Gail wants a new car. A few weeks ago we saw a Jaguar F type outside a restaurant, we went and saw one, and now she has to have it.
I used to have a Land Rover, and had it serviced at Cole European in Walnut Creek,. I never once went there that I didn’t feel ripped off, so when the Land Rover died I wouldn’t even look at a new one because I didn’t want to deal with Cole. But we want a new Jag, and they’re the dealers, so what to do? Fortunately, we know somebody. If you use your network of friends, you always know somebody. In this case, we know Alex Lawson, husband of Tuppy Lawson, ceramic artist extraordinaire.
Alex sells Maseratis in San Rafael and has friends in the industry. He put us in contact with Vince, at Marin Luxury Cars, and negotiations were opened, a car of the right color and options was located and today we went to Corte Madera to work out details.
All of which leads up to what we saw on the floor of the dealership:
This was one of the first supercars, produced by Jag in 1992-96 to compete with competition-ready cars from Porsche and Ferrari. It was announced at a car show as a 500 horsepower V-12, with all wheel drive and all wheel steer. It was priced at over £400,000, and people were lining up to put down deposits of about $100,000 for the as yet unbuilt wondercar.
When eventually produced, it had the horses, but in a V-6 with twin turbochargers, rear wheel drive and two wheel steering. Many people were unhappy and wanted their money back–Jaguar sued some for not completing their commitment to buy.
This beauty is sitting on the showroom floor, and available for $250,000. I think if you haggle hard you can probably get the price down to $240,000. I didn’t check the mileage, but there is wear on the leather seats so I think it has been driven a fair amount.
The name, XJ220, is supposed to represent the top speed of 220, which made it the fastest production car of its day–and most other days. You can get that kind of speed today in a Veyron or McClaren, if you have $2,000,000 to spend on a new car.
The XJ220 was pretty much a failure: there were only about 200 produced. Looking online, I can find a number of them for sale boasting fewer than 1000 miles on the odometer. These cars were purchased by super wealthy collectors and never driven, which I think is just perverse.
I suspect that this beauty will sit on the floor for quite a while before someone with that kind of disposable income falls in love with it. OK, I fell in love with it already, but I’m about $235,000 short, so I’ll just keep driving my Chrysler.
People with kids, or grand-kids, may well remember the Dr. Seuss story about the Sneetches. Some had stars on their bellies, some didn’t, and prejudice abounded. It was definitely better to be a star-bellied sneetch.
This probably doesn’t have anything to do with tonight’s dinner.
But the name of the place is Starbelly, so I had to tie it in some how.
Starbelly is a small place on 16th street, in the Castro District in San Francisco. It’s small and hip and serves a pretty decent meal with very good service. Now that the young Master has graduated from college and moved back to the City, we’ll be looking for places like this to take him to dinner.
Starbelly is casual: concrete floors, metal chairs and wood tables without napery. It caters to the hipster crowd, and interestingly has bookcases mounted waaaaay high up on the walls, decorative not functional.
The menu has small plates, large plates, and pizzas. We started with a couple of appetizers–the split pea fritters with greek yogurt (or “yoghurt”, as it is on the menu). and the roasted brussels sprouts. Both were excellent, and the pea fritters are not something you will see every day. It is strange to be charged $2 for 4 slices of bread and a tiny container of oil, but at least the bread was thick and fresh.
Due to the cold weather, I decided to try the French onion soup, but it turned out to be the least interesting part of the meal. I thought it was bland and insipid, needed salt and just wasn’t worth the effort.
Always on the lookout for something different, I had the bangers and mash–an ostensibly British dish of sausage and mashed potatoes. I’ve had bangers in London, and they were tasteless and mushy tubes of pork and cereal, with too much cereal. These were just excellent local sausages, not strongly spiced but appropriately flavorful. The mashed potatoes were accompanied with chunks of roasted apples to add a bright sweetness to the meal. Not high-class fare, but the perfect thing for a frigid Monday night.
