Don’t Go Chasin’ Waterfalls

“How many bikes?” asked the guy at Big Sur Adventures.

“Just one,” I said.

“You alone?”

“Yep.”

Jimmy had just left on a 3-day dudes only backpacking trip. I was ready for an adventure of my own. I’d heard about this pop-up electric bike rental biz that opened after last winter’s storms left a section of Highway 1 closed so I went down on a whim. “Good timing,” the guy said as I signed my forms. When the road reopens on October 14, he said, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will disappear faster than the mist in the Big Sur redwoods.

The Mercury News said biking through Big Sur with no traffic was like visiting the Louvre on a private tour. I was excited. It was an epic Indian summer day—80 degrees. I had to park in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, then hike in 30 minutes through the campgrounds and steepish trail to reach the pop up.

With beefy tires and an electric motor, my Rad Rover power bike was a cross between a mountain bike and a moped. (Love Rad’s slogan: The ebike that makes you feel like a kid again. So true!) The bike had an easy learning curve. I felt like much less of a dork than the time we rented Segways in Golden Gate Park and got flipped off by all the locals.

The suggested route was 18 miles round trip — out to Julia Pfeiffer State Park and back. Sounds like a trek but totally do-able because the e-bikes have pep.  And even with five levels of pedal assist, pedaling is involved so you get a decent workout.

I snaked around Highway 1’s curves with a bird’s eye of the blue green coves and thrashing waves. The redwood trees smelled fresh and clean. Having the whole highway to myself was amazing. I shared the road with maybe 20 cars during my ride. A smile was plastered to my face the entire afternoon.

In no time I had traveled nine miles to iconic Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park where far below sat a stunning white sand beach. McWay Falls Waterfall poured into a cove with the prettiest aquamarine water I’ve ever seen.

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The guys at the shop said the beach was inaccessible, but anyone who knows me knows I can not be near a river, stream, lake or ocean without submerging. I looked all over for a way to get down that treacherous cliff, the one that said “STAY OFF! DANGER!” 

A wooden observation pathway curved teasingly along the cliff. As I walked it, I thought there has to be a way down. I found one way but the terrain looked sketchy plus I would have had to navigate a rocky outcropping at the bottom to get to the beach/waterfall. Every ounce of me wanted in that water. Then I saw the ILLEGAL sign and cooled my jets.

On the way out I chatted with two nice chicks in their 30s from San Francisco. We fangirled over how the pretty water was, etc. Then one asked, “Are you alone?”

“Yep.” 

Soon I started back, waving at other e-bikers as we passed. Being so isolated from the mass of humanity was heaven for a crowd-avoidant person like me. It was almost 5 pm but still warm and sunny. The guys at the shop told me to look out for a dirt pullout and green gate leading down to Partington Cove. “Can I go in the water there?” I’d asked.

No, they said, the cove was too rocky and dangerous.  Yada yada yada.  I locked my bike at the gate and hiked down the quick but steep trail, passing a few bikers walking up. At the bottom I found myself alone in a remote cove. The water was definitely not Julia Pfeiffer Caribbean blue –more like bong water brown, littered with big blobs of seaweed and lots of rocks.

But the only child/rule breaker in me said: You are going to get in that water even if it kills you

Then the words of the guys at the bike place echoed in my ears…it’s really rocky…We wouldn’t advise it….

I pictured myself eating it or getting trapped under a boulder. If anything happened it would be after dark when they noticed I hadn’t returned my bike, then they would have no way of seeing my bike from the road. I did not want to recreate my own version of “127 Hours”  with me in the James Franco role.

Hot, sweaty and defeated, I looked around. Nearby a pithy waterfall gurgled its way into the cove. I stripped down to my bikini, plopped into the 4 inches of water, awkwardly leaned back, and let the cool water tinkle over my head.

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While sun drying on a rock afterward, I  looked closely at the seaweed blobs. They looked just like… SEA OTTERS. Then I remembered after the bike guys told me I’d die if I went into the rocky cove, they said to look for sea otters. There must have been 50 baby sea otters bobbing in the waves. At least I think that’s what they were. Still not positive but bringing bino’s next time for sure. 

