Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Sense of Normalcy

We threw a party on Sunday to thank everyone who pitched in with post-fire help and got us settled into the rental house, which happens to be a great party house. It's got a large, built-in gas grill (somewhat larger than our own propane grill, which we did bring down from our place for safe-keeping) and enough patios to give everyone a place to hang out. There were more than 30 people who came by, which was almost everyone who dug through ashes, loaded cars, counted rags, rearranged the garage, babysat Dexter, or did anything else to help during the crisis. And, after all, what would Memorial Day Weekend be if the Wein-Valada household didn't throw a barbecue?

The big hit of the weekend was a 5-compartment plexiglass gizmo I bought for Len last year which keeps condiments chilled over a bed of ice. It's got a cover, so bugs don't get in. Several of our friends who do a lot of parties ooohed and ahhed over it. I see presents in their futures.

Our friend Gillian Horvath, who had put us up for the nights between the loss of our own bedroom and moving into the rental house, brought a "house cooling" present: a butter bell. We had cooed over the one she had when she explained what it was and what it did. She figured we hadn't had time or thought to buy one for ourselves, but she saw when she arrived that wasn't so. I got one at Le Cruset in cobalt on Saturday, which Gillian saw when she came in to the kitchen. So she suggested I pass her gift on (mathom-style--read Tolkein for the reference) and I shall. As it happens, I was gushing about the joy of room-temperature butter at dinner last week and it will be regifted to the person who helped us bring our new television to the house.

Len tried out the automatic hot-dog turner that Harlan Ellison had given him last year. Many of the barbecue implements were saved from the fire because they were stored outside in the "barzebo" or the file cabinets on the back patio at our house. It worked well until either the batteries slowed down or grease got into the works. We're hoping that the cleaning I did yesterday brought it back to life.

Last Tuesday, I went over to the packers/restorers warehouse and went through 80 boxes of stuff from my kitchen to pick out things I needed to feel settled in the rental (and so I could entertain.) Highest on that last were my 14-cup Cuisinart and my 5-quart Kitchen-Aid mixer, without which I believe no kitchen is complete. I also brought my Oster blender home. I must say this about J.J. Cherokee. They know how to clean things. I don't think the blender has looked this good since it came out of the box. They must have taken things apart to clean them, because the metal clip that holds the Kitchen-Aid bowl in place was upside down (easily fixed), but they did an incredibly thorough job.

I brought home 17 boxes, including one I hadn't intended to bring with me. We're expecting several more boxes once the contents have been cleaned, plus the two boxes with stemware that were accidentally left behind when I came home from the warehouse (containing the missing stemware.) I am so glad to have most of my stainless flatware back, because we kept running out of forks.

Because I had the blender, my friend Michael Olecki made margaritas. Except for a bottle of wine, the tequila and Grand Marnier were the only alcohols in the house (guess what I drink on those rare occasions that I do.) There were two bottles of Temequila blood orange mixer (purchased at the Hollywood Farmers Market) in the refrigerator for that very purpose. Michael said "the only thing missing from your parties is a bar, but I realize you and most of your friends don't drink." We do sometimes, but only in moderation. When I pulled out the tequila, he said "you know this is aged, right?" Yes, I told him. Who wants margaritas with crappy tequila? The margaritas were a big hit, and Michael loves to bartend. The only problem was, none of my stemware is back from the cleaners yet so we had to make do with small portions in big glasses or plastic cups. Not a dissaster by any measure, since it was all about the company.

Michael's wife Karen Bodner and I went to college together and we were both second-career lawyers in IP. She does trademarks, I do copyrights. We became friends after I met her at an interview for a summer clerkship out here in L.A., almost 20 years after we had graduated from New College at Hofstra University. She and Gillian are my two favorite people to have in the kitchen with me at Thanksgiving, because we work very well together. We have spent Christmases with Karen and Michael since about our 5th anniversary, and they are the closest thing we've got to family in Los Angeles. Karen went right to work prepping celery for snacking along with the carrots and getting the cheese out on the beautiful Nambe cheese and cracker server I bought for myself after the fire. You can tell what I consider nessesities by that and by what else I made sure I got back from the cleaners: two dozen appetizer plates which have a slot to hold a stemmed glass and the four dozen small square amuse bouche plates that can take a couple of tidbits so people can graze.

I think we'll be doing a lot of entertaining in the new house.

Monday morning was the first time I've slept late since the fire happened. I think the tequila helped.


Grey Horse Matters said...

I'm so glad to hear that things are getting back to normal after the fire. The rental house sounds wonderful and you are the ultimate entertainer so the patios sound made to order. In the end though it is all about friends and being together.

Not The Retiring Type said...

Reading your blog, I am struck by the sense of calmness that comes across. After a hard loss moving on is all one can do. You seem to be moving on with extraordinary grace.

Victoria Cummings said...

You and Len sound like you have some wonderful friends. And you are coping with this disaster with such great style! I hope that while you're in the rental house, you have lots more opportunities to entertain and have fun - and then, there will be the really big bash when your house is ready and you are able to move back in.

M. C. Valada said...

The calmness probably comes from knowing there's not a damned thing we can do to change what happened and to look at the whole thing as an opportunity, rather than a disaster. Len's talking more and more of finding a new home, rather than moving back into the old one when it is finished. I keep thinking about expansion of the old one and moving into a brand new place when all is done. The market will be the deciding factor.