Big Sur: mancation IV

It is easy to find- hit the west coast somewhere around Los Angeles, then go north. Sand and palm trees will eventually turn into cliffs covered in succulents. That is Big Sur.img_1495There aren’t many people there, at least not by California standards. There are camp grounds, small resorts, and the coast. Mostly, almost completely, there is the coast.

That is why people go there.


I went there because I had never been and I needed to go somewhere.

It is the right kind of place for that. It is unincorporated, protected, and gorgeous.I am happily none of those things. Mostly I am hungry and just a touch bored.

Big Sur is also the right kind of place for that.


More specifically, the Maiden Publick House, a pub right behind the River Inn is the kind of place where you can go pretend like you are in Brooklyn in 2008… which is pretending to be Appalachia in 1920. But just like believing and clapping makes Tinker Bell real, being a talented musician who is giving it your all, makes this music great.

I snickered a little when the bearded man wearing Carhart overalls finished his drink at the bar and joined the band. It was like someone had watched too many Lumineers videos, or maybe the Avett Brothers-but they were good. I liked it. A lot. img_1459

I am sure there is some sort of line that when crossed, things like authenticity or performance become the same, but I don’t know where that is so I just try to enjoy stuff. img_1477

Stuff like elephant seals.

These giant things without legs flop around and make an incredibly loud noise when they tip their head back letting this big trunk like nose drop down inside their throat. img_1409

Something Interesting to Drink: no alcohol

It is no secret that I do not drink alcohol. Never have. This personal life choice, which shouldn’t be such a big deal, has a surprising impact on my life. No, it hasn’t help me avoid a series of bad choices as I make those quite well while sober, but other things like making me the rugby team’s all time designated driver, countless corporate happy hours where you answer the same silly questions over and over and over (because drunk people think this is interesting and charming) but the biggest effect this teetotaling has had on me, is limiting my options regarding interesting beverages.appleclosegraff

For a period of time some friends and I took matters into our own hands, and we got quite good at it if I may say so, but it was not sustainable. I need other options.

For Christmas I want something interesting to drink.


Before I dive into a list, let me point out a site for soda reviews that is unparalleled in breadth and quality: Five star soda. They are good. You can trust them.

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Now the list:

Blenheim Ginger ale is always number one for me. It is a bit too hard to find but its burn your face off spiciness is worth the effort. Solid number two is Absinthe soda (made by Saiteaux). Tastes like liquid black licorice and I LOVE it. Then as you move down the soda spectrum just keep in mind super sweet is not my thing, but spicy or tart usually works. Blood orange, lime, clove, birch, anise, lemon, ginger, raspberry, etc. etc. If in LA, go to Galco’s.

Drinking chocolate, dark and spicy. You know, Mexican style with chili and cinnamon. The darker, spicier, and thicker the better.greatfruitmate

I love yerba mate. I drink it mostly unsweetened, preferably through a bombilla from a gourd and in a group, but solo from my matermo is just fine. I like the taste but even more I like the equipment and the process. My default setting with most foods or beverages is to go too fast. Mate makes me slow down a bit. This is a good thing.

Don’t go to Whole Foods or some place similar and pay $25 for a 2lb bag. Find a latin market and buy a 5lb bag of Rosamante, CBSe, or Taragui for $10. Or, pretty much any mate anything from

Just steer clear of a six pack of Diet Coke.


Are Words Necessary?

Why do I love food so much? I’m addicted.

My House
My House

Dog Haus
Dog Haus, Pasadena

Cheese Cave, Claremont
Cheese Cave, Claremont

"Lette, Pasadena
“Lette, Pasadena

Slaters 50/50, Rancho Cucamonga
Slaters 50/50, Rancho Cucamonga

Seoul Sausage Company, LA
Seoul Sausage Company, LA

The Dip, Rancho Cucamonga
The Dip, Rancho Cucamonga

Tijuana Taco, Pomona
Tijuana Taco, Pomona

lunch at my desk
lunch at my desk

Philly's Best, Rancho Cucamonga
Philly’s Best, Rancho Cucamonga

Some Crust, Claremont
Some Crust, Claremont

Cowgirl Creamery, San Fran
Cowgirl Creamery, San Fran



Califriday… in November

Head down, knees bent.
Keep your head down and swing all the way through.
Uhhh, yeah… you didn’t keep your head down.

I do not own a set of clubs and my game reflects it.
I am OK with this, which means that most real golfers are not OK if forced to golf with me. This group was extra forgiving. It is hard not to be forgiving when it is 79 degrees in November.


