Thursday, July 30, 2009


Thanks to Mark Stromberg for way of Lake Wobegon.

You can see him in the village almost anytime.
He's always on the street.
At noon he ambles down to Jerry's
in case a trucker who's stopped by for lunch
might feel like buying him a sandwich.
Don't misunderstand, Ben's not starving;
he's there each noon because he's sociable,
not because he's hungry.
He is a friend to everyone except the haughty.

There are at least half a dozen families in the village
who make sure he always has enough to eat
and there are places
where he's welcome to come in and spend the night.

Ben is a cynic in the Greek and philosophic sense,
one who gives his life to simplicity
seeking only the necessities
so he can spend his days
in the presence of his dreams.

Ben is a vision of another way,
the vessel in this place for
ancient Christian mystic, Buddhist recluse, Taoist hermit.
Chuang Tzu, The Abbot Moses, Meister Eckhart,
Khamtul Rimpoche, Thomas Merton—
all these and all the others live in Ben, because

in America only a dog
can spend his days
on the street or by the river
in quiet contemplation
and be fed.

"Ben" by David Budbill, from Judevine. © Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1999. Reprinted with permission

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Don't Trip....Don't Fall...Redux

So.....walking the thin line between "knowing" and "sharing"......

This is pretty much what is fucking up our Mainstream Media.....every piece of information comes with a price, or a responsibility. Or a payback.

If I share something with you all that someone tells me in an honest moment in my role as....friend, tavern-keeper, or some random is different than what that same person might have said to someone with an actual job and a business card with "journalist" somewhere in the job description. The "journalist-source" relationship is different than the "tavern keeper-journalist" relationship...and way different from the "friend-journalist" relationship.

Things were different when no one that I don't talk to every day or every week....or every month read this blog. Instant feedback, in person. Matt from Bernardus commented on my posting of Conall's Christimas Gunfire video from Prague within an hour of posting last year, while buying a sandwich at the Store. That should have been a warning.

As a working person...a person who works with his hands, and arms, legs, back and shoulders.....I don't suffer fools gladly. In my new hometown of Cachagua there is virtually no one who does not work with his or her
hands, and arms, legs, back and shoulders.....and who does not either suffer fools gladly. We don't have the time. We don't have the energy. We don't have the money.

Politics is for folks with all of the above. The rest of us just want our leaders to stop fucking around and fix shit that they already fucked up.

After at least eight years (and possibly 16 or 20..... or 28 years) of corrupt, stupid and miserable fucking around at our expense......we working fucks sought instant relief from the whole Obama "Hope" and "Change" deal. takes time to muck out a stable.....especially a 28 year stable.

And....the guy you hire to muck out that fucked up old stable may not be the same guy you want to have over for a beer.....or to marry your daughter.

Anyway.....back to "Don't Trip, Don't Fall".....

My frank assessment of our current policy towards injured and disabled vets may have actually caused problems for the one person who can actually crystallize policy to solve many of these problems.

So.....for anyone still listening, here is what I have learned in the last two no special order.

Three people who have briefed both George Bush and Obama on military matters have told me pretty much the same thing, paraphrased: "Bush was a dumbfuck...but he was a nice guy who actually listened to what was being said and asked good questions. There was no hope that any of his people would understand or allow policy changes. Obama and his folk are super-smart and engage you at a high level.....and don't give a shit what you say, because they have already made up their minds....and they are probably smarter than you."

Obama somehow doesn't get it that he is the Commander in Chief....and the entire military actually works for him. He seems unwilling to buck the status quo command structure on most issues. He has some really good guys at the most senior posts.....and there is an ocean of old fogey generals and colonels with nine broomsticks up their ass waiting to diffuse and defeat any real change in policy.

Don't Ask Don't Tell, for instance.

I would ask fire guys give a shit about the sexual orientation of co-workers? Is carrying a 90 pound pack up a 60% grade at midnight at 98 degrees and 7 % humidity into a potential firestorm in the middle of a 100 hour week very much different from serving in Iraq?

That is not a rhetorical question....I really want to know.

Moving on......Don't Trip, Don't Fall.

I am still mad about being thrilled at being an honored guest at a Hail and Farewell where only a quarter of the company bothered to show.....because the actual war hero Farewell guy was a little bit disabled. And my anger and writing may be part of a continuing problem for my war hero friend.

I got a nice 20 minute talk this morning at Sunday Brunch at the Cachagua Store from a military guy....a new professor at the highest, highest levels of both government and the military.

