Thank You Debra Messing

Here in Atlanta now, my beautiful wife likes to remind me that we don’t get to the beach enough. Atlanta does not have a real beach, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. Back in the 80’s there was a bar called Buckhead Beach with a sandy outdoor area replete with palm trees and hammocks and volleyball nets. Bikini-clad waitresses walked through the crowds holding trays of colorful drinks.

I was too young to go to Buckhead Beach, but my older brother and his friends would talk about it, and in my imagination I saw a real beach, real palm trees, an ocean even. So my geography was a little lacking back then, but not my imagination.

Back in LA, we were probably 10 miles from the beach, and yet we were not there every day, or even every weekend for that matter. In fact, one of our favorite escapes was kind of the opposite of the beach: It was a Mexican restaurant in the Valley called Casa Vega.

You’d walk in on a bright hot Valley day with your sunglasses still on and be blinded by the darkness: dark wood paneling, dark booths, dark carpet, and really, really low light. Eventually your eyes adjusted, but never completely. Especially after a margarita or two.

It’s a bit pricey these days, but back then you could get a couple margaritas, a burrito, and a celebrity sighting pretty cheap. It was dark enough in there that celebrities seemed to blend in. We’d see Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, when they were still together, and almost mistake them for old friends. Rockers in black leather and spiked hair wandering around like extras from Spinal Tap. Big name directors getting booth readings. Hollywood agents in suits. Hollywood wives discussing their latest treatments. And wannabes counting change for a beer at the bar next to neighborhood regulars who’d been coming there for years. It was a real motley crew.

My wife used to get (and still does) that she looks “just like that woman from Will and Grace… What’s her name… You know?” And we’d smile and nod when they’d say “I bet you get that all the time?” If we had a dollar for every time that happened in LA we’d be rich. But the only concrete thing we ever got out of it was a good seat at Casa Vega one busy night.

The place was packed. Probably an hour and a half wait for a table. I guess word had gotten out that the food and drink was affordable and the customers interesting, to put it mildly. We had a group of 6 people from out of town. No reservation. Alex and I approached the hostess and were about to put our name in for a table, when one of the waiters popped out of nowhere, all smiles and compliments. “Good to see you again!” He said to Alex. “How have you been?” “Good…” Alex answered. The waiter shakes my hand and says hello like he knows me too. “We have a table for you and your guests right back here, if you’ll just follow me,” the man says to Alex. On our way through the crowded restaurant Alex looks at me with her bright eyes, red hair and high-cheekbones and just shrugs.

We got the best table and the best service that night. Our out of town guests thought we were celebrities. And so did the waiter apparently.

Thank you Debra Messing.

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40-Love

It started to snow as the pastor said his last words. One element turning into another. Fresh pink and white flowers on mahogany, the only show of color. These too would eventually transform.

The service brought family and friends together. People sharing stories and anecdotes. As is sadly the case, often revealing more about a person when they’re gone.

I knew her as my sweet aunt Colleen who sent me sweaters from Marshall Field’s and sometimes cold hard cash in an envelope for Christmas and birthdays. I took the Marshall Field’s gifts for granted, thinking they came from just another department store, but I came to find out that going to the downtown Chicago Marshall Field’s was a big event. 

My cousin, sitting next to me at lunch after the burial, told me Colleen had taken her there for her first pair of heels. Colleen had taken her daughter there for fancy dresses and her son for fine suits. And they’d always get the Marshall Field’s Special: an iceberg wedge on top of a turkey and rye open-faced sandwich with bacon and hard-boiled eggs. A sandwich disguised as a salad, or vice-versa depending on how you wanted to look at it. 

The salad/ sandwich can’t be had there anymore though since Marshall Field’s morphed into Macys. 

My aunt always greeted us with a twinkle in her eye and often with a different color hairdo than the previous visit. She was stylish. My dad, her younger brother, told me as we looked at old photos on a video screen that she never had any trouble meeting boys. 

I also learned from the service that she taught her kids to do whatever they did with grace and love, not just to win or to make money. And to be kind to others. These kids do just that.

The one thing I was most surprised to find out though was that she played tennis…. Competitively!

At the lunch that day there were toasts and laughter. And on the menu, by pure coincidence, was the same salad/sandwich by another name as the one Colleen used to love to get at Marshall Field’s. I had my eye on the salmon, but when I was told about the Marshall Field’s Special connection with my aunt, I said “give me one of those in her honor!” 

