Friday, September 30, 2005

Cast Iron Chef

Originally this was a chef-related, food-related blog.


May I just regress for a moment?

Today I am experiencing my first weekend off since March 26th. Maybe the Republicans have discovered the Internet, after all.

I have been asked about a dozen times this week if I watch Iron Chef. My reply is that I would rather watch a guy have a heart attack, or watch Michael Brown's office-cam about a month ago. Iron Chef is what we do....only worse.

I watched Iron Chef once. What I noticed was that the chef-candidates all had perfect, fresh, organized ingredients......and were working in a pristine professional environment, surrounded by more and better equipment than Rumsfeld gave the 3rd Marines. Not to mention babes bringing the stuff right to them.

Here is my last fortnight:

Breakfast and dinner every day in a carport in Pacific Grove for my Stanford students and leading local scientists. Ten days.

Dinner, breakfast, lunch, wedding, champagne brunch for 100-200 on a cliff in Big Sur. No electricity, no cooling, propane and wood fires only.

Stanford kids move to Big Creek: Breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days in a canyon an hour south of Carmel. No cooling, propane and woodfires only.

Dinner, breakfast, lunch for seven in Carmel in a 50 year old house.

That was the motherfucker.

OK, Iron Chefs.....Give me a menu for 13 meals in a row for the same people, no refrigeration and only propane stoves and Webers for heating. Oh, yeah. You have to shop, prep, serve and clean up yourself. No babes. can sleep in the woods between shifts.

OK, Iron Chefs.....You have 100 progressive young people camping on a cliff an hour south of Carmel. They have had a BBQ dinner, and killer quiche, fruit, champagne, juices, pastries, etc. for the two previous meals. You arrive for the wedding day with a pre-wedding lunch of hundreds of sandwiches: ham, turkey, roast beef, vegetarian. Upon arrival you are immediately abused for a) putting tomatoes in the vegetarian sandwiches; b) putting mustard on the meat sandwiches.

You prepare a meal for 175, with hors d'oeuvres, etc. Upon cutting the amateurish awful blocky cake, one of the progressives offers to beat you up because you are not cutting fast enough, and the precious children have not had seconds before all the adults have been served. Giant iceberg chunks of hideous butter cream are calving off the magic cake with every stroke of your brand new Henckel Granton-edge are surrounded by efficient, experienced, sober waitresses.....but you still need to be beaten for incompetence.

Next morning, you emerge from hiding to help the wife of your representative to the US Congress prepare Eggs Benedict for 100. The camping progressives fail to understand that the 16 amp generator can only make 100 cups of coffee per hour, and actually resort to shaking the 60 cup coffee maker in an attempt to squeeze caffeine from the stainless steel. Those who successfully get coffee launch a torrent of abuse because they drank the half and half the day before. There is still organic milk in all four forms (full, 2%, 1%, non-fat) AND organic whole cream, but no fucking HALF-AND-HALF YOU FUCKING MORON!!!

Wife of Cake Punching Man screams at you because you have no cocoa. Her child ONLY drinks cocoa. She has gone camping for three days without the only beverage her child drinks, but YOU are a fucking moron.......A vision of entitlement that beggars George Bush's wettest dream....and this chick is probably Green Party.........

You invent a system of toasting english muffins for wife-of-congressman for her campfire Eggs Benedict for 100: giant BBQ pit full of coals; sheet pans on the grill; muffins sprayed with organic olive oil......lower grill far enough into the pit to achieve heat. Ooops! They only have commercial charcoal left, and while flipping the muffins you breathe lungsful of awful toxins. Still, wife-of-congressman shouts every 15 seconds for more muffins (Cake Man is assisting with egg poaching....there are lots of eggs).

Migraine ensues.....full collapse. Projectile vomiting of the nothing that has been eaten for days. Drive home. Projectile vomiting is hard in modern seat restraints while driving the Big Sur Coast. At least there was NPR on the radio.

Follow with three days of cooking for 20 on propane burners in the woods....dessert included. (See Milles Etoiles post. Thank God for Milky Way. No, really.....). Don't talk to me of refrigeration.

And the denouement.

Long time client owns a building company and lumber yard. House on Scenic overlooking Point Lobos. Dinner, breakfast, lunch.

Valuable client forgets to mention that the refrigerator (Sub Zero...what a prophetic name....worth less than zero) has broken, the china, silver, linen and glass have been removed by his girlfriend....along with the rolling island workstation, only three burners work on the stove, and the disposal is fucked. Oh, and the microwave was built by Werner von Braun when Eisenhower still had hair.... And the fan is broken, but don't open the windows cuz they fall out.

So: no cooling, nowhere to work, limited heat, no ventilation or drainage.....and NO NOTICE!!! Sweet Sleeping Jesus on His Holy Fucking Mountain!! I have tables, linen, china, glassware, ice and ice chests.........I could bring them and everything. Drop a fucking dime, Buddy!

Love the implied confidence, though.

So......reload all 600 pounds of supplies for the next two meals back into the van, to be returned to cold storage, re-load, re-transported, and re-carried domani......Did I mention my 56th birthday was last week?

No refrigeration. The frozen Parfait Suchard au Rhum is fucked, obviously. So, no dessert. No notice. The guests are already having hors d'oeuvres. What to do? Hmmm. Cast Iron Chef says: Chocolate Soufflée!! Slightly frozen Suchard au Rhum sauce!! Quick run to Nielsen's for flour, dig up soufflée dishes, and Bob's your uncle.

Those of you who are paying attention: what extra ingredient went into the souflée?

Yup.....Milles Etoiles.

Gotta love it.

The guests did.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005 name is George, and I'm an alcoholic.....

Believe it or not, we still actually get gigs from our benevolent government. I am guessing the NSA is either amused by the blog, or is not as viciously vindictive as we have been led to believe. Oh, crap! Wait! Maybe they too have been taken over by Arabian horse people.....Please,!

Was anyone else amused that Michael Brown ran Arabian horses? Do the Saudis run everything? Yeah, and meanwhile, Michael Brown is the kind of guy that we deal with all the time: he is the guy whose AA hires caterers for horse shows. The kind of guy who forgets to order centerpieces for the tables, or linen, or runs out of booze because he is scamming the budget.....and then blames the caterer. My only question is: why wasn't there a job for this guy in Iraq, with all the other frat boy dildoes? Not smart enough......or too smart?

Anyway, we work for two branches of the US military: Naval Intelligence out of Virginia, and the Center for Contemporary Conflict here in Monterey at the hemp-ridden Naval Postgraduate School (see June 7th post). I kid you not: the Center for Contemporary Confict. And, until recently, our contact there was the lovely Lashley Pulsipher. Really.

