Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Not my Birthday

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015



My husband’s birthday was coming up.   As it approached, I kept coming up with ideas. “Surf and Sand in Laguna?” I asked, as he passed me in the hall. Nothing. A few days later, “Malibu Beach Inn?” Nada. A week later, I added what I thought was a fresh idea, “Ojai Valley Inn?” Still, no response.

These are MY ideas of what to do on a birthday. We usually end up at a beach somewhere because, well, we should do something, right? Then, with less than a week until the actual date, he reminds me that it’s HIS birthday. What?!! Incredulous. And now he’s thought about it and really wants to go to LA Photo, the annual photo show, which is no longer held in Santa Monica, but at the LA Mart, downtown.

DOWNTOWN? But there’s no beach. I needed a few moments to come to terms with this.   “Okay,” I peeped. He said let’s get a room for the night and check out all the hipness we keep hearing about downtown. He mentioned the Standard Hotel. But I remembered everyone, meaning my son, talking about the Ace Hotel. My husband took charge and booked it. I think he feared I would switch it behind his back to a beach hotel.   He said restaurant reservations were up to me. He thinks of that as my territory. And, well, it usually is. (more…)

Paul “Scooter” Silverman, September 17, 1951 – January 30, 2015

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

scooter swimming

I met him when I was 14 about to turn 15 at a place we all hung out in Roxbury Park called the teen center.  Scooter soon became my personal chauffeur, my best friend and my biggest crush. Scooter was 16, about to turn 17 so on September 17th of that year, I organized a surprise party for him at his house. I don’t remember a thing about it but I imagine I made my signature onion dip, brought a bag of chips and a case of cokes and called it a party.  I put the contents of the Lipton Onion soup mix into the sour cream container and stirred. I didn’t even put it in a bowl to serve. That’s how ghetto this party was. I do however remember the surprise party thrown for me just weeks later on October 12th. I thought I was organizing a surprise party – this one would be for Sol, another friend we shared from the teen center. My friend Diane and I planned a big bash at a rich chicks house on the other side of the tracks and all was going smoothly. All, except Scooter said he couldn’t be there that night. I was crushed. I lived for nights that included Scooter. He was adamant that he couldn’t change his plan. (more…)


Monday, January 5th, 2015

I’ve had two mothers-in-law. Neither were big fans of mine. One was the “I will not reveal my recipes to you” kind, and the other, many years ago, gave me the few recipes I still use. I think I’m kind of likeable, but maybe not if I’m married to your son? Moving on.

Cooking scares me. I’m just not that talented in the kitchen. I can dance. But I can’t follow steps. Cooking is all burners and timing and chopping and it’s something that has always overwhelmed me. So, here is what I am: a great guest. I’ll eat your food. I’ll tell you how great it tastes. I actually clap, applauding you when I’m sated.

I’m in awe of traditions that people have created. I dropped that ball. I’ve been divorced, and with blended families found it’s just not my thing. But I appreciate this quality in other people, and this Chanukah my husband and I were invited to our friends Chuck and Karen’s party.
You walked through the front door into the tantalizing aroma of potato pancakes. Like a bloodhound, I followed the scent till I was at the stove where two of my friends, now married 37 years, were hard at work. A tag team of latke makers, Richard was using a ladle to drop the round balls into burning oil. At his side, JoAnn, with a spatula, turned and removed them from the heat at just the right moment. I watched, mesmerized. I hugged them as they told me they have been dressed in aprons performing this act at Chuck and Karen’s holiday party for over thirty years. Impressive, the closeness of these longtime friends and the traditions they have built with their families. I flashed on JoAnn telling me how they all, with kids in tow, vacation together every year at the Surf and Sand Hotel in Laguna. I have great friends but we don’t do group vacations. (more…)

The Coffee Maker

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

me, michael, hiline

I was sitting with my husband in our sorry little kitchen. It’s small. Totally old school with a swinging hinged door that closes you in. No modern open floor plan where the kitchen blends into the family room. I love our little 1700-square foot Spanish Bungalow, but I’m never sure it’s where he feels most at home — but that’s a whole other story that I may, or may not, get back to.

This night, I had thrown together a meal. I hate cooking. It’s not something I’m that great at. It’s always a struggle. And lately, I have gotten even lazier than the naturally lazy person I was when we had kids at home. So, I might make a “salad” of pre-washed lettuce that I throw in a bowl, and my husband will make fun of the little effort that went into it. I’ll serve it with a large potato that we share — and he will inform me that for now we can still afford two potatoes – though with retirement looming, we may soon have to cut back to one. (more…)

Every Picture Tells a Story – Don’t it

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

my mother with a former lover

A few months ago I unearthed an incredible photograph. I was searching through my mother’s one small album of photos and mementos, hunting for a letter I wrote as a kid that I thought she might have saved. I never found it, but hidden under a newspaper clipping was a picture I had never seen.

