Archive for May, 2012

Yes.  Memorial Day = Hot Dogs. 

Why this equation is so, I don’t know.  I suppose it stems from living in the Northeast where the unpredictable weather never allows much opportunity to perfect ones grillmeistering prowess until one is safely past the ‘no frost zone’ of the 30th of May.  Even the venerable Farmer’s Almanac warns Northeasterners against planting tender seedlings before then, unless they are protected at night.  Believe me I’ve had to replace more frozen Impatients than I care to remember, and I’ve grieved over dying Wisteria buds that dared to show their glorious blooms before the threat of frost had passed.  Funny thing is, now that we’re in the desert, sometimes we have to protect the Bougainvillea in January as occasionally the frost gets that too.

Sorry…I digress…hot dogs.   How the term came about is the subject of multiple google hits but suffice it to say, aficionados are very fussy about their hot dogs.   Personally, just like burnt toast, I like mine charred black  (I know, hard to believe a gourmand would admit such a thing,) but restaurants frown on requesting burnt food.   So on a recent shmying Saturday when we couldn’t make up our minds about what to have for lunch we began a quest for the best hot dog in the Coachella Valley.  I am happy to report that

 we have discovered two outstanding locations for awesome hot dogs.

You can consider this post a double restaurant review.  The first discovery was Grill a Burger,  at the corner of Monterey and Country Club.  The menu descriptions alone had me in stitches –  Bacon Me Crazy, Hokey Smokey, Pancho Villa, Great Eggspectations, What A Friend We Have in Cheeses, not to mention Code Bleu Orgasmic Burger, Gretta Carbo and Muther Clucker.  For the Vegan choices there’s the Bob Cobb Salad, or That’s Juan Big Salad and – ah ha – the object of our quest – the selection of hot dogs under the banner of I Dream Of Weenie The Doghouse.   There, nestled amongst the Buck Naked Ho Hum Dog, the Cincinnati Dog with mustard, all meat chilli and cheddar cheese,  the Dog Pile, Dog in Heat and Junk Yard Dog, awaited the Carolina Dog, with all-meat chilli, chopped raw onion, mustard, and… coleslaw.  What is it about Southerners – we are known to put coleslaw on just about anything – hot dogs, hamburgers, pulled pork barbecue, shredded chicken.  Can I just tell you that every bite transported me back to more innocent times spent south of the Mason Dixon.  Dee-lay-cious.

But our quest continued.  And to our delight, we discovered right under our noses, a surprising and worthy contender at our favorite ‘local hangout’  Legends & Icons.  Since the new owners took over, its popularity precludes finding an empty table between five and seven.  We love the place.  The managers and servers are all friendly and happy to see us.   Feeling like we’ve just sneaked out of camp after curfew is an added bonus as we  zip our golf cart through the ‘secret gate’ into the Stater Brothers Shopping Center (corner of Varner and Washington).   

Legends & Icons’ menu has quite a variety, but two of their hot dog selections proved worthy of  our exploration.  However, they didn’t warn us about the SUPER SIZE.  Yoda would say”Spilling off the plate at both ends, it is.”     The pictures say it all.  It’s become our hands-down favorite!   They even grill the bun.

But trust me, I’m not gonna mention the homemade cocoanut  cream pie that the chef decides to make ON OCCASION .  No way am I sharing that secret.  Right Ruthie?

P.S. Happy birthday to Mama Tillie who is 98 years young this week!

Legends & Icons Hot Dog

The Carolina Dog
Legends & Icons Chili-Cheese Dog


Poster from the film
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

When a group of unrelated Brits face the rising costs of retirement in the UK, they collectively find themselves on a bus heading towards Jaipur, India, and their future home, billed as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.   They each begin their journey with anticipation, trepidation, longing,  and a sprinkle of fear and quiet resignation.   We expect the usual “seniors experiencing inevitable adjustments” but what we don’t expect but readily embrace is the refreshing humanity each character exemplifies as they make the best of their situation and for the most part, embrace with cheer and optimism, how they view their last chapters. 

