Artemisa Bistro – Mexico City

This morning I enjoyed a breakfast experience I can’t remember having before. The warm sun in a cloudless sky made sitting outside comfortable, which is not always the case here.

It included adequate sized sides of yogurt, honey and granola. And the presentation looked like a work of art.

I finished my meal with a fresh raisin roll and coffee americano.

An attentive server and the guitar player were the finishing touches on my amazing experience.

Matías Romero 99, Col del Valle Centro, Benito Juárez, 03100 Ciudad de México, CDMX

Olive Garden – Yuma, AZ

Foodwise, a review of one Olive Garden is a review of all. The menu here is generally identical at all locations as most chain restaurants are.

Bread sticks

Are these the main reason 90% of people eat at Olive Garden? Although it had been seven years since my last visit, bread sticks are still the magnet that pulls in the customers.

Garden salad

Good. Not great. Seemed like a lot more croutons than before and not enough black olives, but that’s just my preference.

Zuppa Toscana

The soups tasted better than I remembered, especially the Toscana. It possessed a spiciness that made my mouth tingle.

Pasta e fajioli

Another strong, pleasingly flavorful soup.

I believe the endless soup, salad and bread is the best value ($9.99) on a totally overpriced menu. Absolutely average pasta dishes for $14-18 is ridiculous. Come for the soup and salad or find a locally owned place for pasta.

Prison Hill Brewing Company – Yuma, AZ

I had lunch here because I liked the name of the restaurant.

Fish & chips
Raspberry Berliner Weisse

They use tilapia. I’ve always thought the best fish for F&C was cod. And what’s fish and chips without vinegar? So, no cod and no vinegar = a so-so plate.

The beer disappointed me, too. Probably because it tasted too fruity, had only 3.8% ABV and the snifter. This is beer, not brandy.

$25 for a 3-star meal. Ouch!

The highlight of the meal? The server. She excelled.

“TIC TAC TOE” – a short film

Tag line: A man returns to Oaxaca to die; a child’s game gives him a reason to live.

We finished filming on 13 October. The movie should be ready to watch by mid- to late-November.

I’ll publish the link when it is.

In the meantime, here’s the link to my YouTube channel where you can find my previous short films: https://youtube.com/channel/UC_uOCYB1JQEcxyaxZ3wLiqw

“If Given the Chance” – a poem

“To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe.”

Age.
Others’ attitudes and perceptions.

I fight, will continue to fight,
To prove to those that
Dismiss me, never pausing to consider me,
Believing I have nothing left to offer,
How ridiculously wrong they are.

I possess and will continue to possess
Worth, wisdom, life and love
To be shared.

Though my gait is not so       fast,
My body not so robust,
My collective years of living
Make me invaluable,
Even vital to another.

If given the chance.

Rewiring, a poem

Life presents me
With enticements,
Temptations,
Playing with my heart.

The universe constantly connects me
to human outlets with only  ephemeral current.

Or

Currents with staying power
That lack the amperage Necessary to sustain
An electrified coupling.

Maybe an introspective
Rewiring is called for;
One more energy efficient
One without high voltage
        requirements.

“An Every Day Friend” – a poem

The conversations

So free and easy

Time isn’t considered

They are open-ended

I’m a loner

So after the visit

I notice an emptiness

Wanting to reconnect

Immediately

Tomorrow at the latest

Separated by 

Time zones

Continents

Generations 

Conversing on 

A park bench

Only an image 

In my mind

Kept apart 

By covid 

Until then

We connect 

By Skype

Calls and messages 

What separates us

Brings us together 

We’ll meet one day

Oh, the joy it will bring 

She plays a vital role 

My every day friend

“Fatal Flaw” – a poem

My fatal flaw
Ain’t against the law,
Even though people
Disappear.

Quick and clean
A well-oiled machine
It leaves no
Trace of blood.

I stop communicating
There’s no hesitating
Another friendship has ended.

The reason’s always the same
The friend is never to blame.
I simply lose interest.

