Saturday, September 29, 2012

Daydreams of Cheeseburgers

Remember the cheeseburgers of yore? You know the ones I mean - the ones eaten at roadside stands, while riding in the backseat of the station wagon?  Or maybe at the snackbar stand at the City swimming pool on a lazy, chlorine-scented summer afternoons?  From a portable trailer at the County Fair while the Tilt-a-Whirl grinds away nearby?

That's the way I remember cheeseburgers. Wrapped in paper, a mellow yellow slab of American cheese melted over a thin fried patty, crunchy iceberg lettuce and tomato on a toasted buttered bun.

LA is full of deluxe burgers, thick and juicy, made with organic grass-fed beef, served on glossy-domed brioche buns, often with exotic house-made chutneys or compotes and imported cheese. These are all culinary marvels, a bit over-the-top, but good.

But sometimes I want a burger like the ones I remember from childhood. And there's a new place to get them in Santa Monica - Pierburger.

On the Santa Monica Pier just in front of Pierburger is a sign designating this spot as the western terminus of historic Route 66.

Tourists from all over the world flock to the Pier, many of them posing for photos in front the the Route 66 sign.

We'll indulge, them, even though it's not precisely true - Route 66 really ended at the intersection of Olympic and Lincoln Boulevard.

The Pier just has the right vibe.  Pierburger does too. You walk inside the wooden screen door, and order up your burger. Prices are right - $4.50 for a single cheeseburger. The fries are already "supersized" - a regular order easily feeds two people.

The menu includes a hot dog I'll probably never order, a chicken sandwich, and a white seabass sandwich that maybe- just maybe - I'll try someday.

The rest of the menu is devoted to frozen treats. You can get a shake, a float, or a cup of frozen custard. You can also get what they call a "concrete" - frozen custard blended with ingredients like strawberries, bananas, cookie dough or peanut butter cups.

You can sit inside the small store, or you can take a picnic table in the shaded area out back. Pump your ketchup in a little cup and wait for your name to be called on the PA.

The burger comes in a little waxed paper bag, nestled with your fries in a cardboard box. The burger itself is not a thin piece of shoe-leather, but a nice, 1/2 inch burger, slightly pink in the center. The cheese is good, creamy bland orange American cheese. There's a pleasing, pinky-mayonnaise sauce that pulls all the tastes together. One of the things I notice consistently is the high quality of the green leaf lettuce and ripe red slice of tomato  - no pale pink slices here, really ripe tomato.

Oh, yeah. It's a good burger - just like in your daydreams.

The sequel

Like every Hollywood disaster movie, there's a sequel.

It's Carmaggedon II!

We're spending the weekend in self-imposed house arrest, to avoid the traffic. Steak on the grill and a couple of cool ones on the deck. Oh, and all the laundry is done and folded and put away!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Little altars everywhere

Click all photos to "embiggen", of course!
A tourist's life in Venice is one of depraved indulgence. You shop, eat, wander, drink. You laze at outdoor cafes and watch the ever-changing parade of other tourists. A good place to do this is at the broad campo near the Rialto Mercado vaporetto stop. Here, the venerable old building that once housed Venice's thirteenth century bank, now houses several cafes and bacari where you can sit and enjoy a spritz or a glass of wine while overlooking the grand canal.

Ah, the hedonistic decadence of such a life!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Monster in the kitchen

Tonight I encountered a monster in my kitchen.

She flew into the sink and clung to the side of an empty jar of pasta sauce that was soaking clean. She fluttered down and her wings became drabbled in the water.

I fished her out with my fingers and startled at her raspy, thorny carapace, I dropped her on the floor. She raced past [The Man I Love]'s feet.

Finally I scooped her up with a paper towel and laid her on the dining table. She clambered up into the flower arrangement there.

She's a little monster. A California praying mantis, or Stagomantis californica.

"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille."
Her compound eyes sit wide apart in her arrow-shaped head, which can swivel around 180 degrees, all the better to seek out prey in the form of other bugs - and other manti.

The praying mantis can truly be characterized as "The Worst Girlfriend in the World," because she's just not a nice girl. She doesn't play well with others.

Shh! Don't speak!
A solitary animal, really, except when they mate, but even then, she's not much for conversation. Sometimes during the mating ritual, the female mantis eats the male's head while he's in the middle of the act.  It doesn't matter to her - she wasn't paying much attention to anything he had to say.

She could use a manicure.

The streak continues

Well, I'm still dodging seagull poop.

Continuing to cover for my out-sick coworker, I just submitted a dozen entries into our institution's financial software, in order to pay some bills.

I just found out they've all been rejected by Accounts Payable due to errors. Apparently, I failed to comply with some data entry protocol in one of the fields.