In it, my mother appears so happy, looking adoringly into the eyes of an unknown man. It was clear she had hidden the photo. A mystery. And I would never know the answer to it, had it not been for a chance encounter I had with a man 22 years ago. (more…)

The Boy with the Prettiest Eyes and the Biggest Heart

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

me and bob levine

I was supposed to see my friend Bob that weekend. He didn’t know it though. He would never know it because, as it turns out, the plane he was on flying from Los Angeles to San Diego, crashed. It was September 25, 1978 and Pacific Southwest Airlines first accident involving fatalities. Bob Levine would never know how deep the connection was that I felt with him. We were only casual friends.

I was in my twenties and had been visiting my mother at her house in Palm Springs. Anything for a quick weekend trip, I was always up for a vacation.   I was with my lifelong friend, Diane. My mother nurtured us in the form of guacamole. No one made it better. Then we lay around in the sun, catching rays and vitamin D, even if I didn’t know it then.   After our quick two-day getaway, we headed home. On the way back from the desert, I noticed something on the freeway I never had before, and that was a connecting freeway and a sign that read South to San Diego. I asked my know-everything-about driving-and-freeways friend Diane about it. I wondered if it might be a great, spontaneous idea if we switched our route and headed south to visit our old pals, Matt Browar and Bob Levine. They had moved to San Diego, a place that was chill, where they could find good waves. (more…)

Snailed It!

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Barolo Joe team

Serendipity is my middle name.

All right, not legally.   I don’t have a middle name. My parents were too lazy to give me one. But I do have many serendipitous moments. I had a big one a few weeks ago. Huge. I’m sitting at my favorite restaurant — at least it’s my favorite when they keep balsamic glazed ribs on the menu.

Digression. This happens to me a lot, so I’m pretty certain it’s a plot: when I love something on a menu, the restaurant invariably removes it.   Tar & Roses in Santa Monica will usually have the ribs, but then they won’t. Once, when they took it off the menu, I freaked out. They put it back — briefly -– then scratched it one more time — and now it’s back. Finally, I can safely order my favorite dish whenever I want.     I probably just jinxed it.

So… I sit down at the bar one night -– not a table — because I was being spontaneous and forgot to book a proper reservation.   I ordered another favorite there, grilled bread with BUTTER. Most people enjoy this without butter because it’s already been saturated in oil before being grilled. But I’m a butter freak. I tell my cute waiter, slash charcuterie preparer, slash bartender that I can’t wait to eat the bread and butter. Then we start to chat with Abe, the oh-so-cute young man who is serving me. More talking, bantering. And I discover one of the new best kept secrets in Los Angeles. A monthly supper club! Sign me up, I thought. Later that same night, I did. (more…)

British Invasion

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

me simon andrew 2014 portobello road

I’m an Anglophile. The names of my sons say it all. Oliver and Barnaby.   It wasn’t on purpose, but I accidentally copied Tom Stoppard, who happens to have two kids with the same names.

I was, however, copying my friend Robin and her husband Gene, who, last year, had gone to London, then chunneled it to Paris. Sounded great. Had to try it too.   Anyway, I needed a London fix. It had been too long since I’d seen my old friends.

From Robin, I wanted the names of restaurants as well as her hotel in London. She raved about the hotel, but I nixed it because of the location. I like to be in the thick of things — to be able to walk straight out into the action.

Robin warned me to book Ledbury restaurant immediately. I’m tech-challenged, and although the website listed an open reservation, I couldn’t make it work. Then, in the weeks before our trip, Ledbury was awarded a Michelin star and it was suddenly booked many months in advance. I’d been hearing a lot about the great new dining explosion in London. Figuring Ledbury wasn’t meant to be this time, I moved on to book a few other highly recommended restaurants. (more…)

The Dukes’ European Vacation

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

The Dukes’ European Vacation.

The Dukes’ European Vacation

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

IMGmy family in the south of france

My mother showed up on the playground at school to deliver some of the best news in all of my ten years.   We would be visiting my dad, her ex-husband, and we’d be traveling as a family on a six -week, four-country tour of Europe.

Her enthusiasm was infectious and I was jumping up and down for joy. Or, was I just relieved that my brother and I wouldn’t have to attend the dreaded summer school we were registered for? I kept jumping.

Enter an up-until-then-offstage character: Granny. Before this moment in time, I have no recollection of my mother’s mother, Granny. Suddenly, she was needed for some long overdue babysitting — only this would be for our three cats. I would understand when I became an adult the need to drop off my animals at my own mother’s house when I went off to Europe, but that isn’t part of this story.

My mother went straight to the fabric store and set to work sewing our summer European wardrobe.   She made two stunning chocolate brown lace dresses lined in silk of the same color. One for her, one for me.   A white eyelet dress for me. A few other matching dresses for both of us. A gold brocade jacket for herself.   Evelyn Duke, more excited than I had ever witnessed her, meticulously packed us up for the adventure of our – and especially her — lifetime. I had been missing my dad and it was the most devastating loss of my then short life. He went off to London to produce a play. I’d stare longingly at his framed photo over my bed in our ghetto apartment on Olympic in Beverly Hills. The slums. I stared into his dancing green eyes and cried. Finally, I would be reunited with the love of my life. (more…)