Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Eating Breakfast Out

We recently had a power outage, covering two successive Sundays.  It was a little more, no; a lot more tolerable in Southern California than if we were in New York or New Jersey.  No need to evacuate.  No need for backup generators.  In fact, we were given ample advanced notice as to when and how long it would last: 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM and 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM respectively.  And the first Sunday they finished early.

So, the major complication was what to do about Sunday breakfast.  No problem; we would just “Go Out”.

Going out for breakfast in our lives falls into one of two categories and either is, as they say, “An Occasion.”  The first instance is usually a brunch to celebrate a birthday. Mother’s Day, Easter, or some other special occasion.  It usually involves reservations, a gathering of family and more often than not for me some variation on Eggs Benedict (Who was the first person to think you could improve on eggs by covering them with eggs?).  The second is usually in an airport, waiting for a plane, and separates Mary and me dramatically, she heading for Starbucks and me for the Golden Arches or equivalent.

A story I happened upon the other day mentioned that my purchases and a whole lot of others have made breakfast the most popular of Macdonald’s meals, accounting recently for more than 50% of sales.  My guess is this includes a lot more meals than what are sold in airports.

To test that theory I don’t have to look farther than across the street to my older son and my grandchildren.  Although school days offer home meals, if pop tarts constitute home cooking, weekends are definitely out of the house and, if they get up early enough to make the 11:00 Macdonald’s cutoff, probably something from their menu.

Slow Foods Logo
Recent popular backlash against fast food would seem to indicate a reversal of fast food breakfasts.  After all, aren’t we united to stop youth obesity?  Maybe not.  Of the twelve propositions voted in California in the November elections one of the prominent losers was Prop 37 which would have required listing Genetically Modified Organisms as ingredients for packaged goods: a story covered in the New York Times.  In a parallel story there has been a recent reversal of a French law, taxing unhealthy ingredients, which brought merchants and consumers united in their opposition, to the streets.  It would seem, at best we are ambivalent about our concerns.

While not related, the timeliness of the Hostess return to bankruptcy causes us to consider whether concern over unhealthy food contributed.  A recent article would argue otherwise, claiming that Union resistance to compromise resulted in 18,000, mostly members, losing their jobs.  And of course, there will be no more Twinkies.  My history with the 80 year-old history of Twinkies comes from two points of view.  The first is that some of those original Twinkies, if still in someone’s possession may be as edible as when they were manufactured.  (Actually Hostess claims they have a 21-day shelf life but they look and feel edible for years).When I do presentations to fifth-graders in the Days of Taste Program, we mention foods that are Good for Me, Foods that are Bad, and Foods that are Foolers.  Guess which group I have the Twinkies in?  Well, at least I don’t have to buy new ones every year and I have a lifetime supply.

The second history is from a play featuring the Twinkie Defense, which protected Dan White from being charged with murder in his action against Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor, George Muscone.  His attorneys argued that he was irrational from easting junk food.  The play, which title I forget, was staged at a way off-off Broadway (Santa Ana) venue called the Rude Guerilla, now defunct.  Although I was not in that play, I was fortunate enough to have been in a couple of other interesting plays there, “Boy Gets Girl” and “The Long Goodbye”.
Apple Pancake

Before I leave the subject of Breakfast Out, I should mention the two restaurants we visited.  One is a local location of The Original Pancake House, where I sampled their Apple Pancake.  Yum, yum!  The second was a longtime favorite we don’t visit often enough called The Snooty Fox, which has excellent Eggs Benedict.  Neither takes reservations and both have fairly long lines, but both have fast turnover and are worth the wait.

My plan for the next post is to tell you how they start Musicals on Broadway nowadays.  Things have changed since my mother took me to see Kismet.  I’ll share with you what I learned after we see Peter and the Starcatcher in NYC.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Chapter 7 of my book Harnessing a Heritage speaks to museums and the place they have in developing our knowledge base and life priorities, and Mary and I Walk the Walk by retaining membership in several, including LACMA, OCMA, the Marquette Haggerty and The Bowers, which we visit at least once a year.  Recently another came into play when we took our two grandsons, age 14 and 7 to The California Science Center for a special preview afforded members: a showing of the newly arrived Endeavour.

I think we learned as much as they did.  Starting with the spelling of the name. 

When Challenger exploded, some 73 seconds after launch, Congress responded by commissioning another space shuttle and NASA instituted a competition to name it.  More than 30 percent of the elementary and high school contestants chose the same name, referring to the HMS Endeavour (English spelling) which carried Captain James Cook on his exploration of the oceans of the world and discovery of uncharted lands.

