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  • Laguna Beach's Pageant of the Masters is 90 Years Old

    On a cool summer evening after attending an exhibition at the Laguna Art Museum, my artist daughter and I walked the serene streets of Laguna Village. A grace to this town stood out from the atmosphere of other Southern California beach towns: art galleries on just about every block, a 1923 Craftsman home turned popular dining spot, and down the street romantic Hotel Laguna on the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. During its heyday, Hollywood stars escaped to this once-secluded arts colony. Then we approached the Irvine Bowl amphitheater on Laguna Canyon Road. The woodsy open-air venue is home to world-famous Pageant of the Masters, the mesmerizing internationally renowned performance and visual arts production of tableaux vivants (French for living pictures), the ancient art form of people imitating art. In 1933 the pageant began as a tiny makeshift stage the size of two phone booths. It was the brainchild of the isolated town’s creative inhabitants to help draw visitors to Laguna’s second Festival of Arts that showcased the works of local artists but was off the beaten path. That community effort put Laguna on the tourist map. Ninety seasons later the event has reigned as the heart of the eight-week long festival held from July through August or early September each year. Only two events in history cancelled the pageant – World War II and the COVID 19 pandemic. After the sun goes down, the stage comes to life, literally, under starry skies with replicas of classical masterpieces and contemporary works of art. Don’t blink. Look closely to spot which figures in a sculpture or painted into the canvas are masterful cast members – real people -- holding still as can be. Dan Duling, a Los Angeles resident and the pageant’s scriptwriter since 1981, is a testament to the majesty and magic that still holds him captive. He recalled the first time he stepped foot inside the 2,600-seat venue. “Built into a small canyon just blocks from the beach, its intimate setting with greenery all around quickly became my favorite outdoor venue,” he said, making it worth his commute to Orange County. Duling continued as scriptwriter when Diane Challis took over the reins as pageant director in 1996. Both came from lives in the theater. “With similar aesthetic sensibilities of what the show can be,” said Duling, “… we have been able to transform it into as much a theatrical show as possible without being disrespectful to the art or unfaithful to the traditions of tableaux vivants.” Duling and Challis strive to make the show as inclusive as possible in order to reach a large and diverse audience. “We believe that art has something for everyone at every age,” Duling said. “The show is a great date night, but it’s also a wonderful place for grandparents to bring their grandchildren.” Guests are treated to an entertaining and educational evening of high art, and no two shows are the same. Last year’s theme, “Wonderful World,” was a reminder that “Art in every culture expresses our common humanity.” From France, the Netherlands, Greece and Copenhagen to Egypt, China, Thailand, Japan, Africa, and more, adults and young guests in the audience took a journey around the globe by way of great masterpieces: “Le Pont-Neuf,” “Figure Drinking in a Courtyard,” “Porch of the Maidens,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Day of the Dead,” “Dancing Girls of Cairo,” “Xi’an Warriors,” “Guardians of the Temple,” “Cherry Blossom Viewing,” and “Makishi Dancers of Zimbabwe” figurines. While the pageant theme changes each season, one tableau ends the show every year: “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. In our digital age of online entertainment, the appeal and success of this live event is extraordinary and could never be achieved without the dedication of hundreds of volunteers (including generations of families) who return year after year. They are the “lifeblood, heart and soul” of the pageant -- from cast members to costume and headpiece designers to make up artists, backstage assistants and restaurant services. No corners are cut, explained Duling. Narration of the program is live, not recorded. So is the original score performed by a 28-piece professional orchestra. Before curtain call, the juried summer Art Show, among the country’s oldest and most recognized fine art events, takes place outside the amphitheater doors. From paintings, sculpture and jewelry to glass, ceramics, and furniture pieces along with live music, a wine bar, and plenty of tables for casual dining and relaxing. The Junior Art Exhibit, a program of the Festival of Arts, showcases the exceptional talent of local student artists. At this time of year, out of towners and locals attending the pageant make a vacation or stay-cay out of their visit to Laguna, where rustic canyon meets the beach. While poking around the village’s boutique shops and art galleries, lunching at legendary Greeter’s Corner Restaurant on the beach with a view of Laguna’s historic lifeguard stand and grabbing a cappuccino at a neighborhood coffee shop, it wasn’t unusual to hear someone say, “I’m here for the pageant.” The theme for this year’s pageant is “Art Colony: In the Company of Artists,” a celebration of artists embracing or creating communities inspired by Laguna’s pioneering artists who gave birth to the Pageant of the Masters – the only one in the world. WHEN YOU GO: The 90th Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters takes place July 7 – September 1, 2023. To reserve tickets or for general information: For information about visiting and lodging in Laguna: PUBLISHED STORY ON CREATORS.COM:

