Category Archives: Events

Going on Hiatus

“There’s nothing like a catastrophe to take our minds off our problems.”
–Peter Devries

Unless things change, I’ll be posting little or nothing for the next couple of months. I’m a victim of The Great Memorial Day Flood of 2017.

As I wrote my brother, David:

“Our rooftop pool reopened about a week ago. Around 4 PM Monday, a pipe connecting to the filtering system apparently became detached, flooding the sub-pool maintenance area and overwhelming the two drainage outlets. Then the water, as water will, flowed downward, through the floor and the walls, flooding the units in the 10- and 11-tiers with more than half to contents of the pool. Since I’m in the 12-tier, I briefly thought I’d lucked out, until water started coming from the ceiling.

“The short version: I may have gotten off relatively easy, in that the only serious visible damage was to the carpeting. Yet to come, though, are the behind-the-walls and under-the-floor inspections, which will require moving and possible off-site storage of furniture and goods. This will not be fun, or cheap. If there are problems requiring demolition or reconstruction, it will be worse. Fingers crossed.

“The Red Cross offered temporary housing, but I spent Monday night on the dry part of the living room floor, while two of those big industrial fans blasted away at the pooled water. The electrician shut down power to everything except the fans, the refrigerator, and the kitchen light. Finally nodded off around 3 AM.”

Four days later, the situation is still, as they say, fluid. I’ll post an update if that changes, and an “All Clear” message when I resume postings.

Until then, I can only promise:

“As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”

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Happy birthday, Queen Victoria!

Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, was born on 24 May 1819, 200 years ago today.

That was “Victoria” by the Kinks, from the album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). Queen Victoria had been dead for 68 years when the Kinks recorded the song in 1969. Another couple of decades, and “Victoria” will be closer in time to the Victorian Age than to our own brave new world. Boats against the current….

“Canada to India
Australia to Cornwall
Singapore to Hong Kong
From the West to the East
From to the rich to the poor
Victoria loved them all.”

If you pay close attention to the lyrics, you might catch hints of the band’s signature working-class rage peeking through all the exaltation, but we’ll ignore that for now. Victoria’s bicentennial gives good Anglophiles everywhere a reason to celebrate, from the West to the East.


Home Again

In lesser news, I’m back from beautifully gloomy Budapest, and ready to resume posting.

I dined well, and you’re gonna hear all about it.

New Tales of the City

“When I first got off the bus years ago, I had the strangest feeling that I’d come home.”
—Laura Linney as Mary Ann Singleton in Tales of the City

Oh, yes, Mary Ann, in this you are not unique. The first time I was in San Francisco, I had exactly the same feeling.*

And now, thanks to Netflix, we’re going home again.

“inspired by the books of Armistead Maupin, the new Netflix Limited Series Tales of the City begins a new chapter in the beloved story. Mary Ann (Laura Linney) returns to present-day San Francisco and is reunited with her daughter Shawna (Ellen Page) and ex-husband Brian (Paul Gross), twenty years after leaving them behind to pursue her career. Fleeing the midlife crisis that her picture-perfect Connecticut life created, Mary Ann is quickly drawn back into the orbit of Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis), her chosen family and a new generation of queer young residents living at 28 Barbary Lane.”

Tales of the City had its start as a three-times-a-week serial in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Author Armistead Maupin mixed real and (mainly) fictional characters to capture the essence of San Francisco in the 1970s.  Maupin succeeded in doing for The City what Tom Wolfe failed to do for New York in Bonfire of the Vanities, probably the most overrated novel of the late 20th century. The column became must-read material, and a cult was born.

The first novelization of the serial was published in 1978, followed by five more volumes published at two-year intervals, with three more books released after a 20-year gap.

In 1993, Channel 4 (UK) turned the first book into a superb miniseries, which was shown on PBS in the US in early 1994. Here’s the trailer:

Good news! That original series is currently streaming on Acorn.

The new series will be released on Netflix on 7  June  2019.


Bonus Track

The great Laura Linney makes an uncredited appearance in this video for the also-great Aimee Mann. Watch closely, and see if you can spot her.


* Granted, I also had exactly the same feeling the first time I was in London, and the first time I was in Paris. Never had it in my own hometown,  though, for some reason….