And you know what? It was better than any salmon.

I don’t know why we have to wait to learn so much about people when they’re gone. It seems to be one of the few times we gather to remember. Maybe we should all have a living funeral, and not when we’re old… how about every quarter of our lives: 25, 50 and 75?

I mean, I could have been eating salad/sandwiches and playing tennis with my aunt all that time and I never even knew!

The Magic Jacket

The first time I wore the jacket was for a dinner party with a Moroccan theme. I was told the jacket was Batik… I didn’t know if that had anything to do with Morocco, but it sounded exotic, and the jacket sure looked exotic, so I went with it. 

The jacket was a hand-me-down from my wife’s uncle Jim in D.C. It was one of a whole rack of suits and sportscoats that no longer fit him and had been taking up space in their basement for quite some time. In fact, his wife was just about to take them to Goodwill when we happened to visit. It was my first time meeting them, and I couldn’t help but notice Alex’s aunt eying me up and down. “You cut a figure exactly like my Jim used to,” she said as Jim, sitting right next to her on the couch, held his belly and chortled.

We went to the basement and sure enough everything fit me like a glove. “Doesn’t your son want any of these?” I asked Alex’s aunt. “He’s too tall,” she said, “I’ve been putting off getting rid of them in hopes that someone would come in here and fit them and I could tell you were the one the moment I laid eyes on you. There are some real special pieces in here,” she said as she ran her finger across the fabrics.

There were so many, I actually had to choose what I thought I’d wear and leave some for Goodwill. The jacket almost didn’t make the cut. I thought it was too wild, or crazy or different… But it was Jim’s favorite we were told, and Alex and her aunt wouldn’t let me not take it.

So, back to the Moroccan dinner party. A guy I’d known for years, and had seen all my clothes from dressy to messy—a guy who had hardly ever even uttered “nice shirt” when I broke one out—wanted to try on the jacket he liked it so much. After wearing it around the room for a minute he offered to buy it from me on the spot! I kept it, but I really didn’t have the occasion to wear it too often after that– maybe one Thanksgiving dinner it made an appearance.

Fast forward a few years to my annual company meeting. It’s in Boston every January and they fly everyone in. Besides the business meetings, they arrange a nice dinner, like a late Christmas party. 

Well, I’d had a really good year and was feeling pretty confident, so I packed the Batik jacket for the big dinner party. For pre-dinner drinks we walked into a microbrewery and grabbed some beers. Between walking in, ordering, and imbibing, I must have talked to five complete strangers about the jacket.

Entering the restaurant for the dinner party, I was given a “love your jacket” by the attractive young hostess, and a “yo, nice jacket” by the tough-guy-demeanored barkeep. But the most attention I got was from my boss and his father who was visiting from England. Something about the jacket made this old English gentleman melancholic. He even regaled me with stories about himself as a dashing young man in England.

After dinner, we went back to the microbrewery. The guy at the door taking ID’s smiled at us like we were regulars and waved us in. “You remembered us?!” “Who could forget that jacket?”

The jacket made an appearance at the next two company work parties, but this year I thought about maybe leaving the jacket at home. I told my wife it’s almost too much at times, it takes over a conversation, a room even….

Then I was having a casual meal with a work colleague and we started talking about the upcoming January meetings. “You’re bringing the jacket, aren’t you” he said, more than asked.

I’ve always had favorite shirts, suits that fit better than others, shoes that were not only comfortable but cool, but this jacket is a different entity. It’s magic.

I’ve decided it should be passed on to another generation one day. My wife’s uncle’s boy may not have fit the jacket, but maybe one of their kids will. Or maybe I’ll find my own worthy keeper-of-the-jacket one day to pass it down to. Until then, I’ll have to honor the garment and take care of it… and wear it a little more often.

Q & almost A

A publisher friend of mine with a new magazine about Hollywood in Georgia asked me, last minute, to interview a famous producer/musician for him. This was a Friday afternoon and the interview was supposed to take place the next day. 

I got on a group text with my friend and the guy’s manager and we arranged a time and place; 11am-music venue. I suddenly realized I really didn’t know much about this person so I started to do some homework. I spent the rest of my Friday evening studying this guy and coming up with fun and informative questions.  

I learned that he’d worked with Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown, among many others, and he just got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “Wow,” I thought, “this guy is busy.”

Turns out he was so busy he never made the interview. In fact I put everything on hold that Saturday waiting for an updated time and place from his manager. 

