A Place of Our Own

Well it’s finally going to happen after all these years, a place of our own. Not a home mind you but a restaurant. You may ask why would someone want a restaurant of their own? That’s Crazy.

When it’s the only thing you’ve ever done in your life, but you’ve always done it for someone else then you might understand why we’d desire to have a place of our own. Even though with that explanation it’s still bloody crazy, but restaurant people are a bit crazy.

They are the kind of people who can never sit still. They gotta be moving. Their legs keep them running this way and that. They’re talking with their arms. Worst of all they always have their hands into something. Most of the time it’s a big plate of fries or a bowl of soup or a big juicy hamburger. I could go on forever.

We’re going to open a cafe, a European, French style market cafe with showcases displaying our fresh salads, roast chicken, grilled salmon, charcuterie and homemade pastries. We’ll bake bread fresh daily to build our handcrafted sandwiches. The sandwiches will feature slow roasted short ribs, thinly sliced cold roast beef with creamy horseradish and we’ll have a stacked vegetarian sandwich with layer upon layer of thinly sliced vegetables that hopefully someday soon will come straight from our garden out back.

Coffees will  be made to order in the European style. We won’t have pots of coffee sitting around for hours. It will be fresh and strong and we’ll encourage the consumption of espresso, the best way to enjoy a coffee break.

Dining will mainly be outside on the terrace. We’ll have potted plants and a fresh herb garden. Strings of lights will illuminate the terrace at night and big bright umbrellas will shade the dining area by day.

We have yet to come up with a name and could use some help. If you have any suggestions please let us know. We think we want something with Market Cafe in it but we are not stuck on that point. We are pretty open minded. Remember we are shooting for an European feel. Imagine the last time you were in Paris and you stopped for a cafe. That’s what we’re after.

Merci e Grazie

If you are in town come by for an espresso. If it’s early and we’re not open just knock on the kitchen door we’ll make you one fresh and set up a table on the terrace for you. If you’re not too too early we’ll have a hot muffin from the oven  for you to enjoy.


I purchased a Canon EOS digital camera about a year and a half ago. I was taking a photography class at at Los Angeles City College. I had the option of renting one of the cameras from the lab or splurging on a camera of my own. I splurged.

The camera has been great. I’ve probably taken over 10,000 photographs with it. When I leave the house I throw the strap over my shoulder and tuck the camera into the trunk of the car. When I arrive at my destination the camera accompanies me where ever I’m going. I am kinda like those people who carry those tiny dogs with them in their handbags. But my camera is a little easier to handle.

Recently I got this crazy idea that I wanted to take photographs using film. I checked on ebay for an inexpensive model. I found an auction for a Pentax k1000 listed  like $9.95. I entered the bidding war and won which is a miracle because whenever I’ve bid on anything on ebay in the past the minute I click the button to submit my bid I am instantaneously notified that I have been outbid. I didn’t realize until the other day that you can set it up to automatically place a bid until you reach your maximum. I pictured some guy scrunched over his computer battling me as if he’s playing some video game.

The camera cost me $16.02 plus $10.00 shipping. Wow what a deal. It arrived in a couple of days.. I unpacked it. My son clipped on the lens and I went to buy some B&W film. I was greeted by a very snotty lady who snubbed her nose at my film purchasing ignorance.

I loaded the camera the best I could. It had been 20 years. I assumed everything was just fine, but at some point I realized the spool that held the film was no longer advancing. I couldn’t remember when it had stopped so I continued taking photographs. I took 36 of the greatest most, artistic photographs ever.

The photographs below is what I found on the cd when I popped it in the computer. Two pictures of old cars that I took immediately after loading the film.

Well live and learn. I still can take 100 digital photograph tomorrow afternoon

An Artist Life- 7 Impressionists Numero Uno

I have been asked by the Eternal Worrier to write 7 impressionists on my life. He had been challenged by the very creative Mr. London Street and has just completed the task brilliantly.  I have enjoyed his stories very much. They are very revealing and quite honest. He paints a wonderfully detailed picture of his life.

