Monthly Archives: June 2017

GOOD EATS

My name is not Zagot, as you know, but judging from my girth you know I’ve enjoyed a meal or two.  I don’t claim to have tried every restaurant in Southern California but here are my picks for the best I’ve enjoyed.

(R) = Reservations Required, (M) = Several Locations, * = Pricey

Breakfast/Brunch:

Nichols, Marina del Rey
Huckleberry, Santa Monica (Saturday and Sunday – long wait)
John O’Groats, Rancho Park
Fairmont Hotels Buffet (M)
One Pico, Shutters on the Beach, Santa Monica
Cheesecake Factory, Marina del Rey (M)
Café Vida, Culver City
Killer Café, Marina del Rey (outdoor patio)

Hamburger:

Umami (M) – outstanding
Father’s Office (M)
Burger Lounge (M)

Salads:

Cobb at Cheesecake Factory (M)
Balsamic Chicken at Sammy’s, El Segundo
Cobb at Flemings (M)

Asian:

Xian, Beverly Hills (R)
Fin, Culver City (Asian Tapas)

Steak:

Mastro’s, Beverly Hills and Costa Mesa* (R)

Salmon:

Seasons 52 (M) (R)
Il Fornaio (M) (R)
Playa Provisions, Culver City

Italian:

Dantano’s, West Hollywood (R)
Il Fornaio (M) (R)
Laconda Positano, Marina del Rey
Il Moro, West L.A. (R)
Antenello’s, South Coast Plaza
Modo Mio, Pacific Palisades (R)
AR Cucina, Culver City

Pizza:

Abbott’s Pizza, Venice
California Pizza Kitchen (M) (R)
Pizzarito (by the slice), Marina del Rey and Huntington Beach

Soup:

Jerry’s Deli (seafood chowder—red), Marina del Rey (on Sunday)
J. Nichol’s (basil tomato), Marina del Rey

Fish/Seafood:

Gulfstream, Century City (R)
Water Grill, Downtown and Santa Monica (R)
Santa Monica Seafood Co.
Akasha, Culver City
Enterprise Fish Co., Santa Monica

Deli:

Lenny’s, Westwood

Flat Bread:

Seasons 52 (lobster and mozzarella)
California Pizza Kitchen (spinach and mushroom)
Akasha, Culver City

Reasonably Priced:

Café Bizou, San Fernando Valley (R)

Unclassified:

The Wallace, Culver City (shared dishes)
Palamino, Westwood (R)

Consistently Good:
(if they come back)

Seasons 52, Century City (M) (R)
Gulfstream, Century City and Newport Beach (R)

All Around:

Café del Rey, Marina del Rey (R)
Parker’s Lighthouse, Long Beach (R)
L’Opera, Long Beach (R)
Parkway Grill, Pasadena (R)
The White House, Anaheim (R)
Tin Roof, Manhattan Beach

Ambience and Food:

Casa del Mar, Santa Monica (R)

South Orange County:

230 Forrest Ave, Laguna Beach
Hotel Laguna (outside for lunch)
Harborside Café, Dana Point Harbor
Sapphire, Laguna Beach

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THE PHOTOGRAPHS IN MY MIND – PART III

Here are more of the mental photographs I took on some of our travels.  To be honest, some of the colors and the photographs themselves are beginning to fade so I need to tell you about them before they’re all gone.

West Coast of Africa was a wonderful cruise through countries and people living in past cultures and without a lot of modern conveniences, but all seemed very happy.

The highlight was out land tour of Mali.  Talk about living in their history.  Wow!  The recycle market in Bamako, the capital, providing products of every description, all by hand from discarded plastics and metals, the costumed stilt dancers in one small town and the never-to-be forgotten, fabled Timbuktu on the edge of the Sahara (now occupied by Islamic rebels) were fabulous memories.

Israel (about 1992) was a memorable excursion into a land of ancient rituals, religions and modern, progressive culture and economics.  Seedless watermelons, communal communities for agriculture and light industry (Kibbutz) and an energetic, determined people were all fascinating.

Jerusalem is the main attraction with the fabled Western Wall, the Temple Mount and Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial (the simple, most effective moving display I have ever seen)

There are many other indelible sights outside of Jerusalem that are can’t-miss visits; the Dead Sea and the hike up to Masada (cable car now) that was a symbol of Jewish heroism in the revolt against the Romans, the modern city of Tel Aviv and the reclamation of the West Bank by Jewish settlers after centuries of neglect by the Arab residents.

A great learning experience and a great trip.

Yellowstone, plus our first and one of our great national parks with Old Faithful, the monumental geyser, 10,000 hot springs, Yellowstone Lake, great scenery and some bears and wildlife.