Here are just a few of my questions. I can only imagine the answers:

Q: Who are you next to on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? 

IA: In between late and never.

Q: Some of your newer compositions have a filmic quality. What movies do you draw inspiration from? 

IA: The Longest Day. Catch Me if You Can. O Brother Where Art Thou.

Q: If you could have dinner or drinks with anyone living or dead, who would that be? 

IA: Oprah. But my schedule’s pretty busy so best talk to my manager.

Q: What do you want people to get from your music? 

IA: I want them to get out of their heads and into a world where there are no deadlines or schedules or clocks.

Q: Chick-fil-A or Popeyes? 

IA: You got a Popeyes chicken sandwich?! Damn, I don’t carry money, but I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a Popeyes chicken sandwich today!

Boo Jason Wu and Target Too

It was kind of early for a Saturday morning but I could tell my wife had somewhere she wanted to go. She gives off a certain energy- even our cats can feel it.

“Are we going somewhere?” I yawned as she got out of the shower. “Target has some of that Jason Wu stuff again.” “Didn’t we waste our time trying to get some of that stuff last time it came out?” “Yes, but that was days after. This stuff is going out this morning.” “Okay,” I said “so I’ll take a shower while you dry your hair.” “I’m not drying my hair,” she replied. 

This was serious. I put on some deodorant over yesterday’s and grabbed a T-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap to cover my bed-head. “I’m ready,” I announced to no one as she was already waiting in the car.

We get to Target and beeline straight for the “designer” section. It’s not hard to find: it’s buzzing with activity and there are young ladies who I’ve never seen working at our local Target manning a welcome booth with free tiny plastic cups of bubbly water, and fruit strips for some odd reason. There are more fruit strips than the designer stuff they’d been advertising on TV for the last couple of days.

Now I’m not a great shopper, but if you give me a sniff of what you’re looking for I’m like a hound dog on the case. “Here it is,” I proclaimed when I found a scarf with a cat on it. “This is Jason Wu, right?” “It is,” replied Alex, “but I’m looking for the bags.” 

I tracked down one of the young designer ladies and asked her about the bags. “Oh, we’re already out of those,” she said, like I was some Neanderthal and didn’t know how this bait-and-switch worked. “There was a line out the door this morning. We only had four of those bags and they were gone within minutes. Would you like me to check online or at another store?” she said with a smile.

“Wait a minute, you only had four bags?” I said, drawing out the “four” for frustrating emphasis . Her smile dimmed a bit, but seconds later she thought she had one online and was about to take my credit card when she said “oh no, now there are none left online…. But it looks like they might have a couple still in Sandy Springs. Would you like me to call them for you?” “Sure, can they hold one then?” “Oh, no, they can’t hold one.” “So, I’m going to drive 30 minutes and just hope there’s a bag?” She just shrugged, feigning a slight smile.

I didn’t know about my wife, but I’d had it. I approached the welcome booth and grabbed two each of the various fruit strips, grumbling under my breath how I was going to make this useless trip to Target worth my while. The young designer ladies in red probably thought I was a real Neanderthal at that point.

When we got back to the car, I proudly showed off my largess of fruit strips. My wife must of been just as perturbed: she handed me an entire can of bubbly water- she’d grabbed two of them right out from under the noses of those designer gals- wet head and all!

The Amish Aren’t the Answer to Everything – Or Are They?

Last year we arrived at Alex’s family cottage on Lake Ontario to a mess. Squatters had taken residence over the winter and didn’t even clean up after themselves. In all fairness our brooms were a bit large for these fuzzy creatures.

Winters can be brutal here, especially ten feet from the frozen lake, so I didn’t blame the mice for coming in, but I certainly wasn’t going to make it easy for them to return. I went to work looking for any and all tiny access points. I was crawling around like, well, a mouse when Alex (being the realist that she is sometimes) pointed to the giant hole that is the fireplace. “That’s probably where they’re coming in,” she said.

The cottage had been redone, but they kept the old two-sided stone fireplace as a cool focal point. Cool, but possibly not air-tight. Okay, I thought, now how do I go about sealing that bighole? This was a not-frequently-occupied vacation home, only used in summer, so tools were sparse but I did happen to have my Leatherman. “I can fix it,” I declared with all the confidence of Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High just after they wrecked Jefferson’s Camaro.

I bought some wood from the local hardware store and went to work. Two days and two trips back for fresh wood later , I was still cursing the fact that I couldn’t get the thing to line up with the old uneven rock fireplace for a tight seal.