My first go at it.

Seamus O’Conner’s First Impressionist   ART

When I was a lad growing up in Chicago I didn’t know particularly well what I wanted to be when I grew up. My father thought I might be an accountant because I was good at math in the 4th grade or maybe an actuary. An actuary (huh). I had no idea what the hell an actuary was. I just thought of a guy sitting at a desk with a calculator and very sharp number 2 pencils in a room with plain white walls and a fluorescent bulb for lighting. He would eat  plain egg salad sandwiches from a brown paper bag for lunch that his wife would make in the morning before she left for her bridge lesson. Yikes. No way Jose. I may have been good at math in the fourth grade, but come on, I couldn’t sit in an office like that  if it had a few nice picture on the walls.

I thought I might be a weatherman because I compulsively stared out the window at the thermostat that was fastened to the red brick wall. The first thing I did in the morning was go look at that thermostat. I would stand there in my pajamas staring at the red needle pondering the distance that needle would travel during the day. I loved the guessing game trying to determine how hot it would be later in the afternoon. When I finally arrived at the kitchen table everyone had spoons in their mouth. They got to the point that they didn’t  notice my nonsense. I heard my brother once quip: “Here comes the ole’ weatherman. How hot’s it going to be today?”

I wanted to be an “Artist”.

What the hell does that mean. I grew up in a house where art was a hobby for the more fortunate folks, those who had a lot of money and didn’t have to worry about real responsibility like supporting a family. When I was a kid in suburban Chicago I knew no one who created art for a living. Not one single soul. I hadn’t even heard of a distant relative.

I remember being fascinated with music and singing. I sang to myself when no one was around. We had a basement that was cold and damp. The walls were solid brick and they absorbed every lick that flowed from my trembling lips. I sang quietly so most people don’t know  this. I was embarrassed to have this ambition. Music was never played in the house. My father had a few records. I think there was a Benny Goodman album and maybe an Elvis sings Christmas carols, but that was it. I couldn’t understand it. I asked my father “why don’t you listen to music”. He replied he just wasn’t interested. This was the late 60’s. The time of Elvis and the Beatles and Bob Dylan and all these great singers, but my father couldn’t give a rat’s ass. Music went in his ear and it came out the other side. There was no connection. The music didn’t rattle him and shake him like I wanted it to do to me.

When I entered my early teens I took guitar lessons with my best friend Brian. We rented these small identical red guitars and took  lessons in an old high school in Evanston. We sat in a circle with people from all walks of life. There were grandmothers, retired hippies trying to learn to play the songs they grew up listening to and then the two of us. We fumbled along playing  folk songs such as “Michael row your boat ashore, Hallelujah”  The tips of my fingers ached after the first class. We were instructed to play every day and the teacher assured us that callouses would form on the tips of our fingers. Not to worry the pain wouldn’t last long.

We made it maybe two weeks. In the afternoons after school we would meet at each others houses. After eating a dozen Oreo cookies and drinking all of our mother’s milk we would sit down to play. With the music book on my knee I pressed three fingers across the strings forming an A chord. I held it as tightly as a could. The strings burned my skin, but I grit my teeth and bared it. I strummed with my other hand. “Michael rowwww”

I can’t take it I blurted out. My fingers are f…in killing me. I looked at Brian. He looked at me. We both looked at the chair by the back door. Our baseball mitts stacked on the seat. Let’s go. If we hurry we can  get in the game at the park.

That was it. I don’t know why it was so short. It wasn’t sweet, but the idea of playing music vanished. It was like my mind divorced itself from the notion that I, Seamus O’Conner, a bloody Irishman who I’m sure had some very healthy musical DNA would ever play music for a living or even for a hobby.

