’t we realize it was Christmas day? Didn’t we have family or friends who could feed us? I mean…didn’t we?

Of course we weren’t having any of it. We knew if we just kept walking that we were sure to find someplace. Just as we reached Grelman’s Chinese Theatre (you know the one with all the handprints and footprints of movie stars?) we spotted a lovely pink neon sign that said ‘open.’

“See,” Libby crowed, “I knew we’d find someplace.”

So we crossed the street and pulled open the door to Frank’s Diner. (Yep, that is really what it was called.)

Oh good, I thought – some good greasy spoon Christmas dinner was going to hit the spot.

The waitress who was a mere 150 years old shuffled over to us as we sat at the counter. “What’ll ya have?”

“Turkey dinner, of course,” we said.

She screwed up her face in a sour puss. “We don’t got no turkey dinner.”

“Really?” our eyes were wide and hearts very sad.

“What’ll ya have?” she asked again completely unphased by our charms.

“Menu?” Libby chirped.

Two xeroxed sheets of paper were plunked down in front of us. “Coffee?”

‘Ah, sure.”

We studied the menu and looked for anything that could possibly approximate Christmas dinner. We both decided on the hot turkey sandwich. It was almost like Christmas and we’d have pumpkin pie for desert. We ordered.

The coffee came and our spoons stood straight up in it. We went through two cream pictures in an effort to make it drinkable but the color never really changed from the muddy brown hue it came with.

At last the hot turkey samiches arrived and our eyes sparkled until Myra (we named all old waitress Myra) slapped them down in front of us. Okay, ready? Wonder bread with turkey loaf, instant mashed potatoes and BROWN gravy all over everything – even the peas and carrots. To say it was fucking awful is to pay it too high a compliment. But we were starved so down it went. And we laughed like a couple of giddy cokeheads. For some reason it was hilarious to us that this was our Christmas dinner.

When finally we gave up on the brown gooey mess we asked for pumpkin pie. “We’re out,” she said and gave us our check.

Of course they were.

We paid our check and walked arm in arm back down the boulevard toward home. On the way back we spotted a Falaphel stand and ordered a couple. Hey, at least it was edible and the big tanker of diet coke helped it go down nice and easy.

By the time we got back to my place it was late and Libby decided to go home. I plopped down on the couch and turned on the tv – what luck – White Christmas had just started and it was the perfect end to a perfect day.

WC

A Christmas Wish

You know I was talking to a very dear friend on the phone Friday night and found myself so joyful in just our simple exchange of what was going on in our lives. The good, the bad, the exciting, the mundane – honestly the content didn’t matter one twig. All that mattered was that I was talking with someone to whom I feel truly connected. And I realized that that is how I feel about all of my friends. A deep and abiding kindredness of spirit. Which is why I always feel so wonderful to be in their company. Even when we are being miserable together (if that makes any sense?).

And I said to him, ‘you know my biggest wish is to someday have all my friends in the same place and spend Christmas together.’ Just saying it out loud brought it that much more to life for me. It was as though I was looking into the future and seeing every friend I have in the world, all in one place having the time of their lives. I could hear the music, smell and taste the food, feel the warmth of the fire and the vibration of the laughter.

I have so many friends in so many parts of the world – many of whom I see rarely and many whom I haven’t been in the same room with for years. The idea of throwing a big lasso over all of you and drawing you into the same place brings such joy and warmth into my heart it almost makes me cry. Especially those whom I’ve never actually met in the flesh, the real world. Thanks to technology I’ve found some real soul mates and kindred spirits and it is a profound goal of mine to meet each and every one. And so I shall.

All things happen for a reason I think. If I hadn’t done this, or worked there or got a computer or an internet connection there are so many wonderful people I’d never have come to know and love. That I was meant to know and love.

I am truly blessed.

So don’t be too surprised if one Christmas in the not too distant future an invitation arrives, or a limo pulls up to whisk you away to my big Christmas gathering. I’ve found that if I wish hard enough and long enough my wishes do come true.

Much love to you all.

