Fine Dinning

Green Water Blue Sky

So every year, Lisa and I and whoever else we can drag along go to the Irish Fair in Pomona. They hold it at the L.A. County Fairgrounds which they make a bit more festive by adding Irish banners to the flag poles and green dye to the fountains. Half a dozen little stages are scattered around outside the huge concrete commercial buildings. Little food stands line the main thoroughfare hawking hamburgers, hot dogs, bangers and mash.

But we never eat at those places.

Not that they’re bad. It’s just that after you’ve spend $12 for fish and chips and another four bucks for a drink, you’re left standing in the sun with a plate in one hand and a soda cup in the other with no place to sit and no way to eat your meal.

Enter the buffet. Where, for twenty dollars, you get not only a seat, but bangers, mash, salad, corned beef, shepherd’s pie, peas, potato salad, corned beef, cabbage, dessert and a drink. All you can eat, in the shady cavernous interior of one of the commercial buildings.

Perfect for a warm day, especially if you’ve left your third arm at home.

I checked the website the night before to make sure that the buffet was happening this year. And there it was. “Fine Dinning,” it said. Ha ha.

Except that it wasn’t a typo.

Because this year, right next to the tables with their little white tablecloths, was a stage.

With a Celtic rock band playing on it.

Loudly.

With every decibel reverberating through the big concrete jet hangar-sized building around us.

We ate there anyway because we were starving and the food was good. But next year I’m bringing my earplugs.

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Taking the Characters for Chili Dogs

 

Sometimes you write the story; sometimes the story writes you. I generally have more luck when the story does the telling. When I jump in, it usually ends up like it does when I jump into someone’s conversation at a party and suddenly realize that they were talking about real saints and not the New Orleans football team.

Anyway, the current story takes place in Hollywood. Mostly. Important bits of it do anyway. And when I think of Hollywood, I think of faded glamour and hot dog stands, not movie stars and Kim Kardashian.

Which means that I would be a lot less disappointed on a sightseeing tour of the Sunset Strip.

But I digress.

The story needed a location in Hollywood and I immediately thought of Carney’s. Carney’s is a hot dog stand in an old train car, well, actually, two old train cars, that has been selling chili dogs on the Sunset Strip for almost forty years. Back in my Hollywood days, we used to pass by it many times a night as we cruised aimlessly down Sunset, but I’d never actually been inside. Still, there are photos on the Internet, so I figured I could wing it.

I figured wrong.

Because me randomly picking a place I don’t really know is not the same as a character grabbing hold of a location himself. The characters know what they are going to do before I do. I’m not sure how that happens, but if I get out of the way and let them, the story comes out much better.

So here I am with a scene that could best be described as useful. It moves the action from here to there, but it is about as energetic as a dead possum. This left me with two options. Go to Carney’s or just make stuff up. I chose Option A.

Because Option B does not involve chili dogs.

Elaine took pity on me with my broken down car and my broken down foot and agreed to drive me up to Carney’s for some lunch. She was a little concerned about the traffic. She needn’t have worried.

Turns out there is nothing more deserted than the Sunset Strip on a Sunday morning.

We pulled into the driveway beside Carney’s. No one at the picnic tables. No one at the windows of the train car. Only one car in the parking lot.

“Are you sure it’s open?”

“Well, if it isn’t, we’ll go to Canter’s.”

Which wouldn’t help the story at all, but they have a Reuben to die for.

So we park and get out. I’m at least going to take a few photos of the outside of the place. As I’m framing my first shot, another car drives in. A friendly couple from Texas gets out and they immediately volunteer to take a photo of Elaine and I with the train car if we will take a photo of them with the train car.

Which leaves me in the embarrassing position of having to explain that I don’t really want any photos of anyone in front of the train car, just photos of the train car, all by its lonesome.

For a story.

About vampires.

On the Sunset Strip.

Damn it.

I may not have mentioned the vampires because I usually don’t if I can get away with it. I don’t remember. I was too busy feeling awkward.

Elaine saves the day by offering to take a photo of them. I go back to taking shots of various angles of the train car, hobbling around as much as my foot will let me.

I took pictures of everything because I wasn’t sure exactly what I needed. I took pictures of the tiny train car bathroom. I took pictures of the zigzag handicap ramp. I took pictures of the picnic tables out front. I took pictures of the view of the hotel across the street from out of the train car window. Pretty much everything but the far west end of the train car because it was far and I was gimpy.

So I get home, full of chili dogs and inspiration. Things are flowing nicely. I know almost every inch of Carney’s now. I can use anything.

Drac decides he needs to make an entrance from the far west end, the only part of the entire building I hadn’t had a good look at.

Thank goodness for Google Maps.

The Wandering Spoon: A Love Story in Half a Dozen Acts

So Mark took me to see La Cage Aux Folles at the Pantages Theater last week. As we were eating dinner before the show, Mark threw down a knife and fork in front of me and said, in what I’m assuming was a compliment, “You could take that and write a story about it.” I kind of stared down at the table and thought “I could?” in a not so positive way, but by the end of the meal, I was feeling better about the whole thing so I told Mark to take a photo and I would come up with something. Sadly, all the forks were gone by then, so the story is about a spoon.

Deal with it.

