At Paradise Cove

A story and a few photos.

I was driving down the California coast, looking for a place to stop for breakfast — preferably with a view of the ocean — when I saw a sign for Paradise Cove. I followed the arrow down a narrow road that wound down to the ocean. There was a right turn into a trailer park, but if I went straight, I’d end up in a parking lot on the ocean. A sign warned that parking was $20, but only $3 if you got your parking ticket validated in the restaurant and stayed for less than 4 hours. Ahead of me was a funky little oceanfront restaurant with a handful of cars parked in front of it. I drove through the gate and parked.

The Paradise Cove Beach CafeAnd went inside the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe.

It was a typical seaside restaurant — the kind you can imagine filled with people in bathing suits, eating fried clams, with sand and flip-flops on their feet. (That’s my east coast seaside experience talking.) But that Saturday morning was partly cloudy and unseasonably cool for southern California. The main dining room was empty. I was escorted into a kind of sundeck room with big windows facing the ocean. Although all the window tables were full, the waiter kindly sat me at a huge table nearby, where I could enjoy the view as well as the activity going on around me.

I checked out the menu, eager for a big, hot breakfast. I didn’t plan to eat again until after my flight arrived in Phoenix later that evening. Some items on the menu interested me, but it was the eggs benedict I asked the waiter about.

“Are they good?” There’s nothing worse than bad eggs benedict when you’re expecting decent eggs benedict.

“Very good,” he assured me.

I settled down to wait for my breakfast. There was nothing much going on outside the window. Gulls flying around, a few people walking out on the obligatory but short pier. It was mostly dark and cloudy over the ocean, but the sun was breaking through here and there. I watched my fellow diners get their breakfasts delivered. Everything looked outrageously good.

When my breakfast arrived, it looked good. On the plate were two eggs benedict, a good sized portion of roasted potatoes, and some melon slices. I nibbled a potato. It was cooked to perfection. And then I tasted the eggs benedict.

I’ve had eggs benedict in a lot of places — including a lot of fancy and expensive hotel restaurants. But these eggs benedict were the best I’d ever had in my life. It may have been the fact that the eggs were cooked perfectly — whites cooked, yolks still runny. Or the fact that the english muffins beneath them were fresh and not over-toasted. But it was probably because the hollandaise sauce was light and airy and obviously freshly prepared from scratch — not some thick yellow crap from a mix.

You like eggs benedict? Go on out to the Paradise Cove Cafe in Malibu and get some.

I was just finishing up my breakfast when a man about my age came in with two elderly ladies. They got a table by the window near where I was sitting. I watched them, trying not to look obvious about it, recognizing something about them. It came to me slowly. He was the grandson taking his grandmother and her friend out to breakfast.

They reminded me so much of all the times I’d taken my grandmother out to breakfast. This may have been because the woman had the same New York accent my grandmother had. She also spoke rather loudly, had trouble hearing her grandson, and asked the waiter all kinds of questions. She was concerned about whether she’d have to pay for a refill of her “mocha” — a simple mix of coffee and hot chocolate prepared by the waiter. She praised the waiter extensively about how well he’d prepared that mocha for her. The other woman was quieter but seemed to have the same accent. The grandson was attentive but, on more than one occasion, obviously embarrassed.

I knew exactly how he felt.

Before I left, I got up to say hello to them. I discovered that the women were from the Bronx — the same area as my grandmother. The quiet woman was the grandmother’s sister. She complemented me on the way my blue earrings made my eyes look bluer. I could easily have chatted with them all day.

Up the CoastAfterwards, I went outside and took a walk on the pier. I took a photo looking up the coast (shown here) and another looking down the coast (shown below). Amazing that these two photos were taken only moments apart, isn’t it? But the weather was variable and moving quickly. A huge storm front was moving into southern California that would dump rain on the low elevations and snow on the higher ones.

Paradise Cove and places like it are part of the reason I like to travel alone. When you’re traveling with companions, every stop has to be debated and measured. No one ever wants to say, “Let’s stop here and check it out,” because no one wants to be responsible if the place turns out to be rat hole. As a result, opportunities to visit interesting places are missed. Instead, a trip is a long string of predetermined “must see” places, visited one after another with few spontaneous stops along the way.

Down the CoastThere was magic at the Paradise Cove Cafe — at least for me that morning. If I’d been with someone else — someone anxious to eat breakfast before starting the drive or satisfied with a chain restaurant for a meal — I would have missed that magic.

