Posted by: facetothewind | June 2, 2017

The Days of Wine and Doughnuts


This is what a $29 entree looks like in Berkeley, California. It’s a little drumstick and thigh, 5 asparagus spears with a little dollop of sweet potato puree. I put a dime in for scale. I don’t think I’ve ever paid that much for so little. And I still haven’t. That tiny, albeit delicious entree was brought to me by my friend Jean’s generosity. And for that I thank her.


The next day, I decided it was my time to treat her. So we went out for a sweet indulgence at Johnny’s Doughnuts in downtown San Rafael. Oops, that’s not Johnny’s Doughnuts, it’s Johnny Doughnuts — the apostrophe and s dropped for added retro-innocence-guy-in-Converse-All-Star cuteness. Johnny has admittedly extraordinary doughnuts. They have sweet potato doughnuts, lime poppyseed doughnuts, blueberry jam doughnuts, and doughnuts with vanilla sprinkles. Vanilla sprinkles? Since when do sprinkles come with any flavor other than sprinkly-flavored sprinkles? They even have vegan raised doughnuts. What is a vegan raised doughnut? One that is raised by vegans? Or vegan doughnuts that are raised instead of flat? Johhny has doughnuts you would mortgage your house for. I ordered 3.

I stepped up to the counter like Donald F. Trump ready to peel off some bills, smack ’em down on the counter, and treat my friend. The cash register beeped a few times and then the figure appeared on the display: $11. I lost my dignity.

“Are you kidding me, $11 for 3 doughnuts!? OMG, you’re joking. Is that a mistake or is that for real?” I snapped at the cashier making sure that everyone in the cafe could hear my indignation. People put down their books and looked up at me. “Where I come from, doughnuts are 40 cents,” I told him shaking my little white paper bag at him.

“Oh,” the cashier calmly replied without a hint of condescension, “where are you from?”

Feeling a little embarrassed for losing my shit in front of my generous and patient friend, I paid the $11 and stomped out. I lauded her in my mind for not rescuing me from this situation. And I re-calibrated myself — when in California, ask the price before buying anything. Always. Even doughnuts. Especially doughnuts.

Although I bitched about it for a few more minutes on the way to the car, the sound of my complaints became muffled by the doughnutty goodness of the maple glaze I was stuffing in my big mouth. It was damn good, I have to say. “I mean really, what about this is worth…” crumbs started shooting out my mouth. The maple wasn’t just maple flavor. The cake of the doughnut was thick and moist without being oily and full of air.

I was pacified…until we got to Walgreens drug store and had to feed a meter to park in their lot. What? A store that has a paid parking lot? Are you kidding me? No, I’m not kidding. You have to pay to park at Walgreens in San Rafael. I rolled my eyes so far up, I thought they might stay up there and I’d have to go have them surgically lowered. We skipped Walgreens and went to the local dollar store where the shelves were picked clean no doubt by bargain hunters who spent their nearly last dollar on a doughnut.

Onward home. We pull into Jean’s driveway and witness 2 Hispanic guys pull up in their beat up old pickup truck with a giant boulder sitting in the bed. One of the neighbors had ordered a 1,000 pound rock from a local landscaping company and these guys were delivering it. The truck strained and backed up over the curb and the guys hopped out to try and offload the behemoth boulder.

That soon-to-be garden ornament in their truck weighed more than my 7-foot grand piano. Seriously more…like 223 pounds more than the piano. Unlike my piano, however, the boulder could be rolled — sort of. It wasn’t really a sphere. It was more like a pyramid of a boulder and so the guys pushed and heaved on it. The beat up old truck was rocking and bouncing with each heave. Finally the rock made it to the tailgate and I winced as surely they would break the tailgate. They broke the tailgate. It bent in the middle like a piece of tin foil as the rock rolled off the truck and plunged to the ground with a thud that shook the pavement. USGS noted a seismic disturbance somewhere in the magnitude of 4.5 with the epicenter being just next door.

I watched from a safe distance as the 2 guys fretted and then laughed about destroying their truck’s tailgate. The bigger of the two jammed his hip on it and bent it back into shape. It would now close but not latch. I started feeling sorry for these guys. How on earth would they ever move that 1,000 pound boulder into place in the neighbor’s landscape? Well, I wasn’t going to stand around and watch. They didn’t need my pity. So I went inside and pushed the button to close the electric garage door.

I stopped for a moment. Bit my lip and thought a little about Trump and the wall and the abuse of immigrants in America. I turned right around and pushed the button again and opened the garage door. I ran over to the guys who were heaving and grunting trying to roll the pyramidal rock about 200 feet to its final resting place. No. Way. It was not going to move. With all their might, the boulder would rock a little, but it wouldn’t roll.

I asked in my best Español if they needed help but I didn’t wait for an answer and just started pushing, “Uno, dos, tres,” and we all heaved. It moved! I jumped out of the way with my sandaled feet as it toppled down to a flat side. We stood up and caught our breaths. I noticed them pointing to my vulnerable toes. If that rock were to roll on my feet, I would never walk again.


Helping these guys was a chance to practice my Spanish for my upcoming trip to Mexico. I was thrilled to say “pinche” and “chinga” and put them together with pesado. “¡Ay, chingada,” I yelled at the boulder, looking at the guys for approval with my expletives. “¡Pinche pesado,” the bigger guy yelled and laughed. (I’ll let you look up the rest, but pesado means heavy.)

For a half hour we channeled the ancient Egyptians, heaving, panting, and yelling at the gneiss blob as we inched our way up the path and into place. The neighbor who ordered the rock stood by with pride and folded arms. We all felt a sense of accomplishment when we finally got it to the exact location in the landscape where it will delight all who pass by it for years.

My lower back had something to say about this, however. It was like, “Puta madre! What did you do to me? You’re 53 years old and you’re pushing a 1,000 pound boulder? ¿Qué me has hecho, pendejo? Couldn’t you have done a little warm up first?”

I went back to the house to down a few ibuprofen and strap on an ice pack. While I was on the floor stretching out my lower back, the doorbell rang. The neighbor appeared on the doorstep with 2 bottles of wine. “I didn’t know if you liked chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. So I brought you both.”


In my materialistic curiosity to gauge the depth of his pockets and his gratitude, I used my phone to scan the barcodes on the wines. The 2 bottles added up to over $50! I’ve never had such expensive wine. The idea of washing down $11 of doughnuts with $50 of wine was intriguing in a way that one can only imagine in California.

Sometimes California giveth and sometimes it taketh away. I wonder if the guys got any wine or reimbursement for their broken truck.


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