Scarlett’s Letter December 15, 2013

I went to yoga today and it was just the thing!

I haven’t been to yoga in ages and I was relieved to find that I could still bend, in an acceptable manner, in a number of ways. With my exercise focus being exclusively on running, lately, in preparation for my first marathon, it is good to be back to other methods of exertion. I did run yesterday, the first time since the marathon a week ago, and it was amazing. I ran really, really, fast! For me. So, for any casual observer, I probably appeared to be shuffling frantically. For the record, there is a brief moment, each stride, where both feet are, in fact, off the ground. Simultaneously. Yes.

I was so indescribably tired last night. After my run and a shower, and taking Mom on her errands, and grocery shopping for myself, I was exhausted. I can run 26.2 miles, but a day of errands with Mom wears me out. I’ve heard there is a “post-marathon” depression, or malaise, maybe that’s what this mild irritability and exhaustion is about. Or maybe it’s the cumulative affect of my six weeks of east coast/west coast travel. Or, maybe because I stayed up until 1:00 AM chatting with my Sweetie the night before. Or maybe it was the chat, itself. He was being feisty, playing devil’s advocate and just generally being a brat. All in good humor, of course, but I was on my toes and sparring the whole time. Or, all of the above. Whatever the reason, once I finished dinner and dishes, all I could think about was reading one of the four hundred new Kindle books I have yet to start. I awoke with my Kindle on top of  me, unopened, this morning.

I was excited to get up this morning. I have groceries! Real food! Do you have any idea what it’s like to return to the produce section of a Whole Foods in California after being on the other side of the country? Real, local, organic produce! A selection! I almost fell to my knees and kissed the inlaid tile “Whole Foods” logo on the floor in the entry to the store! I bought yogurt, eggs and produce. That’s it. Three heavy to lift, reusable, “Whole Planet Foundation” bags full of produce. And having yogurt again! Today was the day I have been waiting for! I opened the tub of organic Wallaby yogurt, made right here in Napa County, stirred in my local, organic honey, and, the best part, I opened a jar of Alaskan blueberries that I helped pick right off the tundra, that my Sweetie jarred and flat-rated to me, and stirred a generous amount into my yogurt. It was the most divine thing I’ve had for breakfast in a very long time. I can’t wait for breakfast, again, tomorrow. Or, maybe I’ll just have breakfast, again, for dinner! Or both!

Cold oatmeal and the best yogurt in the world!
Cold oatmeal and the best yogurt in the world!
How to make the best yogurt in the world; buy yogurt, buy honey, pick fresh blueberries on the Alaskan tundra, and when someone sweet jars them and sends them to you, open and stir into yogurt with honey!
How to make the best yogurt in the world; buy yogurt, buy honey, pick fresh blueberries on the Alaskan tundra, and when someone Sweet jars them and sends them to you, open and stir into yogurt with honey!

The yogurt was the only part of breakfast I found enjoyable. My oatmeal wasn’t cooked to perfection. My fault.  And it was cold by the time I ate it. I guess I was busy eating the yogurt first.

When I travel, I try to stay at hotels with a fridge and maybe even a microwave. Last week’s hotel was not one. In hotels without such amenities, I usually have fruit not requiring refrigeration and an organic granola bar for breakfast. No matter what I have, it is during breakfast that I check Facebook for interesting news, wish any Facebook friends having a birthday a great day, and write in my journal. I forget, upon my return home, that these activities are difficult to carry out at the breakfast table. I do really like to focus on any articles I click through to from Facebook, reading them from start to finish without interruption, conversation or being read the local newspaper, which Mom seems inclined to do. And today’s article of click-worthiness was awesome! I like to be able to write in my journal with complete focus and attention, since it is my morning affirmations I usually document. I consider this to be practically meditative. I always hope that when Mom see’s my pink journal, she’ll realize that I need a few minutes of complete calm. Nope.

I can remember very clearly, my dad, sitting at the kitchen table, where I sit now, across from my mom. He’d be trying to read something and she’d be reading bits of the newspaper out loud to him, or asking him a string of questions, as she does a lot of. He’d sigh, grimace, as only he could do, mark his spot with his index finger and an air of exasperation and look up at her, impatiently, over the rim of his gold wire rimmed bifocals. When I do that, try to mark my spot with my index finger, as I’m reading on my iPhone or iPad, I end up unintentionally “liking” something or navigating to a link I don’t mean to. I finished my breakfast, my dishes, and quickly retreated upstairs to finish my morning routine. I admit, I was a bit frustrated, which is no way to be first thing in the morning, and I finally remembered that I had altered my routine during my last “at home” stint, to finish those items requiring my focus, before heading downstairs. It was the yogurt and the blueberries, I guess, and my excitement over them, that caused me to forget that rather important little scheduling detail. I am now reminded and will act accordingly.