Meanwhile, every day we’d hear the sound of horses hoofs and a carriage running along the road in front of the cottage. This was the Amish who were building a beautiful wood deck a few houses up. Alex had heard that the Amish had produce stands around the area and she wanted to try to find them, but I was too busy not getting my project done to want to go on a wild goose-chase for fresh green beans. 

Then Alex told me I might want to ask the Amish to help fill the fireplace hole. I was frustrated, but I knew I could do this simple job, so I blurted out “the Amish aren’t the answer to everything Alex!”

Well, I finally finished sealing the hole, and we happened upon an Amish produce barn. We took home tomatoes, corn and beans that smelled so fresh you could almost taste them through your nostrils. We had a feast around the newly sealed fireplace hole (that admittedly the Amish could have done better than I) and we toasted them and our little furry mouse friends who would hopefully have to find a new home to shelter in next winter.

Riding Meteors with Monet

Entering the cottage feels like walking onto a boat. The lake rises from a bank of windows as you look out at the churning water on the other side of the glass. It’s a bit disorienting to see nothing but water and horizon from inside this land-dwelling structure.

They say a meteor about a mile wide is buried below Lake Ontario at the Canadian border not far from Chaumont Bay, New York. Some people think it creates its own weather pattern and is the reason for unexplained shipwrecks and other sorts of mysticism. I’m not sure about all that, but I will say that this place can be otherworldly. 

My wife’s family cottage on Point Salubrious is one of the few west-facing here that is basically at water-level and only about 10 feet from the bay. Next door, there’s a stone chimney half-submerged like an ancient ruin marking where another such place existed.

 There’s water now on three sides. We are surrounded by sand bags, the only thing– along with a new seawall built just last year– that keeps the water from coming in after big storms. You wonder why anyone would try to keep this place afloat.

But then, the sun sets on any given night and you know why.

We’ve seen sunsets from Paris to Positano, from Montecito to Montana, but these here are, well… otherworldly. They can start innocuously enough but always seem to end up like a French impressionist’s painting. It’s like Monet, Manet, Van Gogh and Gauguin- paintbrushes in hand- are all riding their own meteors up in this sky.

A Cold Blast on a Hot Summer Day

It was probably 100 degrees according to the blacktop index- that’s the actual temperature plus 5 to 10 degrees, depending on how heat-absorbent the pavement you’re parking on is.

We got out of the car and put on winter coats, hats and gloves and asked our visiting French god-daughter Ines if she could guess what we were going to do on that hot summer day. “Ice skating?!” she answered with glee. I felt a little bad about the fact that we were not going ice skating, but my wife assured me this would be an experience Ines would be talking about back in France one day.

I grabbed an industrial steel flat cart as we approached the warehouse-looking structure. Once inside, we scanned our card, took a left and stepped into the biggest walk-in refrigerator this side of the Big Chicken. Ines’ eyes widened as she took in wheels of cheese bigger than her head. 

“Holy moly,” she said with her French accent, mimicking something that we must have uttered too many times in front of her when she was learning English. At least she didn’t say “Jesus Christ” which was another idiom she picked up probably in the back of the car while I dealt with Atlanta road rage.

We walked the aisles of Restaurant Depot’s walk-in refrigerator like we were taking a stroll on a winter day… in the middle of summer. Employees in winter-onesies nodded as we passed. 

Besides the cheeses, they had more meat than a carnivore could care to imagine (the whole goat definitely pushed the limits of our comfort-level), there was floor-to-ceiling fresh produce, and even live fish in the back… and that was just the cold section. There was a whole nother side of the place dedicated to dried, canned, boxed, bottled and bagged restaurant supplies. This was where Atlanta’s restaurants, food trucks and caterers could get anything needed to run a food business.

Still in the cold side, we saw some people shivering as they shopped in their summer t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. The place had loaner jackets, but they were as crusty looking as the crustaceans they sold. Now Ines understood why we had her dressed like Nanook of the north. 

That night, I admitted to my wife that it was a memorable excursion, but the next surprise would have to be ice skating. Always one for a theme, Alex wondered where we could get a Kristi Yamaguchi outfit for Ines.

A Kid and His Convertible ~ Part 5 of My Generation

The yellows and oranges of fall were just starting to color the October Atlanta foliage. This was usually a time for high schoolers to sneak Schnapps into football stadiums, but for me it was time to work. I had to pay my dad back for the Alfa Romeo, and put a few bucks aside in case my mom actually gave in to me seeing The Who.