I have to say that our relations with these two outfits keep alive my waning faith in the imperial powers and future of the good ol' USA.

First, Naval Intelligence. They meet a whole passel of other spooks here on the Peninsula every June. For our party they meet in an amazing house just below the Highlands Inn, with its own little bay and promontory. They are forbidden hard alcohol by our formerly abstemious Commander-in-Chief, but they love their Gruet champagne, and they really love it when we wack the tops off into the little bay with Hungarian fencing sabers.

In June 2001, their guest speaker was Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor of the Washington Times, former CEO of tours in Vietnam, wounded twice. Arnaud is a piece of work. He handed me his card upon leaving the party. It read:

Arnaud de Borchegrave
Jesus Loves You

On the flip side his card reads:

Everyone else thinks you're an asshole!

Anyway, Arnaud addressed the guests about a guy he had just finished staying with and interviewing. Arnaud was concerned that the guy was a serious nut case, but seriously connected and a very serious danger to the US. No one was paying attention to Arnaud's concerns, and he hoped that the Navy spooks would look into this guy a little more.

Yup, the guy was of course, Osama Bin Laden.....and this was 90 days before 9/11.

The next year their guest speaker was the former head of the CIA, then a scary Admiral, and finally: Orson Scott Card. Mr. Card is a sci-fi novelist, so weird and unreadable that even a book junkie like myself has failed in three attempts to read anything he has written (and I read cereal boxes when there is nothing else....). He has a Lord of the Rings-like following, though. I gave his last book to a surly monk at Tassajara when I failed to get two chapters in.....and I thought the guy would almost smile for a second, he was so excited. It turns out that our high-level spooks read all the spy novels and sci-fi novels looking for ideas. They even have guys like this on staff! And you thought your English degree was worthless! I want that job!!

Our other client is the CCC, or as we know them: the NATO generals. Their head admiral got married by us on the beach, and loved it enough that he has made us a part of his curriculum. Four or five times a year we knock out a beach party for him, complete with hors d'oeuvres, full bar, tables, chairs, bonfire....the works. We give them a great deal, and they never ask about menu or anything, and they pay like a slot machine. We love them.

Dear departed Lashley even booked a beach party last January. It was good that it was a Navy party, since 13th Street beach was in two feet of seawater. The CCC has a sense of humor, so they let us bring the generals out to the Cachagua Store. Rich from Heller gave them a bang up tour of the winery, and we laid on a Cachagua-style feast, complete with Pat Clark on guitar. It was a hit.......we had to drag the German general and the Belgian out of the bar at midnight, still clutching their Newcastles. They toasted us thus: "We are treated to the best in the world.....we eat in PALACES! And this is the best ever!" The Palace that is the Cachagua General Store.

The Generals also love sabered champagne, and their sense of humor extends far enough that we were sabering bottles on Carmel Beach for Arab generals a few days after Nick Berg's video beheading in Iraq. We have had the NATO crew, Pakistanis and Indians, mix and match Arabs....they all love those swords.

In contrast to the Naval Intelligence guys, the Center for Contemporary Conflict is allowed to serve booze....or they just ignore the strictures of the Inebriate-in-Chief. God forbid Americans should look like actual adults in the eyes of the leaders of the world. And despite Koranic entreaties to the contrary, the Generals of the Mideast and Subcontinent love their Johnny Walker Black.

I think the general thrust of the mission of the CCC is to take the steam out of future potential conflicts by getting the principals happily fed and at least a little ripped around a campfire on the beach. It seems to work in the short run: lots of fraternal bonding to the untrained eye. They loosened up enough last month that we almost got a Gurkha general to cut a bottle with his kukri. Something about the fact that the kukri must draw blood once it is drawn from its sheath put us off the idea.....but the General might have been putting us on. I was willing to sacrifice Dirk........Or Vicki. It is the end of the season, after all.

Proof that there is a Naval sense of humor occurred last Thursday. It was my birthday, and we had a few dozen NATO Generals again....especially Brits, and an Irish terrorism guy. The Black Label flew out of the bottle.....

In the midst of the cocktail hour, up the beach came a motley crew: my 16 Stanford students.....dressed in drag. One was even dressed in camos with a beret, sunglasses and cigar. They gathered in a group right in the middle of the party and sang a lusty chorus of "Happy Birthday, you Asshole......" Great stuff. I was shitting myself: "There goes this account!"

The Generals were non-plussed. Could have cared less about a bunch of kids in drag in their fact they were intrigued and struck up conversations, had some cocktails and the party went on. Future leaders of the world meet the current leaders of the world.

So.....the next time you are depressed about some short-sighted, adolescent, xenophobic stunt on the part our Inebriate-in-Chief and his cronies....take heart. There are still cells of smart, funny, cosmopolitan, forward thinking people still near the levels of power. At least until the NSA reads this blog.....

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Happy Birthday, you asshole......

No way to turn "Happy Birthday" into a C-word.....but it is right up there with coffee, coordinators, champagne toasts and Ann Coulter.

One of the weird things you learn in Statistics 101.....the only course worse than Anatomy 101 for completely frying your that in a classroom sized group the odds of any two people having the same birthday are about 50-50. Really.

This means that in a restaurant that is not completely dead (say 50-100 covers, minimum) odds are that there will be a birthday. Especially considering the fact that people tend to go out on their birthdays to restaurants. A subset of this group (no doubt the late night coffee-drinking, champagne toasting, Ann Coulter wedding coordinators) love to have a candle stuck in a dessert and be serenaded by the staff.

The ultimate exponent of this behavior occurred in Carmel Valley Village years ago at Dennis Guglielmo's little Italian place, La Campagna. At La Campagna, dinner was always $100: quite dinner for two, $100; rowdy dinner for 6, $100; three people sitting in the rain on the deck, covvered by tablecloths, $100. At my partner's birthday party, at singing time Dennis sent out a spedini (deep fried layers of bread and cheese) with a lit cigarette stuck in the top. Classic. And $100.

Anyway, since the staff is gathered pell mell at the last second to sing, no one knows the birthday person's name but the people at the table, and maybe the waitress. So the song always dies: ''Happy birthday dear.........Phyllis.....Happy Birthday to you." Annoying, amateurish, silly and embarrassing for all involved.

I decided long ago to just embrace the annoying, amateurish and embarrassing silliness. We refused to sing anything other than "Happy Birthday, you Asshole!" Everyone knows that name....and it is amazing how enthusiastic the staff is (even the cooks and dishwashers!) to gather and belt that one out.