I had to return my bike by 7 p.m. so I hustled up the trail, hopped on my bike and rode to Nepenthe, the Big Sur institution perched 800 feet above the ocean. The last time I’d been there was with Mary Jubb, who passed away a few years ago. We were high school juniors road tripping down 1 to go check out UCSB. Mary ordered the roast chicken, I remembered, and we probably tried to order Barcardi cocktails and got shut down. I sat there with that glorious view, those sweet Mary memories and that killer glass of Chard, and soaked up the moment.

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On the dusky mile ride back I did not see another soul. Zooming those curves, damp hair drying in the warm evening, I felt like the last person on earth. A few bikes were left in the Nepenthe lot as I left, including the two women I’d seen back at Julia Pfeiffer. We talked again about the amazing day and they asked me to let the rental guys know they were running a few minutes late.

I returned my bike and began hiking back to my car. The sky soon darkened but I flicked on my trusty iPhone flashlight. The road threaded through campsites with tents and families sitting around fires. The smell of oak and eucalyptus drifted through the air. It was all good until suddenly I found myself walking down a dark deserted road with no idea where my car was. The trees rustled and everything was eerily quiet.

Just then two figures came walking toward me from the opposite direction. Silhouetted against the black forest I imagined two big hairy ax murders. They came closer, oh my god. Forget “127 Hours,” I was going to star in “Nightmare on State Park Street.”  I start to freak… soon we were face to face. Relief flooded me when I realized it was the SF women I’d chatted up throughout the day.

“Oh hey, you lost too?” they asked.

Map in hand we crunched through the trees together. They told me they recently completed grad school and this was their last blast before starting careers as mid wives.

Miraculously we stumbled our way through the forest, crossed a bridge and stumbled into deserted Lot 4 where our two cars waited.

“What’s your name?” asked Midwife 1.

“Kim.”

“Kim, it’s so cool you said ‘Peace Out’ to your husband and did this alone,” Midwife 2 said.

I laughed and told them I’d quite enjoyed my own company. 

We hugged it out and got in our cars.

Truthfully I was surrounded by a bunch of baby otters (I think?), a couple of midwives, Mary Jubb and best of all, the gorgeous Big Sur scenery.

I hadn’t been alone. Not at all.

How to do Oahu Like a Local

Whenever I arrive anywhere tropical, I’m always jonesing to jump in the ocean. That’s why, right after landing on Oahu earlier this summer, we hit Waikiki beach. After years of bribing and threatening, Jimmy and I are stoked Tanner & Saxon finally love to surf. (Although I do not love how they constantly tell me what a crappy paddler I am and how I need Jimmy to slingshot me into waves.)

We hooked up with legendary pro surfer Hans Hedemann. Hans is Oahu born, owns two surf schools (Waikiki and Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore), and is super down to earth. He took us to a mellow spot called “Sandbar” toward the Honolulu zoo end of Waikiki.

The water is so warm and aqua. And you can surf in a bikini! The view—Diamond Head, the highrises and iconic pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel was gorgeous—and gliding over that turquoise glass made me feel giddy.

I tried to get some scoop from Hans about his time on the world tour but he was tight lipped.

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Hans throwing out some Risky Business vibes in the ’80s.

He did tell me that he gave Cameron Diaz lessons twice a day for an entire month, and she got so good, by the end he was taking her out into juicy double overhead surf. He also told us about his son, Johann, a musician who attends the Berklee College of Music in Boston.  Jimmy, the bros and I caught a ton of “party waves.”  We even surfed alongside an outrigger canoe on a few waves. After a few hours, we got out of the water all salty and blissed out, and walked past Kuhio Beach Park where locals were hosting grad party BBQs. I asked Hans if I was ready for juicy surf like Cameron.

“Not yet,” he laughed.

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That’s Mr. Hedemann on the right.

With the smell of plumeria and teri chicken wafting through the air, we hopped in the car. As we drove off, Hans’ son, Johann (aka Johann Beach), played us out…Listen to Johann’s perfect post-surf sesh song, “Girl Crazy” here.

One of the best things about visiting Oahu was hanging with our good friend, Rich and his family. We’ve known Rich since junior high and his personality has definitely improved with age.

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Next, it was off to the windward side of Oahu to Kailua with Team Erickson.

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Kailua Beach is postcard pretty. I always feel like I could stay out in the water forever doing handstands and splashing around. The sand is soft and white, palm trees sway in the tradewinds, and the beach is dotted with an eclectic mix of people and dogs including Charlie, the amazing camouflaging Golden Doodle.

