couch surfing road trip

WHEN KIDS TAKE PICTURES   I go to a restaurant and I want to eat in peace and not be thrown out so I give my kid my phone.  Later I find many, many photos on my phone that I delete.  But sometimes there is a gem.  Perhaps I should an curate art show.  “Shots my kid took that were actually good.” I bet, you have found some good ones as well?  By the way… Who puts Venetian plaster on a ceiling? When you travel as we just did, you do go to restaurants more than at home.  So it’s good to have your batteries charged. The ones in your phone, for your human battieries, you get out of town.  But, when you are watching the dollars, HOW?  We did a couch surfing through California trip.  It helps if your friends live in cool places.  Our first stop is with the Abascals at their Vines of the Marycrest winery.  Victor family knew my family so when our kids play we are gazing upon  a third generation friendship.  They live in Paso Robles and we speed up the road so we could get to the town square in time for Paso’s first concert in the park of the summer. vines of the marycrestI love this picture, except I’m not sure why I have my hand like that.  Perhaps my hand wanted more wine since it’s pointing in the direction of Vic’s winery.  We are Culver City kids and he planted his first vines on our hill at the top which is called Marycrest Manor. Objectively, the wine is great and I’m a wine snob.  You can’t find it in stores unless you live in Paso, so order some!   We use to serve one of his reds, “Heart of Glass” at Campanile when it was, well, you know… open. The most recent vintage of Heart that I tasted has a great smokey taste to it. Now, in general I’m not a fan of California wines.  I tend to like the taste of old world wines more.  More restrained.  Victor has found the balance of restraint with the fruit flavor we get from our California reds.  Plus, his rose’ “Summertime” is so good I bought a case and passed them out like Johnny Appleseed as host presents to all those who put us up for the night.  Another reason my first stop is his place.  I’m a white wine nut, usually French whites, which, I use to be surprised by, are often cheaper than California whites.  I like the dry, crisp, mineral nature of them.  However, once again Culver City boy has made a white I love.  Appropriately titled, “At Last”.  You can see he likes music.  None of the overly fruit, buttery Cal syrup I can’t stand.  Goes great with fish, cheese, the leftovers I’m eating right now standing in front of my fridge.  Oh, we’ll skip that. I love the dry air up in Paso there and we walked the vineyards before hitting the road to San Fran which has cold damp air that I don’t love.  vines of the marycrest All 26 acres was covered in almond trees and Victor took them out himself.  So, you could buy some crap wine that has the muscle to get into  a supermarket, but why?  Often for the same price you can buy quality stuff from people who don’t have the marketing budget.  Please, don’t tell me there is good wine at Trader Joe’s.  There isn’t. vines of the marycrest moms who love wine   Back in the car the next day.. if I’m not driving I watch a movie with the kids.  “Nanny McPhee” is good.  Guess Rex had seen enough.colin firthroad trip with kids There is never enough time to see all the friends I want to in Nor. Cal.  I lived there for 12 years.   We had expensive dinner in SF.  It was good, largely seafood, but I was surprised at the cost.  No wonder I cook at home more often than not these days.  The problem is where to source good ingredients.  My local markets fish, eh at best.  I just got ground beef that was neither smart, but certainly final, the final time I buy meat from them.  I digress. We save on a hotel though.. a friend left the keys to her SF pad for us ( she was in Tahoe).  My kids were so charmed by the small balcony and little back yard. san fran with kids I think Rex started to go nihilistic urbannihilistic child I tried to explain that this was a good amount of space for the City, but they didn’t care.  They perched themselves on the tiny metal balcony and watched people go by. Time to head back to the country…. ( Next post)

Well, yes, my husband was in the NY Times

the man loves his pressure cooker

I’m back!   I just got back from a great road trip with my kids. Seriously.  I was so unplugged that I wasn’t even able to crow about my the big feature on my dear husband in the Sunday NY Times.  Yes, I was mentioned which was pretty cool as well.

