Eating on the East Coast


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It was time for my annual work conference on the East Coast this past week, so I snuck in a single night and part of the next day in the Big Apple.  Strangely, for all of my travels, as well as several jaunts into New York City, I’d never actually spent the night there before.  I booked a hotel mid-week near Washington Square Park, took an Uber from New Jersey and was there within about 40 minutes.

My hotel was conveniently located mere blocks away from the West Village branch of Amelie, where I’d made a dinner reservation.  Rather than waiting for my dinner reservation, I wandered over at 6:00 p.m. to partake in Happy Hour.  Happy Hour wine flights in New York are $12 rather than the $10 ones in San Francisco, but the great service remains the same.  I sat at the bar and was helped by a young Frenchman named Clement.  Some of the wine flights are named after various servers/bartenders there.  I chose a white wine flight named after Anthony.  By the time I’d finished that one, the place was filling up quickly.  I had Clement make a champagne flight for me, informing him that I’m not a fan of roses.  Once I finished that flight, I walked back to the hotel and took a nap.  Getting up at 3:00 a.m. PST the previous day to get ready and catch my 6:30 a.m. flight, then waking up at 5:30 a.m. EST that morning (jet lag) to get ready for the day’s conference, had me drooping a bit.

I woke up rested at 8:45 p.m., quickly freshened up and returned to Amelie for my 9:15 p.m. reservation.  The place was packed by then, but there was still one seat at the bar, which is what I preferred to a table, anyway.  “Welcome back!” Clement said.  I ordered the Ravioli du Royans in its cheesy goodness.  When Clement asked if I wanted something to drink, I declined.  Moments later, he appeared with a glass of champagne, informing me that it was compliments of him.  What a sweetie!  After my ravioli, I ordered the crème brulee, then ended up in a conversation with the couple seated next to me.  Truthfully, I don’t remember much, other than the woman was originally from elsewhere, but had moved to NYC four years ago and loved living there.

After wandering the area in search of another specific French restaurant/bar, I finally gave up.  I stopped at Papaya Dog for a late night turkey chili cheese dog, which I was sure to regret later.  My stomach took it all in stride, though, and I slept wonderfully that night.

The hotel served continental breakfast, but I wasn’t feeling the pastries or yogurt.  I had a glass of orange juice and a fruit cup, checked out, checked my bags and began walking the neighborhood.  Not too long after, I happened upon Café Angelique, which was very cute with unique doughnuts, along with healthy options.  Well, after eschewing the pastries earlier that morning in an attempt to be healthy, I wrecked that by trying the hibiscus doughnut, along with a Coke, at Café Angelique.  The doughnut was good, but I couldn’t quite finish it, nor the Coke.  I’d scrunched into a table with virtually no space around it, where the woman on my left stared intently at me for the majority of the time she was there.

Further along in my walk, I passed Murray’s Cheese Shop.  I forced myself to keep walking, but kept it in mind for a possible return.  What I was really craving was Italian food.  I didn’t want to go all the way to Little Italy and there were a plethora of places on my walk, but I kept putting it off, wanting to eat later.  When it’s noon in NYC, it’s only 9:00 a.m. in San Francisco, so I waited until 1:30 p.m. PST to seriously consider lunch.  I’d talked myself out of returning to Murray’s Cheese Shop and was a little dubious about Trattoria Spaghetto, so was sure there would be something more appealing along the way.