I need
To be challenged
Proximity
Common interests
A bonding experience

And sometimes
Even those aren’t enough.
It’s tough
To change one’s nature.

In the end
Will I have a friend?
Perhaps I won’t
And I doubt it will matter.

When I need
Someone the most
I’ll likely find only ghosts.

Whatever my fate
I can’t overstate:
My nature prevailed.

Dying alone
No one to phone.
Thanks to
My fatal flaw.

“The Voice” – a poem

The voice

Gave his opinion

Never shyly.

Screaming!

For decades

Every three years

(or so it seemed)

He’d wake up.

I heard him,

Heeded his advice.

Move. Quit your job.

Try this. Fulfill that dream.

Five countries, fourteen cities

Countless companies

Improve comedy, grad school

Be a writer; see the world.

Recently, a change.

Opinions are still given.

Not screamed.

Whispered.

The voice is tired?

Retired?

Maybe it’s time

We both stop.

(Screamed)

Hell no!!!

Afternoon Delight – a poem

“Afternoon Delight”
A 70s song about sex
An underappreciated
Afternoon delight?
Cocktails while the sun shines

Not at a sporting event
Or at the beach
But in a tavern
With a cute bartender
(Quite often, actually)

The intent is not
To get laid
(Although it happens)
But to be free
Of the drudgery
Of the job

The delight diminishes
If you’re still glued
To your stool
After the sun has set

You’ll realize that
Tomorrow

“Knowing Someone” – a poem

Who “really” knows another?

Almost no one.

They may think so.

They might know them

More than most.

But, “really” know?

I once gave a homeless person

A sandwich, a blanket and

A hundred dollars

On a cold winter’s night.

I once gave a friend

Five hundered dollars

So she wouldn’t go to jail.

Just one condition.

Fuck me.

She still has no rap sheet.

You think you know me?

Which did I do?

Maybe both?

How about neither?

People who say

“I know you so well”

Are full of shit.

People who say

“You know me so well”

Are also full of it.

“I know you better

Than you know yourself.”

How the fuck

Is that even possible?

I don’t know anybody

“Really well.”

I don’t want to know

Anybody that much.

It’d be a colossal

Waste of time.

I do know this

(confidently certain).

Nobody knows anybody

As well as they think.

Lying, a poem

I lie.
A lot.

Some days
I’m a millionaire.
Some days
A struggling artist.

I’ve visited
A hundred countries
Or only three.

Oh, the lies
I’ve told…
About the things
I’ve done
(on every continent)
The gorgeous women
I’ve had.
(can’t count them all)

Lying is exciting.
And harmless
(in my case).

Why lie?
Because
The truth is
Somewhere
In the middle.
And the middle
Is boring.

Except for
An eclair.

A birthday note to me (English & Spanish)

On the eve of my birthday, I thought it would be a good time to post something like this. And I will do it annually.

This is a short note about the happiest and saddest event of my life this past year.

MY YEAR

Michael, you learned so much in the past year thanks to the 110 students from more than 25 countries that you had the pleasure and honor of meeting through online teaching. Three have been with you since February 2020, a couple of others almost as long. You joke that they are the real teachers, but in fact, they are. They are closer than friends; they are your virtual family. I believe you’d be lost without them.

But, you know that life is not without its disappointments. And one of the saddest includes friends. You’ve lived in 5 countries and 14 cities. You’re not accustomed to long-standing friendships. Still, whether established or promising, when one takes a negative turn, you’ve learned to accept the loss as part of life and move on; to seek new and mutually beneficial alliances and friendships that allow you to continue living a fulfilling life.

Finally, the universe has blessed you with a life exponentially more amazing than you could have ever imagined. Continue to be humbled and thankful on a daily basis.

La víspera de mi cumpleaños, pensé que sería un buen momento para publicar algo como esto. Y lo haré anualmente.

Esta es una breve nota sobre el evento más feliz y triste de mi vida el año pasado.

