Monday, February 26, 2007

Alas, Poor Hobie! We Knew Him Well

Hipsters and Sanders Supreme, David and Brian, bid farewell to their big boy Hobie who chose not to be on February 26, 2007, 4:50 p.m... at the ripe age of 19.
The child pictured holding Hobie is actually Brian. Sherman, set the way back!

Bye, Hobie Honey, and Happy Trails to You. We hope you are barfing up a hairball on God's couch.

Roscoe Grill's Very Own C.J. Johnson

Restaurateur, C.J. Johnson, has a wonderful drink and dine spot on south Palm Canyon. C.J. hails from Seattle and has managed to pull off a delightful mod edition of Ruby's favorite spot to drink and dine in Seatte...The Queen City least it was Ruby's favorite when Alan Davis was chef there...
Roscoe's is a steak house of the first order BUT...everything on the menu is delish.
Ruby's personal favorites:
The Szechuan Geen Beans ($7)
Coconut Shrimp ($10)
Peppercorn New York Steak ($25)
Seared Ahi ($18) FABULOUS
Way to go C.J.
Rick is a wonderful bartender...and Carlos a fabulous waiter...Becky a marvelous Maitre D

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sander "Peaches" Chekouras Checks In

A Guide to Homemaking
Rebecca Chekouras
The San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Printable Version
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My Word

The other night, getting out of the tub, I broke into song. I was in an expansive mood. I had the place to myself, my housemate having left that evening for Bangkok and six months of travel in Asia. She lives with me from May to November. By Halloween, insane with each other, she grabs a visa and books a flight. Asia, Central America, India, it doesn't matter just as long as it's warm, inexpensive and has something she's curious about. As she readies to leave, I am rapturous. I will be sole occupant again as I was four years ago BG (before Gail).
We met at work. Eighteen years her senior, I could easily be her mother. Easily, that is, except for the people we are and the life we've built -- not together but intersected. While so much attention was spent demonizing gay marriage, Gail (30-something, straight, single, Gidget with Attitude) and I (50-something, queer, single) have formed our own alternative family.
At first I had no interest in Gail. She persisted in butting into my consciousness, usually because I had something she needed. "Hey, can I have your car keys?" is how it started and for some reason I gave them to her. Eventually, I was invited along on these random trips to get coffee or office supplies. The day I left the company, she put a 2 pound bag of Goldfish on my desk -- my favorite party food.
When she pinged me from Vietnam a few months after our goodbyes I was pleased to hear from her. She'd run away to Asia with a lover. My surprise at her leaving was nothing compared to my astonishment at her writing. The stories she sent back were each a Faberge egg using an economy of words to open a wealth of images. I loved them. There she was with her boyfriend trying to rent a house in some village or joining in a temple ritual of harvest. Adventurous and adorable, they rambled for a year, taking me along with precise yet lavishly detailed descriptions of the landscape, people, customs, cuisine and local driving habits. Then they broke up and Gail came running wee wee wee all the way home. She landed on my doorstep having nowhere else to go. She was just a work acquaintance turned pen pal but I needed pet sitting the very day of her arrival and this time I handed her the key to my house.
Four months later I began to refer to her behind her back as "the guest who will not leave!" Finally, she announced she was going to Oaxaca to learn Spanish and salsa dancing. Hasta la vista, baby! She broke everything she touched. She trashed the kitchen when she cooked. She used every towel every time she took a bath. I missed her. She was funny and smart. She did winsome things -- like throw little cocktail parties for us in the afternoon at "wine-thirty" (any time after 4 p.m.). She'd begun to say the cutest things, like "Hey, do we have a mop?"
She found a new muse in Mexico and began sending delightful stories back until I got an e-mail instructing me to leave the porch light on, she was coming home. In a sprinkling of years our life has assumed its regularity. Like Persephone, she disappears in the fall and returns in the spring. And, like any good calendar of seasons, a liturgy of sorts has assembled around us. I address her by her last name; she addresses me archetypically as "you." Mornings are observed in silence until she speaks first. We have a conceit wherein I know everything esoteric and she knows everything practical. I let her assume a convenient technological superiority that gets me off the hook for having to update, upload, upgrade or do anything else with gadgets. I am not hip, she is -- need I even say it? One summer, we explored online dating, each of us going out on some of the worst dates of our lives. It became standard practice to wish each other the best or worst luck as we left the house dreading mediocrity more than either of those two extremes. Often, the dater would return within 45 minutes to inquire if there was any vodka in the house. Lately, she has a boyfriend de l'été with whom she breaks up just as I am falling for the handsome, agreeable chap, leaving me sad and depressed when she jaunts on to the next trip, next hemisphere, next man.
But I know one day in late March or early April, as the Bay Area rains dry up and the sun rides higher in the sky, an e-mail will arrive with a flight number and ETA, along with some instructions about hiding the good china. The little blue 1967 Volkswagen bug will come out from under its winter tarp. Then salsa music will blare late into the night. The blender will make mojitos instead of soup. The front door will slam shut on our standard expression of farewell, "You're in charge!" The tribe will gather to plan the annual haj to Palm Springs in July and we will be a family.
I realize I have given her the key to my heart -- she didn't even have to ask for it. And I trust that, unlike every wineglass, plate, small appliance or teakettle, she won't break it.
Rebecca Chekouras, a Bay Area writer, is working on a novel set in Palm Springs, "Through the Turquoise Gate," that asks what is salvation and where does it come from.
This article appeared on page CM - 20 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Saturday, February 24, 2007