I also would have missed out on photo opportunities. When I’m on the road by myself, I stop more often to look at what’s around me and, if I can, take pictures. On this particular Saturday, all I had with me was my little Nikon CoolPix point-and-shoot, but I put it to good use. The weather was a mixture of thick clouds and blue sky. It was the kind of place and day that calls out to photographers. The photos I’m able to include with this blog entry will help me remember this day. (I even took a stealth photo of the grandson/grandmother/aunt outing with my Treo, although I won’t publish it here.)

Anyway, I walked back to my rental car, fired it up, and paid my $3 parking fee on the way out. It had been well worth the money.

Keeping Busy on the Left Coast

Where I’ve been for the past few days.

On Sunday, May 20, Mike and I climbed aboard Zero-Mike-Lima for a flight to the Los Angeles area. (It was a relatively uneventful flight and, if I find time, I will bore you with the details in another blog post.) We landed at Torrance Airport, where we had business to do, and took a cab to LAX, where we rented a car for the week. Zero-Mike-Lima is sitting at the ramp in Torrance, right in front of the Robinson Helicopter factory, waiting for our flight back to Wickenburg on Sunday.

We came out here primarily to take the Robinson Factory Safety Course, a 3-1/2 day course designed to educate helicopter pilots about how accidents occur — and how they can be prevented. This was my third time at the course and Mike’s first. I’ll probably be writing more about it in another blog post because I really think it’s worth covering in some detail.

We’ve been on the go almost since arriving in the area. In fact, other than sleep at night, the only rest we had was right after checking into our hotel in Torrance on Sunday.

On Sunday night, we went down to the Redondo Beach pier for a seafood dinner.

Monday, we were in class from 8 AM to 4 PM. Then we zipped into Los Angeles for a walk around the Farmer’s Market and Grove shopping center.

Tuesday, class from 8 AM to 4 PM. Then, after a quick walk around a mall to pick up a few things, we headed back into Los Angeles for dinner and some shows at The Magic Castle with my friend (and fellow author) Deb Shadowitz. We got in to our hotel at 1 AM.

Wednesday, class from 8 AM to 4 PM. Then we hopped in the car and headed south along the coast, ending up in San Clemente for a visit with our friend (and fellow helicopter pilot) Jim Wurth.

Thursday, class from 8 AM to 11 AM. Then, after a quick trip to the Verizon Wireless store for some bad news, we headed back to the Robinson factory for lunch and to wait for Mike’s flight. (Mine was on Tuesday, during class.) Then it was back in the car for a drive up the coast, with a quick stop in Venice, to our new hotel in Malibu.

As you can see, we’ve been pretty much on the go since Sunday morning. Actually, it’s been since Saturday morning, when we gave helicopter rides at Yarnell Daze.

So I haven’t had any time to write in my blog.

imageIt’s Friday morning and, as usual, I was up at about 5:30 AM. Our hotel is weird. It was probably an old hotel that was recently gutted and renovated. Our room has nice (fake) hardwood floors, clean white walls, and a king-sized bed. But not much else. Really. There’s no dresser, no chairs (other than on the little balcony), no table, no sofa. There are two night tables and one lamp. No clock. The TV is a 17 or 19 inch flat screen, mounted on the wall. There’s a 3 cubic foot refrigerator and a wire clothes rack on wheels as a closet. The place is trying to be “trendy minimalistic,” and although the effect is pleasant, it isn’t comfortable. We have views of the ocean from our windows, but no access to the beach. And the two lanes (in each direction) of the Pacific Coast Highway run right past the place. Cars, trucks, and motorcycles drive by throughout the day and night.

There’s Internet access via an unsecured network named “default,” but to get connected, you have to stand in a certain place in the room with your computer on the windowsill. I’ll probably use that to publish this entry.

This is the part of the trip I’ve been looking forward to: the part where Mike promised we’d just “take it easy.” We both expected this place to be on the ocean with access to the beach, so we’re very disappointed (to say the least). We’ll probably find another place later today. In my mind, “take it easy” means to relax in a comfortable place, read, write, or just chat. It doesn’t mean hopping in the car and driving all over the place. I know he’s not going to want to hang out here. I probably won’t either. So I’m not sure when I’ll find time to write again.

Stay tuned. More to come.

[composed in a hotel room in Malibu, CA with ecto]

More on Twitter

Frivolous and a waste of time, but kind of cool, too.

According to Wikipedia, Twitter is

a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send “updates” (text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) via SMS, instant messaging, the Twitter website, or an application such as Twitterrific.

Some More Details

Here’s how it works.

You join Twitter by signing up for a free membership.