It is not often at the Cachagua Store that I get to go up to a nice man eating eggs and reading a book by himself (one of life's great luxuries....eating nice food and reading quietly by yourself. I only get this with Amanda's coffee in the morning and at Garcia Tacqueria in Seaside)....

"Hey.....I heard you on NPR this week....."

My solo diner gave me a rundown of Army politics and the High Command. The Army wants "picket fences".....identical guys with identical skills that can be plugged into any situation that the heirarchy decrees. There are even six categories of skills and abilities. He couldn't remember all of them...but think height, weight, cardio, strength...whatever.

Injured vets are not very good picket fence stakes.....

I will not speak to the irony of our using picket fence stakes to represent all the 5,000 dead soldiers, sailors and marines on the beach on this past Memorial Day......

In May.....the Army in its wisdom called up a blind guy teaching at West Point, a triple amputee, and an MBA from Harvard who is fluent in Mandarin and who was already blown up in Iraq and has one eye and not great control over half his body......for duty in Iraq. They all love the Army and were willing to serve.....but felt that the generals and colonels in charge of their orders had all the information necessary to make a good call.....but were missing some crucial information.

Like being blind, and teaching at West Point....and the whole amputee thing.

Not all pickets are the same.....and the Army has not yet figured out how to deal with this.

And......The Army is no less political than the Democrats or the time is ruthlessly shared, parcelled and choreographed amongst the generals and colonels.

If the super-smart....injured guys....young, injured guys......young, attractive, super-smart, war hero guys get TV time everytime they turn around...


Right now, in my opinion....there is a National Security problem with our wounded vets. We have somewhere around 80,000 wounded vets still on our payroll....who are not being employed in any jobs whatsoever, beyond recovery.

They are still on the rosters of their units....and their commanders are still expected to perfom their assigned duties satisfactorily for the generals and colonels approval.....with 80% of the staff on their actual books.

And no one is doing as much as they should to get those guys back into action. In fact, the status quo is trying to dump these guys....and get them off the books.

I do a catering party....I need one worker for every ten least. I am happier and assured of success if I have one for eight. If I go into social battle with one worker for each twelve or fifteen guests.... life really sucks, and I have no guarantees of the outcome.

Try to get paid. most circumstances no one is actually shooting at us, or trying to kill us. Well, we do work in Cachagua.....supposedly the exact duplicate of the valley of Sarajevo.

These 80,000 wounded are not fakers or shirkers. They love the Army and want to stay in their chosen profession and participate. We taxpayers have years and years of expenses training these guys.....but the colonels and generals are not amused by the problems caused by having to adapt to the diversity of work rules that results from their injuries.

The picket fence is not straight and true.

It was not always this way. If a tank guy is missing a leg.....who really cares? He is not running anywhere anytime soon .....commanding his $10 million Abrams tank.

If your Chinese interpreter with the Harvard MBA, and a West Point BA, can't finish a mile run under 7 minutes, but can still climb Mt. Whitney on his two days off.....who cares?

You are uncomfortable because he is always on point and media ready and is on TV all the time....and you are uncomfortable because you can't figure out which eye to look into when you talk to him because one of those eyes was blown out it the second battle of Fallujah.....

I am sorry. Fuck you, Colonel or General.....


Just as in the Congress and Senate our Republic is carrying dead weight of old folks who don't get it........ in the military as well...... and are just flailing around to protect the status quo as it was sixty years ago.

Sixty years ago we didn't let niggers and nips do much in the Army beyond cook and clean.

Still, when push came to shove in WWII...they did OK. Northern Italy has more insane stories of heroism that no one has ever heard....because our high command sent the niggers and nips in to do the job in situations that were not OK. Check out Miracle at St. Anna's by James McBride....or Senator Dan Inyoue's life story.

Picture the modern Army without African-Americans, Asians or Latinos.

Good luck.

I have this bad feeling that our own wounded vets are now the New Millenium.... niggers and nips.

At the end of my impromptu lecture from my military professor.....he assured me that the High Command understands the problem, and recognizes the best and the brightest coming up....and the value of new ideas and innovation. It just take a while for excellence to filter down from the top....or to percolate up from the bottom.


Last night at the fancy dinner party we catered, one of the guests ( a big-time car guy) left a copy of a recent issue of Autoweek. The cover story is about the new Alfa 8C....a car so beautiful, so well designed....and so expensive... it could never have come from America.

How sad is that?

I almost cried reading the article.

