What Ever Happened to Good Plain Food?
I open this post by splitting a couple of hairs. First of all, this has nothing to do with Anthony Bourdain’s unfortunate demise. I am not familiar either with his work as chef or his book(s) or his television program. Secondly, I am writing this at Martine’s behest. Anyone who knows me well knows that I like ethnic food best. It is Martine whose digestive system shies away from any attempt at fanciness, which she associates with things like raw onions or strong spices. Going to an unfamiliar restaurant is something she associates with an assault on her Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
As the cook in our little household, I try my best to prepare simple dishes without too many exotic ingredients but with a good, clean taste. At times, I am tempted to add hot chilis, as I am a notorious chili-head. But I resist the temptation, or my little girl goes hungry. Restaurants are even more difficult: Martine aims for the tried and true places, like Sevan Chicken and Elena’s Greek and Armenian Restaurant in Glendale; All India Cafe, the Rosemary Grill, and Darya Persian Restaurant in my neighborhood; Label’s Table and Canter’s Deli East of here; and The Main Course in Rancho Park. At each of those places, she will typically order the same dish every time, while I typically skip around the menu. If that one dish doesn’t satisfy, she writes the restaurant off her list as a lost cause.
Several years ago, I wrote a post entitled “Don’t Toque to Me About Chefs!” in which I lambasted the profession for trying too hard to be creative without necessarily serving good food. It almost seems as if many chefs were trying too hard to be original. There used to be a great Hungarian restaurant in the San Fernando Valley called the Hórtobágy owned by a chef called Lászlo. Apparently, the genius in the kitchen at his restaurant was an elderly lady who cooked delicious Hungarian meals that reminded me of my childhood. Then Lászlo opened another restaurant nearby called Maximilian’s at which he was the chef. Every dish was smothered with raw onions. Yeccch!
Martine at 2017 Scottish Festival
I am not used to being on an emotional roller coaster … but perhaps I’d better get used to it. As I was drinking a cup of hot green tea to soothe my laryngitis, I got a collect call from Martine to pick her up at the Greyhound Bus Station.
Within minutes, I was on the road; and Martine was there waiting for me. This was another escape attempt that didn’t quite pan out. It was to some unspecified location in the high desert. That was odd because my little girl hates the desert, ever since she spent two years at Twentynine Palms working at the Naval Hospital at the military base there. But, as usual, she didn’t want to talk about it. I think she is afraid that I’ll track her down and collaborate with police and social workers to have her returned to me. Actually, I wouldn’t do that, as it would erode her trust in me.
I suspect that she things that’s what I did during her Escape #2 to Truckee, California. Actually, it was the authorities in Truckee who contacted me and asked me to send them a Greyhound ticket via e-mail. They were the ones who took the initiative.
Will there be another attempt to leave L.A.? I suspect there will, even though she told me tonight that God apparently is putting up roadblocks in her attempts to get away from L.A.
Martine Has Left Me Today for the Fourth Time
This morning, I drove Martine to the Greyhound Bus Station downtown for her fourth escape from me and Los Angeles. She has continued to be depressed and to spend the better part of the day in bed. Sometimes she would watch television (usually old classics from the 1950s and 1960s), and sometimes she would re-read the Book of Psalms from my old Good News Bible. There has never been an angry word between us, though at times she has picked on me for complaints of the “Who moved my cheese?” variety.
Some of my friends think I am well rid of her. I do not feel that way because I worry about her. She has a pattern of making bad decisions, such as the one that made her ineligible for Medicare. She doesn’t have much money left, and she has no one to go to. Her only family is a sick half-brother in New York and a sick half-sister in France. I’m pretty much all there is of her family, though we are not married. I would gladly have married her, but she decided she wanted to make all her own decisions.
I hope Martine comes back. The last time she escaped, she came back sick. I hope she comes back because she remembers that, yes, I love her, and that without me life is too lonely and too miserable. All my friends think she will return. I am not quite so sure.
Inflamed Eyelids of a Blepharitis Sufferer
No sooner did Martine return to Los Angeles than I broke out into an array of allergic responses. On one hand, I started going into sneezing fits and blowing my nose. More serious was a siege of blepharitis, a condition in which the eyelids feel like inflamed constantly itching parchment. The only thing that works against it is an expensive drug called Avenova, which, for some obscure reason, is not on Blue Cross’s approved drug formulary. I was able to pick up some today, so I am sure that the current infestation will not continue much longer.
Allergies have been one of the banes of my existence. In high school, I had a seborrheic dermatitis that made my scalp look full of snowflakes. Then there were the usual spring and fall respiratory allergies, which I still have to some degree. I am not able to eat shrimp or lobster unless it is caught in near-Arctic waters without getting a reaction that feels like a severe strep throat which lasts for two or three hours.
The worry and stress about Martine has certainly contributed to the intensity of my allergic responses. In time, it will gradually subside. I hope.
The Conditions That Led to Martine’s Leaving Are Still in Place
I was happy to see Martine again yesterday, but her return had more to do with the discomfort of land travel over long distances on the cheap, and the fact that she had come down with a cold. She still hates Los Angeles and wants to leave. Yet, at the same time, she said she missed me and thought of me daily. (I also thought of her daily.)
Ultimately, to be cured of this mania, she has to takes steps to confront her depression: She spends some twelve hours a day in bad, and about six hours a day lying flat on her back on the couch. She does the laundry, washes the dishes, and cleans up around the apartment. That accounts for most of her time.
Today, I made a big pot of lentil soup with vegetables cooked in chicken stock. I hope it helps her with her cold.
I do not give Martine money to leave town, and on each of this trips, she wastes more of her own funds, which are dwindling rapidly. While she is with me, I will continue to pay for her food, rent, health, and recreation. I don’t think she can afford more than one or two at the most of these little escapes. But we are not talking about rational behavior here.
Whatever I can do without hurting myself, I will do. I feel no real resentment at her escapes, just sadness. I try to leave her with the feeling that, when the escape attempt fails, I will be there to try to pick up the pieces again.
Martine and I in the Coachella Valley
Martine called me this morning from Sacramento and said she was returning home. Apparently her trip was marred by a combination of a bad cold and uncomfortable travel. Whatever the reason, I am happy to welcome her back. I hope she doesn’t plan any more of these departures (this was her third). I just got back from the Greyhound Depot in downtown L.A., so I don’t have time for any further details at this time.
Martine at Rhyolite Ghost Town Near Death Valley
On this, the first full day after Martine’s departure, I have been reading, watching old movies, and waiting for a major rain event that is due this week. I probably will not go downtown this Thursday because that’s supposed to be the heaviest rain day. Soon, I will have to get up and wash the dishes. That is one of the things that Martine used to do. That and the laundry are going to be my new duties.
I look at some of the old photos I had on Flickr and found the above pic of Martine standing by a ruined caboose by the ghost town of Rhyolite, NV—an old mining town that sprang up out of nowhere, became a fairly major railroad destination, and suddenly melted away into the sands of the desert early in the 20th century.
While I know I’m going to miss Martine, I do not plan to let my whole life swirl down the drain. I have to be more active about contacting my old friends and making new ones. Wish me luck.