The Wandering Spoon: A Love Story in Half a Dozen Acts

Life can be rough here at the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Oh, sure, there’s the glamorous Pantages Theater nearby, but all the stage-struck dreams in the world won’t help you if you’re a spoon. And Kayla was a spoon, a dessert spoon to be exact, but she wasn’t happy just to dish out bread pudding to the customers. No, she wanted to be an actress.

Which is tough when you’re silverware.

But she practiced every day at the Irish pub, flirting with the diners, being coy with the busboys, hoping someone, somewhere would take her out of this joint and make her a star.

Her boyfriend Kevin thought she was wonderful just the way she was, but what did he know? He was happy being a utensil. He didn’t share her dreams.

And he was also a little short.

But they did have some fun times, dipping into the bread pudding together, cutting through the virgin whipped cream, curving through the cold hard ice cream into the hot steamy bread pudding beneath. Sometimes they would be on either side of the dessert, too far to touch, but sometimes, they would meet in the middle, just clipping edges on a downward swing, diving in over and over until they lay exhausted in the cool puddle of liquid at the bottom of the plate.

It should have been enough.

But it wasn’t.

One day she noticed someone new at the far end of the table, a knife left over from the dinner service, tall and glistening. She slid over to take a closer look. The knife took one glance at her curves and swept her into his arms.

Well, where his arms would have been anyway.

He told her things, things no one had ever said to her before, about how talented she was and how he could get her a job in the pictures. And how could he be lying? He was so tall and thin. He had to be an actor himself.

“You leave her alone.” Kevin reached out, trying to pull Kayla from the interloper’s nonexistent arms, but it was no use. Mack just held her up out of reach.

Kayla pressed herself against Mack’s smooth shiny…uh..chest. “Go away, Kevin.”

“But…”

“No more bread pudding for me. I’m going to be a star.”

And Mack carried her away, off across the table to the empty dessert plate with no preliminaries, no swooping and soaring and almost touching. Just plunk into the cold remnants of someone else’s joy.

She lay in the stinging remains of the whiskey sauce, shamed and alone. There were no movies, no stardom. It was all just a lie. She cried silver tears into the melted ice cream.

“Kayla?”

And there was Kevin, poor loyal Kevin, waiting for her on the far side of the plate. She staggered through the slop to him, mumbling apologies as she went.

He pulled her close. “You’re such a great actress, I almost believed that you didn’t care about me.”

Kayla snuggled against him. “I almost believed it too.”

Mardi Gras in My Trunk

So I only went out to get a King Cake. Really. Just a King Cake.

Because even though I don’t live in New Orleans, I like to pretend that I do.

The trouble is that people in Los Angeles don’t even know what a King Cake is. I have to admit I didn’t know either until the first time I went to New Orleans. And just in case you don’t know, a King Cake is basically a ring of bread that can be filled, iced, sprinkled or draped with beads. They are only made during Carnival season which is the time between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday. But the important part is what’s inside. Because every true King Cake has a baby Jesus in it. Why? I’m not sure. But whoever gets the piece with the baby has to buy the next King Cake.

But making a King Cake from scratch is super hard to do and I wanted to take the easy way out this year. After some diligent searching, a post about someone’s else quest for California King Cake led me to Cost Plus World Market. They were supposed to have a boxed mix complete with baby.

Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Now I’ve never actually been to a Mardi Gras parade in the flesh, but I watch them online. Which can get a bit hilarious because the host and camera operator usually get more and more drunk as the evening progresses. By the end of the night, the camera is pointing at the sky and the host o’ the day has forgotten he/she is supposed to be announcing anything and is busy screaming for beads.

Which is sort of New Orleans in a nutshell really. Life improvised. What is supposed to happen and what does happen are not always the same thing.

Kind of like today at Cost Plus.

Because I walked in the door, expecting to find King Cake mix shoved onto some shelf next to the Carrot Cake mixes. What I found was Mardi Gras nirvana.  There was a whole Mardi Gras section! There were beads and beignets and masks and Tabasco chocolate and Zapp’s potato chips and bread pudding mix.

I almost rebroke my foot scrambling up the stairs to take a look.

The Zapp’s potato chips come in Voodoo or Crawtator flavor. I have no idea what either one tastes like. So I got both.

There are Bananas Foster flavored pralines. Tossed two of those in the basket.

King Cake mix. Grabbed two of those.

Oh, look, bread pudding. I love bread pudding. I spent one trip to New Orleans eating bread pudding at every restaurant we went to. And every single one of them was a little different. I highly recommend the bread pudding at the Champagne Jazz Brunch at Court of the Two Sisters, by the way. It was my favorite.

Tabasco-flavored dark chocolate. Hmmm…not really fond of Tabasco although I did love those Tabasco flavored Zapp’s potato chips I had a few years back. Guess I’ll try that too.

Grand total: two boxes of King Cake mix, one box of bread pudding mix, two bags of Voodoo chips, two bags of Crawtator chips, two Bananas Foster pralines, and a little round tin of Tabasco-flavored chocolate.

Plus a bag of Mardi Gras colored tortilla chips, which feels more Californian than New Orleanian, but perfect for a Californian celebrating a Louisiana holiday. (Well, the Louisiana version of a holiday anyway.)

The cashier smiled at my cart full of loot. “Mardi Gras party at your place?”

Me, grinning back, stupidly happy. “Apparently so.”