  • March 24, 2023: For Uncle Ralph. Rest In Peace.

    A magnificent sunrise appeared this morning. We hear you playing your guitar and singing beautiful canciones! Te queremos. PREVIOUS ENTRY

  • March 20, 2023: Springtime Is Here

    Gorgeous colorful blooms inside our home have lasted over a week. Each day I have felt like the luckiest person in the world to wake up to this uplifting palette. Suddenly I am reminded that today is the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Last Saturday, Jacqueline picked up fresh flowers at the farmers market for a dinner gathering we were hosting. While Louie and I worked in the kitchen, she did her magic “planting” the flowers around the house rummaging through the cupboards finding vessels of all shapes and sizes. I never imagined that flowers on top of the water cooler could transform the mud room. Or a cluttered corner on the kitchen counter – or that there is space on the windowsill for a flower vase. Last year when our friends hosted dinner, we brought our young Paloma, an English Cream Golden Retriever, who couldn’t wait to wrestle with Gus, a Labrador Retriever. With a stern bark he instantly schooled Paloma that he is an old guy who can’t play like a puppy. Paloma instantly heeded the call and entertained herself quietly the rest of the night by exploring every inch of their backyard on her own. This time around they remembered each other like old friends. Spring is also the onset for Daylight Savings Time. Before the night was over, my friend reminded me to turn the clocks forward. After losing an hour of sleep, we all had a hard time waking up the next morning. Including Paloma. PREVIOUS ENTRY NEXT ENTRY

  • February 5, 2023: Crispy Edges, Please

    The other day Chef Louie was making a fried egg for me…then took a business phone call. Oops. It was a bit overcooked. But I LOVE crispy edges and thought it was gorgeous. I picked it up and ate it like a soft taco. Perfection! Chef is onto something. PREVIOUS ENTRY NEXT ENTRY

