Friday, May 18, 2012

Sepia Saturday 126 Steepled fingers

The groom looks uncomfortable. He's half sitting in his chair, looking ready to run. Only his hand signal belies the real truth.  At first I thought his tented fingers meant that he's looking for a way out. Not so, the experts say.

On  I read that tented fingers convey a sense of power. I think he's establishing at the get-go who's the boss, although looking at the pictures, I'd say he has a formidable woman on his hands. Or maybe that's an illusion created by the abundance of her hat and sleeves. This"lowered steeple" may have been his last assertive moment in the relationship or the beginning of a lifetime of listening.
  • The Raised Steeple - The position is normally taken when the steepler is giving his opinions or ideas and is doing the talking.
  • The Lowered Steeple - The position is normally used when the steepler is listening rather than speaking.
the raised steeple and the lowered steeple

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Heart Attack

The new landscaping was looking great and thriving! Our garden guy installed a bit of left over lawn on our drive way landscaping and it grew into sort of a heart shape. Romantic, huh?

Last week, about 10 days after it was mulched: HEART ATTACK!

First the heart lawn started to get patchy, like clogged chambers in a heart. Next the plants all around the heart starting going -  and going quickly. Within a day or two everything was dead - not brown, or wilted but like it had all been torched! Water, fertilizer etc. were all fine. No visible insects, webs, eggs - nothing. Samples of everything have gone to Fallbrook AG Lab to see if they can figure out what happened. 

Was it the mulch? The timing was right but why is the grass alive in a ring around the heart? In the middle of some of the dead plants - rosemary, kangaroo paws, lavender,  New Zealand teas - nice healthy looking green weeds have sprouted! Methinks a very specialized specialist got to us.

On every stem, on every leaf,... and at the root of everything that grew, was a professional specialist in the shape of grub, caterpillar, aphis, or other expert, whose business it was to devour that particular part.  ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Kitchen Battles

The heavy steel frying pan was hurtling toward me at high speed and whizzed by my head missing me by a hair, crashing into the wall. I ducked under a prep table, watching in disbelief as one of the battling women, shrieking like a banshee slammed a huge pot against her enemies head. Blood poured down her face but she didn't waiver. Handfuls of hair were flying as they ripped at each others heads; the noise was deafening as plates and pots were thrown or knocked to the floor. One of the women fell with her angry face turned toward me. She looked insane with eyes agog and a stream of curses interspersing her screams. Shock and terror seemed to freeze the few people in the kitchen. The male photographer I was working with leaped on a table and shrieked along with the women. Finally somebody called the police and the women were taken away. We were up to our ankles in food, broken glass, pots, pans and adrenalin. One of the more memorable kitchen moments in my past.

During my food career,  I spent more than my share of time in various kitchens large and small:  hotel kitchens, test kitchens, food labs, pilot plants, manufacturing kitchens. They share one very important element - high energy. Anyone who has ever worked "on the line" in a restaurant knows the drill. You stand around doing prep work and side work, a few customers drift in but then the "big busy" hits and everyone gets into their groove. It's a feeling I've always loved - the urgency, the working together as a team and then the satisfaction of making it through alive. 

Sometimes the high energy goes wrong.  The kitchen battle I got caught in took place in New Orleans. I was at a Denny's working on an operations manual for their regional kitchens. There was never a dull moment. The cook we'd been working with for weeks was stabbed to death in a poker game the night before. It turned out he was heavily involved with two of the women working in the restaurant; they discovered his murder and his two-timing on the same morning and went berserk. Our recipe that day was one part grief, two parts shock and ten parts jealousy. The finished product was a disaster.

I crawled out from under the table; the photographer retrieved his battle-torn equipment-broken lights, broken camera, pranged tripods - everything was wrecked. I left the restaurant, checked out of my hotel and fled the scene of the crime, returning reluctantly after a month or so when things had cooled off.

My kitchen experiences, while rarely battlegrounds of this magnitude, were usually steamy, chaotic, lively affairs far removed from the dispassionate, sterile Queens' kitchen at Windsor Castle (1878), pictured for Sepia Saturday this week. I'll give you this though.....the place looks safe.

Monday, May 07, 2012


Ten minutes before the concert starts and I'm in a ladies room line winding through the lobby of Copley Hall. Everyone's getting anxious. Richard breezed through his bathroom experience and was patiently waiting for me.  Fortunately the pace picked up a little and we made it into our seats just in time.

The San Diego Symphony played four rhapsodies: Alfen Swedish Rhapsody, Enesco Romanian Rhapsody, Rhapsody in Blue and the Rachmaninoff Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini which was brilliantly played by Jon Kimura Parker.  Not just a great performer, he gives a marvelous short talk about the piece here:  

 Awash in all the musical creativity I thought about the Rolling Stones, having read Keith Richard's "Life" recently. He wrote "Satisfaction" 47 years ago (today, May 7th is the anniversary) in his sleep! He claims he woke up bleary eyed, grabbed a recorder and sang/played the riff into it. He still has the tape which captures his singing, followed by 45 minutes of snoring. Gershwin, at 26, wrote the entire outline for the Rhapsody in Blue on a train ride; he was under pressure to get it ready quickly because a competitive American jazz/classic piece was reputedly in the works. Youth doesn't explain these inspired works: Rachmaninoff wrote the Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini when he was 61. 24 variations, all completely different, amazingly inventive and original. It takes 25 minutes to play; my fingers ached from merely watching Jon eat up the keyboard from end to end. Fabulous.

After the concert we had to fight our way through the buses from several San Diego County assisted living residences. The matinee audience was an old bunch. Richard told me the man standing next to him at the urinal was about 90, bent over and unsteady. He attempted to use his cane to snag the flush on the urinal and dropped it.  Immediately two or three men leaped to his assistance; one of the rescuers bumped his head on the urinal. The cane was retrieved and the very aged fellow teetered out. Senior bathroom follies.

The fun didn't stop there. While standing alone waiting for me, Richard got hit on.  A woman about 80 approached and asked him if he was "the movie star". He laughed - this never happens to him - he doesn't look like anybody we know in films. He suggested George Clooney. The woman couldn't come up with a name but kept trying to jog his memory and her own. He told her that "his memory", meaning me, "was standing in the ladies room line". She gave up and went away.  You can't leave a ambulatory man, without a visible handicap (colostomy bulge, oxygen tank, cane or walker)  loose in a crowd of predatory senior ladies - they've got nothing to lose and they don't get out often. Watch out. 

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Scream and his antithesis

From the New Yorker today.