I ended up having a rather expensive lunch at…  Babbo.  After having eaten at Osteria Mozza in L.A. one New Year’s Eve, I was pretty sure that it would be very, very good.  I didn’t have a reservation, so the rather cool (as in her attitude towards me) hostess directed me to the bar in a rather cursory way.  I must have been the only single diner in the place, as no one else sat at the bar the entire time.  It wasn’t necessary for me to scan the menu too long to know that I’d definitely be trying pasta.  When posed with the question of Pappardelle Bolognese or Bucatini Amatriciana, the bartender said that they were equally good; I went with the former.  While waiting, a complimentary crostini was brought to me, which was nice as far as taste.  The pasta arrived relatively quickly.  It only took one bite for me to know that it had been a great decision – hearty and rich flavor.  The serving was a good portion, yet it didn’t feel too heavy going down.  After my initial few bites, I asked if there were a nice Sangiovese to accompany the pasta.  The bartender, Diego, brought a Chianti for me to sample.  They went well together, so I ordered it and ended up with a half carafe.  I then contemplated having a dessert and being done, or having a main and skipping dessert.  The sea scallops were calling my name, however.  They came with asparagus and in a favette and pea vinaigrette.  I’ve never been a huge fan of asparagus, but completely finished that plate.  Obviously, Italians know how to prepare asparagus!  When Diego asked if I had room for dessert, I didn’t really.  Even so, he gave me a small plate of chocolates and a few other tasty sweets.  The Chianti was divine with the chocolates!

By then, it was sadly time for me to head back to New Jersey to catch my flight out of Newark.  Until next time, Murray’s Cheese Shop!

Champagne FlightRavioli du RoyansHibiscus DoughnutCrostiniPappardelle BologneseSea ScallopsDiego at Babbo

Nothing Compares 2 U


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Losing David Bowie earlier this year was bad enough, but losing Prince is even worse.  I’ve been a Prince fan since the late 70’s and constantly played his music during my college year at Chico, as well as all of my years in L.A.  He crossed so many boundaries with his music and his style.  His songs defined so many unforgettable moments in my life.  While everyone else was crazy about songs like “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry,” “Controversy” and such, I was more a fan of his ballads – “Adore,” “With You,” “When 2 R In Love,” “Diamonds and Pearls,” “Call My Name” and “This Could B Us.”

With his passing, everyone is snapping up his CDs and downloading his music.  I went on-line to see which of his albums I still wanted to complete my collection.  I haven’t bought an album or a CD in so long that the price surprised me!  Maybe the price is higher because his music is suddenly in even higher demand than usual.  I’d get out my vinyl and play my old albums of his, but my turntable requires a new needle.  Even if I manage to find a new needle, I’m not confident of my ability to install it (my boyfriends installed the last couple).  Is there a YouTube video for that?!

In all honesty, Prince’s passing is a huge loss to me.  Unlike so many popular “musicians” today, Prince could write, sing, dance and play TONS of instruments.  He was a QUADRUPLE threat!  As much as I liked Michael Jackson and David Bowie, Prince will always be my favorite.

Rest in love in the heavens above, Prince.  There will never be another that can even remotely come close to you.

Time Is Not Enough


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Obviously, I’ve recently learned that there’s never enough time.  People always THINK that they have more time – one more day, one more hour, one more year, one more whatever – but that’s not always so.  You need to make your amends to those people that you’re intending to NOW.  You need to tell that person how you feel, just in case they’re not sure.

In relation to my recent loss, everyone keeps saying that time heals all wounds.  Does it really?  Does that mean that, at some point, it’s going to be “ok” to me that I’ve lost the most important person in my life?  Will I finally accept that I’ll never again see the one that I loved most in this world and simply move on?  I don’t think so.  At least, not completely.  A friend of mine, who recently lost one of her brothers, said that some things one never gets over.  I tend to believe that more.

Another friend had a very strained relationship with her mother, who happened to pass away shortly before my ex-boyfriend and shortly before her (my friend’s) birthday.  Even though they hadn’t gotten along for years, she says she’s at a loss as to how to deal with her grief.  She admitted to having anger issues and having all kinds of unpleasant dreams.  She’s barely leaving her apartment these days, which is kind of the same as me at the moment.  Aside from work, I only leave the apt. for necessities – like food.  Otherwise, I stay locked in my room.

I’m thankful that I made my apologies to my ex-boyfriend for things in the past; he apologized to me as well.  I’m even more thankful that I told him often that I still love him, that I’ve always loved him.  Yet I wasn’t done telling him everything that I wanted to say.  Why did I hesitate?  Maybe I thought he wasn’t ready to hear it yet.