The interview for this story was months ago and it morphed from an online story to being in a the regular paper copy.  They hinged on Mark’s body being beat up after years of cooking.  I don’t love this angle.  I think it’s sort of silly since I know plenty of people his age who had desk jobs are round as a circle and have had knee or hip replacements.  If they really want to gauge what jobs affect people’s bodies they would need to control for family history, diet, etc.  They also got a few things wrong in the article, Rex is 4, but at his age he probably doesn’t mind the bump.

I love that the NY Times wrote about my husband.  He has worked very hard for years and has a lot of accomplishments and glad for them to be recognized.  Along with his sore back.

When Stars Align a guest post by Monique Ruffin

While I’m on my trip I have enlisted some of my favorite women to help me fill this space.  Because of my involvement in the Mayor’s race I have felt more connected to my city and wanted to pick bloggers who also feel that connection.  Today it is Monique Ruffin.  I met Monique at a shoot for Mom.me sometime in ’12 and I was instantly drawn to her.  A charismatic single mom I thought, “she has it”.  She writes for the Huffington Post and is passionate about her dedication to doing good and raising her son who has special needs.             If we were in pre school together I would pull my mat next to hers at nap time.  The more you know of her you too will want to be her friend. 

 

Last Tuesday, May 21, 2013, Eric Garcetti was elected mayor Los Angeles, the second largest city in the U.S. It was a hard-fought race for both candidates, and by the end of the campaign, many local news outlets were saying it was too close to predict a winner. In my personal circle, which includes many politically savvy folks, the message was to keep campaigning to the very end in order to ensure a Garcetti victory.

 

As fate would have it, I was interviewed by Seema Mehta, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, just three days before the election. At the time, I was at the park pushing my six-year-old son on the swing. Sometimes the stars just align, and things happen more fortuitously for you than if you had tried to organize them yourself. I have been a political junky all my life, and I was heavily involved in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. I even wrote a book, titled Open Your American Heart: From Personal Responsibility to Collective Accountability, hoping to help citizens understand the personal nature of politics and how valuable we each are to the process. And so when Mehta approached me with a tape recorder and asked who I was supporting for mayor, I was ready to talk. What a fabulous opportunity!

 

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I have lived and worked in many different areas of the city. I love it here. One of my most favorite things about L.A. is our farmers’ markets. I do most of my shopping at the farmers’ markets because I understand the value of circulating dollars to local farmers and how the practice impacts the community and the environment. And because I have a young son, I care deeply about the welfare of the city’s parks, and of the public schools on which he and I rely. My son has Down syndrome, so when it comes to education, I’m all too aware of the benefits of a well-funded system. Maintaining solid programs that benefit all children will prove to be a mighty effort for mayor-elect Garcetti, as it has been for mayors in the past. It is my belief that this mayor has what it takes, the heart and the wisdom, to make a difference.

 

The day after Mehta interviewed me, the Times called to ask if they could come and take a photograph of my son and me. I agreed, and the day before the election Zion and I hit the big time, supporting Eric Garcetti for mayor. That morning my phone started ringing early. I thought someone in my family had died, because relatives I usually see or speak with during the holidays or on my birthday were calling me. After learning that the district where I live, Mid-Wilshire, might be the one to determine the next mayor, I wrote a piece supporting Garcetti for the Huffington Postto drum up last-minute support. I also persuaded as many friends and family members as I could to go vote. It was expected that only a small percentage of voters would participate (it turned out to be only 19 percent), so I knew every vote would make a difference. By the end of election day, two of my neighbors acknowledged my efforts as the reason they took themselves to the polls to cast a vote for Garcetti. I just love that.

Eric Garcetti, Monique Ruffin in the Charlie Chaplin room at Campanile July 2012

 

I’m looking forward to the next four years. I’m going to engaged deeply in local politics and support the issues that matter most for me and my family. I have Daphne Brogdon to thank for this. If she had not invited me to the luncheon hosting a group of about twenty blogging moms and then mayoral candidate Garcetti, I would not have gotten to know him, and I would not have felt as inspired as I was on the day the reporter approached my son and me in the park. Who knows what’s possible when the stars align?

