Friday, January 28, 2011

My lovely grandmother had a big birthday

Wedding china, inherited goblets, loud tablecloth.
My maternal grandmother turned 99 yesterday and we threw her a party. I guess I can say it, now that there's no one around to have hurt feelings: While I loved all my grandparents a lot, she was always my favorite.  When I was a child I used to worry she was going to die and I'd never see her again. I would get weepy when we said good-bye because she was so tiny and seemed so fragile.

She is even tinier now, but clearly she was not so fragile.

Keeping me company, pre-party.
Tonight she told me, "You look pretty and happy, but once you were very slim and that was wonderful."


Some other pearls of wisdom gleaned over the years:

-"Don't chase the boys, let the boys come to you."

-"Latin boys think all American girls are fast."

-"Girls look very coquette when they wear a skirt that moves when they walk."

-"Couldn't you put on a little lipstick?"

-"Couldn't you put on a little rouge?"

-"Don't put your elbows on the table -- it makes them look old."

-"You need to make exercise."

-"You should wear dangly earrings."

And right she is. Usually.

I've made her sound shallow and hypercritical, which she isn't at all. She's just a Tiger Mother of the vintage Guatemalan variety.

The meal:

-Old-fashioneds. Because my grandmother likes them.

-Dorie Greenspan's tuna rillettes. Easy and fabulous. Tuna + creme fraiche + shallot + curry powder + a pinch of allspice, pureed in food processor and chilled. Serve with crackers.

-Greenspan's sweet and spicy nuts. HIT.
Brazil nuts, pistachios, pecans, cashews, almonds.

-Greenspan's mustard batons. Pepperidge Farm puff pastry spread with mustard and baked.

-Vadouvan mac n' cheese. Not a Greenspan recipe. I've made this rich and exotic and very delicious dish probably ten times now and it's ideal for parties because you can have it all ready ahead of time. The recipe is here. I can't recommend it more highly. My one piece advice would be to ignore the instructions with regards to the breadcrumb topping and do this instead: Put  6 ounces of crusty bread  (or rye bread) in the food processor and break it down to feathery bits. Heat 4 tablespoons of butter and fry the crumbs until crisp. Otherwise, the recipe is perfect. You can order vadouvan spice blend from Kalustyan's. I've tried making it, but it's better bought.

To complete the meal, my sister brought kale salad and two excellent cakes, including a domed green Princess cake.

Happy Birthday, Dita!

Flower barrettes. Very coquette.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Crafty chickens and the tween scene

While looking for the hose today, I found 23 eggs in the damp, spidery crawl space between our house and the back stairs. How long have they been there? Not going to think about it. Going to use them. Every week or so the hens move their communal nest to a new location in the yard. People say chickens are stupid. I see no evidence of that.

Are quail dumb too?

99 cents
I bought quail eggs at the Chinese market and put some under our broody hen, Lily, a few days ago. So far the eggs are still there and so is Lily. I put the chances of a hatch at 5%.

And now for the human news. Middle school cooking class, chapter 2:

We made pot stickers. They were a big success. But food is so much less interesting that footwear.

One day they will cringe.
Five of the girls wore Ugg boots and two wore Converse sneakers. I commented on this, in a friendly way, as I have a daughter who attends the same school and alternates between Ugg boots and Converse sneakers.

One of the Ugg wearers, M., pointed to another (apparent) Ugg wearer, K., and said, "Those are Fuggs."

"Yeah," said K. sheepishly. "They're Fuggs."

"Fake Uggs," M. explained.

It wasn't a kind thing to say, but was it mean? When I was a kid, I perceived calculated malice everywhere among my peers. But as an adult watching children, I just see (mostly) casual and careless snottiness.

I wonder. I wonder if childhood perceptions are more acute or just more paranoid.

The Abercrombie hoodie. Another essential piece of the uniform.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Root beer cake and kelp cookies

Little tornado
Owen made a tornado in a bottle for his science fair project which meant we had to buy a bunch of  plastic bottles of root beer and empty them out. There was more root beer around here than even he could drink, so I finally made the mysteriously alluring root beer cake from Baked.
How do you frost a bundt cake?
To make this cake you melt butter with cocoa and 2 cups of root beer, then mix the warm, dark sludge with flour and eggs and bake it all in a bundt pan. The frosting contains more root beer, more chocolate, and more butter. I really wanted to taste a root beer-flavored cake. This was not it. This was a fudgy cake with fudgy frosting, my least favorite kind of cake and while everyone else was thrilled with it, I was able to partake in moderation. In fact, after the first bite, I was able to partake not at all. Win-win!