As long as you’re in the neighborhood, you should stop by Jackson Hole and the Grand
Tetons, a truly spectacular green mountain area and then perhaps the biggest surprise of traveling America, Mount Rushmore.  It’s a very impressive monument.

Cambodia – One of the highlights of any trip to Southeast Asia has to be Siem Reap, not the town but the magnificent carved temples of Angkor Wat.  There’s nothing else like it.

Victoria, Canada – A great visit to a whole lot of British influence with double-decker buses, horse-drawn carriages and the historic Empress Hotel overlooking Fisherman’s Wharf and the bay on the Pacific.

The highlight, of course, was Butchart Gardens, 55 acres of flowers and show gardens.  It’s a National Historic Site and truly one of a kind, not to be missed.

One of the best organized museums I’ve ever encountered was the Royal BC Museum in Victoria.

India – I was never anxious to go, but it was the endpoint down the Arabian Peninsula from Dubai; so we said as long as we’re there, let’s look around.  We did and it was well worth it.

We started in Mumbai, a most populous (12.5 million), modern, waterfront city with good aging hotels and affluent suburbs; then on to the capital Delhi, a fascinating city with lots of traffic, bustling people and the largest open-air laundry you’ve ever seen.

On to Agra and the fabled Taj Mahal.  It is a magnificent sight on the edge of a typical country town with lots of colors and somewhat ram shackle buildings with streets full of cows, dogs and assorted multi-leg animals.

Our last stop was Jaipur, a delightful, orderly pink town.  It you don’t like Indian food, every restaurant also had Chinese food.

Glad we went

Arches National Park, Moab, Utah – This was a sleeper; a series of fascinating natural sandstone arches, great for biking or hiking.  Stay in Moab, a family-friendly, old western desert town.

As long as you’re there, check out Canyonlands National Park, right next door.

New York City – the Big Apple is a jungle of concrete canyons.  It has theaters, restaurants, night life and enough tourist attractions to fill two weeks or more.

Although I grew up there, I’ve rediscovered the city in our annual Thanksgiving week trips.  So many highlights and so many mental photographs.

The Grayline Tours of the many interesting areas of Manhattan were outstanding, including the old east side, as well as the backstage tour of the Lion King and a visit with a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall.  There are more great museums in NYC than anywhere in the world; the Metropolitan, Modern, Guggenheim, Whitney and a dozen more.  Even the Public Library on 42nd has an outstanding collection of art.

Probably the most outstanding subway and bus transportation system of any major city in the world.

Spain – Start from either end of this wonderful country.  We started in Moorish Seville, then on to cultural Cordoba, a city of Roman, Moorish, Christian and Jewish influence.  On to Granada and some time at the 14th Century Alhambra.  Next to magnificent Madrid and its great museums.

It was too exciting to stop so we went on to the great city of Barcelona to visit the Olympic venues and the Gandi’s awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia Cathedral.

From there it was on to Bilbao with one of Frank Gehry’s early museum masterpieces and a day trip to San Sebastian, a wonderful town on the Bay of Biscay.

Hearst Castle on the central coast of California, a real castle with all the ornate trimmings and fanciful furnishings built by infamous publisher William Randolph Hearst.  It’s a fascinating site with a gilded indoor pool and ostentatious taste beyond belief.  There are three tours, so you can’t just wander on your own.

Grand Canyon – one of the natural wonders of the world.  Both the north and south rims are well worth visiting.  On either side, staying for 24 hours is well worth the investment.  The daylight shining on the canyon walls is an ever-changing panorama of colors and hues.  It’s a wow!!

On the south rim you also have El Tovar Lodge, a somewhat rustic accommodation from another era.

Rafting through the bottom of the canyon is an exhilarating experience filled with fascinating sights and a few thrills over some rocky stretches of a churning river.

Norway – Great trip by land or sea.  The Fjords are spectacular and Bergen and Oslo are charming, delightful cities.

Washington, D.C. – So much to see—you could easily spend two weeks or break it up into several trips.  There were, of course, the usual sites; Congress, the White House, the National Cathedral, the Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson Memorials, and the Smithsonian Museums and National Art Museum.

They’re all great and then there are some hidden gems; the Library of Congress, the Spy Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and the delightful suburb of Georgetown.

You see a lot of the history of our great country and come away with a heightened sense of national unity and patriotism.  It’s great to go with or without kids.

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CURRENT EVENTS – JUNE 2017

Can Trump Survive?

The media and the Hillary Dems have gone ballistic over the Trump presidency in unprecedented ways.  The print and broadcast media pounce on every real or hopeful Trump flaw, rumor or possible inference in a doomed attempt to somehow get him out of office.