When we were younger and couldn’t imagine ever being apart, we used to think that we’d grow old together.  Although he was in ill health after we reconnected, I (of course) thought we had more time.  I prayed that we WOULD grow old(er) together.  Now that he’s gone and didn’t even make it to his 59th birthday, I don’t want to grow old without him.  I’ve never had any major health issues and am, surprisingly, healthier than many of my friends who are younger or who are extra careful about their diet and environmental things.  I thought I’d live to my 80’s minimum, maybe even to 100.  Now, however, I don’t want to.  I can’t imagine this pain lasting that much longer.

My statutory will needs to be revised now.  I can’t bear to do it.  He was the only person in my life who’s truly given to me whole-heartedly, taken care of me unconditionally and surrounded me with as much love as possible.  There is NO one else that’s ever been there for me in the way that he was.  Thus, I’m at a loss as to who to put on my statutory will.  Absolutely nothing will go to any of my family members; that’s my main stipulation.  Why should I reward the ones that treated me like dirt and treated me as less than I am?  There’s also the dilemma of whom to put as my Emergency Contact.  It’s all traumatizing to me to think about.  Maybe I should donate everything to charity…

Love Story


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Once upon a time on a small university campus in Kansas, I was there for Senior Weekend – where seniors spend the weekend checking out the campus to decide whether they want to attend that university.  One of the events for the weekend was a dance at the Student Union, which I attended with a friend.  My only recollection of that night was seeing the most beautiful Asian man walk into the dance.  He made the rounds, chatting with a few friends for maybe 15-20 minutes before leaving.  Although he didn’t even dance with anyone, I never forgot his face.

Fast forward to nearly the end of my freshman year at that university (let’s say it was March or April), I was out at one of the local discos (this was the late 70’s, mind you!) and happened to see the same beautiful Asian man dancing up a storm.  He was quite a good dancer, too!  As luck would have it, one of my friends knew him.  Somehow we ended up at an after party at his apartment.  We were introduced and had a short conversation.  We apparently were both attracted to each other, but were too shy to really do much about it at the time.  A week or two later, he called me.  When I asked how he got my number, he said that my friend told him that I’d been looking for him and gave him my number!  I was somewhat mad at my friend, but mostly thankful.  We had our first date and were inseparable from then on.  As a matter of fact, when the semester ended, I stayed for summer school because I didn’t want to be away from him (although I’d told my parents that I would be home for the summer).  In my eyes, it was fate – the beautiful man I’d seen a year earlier was now my boyfriend.

As it turned out, Noy was from Bangkok, Thailand.  After graduating from high school in Bangkok, his father had sent him to a Catholic boys’ school in Kansas!  Aside from being a talented dancer, he never lost at snooker, enjoyed playing tennis and bowling, dressed very nicely, and played card games and board games for hours on end with me.  Even more surprising, he knew all the words to religious songs such as “Rock of Ages!”  Prior to meeting him, I never ate spicy food.  He schooled me on that, however!  He was an excellent cook and made my food separate from his, as my spiciness tolerance level slowly increased.  More than any of that, he was soft spoken and kind to a fault.  He never cursed, raised his voice or had a bad word to say about anyone.  We fell deeply in love very quickly.

We spent the next year together at university.  At that time, he was living in a house off-campus with two male roommates – one from Colombia and one from Panama.  The four of us were like one big family.  Those days bring back such wonderful memories with Noy, my first true love.

Right before my junior year, Noy went home to Bangkok for the summer.  He called me and sent me a few letters.  When my junior year began, I transferred to California State University in Chico, California.  I can’t even really recall why.  I think I’d looked into an exchange program during the time that Noy and I had first started dating, but didn’t actually think it would happen.  Well, it happened alright!  I went off to Chico, while he stayed in Kansas.  After one more semester, he transferred to a school in Arizona.  His friend and he came to visit me over the holiday break while I was staying with a friend in Walnut Creek.  At that time, he told me that he loved me, wanted to marry me, take me to Bangkok and have children.  I felt the same way.  During spring break, I flew to L.A., he picked me up there, we drove to Las Vegas, then on to Arizona.

