Archive for April, 2012

The Sweetest Thing Happened….

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

I wrote about our new neighborhood bakery, Montecito Confections, in a previous post but I have to give the owner another shout out.

Michael’s favorite dessert is lemon meringue pie. He makes a pretty good version himself and fancies himself as a connoisseur. When he sampled Montecito Confections’ pie, he said, “This is the best I’ve ever tasted.” It was that good.

So I started popping into the shop twice a week to pick him up a slice (and to get one of their enormous double chocolate chunk cookies for me). Yesterday I arrived late in the afternoon, just as the bakery was about to close. Michael has had a rough time with his Crohn’s disease lately and I really wanted to get something to cheer him up.

Luckily, there was a whole pie sitting in the refrigerated case. I said hello to Katie, the owner, and told her I was there for my husband’s usual slice and as she lifted the pie out of the case she said, “Why don’t I just give you the whole thing.”

I said, “Are you kidding? The whole pie?”

She said, “I make them fresh everyday, so it would only go to waste. It’s my gift to your husband.”

I was so taken aback – it’s all-too-rare when someone does something really nice for someone else, isn’t it? – but thanked her profusely. I didn’t tell her about Michael’s chronic illness or how difficult life is for him at times (and by extension for me). But as I walked into the house and watched the look on my husband’s face when he saw me holding the pie, I realized that what made Katie’s gesture that much more special was that she didn’t know our whole story; she was simply being kind.


Sat Night TV: White House Correspondents’ Dinner

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

I never watch CSpan, but I actually recorded the dinner tonight. Why? I thought Obama killed it last year and I’m a fan of Jimmy Kimmel, so I figured this year’s event would be worth a look.

So many good jokes, as well as plenty of misses.

Loved the setup with the open mic when Obama was off stage. The toilet flushing was hilarious.

Loved the Prez’s delivery – from his jabs at himself to his lines about his GOP rivals. (The bit about Kim Kardashian, on the other hand, was unoriginal; she’s an easy target these days.)

Loved Kimmel’s jokes about Obama’s ears, the Secret Service, the dog eating, Michelle’s diet and health initiative. But he was talking way too fast, as if he was either really nervous or really worried about the clock. The host of these shindigs should take a more leisurely approach, in my humble opinion.

Mostly, what I enjoyed was seeing the journalists who cover politics get their due – from the parties to the awards. They work hard – whether in broadcasting or print – and tonight was their night to shine.


Sasha Baron Cohen Is Back

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

He really does walk a tightrope in his comedy, but I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard as I did when I watched “that scene” in “Borat.” I think he’s a genius. Will “The Dictator,” his latest collision with bad taste, be a riot or just cringe worthy? I don’t know, but I’ll be there on May 11th to see for myself. Here’s one of the trailers now making the rounds.


Never Mind About That Steak I Wanted Tonight

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Not with a mad cow in California.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. authorities reported the first U.S. case of mad cow disease in six years on Tuesday and quickly assured consumers and global importers that meat from the California dairy cow did not enter the food chain.
John Clifford, the USDA’s chief veterinary officer, said the case was “atypical” and that there was “no cause for alarm” from the animal. Cows can contract the disease spontaneously in rare cases and that it cannot be transmitted unless the brain or spinal tissue is consumed by humans or another animal, according to scientists.
Mad cow, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, is believed to cause the deadly brain disease variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob in humans who eat infected parts from animals with the disease. The first mad cow case in the United States was in late 2003 and caused the nation’s beef exports to drop by nearly $3 billion the following year.
There is no evidence that humans can catch it from drinking the milk of an infected cow. However, fears of a potential backlash among consumers and big importers of U.S. beef caused Chicago live cattle futures to drop sharply.
The USDA has begun notifying authorities at the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as well as U.S. trading partners, but the finding should not affect the nation’s beef exports, Clifford said. The USDA is still tracing the exact life of the infected animal.
The carcass of the cow, which the USDA said was infected by an “atypical” form of the disease, is under quarantine and would be destroyed. The cow, which was found at a rendering plant that processes diseased or sick animals into non-edible products for use in things like soap or glue, was not believed to have contracted the disease by eating contaminated feed, the USDA said.

I was already turned off to eating beef and drinking dairy before reading the article, but that last part – about the poor cow being re-purposed into soap and glue – made me gag.

It’s veggies from here on out…or until I get a craving for this again.


