On so many issues, our city is divided. Clearly our nation is divided, to the point of crisis. It‚Äôs been going on for way too long. If there‚Äôs anything we can all agree on, it‚Äôs that no one likes long division. Or calculus, for sure.
But most disturbing of all, I think, is that the world is divided on one axiomatic issue: there are those of us (the minority, I fear) who love us some squirrels, and those who hate the little buggers and would annihilate them from the Earth.
You who hate them are quite vocal. Anyone who has ever tried to grow a tiny crop in their tiny urban back yard knows that as soon as something sprouts green, those little gray monsters will chew them to oblivion. But that‚Äôs because in spring the acorns and nuts they depend on are now themselves sprouting, but months away from producing more. A guy‚Äôs got to eat.
Not so much an urban problem, but deer do the same thing. But you don‚Äôt hear people grinding their teeth as they call for shooting every Bambi‚Äôs mother in sight. Poor squirrels. And they get the bad rap of spreading rabies ‚Äî not so.
On Mother‚Äôs Day we had a little rodent visitor (yes, they‚Äôre rodents, just like beavers and porcupines, who must have better PR agencies than squirrels, but don‚Äôt forget Rocky the Flying Squirrel ‚Äî love Rocky, love his less-famous, tree-bound cousins), a bold little gal who came into the back yard and right up to the open doorway near the breakfast table we were gathered around. No fear, just an up-close assessment of the odds of dashing in for a food grab without getting cleavered.
She decided against it. My wife threw an offering of a single mint leaf out the door in her direction, and I guess it took her by surprise because before it hit the ground she shot into the fastest head-over-heels flip, with twists, tail and paws akimbo, landing with a nonchalant air of ‚Äî what? ‚Ä¶ nothing happened. She did not touch the mint leaf. I think our avocados were on her mind.
Squirrel was not on the menu for our Mother‚Äôs Day lunch out, but nearly everything else was. We ordered pheasant infused with cognac and tarragon, wild boar seasoned with cranberries and shiraz, chipotle buffalo, venison with blueberries, and camel-elk-kangaroo-red deer-wagyu, and more. Sadly, they were out of alligator, but we quickly forgot about that.
Did we journey way up to the famous Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabasas? No, only to 15th Street in Santa Monica, across from the UCLA Med Center, to Carrots & Peas, a restaurant whose name belies its specialty of exotic meats.
There were just three of us and we wanted to sample everything, so owner Mark suggested the safari platter (half!). Besides all the above, in the form of either sliders or sausages, piles of them, it came with regular and sweet potato fries, onion rings, fried zucchini sticks, salad, cucumber slices, potato salad, cole slaw, and a slew of sauces, all for 65 bucks, which would maybe get you two entrees at Saddle Peak (admittedly, better ambiance, but consider the drive/cost of gas). We took a very large bag of leftovers home.
The huge, crispy sausages are all handmade there (no easy task), Mark declared, as well as their incredible array of desserts (espresso cheesecake was outstanding, as was hand-torched cr√®me brulee, one of the best I‚Äôve ever had ‚Äî more texture, less sweet), and all the meats, they brag, are free of antibiotics, hormones and steroids.
Maybe some families would shrink, shudder and chorus “ewww,” but our family, the kind that doesn‚Äôt mind close-up squirrel scrutiny and lived together for a year in a small camper van with all that entails, found it to be unbelievably groovy, not to mention gourmet delicious. Our Mother‚Äôs Day celebration was way cool, Mom declared, and definitely different. Good old Santa Monica, with more to offer than even people who have lived here for decades might know. Keep exploring!
And then there‚Äôs the tried and true, that have been around here forever but are always appreciated. Like the ocean. The palm trees. The palisades cliffs. The cool ocean breeze. The Santa Monica mountains in the near distance. And Bill Bauer.
He‚Äôll probably hate me for grouping him with ancient objects, and I hope he doesn‚Äôt take it out on me in a column, because his targets suffer mightily. But that‚Äôs one of the things I like about Bauer. (It helps that we usually disdain the same targets.)
I‚Äôm thinking in particular of his recent My Write column exposing the “Skullduggery behind the scenes at City Hall” (May 4). I would dub it essential reading for anyone who cares about our city and how things get done (or don‚Äôt) here.
Speaking strictly from self-observation, I would say that some of us newspaper columnists are self-absorbed, opinionated lay-abouts, with a smattering of familiarity with journalism but without the energy to actually research facts for long, boring periods of time, like reporters. Much easier to flash an opinion, and see where it goes.
But Bauer‚Äôs got the credibility and years of experience, of research already done and results observed and relationships with people, especially behind the scenes, to write a piece like that. He also has the guts. When I reported in my column that Councilman Kevin McKeown had named names at a Democratic Club meeting, and later went even further at a City Council meeting, I was worried about 3 a.m. knocks at the door or whether it was safe to start my car engine (it‚Äôs electric, so, probably so).
Bauer went so much further, and unless you‚Äôre in the news biz you may not realize what a valuable service that is for all us citizens, and how gutsy. He‚Äôs calling out, with details, some very powerful people, with huge financial stakes. Please go read, or re-read his column. Even if you don‚Äôt remember the specifics, you‚Äôll understand so much better what the real playing field consists of.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 28 years and wouldn‚Äôt live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at email@example.com.