At the end of my junior year, I “took a break” from college and moved to Casper, Wyoming, where my older brother was living.  We were both working for oil companies.  Sometime in those months, Noy moved to L.A.  After 9 months or so, I got laid off from my job at the oil company.  Once Noy found out, he suggested that I move to L.A. and live with him, so I did.

In May, 1981, I moved to L.A. to live with Noy, his younger brother and his brother’s girlfriend.  The four of us lived in a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment on the edge of Koreatown.  A couple of years later, when his brother and his brother’s girlfriend broke up, he and I moved to our own apartment in West Hollywood.  We added a Chow Chow named Kolohe Pea (“Naughty Bear” in Hawaiian) to our family.  All in all, we lived together for nearly five years and, even with the bad times, those were the happiest years of my life.

I eventually broke up with Noy in March, 1986.  The reasons why aren’t important any more.  I was young and impetuous.  He’d asked me to marry him several times, but I wasn’t quite ready.  His parents came to visit a few times and wanted us to get married as well, but they couldn’t convince me to take the next step yet.  When I broke up with him, he took it very hard.  In fact, he took it much harder than anyone ever let on.  I didn’t even know the full extent of how much he suffered until these past few years.  He tried to get back with me a couple of times, but, once again, I needed more time.  To be honest, my intention was always to get back with him.  I’d often ask him things like “Will we still hold hands when we grow old together?”  “Yes!” he’d assure me.

We always assume that we have time, yet time passes so quickly.  The last time we saw each other in L.A. was probably in 1990 or 1991, if not before.  I left L.A. in 1996 and moved (or rather, was transferred by my job) to San Francisco.  From the time we’d broken up until about 4 years ago, I had various other boyfriends in both L.A. and San Francisco.  Noy didn’t cross my mind that much during those years, as I assumed he’d moved on and gotten married. I got married and divorced, but that’s an entirely different story.  After my divorce, I DID send a letter to Noy in Bangkok at the address he’d given me years before, but sadly never received a response.

In April of 2014, I began dreaming of Noy, night after night.  Since my dreams of people usually portend bad news, I became worried and wondered if he’d died without my knowledge, so set about trying to find him again.  Knowing Noy, I didn’t expect to find him on social media, but gave it my best shot.  He had a Facebook account, which he hadn’t accessed for ages.  I then racked my brain for the names of people who had known him.  No one knew where he was, though.  Thankfully, I finally remembered the name of his brother-in-law, who’s a professor at a university in the Midwest.  The brother-in-law’s name was easily found on-line, but none of the phone numbers for him seemed to work.  After a few more days, I finally found a working phone number, recognized his voice on the answering machine and left a message.  He called me back promptly at 8:00 a.m. the next morning!  He told me that Noy had moved back to Bangkok many years ago, had recently been in the hospital, but was now out and doing better.  He asked if I was single, then informed me that Noy was single.  He then asked if I’d ever been to Bangkok.  I told him, surprisingly, that I would be going to Bangkok for the first time that October.  He promised to have Noy get in touch with me and suggested that we spend time together in Bangkok.  All in all, it had taken me about three weeks to find Noy.  When Noy called me a few weeks later, we exchanged information and kept in touch.

That October I flew to Bangkok, had about a 3 hour layover, then continued on to Koh Samui.  After 6 nights in Koh Samui, I flew back to Bangkok for one night.  Noy picked me up at the airport.  I was SOOO excited to see him again.  Although he’s only a few years older than me, he’d aged quite a bit due to his many years of heavy smoking and drinking after we’d broken up.  Yet he was still the same incredibly sweet man.  We maybe had 3 or 4 hours together.  He picked me up, took me to my AirBnB rental and hung out with me awhile.  He left because he had to pick up his nieces from school and I had an early flight to Bali in the morning.  During the week I was in Bali, we sent each other a few messages.