Monique Ruffin can be found at the Huffington Post and at Moms Can Change the World.  

LA Mayor Race

On President’s day I was sitting in LA City Councilman’s Eric Garcetti’s house making cold calls to voters while my children played upstairs in his bedroom with his daughter…how did I get here?  This is my story… 

“Since when do people care about the LA Mayor’s race?” a friend queried the other night at dinner.  It’s kind of true.  It seem like a bigger deal this year, but I can’t tell, because it’s a bigger deal to me personally.   

Being politically minded since I was in pre school and campaigning for my dad I always pay attention.

my dad running for re election in Culver City. I'm the one with the peace sign

However, this year I’m much more involved because we are friends with one of the candidates, Eric Garcetti.

Now, for non Angelenos, bear with me. This is still the life of a mom trying to keep her hand in the world and teach her kids at the same time. Eric is a city council member of the 13th district (Silver Lake,Hollywood), he was city council president for years.   In a race with two women in it Garcetti got the endorsement of the National Organization for Women.  A couple of highlights in that arena:

- More than 60 percent of his commission appointees have been women, and many of top posts in his staff are held by women.

Eric tripled the number of parks in his district.   He has been a big supporter of charter schools. He got aftercare in all of the public schools in his districts. His district had job growth even during the recession.

Now, those are the beats on a good brochure and things that line up with my politics.  But, the personal is what puts this over the top.  I wrote a few years ago about being at a dinner party where I met Councilman Garcetti and his mom Sukey Garcetti.  My husband already knew them since Eric’s sister had worked for him and because at the helm of one of top restuarants in LA for over 20 years my husband knows everyone.

I was entranced as I spoke to mother and son.  They are warm, down to earth, smile on their face.  Over the course of dinner I learned that Eric is an accomplished jazz pianist, Rhodes scholar, Navel Reserve and foster parent.  I asked Sukey, “How did you raise a child like this?” wanting to duplicate her results.

“Hold them close and then let them go.” She smiled.  I knew there had to be more to it than that.  I kept in touch with Sukey for dinner.   Sukey’s husband Gil is a former District Attorney of LA .  Then we heard Eric was going to run for Mayor.

first of many events

Mark agreed to do the food for an event.  This was back in ’11.  Eric was efusisive in his appreciation for Mark’s contribution and when Eric spoke to the party about why he was running for Mayor I was moved.  He is a true Angeleno, not one of these sad sack actors who has come to rape the land and complain about the pizza.  He is 4th generation and he is a mix like LA itself, Jewish, Mexican with an Italian last name who grew up in the Valley.

Little Eric with grandfather and sister

Last March when The Tar Pit closed I reached out to Eric’s office to see if he had  ideas of where we could relocate in his district.  He met us right away with an aid who helped with business development.  For other business reasons we didn’t act on this fact finding mission, but we appreciated his direct approach to helping a small business maintain viability.

As his campaign slowly ramped up I kept in touch with one of his associates so I could figure out how best to help.  I heard him talk many times at small meet and greets at people’s homes.  He has Clinton like charisma with Zen calm.  He deftly handles all questions with charm and a vigourious understanding of the issues.  One can see how he is a former college instructer as he lays out an issue, it’s problems and solutions.   I always learn when I hear him speak.

I threw a “Grilled Cheese For Garcetti” luncheon for Eric at Campanile last summer  ( oh, remember when we still had a restaurant?) to introduce him to LA mom bloggers.  Sukey attended as well so mom and son could work their charm offensive.  Some of my favorite mom bloggers were there like Donna Schwartz Mills of SoCal mom,  Jessica Gottlieb, MomsLA, Yvonne and Sarah ( their video with him here) , Heather Spohr, Kim Tracy PrinceSarah Maizes

Sarah Maizes, Jessica Gottlieb, Yvonne Condes, Sarah Auerswald

Sarah, you may remember her for her hilarious star turn in one of my “how to be a mom ” series with Cafe Mom.  She played the annoying parent.