At the same time, President Trump is his own worst enemy.  He feeds into the paranoia of his critics by tweeting and constantly opening his mouth to provide inconsistent accounts of each new media storm.

His ill-advised effort to defeat his critics isn’t helping win any friends in the Republican Congress and his legislative agenda.  He has proven to be a significant distraction to his stated campaign goals on healthcare, tax reform and infrastructure, and may derail meaningful progress on these major needs all together.

Trying to govern with an over-inflated ego and a somewhat bizarre sensitivity to real or imagined slights is a surefire road to increasing harassment and eventual defeat on all fronts.

Hillary lost because she was not a candidate with charisma; she had more ethical baggage than the Samsonite company.  She tried to ride the coattails of Obama’s “success.”  Attempting to champion a 2% growth rate is just not the definition of a robust economy and a failed campaign strategy.

Now she sits on the sidelines watching as her activist supporters keep shouting, “He’s not my president,” disrupting town hall meetings and causing extensive property damage, as well as non-productive protests.

The Unions’ Deep Pockets

Unions today are not like those we grew up with.  Today, 52% of union members in the U.S. now work for a government agency and derive their money directly from your pocket.

Between 1989 and 2014, the top ten political contributing unions alone gave over $424 million of support almost all to Democratic candidates.

That’s just 10 of them!  And that’s what we know—loopholes put in place by members of Congress supported by these unions make it so that they don’t have to report these expenditures to the Federal Election Commission like the rest of us citizens do.

For comparisons sake, the “evil” Koch brothers you hear the left ramble on about have only given $18 million during that time.

And when you factor in unions forcing their members into political activities, the clout of these unions, often at the taxpayers’ expense, can be astronomical.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s large-scale investigation on this matter, the hours spent by union employees on political matters in 2010 (a midterm election) were equivalent to a shadow army much larger than President Obama’s entire 2012 re-election staff!

Appointment of Special Counsel

Between all the leaks, all the rumors, all the speculation and all the investigations, the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to explore the Russian-Trump connection, if any, was a breath of fresh air.

Note he is a counsel, not a prosecutor.  His work will probably drag on for a year or two but hopefully it will allow Washington to get back to work and get something done.

By the way, if there was any “collusion,” what could they have colluded about?  It doesn’t make much sense.

Cats is Back

I noticed that Andrew Lloyd Weber’s outstanding musical Cats is back on Broadway.  If you had to read the T.S. Eliot “Possum Book of Practical Cats,” the musical is much more understandable and super enjoyable.

“Memory” from the show is the most haunting piece of music I have ever heard.  I was on the verge of tears every time I heard it.

In my opinion, Andrew Lloyd Weber was the creative musical genius of the last century.  His 13 musicals were an outstanding creation of a new genre in stage presentations.

Evita was terrific; and the best of all was Phantom of the Opera, an intense, spirited and intriguing presentation of an old story.  The music carried me through all the twists and turns of a somewhat complex plot.

Weber supplanted Rodgers & Hammerstein as the king of Broadway musicals.

If He’d Only Leave Things Alone

The handling of the Comey firing by our president was handled about as badly as it could have been because he kept talking about it, adding new insults as he went.

One Standout

I’ve been impressed with Rex Tillerson, our Secretary of State, who in his own quiet, un-showboat way speaks well and seems to be working somewhat effectively to help rebuild some relations around the world.

As a successful executive with Exxon, he has demonstrated that some business experience can be transferred to effective government service.

The Cost of Misuse

The University of California looked into the misuse of funds by the chancellor at Berkeley.  The amount he misused was $4,990.  The cost of the investigation:  $57,672.

First Overseas Trip

President Trump’s recent visit to the three major religious centers in the world was exceptionally well conceived and well received by most pundits.

  1. His pleas to the 50 Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia to do more about terrorism for our common benefit instead of the usual lecture about their need to democratize and treat women better.
  2. The visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem was a first for an American president.

The Paris Accord

It’s a mismatch of dreamy, unreachable goals, but since it was unenforceable, I’m not sure why President Trump had to withdraw from it; could have just let it die on the vine.

Disappointment Everywhere I Turn

As you’ve undoubtedly guessed, I’m very disappointed in our president’s somewhat neurotic behavior, but the disappointment spreads itself all around.

The Democrats have created a new brand of fiery activists who disrupt, disparage and trash everything in sight.

Then there’s the media.

A study by Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government analyzed the TV coverage in the first 100 days of our new administration:

  • CNN: 93% of the stories were negative
  • NBC: 93% of the stories were negative
  • CBS: 91%  of the stories were negative
  • Y. Times: 87% of the stories were negative
  • Washington Post: 83% of the stories were negative

The media is trying to destroy him.  The Russia thing is their lynchpin to try to prove he’s an illegitimate president.  So far, no real evidence.