I was back in Bangkok after a week in Bali, but Noy wasn’t able to pick me up.  The following morning, however, he came to my apartment and we went to the Grand Palace in a cab.  During that time, he was concerned because I hadn’t eaten yet.  As soon as we were done seeing the Grand Palace, he took me to eat something.  He was then concerned that I might need to use the restroom, although he didn’t think the one at that particular restaurant was nice enough for me.  We then moved on to see the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho.  While there, it began to rain a little.  I remember that he opened his umbrella and pulled me close.  At that moment, I felt complete love for him all over again.  Since it was raining, we got dual foot massages at the massage school there.  Our next stop was a flower market, where he bought me a ginormous bouquet of purple orchids.  The next 3 days he took me to another temple outside of Bangkok, to Ayutthaya, to Chatachuk Market and to Chinatown.  When his sisters found out that he’d gone shopping with me at Chatachuk and in Chinatown, they nearly fell over because Noy HATES shopping!!!  For each of those 3 mornings, he even made breakfast at his house, then brought it to me at my apartment.  He remembered exactly what I liked to eat, as well as how spicy I liked it.  In addition, he brought a spare cell phone for me to use, as my cell phone was not reliable in Thailand.

At the end of that trip, he took me to the airport.  We had a long conversation about our past, which caused both of us so many tears.  We’d both been married and divorced, and both admitted that we still loved each other.  I also worried because he was so frail and seemingly unhealthy.  “I’m afraid that you might die before I ever see you again,” I cried. He insisted that he was fine, though. When it was time for me to leave and he walked me to the gate, I said “Tell me again!”  “I love you, Tina.”  That’s all I needed to know.  Even so, I cried all the way to Taipei, then halfway back to San Francisco.

From that point on, we kept in touch via the Line app.  Mostly we sent each other pictures and/or videos.  Every so often, he’d write “I’m always love you, Tina.”  I wrote “I love you, Noy” just as often.

My second trip to Bangkok was in May of 2015.  He’d already made plans to take me to the Floating Markets and to a certain waterfall.  In fact, I was going to stay at his house for the first night, as my AirBnb wouldn’t be available that night.  As fate would have it, he caught the flu a few days before my arrival.  It wasn’t in my best interest to see him or spend that first night at his house.  I frantically booked a hotel the night before my flight.  Noy sent his younger sister to pick me up at the airport and deliver me to my hotel, however.  He also wanted me to call him right away, which I did.  On that trip, I was in Bangkok for 3-4 days, went to Bali for 5 days, went to Cambodia for 5 days, then returned to Bangkok for a final 3 days.  On my return to Bangkok, he picked me up at the airport, even though he wasn’t completely well. He said that he felt guilty that he wouldn’t see me at all if he didn’t pick me up that day.  We were stuck in Bangkok traffic for about 2 hours before getting to my apartment.  He couldn’t stay because it was rush hour, which would take FOREVER for him to get to his house.  In addition, Bangkok was still under martial law and there was apparently a curfew for Thai citizens.  That was the only time I saw him on that trip, although his birthday was the following day.  He’d already told me that he wasn’t going out on his birthday, beings he still wasn’t completely healthy.  He got up that morning to feed the monks at a temple, then went home and spent his birthday with his nieces, a sister and his best friend.

This year I was planning a trip to Bangkok in October.  I’d already booked my AirBnB, as well as booking my flight from Bangkok to Denpasar and back.  I hadn’t definitively told Noy yet.

At the beginning of March, I had scheduled a one week trip to Hawaii.  At 5:45 a.m. on the day before my Hawaii flight, I received a message from Noy’s best friend saying that Noy had been in the hospital for two weeks, was seriously ill and might not survive the night.  I was in shock.  If someone had told me sooner, I would have cancelled my flight to Hawaii and already been in Bangkok.  I then called Noy’s youngest sister and was crying over the phone.  She told me that Noy was in ICU, but to try not to worry too much.  She suggested that I call his older sister, who was at the hospital with him.  The older sister didn’t answer her phone, but it was already somewhat late in Bangkok.  There was nothing for me to do, except board my flight to Hawaii the following morning and wait for news.