I’d landed a job parking cars at a local restaurant. It was as upscale as its poetically pretentious name: The Lark and the Dove. It sat cradled in a hill above the freeway, so when you walked in you had to go down a set of stairs into the dining room. It almost gave the effect of being announced at a royal event: Doo, da, da, loo! The Jones’ of Sandy Springs. Only there was no horn, just some light and easy jazz, and there was no official announcer, just one of the revolving door of beautiful hostesses leading the Jones’ to their table.

Not that I spent any time in the dining room. I was lucky to get a cup of the soup du jour, but on this crisp evening one of the sous chefs brought out just that.

“For you amigo.” he said as he handed me a thick and creamy broccoli concoction with steam still coming off the top. I stupidly tried some without letting it cool and immediately spit it back into the bowl so it wouldn’t burn my throat like it just did my tongue.

“No good?” he asked.

“Too hot.”

“Pinche gente! I tell them turn down fire, but they don’ listen to sous chef. In Mexico, I chef, they listen.”

Miguel arrived in the spring from Mexico and got a job at The Lark through his cousin, who did cleanup for the restaurant. His brothers had already moved out to Atlanta when they heard about all the construction work in the booming metropolis. But Miguel wasn’t like his brothers who could carry fifty-pound bags of cement, or bang nails, or work on their knees laying floors all day. No, Miquel was more of an artist, and his medium was food. Unfortunately, he had to pay his dues by making piping hot broccoli soup instead of spicy hot tortilla soup.

“What does pinche gente mean anyway?”

“Fucking people.”

“Like people fucking?”

“No, like when you…” He held up a fist like he was pissed off at someone.

“Oh, I get it. Like when a guy driving a nice new car hands me some spare change for a tip. Pinche gente!”

“Si!” exclaimed Miguel even if he didn’t understand every word of what I had just said. He headed for the back entrance where all the kitchen crew came in and out. “Adios muchacho.”

I ate some more soup now that it had cooled, and got my tickets and key board in order for the night. The job was easy as long as you were organized. Knowing your cars was helpful too.

I heard the deep rev of the engine before I saw it: a newer model Mustang, cleaned all the way down to its shiny tires. Good for a two-spot at the very least, I thought to myself as I eyed the young-looking driver.

I worked for tips. No hourly wage. I’d usually get a dollar per car, sometimes a five or even twenty on the rare occasion. I’d gotten pretty good at figuring out how much of a tip I’d get on instinct as soon as the car pulled in: Buick with the seat pulled up so the old lady driving could kiss the steering wheel?… Change from a coin-purse if you were lucky; Big Cadillac with white leather seats?… Peacock who might give you a five or a ten; Red Ferrari?… Not what you’d think. Two or three bucks tops. These guys didn’t get their Ferraris by throwing around cash.

Parking cars gets you right into people’s personal space. Especially their smells. You could tell if someone was trying to get laid, or why they weren’t getting laid the minute you jumped into their car. A lingering smell of perfume and a sexy Sade CD queued up and you knew someone was trying to get laid. Fast-food wrappers and stale cigarette smoke and you could just feel the frustration. Some people never cleaned out their ashtrays. Others never cleaned period. Some tried to cover up smells with worse smells. Then there were the brand new cars that smelled of leather and whatever magical concoction created what can only be described as new car smell.

I opened the Mustang’s passenger door to a waft of a tropical island and the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. She smiled demurely at me as she got out and pushed back her slightly damp hair, revealing ocean-green eyes. I stood there dumbfounded with her door still open.

“Shut the door!” the driver growled from his seat. And as soon as I did, he took off.

Pinche gente, I thought, as I hurriedly went to grab the front door of the restaurant for the beauty with the beast. She kind of giggled as I made a grand gesture and said, “welcome to the Lark and the Dove.” Only later did I find out that she was one of the new hostesses and her name was Mia.

I was mid-shift running for cars, when Dave pulled up in his orange Camaro blowing smoke out of the tailpipe. He looked like he had just gotten done working; he was sweating even in this cold weather.

“Yo, dude, I’m not feeling too good. Where’s the bathroom in there?”

“Entry level, all the way to the back.”

He threw me his keys and ran inside. I got into his Camaro and took in what could only be described as gym locker mixed with sick hospital bed smell.

About ten minutes later, Dave came out looking slightly less sweaty than when he went in.