This Article In Today’s NYT Left Me Speechless

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

“Covert fashion” for concealed weapons, they’re calling it. Are you kidding me with this stuff? Isn’t it bad enough that anybody anywhere can walk around carrying their favorite little AK-47? Okay, I realize we’re talking about handguns here, but still. There’s something very scary to me about outfitting people so they can look chic while they’re “packing.” I am for civil liberties. I am for personal freedom. I am also for gun control. Everybody doesn’t need a damn gun, and to profit off the joys of gun-carrying is distasteful beyond words.

New Fashion Wrinkle: Stylishly Hiding the Gun

Published: April 23, 2012

Woolrich, a 182-year-old clothing company, describes its new chino pants as an elegant and sturdy fashion statement, with a clean profile and fabric that provides comfort and flexibility.

And they are great for hiding a handgun.

The company has added a second pocket behind the traditional front pocket for a weapon. Or, for those who prefer to pack their gun in a holster, it can be tucked inside the stretchable waistband. The back pockets are also designed to help hide accessories, like a knife and a flashlight.

The chinos, which cost $65, are not for commandos, but rather, the company says, for the fashion-aware gun owner. And Woolrich has competition. Several clothing companies are following suit, building businesses around the sharp rise in people with permits to carry concealed weapons.

Their ranks swelled to around seven million last year from five million in 2008, partly because of changes to state laws on concealed handguns.

Shawn Thompson, 35, who works at an auto dealership in eastern Kentucky, bought two shirts last month from the Woolrich Elite Concealed Carry line. Both, he wrote on his blog, are a step up from more rugged gear.

“Most of the clothes I used in the past to hide my sidearm looked pretty sloppy and had my girlfriend complaining about my looks,” he wrote, adding in an interview, “I’m not James Bond or nothing, but these look pretty nice.”

The shirt has a barely discernible side slit with Velcro through which, he said, he can yank his Colt 1911 from his waistband holster. Depending on circumstances and mood, he might also carry a folding knife and, at night, a flashlight in a pair of Woolrich chinos his girlfriend bought for him.

Carriers of concealed guns say the new options are a departure from the law enforcement and military look, known as “tactical,” long favored by gun owners.

The latest styles, by contrast, are called “concealed carry” or “covert fashion.”

“What we’ve tried to do is create a collection of garments that allows the end user to have stylish lifestyle apparel but have features in the garment that enable them to carry a weapon and draw the weapon quickly,” said David Hagler, a vice president at 5.11 Tactical, who was lured from Nike to work at 5.11, one of the biggest makers of clothing for soldiers and police officers.

The company’s growing concealed-carry line includes a lightweight water-resistant vest coming this fall — the sort of vest that is standard and trendy at any mainstream outdoor shop but has strategic pockets for guns. It also includes a stealth compartment in front so the wearer can appear to be warming his hands while actually gripping a pistol in a waistband holster.

Other companies are rushing to meet the demand for concealed-carry clothing. Under Armour, best known for its sports and action gear, will be adding a jacket and a plaid shirt with Velcro pockets for easy gun access.

Kevin Eskridge, senior director for outdoor product and design at the company, said the company had seen demand double in the last year for such clothing from traditional outdoor and sporting goods stores, like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Cabela’s.

Mr. Eskridge said the Under Armour apparel was catching on because of fashion but also because of its features, including moisture-wicking fabric.

“Others are making shirts with gun access but using regular cotton,” he said. With his company’s fabrics, “there’s no stink factor,” he said. And if gun owners do not use fabrics that wick away moisture, “You’ll literally rust out,” he added.

Gun experts suggest that there are many reasons for the growth in the number of people with concealed-carry permits. They say it is partly due to a changing political and economic climate — gun owners are professing to want a feeling of control — and state laws certainly have made a difference.

After a campaign by gun rights advocates, 37 states now have “shall issue” statutes that require them to provide concealed-carry permits if an applicant meets legal requirements, like not being a felon. (A handful of other states allow the concealed carrying of handguns without a permit). By contrast, in 1984 only 8 states had such statutes, and 15 did not allow handgun carrying at all, said John Lott, a researcher of gun culture who has held teaching or research posts at a number of universities, including the University of Chicago.

Only one state, Illinois, now forbids handgun carrying in any form, but the legislature is considering a change.

A majority of states have long allowed the open carrying of handguns, said Mr. Lott, who also provided the data on gun permits. But the reality, said Mr. Lott and other gun experts, is that people do not want to show others that they are carrying a weapon or invite sharp questioning from the police.