In Spain, Amanda and I always rent an Alfa-Romeo 146.....a four cylinder, 16 valve, five-door beauty that goes like a bat out of hell and gets 50 miles to the gallon. My bank in Spain has a program where you can buy one for 800 euros per month for two years....and own the fucking thing. This is less than $24,000, including interest costs.

GM could never compete....because they have the same colonels and generals stifling the new, weird and young....and disabled.... that our military seems to have.

GM and Chrysler are bankrupt......

God forbid our military should be.....

I hope someone in the military is paying attention. I know my military professor guy is......

I am waiting for my Commander-in-Chief to take his hands out of his pockets and assume the role.

Remember "Change"?

Remember "Hope"?

Oh.....quick question.

Which country in the world has the current lead on employing disabled folks in government programs?


Nuff said.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Diety strikes again......

For three or four summers now we have been working parties on Carmel Beach for a group of Texans.

Now….don’t just diss Texans reflexively……there might not be a Carmel or a Pebble Beach without Texans. OK, I know that might actually not be a bad thing…but shut up.

When we first moved to town more than 30 years ago my wife Jane worked reservations at Pebble Beach. Starting from Memorial Day, she had no worries at all….the place was full with long term reservations for folks from Texas. Mrs. Lehman would check in on Memorial Day into her suite, and check out on Labor Day. So would Mrs. Hunt, etc. And these ladies were the Grandes Dames….the grannies…and the younger folk followed suit.

If town was not full of Texans, everyone else was from Modesto, Fresno, Palm Springs….anywhere where summer is insufferable. Carmel and Pebble are famous for summer fog….so bring it on, baby. This is why people came. Well, and golf….

Our summer weather report used to be: “Late night and early morning coastal low cloud and fog….clearing by mid-day…..” This is why we have the most stupid and useless TV weather folk in America….there is nothing to report most of the time.

“Late night and early morning coastal low cloud and fog…clearing by mid day…..”

Tonight on the Beach at 13th I heard the CEO of a jet company tell his buddies: “I’ve been here for 39 days…..and I have only seen the sun three or four times….and I have had the best vacation of my life……Fuck that sun anyway!”

Pebble Beach fucked it all up decades ago by booting the old ladies and trying to sell Carmel and Pebble as fun in the sun….Occupancy has plunged from 98% in Jane’s era to “don’t ask”.

Yesterday on Carmel Beach I ran into the owner of one of the top three or four charging restaurants and bars on the Peninsula. If this guy goes down…we will all be drinking in the parking lot of Safeway and sharing Cheetos…..

We talked for a bit….until he had to leave because my Grandpuppy was trying to madly hump his Golden…..

Meanwhile he let slip that he heard from a Board Member of Pebble that they are actually talking about closing down Spanish Bay due to total lack of business.

Whatever….we are neck deep in Texans who are renting houses in Carmel for $5k a week for a month and are perfectly happy to pay a hundred bucks a head and more to hang on Carmel Beach.

The sad part of that story is that our COSTS are terribly close to a hundred bucks a head…but who cares? Volume cures all….they told me in Hotel School.

Anyway…..I am not writing about Texans or the economy…but about rough justice.

My Texans are actually really sweet, kind, trusting people. Somewhere along the line they met an insane person from the cooking school on Cannery Row who does breakfasts and lunches, and small dinners…and hors d’oeuvres for them before they walk down to the Beach to have our food.

This person….and by the way, my choice of the word “insane” comes from a long, deep and special relationship with the DSM (I-IV) (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders….Volume IV)……but nevertheless, this is an informal and adhoc diagnosis….

This crazy person who masquerades as a chef has been haunting us for four years now. Let us call her “Phyllis”…

“Phyllis” does appetizers at the Texans' house before they troop down to the Beach to us. What is weird is that “Phyllis” follows the clients down to the Beach….and dines with them.

She used to wear her chef’s coat….Monterey Culinary Academy……or “Cannery Row Cooks” as most of us know them.

“Phyllis” would parade down with the clients like a diva….and demand instant service. She would actually snap her fingers at me for more white wine. One notable night (and we have done at least a dozen Beach parties for our Texans…complete with “Phyllis”)…..she arrived late. We had already stripped down our hors d’oeuvre scene and were trying to flog out dinner. “Phyllis” demanded one of each of our hors d’oeuvres….so she could “appreciate our style”. Little finger drops…..

Another time…during the fires last year when we were taking care of our Beach Texans AND driving down to Big Sur to feed actual firefighters…..”Phyllis” again arrived late, and again seemed…..overstimulated, perhaps…..”Phyllis” was so late that we had not just broken down our appetizers, but broken down the buffet and all the food but some strawberries.