It’s a refreshing look at common misconception that there is nothing going forward. 

The young hotel manager is brilliantly delivered to us by Academy Award Winner Dev Patel.  A glimmering vintage cast – Judi Dench, Maggie Smith,  Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup, all breathe unpredictable life into this well worn plot and reveal promises we seniors might otherwise overlook.  It’s a lovely turn of events that will have you smiling all the way through the 120 minute film.  Well crafted, beautifully executed.  Don’t miss it. 

As  the young manager reminds us throughout the film, “You’ll see, in the end everything will be all right.  And if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.”  It’s just what we need these days…a happy ending.  Enjoy!

Today was Mother’s Day.  But that experience is not mine.  I’ve not birthed anyone  (just books,  blog posts, a few columns, short stories, some songs.)   I know it’s not the same, but they both have similar requirements – time, devotion, creativity and nurturing.   What I do know is that what comes into our lives has a divine order to it whether we plan it or not. 

Wherever we are, that’s where we’re supposed to be. 

Motherhood wasn’t a responsibility I ever wanted –  subordinating myself to a blob of protoplasm?  Arrival with no instructions?    That wasn’t for me.  However, a few years have proved that in spite of myself,  mothering and nurturing aren’t just about biological offspring. 

Nurturing genes inhabited my spirit even as I busily denied them. 

I nurtured employees, lots of other people’s children and I was privileged to help raise my three incredibly terrific nephews as they navigated their way through those tumultuous teenage years, while their single mom worked three jobs to keep her family together.  Her devotion to her boys was evident in her every breath and it’s still in full bloom today.  What an inspiration she was and is.   It swells my heart. 

For the past twenty years I’ve been Mom to four incredible young adults; my husbands’ children and their spouses, and Nana to their children.  After the typical rocky start of any second marriage, these children now fill my life with indescribable  joy – I am routinely astounded with the effort they expend to let me know they care.   My daughter and I are filled with giggles whenever we’re told how much we look alike.  I would choose them for my friends, were we not already connected by marriage.  Hell yes I’ll be their Mom.   How fortunate am I?

My Mother-in-Law, or Mother-In-Love as she likes to say,  is a very tough lady, that one.  But there is no doubt in my bones that we love each other, biology be damned.  It’s not an easy love – nurturing her can be a challenge (she turns 98 this week) but it springs from my heart unsolicited, and pleases me that I feel such generosity without the  prerequisite blood.   We call her the universal Mama, as she is still Mama to many of my husband’s school friends, fifty years after the fact.  Having lost their own mothers, they call, they write, they visit.  Pretty amazing those ties that bind and how comforting that those of us whose mother’s are no longer here, are showered with her boundless love.  

Fifteen years ago last week I lost my Mom, but I can see her like it was yesterday, taking her last breath.   Her nurse told me, “Appalachian women die like they live – hard.”  The awesomeness of her dying matched the fierce determination with which she faced raising us alone, after my Father died.  When her time came, she was done and she told me so.   But I wasn’t ready — we never are.  There is no other experience like losing ones’ mother.  As long as they are with us, we get to stay the children.  Hope for approval springs eternal.   I miss her more now that she’s gone than I ever did when I was hopping up and down, desperately trying to get her approval.  The little straggly flowers I plucked from a neighbor’s rose garden when I was five didn’t do the trick.   Go figure.   So much biology reflected in the mirror, so little reflected in our connection.

So biology has little to do with Mother’s Day at my house.  It has everything to do with the extraordinary people who are destined to come into our lives,  and with whom we share ourselves.  Guess I am where I’m supposed to be.  Lovely.  Can you hear God laughing?

I stumbled (as usual, do I ever know where I”m going when I begin to write?) across a great saying at one of my favorite websites.  

You’re either growing or you’re dying.”  

