Sunday, July 12, 2020

We Left Los Altos and It Felt So Good

I have been a member of Filoli Historic House and Garden in Woodside for years, so I was very excited to learn that the gardens, and in fact the house, have reopened.  You need to make a reservation, wear a mask, keep six feet apart, but even so it was THRILLING to leave Los Altos for a few hours.

After checking in, Larry and Susan and I had a ladies-who-lunch meal at Filoli’s Quail’s Nest Café.  It was so pleasant to sit outside somewhere that wasn’t our back yard.  We fell to reminiscing about a visit to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art north of Copenhagen and also about a trip to Croatia we took in the summer of 2018 (more on that later).

We finished our salads and rosé and set off to tour the estate.  The house tour is always interesting, and the new director has recently added “soundscapes”, so that, for instance, when you are in the family room you can hear ghosts playing bridge and drinking Jack Daniels.

After enjoying the house, we wandered out into the formal gardens where – AMAZING – there is a new beverage cart tucked under a grove of trees that sells cans of champagne, wine, and g&ts.  We were extremely excited about this.  We very much enjoyed wandering the gardens with our cans of alcohol.  The novelty of being somewhere else made us giddy with pleasure.

Susan pointed out that when her generation becomes parents, and their kids complain about missing a party, they can say “We didn’t get to go to parties for A YEAR, so I think you can miss one night.”

On our way home, Larry ordered take-out pizza, salad, and about a gallon of craft beer from State of Mind, our favorite Los Altos pizzeria.  Their online ordering system is my favorite video game (followed closely by the BevMo app).

State of Mind offers many California beers on tap, and when the pandemic forced them to take-out only, they began offering 32-ounce draft beers in those plastic pho/hot-and-sour soup containers.  You can also order a wide variety of canned beverages from micro-breweries and cideries.  It’s so much fun to roll up to the curb outside State of Mind and have a hipster bring out delicious pizza and amazing beer.  Thank God for State of Mind, they have vastly improved my state of mind during the pandemic.

Then it was time for Driveway Drinks.  We love Derek and Camay, the neighbors we share a driveway with, and we have instituted a weekly Saturday night pandemic drinks party.  We sit ten feet apart on the driveway and enjoy drinks and conversation.  Taggart the dog always joins us, and last night he tried to catch a rabbit, which was pretty funny.

While we were at Filoli, Larry noticed a posted list of movies that have been filmed on the estate.  The first was Heaven Can Wait, filmed in 1978, which we watched last night after Driveway Drinks.  It was filmed almost entirely at Filoli, both in the house and in the gardens, and it was pretty cool to see Filoli on film.  The movie itself was a confusing mishmash of sports machismo, sappy romanticism, and soul/body swapping.  It also featured the abundant late-70s hair of Warren Beatty, Dyan Cannon, and Julie Christie.  So much hair.  We enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I would recommend it, if you know what I mean.

So Much Hair

As an added point of interest, Larry once played the Warren Beatty character in a high school production of the play Heaven Can Wait.  He probably had great hair, too.

Today has been very quiet and boring, but it’s okay, because yesterday we did things!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

You Gotta Drink Beer on the Fourth of July

Every Fourth of July, my aging mind wanders back in time to a Glorious Fourth that I spent with my friend from college, Courtney Harris.  Courtney was by far the coolest woman in our Engineering School class at the University of Virginia.  (Granted, there wasn’t much competition.)  I was a Catholic nerd from the suburbs, but Courtney was a rock-n-roll chick from Richmond with an older boyfriend.  She took me to concerts and bars and was always fun to be around.

One of my fondest memories of Courtney was when she rolled into the early morning final exam of some dreary engineering class wearing naught but an oversized Michael Jackson Thriller t-shirt, which I knew for a fact was her pajamas.

One or two years after graduation, I traveled down to Richmond to spend the weekend of the Fourth with Courtney.  Courtney was born on the Fourth of July, so it was also her birthday weekend.  Courtney’s parents had divorced some years earlier, and her mother’s new boyfriend invited us over to his house for a barbecue on the Fourth.

Here’s the first thing I remember about Courtney’s mothers’ boyfriend: he was a huge proponent of Norman Vincent Peale, the author of “The Power of Positive Thinking”, which is a primer to help inadequate white men feel better about themselves.  I just googled it, and not surprisingly, Donald Trump is a huge fan. 

Here’s a snippet about the book from a 2016 Politico article entitled “How Norman Vincent Peale Taught Donald Trump to Worship Himself”: “Subsequent rules tell the reader to avoid “fear thoughts,” “never think of yourself as failing,” summon up a positive thought whenever “a negative thought concerning your personal powers comes to mind,” “depreciate every so-called obstacle,” and “make a true estimate of your own ability, then raise it 10 per cent.”

Here’s the second thing I remember about Courtney’s mothers’ boyfriend: he was trying to turn the collection of mangy animals in his yard into a for-profit petting zoo.  The house was surrounded by sad, diseased-looking animals and, consequently, lots and lots of flies.

Our party of four (Courtney, her boyfriend Mike, her friend from high school Hunter, and me) rolled up into the clouds of flies and scurried for the interior of the house, which was un-air-conditioned and full of Norman Vincent Peale plaques.  Then we learned the third thing I remember about Courtney’s mothers’ boyfriend: He was a teetotaler.  Courtney’s boyfriend Mike withstood the hot boredom for about five minutes and then stood up and made a declaration:

“You gotta drink beer on the Fourth of July.”

He matched his action to his words and drove back to town and brought us blessed relief from heat and boredom: many six-packs of cold, canned beer.  We sat in the living room and drank beer and chatted in a desultory fashion until, finally, it was time for the meal, and then, blessedly, we could drive back through the flies to Courtney’s house.

I have always appreciated Mike’s determination to improve our afternoon, and I have always, always followed his mantra: “You gotta drink beer on the Fourth of July.”