From Puff-Mattie and His Min(d)ion

One of the many fine inventions from our Sander friends.

Send us your favorite Sands memory. We'll getcha up here, Mamas and Papas!

Friday, February 23, 2007

She's Got The Whole World In Her Hands

Delta Dawn Bern and Ruby have been friends for 25 years. She too wants to live in The Desert. She has been a regular at The Sands since Ruby bought the place in 2000. Here she is holding a ceramic ink well of the world in her hands. Her gift to The Sands. Delta has managed to retire from her job as City Planner in Seattle and is on the lookout down here for something inspiring. I'm sure she will find it.
We love you, Delta. Welcome to The Desert.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tina Turner 1982 Proud Mary

You just have to love this!

Happy Birthday Tom Perry!

Tom Perry turns 49 today. The young gent has been the Salvation of The Sands moment by moment...creatively designing and installing knotty pine knick knack cabinets for Ruby's billions of Salt and Pepper vegetable head people, etc. He has come to the rescue so many times I don't even know where to begin. Here he is installing a neon sign amidst the task of his already busy Contractor's day. Well...grateful I can make him dinner tonight.
Happy Birthday, Tom. We love you.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sander, Jaimi Houston, Happy Birthday...

Loyal, long term Sander, Jaimi Houston, has a birthday today (Feb. 21/07) and we at The Sands hope it is indeed a memorable one. Jaimi has helped in so many ways at The Sands...she spent one entire day wrestling with the world's largest Bougainvillea by the front gate that had some frost damage from January's below freezing temps. She also removed Mylar film from Ruby's Apartment that had begun to peel and look unsightly...this job lasted a good ten hours...and she finely researched all angles of how to do this and with what. The result is something miraculous...the mountains look beauteous now from the inside of R's pad. Jaimi has been coming to The Sands long before Ruby owned it with her family. She has a special place in her heart for this sweet, sweet spot on earth.

Coming Up In March! (With a Little Sneaky Peek at April)

Palm Springs Events
March - Early April 2007
Pacific Life Open
Tennis Event & Competition
Indian Wells, California
Dates: March 5-18, 2007
Phone: 760-200-8000
Location: Indian Wells Tennis Gardens
78-200 Miles Ave, Indian Wells, Ca.
Pacific Life Open brings the sport of Tennis' greatest talent, the best of the best, to Indian Wells at the Tennis Garden with competition from the Men's ATP and Women's WTA tennis year. Pacific Life Open Tennis Event & Competition

Kraft Nabisco Golf Championship
(Also known as The Dinah Shore Classic, or, reverently, The Dinah)
Dates: March 26-April 1, 2007
Phone: 760-324-4546
Location: Mission Hills Country Club, Rancho Mirage, Ca.
Join in on the action at the Kraft Nabisco Championship as it's considered the "Masters" of women's golf during its 36th anniversary celebration.

