After months of making it clear that I was thinking of resigning, my editor Kevin Uhrich finally acquiesced and suggested I write a column announcing my retirement after nearly 35 years at the Pasadena Weekly. And he suggested that I do it in the Senior Living issue. Highly appropriate since, while I’ve been in denial for several years, I’ve spent a good (and it has been good) half my life writing columns on local restaurants and I’m really ready to turn over the task to somebody younger and more enthusiastic than me.
I’m not sure what’s changed. Perhaps putting our sick, elderly, darling Sandyclaws down last week and realizing that in cat years, he wasn’t that much older than I. Perhaps the recent death of my treadmill, my lethargy in replacing it and the contentment I feel at not having to force myself to exercise every day.
Perhaps my fear that the “Golden Years” I was convinced would be ours with Hillary at the helm of a progressive and humane administration have been stolen by a greedy, corrupt, ignorant, self-absorbed, misogynistic, malignant and dangerous autocrat and his evil minion who have put our future and that of the planet in peril. Or maybe I’m just tired of deadlines.
I mourn the death of Pasadena’s Fu Shing and Souplantation far more than I celebrate the opening of each high-end steak house with $150 tasting menus. Not much makes me smile these days — exceptions: the Hillary 2016 sign still posted on our front lawn; the (artificial) Christmas tree in our front window decorated just prior to the 2016 election which I’ve sworn to keep up until Trump is out of office; and the “Republicans for Voldemort” sticker on my rear bumper. (Speaking of Voldemort, if you think the Dark Lord was vanquished forever check out the plot of Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!”)
Leafing through cruise brochures and lying on my bed binge-watching reruns of “X-Files,” “Supernatural” and “Dr. Who” while eating Ben & Jerry’s and waiting for the sequel to “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is what I’m about these days. Occasionally, my husband and I meander over to Costco and dine on hot dogs and Diet Pepsi for $1.50 before buying our $5 chicken.
I do reminisce occasionally about restaurants I most enjoyed writing about, especially those that have died. Anyone out there remember The Italian Fisherman, Americo’s, Maldonado’s, Merida, Kabakian’s, Mandarin Fisherman, Monahan’s, Café 60 North, Beckham Place, Marianne or The Chronicle? How about The Bucket, Yaas, Monty’s, InnArty’s, Yujean Kang, Bahooka, Tra Fiori or Xiomara? Musing about them is like wandering through a mental cemetery, pausing at the headstones of long-gone friends.
Every once in a while, I reread old reviews like the one I wrote about The Raymond (still a favorite) in 1989, just after my not-yet-husband moved to Pasadena, in which I described how the restaurant captured his heart from the moment he entered. Or, a bit later, on how Jake’s, which offered my mate a place to smoke cigars, play billiards and stop insisting we buy a pool table for the family room, saved our marriage.
My Rose City Diner review, in which I voiced a strong belief that the place was likely run by aliens who knew how diner food should look but had never actually tasted it. And an especially fun piece about how a trio of friends and I played Sherlock (successfully, I might add) trying to find a Szechwan hole-in-the-ground eatery in San Gabriel by means of three Chinese characters penciled on a torn paper napkin and a vague location (“in one of the malls on the south side of Valley Boulevard”) provided by one of my husband’s Chinese grad students.
Whatever! It’s been a great gig and I’ve had a wonderful time. But, to paraphrase Yeats, Pasadena is no city for old restaurant reviewers. Caught in the “sensual music” of fine dining and just plain ol’ good eats, I’ve been neglecting “monuments of unaging intellect.” And while I may not be sailing to Byzantium anytime soon, there are things to do, books to read (and perhaps write) and places to see lest I become “a paltry thing, a tattered coat upon a stick.” So I’m actually getting up the energy to look at recumbent bikes.
I’ll miss the chase of course. Like an elderly firehouse dog, my ears still perk up when friends mention new restaurants, and my first impulse is to check them out. But I can resist. The spirit is willing though the flesh is still a little weak. A few weeks on that bike and thinking about some of the less stellar places I’ve had to cover and more pedestrian reviews I’ve had to force myself to write should help.
I’ve got tomatoes to plant, a newly-trapped feral cat who gave birth to four kittens three weeks ago in our guest bathroom (anyone in the market, PLEASE send Kevin an e-mail!) and a quick turn-around trip to Italy at the end of May to watch my hubby get yet another lifetime engineering award.(The plaques — the latest the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Inventors — are piling up on a chair in our laundry room until we can find wall space to hang them!)
On the other hand, so far Kevin doesn’t seem to have found a replacement for me, and I’ve promised him I’ll be around if he needs an occasional substitute. Wow, I just found out there’s a recently opened French restaurant (Côté Est) in Highland Park. Mmm — escargot, coq au vin, apple galette. Quelle joie!
Not to worry, Kevin. I’m on it!
Write to Kevin Uhrich at firstname.lastname@example.org.