Half a century


Class photo from Mrs. Schieble’s 8th grade

I graduated from Miramonte in June, 1968. Last night, we had our 50th reunion. Somehow, I feel old and young at the same time.

Old because the reunion was a room full of old people, talking about their grandkids, cataract operation, retirement plans and knee replacements.

Young because I grew up with these people, and I still see many of them, and myself, as the teenagers I remember.


Chris and Greg not only look much like they did, but Greg still dresses like it was the Age of Aquarius.

APC_0339-EditThis is Sandy York Dierckman.  I followed her around for all 4 years of school, to very little avail. Now she’s a grandmother in Southern Cal.  She’s still the first person I look for.


Alex Ablanalp.  He gets the prize for coming the farthest–he was an exchange student from Switzerland our senior year and still lives in Zurich.

Three teachers attended last night, with the star being Mr. Grbich, the art teacher who is now 86.  His passion is tap dancing, so he put on a performance for us.  He has tap danced across the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge, and now at Orinda Country Club.


There was a table full of memorabilia, including cheerleader dresses, varsity sweaters, and the program from the senior play.  A group of high schoolers putting on an absurdist play seem so very 1968.


Gail stayed home–she wouldn’t dream of spending an evening with a bunch of people she doesn’t know and won’t see again.  I don’t blame her an iota–I took a couple of photos of spouses who seemed to have been dragged along, and it isn’t all that pretty.  Who wants to get all dressed up to sit and read their phone?


The timing of the event was strange, with cocktails at 5:00.  There was schmoozing, a dinner buffet, more schmoozing, and I was still home by 9:00 including a stop for frozen yogurt.  Except for Mr. Grbich, there was no dancing.  Eating and going to bed early is a sure sign of old age.  Will our 60th begin at 3 in the afternoon?

I don’t know about other people, but I’m pretty nervous about attending a reunion.  People didn’t much want to talk to me in high school, and I think they still won’t.  Time heals many wounds, though, or maybe they’re just surprised I’m still alive.  (Lord knows it surprises me that I’m still here.)

It was satisfying to see so many people I remembered who remembered me. Some look great, some less so.  The women are better preserved than the men. People have their story ready to tell, and they omit the parts they aren’t proud of.  You don’t hear of any kids or grandkids in prison, divorces, or business failures, but that’s only natural. Everyone had a fresh haircut; there were lots of new dresses and sportcoats–we all wanted to look prosperous and happy, and I hope they all are.

The same people who were the in crowd 5 decades ago still are, and they are the ones who form the organizing committee and make all this happen–which probably explains why they were the cool kids then and now.

Half a century, 2 score years and ten, is a long darned time.  Nobody is mad at anyone else anymore, we’re just glad to see each other and spend a happy evening together.  Perhaps the next one will be in 5 years, not 10. Have to see these people while we still can.



APC_0320Out to dinner during the Santa Clara Regional, we went to Il Fornio, and saw a place named Puesto next door.  It looked so cool, we had to go there the next night.

Inside a stunning $8 million building, is a very hip, slick and cool Mexican restaurant.


Gail, Linda, Micky and Jerry.  I love the backlit plants at balcony level.

The design of this joint is spectacular.  The bar has huge, clear shelves holding all the back stock, which lower down to bartender level when a new bottle is needed.  The coolness level is off the charts.  I wonder how earthquake safe it is, though.


The menu here is pretty basic–tacos.  The standard menu item is 3 tacos for $16, but that’s an illusion because many of the 12 different tacos they offer have an upcharge–$1 for the fish, $2 for the filet, $3.50 for the lobster.  That’s each taco, because you can mix and match from the menu to your tastebud’s delight.

There are also some bowls on the menu, but I think you come here for the tequila and the tacos. Stick with the basics.

APC_0322Gail also ordered the pickled vegetables, which were too spicy for me, but looked interesting.


Puesto is a new chain starting out in La Jolla.  The good news is that there will be a branch in the new Veranda center in Concord.  All of us who went to dinner are looking forward to trying it as soon as they get the doors open.

As much as I really liked this place, I have a hard time imagining how they will pay for an $8 million building with $16 plates of tacos.  But I intend to enjoy it as long as it lasts.

Cool Shoes

Leo Bell stands out. It’s hard to miss a guy 6′ 3″ and more than 300 pounds in baby blue Crocs.

I guess he was feeling a little wallflower-ish, because he has new shoes, even brighter and more noticeable.

Nobody puts Baby in the corner. And nobody overlooks Leo.

The Best Things in Life


Gail and Ann on a shopping trip to San Francisco while they were in high school.


Life doesn’t get much better than good food and good friends.  And if you can have both of them at the same time, so much the better

Last week Gail and I had dinner with Ann and Alf Brandin. Gail lived next door to Ann in high school, and they have been friends ever since. Brad and Kate joined us at Jason’s, a nice restaurant in Greenbrae near the onramp to HWY 101.