Yoga, as I said, was great. During our initial stretching, where we are to quiet our minds, to acknowledge and dismiss our thoughts, I was kept pretty busy. Things I wanted to include in any of several articles I’m working on kept drifting through my mind, as did some of my petty frustrations at home. At one point, the instructor told us to let everything “out of our mind”, and, at this point, as only I would do, a song popped in based on those lyrics. I remember my kids’ reaction when I played this song, they find it pretty amusing that I listen to a lot of the stuff they do. The song? “Outta Your Mind” by Lil Jon, featuring LMFAO, the chorus going something like this,

“Get outta your mind, get outta your mind (what), get outta your mind (what)
Bump that shit, get outta your mind (what)
Get outta your mind (what), get outta your mind (what), get outta your mind (what)
Bump that shit, get outta your mind (what)”

So, in yoga, to a hip-hop beat, in my head, I’m singing, “Get outta my mind, get outta my mind, bump that shit, get outta my mind …” It worked. But I almost laughed out loud, just a little, which would’ve been an outward breach of protocol, I’m pretty sure. I’m already about as unconventional a yoga practitioner as you’ll find. By the end of our hour and a half of practice, I was feeling much better, my calm sense of composure, energy and enthusiasm restored. All the bad jou jou of the past couple of days were “outta my mind!”

I didn’t have a text from my Sweetie this morning. We didn’t talk last night, he was headed north, piloting an oversize load to Coldfoot. I fell asleep before sending my nightly, “good night, Love” message. I wanted to send my usual “good morning” text this morning, but thought if he got in real late last night, which was certain to be the case, due to a late start, I didn’t want to wake him. When I got out of yoga at noon, I checked my phone and there were a couple of texts from him. Good, he was home. I don’t worry, remember, it’s pointless and doesn’t change anything, but, still, I am always super happy when I know he’s home again after a trip north. He made it home fine. The million-mile Ford did not. Well, it did, eventually, but they did not arrive home together and the million-mile Ford did not return under its own power. The poor old blue truck won’t be making that trip, again, until it gets a new engine. Zowwie.

The million-mile Ford. Get well soon!
The million-mile Ford. Get well soon!

But, other than breakfast and the news from the north, my day went exactly as I hoped it would. I wrote. That’s all I wanted to do today, write. And, now, it’s time to think about dinner. Wallaby yogurt with local, organic honey and real Alaskan blueberries, picked myself and lovingly jarred by my Sweetie. Perhaps, so. Or for dessert, maybe. Or both!

And, tomorrow, a big day. One I am excited for. Though Monday, it is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. I will plan ahead, prepare, and even try to get a super good night’s sleep in anticipation of this sure to be magical event! Tidings!

Scarlett’s Letter November 15, 2013

A sound night’s sleep last night. I almost don’t have dark circles under my eyes. Bliss.

Today, I am so excited.

I finished up with my client today, a little early, something about the Jewish folks in my class and having to go home and have dinner before dark. It is some certain, special time in Jewish world and I have no idea what. I tried to Google it, I looked it up on Wikipedia, and like all things to do with the Jewish faith, I am now more confused than I was ever before. There is nothing about Judaism that makes a lick of sense to me. I respect the faith, completely, but I don’t understand the first thing about it and any attempt to ask about it, or educate myself, has been futile and has left me more confused than before. All I know, their pizza looked just like ours but came from somewhere else and, we started earlier this morning, worked through lunch and finished earlier this afternoon, and I got to go to the mall. I was excited! I have worked with this client for three years, I have been here a half dozen times or more, their office building is perched at the edge of the mall, yet, I’ve never been. I’ve set foot inside, but I’ve never “been” to the mall. There is a difference, and it was exciting.

Non-koser pizza. A working lunch. Looks just like the Kosher pizza. ??????
Non-kosher pizza. A working lunch. Looks just like the Kosher pizza. ??????