I guess.

More Dorie Greenspan reports:

Cheez-it crackers. Delicious. Like cheese straws, but better than any cheese straws I've ever eaten. I need to examine her recipe to figure out why. Another one for the scrapbook.
Cheez-it and seaweed cookie. 
Seaweed sables. Strange. You chop up dried Japanese seaweed and mix it into a sweet, tender butter cookie dough, then add a lot of salt. These are definitely cookies, but they're also salty and seaweedy and totally confusing. I liked them quite a bit. Greenspan borrowed the recipe from David Lebovitz; his version is here.

Vegetable-barley soup with Indian spices. Good and easy and vegan, since I made it with water instead of broth. A rare dish in which I found parsnip inoffensive.

In other news.

My favorite.
Our Japanese bantam hen, Lily, weighs about a pound and, when she's laying, lays a small, pretty egg almost every single day. She's currently not laying, though, because she's gone broody for the fifth or sixth time since we got her, which is to say, she's trying to keep a clutch of eggs warm under her body until they hatch. She leaves the nest for ten minutes to eat and drink every morning, and then rushes back, settles herself over the eggs, fans out all her feathers and clucks. Here she sits, day and night. It breaks my heart. Not only will none of the eggs on our property ever hatch (we have no rooster), but she isn't even sitting on eggs this time. She's sitting on the golf balls we put in the nesting boxes to trick the hens to lay there rather than in the goat shed.

I find this so sad. I might go to Trader Joe's and get some of their fertile eggs and replace the golf balls. Or maybe the Chinese market for quail eggs? Give the little gal a fighting chance.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

From really good to unbelievably good

veal marengo
Some more delicious dinners from Dorie Greenspan.


Chicken breasts diable. Really good. Chicken breast pounded and sauteed, then served with a sharp-creamy mustard sauce.

Broccoli with crunchy breadcrumbs. Really good. Broccoli is steamed, butter is melted with garlic, crispy breadcrumbs are rolled in the garlicky butter, the broccoli is rolled in the buttery, garlicky breadcrumbs. I needed to throw in a little extra butter to make it all come together; I suspect that only made it better.


Veal Marengo. Really, really good. Veal is stewed with tomatoes and wine, then served with buttery pearl onions, mushrooms and potatoes.

Carrot salad. Unbelievably good. And easy. Carrot is shredded, topped with raisins, served with a honey-mustard-oil-cider vinegar dressing. Best carrot salad I've ever made. Going into the scrapbook.

Caramel sauce. Unbelievably good.  Also easy. Sugar is melted and caramelized, then mixed with cream and butter and salt and, when it cools to a saucy thickness, poured over ice cream. Another one for the scrapbook, and by scrapbook I mean the binder of recipes I make again and again.

The upshot? Yesterday I joined a gym. It's been a year and Around My French Table brought me to yet a new crisis point. I like to read on the treadmill. Here's what I finished on the treadmill yesterday:

Pageturner! And funny and self-deprecating and I highly recommend it, even if you were extremely annoyed by the Wall Street Journal excerpt and are now sick of the whole subject. The book might surprise you. David Brooks, as always, has an interesting take.

Brooks also has a curious and fascinating piece in the New Yorker. I'm souring on Gabrielle Hamilton given how widely her review of Dorie Greenspan's book missed the mark, but the woman sure can write. She has a personal history in the same issue and I'd link to that too, but it's behind the firewall. If you see the 1/17 copy of the magazine, check it out.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Just like Carrie Bradshaw

About an hour ago.
A friend of mine razzed me about never posting photos of myself unless they're really flattering and kind of glamorous. Like when I'm wearing a new skirt and drinking a cocktail at a restaurant in New Orleans on New Year's Eve. You know who you are, "friend." This one's for you.


My husband's phone takes better pictures than my camera.
Last night I made Dorie Greenspan's pissaladiere from Around My French Table. It's an onion tart with anchovies and olives, traditionally made in the South of France. I told Owen it was pizza and he ate it, but said he didn't like it as much as normal pizza. I wouldn't expect him to, and was impressed that he ate it at all. I thought the pissaladiere was delicious and very handsome.

Sometime you start cooking from a book that looks very enticing (Mixt Salads, Platter of Figs) and then the recipes keep disappointing and you end up wanting to throw the enticing book into the fireplace.

