Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oy Vey

Why is it that just when you put one ego-deflating mid-life crisis issue to bed, another one pops up like an endless psycho-emotional game of Whac-A-Mole?  (Remember that game?  As a kid we used to go to birthday parties at Pizza Machine - a Chuck-E-Cheese-like indoor amusement with video games and skee-ball and Whac-A-Mole.  I may have been an overweight, uncoordinated geek, but I turned into an athlete of Olympian skill with a roll of quarters and a foam mallet.)

Sunday took me to San Francisco - a city that, much like Paris, I didn't quite get initially, but have grown to appreciate over time.  In addition to some meetings in Sacramento, I was able to attend a company meeting that included the boy geniuses you've heard me refer to in the past.  So, of course, after two days of meetings, I can admit that I really like these guys; smart, funny, very hard-working and serioius - making it difficult to feel intimidated at all.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that - literally minutes after I put this issue to bed, our CEO (who's my age) ends up in Forbes magazine as part of a story about how America's 15 most powerful CEOs are under 40.  Oh - and one of my former customers was on the list as well. 

Terrific.  Now I don't just have to worry about turning 40, but I can feel inadequate about what I haven't acheived at "under 40."  If I didn't have such a strong sense of self-confidence, I might be tempted to call a Porsche dealership or one of Tiger Woods's "girlfriends."  You know, except for the fact that I'm not straight.

Or a cliche.

But it is one of thos moments where I have to think a little bit harder about what I have accomplished, and feel good about my work and my marriage.  Plus, it's kind of hard to be resentful when you actually like and respect someone as much I like our CEO. 

Besides, he's still not a doctor.  (Hey, at least I'm technically a lawyer - it's the Jewish Mother Silver Medal.  I'm not sure what the Bronze is?  Dry cleaner?  Accountant?)

Oh - and have I told you - he somehow found this blog and now half the company is reading it.  If you want awkward, get on the phone with your General Counsel and have him quote your own publicly posted sarcastic quips back at you.  Meanwhile, the pressure to be amusing is reaching stressful proportions.  I haven't had this kind of performance anxiety since I was single.

So let's just move on to this week's signs of the apocalypse.  While the mid-atlantic got hit with its 42nd consecutive snowstorm, Vancouver was dry as a bone.  It's not going to be much of a Winter Olympiad if the skiers are slaloming down dirt and the figure skaters keep falling through the ice.  (Though that could be a cool sport: "Survival skating." The competitors have to complete a series of compulsory movements with artistic flair, while avoiding patches of thin ice or elegantly pulling themseves free.  Heck - it could be our only shot at beating the Chinese.)

And there was an earthquake in Illinois. 

It's not quite Haiti, but an earthquake in Chicago is a little bit like snow in Hawaii.  Weird and wrong.  And of course, that's where I'm headed this week.  Next week is North Carolina so there's probably a tsunami on its way.

It was a pretty good dining week.  Last weekend Neil and I dined with friends at 10 Downing Food & Wine, in the West Village, which we'd been eager to try.  One more entrant in the New American category, though there was little new about it.  One of our friends got a $16 burger (I hereby refuse to pay more than $10 for a hamburger ever ever ever again.) while Neil and our other friend got fish - which was well-cooked and well-seasoned.  I got the herb chicken with lemon; tasty, though served at room temperature.  Why do so many restaurants fail to get the food to the table hot?

We had a very nice evening - but it was due more to the company than the food.  It was fine, but ultimately unmemorable.

Fortunately our friends had recently been to Seattle, and were able to recommend a restaurant there.  If you're ever in that part of the world, check out Dahlia Lounge.  I had a pork loin with brown butter spaetzle and greens that was rustic and comfort-y and delicious.

Meanwhile, what is it about the Pacific Northwest?  Is it still trendy?  In the 90s, Seattle and Portland were all the rage.  All that coffee and nature and grunge band music?  Is it still trendy?  I've only been there twice, but I just don't get it.  It's pretty enough with the mountains and the Puget Sound and those tall skinny evergreens - but it's sort of depressing.  It never really gets warm, and it's overcast and damp, and it rains just over 300 days a year. 