“Phyllis” snapped her fingers at me, and demanded a plate of food: “I am a guest! You need to bring me my dinner!”

Meanwhile….it turns out that “Phyllis” was crashing all these parties. She was imposing on the great good nature of the sweet Texans that had hired both of us. Because the Texans didn’t know she was coming….we didn’t know…and there was never a plate, napkin, silverware, or even a fucking chair for this “person”.

Not to worry…..”Phyllis” would always go through the buffet line first….and sit down first. Since she was the wild card…this always meant that one of the real guests would wind up sitting on a milk carton, eating off a serving platter with whatever forks and knives we found in the bottom of our tool box.

Tonight was the Ultimate.

“Phyllis” arrived late….we were waiting for the hostess to fly back from Austin from the deathbed of her best friend’s husband…so we had waited dinner for a good forty minutes. “Phyllis” demanded one of each of our apps….When she tried one of our fresh Monterey sardine bocadillos she staggered and collapsed in the sand and shrieked that we had poisoned her by giving her an “anchovy”.

We helped her up and returned her to the party. We stopped serving her wine at this point.

My sweet Texans continued to talk to her, and involve her in their party…..

We noticed that we now had 15 people on the Beach….and only 14 chairs…..Our hostess had only ordered food for 12. One of the guests….these guys are Captains of Industry and definitely not stupid….had counted the chairs at the tables when he arrived (12) and was ribbing me when he realized that I had brought more chairs than the hostess ordered, just in case.

It was clear that the hostess had forgotten to tell me that Captain of Industry was coming.

Whatever. Her friend’s husband had died…..Twelve turns to fourteen, who cares?

We called Dinner……

First in line…..”Phyllis” the party crasher caterer. She takes her plate and sits down. My Captain of Industry guy gives me a look…..He and I both know that there are now not enough chairs, plates, napkins and silverware for the actual guests. We both laugh and shrug, silently. He ain’t paying….I ain’t paying….Whatever.

“Phyllis” is clearly now completely wasted. Not from us….she pre-gamed. And, as an expert….I am thinking her buzz is not just fermented. She babbles, staggers, crosses her legs at the table in the sand and nearly falls over backwards.

My sweet, kind Texans take one look….and opt to share plates….and stand and eat at the bar, rather than sit at the same table with the insane caterer. Meanwhile, one Captain of Industry at the other table is still sitting on a milk crate, because “Phyllis” has captured the other table and chairs….

We just go on doing our jobs…trying to take care of our folks…

“Phyllis” eventually gets up and staggers to the bar…..We give her Death Looks…as always….and ignore her. She sways over the bar for a while....and staggers off up the Beach. I warn all my workers to be ready for projectile vomiting. We all defer the possibility of actually drowning this dumb bitch disgrace to everyone who ever put food on a plate for the last 10,000 years…but not by much.

We go back to taking care of our folks……

We then hear a lot of crazy noise coming from the bluff above 13th.

“Phyllis”…drunk as a sailor, plus whatever else….has missed the gentle turn on Scenic and driven up onto a rock on the sidewalk. It is night, so she has not killed anyone….or worse, any dogs. She is so out of it that she does not run….she continues to rev her engine and try to spin her tires into some kind of heat vortex that would beam her out of her situation. She is five meters from driving down onto our party full of her own clients.

There is a tradition of military heroism, just short of falling on a grenade to save your buddies. It is calling in an airstrike on your own position. Think “Platoon”. On rare occasions we call in a Carmel Police airstrike on our 13th Beach position.

Long story short: cops come, haul away “Phyllis”. DUI arrests take awhile….lots of lights, drama…..the whole towing her car off the rocks thing….

My sweet Texans discover all this as they are walking back to their $5k a week rental house.

“Omigod! It’s “Phyllis”! How terrible. How can we help? This is awful!”


“What are we going to do about brunch tomorrow?”

Sorry….I love Texans…

And....."Revenge is a meal that is best eaten cold......and with the hands."

Or the cell phone.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Don't Trip....Don't Fall

Restaurant guys always think we know about war. We work crazy long hours under intense pressure in dangerous, fucked up conditions. We are judged on not on the length or quality of our sevice, but on decisions we make and skills we exhibit in a furnace of experience the feels like war to us. We feel like we are going to die....all the time.

It is bullshit, of course. Rarely is anyone actually shooting at us...except in Cachagua.

Still, there are parallels. The pressure.....the intense, proximate and physical nature of the work.

In Restaurant one gives a shit about your personal life. Can you produce? Can you stand up for your fellow workers? Can you handle it?

