Sunday, May 10, 2009

Things We Wrote About The Fire, or, Because I Do Not Hope To Burn

It all starts, like so many other things, with a spark.

And then before you know it, whole hillsides are ablaze, and the news reports start belching from the wire as regularly as ash-covered cars from the roads that lead up the canyon, or plumes of smoke from its upper reaches.

The headlines read, with minor adjustments for specificity of locale, MANSIONS BURN AS THOUSANDS FLEE; the sub-heads run something along the lines of “Exclusive Neighborhood Explodes Into Nightmare Inferno.”

From a strictly narrative standpoint, I can appreciate the “tension” created by the luxury car cortege, each vehicle stuffed to its Teutonic gills with art and jewelry boxes and hastily-packed luggage, as it inches its way down the winding road. The comparisons to Pompeii and Herculaneum are inevitable but no less satisfying for it, as is the reminder that golden lads and girls all must / like chimneysweepers, come to dust.

(Incidentally, the means of destruction in question ensures that everyone in the surrounding area will have something in common with chimneysweepers in short order.)

The article, after noting the fire’s acreage (large, or at least "growing rapidly"), volatility (“extreme”), differences from historical fires in the area (“several,” but they’re “important”) and potential to burn right up to the coast -- thereby scaring the shit out of everyone who lives between the coast and the mountains, i.e. the entire city -- will include several interviews.

(Interspersed with these interviews will be vignettes, most of which will involve one or more of the following in various combinations:
  • burning palm tree / palm tree silhouetted against flames
  • house in “miraculous” state of preservation next to smoking ruin
  • charred garden statuary (bonus points for insistently “ironic” shots of scorched children’s toys)
  • burned-out shell of car (make/model/year of which seem at odds with the categorically “upscale” description of the neighborhood – which means either the news is generalizing – shock – or some unfortunate maid had to abandon her Ford Probe in favor of driving her boss’s Range Rover down the mountain at the promise of extra cash.)
The first interview will be with a woman with an improbably geographical first name and a non-coincidentally corporate last name (usually a drug or chemical conglomerate), who has probably lost her ranch:
“Cadaques [or India / Siena / Alexandria / Mykonos] Merck [or Dow / Union-Carbide / DuPont / Bayer / Glaxo-Smith-Kline], reached via telephone at the home of a friend, said that her Rancho Mi Reposo, in the upper reaches of the canyon, has likely burned. ‘You know, it’s a calculated risk, living up there – but I’m insured and we got all the animals out, so we’re just incredibly thankful for what we still have.”

Ms. Merck, 43, is optimistic, and plans to rebuild as soon as the fire subsides. “Every time the ranch burns – and it’s burned seven times in the last fifteen years – is such an incredible opportunity for me to examine my priorities. For example, last year, I took all the Picasso sketches from the guesthouse with me when I evacuated – but this year, I just threw the Gauguin and my stock certificates in the car and went.”
The next interviewee will be a crusty oldster, who likely shares a last name with a prominent building or road in town, named for his grandfather. His last name will be his mother’s maiden name.
“McAdoo Cityhall was one of the few who stayed behind on Via Las Palmas de Oro. Standing at the edge of his property on the canyon rim and dousing hot spots and flare-ups on the slope below with a garden hose, he recalled his experiences with wildfires in the area.

“This house has been in the Cityhall family since before this town was incorporated,” he notes, “and we’ve never evacuated yet. All the really big ones – ’64, ’78, ’83, ’97, this one – I’ve been here with the garden hose and my dog Chester. The years go by – and the dog may change – but I’ll still be here, leveraging water pressure and years of inbred WASP entitlement against this natural phenomenon.’

Cityhall’s wife, Katherine (called KooKoo), was prepared to evacuate, but noted that she had never needed to before. ‘I just put all my jewelry – my circle pins and Mummy’s pearls – into a canvas tote by the door and maybe have a few drinks. The house is adobe brick, which Mac [Mr. Cityhall] tells me doesn’t burn. I know the succulents on the property are dreadful to look at – Mummy used to cover our eyes when we walked by the cacti at the Botanical Gardens – but they don’t burn either, Mac says. Can I get you a drink? If you’re still around for dinner, I think I’m having Rosita do her yummy dressed crab thing…’

