The Grind

Grind Burger Bar, Palm Springs. September 2013

The stairs lead up to the Grind Burger Bar on Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. Jake had moved there at the beginning of the month and we would make the 2 hour drive out to visit him every week or so. Our visits included the obligatory dinner with full restaurant critique. Dining with the three of us was always an adventure, and woe betide to the chef who didn’t get our order exactly right. Burger medium instead of medium rare? Send it back. Fries lukewarm? Send them back. Pasta overcooked? Send it back. Why bother eating if the food isn’t what you want. Especially if you are paying for it. Jake was a professional chef and for a while worked in some of the very best restaurants in Venice. T and I both cook and we expect our restaurant experience to be at least as good or better than what we cook at home. It rarely is.

Our first foray to the Grind was okay. The burgers were pretty good, juicy, flavorful, and the garlic fries were delightful. Our second try wasn’t as successful. T’s burger was overcooked, the fries were cold; I can still hear Jake saying, “Send it back, Mom.” I hear him in my head any time we dine out and the food isn’t what we ordered or cooked properly. “Send it back, Dad.”  We had to send her burger back twice. If a restaurant that specializes in burgers can’t cook a flipping’ burger properly, they shouldn’t be in business. They’re goddamn professionals, supposedly. In fact that last time, we actually had the chef come out and promise to personally cook our food. It turned out okay, it was more like we were just tired of pointing out the failings. Needless to say, we never went back.


Spring Nail Spa

Spring Nail Spa, Venice. September 2013

Located along my half-mile stretch of Lincoln Blvd, Spring Nail spa sits in a long brick building that houses 5 businesses (from north to south): the barbershop, Thai massage parlor, Spring Nail, Sally Beauty Supply, and We the People, a legal services company. Sally is in what used to be our neighborhood Radio Shack. When RS decamped, it bummed us out immeasurably. Jake always had some electronic project or other going, and having a store full of tools, components, wires, and switches only two blocks away was a godsend. Sadly, Radio Shack closed a few years ago and now the shelves are filled with hair care products, makeup, nail polish, brushes and all the accoutrements necessary to maintain one’s beauty.

I drop into Spring from time to time for the $25 mani-pedi special. Mostly for special events like New Years, birthdays, and occasionally when I just feel the need to have someone cut my toenails for me. Buff sometimes, no polish. Like most manicure salons in Los Angeles, this is owned and run by Vietnamese. The large flat-screen TV is always tuned to a Viet channel, and the manicurists converse in the sing-song language. Twenty-five bucks (Monday to Wednesday) is a pretty good deal, and I am usually the only man sitting in the large spa chairs, feet soaking while the massage chair rollers travel up and down my back. I have been back often enough that they know me now, and they always smile when I walk in. I have yet to see anyone waiting in these chairs.

4 Chairs in Good Light

Barber Shop, San Juan Capistrano. August 2013

I have captioned this Barber Shop, San Juan Capistrano, but the truth is, I don’t really know where it is. It might have something to do with Jake, some place we took him, or maybe not. It is a blank. The date stamp on the photo is September 4, 2013 11:55 AM. It is definitely Southern California, note the palm trees outside. There is a Keurig machine on the table, and a magazine, so wherever this is, expect to wait long enough to have a cup of coffee and read a bit. The window is south-east facing as this is late morning sunlight. I particularly like the glowy quality of light behind the chairs, and the graphics of the image. Maybe I’ll remember and update. For now, it is just a nice image.

Rite Aid Pharmacy

Two different stores. Two different cities. Two different dates. Same furniture. Rite Aid was Jake’s pharmacy of choice. He was staying in San Juan Capistrano in August, and moved to Palm Springs in September. I had the good fortune to accompany him in both locations for the med run. Not much else to say other than they were both clean, well-lit, gave you an opportunity to check your blood pressure while waiting, and both very un-crowded. By this time of the year, between all our family members, we had exceeded our out of pocket expense limit, so the meds were free for several months. Thanks Blue Shield, we got our money’s worth that year.

The Auto Club

Auto Club, Santa Monica. August 2013

I love the Auto Club. The people who work there are always pleasant and courteous. They will help plan your trip. They have the coolest maps, and as an inveterate reader of maps, I always take them on my journeys. You can buy Mexican auto insurance. They will bring you a new battery for your car if it dies on the street. They will come and tow your car if it breaks down on the road. You get a swell magazine every month. And most importantly, you can do your Department of Motor Vehicles business there in comfort and convenience. That alone is worth the cost of membership. That doesn’t mean you won’t wait. In fact, you usually have to wait twice. Once in the line to check in and once at your designated area like DMV, Insurance, Travel. etc.

In this photo you can see three distinct waiting areas beginning with the chair in the foreground and stretching back to the check-in line. I was there getting auto insurance for a trip to Ensenada, Mexico. We have been going to Las Rosas, a lovely little resort on the coast just north of that city, for 25 years. Jake accompanied us on many of our trips from an early age on up to teenagehood. He wasn’t coming with us this time, just a little getaway for the two of us. We have never needed the insurance, but always feel better about having it. We haven’t been back to Las Rosas since.

