Fat Sal’s Deli

You don’t have to be a UCLA student to eat here but it kinda felt like that was who was eating there. Maybe that is because the specific Sal’s we went to was right across the street from campus. We could have gone to the one in Hollywood. The one in San Diego or Austin, not so much.IMG_2518

So this place was started by some guy named Sal, and his famous friend Jerry Ferrara (from Entourage), and Jerry’s not so famous brother Josh. Jerry is an actor not a chef. I don’t care who Jerry is but I do care about fried eggs on a sandwich, and bacon, and pastrami? Who doesn’t love pastrami?
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The food isn’t ground breaking. But the food is good and it is interesting. In a world full of Subway, Burger King, and Olive Garden, “interesting” cannot be overrated.

I am not only not a chef, I am also not famous, which gives me top “not” scores, but I like to eat and Fat Sal’s is worth eating.
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Balboa Pier: Newport

I do not live in a beach town but as Californians we are required to visit the beach regularly. When others in our environs learn we are headed to the beach they unfailingly ask, “Which beach do you go to?” This is not worded, or meant, as an inquiry to this instance, but rather a broader declaration.

I refuse to declare a beach affiliation.

But we did recently visit Balboa Pier in Newport. It was nice.IMG_4723

“It was nice” is no sort of manifesto. It isn’t even a resounding endorsement. But the place was in fact “nice” and if you please I will now walk backwards into a more meaningful review.

You can park all day for $10.IMG_5719

California doesn’t mess around with those silly beach tags like New Jersey. The beaches are quite literally a “free for all”. Whats not to like about that. Nice, right?IMG_5648

The Pier itself houses the original Ruby’s Diner. Not a culinary powerhouse by any means but an Orange County staple none-the-less. You can eat your burger while sitting on the rooftop deck watching the sun set over the beach. That would make anything taste great no matter who cooked it.IMG_5727

If cold water and waves that break right on the sand aren’t your favorite you can always head for the boardwalk.  There you are treated to arcades, shaved ice, and carnival style rides like a bucking shark. Who doesn’t want to ride a bucking shark?IMG_5591

None of us wanted to ride the bucking shark but we did ride what was marketed as “possibly” the longest Ferris wheel ride in the world. It was indeed lengthy.IMG_5647

 

With full bellies we were ready to test the scientifically proven tale that one must wait an hour after eating before swimming to avoid certain drowning. We thought it a safe place to test this tale since there were at least 7 million junior lifeguards on the beach for summer camp. I found myself wondering how many 9 year olds it would take to save me if I were to go under for the third time.IMG_5721

Turns out I am too naturally buoyant to find out. No loss. I’m satisfied stating that Balboa Pier in  Newport is Nice.

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Gettin’ Greek at the Getty

I dislike Vegas for its imitative quality. Venice is not in Nevada. With this in mind we skeptically headed to Malibu to visit an Italian villa. Let me state openly now, that the Getty Villa, while patterned after something else, is its own thing. That place is legit.IMG_5113

Free is indeed my favorite price and I’ve been told you get what you pay for but in this case, the public gets what Oil tycoon J. Paul Getty paid for. IMG_5345

I will not run down a list of everything in the collection, including a ceremonial shield left in the Alps by Hannibal, you can find more informed lists in plenty of other places, but I will say that by the end of the day the kids said, “Well Dad, its okay and all but I’m just tired of looking at nekkid booties.”

Philistines.IMG_5333

There were naked bodies in marble, clay, and also silver. I had not considered silver. There was a mummy, some frescoes, and gardens. There was also a restaurant, an amphitheater, and a view of the Pacific. It is a place dedicated to beauty in multiple forms.

And the place nails it.IMG_5340

Frida Khalo jokes aside, there were examples of Greek comedy. There were no current corollaries.IMG_5355

History in marble, history in bronze, the present in fountains and grape vines, an afternoon well spent.
IMG_5165And then some more:IMG_5117

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Full Squids in a Food Truck: Kiko’s Place

I used to say that I ranked 4th in my home’s list of decision makers. First was my wife, then the kids, next came Oprah, and finally, me. Oprah is off the air and she has since been replaced by Yelp.  Yelp has been much better to me than Oprah ever was. IMG_1751

A Friend told us about Kiko’s Pace but Yelp made us eat there. Again, Yelp has been very good to me. If you are ever in San Diego, look them up.
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Kiko’s is a food truck; quite the rage these days. I’m less concerned with what the rage is than I am with what the food is, and while I am not above things deemed barbarian, pedestrian, or maybe even grungy, when paying for food I have a true appreciation for ambiance. Roach coaches normally rank low on the ambiance scale so in my opinion greasy trucks have an added responsibility to deliver on the ingestibles. I am also not the first person in any line for sea food so Kiko’s started out with two strikes.