THE WORLD SEEMS OFF ITS AXIS!

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RETIREMENT 101

If you’re thinking about retirement, or you’re already there, WELCOME to a new, exciting chapter in your life.  The music of your working life doesn’t stop when you retire, it just opens the door to play and hear different tunes.

There will be less invites and the recognition will begin to dwindle.  At the same time, there will be less demands, as well as fewer commitments and obligations.  As Sherry Lansing, former head of Paramount Studios, once said, “executives don’t retire…they rewire.”

From a personal perspective as a multi-year retiree, you will probably pass through a pre-retirement phase and then through three stages in your retirement.  None lasts for a pre-determined length of time.  The length and character of each stage is different for each person.

In the pre-retirement phase, you will begin to think casually about the issues of retirement as you get closer…you will likely start to be a little nervous and uncertain.  You will have dozens of thoughts and fears.  How will I find enough to do?  Do I have enough capital and income?  Will I be bored out of my mind?

Understand these thoughts are not uncommon and once you cross the line and start your actual retirement, you will be amazed and echo the sentiments of most retirees—“I don’t have enough time to do all the things I want.”

If you follow my history, you will experience…

The first phase I call the Transition.  This is the time you decide how you want to live, where you want to live and what you want to do. You may well have started on this track, but don’t be in a hurry.  Take your time and play with different options.

You want to create and write out a bucket list.

Here’s a short list of 30 things to do in retirement.  Find the one(s) that fill your bucket.

  1. Join a church or temple
  2. Sailing club – always looking for crew
  3. Sierra Club for hiking
  4. Form or join a retired luncheon group of peers
  5. Join a book club
  6. Travel for adventure, activity, touristy, luxury. Name the places you want to go.
  7. Take care of yourself; join a gym; get a trainer
  8. Walk three to four times a week
  9. Try golf, tennis, paddle tennis, bike riding, skiing
  10. Do volunteer work – hospital, museum
  11. Consult for Executive Service Corps (ESC), Small Business Administration (SBA)
  12. Stay part time or take a new full-time job
  13. Buy a franchise
  14. Become a consultant or expert witness in your area of knowledge
  15. Serve on a non-profit or for-profit board
  16. Plant a garden of flowers or vegetables
  17. Write a book or magazine article or poetry
  18. Take courses at college extensions or senior citizen short courses
  19. Get involved in community theater as an actor or backstage
  20. Get involved in political party activities
  21. Become a wood or metal worker
  22. Try your hand at art or sculpture
  23. Attend a cooking school here or abroad
  24. Go fishing or try photography
  25. Be a tourist in your own community
  26. Try your hand at singing in a choir or playing a musical instrument
  27. Learn more about investing
  28. Don’t stint on prescription medicines
  29. Read more non-fiction or fiction
  30. Spend more time with family

I had a few false starts.  I thought about launching a couple of new business ventures, which didn’t materialize.  I tried some teaching, but found the effort to deliver some understanding about marketing and entrepreneurship to beginning college students very unfulfilling.

Through a former employee, I fell into about a three-year consulting assignment and started to enjoy more personal travel.  At this point, I have almost 80 countries and all seven continents on my passport.  I took up golf, which easily made up for all the frustrations I left behind at the office.  About the same time I found out about doing consulting projects for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

One problem which I have observed which seems to hold back a number of retirees is their difficulty in letting go of their ego and are not in as much demand any more.

My transition lasted about three years or so and led directly into my Optimum retirement.  Life was great.  My health was good and offered me the opportunity to exercise, play golf, go on bike trips, and have an active social and travel lifestyle.  It was at this point I began referring to myself as a “happy has been.”  The only thing I missed was a secretary, but I bit the bullet and found a secretarial service.

The USAID projects took Gabriele and me to Romania, Egypt, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Thailand.  The mission was to help third world business people understand and prosper in a free market economy.  These four to six-week projects also afforded us the opportunity for extensive travel in that region.

If you aren’t a member of a gym now, join one and get a trainer for at least six months.  The trainer will keep you going and give you less excuses to play hooky.  Read more, travel for leisure more and find or form a monthly luncheon group of retirees.  The conversation is different but helpful.

In the last few years I have entered an unrequested Adjustment stage.  Although far from life threatening, a number of health issues have begun to surface.  No more USAID projects; I didn’t want to go to Kosovo or Iraq anyway and am cutting back some of our travel, exercise and golf.

Although moving at a somewhat slower pace, all in all, life if still good and very enjoyable.

I still like music…you will too!

Next month we’ll discuss living options and how to calculate finances.

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