Saturday, August 14, 2010

8.2.2010: Las Vegas: Chrissy Bercier (1989)

Let me just say that dad loves Las Vegas and wants our family to go there for Christmas. I don’t think even Chevy Chase went there for Christmas. That would just be the weirdest family vacation I can imagine. Here’s what dad wrote in his diary, “left Drake and drove to VEGAS (misty on highway 93) out in the desert past the Hoover dam to see Chrissy Bercier. Had dinner at the Bellagio (very expensive) and took pictures of each other in front of the fountains highlighted in Ocean’s Eleven. Chrissy works as a veterinarian and warned me against feeding bacon to my dog.”

8.1.2010: Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ: Mark Kwong (1993) and Drake Ledbetter (St. Andrew’s)

A few weeks before we had planned to set off for Phoenix and Vegas, we got the weather report that it was going to be 116 degrees out there. I told dad that I’d wait for him on the coast while he drove into the desert on the bus. I think he used me as an excuse, because the next day he showed up with a bright blue rental car. Phoenix was surprising pleasant, and when someone apologized to us for the “soupy” weather, we just laughed and laughed. We got into Phoenix and realized that Arizonans have worse road rage than the Los Angelinos. We did manage to make it to Mark Kwong’s house in one piece (although I kind of doubt that we would have, had we been in the bus). We got there kind of later than planned, and his wife, Carolyn, was already putting their youngest son, Peter, to bed. The twins, Colin and Nicholas were still awake and hectic. Apparently, they feed off of each other. Dinner was outside on the patio, near the pool, no mosquitos, and Mark, fresh from a trip to the south of France, pulled out a rosé that he had brought back with him. I like rosés, but generally find them undeveloped. This one had depth.

The Kwongs had a tough time with Katrina. Four months pregnant with the twins, they evacuated, leaving their house and most of their belongings behind. They thought that they would have some damage, but when Mark returned to New Orleans to check on the house, it wasn’t damaged, it was gone. The houses around had survived, just not theirs. This, coupled with other stresses, caused Carolyn to go into labor at only six months in. She gave birth to two tiny tiny babies, that under professional care, managed to grow into the funny little boys that they are today. I think that they can look back at that time in their lives with good humor now, but I can only imagine the fear and stress and anguish that went on during those days. They did, however, have flood and wind insurance, made out like bandits from the insurance money, and were able to sell the property several years later.

(me, CCT, Drake)

(dad in the aura of the vortex)

We left the Kwongs and met up with Drake, a St. Andrew’s student of dad’s who lives in Scottsdale. Drake was at this weird club in the middle of a Disney-ish downtown that was (in his words) “a singles club for the 40-plus crowd.” Dad and I convinced him that we were tired and happily avoided going inside. In the mere couple of months that Drake has spent in Scottsdale—recently moved from Arkansas—he’s really gotten a handle on the surrounding area. The next morning, we hopped into his suburban and drove to Sedona to feel the vortexes. As we were walking up the path to the Sedona Chapel, dad’s cell phone rang in two different ring tones…and no one was calling. He’s sure that he connected spiritually to Sedona. We wandered all over the place, checking out the mystical shops, Hopi crafts, and the burritos. On our way back to Scottsdale, while Drake regaled us with his stories, we went through the most vertical town in America. His daughter, meanwhile, was at the Lady Gaga concert, who in turn was dissing Arizona. Back in Scottsdale, Drake took us to the Camelback Resort. We sat outside, under the stars and the waving palms, listening to soft guitar music, and sipping on the most perfect martinis. This was a place that I could image diamond and fur drenched starlets of the 1930s conducting their rendezvous’ away from the invasive world of Los Angeles.

7.31.2010: Santa Monica, CA: Kohlie Frantzen (1985?), Brett Landry (1995?), Tiba O’Conner (1999), Kevin Brown (1999)

(Front row, left to right: Brett, Arden, Elise; back row: me, Tiba, Phillip, Kevin, Kohlie)

We shopped with Kohlie and his family at Whole Foods in preparation for the party. The night before, Elise, Kohlie’s wife, had already started cooking red beans and rice. At the store, with help from the Frantzen girls, we picked out lots of salad material, including beets and a delicious cheese that tastes similarly to mozzarella and sounds like baretta. The only two people to arrive who we hadn’t previously seen were Brett Landry and his wife Brenda.

