Thank You, SFFD

I still remember when I first moved into my apartment nearly 9 years ago. I’d already fallen in love with the space, but that first night, I was wondering if I could break the lease immediately. Why? The fire station located five blocks away. Sirens screaming, h0rns blaring, lights flashing – how could I ever live with that? I’ll never sleep again!

All hands on deck

Turns out, it’s fairly easy – I barely notice them now, except when I’m trying to watch a movie on TV (I’ve learned to just turn on the subtitles ’til they’ve passed).

Tonight, there must’ve been either a false alarm or a small fire across the street from me in a 13-story building. At least two, maybe three stations, were on the scene in minutes, with hoses, ladders and rescue equipment at the ready. All for naught, thankfully – but every firefighter at the scene was ready to perform his or her duty.

So while I’m the first to admit that fire engines screeching past feels like a nuisance, I sometimes forget what an amazing job our firefighters do. From what I understand, the lessons of the 1906 earthquake remain not only relevant over 100 years later, but are a touchstone of the SFFD’s mission – to put out fires quickly and completely. The quake claimed many lives and caused extensive damage, but it was the fires afterward that devastated the City. The SFFD treats every alarm with a seriousness and gravity that, while maybe a bit noisy, really provides me and my fellow citizens with a great deal of safety and comfort – and doubtless saves lives and property every day.

So thanks, men and women of the SFFD. The citizens of SF are proud of and grateful for your brave service.

The Oscars

So, what did I think of last night’s Oscar telecast? I’ll let Helena Bonham Carter speak for me. As Michael K on Dlisted rightly points out, she’s got her “quick, pass the flask” face on.

from Dlisted

Un weekend superbe avec Ralph à NYC

My weekend started on a high note: instead of flying SFO-ORD-EWR and arriving after midnight, I was able to switch to an earlier SFO-JFK that arrived before 9PM. Thank Zeus! I hadn’t flown American in ages and it was quite a pleasant trip, with a kindly FA providing free booze and advising that the front row of coach was empty, if I wanted it to myself. I think I may have been invisible to the naked eye due to the speed with which I moved from row 30 to row 10.

The view, chez Ralph

Of course, as it turned out, the free booze led to my first (and thankfully only – I think) social atrocity of the weekend. Not only did I show up in Manhattan intoxicated, I’d also not managed my bathroom breaks appropriately. Thus, when my Town Car dropped me off on Bleecker St., I was having a bit of an emergency and ducked into the nearest bar to find the john. I then proceeded to call Ralph and ask if he wanted to join me at the bar. Seeing as how he’d  prepared a lovely spread of wine, cheese, salumi and other treats chez lui, he was less than pleased with a drunken phone call from a bar down the street. In my defense, I knew that if I’d had to climb seven flights of stairs to his apartment without a bathroom break, I’d have peed myself. I guess I wasn’t exactly hewing to Emily Post’s rules for houseguests.

Lucky for me, he’s not one to hold a grudge – he even carried my bag up the stairs!  We were soon ensconced in his charming apartment, noshing and catching up. A lovely welcome to NYC.

Saturday morning, a traditional French breakfast of tartine: thick slices of excellent bread, toasted and topped with slabs of French butter (Ralph likened American butter to candle wax) and jam (he had six different types to choose from, plus Nutella). A perfect start to a blustery Saturday.

Spent the afternoon wandering through Soho, including a stop at (of course) Ben Sherman, where the sale was still in progress. Ralph found a handsome jacket and I added four shirts to my rapidly growing collection. Topman was a bust, but we both stocked up on undies and socks at Uniqlo.

Oh, and I should add, before we left for our outing, Ralph advised he was planning to prepare a tarte aux citrons – and that he needed to make the pâte brisée. He then spent about five minutes measuring, mixing and kneading and – voilà! – it was done. I was impressed, to say the least.

So, after an exhausting day of shopping, we retired to Ralph’s place for snacks and a lie-down. Of course, he did have to finish up the tarte – lemons, butter, eggs, sugar, then into the oven. Though I did do my part – choosing between the burgundy and the friuli, while also cramming my maw with pâté aux champignons and Gruyere as I lounged on the sofa.

Since we had a late snack, we went for dinner late – not arriving at Frankie’s 17 until nearly 10PM. But our timing was perfect, as we got the last two-top in the tiny place. I had pappardelle bolognese (quite tasty) and Ralph had sweet sausage and peppers on top of polenta (it was excellent and the clear winner). We planned on having dessert at home (see tarte aux citrons above) but when we saw prunes stewed in red wine with mascarpone on the menu, we decided that a pre-dessert dessert might be necessary – especially considering that Ralph and I share a fondness for old-lady-ish desserts. It was a wise decision – the prune-and-mascarpone combination was simple and sublime. And here’s the recipe, for any who are interested.