Gail, Alf and Ann

Jason’s has a large covered patio area so we could have Claudia join us.  There aren’t many photos of me on this blog, but Alf took one I need to include:


The food here is very good, and imaginatively created and presented.  I had the seared ahi, buried under a mound of mango salsa and accompanied by mashed spuds and tempura green beans.  It isn’t often that anyone raves about green beans, but Jason’s works miracles.


I’ve become a fan of elote, Mexican grilled corn covered in cheese.  Usually served on the cob, it’s like dessert in the middle of the meal.  It’s a side dish I can’t refuse.


Kate had the salmon.  A simple dish, very nicely prepared.  It isn’t always necessary to get fancy with the food, just do it perfectly and that’s enough.


Abjuring his customary cheeseburger, Brad opted for the American classic fried chicken. Once again, the simple, clean presentation was a winner.


Gail chose the lamb chops–three huge chops, so we had enough for lunch the next day.


The service was friendly and first-rate.  We had a bit of excitement when a slippery bottle of wine oozed out of the waiter’s hand and shattered on the floor, but no harm was done and there was another bottle in the cellar

.All that makes me a happy camper.  Eating with family and old friends where the food is good, the location is delightful and the service is smooth is about all a boy can ask for.

Que Bella


The California fires are a tragedy, but they sure give us interesting sunsets.  Looking towards the Carquinez bridge, and the smoke dimmed the sun enough that you could look directly at it.

We were in Benicia to have dinner at a new restaurant–Bella Siena.  At the end of First Street, an old building has been imaginatively refurbished, with phenomenal views of the Carquinez Straits, the bridge, and the setting sun.


The interior matches the grandeur of the view.  Not too many tables, warm lighting, excellent sound-dampening make it an inviting place to enjoy a meal.

And then the meal is top-notch.


Grilled Salmon

Reed had the gnocchi, with the shrimp sauce instead of pesto.


Gail had capellini al pomodoro,  angel hair with fresh tomato sauce, that was so good we’ve had pasta the next two nights because she’s hooked.

Service wasn’t bad, and this is a new business still shaking out the flaws.  Prices are more than reasonable.

Bella Siena is busy.  There is a large outdoor patio area they aren’t yet using until they get running more smoothly, so there are more clients than tables sometimes.  You need to go to opentable.com and make a reservation, and that’s not a bad thing.  When they get the patio going, we’ll be there every night with Claudia.

On the street


Walking to Fat Slice this week, I noticed this truck belonging to the guys who are painting the building.  It was so unique I had to stop, ask questions and take pictures.

It’s a 1963 GMC Step-van, still in use every day.  Originally built as a delivery van, designed for frequent stops, it still has the original seat which is hinged so the driver can get it out of the way to carry packages in and out.


I think it’s strange to see older vehicles that have so little instrumentation, just a speedometer, gas, battery and oil pressure and temperature gauges.  There is a 3 speed manual transmission on the column. Turn signals are on the left.  High beam switch is the button on the floor.  Just the basics with no ornamentation at all.


The owner (who thinks he is just the 2nd person to have this truck) keeps it mighty clean and neat–but that’s what you’d expect of a painter.


The shelving is a modern addition.  No passenger seat–this is a working vehicle.

There is a world of interesting things out there, you just have to stop, look and ask questions.  Good thing I’m inquisitive.

And now, something serious



Barbara, a friend of ours, was playing bridge yesterday when the left side of her body went numb.  Although the incident swiftly passed, we were fortunate to have a physician playing and he strongly urged her to take an ambulance and go to the ER.  That’s, of course, the right thing to do.

Our friend was fortunate–she had a TIA (transient ischemic attack), sometimes the precursor to a stroke. She will be fine and can discover what caused the issue.  A night in the hospital and back on the golf course.

This seems like a time to review the stroke awareness poster. There is a natural tendency to deny the seriousness of strange new symptoms, but strokes need to be treated quickly–much of the damage they cause can be ameliorated with quick treatment.  Pay attention to what is happening to yourself and to your friends.  Don’t be in denial if you have the symptoms or you see another with them. Take action and save a life.

10 Perfect Champagne Cocktails

Delightful ways to enhance your brunch bubbly

You might drown your sorrows in a whiskey or martini, but when it’s time for good news, only sparkling wine will do. And when it’s time for a celebratory brunch, there’s nothing more delightful than a Champagne cocktail.

The most familiar sparkling cocktail for morning is likely the Mimosa, a simple mix of orange juice and sparkling wine. But if you’re looking to drink something a little different with your eggs benedict, there’s an endless array of possibilities to be made with a bottle of sparkling wine from your Oddbins Champagne Range and a bit of creative mixology. Here are ten of our favorite combinations:

1. Add a splash of pomegranate liqueur (like Pama); garnish with mint.

2. Add a bit of amaretto and a good amount of pear juice.

3. Soak a sugar cube in bitters then drop it in a full glass of bubbly.

4. Mix in a spoonful of coconut cream.

5. Add a dash of grenadine; garnish with freshly ground pepper.

6. Stir in a splash of elderflower liqueur; garnish with a large lemon twist.

7. Muddle a handful of blueberries and basil in a glass, add bubbly.

8. Top with a few fresh or frozen raspberries, and add a scoop of raspberry sorbet, if you like.

9. Add a dash of Campari or Aperol; garnish with an orange twist.

10. Mix with mango juice; garnish with a lime twist.


We ought to feel sorry for champagne. So often dismissed as a luxury or party accessory, it rarely gets the chance to be heralded in its own right as a serious drink for every day consumption.

