On That Something Inside Us

‘My dear Sinclair,’ he said slowly, “I wasn’t trying to say anything disagreeable. And anyway–neither of us really knows the real reason why you’re drinking. Whatever it is inside you shaping your life knows already. It’s so good to know that there’s something inside us, and that it knows everything, wants everything, and does everything better than we do! – But forgive me, I have to go home now.’
— from "Demian" by Hermann Hesse

Taverna Tony

TAVERNA TONY
23410 Civic Center Way
Malibu, CA 90265
T. 310.317.9667


A couple of years ago, after silently lamenting that I lacked a sense of adventure, I decided to drive to Malibu on my own from the ranch. Driving long distances was still new to me at the time and I had no idea that the canyon roads were going to be curvy the entire way. It felt death-defying–you might as well have asked me to go bungee-jumping! My palms were sweaty, my stomach was in knots, and I cursed myself for not driving straight into L.A. like I normally did.

Taking the road less travelled, though, has its perks because that's when I stumbled across Taverna Tony, a romantic, bougainvillea-shaded veranda enclosed by a traditional white stucco wall. With its terracotta tiles and bright cerulean blue touches, it looked as though this entire restaurant had been transplanted from a vibrant coastal town in the Mediterranean. Feeling proud that I had completed my mission safely and soundly, I confidently strode into the bar and ordered myself a glass of crisp white wine.

I can't resist a Greek menu, but the best things here aren't actually on the menu at all. Tony's highly addictive "house dip" is graciously sent out with a basket of a warm loaf of bread once you sit down. Apparently, the dip's main ingredients are avocado, red caviar, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. The rest is a secret that's kept under lock and key. Every time I've returned since, I keep asking for the recipe, hoping one of the waiters will crack. But this is all in vain, which is wise because, instead of recreating it at home, I have no choice but to come back for more.

Of course, the crisp, bountiful salads and simply grilled seafood dishes are major draws, but my other favorites here include the avgolemono soup (a homemade chicken and orzo soup bolstered with egg yolks and lemon juice), the tender and smoky grilled baby octopus with spring onions, and the psarasoupa (a tomato-based fish and seafood soup). It's so hard not to fall in love with Greek food. If you make a day out of hanging out in Malibu, you must stop here!

On Being All Romance and Failure

Meadow had made rich fat women less fat, and rich stupid kids less stupid, and rich lame men less lame. And she wanted so badly to be on the other side: to be fat, and stupid, and lame and rich. But what she couldn’t see most of all–more than she could see that she was never going to get the restaurant–was that those people were nothing compared to her. She was the last cowboy: all romance and failure. The role was changing and her kind didn’t have anywhere to go. Being a beacon of hope for lesser people is a lonely business.
— from the film "Mistress America", written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach

Much Ado About... Nothing

 

The blaring, archaic ringing of the house phone jolted me awake. It was three in the afternoon. I had fallen asleep while reading in bed–in my bathrobe, no less. Why was I wearing a bathrobe? Oh, that's right–I originally planned on taking a shower but decided to put on a cleansing hair masque first. It was supposed to be left on for twenty minutes before rinsing which is where the reading came in. I've always found waking up from naps disorienting, especially when it's unexpected.

"Hello?"

"Hi, it's me, Andrew."

Andrew is a neighbor of ours with a ranch a few miles down the road. He shares the property with his brother. They both live in L.A. but come up on the weekends as a retreat from city life. They're also the only people we're acquainted with in the town of Three Rivers who are under the age of 70. 

"Oh, hi!" I said, trying to sound as awake and alert as possible, sitting up in bed. 

"Are you O.K.?" he asked, "You sound... A little off." 

"Oh, you know... I'm fine. I was just reading a book.... Wait, are you up here?"

I didn't have the nerve to tell him that I was napping.

"Well, I was," he replied. "I tried calling you guys before I left. Tonny said to give a call once I got back–hence this call, though, I must say  I'm pleasantly surprised to hear your voice."

"I'm sorry we missed you while you were here," I said, sincerely.

"What's new with you?"

Ah, the dreaded question. I felt compelled to say: "Nothing and everything." The "nothing" is in regards to having nothing new to report other than I'm still trying to figure out my life; the "everything" is that, in doing the figuring out part, there are about a million feelings, thoughts, and emotions roiling around inside of me all at once–not to mention a collection of short-lived gigs

My life is sorta like a consommé that's in the works. It's a bunch of coarse ingredients simmering away in a pot, with the hopes of–at some point–becoming a refined, harmonious, clarified liquid. Right now, the broth is cloudy and doesn't quite taste like anything yet. It needs more time.

The book I was reading, by the way, was a memoir called Mistakes Were Made (Some In French) by Fiona Lewis. To sum up the book jacket, it's a story about a woman who moves at her own pace through life and who, in her fifties, battles with her fears of not being a success, not having children, and aging. (No surprise here why this resonates with me.) After spending a year in the French countryside, restoring a crumbling chatêau and reflecting upon her life, she begins to accept her "self". She'd finally lay claim to something of her own. No grand achievements or treacherous adventures to be told, yet inspiring all the same.

It's inspiring me to look for my own version of her French chatêau. (Because Lord knows I'm not going to actually buy and restore a French chatêau on my own.)

"I just got back from L.A. and enjoying the ranch." I answered, breezily, looking out at the green hills and gray skies. "It's been chilly here."

"Our goats gave birth," he said, lighting up, "I swear to you, their babies are the cutest things you've ever seen. You should drive down there and play with them–and bring back as many eggs as you want from the chicken coop."

"I should," I said. "Thank you. I should do that."

I really should.

 

 

The Telltale Lines

A friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend last month and is now back in the dating pool again with relative success, thanks to apps like Bumble and The League. From what I've been hearing, the only way to meet anyone these days is through joining an app. The gamut runs from your average FedEx driver with tattoos and a goatee to the typical "slick entrepreneur" posing in front of a sports car in a business suit. Scary, I know. Anyway, she told me about two promising dates that she's been on the past couple of weeks: One was with a 47-year old divorced billionaire with a child; the other was with a handsome 36-year old who lives in Venice.

"I ended up cancelling my second date with the 47-year old. I didn't like his look–and the fact that he has an ex-wife!" she sighed. 

"You know how to tell when a guy is in his late forties and older, right?" I asked, raising a brow.

"By those little lines around his ears!" we cried in unison. 

I recounted a story from my single days in New York when my friend Ashley and I were having drinks at Soho House. The lighting was significantly dimmed as late afternoon turned into evening. With the piano tinkling and fireplace roaring, the mood was sexy and cosmopolitan. A tall handsome guy, wearing jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt, approached us and struck up a conversation. He was charming and ordered another round of drinks for us. We engaged in witty banter and mild flirtations throughout the night. Before we left, he asked for my number and gave me his. 

Later that week, he invited me to dinner with his best friends, another couple, at a fashionable Italian restaurant in the West Village. His friends were bonafide grown-ups. In other words, they looked like completely matured human beings, if you know what I mean.  When I looked over at my date, I noticed a series of vertical lines on the side of his face where his ear joined the rest of his face, something I'd never encountered before. It was then that I realized that the guy I thought was 38 years old at Soho House was probably more like 48. (It's amazing how dim lighting, jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt can shave ten years off a man.) Having just turned 30 at the time, this age group was a little out of my comfort zone. 

"You know how else you can tell?" said my friend. "The hairy ears."

I don't remember seeing hairy ears, but there were definitely gray eyebrows when he leaned down to kiss me goodnight. That was the end of that.