Everyone got the same treatment: little kids, newlyweds, grannies......if you wanted us to sing, it had to be "You Asshole." Thinned the ranks considerably.

The classic was two little old Carmel ladies. They insisted on a we delivered. At the end, the birthday girl turned to her friend and said, "What did they say?"

Her friend said, "They sang 'Happy Birthday, you rascal'....."


So, Happy Birtday you assholes: me, Brendan, Grandma Mary, Terry McCleery, Marietta Bain, Linda Hanel, Nina, and the Big Creek chick.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

C-Word Part 3

C-Word #3

The third in the series of C-words was going to be COORDINATOR……Why have a coordinator when you have a caterer? Does he not have the ability to tell when to serve the food? When to cut the cake? When to buss and clear? The post was going to be full of amusing references to the awful coordinators we have dealt with…..such as the one I stuck up the nostril with my fencing saber and backed away from the microphone she was using to try to announce a meal that wasn’t ready……or the battle of Mothra vs. Godzilla: Maggie Lang vs. the Ray-Diator at Moss Landing (Maggie slammed the door on the hot first course to make time for the toasts; Ray-Diator got pliers and pulled the pins on the door……).

Further horrors have intervened rearing ugly C-heads: Coulter and Cornell. Or Conservative.

Memories of 9/11 brought back the ghost of Ann Coulter. At my brother Rob’s wake out in the Hamptons I met a tall, beautiful blonde in a tiny black dress. Legs up to here. All of Rob’s other staff from HarperCollins was there, so I assumed she was one of the girls…..probably the Xerox girl. She was drinking champagne at 11 am from a fatty glass like mine so I was riveted, and was soon shamelessly hitting on her. Wow, she went to Cornell! Go, Rob!! Even his Xerox girl went to Cornell! And what a babe! I did get her number, and her address on the Upper East Side.

I remember her going on about bikers and Gary Condit, and the murder of his intern…….Later, through the champagne haze I remember hearing that she had a TV show, and that Rob was working on her book. TV show? The Xerox girl? On Fox? What is Fox? An adult channel? Who knew?

Later, of course, she dropped Condit and made a career of outrageous attacks on liberals and the re-writing of history (McCarthy was not crazy, Nixon was bright and kind, etc…..).

Rewind to Monday Night Dinner in Cachagua….September 12. Our friends Ben and Cate have a regular table by the wine barrel. Their guests vary, but are always intelligent, graceful, fun and liberal. Monday in walks beautiful florist Kim England with some guy. Kim is one of two or three flower people of the five hundred in the phone book that rule the local roost. Her last dinner at the store was possibly as the date of our friend AJ. AJ had no-showed on us two or three times, so this night we decided to call the place AJ’s Roadhouse, and named each dish after every failed relationship of his we could remember. Ooops.

I felt I owed Kim, plus she has a kind of movie star aura….so I immediately whipped out a bottle of Gruet Rosé and poured fatty San Sebastian glasses for her and the dude….Roy. Then off to the kitchen to actually cook.

When I returned, post entrée, to do my table-hopping routine I made some wry comment about my C-Word campaign, and let drop that I was thinking of putting Coulter above Coordinator. Ben and Cate blanched, and Roy rose from his seat: “You know, she is the formost expert on constitutional law in the country……” Yipes! A fan! Well, I took that course, too….from some famous guy whose name I forget. Cornell is like that: Carl Sagan, Hans Bethe, Nabokov, Vonnegut, Pynchon, Daniel Berrigan….and that constitutional guy.

I told my hitting-on-Ann-as-fellow Cornellians story. Roy was not mollified: “You went to Cornell? You know Ann Coulter?” Clearly not believing this working class, champagne-pouring-for-his-beautiful-date guy could have ever been near the Ivy League.

“Who was Cornell’s most famous football player, then?”

Uhhh… mean Ed Marinaro? Who lost out to Archie Manning, father of Peyton, in the Heisman Trophy voting? Yeah, well….we were PE shills together for the Jews……

“You know Ed Marinaro, too!!??” Bullshit.

I explained PE shills. At Cornell, everyone was required to do a semester of PE. The beginning for some weird WASPy reason was to jump stark naked into the Teague Hall pool and stay alive for 15 minutes (this concept of nudity in the Ivy League includes the Yale practice of taking full-length nude fotos of all incoming freshman, supposedly for biometric reasons. Hillary, GWB, Kerry, etc are all on a database somewhere....Imagine!). This was followed by a series of four week programs in various sports: squash, fencing, golf, weightlifting, polo…..The Long Island Jews in the Industrial Labor Relations program were not down with public nudity, or swimming, or sweating away with swords. They were happy to give us goy jocks cash money in exchange for taking care of this for them. It was good money….and what is not to like about free polo, golf, fencing and squash?

I riposted his Ed Marinaro with my obscure claim to fame: “I was Ken Dryden’s roommate.” (Ken Dryden is a God in Canadian Ice Hockey).

“You were Ken Dryden’s roommate! He was the best goalie in the history of hockey! He is president of the Montreal Canadiens!!” Bullshit.

Yeah, well. That is kind of like being head of FEMA……

Roy was not amused. “You fenced at Cornell?” Bullshit.

Yup. And my coach was shot dead by a jealous husband at 82 in Santa Barbara, stark naked. All I remember about fencing is how to open champagne bottles with a saber.

“You can open champagne bottles with a saber?” Bullshit.

Step outside, Sparky! Luckily, Ben Edwards from Heller Estate was there and willing to hold while I hit. I always have a saber handy….in case there is a coordinator, champagne bottle, or arse-hole conservative handy. We walked outside. Ben knelt down, held up the bottle…..and with a Tiger Woods sand wedge swing, I knocked the top of the bottle off into the trees…..

Old Roy was finally silent…..I was exhausted from defending myself. Thank God I did not mention that I am a Sigma Chi……We would still be there. I could probably parlay the Sigma Chi-Cornell thing into a Halliburton contract.

Poor Kim…….

Friday, September 09, 2005

That day again.....

It took till just now for it to hit.......We are so busy we don't have time to register pain or exhaustion, much less the date.

It wasn't until Amanda handed me a book from her mom: "So Many Enemies, So Little Time" by Elinor Burkett. They said to read the acknowledgments.....Whatever.... Elinor Burkett sounded familiar, but I couldn't place her.

In Acknowledgments it says: "This book bears the indelible stamp of four extraordinary men whom I must single out in gratitude. The inimitable Robert Jones turned me into a writer of books by refusing to allow me to complain......"