North Bergen High School’s Alien. The Story Just Keeps Getting Better

Remember the North Bergen (New Jersey) High School production of Alien that went viral last month? After audience members posted a few key scenes from the play to YouTube, it was praised by everyone from Phil Murphy, the Governor of New Jersey, to Ridley Scott, director of the original film, and Sigourney Weaver, who starred as Ripley in the Aliens movies. Scott was so impressed that he donated $5,000 so that the North Bergen kids could stage it again for a limited run. The encore production opened Friday night.

Guess who showed up to surprise the cast and crew, and to introduce the performance.


Redditor Gato1980 posted this video of Friday’s full performance:

Gato1980 also posted the timestamps for key scenes: The Face-hugger scene is at 29:00, the Chest-burster scene is at 48:30, the alien reveal is at 54:08, the alien attack scene is at 1:10:45, and Sigourney outro is at 1:24:50.

The Further Adventures of Florida Man Rabbit

A headline that starts with the words “Florida Man” is almost guaranteed to be followed by a trip down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole to a strange, exotic kingdom where the laws of logic and physics as we know them simply don’t exist. Things get curiouser and curiouser, as Alice herself once said.

So naturally, this happened in Orlando last weekend.

According to Click Orlando, “Apparently, the fight began when a man bumped into a woman and the duo began fighting. The video, posted by Instagram user Workfth, shows the Easter Bunny joining into the fight and throwing rabbit punches and haymakers.”

There were no arrests reported, this being Florida and all.


I’ve posted in the past about the Adventures of Florida Man and the Twitter account dedicated to immortalizing them.

Definitely worth revisiting.

Lunch at Le Café Descartes at the French Embassy

I’ve roosted in Washington, DC, for most of my life now, and I’m still making wonderful new discoveries about the possibilities for living well in the city. Until a few weeks ago, I was unaware that I could apply for entry to Le Café Descartes at the French embassy. All it took was an email request and a selfie. Last Thursday, I got my response:

Bonjour !
Your Frequent Diner Membership badge will be available in Le Café Descartes Coffee Bar, which is located in Building C of the French Embassy.

Building B

Building C, or maybe B

The embassy isn’t a single building, it’s a complex. Le Café Descartes is in Building C, or maybe B,* and serves lunch to embassy staff and visitors. The café consists of a small outdoor dining area, a coffee bar, a lounge, and a big open room that could probably hold a couple hundred people. To be clear, this is not white-tablecloth haute cuisine, it’s an informal, cafeteria-style lunchroom.

But it’s a lunchroom where tomorrow’s mains will be Escalope de Poulet Viennoise and Haddock Beurre Blanc, followed by Filet de Bronzino and Saucisse de Toulouse on Tuesday. We’re a long way from tater tots and cube steak.

Best of all, one of the choices for Friday was Confit de Canard, my long-time favourite French treat, and a perfect selection for my first Le Café Descartes meal. So late Friday morning, I grabbed my passport for identification, put on my red souvenir cap from the Château de Chenonceau, and headed for the embassy.

Duck Confit

Duck Confit

And there it is. Confit de Canard with Brussels sprouts and endive. The duck leg was on the small size, but I was in heaven. (I knew it was heaven because everyone around me was speaking French, and that’s what they do there. That, and eat French food.)

Blueberry Tart

Blueberry Tart

And a blueberry tart for dessert. Perfect.

I have a feeling I’ll be lunching here a lot.


April Lunches at Le Café Descartes


*The email said it was Building C, but the guard at the security gate said it was Building B.

Scenes from the Alice Waters Yard Sale

You Can Get Anything You Want at Alice’s Restaurant


 (Caroline Champlin/KQED)

(Caroline Champlin/KQED)

People started showing up outside Chez Panisse in Berkeley hours before the official 10 AM start of the Great Alice Waters 2019 Yard Sale last Sunday. By the time it began, the line stretched around the block.

Waters herself was on hand to sign books, posters, and old menus.

Photo: Nancy Rubin

Photo: Nancy Rubin

Photo: Nancy Rubin

Photo: Nancy Rubin

The opening of Chez Panisse in 1971 was one of the key events in the history of California Cuisine and the Great American Food Revolution. Almost 50 years later, the restaurant is still going strong.

 (Caroline Champlin/KQED)

(Caroline Champlin/KQED)

 (Caroline Champlin/KQED)

(Caroline Champlin/KQED)