Restaurant Land is fine with coked-out bartenders, Wikka witch waitresses, illegal Salvadorian dishwashers sleeping in the dumster, heroin pumped chefs, gay waiters and maitre d's, lesbian bar managers. No one cares.....we judge you on what you bring to us in your eight, twelve or twenty hour shift.

"Don't ask, don't tell"?

Fuck that...we are all about: "I will tell you stuff you don't want to know....and you better tell me stuff you don't want to share....."

Or...I will make up shit to counter the shit that you made up about me....

Bitch. works.

Right now, Community Organizer Obama is melding into some weird Presbyterian Rotary guy with five broomsticks up his ass.

The LBGT.....or LGBT...I don't know who gets to be on top.....voted overwhelmingly for Obama, and he has not done shit for them in return.

He is no dummy. I mean, whatever he does....short of hanging faggots from lampposts.......who they gonna vote for? Sarah Palin? Newt Gingrich?

We all thought better of him...but we all thought better of ourselves, as well. I was "Most Likely To Succeed" from Chatham Township High School in 1967. Succeed at what? Composting?

I'll take that award.....I have it down. Finally.

Anyway.....the U.S. military has been canning openly gay and lesbian soldiers since the Clinton era. Thousands of them.

Really unfortunately for us as a nation is the weird statistic that American educated Arabic speakers tend to be more gay than hetero. So, the Bush administration.....and the Clintons and Obama.....have been hunting down and firing Arabic-speaking, less-than-heterosexual Arabic speaking intelligence officers. Hundreds of them.


As someone whose Dad was gay....whose brother was gay.....and who has spent a career working with and for gay and lesbian people who seemed smarter and better at what I do than I am.....I have always been mystified by DADT.

Obama one second defer all firing of LGBT soldiers. He is the super general....he doesn't need to wait for Congress.

Obama claims that he is waiting for a generational change in the military.

He may have a point.

The US military has the dual distinction of being one of the last holdouts of organized racism....and one of the first heralds of institutional diversity.

The modern US military probably has more Asian, black, Latino and Pacific islander officers and advanced enlisted men and women than society at large.

Picture this, though.

I bought new shoes last month. Not for some Pebble Beach function where I was being given big dough to perform in an arena where perception is reality.

I bought new shoes to go to my friend's "Hail and Farewell" ceremony at the DLI in Monterey. Clean shirt, jacket, new shoes....nice tie.

My friend....who should probably go un-named although I know he could give a rat's an actual war hero.

West Point. Fluent Mandarin speaker. Part of the SecDef staff under Rumsfeld. Sent to Harvard for an MBA by the Army.

Rock-climber from Sanctuary Rock Gym!

Blown up in the Second Battle of Fallujah. Hit by an RPG, which did not go off....but still blew off half his face, his tongue, his eye....and lots of his control over half his body.

After six months in a buddy woke up in a room in Walter Reade with crumbling plaster and active rats.

My buddy has poor impulse he told everyone, and the shit hit the fan. He got fired from his cushy SecDef job, and it was assumed that a guy that fucked up would take early retirement and leave the Army.

My buddy loves the Army. Actually loves the Army.

On the day he assumed his command in Fallujah he talked with the soldiers in his platoon and swore an oath matter what....he would take care of them, and use all his skills and powers to bring them back from Iraq in one piece.

Next morning, he was hit with an RPG and blown up. His troops saved him, rather than vice versa. This is a debt of gratitude, obligation and responsibility.

Fast forward four years. My buddy refused to be retired from the Army due to wounds. Got sent to northern Alaska to try to convince him otherwise. Didn't work.

His most recent command was locally. Actually, not his most recent command.....his next command. Our local amazing woman in her own right....reached out and put my buddy in a command where no one else would.

As a Captain, he was in charge of a company of various officers in the local language school. Many of the officers in his command out-ranked him.....but that is the way things go in school.

The day I bought new shoes to go to the Hail and Farewell is a big ceremonial day at the local base. The outgoing guy brings in his friends and family, and everyone gets a place on the dias. The new guy brings in his friends and family, and everyone gets a chair on the dias.

I got a chair on the dias.....with my own name on an actual US Army piece of paper taped to the back. Scary.

Part of the deal is that the current command of the outgoing Captain is there on the field. There is a lot of music, and saluting....and scary Sargent-Majors stalking around doing the real work of organizing the company.

My buddy did not make it mandatory to come to his Hail and Farewell. Normally it is mandatory. My guy told his troops to come if they wanted.....