Noy survived the night.  For several mornings, I wrote messages to him on Line, which his younger sister promised to show him at the hospital.  His condition stabilized.  His best friend said that he was sleeping well and snoring.  I made his best friend promise to kiss him ten times for me, as well as making his best friend and his sisters tell him how much I love him.  In one of my last messages to him, I told him that I’d leave Hawaii on Thursday, but would fly to Bangkok on Monday, whether I lost my job or not.  I just wanted to see him and needed him to be strong.

The Tuesday night I was in Hawaii, his best friend sent me a message that Noy had just passed.  I was completely distraught and burst into tears.  An hour later, his older sister sent me a message saying the same.  I wandered down to Kuhio Beach in a daze and cast my lei into the ocean.  That night the winds in Hawaii were incredibly strong and the waves were big; unusual for that area.  It was also VERY cold.  I cast my lei, then stood on the beach and cried.  The lei came back to me.  I cast it again, then sat and covered my face, continuing to cry.  The lei came back to me again.  I told myself that it was Noy’s way of saying that, even though he’s physically gone, he won’t leave me.  I finally plucked the lei from the ocean and took it back to the apartment with me.  I slept with the lei on my chest, even though there was sand all over the bed.

On Wednesday, after informing several people that had known Noy, I spent much of the morning in bed crying.  I finally forced myself to get up and go out to eat and drink, though my heart wasn’t in it.  I left Hawaii that Thursday afternoon, crying hysterically at the airport.  When I was in the office on Friday, I explained the situation to my boss and told him that I was going to try and get a flight to Bangkok for Noy’s cremation.  He understood and told me to take all the time I needed.  Noy’s best friend said that the cremation was on Sunday morning and would be over by 3:00 p.m., but that it wasn’t necessary for me to go because Noy knew that I loved him.  He didn’t answer when I asked him the name of the temple that it would be held at.  It was tearing me up not having been there to hold Noy’s hand, to tell him “Goodbye” or to whisper in his ear that I will never love anyone the way I’ve loved him.  I’d also sent a message to Noy’s sisters, but hadn’t heard back from them.  Thus, I resolved to console myself with pizza, then to spend the remainder of the weekend crying in bed.  Around 11:00 p.m., Noy’s older sister answered my message.  She said that it was fine if I attended the cremation, that it BEGAN at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, gave me the name of the temple and asked what time my flight arrived.  I would have had to have been on a 12:30 a.m. flight that Friday night/Saturday morning in order to arrive in Bangkok in time for the cremation.  I explained that to her, but assured her that I would look for another flight.  She said that, even if I missed the cremation, I could join the family at 6:30 a.m. on Monday to pick up his ashes at the temple, then take them to the Andaman Sea.

To make a very long story shorter, I found a flight and left San Francisco on Saturday afternoon to Bangkok via Beijing.  The flight there was hell, to say the least.  Also, precisely at the moment I imagined that they would be burning the body of the man that I love, I (once again) burst into tears.  Although I realize that cremation is a tradition in their culture and that the spiritual self is more important than the physical self, it was so very hard for me.  I loved his physical self nearly as much as I loved his spiritual self.  His physical self had made love to me hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of times.  His were the arms that I’d fallen asleep in night after night, and his were the lips that kissed me every morning.  And I still thought he was beautiful.

My flight arrived in Bangkok around midnight.  By the time I’d gone through Customs, collected my luggage, exchanged currency and taken a cab to the hotel, I went to sleep at 2:30 a.m. and got up at 4:00 a.m.  My taxi to the temple dropped me off NOWHERE near the temple, but, thanks to several non-English speaking security guards and a very kind woman on a bus, I DID manage to make it to the temple.  Noy’s family took me under their wing, as I was the only non-family member allowed.  I had a major breakdown at the temple when they brought Noy’s ashes, as well as another minor one when we were on the boat and his ashes were lowered into the sea.  The rest of the time, I managed to rein it in because his family made me feel better, especially when we shared our memories of him.