The clothing lines address a perceived need in the concealed-carry subculture. Gun owners say they want to practice “maximum uncertainty,” meaning that if a gun is sufficiently concealed, a potential criminal will be unsure whether to attack. Gun experts say the research is inconclusive about whether such tactics reduce crime. Regardless, the clothing makers are jumping on the line of thinking.

“When someone walks down the street in a button-down and khakis, the bad guy gets a glimmer of fear, wondering: are they packing or not?” said Allen Forkner, a spokesman for Woolrich, which started its concealed-carry line in 2010 with three shirts.

The company has since added new patterns for shirts, pants and the Elite Discreet Carry Twill jacket, in dark shale gray and dark wheat tan. In addition to its gun-friendly pockets, the jacket has a channel cut through the back that the company says can be used to store plastic handcuffs.

Not everyone who carries a concealed gun is a fan of the new fashion. Howard Walter, 61, a salesman at Wade’s Eastside Guns in Bellevue, Wash., said he preferred to carry his Colt — and a couple of knives and two extra magazines — in a durable pair of work pants.

“They don’t shout ‘gun,’ they shout ‘average guy in the street,’ ” said Mr. Walter, who years ago worked in sales at Nordstrom. But really, he said, the most important thing in picking clothing is to choose something that works for the weapon. “They should dress for the gun,” he said he advised his customers. “Not for the fashion.”

Seeing An Old Fave In Concert

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

In 1965, I was a kid growing up in Scarsdale listening to the AM radio station in Harlem, being the lover of soul music that I was, when I heard a song that blew my mind. It was called “Let Me Down Easy” and the artist was named Bettye LaVette. She had a sound that was much more raw than anything coming from the Motown label – almost a female James Brown.

I lost track of LaVette for years – it turned out her career stalled and she hit hard times –  and then suddenly she resurfaced. She had new albums, was performing with big-name rock stars and received a Kennedy Center honor.

When I read that she was coming to Santa Barbara, I jumped to buy tickets to her concert, which was on the campus of UCSB tonight.

Wow. That’s the first word that comes to mind. We were told the show would be 90 minutes straight through, no intermission, and I wondered how LaVette’s raspy voice would hold up.

I needn’t have worried. She belted out the finale with as much emotion and vocal range as she did in the opening number. She’s such an original. Not a gospel singer. Not a blues singer. And not a pop singer. She’s pure soul in an authentic way that younger artists like Mary K. Blige and Jennifer Hudson couldn’t begin to replicate. She sings as if she’s been through it, and the effect is unforgettable.


A Fantastic Concert Right Here In Santa Barbara

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Photo: Dorothy Darr

It’s been such a privilege to live next door to legendary jazz sax player Charles Lloyd. I didn’t know much about jazz in general when I moved to Montecito, but when I told my more savvy friend Kathy who my neighbor was going to be, she screamed into the phone as if I’d just said “Paul McCartney.” I got schooled.

But Charles isn’t just a superb jazz man; he and his new quartet make magic when they play together.

Recently, Charles teamed up with the woman often called “the Greek Joan Baez,” Maria Farantouri, for a highly praised concert in Athens, which was recorded for a live album appropriately titled “Athens Concert,” and Charles and Maria made their north American debut last night at Santa Barbara’s historic Lobero Theater. I was so jazzed about it (forgive the pun) that I wrote a preview for the local paper.

The concert turned out to be everything I’d hoped: magical, transporting, even awesome (I hate the overuse of that word, but I mean it in the true sense).

I walked out of the Lobero after the applause had died down feeling uplifted and very lucky to have had the experience – the way you’re supposed to feel about a great concert.



We Are Women. Hear Us Roar. (With a P.S.)

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Friend of the Blog Melissa sent me a heads up about the April 28th “We Are Women March,” and I’m glad she did. It gives me a chance to fulminate about the state of affairs for women these days.

Fed up with the rhetoric, not to mention the legislation, denying women our rights regarding issues of contraception, abortion, domestic violence and more, an organization called UniteWomen.Org has stepped up to say, “Enough.”

They’re mobilizing marches all over the country on the 28th, galvanizing women everywhere to voice their anger.

Such marches shouldn’t even be necessary. Feminists fought the good fight back when I was just starting out in the adult world. I thought the right to choose, the right to equal pay, the right to determine what happens to our own bodies were all foregone conclusions.

Not anymore. For anyone who doubts that the above rights are in jeopardy, click on the HuffPo link and watch the videos of women speaking out. It was one thing to listen to guys like Santorum, Gingrich, Limbaugh and conservative members of Congress insult women, but now that Romney is the GOP’s candidate and even he’s against everything I believe in, things are downright scary.