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After our beach day,  Jules took me around Kailua, and showed me all the hotspots.

Aloha Suprette was my fave.

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A superette is a New Zealand term for a small supermarket or convenience store. The gem of a boutique features unique wares by different artists. The jewelry draped over chunks of coral and cute neon-trimmed beach togs had me drooling.

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I was obsessed with this fuchsia surfboard by Travis Reynolds, a Santa Cruz surfer/artist/shaper. Alas, it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase…

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Luckily, this cool piece did.

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  Travis upcycled leftover surfboard fiberglass to make the “canvas,” even splattering it with neon resin. Reminds me of surfer spin art.

Another happening ‘hood is Monsarrat Avenue near the base of Diamond Head. There are Acai bowl places and juice joints, the order-at-the counter Diamond Head Market with freshly made scones, passion fruit cheesecake and pickled mango by the pint. By far our favorite spot was ARS Cafe. With vintage vinyl spinning on the record player and  industrial chic decor, this espresso/coffee/gelato/art gallery is a charming spot to chill.

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The avocado toast is a must. The soft bread is so flavorful and comes smothered with beets, arugula, avocado and a poached egg.

Later, it was time to venture into Waikiki. We arrived at House Without a Key at the Halekulani Hotel just in time for sunset. Under a pinky blue abalone shell sky, a trio of musicians played the ukulele and sang about a yellow ginger lei while a hula dancer swayed gracefully.

Could there be a more quintessential Hawaiian experience? Honestly, I think these are the tastiest Mai Tais on the planet. They have the perfect tart to sweet ratio and a little sugar cane swizzle stick you can chomp on. (Try the recipe here.)

I could have pounded 10 so it’s a good thing we had to dash—it was time for dinner.

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 Tiki torches licking the black sky, we took the beach route passing a dude with a metal detector sifting the now cool Waikiki sands for treasure—classic!—to a swell little boutique hotel in Waikiki called the Surf Jack and Swim Club.

It’s the coolest vintage-y hotel. Their motto is “Bringing soul back to Waikiki.” Walk into the covered lobby and the first thing you see is this swimming pool inscribed with “Wish You Were Here”…

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The center of the hotel is open air so you look up at a starry sky. On the platform bar area above the pool area are cute little cabanas where you can party semi-privately, and on the upper ten floors, 112 guest rooms which seem reasonably priced.

We ate at the hotel’s restaurant, Machina & Sons.

Great food even if the shaka wall paper nauseated poor Jules.
Great food, company and decor. Check out the Shaka wall paper!

Next, it was on to the North Shore. The North Shore is relaxed and lush. Locals have managed to keep it country. Hans has a surf school at Turtle Bay so once again, we hit the waves. Here, Jimmy gives Kelly Slater a run for his world title.

 We cruised into Haleiwa for sushi and window shopping. When we arrived at Matsumoto’s for shave ice, the line snaked out the door and deep into the courtyard. Jimmy wanted to bail. I thought there was no way this place could live up to its hype.

Guess what?

This shave ice is legit. Watching the women create perfect snowballs from an ice block, then drizzle it with tropical flavors—mango, papaya, lilikoi, yes please! and the piece de resistance a touch of sweet condensed milk—was mesmerizing. Plus the taste was nirvana.

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In the end, we didn’t want to leave. Oahu feels so much less touristy even though it’s supposedly the most touristy isle of all. There are fun new restaurants and hotels to explore, along with old school institutions.

After grabbing some tuberose leis from the airport stands, back we headed to the mainland.

Still thinking about all the fun we had and missing these cute little mango sellers.

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Muscle Beach!

Mini-Trump is in the House!

 


It seemed like just yesterday we dropped Tanner off for his freshman year at SDSU (read about that here.) The year flew. Before we knew it, he was baaaaaack!

Or at least I thought it was Tanner. On second thought, I was convinced someone took my sweet thespian son, and sent a frat boy with an insatiable appetite home in his place. In hindsight, there were some definite red flags, for instance, when Tanner asked for Sperry’s for Christmas…

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….or started posting pics like this to his Instagram.

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Still, during those first few days after he arrived home Jimmy and I were constantly looking at each other wondering, “Who is this kid?”