Oh....THAT Elinor Burkett. Ellie.

Four years ago tonight I bitch-slapped her. How time flies. I had flown to New York in the middle of the Stanford class for my brother's wake. He had died at 47 of lung cancer.....the black lung of the publishing business (he was editor-in-chief of HarperCollins). As we emerged from an emotional family dinner at Sandro's on Ninth Avenue, the first thing Ellie did was fire up a cigarette and blow smoke in my face. So I hit her.....and knocked the cigarette about four blocks.

Excerpts from the rest of the 24 hours: This is highly personal, and probably won't make sense until heavily edited. Next month.

Brendan and I went downtown to Rob’s apartment............

I suited up in the hotel room (HoJo’s at 50th and 8th).....My suit was stolen from Rob....but at least this time it had been retailored (somehow Rob’s legs were even shorter than mine).......Brendan, Pat and Chelsea were all there, getting ready......and Marci and Steve and the boys across the hall......We had a bad lunch and a lame beer at noon in the HoJo’s restaurant.....the whole famdamnly went back up......I drifted back down 50th St......I felt completely dislocated…..time out of mind, or mind out of time. Twenty hours of traveling on the red-eye….forget the shock of Rob’s death. Still, on 50th it felt like normal. I was struggling to deal with all of favorite favorite street…..I felt as if the heart had been cut out of it.....I had deeded my share of it to Rob.....and he had gone away with it....And then there was my heart…….

It was August hot, of course, even for September…….and humid…and blazing bright. It was an effort to breathe…..I felt crushed……..a huge weight on my lungs and heart……actually crushed, like one of the multitude of paper bags littering the street. It was unbearable.

Oftimes I feel like some kind of Guinness Book junkie.....’’Look what I can do that no one else can!’’.....completely missing the point that no one else would care to, of course: Long hours, weird situations, pouring everything into a couple of meaningless minutes that no one will remember: my shoulder dislocates and I finish whipping the eggwhites for the souflee, and somehow serve it, smiling in tuxedo......burning hillocks of poison oak in 100 degree heat, in jumpsuits with regulators and pitchforks.....and then saying fuck it and tossing the regulators and charging the 50 ft toxic flames......sobbing into the 32 egg pate á choux, as the third wooden spoon snaps.....and I am only at 16 eggs......hopeless, futile punishment for someone who already has an infinite capacity.......’’Ras le bol’ in French: the bowl is now full.

Nothing compares.......50th has so many memories for me: Twenty-three and fresh back from Europe in a different stolen suit: Etienne had promised me jobs......and promised to meet me at Tout Va Bien, or Cafe des Sports, or Rene Pujol......didn’t matter: he was driving from Ithaca in his Impala wagon......and he can’t drive. An accident or incident each HOURS......of waiting at whichever bar......speaking bad French, trying to nurse one pastis and one cafe filtre from 11am to 3pm.....At Tout Va Bien, Carlo was always cool......Nina was always bitter, and the guy at Café des Sports was as well….The whole block goes back to the days of the big ships at the docks four blocks away: stevedores, stewards, cooks, sailors on the French lines….and everybody else’s….but some of them were trying to put that behind them .......’’Aucune pitié pour les canards boiteuse”…….’’ I was definitely limping: no money, no work, not much hope of either........Occasionally, when I had the price of two drinks (raiding Dad’s commute money while he was in the shower)......I would charge the frozen winds of the French ghetto for a while......dodging in doorways, pretending I was a citizen…..maybe Sam Goody’s……the lobby of the Time-Life building......before cruising back to the wait and the warmth........And then, after Etienne showed it got really brutal....... we schlepped for hours around the kitchens, dining rooms and bars of the city.....long past midnite.....long past dawn…..playing obscure games involving torn matches.....the sailors at the next table took offense.......the first time I saw a knife driven through a man’s hand as he reached unjustly for a pot........

When I worked at the Colony......and Jane was at the Marriott on Central Park South....I would walk over and pick her up at midnite.....we would walk the eight blocks south for a bite and a calva at Tout Va Bien......Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner would be there......We would speak French.......Mimi the Swiss coat check queen worked for me....and we were heroes.......we were making serious business.......On my days off.....hours off.....I would come and work with Serge......just to see what the deal was with the tete de veau.....and the hot vinaigrette.....and the cuisses grenouille….and the escargot. Or nights off..... the late French movie at the Elgin, or a double Truffaut bill and a bottle of Hooper’s, to fall back by 50th in taxi after for more Calva and conversation......Or, after Jane, sleazing in with Gabrielle and everyone knowing I had taken a hit below the waterline……and going for the 50th St version of the Mile Hi Club in the back hall uni-sex bathroom….

Much later, when Dylan was born.....he was 48 hours old….coming in for lunch.......the waitresses whisked him away......and brought us champagne........Rob and Jane and Brendan and Conall and I........Conall was two.....not too young for champagne at the birth of his brother.........They always set up everyone at my table for champagne, regardless of age……We didn’t see Dylan for an hour.......Fat, jolly waitresses that had probably started there the year I was born......That had started the year I was born……..

And returning with Brendan on New Year’s in ‘99......Mimi in fine form.......snubbing the African ambassador in his perfect suit.......gut punching Treat Williams for his presumption and bad French.......Jean Claude sabat-ing the bum in the street between seatings.........only a little blood on the tux.......Aucune probléme.......

And the ulitimate dinner with Rob......Young Scarsdale chick checking out Brendan.......the waitresses hovering and oohing and ahhing over ten year old Dylan......pouring champagne for all, even Dylan.....Scarsdale glowing green.....Mum and Pops glaring........Rob lighting a cig and telling Dylan: ‘I’ll give you $50 if you take a puff......’ I am blocking.....but I would like to believe Dylan did hit it.........Mass hysteria in Scarsdale.......

And then the food going bad: cuisses grenouille still frozen inside the breading........fucked venison.......a long retreat……Mimi dying after getting run over for the second time by a gypsy cab on the street in front…..

And then the new kid Jean Claude bought in (Carlo and Nina still come in and hang around every day, even though they sold out twenty years ago.....After Rob died in August.......we stayed at HoJo’s and the whole famdamnily ate.......David had snails.....and Chateauneuf du Pape.......and Calva......and champagne, of course…….and it wasn’t bad......Long after it was late and right......Conall and I returned........had calva and champagne at 3am........talked to the new kid......Jean Claude.and became royalty again after two stories.......