WC

The Reasons…

There are many reasons that I live in California…chief among them is the sense of eternal summer. Well at least compared to the midwest where I grew up – breathing ice in the winter, sludging through mud in the spring and sticky sweltering in the summer (the autumn was nice but way to short). But I’ll tell you when I’m feeling down and everything seems like total shit there is nothing like this to make you feel like all is right and beautiful in the world. Kind of neat that I have only to look out the back door or down the street to see this, huh? WC

Happy Birthday Pinky!

I saw Zelda for dinner the other night and she informed me my presence was requested for Pinky’s big day – his 39th birthday (well not really 39 but after a while you find an age you like and settle there).

The gang was going to be there. The gang being me, Zelda, Margarita (who makes killer magaritas), PG, Chief (a king among chefs), Skip (Margarita’s significant other and a killer griller) and The Kid ( Pinky’s son at least in spirit). While we hang with other friends as well, we seem to be the core group. The main herd. The alpha majors and minors.

So, it’s Sunday afternoon and I’m thinking some cheese and crackers a little sparkling water, possibly margaritas because Margarita can’t not make them and a cute little cake. Then home we go.

So we all arrive on time (a historical happening to be sure) which flustered Margarita and grabbed the cocktail parphenalia. Cheese and crackers appeared, sparkling water appeared, much hustle and bustle went on in the kitchen. And though we all offered to help we ended up sitting around the livingroom, munching crackers and chewing the fat.

We talked about PG’s dad, politics and the future plans for the ‘christmas movie’ (now a tradition) that we would be participating in for Zelda’s mom. (That’s a whole other post.)

Soon enough the incredible scent of amazing food began to waft through the air. Skip and Margarita’s beagles started a sniff fest and we humans did a poor imitation of same. Next thing we knew we were seated at the art deco table on the patio and eyeing steaks the size of Omaha.

We oohed and ahed and Skip beamed. Margarita excitedly explained about a couple of wines they’d discovered and they were good.

We ate and ate and then we ate some more. Thick steaks, grilled to perfection, secretly amazing string beans with herbs, grilled potatoes that melted in your mouth…it was poetry in motion.

As most of us were screaming uncle and pushing our plates aside (with ample scraps for the beagles) The Kid was scarfing up to beat the band. I’m not sure but there may not have even been a bone left on the plate. He passed on the green beans but went crazy on the potatoes and steak and I think I even saw him eyeing Chief’s steak since there was plenty left and a doggie bag in his future.

Then the conversation modules began. Zelda started talking about the nifty new back-fixing equipment she had bought. Stretching and squeezing and traction things. Ultra sound, no sound, nice sound – it was all greek to me.

Pinky, happy with a full belly took a nap with his eyes open. Yes, Pinky does have that special talent. You see, we rib him about napping at all our soires so now he can do it sitting upright with his eyes open. No lie. The Kid just kept eating and eating and eating.

Birthday cake, ice cream and espresso magically appeared, seeming to appear out of nowhere. Perfect. More oohs and ahs.

At my end of the table, me, PG and Chief talked blogging, writing, politics, conspiracy theories, movies and masterpieces. Now, I suppose this is probably boring you by now because nothing really remarkable happened nor did any major catastrophe befall us. It was just a bunch of friends eating really good food, celebrating the birthday of a friend, having really good conversation.

I can’t remember the last time I had such a good time and such good talk. It was fun, interesting and entertaining. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about my friends and it was just one of those precious times when everything and everyone jelled. Truly a kind of magic moment among friends. A truly satisfying get together that makes you thankful for having such people in your life and having a life that includes them.

Since it was a school night, the evening ended all too soon. And before I knew it, I was back in Zelda’s big fricking truck (she calls him Chomp) being the ‘bobble’ passenger and we were headed home.

It was the best day I’ve had in recent memory – not for any particularly earth shattering reason – but for the simple pleasure of spending an evening with friends.

I would wish that everyone would have such evenings in their lives. Where the worry and trouble of the world doesn’t interfere, where the day to day grind never enters your mind and where you go home whistling.

WC