The Dinah Shore Weekend
Palm Springs
Dates: March 26-April 1, 2007
Phone: 1-888-923-4624
Location: Palm Springs, Ca.
A popular annual golf event held in the Palm Springs area attracts golf fans from around the world and also draws a large gathering of Lesbian golf enthusiasts for the tournament and the week's activities held throughout Palm Springs. Cutting edge entertainment and World class service are part of the week's activities.
The Dinah Shore Weekend Classic, March 26-April 1, 2007, in Palm Springs, Ca.

The White Party, Palm Springs
Palm Springs White Party
Dates: April 6-8, 2007
Phone: 1-888-777-8886
Location: Palm Springs Convention Center, downtown Springs, Ca.
The 18th annual White Party with a sizzling array of DJ's and guest stars. Highlights include non-stop pool parties, music, and entertainment by some of Hollywood's hottest celebrities.

Monday, February 19, 2007

March Is Just Around the Corner

And what very special religious Holy Day happens in March, hmmmmmm?
Yes, folks, it's the Eastertide of the Lesbian Faith: The Dinah.
All bow down.

Hey, Let's Hit the Rewind Button

And go back one day or one month (depending on your preference for the Western or Chinese New Year) and relish this sweet card from two of the finest Sanders we've got: Debra and her man Charlie.
They were just here and it hurt so bad when they left we had to give 'em a re-up in April.
Until then, Happiness, Peace, Hope, and Love to you all!


We love hearing from our Sanders!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Desert is a Magical Place

Take a look around you here in the desert. It is an incredibly magical place. Small wonder that all of the miracles in the Bible happen in the Desert. Well, Ok, I haven't been to seminary school. Maybe this is just heresay. But I will say I think we're all lookin' for that Burnin' Bush.

Palm Springs Artist Barry Wolfryd

Barry Wolfryd, Palm Springs artist, invited us to his studio this week and we liked what we saw. Barry has a very Frank Zappa quality about him. He lived for 20 years in Mexico City and just came to the Springs 2 years ago. What a treat for the rest of us. Barry has become one of Debra's foundling models.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Spectacularly Divine Ms L.

She's living Opera, this one. Both Dramatic and yet serene. The Sands is thrilled to have her presence. She photographs every foundling model in every forgotten corner of the place and reminds us of it's significance...She jumps up and down over "the light" in any given day. Debra hails from New York/Seattle. We have sort of known each other for years by way of mutual friends "Ask David" Staskowski (Metropolitan Home Magazine Ghuru) and Brian "Love Laverne" Brock (channeler supreme)...Two weeks she and her lover boy Charlie, have been here and it's over. Sooo sad to see them leave. Had a great time with these two. When you go some place with Debra you end up meeting everyone interesting there. She's a magnet for positive energy because that what she exudes. Everything is possible with this gal. The world is her oyster and she shares.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Papa's Got a Brand New Bag!

Boy Howdy! Louis' tailor, Blake Stone (760 409 5653) arrived yesterday afternoon with his brand new fabulous zebra zoot suit and he will never want for anything else...thank you, once again, Miss Jaimi Houston, for being the visionary behind this chihuahua fashionista moment. For 20 this dude has it going on...let's face it, for 2 this dude has it going on.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sander strolling the grounds

Seattle Artist Yumiko Kayukawa and Sander Fumiko Yarita

Seattle Artist Yumiko Kayukawa opened her show in Tandem with Shag on Saturday night at M Modern Gallery. Here she poses with one of her remarkable paintings in a series called "Girl Cocktail"...
Posing with Yumiko is Sander Fumiko Yarita who is a Big Fan of Yumiko...We all had alot of fun together at this practically SOLD OUT show.

Dusty have you seen my Leopard Slipper?

Once upon a time in a corn funtry lived Rindacella and her two sad bisters...The storel of the mory is...don't slop yer dripper at a bancy fall.
Dusty...where's my slipper?