From the get go, Tanner monopolized my kitchen. He broiled chicken breasts slicked in coconut oil and sprinkled with Mrs. Dash’s from morning ’til night. His rice cooker was constantly burbling too, its rattling lid announcing a new batch every hour on the hour like some bizarre Japanese cuckoo clock. I watched in horror as Tanner gorged himself on a pound of chicken and a huge KT-22 mountain-sized bowl of steamed rice four times a day. Pretty soon we started calling him Jethro from the Beverly Hillbillies.

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I was constantly nagging him to wipe the rice clumps off my counter and eat more slowly.

Tanner had also become a gym rat, pumping iron religiously, sometimes twice a day. At home he constantly flexed in the mirror, and said things like, ” ‘Miring’ these swole gains, mom? All natty, baby.”

For the life of me I had no clue as to what he was saying. Could the Berlitz language school help me speak Meathead, I wondered? Luckily, he translated: “Are you admiring my big, swollen muscles, mother? I do not shoot ‘roids into my ass to achieve these results. They are all natural.”

Another thing: Tanner didn’t want to surf anymore. He hammered us to let him throw “dagers“—day ragers—and actually thought his summer “job” was to achieve Hulk-like veins. “What?” I asked. “Do you actually think those grotesque bodybuilders look good?”

But one day the Creatine powder hit the fan. We were perusing our absentee ballots when Tanner announced he was voting for Trump. I was mortified. Anyone who knows me knows I was raised by Weezie in the most liberal, Jimmy-Carter -lovin’ Tait Avenue cottage this side of the Mississippi.

I thought about all the times we’d volunteered at the family shelter when the boys were little so they could learn compassion. All those Project Cornerstone anti-bullying lessons I presented in their classrooms. And how, on the morning of the ’04 election, Tanner, Sax and I taped homemade “Circle-Slash W” signs on our bike helmets and rode to the polls. Hadn’t my liberal views seeped in via osmosis?

“You are NOT seriously voting for Trump, are you?” I asked.

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Make America Frat Again. Photo cred: Anders

“Yep,” he said. Then, he started gleefully chanting, “Build the wall! Build the wall! Build the wall!”

That was the last straw. For months I had pined for Tanner to come home. Now, I couldn’t wait for him to leave.

I was sick of him checking himself in the mirror. I was sick of my house smelling like freakin’ Chick-Fil-A. I was sick of steamed rice sticking to the bottoms of my bare feet.

But when I dug deep, I realized I was mostly sad. I missed my son. My surf buddy, that sensitive, guitar strumming, John Mayer singing kid who performed in musicals and was voted “Most Likely to be in a Boy Band.” I missed that guy. I had nothing in common with this gainzy frat bro.

I felt better when I talked to other moms who were experiencing the same let down. My friend, Amy, who is the sweetest, crunchiest pacifist mama on the planet, survived her son joining the army. Instead of being crushed, she embraced his decision whole heartedly. She was astute enough to realize he felt his life lacked structure and that’s what attracted him to the military. She also reminded me that she and I used to be taneroxics when we were at SDSU, tanning by the pool, bodies slathered in Blue Bonnet margarine. “That was our thing. This is Tanner’s thing,” Amy said. And she was right.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized when our children are in the new universe of college, they are trying on different personas that may be different from the way they were before. If I was going to have a good relationship with Tanner, I needed to accept him for who he was.

It wasn’t easy at first. But I’ve made a concerted effort to stop nagging him when he shovels in the food. Instead, I inject humor. “I read that we should savor our food by chewing each bite for 20 seconds. Let’s try it.” And we both crack up. Or I’ll send him a funny text from the grocery store…

"This looks right up your alley," I'll say.
“This new frozen food brand looks right up your alley,” I’ll say.

I also try to find common ground. “Hey, I just read in Us that Carrie Underwood curls 20 pounds. I’m wimping out at 12 lbs. Maybe my end of summer goal could be to curl 20. Can you help me get some gainz?”

“I’m down,” Tanner said.

Summer is still young, but these days our household is reunited and it feels so good.

When it comes to politics though, Jethro and I have agreed to disagree.

***

**Thanks, Tan, for always being a good sport & my muse.**

Debbie Downer Does San Diego

Tanner and I were flying down south for a musical theater audition at SDSU. I saw the sojourn as the perfect mother-son bonding opportunity. After all, I had to milk every moment before he left for college.

“Don’t mess up, Kimmy,” Jimmy said before we left. “I need you on your A-game.”