A glassy, faraway look came over Mrs. Cityhall’s face. 'I hope you won’t mind tinned crab. So much more practical, up here in the hills…and anyway, Mummy always said you just can’t get good crab out West…'”
While they’re up there on the ridgeline, a woman who declines to be identified will be “struggling to wrangle a horse into a trailer” with the assistance of one or more “ash-covered ranch hand(s).” The horse trailer will be hitched to a “sleek Mercedes convertible,” and it's likely that some idyllic tree (jacarandas are popular here, but if pressed, it's permissible to resort to one of the more expensive sorts of palm) is whipping in the "gale-force winds" which send ash and smoke "eddying down the canyon." (Incidentally, one always bemoans the lack of initiative shown by the reporter here: to witness a horse person in crisis is to gain access to the remarkably creative language of the stables, which consists entirely of horrifically explicit swear words in unusual and evocative combinations.)

Next, they will interview someone who has definitely lost her home, and is very sad:
“Jocelyn Plummer, 51, wiped away tears as she described the loss of her home, with its decades-old dry brush collection.

‘Every day during the summer, I would bring back a piece of dry wood from one of my hikes, and add it to one of the piles against the exterior walls or under the eaves of my cedar-shake home. We’re talking a good ten, fifteen years of hikes, years of memories in those branches. I used to just love living up there, among all the gifts of nature. But I guess all it takes is one completely random, unforeseen event, which arises out of the blue and without warning, precedent, or logical process, to completely demolish everything.’

‘So I turned on the news the second we got to my sister-in-law’s house, and the first thing they showed was a helicopter shot of our house, going up like a Roman candle. All the Italian cypresses along the driveway, my husband’s grove of specimen Eucalyptus trees – all up in smoke. It just doesn’t make sense.’

When asked if she would rebuild, husband Harold Plummer chimed in: ‘Of course we will. This is a once-in-a-millennium event. Nope, as soon as they lift these evac orders, we’ll be right back up there on the mountain, planting resinous trees and picking up the pieces. And arranging them into a campfire-kindling shape.’”
Next up: a by-proxy interview with some celebz.
“The area is also a favorite of Hollywood celebrities. Stars, such as The Guy From That Action Franchise, That Connery-Era Bond Girl You’re Surprised Is Still Alive, That Comedian Who Played Off Jewish Stereotypes In The 60s And Then Invested Well, and A Country Singer You May Have Heard Of, flock to the region for its lush landscapes and panoramic views.

A publicist for That Guy From A Few 80s Movies (Who, You Must Admit, You’re Surprised Can Afford To Live Here) confirmed that the actor and his wife had been evacuated.

‘Mr. and Mrs. Guy-From are staying with friends down south until the situation is under control,’ said the publicist, ‘but their hearts and prayers are with all their neighbors and community members during this difficult time.’

A representative for Actress Famous For Playing Cute Even After She Aged Rather Badly confirmed that Ms. Actress maintained a home in the area, but hadn’t been there for God-knows-how-long.

‘Remember, she’s married to a supermarket-chain billionaire,’ said the rep. ‘She probably doesn’t even remember that she has that house. Between the Valium and the Chardonnay, she’s basically dead to the world these days. But I’m sure her thoughts, both of them, have strayed to fire or neighbors or houses at some point in the last few days.’

The status of the Guy-From and Actress homes were unavailable as of press time.”
The story will end with a noble, ash-besmirched firefighter gazing skyward, making some remark about having to “wait and see” what the weather will do, and possibly noting the presence of a “wild card” (the wind, the geography, the potential for one of the firefighters to actually be a secret double-agent who is setting the fires instead of extinguishing them, and YES that story’s already been optioned by a studio so don’t even think about it).

And that’s how we do it in Santa Barbara. Life’s easier when you play predictably.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fragments Shored

So, today, in a fit of verve and pique, I decided to clean out a many-drawer'd credenza in my room. In one of these drawers. every photo that I've taken, had given to me, printed, et cetera reposes alongside various and sundry notes, letters, cards, and so on.

With a view towards streamlining my life. I tore up about a ten-inch-high pile of them, and then burned them in the fireplace.

I kept the ones that mattered. Those that went were primarily old flings, former friends, duplicate photos, bad shots of people that I either didn't want to remember with a lazy eye or even remember at all, notes that expressed sentiments I'd prefer not to re-read, and letters that represented either undesired defeats or undeserved victories.