"let's vote for Eric Garcetti for mayor"

My sister Carole, of LaGirlNow was there as well and immediately signed up to do an event for Eric.  She packed her lovely home in November for a big cocktail party where many people got to hear Eric talk about his vision for LA. Carole gave him a great introduction where she said the Brogdon girls hadn’t been active in a LOCAL campaign since one of our dad’s, but Eric had inspired us to get back involved.    He took many questions that night and one was from a man who was a bit grouchy.  (My sister wanted to leap across her living room and knock the plate of middle eastern food out of his hand that she had provided for being so cranky at her gathering.)  Eric handled it smoothly and with answered his concerns in detail ( it was about the business tax). He let the guy know he was hearing him.  That man now has a “Garcetti for Mayor” sign on his lawn. It’s one of the many times I’ve seen the councilmen with a “water off a ducks” back ease about whatever comes his way.  He is never thrown for a loop and is up on the issues.

Okay, so that takes you up to the end of 2012… More on this story of my local politics renaissance tomorrow.

 

Lemonade stand: Last days of summer (spons)

These Kia videos my kids and I did in September have become like a scrapbook book for me.  It was the last days of summer, and as it turned out, the last days of Campanile.  Though we didn’t know it yet.  In this charming episode of Vivien, Rex, Daphne and their 2013 Kia Sorento we use it to help sell some cool drinks on a hot day. I know they are my kids, but jeez they are pretty cute here. They did love serving the lemonade.

Yes, today we would do better as a hot chocolate stand. It’s shot very prettily and it’s in the parking lot of what was Campanile with Alex, who was the best valet guy making a cameo.   The La Brea Bakery sign is in the back, though they too have been forced to move up the street by the change of lease holders ( dead to me).

It’s a sweet nugget of time. Check out the nice car with the power folding side mirrors! Maybe I folded them to fast.  I didn’t see the predatory restauranteur breathing down our necks.

kids rebel against mom blogger (sponsored)

that’s the headline that will be coming soon.  Sure, I put everything up online from my muffintop, my shingle blisters, my butt crack.  But, my kids are on to me.  When I told Vivien I wanted to shoot her taking me on a tour of her Campanile she agreed with a caveat, “it’s only for our family mom.” That kid is hip to online privacy.

NO more pictures, we are not amused.

Drats, it would have been a great vid to post.  Let’s face it, absence of my kids 80% of my funniest videos would not provoke a chuckle.  Without my kids how can I be mom vlogger/blogger?  I could be a blogger/vlogger who is hostile towards her cats, really what else is going on around here?  ( btw cat lovers, remember these cats were foisted on me and one of them is truly nuts, and my daughter and I are allergic.) With out their funny lines, or approaches to life how would I be inspired?

That’s why this video cracked me up. Shows how modern parents will hang their kids out to dry if it will get hits on youtube.   It’s for Ragu, but not a salesy video. Seems more like an ad you’d see in Europe. Love when corporate America risks having some humor. ( It’s the not the one of the kid walking in on his parents)

 

Election day

Can we hold the election for a bit? I need just a little more time.  Not to make up my mind.  I know how I’m voting from President Obama to reforming three strikes in California. No, I need more time to marinate in the season. Elections have always been a big deal for me, but this year, not so much.

Here is My Obama, actor friend Ronnie Butler

I was pretty non plussed.  It’s been a bit of a challenging year, however there was NO WAY I would vote for Romney. The closing of Campanile has consumed my life for the last couple of months.  In 2004 I went to Florida to campaign for Kerry.  In ’08 I was in Texas for Hillary in the primaries,

In Austin in '08, Hillary is on the stage behind me.

then phone banking in California while pregnant with Rex.  I gave money a plenty.  This year I gave about $85. $35 was to win a dinner with Obama and Clooney (didn’t win) and the $50 was after Bill Clinton’s fantastic speech at the DNC got my panties in a bundle for the big dog.  The Dems email and call me about 20 times a day.  They have my vote, but not my attention.