We arrived to unseasonably warm mid-February weather. Everyone was in a glorious mood. Everyone except Tanner. Buds jammed in his ears, eyes glued to his phone, he totally ignored me.

On the morning of the BIG DAY, I ran through the La Jolla Cove where we celebrated our boy’s first birthday with a cookout and cupcakes 18 years ago.

We celebrated his very first birthday at the Cove so I tapped the same picnic table for good audition luck.

How quickly the years passed. Anticipating life without Tanner belting show tunes and dirtying every pan with his muscle man meals made me feel blue.

Tanner’s audition wasn’t until four so after my run I suggested lunch at Puesta taqueria in downtown La Jolla.

After we sat down, I pointed across the street. “There’s my favorite restaurant, Herringbone.”

“Hrrmmp,” he said. “More like Pricey-bone.”

“This menu sure looks good!” I said.

“Uh-oh,” Tanner said. “‘Not guaranteed to be cooked in a gluten free environment’—NOT good.’”

“If we alert the waitress, I’m sure she’ll be on it.”

“Achoooooo!” Tanner sneezed. “Oh no, I think I”m catching a cold!

Womp. Womp. Who was I dining with? Debbie Downer?
Womp. Womp. Who the heck was I dining with–Debbie Downer?

I chalked Tanner’s grumpy mood up to pre-audition nerves and tried to keep the mood sunny.

Speaking of sunny, Windansea Beach was a few blocks away. I proposed a quick post-lunch swim to help dry his stuffy nose.

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I bodysurfed in the warm water. Tanner sat on the beach checking his watch.

“We should go,” he yelled.

“Five more minutes!” I pleaded.

We returned to the hotel with plenty of time. Blissed out from the beach, I leisurely ironed his chino’s while he lingered in the shower. By the time we climbed in the car, it was 3:15. I felt a twinge of panic.

It’ll be tight but we’ll make it, I thought…until we pulled out of the hotel driveway. It took fifteen tortuous minutes just to crawl one mile onto the freeway ramp. SD traffic had become as brutal as LA’s.

Tanner was livid. Smoke was pouring from his ears.
Tanner was livid. Smoke was pouring from his ears.

And who could blame him?

How could I be so irresponsible? How could I misjudge rush hour traffic? Why couldn’t the beach have waited until after his audition? Jimmy’s pep talk echoed in my ears, Don’t mess up, A-game Kimmy.

As we merged onto the 52, I prayed for empty lanes only to find a river of red brake lights. It was now 3:40. And SDSU was still fifteen miles away.

“We’re NOT gonna make it,” Tanner said. “If I’m late, I WILL NOT go to my audition.”

Inside I was freaking out. Tanner’s slot was 4:00 to 4:10—exactly enough time to perform two monologues and 32 bars of “I Chose Right” from Baby. There were no other audition days. No other weekends. This was Tanner’s big chance.

Then an idea hit. “Pull up the audition email on your phone,” I said. “We can call the theatre department.”

“It’ll never work!” he said.

“We have to try!”

He dialed the number on speaker.

1st ring—we are so screwed.

2nd ring—NO way anyone is going to answer the Friday  before President’s Day weekend.

3rd ring—Tanner is never going to forgive me.

Fourth ring—Click. “Hello?”

Then some guy, no, some Saint named Peter answered. St. Peter told Tanner, “No problem, we’ll squeeze you in when you get here.”

We screeched in at 4:25 and Tanner bolted for the Don Powell Theater.

He found me after his audition, ecstatic. “They were scribbling notes during my song. I think they liked me.”

Relief washed over me like the aqua waves at Windansea.

In the car, we cranked Hall and Oates “You Make My Dreams Come True” and sang at the top of our lungs. We were BONDING. Finally!

The following morning, Valentine’s Day, I woke yet again to grumpy Tanner.

I brunched alone at Caroline’s Cafe; he stayed in bed checking his Twitter.

Sitting on the deck overlooking La Jolla Shores, I noticed a cute towhead nearby smothering his mother in syrupy pancake kisses. Melancholy crept back in. I envied her. Time with her adoring child stretched before her endlessly like the white sand below while mine was vanishing.

I was excited for Tanner to begin this new chapter, but part of me wished he could stay.

I returned to the hotel and we packed. Tanner surprised me when he suggested a quick boogie boarding session at the Shores.