The flames were high and roaring and hungry and I fed them until I had nothing more to feed.

I know it's bad to burn coated paper, and I tried to buy a carbon offset, but what price burned bridges?

Saturday, December 6, 2008


...because I apparently can't write about ANYTHING but literature.

Fact: I've been compared, at one point or another, and with varying degrees of accuracy, to every character in The Great Gatsby. Except for Myrtle and Meyer Wolfsheim (though someone did say that Meyer Wolfsheim was "my destiny," which...ew).

And yes, the accidie with which I'm writing reflects my outlook at the moment. Things aren't great. But they'll get better...tomorrow, or something. At least that's what I'm told.

Pop Quiz

How would you describe the commonalities of this list?

Sebastian Flyte (Brideshead Revisted): alcoholic attached to Moroccan monastery.

Celia Coplestone (The Cocktail Party): martyr crucified on an ant hill in Africa.

Tony Last (A Handful of Dust): unwilling "companion" and reader in Brazilian rainforest.

Comus Bassington (The Unbearable Bassington): victim of fever in East Africa.

Extra Credit

Confer Elena McMahon (shot on the beach, unnamed Caribbean island), Charlotte Douglas (shot in the back, Estado Nacional, Boca Grande), Inez Christian (refugee camp, Kuala Lumpur).

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Without Further Comment II

Tho' it comes from a book about retail advertising, this is more or less the same way I feel about public relations.

"You remember that Emerson said, “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mouse-trap than his neighbor, tho’ he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”

All this sounds lofty and noble, but I submit that it just isn’t so. A middling good mousetrap (not buried in the woods), superbly marketed and superbly advertised, would far outsell the better one.

Of course, if your mousetrap is functionally superior, a few people will traipse through the tangle to your cabin (one at a time); and you’ll sell a better mousetrap or two (now and then). Eventually you might have a nice beaten track. But meanwhile you’d be up to your ears in unsold mousetraps, neatly stacked on the front stoop of your cabin.

Eventually, word-of-mouth praise might acquaint quite a few people with your better product—but you’d go broke while you waited. It gets mighty lonely out there in the woods—just you and your inventory and your intermittently beaten path."

Credit for this, again, goes to Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, retail advertising maven and author of Macy's, Gimbels, and Me. Which is a superb little read if you, like me, enjoy books on advertising theory, with lots of examples which were revolutionary at the time but would likely work in The New Yorker and then only in theory.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Without Further Comment

--just a slight reformat because it's one of those marzipan-blocks of rhetorical parallelism if you leave it all in one graf. Pardon the fact that it looks like free verse.

"The truly insane (because utterly unsound) theory is that

what is amusing
must be less significant
than what is ponderous or grim;


that what is witty
must be more superficial
than what is sententious or sober;


that what is fanciful
contains less truth
than what is factual --

-- all this is part of an age-old conspiracy whereby

those who plod
rather than leap,

who ponder
instead of react,

seek to discredit their betters.

It was one such plodder, I feel perfectly sure, who first circulated the fable of the hare and the tortoise. "

-- Louis Kronenberger, from the introduction of Cavalcade of Comedy, as quoted by Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, in Macy's, Gimbels, and Me.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Open Letter I

Dear Downstairs Neighbor,

Hi! I'm super-glad that you have a cell phone, like a responsible adult. And I'm also super-glad that you have T.Mobile -- I've heard nothing but rave reviews of their service. And hey -- nothing wrong with leaving your phone set to the default ringtone!

I am, myself, unable to leave a phone on any ring setting, or vibrate setting, or any setting other than "completely silent-church funeral-meeting-mode," because a.) I'm afraid it will go off in class, or maybe while I'm walking and I have my headphones on and b.) my constant texting, emailing, &c. pretty much ensures that audible notifications will annoy the shit out of my immediate companions.

But HEY! Some people like the notification! Some people have to get the call the first time! Gotta know when someone's calling you! And take that call! Or maybe judiciously screen it!

And that's fine! Ring, ring! It's your social life! Beep! Popularity just texted you! And (*twinkle*)! -- looks like opportunity just left you a voicemail!

You know that T.Mobile jingle? The one they use in their commercials? Duh-duh-duh-DA-duh. That one. The weird kind of proto-arpeggio you'd idly finger on a piano in a deserted hotel ballroom.