Thankfully we burned off a few calories on the way home – and were happy to tuck into the tarte aux citrons. It was so delicious – the caramelized top hiding a very tart and lemony interior, which is my favorite. There’s nothing worse than anticipating something lemony and instead getting Lemon-Pledgey. And I remain amazed that Ralph was able to throw together such a thing nearly with his eyes closed. What a treat!

Sunday was spent lazily, though by late afternoon we had to think about getting ready for the theater that evening – American Idiot at the St. James. The show was good – set was amazing, some great voices and performances, though not a traditional Broadway musical. And lots of hardcore fans in the audience – some either singing or playing air guitar along with the songs (seriously). I almost rolled out the “I didn’t pay $120 to hear you sing, lady” to the gal sitting next to me, but I was in too good a mood to spoil the fun.

Also, Adam Scott was sitting just a few seats away from me. Saw him again at the coat check and, despite never wanting to appear like some starstruck hayseed who just fell off the turnip truck in Times Square, was tempted to actually tell him what a huge fan I am of both his work and the hilarious Party Down – I was even contemplating asking for a photo. But some starstruck hayseed who’d just fallen off the turnip truck in Times Square got to him first and I didn’t want to subject Mr. Scott to further persecution.

Dinner at Maria Pia on 51st – and then on to Posh, a little bar with a dance floor down the street. We spent more time on the dance floor than in our little corner booth and had a marvelous time. The evening was capped by light snowfall on the way home – rather magical, even to this jaded old thing. And despite being tired, once back at Ralph’s we found ourselves engrossed in conversation until after 3AM – the topics ranging from haute couture to politics to WWII. It was great…

Monday was snowy, so we didn’t venture far from home until dinner that evening at Café Cluny with Michael and Justin. It was great to see them, as always, and the restaurant was wonderful – though our adorable waiter was something of a low-talker, meaning we never did figure out what the specials were. But his hair was fabulous. Started with foie gras and chicken liver crostini – quel dommage! Then I had a pancetta-wrapped pork tenderloin that was out of this world – Ralph declared it the the winner, though I thought his steak was fantastic. It was another lovely evening…

Said our farewells, then back to Ralph’s. I had to pack and arrange for a car to take me to JFK at noon the next day.

We were up early-ish on Tuesday, had lunch at a diner on the Lower East Side – conveniently just a few doors down from Katz’s Deli, so I was able to pick up a pastrami sandwich to eat on the plane. And then it was time to say “au revoir.” It was very strange – it felt like I’d been in NYC forever but the visit also seemed like it was over in the blink of an eye. And it’s always sad to say goodbye to Ralph…

Flight home easy and uneventful. And Calvin was pleased to be back home after four days at his sitter’s. But I sure do miss NYC… Guess I’ll have to go back soon.

Sacre bleu!

For those of you who doubt the genius of couturier John Galliano, the following story should convince you…

Apparently, Miss Galliano was in a fashionable boîte in Le Marais and had maybe had one or two too many coupes de champagne. And some clearly unfashionable philistines did not recognize le maître de la Maison Dior and mistook him for some kind of hobo and/or buccaneer (granted, his personal style is a bit, shall we say, eccentric…) After raising his glass and a hearty “Salut!“, the couple in question, according to an eyewitness, said “You’re ugly, you’re disgusting, move away from here!” Which elicited the following reply from Mlle. Galliano:

You’re ugly and you’re fucking bag is ugly too.

I don’t know how to say “Oh snap” en francais. But I think I need to learn tout de suite. I mean, it’s bad enough for someone to tell you your bag is hideous – but to have one of the greatest fashion designers on earth do so? How much sharper than a serpent’s stiletto that must be…

Oh, and I should add that there are also rumors to the effect that Galliano tossed some anti-semitic insults toward them as well. I certainly hope this turns out to be untrue – I’d hate to have anything detract from the frissons de plaisir this story is giving me.

from Sleek

UPDATE: Galliano not likely to come out of this smelling like a rose. The Sun posted video of the designer professing his love for Hitler. Though quite clearly inebriated, his behavior is not so amusant after all.

UPDATE B: Yep, he just got canned by Dior.

He is adorable, yes…

But, honestly, the histrionics can be trying – particularly given the fact that he’s barely digested his earlier meal. But, yeah, I love him anyhow – how could you not? Just look at that face! Plus he likes me to carry him around like a baby – and I do!

Curse you, Jackie Collins!

Apparently, it was my devotion to Chances and Hollywood Wives during adolescence that turned me into the outcast I am today…

from The Hairpin

Hello, Mr. Sun!

What a lovely day in SF! At 7AM, a certain furry someone headbutted me repeatedly to indicate that he was, in fact, on the brink of dying from starvation. After feeding the poor thing, I returned to bed and caught up on the sleep I’d missed during the week.