I progressed to my next potential  means of creating “Art”. I wasn’t much of a painter nor did I care to paint. There was nothing about it that interested me or intrigued me in the least, but I was fascinated with writing. I woke up one morning and said to myself that I was going to be a writer. Now I hadn’t written anything, but the idea of being a writer made sense. I started to tell people I was going to be a writer. I remember I was working as a stock boy in a grocery store. This was well before scanners. As a stock boy you had to manually price every single product that was stacked in your aisle when you arrived for work. The equipment used to price the  items was this peculiar type of stamp that allowed you to adjust the numbers in a metal plate. When you pushed down on the handle the metal plate with the correct price connected with an ink pad and then swiveled 180 degrees to strike the appropriate item. You did this hundreds of times every day. By the end of the shift your right had was stained with blue ink as if you had 2 or 3 blue pens snap in your hand as you wrote.

One night I was relating to a co-worker who stood by eating a bag of taco flavored Doritos that he had hid behind the cans of dog food that I was going to be a writer. I went on and on about this. He nodded and listened, A woman appeared from around the corner. She was an attractive middle aged woman with no children and a cart filled with fruits and vegetables and some plastic containers of what appeared to be seeds. I later came to realize that they were whole grains. She looked me square in the eye and said ” I overheard you from the other aisle. If you want to be a writer you must write. You also must have something to write about.” My co-worker snickered. He bent down and put his head right inside the shelf so that when he laughed his ass off no one but the cans could hear him. My face turned red as a beet. I was shaking. She looked at me again turned her cart to avoid hitting my co-worker’s feet and left.

That was it, again. The idea of being a writer didn’t completely vanish from my head, but I never wrote and I never proceeded to follow the dream. I moved on. I went to college. I studied marketing and I worked in restaurants. I caught the restaurant bug and ended up sick with it for the whole of my life.

I love the restaurant life and I love cooking and baking even more and I guess in many ways I am creating art with food (this joy + ride). Today I am unemployed hoping to open my own restaurant. I spend my days cooking with my sons. We make lentils with soy chorizo(one of the boys is vegan). We bake pizzas in our wood burning oven. and most importantly we sit down to eat together on a daily basis with no exception.

As far as art goes. I have taken up photography with a zeal I didn’t know I had. I have taken photographs every single day since January 3th. I am part of a group on flickr that posts at least one photograph a day (the blog camp 365 in 2010 project). At first I was rather shy about this venture, feeling a bit insecure, but now after a half a year I am like a friggin nut. I lie down in the middle of the street to get the “right”angle on a photograph. I walk up to people I don’t know and ask to take their photograph. I took this lady’s photograph in Santa Cruz last week. I  didn’t have to ask her. She jumped  out in front of me and demanded I take her photograph. She posed and gestured like some star and as I walked away she boasted to her friends cocking her head with that mane of hair like an older version of the now hip Lady Gaga.

I have also started writing. I am not saying I am going to be a writer I simply write. I write 3 pages a day. I don’t miss very often. I  missed a day last week when my son and I were in Santa Cruz. I also write my blog.

There is something that I am learning and I am 48 years old. I can say I am gonna be anything, but what am I doing. I think that’s what matter. So today I take photographs, I write, I make pizzas at least once a week with Patrick and James. I make lunch and or dinner every day for my family. We sit down at a table and eat. There is no TV blaring. The computer is off to the side. We sit. We eat. We tell stories.

Some day I hope to write a travel/story/cook book about our adventures in Italy. I remember that woman with the cart full of vegetables and whole grains who said you have to have something to write about and she sure was right and I definitely do.

Sunday Morning Peasant Bread

I have always loved bread. I love the smell of it baking. I love the feel of the dough in my hands. I love the way the butter melts when it’s spread on the bread right out of the oven. I love the actual work of making a loaf of bread from activating the yeast, to making the dough, to letting it rise, to punching it down for a second rise, to the proofing stage before it goes into the oven.

Today I baked bread the Jim Lahey way. That means I baked bread in a covered pot in the oven. It’s the most amazing way to get a terrific loaf of bread with a thick ,crisp crust. I have been baking this bread  since Christmas when my wife bought me his cookbook (I should say bake book).

