Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thursday, November 26, 2015


The Biltmore, Montecito.  

A glass of Foley chard, a glass of Phelps pinot noir, and Calamari sautéed to the specs of Thomas Sanchez.

Now you see it... you don't.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


November 2014

Next morning, we collect our substitute COW—a 2015 Chevy Suburban—and set off for McCall, a rustic setting on Lake Payette, ninety miles north, and the Shore Lodge.

Then we do what folks do in lodges:  hunker down.

I have a hard time hunkering down; I want to explore, stay in motion, so I drive into town McCall.  

It is cold, and hokey; hunkering down at Shore Lodge is the way to go.

Their bar obliges come cocktail hour.  

Two stools away sits Eric, transplanted from Orange County in California.

“Until I moved here a few years ago I used to get migraines every month,” he says.  

Now he picks up rent for the properties he owns in Newport and bartends at Lardo’s across the street to subsidize his income and raise two boys.  “Schools are great here,” he adds.  “Good teachers, wholesome living, outdoorsy.”

I hate to leave the live music in the bar, masterfully performed tributes to Simon and Garfunkle and now Crosby, Stills and Nash, in perfect harmony, but dinner in The Narrows awaits our presence.

Lardo’s, a nightcap across the road, is authentically Idaho, with animal skulls and a cougar head adorning its walls.  

The right libation in this place is a shot and chaser, in this case a local brew called Makinaw Red.

My first novel about a road trip has been acquired by Skyhorse Publishing in New York City.

It will be published in Fall 2016

Monday, November 23, 2015


What's all the fuss about?  Looks merry enough to me.

I'm sticking with Merry Christmas, not because a fabricated date of birth lifted from pagan winter solstice means anything religious to me, but because I grew up with Merry Christmas and those joyous words give me a good feeling.

I'm happy to receive holiday greetings of any kind, but if you want one from me, it's Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 22, 2015


November 2014

I have a hankering to take Ry Guy and The Dude to Idaho in search of fall foliage—or any semblance of autumn, sick to death of mercury rising above eighty in November.

The COW gets paddocked at SB Airport and we fly United Express (with that other dude, Jeff Bridges, aboard) to San Fran, grab another plane to Boise.

First stop after ensconcing grandsons and their mothers at Hotel 43:  Juniper, to reacquaint myself with Planet Oregon pinot noir and bison meatballs.

The Saturday night scene in November, with Boise State University in full bloom, differs from my last visit in late June.

It is rowdier, and booze-fueled.  

Next day, after breakfast, we aim to North End, Boise’s historic Hyde Park neighborhood, and satisfy my autumn craving in an Americana setting: 

A couple of pubs, a couple of coffee houses, a book store (new and used titles), and a funky gift shop with wood-plank messages:

Begin anywhere.

Out of my mind, back in five minutes.

Listen to the mustn’ts, child.
Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts,
The impossibles,
The won’ts.
Listen to the never haves,
Then listen close to me.
Anything can happen child,
Anything can be.

We call a taxi for seven and  driver named Zak arrives with a minivan.  

I ask him to cruise down Harrison Boulevard, a residential street with grand houses named after President Benjamin Harrison, who signed Idaho into statehood and visited Boise to mark the occasion.

Next to Eagle, a neighboring city considered to be Boise’s most affluent suburb, which turns out to be new construction of gated communities and endless strip malls featuring every American chain store and fast food shack ever invented.

The New America.

Back in Boise, I visit Snake River Winery in Bodo to sample Idaho wine, all of which impress.  Some of the best pinot noir comes from Oregon, just across a border border , so why not?

I plop myself at the bar in Chandler’s—a steakhouse within Hotel 43 and Boise’s finest restaurant—and consult the bartender about his gins.  

He recommends The Botanist (from Scotland), which is new to me.

For dinner:  Their finest steak, a bone-in filet (known as Delmonico), with mashed potato, grilled vegetables, and glass of pinot noir, maybe two.

My first novel about a road trip has been acquired by Skyhorse Publishing in New York City.

It will be published in Fall 2016.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Friday, November 20, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015


January 2015

Back in Mammoth, I hop a gondola with daughters and grandsons and ride to the slopes, enjoy a beer while watching skiers skirt the mountainside.  

Dinner at Nevados, whose owner, Tim welcomes everyone personally.  The bar is doing brisk business, mostly natives.  The decor is drab, emphasis on food, which is superb.  (Resort towns know they have a captive audience, so there’s never need to renovate.)