Cedars Sinai Emergency Room

Late in July, while we were having lunch, Jake complained about pain in his legs and  back. It became so severe we ended up in the emergency room late that afternoon and into the evening. Once he was seen, tests proved inconclusive, and in the interest of caution, they admitted him to the hospital pending more tests by the neurosurgeon. After a couple of days, they couldn’t find anything specifically wrong with him other than his chronic disk issues, and discharged him. But during his brief sojourn we had ample time to explore the vast and varied waiting areas in the hospital. The top three are of the emergency room proper and an adjoining area. The bottom two are late the next night as we were leaving the hospital. The photograph at the bottom right pretty much sums up the entire hospital waiting experience. A long lonely dimly lit corridor stretching into the distance, a solitary figure hunched over his phone waiting for …

Houston’s, Pasadena

Houston’s Restaurant, Pasadena. July 2013

For a brief while, Jake was staying in Pasadena where we would visit him from time to time. Things weren’t going particularly smoothly for any of us at that point, and after one stressful visit, we stopped at Houston’s on our way home for martinis and dinner. They make an excellent martini, and their steaks and burgers are delicious. I have co-opted one of their signature appetizers, the grilled artichokes, and make it frequently at home. Steamed, cut in half, basted with olive oil and fresh garlic, and grilled over mesquite charcoal for a few minutes. This was my first night-time, outdoor photo, and the walkway seemed to beckon to us and welcome us in. That’s the front door on the left with the glowing square of light. I guess we really needed those martinis. After cocktails, artichokes and dinner, we felt much better and made the trip home without event.


Beyond Bed and Bath

Bed Bath and Beyond, West LA. July 2013

This store is packed. Jammed with millions of things. Things for every room in your house.  It’s huge, two floors packed with every kind of gadget, linen, kitchen thing, bathroom thing, heaters, fans, rugs, food, cosmetics, towels, baby stuff, lightbulbs, pots and pans, dishes, wine, beer – it’s overwhelming. This is the customer service line and is usually jammed with folks returning some of the stuff they bought and don’t need or want. The thing that caught my eye about this photo is the complexity of the image, the fact that this “waiting area” is lined with impulse food buys, and the politeness of the sign. (Just in case you didn’t know what those black stanchions and fabric ropes were for.) So while you are waiting to return that throw rug that is absolutely the wrong color, you can snack on some chips or pistachios, or any of the other junk food available within arm’s reach. Just out of frame on the right side, on the top of one of those stanchions is a large plastic bowl filled with lollypops; in case you were going into a sudden hypoglycemic attack. We were there buying some sort of thing or other; I find myself in this store every couple of months or so. At least they have things to taste and a pretty good selection of beer.

Waiting for Wine

Rideau Winery Tasting Room, Solvang. April 2013

We bought a Groupon for this winery that included a special tour, tasting and a bottle of wine to take home. Solvang is a little “Danish” hamlet north and inland of Santa Barbara in the Santa Ynez Valley – the region made famous by the movie “Sideways”. The exit off the highway, US 101, is Buellton, home of Pea Soup Anderson’s, a requisite stop for travelers from LA to San Francisco. It is a nice day trip from LA, and we had taken Jake there on a few occasions, notably to check out the Solvang bakeries (they have great Danish there) and to eat at the Hitchin’ Post restaurant, featured in the movie. This time, it was just T and I making the journey.  To spend the time before our afternoon appointment we visited a new distillery, checked out another winery, and sampled some of the noteworthy baked goods in town.

Once at the winery, we sat in this room with other wine aficionados awaiting our tour time, the last of the day. Our guide led us through the pressing and aging room, filled with oak barrels, and finally into the tasting room. He was very funny, sharing bits of wine lore, anecdotes about the winery, and the do’s and don’t’s of tasting. Do hold the glass by the stem, never by the bowl, and serve it at the proper temperature to name two. The wine was passable, the company was lively, and the afternoon mostly enjoyable.

We dined at the Hitchin’ Post which, due to its massive popularity fueled by exposure in Sideways, had lost much of the original intimate feel. It seemed more touristy, less local and the food just wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it. Still, all in all, it was a pretty good steak and a very pleasant day.

5th Floor Elevator Lobby

Medical Building, Santa Monica. July 2013

I spotted these two chairs outside an elevator in my oral surgeon’s building. What struck me as odd was why do you need such comfy chairs to wait for the elevator? Actually, why chairs at all? Are the elevators really so slow that you might want to sit down for the minute or so it takes for the doors to open, or did the designers of this building know that it would take far longer? At least there aren’t any magazines on the table. That would bode ill for anyone in a hurry. Is the elevator ride so exhausting that you will have to sit a moment to catch your breath before venturing down the hall to your appointment? It’s only the 5th floor. Someone sat there long enough to drink their water. But for how long? Just another ‘Waiting Room’ mystery.