Chicken Enchiladas in Mitla

Mixtec Ruins at Mitla, State of Oaxaca, Mexico

It was January 1980. My brother and I were traveling in an arc across southern Mexico along a route taken by Graham Greene in the 1930s, when he was doing his research for The Power and the Glory, which he described in his travel book The Lawless Roads.

Dan and I flew to Mexico City, transferring there to a flight to Villahermosa, which was the least hermosa (beautiful) city either of us had seen in all of Mexico. From there, we went to Palenque, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Oaxaca, and back to Mexico City via all-night bus.

While we were in Oaxaca, we took a side trip to see the Mixtec ruins at Mitla, which consisted of numerous geometric motifs such as are shown in the above photo. Seeing ruins in the desert makes one hungry and thirsty, so we repaired to a little restaurant within shouting distance of the ruins.

We were the only customers in the place. After a few minutes, a little girl raced out of the kitchen and stopped dead in her tracks, seeing two large and hairy gringos seated at a table. She did a quick U-turn and ran back to the kitchen shouting ¡Mamacíta! Within a couple of minutes, her mother appeared at our table with a notepad asking in Spanish what we wanted. Dan and I both ordered chicken enchiladas, rice, and beans.

There followed a long delay of several minutes which was punctuated with what Dan and I recognized as the death squawk of a chicken whose neck was being wrung. (Our great grandmother, old Hungarian farm woman that she was, liked to buy live poultry and butcher them and pluck their feathers herself.)

In time, about thirty minutes in all, our lunches were served. The chicken which had given its all for us turned out to be old and tough, with a decidedly stringy texture. It had been old, but by God it was fresh! We did our level best to eat as much as we could before thanking the proprietor and her daughter and making our way to the bus terminal.

That was a fun trip which gave us dozens of funny stories to remember for the long years to come.

Seeing the Stooges at the Alex

Curly, Larry, and Moe—The Original Three Stooges

You wouldn’t think that Martine is a big fan of the Three Stooges, but she is. She has seen every one of their shorts innumerable times. For the last twelve years or so, we have trekked to Glendale’s Alex Theatre see see their annual big screen event, usually on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Today was the 21st annual Stooges show at the Alex.

The theme this year was a title with the number three in it. Consequently, the program included:

  • “Three Little Beers” (1935)
  • “3 Dumb Clucks” (1937)
  • “Three Missing Links” (1938)
  • “Three Little Pirates” (1946)
  • “Three Hams on Rye” (1950)
  • “Three Sappy People” (1939)

I am not about to claim that watching Stooge shorts is a sophisticated intellectual experience, but it is uproariously funny. There is something about watching same with a large appreciative audience that makes it funnier still.

The Alex Theatre on Brand in Glendale

The Alex Theatre is on the National Register of Historic Places. Founded in the 1920s, it has become a venue for not only films, but occasional concerts. Two of the upcoming film programs include the Nutcracker Ballet with the Los Angeles Ballet (several dates in December) and “The Greatest Cartoons Ever” on December 26.

One of the reasons that incline Martine toward events in Glendale is that she truly loves the way Armenians prepare chicken. (The City of Glendale is the largest Armenian city outside of Asia.) Glendale is the home to Sevan Chicken at Kenilworth and Glenoaks and Elena’s Greek and Armenian Restaurant at 1000 Glendale Boulevard.

The Healing Power of Chicken

Chicken, Rice, and Hummus at Sevan Chicken in Glendale

Martine has been feeling depressed for some time now. It has affected her eating, the way she spends her time, and the way she interacts with me. Today, there was some clearing. We usually attend the Three Stooges Festival at the Alex Theater the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Martine actually suggested we go. (Yes, there are some women who love the Stooges.) On the way, we stopped at Sevan Chicken, an Armenian rotisserie chicken restaurant at the corner of Glenoaks and Kensington in Glendale. It was always Martine’s favorite place, and chicken has always been her meat of choice. It did me good to see her tear into it.

Then we went over to the Alex Theater on Brand Avenue, purchased tickets, and waited in line to see six Stooges film—in 35mm studio prints yet—including “A Plumbing We Will Go” (1940), as shown in the photo below.

Curly Trapped in His Plumbing

After the films, it was time for … more chicken! We drove to Elena’s Greek and Armenian Restaurant on Glendale Blvd. and Acacia. I had my favorite lamb kebab, while Martine had chicken kebab. I myself am not a great aficionado of poultry, but it made me happy to see Martine come out of her blue funk for however short a time. It means that, maybe, there’s hope.


With Martine at Huntington

My First REAL Weekend After Tax Season

My First REAL Weekend After Tax Season

After the beginning of February, Martine and I really didn’t go places. We pretty much stayed at home, me to psychologically prep myself for those horrible Monday mornings in tax season, after having worked both Saturday and Sunday, Martine to endure. Then, no sooner did tax season end than I found myself in the emergency room at UCLA Santa Monica Hospital with an Addisonian Crisis. This weekend, we finally went somewhere, to the Huntington Gardens and Museum, of which we are members.

It’s a good thing I wore my hiking shoes, because we put in several miles walking through the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, not to mention the herb and cactus garden. And in between, we saw the rose garden and relaxed by the lily ponds, looking at ducks and turtles.

Afterwards, I took Martine to her favorite restaurant in Southern California, Sevan Chicken in Glendale at the corner of Glenoaks and Kensington. It’s not particularly famous, but it has the best Armenian rotisserie chicken around, beating even Zankou Chicken for the honors.

Tomorrow, Martine travels to Sacramento for a few days to see her dentist and visit the grave of her mother and brother. I wanted to make sure she had her favorite dark meat rotisserie chicken before setting out.



A Nice Surprise

I Kept It a Surprise Until the Last Minute

I Kept It a Surprise Until the Last Minute

Martine has had a rough time of it ever since the New Year. It seems more and more likely that she is suffering from fibromyalgia, which is not only painful but exhausting, inasmuch as it robs her of a full night’s sleep. This coming week, she has an appointment with a local rheumatologist to prescribe a course of treatment for her pain and sleeplessness.

Because she has not only felt bad, but felt guilty because she felt she “was a burden to me” in her present condition, I planned to surprise her. There is nothing that Martine likes more than chicken. So I discussed the options with my friends at work, and they recommended Mrs. Knotts Chicken Dinner Restaurant in Buena Park, which has been serving fried chicken dinners since 1934, and doing it the old-fashioned way with all the traditional trimmings.

It was not until we were a mile away from our destination that Martine remembered my recommending Mrs. Knotts to her a couple of months ago. Now that tax season is over, I had to time to drive 68 miles round trip for lunch.

I, myself, am not a chickenholic like my little girl, but I had a great spicy chicken salad in which the meat was clearly superior. So even with my diabetes regiment, I felt that I did well. Uh, I did, however, eat a couple of biscuits. (So kill me!)

The Knotts Berry Farm Amusement Park is adjacent to the restaurant, but neither of us felt like being shaken and jarred into insensibility. That was for the mobs of teenagers waiting in line to get in.

It was a long drive, but the surprise was worth it; and we both had a good time.