Once up a bit later that morning, I rode my bike to Chow for a late breakfast – in shorts, no less, thanks to the glorious weather. Next stop, Paulette Macarons in Hayes Valley – which was an even bigger treat than usual, since la madame française was running the shop today, giving me an opportunity to practice my pretentiousness French language skills. “Deux noix de coco… Deux caramel… Et deux dragée, s’il-vous-plaît. Merci!”

Farmer's Market

From there, I had a perfectly delightful ride down Market St. The east-bound side of Market St. after Van Ness forces cars to turn right within a block of getting onto Market. This makes for much lighter traffic and an easier ride – though of course the road remains rutted and potholed and cracked. But you can’t have everything. I don’t know whether the traffic lights have been recalibrated, but I made it all the way to the Ferry Plaza without having to stop once. It was great.

After the butcher shop at the Ferry Plaza, my next stop was Whole Foods before heading home to my bright and sunny apartment, the windows open, the faint whiff of old man and stale booze finally banished from my abode. A quick round of tidying and now an hour or two to relax before preparing a dinner of filet mignon and herb salad. Life, she is good.

At the Farmer's Market

Sleuth Soup, anyone?

This was the first one I ever read...

I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew mysteries as a youngling, reading them all from The Secret of the Old Clock to The Crooked Bannister. I tried Hardy Boys and they didn’t do a thing for me – proving once again, I suppose, that it’s nature not nurture that made me a raging homosexual (though of course I did have a domineering mother and absent father-figure – classic causes of turning kids gay!).

I remember I (and my sisters) continued to read the books even after we’d figured out the highly-formulaic – nay, virtually identical – nature of the plots. And we loved to mock the vast array of synonyms for Nancy’s hair color – strawberry blond, titian (none of us knew what the hell this meant), reddish-blond – and mode of transportation – roadster, convertible, coupé (yes, with the acute accent). Not to mention “plump” Bess (who we imagined as morbidly obese) and “tomboy” George (who we described generously as “mannish”). But we still loved to read them again and again…

Anyway, The Hairpin posted some lovely selections from The Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking. I can’t decide which I like best: “Sleuth Soup” a mixture of canned beef consommé and tomato juice – topped with whipped cream. Or “Bungalow Mystery Salad” – a combination of frozen orange juice, pineapple juice, bananas, ginger ale and sugar that is frozen in muffin pans. To the recipe’s credit, it is indeed a mystery. Be sure to click through to read all the delightful selections, including “Mysterious Mannequin Casserole” (the mystery is why isn’t there any actual mannequin in the casserole?) or “Old Album Meatballs” (“First, finely chop one old photo album…”).

from The Hairpin

Wow! Also, yikes!

First look at Meryl Streep in full Maggie Thatcher drag, for the film The Iron Lady. The resemblance is rather uncanny.

And on a side note: my favorite nickname for the PM was “Attila the Hen.”

from Towleroad

Well, today sure sucked!

What a long and annoying day… Actually, the day wasn’t too bad, other than being long. Frustrating, yes, as I had lots to do but had to also squeeze in a four-and-a-half-hour meeting. Got out of work rather later than I care to, but what’re you gonna do?

Ordinarily, I’d just head right home (well, maybe a pit stop for a bottle of wine) and skip the gym, but since I have dinner plans tomorrow evening that would mean three days with no exercise, i.e. I’d have to start wearing caftans. So, against my better judgment, off I went to the Y.

And it was horrible. The locker reeked of past-its-prime-broccoli-beef and farts; the guy two lockers down was performing his après-shower routine of slathering himself with baby oil – the scent of which provided a nice top note to the lingering aroma of stir-fry; he also apparently had a bit of cramp in his leg, so he stretched his leg up to about shoulder height against the locker – while nude, of course.

My plan was just to get in a little cardio – but no dice, since all the machines were occupied. So, I gritted my teeth and decided to do my pathetic weight-lifting regimen. And I was foiled at every turn – benches being hogged, newbies invading my space, pervs giving me elevator eyes. Ugh.

Bike ride home uneventful and I was looking forward to a burrito from down the street. So after arriving home, feeding my little lion, taking out the recycling (“Um, why yes all those empty bottles are from my big Super Bowl party!”) and cracking a beer, I headed down to the taqueria – where a couple of drunks were having an altercation with a couple of crazy crackies in the doorway… and then took the festivities right inside. Sigh…  I stood across the street for ten minutes waiting for things to calm down, all the while just lamenting to myself, “All I wanted was a burrito… Is that really so much to ask?”

But eventually I got my dinner (and was neither menaced nor stabbed while doing so) and parked myself on the sofa for an episode of “The Family Guy.” And I’m happy to report, the burrito was perfectly prepared and delicious. Plus I discovered a forgotten Milky Way Midnight in the pantry. Things are looking up!