His younger brother revealed that Noy was planning a trip to the U.S. in June of this year – for the first time in about 15 years.  Now so many questions plague me.  Was he coming for me?  Would we have gotten back together?  Would we finally have gotten married?  I’d like to believe so.  Once we reconnected, I simply wanted to be with him again.  Even if we only remained friends, I wanted to be the one who took care of him – to make sure he ate more, drank less and got plenty of fresh air.  I wanted to be the reason for his smile.  Yet now, barely a year and a half after reconnecting, he’s gone.

I’m still devastated; the wound remains fresh.  For the first time, I doubted God for a moment.  Why would He take him?  Is it because Noy was so good or because I’m so bad?  I also finally understood why my Aunty gave up in December.  Her boyfriend had died 3 years before and, when she became ill, she gave up on life and didn’t want to fight to survive any more, saying that she was ready to go and be with her boyfriend.  Now I truly understand.

Of all the messages of condolences, the one that touched me the most was from someone that I have a love-hate relationship with.  He wrote “I’m sending you my love, but I know it’s nothing in comparison to his.”


Me and Noy

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Where’s Tina Bellina?


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Well, folks, I know you think I checked out, but…  blame it on travel in November and December.  I was …

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South Beach Sojourn


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I spent my birthday in South Beach.  I had never been there before and, quite frankly, wasn’t sure what my feelings about it would be.  I’m happy to report that I LOVE South Beach and can’t wait to return!  The beach was beautiful, weather was nice, people were extremely friendly, the area was safe, food was good, shopping was fun and it was easy to get around on foot.

As for my birthday itself, my birthday lunch was at Otentic – the scallops special with ratatouille and couscous, a glass of Prosecco and a glass of champagne.  My birthday dinner was at Joe’s Stone Crab – crab cakes, potatoes Lyonnaise and a glass of chablis.  My present to myself was a pair of light pink knee-high handmade Italian leather boots!  And really, what more does one need?!

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Lunch at La Ventana with a Friend

Lunch at La Ventana with a Friend

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Je Suis Paris


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In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, I had to say something.  My love affair with French things began somewhere in my childhood, most likely because my favorite children’s stories were Babar and Madeline.  When it came time to make my first trip abroad, I had a tough time deciding between Paris or Rome, but Paris won out.  Although I never pictured myself as the marrying type, I DID marry (for awhile) – a Frenchman!  Not only have I visited Paris about 10 times, but I honestly LOVE French people!  They have always opened their hearts and their homes to me.

When first hearing of the attacks in Paris on Friday, I was in shock.  I quickly read every up-to-the-minute article written about it.  Then I began to wonder if my friends and their families were safe, so quickly sent out a string of E-mails.  My friends who know of my long love affair with Paris sent texts to ME because they knew I would be devastated.  Strangely, it feels like a personal attack.  It’s still hard to believe.

Last night was the 25th anniversary of one of my favorite places in San Francisco that I’ve patronized for 20 years – Café Bastille.  Once the terrorist attacks happened, some customers wondered if the anniversary celebration would still be taking place.  The owner assured us that the celebration would be on, no matter what.  Thus, there was a large gathering of customers at Café Bastille last night, both French and American.  We drank wine and beer, ate, took photos in the photo booth, listened to live jazz and simply connected.  Although it didn’t erase the sadness of what took place in Paris, it made things a little easier to bear.

How to Deal With the Approaching Holidays


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As I get older, I find that I don’t deal with the holidays as well as in years past.  As a matter of fact, I’d be relatively happy to skip them altogether.  Like so many others, it irks me that all of the Christmas stuff is put out immediately after Halloween, before Thanksgiving has even shown its face!

My method of dealing with the quickly approaching holidays will be to imbibe two of my favorite cocktails – The Gondolier Bianco from The Venetian and the Coconut Vanilla Rumballa from Chandi.