I have to re do them all.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

Angel atop San Stae church in Venice. With bird
Sometimes you can't avoid the pooping seagull.

A co-worker is out sick. Another co-worker has had a huge workload dumped on her with a deadline of - tomorrow! Another co-worker is taking weekday time off because she worked over the weekend. Another co-worker is preparing for a prolonged leave, and needs to pass on important information about her duties - which means meetings and lots of note-taking.

It's me, and the phone ringing and the doorbell sounding. It's me trying to remember how to use our institution's financial software - which is usually co-worker A's job - and I've screwed it up and have to figure out how to fix it. It's me routing co-worker B's documents for signature while she's embargoed with her deadline. It's me sending off email inquiries with no response. It's me writing to-do lists. It's me opening mail, locking up at night, and eating lunch at my desk. And my sandwich was stale!

I'm probably exaggerating, but this is how I feel today, with a seagull pooping on my head.

UPDATE: I also just barely avoided flooding my kitchen when I left the tap on while soaking a pot. Thank you, Kohler, for a smart sink design that routes overflow into the other basin's drain. But what of our water bill? Sigh.

Takeaway from the halls of power

We were very grateful to be invited to a fundraising event celebrating a local institution and honoring an acclaimed author.

There was a reception that took place in the pleasant outdoor garden area surrounding the institution's building, and then the party moved next door for dinner and presentations in the dining room of a powerful and venerable Los Angeles private social club.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Up in the air

Photo courtesy L. Lind
This morning, with much fanfare, the Space Shuttle Endeavor flew over California, taking off from Edwards Air Force Base and making an extended loop over the state.

Coming in low over the Pier and the beach hotels
The route took it over California landmarks like the capitol in Sacramento, the Golden Gate Bridge, Santa Barbara and Point Mugu. Here in Los Angeles County, it flew along the coast of Malibu, past the Getty Villa, and at almost exactly 12:00 noon, it flew over the Santa Monica Pier, then banked east over Shutters on the Beach, Cha Cha Chicken, and the Bay Shore Lanes Bowling Alley, headed for a loop over downtown.

View of downtown Santa Monica
We hung out on a rooftop, watching all the people on all the other rooftops, high school kids at the outdoor amphitheatre at SAMOHI, and straining our eyes for a glimpse. The skies were hazy, though the sun was bright.

Yellow parasail right below it, people on the roof at Rand
 When it came, it came in low. we could see it through the angle of a construction crane on Ocean Avenue. Some lucky guy in a parasail over the beach got a close-up view of it.

It angled overhead, then passed and faded into the southward haze.

I got a few shots of it, but my friend Louis got the fantastic shot of it that's above. Click any photo to "embiggen."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Eat a peach

I don't know why, but I've never been attracted to white peaches, not even the odd-looking donut or Saturn peach.  White peaches are sweeter, less acid than yellow peaches, and I've always liked the assertive flavor of the yellow peaches.

But I may have changed my mind after visiting Venice.  Just steps from our door, the Rialto produce market, or Erbaria, burgeoned with ripe fruit. Each morning, I'd choose something for breakfast, and was rewarded by fruit that was perfectly ripe to eat. The white peaches here were luscious, sweet, oozing with juice that ran down my chin, the cherries deep crimson and juice, the nectarines golden and bright with flavor.

As a matter of fact, I had to unlearn my American habit of buying too much fruit, because each piece was at its peak. If I took enough for a few days - it would spoil. Left overnight, a cherry or a nectarine, or a sweet ripe peach would darken and soften until it was overipe and faintly smelled of fermentation - the sugars turning to alcohol and rot.

No - the proper way to shop in Venice is to buy what you want to eat right then.

What delicate delicious treats have you enjoyed this summer?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Job search news

It's been just about a month since I learned that my job was going to be phased out at the end of June, 2013.

I've been doing a lot of research, some soul-searching, dusting off my resume, contacting old friends, looking for ideas.

I'm taking kind of a three-pronged approach.

1) Look for another position with the large complex organization I work for. The HR department has promised to help us with transfers and counseling. If I did this, I would be able to continue to build my retirement benefits. This would also require leaving the industry and field that I've become an expert in, which would be a sad thing for me.

2) Look for a job with another employer in my chosen career. It's a specialized field, with a limited number of opportunities. A woman my age is at a disadvantage in the job market, and I'd probably take a pay cut. On the other hand, I'd be working in my field, and it would probably be challenging and interesting.

3) Retire and work part-time as a free-lancer or a consultant, or start my own business. Really challenging and interesting. And scarey! And insecure! And I'm not sure exactly what I'd sell my talents as, so my task now is to figure that out.

So I'm simultaneously pursuing all three avenues. I've submitted a couple of job applications to arts organizations that sound interesting - although I haven't heard a peep in response. I've set up some meetings with contacts to get ideas and suggestions. I've talked with my organization's HR department about retirement, and also about transfer opportunities.