I didn’t go to the mall, Roosevelt Field, to shop indiscriminately, I went with a plan and a mission. I intended to buy a pair of black slacks for work that do not require dry cleaning. I have a lovely black pair of slacks, from Banana Republic, but they can only be dry-cleaned. Who has time for that? Dry cleaning is for people who are in the same city for more than a day at a time. I need clean black slacks and I need them clean and back in the suitcase in twelve hours. I have some fantastic, washable slacks from Express, a nice navy blue with a subtle gray pinstripe and another pair in classic gray. They fit great, sort of a manly cut with a low rise that looks super sexy on curvy hips, a small waist, and a flat tummy. They wash great, iron great, pack great, last forever and I want some in black, and maybe every other color they come in. I’m pretty excited.

I found the Express for Women after walking about a mile and a half through the vast mall, and that was the direct route, I just sort of parked at the wrong end. Okay, I admit, I did it on purpose, I wanted to see everything. I went in to Express and found the table with “Editor” style slacks. I found black and began to dig for my size, a six regular. There were about twenty pairs of size zero, twenty pairs of size two, ten pair of size four, and two pair of size eight. A dowdy looking clerk, at least my age, eyed me with disproval and disdain. I know, my son used to work at Men’s Warehouse; I was messing up her merchandise. I am sympathetic to this and was being ever so careful not to cause any disarray, but, finally, she could take no more and impatiently asked me what size I desired. She didn’t say desire, I’m not sure what she said, but it was abrupt and curt and with an air of impatience. I told her and she produced a pair for me from somewhere. I thanked her and browsed some more. I grabbed another style of black pants, just to see if I’d like them even better than the “Editor” cut. I found a polka dot blouse, a gray sweater and a beige blouse, all pieces I could use for work. I haven’t bought blouses for work in, literally, years. I don’t work in the same office every week, I can get away with three or four work blouses. But I do, now, have many repeat clients that I see at least annually, and, truthfully, I think I’ve worn the same four blouses to the same clients for three years straight. Maybe four. It is time for a new blouse, or two. Justified! Bam!

I take my armload of clothes and go in search of a fitting room. I find two empty, locked rooms, but no attendant. There’s a mother and daughter duo fighting in one fitting room, to the point of blows, I think, and the other is unoccupied. I wait a moment, with my “I’m being patient and tolerant” smile on my face. Five minutes later, an employee passes, donning a headset and some blinking, flashing transmission device dangling from her grotesquely tight pants (I think she bought the size zero thinking it said size ten). There was a wire running from the transmission device to her headset, giving her the appearance of a secret service operative. She glanced at me, annoyed, and told me to go to the fitting rooms over by the cash register. I did. I stood for a while. There were six fitting rooms. One occupied. All locked. A clan of women pushed past me and were admitted from the occupant of the one occupied fitting room. Is that how one seeks admission, like an exclusive nightclub? You have to know someone on the “inside”? A line forms behind me, like cattle in a chute waiting for the truck going to the slaughterhouse. Everyone else in line is gazing down at their mobile devices, perfectly accepting of the fact that we are the only people in the store, aside from the six employees, who are all too busy with some urgent, but unseen business to attend to us, the customers, with armloads of merchandise that we’d dearly love to give up our hard earned money for.

An employee scuttles past and says, “a couple of you can go over to the other fitting rooms.” I’m first in line, so I go and am followed by the young woman behind me. I’m back where I started. Both rooms are empty, but locked, and there is no attendant in sight. The lady who “helped” me find the black slacks is folding clothes right next to me, but, apparently, that’s all she knows how to do because she can’t open the doors to the dressing room. I stand for another minute or two. The young woman behind me is staring blankly at the lit display on her mobile device. I think there must be a “pacification” app I don’t know about. Everyone seems content with being herded around and never assisted. I’m adding up dollar value of the pile of clothes draped over my arm, I figure about $200 worth, and I lost it. I dropped the clothes unceremoniously on the floor and strode out of the store. I will spend more, twice even, for better service. Gladly.

My son, Dogwood, sends a text from Hawaii, where he lives. He has an update on his quest for gainful employment. He has a fantastic, unpaid, volunteer, position tutoring kids in a robotics club and he loves it. Unpaid, yes, but with connections that may land him an even more fantastic, paid internship. Yes, studies are first and foremost, but, as I’ve said to him, more than once, “I don’t live in Honolulu because I can’t afford to live in Honolulu, so, no, I can’t afford to pay for you to live in Honolulu”. From birth, practically, I’ve taught my kids the value of networking and connecting, and, as a result, he has some fantastic employment prospects. I am proud. I tell him so. I’m so excited, he will do very well in life, having mastered networking so early in adulthood.