MI AÑO

Michael, aprendiste mucho el año pasado gracias a los 110 estudiantes de más de 25 países que tuviste el placer y el honor de conocer a través de la enseñanza en línea. Tres han estado contigo desde febrero de 2020, un par de otros casi tanto tiempo. Bromeas diciendo que son los verdaderos maestros, pero de hecho lo son. Son más cercanos que amigos; son tu familia virtual. Creo que estarías perdido sin ellos.

Pero sabes que la vida no está exenta de decepciones. Y uno de los más tristes incluye amigos. Has vivido en 5 países y 14 ciudades. No estás acostumbrado a amistades duraderas. Aún así, ya sea establecido o prometedor, cuando uno toma un giro negativo, ha aprendido a aceptar la pérdida como parte de la vida y seguir adelante; buscar nuevas alianzas y amistades mutuamente beneficiosas que le permitan seguir viviendo una vida plena.

Finalmente, el universo te ha bendecido con una vida exponencialmente más asombrosa de lo que podrías haber imaginado. Continúe siendo humilde y agradecido a diario.

“Getting Back in the Game” – A Short Play

CAST

RICHIE: 61, but young looking and a few pounds overweight. He’s retired.

RENEE: 60, attractive, fit and also retired.

Place

Richie’s apartment

Time

2015

1.

(Lights up on living room. There’s a sofa, an arm chair, a couple of end tables, shelving with a few books and a CD player. Two big floor pillows. There’s a 1970’s era tapestry hanging on a wall.)

RICHIE plays some popular music from the 60’s or 70’s. He checks his hair in the face of his cell phone [anything but a mirror].  He plumps the floor pillows, lights some incense and other last minute touch ups.  

There is a knock on the door. RICHIE primps one last time, walks to the door and opens it.)

RICHIE

Hey.

(Richie walks to the sofa and sits.)

RENEE

Really?

RICHIE

What?

RENEE

You don’t know?

(Richie walks to the door.)

RICHIE

(waving his arm)  Have a seat. Come on.

(Renee enters and stands at the door. Richie walks back to the sofa a sits.)

RENEE

I’m wearing a coat.

RICHIE

Yeah, looks great on you. Is it new?

2.

RENEE

Dick.

RICHIE

I’m Richie now. Sounds younger, don’t you think?

RENEE

Oh, brother. Well, okay, Ri-chie, get over here and take my coat.

RICHIE

For her I would, but for you…it’s not like we don’t know each other.

RENEE

You’re wasting my time. Bye…Dick.

(Renee walks out the door.)

RICHIE

Come on, Renee, you’re not serious.

(Renee closes the door.)

You are. (Loudly) Ok, ok, knock again. I’ll do the coat thing. (5 second wait) So, knock already.

(No knock. Richie hurries to the door and opens it.)

(talking down the hall)  Renee. Stop. Come back. Please.

RENEE

Last chance, buster. Let’s start over.

RICHIE

Ah, you do still love me.

RENEE

Still the jokester.

RICHIE

My best characteristic. So nice to see you, Renee. You look lovely. May I take

your coat?

RENEE

Yes.

(Richie tosses it on a chair. Renee sighs.)

3.

RICHIE

Wanna drink? Beer? Shot of tequila?

RENEE

Wine?

RICHIE

Uh…

RENEE

Women like wine.

RICHIE

I don’t think this one does. She’s a little on the wild side.

RENEE

I’ll take a beer and then you can tell me about her.

(Richie takes a beer from a cooler on the floor next to the sofa and hands it to Renee.)

RENEE

A cooler?

RICHIE

Saves walking to the kitchen.

RENEE

Yeah, those ten feet could be fatal. And the can, classy.

RICHIE

Won’t break if dropped.

RENEE

You plan on getting that wasted?

RICHIE

No, of course not. But in the throes of passion, a flailing arm might…never

mind.

RENEE

Why did you call me? I mean, you could have called a boatload of women. Why me?

4.

RICHIE

From what I’ve seen you’re pretty active in the dating arena.

RENEE

And you know that how?

RICHIE

Facebook.

RENEE

I unfriended you years ago.

RICHIE

Yeah, I know.