The transfer option seems safe and practical, but it is something I have misgivings about. I don't want to leave my chosen field. Why settle for a bureaucratic desk job? Why not take a risk and follow one's passion? On the other hand, what's another five years or so, when you consider that my retirement benefits would increase by 20% just for sticking around?

A while ago, I was holding forth after a glass of wine and told someone, "I just can't see myself putting in for a transfer for an Administrative Analyst position at Public Works." Oh, hah hah hah.

Well, today, I did just exactly that. It's an opportunity. Why not go for it?

It's still early, and I have a lot of choices. I also know that job searching garners a lot of rejection. I may not even have the privilege of snarking about a job at Public Works - I might not even make the cut.

But I'm not ruling anything out. Cross your fingers for me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tutu girls

The dance floor
Those of us who came of age in the 60's remember doing a lot of risky things. But now that we're parents of young people, we worry about them taking the same risks we did. As a generation, perhaps we're a little different than our own parents - we know exactly what trouble our kids can get into, because we did those things, too.

The hottest new thing in event production is the Electronic Dance Event - whether an 8 hour festival for tens of thousands of guests in an open field, or a 4 hour concert in a nightclub, this is the newest thing in live events. Young people come to party, dance, and they dress in crazy neo-hippie outfits including neon-colored tutus and other crazy stuff. Some people call these events "raves" after similar unregulated party events that took place in the '90s, but that is history now. Electronic Dance Events are big business now.

Neon-colored tutus are  popular
This past Saturday night, at an event that some people called a "rave" - I was standing in a protected place overlooking the show floor, a good observation point. This is something I do during most events that I am responsible for. When I do this, I'm estimating the size of the crowd, observing the behavior, checking to see what's going on, trying to make sure the crowd management measures we've put in place are appropriate. Also - I'm using my camera to record the moment.  As an older person in a room full of enthusiastic young people, I usually feel invisible and unseen.

While I was standing there, I saw a young woman bring her empty water bottle over to the recycling bins by the wall. It just so happened the contract EMT paramedic was there, sitting on a chair on right by the recycling bin. She looked inquiringly at him, as if to ask - am I doing right, putting my empty water bottle in this bin? He nodded, and she did.

As she turned to go back on the floor, she caught my eye, and I held up a hand with an "A-OK" sign - I appreciated her conscientiousness. Most concert goers aren't so careful with their trash disposal.

Furry boots are popular at these shows
A few minutes later, there she was, below me, turning her sweet silly face up to me, glitter make-up sparkling on her cheeks, holding out her hand to me. "Hi, I'm Jenny! What's your name?"

I pulled the foam earplug out of my left ear and told her my name.

"Gladys?" she said, getting my name wrong. "You're beautiful!" She smiled up at me.  "I'm Jenny. Are you having a good night?"

"I'm having a great night," I said. "Thanks for using the recycling bin. Have fun tonight at the show, Nice to meet you Jenny, and please be safe tonight!"

More tutus!
 Experts say the effects of the drug Ecstacy are nausea, chills, sweating, involuntary teeth clenching, muscle cramping, and blurred vision. Overdose symptoms include high blood pressure, faintness, panic attacks, and in severe cases, a loss of consciousness, and seizures. That was the reason we had a squadron of contract EMTs on duty and an overabundance of police officers.

But, on the other hand, the experts also say the effects of the drug Ecstasy are feelings of mental stimulation, emotional warmth, empathy toward others, and  a general sense of well being.

The dance floor during the headliner act
I've never had someone come up to me while I've been working an event and tell me I'm beautiful and wish me a lovely evening. Was Jenny high on Ecstacy or some other substance? Or was she just a genuinely nice person? I honestly don't know.

I do know that the official records of medical incidents during the show don't mention a girl who matches Jenny's description being treated. In fact, our official records list a mere handful of patients - two drunks, one bruised foot, one person with an earplug stuck in his ear, and one person who had broken glass thrown in her hair. Yes, Security turned away a number of people who were too inebriated to be allowed inside the venue at all - but I think most of the 3500 people who attended the show played it safe, behaved themselves, and had a good time. Like Jenny.

Lighting effects. Pretty cool!
For those of you who, like me, worry about our young people - I think our kids are all right. Talk to those you know make sure they are staying safe.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Birthday treat

It's [The Man I Love]'s birthday and we're off on an adventure.

We're in the marina in the small harbor town of Oxnard enjoying a lunch of fresh local fish.

Grilled seabass for me.

The cole slaw has chunks of pineapple in it!
Shrimp for him - grilled, boiled, and fried.

We're at Fishermen's Catch, a friendly family run place where Dad rings up your order and his daughter brings round your plate.