The other great part of the Jim Lahey way is that you DO NOT KNEAD the dough. You simply mix 3 cups flour, 1-1/4 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon active yeast and 1-1/3 cup water.  Leave this in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 16 hours. You then form the dough into a loaf. Set it out to proof for about 2 hours. Pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees. Place a large covered pot or Dutch oven in the oven for at least 30 minutes.

Put the dough gently into the pot. Try your best  not deflate the loaf. Bake the bread for 30 minutes covered and then remove the lid for an additional 25 minutes. When it’s done let it rest on a baking rack.

We made vegan sandwiches with the bread today. We spread tapenade on the bread. We then layered it with grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, smoked tofu, fresh basil, tomatoes off the vine in the backyard, Kosher salt and ground pepper.

We also made grilled roast turkey and jalapeno jack cheese sandwiches with dijon mustard.

It is so easy to make so give it a try. If you have any questions let me know.

Chasing the Sun

The sun set hard this evening. It was red on the horizon and everything was tinted orange. Shadows were long and deep. They leaned on the houses waiting for the moon to expose itself so they could go off to bed  until the same time tomorrow. I jumped in my car hoping to catch some light before it was too late. My camera was slung over my shoulder.  It bumped against the steering wheel as I climbed inside. I slid it onto the passenger’s seat and started the engine.

I drove down Magnolia. At this time of night (7:30pm)  you are, either engulfed in a shadow or lit up like a Christmas tree. One or the other, no in between. I love taking pictures at this time of night. It’s quiet. Most people are at home watching TV or maybe doing the dishes after supper. Some are on the porch sipping a beer enjoying the same sun that I am chasing.

I photograph old cars. There’s a parking lot where Magnolia intersects Chestnut where  old classic cars are parked. On the corner is the local VFW. I can usually hear the voices of men at the bar cursing the bartender for something. The door is always open because I assume the place has no AC. Sometimes I see people on the stoop with cigarettes hanging from their lips. They hold high balls in their hands and pace the side walk inhaling the smoke from the cigarette. I see them, but not all the time. Tonight there’s just one. He’s a tall skinny man. He talks loudly on his  cell phone. I can almost hear the conversation. I pay no attention and cross the street with my camera.

I kneel down low on the sidewalk  and take aim. My self-consciousness about photographing people, places or things has all but evaporated. Maybe it’s the hot summer nights or my complete lack of dignity or maybe I just don’t care. I like getting low on a photograph. The subject reveals so much more of itself. It tells a  better story from that angle.

Hopefully the pictures turn out Ok. I’ll let you know.

Whether they turn out well or not doesn’t matter much. I just enjoy chasing the sun and taking photographs before it disappears.

Listen to this The Villagers

Photographs of Santiago Mostyn

3 Photos from Highway 101 and a Veggie Sandwich

We drove back to LA from Santa Cruz today. It was extra long due to my getting distracted after a fantastic caffe macchiato at a place called Verve. My head was in the clouds and I wasn’t paying attention as Patrick drove along highway 1. I guess that’s not exactly right. I thought for some reason that Highway 1 ran  into Highway 101. DUH. It doesn’t. We were all the way to Carmel before one of us recognized the error and it wasn’t the oldest person in the car. We turned around and retraced our steps. This time we went east on highway 68 which led us to the 101. It was a nice drive. They sky was clear for the most part, except when we approached the coast. There it is was foggy and the temperatures were cool.

Along the 101 the hillsides are golden brown. The color is vibrant against the blue sky. It’s really something special to see. Patrick kept saying it looked like Italy, but I’ve never seen golden hillsides in Italy. They are always green.

here are  a few photos from the drive. And a sandwich of course. There always must be food.

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is probably one the most interesting cities in the country. There are so many characters. They pop out from doorways or sometimes they have a good old hootenanny right in the middle of a field. Last night I walked downtown for an espresso at Lulu Carpenter (an absolutely fantastic espresso) Patrick was taking a rest. The city was alive. Every ten yards or so was a street performer strumming a guitar or singing some old Bob Dylan tune.