We hustled to the beach and rode waves side by side, meeting in the swirl of white water. I looked over at Tanner, his lips curled into an excited O, audition behind him, not a care in the world. My heart swelled.

Twenty minutes later he called, “We better get going. We don’t want to miss our flight.”

I did not beg for one more wave.

Okay, maybe just one.

But as I glided across that last wave, a sheet of celadon glass, I thought maybe instead of regarding our time with our children as finite, we should think of those bonds as constantly shifting, yet always there. Like the sand and sea.

***

Last weekend we took Tanner to SD for good, of course narrowly avoiding missing our 8 a.m. flight.

“I’m going to miss you guys,” he said, “but I’m gonna love never being late for anything again.”

Gonna miss you too, Waz.
Gonna miss you too, Waz.

Bunny Cakes

Tanner’s girlfriend, Blaire, has to be the coolest chick ever. Prom was only six days away, and Tanner still hadn’t officially asked her. Blaire hadn’t uttered a peep but I was getting antsy.

I’ve been obsessed with Prom Asks (aka “Promposals”) since I wrote this for the LG Patch and discovered boys go all out when it comes to procuring a prom date these days. Scavenger hunts, mid-class serenades, Post-it covered cars. One kid at Tanner’s school even got help from Walter Freakin’ White (watch the youtube here). “Stefan’s proposal made all the major TV outlets for God’s sake!” I said. “We gotta get on this!”

Tanner couldn’t be bothered. He was busy pumping iron, playing X-Box and d*cking around as usual.

Lucky for him, we had an ace in the hole: Jimmy Ratcliff, master baker. A few years back Jimmy made Saxon the coolest SpongeBob Squarepants cake ever, so I threw down the gauntlet.

Let’s make Blaire a bunny cake!  She loves bunnies, especially her pet bunny, Marlowe.

Meet Marlowe, the world's most adorable bunny.
Meet Marlowe, world’s most adorable bunny.

So while Tanner was working hard at school d*cking around in APES class, Jimmy rushed home between patients to bake Blaire a cake.

Jimmy begins performing his bunnyectomy. haha! Get it? Foot doctor--Bunionectomy?
Jimmy gets busy performing his bunnyectomy. haha! Get it? Foot doctor–Bunionectomy?

As he performed surgery on the bunny’s ear which broke mid-transfer, I, his trusty assistant, asked why he liked making cakes.

“There’s something cathartic about it,” he said.

First, Jimmy iced the bunny a frothy, fluffy white.

Then he gave him Junior Mint peepers, and a pink Jelly Belly nose. After carefully cutting out a paper mold, Jimmy sprinkled the inner ears with pink glitter candy.

With surgeon-like precision, Jimmy uses forceps to finesse the black licorice whiskers.
With surgeon-like precision, Jimmy used forceps to finesse the bunny’s black licorice whiskers.

After school Tanner made a hot pink sign to go with the cake,”I NEED SOMEBUNNY TO GO TO PROM. YOU DOWN?”

Shakespeare got nothing on home boy.

It wasn’t Bryan Cranston and I doubt we made CNN’s ticker, but hey, low-key is how the Ratty Pack rolls.

Then we raced over to Blaire’s. Tanner put the bunny cake on her door step and hid in the bushes. He even let me stalk them from the neighbor’s yard.

Blaire loved her cake, and we, I mean, Tanner felt such a sense of accomplishment when she said yes.

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When we got home, we, I mean, Tanner was on a promposal high. “Gotta go work out at the gym, hashtag gains,” he said. “Later ‘nade.”

Luckily Saxon was chilling at his desk. “Listen. I have the BEST idea for your junior prom ask next year. What you’re gonna do is take your girl to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk on the Skyglider…”

“So far so good,” he said.

“Then on the car in front you can put a sign up that says ‘PROM?’ and when you get off, I’ll be waiting right at the bottom with a bottle of Martinelli’s Sparkling Cid—”

“Wait—what?” he interrupted. “You’re gonna be there? I don’t think so.”

Maybe one proposal will have to last this Momzilla a lifetime.

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This Little Piggy

Recently Jimmy had a podiatry conference in Chicago. He was giving a workshop on PRP injections—whatever that is. I’d never been to Chicago, so I decided to tag along.