You can then use the Twitter Web site, an application such as Twitterific (Mac OS only; there must be something out there for Windows users), a Dashboard Widget such as Twitterlex or Twidget (Mac OS only), SMS, or instant messaging to compose a 140-character-or-less mini blog post — referred to as a tweet — and post it to the Twitter service.

Your tweet goes into the Twitter public timeline (shown below), a constantly updated listing of recent tweets that changes so frequently, you probably won’t see your tweet appear because by the time you refresh the page, 20 or 30 other Twitter users have posted their tweets, thus pushing yours off the page. Much of what does appear is pretty boring. Some of it is clearly promotional or self-promotional. Some of it is in languages other than English.) And, of course, there’s the usual low-level chat mentality of posting nonsense apparently in an effort to fill bandwidth with inane chatter.

The Twitter Public Timeline

So, in short, Twitter enables you to broadcast, to the world, what you’re doing at that very moment or, if you’re not doing anything worth talking about, whatever message you want to broadcast. But very few people are likely to see it, so it’s a lot like shouting out of a helicopter window while flying over the Pacific Ocean — pretty much a waste of communication effort.

Follow the Tweets of your Friends

TwitterificFortunately, there is a way to weed out the stuff you don’t want to see and to concentrate on the stuff you do want to see. Just create a network of “friends” and people you “follow.” As you find other Twitter members you’re interested in, you add them as friends. Then, when you view your Twitter home page or use an application like Twitterific (shown here) to keep up to date, you only see the tweets from the people you care about.

My only problem is, either the people I care about don’t use Twitter or, if they do, I don’t know their Twitter User IDs so I can’t add them as friends. This is probably because I’m not hip — a situation I’m quite used to, since I’ve been dealing with it my entire life.

Put Your Tweets on Your Blog or Site

Twitter BadgeA cool feature of Twitter is the ability to add a Twitter badge to your Web site or blog. You can see my Twitter badge (if it’s still online when you read this) in the navigation bar on the Home page of my Web site. Here’s a screen shot of it, just in case I removed it. (I’m so fickle about features on my site.)

You can modify the color of the badge, but not much else. I think the badge is too big for the 140 characters allowed, given the microscopic font size. I was unable to tweak it for the appearance I wanted. What’s nice is that it includes a link to my Twitter page for people who care about me to follow me. I don’t think anyone has yet. That doesn’t surprise me, given that I’m not hip.

By the way, adding the badge to your site is pretty easy. Follow the link to Badges, set options as desired, then copy the resulting code and paste it into your site or blog where you want it to appear. It automatically shows your most recent tweet when the page is loaded.

Similar Services

I first heard about Twitter on the TWiT (no relation) podcast. (TWiT is short for This Week in Tech and it’s hosted by Leo Laporte. Since raving about it on a show, Leo has since switched to rival service Jaiku. I don’t know anything about Jaiku (yet) and am too busy today to explore it. But you can expect an article about it in the future.

Who knows? It might be a better solution for folks with hipness deficiencies.

Looking for other Twitters

If you’re a regular reader of this blog and maintain a Twit account, I welcome you to promote it in the comments for this site. I’ll check out your tweets and may add you to my list of “friends.” (Whoo-hoo!)

Would also be interested in reading your impressions of the Twitter service or competing services. Use the Comments link.

New Year’s Weekend

How We Celebrated the New Year.

After several painfully boring New Year’s Eves spent in Wickenburg and one relatively interesting one spent in Prescott, we decided we wanted a more memorable New Year’s Eve.

So we left town.

We stuffed the trunk of my Honda S2000 with overnight bags, dress clothes, and two bottles of champagne, wedged ourselves into the passenger seats, buckled up, put the top down, and sped off to the west on Friday morning.

We went to La Jolla, CA, which is just north of San Diego. We booked a room at the Sea Lodge at La Jolla Shores. Our room featured a huge sliding glass door and private balcony that faced the ocean. All day long, we could watch the waves and the people and birds on the beach. We could listen to the rhythm of the ocean waves. We could watch the weather move in and the kayakers move out and the surfers just float around, waiting for the perfect wave.

On New Year’s Eve, we had reservations for the early seating at Nine Ten, the restaurant in La Jolla’s Grand Colonial Hotel. We chose dinner with a wine pairing. (For those of you who don’t know what that means, each course is served with a different wine that has been selected by someone knowledgeable about wines and foods.) Four courses, four wines. The food was exquisite. I had chestnut soup, sea bass, venison, and a chocolate desert. Everything was both beautifully prepared and delicious. It was the kind of meal you’d couldn’t get within 40 miles of Wickenburg. And I enjoyed every bite of it.