Out of 200 some-odd soldiers....officers for the most part.....60 showed.

The reason?

The Army thinks that badly wounded people.....regardless of their mental, spiritual, emotional capabilities...should retire.

Two thirds of my buddy's command fell on that team. No one blatant disrespect and protest to my buddy's command of the company.

The weekend before the Hail and Farewell my buddy climbed Half Dome.....up one of the harder routes. With one arm and one leg and one eye. Turns out your tongue grows back after an RPG strike.

Two weeks before, my buddy organized anyone interested at the local base to help me put 5,000 crosses on Carmeol Beach to commerorate our lost soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. He bought all the paint, and did all the work identifying and labeling all the lost soldiers and getting their info onto cards for us to staple to the crosses on the beach.

In his speech to the 60 soldiers who showed, my buddy said:

"On our first day in Fallujah, I told my platoon that I would take care of them, that I would keep them safe and bring them back home soldiers and as a unit. It did not work out that way. My unit saved me. I have spent the last four years working myself back to a command post where I could fulfill that mission and promise I gave my troops that day in Fallujah. I thank the Army for giving me that chance to fulfill my promise to my troops."

Yeah, well.....Fuck you, cripple.

I guess the point of this post is two-fold:

Obama is right....there is a culture in the US military that needs to be undone and out-waited. Older fuckheads need to be retired and replaced. Better to go along and get along, for now.

And....the efficiency and ability of the US military to function in the modern world is directly dependent on its ability to LIVE in the modern world.

For me these two aspects are not parallel....they are at cross purposes. Whatever rot in our armed services allows discrimination against gays....and acutal wounded, experienced, trained, talented veterans....needs to be scoured out.

Macho has its uses.....

But, right now.....I wish my President had a quarter the balls, courage, vision and determination of some of the people that serve him as Commander-in-Chief.

From what I have seen......make that one-tenth.

Frankly.....I don't see it.

We have been dog-sitting my buddy's wolf puppy that he bought in Alaska when the Army was trying to either kill him or get him to quit. Our buddy was on the lawn at the White House last Sunday for a PR event with lots of other wounded vets.

There are all kinds of wounds......not all are inflicted by RPG's.

I hope Obama doesn't get lost in the Washington bullshit and forget his core principles.

There is really very little difference in the effect on our country between the kinds of injuries inflicted on my buddy....and those of his classmate at West Point.....Lt. Dan Choi.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell...

Oh, yeah......and:

Don't Trip, Don't Fall....

The Diety strikes again......

Once again....proof that there is a God....and She has a Sense of Humor.....

Strange scenes inside the gold mine.....

Wednesday we are working on The Beach for our government spook buddies. We have a long-term contract with an arm of the military that has been seeking to stop the next war now.

Sort of like Code Pink.....with PhD's.....and lots of guns, boats and airplanes.

Anyway, I am at 13th, lighting up the Webers to get the BBQ's going. We use chimneys rather than charcoal lighter. Chimneys need two or three pieces of newspaper, rather than a toxic dousing of hydrocarbons.

I am always stunned at people that walk by some bozo pouring Kingsford lighter fluid on a smoking pile Kingsford briquettes and go: "Ahhh.....Barbeque! It smells so good!" This kind of comment...which is not rare at all.....makes actual chefs want to chop off an arm and gnaw on it.

Don't people know that Kingsford was started by Henry a great way to dispose of industrial and agricultural by-products of his various Michigan operations? Briquettes and lighter fluid rank right up there with bitter hatred of the Jews and support for Hitler in the whole "Henry Ford Lifetime Achievement" roster. Well, there were some union massacres in there, too....but the Jews have recovered.

Barbeque has not. Unions, either.

Anyway, tearing up the Herald for kindling....possibly its greatest use since it abandoned actual journalism some years back (Orville excepted)....I found myself reading the obituaries for the previous day.

Selby Henderson has died. His wake is right now, at the Rio Grill.

Selby was a 25 year employee of the Rio. An Englishman.....a leader of Lovers and Strangers, the best local band back in the time when Monterey could support actual music. Selby was a strange kind of Englishman....knew absolutely nothing about football (soccer) or rugby or cricket. Knew a lot about his adopted country's sports, all good barmen must.

Selby was a consummate modern restaurant worker. He had been at the Rio so long he almost wore the badge of ownership. One knew he had the backing of management regardless. But still.... he was a barman and waiter.....and depended on the good will of his people for his actual income. He walked that thin line of profitability and hospitality like Nureyev. I wish Obama would tap less lawyers and more waiters and barmen for State Department roles. Life would be better.