Despite the loaded count they hit a homer.
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Let me just make a note of what is in the hand of the man above, and also what is in the hand of the man in the picture above the picture above; a whole stinking squid. I say stinking as a figurative adjective not a literal one. It wasn’t smelly but it wasn’t from a package, or a freezer, but rather an Igloo cooler full of crushed ice. This then went onto a tortilla, along with every other creature not normally found in an aquarium, got covered with melted cheese, and finally it went into my mouth.

That was the best part.IMG_1762C ouple notes: they don’t do anything wrong. I, the expert, recommend everything on the menu. Also, don’t skip on the soup. There is almost always a line and a wait, because that guy has to kill the squid, but they give a large cup of soup to sop while you wait. It was almost good enough to skip the food.

Don’t do that.

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My Summer in Review: seasons

The seasonal passing of time is hard to measure in perpetual summer. The leaves do not change, snow does not fall, and your wardrobe changes consist of a jacket in the evening. Everything is a perpetual now.IMG_4790

Before you know it time has passed and you’re wheels haven’t turned. You remain where you were. Or so you think. Or so it feels.

But time always passes. The kids get bigger, the knees start to ache, and the sun sets.IMG_4198

Quickly a new school year is starting and the grind you never took a break from is beginning its cycle all over again and you stare at that date as it bears down upon you relentlessly, mercilessly, unyielding. Time does not tire despite its continual aging.IMG_3487I have done my best to follow time’s path but have been unsuccessful in both body and mind. The body I get, the mind makes no sense. A friend and I have talked about the need to always have something to look forward to, a goal, a destination, maybe even a carrot of some sort. Destination gives purpose and fuels drive. It makes a difficult now- easier to endure.IMG_4191I have jogged out to this tree on several occasions. I suffer from inertia and have realized that outside forces like gravity and laziness are hard to counteract. I set my sights on this tree, this destination, to get me to go just a little further, to prevent me from deciding I have gone far enough and aborting my much needed exercise just a little too early. It works.

But jogging to that tree really isn’t much fun. It is really quite the opposite.IMG_0941

I am not that guy who enjoys exercise. Of course I feel better if I do it, but the process is worse than drudgery, it is hard work. So are most valuable things.

Valuable things. Like views of lonely trees, mountain paths, and time.

Jogging to that tree I most often kill the value of the journey. No. Not true.

I don’t kill it but rather I trade one value for another. I sacrifice the view from solitude and joyful journey with accomplishment and the potential of one day seeing my own belt buckle.IMG_4493So in talking with my friend about looking forward, I wonder about the missing of now. Sometimes now is pretty cool and now never comes around again.IMG_4364Now must be harnessed and loved. Now must be carpe’d and capitalized upon. There must be a tenuous balance between the enjoyment of the present wrapped around the driving toward tomorrowIMG_4312Whatever balance I achieve, zen-like or teetering, what I do know is that the new school year starts way too early around here and I need to carpe before I run out of diems.IMG_3228

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That Flag

The confederate battle flag is being removed from the South Carolina capitol grounds. I have never thought, nor do I think now, that everyone who flies that banner hates black people. That being said I want nothing to do with that flag any more than I do a bright red Nazi banner. I have been somewhat disappointed though not surprised, that so many are complaining about this recent confederate flag backlash. “Things have gone too far,” some say. “It’s just a flag. People need to be less easily offended,” I have heard. “It is ridiculous that they want to outlaw this flag.” All of this has made me do some thinking and reflecting.rebel flag at capitol

I like Mummers. I am more than amused by mummery. My little family and I visited the Mummer Museum in South Philadelphia some years back and we were all amused as I tried on various bits of feather and sequin outfits as is part of the mummer experience. Seeing me all bedazzled was amusing to all, including myself. Whilst adorned in glittery wonder I stood and read a plaque describing how the roots of the mummer strut was the cake walk and how the wearing of black face, meant to mock uppity black folk,  was a proud part of mummery till forced by the government to cease the practice in the 60’s. This story, this historical truth, sucked the fun out of my feathered cape. I looked over at my wife and daughter, both with deep brown skin, and felt ashamed at my outfit. I took off my rhinestone crown and my wife, still smiling, said, “Let’s go see the glockenspiels.”rebel house 001

