11.14.2010

Nonplussed

This past week I have been hit from all sides by episodes that have left me saying to myself, “Really?... Seriously?.” Did you really have to say that about me? Did you seriously put me in a position to have to answer that question? Did you really answer the phone that way? Are you really going to behave about this that way? Are you seriously doing that right now? Did you really have to zip three lanes across traffic on the 2 while driving 117365 miles an hour and almost knock my car off the road?

I’m having one of those moments, which we all have, in our lives when we wonder if everyone around us is a little crazy – or if we are.

It has rendered me exhausted.

It has also compelled me to take the bull by the horns and do and see things that I love in this city. Things that make me happy and comfortable. Things that are mine and no one can take them from me, by golly.


So last night, I met a friend, and I treated myself to my favorite martini at one of my favorite places in my favorite city: Musso & Frank.  I have been going to Musso since day one of my tenure here. That night, I struck up a conversation with the bartender, Rueben, about Orson Welles. Apparently I was sitting upon the very barstool that the erstwhile Mr. Welles sat upon as he essentially drank (and ate) himself to death – and also, as it were, ordered his martini exactly the way I did. Reuben and I were fast friends.


Over the years Reuben has regaled me with fantastic stories of the things he has seen from behind that bar over his past 45 some odd years there. Stories so amazing that those stories have stories. I know where Raymond Chandler sat and wrote. And drank. The same goes for Charlie Chaplin. I know about a producer from The Streets of San Francisco, who officially drank the most booze in one sitting that Reuben has ever seen: 24 vodka and Coke’s within about an hour. Oh, and this was in the late morning, prior to going to a court case!

Then there was the time Hunter S. Thompson asked Reuben, “Do you know who I am?” To which Reuben replied, in all of his naïve honesty, “A pimp?” I see Mr. Gore Vidal there on the regular. That dude loves his martinis as well. I could go on and on, but you should go visit Reuben and ask him yourself. Hell, he’s even got a story about me now… Go ahead, ask him.


Rueben and Musso & Frank always remind me of everything I love about this city. Its sunshine and shadows, its history and lore, its tragedy and comedy. We may not have very many old buildings or enormous historic events that have transpired here in Los Angeles, but go to Musso and you’ll immediately understand our version of history.

Then earlier today, I needed some silence that wasn’t in my home so I treated myself to a long lunch at the Chateau Marmont. This is another spot I’ve loved for a very long time. Long before I moved here, in fact. The Chateau is also a place that is saturated with LA history. It’s where John Belushi died of a drug overdose, Jim Morisson swung from the roof into the window of his room, Led Zeppelin rode their motorcycles through the lobby, Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh, Jean Harlow, Hunter S. Thompson (twice in one post!), and Howard Hughes, to name but a scant few, all stayed there frequently, or in some cases, lived there. Britney Spears has been banned from the place. Helmut Newton died when his car crashed into the wall outside of their driveway while exiting the hotel. I was actually there that day. I’ve even got a few Christopher Walken and Sean Penn (separately) stories to tell, myself. Ask if you run into me. Humphrey Bogart famously said, “If you’re going to get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.”


Admittedly, I have gotten into my fair share of trouble there as well. But that was a few years ago, now.

When I have visitors from out of town I always make a point to take them to the Chateau for brunch, or at least a glass of wine. You can’t not love the place, but you’re also almost guaranteed a pretty great celebrity sighting (in fact, Johnny Knoxville is sitting next to me, right now. I have to admit it – he really is cute.)

While I have had late nights there, spent the night there a few times, enjoyed the pool, attended parties, and eaten every meal there, inside and out, my favorite thing to do at the Chateau is to take the paper or my computer, order a pot of coffee and camp out on one of the ginormous couches while doing the crossword or writing until it’s well into Wine O’Clock.

The food is not amazing or memorable (which I always really want it to be), but it’s perfectly fine, for the most part. Today’s choice was a glass of iced tea and a bowl of the French onion cauliflower soup. Quite good. I also wrote everything up to this point there. Loveliness.


So, after back to back Musso and Chateau times, I am feeling a little less nonplussed. We all have bad weeks. We all have external elements that make us feel like the world is against us. That everyone is crazy. Or that we are crazy because everyone else can’t be crazy, right? But after treating myself to some quality time at two of the places that remind me of everything that I love about my own microcosm, a few stiff cocktails, a lovely bowl of soup, and some happy writing times, I feel I have effectively exorcised myself of the yuckadoonies.

To celebrate, Chris is coming over for dinner and I am going to prepare him some handmade pasta that I have spent the past month, obsessively, mastering. Why? To prove a point to no one but myself. 


The Revenge of the Homemade and Handmade Pasta


Ingredients

1 cup Semolina Flour
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Olive Oil (or vegetable oil)
2 large Eggs
1 pinch Salt
1 - 2 tbsp Water

Directions
  • Sift together semolina flour, all-purpose flour and salt.
  • Whisk or beat with fork eggs, olive oil and water.
  • Make mountain of flour on any flat surface, and form well in the center of it.
  • Pour in ½ of egg mixture and begin forming dough with 2 fingers while supporting the mound of flour with other hand, adding in the rest of the egg mixture once the dough gets going.
  • Kneed dough for 8 - 10 minutes, flouring surface with semolina as needed.
  • Form dough into ball and wrap with plastic wrap.
  • Let dough 'rest' in the refrigerator for an hour or so.
  • Cut dough into 2 pieces with a knife or dough blade.
  • Roll out dough into thin strips the thickness of a nickel. Hand cut as desired for type of pasta.
  • If making ravioli: Fill with ravioli filling, brush edges with egg wash, then close and seal individual ravioli dumplings making sure no air is trapped inside them.
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