From Santa Barbara to LA: Bacara to Baseball to Beverly Hills Erbe Matte at 8!

Victorian Chick as would-be Dodger Girl/Spokesgirl!

Relaxing in the Palisades after a lazy day, I nevertheless plan to walk up to the park before dinner at Erbe Matte with a friend at 8PM. I wanted to blog in our new backyard “rock garden” as my parents call it but am out of juice.

The rock garden is not, like everything else on Facebook this week, the fault of the Affordable Care Act, but it wasn’t volitional either.  The LA Fire Department imposed mandatory brush clearing and this was the best solution. Mom felt they got a good price on the whole thing, two guys here working for about 6 hours. Quite strange, really, as our fairly large backyard–at least for a 2500 square foot suburban house from 1962 on a 10,000 square foot lot–is mostly concrete.

It has a San Quentin-like gate around the pool which by today’s standards is both enormous and very deep. I didn’t know–as I don’t own a house and probably won’t until I’m too old to pick up a guy in a bar with zero effort should I desire to do so and will never build a house of my own barring a freakish accident–that pools today rarely have a deep end deep enough to allow an child or adult to slide down a tacky, yellow, plastic slide or jump off a real diving board as my siblings and I did growing up.

I was shocked to find, in 2009 after over a decade estrangement from my parents and this house both, that they’d gotten rid of the yellow slide and utilitarian diving board and I was quite sad about it. I also didn’t know they sold the boat in 2005, the CT 54 my father bought in 1974, until in an emergency, I called a number etched forever on my consciousness–(310) 823-8491–and found the number was no longer in service!

Mom objected to this house both because to a first-generation Mexican-American/English girl usually quite poor in her youth and adolescence except in the rare instances her drinking, writer-father from England (who left at the invitation of her mother when she was 10) got some work, the Palisades seemed “too far out” and also too homogeneous (read: white). Mom moved a dozen times before 10th grade but never did she live this far West in Los Angeles.

And then there was the pool. Mom isn’t a great swimmer and she doesn’t really like the water, whether indoors in the form of a jacuzzi or bath, or outdoors in the form of ocean or pools. She liked living on the boat and sailing but being on water is different from being in it. I was two in 1974 when they moved from a charming house north of Sunset off Doheny Drive; the only way Dad could assuage her fears about her toddler drowning to death was to build what looks like a maximum security, iron gate around the pool. As their granddaughters are 12 and 15 now and my father won’t let children (or pets) in the house–I’m not kidding–the gate is superfluous and unsightly and I have finally prevailed on Mom to consider getting a bid on what it would take to remove the eyesore.

Aunt Suzy bought a marching hare, a floppy-eared bunny and a little Bambi statue at Cost Plus or TJ Maxx and the area is quite lovely. We have ivy bordering the entire backyard and for, I don’t know, 30K, you could make the viewless yard into something of a paradise. Dad used to dream of putting in a jacuzzi because he loves the water and for a few decades, he used to swim, steam, and jacuzzi at the LA Athletic Club when he worked downtown. Boats are money pits; whatever a new radar or refrigerator or whatever else he deemed necessary for what amounted to his nautical salvation cost, would easily have paid for a jacuzzi but he never did it.

I think the rock garden will make a peaceful reading sanctuary for me and it’s pretty well-shaded, at least part of the day. Because Dad is nuts about the covers, the two chaise lounges from Bekins, circa 1991, are in mint condition. They are identical to the ones Jennifer Aniston’s parents had at their beach place in She’s The One, a movie of which I grew increasingly fond over the years as a worthy pseudo-sequel to the great Brothers McMullen; the movie which made Sarah MacLachlan famous for the beautiful ballad, “I Will Remember”).

Aunt Suzy also bought a little table with an ashtray out there as she loathes cigarettes and thought it would be a better place for me to indulge in what my ex-boyfriend called “death sticks.” But my battery is low so I will knock out a quick blog in my father’s oddly cluttered home office. He’s so anally neat, constantly roaming the house to see if everything is in its proper place, it quite stuns me and others he can work in this cluttered mess.

It pays to read Independent of Santa Barbara whether or not you care about local politics or the liberal take of this free weekly intended to be a kind of LA Weekly or Village Voice. I found the Bacara’s Summer Solstice event, a ridiculous bargain at 25 dollars with two drink tickets, free sliders, and wine tasting to celebrate the completed renovations. I knew they were remodeling because the friend I will see later was hardly dressed when someone barged in to her room, unaware it was occupied. They knocked 100 a night off the room, so 200 off the whole bill.

I joked I would happily strip for whatever maintenance people are interested, as I am very comfortable with my body and actually think I look better naked than in a bathing suit, except for my dearly departed discounted Trina Turk. I still miss that suit which my parents’ beloved housekeeper and my caregiver from 6 on tossed without realizing it contained clothes under the newspapers and other detritus. The lady in the golf cart who drove us to our car laughed at this story, but I do not believe any Bacara discounts will be forthcoming.

