For many, many years we cooked on an antique gas stove, the Detroit Jewel. My dad gave me the pieces of this 100-year old bit of Americana he had bought at a swap meet way back in the 70’s, and once restored, I schlepped it back and forth across the country a couple of times.
When I settled in Venice, it took its place in the kitchen. We prepared thousands of wonderful meals on its 4 star-shaped burners. T. coaxed many marvelous cakes, pies, breads, and cookies out of its temperamental oven. Jake learned to cook on it; it became a part of our family.
Finally, it started to show its age and it was time for a new stove. My mom had started a ‘stove fund’ a few years ago, and instead of gifts for anniversaries, Hanukkah, etc., she made contributions to the fund. In December we began our search for a worthy replacement. We narrowed it down to Viking, Wolf and Thermador, Ultimately, we chose a beautiful Thermador Professional range. 6 blazing hot Star burners, reminiscent of the Jewel, huge oven with three racks and thermostat control, (something the Jewel lacked), and since Thermador was running a promotion at the time, a free matching dishwasher to boot. We wouldn’t actually buy it for a few months, but the photo of the floor was on the very first foray to explore the possibilities.
We would come back several times to look at the contenders, and finally, we stood in that line, followed those arrows and came away with our new stove. We had to modify our kitchen to make space for it, added some new cabinets and counter tops, and once ensconced, it looked right at home. It didn’t take long to get used to the Thermador, but sometimes I miss the old Detroit Jewel. The Jewel ended up in Manila. Yes, the Philippines. But that’s another story.
When Empress Pavilion closed, we were distraught. We embarked on a quest to find a replacement for our beloved Dim Sum lunch. Fortunately, there is a multitude of dim sum restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area, and our search took us from Redondo Beach to Monterey Park, from West Los Angeles to Glendale. NBC in Monterey park was high on the list for a while, but they have a limited number of chicken dumplings, and when they changed the recipe of T’s favorite purple sweet potato dumpling, that was the final nail. Din Tai Fung is famous for it’s soup dumplings, the xiao long bao, but they are made with pork, so we couldn’t eat them. There is a place in West LA we tried, ROC (via a Groupon) which makes a chicken Xiao Long Bao. It was good at first, they have a stir-fried rice noodle dish that is delicious, but faded after the first few visits. We tried a couple of venerable places in Chinatown, one in Redondo Beach that had gotten good review by Jonathan Gold, but time and again we returned to Ocean Seafood, another Chinatown institution.
These photos show the difference in energy between an empty waiting area and the same room filled with people. In both, the first shot is while we were waiting, the second one of vacant chairs is after lunch, as we were leaving.
We took Jake here for a new pair of gym shoes on December 16, after his haircut. He wanted to start working out, and the shoes I sent him via USPS got stolen from the front porch of where he was staying. Palm Springs I Love You? Not. Shopping with Jake was always an adventure. Not so much for shoes, but whenever he walked into a store, he had to look at nearly everything in the place. A trip to Home Depot was an hour minimum, even if we were only going for a package of screws, and forget about a trip to Frys. It was an all-day affair. He had impeccable taste in clothes, we both have a penchant for all things Italian, and could unerringly pick out the finest and most expensive suit, shirt, shoes, tie, watch, wallet, you name it. Runs in the family. This shopping trip was fairly uneventful, we managed to find some shoes for him, and a photo of a long empty line for me.
Back on Lincoln Blvd., this Domino’s is two blocks away from my house. Not that we ever, EVER order from Domino’s, but I pass it on my way to Spring Nail Spa or to our shul. When Jake was living in our guest house, he used to make the short walk over frequently, and I would often look out our living room window and see him trucking down the street holding the flat red, white, and blue box on his way home. It still baffles me how a wonderful chef like Jake would stoop to eating take-out pizza, but hungry is hungry. Plus they have coupons.
I guess as far as fast-food chain pizza goes it isn’t too bad; I confess to having eaten Domino’s more than once in the past. In fact, we even had it delivered a few times. Did I mention it was in the far distant past? Now we go to Eddie’s Italian restaurant down the street. The pizza is way better, but I have to drive the 4 blocks to get it; they don’t deliver. Anyway, our local Domino’s recently replaced these red metal chairs with a couple of red upholstered booths to encourage people to “dine in”. No longer “Carryout Only”. Why anyone would want to dine in the foyer of a Domino’s is quite beyond me. ‘Dining’ seems an overly optimistic description of what you would do in a Domino’s. The ambiance isn’t quite … well … anything. I guess it takes all kinds.
I love Costco – The home of the $600 toothbrush. What I mean is, when you go to buy the electric toothbrush that is on sale for $79, full ADD kicks in even if you don’t have it.
“Oh look at these storage boxes, we need some of those. And some ink for the printer. In fact, we need a new printer. And some new towels. This is a great bottle of wine for the price. And a brick of Parmesan. And a package of lox. And some mushrooms. And a chicken. Oooh, Calvin Klein polo shirts for $19.95. I’ll get the purple one, the blue one, and the grey one. And a 3-pack of reading glasses. And some cans of tuna.”
And, and, and and. Suddenly your cart is brimming with items and $600 later, you have a new toothbrush.
Jake was living in Palm Springs and we went to Costco to get him a new phone. His old one had gotten lost or broken or died, I can’t remember exactly which, and Verizon was having some kind of promotion. He ended up with a Samsung Galaxy for a ridiculously low price, a modest increase to my bill, and a bunch of free accessories. No toothbrush.
On the way out, I noticed that in Palm Springs, the food court is inside the air conditioned building, unlike our Marina del Rey Costco where it is outside. Probably because of the heat. But it’s a dry heat.
The Hammer Museum in Westwood Village is a lovely intimate place. The bulk of its permanent exhibitions comes from the collection of Dr. Armand Hammer, the former Chairman of Occidental Petroleum. Between Dr. Hammer and J.Paul Getty, the oilmen have some of the best museum spaces in the city. In addition to the permanent collection, it features rotating exhibits by a diverse spectrum of artists, numerous public programs, workshops, symposia, film series, lectures, and admission is free. Always.
On Thursday at 12:30 the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center has a regular 30-minute Mindful Awareness meditation. T used to go frequently, and I came along on this day because Michael Perricone, master of the Tibetan Savasana Bowls (also called singing bowls) played during the half-hour session. The hypnotic music enhanced the meditative state and although I am not a regular practitioner, I emerged from the session relaxed and present. The bowls are a centuries old instrument used for meditation practices throughout the world. They come in different sizes and tunings. During the early days after Jake’s passing, a casual acquaintance sent me a link about how different frequencies of sound affect different areas of the mind and body, and certain tones are held to be beneficial in eliminating stress, fear, and grief. We did a little research and bought two bowls from Bodhisattva – one for her and one for me.
After the meditation, we wandered through the galleries admiring Dr. Hammer’s taste in art, spending a lovely afternoon with Daumier, Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Goya, Stuart and Sargent, among many others. It is a wonderful, accessible museum with an ever-changing mix of art and artists.
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.
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.
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, San Juan Capistrano. August 2013
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.