Downstairs Neighbor, I don't begrudge you your popularity --


-- and I'm glad that you have friends and they're either trying to urgently reach you or maybe you have a lot of bill collectors or --


-- something like that, but could you please --


-- possibly, maybe, like, switch it to vibrate --


-- or, though I know it would violate many of the eponymous rules in that copy of The Rules I saw you reading the other day --


-- just take the fucking call?

Love, Conditionally,

Your Upstairs Neighbor

p.s. Remember when my roommates and I used to joke about your terrible singing and limited repertoire and imaginary band, and then by total coincidence we happened to be dining at a venue where you and your band performed? And you were covering "Son of A Preacher Man" and "Boogie Fever", and it felt just like I was sitting at home? And then you slipped onstage and screamed into the mic? That was a great fucking night.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sprinkles All Around (No Need To Waste Them)

I sing of arms and the man, fated to be an exile.

The arms in question are this author’s own, and though they are no longer spattered with crimson, they maintain a Lady Macbeth-like series of psychological spots – mostly blemishes on the ego. The exile is not from his home, or from a nation, or indeed from anything desirable: it is an exile from the cult of the cupcake.

Let me begin at the beginning, by which I mean with a series of disclaimers.

I do not come of baking stock. My father, though an accomplished chef, has always regarded it as more chemistry than cookery, more trouble than worth. While an uncooperative chicken marsala can be solved with a touch of cornstarch to thicken the sauce (or – in my case, let’s be honest – by insisting on a few rounds of stiff aperitifs), a fallen cake is beyond salvation, as are scorched cookies, and any recipe which calls for amounts measured by an instrument the size of a coke spoon just seems demanding and unreasonable (famous last words re: my disrespect for the extremely specific vocabulary and equipage of the baker; retribution to follow).

In short, a wise woman named Nancy Cohen once wrote: “Baking is for freaks; muffins cost a dollar in the store. “

In this case, the tiny baked goods are cupcakes, and they cost something in the neighborhood of $3.50 per.

Disclaimer two:

I think it has as much to do with my contrarian culinary nature than anything else – rather than debate the merits and deficits of your recent choice to go vegan, I’d prefer that you sit idly by with your Zip-loc of celery while I make a beef bourguignon for one) – but I am not a cupcake person. Not only do I not make them, I don’t eat them. The oven-warm wares of the Los Angeles boutique bakeries leave me cold. It’s not that cupcakes are terrible, it’s just that I don’t care for them. I do not like them from Joan’s On Third. I do not like them from Sprinkles. I do not like them from Magnolia. I do not like them from Sweet Lady Jane. I do not like them from Toast.

In short, cupcakes to me are like bad crème brulee: why fucking bother?

Anyway, I got a canister of Sprinkles Red Velvet cupcake mix for Christmas, from my mother. Her reasoning, I’d wager, was three-pronged:

1.) I’m not hyper-vocal about my complete and utter indifference to cupcakery, because that generally encourages people to try and change my mind. Unfortunately, “Who doesn’t like cupcakes?!” is more the prevailing logic, as opposed to the correct logic (viz. “Does Spencer like cupcakes? No, he does not.”)

2.) Making cupcakes from a boxed mix provides me with an Alternative Christmas Break Activity (viz. not snitting around La Jolla with high school friends).

3.) Making cupcakes from a boxed mix is a productive activity, specifically productive of cupcakes. And who doesn’t like cupcakes?

At any rate: the packaging was twee, the instructions simple, and the mix an appealing color I can most accurately describe as “dusty rose” – convenient, since it was, indeed, dusty. And so, after my father left the house in search of speakers for the upstairs living room that were both attractive and effective (easier said than done, apparently), I set out some ingredients.

Which included a stick and a half of butter.

Not that I mind butter. Just saying, is all.

The instructions told me that I should whip butter that was cool, but still firm, but not cold, until it was fluffy. Okay. They specified a standing mixer with the flat beater attachment.

I’ve previously emphasized that we are not a baking family. We used to have a standing mixer, but because my father eschews kitchen gadgetry and is a lapsed Catholic, he does whatever whipping, frothing, mixing, integrating, et cetera with a fork. In extreme circumstances, he utilizes one of a carefully-edited collection of whisks.