I saw this guy midway down the street. He held a baby blue plastic guitar. He played genuinely and sang like a real trooper although his voice wasn’t real good. I asked to take his photograph and he obliged.

Some pretty girls walked by him and snickered. They didn’t quite get the joke.

This lady literally jumped out at me. I am not sure where she came from, but all of a sudden she was there, smiling. She was more than happy to pose for me and as I walked away I could faintly hear her bragging to some of the others nearby.

I’ve seen lots of Vespas, really nice Vespas. This one was was parked on the curb near where I encountered  the woman above. If I could manage without a car my vehicle of choice would be a Vespa.

I came across these cats on my way back to the hotel. I took these pictures with my camera at my chect because I was anxious about pointing a  camera at this group. Kinda interesting.

You can see a larger version of this photograph on my flickr account.

Lulu Carpenter for espresso.

Engfer Pizza Works Damn good wood fired pizza.

Summer Peaches at the Farmer’s Market

Yesterday I dropped by our local farmer’s market to buy flowers for my wife. I came upon this peach stand and was fascinated by the wooden crates that held the terrific fruit. The crates were worn and heavy. They obviously were very old. I took 5 photographs.Here they are. The peaches look pretty good too.

I’m thinking about a kitchen

Today I  negotiate a lease for a very small cafe. The kitchen reminds me of an old European kitchen.  The kitchen is designed with the stove, grills and ovens in the center of the room.I imagine it’s the kind of kitchen Jacques Pepin cooked in when he was a kid getting started in Lyon. The previous tenant left white frilly curtains hanging across the three  windows painting an even clearer picture of a French kitchen.

Adjacent to the stoves  I will set old heavy, wood  table. I plan to search high and low to find an old used one that has lots of miles on it. I want a table that has an indentation where the bakers kneaded the dough, a dip in the wood that took years and thousands of loaves to carve out. I want a table that’s so heavy that it doesn’t budge when I push my weight into the own dough.

A heavy wood table speaks to me. It’s weight equals substance. It will be the core of the kitchen where dough will be kneaded, fresh vegetables cut, cupcakes made, tart shell rolled out and then formed in  tin pans. Espresso cups will be stacked in the back for the first stop of the day.  The few worker’s we’ll have will pull up a milk crate or a stool from out front and sip an espresso while the sun climbs just outside  the window.

The espresso machine will sit on the stainless steel table near the north facing window.  The espresso machine  will never be turned off. It will hiss and hum all day long. When a guest knocks on the backdoor whether it’s a vendor, or someone looking for directions, or a new customer they will be offered an espresso and maybe a muffin if there’s one just coming out of the oven.

There’s not much to say about the small dining room. It will look great when Anne gets through with it. She has an eye for this kinda stuff. She’ll stack her antiques with platters of  homemade sweets. One of her specialties is a rich chocolate vegan cupcake that looks and tastes like any made of butter and eggs.

Out front there is a nice terrace with space for huge potted plants and an alcove where I’ll build a small raised garden bed. It’s just two steps from the  kitchen. We’ll plant herbs and tomatoes and maybe one zucchini plant so I can have squash blossoms all summer long. I especially like to stuff them with cheese and grill them in real good olive oil.

We’re a long way off from this fantasy, but I’ve painted it well with lots of color and texture and flavor, but just in my head.

I will know in a few days if I can take a brush to the  canvas.

Above is a picture of a lemon from the tree in our yard. I took this picture with the hipstamatic app on the I Phone. We will make the best lemonade in town. It will be sweet and lightly carbonated to quench the greatest thirst.

A song of the day:

Santa Fe by Samantha Crain I heard her on NPR this morning. Terrific stuff. Enjoy.

It’s hot in LA, but that’s ok.  Soon enough we’ll be bitchin about the cool weather and we’ll have to wear sweaters. Let’s enjoy what we got today.

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