So…….A month later.......2pm.........again in stolen suit.....this time from Rob......I walked aimlessly up the street ......absolutely hammered under the sun……struggling to contemplate ‘The City’.......and ‘The Michael’.......without Rob......and what the afternoon would bring at the University Club. Right at home among the host of Eighth Avenue Loonies, tears formed and fell from my eyes........oh, god......not on this block: pre Giuliani this was Transvestite Heaven......tears meant tears in the stitches most likely.........or a beating from the pimp…….

As I pass Tout Va Bien I glance down the steps.......Jean Claude bursts from the door........he grabs my arm......’’Qu’est-ce qui se passé?.....You look like you need some champagne.........Viens avec……’’ And drags me down to the bar.........leaves me with two calva, and two champagne, and races away.......a famous, famous chef (Daniel Boulud) comes in, sits next to me and interviews a page for his restaurant….$4k per month….subsistence wages, no doubt)......and eventually orders tete de old school it is almost a joke…...JL disappears......His kindness is instinctive.....reflexive......Water put back in the well…..I have no, eventually I just leave........he knows that I will be back......and I know that he knows how much I appreciate his kindness.......It is beyond is what we do.........C’est le milieu..........the water in which we swim.......And he accidentally saves my life.

And on to the wake, at the University Club on Fifth and Fifty-Fifth. Where I stuck my head in the lounge, and the social perturbation was such that every octogenarian mogul snapped around at the insult of the unwashed venturing into their sacred space. We were in the back.

The speakers killed me. It was heavy artillery: Ann Patchett, Denis Johnson, John Colapinto, Armistead Maupin, Oscar Hijuelos, Russell Banks, Ann the New Yorker editor……Ann Patchett told the story of growing up in Kentucky in a house with a million kids, and how her mom tended them. Each kid knew they were loved, and knew all the others were loved, but each kid knew she was loved best……even though she knew that each of the others thought they were loved best, she really was loved best. That’s how Rob was……And Armistead Maupin standing up indignant saying: “No, he really DID love me best!”

And I wept through all of it…..And like Stevie Ray Vaughn, the sky cried too…….Rain pounding the windows behind the speakers. “The sky is crying…..”

Then the reception at the publisher’s penthouse: books double stacked on the shelves, like mine. And the proto-typical New Yorker: “You only do ORGANIC food? Grotesque!! You mean like kidneys, and thymus, and livers?” Organic, not organs, lady……..

And back to Sandro’s…..and finally back to Tout Va Bien at 1am to say thanks. More Calva and champagne with Brendan and Chelsea, a big overtip, and back to HoJo’s, dead drunk.

Five am wake up to make the 8am flight from Newark. 4am the urge hits and I must pee. I stagger from the bed, hit the door and try to focus. The door slams and I am in the hallway! Stark naked. I turn in circles: “What the fuck?” and pound on the door to get back in.

Wrong room. The woman who answers, rather than calling the police, says: “Wow! The guys from the service are getting older and whiter, huh?” Naked sprint to the elevators for a house phone to call Brendan to open the right door.

At five am, the front desk has had enough, and fails to wake me. I miss my cab, miss my plane, and miss the opportunity to take Flight 93 into history. I wind up flying JetBlue over the Towers just as the second plane hits.

Thank you, New York for saving my life……but forever I cannot separate the Towers, Rob’s death, the weeping sky, Jean Claude and the Calvados…….and my supposed salvation.

How could I forget?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Reality Check

Back to New Orleans.....A note from us to our former chef Bethann......

Dear Bethann:

The offer still stands. How can we help?

Michael and Amanda

And back from Bethann......

Dear Friends:

Thank you. I've been wanting to write but I haven't had a chance. In the short-term future, I'm reluctant to relocate so far away in case I ever need to go back to New Orleans and see if I have anything left that's salvageable in my apartment. I'm trying to stay in the region until things are more clear (no idea at what point I'll give up on waiting).

I had one person in mind who I thought might be especially interested in your offer but nobody knows where he is now. Beau is a really niceguy in his mid-20's from NO who worked at Peristyle (the restaurantwhere I was to have started working). The pastry chef hadn't heard from Beau when I finally heard from the pastry chef yesterday for the first time.

I think that people are largely staying with family around the countryor are trying to stay in the region. This will probably change as people have to start settling or moving on. I'll definitely let peopleknow about your room and work offer. I may be interested down the line if it's still available but don't keep it open for me.

Everything is so uncertain right now. I think there might be some people who were ready to move and start over from scratch or who have family far away or whoare being relocated through their employers. Most people are still overwhelmed to some degree and everything remains so uncertain. At this point I feel lucky since so many people are and have been in such horrible conditions. I do, however, think I lost everything I owned with the exception of my car, my cat, and 2 suitcases of clothes and a laundry basket of shoes. I did better than many in terms of clothing, but I lost (most likely) everything else. I rented and my renter's insurance didn't cover flood.

Since many of us who lost everything are currently living temporarily in furnished homes with friends and family, we aren't fully feeling the impact of having to rent an apartment and not owning anything at all. In some ways this makes it incredibly easy to move and start over, but there's so much red tape and stuff to deal with now and really nobody has any idea how this is all going to play out.

My brother and his wife and son were living in her great grandmother's home (1940's) that had never flooded; it didn't flood this time until the levees broke. Currently the insurance company and aerial photos have confirmed that they're up to the roof in standing water (or sewage or whatever you want to call that stuff). They were underinsured because they were remodeling and they will likely end up owing the bank $50-60,000 for a home that is ruined and property that's worthless, and they'll still be starting at zero in terms of possessions, jobs, and relocating.

I have so many nightmare stories that I'll share eventually. I'm planning to write a group email at some point--maybe I'll have a chance later tonight. I'm doing well in spite of everything. It helps that so many people have been incredibly gracious and compassionate through all of this. I'm including you and Amanda in this list. It's an odd experience. There are those who need food and medical attention and shelter now. The next phase will probably include all of us who are sheltered and eating and trying to work but who are withouteverything else. It makes me feel ashamed of wanting anything since somany of us are in this same position and many are worse off, but trulythe next wave will be to have patience for all of us who are starting over, especially people with children or elderly people. I think a decent percentage of people who were employed are still getting paid.

Unfortunately, my brother and I were both unemployed so neither of us gets any check or unemployment. My job was to have started the Tues after Katrina hit on Mon. My brother had a part-time contract website development job with a company that is only paying full-time people. He was also enrolled in school.I know people need medical care and prescriptions and dental care and pet care and I wish that could be provided for everyone in this country but certainly for victims from this. Those things are not the first things you pay for necessarily and they're costly. There's red tape involved with it now and from what I hear, people are only getting a 30-day supply of medications. I wonder what happens next month.