Afterwards, a glass of wine at another native bar—this one tucked into an alley in The Village—called Side Door.  It becomes my favorite hang:  warm, cozy, and locals for company.

I chat with a couple from Glendale who’ve lived in Mammoth for four years, but packing up to leave this very week due to the woman’s “altitude problem.”  

They tell me Mammoth Lakes was one of the original ski resorts in the USA, and that it’s creator—still alive in his 90s, living in Bishop—put his heart and soul into it.  

For decades, Mammoth was a ski-resort for the middle-class, while the jet set flocked to Sun Valley.  

In recent years, it caters to a more affluent crowd, mostly from LA.  

They tell me the local Von’s supermarket is the best-stocked, best run Vons in the country.  “The locals go first thing in the morning, when they bring everything in fresh.  There’s been a lot of growth in just the years I’ve been here.  Some [in local government] want to curb it, others want to push on.  It’s a good balance.”

Next day I drive into Mammoth Lakes—the original village—for my own look-see.  

Vons, indeed, is large and so well stocked, one would be hard pressed to think up an item they do not carry.  

Rite Aid, nearby, is no slouch either with every over-the-counter remedy known to Americans.

Coupled with Schatz’s Bakkery (an adjunct to its flagship in Bishop), croissant sandwiches and fresh bread, this mountain town has all you need to hideout for a long while.

The best spot for Wi-Fi is Starbucks—or anywhere in The Village, including the fire pits where skiers huddle to warm their bones after hours on the slopes.

Finally, in the comfort of our condo, I open a book—Alcohol, a History—and read only a few pages before more delightful distractions cut in.  This was not to be the reading getaway I’d imagined from low expectations.

Late afternoon, we shepherd the CoW to Tamarack Lodge, about ten minutes out of town.  It is woodsy and rustic—and where I now go in my dreams to write a novel.

The lodge’s bar is small, but offers mulled wine and cider.  Although we’d booked to eat at Tamarack (their specialty is elk), the kids are tired, would likely not settle through a fine dining experience, so we repair back to The Village, and I retreat to Side Door, a glass of pinot noir and a Panini with caramelized shallots, turn that aroma into a tasting experience.

A sound sleep was not to be.   

A youthful element had arrived to party the weekend away:  Outside my window, screaming matches and brawls, no manners they. 

Next morning, out at eight, a miracle of sorts with kids.  This time we are more prudent about stopping to un-crumple.

First stop:  Schatz’s in Bishop for breakfast-on-the-run and take-home goodies.

Next stop:  Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills, where TV westerns were shot on location in the 1950s and ‘60s.  

In the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans corner, I come upon the double gun belt I craved as a six year-old (I had the toy version).

For few seconds I feel like a little kid again, and when I snap back to the present can only wonder where all the time went.

My first novel about a road trip has been acquired by Skyhorse Publishing in New York City.

It will be published in Fall 2016.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015


January 2015

While one side of the family skis, I, my younger daughter, and The Dude join me for a road trip to Bodie, about an hour-and-a-quarter north.

Frozen in time, Bodie was, in the late 1800s, one of the busiest gold mining towns in California, with a population beyond 10,000.  

The miners lived here during scorching summers and brutally cold winters, supported by food merchants, saloons, brothels, and gunslingers, all in it for their slice of treasure unearthed from the ground.

Everyone is long gone.  

Bodie has been fully abandoned for over half-a-century, and is now the largest, best-preserved ghost town in the country.

The COW holds its grip on Cottonwood Canyon Road, a gravel path made for stagecoaches, though at moments it feels that the road in control, not my fancy rig.  

At ten miles an hour, we grittily roll up into and the hills. 

An old settlement finally appears in the distance, beyond an unmanned guardhouse with a sign instructing us how to pay entry to pay by filling out a card and slipping it through a slot on the door.

Even the park service has abandoned Bodie.

We follow the dirt path, park, alight, and saunter into town.  

The COW holds its grip on Cottonwood Canyon Road, a gravel path made for stagecoaches, though at moments it feels that the road in control, not my fancy rig.  

Many objects inside shops and houses are left as abandoned many decades ago—what they call “arrested decay.”  

No one takes anything.  Word is, take something home, you’re cursed.  The park service regularly receives returned items by mail.

Jerome, which I visited earlier in this odyssey, might have gone the same as Bodie.  

But its last few determined residents decided to turn it around, from exploiting nature to exploiting ghosts.

My first novel about a road trip has been acquired by Skyhorse Publishing in New York City.

It will be published in Fall 2016.