And the seabass? Well, they brought that ashore fresh this morning!

Blogging live from Oxnard on my Iphone. Photos later adjusted from home - does anyone know how to layout photos in Blogger's phone ap?

Stage left view

Click to "embiggen"
 I can't explain this photo. But there it is. Cool, huh?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dazzling bright

Here's where I am tonight, and will be for the next three days.

It's loud!

Friday, September 14, 2012

105 in the shade

Here's what the temperature is at my house today.

Vegetable rehabilitation - the eggplant

Purple and lavender eggplant with purple peppers
 There is a vast range of opinion about the eggplant. Some people love it, others hate it. My friend Heidi isn't fond of it, although she has an open mind.

The varieties of the eggplant are as diverse as opinions. There are big melon-sized eggplant; there are little berry-size eggplant. They can be round, oval, long and narrow, and even long curving saber-like eggplant. They come in colors ranging from white to dark purple-black, and can be pink, lavender, green, yellow or even striped.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thematic Photographic - At an angle

Carmi at the blog Written, Inc. posts a weekly photo challenge. This week, the theme is "At an angle."

There are so many angles in this photo, which shows sculptor Wendy Taylor's 1973 piece "Timepiece" in London near the River Thames, at St. Katherine's Dock.

This large equinoctial sundial, 3.66 meters across.

The steel round, shaped like a giant washer, is tilted at an angle, supported by welded chains. Like all equinoctial sundials, it is aligned on the same plane as the equator.

Bisecting its center, parallel to the axis of the earth pointing true north is the gnomon - the part that casts its shadow onto the steel face. The gnomon is shaped like a dockyard nail, echoing the industrial heritage of these ancient docks. Beyond, the great right-angled H-shape of the Tower Bridge, and in the sky above a jet contrail makes another angle.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Have a cocktail!

Enjoying negronis with my son  in London at Frank's Cafe
My post below welcoming "The Accidental Chef" jumped the gun a little bit! Although you can - should - visit the link to her blog and read the archived material, which is wonderful, my new friend has closed her blog and started a new one.

We spoke about this at lunch, but I didn't realize the change would happen so soon.

So another addition to the blogroll is "Campari and Sofa: Life after forty. One cocktail at a time."

I'll have a negroni, Claudia!

Introducing a new friend

It might not jump right out at you, but there's a new name on the blogroll. "The Accidental Chef" is a lovely blog I discovered while seeking out more information about Venice, Italy. And as I read more and more of her posts, I noted that its author and I had much in common.

She loves Venice. I love Venice. She's got dogs. I've got dogs (well, one now.) She lives in Los Angeles. I live in Los Angeles. She likes to hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. I like to hike in the Santa Monica Mountains. She's an older woman. I'm an older woman.

We corresponded some and discovered another thing we have in common - we both live in Topanga! This afternoon we met for a lovely lunch in our funky Topanga village center at the Waterlily Cafe.

Go visit her blog and enjoy!


Art in the Palazzo

Palazzo Grimani Museo entrance
In an historic city like Venice, any enterprise is tinged with a sense of history, no matter what it is. This is particularly true of museums. Unlike America, where new museums are built anew specifically for their intended purpose, every museum in the city of Venice is essential two museums in one - the collection of whatever has been curated, plus the physical building where the museum is housed.

Sometimes this works out harmoniously - the beautiful Baroque Ca' Rezzonico, which was completed in 1756, houses the Museum of 18th Century Venice. The artifacts are displayed in rooms that are themselves displays of 18th century architecture - a wonderfully evocative way to experience it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thematic photographic - At an angle

Carmi at the blog Written, Inc. posts a weekly photo challenge. This week, the theme is "At an angle."

Click to "embiggen"
 When things get old - like several centuries old - foundations settle, ease, and slump. The skyline of Venice is eerily marked by the unsettling sight of bell towers, or campanile, that are akilter - like the tower of the Chiesa di San Georgio dei Greci, in Castello.

The tower began leaning shortly after it was built in 1592, and still hangs, as it has for centuries, poised, at an angle. What's the tipping point?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Above it all

For all photos - click to "embiggen"
There is something special about viewing the world from on high. Familiar places look different - toy-like, maybe. Or you suddenly see a pattern in the streets and roads that you can't take in when you're down there.

A top-floor restaurant with a magnificent view is a great attraction for a hotel - so many cities have them it's become a cliche. Some are attractions due to superlatives - the bar at the top of Chicago's Sears Tower, for example. Others are attractions for their show-biz trendiness - Los Angeles has enough of these to fill a travel book. Other smaller cities have them too - one in Indianapolis rotates as you dine.

Fashions come and go - but even when dated and drear, like a sad, deserted joint at the top of a frumpy hotel I once visited in Raleigh, NC, there's always something special about a place with a view.