In about six months, the two of them are planning on moving to New Zealand to seek their fortunes…or at least the perfect wave. They’ve both been working in advertising/marketing for awhile now, but their ultimate goal is a career change. When Brett moved to L.A. a few years ago, he picked up surfing and now is a total surfer dude. His dream is to open a little surfer B&B in New Zealand. Brett said that when he was growing up, his family took a trip to New Zealand and he fell in love with the place. However, he wasn’t able to get back until he and Brenda eloped there. They both seem excited by the prospect of a new adventure, and she told me that her dad is kind of nutty like mine; he’s travelling around for the summer, living out of his truck, and taking photographs of national parks. He’s probably getting in a little more camping than we are.

At the end of the night, before we had all drained the last of our Abitas and scraped our dishes clean, Arden, the youngest of the Frantzens, gave us an accapella version of a tune from Annie, practice for a few days later when she performed on the streets of Santa Monica.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

7.29.2010: Irvine, CA: Stephanie Gold Schutz (1984)

I had thought that I was the only ESA alumna to head off to Scripps College, however, there is one more, and she is Stephanie Gold. This isn’t in the records, so ESA, you need to update! After another drive through crazy southern California freeway traffic, we made it to Irvine and were met by Stephanie and three of her five children: Rachel, Sam, and Angela (10, 9, and 16 years-old respectively). The whole family is vegetarian, and there doesn’t seem to be any real or latent rebellion, which is pretty cool. Stephanie’s husband has studied quite a few religions, and even spent an intensive two years learning Sanskrit so that he could read the Bhagavad Gita or “Song of God.” At some point during this time he decided to forgo consumption of animals (and even of keeping animals in cages, so no pets for the Schutz family, unless they end up living in the country with a huge yard). Eventually he decided to convert to Mormonism; he told us over dinner that he really liked the philosophy that the Mormons have, and he quoted this to us:

"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

He really liked the last part—that anything that was lovely, etc., could be incorporated into their lives.

We ended up having lunch and dinner with the Shutzes, all which was vegetarian and delicious. Lunch was polenta with a tomato sauce and a salad with blueberries, and dinner had an Indian theme. During the time before and in-between, we chatted and dad gossiped, and we took a walk with the kids to the lake to feed the ducks. They had bought their house when the market was at its peak and weren’t too happy about its devaluation, but apparently their neighborhood is pretty religiously diverse and they get to have interesting conversations with the neighbors. We drove back to Lily’s house full and happy.

7.27.2010: Manhattan Beach, Lily Henry (1993)

For the better part of our sojourn in LA, we stayed with Lily, her husband Nathan, and her step-son Jake. However, being the busy people that we are, we really didn’t see them very much except for breakfast (well, I was usually still sleeping when they got up at six). After seeing Kohlie and family at the museum, we realized that we didn’t have anything to do that night, which is a rare occurrence, so we made plans to have dinner with Lily, Nathan, and Jake. They decided to take us to a sushi place where the executive chef had been on the television show, Iron Chef. Even though we’d been warned to avoid celebrity chefs, and even though the music was loud and techno, the place had really interesting food—not your typical sushi restaurant fare.

There we got to really hear about their lives. Lily and Nathan only recently got married—about three months ago, and almost immediately after the wedding, she had to have back surgery on her spine. So even though she doesn’t show it so much, she’s in pain often which would put me in a really bad mood all of the time, especially considering that she has a 2-hour round-trip commute to her law office. Despite all of this, she treated us really well, and her family was wonderful (and her dog too….I wasn’t able to make friends with the cat).