I don’t think mummers are racist. Wearing that outfit did not make me a racist. Yet in that moment, wearing those symbols of mummery and learning the racist roots, I had no desire for my black wife to see me and those symbols intertwined.  The confederate battle flag is coming down from the South Carolina State capitol building. This doesn’t exactly make me happy, but that is mostly because I am sad it was ever there in the first place. So much more so than gaudy mummer clothes, that flag is a symbol of racism.greenwood 007

When I first moved to Greenville South Carolina they did not officially recognize Martin Luther King Day. There was at that time a raucous debate going on among local politicians and the public on whether or not this should be changed. I was not involved nor was I vocal. I had other things on my mind and I knew where I stood on things, I didn’t need a holiday to teach me things, I went on about my business. Part of that business was getting a new driver’s license. I found the local DMV and during regular business hours paid them a visit to get myself legal. They were closed. Across the door was stretched a festive banner that read, “Closed in celebration of Confederate Memorial Day”.greenwood 012

A message was sent to me right then and there that in this state, my new home, that the memory of white rebel soldiers was more important than black people in general. Perhaps I was jumping to conclusions and misreading the situation. Perhaps. But the message was sent. Those in power at that time wanted to pay honor to rebel soldiers in an official and governmentally endorsed manner, but were in open opposition to doing the same for a civil rights leader who believed in non-violence. What else was I supposed to think? With that in mind I would drive around town and local communities and the confederate battle flag was everywhere. On cars, on flag poles in front of people’s homes, and even affixed permanently on trees lining the highway. It flew from the top of the state capitol. That flag, the same one waved by segregationists as they screamed and spit on black kids who were trying to go school, the same one that leads Klan parades, was being officially waved by the government of the state I now lived in. Those segregationists chose that flag when they gathered in opposition to black people. I’m married to a black person. Every day I would drive around and see that flag, then go home and see my wife and children. How was I supposed to feel welcome anywhere?

It shouldn’t matter that my wife is black. A person doesn’t need to have ever met a black person to care. Why would I want to wave a banner that tells black people I am against them? Why would I want my government to wave a flag that tells black people they are not welcome? But many people do want that flag there. Those who do in fact hate black people repeatedly choose that flag to wave. Because of that, I want nothing to do with it.

No. I’m not happy about any of this.

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Museum of Man: they refused to put me behind the glass

They call it the Museum of Man. I haven’t yet decided if that is a grandiose title or overly simplistic. Either would be fitting. The building’s exterior is indeed grandiose, and the interior is surprisingly… not.IMG_4623

I appreciate the learning experience a museum potentially provides young visitors, but as I walked around looking at words written on walls next to plaster casts of this and that, or diagrams of things not actually housed in the museum, I wondered what a museum provides in this regard that can’t just as easily, or easier, be found via Google. I walk quickly past these sorts of things.

I’m looking for artifacts.IMG_4688

The sign on the wall talked of how green is a symbolic color meaning something other than illness or frogginess. I am dubious. I can imagine an ancient artisan spinning some tale of how this color glorifies the deceased, when really he just ran low on brown paint or the deceased owed him money.IMG_4687

I have decided that men in all places, times, and sorts, like to play dress-up but are afraid to admit it. Consequentially we call our costumes “armor” or “ceremonial” and so on. What a tragedy that man will wage war with each other as a means to justify costumes devoid of childish or feminine insinuation. I mean you put a Groucho mustache on your armor. Do not get me wrong, I love it, I just don’t think you should have to stab people with spears and swords in order to wear your “scary” outfit.

Speaking of scary…IMG_4616These stacks of money represent wealth held by the varying “races” of humans. Now race may have no biological reality but that difference in stack size matters. Now while I realize that I, a white guy, contribute very little to that giant stack of white man cash, I also realize that at least 2/3’s of that black stack belongs to Oprah. We average folk of all shades hold very little relative wealth, but I do hold the knowledge that skin color still matters in America.

But then, after all the walking and looking at descriptions of men and manliness, I reflect on not only the most basic and descriptive, but also the most informative and lasting knowledge regarding man- bacon on hot dogs is wonderful.IMG_4604

 

 

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