Have you ever tried mixing butter with a fork? With a slight hangover? With an end goal of producing confectionary goods you have no great reason to make, other than the fact that there’s very little else doing in your neck of the woods on this sunny December mid-morning?

I mean, it’s not the most pleasant of tasks. Nor is it the easiest. I reached for the whisk.

The whisks fared little better. An entire stick of butter insinuated itself into the space inside the whisk, like a fat dairy bird in an undersize stainless cage.

The third tool I utilized: the kitchen telephone, to call my father and ask why the hell we lived like Mennonites. He explained that there existed a small electric hand blender he had been given as a gift and never really cared to use.

(Of course he didn’t. This from a man who “throws together” a crown roast of pork with root vegetables, pommes duchesse, a full turkey dinner rivaling most normal families’ Thanksgiving spreads, on mere whims and usually with about four hours advance warning – the man has nerves of steel, which apparently skip a generation.)

So, I found the beater, which looks very much like one I have had several disagreeable run-ins in my own Santa Barbara kitchen, fitted it with a whisk attachment, and took it to the butter. The butter hardly reciprocated, electing to splinter, shred, and fill my eye sockets and hairline with dairy product.

Sputtering and watched (from the safety of the doorway) by Deuce the Loyal Family Australian Shepherd, I groped for paper towels, wiped the butter from my eyelashes and sideburns, and removed the whisk attachment.

Realizing that I was covered in butter flecks and was wearing dark brown cotton pique, which does not (FYI) take well to grease stains, I decided to remove my shirt. In trying to do so without leaving buttery handprints (which I imagine to be the perpetual dilemma of the well-dressed obese), I put undue strain on the placket and lost two buttons.


Taking what I now know to be an immersion blender attachment, I snapped it into place and began whirring away. Same basic result, but directed in perpendicular flumes rather than a butter blowback from hell. So I hacked away for a while, alternating fork and immersion blender and manual whisk, until the butter seemed pretty damned fluffy, at least to my beginner’s eye.

In went the mix. The powder didn’t, so much, combine with the butter, despite my half-hearted ministrations with a variety of implements. Perhaps, I reasoned, the milk and eggs would loosen things up.

Remember how I mentioned that the powder mix was a dusty rose color? Well, when the milk hit it, it turned a rusty red. Think kidney beans. I seized the mixer and applied it, hoping (as I always do with baked goods) that my innovative approach would yield a specific reward – you know, the “if I curse a lot, then the meringues will totally form ‘stiff peaks’ under my stewardship” approach.

Well, instead of yielding, it…did the opposite. Imagine, dear reader, the oleaginous reaction described previously. Now, apply that, but in a goopier, more human-muscle-colored, and…more…extensive…fashion.

My face. My torso. My jeans. The buttercream-colored walls of my parents’ kitchen. The framed poster/invitation to the second anniversary of Chez Panisse (cassoulet, ½ litre wine, salad, $5.25, and a film de Marcel Pagnol), obscured with a Jackson Pollack of Red Velvet Cupcake dough.

I set down the mixer, slowly. I picked up the bowl, calmly. I placed it in the triangle of sun entering via the kitchen window, gently.

And then I entered the realm of the paranoid serial killer. Not the blatant Ed Gein belt-o’-nipples kind, but the socially functional kind, the kind the neighbors describe as "such a nice man", the kind that needs to get those ovaries out of the ashtray and colons off the chandelier STAT because there are def-i-nite-ly guests for dinner.


And so: there I was, shirtless, scrubbing muscle-colored spatters from every facet of my parents’ kitchen, a task that comprised the complete cleaning of an entire canister of obscure implements intended for stovetop use which the unhappy spray had befouled.

After the disconcerting debutante experience of scrubbing the walls while praying oh god please praying that the police don’t, for some reason, ring the doorbell, I had a quick lie-down in the living room. The dog sympathetically (or perhaps self-interestedly) licked my hand.

I recomposed myself (as much as one with incarnadine cuticles and roseate forearms, wearing a hematomic wifebeater, and generally disillusioned as to one’s own culinary abilities can, of course) and reprised the kitchen.

I slogged the cannibal batter into cupcake tins and pitched them into the oven. And I then decided to attempt the frosting.

It called for a stick and a half of butter. For reals, right now, thought I, as I added it to a Pyrex. I added the requisite ingredients, thanking Sprinkles aloud for their leniency in the mechanics of measurement and composition.