  • A Reset In Cancun

    When I arrived in Cancun, Mexico’s subtropical paradise on the Yucatan Peninsula, I thought my hotel looked familiar. Sure enough, near the glistening pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea was the very spot where I bought a cloisonne bracelet back in the 1990s while on a business trip with my husband. A lasting memory was the spell of Cancun’s turquoise waters. “Let’s go snorkeling!” I remember saying, even though I had never snorkeled before. In his motorboat, our guide took us to deeper waters where I bobbed gleefully in the buoyant saltwater. But when the guys dove down into the coral reef leaving me alone, panic got the best of me. It took time to recover from that misadventure, but my recent visit to Cancun turned into a reacquainting in more ways than one. In the 1960s Cancun in the state of Quintana Roo was a narrow 14-mile long deserted island of white sand dunes. It is shaped like the figure 7, the symbol of perfection and eternal life. No wonder the Mexican government’s search stopped here while on the hunt for a magical place that would attract tourism to Mexico. By 1970 the building of the planned city of Cancun began, and 1974 welcomed the opening of its international airport. Cancun became the gateway to some of the most significant ruins in the Yucatan -- such as the ancient city of Chichen Itza -- and is today a major economic engine for the country. This back story explained the miles of high-rise resorts lining Kulkucan Boulevard aka the Hotel Zone. On our way from the airport, my friendly driver, Matteo, talked about the Yucatan’s ancient Maya civilization and shared that he is Maya. “The Mayan language is like Chinese, he said,” and spoke a few words for me. Short tonal sounds were evidence of the two cultures that intersected some five thousand years ago. An off-season visit here was the antidote to life in the city and dispelled Cancun’s “spring break” reputation. That’s when college students descend on the Caribbean mecca, and the label seems to stick year-round. Like déjà vu, the mesmerizing Caribbean teased me as I looked out from the balcony of my seventh-floor guest room. In the distance was Isla Mujeres or Island of Women that was inhabited by the indigenous Maya long before the birth of Cancun. I was staying at the point of “the 7,” a prime (and quieter) location in the northern half of the Hotel Zone. Here waves are kind, and the softest sand cuddled my toes while I dined barefoot at Nah K’aax, the hotel’s romantic Tulum-style restaurant on the beach. What was meant to be a quick dinner on my first day became a two-hour affair while I munched on Asian-fusion tapas, chatted with friendly staff, and listened to relaxing tunes played by a deejay stationed on the sand between my table and the darkness of the sea. This was the Cancun I was looking for. The hotel I remembered from the ‘90s was even more beautiful. An airy lobby with a skylight four stories above, sparkling marble, draping vines, palm trees, a sunken “patio,” and scattered café tables felt like the outdoors. It took no time to embrace the liberating all-inclusive rhythm of this enormous 602-room property. Guests here never reach for their wallets to pay for activities, entertainment, drinks, and meals at its eight-plus restaurants ranging from casual to fine dining, because these costs are included in their room rates. Taking it to the next level, I found added respite in the Infinite Club where I checked in on the 11th floor. Dramatic views of the Caribbean and the massive Nichupte Lagoon are the backdrops for scrumptious continental breakfast in the mornings and delicious bites in the afternoons as well as cocktails, coffee and tea. Special perks include (among others) soothing hydrotherapy at its internationally acclaimed Gem Spa, and for parents with young guests, the ginormous Kidz Club made me wish that I had a little one again. An extraordinary dining experience was The Table. In a private room with a wraparound video screen surrounding a long table, fellow guests and I stepped into a high-tech cultural odyssey. Over a curated multi-course dinner, Mexico’s timeline came to life through video mapping, storytelling, performers, and live indigenous music. Watching a prehistoric reptile saunter across my dinner plate was magical. Alberto Gurrola, managing director of Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun, shared that The Table is among the first dining events of this kind in the world. “Our hope is that each guest leaves the experience with a deeper understanding of Mexico’s celebrated history.” For a dose of authentic Mexico, a ferry ride to Isla Mujeres (the hotel has its own dock and ferry tickets are complimentary for Infinite Club members) treated me to the colors and laid-back mood of local island life. Here, water sports, shops and cafes are aplenty and golf carts are the mode of transport for visitors. “Isla” is as popular as Cancun minus miles of high-rise resorts. Back at the hotel I swam laps in the inviting, blue-tiled pool. This was also my moment to face the blunder of my aforesaid misadventure. Meandering through lush gardens, I trekked to the red chaise lounges -- the private beach for Infinite Club members. After an attendant spread a fresh towel on my chair and set down a bucket of juices, I stretched out while analyzing the body of water in front of me. Before long, I walked deep into the waters letting the warmth of the sea embrace me -- and treaded happy as can be. IF YOU GO: Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun Spa Resort (Stand Alone Website): Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun: Mexican Caribbean Tourism: PUBLISHED STORY ON CREATORS.COM:

  • December 29, 2022: Happy Holidays

    Happy Holidays and end-of-year greetings to you! From the bottom of my heart, I hope that you and those dear to you are healthy and well and have made it through 2022 without major incident. But if you were faced with more difficulties than you bargained for, I hope your year is closing on a brighter note. To continuing and new subscribers, as well as those who don’t subscribe (but I hope will), I thank you immensely for tuning into my website’s travel, food, and drink stories; photo essays (new this year); and my Diary Column musings that I passionately write and share with you. I embrace the “likes” and fun comments of those who relate to the sentiments of my tales. A lovely follower told me that she looks forward to reading my stories before going to bed. Thank you, Jackie. If my efforts help you to unwind, it has been my humble pleasure. Many thanks also for your patience when I have been MIA (missing in action) for short stretches between posts. My days manage to get away from me, too! It has been almost three years since I launched my site at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic -- March 13, 2020. Soon after, life-saving medical advances clamped down on the rise of infectious cases and hospitalizations. And most everyone did their part wearing face masks to help mitigate spread of the virus. As case numbers went down, our hopes for an end to the pandemic soared. I wish I could say we are out of the woods, but that thought has been dashed with the flu and RSV thrown into this winter’ mix. Most people are no longer wearing masks, cases are rising again, and hospital wards are maxing out. Indeed, a lot has changed, a lot has stayed the same, and COVID is here to stay. Just as my family was preparing to spend this Christmas Eve with relatives in San Clemente by the beach, we decided to test for the virus the day before to be sure all is clear. We had evaded catching COVID for almost three years. Louie did, however, have what appeared to be an innocent cough. I tested negative. But not Louie. We stared down at the test tray and couldn’t believe two stripes were staring back at us. “It” finally got him. How he got it, we will never know for sure. But on a recent morning Louie, who usually wears a mask when he walks Paloma, left home without it. He stepped into our local Starbucks to pick up the espresso that I had ordered for him on my Starbucks app. It was crowded with holiday goers, and none were wearing masks. He recalled a man standing nearby sneezing without covering his mouth. Yuk. After a second positive test, we faced the music that we would not be celebrating Christmas as a group. So, we put on our big boy and big girl undies. I immediately called our doctor who prescribed Paxlovid, the wonder med for people “old” like us. Thankfully, Louie’s only symptom was a mild cough. No scratchy throat, no congestion, no fever, no fatigue. In fact, he was so energetic, he cooked our Christmas meal – heavenly albondigas soup (he double checked that the virus is not transmissible through food). It was an odd and quiet Christmas Day. No kiss under the mistletoe. And like trying to dance together, it was a challenge adapting to our new reality in our 1,000 square-foot home with a narrow hallway and one bathroom. Louie was better at being paranoid than I was because he didn’t want me to catch it. “Get away!” he would tell me politely through his mask as we tried to tango around the house without touching. He sanitized everything he put his hands on. And following doctor’s orders to rest, drink lots of liquids and to take Paxlovid for five days, Louie tested negative on the fourth day and remains negative. We can’t be more grateful for his fast recovery, especially because each winter Louie falls victim to the flu that wreaks havoc on his respiratory system. Since Christmas, I have heard one person after another tell me that they or someone dear to them has the virus. Please, let’s not let down our guard. Mask up. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. And cover your mouth when you sneeze. Gracias a Dios, we will be able to welcome the New Year as a family. HAPPY NEW YEAR, MY FRIENDS. LET’S MAKE 2023 A HEALTHY ONE! Athena PREVIOUS ENTRY NEXT ENTRY

  • December 11, 2022: Aisle or Window?

    When you fly, do you prefer the aisle seat or window seat? When I was, uh, younger, I loved sitting at the window watching the world from above. Older and wiser now, I abide by my late mother’s sound advice: “The fastest way from A to B is a straight line.” Indeed, an aisle seat to the lavatory is the only way to endure a long flight. But on a recent trip to Cancun, Mexico, I got stuck with a window seat. When the going gets tough, the tough hangs in there. This inconvenient seat assignment, though, was instantly tossed out the window the moment the engines roared, followed by the exhilaration of lift off. While fellow passengers gazed into their smartphones and laptops, watched movies, or took a snooze, I pressed my Google Pixel against the window as we took flight over the sparkling Pacific Ocean and suburbia along Southern California’s coast. Before reaching the planned city of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula (in the state of Quintana Roo), our descent from the clouds opened to the Caribbean Sea and a coastline dense with jungles. It had been a long time since my last visit to Cancun. Story coming soon. PREVIOUS ENTRY NEXT ENTRY

  • November 30, 2022: 'Tis The Season, Capture The Spirit, Spread Kindness, Spread Joy

    There’s something special about small town spirit. The Saturday after Thanksgiving Sierra Madre switched on the holiday lights to jumpstart this special time of year. Walks into town are a lot more colorful now. PREVIOUS ENTRY NEXT ENTRY

  • November 16, 2022: What's For Dinner?