RENEE

So, you don’t know what I’ve been up to.

RICHIE

Not exactly true. I’m still friends with your sister and she gave me her password.

RENEE

I’ll kill the witch.

RICHIE

You should be honored that I chose you. I respect your expertise in all things love.

RENEE

So, tell me more about this lady who’ll launch you into the throes of passion.

RICHIE

It’s not important. This is supposed to be a practice date so I can sharpen my skills.

RENEE

I need to know so I can decide if you’re making the right decisions. I need to be her, Dick.

RICHIE

That’s my job. I know, bad joke. Listen, Renee, I called you because I want, need your help. In the ten years we’ve been divorced, I haven’t been on a single date. I might be a tad rusty and getting back in the game is scary, frankly. Damn scary. So, help me with technique, what to say and all that, but who I’m dating is my business. I don’t ask about your personal life.

5.

RENEE

You don’t ask about anything. The last time you called me was seven years ago. And that was to get my sister’s number so you could date her.

RICHIE

Explore the possibility only. I didn’t follow through.

RENEE

Only because the boyfriend you didn’t know she had, threatened to kick your ass.

RICHIE

(throwing a couple of air punches) So not true. Anyway, maybe I didn’t call because I respected your privacy.

RENEE

I could’ve moved to Jamaica for all you knew.

RICHIE

No way. You hate the beach.

RENEE

Whatever, but the way I see it, you need me more than I need you, In fact, I’ve shown that I don’t need you at all. So, if you want my advice we play by my rules.

Capiche?

RICHIE

Damn you. Ok.

RENEE

Wow, she must be something for you to give in so quickly. What is she, young or loaded?

RICHIE

Not rich.

RENEE

How young?

RICHIE

Young-ish.

RENEE

Forty?

6.

RICHIE

Someday.

RENEE

Thirty?

RICHIE

Age is just a number.

RENEE

Under thirty? Do you have a death wish?

RICHIE

What?

RENEE

Let’s see. Two heart attacks, a double bypass and a pacemaker. And that was before we divorced.

RICHIE

I’m aware of that, but I figure it means I’ve had a complete overhaul, and since I’ve been stress free and dateless for ten years, I’m still as good as new. (beat)  Gonna help me or not?

RENEE

God knows you need it.

RICHIE

Coolio. Where should we start?

RENEE

How about your attire?

RICHIE

Groovy, right? A real American outfit. I’m trying to show her some of our culture. She hasn’t been here very long.

RENEE

Tie-dyed t-shirt, flares; along with the tapestry and incense, all you’re missing is the Grateful Dead music.

RICHIE

It’s the next CD.

7.

RENEE

What, no 8-track?

RICHIE

Well, actually, it is the next 8-track.

RENEE

She won’t have a clue what you’re trying to do.

RICHIE

I’ll explain it. Besides, I don’t have a clue about today’s music or art. And you know the 70’s was the best decade of the 20th Century in so many ways.

RENEE

That it was. We reaped all the benefits of the sexual revolution and no AIDS to worry about.

RICHIE

Ah, to go back, if only for a while. Whatya say we get comfortable?

RENEE

That’s not why I’m here.

RICHIE

I meant sit down.

RENEE

Oh.

(Richie sits on a pillow on the floor. He motions for Renee to join him.)

Will you be able to get up?

RICHIE

I’ll have you know I can lift myself up without grabbing on to anything.

RENEE

That I would love to see.

(Richie tries to rise. Failing he tries again.)

RICHIE

Just a little out of practice. This time I’ll get it for sure.

(One more fail. Renee sits on a pillow.)

8.

RENEE

That’s  ok, gramps. I’ll help you up if you need it. (beat) This room makes me feel like 1974 all over again, except for my wrinkles, saggy boobs and arthritis.

RICHIE

Nonsense. You look great. You haven’t changed at all in ten years.

RENEE

That redeems you for throwing my coat on the chair. Remember the party we had the day we got back from winter break senior year?