Gail had the chicken pot pie. This is nothing like Marie Callenders:
While Gail certainly enjoyed, and completely finished, her meal, she would have preferred more sauce in the pie.
The service was excellent. I don’t anything else to say about that–just excellent.
Prices are reasonable, given that we were in the high rent district. Parking is atrocious, but what do you expect? Starbelly isn’t fancy enough to support a valet parker, just go a few minutes early and be prepared to be creative about where you stash your wheels and you’ll be fine. Eat here and you’ll feel as proud as a starbelly sneetch in no time.
I’m hardly a fan of Senator Ted Cruz, the reactionary radical rightist who held a 21 hours fauxlibuster against a bill he voted in favor of, but he at least did something decent when posting about Nelson Mandela.
Then his supporters saw what he wrote, and their true nature came out:
When I see things like this, I just can not understand how anyone can be a fan of the Tea Party, or claim that it is not racist down to its very core. The level of hatred and ignorance is beyond my understanding, the attitude is disgusting and reprehensible.
Writing as I’m standing in the security line at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.
Gail has gone through the fast line, I’m stuck in the slow line. Why this should be, no one could possibly know.
Stanford played Arizona last night here, so the airport is very busy this morning. This line may go on forever. I hope to make my flight, but may not have any time to get a snack before the plane.
Once again, security theater is the order of the day. I guess I’m glad that Gail got through ahead of me, somebody should be sitting down.
Here are Marj and Carol, just glowing from a great week at the tournament. First in one KO, third in another and now going into the finals of a third. Over thirty four gold points and still in contention.
They wouldn’t go to dinner with us because they need to stay alert and sober. We’re playing in some meaningless pairs event and not winning, so it doesn’t much matter how alert
I’m glad somebody is winning here. Good for Marj and Carol.
I thought things were going better, then I clicked “pubish” too soon and sent out a post with just a photo. I guess I’ll start again, but without the photo.
Yesterday, we played a KO with Manfred and Nick Wiebe. Started out in a round robin, and squeaked through winning one match and losing the other. The evening session, another round robin, another win and loss, but this time we were eliminated on quotient. Not only did I not play brilliantly, even barely adequately, but on a crucial hand I held the AKxxx of Hearts, and led the Ace, which sets the contract. Except that I looked down at the table and saw the heart 3. Somehow I grabbed the wrong card. Declarer gleefully scored his Jack, and his contract, and the match. Then I had to tell my teammates why we lost. It wasn’t a happy event.
Today, Gail was set to land at 8:30, so Mike and I played just the one session side game. We sat down at our table, and Mark “80,000 masterpoints” Lair came to sit the other direction. Mark is a great guy, but who needs to play against him? But he wanted to sit North/South, and I wasn’t giving up my seat, so he went to the director and got another table assignment.
This should be good, you’d think. But then Zimmerman and Moulton, the French and world champions, sat down. Yep, we’d gone from a great pro and his client to two great pros. I was starting to feel like Joe Btfsplk, walking around with a rain cloud on my head.
The good news is that the rest of the field would fit right into most 99er games, I managed to lead, if not brilliantly, at least the card I intended to play, and we won the event. The Frenchmen were 2nd overall, and Mark Lair was 3rd.
Dinner was at a place called 1130, which I guess means something to someone, but I’m not in the loop. The guacamole, pictured in the abortive last post, was excellent, and laced with just a touch of tequila. I’ll be trying that at home. I had something called chicken piccata, which bore no resemblance whatsoever to chicken piccata. It did, however, boast a relatively dry piece of grilled chicken and a very good angel hair pasta with some veggies and a bit of lemon and caper, which was sort of piccata-esque.
After dinner I walked around this cold and deserted downtown looking for a convenience store, but there are none. I ended up at CVS, which was good enough to have a bottle of wine for Gail and some Diet Coke for me. Damned hotel is Pepsi only.