Until now.  Campanile is closed.  I’m more relaxed.  I’m adjusting to the new normal. It took me a few days to notice how hard a hit Monster Storm Sandy was.  I’m checking back in! I want to watch political shows, as long as I don’t have to see Ann Coulter, I could even do some door to door in a swing state ( if it was one where they paid my way, which was offered for Nevada).  It’s like Obama said at the DNC, all along it was about us.  Or in this case me.  My life didn’t have time for this little presidential election until right now.  So, can we hold off?  I’m sure people in Ohio cannot get enough of those commercials! There are some happy ad sales people thanks to Citizens United.

Tuesday night I should be home by 5:30pm PST  ( after soccer practice) My remote is broken so I’m going to be burning calories, walking up to the TV and manually changing it between various news stations like it’s the late ’80′s.  I have some great olive oil mashed potatoes  my husband cooked, Brussel sprouts and a couple of steaks.  I’m going to pick up some Red, White ( no blue) wine tomorrow. My husband is going to be next me watching with wide eyes. It’s going to be close and for Supreme Court alone I sincerely hopes Obama is reelected.

Vivien at 3 in '08

About to go to school today.

In 2008 Campanile was the site of a blazing Election night dinner with big screens and happy Democrats hugging each other.  That night I thought our family was rich.  Within 5 weeks, life changed dramatically for us. So, am I better off than I was four years ago?  On paper, no, but in reality, yes.  The money I do have really does exist.  In the last few days I’ve spent more time with my husband than I have in a year or more.  It’s like a honeymoon, except instead of Tahiti we move boxes to storage units. Four years ago I didn’t have Rex.  There are minuses to be sure…I do miss hosting my TV show ( and the check) and my dad, global warming looks scarier every day. These are not things I can lay at Obama’s feet.

I love the excitement that an election year brings. Yes, it’s disruptive to some Facebook friends when you don’t agree with their political posts, ( I have to “hide” some people right now) but Vivien is learning a lot.  At school they are doing a mock election with fictional characters.  She is campaigning for TinTin.  “Please mommy, pinky swear that Tintin and Obama win.” I need more time to get this budding politico involved.  At her age I was going door to door for my dad’s campaigns.

I also need a little more time to decide about whether we should slap condoms on the porn stars of LA.  It’s Measure B.  Shouldn’t it be Measure P?

Note: so bummed I was fired up to vote first thing after I dropped the kids at school, but sadly, the moving has worked my back.  Mark was a champ and I need to ice up before I get to the polls.

it’s getting real

We are now 36 hours from the close of Campanile.  It’s been a month long wake.  Great to see people, lots of drinking, yet tinge of sadness.  It’s hard to write about as I’m going through.  I did finally cry yesterday.  I was talking to a total stranger. A friend of a waiter who had a kind face and without expecting I blubbered for a few seconds.

My sister’s said “we want to be there for you for the last night, to support you.”  Really, why?  I thought at first, so deep is my survival denial.  But, now it’s sinking in.  The epicenter of my husband’s professional life and that which we schedule most of our family life around is closing it’s doors.  Forever.

PACKING UP Mark's OFFICE

Will there be other projects, jobs?  Sure, but the place where my husband cemented his reputation, where I accidentally walked in one day and met the man I would marry and have babies with is closing.  Forever.

I saw the chef and restaurateur who are taking over the building in there the other day looking at the space with their architect.  Sizing up their remodel.  I said nothing.  I turned away.  LIke seeing a body measured for a coffin before it’s cold. That chef blabbed to a food blogger before Mark could speak to his staff.  I have nothing to say to him.

This reminds me of when I had to sell my house years ago post Madoff.  One more fucking loss.