Friday, August 6, 2010

7.27.2010: Kohlie Frantzen

We met Kohlie Frantzen and his wife and daughters at the LA County Museum of Art on maybe what is called the Miracle Mile. We didn’t mean to be late, but we had parked on the street, neither of us had change, and after trying to get coins from a variety of vendors for about 15 minutes, we realized that our meter had a big “FAIL” written on it, indicating that it was out of service, so our bartering for coins was for naught. As we walked in, I found out that Kohlie lives in Lafayette, is on the ESA board, and that he and dad are friends who see each other quite often, although dad’d never met his and his wife, Elise’s, wonderful children before. We were introduced to his two girls, Ella and Arden, who said that they only liked to eat pizza and hamburgers (although they later proved me wrong at Whole Foods, “we need lettuce for the salad!”). They are in the ESA lower school and maybe it’s the parenting or maybe ESA, but I can’t say enough about how great they are.

I guess they had been at the museum all day, because after lunch, while dad and I were raring to check out the exhibits, the girls were museumed-out and ready for a different adventure. About this time, after we had finished with all the Acadiana gossip, we somehow managed to convince Kholie and Elise that having a party at their house was a good idea, so we were on for Friday.

7.26.2010: Barry Landry, Tiba O’Conner (1999), Kevin Brown (1999), Jamie Latiolais (1994), Lily Henry (1993)

Barry let us spend the night at his and his girlfriend, Andrea’s, house, on Venice Beach. Barry’s currently writing a play about New Orleans, and although I’m only about 15 or so pages into it, I’m liking it. Except for the stripper who wears Chuck Taylor shoes. Sorry, Barry, just don’t think they’ve hit the south.

(Tiba and Kevin)

We drove to the Valley where Tiba O’Conner lives and had lunch with her and Kevin Brown. Part of the lunch was a bowl of lychees; their fragrance nearly drove me crazy and I flip-flopped between bouts of huffing the scent and madly peeling off the skins and chewing on the fruit. Pretty vulgar sight, I’m sure. Tiba has this great Mediterranean style house, that she said was good for parties, although she dissuades guests from stomping on her red-clay tennis courts. Both she and Kevin work in the film industry, although in different fields. Tiba has recently finished working on a project for the USA pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai, and had to work madly for about a week in Bangalore, India with a group of animators to finish the film on schedule. She’s now on a much needed break. Kevin’s been working on short films, prepping for a film festival, and writing a variety of screenplays to present to a studio. To pay the bills, however, he’s working as the technology expert for a family, doing everything from setting up the music system in the house to designing wall-paper patterns with the owners.

We eventually returned to Barry Landry’s house and to our delight and amazement were served sausage from Mamou. We were joined by Jamie Latiolais, who now works at Ceders-Sinai—yes that hospital where Britney Spears and the other celebrities get carted off to when they drive into other cars or shave their hair off. Jamie’s in a wine club and brought us over an incredibly good Chardonnay (?), which she described as tasting “like butter.” I’m glad it didn’t taste like butter, but it tasted close enough. She may have also said, “The difference between a good chef and a great chef is a stick of butter.” Regardless of whether this was her saying or not, I will definitely take it to heart and repeat it often.

At some point during this meal, Andrea walked in the door after a statistics class and showed us the work she was doing in her studio. She makes lovely jewelry out of ceramics and leather and has recently started selling her pieces at Fred Segal. If you’re in the market, the name of her company is Dandy Craft.

Really late that night we arrived at Lily Henry’s house, where she very graciously showed us our beds, then quickly returned to her own.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

7.25.2010: Bel Air and Venice Beach, Los Angeles, CA: John Hill, Elizabeth Hill, Barry Landry

“Rented a car and drove to LA on the 101. Got lost in Bel Air, but eventually found our way to John Hill’s house near the top of a canyon in what he calls “the ghetto of Bel Air.” Hardly a ghetto! Had dinner with John and his wife as well as with John’s four dogs, Elizabeth Hill, and other guests. Elizabeth is a sex and love addiction counselor in LA (a good place to practice” while John is a hedge fund manager (the good kind). Spent the night at Barry Landry’s in Santa Monica. Barry had some misunderstandings with the ESA administration and didn’t graduate, but was in Kohlie Frantzen’s class. Barry is a writer.”
--Dad’s journal

7.21.2010: Santa Barbara, CA: Laura Lewis Shelbourn, Colin Grussing (2003)

(Colin Grussing on right with beer bottle and red shirt)

