Friday, February 23, 2007

The Riv

We went to Los Angeles’s Riveria Golf Club this past Sunday for the closing round of the Nissan Open. While I have been to more impressive golf events with respect to sponsor tents, great buffets and free beer et al, I love this event solely due to the fact that it is held in a narrow canyon nestled in one of LA’s most modernly developed and respectable communities – Pacific Palisades. Seriously the golf course lies below ridges of multi-million dollar homes in a beautiful sliver of the community. Throw in the fact that this was/is the golf course of choice of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and er, OJ Simpson and you have some hallowed and interesting ground to walk upon.

I mean, it is really a cool deal – a distinguished golf tournament, that has gone on a long time, held smack dab in the middle of swanky LA. This is quite the logistical deal.

In Houston we went to the Shell Open at the Woodlands all of the time. It is located about 35 miles north of town in the wide open spaces – there is lot of land, go out there and park and have a good time.

LA is one of the most urban-ly dense, but green places (outside of the Wilshire Corridor) that you want to see. And to hold a fairly hallowed golf event in (for Houstonians I will say River Oaks) or any other tony place is unbelievable. And that’s why I get a great kick out of it.

You can’t really drive to it. You have to drive to the sprawling Veteran Administration’s complex at the intersection of the vaunted 405 and Wilshire Boulevard to park and take buses through Brentwood into the Palisades such that you get dropped right off into a residential neighborhood that frankly looks fairly surburbian. As soon as you get out of the bus there are little kids all set up along the one Leave It to Beaver-like block selling you lemonade and muffins an whatever. After you get through that gauntlet you go thorough a series of tents and find yourself in the ravine that is the golf course – and then you are in heaven. You are in a canyo surrounded by homes on top of hills - fairly SoCal - but unbelievably beautiful anyway.

For $25 bucks this is one of the best values in LA entertainment than anyone can imagine. At this particular event everyone’s anti-Tiger Woods hero Phil Mickleson has been leading and/or tied for the lead since the start. And while I know he has that following (and I will have to admit myself included) I was amazed at how overall pervasive it was. The entire golf course rooted for this guy. We see it, hear it on TV – but we don’t really know. But it is REAL. They are all rooting him on.

Now I have Deoborah in tow and, while not an ardent sports fan, she inexplicallby loves golf tournaments. But in any instance I'm basically dragging her around the golf course. We watch everyone tee off for about an hour and make a beeline for the for the fourth hole - the hole that Ben Hogan said was his favorite par three of all time and one that was lionized in the LA Times this week.

That was a great hole - we set up right in front of the green and next to a bunker and I told Deoborah we would see some action there. Next we see nice guy Jim Furyk coming out of the bunker. As the gallery now starts to follow everybody it won't be that easy to see the action.

And now it starts to get flinty. A certain group of people start to be annoying. They jump in front of you on several holes. For the record I will not go there. I'm basically standing on a slope of 45 degrees trying to see stuff as everyone crowds around. I see Phil three-put.

From there -it is mostly dashing around from hole to hole. Ernie Ells is the only othe golfer who has a major following. But the deal was that the tournament was Phil's to lose - and he had the entiere gallery behind him.

And of course he blew it on the final hole, went into a playoff and lost. I was left with the feeling of how a guy could have all of this emotional goodwill and just waste it.

But then that’s golf. We had a good time anyway.

An event.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Real Beverly Hillbillies

First of all I’m tired of everyone saying the Super Bowl sucked. I thought it was rather a much more unique sporting moment than generally we can imagine. While a 30% chance of rain was forecast, they wound up playing the majority of the game in a monsoon – sheets of rain and wind winding around the stadium – so strong that the majority of fans did not even go back to their $5,000 seats after halftime.

Of course I was rather quite comfortable in the West LA home of Deborah’s boss watching the game on three plasma panels on their living room wall and listening to the most bizarre renditions of surround sound coming off their new built-in speakers. And this was after I prepared my famous 4-meat chili while having mojitos and beer and home-made pizza. Tamales came later.

This was the third time we had been at a “major” event at Kathy and Robert’s house. Deoborah works as Kathy’s assistant at an investment bank in downtown LA. Robert is her newish husband – also an investment banker. They just spent the last year renovating her Cheviot Hills home and developing the rather comfy kitchen, bar living room all–in-one effect that made for a nice cozy – and dry – Super Bowl experience.