    The unknown is always exciting, especially when it comes to food. Our dinners are usually planned on the fly. Last week Chef Louie started grabbing things from the fridge: a carton of organic eggs, fresh spinach, leftover refried beans from taquito take-out night a few days before, salsa from the same take-out dinner that he mixed with the ground veal that we made for tacos a few days before the taquitos. Our romantic dinner beautifully came together with our favorite wines from Tablas Creek and Lone Madrone. Whether simple or elaborate, meals are the best when they are made with love! PREVIOUS ENTRY NEXT ENTRY

  • November 8, 2022



    Have you been following “Invasion of the Scarecrows” in my recent October Instagram posts (@athenalucerotravels)? If so, I hope you are hungry for more that have popped up in front yards and storefronts all over Sierra Madre, California! My posts are just a sampling of the dozens and dozens of scarecrows standing guard throughout this foothill town celebrating the spirit of Halloween that’s just around the corner. If you have not seen the posts, you are not out of luck. Those photos – and a few more – come together in this photo essay. And then some. The history of scarecrows dates to ancient times when farmers around the world constructed decoys in the shape of humans to scare birds away from their crops. Thanks to Sierra Madre’s Creative Arts Group, its 11th Annual Scarecrow Festival is at full throttle honoring this tradition, on another level. Each year local residents, businesses, and organizations sign up to create their own scarecrow – be it scary, funny, friendly, or downright…well, you decide. Then the community has the chance to vote for its favorite. Dozens and dozens of scarecrows lurk throughout this three-square mile foothill village. This year, one hundred and twenty-four are official festival entries. Those not entered in the contest are created by sheer passion. If you are in the mood for all things Halloween -- aka Hallowe’en (All Hallows’ evening), Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve -- look no further than the Creative Arts Group’s website at Here you’ll find the complete list of the entries (some with fun and fascinating stories), their photos, and a map that will lead you to them. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!


    When my husband, Louie, decided to hold off competing in this year’s Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim, the famous 1.5 mile race from Alcatraz Island to the San Francisco shore, I was relieved that he had decided to save the race for next year. He gifted this challenge to himself to celebrate his 70th birthday – his first attempt at racing in open waters. He trains at the Pasadena Aquatic Center in Southern California. But swimming the notoriously cold and strong currents of San Francisco Bay is no joke. Ask anyone who has done the swim. That’s why a prison was built on Alcatraz, I gently reminded my hubby. But we didn’t cancel the trip. Flights and hotel were already booked not to mention family members who were also making the trek to Frisco, northern California’s most cosmopolitan city. With more time and no wetsuit to pack, a drive up the coast was suddenly enticing. We banked our flight tickets to use another time then hit the road. Having our own car gave us freedom on the road, but when construction along the route slowed traffic to a one-lane crawl, we happily surrendered to soothing scenes of the Pacific Ocean splashing onto miles of sandy beaches and in the Central Coast romantic vineyards and agriculture as far as the eye could see. At Pismo Beach, the half-way point, we fortified ourselves for the rest of the ride with homemade vegetable soup at Honeymoon Cafe. Hours later, we left Highway 101 in the rear view mirror as panoramic landscapes segued to a bird’s eye view of the density and diversity of the country’s second richest and most populous large city (after New York City) with over 815,200 inhabitants in the city proper. The Civic Center’s fantastic landscape of monumental buildings – City Hall, the War Memorial Opera House, and Symphony Hall to name a few – reminded me of the magnificent architecture of Europe’s big cities. Checking into our not-so-typical hotel in San Francisco – the private Metropolitan Club on lower Nob Hill – was a rare peek into the women’s club movement during the early 20th century. Established in 1915 as the Woman’s Athletic Club of San Francisco, it was the first of its kind on the West Coast. With eighteen guest rooms, the discreet six-story structure near Union Square models the opulence of an early Renaissance palazzo and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “The Met Club” is among many such private clubs born at the time when today’s major cities were in their infancy. They brought together forward-thinking citizens and public figures to socialize, intellectualize and to share ideas. Most clubs included athletic facilities because the philosophy of those pioneering days was -- and still is today -- the importance of fitness of body and mind. Through our membership with the Los Angeles Athletic Club, a reciprocal program allows us to book guest rooms at similar clubs around the country. And while lodging at most of these clubs are for members only, some -- like ours in Los Angeles -- welcome non-members, too. For the first timers in our group, seeing iconic attractions of the city was a must. In the Russian Hill neighborhood (San Francisco has thirty-six neighborhoods), we held our breath as we inched our way up a steep hill behind a line of cars before taking a vertical dip down the eight hairpin turns of famous Lombard Street known as the world’s crookedest street. And hopping the cable car at the Market Street turnaround in the Financial District was worth the hour wait. We were entertained by street performers, people-watching and witnessing the crew manually push the heavy carriage around on a huge wooden turntable before it could chug its way up and down hilly streets to the wharf. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the country’s last hand-operated cable cars have been part of the city’s transportation system since 1873 and run seven days a week. Fog City is yet another name for San Fran because it’s usually covered by the cloudy gloom. But blue skies were with us when we caught the tail end of the Alcatraz swim race. With Alcatraz Island looming in the distance, kayakers guided the last of the elite swimmers to the beach at Aquatic Park. “I’m inspired!” Louie shouted, grinning ear to ear. A local man happened upon the race while walking his dog. Surprised to see the event, he shared that this is the reason he loves living in San Francisco. “Every day of the week there is something going on!” We slowed the pace and left the city bustle for the quiet village atmosphere of Sausalito across Golden Gate Bridge. This historic whale-fishing village turned World War II shipyard turned tourist spot is a relaxed and friendly houseboat community. Bridgeway Street, the main drag, was lined with shops and restaurants, and a dramatic view of San Francisco’s skyline beckons from across the waters. Back in the city we walked The Embarcadero, the famous street on the waterfront where colorful food stalls, countless shops and glorious aromas floating through the Ferry Building Marketplace woke all our senses. And like the cable cars, it was worth waiting in line for San Francisco’s quintessential clam chowder soup poured into sourdough bowls. Then we discovered what might be the only “cragel” in the world. The deliciously ingenious invention that rhymes with bagel is a divine cross between a croissant and a bagel created at House of Bagels, where authentic New York “beigels” have been baked on stone since 1962. The heavenly hybrid, airy on the inside and crispy on the outside, is as good as it gets – and another San Francisco must. IF YOU GO: PUBLISHED STORY ON CREATORS.COM:

  • October 20, 2022: Sunrises Are For Sharing

    Yours for the taking…in case you missed a sunrise this morning. Thank you again, Paloma, for waking me early to take you out to pee. This morning we caught another one to lift our day! PREVIOUS ENTRY NEXT ENTRY

  • September 20, 2022: Finding Unexpected Paradise

    We love cooking at home. But one recent evening after an unusually tiring week, we didn’t have the energy to whip up dinner. So, we decided to follow through on a restaurant recommendation from our dental hygienist: family-owned Raffi’s Place in Glendale, California, which serves Persian and Middle Eastern cuisine. We usually have dinner late, but this time we arrived at Raffi’s Place early, around 5:00 p.m. before the busy dinner crowd. On this warm summer evening, we were seated at a table for two in the middle of a spacious outdoor patio. The serene setting of tall shady trees and sunlight cascading over awnings and umbrellas enchanted both of us. A few other diners were there, including a man sitting solo at the table positioned closely next to ours. We proceeded to look over the impressive menu but were overwhelmed by so many wonderful selections. We had been introduced to Persian food earlier in the year when our Persian friend invited us to dinner and made exquisite lamb shank and Persian rice. Suddenly, Louie looked up from his menu and glanced over to the nearby gentleman. “Excuse me,” he said nonchalantly, and with what my late mother always called his Mona Lisa smile, “What do you like to order? It’s our first time here…” (There was no doubt he could hear everything we were saying as we discussed one dish after another.) And when it comes to enjoying a meal, there is something I believe wholeheartedly: It’s not just the food that creates a memorable experience. It’s also the company. This was one of those nights. It lasted three hours. This patient man described many of the dishes. But I was anxious to savor lamb shank all over again. Louie settled on traditional beef kebab, saffron rice and roasted tomato and peppers. When my dinner arrived, a plate filled with beautiful Persian rice made with baby lima beans and fresh dill was set in front of me. “Am I supposed to eat all of this?” I asked our new friend incredulously. He smiled and said that it is common to scoop up the rice with pieces of the soft flatbread that was also on the table. “Just eat what you would like.” Then my lamb shank arrived. Oh my. It looked so pristine in an oblong-shaped bowl bathing in its own divine broth. It was exquisite – tender, delicate and full of flavor. Along with the outrageously flavorful basmati rice, I was in heaven. Over wine and our fabulous meals, we continued sharing lovely conversation with, I shall call him, our Persian culture mentor. And then some. One topic led to another and one hour led to the next. In the most extraordinary way, we felt transported. Before we knew it, the huge patio was packed with families, couples, and groups celebrating something special. And it was a weeknight! We finally finished our feast, but it was not the end. Our new friend surprised us with a Persian rice dessert. “It is made with pistachio,” he told us. He also ordered one for himself. The delicate smooth-as-silk mound was an elevated cross between rice pudding and gelato that sent us straight to heaven. On this night, the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” earned a new meaning. But it still didn’t end. Our server informed us that the gentleman picked up our tab. We were moved by this serendipitous moment and meeting such a lovely human being. We couldn’t stop talking about this magical evening the rest of the night and days later. Things like this just don’t happen. PREVIOUS ENTRY NEXT ENTRY


