Happy Labor Day Weekend from Santa Barbara! Ready for Fall, Real Estate Course, and New York…

Last October in Dutchess County, NY. Paradisal estate on the Hudson River.

Last October in Dutchess County, NY. Paradisal estate on the Hudson River.

Kids back in school, earlier sunsets, and a chill in the morning air: the unmistakeable signs that fall is near.

Of course when you don’t work or go to school–and live in Southern California nine months a year where temperatures mostly range from 60 to 80–the change of seasons is mostly symbolic and culinary. Gelson’s begins to stock matzoh for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur even in Santa Barbara, hardly a Jewish mecca, and pumpkin patches pop up everywhere. Big Wave Dave’s on Hope Ave., known to locals for their overpriced Christmas trees, got into the pumpkin business a decade ago. I imagine the tent will go up shortly after Labor Day.

Still, the transition from summer to fall is a cultural phenomenon. And for a bicoastal girl, it means that overcoats, gloves, boots and scarves are not far off. I was thrilled on Monday night to wear my leather jacket over a t-shirt and jeans with high-heeled sandals to Primitivo Wine Bistro, where I ate with my friend Mark. I bought a Travelzoo offer for 59 dollars on my July flight to the city and recommend that foodies (a word I hate but use reluctantly as there is no alternative) on a budget subscribe via email.

Travelzoo restaurant deals, while not as plentiful, are much better than either Groupon or Living Social. We had a great dinner, though I was miffed that the new chef replaced the best brie dish I’d ever eaten with a vastly inferior and just plain bizarre appetizer in what I called in my Yelp review an act of “territorial idiocy.”

I can’t stand it when a new chef takes over and then banishes beloved dishes created by the former chef. Culinary penis envy, a longstanding pet peeve of mine, is quite common. Wilshire, one of my favorite restaurants in LA, totally overhauled the menu last year, but due to my–and other regulars’ outcry–much of the old menu has been restored. Most important, the steak tartare is back, which matters because the dish is not as ubiquitous in LA as it is in New York, where one can find excellent steak–not just tuna or yellowtail– tartare a dozens of restaurants. I don’t worry about salmonella or whatever the health concern is as I regularly ate raw beef as a child when Hilma made burgers.

I just booked my October trip to the city for $404 RT on Virgin, the only airline I fly these days. Hipmunk is my favorite discount site and even if I have to pay $100 more (which is rare), I don’t mind. Virgin planes, seats, entertainment, and service are qualitatively different from all other airlines, at least on coach. If you fly to Newark instead of JFK, which I hate because I have too much luggage to take the train and the cab is $65-68 after tip due to the flat fee, you won’t be paying much more than you would for a one-stop on American or, God forbid, United.

A flight goes by faster when you’re watching a good movie or show on HBO and I always pay for WiFi so I can do Facebook if I’m too tired for a movie. I don’t mind paying for food and booze; I’d be paying for both were I not in the air, so my in-flight tab is irrelevant to me. I’m careful about money; I’m not completely neurotic. Best of all, I arrive refreshed and happy. The bus from Newark is fine and sometimes I luck out and get a ride from a friend.

I arrive on the 8th and return on the 24th. J and I are seeing the Afghan Whigs in LA the 25th and he will sleep over at my parents’ house. We went up to San Francisco to see the Whigs for our first time in the fall of 2012 and had the best time at the Fillmore. Sadly, I will miss the October 23-25th Cabaret convention in the city, which I really wanted to attend, but it couldn’t be helped.

I’m so looking forward to my few days upstate in Dutchess County at the country place of my NYC landlords. Their daughter, 35, is a Darmouth/NYU trained actress and director and they’ve become close friends who treat me like a daughter.  I had a paradisal weekend last October playing with their Golden retrievers, eating simple, beautifully prepared fish and vegetables on the banks of the Hudson where their 18th-century New Hamburg manse sits.

Brady presiding over the castle.

Brady presiding over the castle.

The house has been expanded and partially rebuilt after two fires, but it’s a splendid old country estate. You can see the pictures from last October in my Facebook Victorian Chick album.

The Hudson River Valley is one of America’s pastoral gems. I can’t wait to take long walks with Brady and Ika. Here we have Brady deciding whether or not this “stick” is too big to bring back to his mommy.

Brady's idea of a "stick." It's a log!

And the answer is…of course not!


His daily walking stick!

















Last year the leaves turned late, but even without the glorious reds, oranges and golds, the long morning walks were perfect.

Enchanted forest in New Hamburg, one stop on the Metro North's Hudson line before Pougkeepsie (the Vassar stop).

Enchanted forest in New Hamburg, one stop on the Metro North’s Hudson line before Pougkeepsie (the Vassar stop).

I plan finally to finish two half-read novels, Jenny Offil’s Department of Speculation, and Christopher Beha’s What Happened to Sophie Wilder, which I found in my 6-hour trunk and car cleaning, here.

Reading room upstate.

Reading room upstate.

In the next week or two, we’re having six panels of the Saab painted for $1400 (normally $3000). My used 2007 Saab 9’3 2.0T with 76K miles will be like new. I really didn’t mind driving a landfill, but I am absolutely overjoyed at having a clean–and clear–car and trunk. I took Emma to the vet for an ear infection and test , but nearly had to cancel the appointment because she refused to get into my immaculate Saab. One friend speculated that Emma didn’t recognize it without all that junk on the front and back seat.