After dinner, we changed into regular clothes and went for a walk on the beach. It was a nice night and there were very few people out and about. Then we had some champagne on our balcony and listened to the waves to welcome in the new year.

On Saturday, New Year’s Day, we drove into San Diego. We spent some time walking around the popular Gaslight Quarter, which reeked of beer from the previous night’s celebrations. Most shops and restaurants were closed; we got there too early. We walked a total of about 20 blocks and saw three Starbucks coffee shops. In all three instances, the Starbucks had been placed near an existing coffee shop. I realized that Starbucks is trying to put all the other coffee shops out of business. This was a revelation to me. We went into one of those little coffee shops for some latte. It was quaint and had lots of character — much nicer than the cookie-cutter design of a Starbucks. And the person who took my order actually made my coffee — imagine that! I wondered how long the place would survive with Starbucks right across the street. So I decided then and there that I would no longer buy coffee (or anything else) in a Starbucks. I’d like to see some little coffee shop put a Starbucks shop out of business and I’ll do my part to help make it happen.

We drove over the big bridge to Coronado Island. We walked around the east side of the island for a while, admiring the view of San Diego, then headed west to the Coronado Hotel. I got an excellent parking spot on the street near the hotel entrance, saving the $5 per hour parking fee I’d have to pay to park on the hotel’s parking lot. We walked around the hotel for a while and I bought a gift for Lorna who, with John, was housesitting for us. The Coronado Hotel is a wonderful historic landmark that is magnificently maintained. We had lunch outdoors in the sunshine: sea bass prepared two different ways. Then a long walk around the town in search of just the right desert. We found a coffee/pastry shop (with a Starbucks right next door — the nerve!) but didn’t find just the right bit of chocolate to satisfy my after-lunch craving. We left town heading south on the long causeway that ends just three miles north of the Mexican border, then headed back north.

Our last stop for the day was Cabrillo National Monument, where the original Point Loma lighthouse stands on a hill overlooking the San Diego Bay. Magnificent views all around. I took lots of pictures and used the movie feature of my camera to create a panoramic movie of the bay and city beyond.

By this time, it was late afternoon and the warm sunshine we’d been enjoying all day was fading behind thin clouds on the horizon. We headed back to La Jolla Shores for a rest before dinner. We had dinner in La Jolla, at a place called Roppongi. The restaurant featured “Asian fusion” food. We ordered five different tapas dishes, all excellent, and a sake sampler. More food you can’t get at home.

On Sunday, we checked out early and headed back down to San Diego’s Balboa Park. Many people know the park as the home of the San Diego Zoo, but the park also features many museums. We visited the Air and Space Museum there, which was surprisingly good. There were many airplanes and spacecraft on display, including the Apollo 9 Space Capsule and an actual GPS satellite. Exhibits were arranged historically, with early aviation exhibits near the entrance of the building and space exhibits near the exit. The building is round, so you walk in a circle to see all of the exhibits. A courtyard in the middle of the building has a glass ceiling and, since the building is in the flight path for San Diego Airport, jets fly right over the roof just a few thousand feet up. It reminded Mike of growing up in Flushing, NY, in the flight path for La Guardia.

Lunch was at Ole Madrid, a restaurant in the Gaslight Quarter that was supposed to offer Sunday Brunch. They called it brunch, but it wasn’t the buffet style meal we expected. Instead, we ordered tapas from a menu. Everything was good.

We left the city soon after that and headed east on I-8. We made one stop: in the town of Alpine where there’s an Indian Casino and large outlet mall. The mall was beautifully designed and landscaped with lots of statues, fountains, and vegetation. It was a pleasure to walk through it. After picking up a few things we can’t get in Wickenburg, we hit the road again. The day was cloudy and we drove with the top up to keep warm. (We’d had the top down all weekend long.) After coming through the mountains on I-8, we turned off, following the road toward Mexicali. The drive along the border was mildly interesting — certainly more interesting than the drive along I-8. We joined up with I-8 just west of the sand dunes and followed that to Yuma. Then 95 to Quartzsite, I-10 to SR 60, and SR 60 to Wickenburg. We got in just after 8 PM.

It had been a nice trip away, made possible, in part, by our friends John and Lorna, who stayed at our house and watched the menagerie (Alex the Bird, Jack the Dog, Jake and Cherokee (horses), and the chickens).

Now it’s back to reality in Wickenburg.