RICHIE

Do I? Best impromptu party ever. Randy brought a bottle of Seagram’s 7 back with him; I had a quart of Smirnoff. And within twenty minutes of calling you and Amy, our apartment was bursting at the seams.

RENEE

Amy got so drunk she spent half the party topless.

RICHIE

Randy was so mad. Every time he tried to put her shirt on, she threatened to take off her pants.

RENEE

She was very proud of her boobs.

RICHIE

I’ll bet today they’re somewhere south of her bellybutton.  She had 5 kids, right?

RENEE

Six. And she never wore a bra.

RICHIE

Thankfully, you never had to worry about that. Did I tell you how great you look?

(Richie tries to put his arm around Renee, but she pushes him back.)

RENEE

I’m here to help you move forward, not rekindle the past.

RICHIE

You’re right. Sorry.

9.

(Richie takes another beer from the cooler.)

RENEE

Ahem.

(Richie gives one to Renee.)

RENEE

So, what did you cook? Chef Boyardee?

RICHIE

Something more Americana.

RENEE

Hot dogs?

RICHIE

I thought about them, but went with a real classic. TV dinners. Wanna guess dessert?

RENEE

Chocolate pudding?

RICHIE

Good guess, but I wanted to class it up a bit.

RENEE

Hmmm. Let me think a minute.  Ah, got it. Cheesecake.

RICHIE

(singing)  Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee. (speaking) Hope you’re hungry. I’ll go preheat the oven.

RENEE

Really, Dick, er, Richie, don’t go to any bother.

RICHIE

You don’t know what you’re missing. Ok, hang on.

(Richie exits and returns with a plate of Ritz crackers and Cheese Whiz.)

Appetizers. Nice touch, right?

RENEE

Do you really think this will impress your date? Does she have a name?

10.

RICHIE

Mai. M-A-I. It’s different, you have to admit that.

RENEE

Yes, Mai is not a common name.

RICHIE

I meant the food.

RENEE

True, but different isn’t always effective.

RICHIE

It’ll be fine. I’m sure of it.

RENEE

How do you know?

(Richie opens a small decorative box that sits on an end table and takes out a joint.)

You’re kidding.

RICHIE

It’s what snagged you.

RENEE

Did not.

RICHIE

Liar, liar, pants on fire.

RENEE

Ok, yes, I was a big pot head, but it’s not why you “snagged me.”

RICHIE

No? What was it, then?

RENEE

Let’s stay on topic. You said she hasn’t been here long. You mean in Milwaukee?

RICHIE

Uh, right, new to town.

RENEE

Where’s she from?

11.

RICHIE

Out east.

RENEE

New England?

RICHIE

A little further east than that.

RENEE

Oh, lord, don’t tell me. Thailand?

RICHIE

No way. Cambodia.

RENEE

So, you’re one of them, now? You’ve really reached rock bottom, Richie.

RICHIE

Have not. First of all, I didn’t move to or vacation in Cambodia with the

expressed reason of finding a young girlfriend or bride. Second, I may be old enough to do that, but not desperate enough. And third, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity, so I teach IT at the community center down the block. That’s where we met. Satisfied?

RENEE

Impressed, actually. You were always more hedonist than philanthropist.

RICHIE

People evolve.

RENEE

Sounds like it.

RICHIE

It’s a lot of fun. You should come with me. You could tutor high school kids in math.

RENEE

I’m really not in the market for a boyfriend, Richie, and I prefer them to be over eighteen.

RICHIE

How do you spend your time? (beat) If you don’t mind me asking.

RENEE

I keep busy. Relatively.

12.

RICHIE

Ooh, sounds exciting. I also deliver meals on wheels, and read to residents of St. Ann’s. Some of them can’t see so good to read or hear audio books.

RENEE

Ok, who are you and where’s the real Dick?

RICHIE

I know. I ask that myself every so often. I’ve totally morphed into a caregiver.  When I retired a few years ago, I had no plan. Just wanted to enjoy myself. I was never a big traveler, as you know, and I think golf and fishing are boring, so I was hanging out at bars. Problem was, the happy hours were starting earlier and my waistline was creeping perilously close to forty. I knew I wouldn’t see seventy unless changes were made. That’s when I began volunteering. And working out.