For the Gondolier Bianco, take 1/3 white chocolate liqeur, 1/3 peppermint schnapps and 1/3 crème de caco, mix them all together, then serve in a martini glass rimmed in crushed peppermint.

I didn’t get any specific measurements for the Coconut Vanilla Rumballa, but know that it’s composed of spice infused rum, young coconut water and vanilla bean sugar.  Feel free to adjust the amount of rum to your liking!  The one at Chandi was served with a gorgeous flower – a vanilla flower, perhaps?

This Smartphone Better Be A Freaking Genius


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Ah, Verizon, how I hate you – for the most part.  Being a part of the “New Every Two” program, my eligibility for an upgrade was in August.  Of course, Verizon sent me an E-mail in July saying that I could get an early upgrade.  Although there was nothing technically wrong with my Samsung Galaxy S4, I went into the nearest branch to check out the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge.  Although I emphatically stated several times that I was NOT interested in any type of a payment plan, they kept trying to sell me on a two-year payment plan.  With that, I would be paying the full retail price of the phone, which is a whopping $762 or something close.  Since when did “smartphones” become more expensive than a roundtrip ticket to Bangkok?!  For that price, the damned phone better be making breakfast for me and taking me to work, too!  My other option in July was to trade in my current phone.  I could then get the price of $250, plus a $40 upgrade fee (WTH?!), plus approximately $70 in taxes.  However, it would also include several free accessories.  I had no intention of trading in my phone, either, for some of their overpriced and very basic accessories, even if they were “free.”  I could have sold my phone on Gazelle for $85 (I’d already checked, of course.)  Their final option was for me to wait a month, then I could get the new phone for the total price of approximately $360 WITHOUT trading in my old one; there would be no free accessories at that time, of course.  My response was that I’d think about the options, then get back to them.  There was actually nothing to think about.  I made up my mind to return in a month to pay the $360 for the new phone, then sell my old one on Gazelle.

Let’s now skip to the end of August/beginning of September.  I returned to the same Verizon branch to get the new Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge for $360.  Well, surprise, surprise.  They now quoted the new price as being more like $450.  And even more surprises – they once again gave me the hard sell on a two-year payment plan.  Whether I decided to go with the trade-in or the payment plan, they didn’t have the phone in the color I wanted, anyway.  They told me that none of the branches in the district had that color.  As you can imagine, I was quite annoyed.  I walked out.

Still pining away for the new phone, I went on-line and tried to order it off of their website.  The website would quote me one price, but change it to a higher price whenever I clicked on it to put it in the cart.

As a last resort, I called Customer Service.  They weren’t really sure what was going on with the website.  After explaining my two visits to the nearest Verizon branch, the representative said that she wasn’t sure how they were coming up with their prices, either.  I carefully told the representative which phone I wanted, in what color and emphasized that I did NOT want to trade in my old phone nor did I want a payment plan.  Although we got disconnected several times, she called me back every time.  She was patient and said that she understood my frustration; she wanted to get the phone I wanted for as close to the price I wanted as possible.  It ended up that she was able to get the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus for a slightly better price than the regular Edge.  She said that the difference was a bigger screen and longer battery life.  The price was VERY close to the original pricing they’d given me of $360 AND they had the color I wanted.  Plus, the phone would be sent via Two-Day shipping, free of charge.  I thanked her profusely and vowed never to go into a Verizon branch again for a new phone, only to deal with Customer Service.

My new phone is here and I love it.  The length is longer, but the width is about the same.  It’s still a ridiculous amount of money for a supposed “smartphone,” but it’s a beauty in gold platinum.  To ease the price a little, a co-worker bought my old phone in cash for the price listed on Gazelle.  I also threw in the charger, of course, plus a practically brand new phone case (my old phone didn’t have a single dent/scratch/mark on it).

Remember when it was free to upgrade or a more expensive phone would cost something like $50?  Remember when the first cell phones were ginormous?  Remember when we had no Call Waiting or Caller I.D.?  Remember rotary phones?  Heck, I remember when my Grandma had a party line!!!  Makes you feel old, doesn’t it?!


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