I had dinner reservations at a Cuban restaurant, adjacent to the mall, they had a yummy sounding menu and good reviews on Open Table. My client said it was good, and he is sort of a food snob, too, he just doesn’t take pictures of his food, like I do, but when I get my phone out to snap a shot of my meal, he wants his included in the photo, too. Funny. Anyway. Dinner. Cuban. I’m excited!

Dinner.
Dinner.

Upon walking in, it was definitely “corporate”. You can tell, instantly. Meh. Oh well. I was seated next to a woman, also a single diner. You know, the bench seat on one side, little table, chair on the other? That’s where they always put the single diners. Sure, couples sit there, too, usually, one on either side of the single diners, isolating the single diners from the other single diners so there is no chance of striking up a conversation. Couples just try to pretend the single diners don’t exist, that they aren’t there, right next to them, with nothing better to do than listen to what they’re talking about. Oh, it’s true. It’s totally impossible to NOT hear every word, every whisper and every murmur. Tonight, though, I was seated next to the other single diner. In fact, since it was kind of early for dinner, we were the only diners in that half of the restaurant. All the “normal” people who dine in small herds, were seated in the other room. I guess that would be the room for people who have people with which to eat and this would be the room for those who dine alone. The Latin host showed me my seat and pointed at the lady next to me, made a remark, pointed to me and made the same remark, in some Latin language. He translated, “alone,” he smiled, “you are both lonely”, he smiled broader, “single!” I smiled, tolerantly, and took my seat.

The lady next to me made small talk, she’d been to a movie at the theater next door. She downed her elaborate looking cocktail with a foot tall stalk of sugar cane protruding from it and ordered another. I tried to order a beer, but my waiter seemed perplexed by the fact that I might actually want to select a beer from a menu. There was a big, glossy, bound book of adult beverages, and he wanted to show me all the margaritas and sangrias. I asked again about beer. More about margaritas and sangrias. Finally, he let me handle the book, I flipped a few pages and found the rather pedestrian beer list. I was hoping for something exotic, perhaps even Cuban. Negra Modelo is fab, but I buy it by the twelve pack and drink it like some folks drink milk. It’s a staple.

The waiter returned with my beer, and a glass. He asked if I wanted the glass, which was nice, because I didn’t, I prefer the bottle. The lady next to me ordered a glass of Riesling. When her waitress brought it to her, she tasted it and didn’t like it. She got another crazy looking cocktail with the hunk of sugar cane in it. She asked me about my beer and said she’d like to try one. I assured her it was good. She said she really didn’t like beer, so I headed her off, “Oh, I love beer, the darker the better.” She crinkled her nose and thought better of ordering one. She worked on the sugar cane cocktail some more. By the time my dinner came I knew her whole life story; she’s an attorney, educated at USC. Her dad’s birthday is next week, on the 18th, and she always gets him a shirt or a sweater. She’s going to shop for him after her dinner. I hope she can manage. Dad may end up with something really different this year. Her mom is deceased. She is 38 and unmarried, no kids. She wants kids, she’s not so sure about the marriage thing. I smile knowingly. She had an asshole boyfriend that she’s known since school, he’s been married before and has kids, but it didn’t work out. They’re still friends. Her brother is an accountant with a knack for computers and works for Fannie Mae, now. He never passed the CPA exam and she doesn’t understand his success, except that he’s super good at networking is well connected. She had a falling out with her brother, though, because his wife has no teeth and doesn’t know the difference between a proprietary lease and, oh crap, I forgot, some other kind of document. Now she won’t like me, I don’t know the difference. At least I have all my teeth. She’s still talking. She has a friend in California who is getting a divorce and she’s handling the case even though she is licensed in New York and practices employment law, normally. But her friend isn’t good about getting the paperwork done on time and hasn’t even filed her taxes. Her birthday is the same week as her dad’s, though she never mentioned the date, and she wants another Mont Blanc pen. She has lots of expensive pens because she likes to write and her mom “groomed” her that way. I wasn’t sure what that meant. By now, my meal is finished, my beer is empty, my bill is paid, I’m wearing my coat and my scarf, my cross-body bag is slung across my body, I have one foot positioned in the space between our tables, leaning over, like a runner in the blocks waiting for the pistol to fire. I desperately want to leave. She is still talking, and I have so tuned her out, I now have no idea what she is talking about. Finally, she stands, shakes my hand and stumbles out. I wait for her to get, hopefully, out of the parking lot, before I head for my car. So, a lawyer and an accountant go into a bar … the lawyer talks incessantly and the accountant makes note of all the details. Typical.