Sanders Melinda "Mindy" Hankins and Mathew Hoffman

Sanders Mindy Hankins (Seattle Chef Extraordinaire) and designer, husband, Matthew Hoffman prepare to leave The Sands after "too short a stay"...five days simply is not enough. Whilst they were here they searched out the brilliant red fruit and exquisite juice of the blood orange and concocted a "Coral Sands"...a rather divine margarita. Just ask...the bar will provide here at The Coral Sands. These two also made marvelous pool side grilling experiences for the rest of us each evening. Thank you Matt and Mindy. We love you.

Susie Frank and Jeffie DiAngelo

Susie Frank and her man, Jeffie DiAngelo (brother of Beverly) stopped in this week at the Sands. I met Susie years ago at the National Salt and Pepper Shaker Convention in Kellogg, Michigan. She met Jeffie traveling back to Pasadena on a plane that same trip. They later married. He played bass in Doc Severenson's band on the Johnny Carson Show for years. Susie helps run her family's restaurant chain...Lawry's Steak House. I always thought it such an irony that I met Susie at a salt and pepper shaker convention...and she comes from THE seasoning salt family.

Sanders Meet the locals at M Modern Gallery

Sanders Debra La Coppola and Melinda Hankins joined me at the Shag Extravaganza on Saturday night where we mingled with LA boy Steve and Palm Springs boy Barry. Wonderful way to spend a Saturday night...wonderful creative people witnessing great art and free booze. My o my.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day, You Tart!

"Pepper, mostly," said The Queen of Hearts to Alice.

Fully Illustrated Shag man

Here is another shot of our fully illustrated "Shag man" at M Modern's Gallery opening for Shag...(Josh Agle)...truly a living work of art. Wow.

The Illustrated Man

About halfway through the evening opening at M Modern's Shag show I noted someone disrobing. He was fully illustrated...many shag illustrations. More to follow.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Shag does Palm Springs

100s clamoured to buy prints, paintings, books, etc. at Shag's Saturday night opening at M Modern Gallery. It appeared that nearly everything sold! An amazing outpouring of community for this edgy artist with a flair for Palm Springs kitchy sense of humor.

Shag me...

Saturday night, February 10th, I had the distinct pleasure of regrouping with one of my favorite artists in the world...Shag. He was featured with all Palm Springs paintings. They were out of this more ways than one. Shag is a Coral Sander!

Jay Jones and Ruby at M Modern's Blonde bombshell

M Modern had a wonderful opening last month...The Blonde Bombshell Show. I have mentioned it earlier and just wanted to include this picture with me and the Fabulous Mr. Jay Jones...a fellow Okie. Jay is an incredible Interior Designer...responsible for much of the Over the Top Incredulous "Leisureland"...currently working on the home of Shari and Bobby Applebaum. I cannot wait to see their place. Jay is also a buyer for Meredith Miller and Carol Dunlap's fabulous Ace Hardware store on Baristo.

Whatever Lola Wants...Lola gets and she got it...

Lola has been longing for a leopard coat for the longest time. At the dinner table every night the same old "but all the other Yorkihuahuas have one..." so finally someone took pity and put the money down with a street vendor tailor on a Thursday night and little Lola just received this package in the mail. Jaimi Houston got each of the well deserving pups at The Sands their very own Jacket. Louie's will be revealed when the tailor has finished it.
Doesn't Lola look fetching lounging about the pool in this little number?

Dusty Springfield in Her Doris Day Outfit Poolside

Dusty Springfield is "movin' on up" in her new Doris Day
jacket. Here she models it for a group of Sanders Poolside.
She knows how to move in this number and has everyone
whispering about cost and how great she looks.
Jaimi Houston, a die hard Sander, (perhaps the person
that Ruby is aware of that has been coming to The Sands
since the 60s...that still comes.) has bestowed this glamourous
piece of fashion on our scrappy little princess and given her an all new day.
Thank you Jaimi Houston.