Attributed to Heraclitus as well as Plato and Diogenes, it’s often paraphrased as “Everything flows, nothing stands still,”  or another of my personal favorites, “The only constant is change.”   So why is it that we approach the last phase  (ooooh, that has a solemn ring to it doesn’t it?)  of our lives with the  “Now I’ve got all my stuff and I know where it is so I don’t have to do anything anymore”  mentality?

Things were going along swimmingly in my life; I knew my community –  my work was familiar, gratifying and secure – most of my colleagues felt the same.  We were all comfy knowing what we knew; confident it was all we needed to know, since we had arrived, so to speak.  While I was blissfully wrapping up my career and thinking about retirement I discovered a major flaw in my assumption.  Getting past the learning curve and expecting smooth sailing was a fallacy.  Knowing the lay of the land didn’t guarantee that things would remain the same and I wouldn’t have to work at anything.  Ha!    There is no such thing as arriving.   It’s all just part of a continuing ebb and flow.  Whoa!  Who moved my cheese?

Two recent incidents pulled me even further from my smug assumptions: 

One –  I was watching Selling LA.  (Love to see how the people next door live.)   The featured real estate company had decided that rather than the traditional print ad campaign, they would use social media to market a group of upscale condominiums.   Social Media…ummm, what exactly is that?   I know what Facebook is, but I really don’t understand the relevance, and I only have a vague idea what Twitter is about, but I don’t pretend to understand why anyone would have an incessant need to comment to the world at large, every minute of their day exactly what it is that they are doing.  One could be construed as … narcissistic… ?  Well, you get my drift.’s explanation of social media was a helpful starting point but it  indicated clearly that I’m not relevant.   Okay…after retirement I wasn’t planning to care. 

Two – at lunch with some lady friends from my water aerobics class, when I asked for everyone’s e-mail address, only 2 of the 9 present said they used e-mail.   For someone who has computer with the morning coffee (and have done so more than twenty years,) that’s pretty darn freaky.   So if I think I”m not in touch with the unknown… how out of touch is the group just ahead of me?     

In one breath  I had tripped over not one but two seismic shifts in the known and the unknown (with respects to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.)   Here were two significant generational gaps – in both directions!  The lunch ladies had no desire to know what I knew, and the kids behind me knew a whole world of new stuff that I didn’t know.   As in the technical vernacular, what the heck does a “cloud” do?   But more importantly, I should care about these things?   Don’t start with the “I don’t want to learn anything new.”  Or worse yet, “I’m too old to learn anything new.”  Whoops, there’s that growing/dying thing.

Is relevance important?  In a word, maybe.  Depends.  

That’s essentially the conversation I had recently with a friend who is just slightly older than me, and much to my pleasure, he too remarked about how important it is to keep learning and growing.   He had also observed that his slightly older friends didn’t seem to have any interest in doing staying relevant.  Yep, we were definitely on the same page.  I’m meeting many baby boomers  in the gated retirement community where we now live, who express their dismay over  the “silent generation,”  whose take on retirement is completely different from ours – but so was their take on their previous lives.  Basically, their mantra was  “Don’t take risks, save your money, pay cash, keep your head down, hang on to your job, etc.”  So we can’t base any retirement assumptions on how they’ve gone about it.  They are a contented lot,  having paid their dues, wanting  to sit back in the clover.  Baby boomers have never sat still long enough to rest on any proverbial laurels.   I’m thinking maybe this is a good thing? 

Yes, lots of folks out there  get it, but there are lots more  who are just catching on.  My brain’s file cabinets are overflowing  and now I find  there’s more unknown unknowns.   If you don’t know what you don’t know, you’re in trouble.  But is bigger trouble coming if you aren’t willing to find out what you don’t know?  Learning doesn’t cease just because we’ve retired.  Ummm, back to that growing/dying thing.

Retirement doesn’t mean you’re dead, but it might mean you’re irrelevant.  Ouch, that hurts!  Would love to know your take on the subject. 

Next week:  Finding the best Happy Hour/Early Bird half price menus.  The Challenge Is On.

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