We had to make it to Santa Barbara on the 21st for the wedding of Andrew Cox and Janelle Sharer, friends of mine from New Orleans. At this point, dad and I split up—he stayed with Laura, and I stayed with Colin and about 10 other friends of the couple in a big house up a ridiculously steep hill. I spent almost no time with Laura, but I did find out that dad keeps a secret notebook, so here’s what he has written down:

“I stayed with Laura and her husband Craig and children Peyton, John, and Witby until the 25th… Laura is the chairman of the board at the Crane School. I parked the bus there and met the headmaster who took me on a tour of the school. In its friendly, family spirit, and in its separate, mosdest buildings that fit into the character of the area, and in its greenswards, it reminds me very much of ESA. A fine, happy, well-run school with smart, dedicated teachers.”

It’s a little harder to write about Colin since we’ve been roommates for the last three years. However, its always fun telling people what he does for a living—he sells mostly green body suits online at his website There’s a character on a television show that occasionally wears this suit and about 2 years ago, Colin thought that a friend of his, Jesse Faulk (2003) would like to own this suit and wear it. After scouring the web to find anything, he discovered that he could only buy one on ebay for an extraordinary sum of money. Eventually he came across a Chinese company that sold fetish suits pretty similar to what he was looking for. He asked them to make a few changes, bought ten, and immediately sold them. He used that money to buy more and his business took off. These days he sells the suits in many colors and in two-tones and doesn’t have to have a second job.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

7.19.2010: Marin Country, Cameron Maddux (1994)

When dad talks about the planning of this trip, he’ll sometimes mention that he originally meant to bike across the country so that he could get into shape while seeing people. Now all we do is eat, drink, and sit in a car. That said, I like doing all three. We drove out to Marin County from San Francisco, over the misty and magnificent Golden Gate Bridge. Their apartment looks over an aviary and sits at the beginning of the Tiburon Peninsula. We were fed a delicate lunch of olives, mango salad, three cheeses, avocado, and cherries. Cameron and Mary had met while working at the same advertising agency in Chicago. One weekend, Cameron, Mary, and her son Sam, went on a weekend trip, and without really deciding to, eloped.

We started off on a walk along the peninsula and ended up on a six-mile trek to the end and back, stopping at a park only to hear a band play, oddly, Iko Iko, then again at a restaurant on the point to fortify ourselves for the walk back. Cameron is now running (I think) the marketing department at the Academy of Arts in San Francisco. He’s teaching art students how to be a little more business savvy and showing them that they have opportunities to use the skills they have commercially. Cameron’s worked in advertising and marketing since he graduated from college, and really introduced us to the school of marketing thought that firms need to either figure out for themselves or hire someone to really delve into the psyche of the consumer. Often, those with degrees in sociology or anthropology, or those with world experience, are hired by firms—there’s a real academia in this field. These days, he told us, companies are trying to find new ways to have a relationship with the public. Rather than interrupting us doing things that we really want to be doing, companies are trying to find ways to draw the customer without being a bother. For instance, Levi has opened a workshop in San Francisco in which anyone can enter and learn printmaking. They’re opening another workshop in New Orleans that’ll focus on teaching some aspect of music. These workshops have nothing to do with selling their clothes. Listening to Cameron talk was fascinating. But even nicer was seeing such a tight-knit family interact together.

On our way back to the house we ran across about a mile of blackberry brambles and were able to pick a delicious dessert.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

San Luis Obispo: Tommy Fertel

We met with Tommy Fertel in San Luis Obispo. Tommy's in a wine-making program at Cal Poly-Tech and told us all the ins and outs of making wine, the problems that arise, and about all the bugs and birds' nests that get crushed into the wine and bottled. I'll let the video speak for itself.