Monday, February 12, 2007

February 12th, This Day In History

Led by James Edward Oglethrope, the first English colonists landed in what is now Georgia, and established the colony now known as Savannah.
Any Sanders in Savannah?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Graham Crackers

Two of my most favorite people on the Planet. Graham Graham and his lovely wife...the fabulous Wood Graham. For years I have known Graham...gratefully last year he brought his brilliant and incredibly sexy wife, Wood, for the Sands to see. Graham has always been the Hunk of the Sands when he would travel South. Even my father fell in love with him. All of the Ponies. I kept taking everyone in the kitchen and saying..."He's married." Jesus. I have to admit he is a bit of a snake charmer...and I'm Hardcore. I was thrilled to see who had actually won his heart. They are the visionaries behind "La Carta", "Thaiku", "The Copper Gate"...need I go on. These are all in Seattle. Graham also resides in NYC and is the visionary behind Donna Karan. Wow. A Most interesting Sander pair!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Guest Check In of the Week

Debby Bull of Livingston, Montana took this great shot of The Yiddish Cowgirl Room when she was here last year and was nice enough to send it back today. Thank you!
Debby is a Sander par excellance. She is the artistic force behind the book Hillbilly Hollywood and author of the novel Blue Jelly. .

Formerly an editor at Rolling Stone, Debby chooses The Sands when she's in Palm Springs. Love that gal! ,

Send yer photos in. We love it when you do!

It's Official!

We're movin' on up!

And he's off!

Should be a great race and maybe we'll actually talk about something REAL now. Go Obama and Go Hillary! Make this race about sumthin other than who has the most money and who has the most despicable operatives.

Gloria Steinem offered a great editorial concerning who to support, Hillary or Obama, in The New York Times:

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Coral Sanders Supreme

Here's another dame who would NOT quit, "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale. As hard as this woman was pushed down she just sprang right back up ready to go one more round. S-T-A-U-N-C-H.
Edie, Baby, you look absolutely terrific.

Anna Nicole Smith, Dead At 39

Anna Nicole Smith, the woman who just couldn't seem to catch a break and the professional inspiration of The Sands' own Lola, died today.
Her story is so singularly American and tragic Dreiser could have scripted it himself. Her son, Daniel, died in September, 2006 under suspicious circumstances, her infant daughter's paternity is still in dispute, Smith was the object of desire and scorn in equal amounts.
A large woman with a large appetite for money and fame (read: security), she grabbed for as much as she could get. Little education but a lot of gumption took her far. And we beat the shit out of her for it.
Rest in peace, . . . at last.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Claudia's Here...(in my heart) round the green formica

Claudia Glenn Dowling is one of the most beautifully complicated Sanders. She has been coming since the champagne hit the side of the building here. A brilliant writer, NY Times crossword puzzle junky...doesn't even bother Monday, Tuesday, and's too easy. First in her class from Vasser...writer for many top Mags...videogrpaher...produced interesting pieces for Oxygen...Mother of the lovely Hannah...prized friend to Ruby...More recently hands on contractor for her place on Block Island, Rhode Island...building a second home on a family compound she shares with her ex husband and brother-in-law...Blogger...Claudia's Surf City...advertised on this website on front page side panel. Many, many other wonderful things to say, later.

LOVE CHILD...David Wills

The talent and creativity expressed by this gorgeous Australian "Love Child", David Wills, has helped to put M Modern Gallery on the MAP in Palm Springs. The Blonde Bombshell show was remarkably packed with a standout crowd largely due to David's promotional skills and wonderful ideas...also his sympatico connection with Jay and Michelle Nailor, owners of the Gallery...who seem to pick only winning artists to be- jewel their gallery walls. I asked David to stand next to his favorite in the Blonde Bombshell show. Another winner.
David's lovely parents who intoxicate a room with their sweet love of one another were recently visiting from Australia and I had the good pleasure to meet them. They are a national treasure in Australia...of this I am certain...and David...their only love child.

Ginny Ruffner's Entourage at Lesisureland

Now this is a show of support. All of these souls flew or drove in from various points North to honor our Queen of Glass by attending her Opening at Imago Gallery and of course to rub souls at The Sands. Here we are at Leisureland getting a tour of the Kabler collection...incredible, I might add.
From left to right...Shari Behnke, Lynn Grigsby, John Behnke, Cee Cee Poniscan, Jamie Kabler, Alvy Ray Smith, Kate Seekings, Ivar, Wood Graham, Graham Graham and John Lucehesini.