Thanks again for your offer. I don't know what to say in terms of what else you or anybody can do. It's mind boggling. I'm at a loss myself at this stage. I think that offering housing is crucial. It may just take a while before anyone is able to avail herself of making such a move at this time.


Milles Etoiles

The Stanford kids are scaring me.

The future leaders of our nation, the smartest and coolest of the cool, right?

Tonite, after dinner (Local English sole with Muzu apples, roasted garlic and proseco; wild rice salad with toasted broccoli, heirloom tomatoes with bufalo mozz and purple basil, roasted round carrots and yellow finn spuds, individually boiled local organic corn cobs with artizanal butter and cracked pepper) the Back-up Vanessa asked shyly and sweetly for hot chocolate.

Matt the Human Golden Retriever S.A. (Student Advisor) was busy setting up his computerized home movies about his trip to Patagonia. We have hope for the only obvious stoner on the crew....among other attributes.

I sensed the need for a stall......Two minutes, perhaps. In my role of Idiot Chef Boy, I produced the following monologue to fill the void:

Hot Chocolate? Well, can I just share with you a little story. I had a friend in the late seventies who often wound up in jail. I would write, bring books and other jail luxuries where possible. He had a sweet tooth, and I supplied him with a variety of panaceas.

Also, back in the day we had a part-time gig house-sitting the Crocker Mansion in Pebble Beach. A half-French dude named Frank Beau used us as caterers, drivers, gardiners, chefs and house-sitters for the lease holders......Wells Fargo Bank, and their CEO who was trying to crack into the Cypress Point Club by conspicuous entertaining. Bad plan, but....oh, well.

Leave those stories for another time, but suffice it to say that there were: pre-Prohibition 151 Bacardi from the cellars, along with 1931 Inglenook Cab and pre-Teddy Roosevelt Marie Brizzard anisette; Charlemagne's dining table, with hollows carved down at each place setting from the days before plates; secret passageways to Masonic fuck chambers with gold fixtured hot-tubs; sniper rifles from the tower blowing up plaster seagulls on the neighbors' that.

Anyway, one cold November afternoon Frank Beau called and invited me to an Alliance Francaise dinner at the Mansion for that very night. Now, I am way more of a "Down and Out in Paris and London" Francophile than and Alliance Francaise dude...but: the ex-wife studied there when I was in Burgundy, and I still feel the pull. Sure, Frank......

Twenty minutes after the first invite, Frank calls back: "Michael, can you bring a dessert?" Oh.....Fuck you, Frank. I guess us working stiffs need to sing for our supper. Any supper. Dessert for 14, no problem. Twenty minutes notice.

Well, I mustered my materials with a brief stop at Kasey's....thinking of my jail buddy. I endured the dinner....even polishing up my subjunctive tense for the Grandes Dames. When dessert came, I disappeared into the kitchen and went to work.

A few minutes later I returned. Fourteen large brandy snifters filled with a foamy, sweet liquid. "Mesdames et Messieurs, pour vous, pour le premier fois: Sabayon Milles Etoiles......" They were stoked. Immediately they started to guess the ingredients in this fabulous creation: "Some Tia Maria, no?" "No....Tuaca!" "No, no! Grand Marnier!" "Tell us, tell us!"

"Sorry guys.....Milles Etoiles, c'est tout!"


Yup....that's it: "Milles Etoiles" is French for "Milky Way".

Like my jail friend always asked for: a piece of Milky Way, some water and an immersion heater.....Not bad.

Alliance Francaise hasn't called recently.....and it has only been 20 years!

Anyway, it took two and a half minutes for the story......30 seconds too long. The kid Matt was visibly fuming at the delay.......Gotta get to those slides........

Uh.......I guess I keep my light under a bushel from here on out.......

Hey......I thought I was the fluffer!

C-Words Part 2

Words beginning with C that should never be spoken aloud in polite company:

Champagne toast.

Champagne toasts are one more way for God to tell you that you have too much money. God's favorite way of telling you that you have too much money was cocaine......but since cocaine is supposedly passé, his next favorite ploy is convincing you that serving Veuve Cliquot Orange label makes you cool. By the way, God's way of telling you that your date is a hooker is to have you order Roederer Crystal.

Champagne toasts, if your name doesn't start with 'P. Did something' are a device to drag even more money from your wallet than the florists, musicians, dressmakers, ministers, caterers and (horrors!!) coordinators have already stolen.

Look.....champagne is a drug not unlike coffee. There are champagne people, and there is everyone else. My best advice is: do not invite champagne people to your wedding to begin with. We are sluts.....and you probably can't afford us. Plus, we stammer and make rude comments, especially if you are silly enough to serve Veuve Cliquot.

Even if you limit the champagne folks attending your event the only time anyone but the sluts drinks champagne is immediately after the ceremony. That is the festive moment that cries for a bubbly celebration. After that, everyone switches to vodka tonics, beer, merlot or Crystal Geyser.

By the time the toast rolls around, everyone has moved on to their steady beverage: Diet Coke, beer, vodka, coffee (!!??). Very likely only the caterers are still drinking champagne.

Time to cut the cake!! If, at this point, you ordered poured 200 glasses of are the kind of fool who buys Grandparent's Day cards for Gramps.....or sends Flag Day cards on June 14th. Once again: 200 glasses @$.50 = $100. Five glasses per bottle = 40 bottles. Pathetic geeks like us only charge $13 for good sparkling which would be $520. Total of $620. We don't charge service you are done. In a hotel, you are fucked. $30 per bottle, plus plus.......Think about two grand. And, among the guests perhaps ten or twenty will actually drink. At 200 bucks a glass, even Veuve Cliquot pales. We could be drinking something good, like Krug or Diamant Bleu...... Or, at least a hellacious lap dance might apply........

And, finally: you have out in the open 190 undrunk glasses of champagne. Even if you have hired Carrie Nation Catering, there is going to be a downside. God hope the carparkers are still out in the lot.....and hope the sharp instruments have all been packed.

Muzzle not the ox that treadeth the corn. But stand back, Poppy.......

"C" Words......Part One

This was once a food-related blog. Let us try again.