7.20.2010: Chad Cosby, Robin Norvelle, John Putnam

San Francisco and surrounding area will forever be associated with Rod Stewart for me. When John Putnam loaned us his truck, it was equipped with a tape deck and one tape which was Rod Stewart’s Greatest Hits. We listened to this tape non-stop, including on our venture into Silicon Valley to see Chad Cosby in San Jose and Robin Norvelle at Google. We met Chad and his fiancée (who at this point may be his wife!) Bianca at their apartment complex, “It’s like living in a weird hotel,” in San Jose. They decided to take us out to lunch at an incredibly delicious Malaysian restaurant, where dad and I ordered lots of food and watched Chad and Bianca split a salad for their wedding diet. I felt bad, like they were starving themselves, and gave whatever was left of my lunch to Chad. We found out that Bianca had just gotten into medical school in Burlington, Vermont, so the two of them would be moving out to the east coast. Luckily the company where Chad works has a location there, so he is able to continue working for them and designing those chips that are in your Igod. While we were in San Francisco, someone had told us that there was an interesting video with Chad in it, so before we saw him, we watched the video, which stars not only him, but also Shome Dasgupta, Eddie Barry, Paul Simon, and probably some other people that I’m forgetting. Anyway, Chad told us that this video was an engagement gift that one of his friends, who creates music videos in Atlanta, had made for the two of them without anyone really knowing.

Google could probably feed a small country for a few days with the amount of food onsite for its employees. It was too bad we had already eaten when we got there, because there’s practically an entire buffet in every room that’s organic, freshly cooked, probably delicious, and free. And it puts Piccadilly to shame. Then there are the bikes that just hang around loose for anyone to hop on and ride around, the wave pool, gyms, volleyball courts, masseuse, doctor, dry cleaning service, and on and on. Apparently though, there’s a Google 15 (like the freshman 15), so all is not pure and good in the world of Google. This is Robin’s world, which we were able to enter for a few hours (and take a few pieces along with us in our pockets).

We drove back to Napa to the sweet sounds of Rod Stewart (It’s late September and I think I should be back in school/ or steal my daddy’s cue and make a living out of playing pool/ or try to join a rock and roll band that needs a helping hand/Oh Maggie I couldn’t try anymore) and had one last hurrah with John Putnam and his Napa gang. He whipped out a wild boar pasta dinner, the boar which he had shot while we were living the soft life in San Francisco. Just thinking about it is making me hungry. John, we’ll probably be back to bother you again for more pasta on our way north to Seattle.

7.18. 2010: Jeremy Simon, Leah Larkin, Robin Norvelle, Geoff Young, Kathryn Fernandez, Ryan Sandrock

On the 18th, Sandrock agreed to throw an informal dinner party at his house, although he told us that we couldn’t have any inert bodies lying on the floor the next morning—he had to show his house. He and his wife are moving closer to Stanford, where she’s a professor. We set off on the bus that picked us up at 30th and Mission and headed towards the Ferry Building, where we had heard that there’d be a huge farmers market. There, we would meet Jeremy Simon, now a (we’ve heard) famous yoga instructor, and Leah Larkin, granddaughter of Sidney Herbert, thus ESA royalty. We met Jeremy and his boyfriend Joey near a fountain and chatted while waiting for Leah and her five-year old daughter, Molly, to show up. The night before, Jeremy had had a yoga class, which he said, “incorporated yoga, flying, and thai massage.” Dad totally chickened out and blatantly lied to Jeremy that we had all gotten back from Napa (just me and Isabelle) too late (still not true) to attend the class. That day, Jeremy told us that it would make his day to “fly his former English teacher,” so dad had to pretend he was game. In the middle of this huge, packed park in San Francisco, Jeremy Simon had dad fly while German tourists and other onlookers took photographs. It was really an amazing sight to see.

When Leah and Molly showed up—Leah is a Biology professor at college outside of San Francisco—we moved onto the stalls to see what produce could be had. We bought beautiful bell peppers in a range of colors I had never seen, Japanese eggplant, artichokes, mint, cucumbers, sun-warmed tomatoes, goat cheese, button mushrooms, and very expensive shrimp. And after we collected this haul we realized that we’d really have to haul it back to the Sandrock’s. Molly collapsed face-down on the ground about 20 feet away from the house, but revived after hearing that she’d get a popsicle once we arrived. We cooked up a feast using the bounty we’d bought, and a few things brought over (lots of sausages) with Jeremy Simon and Joey, Kathryn Fernandez, Leah and her husband, son, and daughter, Robin Norvelle, Geoff Young, and, of course, Ryan Sandrock.