Ginny Ruffner Freak Twin to Bonnie Raitt

Ginny Ruffner, looking ever-so-much like Bonnie Raitt's freak twin these days...was usurped these last couple of weeks by many unpreventable life's highway events here in Palm Springs...So, I wanted to return to both she and her entourage as she is an incredibly supportive Coral Sands Loyalist...I have overheard her say she "wouldn't stay anywhere else." Oh...and her Entourage is one of the finer groups of people to find in our sphere.
Here is Ginny the night of her show at Imago Gallery in Palm Desert (1/20/07) receiving adulation from the incomparable Jamie Kabler, Arts Patron, among many other things. By 7 p.m. the evening of the opening 5 of her pieces had already sold. A wildly successful showing by this Queen in the glass world. We love you, Ginny!

Rebecca "Peaches" Chekouras

Rebecca "Peaches" Chekouras...chronicler and blogger par XCellance regulating and saving each and every soulful moment at The Coral Sands...Ruby's friend of some 40 years...This is a person who had her birthday party at the Coral Sands before Ruby even arrived...she's that supportive...Sanders need to put their money where there mouth is...Peaches has done this diligently...she is in charge of "life systems" here at the Sands...without her it would clearly be in someone else's hands. Thank you, Peaches.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Inside Riccios

In my book sometimes some things are so bad they are good. This is INSIDE RICCIOS...You've gotta love it. Bad Chandeliers and Flocked Wallpaper sometimes with dimmed lighting create that 50s Romance you have been looking for. The Guy you are going to marry and be with the rest of your life is sucking linguine across the room...he meets your gaze and you're both frozen...Then the Guy on the Bench Begins to Play "For Once in My Life I've Someone Who Need Me"...and you are just gone...
I bet if you head there right now you'll find someone sucking linguine.
This place is a Palm Springs institution.

Cocktails at Riccio's

It's not enough that the waiters and maitre'd all look like Frank Sinatra Meets the Munsters and that the piano bar rivals any show in any bar in LA...The nodding head Doll on the Bench used to Accompany Frank Sinatra himself when he would dine or drink at the wonderful and frozen in time Italian family owned landmark. The bartender will make a coffee drink where she will peel an orange...light it on fire and drop it in your drink...everyone is awestruck at her circuslike antics...and tempted to order another just to watch her do it again...even at it's $14 price tag. They make a caesar salad right at your table. Yum. One of Palm Springs' finest experiences says the Ruby.

Spacey Marilyn The New Age Broad

The new Doll on Leisure Way is Spacey Marilyn. This in no way impacts the reputations of the other inhabitants of that fantasy land.

Is He Simply Reacting To The Peace Symbol

Johm...What is Richard saying...will you just concentrate.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

M Modern Gallery's Blonde Bombshell Show

Dale Sizer's Lana Turner Tear Painting at M Modern Gallery's Blonde Bombshell Show won my heart and spirit at this generally brilliant show. Jay and Michelle Nailor seem to be on the mark consistently these days. The inspiration of the extremely sweet and incredibly talented David Wills adds tremendously to their team. This is one of the most creative ventures in the valley. Hats off to M Modern. 2500 Palm Canyon Drive .

My Friend Michael Gricus

There is great comfort looking around the back of my friend Michael Gricus' perfect head. He and I almost always gravitate to one another at these situations (disease balls) and share many a laugh throughout the evening. Tonight the entertainment is Patti LaBelle and Liza Minelli.

Table Talk...Jamie's Table...J, Shari, JK, Dr. Dale

A great deal to discuss at our table Always. What a fascinating Bunch of Friends. Palm Springs provides. Dig Applebaum's necklace. Wowza!