What a beautiful city. We loved running along frozen Lake Michigan. And the cool architecture! Jimmy was obsessed with the “corn cob” buildings from the opening credits of The Bob Newhart Show.

But let’s be honest, we were there to eat.

In my hot little hand, I held a list of 30 of our chef pal, Forrest’s two chef pals’ (former Chicagoans) fave places. Thirty restaurants.

So many choices, so little time.

The first night we checked out Girl and the Goat.

I don’t watch Top Chef, but apparently Season 4 winner, Stephanie Izard owns the joint. The place was slammed. As expected goat empanadas and goat stew were on the menu. Also braised beef tongue and the must-order dish, wood-fired pig face. Our bossy waitress told us we didn’t order enough. Truthfully, none of the selections grabbed us. Especially not poor Wilbur’s mug. We were definitely Team Charlotte.

We opted for the sautéed octopus and some other meh dishes that were way oversalted. Had the chefs raided the Morton Salt HQ’s we’d passed on the way in from the airport or what?

As we paid, we noticed our neighbors tucking into a pinkish patty served under an egg sunny side up with shoestring potatoes.

Yep, the pig face patty.
Yep, the pig face patty.

“How is it?” we asked.

“YUMMY!” they raved.

Back at the hotel I perused our list for lunch the following day. Vince and Vani’s cred had plummeted after Girl and the Goat, but Vince is executive chef at Levi’s Stadium, so I figured he knew his stuff.

“Should we go to The Purple Pig?” I asked, yelping it. “Says here, ‘… the chef boldly turns out meaty delicacies like sweet-crunchy pig’s ears with pickled cherry peppers.'”

“What’s with all this meat?” Jimmy asked.

“It’s the nose-to-tail movement.”

“Huh?”

“You know—chefs creatively incorporate every part of the animal from snout to tail into their dishes.”

“Yuck.”

The next day we Ubered to Longman and Eagle located in Chicago’s hipster Logan Square ‘hood. A Bon Appetit darling, the restaurant had made both V&V’s (Vince & Vani’s) top three.

Outside, the restaurant resembled a concrete bunker. A sign read, “EAT SLEEP WHISKEY ROOMS.” We walked into a tiny, dark, gloomy room, the kind of place you’d go after tying up your horse to meet Billy the Kid for a whiskey.

So far not impressed.

We perused the menu. More meat. More pig. Slagel Farms bone marrow with green apple kimchi. Puffed beef rinds, salt and vinegar powder.

Oh hell no. I was still retaining water from the salty Girl and the Goat fare.

Still, with a vintage juke box, vases stuffed with arrows, and a slew of flannel-clad manly men tending bar, Longman and Eagle’s saloon vibe was growing on us.

Our sweet ginger waitress told us there was a three-hour wait on weekends for the coveted 12 tables. She steered us toward the the whole hog crepinette with cheesy grits and collards. Tastily seasoned, the slow braised pork was comfort food heaven.

Stuffed to the gills, we decided to walk the five miles home. It was fun to bundle up and crunch through snow while passing through various neighborhoods. We even spotted several spots included on V&V’s list. By the time we got back to the hotel we were famished. Luckily we had a dinner date with Nina, Tanner’s best childhood pal, who attends Columbia College.

Tanner made Nina's dorm room!
Tanner made Nina’s dorm room!
here's a close up of the picture~Tan 'n' Neens back in the day.
here’s a close up of the picture~Tan ‘n’ Neens back in the day.

V&V, back in our good graces after the superb Longman and Eagle lunch, had recommended DMK Burger Bar so we decided to check it out.

Grass-fed burgers, hand-cut fries and for desert, St. Patty’s Shammy Shakes (chocolate mint ice cream with a Lucky Charms cereal floater). Plus, top notch service. What a score.

Vince and Vani were 2 for 3! Now I wanted to hit their entire list, but the clock was ticking. Our last night was a freebie podiatry dinner at Maestro’s—steaks and lots of foot discussion—but according to our guru, Vince, we wouldn’t leave without visiting The Donut Vault. People line up early, he said, because they run out by 10 am. This hole-in-the-wall was a must.

So the next morning while Jimmy headed to his workshop, I braved the 15 degree weather and bought a box of piping hot, fat, salted caramel old fashioned donuts—worth the frostbite! I also stopped by Eataly, Mario Batali’s sprawling foodie emporium to grab a fresh baguette and charcuterie for the plane ride home. On the way out I noticed chefs in white jackets handing out free pork cheek samples. Pass.