And then the frosting didn’t loosen. I checked the instructions again, looking for specific advice, something along the lines of “when X doesn’t happen, do Y.” The advice is comprised specifically of a “try it if you dare” as to Frosting A Cupcake Like A Sprinkles Employee Would. And so I sought my own counsel.

Milk. Lots of milk.

Now it won’t solidify.

Cornstarch. Just…a little bit…of cornstarch.

Maybe…a little…more.

Maybe…just a little…more.


In the interest of not having the cupcakes squeak when people bit into them, I stopped adding cornstarch. Squeaking cupcakes would be amusing, but unpleasant, and also a total invalidation of my mother’s thinking (that is: my son can cook, but is very thin because he is so busy and important). While contemplating the pluses and minuses of admitting defeat, I realized that the cupcakes were probably burned. Eff my life. I chucked the frosting into the fridge, removed the cupcakes from the oven (they weren’t burned, at all), and – in the name of sanity -- left the house for an hour, allowing Deuce the Dog to sniff every last perennial bed planted alongside a mile-long cul-de-sac nearby.

Returning to the house: the cupcakes were cooled (and, from the piece I sampled, rather delicious); the frosting had the consistency of marinara sauce. The chunky kind.

I leaned back onto the counter and considered my options. I bit into one of the Sprinkles Signature Dots, presuming that the delightful little circles of chocolate brown, scarlet, and white would be made of marzipan or somesuch.

Dear reader – not so! Not even edible, really! At all!

After spitting several valued fillings and veneers (as well as the remnants of the decidedly non-toothsome cupcake topping garnish) into the sink, I de-lumped the frosting and transferred it to the freezer. Perhaps. I reasoned, it would gel there.

By this time my father and mother had come home, and were variously occupied in parts of the house that weren’t the kitchen. I plodded upstairs for another quick lie-down.

Dinner was Chicken Cordon Bleu on a bed of mushroom orzo, served in those mini-casseroles in which one serves Lobster Thermidor, with a steamed broccolini side.

Dessert was cupcakes…with ramekins of liquid frosting. I mean…they were both rather good, but -- as I attempted to clearly set out at the beginning of this entry -- I don't so much like cupcakes.

Worth it? I mean...maybe. My initial call would be that Sprinkles wants to prove its market dominance with something along the lines of "Of course you can have the impossible recipe for this dish! Good luck!"

Well, hello there.

Dear blog,

Hi. It's...been a while, I know.

I just...I got really busy. Like, really-really busy. Like, up-at-5-and-to-bed-at-12 busy. Like, drink coffee to the point of gagging under the showerhead's spray just so I can make intelligent contributions in my Art History class.

Anyway, I'm still busy, but it's more regimented. I have slightly more free time. The weather's better. I like my classes more. I'm really, really high on allergy meds. You know? The usual, basically.

So, I'll be blogging more. By which I mean blogging, period. So: get ready for me to get all up in you, blog.



Monday, February 18, 2008

Just a Friendly Heads-Up

(very quickly: yes, I am still alive, I've just been alternating intense activity with intense relaxation.)

Five Things That Aren't Worth The Price Of Admission

1.) Cashmere socks.
Yes, their warmth and comfort is unparalleled. But for someone who walks with a pretty intense heel strike, they last maybe 6 hours.

2.) Garments involving Issey Miyake's signature pleating.
Everyone will ask if you own an iron. Also, you have to hand-wash and then rubber-band them around a broomstick to dry, unless you want to discover that the shirt actually involves about five yards of material and needs to be pleated so as to not resemble a circus tent.

3.) Adios Motherfuckers made with top-shelf liquor.
Top-shelf liquors have their benefits. Said benefits are nullified by mixing four at once.

4.) Mediocre crème brûlée. The road to Cholesterolville should be paved with delight. Not soggy, eggy custards with charred tops.

.) A certain local restaurant, which shall remain unnamed at the risk of offending. I'm fine with the rich hippie scene. Hell, I like it sometimes. But, as with so much in life, it's got to be done right (see also: Ventana Inn, Big Sur, Ca.). So, Certain Local Restaurant, make up your damned mind: either up the prices so you're special-occasion-worthy or lower them so I don't have to grit my teeth about spending $15 on a roasted half-chicken.