Emma reading to drive the (pristine) Saab home from the vet.

Emma reading to drive the (pristine) Saab home from the vet.

A few weeks ago, I received my books for the first month of the Keller Williams licensing course and will be in LA Tuesday through Friday for the months of September, November and January. I won’t take class in October or December because I go to New York those months and the whole purpose of getting my license is to become a referral agent from New York to LA and possibly Santa Barbara as I explained in my Victorian Chick third anniversary blog.

New Yorkers are mad for Santa Barbara these days, but most can’t move to Santa Barbara until they can afford not to work. But some might consider a condo to test the waters and I could assist with that. J is a private land use consultant and regularly addresses Santa Barbara realtors to answer questions about the mind-boggling, onerous and labyrinthine zoning and permitting regulations in one of the two strictest counties in California (and probably, America).

But if New Yorkers envision ten more years of productive professional life, they need to be in LA. And if they have kids in Manhattan private schools, Santa Barbara has only one real option: Laguna Blanca. It’s a strong school but quite small and socially problematic (it has a reputation for cliquey, mean girls). Also, moving from a city of 8 million to a “city” (Santa Barbarans think they live in a city not a town) of 100K people is the lifestyle equivalent of the bends. Moving out of the city to LA–or anywhere on the West Coast–is a big enough adjustment. Most New Yorkers, even those in love with Santa Barbara, would go out of their minds in laid-back Santa Barbara after two months.

In other news, I am happy to report that our dear Ollie, a 16.5-year-old Norwegian forest cat, seems to be out of danger. After a lung tumor scare two weeks ago, the vet determined the mass on the x-rays was fluid around the heart. She’s not sure it’s full-fledged congestive heart failure, but Ollie has responded well to the Furosemide, a diuretic, and they will do another x-ray in ten to fourteen days.

There are better meds for heart failure, but she’s not sure if that’s the cause of the fluid build-up. My Facebook friends, both those I know in real life and those I do not, responded with an outpouring of love and support which made the prospect of losing my second best friend in this town after J, considerably easier.

Mr. Sooty Paws, my mush pot.

Mr. Sooty Paws, my mush pot.














Here is the blog impeder yesterday, sprawled out on my Macbook as if to say, “Thou shalt not blog.”

Ollie, Blog Impeder.

Ollie, Blog Impeder.

I felt fortunate he allowed me to re-vamp a 2.5-year-old blog about smoking written six months before before I started e-cigs in the summer of 2012: Victorian Chick and Town and Country’s Nina Griscom on the Pleasures and Psychology of Smoking. I didn’t really become a full-time vaper until February of 2014, with the purchase of my first EVOD at Henley Vaporium in SoHo.

J and I ran into a realtor friend of his at Chucks, who smokes and feels about ANTZ precisely as I do. I told her about the magnificent defense of smoking by Town and Country‘s Nina Griscom in the Jaunary, 2012 issue and decided to overhaul this blog, adding pictures and a prefatory note about my transformation from unrepentant, late-in-life smoker to ecstatic and passionate vaper.

And as I posted on the CASAA Facebook page , I think this may be an even better blog to send to friends who smoke because once you stop (or cut back to a pack a month), smokers no longer trust you, no longer see you as one of their own. I did love cigarettes, but now I prefer e-cigarettes. When my EVOD breaks or I can’t get juice, I will smoke for a day or two. And I hate it. One cigarette is fine, but if I have to smoke for a full day, I feel genuinely ill.

Another of my projects for fall is to follow up with Kangertech and contact modeling agencies to become a spokesperson or spokesmodel for e-cigs. I’m not a young woman, but it’s never too late to stop smoking. Your lungs substantially regenerate and quitting even at 40 or 45 yields significant health benefits.

You can see my pitch on my public Facebook album, Vaping with Class and Style: Happy 40-something Vaper, the gist of which is this: e-cigarettes are associated with counter-culture types with ink, piercings, bad clothes and a rebellious, angry attitude. That describes some but not all vapers, who are actually a diverse group politically, chronologically, geographically and socioeconomically.

I’m off to buy some cheap hippie outfit for a 50th birthday party in Santa Barbara. I have nothing remotely 1970s, but apparently the teeny bopper stores are full of flower child attire. I might hit a cheap thrift store by Killer Shrimp and Bucatini, one of our favorite restaurants, owned by the people who own Tre Lune, a fine Italian restaurant in Montecito favored by Dennis Franz and Rob Lowe above all other Italians in Santa Barbara’s crowded field.

One other piece of news: the Patch has undergone a disastrous server change. All my links are now dead (you get a 404 code). If you want to read the pieces I’ve posted on Amy Chua, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elaine Stritch, Proxy, Jilly Jazz, Hama Dance Centre, or various Geffen productions, you can find them on my new (but hidden) Patch profile. If things go as I plan, I won’t be posting pieces there anymore, just here and in real publications.

Happy Labor Day! Here’s to a wonderful and productive fall!

P.S. I did not post my Robin Williams blog. Now that we know he had a Parkinson’s diagnosis, his tragic and grisly end is no less painful. But it does make more sense. I will finish my piece within the week.

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