“Don’t go near the bathroom dude.”

“What happened?”

“I went past the hot hostess and paused for a minute to chat her up. By the time I made it to the bathroom, it was coming out of both ends. I had to leave my underwear in there.”

I handed him back his keys and said “If anyone asks, we don’t know each other.”

“Too late, I told the hot hostess I was your best friend.”

Later that evening I was waiting for my last car to leave. I was hoping to get out of there before Dave’s bathroom incident came back to bite me, so I walked into the restaurant to check on the stragglers. They were at a table with a bottle of wine between them, still half full. The waitress for that station was so frustrated, she was about to yell fire to get them the hell out of there. I had the option to give them their keys and tell them I was closing up and hope for a tip, but I eyed Mia and decided I might stay for a minute.

She was reading a book, unfazed by the frustration all around her. I noticed the title of the book had “motorcycle maintenance” in it. Who was this girl?I thought as I approached her hostess stand.

“You fix motorcycles?” I asked stupidly.

She laughed a laugh that was deep and almost musical. She thought I was being funny. She put the book down and I saw the whole title: “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”

“Just trying to fix myself I guess.”

Like there could be anything wrong with you,I thought, but just said “oh?”

She took that as an opening. “And I think I might need to work on my boyfriend as well. He was supposed to be here an hour ago to pick me up…”

“I’m leaving now if you need a ride?” I said as I almost threw the stragglers their keys.

“That would be nice.”

“I’ll grab my car and meet you up front.”

I pulled up in my Alfa and saw her standing there adjusting her scarf blowing in the wind like a scene from a Doisneau portrait. She got in, and that’s when I saw the headlights behind me. I recognized the roar of the engine, only this time it sounded like it was roaring at me: The boyfriend had arrived.

He got out and approached my car door before I could blink. His tenor matched the roar of his engine. He was a big guy, but only looked bigger from the low seat of my Alfa Romeo. I held up a finger and said “let me get out and we can talk about this” but as I opened the door and started to stand, he punched down on me. I slunk back down in my seat.

A song drifted through the darkness of my concussed mind: “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.” I wasn’t sure how long I was out, but when I came to, Mia was still in the passenger seat next to me holding a towel to my bloody lip. No boyfriend in sight.

“I am so sorry,” she said, “he has some anger issues.”

“Maybe you should give him that maintenance book.”

She smiled at my joke, which was just what I needed at that moment. “There’s just one thing we have to do before you take me home,” she cooed.

“What’s that?”

“Well, this is a convertible right?”

“It is.”

“Then why is the top not down?!”

“Well, it’s kinda’ cold out.”

“Doesn’t this thing have heat?”

“It does.”

“So, crank it!.”

And that’s just what we did.

After dropping Mia off at her mom’s place, I cut through the curvy roads back to mine and smiled thinking about her smile. I put my hand out in the crisp night air and let it float with the stream, the closest to flying I could get.

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The Land of Incongruity

We were looking at houses in California again. My job had an opportunity for me out there and we thought it might be nice to get back to the land of sand, sun and fun.

We looked online at places up and down the coast from San Diego to Bodega Bay, even back to LA. We spent 15 years in Los Angeles before moving to Atlanta, but didn’t really want to rewind our lives, so we focused more on places like Santa Barbara.

We got married in Santa Barbara and always talked about moving there someday… Well, that day is not today. You’d think with all the natural disasters California has had in the last couple of years that prices would be coming down, but they are not.

Alex and I both moved to LA at the same time without knowing each other. This was just after the Northridge earthquake and some riots back in 1994. It was a buyer’s market.

The housing bust of 2009 brought some coastal California prices back down to not quite Earth, but maybe the stratosphere. Since then, they’re back up in the stratosphere.

When we lived in LA the highest priced homes for the super-rich were probably 10 to 30 million, today there’s a home for sale in LA that was originally listed for 250 million, now discounted to a bargain-basement price of only 150 million. The taxes alone could feed a small village… or a big one!

We aren’t among the cake eaters, so were looking at more modest homes in the million dollar range. Did I just write that, because looking back on that sentence the words modest and million dollar seem incongruous? But that’s where we all are right now in today’s USA; the land of incongruity.

Well, we ended up staying put in Atlanta. We do buy a few more lottery tickets these days, since that’s what it would take for us to get back to Cali in any better form than when we left. Of course those lottery tickets have gone up to $2 a pop… and so the incongruous Ferris wheel turns.

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