And then there are books like this one, that look old-fashioned and predictable, but in which every recipe is so well expressed and works so beautifully that you decide you want to cook everything, even the veal marengo. It's like in college, when you realize that it's not the subject that makes a class interesting, it's the professor.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I bet there are a lot of startled children out there this week

Looks like someone's baking a fruitcake.
Here's how you make Dorie Greenspan's gorgeous beggar's linguine: Boil water for pasta and melt a stick-and-a-half of butter (!) in a skillet. Add chopped almonds, pistachios, figs, and golden raisins and cook until the fruit is soft, the nuts are starting to toast, and the butter is dark gold. Cook the pasta. Drain and toss with the mixture in the skillet, making sure that every strand of linguine is coated with butter. Add a half cup of grated Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and the grated rind of an orange. Toss some more. Serve.

Magical! This is not for everyone, but it's definitely for me. If I ate this in a restaurant, I would go straight home and post a report on Chowhound about the genius chef. This dish was easy, cheap, unusual, incredibly delicious, and worth the price of Around My French Table. I will make it again soon.

So that was last night's dinner. Owen lit candles for the table, and I also served a special dessert.

I bought creme brulee dishes at a garage sale 15 years ago, back when I thought life would be full of dinner parties and creme brulee. I have never once used them. Dorie Greenspan has a creme brulee recipe and for Christmas my father gave me a torch, so it was time to dust off the old dishes. That was gratifying. I don't think I got the sugar topping thing quite right -- the shell was very, very thin. But at least there was a shell, and the cream tasted lovely. I will experiment more with this.

Sadly, while eating this nice dinner we had a big argument over what we should all watch on TV together afterwards. Because of the whole Tiger Mother business, the word "garbage" has been banging around in my head.  I would never call my children "garbage," ever, but, probably emboldened by Amy Chua, I did tell Isabel to stop being such a . . .  something else. I felt bad. I felt I was right. I felt bad. I felt I was right. I felt bad. I was right.

Harsh, but right. 

Anyway, we watched The Town. It was good. 

More Around My French Table reports:

-Greenspan's gorgonzola and apple quiche. Delightful. Not eggy -- gorgonzola-ey.

-Greenspan's cheese souffle. Also delightful. Not eggy -- cheesy. I ate so much I had to put myself to bed right after dinner. Interesting to compare Greenspan's souffle formula to Julia Child's: Greenspan uses more than twice as much gruyere, more than twice as much milk, but only slightly more egg. I prefer Greenspan's recipe.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Some meals are just kind of boring

Should I call her Dorie? Or Greenspan? Dorie seems disrespectful and possibly sexist, as I didn't use "Thomas" when I was blogging about Ad Hoc At Home. Then again, she seems to want us to think of her as Dorie. She's friendly and confiding -- she's such a Dorie!

I think I'll go with Greenspan.

When I first flipped through Greenspan's Around My French Table I thought it was stodgy, a magpie collection of recipes for dated dishes like veal marengo and quiche. Maybe it is; I haven't reached a verdict. But whatever it is, I am loving it. I'm not sure I've ever worked with more encouraging, more generous, more precise recipes. Greenspan takes into consideration every possibility and question and describes what you will be seeing as you cook a dish (though sometimes, as with her armagnac chicken, she is wrong -- or I am wrong), and tells you what to worry about and what not to worry about. She is warm and conversational. The recipes are not always exactly to my taste, but, so far, to a one, they have worked beautifully.

Last night's dinner:

-orange-scented lentil soup. Greenspan tells us that the secret to her particular lentil soup is is the addition of citrus peel. One day she was snacking on a clementine while a pot of soup bubbled on the stove: "Just as I was about to toss the peel in the trash, I backed up and dropped it into the soup pot. I've been flavoring the soup with orange, tangerine, clementine and mandarin peel ever since." I don't know if I like that story, and I did not taste the orange peel, but it was nonetheless a superlative bowl of lentil soup.

-coupetade. You fry French toast, put it in a pan, pour sweet custard over it, and bake.

Isabel: "It's a little too much right in the middle between French toast and pudding. . . .she said as she licked her plate."

Tipsy: "Do you want seconds?"

Isabel: "Are you having any?"

Tipsy: "Yes!"

Isabel: "Okay."

We liked coupetade a lot, but eating it for dessert was a bit confusing. It tastes like a breakfast dish.