J and I had a blast and saw many people he knew. The Bacara is pricey but they’ve come down some because they foresaw total self-destruction if they didn’t. It’s way out there, at the northernmost border of Goleta. So if you don’t want to eat at the prohibitively expensive, pretentious and overrated Miro, or the more moderate bistro alternative, you’re looking at a 25 minute drive to all the fine dining in downtown Santa Barbara and another five or ten to Coast Village Road’s offerings in Montecito.

Outback is the closest thing to fine dining you will get in Goleta and if you’re a Bacara sort of person, that’s not exactly going to be your idea of a perfect meal after a day at the world-class spa.  Dos Pueblos (I think this is the name) is a spectacular, cute, funky Mexican restaurant in the Magnolia Center, a strip mall off Patterson. Again, not really a way to wind down a day at the Bacara’s day spa.

As a professional urban planner and former developer, J thinks too many of the rooms lack ocean views. But the views from the hotel overall–particularly the parking lot, which J says is a joke with people in the industry who follow development and real estate–are spectacular. I just don’t understand for the life of me why, given the Four Seasons Biltmore has a great spa as well, you would rather be anywhere in Goleta and look at Goleta beaches than in Montecito, where you have the more Cape Cod Miramar-like beach with cute little beach houses.

I have many pictures but half won’t upload to the blog. You can click on this link my public Victorian Chick Facebook album (and if you haven’t already done so, “like” the page–hint, hint!) to see all of the pictures J took on a fun, inexpensive evening which had to have been a money-loser but perhaps long term, a wise investment from a PR standpoint.

Relaxing on the lawn with ocean views after drinks and sliders. The chaises are neatly put away at twilight or just before.

The Bacara provides great getaway for stressed out, affluent Angelenos.  My dinner companion’s neighbor, a single anesthesiologist in her early 50s, goes there for overnight rejuvenation. I think it’s great; it’s just way the hell out there unless you like to shoot guns and want to shoot at the Winchester Gun Club. This is not really Bacara’s demographic. And J does not recommend outdoor shooting for novices; hence he has never taken me anywhere but Shooter’s Paradise in Oxnard, an indoor range. It’s not a place to stay if you are visiting Santa Barbara with the intent of exploring downtown on a food or wine tour. If, however, you intend to go up to Santa Ynez or Solvang wineries, it’s a great choice which cuts down on the drive somewhat.

I drove down Thursday morning for schlepping with Dad and on Friday headed to the W in Westwood for lunch and blogging because my ride to Dodger Stadium for the Yale Club of LA annual game (my first time) lives in West LA. I didn’t make it there as early as I wished but had a grand and completely unexpected time with four uncommonly nice gentlemen from DC here on business.

One wore a Yankee cap and my Macbook Pro was out of juice. Three outlets didn’t work (precipitating a minor coronary in me) and the one which did was at the table next to the four colleagues, all clearly very good friends.  We chatted for about 90 minutes while I drank a respectable Argentinian white for 8/glass and they bought me a very sweet drink they were having afterward. The buratta and grilled peace salad with pesto and pine nuts was terrific, a good light lunch along with the spectacular sourdough and fluffy sweet better they bring you if you ask for it.

Aside from the irritating club music which plays around the pool, a stunningly landscaped large area which makes you feel a world away from Wilshire’s “gold coast,” with high-rises and terrible traffic, it’s a true oasis on Hilgard across from UCLA. The pool, however, is maddeningly small and I don’t know why the W, when it bought the property from the Westwood Marquis, which it had been for decades before (there may have been an intermediate owner), didn’t just put in a larger pool. It’s quite pathetic really and if I didn’t have a pool at my gym wherever I lived and I were paying W prices for such a beautiful outdoor area, I’d be miffed.

Happily, the bartender pours great glasses of wine in a real water glass, not plastic.  Fans of Victorian Chick Facebook (and their friends I do not know but who are part of the total 87,000 “friends of fans” for which I am infinitely grateful) seem to agree with me on the pour (and the real glass poolside)! Some ten people I’ve never heard of saw the picture I tagged to my wine lush friends and expressed envy they were not presently enjoying the wine (and the salad).

A great pour of Argentinian white at the W in Westwood.







The peach might have been a bit more ripe but I loved this salad, pleased I chose it over the Sloppy Joe (which felt like the patriotic thing to do on the day of my second professional baseball game ever) and other heavier options. 

We had the server take pictures of us before I dashed off to my ride’s about 5 minutes away in real time, 15 minutes in LA Friday rush hour. No matter how many times I issue the warning about the finger over the lens, strangers botch it about 90% of the time. I should have checked to see but trusted my competent server.

With four friends from DC, one of whose relatives fought in the Korean War and has a wonderful story about which I will blog.

My patient and supportive boyfriend posted this and the picture of me alone under the LA sign, noting of course the prominence of the finger. I could have cropped it out (but only if I made it my profile as I can’t crop on the Macbook, just the PC, without going that route). They asked all about my blog and I showed them VC and the FB page both.