I exchange a text or two with my friend, Miles. We went to high school together and ran into each other at a Catholic church in the Sierra foothills some twenty plus years later. Now we keep in touch. I joined a running club he belongs to, on his recommendation. He’s a good friend and he’s checking up on me to see if I’ll be running this weekend, in preparation for the C.I.M., the California International Marathon, in a few very short weeks. My first. I’m excited, in a scared and petrified sort of way. This is his billionth marathon. He’s also checking on me after reading some of my posts from earlier this week. I got a virtual hug. A good friend, like I said. I assure him, twenty miles on Sunday, and, yes, I’m fine.

I also exchange a few emails with “the girls”, in light of the good news yesterday, we are conspiring to find a day to visit, a day when we are all motionless just long enough for a visit, two of the girls returning from Spain, me from New York, another off to Hawaii, and me to New York, again. Visits with friends are a nightmare to orchestrate, but are so, so, so important, and necessary, rare, and enjoyable. Like air to breathe. I’m so excited!

I stop at the liquor store, buy a bottle of red wine and head for the next hotel. A quiet night to write, with wine and a small piece of my Mast Brothers chocolate bar, made in Brooklyn and bought at Shake Shack the other night. I’m super excited!

Chocolate and wine and a night to write 3,500 words about nothing much, really.
Chocolate and wine and a night to write 3,500 words about nothing much, really.

My TomTom, was on a bender, again, tonight. Armando, that’s my TomTom’s name, he is voice activated and answers to Armando. What can I say? Every now and then, and without warning, Armando decides to avoid the highways and take mostly surface streets, usually in very large cities, like Boston and San Francisco, and usually when I have not the time, the patience or the wherewithal to devise a better, more traveled route. I had the time tonight and saw parts of Long Island I never knew existed. I have a visual on several potential restaurants for my next visit, in just a few weeks.

I ultimately arrived at my hotel, one I stay at regularly, a Marriott, a block away from the United terminal at LaGuardia. I feel like Norm at Cheers when I walk in. Okay, not quite, but I do have a few hotels that I have become quite regular at. I tossed my bags in my room, returned my rental car, and caught the hotel shuttle back. Once in my room, I did what I always do, first thing; look out the window. To my delight, from my window tonight, I see the skyline of Manhattan. I can pick out the Chrysler Building. I’ve worked there before. Okay, for three days, as a consultant, but still. I was on the floor where the gargoyles were perched, it was so exciting, gazing out the window of the conference room, down, on the backs of the gargoyles, only a few feet out of reach on the other side of the glass. I’m sorry, I love architecture and historic old buildings just drive me nuts, especially from the art deco era. I can see the Empire State Building, to which I’ve been to the top, once, and the tippy top another time. I look at the millions of twinkling lights of  “The City” from my window, I dare not turn a light on in my room and lessen their brilliance. I will sleep with my curtains open to relish the view. I love every little light bulb, illuminating that magical skyline, and I can’t wait. I’m excited!

MANHATTAN!!!!! SO EXCITED!!!!
MANHATTAN!!!!! SO EXCITED!!!!

I texted Daisy, my daughter. My baby, my youngest. She turns twenty-one next week, “Are you going to be able to celebrate your birthday in ‘The City’ with me next weekend?” She quickly replied, “Yes! I forgot to tell you, I have Wednesday through Saturday off …” I am so excited! We own Manhattan. It is our place. One of our places. We love the wilderness, too. Wherever we go, we will carry what we need, whether shopping bags and mimosas in our metal “water” bottles, or our matching backpacks, we will find adventure and just have a fab time.

It is Friday, and a good day, the end to an interminable, weird and uncomfortable week. I have nearly four days at home before I am off again, and I am excited.

My lesson for the day; stay in touch, network and connect. I recently read a book on charisma, “The Charisma Myth – How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism” by Olivia Fox Cabane. you know how I love books, most books, anyway. This was a great book, very charismatic, and had some fantastic suggestions. One was to reach out to at least five different people every day, whether through a personal message on social media, a text, a phone call, an email, a letter, a face-to-face conversation, or, I guess, smoke signals or carrier pigeons. However.