Tonight we are having quiche and I have to go take the crust out of the oven.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I really hate mopping

My new kitchen.
I taught a cooking class yesterday at our local community center. I was excited about it and now that it is over I can admit that I was nervous about it. Even though, or especially because, I was teaching 6th and 7th grade girls. I attended an all-girls school in 6th and 7th grades and those years were surpassed in awfulness only by sophomore year of high school and 2010.

We made pizza from scratch, which the girls liked, and we made honey gelato, which they did not, and I brought them Italian almond cookies that I had baked out of a Marcella Hazan book to show them what they could do with the egg whites left over from gelato. These, they loved.
Brutti ma Buoni cookies
Altogether, it was interesting, fun, fairly successful, and about 150 times more labor-intensive than I'd expected. I had to bring everything to the community center kitchen -- every spoon and mixing bowl and grain of salt and bag of flour and quart of milk and paper towel -- and take it all away with me when I was through. I'm being paid a small sum by the community center and I'll be lucky if I break even, but I don't care about that at all. It was the time and schlepping that got to me.

Some highlights:

1. I bought both a ball of beautiful fresh mozzarella and a pouch of factory-made Lucerne pre-shredded mozzarella for the young ladies to taste test and compare. It did not occur to me that they would prefer the pre-shredded mozzarella. But they did. I'm not sure if this was herd dynamics at work, or a true preference, but they fought over every last flaccid shred of Lucerne in the classic "nice" girl way: "You guys, that's not exactly fair. . . "  I realized then that I had been aiming way too high with this whole project, and that they would have been psyched to talk among themselves and make English muffin pizzas with jarred ragu and sliced hot dogs. I am adjusting my approach for the next class.

2. Chickens have pecking orders, as do goats, as do middle school girls. I knew this, but had forgotten just how obvious and poignant and nerve-wracking it is, even when you're a bystander. On a couple of occasions, I could feel even my own steely will bending to the charm and power of the alpha girl. It was shameful.

3. Still, kids are fascinating and funny and they get so excited about separating eggs and stirring and eating pizza and watching ice cream machines churn. I like kids and I like watching kids and I like listening to kids, especially now that I am no longer a kid.

4. An hour after the class ended, I finally had the kitchen clean, had washed down the counters with sponges and sanitized them and scrubbed the sinks with Comet and swept assiduously and emptied the trash in the dumpster and carried all my fifty loads of dirty dishes and fresh mozzarella and unused ingredients back out to the car. It was dark and I was late to pick up Owen and I was just giving the room a final look-over when I saw the sign informing kitchen users that they must mop the floors.

Maybe if the floors had been dirtier.

But, you know, maybe not.

I wonder if they're going to fire me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

They are going to get themselves arrested

Sunrise -- and she didn't sleep a wink.
I collected our goats yesterday from the stud farm and they have not shut up since. They cry and cry. They cried all night and are crying as I type and it is making me very anxious. They have never cried like this before, which I believe is why our neighbors tolerate them. I may have to do a big egg distribution this morning.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Quick post about a very good dinner

Not a pretty chicken, but an excellent chicken. Or, as Dorie Greenspan describes J. Jacques' Armagnac Chicken: "une petite merveille." You put potatoes, carrots, onions, herbs and your seasoned chicken in a pot, add some brandy (or Armagnac), and bake, covered, at high heat for an hour. Could hardly be easier. The chicken (recipe found on page 204 of Around My French Table or here) comes out silky and tender, the potatoes come out infused with flavor, and all you need to complete the meal is a salad. I served it with this brussels sprouts salad, which I have now made twice and love inordinately.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Anatomy of a surprisingly great Friday night

Yesterday evening, my husband called to say he was running late but he called early enough that I hadn't started cooking dinner and so I simply didn't. Instead, I made grilled cheese sandwiches and ate sunflower seeds while leaning against the counter waiting for Dorie Greenspan's quatre quarts cake to bake and listening to The Passage. I drank two sidecars made from the miniature liquor bottles my sister gave me for Christmas and it was very fun. I wasn't drinking to feel better, I was drinking to feel even better, one of several lines from the fairly lame How Do You Know that I can not get out of my head.

Of Dorie G's cake, which is basically a poundcake, Owen said: "That's not cake, it's flavored bread."

Isabel said, "It's kind of eggy."

I said, "Very eggy."

