Mating Call

eating salad at farmers market, 70's

He called me at home. A first call. He was stuttering. Perhaps asking me out. I helped him. “What are you doing tomorrow?” I asked, easing him out of his obvious discomfort. “I’m going to the Farmers Market for lunch. Want to meet me there for a really great Crab Louie?”

In those days, before traffic in Los Angeles, it was a quick drive from my Malibu Beach apartment to Hollywood. I had just come off a seemingly effortless run of landing national television commercials and was subletting from an actor who ran off to New York to work for Woody Allen. I could afford the high rent, and it was all I needed: an oversized bed — built by the actor for the small space, a fireplace, and a small kitchen with sliding glass doors that faced an unobstructed view of the Pacific. I couldn’t ask for more. Except a boyfriend. I was between boyfriends, which was rare for me.

We met in front of the fish market. I ordered a Tab and a salad with enough dressing for six or seven salads. I ate heartily. Manuel watched. His demeanor was nervous. Mine was overconfident. I couldn’t tell you if I was really confident or if I was faking it. I excelled at appearing sure of myself.

The original Farmers Market Los Angeles

The original Farmers Market Los Angeles

In the half-hour or so that it took to eat, we got to know each other. I was open. Told him my whole life in Cliff Notes. My favorite game is follow-the-leader –- as long as I’m leading.   So, I asked if he wanted to escort me to this little place where I liked to get dietetic desserts in a strip mall across from Farmers Market.   The Thinnery. We drove. Yes, in those days people drove a block.   In his Mercedes. I flinched at first. Why was someone so young driving such fancy wheels? I noted the insecurity. We parked and I ran in. I got my “chocolate” pie made of air and chemicals and jumped in with a plastic spoon. By the time he’d driven me back across the street to my car, I had inhaled the whole pie, leaving the empty tin as evidence on the floor of his car.

He looked down at it, impressed that a chick could eat like that in front of him — what with living in a town where everyone threw up meals and anorexia was so in. Truth is, I was suffering from an eating disorder. I ate so much that I had gained thirty pounds. I’m also a control freak and wasn’t willing to let go enough to purge my own enormous meals.   When he got home, Manuel presented the 8-inch pie tin to his mother and told her he thinks he’s in love.

I was summoned to meet mom. Manuel called to invite me. He said that she is a big fan. I thought, his mother’s so famous she surely can’t be a fan of mine. All I do is television commercials — but he assured me it was true.

I parked in front of a mansion-sized Spanish home. Walking up the driveway, I had a vivid déjà vu and stopped. Not just because of the memory, but because a Siamese cat was now greeting me. I crouched down for a long pet and greet. That’s when it came back to me. I had been in this very driveway before, doing exactly this: petting a stranger – I mean a Siamese cat.

I had slept at a friend’s in Benedict Canyon.   At 5:30 in the morning, heading back to Malibu, the sun barely rising, I drove past this same house on North Roxbury Drive, and spotted this same cat. I’d left my car idling and crept up the paved driveway to grab a moment with it. Been here, done this.

Inside, the house was filled with all of Manuel’s friends since it happened to be his birthday. I told him and his sister — the owner of the cat — that I had been intimate with her cat once, a real cat stalker. I met everyone in his life that night, people whom all these years later are still friends of us both. We ate his mother’s famous chili. And I was welcomed into this family of five children as if I had been born into it.

Before it was even official that we were dating, Manuel hung the pie tin on the wall of the guesthouse he lived in. In the center, he had pasted a cut-out of my professional headshot.

We played house for a year or so, at the end of Old Malibu Road. My own Siamese cat Cosmo lived with us. And I bought a must-have accessory of the time. A vintage birdcage into which I placed two finches I’d purchased from a pet store in Farmer’s Market.  And then it was over. Soon after Manuel moved out, the finch couple, sensing our expiration date, had their own – and died. I often wonder: Did I feed those birds? Give them water? Or had I somehow thought they were just ornamental and forgot to nurture them?

My headshot in the pie tin displayed on "Manuel's " wall

My headshot in the pie tin displayed on “Manuel’s ” wall


P.S.  I changed the real ex’s name to Manuel.  The new name is not a stretch.  Hoping the people who know me well find the humor in the name change.


Food:  If you have a hankering for Crab Louie, you can’t get one at the place I used to eat in the Farmers Market on Third in Los Angeles.  The fish market is still there and it’s called Tusquella’s Sea Foods.  They do however have a Shrimp Louie.  Or, you might want to tell me a great place that does serve Crab Louie.  A tip is that The Ivy Restaurant does serve a great crab salad that has a little kick in the dressing and it is very similar to a traditional Crab Louie.









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5 Responses to “Mating Call”

  1. Pauli says:

    Great title! Crab Louis is one of my favorites too. Hard to get real crab today but they have it at Gladstones and Paradise Cove. They will make it for you at the Peninsula. Love your face in the Pie Tin. I bet it would sell a lot of pie.

  2. Laura Plotkin says:

    The Lobster has a nice little crab salad but they put a vinaigrette
    dressing on it, sadly. Crab Louis is my favorite too! Let me know if you find a good one somewhere and I’ll meet you for lunch! Another fun story, thanks, Fredde!

  3. jennifer dudley arbaugh says:

    had no idea you lived in Mike’s tiny hacienda down the beach from your Malibu house… the one, if my memory serves me with four cats and equal amount of dogs… I lived there for a short time… when traffic on PCH was a breeze…. your face could launch a thousand pies…. Jenn. still in Charlevoix

  4. Linda says:

    Farmer’s Market … so many memories there … and how true that it was just a short drive. And, of course, the strip mall across the street …

  5. gari says:

    i remember the fish market at farmer’s market~used to go there when i was little with my mom and loved buying the fresh donuts there~i used to go get pasta across the street and loved that place also but do not remember the name of it~love your stories and writing!

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