I am becoming obsessed with the political realities and ignoring the the social and nutritional. Last night with the Stanford kids I went on a rant: Mark Shelley was our guest to talk about environmental activism, and I interrupted to blab on and on about Barbara Bush (Dad was a Nazi?......nice kids, Barb. Nice attitude to the poor....sadly the underpriveleged ARE accustomed to murder, rape, robbery and senseless death....), Aaron Broussard (with Ray Nagin, the Rudy Giuliani of New Orleans?).....Veterans for Peace (Cindy Sheehan's bus-driving crew, now in Covington, LA).......and the story no one knows about (two guys were arrested under terrorism laws in Jefferson Parish after being caught severing fiber optic and phone lines leaving the city. Upon arrest they produced credentials from the Department of Homeland Security!! There used to be a saying that ANY press was good apparently NO press is good press. If it is not reported, it didn't happen.) After what I hope was only five minutes of foaming at the mouth, Stuart gently interrupted and steered us back on track. I think my point may have been that passive environmental activism is pointless in the face of such an aggressively incompetent and repressive administration. Time to impeach or dig up the .50 cal's and wipe off the cosmoline.

So, to the C-Words.......Words so awful they are not to be spoken aloud. Like Yahweh, in the old days.

Number One C-Word: Coffee. Can everyone please agree that coffee is a morning drink? As a company, we refuse to serve coffee after 3pm. After noon, it is no longer a stimulating beverage accompanied by a comforting social ritual: it is a drug. In the same way that caterers are not usually expected to bring bongs, roach clips, glass pipes, butane torches, syringes, cotton balls or spoons.....we should not have to deal with coffee on a mass basis in the evening. No one drinks it but the few befuddled addicts. If you need coffee after 3pm, be prepared to make it yourself in the hostess' Mr. Coffee. Or, be patient until the caterer has done the other 200 things for the other hundred guests and can assist you. If you want a bitter black liquid after 3pm, try a Guinness!

Full coffee service costs about $40 per cup. Think of it: You need a cup, a saucer and a teaspoon (notice it is not called a COFFEE spoon!) for each guest. These rent for about half a buck each for commercial quality china and flatware. Then you need a staff member to pack, transport, unload and set up said cups and saucers. Then, of course, you need cream, non-fat milk, soy milk, sugar, Sweet and Lo, Aleve or whatever that blue stuff is and containers to hold each of them. And airpots and decanters for the coffee. And a percolator....which cost more than $100 each and survive being transported about five times. Then, of course you need at least one server to buss the mess, repack everything, re-transport it and return it to the rental company or the storage. Oh, and the coffee. Oh, and decaff.

For a party of 100: China and flatware $150. Other rental stuff $25; Sugar, liquids, fake sugar $15; Coffee and decaff $25 for two pounds; table and linen for setup $25; worker to deal with it 7 hours at $25 per hour. Total cost $415, not including tax and gratuity. Of the 100 guests, experience shows that maybe 6-8 people will want a cup.....typically no one at all. At $415 for 8 pay more than $50 per cup. Oral sex for the guests might be cheaper, and more appreciated. Or bring them real drugs.....

Stay tuned for the next C-Words: Champagne toast and wedding Coordinators.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Alvin's Umbrella

Are disaster preparations and relief operations tainted by racism?

Kanye West thinks so (though folks in LA didn't get to hear his remarks thanks to the censor)....Stephanie Miller thinks so, along with all the other commetators on our new left wing radio station. The mainstream talking heads scoff at the notion: Not in modern America! Preposterous! Racism is dead for all intents and purposes.

Well, we got a different view this weekend.......

A couple of months ago our buddy Alvin got fired from the Sunset Center. No big deal..... until the Pine Cone ran an article about the work environment there. In the course of the article, they quoted a co-worker as saying that Alvin was a horrible, dangerous man. Amanda and I were pissed off enough to write a couple of letters to the editor

Dear Editor:

In the course of last week’s article about Sunset Center labor turmoil, a colleague of ours is mentioned as being “a horrible worker” deserving of at least firing, if not summary execution.

We have known the gentleman in question, Alvin Young, for ten years, and have found him to be quite the opposite. He is polite, even courtly. He is friendly and engaging, professional, and has a Depression-era system of values and honor. His finely honed sense of irony puts him in the top tenth of a percentile in my world. As a middle aged man with a new baby, the weight of financial responsibility is never far from his mind, and he is hardworking to a fault. Still, this has never dimmed his sense of social responsibility: Alvin is always my first call when I need help at a fundraiser…..and he is the first to decline payment in the face of a worthy cause.

You might ask the members of the Carmel Women’s Club for their views on the new Sunset Management. All I needed to know about the new regime was the news that the good ladies had been denied access to the Sunset toilets when the Club privies failed on bridge day. Not public access, you see. The nerve to even ask!

My enduring picture of Alvin Young is this: Alvin is neatly turned out in a dress shirt and Talbott bow tie, sweating like a stevedore to load our van at the back door of Sunset Center….as a volunteer bartender, at the close of an event to raise funds for the Sunset Center. Alvin will need his irony.

As far as being a “horrible worker” goes, perhaps I am being uncharitable if I hark back to an old ditty that once made the rounds of Sunset in its elementary school years: “It takes one to know one, Alexandra….and, baby, you know ‘em all!!”

Michael Jones
A Moveable Feast

Dear Editor:

Re: Sunset Center Labor Problems

After reading the article about labor problems at Sunset Center, I was struck by a not-so-subtle undercurrent in the paragraph about Alvin Young. I am puzzled why the Pine Cone would join in Alexandra Chappell’s defamation of Mr. Young. To the unknowing reader, Mr. Young is characterized in your article as potentially violent, probably black, certainly litigious, and a “horrible worker.” These characterizations work together to give us a picture of a lazy, shuffling, dangerous welfare cheat….just the kind we need to keep out of our Carmel.

Mr. Young is anything but. I turns out he is black. He is intelligent, well-educated, well-spoken,
well-groomed, with wide working experience, kind and funny, and a hardworking father of a new baby. Frankly, he is the kind of black person most Carmel folk wish all black people were. That his race even comes up at all in the discussion of Sunset Center is disturbing. I can’t help but think that where there is smoke there is fire: there may well be a racial angle to this story. After all, Carmel’s idea of diversity is having a Mexican gardener, maid or busboy. I challenge anyone to find a black worker of any description in Carmel, now that Alvin Young has been fired. And with the “horrible” reference the Pine Cone helped give him, I doubt he will be working anywhere near Carmel anytime soon.


Amanda Girard
Carmel Valley

Anyway, Alvin worked for us this weekend as a barman, and pulled my ass out of the fire. Saturday he calmly and competently ran a bar for a hundred fifty raging Dutchmen, and never lost his smile , and then got up at the crack and did it again Sunday morning for a wedding brunch. The brunch was for a beloved doctor and his wife (fellow Cornellians). They had an Israeli house guest and the combination of my Irish Catholic luck and the doc's Yiddish mitzvah resulted in the first sunny day in Carmel in weeks.