Jimmy and I met in the lobby. “I’m so bloated,” he said. “I can’t eat for a month.”

“Me either,” I said. “By the way, how did your workshop go?”

“Great! I taught 18 doctors how to give PRP injections.”

“What did you guys practice on?”

“Pig’s feet cadavers, of course.”

“Wow, Chi-town chefs really do cook every part of the pig, and they donate whatever’s left to the doctors. Not bad.”

And with that, these two little piggies hopped a plane to Cali and cried wee wee wee all the way home.

Longman and Eagle—we'll be back!
Longman and Eagle—we’ll be back!

Mystery of the Movie Theater Scumbag

 
 
Sit down and buckle up…you are NOT gonna believe my recent traumatic movie theatre-going experience.
 
 
So Sunday night, Jimbo, Sax and I head down to a nearby, newly redone theatre to catch “The Hundred-Foot Journey.” (Indian family opens a gaudy but delish Indian joint across the road from Helen Mirren’s stuffy, Michelin-starred French restaurant in picturesque French countryside.)
 
 
The theatre is packed. (First bad omen.) But we find some decent seats up in the front—not great but not neckache-inducing either.
 
 
After the movie starts, this 20-something guy comes and sits next to me. RIGHT NEXT to me. (Second bad omen) I detest sitting next to anyone in the theater, but I figure it’s time to get over my phobia and just deal for the next 2 hours.
 
 
 
Soon my neighbor pulls out a bottle of red wine and takes a swig from the bottle. Which I didn’t love, but since Jimbo and I have been known to sneak in libations occasionally, again, I tell myself to chill out.
 
This guy is pretty rude throughout the movie. Texting, swigging, rumpling his freakin’ popcorn bag and his CANDY bag he snuck in from the candy shop next door. Not fun.
 
 
Twenty minutes toward the end—CLINK!—he drops his wine bottle. Red wine torpedoes up my leg, soaking my white pants and sandals/bare feet.
Not wanting to make a scene, I hiss:
“Dude! You just spilled your wine all over my pants. NOT COOL.”
He mumbles something smart assed.
 
By the end of the movie, steam is pouring from my ears. After the lights come up, I read him the riot act. He is belligerent. His mom (sitting one row behind us) actually comes to his defense and shushes me.
 
Jimmy calls him an f**ing dick. Not wanting the situation to escalate,
I tell Jimmy to ease up. The punk tells us his name is “James Doe”
(name changed to protect the douchey),
and his dad owns the theatre, and boohoo if I didn’t enjoy my movie going experience.
 
Then he says to Jimmy, “Yeah, bro, you better keep walking!”
Jimmy wants to shove the red wine bottle where it don’t shine, but shows restraint. 
 
 
As I am reporting him to the supervisor, James Doe strides up and repeats his story to the supervisor. Obviously hammered, this guy has NO FEAR. He plays like a drunk, entitled kid proclaiming to own the theatre, and tough shit if I spilled wine down your leg.
Deal with it.
 
 
So! I get home and call my friend who, in fact, owns the theatre. (She has partners so I don’t know if this punk is telling the truth.)
 
 
She says absolutely not, and she is going to get to the bottom of this. She asks me to describe him.
That’s when we go all CSI!
I ask Saxon (known for his attention to detail) what the guy looked like.
He doesn’t miss a beat: “Aloha shirt. A’s cap. Jeremy Renner with baby fat.”
 
BOOM!
 
Next day my friend pulls his image from the movie theatre surveillance cameras, sends it to her partner, supposedly the kid’s “dad.”
 
Her partner recognizes the punk as a kid his son went to school with but hasn’t seen for several years.
BUSTED! James Doe gets an unexpected phone call.
 
Writes a grammatically atrocious apology letter to the “theatre owner” (doesn’t bother to research the owner’s name—nice.) and offers to pick up my dry cleaning bill to get my jeans “back to normal.”
 
I am tempted to tell him my pants are permanently damaged and demand a $200 gift card to my favorite boutique, but instead savor the fact that justice has prevailed,
and we royally busted James Doe!
Also, I take solace in knowing that he must have one hell of a candy/red wine hangover.
 
I am thinking of going into the P.I. biz.
 
spilled wineWhatcha think?