The Genius Behind Steven Chase

The Steven Chase Awards last night were hugely successful thanks to the brilliance of two local meteors ...Jay Jones and Shari Applebaum. These two were in charge of the Auction...and for the first time everything sold. Things that were still unsold from four years ago. Small wonder...this genius team (I was lucky enough to be seatedwith both of them) at the Always Best Table in the House (Jamie Kabler's)...Jamie's generosity (once again) allowed me to attend this precious desert event. A great deal of dough was raised. My buddy, Dale Chihuly's, beautiful piece brought in just above $7,000. The piece was displayed brilliantly.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Mon Naisse, So to Speak

Some literary rumblings birthed from the North:

Mayo Magic

Full story:
"YELLOW AS summer sunlight," wrote Tom Robbins in his 2003 novel "Villa Incognito," "soft as young thighs, smooth as a Baptist preacher's rant, falsely innocent as a magician's handkerchief, mayonnaise will cloak a lettuce leaf, some shreds of cabbage, a few hunks of cold potato in the simplest splendor, recycling their dull character, making them lively and attractive again . . . "
That rave prompted fans to send the author samples of their favorite mayonnaise, and now the author of eight novels including "Another Roadside Attraction" and "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" boasts a refrigerator door full of exotic brands: Duke's from Greenville, S.C.; Kewpie brand from Japan (in regular and wasabi styles); Delouis Fils Aioli from France; a lime-flavored bottle of McCormick brand "mayonesa" from Mexico, and of course, a jar of Best Foods, America's best-selling brand.

Robbins' latest book of essays, stories and poems, "Wild Duck Flying Backward," includes a piece called "Till Lunch Do Us Part," in which he answers the age-old question, "What would you have for your last meal?" with an eloquent treatise on the tomato sandwich and its essential components, soft white bread and mayonnaise. "But the mayonnaise would have to be the right mayo," Robbins says. "The bread would have to be the correct bread. I don't want to leave the world on an inferior tomato sandwich."

When Tom's wife, Alexa, invited my wife, Betsy, and me to visit their home in La Conner for a private mayonnaise tasting, it occurred to me that Tom and Alexa might like to learn how to make their own. And I came prepared. On the back seat was a bag with a mixing bowl, a wire whisk, one fresh egg, a bottle of organic canola oil, some white balsamic vinegar and a jar of Maille brand Dijon mustard.

Making mayonnaise from scratch has some advantages. It allows a cook to choose the ingredients with an eye for quality, and more than that, it affords us an opportunity to experience culinary alchemy.

But the assembly of mayonnaise is something of a challenge to many cooks, and a complete mystery to non-cooks. When she was compiling the recipes that would eventually become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," Julia Child maintained strict security about all her recipes, but she was especially cagey about the formula for mayonnaise. When she sent the typed recipe to friends and family for testing, she sandwiched each copy between pink sheets of paper on which she wrote: "Confidential: to be kept under lock and key and never mentioned."

This veil of secrecy would suit Tom Robbins just fine. When I set about making a batch of homemade mayonnaise to compare it to the store-bought stuff, I was sure that Robbins would be interested, but he wasn't. In fact, he positioned himself on a barstool several feet away from the kitchen counter and faced away from the proceedings.

"I was occasionally watching you out of the corner of my eye," he said later, "but I really did not want to know what you were doing. That's because I kind of like the idea of it being a mystery. I have been eating mayo for 60 years, and until 10 years ago, I didn't even know what the ingredients were. I preferred to think of it as some kind of substance dug out of an underground cave in the French Alps."

Robbins said he had a 1969 Mercury Montego with 200,000 miles on it, and the head was never off the engine. "I attribute that to the fact that I never once looked under the hood. I liked to imagine there was a ball of mystic light that kept the motor running. Beneath that silliness is a propensity for mystery. Every great work of art, whether it's painting or film, has an element of mystery. Mayonnaise is not a work of art, but it is the food of the gods; it is ambrosia.

"I don't know how to write a novel," says Robbins, "and sometimes people misunderstand me when I say that; it could be construed as a confession of incompetence. But that's not what I was saying. What I am saying is, I don't have a formula; I don't have a recipe for a novel. I used to cook some, and when I cooked, I cooked from vibration."

I know exactly what he means. Cooking is a lot like writing. Once a writer has mastered his craft, stories seem to take on a life of their own. Once a cook knows enough about the basics to assemble a dish or two without thinking too much about it, he or she can cook by feel. Meals seem to flow together by themselves. And nothing holds everything together better than a smear of homemade mayonnaise.

Greg Atkinson is author of "West Coast Cooking." He can be reached at
Barry Wong is a Seattle-based freelance photographer. He can be reached at