I’m also listening to a fantastic audiobook on Audible, “Younger Next Year for Women,” by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge. I am so excited, I can hardly wait to listen to it on the plane tomorrow, and in my car on the way home from the airport. One of the “rules” to being younger next year, to not decay until death, is to connect with people, to be social, to have friends, to be in touch, to be touched.

I am as guilty as anyone, we get busy, we try to find time to just sleep, eat, work, sleep, eat, work, sleep, eat work. Retire, watch TV and die. I retaliate against this plight, I rebel against such a routine and mundane life. I live to connect, I connect to live. How many people have you connected with today? Me? My clients, of course, a chatty and partially inebriated attorney over Cuban food, my friend Miles, the “girls”, my son, Dogwood, my daughter, Daisy, and a quick text with my Sweetie before he headed further north through the vast cellular service wasteland to Prudhoe Bay. It was a good day. Still, I am writing, I have to get up in three hours, I’m going to have dark circles under my eyes, again. Now to sleep, in the soft glow of a billion glimmering lights from a not so distant skyline. I’m excited.

Scarlett’s Letter September 10, 2013

Game on.

I had a team meeting for work today. My team consists of about twelve people and we all live in different cities across the country, so, team meetings are conference calls and an internet meeting room for visuals, if necessary. No video, so we can’t see each other, thankfully. I don’t know what the big deal is, I’m usually all “ready” before I go to work, and my office is neat, I don’t know, I guess I could get used to it. But, for now, since no one else is wild about the idea of video conferencing, and it probably costs more, we aren’t even talking about it. Than means I can do useful shit while listening to the meeting, and occasionally glancing at the slideshow. Game on!

I have shelves next to my desk. For every class I teach, I have the materials, printed, in a binder on the shelves. I know. I teach paperless, but print all the materials. Since I refer to two printed copies at a time, sometimes three, I’m trying to figure out how to do so on my iPad. Two of the three shelves are stuffed full of binders. I teach a lot of classes, more than anyone else on my team. I’m pretty proud of that. It is my curse, though, too. Being able to teach all of the classes means being able to substitute for anyone else, at the last minute, if something goes wrong; an illness, a missed flight, technical difficulties, power outages. The top shelf of my shelf has cute little bins I bought at Target, solely because they were cute. Once I got them home, I decided I could put my office supplies in the bins and put the bins on my shelf. Through the last couple of moves and the chaos of life, and work, and laziness, these three bins have become a nice hiding place for crap I don’t know what to do with. They’ve just become receptacles for bits and pieces, odds and ends I don’t where else to put; paper clips, dry erase markers, ones that work and dry dry erase markers that don’t work, Sharpies, ones that write and some that don’t, software CD’s, miscellaneous cords to electronics I no longer own, USB flash drives, a lifetime supply staples, binder clips, pads of post it notes, No. 2 pencils, staplers, yes, plural, I have four, for whatever reason, pencil sharpeners, yes, plural, one manual pencil sharpener, one battery operated one and one electrical one,  and old Blackberry phones that no longer work. Today, while on a conference call, I, for whatever reason, decided to clean them out and organize them. I just did it. And that’s kind of how my day proceeded from there. Game on.

Bins and binders
Bins and binders

Today was also the day of frantic travel arrangement frustrations. As much as we all travel on my team, we are all responsible for our own travel arrangements. When I first took this job, that seemed terrifying and incomprehensible, making all my own travel arrangements. I was not much the traveler before this job. I had no idea. I’ve adapted and, now, wouldn’t even consider letting anyone else manage my travel! Just coming back from vacation, from the land of no Internet, I am a little behind booking travel. I am supposed to go to Chicago next week and New York City the week after. I am excited. But, with only a couple of participants registered for the Chicago class, and all from the same firm, after booking a nonstop flight to Chicago, the hotel I love right next to the mall and a rental car, plans changed and the training will be held at the client’s office. In Glasgow, Montana. Ever heard of it? As it turns out, I’ve worked with this client before. In Montana. Glendive, Montana. Ever heard of it? Great client with a few offices in the most random, rural and difficult to travel to places. Ever. I’m not too excited, and changing travel arrangements isn’t all that easy, it can’t be done all online, you have to call the agency and they have to confirm everything with the airlines. It is messy and time consuming. Game on.

