June 2001 Notebook
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Saturday, June 30, 2001

Back to Pasadena: long day tramping around the Huntington gardens. Too hot, but the arrays of cacti are remarkably dense and diverse. We cover maybe half of the gardens, take in a photography exhibit in the museum: panoramic pictures of the old west, quite suitable for this trip. Laura wants deli for dinner, so we go to Canter's.

Friday, June 29, 2001

Done with Temecula: my agenda today is to drive to Los Angeles. Not far, but I've never driven in LA, no idea what I'll run into. Took a slightly roundabout route: up to Ontario, over to Pasadena, then down to LA. Hit a couple of record stores in Pasadena: nothing major. The freeway from Pasadena down got hopelessly clogged around Dodger Stadium; after half-an-hour I inched off, drove through downtown, west on Wilshire. Long, slow trek, but I made it to Marsha's in plenty of time. We then go to the airport to pick up Laura: spend a couple of hours there before we find her in the wrong terminal, delivered by the wrong airline. Went to a nice Thai restaurant in Hollywood -- don't remember the name.

Thursday, June 28, 2001

Home automation discussions break off, but we have a semi-plan, and overall it seems successful. I have the afternoon free, drive down toward San Diego, mostly looking for a bookstore, a map, some sort of guide, none of which I find. The one thing I do find is the Scripps Institute Aquarium, which has a remarkable series of exhibits: frantically spinning sardines, lots of sea anemonae, jellyfish, octopus, a big tank with fat sea bass and nervous barracuda, tiny sea horses. Nowhere near as large as, say, the aquariums in Boston or Baltimore, but excellent. I find the oceanographic exhibits less interesting. I spend more time looking for non-existent bookstores, then decide to drive up the coast toward Torey Pines. Traffic is horrible, and the state park looks unapproachable. I keep driving, all the way to Carlsbad before finding a disappointing repas. Head inland, spy a Super Crown and work my way back to it, only to find an empty shell of a store. I finally find a Barnes & Noble in Escondido, no better than the one in Temecula. Back to Temecula.

Monday, June 25, 2001

Drove from Phoenix to Temecula, CA. Managed to dodge the monsoon forecast for Phoenix, but weather was overcast and not terribly hot, at least not until I hit Indio and Palm Desert. Rendez-vous with my home automation business prospects, setting up several days of discussions.

Sunday, June 24, 2001

A day and a half of serious used CD shopping: mostly tracking down the XIA Record Exchanges -- among the larger and better stocked of the used CD shops I've run into, but it's a slog to sort through their stocks (new mixed in with used, much too much at knee height), and they have the most annoying habit of taping and gluing stickers and objects all over, then shrinkwrapping everything. Thelma is wondrously patient. Some good finds, most remarkbly the Jazz Satellites: Electrification Vol. 1 item that I had never seen before, even in NYC when it was new and I first looked for it. Good food day, too: Chompie's for lunch, and A Taste of India for dinner. The former is not as narrowly defined as great Jewish deli in NYC/Brooklyn, but excellent pickles and very good bagel/lox. The Indian was even better, especially a succulent lamb biryani.

Sunday we head down to Sun Lakes, for a gathering of five Brown cousins: Orbrey, J.D., Dewayne, Thelma, and I. I don't think I'd seen J.D. or Orbrey since around 1970, but as is typical for my mother's side of the family, warm hospitality and lots of common points of reference: an immensely good time.

Friday, June 22, 2001

Easy drive from Grants, NM to Phoenix: nice, scenic routes, tracing west edge of El Malpais, skitting past El Morro, through Zuni Pueblo, Show Low, Payson, then the long slow trek from NE to NW corner of the Phoenix sprawl. Coming off the Colorado Plateau is the perfect illustration of what altitude means for climate and vegetation: not quite 80F in Show Low, plenty of forest, then rising to over 100F in Phoenix. The road down from Payson is wild, but especially striking is how the typical Sonoran flora appears one-by-one: prickly pear, then saguaro, then cholla, then ocotillo.

Wound up at my cousin Thelma's retirement house in Surprise: an older, low key development that when it was built must've been deep in nowhere, and even now is barely beyond the expanse of newer, swankier spreads. After sundown, I get the tour, and discover ... a communist paradise. The houses are of the small, manufactured ilk, but the common facilities are large and very impressively equipped: I see a wood shop, a billiard hall, a computer lounge, a quilting room, a sewing room, a library, a room full of equipment for tumbling gemstones and crafting jewelry, a pottery room with kiln, on and on. Minimum age is 55, so what we have here are activities -- basically what one does when one no longer has to work. By centralizing the resources, the small houses no longer have to function has factory homes, and their residents tend all the more to get out and get together. From each / to each: communist paradise.

Thursday, June 21, 2001

This starts a series of entries that are history: reconstructing the period of a long car trip from Wichita to Los Angeles and back.

Finally, on the road. Why I should go to Phoenix in June isn't easily explained. Why I should do so two years in a row sounds down right batty. First day: took Seneca south, turned right on US 54, turned right again in Tucumcari, NM, still daylight in Albuquerque, but I headed on through the dusk to Grants. Good progress for one day: 578 miles.

Friday, June 08, 2001

I checked Tom Colicchio's Think Like a Chef out from the library, so thought I'd try something:

The braised artichoke hearts came out pretty good: remarkable, since I had never had anything remotely resembling success with artichokes before. The fish was more of a problem: I substituted red snapper, it wasn't totally defrosted when I needed it, and I did the second stage cooking upside-down (wondering how the hell it would cook that way, then doing some inept emergency repairs). Some of the fish came out OK, but one piece was nearly inedible.

I understand now what happened to the fish, how to fix it, etc. I suspect that salmon fillets would be better than red snapper, partly because the skin is thicker, whereas the snapper I buy has been scraped thin. Still, the whole dish strikes me as just too subtle: symptomatic is the description of carrots, leeks and celery as "aromatic vegetables," a phrase that in Chinese is reserved for garlic, ginger, scallions, and fermented black beans. If there's one thing that I look for in a recipe, it's loud tastes.

Friday, June 01, 2001

After having just finished Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, I thought it would be fun to try a recipe of his. Found another one in Dawn Davis, If You Can Stand the Heat, so made dinner:


May 2001 Jul 2001