Gail’s plane was an hour late, which Southwest was good enough to alert me to with a text message. She also slipped through TSA Pre-check, so it sort of looks like that’s becoming a standard behavior for the feds.
She’s here now, and has finished her room service dinner. I think I’ll quit typing. See you soon.
I am in Phoenix, here to play bridge in the Fall North American Championships.
Lots of people telling me about getting the quick pass through TSA pre-check. Big Don Mamula, the wizard of all things airline, says that they are putting many frequent fliers into the program which should speed things up and lower costs. I don’t know that I can believe that the government can be that intelligent and efficient.
Now that I’m here, I’m checked into the Hyatt Hotel, in a large room right next to the pool and the health club. They must have heard how much I like to work out, and that I was actually in our own swimming pool at least 3 times this year.
The Hyatt is an easy 2 block walk from the Sheraton where the national events are being played. At least it’s easy today–tomorrow they are predicting rain and much, much colder. No, I didn’t bring a coat. But Gail is coming Thursday and I’ll ask her to bring one for me. Unless she hears about the weather and decides to stay home.
Mike and I played the Blue Ribbon Pairs today. Had a great first session and a disastrous second session. Regional pairs tomorrow. I’m really sick of not qualifying. We played better the first session, and we got many gifts. There were no gifts in the second session, and a few errors, and that’s a fatal combination.
Dinner was at some very hip looking sushi place a short walk from here called Squid Ink. The prices were insanely low, as they celebrate happy hour until 7 pm. Half price appetizers, half price sushi rolls. The service was good, the sushi mediocre. Worth the price, I guess.
I had to get up at 4:30 this morning to make my plane. I think it’s time for bed. More tomorrow.
I am at Oakland airport, waiting for my flight to Phoenix, to play in the nationals with Mike.
Here’s the miracle: I entered the security line, and was directed to the TSA pre-check line. This is a program that let’s prescreened, trusted travelers go through security quickly with a minimum of fuss. No issue with shoes, laptops, belts, or even suspenders. It was very quick, easy, and nonintrusive. This is what the security should be all of the time.
The question is, how did I get in the program? I have not applied for this yet. It occurs to me that perhaps I got placed in the program after Gail and I applied for Global Entry, a program to speed frequent travelers through immigration when returning to the US. We have completed extensive online questionnaires about who we are, where we have lived and where we have travelled and are now awaiting our official interview and fingerprinting for global entry. Perhaps the programs are linked.
It would astonish me if the government was actually so much on top of things that they were able to cross-link programs and simply enroll me in the TSA pre-check. But I can’t find any other explanation, except possibly dumb luck.
Not that anyone should discount the possibility of dumb luck when dealing with the federales. In any case I certainly enjoyed it, I’m happy, and hope this is a harbinger of a great week in Phoenix.
A quick lunch today at Table 24 in Orinda. We were on our way to play cards in Oakland and needed refueling so we went where we have been before for a quick and decent lunch.
When I was a little boy, I loved to go to diners with my dad and sit at the counter like the grown-ups. I still like counters–when Gail and I go to Va Da Vi, our favorite seats are K1 and K2–the chef’s counter, where we can watch the cooks make our food.
So naturally, we sat at the counter at Table 24. This isn’t like an old time diner, sadly. The chairs are high stools, there is no jukebox machine between every 2 seats, you give you order to a waitress who is working on the floor, not in front of you. Still, it’s fun to watch the cooks working like the pounding hammers of hell turning out the food in a never ending stream.
Watching short order cooks work is always fun. These guys didn’t go to culinary school, they learned on the job, usually starting as dishwashers and working their way up. The work is hard, fast and endless; they dance around each other in a tiny space wielding implements very hot and very sharp and try not to kill anyone.
The ballet of the kitchen is meaningless if the food doesn’t match up. Fortunately, the food is as good as the floor show.
Service is attentive, and would be faster if they weren’t so darned busy. Yes, they have tables, both inside and out, but you really want to sit at the counter and watch the show. Raise a glass to my old man while you’re there.
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