The New York City class had more participants and I had my flight reserved, not booked, but reserved, in the manner I prefer for NYC. I take a red eye the night before my scheduled “travel day” so I have all day to sightsee and tramp around the City before my first day of work. I sleep on the plane and arrive looking like shit and feeling a bit groggy, but a cup of coffee and a few minutes in the City and I’ve absorbed all the energy I need for a full day of fun. I’m excited. But, then, I get an email saying that since all the participants for the training are with the same firm, we may conduct the training at their office rather than a regional training center. To save money and to make it “easier” for the client. I quickly Google the firm. They have three locations, one in NYC and one on Long Island and one in New Jersey. I assume NYC and quickly reserve a second hotel, closer to their NYC location, just in case. Then I wait for the final word. Much to my disappointment, horror and dismay, the training is occurring at the New Jersey office. I rearrange all of that travel, now, too. So, Chicago became Montana and New York City became the suburbs of Newark, New Jersey. I considered drafting my resignation. But I didn’t. I’m readying for two long weeks in two difficult locations. Game on.

For people who don’t text or who don’t like to text, you often hear them ask “why not just pick up the phone and call?” Well, allow me to enlighten you. While I do enjoy a nice, chatty call, more frequently with some folks than others, there are times when texting is far more practical. Texting versus a phone call; a case study. My close friend is having a memorial service for her sister who passed a few weeks ago. A few of us are bringing food and beverage to serve as a large crowd is expected, probably over a hundred people. I’m bringing lemonade. One of the girls is a pastry chef, a consultant in all things cooking and catering and is in charge of the whole affair. I’ve been assigned something I certainly cannot mess up. Lemonade. And I have a helper, just in case it looks like I might mess it up. I am, actually, thankful for my assignment. I don’t want to deal with the stress of anything more challenging than lemonade, I’ll leave that to the professionals. So, today, as I’m frantically managing travel and answering work emails, I’m texting the chef and emailing my helper (she doesn’t text) the finer points of lemonade. I am also carrying on a lengthy textervation with a friend I run with about the memorial service, hoping he will attend. And I’m texting my Sweetie. And drinking a beer. And eating a slab of dark chocolate. Simultaneously. You can’t do that with a phone! Game on.

Beer.
Beer.
Slab of dark chocolate.
Slab of dark chocolate.

I want game for dinner! I’m just feeling extra carnivorous this evening! All I have left are two moose roasts and two moose steaks. I’ve been kind of saving them, but they aren’t improving by aging in the freezer, and, perhaps, if I eat them all up, some moose karma spirit will guide a nice 50-incher to a very easy and opportunistic location and for my Sweetie.  Though, it’s a busy time on the haul road for him and having to process a moose could be a bit overwhelming. I’ll just enjoy my steak tonight and whatever happens with the remainder of this moose season is how it is meant to be. I can eat beef and lamb and buffalo all year for what it would cost to ship moose down here, anyway. Game on. Literally. I have game on my plate for dinner!

What's left of my moose provisions.
What’s left of my moose provisions.
Nom, nom, nom. Minus one moose steak
Nom, nom, nom. Minus one moose steak

Scarlett’s Letter August 23, 2013

Just work today. Then I drove back to Chicago. I have a hotel, tonight, near O’Hare, one I’ve stayed at before. Tomorrow I have a late afternoon flight and hope to get up and out early, go downtown and explore a city the way I like to; on foot, taking pictures and covering plenty of ground.

Driving back to Chicago from Indiana.
Driving back to Chicago from Indiana.
Can't wait to explore this town on foot tomorrow.
Can’t wait to explore this town on foot tomorrow.

I found a really cool, old school Continental steak house right around the corner from my hotel. Café la Cave. It so reminded me of a place my parents would’ve loved back in the 1970’s. It was classy, dimly lit and was decorated to look like a cave inside. There was blue lighting around the bar area and the bar was crowded with martini emboldened folks who were all fabulously middle aged, fabulously dressed and all seemed to know one another. One man spoke loud enough for everyone in the adjacent dining room to hear, as I gather it, he’s on the PGA tour. The tables were all appointed with not one, but two white linen tablecloths and there was more silverware on my table than diners in the dining room and patrons in the bar. It’s at moments like these that I’m grateful my mom taught me etiquette and what all the different knives, forks and spoons are for.

Cafe la Cave near Chicago.
Cafe la Cave near Chicago.
The bar at Cafe la Cave near Chicago.
The bar at Cafe la Cave near Chicago.