The drive to Dodger Stadium via surface streets from Palms was surprisingly easy for a Friday before the 4th but I was very happy to be driven by two young men (last night made me feel older than I think I have ever felt in my life and not physically, which is never my problem) and speak with such dazzlingly intelligent and quick aspiring writers who attended the UCLA MFA program together. We passed the Wiltern, one of my favorite buildings in LA, though I’ve not seen a concert there since Erasure in 1992 or so. I have nearly been to a few shows in recent years, including Florence and the Machine but all fell through.

The legendary Wiltern, corner of Wilshire and Western, not far from LACMA. My grandfather owned a beauty salon frequented by stars of the era, including Carole Lombard.

Here we are heading into the parking lot which I learned is still owned by Frank McCourt. I did not meet at the game a single person who does not regard him as an asshole of the highest order, ruining the Dodgers financially as he himself made a boatload of money. No one disagrees this man is simply odious, utterly without redeeming value as a human being or a businessman. (Click on album.)

The stadium turned 50 this year and it really does have a nice feeling about it. My friends found it amusing, but my father absolutely hilarious, that I was going to a Dodger game. I refer to baseball as “18 half innings,” and was vindicated in my assessment by one of the large electric signs which borders the stadium: “Nine innings is a long time [yeah, no shit!]. Be sure to fill up!” Hardly an endorsement! If they were going to go this route by way of appeal, I think my childhood name for baseball–18 half innings–would be ever so much more powerful.

I enjoyed myself immensely as the seats were extraordinary and the company equally good. I liked my Dodger Dog very much and the people who attend these games are very friendly. There were a ton of cops, which Mom explained to me as a direct consequence of the terrible attack a year or so ago. The victim suffered severe brain damage, from which he will never recover, so they’ve really stepped up security at the games now. I went to a Trojan football game at home a few years ago and in the hood, it was less monitored and protected than it was at Chavez Ravine.

If you’ve never seen the great George Carlin bit about baseball versus football, it’s worth seeing. Here is the YouTube clip about the relative austerity and darkness of football compared to the sweetness and light of our national pastime.

This is Carlin at his best and he is absolutely right in his overall assessment of baseball as optimistic and upbeat (down to the fact that it begins in the spring where new life begins unlike football which begins in the fall, when everything begins to die). As he says, baseball is all about “getting home” and being “safe.”  In football, you receive penalties; in baseball, you make errors (oops). The most basic unit of measurement in football is the first down. Baseball, a “19th-century pastoral invention” rather than a “20th-century technological innovation,” revolves around “who’s up.”

Granting all that, I find college football diverting and pleasant in limited doses; I find baseball deadly dull. I enjoyed my evening tremendously but it had nothing to do with what was going on on the field. For one thing, the Mets killed the Dodgers, 9 or 10 to 0. I just thought it was a pretty place with pretty grass, a nice setting for a good blog about a key part of LA life for generations and a fitting way to spend an evening so close to the 4th of July.

The National Anthem was very well-done by a man in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It had to have been “Mormon Night at Dodger Stadium” (they have some Jewish night so maybe the new owners have a kind of an equal opportunity religious night thing, though obviously, the Jewish night advertised with a baseball and yarmulke on the big screen, is not on a Friday).  With my superior investigative journalist instincts, I inferred that it was Mormon night from the perpetual flashing on the electronic screen by the scoreboard of various Mormon Churches in the area. (You can’t get anything by me, boy!) I’m not thinking the Mormon Churches of Inglewood or Lancaster really pack ’em in, but who knows?

The Mormon Church of Camarillo was also represented but I am sure not all of the congregants went, as this would have required a small fleet of buses.  My nieces live in Moorpark and apparently the Mormon boys–among the smartest kids in the class of course as Mormons prize education, financial success and service quite highly–are quite eager to convert the smart non-Mormon girls. It quite annoys a certain relative of mine; another views it more philosophically, arguing that Mormons don’t drink or smoke or, sorry, screw, before marriage, so they are great candidates for dates from the perspective of an anxious parental unit with a stunning, brilliant girl who looks more like a college senior than a high school sophomore.

One can be a cynic about professional sports of course and claim that it all boils down to money. One can also bemoan the trend toward “mass entertainment” with rock music, videos of fans dancing “robot” groover or whatever it was playing during a break. It was actually very cute seeing fans who will likely never be on TV absolutely exuberant at their one on-screen moment. But overall, baseball still seems like a quaint, sweet activity. I went to an LA Raiders game in the early 1990s and left with the impression that some one-third of the fans had done time, at least in a minimum security institution. Not pleasant.

I am running out of time so I will simply provide the link to my public album on Facebook Victorian Chick:

I am so thrilled to be eating again at Erbe Matte, Korean-Italian fusion in Beverly Hills. I don’t like Beverly Hills. I really don’t like the commercial area near Rodeo Drive. 3rd Street or Burton Way are fine. But I can’t stand that plastic wealthy part of LA with too many stupid women with too many diamonds and not enough books. And no, it’s not jealousy. I just think any woman who has the money to live in Westwood or Brentwood or Pacific Palisades with her husband and who chooses Beverly Hills has something very wrong with her, namely, a low IQ and extremely boring personality.

Happy Saturday and to my West Coast readers, bon appetit!



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