I’m waiting to hear if there’s a march planned for little old Santa Barbara on the 28th; so far they’re just in LA and Sacramento here in CA. But even if there isn’t a march, I’ll be with my sisters in spirit. No doubt about that.

P.S. We’re having technical problems and not able to receive comments right now. Sorry and hope to have the situation remedied!


Movie Night: “Contagion”

Sunday, April 15th, 2012


I love catching up on the movies I missed in the theaters during the Oscar season last year, and “Contagion” was on my list of must-sees. A thriller about a lethal virus that spreads around the world, the infectious disease specialists trying to contain it and the people affected by it, it’s a tense, fast-paced, snappy looking film that made me want to wear Purell and a mask every time I leave the house! I can’t say I enjoyed it exactly, but I did find it gripping and, from a scientific and medical point of view, fascinating.

It boasts an all-star cast in the tradition of all those disaster flicks (“Towering Inferno,” to name one) but with a hip, contemporary style all its own – the perfect rental for a Saturday night.

P.S. Every time I watch Kate Winslet act, I’m amazed how perfect her American accent is. Her performance in “Contagion” is yet another chance for her to show off that skill. Meryl Streep may be famous for all her different accents, but Winslet’s American one is spot on.



Ashley Judd’s “Puffy Face” Crusade

Friday, April 13th, 2012


Photo: Snapper Media


The other day, Judd wrote an emotional op-ed piece in The Daily Beast. She had been the object of feverish speculation having to do with her face – i.e. why it looked puffier than it had in previous years and whether she’d had “work done.” She explained that she’d been sick and was taking steroids and that it was disgusting how women’s bodies are picked over and spit out.

I have felt her anger and shared her outrage – both on my own behalf and on Michael’s.

My husband takes steroids on and off and has for years. Prednisone is a wonder drug in its ability to reduce inflammation, but one of its dreaded side effects is what’s called “moon face.” When he’s on “Pred,” he blows up like the Incredible Hulk. It’s not fun, but as soon as he gets off the evil stuff, he goes back to his normal size.

People don’t remark about his moon face; they’re just glad if he’s feeling better. Most people, that is. There’s an anecdote in my forthcoming book, YOU’D BETTER NOT DIE OR I’LL KILL YOU: A Caregiver’s Survival Guide to Keeping You in Good Health and Good Spirits (Chronicle/October), in the chapter on friendship. He and I were at a wedding reception during a period when he was on high doses of steroids prior to surgery. His face was indeed puffy. Suddenly, a man we thought was a friend, although someone we didn’t see on a regular basis, walked up to Michael, pointed at him and said, “Wow. Michael. You got SO FAT!”

I was stunned by this man’s insensitivity. I mean, what kind of jerk says that right to a person’s face?

Michael was just as stunned, I could tell, but he reacted much more diplomatically than I would have and replied calmly, “I’m not fat. I’m on steroids. I’m about to have surgery.”

Not only did the man not apologize, but he didn’t even ask about the surgery or say, “I hope it goes well.” He is so off our list now.

I’m the opposite of fat – “the size of a pencil,” I once wrote about myself – and, Michael’s story aside, I have always been amazed how people who are careful to avoid insulting a fat person have no compunction about insulting a thin one.

“You’re so scrawny,” a woman once told me. “You’re nothing but bones,” said another. “Do you ever EAT?” many of them have had the nerve to ask.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was at Saks looking for a top to wear to a dressy event when a saleswoman approached.

“I’m going to a fancy dinner tonight,” I told her, “and I need something great to wear under my suit jacket.”

“Have you seen the new tops from Theory?” she asked, referring to one of my favorite designers.

“Yes,” I said. “I tried them on and they were all too big.”

She literally rolled her eyes and said, her tone dripping with sarcasm, “Oh, my heart bleeds for you.”

Seriously? Not only was this said without humor or sisterly understanding or even good salespersonship, but it was downright rude.

I stammered and said, “Well, I’m small, I guess.”

She said, “Honey, women would kill for your body, so I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you.”

“I’m not worried,” I said, gathering myself after what felt like a punch in the gut. “Have a nice day.”

I left the store wondering why it is that people feel so comfortable picking on thin people. I have small bones. I was built that way. And yes, I eat – plenty.

So I agree with Ashley Judd in her message to all the finger pointers out there: buzz the hell off.