There are very few Carmelians who have not at some point humiliated themselves at Selby's bar or at one of the tables in Selby's station. Selby was a price. A fair price. Having a drink at Selby's bar or a meal at one of his tables was a weekly ritual for hundreds of locals. Whatever else awful and crazy was going on in town, the state, the nation, the world, your life.....a small, polite, normal interaction with Selby would give each of us who were his constituents a dose of reality and perspective. Selby treated each of us the same each time.....drunk, sober, angry, besotted with love, frustrated by divorce, full of hope for the new business, grasping at straws as the shit hit the matter.

Selby was one of our mini-Mayors....

There is a larger town in Carmel that is defined not by geography but by habit, practice, custom, gentility....hospitality. Selby was one of our few gentlemen. Gentle Men.

To find out about his passing on the day of his wake .....while lighting a fire with his obituary....was personally challenging. I am a Master of Irony....but only a blue belt.

I immediately drove to the Rio. 110 CIA agents be damned. I had time for just a quick cruise of the room and a token drink in his honor. Every knucklehead in town was there: Bob Marsh, Ciney, many of the ex-Rio girls and boys, all the social folks, all the drunks......The crowd was not dis-similar to the crowd at the Bill Bates memorial the week before.....maybe a bit younger and more twisted....but everyone sharing the same sense of rotten humor. Rotten sense of humor...

So....the CIA awaited. I had to go....and miss the best restaurant party in twenty years.

On to Brinton's to buy glasses for the flower arrangements my idiots forgot to pack for my spook clients.....and a second chimney for the second Weber. And two Presto Logs to start the bonfires for my spooks with no drama. And mantles for the Colemans....

Scotty helped me find my fifteen tall glasses (Brinton's is cheaper than almost anywhere, by the way....all you Home Depot and OSH and Nordstrom/Macy's people should get a clue....local does not mean more expensive....) helped me load up and head for the exits, trying to make up for my fifteen minutes with Selby.

On the way out, I got stopped by a camera crew from KSBW-8 in Salinas.

"Can we have a minute of your time?" Sure.

"We are doing a story about people spending more time in their gardens, growing their own food and such...rather than going out and socializing."


"Do you find yourself spending more time at home in your garden rather than going out to restaurants and parties......"

Help me, Jesus. I just had an awkward conversation 20 seconds ago, on camera, at the register with a woman with more plastic surgery than Michael Jackson who recognized me from last fall's Weekly article about culinary Rebels and the whole machine gun thing......This "journalist" does not realize that I am a busy caterer in the middle of a full-on catering melt-down involving the CIA..... walking party goods to his commercial catering vehicle.

Well, yes. We paid a crazy woman thousands of dollars to build us raised beds near The Store to protect us from the "Aliens !" style Cachagua gophers so we could have maybe less dust around our place that irritates the drunks and crackheads that are our main clientele... and more access to rare herbs that we use in cooking.

"Ummm, yes. This year we built raised beds to grow our own herbs and vegetables."

"Is that in response to the economic slowdown....growing your own vegetables?"

Well....we spent thousands of dollars building drip-irrigated beds to grow herbs and vegetables that we could have bought commercially at a quarter the price.....We hired a crazy woman to help us start our garden after she started a new business building gardens after having been fired from a commercial travel agency. We like her and wanted to help.


"Do you get a sense of relaxation, working in your garden....and eating the vegetables you grew yourself?"

Most of the things we planted died. We lost hundreds of man hours better spent billing clients for the work we had acutally done.....and paying the nice man from the IRS for lost tax returns.......

"Ummmm. I found that I am only good at growing crops that are currently illegal. And...I don't want to lose my house, so I am staying away from that aspect of home farming.......but everything we planted this year died except the chard and kale.....and it was not really relaxing watching money disappear."

"So, do you find yourself spending more time at home in your garden, and cooking your own food than going out to restaurants and parties?"

Fucking Selby. I know he was behind this........


"Oh, yes. Absolutely."

"That's great....thank you for your time."

They filmed me as I carried by fifteen vases for the CIA beach party....and my presto logs and my chimney and my butane for the Coleman lanterns.....and loaded into my obvious commercial catering vehicle.

Lord......I love your Sense of Humor. Take care of our buddy, Selby.

And please send us a ironic folk are getting thin on the ground.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Don't need to hear this after a long day......

Ignore the ad that leads the video.

A reminder that Philadelphia is a Southern city.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Real Reason.....