RENEE

You look like a thirty-four.

RICHIE

Thanks, but it’s thirty-six. Don’t want to get too thin. Gotta give the ladies a little something to hold on to.

RENEE

Well, you definitely have a little something.

RICHIE

Are you talking about—ok, time for you to leave.

RENEE

You don’t know what I was talking about.

(Richie jumps up, pulls Renee up, too, and pushes her towards the door.)

RENEE

What the hell are you doing, Dick?

RICHIE

Good-bye. Thanks for your advice. Have a good life.

RENEE

Are you—

13.

(Richie forces Renee out of the apartment and closes the door.

(from the hall)  –serious?

(Renee dials her cell phone. Richie’s phone rings.)

RICHIE

Hello?

RENEE

Open the door.

RICHIE

Apologize.

RENEE

For what?

RICHIE

For the shot you just gave me.

RENEE

That wasn’t a shot.

RICHIE

Definitely a shot.

RENEE

You want a shot? A real shot? I’ll give you a real shot.

RICHIE

You’re the queen of shots. No more shots. Just an apology.

RENEE

(Softly)  Oh, brother. The male ego. (normal voice) You were always more than

I could handle, you porn dude.

RICHIE

A little sincerity would be nice.

RENEE

Take it or leave it.

14.

RICHIE

I’ll take it.

RENEE

Then open the damn door.

(Richie opens the door and Renee enters.)

You are such a baby. You may be emotionally younger than that child you want to date.

RICHIE

I simply have a sensitive nature.

RENEE

Do you think she’ll be able to put up with your quirky, overly sensitive nature?

RICHIE

In time.

RENEE

You’re no spring chicken.

(Richie sits on the floor and lights a joint.)

RICHIE

Join me? (beat) One for old-time’s sake?

RENEE

Let’s stay on topic. Do you have any more questions about your prom date?

RICHIE

This is really good stuff (shit, if allowed).

RENEE

I know what you’re up to.

RICHIE

You do.

RENEE

Yes, I do. You know what used to happen every time I got high.

RICHIE

I remember very clearly. (tapping the pillow next to him) So, have a seat,

Rennie, and see if we can recreate some of that magic.

15.

RENEE

I’ll smoke, but no magic.

(Richie hands her the joint and she takes a hit. Then another. Richie uses the remote to find a 70’s song on the stereo. Something by “Yes.”

RICHIE

Better slow down. This ain’t 1975 weed.

RENEE

No lie. This is killer. Turkey.

RICHIE

What about it.

RENEE

Her TV dinner. With mashed potatoes, gravy and peas. And an apple turnover in the corner.

RICHIE

Bingo.

RENEE

And for Mister Meat-eater, Salisbury steak.

RICHIE

One hundred percent pure beef.

RENEE

And sawdust shavings. Do they even make Salisbury steak anymore?

RICHIE

I have no idea.

RENEE

That’s what I thought. I’ll bet there isn’t even a girl.

RICHIE

You think not?

RENEE

I not think. I mean, I think not.

16.

RICHIE

It’s possible.

(They each hit the joint again.)

RENEE

Do you want to know?

RICHIE

Know what?

RENEE

How you snagged me?

RICHIE

You want to tell me after all these years?

RENEE

Yup. Chicken.

RICHIE

Chicken.

RENEE

Burnt chicken.

RICHIE

Oh my god. Really?

RENEE

You were cooking me dinner, but the music, the wine, the timing…

RICHIE

Our first time.

RENEE

And even when you smelled the chicken burning, you didn’t stop. I had a feeling then that we had something special going.

RICHIE

Magic.

17.

(Renee moves to the pillow and sits close to Richie. Richie clicks off the stereo and plays a song on his phone. It’s “Do you Believe [in Magic]?” by The Lovin’ Spoonful.)

RENEE

There’s no girl.

(They sing the song. Lights down.)

THE END