The tournament was a scramble. Everyone tees off, then you all play from where the best drive lands.

Mine was rarely the drive we played, no matter what tool we used to hit the ball.
But golf is rarely about hitting that little ball.
It is more about spending time outside with people you like.
Or would like to like.
Or are getting to like.

Its called business.
That would make this work.

I like to work.

So I wonder what the weather is like in Philly?

the Sagamore on Lake George

I hear the train goes there from the city, but not my city. I had to fly on a little two propeller plane into Albany then drive another hour north. Spring doesn’t hit upstate NY till sometime after it is summer everywhere else, so as I drove through woods and resort towns all I saw was boarded up windows and stacks of canoes with tarps pulled snugly over. Then after crossing a small bridge, winding along a manicured little path, I was at the Sagamore.up front

The hotel opened in 1883 as a place where robber baron types could vacation in each other’s company. I’m no robber baron but after three days at the Sagamore I considered becoming one.back porch cushions

Mine were not the fanciest of furnishings but the staff treated me as if I was in fact somebody. They were a little like those crazy people who work at Trader Joe’s. They work at a grocery store yet appear to like their jobs, which in turn makes me like to shop there. I liked staying at the Sagamore, even if it did snow in April.fireplace

I was there with an organization that puts potential science students in contact with science schools. I represent a science school. This means I eat at fancy dinners with youngsters and while looking down my nose say “So, young chap, what do yoooooou want to do with your liiiife?” To which the say “IDK maybe like, research and stuff? What-evs.”

set tableAt one point I found myself at a black tie ball listening to a live band, sitting at a table with five students, all of which were looking at their phones, one wearing headphones.

red carpetYet this was not cause to begin a rant on the loss of hope for tomorrow but rather a lesson to the adult in the room to relax a little. These aren’t bums from the street, crooks and hoods from the corner, but straight A students. These were kids who know a thing or two about working in a lab and smart stuff like neuroscience and microbiology. But they are still kids.

Its OK to be a kid.lobby

The Sagamore sits right on Lake George. Back in 1920 they hosted boat races and according to the old photos lining the walls, all sorts of festive occasions to which one would wear a skimmer hat and knickerbocker pants.

I wore neither of those things but simply sat in the Adirondack chairs and asked the staff to keep me well supplied with pitchers of hot water so I could sip mate while doing important work. Like blogging.adirondack mate

Arbol Cafe

Another reason to love Philly.

Go south down 2nd street, past the Man of La Mancha statue on Girard, past the new piazza and walking dining/district, not all the way to where they start calling it “two street”, but right across the intersection from The Standard Tap.  There, on the northeast corner, is a reason to learn to parallel park; the Arbol Café.


I have never been to Paraguay but this place makes me want to go.  Then again, thanks to this place, I don’t really have to go anywhere; except 2nd street.  This town is crawling with cafes and coffee shops, but thanks to the husband and wife team of Beth Molines and Oscar Acuna, the Arbol Café stands apart.

The inside is a bit small, I think that’s called cozy, and the kitchen isn’t big.  I suppose it only really needs to be big enough for Oscar to go back and work his magic.  O yes, he is magic.  His “Sandwich De Lomito” which they describe as simple, stacks steak, turkey, ham, egg, lettuce, tomato, cheese, with a bit of mayo.  I think those are five of my six favorite food groups. {meat, meat, meat, meat, meat, and cheese}


The outside patio is a great spot to take in Northern Liberties on a weekend evening especially in the summer months when they host live music.  I’m perfectly happy when the patio hosts a Baked Empanada Paraguaya; beef, hard boiled egg, and cranberry are touched off with some sauce that someone from Paraguay could explain.  My mouth didn’t need an explanation.

Now all of these things are fine and reason enough for a visit.  That’s not why I’m writing.  All that stuff makes them just as good as everyone else, but Arbol is home to celestial herbal refreshment.  Arbol café is all about Yerba Mate.

A rough day made "all better"

If you have never tried it, Oscar or Beth will teach you.  If you already love it, they will celebrate along with you.  And most importantly if you are out of Paraguayan mate at the home front; they have a selection of the finest yerba available.

I don’t speak Spanish but I speak fluent mate.  Trust me when I say the Arbol Café is muy exellente mate!

Arbol Cafe

209 Poplar St. Philadelphia, PA 19123.   215-923-3150