I am an optimist and I always try to keep it together for my kids and show them that no matter what the core is our family.  But, I have to find a way to process this, feel it so I can move on.  I think that’s often the hard part for parents. How do you go through your own emotional crap without inflicting it on your kids?

I’m going to shoot “Vivien’s Campanile” today.

campanile kid

My support, sisters, mom, niece

A video of how she has seen it. Per her request I cannot share it outside of our family.  I want to record her memories, her special hiding places.  My dear step daughter Vanessa has come out from NYC for the close ( and happily missing Sandy).

siblings

It’s great to have her here.

our friend Jack
My sister Cecily and Mark

Hugs from friends and regulars

I still am not clear how I feel… maybe next week I’ll know.

Fine Dining Tramp

The announcement of Mark’s iconic LA restaurant, Campanile, closing has met with many stunned expressions.  Regular folk commenting on their Facebook page or in person how sad they are, how much they will miss it.  I love the respect and attention Mark and his staff are getting.

My sister and I couldn’t help injecting some humor into the final days. We created “Occupy Campanile” shirts.  The slogan, “So, we can still eat like the 1%”.  

I have had a lot of insomnia trying to conceive how it will feel on November first when we can no longer go there.  How will Mark feel?  I can’t wrap my brain around it.  They are doing a final blow bash on Oct. 31, all you can eat and drink for $89 ( the year they opened).  Black and White masked ball.  I’m taking the kids trick or treating, then deposit them with a sitter and go to the final soiree.

What time should the drunken crying start?

Lot’s of taxis will be called and I’m having the sitter spend the night and take the kids to school the next morning. I’m fully expecting Mark and I to be wiped out. I’ll be hung over, but I think we will both be emotionally exhausted.

However.. I’m enjoying every last minute of Campanile.  Vivien looks at me after we have done her homework, “Are you going out tonight, AGAIN?”

“Yes, I told you I’m going out a lot to the restaurant.  I’ll be home in November rocking back and forth in a dark room.”

Every night, it’s with someone different.  I’m a fine dining slut.  One night with my sisters and mom.  The next night with my friend Inge Lise, the other day I had a lunch date and a dinner date in the same day.  I walked to dinner to work off lunch. Two in a day. Such a fine dining hussy.

Then the kids and I got dressed up and met up with my “school husband” my co room parent Jasen and his son.  We also brought Flat Holden, a representative of our friend in Nashville, and enjoyed the last ever fried chicken night at Campanile.The next night I went there with a couple. Such a harlot.

Then I went with my entire dinner club, past and present, and a couple of babies.  It was my dinner club that lead me to meet Mark and then get asked out by Mark.

Magic moments have occurred here for me, and many others.  I’ve been so fortunate to have this dining salon to meet old friends and make new ones.  I’m not taking this lying down.  I’m sitting up, chatting and eating.

What a way to go.

Campanile is closing: Roller coaster

I have felt like a jet pilot having to keep focus on the task at hand as missles are coming at me.  Steady.  I had to get some work that was on deadline as my sister Carole called, “Is it true?”  She said with pain in her voice.

“yes, it is”.  I had to hang up.

Word was leaked to the press that my husband’s famed restaurant is closing.  ( Just today a wonderful look at Campanile by Jonathan Gold and it’s impact was published in the LA Times)  It didn’t come out of the blue as he has been unable to secure a lease in years.

My stepson called from college that he heard about it from a text from a friend who had read about it.

Mark and his former wife Nancy Silverton started Campanile and La Brea Bakery more than 23 years ago.  They were a smash hit.  They had met at Spago and brought their collective talent to this project (after their divorce he bought her out and she went on to do other successful restaurants).   La Bakery was sold in 2001. They also must leave the space.

I feel like I have been on a roller coaster of feelings.  I’m trying to enjoy the place while it is here and express appreciation to the people who make it work.  But, one day soon when I drive by it’s shuttered doors it’s going to be like looking at a corpse.