A Grand Brunch

Back in Santa Monica, where the drinking is easy

Sipping birthday bloody marys in the front yard of my daughter’s place in Santa Monica, and Rapunzel is describing how you shouldn’t drink vodka first thing in the morning because you can feel it settle in the lining of the stomach, and the little suburbs that surround the stomach: the gallbladder, the intestines, the pancreas … all the fashionable neighborhoods where vodka likes to linger.

We are in lawn chairs. Gale force winds are blowing, and all kinds of crud is falling from the trees, peppercorns, eucalyptus leaves, wine corks, dead dreams, the usual West LA flora.

Just as I reach full bloody mary stage, a mini-argument breaks out over whether the egg dish we’re having for brunch qualifies as a quiche or an egg pie.

I find that when you’re in a different culture, as I am here in Santa Monica, it’s always best to adopt the phrasings and customs of the indigenous peoples, in this case my daughters and their assorted male companions.

“Yeah, I’d agree this is an egg pie,” I say, though I really think it was more of a plain-old casserole.

And so went my birthday, 64th in a series, and one of the very best birthdays yet, highlighted by patience, compromise and a bloody mary on an empty pancreas.

I don’t care what Rapunzel says, I’ve been studying bloody mary’s for almost 50 years, and I think they are best when they’re not competing with anything else, and the vodka manages to float and stumble from your throat to your toes, unhindered.

By the time brunch is over, my daughters have planned every bite of Thanksgiving dinner, and half of Christmas.

I like all drinks, just as I like all people, and all cultures – even Florida, though Florida doesn’t have a culture so much as it has a rap sheet. I like that too, about Florida, because it’s unlike any other place in the world (moldy and supremely out of whack).

I suppose you could say that about Santa Monica too. It was born a sleepy place, and it remains a sleepy place. It could’ve gotten hard and mean, like Culver City, but at some point Santa Monica made a conscious decision to maintain its pillowy innocence.

So did I, which is probably why I feel so comfortable here.

Truthfully, I’ve had some of the best times of my life in Santa Monica. Earlier this year, in June I think, I married off the lovely and patient older daughter here, in the same church where Tom Brady and Mark Verge also got married – not to each other, of course. To other people, just to be clear.

Santa Monica is also the site of our annual Polar Bear Plunge, held each January in 58-degree waters at Verge’s beach shack near the California Incline (which is a pretty fancy name for a ramp).

This summer, a bunch of us also did a Bird scooter pub crawl along Main Street, which quite honestly could be the most fetching little stretch of shops and slop houses on the entire bay. It’s what LA streets look like in Steve Carell movies – lights in the trees, everybody Botoxed and a little too tan.  

So, as you can tell, a lot of wonderfulness goes on here along the beach. This day, gobs of crud are falling into our multiple bloody marys — branches, bike tires — and the surf is thrashing and my eyes feel the grit of the sand blowing in from five blocks away.

This is just some of the appeal of Santa Monica. But there is so much more.

My daughters live her, with their male companions, and we spend about half the time here in the front yard talking about food, the other half about the new puppy the older daughter is about to get and the other half about where we’ll gather for the holidays.

That’s three halves, if you’re counting, just an example of how rich and overstuffed life is over here on the west side.

By the time brunch is over, my daughters have planned every bite of Thanksgiving dinner, and half of Christmas. They want me to bring a big tray of baked mac ‘n cheese, which I made once, quite well, and took to the house of the leggy dentist for Christmas Eve.

Big hit. Total fluke. Now everyone thinks I can make mac ‘n cheese. I feel like a high school actor who has gone straight to Broadway –a fraud, an imposter.

“Ok, I’ll make mac ‘n cheese,” I say and everyone cheers.

Such a grand brunch. A birthday brunch. At some point, I tell them that soon they will all have kids and puppies, and I’ll just be an afterthought, so celebrations like this are extra appreciated right now.

So, I don’t care that the tradewinds are whipping, and life is hurtling past, or that it’s too cold for flipflops.

I don’t care that cows are flying overhead, with some old biddy on a bike and a confused girl in ruby slippers and a blue gingham dress.

“Auntie Em! Auntie Em!”

Oh, wait, that’s my daughter, the one with the bloody Mary smile.

For gawd’s sakes, someone grab her.

I’ll be signing copies of my new book, Lavender in Your Lemonade, on Nov. 28, the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. The signing will take place from 2:30-4:30 pm at Flintridge Bookstore, 858 Foothill Blvd., La Canada.

17 thoughts on “A Grand Brunch

  1. That birthday brunch sounds absolutely fabulous. Cheers to a trip around the sun with your favorite people. Love the Wizard of Oz reference. There’s no place like home. Or Santa Monica.

  2. I put on shoes when it drops below 50
    Shorts to pants at 40
    So as a 5th generation Californian I’m in shorts every day
    Happy Birthday
    And to readers who are Veterans like me
    Happy Veterans Day

  3. Para, 17: “My daughters live her,…..” s/b “My daughters live here,…..” You’re excused for at least one typo, considering the vodka.

  4. Happy birthday, Chris. I remember #64 like it was only 15 years ago. Andy happy Vets Day to all the veterans out there, too. Capt. Andy

  5. Ah 64. Just a few more months until Social Security starts bugging you about signing up for Medicare and makes you really feel old. At least by then all the damage to your pancreas, gallbladder and liver will be covered by Medicare. Enjoy!

  6. Happy Birthday again! In my family,being Italian,(specifically Sicilian/Neapolitan, born in Brooklyn) we celebrate birthdays for a month! You have another three weeks to go! Pancreas,liver, et al , watch out! Have a fun birthday month! My son lives in Santa Monica, 3rd Street Promenade, California Incline, good times! As always, love your imagery!

  7. Another sublime riff from the rhyme prince of la vida loca, L.A. Style. 64 sounds more like the dimension of some novelistic excess than an age, but many of us know better, as do you. Nobody does Stream-of-consciousness-L.A. Better than you, Chis. Play on…

  8. Culver City “hard and mean”??? Having been born in CC, a former mayor, and still lovin’ it I really need to disagree!! But happy birthday anyway😘

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