As always....thanks to KOS.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Where is the KY?

Not as in "Kentucky".

When being is so much better to have some lube.

And not so much sand in the mix.

If you want to have a greater appreciation for the Second Amendment....check out Matt Taibbi's latest rant in Rolling Stone. Or his previous rant.

You think you own your economy? You think you have power over your expenses, investments and finances?

You silly little bitch.

Read any of it, and you may find yourself perusing the subtle differences between Redfield, Bushnell, and Leupold.

Iran is not the only "democracy" that is being exposed as a farce these days.

75% of Americans want a public option for health insurance. More than half want single-payer health insurance. It probably won't happen.

Forget Goldman Sachs....let's talk insurance.

Strolling through my favorite Spain, one is struck by the urban office demographics. Lots of clothing stores and designers. Lots of furniture and homeware stores and designers. A crazy amount of restaurants. A truly crazy number of food stores and markets. A gratifying number of bars......

No doctors. No lawyers. No insurance companies.

They exist....but you have to search for them. Mostly, the pharmacist can hook you up.

Medical care is free. Well....not free, but paid for by the government from your paycheck.

In Donostia.....clothes are relatively cheap. Bars are crazy cheap. They have the best food in the world.....and it is also crazy cheap. Well, not cheap.....just not crazy expensive.

For me, the best part of life in Donostia is the fact that her people....young and old...have never had to worry about health. They think of other things, and put energy into other things.

Art. Food. Couture. Music. Surfing. There seem to be lots of babies on parade on Sex and Family. is me. I own two crappy businesses in the middle of California, all of us barely hanging on. Many of us on a first name basis with the nice man from the IRS. My workers, nearly to a man or woman.....have absolutely no health care insurance whatsoever. Most of them are young, and therefore just as bulletproof as Michael Jackson. Some of us are old and infirm......we expect and hope to die quickly in the traces......preferably at work.

Meanwhile, a major percentage of my monthly expenses is paid for health insurance. There are times when my workers are covered by seven different policies at once. None of it will help them with heart disease or diabetes....but they all will help if they get hurt on the job.

We have seven vehicles. We pay around $4,000 a year for insurance coverage to take care of anyone injured in a car driven by any of my people, or of my people injured in one of my cars or trucks. We pay liability insurance for our store, and product liability for our case someone is stabbed, burned or poisoned during their Store or catering experience. There is Worker's Comp......a stiff percentage of every dollar paid to case they are injured on the job in a way not covered by any of the above.

If one of my workers is on the job, and driving one of my cars, and stops to buy gas at Valero at Mid Valley.....this worker is covered by liability insurance held by the landlord, the business operator, and the auto coverage, the worker's comp, my liability, etc.

In the real world, this guy would also have private health insurance.....but the only worker who does is my son and chef. Since he is a typical 28 year old knucklehead with a penchant for motorcycles, travel to strange foreign countries with bizarre foods and loose women and losser hygene.......despite his monthly insurance payments....he pays a negotiated $800 a month to Community Hospital for past sins and injuries. This requires him to have two jobs....with two worker's comp policies, two liability insurances, multiple vehicle insurances, etc.

The last time I was in Community Hospital, there was expensive artwork on every wall, fountains, pools and schools of priceless koi......and my guy is paying half his income to these elitist pricks just to stay alive?

If we had a Donostia-style single-payer health plan, all these insurance policies would be thrown in the trash.....and the money at CHOMP would be spent on workers, not designer carp. Right off the bat, I would save $20,000 a year. I could charge less. My suppliers could charge less. My workers would have more money to spend in my community. I would have more money to spend in my community.

Oh.....and they would not have that great grey cloud of certain disability, poverty and death that poisons our social and creative life here in California.

Who would be the losers?

Insurance companies. Medical surgery farms.

Right now, the way our system works is that these companies make so much money that they can pay a tiny percentage of their profits and completely dominate our political process.

Think Joe Lieberman.

Think Diane Feinstein.

Oh.....there is one other member of our world with really good, affordable health care.

Xabi the Dog.

Twenty-eight bucks a month covers almost everything that can happen to a dog....even a crazy dog like Xabi.

Liz The Store Lady? Fifty something....worked her ass off her entire life....sweet, kind, loving, intelligent, subtle....a pillar of our little community? Has not been near a doctor in a decade.....and won't be anytime soon.

There is no money for it.....if she gets sick, she just dies.

She can admire the artwork, and the fucking she fades away leaving her daughter with tens of thousands of dollars worth of emergency care bills.

What a great country we have........And we bitch about Iran?