My parents were a bit older than most of my friends’ parents. They both had previous marriages and divorces and found each other a bit later on in life. Funny how some patterns repeat. I was sort of a last chance baby, and that’s why there’s only one of me. We didn’t ski or boat or camp, we didn’t golf or play tennis or belong to a country club. My family dined out. I ate escargots at the age of eight, and loved them. I’ve had a passion for food, fine dining and dining adventures since childhood. My father was French, and so we usually ate French or Continental cuisine. One of our favorite restaurants, now long gone, was in San Rafael, California, in Marin County, La Petite Auberge. We referred to it as “La Petite”, for short. On weekends, there was a strolling accordionist and the roof opened up to the stars. Around the dining room, inside, grew wisteria. The ambience was dark with golden, flickering candles at each little table. The tables were close together, but still seemed so private and intimate. We often met friends or extended family there and we’d gather in the bar until all were accounted for, then we’d be seated. The bartender, the maître d’, and the waiters all knew us and greeted us whenever we arrived, sort of like “Cheers” and Norm, but in French. I remember them all well, I always thought they looked sort of like my father; darker complexion, dark eyes, dark hair, and like they enjoyed their food and their drink a wee bit more than they should.

The bike shop gang at La Petite Auberge
The bike shop gang at La Petite Auberge

La Petite Auberge served all the classic French fare; sweetbreads, liver and onions, calves brains, and of course, steaks and chops. I always liked the lamb chops and to this day won’t usually pass up lamb chops on a menu. They made a Caesar salad, table side that I remember fondly. Why is it so thrilling to have food prepared table side? I guess because it’s all sort of a spectacle, even if everyone else is having their food prepared table side.

I was in Cincinnati with a group of folks from work a year or so ago. We went to a Eddie Merlot’s, a fantastic steak house together. After a rich and filling dinner we perused the dessert menu and found three different desserts that were prepared table side and set ablaze. We ordered one of each, to share around the table. Out rolled three carts, three waiters and there were three flaming desserts, table side, at once. Best thing ever!

Flaming dessert carts lined up at our table. Eddie Merlot's - Cincinnati
Flaming dessert carts lined up at our table. Eddie Merlot’s – Cincinnati
One flaming dessert. Eddie Merlot's - Cincinnati
One flaming dessert. Eddie Merlot’s – Cincinnati
Two flaming desserts. Eddie Merlot's - Cincinnati
Two flaming desserts. Eddie Merlot’s – Cincinnati
Three flaming desserts. Eddie Merlot's - Cincinnati
Three flaming desserts. Eddie Merlot’s – Cincinnati

Tonight, having read the menu on my Open Table app before making my reservation, I decided to have the Steak Diane, prepared table side, drowned with cognac and set ablaze. It was fantastic! I had the green salad before the entrée and the seasonal vegetables as an accompaniment. I skipped the wine, because of my “daily budget” for my company expense report, and because I have a couple of partial bottles I need to kill back at my hotel. I’ve packed home open bottles of wine in my luggage before, but always feel extremely lucky when the bottle and my clothes all arrived home in their desired form. I’m out of 2-gallon Ziploc bags, anyway. I also elected to skip dessert, though I did enjoy reading the menu. I have some exquisite chocolate back at the hotel to go with my wine.

Table side preparation at Cafe la Cave near Chicago
Table side preparation at Cafe la Cave near Chicago
Cognac on fire! Steak Diane prepared table side at Cafe la Cave, near Chicago.
Cognac on fire! Steak Diane prepared table side at Cafe la Cave, near Chicago.
Steak Diane at Cafe la Cave near Chicago.
Steak Diane at Cafe la Cave near Chicago.
Must finish wine.
Must finish wine.
My dessert
My dessert
The desserts I skipped tonight at Cafe la Cave near Chicago.
The desserts I skipped tonight at Cafe la Cave near Chicago.

It’s because of these fabulous, unique, independent, local restaurants that I abhor large, corporate, conglomerate dining venues. You walk into an Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill, Cheesecake Factory or Bucca di Beppo in any city and the menu has all the same unoriginal, routine offerings. You can totally forget what city you’re even in. When I experience a city, I want to experience the local dining scene, even if it’s Formica tables and paper napkins, it is a part of the community, part of the town’s atmosphere, and it is someone’s passion and dream to prepare food for others. Tonight’s local restaurant was a gem and totally worth driving past fourteen chain restaurants to find. So, my Friday night is off to a good start, and so, too, is my weekend.

Cheers!