The cake was easy and plain. It was eggy. It was flavored bread.

After we'd tasted and rated the quatre quarts, we watched some vintage episodes of House which prompted illuminating, if fractured, discussions of drug abuse, medical drama plot formulas, and Hugh Laurie. My husband came home in the middle of this and, as I've noted many times before, a night of TV, booze, and cheese sandwiches turned out to be altogether more joyful and interesting than when we follow the rules and all sit down at the table for a proper roast bird and try to talk about our days.

Which is what we're doing tonight. There is a chicken in the oven and a brussels sprouts salad on the table as I type and I'm drinking tea. No dessert.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Back to my knitting and here I will stick

After two months, I suspect that my failure to consistently cook from and blog about Thai Street Food is my review of Thai Street Food. It is just too much of a strain.

pat thai

Melted on the stove during Thai cooking. Still works.
stir-fried minced beef
crispy roast pork and chinese broccoli
I made a valiant effort in December, but never posted about any of it. I'm not sure why. Almost everything I made was excellent. I especially loved the charred noodles on page 140: You take wide, fleshy fresh rice noodles and put them in a skillet with just a drop of oil and let them blacken and blister and develop a crust. I made these twice, the first time with the accompanying chicken, the second time to serve in place of rice. Delicious. The other standout dish was the stir fried minced beef, which I also made twice, and which we all loved. I would make it regularly, but you absolutely need Thai basil and I can't get that without driving to the Asian market in San Francisco, where tracking stuff down is like a scavenger hunt. Which is the problem with this whole book. 

 I hope a day will come soon when I can (re?) dedicate myself to this exotic and beautiful volume, but December was busy and January is going to be completely nuts. I need a book that is easy and accessible that I will actually cook from and blog about.

That book is going to be Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. Curiously, Gabrielle Hamilton's negative review picqued my curiosity. Here's a passage in which Hamilton describes the lack (in her view) of appealing dishes in Around My French Table:

I did not want to make, for example, her guacamole with tomatoes and bell peppers any more than I would want to make a pissaladiere out of a Rick Bayless cook book. I did not want to make sweet and spicy cocktail nuts, or tzatziki, or gravlax or dieter's tartine or cola-and-jam spareribs or pork roast with mangoes and lychees. I hope it is self-evident why I didn't.

In fact, it is not self-evident. Not to me, anyway. I do agree that this book includes an odd mash-up of recipes and I take her point about turning to Greenspan for a guacamole recipe. But what is wrong with sweet and spicy cocktail nuts? They sound like something I could get very fat on. Pork roast with mangoes and lychees? Weird, but perhaps delicious. In any case, interesting. I'm going for it.

I have already made from the book:

sardine rillettes -- spectacular
Marie Helene's apple cake -- superb 
gougeres -- good.

And the other night I made those cola-and-jam spareribs, which sounded delicious to me. They were certainly easy. You just paint them with some orange juice and jam, baste with a can of Coke and let them roast for a few hours.  It was so very relaxing to pop ribs in the oven and know that dinner was making itself as I worked at my desk throughout the late afternoon. We ate all the ribs that night and there were none left over for lunch the next day. I would not make them again because I suspect there is a better rib recipe out there, probably in a Texas Junior League cookbook. But Dorie's was perfectly respectable.


On another subject, I have fallen into a deep, dark pit called The Passage by Justin Cronin. We started listening to this 37-hour vampire saga on CD during our vacation, but while my family has lost interest, I've become a mad fan. I listen to it while I'm driving, cooking, folding laundry, washing dishes, eating lunch. It has character, metaphor, power writing, moral philosophy, metaphysics, dreams, creation myths, blood sucking freaks, epic battles, propulsive narrative drive. It's like Lost, The Road, The Lord of the Rings, and Shirley Jackson's Lottery all rolled into one. RECOMMEND!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Thanks y'all and Happy New Year!


What a trip.
Thank-you for all your suggestions. Very quickly, mostly in pictures, a New Orleans restaurant report.

catfish po-boy

The line was out the door at Casamento's -- and I was the only one willing to wait -- so we went down the street to the Ignatius Eatery for catfish po-boys and boudin-stuffed meat loaf. I was grumpy about this, but the food turned out to be fantastic.
Harry Potter.
Owen barely spoke the entire trip.