It's so gloomy, it's like the Sad Sack City.  (Meanwhile, if Neil ever opens up that shop, I'm opening a lunch place right next door and calling it "Happy Sack."  A play on words, get it?  You know, how a brown bag lunch is a sack lunch?  Whatever.  Moving on.)

Finally, Wednesday brought me to LA (where my delicious meal at BLT Steak on the Sunset Strip included a bottle of HammerSky vineyards "Open Invitation."  One of the best wines I've had a long time.  It's a zinfindel, but it drinks like a Merlot/Cab blend.  Only 280 cases, but if you can find it, buy it.  Decant for 5-10 minutes before drinking.)

Yay. Los Angeles!  One of my favorite places to visit.  I don't know what it is, but there's something about that town where, the minute I land I feel all happy and young and energetic.  I'm up at 5 every morning and in such a good mood it's like I've been medicated.  I couldn't even be brought down by the ticket I got in Orange County for talking on my cell phone in the car (which, ironically, included a built-in phone, which makes no sense if it's against the law.) 

The best meal I ate all week was at the home of a business colleague and friend, whose Pasadena home was built in 1917.  By LA standards, that's the equivalent of owning a Renaissance-era castle.  We dines on vegetables from their garden, and a short rib recipe that was out of this world.  Tender and homey, with carrots and onions - like a modern spin on a pot roast your grandmother might have made.  And a clementine cake for dessert - all citrusy and nutty and served with homemade whipped cream spiked with rum.

(I am now imagining every single reader thinking, "Well, of course he's having a mid-life crisis.  He's a gluttonous drunk.")

Anyway - there's lots more to talk about - Ellen on American Idol (Good), this week's episode of Lost (disappointing) and why some kid on the USC Campus (where gross Cousin Trevor went to school) could be heard screaming "Fuck" and "God Damn It" when I was pulling in to the parking structure at the main gate to the school (Here's a thought: when you're 19 years old and get to live in an oasis where it's always 75 degrees and gorgeous, nothing's that serious.)

But we're out of time for today.  It's Valentine's Day and something has made Neil ill (I hope it wasn't last night's romantic dinner; Neil tends to be allergic to sentiment.)  I'm going to go take care of him: I may not be one of America's most powerful CEOs, but if I can't please a Jewish mother, I can always act like one.

The Last Word:

Do This, New York:

In San Francisco?  Try Delfina for great neapolitan italian food, or go next door for their gourmet pizza.  Afterwards, check out Bi-Rite's Salted Caramel Ice Cream.  There's a reason it's been named one of the top 50 food experiences in the USA.

If some quirk of fate or inexplicable desire to see evergreens takes you to Seattle, check out Dahlia Lounge.  Pack an umbrella.

If you're in LA, and can't get an invite to Malcolm and Julie's house (Thanks, Julie!) check out the BLT Steak on Sunset.  Yeah, it's pretty much what you expect from a steak place, but the wine list is awesome, the food is better than most of the crap you get in LA, and the atmosphere will make you feel like "somebody."  You're not.  (Well, maybe you are.  Maybe you're one of America's most poweful CEOs.  Under 40.  Oh, whatever, I don't have the energy anymore....)

Don't Do This, New York:

You can skip 10 Downing.

Don't ignore your husband if he's got the stomach flu on Valentine's Day.  Gotta go.......


  1. Would have never guessed about the performance anxiety. Yet another post filled with wit, humor and stuff I care about (food, LA, food...). You're on my top 10 under 40 list, BTW, in case that makes for a good runner up prize - like the Jewish mother's silver medal (and yet not even close...). Hope Neil feels better soon.

  2. Haha - your company reads your blog? That's fantastic. I love it.

    Meanwhile, the CEOs on that list are not terribly diverse, are they? I mean at least the ones who took the time to send in a photo? Gymboree man is HOT.

    And HEY, I was in LA recently too! I hope we weren't there at the same time; I'd be very sorry to have missed hanging out with you in the sunshine! One question: I thought all New Yorkers hated LA? I thought it was a rule, something akin to the aversion to visiting the Statue of Liberty. Every New Yorker I know says "other than the Getty, LA holds nothing for me." You're breaking the mold!!