We set up Alvin on the patio in the blazing sun. We were commandeering a big market umbrella to shade the bar when the houseguest walked over: "Why does HE get an umbrella? Are you afraid he will get BLACKER?"

We were stunned, and expecting a punchline or something, we stood with stupid smiles our faces. "My friend in Israel adopted a black boy, and she keeps him inside during the day so he won't get too black." He looked around smiling, as if waiting for applause for his fine wit.

I stammered out something about the many black jews in know, Bathsheba of Solomon and Sheba was from Ethiopia and later Yemen and her people are still there. During the Ethiopian famine there was a big deal about an airlift of Ethiopian black jews into Israel..... Alvin just stared.

Nope. According to our guy, there are no original black jews.....only Americans, like Sammy Davis. Wow, what an asshole.

Alvin was steaming, but he remained cool. It was a buffet, so there was no opportunity for us to piss in his food, so I texted everyone I knew who went to Hebrew school: "How do you say 'Fuck you, racist bastard' in Hebrew?"

Yael called right back. Ironically, Yael is from Yemen.....and a strong case could be made for a genetic line right back to Bathsheba if courtly, queenly beauty is any indication. Yael is also a nice person, so it took some persuasion to get the translation from her. It goes something like this (phonetically): "Lecchh tizBAH-yenn deez ah-KNEE maz REE-achh."

We muttered this phrase every time we bussed the guy's table.....and we kept his table REALLY clean. He never tumbled: his opinion of working class Americans in general was not high enough to suspect Hebrew curses.

Anyway......Poor Alvin. Not so much the slur, but the fact that we couldn't get the prick alone. And the fact that in the course of Alvin's life, this is a normal thing. Can we therefore even begin to think that the lack of support in New Orleans is not race related?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina and Food World

Long time no post. Busy the death threats are a little chilling on the muse. I will post all that crap after (before) this one:

Our response to the Katrina disaster is:

1) shake our heads at the incredible continuing incompetence of the Bush Administration. In June of this year they cut 25% of the Army Corps of Engineers budget, losing 1500 jobs. The cut eliminated planning and preparation for Category 5 hurricanes. In 2001, FEMA put the rest of the government on notice that a Cat 5 hurricane was the mostly likely devastating natural disaster to hit the Northern Hemisphere. Bush also cut the New Orleans drainage authority by 50% in June. Total savings: less than $300 million. Cost of shutting down New Orleans for three months? Priceless. Oh, and there are 6600 Lousiana National Guard troops in Iraq. They have generators, water purification equipment, mobile hospitals and HIGH WATER VEHICLES. Boy, sure need those in Iraq.....what with all the water over there and all.

2) Try to find a food worker stranded in New Orleans, get them to Carmel Valley and put them up for three months and give them work. There is no way the restaurants are going to open for months. There will be no work except cleaning and rebuilding......and where they gonna live anyway? So, we email Bethann, who worked for us and Bay of Pigs as pastry chef, before being driven away by incompetence and sexual harrassment. (Sadly, not our incompetence or harrassment......just our lack of enough interesting and remunerative work). Anyway, Bethann made it out of the city. Here is her story:

Thank you so much. I'm not certain what I'm doing yet but will let you know. I had just taken a position at Peristyle Restaurant with anamazing pastry chef who had trained with Jean Georges Vongrichten(sp?), at Lutece, Striped Bass in Philadelphia, with Daniel Bouloud,Pierre Herme, the Roux Brothers, etc., all over New York, Paris,London, etc. My job was to have started on Tuesday (after havingapprenticed for free for the past two weeks.) I was so excited and loved working with him. He's a breadmaker and pastry chef who also worked as a sous chef at many top restaurants and was the Exec PastryChef at Ventana Inn around 1995. Anyway, whenever I can reach people,I'll pass on your offer. I may hang out in Memphis for a few months, or pursue the corporate flight attendant work again. California is still on my mind, however. It's too soon to know for sure. I have my car and2 suitcases of clothes and my cat and some not so terribly expensive jewelry, but I know I'm more fortunate than so many others. At least I made it to shelter and don't have to pay for daily hotel and food expenses the next few months, etc. My sister-in-law's parents have a nice home, but we have a lot of cousins and friends from New Orleans staying here with us and all ofour pets.

Our real tragedy at this point is that the cousins' mother is a doctor who was on-call this weekend and had to stay behind and work at the hospital. The winds broke the windows out of the hospital and it flooded up to the second floor. Looting was occuring and yesterday agang of people stabbed the security guard in the neck. I found out today that they were able to operate and save him. The Natl Guard wasprotecting them and evacuating people and patients, but then it kept deteriorating. The National Guard left yesterday (or Monday night?) saying "they could no longer handle the situation". This left Jeanne(the doctor) there among the last 10 medical personnel.

Gangs of drug addicts and other desperate and/or violent people have been demanding drugs and supplies and they're getting down to having nothing left to give them and they feel incredibly unsafe. She's been especially terrified since the Natl Guard left and stopped evacuating people fromthe hospital. The group of doctors is now considering trying to findcivilian clothes, leave behind their wallets and cell phones(valuables) and venture outside. They fear that noone will be back to evacuate them and they can't keep out the armed gangs forever and they're running out of provisions. We've been getting some text messages and have gotten to speak with her several times but now she has turned off her phone to avoid drawing attention to it.

We've been getting the inside stories that aren't in the news. It is somuch more dangerous than people realize. We heard about the prisoners taking over the prison on Monday. The looting at the hospital started immmediately and it was scary enough before the National Guard left the hospital but for the past two days the last few doctors have been on their own there.

We know all of our homes and apartments are completely under water from all the information we've gotten. I'm wondering if New Orleans willjust be one big superfund site. Anyway, thanks for your offer. We're all still at a complete loss as where to even think of beginning. It's going to take me a bit of timeor organize any sort of plan. I'll let you know as soon as I can,though. Thanks again.

Bethann--- Michael Jones wrote:> We have a room in our house (queen sized bed, own bath).....and> random work, > as always. Also a car.> > If this is not of use to you, maybe you could pass it on to a fellow> worker > or couple. We always need help in the kitchen/store.....and we can> offer > space in the house until the restaurants open again. It looks like> months > from our vantage point......> > What else can we do?> >

Michael and Amanda> A Moveable Feast/Cachagua Store>