The line for the Central Grocery was out the door -- and I was the only one willing to wait -- so we went down the street to the French Market and ate muffalettas from a stall. I was grumpy about this, but the sandwiches turned out to be fantastic.
mediocre oysters, wet and gray
The line for the Acme Oyster House almost wrapped around the block and even I was not willing to wait, so we went across the street and ate oysters at Felix's, where the line merely stretched out the door. I was grumpy about this.
worth the money

The best thing I tasted in 2010: bananas foster at Commander's Palace. I don't even like bananas. 

I wanted to go to Cochon, August, or Herbsaint, but the only place we could get a reservation on New Year's Eve was Pascal Manale's
Awkward photo, but classic tableau with Harry Potter and 899th (?) drink of 2010

While it's no Commander's Palace, Pascal Manale's was very festive and we had a great time. I had barbecued shrimp. 

My resolution is the same as it was last year: 100 drinks for the year. I lost count during the trials of 2010, but have high hopes for 2011.

Las Vegas hate/love/hate story, part 4

When I was in my teens I thought I would only grow more confident in my judgments as I got older. I thought that the workings of the universe would become ever clearer to me. This seemed logical and obvious.

Now, of course, it seems sweet and naive. In my twenties, I started hemorrhaging certainty. Example: When I was 20 and road-tripping with my sister, I took one look at Las Vegas and thought: What a tacky hellhole. We did not even stop our car. If anyone asked, Las Vegas was totally not my thing.

When I was 29 and flew to Las Vegas to look for my uncle, I took one look at Las Vegas and sighed. What a tacky hellhole. But other people loved Vegas. What was I missing?  There must be something here that I couldn't see or appreciate. I must try to figure out what that was.

I'd become compulsively and exhaustingly self-critical. Every failure was my failure of imagination or intelligence or discernment or humanity. The problem with Las Vegas was my problem. I was like the cartoon of the woman walking down the street telling her friend, "I'm trying to see things from my point of view."

The other day, I searched for my journal from this period. I used to be a great keeper of journals, but while I have many pages of mortifying tiny print documenting loneliness, fights with my mother, and crimes of perfidious boyfriends, I wrote nothing about this trip to Las Vegas to find Richard. So this is all from memory, sitting in a Starbucks in Houston fifteen years later. Lack of notes explains lack of dialogue and specific detail.

I do remember the heat with some precision: It was 114 degrees in Las Vegas when I got there. Walking across the parking lot to the Stardust Hotel was like walking under a giant blow dryer turned to high. Inside that dark, mirrored building, I had to penetrate through a thick rind of slot machines to get to the elevator bank. My room smelled like an ashtray. The first thing I did was call the police department to see if they had any record of Richard in their files. They did not. So I pulled out the phone book, wrote down a list of places one might look for a penniless alcoholic, marked up the map, and started driving around.

Away from the Strip, Las Vegas is vast, dun-colored, and featureless with wide, endless streets like airport runways. It reminded me of a penal colony on the moon. There were no bookstores, no neighborhoods, no trees, no shade, and the only people you ever saw walking were men and women who appeared to be poor or homeless. I could not fathom why this horrible place existed or why anyone would come here on vacation. What was wrong with me?

Once you start looking for homeless people, you see them everywhere in Las Vegas: Black and white and Native American, pushing shopping carts and hauling around plastic garbage bags, dozing under freeways. I drove around to homeless shelter after homeless shelter, carrying around my picture of Richard, which I showed to everyone I met who looked remotely official. Everyone was very nice; nothing bad happened to me. But I wasn't reporting a story and I didn't hang around asking questions like some kind of cool young guy journalist. I just wanted to find Richard.

At the end of each day, I went back to the Stardust, where Chuck Norris was staying with his pretty wife. I think this was her. At night, I would go up to my room, get under the covers and read some Edith Wharton or Barbara Pym or one of those books in which I was earnestly looking for how the world worked. No wonder I was confused.

I called my father and told him I was in Las Vegas looking for Richard. He was irritated. What was I going to do if I found him? I did not know. I just wanted to find him.

The day before I left, I called the jail. I had assumed that the police department and the jail were connected, but at the time they (apparently) were not.

Richard was in jail. He had been in jail the entire time I was there. The charges were "drunk and disorderly" and "indecent exposure." Richard had been "bathing in a gutter."

He had a court date the next day, so I extended my ticket. The next morning, I set out for the courthouse and got lost. Trying to correct my route on those airline runway streets, I ended up missing him by half an hour. I flew home that afternoon. I had not seen Richard, but I had found Richard.