Previously we had made the 25-mile trip from San Pedro to West LA for Thanksgiving and shortly thereafter, their company’s Christmas party. In just a short period of time we became known as the fun party guests (especially at Thanksgiving when we were the only non-family people at a gathering of about 25) – so more opportunities have been arising to attend events. And it’s sort of cool because they live in the area right adjacent to Beverlywood where I had leased two houses before moving to the South Bay area. And Cheviot Hills was always the dream place to potentially buy a house – so for us its like coming back to the Big City and seeing how those “real” LA’ers are doing.

The other cool thing that occurred is that I got to know Robert a little better and realize he had Jersey roots. At Thanksgiving I heard him cranking up his new stereo system throughout the house but it had the video going upstairs of Bruce Springsteen’s famous concert at the Hammersmith in London in 1975. Robert was on the top porch with his brother who was working on the scotch. Hmm, Jersey, Bruce and single-malt? Turns out Robert’s other passion is cooking.

Such that when the Super Bowl idea had come around Deborah had sold them that I would make our chili for them. In reality this is something that we have developed over the years on lazy Saturdays – hey let’s make some chili, have some ‘ritas and cook this thing for five hours. And in doing so we just have gotten in the habit of adding stuff and adjusting to taste such that I could not even really give you much of a real recipe (well I could for $19.95 and a self-addressed stamped envelope) – but it’s more of a process and you just stop when you think its done – or can’t stand anymore. A question for the party however was "should we cook it at home and bring it or get there early and do it there?" – well Robert pretty much cooked Thanksgiving dinner with his father and brother by himself (Kathy really doesn’t cook) so he’s got the fully stocked kitchen. So we loaded up the truck and drove to Beverly.

Hills that is (close enough). Swimming pools. Moviestars. Chilimakers.

Upon arrival it was a little weird because for the first time their house wasn’t crowded with family or employees - just them. And apparently no one was sure of who would show for the gathering and who they were. I had about five pounds of meat product and it would have been sort of good to know an approcximate number of attendees – but I was really only prepared to make as much as the pot we brought would hold. I promptly set up in the kitchen and started asking for kitchen implements – cutting board and knife please.

Now they have a mix of an old country kitchen with hi-tech gadgetry. They’ve got the island stove with a hood over it (with halogen lights just illuminating everything below it) and cutting areas on either side – and then flat panel TV’s and even a Macintosh computer over to the side already displaying recipes for other snacks. Seriously I thought I was on the Today Show.

Al Roker: “And now to our cooking segment and we have Rock and Deborah all the way from Texas to make their famous 4-meat chili. Why do you call it 4-meat Rock?’

Rock: It’s got four meats in it Al.

Anyway it was sort of a different experience. I don’t know if any of you cookers out there have ever gone to someone’s house and have had to prepare, let’s say, one of your favorite dishes for an unknown quantity of people, but it’s both fun and a little nerve-racking. I really had less than 100 minutes to get the show on the road so that it could cook all down before halftime. I had previously told Robert that while our chili was a food group in itself we would need more food. He e-mailed me previously that its was okay he would have "plenty of other victuals available”. I e-mailed to Deborah – what does this mean? Is this investment banking cooking lingo?

No – it actually is the proper spelling of what any 1960’s sitcom viewer knew as “vittles” – just like Granny used to make on the Beverly Hillbillies.

“Yeah,” Robert said –“ it’s ‘vittles’”
“But it’s spelled “vick-shu-als”, I clamored.

Go ahead look it up – the pronunciation is “vit’l”. Probably made it up over by the ce-ment pond.

Well anyway the chili was all complete by the time the first people arrived and we ‘let it set a spell” until halftime before people tore into it – and it was a hit. Turns out each couple didn’t really know the other so we had an interesting mix of, as always, some entertainment people and regular folks. When I say entertainment people I mean folks who maybe work as a lawyer for one of the movie studios – but you can always tell them because they say things like – “we got those tickets from Fox TV” or something like that. I only comment on that because that is probably the only difference from a casual suburban LA thing and a South Bay coastal thing is periodic references to the industry. Otherwise its all the same.

And the Colts won. I had actually set out to comment more on the game – but heck you all saw it and I thought it was fun and exciting. It was, however, the first time I had actually witnessed the game at someplace other than my own house for about 20 years and that was sort of interesting. I had to explain to my new LA friends various concepts of football as they kept saying how sloppy it was – it’s a friggin’ rainstorm people. But otherwise it was fine. And Prince just absolutely rocked.

We took what was left of the chili home. Good thing about West Coast time is that you can leave the Super Bowl party and still get home at a reasonable time. We’ll break the rest of it out for our own Grammy party this Sunday where we can take our shoes off, set a spell.

Y'all come back now. Y' hear?