    9/3/2022 AN AUDIO RECORDING OF TODAY’S DIARY POST Transcript available below…Make your day a good one! Transcript: Now that Paloma has grown into a less needy one-year-old puppy, I have my mornings back. That is, I have resumed escaping to my favorite coffee shop for my daily writing ritual. Social solitude, I like to call it. It was a perfect quiet morning at Jones Coffee Roasters when I arrived before the crowd. What I love is that this rare hideaway has no public Internet service. People read here. And talk to one another. To set the scene, only two other patrons were in the spacious parking lot-turned-covered-patio that is now a permanent Covid-era fixture. A man in his 60s sat at a table with a small stack of books. Several yards away, an early 30-ish man was chatting on his cell phone. A big guy, he also had a big voice. A bit loud, I thought to myself, but he’s not obnoxious as he was engaged in civil conversation. I took a table at the edge of the patio. Within a few minutes, two 60-ish men walked towards the table next to me. As they passed the young man on his phone, one of them abruptly yelled, “HEY! CAN YOU KEEP IT DOWN?! THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE HERE…!” Who was the obnoxious one? There went my blissful morning. I kept my eyes on my computer screen unable to concentrate. Why couldn’t the old guy be more polite about it? BTW, I can call him “old” because there is no doubt the two of us are in the same age bracket. Did he assume the young man was arrogant and thoughtless? Of course, so he carried on his rant. The young man turned out to be a class act. “Sir,” he answered, I apologize, but I have been watching the volume on my phone…” But that wasn’t enough for the old guy. He proceeded to mouth off. I looked up to witness this exchange. Suddenly, I heard myself under my breath. “I cannot believe this!” The young man proceeded to say that he was speaking to his father. “WELL, TELL YOUR FATHER HELLO!!” the smart ass answered back thoughtlessly. And the old guy’s friend sat quietly in his seat poker-faced, taking no sides. I was about to lose it but stared back at my screen and took a deep yoga breath. The young man then stood up and approached the two men. He towered over their table. Uh-oh. By this time, any other man or woman might have punched the guy. “I would like to introduce myself,” the young man said courteously offering a handshake. And what is your name? Caught off-guard, the old guy said his name. The young man turned to the old man’s friend to also introduce himself and shake his hand. “I am a regular here,” the young man continued. If you are, too, I hope that the next time we see each other, it will be friendlier so that others here can enjoy their time.” “Good for you,” I couldn’t help saying out loud to the grown-up amongst them. “Bravo!” The young man then walked away and left the coffee shop. I was tempted to put the old man in his place…”What’s the matter with you?!” But I had already said enough, so I went back to my writing. Ah, things came full circle so quickly. Within a few minutes, a young couple took the table right next to the old man and his friend. In the stroller that they parked next to the table was their active and very vocal toddler. The old man said nothing. PREVIOUS ENTRY NEXT ENTRY

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