Month: June 2015

What Happens in Vegas . . .


My rider flew down the steps, his body taught and lanky, bicep muscles poking out from below the sleeves of his T-shirt.

Obviously it wasn’t Marge, the name on the Uber ping.

He slid into the shotgun seat and pulled a cold bottle of Bud Light from his backpack.

My best mother voice: “You’re not going to open that, are you?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, dearie. Spoil such a lovely lovely lovely Uber lady. Why would I? See, it’s between me legs, it is. Safe and sound. Why would you worry?”

Oh, there were so many ways to answer that, but I never got the chance.

“Name’s Kai, from Sydney. You know, Sidney? Of course you do. I’m on a quest, my dear, a quest to capture the woman of my dreams.”

Said woman was 25 miles north of the coast, deep within the bowels of Coto de Caza, through the portals of Aliso Viejo. An address on Shady Hollow Lane.

“Shady Hollow Lane, straight out of Brothers Grimm, I say. Ever heard of it, Shady Lane? My princess, in a tower, and me a professional personal trainer. It was fate, that I would train to gain the strength to climb to rescue her. Did I tell you I’m an actor? People don’t believe me, but I’m rather famous in Australia. Name’s Kai. My day job, my day job’s a personal trainer.”

He took a breath. Before I could ask him how his name was spelled, or what TV shows he’s been on ‘enough so that the folks don’t leave me alone in the streets of Sydney’, he started speaking again. Later, I Googled “Australian Actor Kai”. Nothing. A couple of references to a TV series from the 1999, so unless he had discovered the fountain of youth, my passenger was a bit south of the truth.

GPS found Shady Hollow. As I turned the corner, I asked him where he had met this princess, the woman of his dreams, the one he was going to marry.

“Las Vegas. Three days ago. Did I tell you she’s the most beautiful woman in the world?”

I stopped the car at the bottom of the steps. He peered up, through the thick bougainvillea, as if tuning his X-ray vision.

He slowly opened the car door, inhaled deeply, as if he were about to dive to the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef, then turned back toward me and raised the beer bottle into the air. A toast.

“Here’s to you, Uber lady. G’day, g’day,”

He took the steps two at a time, up to the condo’s front door. Like a helicopter parent lingering outside the gym after delivering her son to the prom, I longed to stay, become that fly on the wall [or moth in the bougainvillea] to see what would happen, but my next Uber pinged.  I had another fare.

I like to imagine that Kai and his princess flew back to Sydney, their bottles of Bud Light gently vibrating side by side, in synch with the plane’s jet engines.

Maybe once, just once, what happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas.


My Uber fare’s house was about as far up you can get in San Clemente. He emerged from the dusk of his three-car garage and injected himself into the front seat. He was a massive presence of a man.

“Do you want me to adjust the seat?” I didn’t know how he was going to fit, without stuffing his knees into the glove compartment [Is it still called the ‘glove compartment? If so, why?]

“Nope. We’re going to the Volkswagen dealership, San Juan Capistrano, please.”

“Picking up a new car?” I see the glass half full. Why open the door to mechanical issues?

“Nope. My old Porsche. I left it there last night. Then, I’m picking my wife up from John Wayne Airport. And, I’m surprising her.”

Before I could answer, he thrust his iPhone6 up in front of me, pointing to the screen.

The image was a tricked out Volkswagen Convertible, draped with a red bow that spread across its snout. It looked like that surprise English sheepdog you might find in the driveway on Christmas morning.

“Wow, that’s great.”

“Yup. It makes up for 15 years of abuse.”

Unsettling words to be heard within the close confines of a car, with a stranger.


“I sold her Volkswagen Beetle ten years ago and gave her a Porsche. She has never stopped telling me how I abused her – ripping her preferred vehicle away from her. She has a thing for Volkswagens.”

One man’s abuse is another woman’s unwanted Porsche. I should be so lucky.

Growing Words

A lot has happened, and not happened, between our first days of horticulture in May, and this day in mid-June. There were bubbles of  joy when the first cucumber leaves appeared above the mulch, like sharp points of green light.

Encouraged, I sowed a second round of seeds between wet paper towels, to give them a head start. I waited one week, then peeked. There were four minuscule shoots.

My joy was short-lived. Like wild baby animal orphan babies who bond with unrelated species, the shoots had imbedded themselves into the paper towels. I tried to unhook one little one after another, but they would not let go.

All right, Mother Nature. Have it your way. I planted the seedlings in the mulch, still attached to their paper placentas. Only one has survived, far below the leaves of his siblings, plants that have started to reach for the trellis I placed in the soil, five minutes after I planted the seeds.

A trellis rising above mounds of ungerminated seeds is the epitome of hope. The cukes are headed upward!

Three and a half weeks after we planted, the back patio teems with hope. Leaves the size of lily pads hover over struggling dill and chives. The carrots are in dire need of culling, but I dare not touch them until the little farmer who left on a trip, returns to choose which stalk to rip from the earth so that the rest may grow.

A garden is hope for the future. A garden is also a cruel place. Every two weeks I enlist an army of ladybugs and charge them with doing unladylike chores – devouring the aphids that chew on the leaves. Carnivorous snails that attack leaf eating snails. The caterpillars? The tower of tomato plants could be under siege from a host of deadly hosts tomato fruit worm, potato aphid, stink bug, leaffooted bug, hornworm, silver leaf whitefly.

So far, no sign of the enemy. Or, Peter Rabbit.

I would knock on some dogwood. Alas, none grow here.

How My Inner Voice Cost Me $125


The party on Saturday was in the cul de sac, so I can’t call it a block party. It had all the trappings of the suburban let-the-kids-play-in-the-street-while-parents-drink-until-silly ‘block party.’

By seven, the group was heading toward ‘silly’ at light speed. I decided to try my first Uber service after dark. Six minutes after I was online, a ping and fare, just two blocks down the hill.

“Would you mind taking me to a recording studio, in Los Angeles?”

Of course not. Off we went. Up through Carson, where my fare had to stop at a Panera Bread to visit the lady’s room. 30 minutes later, I dropped her off at a little studio just off the Golden State Freeway.

Saturday night. Los Angeles. Lots of fares, right? My little inner gremlin crawled out from his bunker and whispered “What are you doing? Get back home. You don’t know the roads, what would happen if you picked up a gang member from Boyle Heights?

I raced to the freeway and was almost back to the OC when my voice of reason took over.

“Do gang members used Uber? If so, go ahead, name one.”

It was late. Even though I was in Orange County, I’d hit the besotted hours, 10 pm to 2 pm.

The voice – “a la Jack Nicholson’s The Shining “Here’s Johnny”  had cost me $140.