The truth, however, is that champagne is in fact a medicine, just like Calpol or marijuana. And we can prove it.

First Date Fun



Gail has wondered since we got Claudia if we should breed her.  There is a clear demand for puppies–Granddaughter Demi and bridge player Gish have already signed up, even though we are far from a decision

One of the big factors is finding the right mate–a dog of the same color and breed and marvelous disposition to create the ideal puppies.  That’s kind of hard to find.

Our friends BJ and Larry Ledgerwood saw a perfect candidate recently and gave us the phone number.  Yesterday, we went to visit Cooper and his parents and came away delighted.


Cooper is a year-old red toy poodle, so incredibly cute and friendly she gives Claudia a run for her money.  He lives with his parents and another dog in Walnut Creek, and we fell in love immediately.

At 6 pounds, he is slightly smaller than Claudia. Full of puppy energy and impossibly friendly, Cooper took to Claudia immediately.  They played and roughhoused like old friends.   Cooper’s mom, Sandy, tried to lure him away to show off his tricks on the agility course they have built, but he was having none of it–he wanted to stay with his new friend and flirt.


This was just a first date.  We still aren’t sure we want to go through the troubles of having puppies.  They don’t know us well enough yet to lend us their dog for romance.

We have more research to do, and there are more playdates to arrange to cement the relationship.


But if ever there was a partner for Claudia, the impossibly cute and delightful Cooper is surely the one.  First dates are hard, only time will tell.

The Wedding


Toby and a very emotional Mom wait for the bride.

It was a great day.  Monday, June 25, Toby, the kid I used to carry into bed every night, married the beautiful, sweet, smart Léa Meerson on the roof of a facility overlooking the sun setting on the Mediterranean while traditional klezmer music played.  Every last part of it was beautiful and perfect.

Family and friends flocked in from around the world.


Toby’s dad was there, of course.


Toby’s best friend since they were 4, Matt Klein, held up his part of the chuppah.


Toby walked down the aisle with his mom and they took their place, waiting for the bride.



The big moment arrived.


Léa, flanked by her father, Peter, and her mother, Esther

Following tradition, Toby met her along the way to verify that nobody had switched brides on him.



The bride continued the walk, as beautiful and happy as anyone could ever be.


Léa walked around Toby 7 times.


Toby put the ring on her right index finger.  At that moment, they were married.


A girl has to show off her ring.


Toby broke the glass, and it was time to party, the party was amazing thanks to the team at http://epiceventsnj.com/.



Before we went downstairs for dinner and dancing, there were the formal photos to take.  The professionals set up their lights and posed everyone, I just snuck up behind them to grab a few frames for myself.




Downstairs, the 180 guests were seated and the meal began.  Apparently, the motto of the Jews is “they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat”.  We had enjoyed a some wonderful appetizers before the ceremony, and then we got salad, then fish, then steak, then chicken sliders, then dessert.  Nobody went home hungry.  With an open bar, nobody was thirsty, either.

Next up was the dancing.  A temporary wall was placed in the middle of the dance floor, and for the next 30 minutes the orthodox tradition of gender segregation was followed–the men danced on one side, the women on the other.

The groom danced the most.  With his new father in law:


With his best friend:


With nephew Beaux:


With a cousin we don’t really know:


With his crowd of friends:


Checking out the women’s side, there was just as much happening:


Léa was dancing with everyone, here with her sister:

With the  mothers and her new sister in law and nieces:


Léa is a grown and married woman, but she will always be Daddy’s girl


Of course they danced the hora, where the bride and groom are put on chairs and raised above the crowd, and the wall, so they can see each other despite the separation.


Our friend Reed was there:

And this guy, who goes everywhere I go for the last 35 years (and has watched Toby grow up with me):



I found more family:

Brad looked great just watching all the action:


And we were done.  At least all the old folks, like me.  We called taxis and hightailed it back to the Hilton, while the young people danced until they closed the place down at 1 am, then stayed and partied in front of the building, facing the beach, until 4.

This was a glorious wedding, in my unprofessional and thoroughly biased opinion. Reed was impressed, and she IS a professional, having thrown weddings for 25 years.  Everything was just perfect, beginning with the bride and groom.  They should have long life and many children.  Or some.  Maybe a couple.  I guess they get to decide.  I’ll just say mazel tov and shut up.

Toby and Léa will be in California in 3 weeks as we celebrate Demi marrying Matt in our yard. Looks like we can have fun all over again.