The ship was largely cobbled together from spare parts for the earlier versions of shuttles, and was assembled in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles by the Rockwell Company.  The local assembly played a large part in determining Los Angeles as the place where one of the three retired shuttles would find a permanent home and we certainly noted pride in many of those viewing her when they spoke to their children and grandchildren of their part in constructing this awesome ship.
Endeavour docking at the Space Station

Hubble Telescope
Each of the 26 missions Endeavour made (the last being from Cape Kennedy to Los Angeles) was documented; many by video, including the trip to repair the HubbleTelescope and replenishment of the SpaceStation.  It was interesting to see how interactive they have made the exhibit including an opportunity to experience what it would be like to actually fly in a shuttle.  The fourteen year-old thought that great fun but we and his younger brother felt we would function best if we held his place in line and offered him a chance to be a “single” and jump line for his trip.

After we had seen the exhibits, including the solid wheels on the vehicle that carried the behemoth on its two-day trip from the airport to the Science Center, we went to the area housing her until the new wing of the center is completed, where she will bemounted vertically.  The size of something that was able to into space was almost unbelievable.  The museum has taken the position to show her “as is” and you can see the effect of several launches and re-entry to her hull.  The skin is made up of literally thousands of small panels, about one-foot square, each positioned to protect those inside from the extremes of heat and cold.  The size was a surprise, allowing us to imagine the interior movement by the crew.

Seeing the exhibit gave me a greater appreciation for the bravery of the men and women in the space program.  A recent edition of NPR spoke to how several of the astronauts, who were modestly paid and who could not get life insurance coverage to protect their families should anything untoward happen to them, sent several letters, stamped the day of their launch to themselves, knowing that those letters would have value should their ship explode.  An eerie thought; but a brilliant idea.

Ryan and Ethan had time to see other parts of the Science Center; in particular an exhibit on the working of the human body, which greatly impressed them.  Ryan remembered the gravity bicycle from an earlier trip and had to show his brother.  We left actually riding the contraption over space for another day.

The museum experience was special for the boys but for Mary and me the special feeling of the day was having our two grandsons all to ourselves for the better part of a day.  Thanks to the museum for restricting our preview to two adults and four children, younger than our two sons.

In my next post I will tackle a subject that just recently struck me: the evolution of “going out for breakfast”.  Please plan to join me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Harnessing a Heritage - my first book

I was tagged by a friend, fellow author and co-member of the Laguna Woods Writers Group, to do something I rarely do: continue a chain letter.  There was no threat, no claim for riches if I sent to five or more friends within the next 12 hours, no promises other than I might stir interest in my book from a group that is often both appreciative of writing efforts and occasionally willing to buy a book.

Sue Ellen wrote her blog about her upcoming book and I was very impressed.  You could read that at:,

So, I am devoting this issue of my Blog, regularly found at to answering ten standard questions about said book.  Easier research than usual and a chance to follow some new bloggers.

First Question: What is the working title?

That’s pretty easy because the book is now published and can even be found at: Amazon.

Second Question:  Where did you get the idea?

I married and entered the US Navy as a dentist right after graduation from Marquette and embarked on a 25 year career with at least 15 major moves.  With little money we rented through half that time and a major furniture possession was a Danish Wall Unit, which seemed to fit in wherever we were.  Now, after thirty years in the same place, that wall unit’s shelves and fixtures have assumed a story of their own.  As I watched television I was struck by the fact that these stories; how and why things appeared there, might have general interest.  So, each of the Chapters in the book has its own shelf or space.  The cover of the book is the wall of our bedroom, most of which are items my mother had framed, which tell the story of her family from the 1830’s to the 1880’s. It struck me that my children and grandchildren have not been gathering their heritage like my mother, my wife and I have done.  Each chapter ends with a one-pager on how you might use the information in the chapter to develop that child’s sense of their own heritage.

Third Question: What is the genre of the book?

Definitely, a Memoir.

Fourth Question: Who would you like to play the character(s) if the book were made into a movie?

As I was growing up I was continually told that I resembled either Woody Allen or Tony Bennett.  Today I suppose I still resemble Woody Allen if I substituted glasses for my bifocal contacts.  In truth I would have liked to resemble Paul Newman but when I mentioned that desire to my wife around age thirty-five, she told me I should have started earlier.

Fifth Question: Could you give a synopsis of the book?

I pretty much covered this in question two, but the chapters are topical, rather than chronological, which is another reason for Woody Allen to play the protagonist (me).  He has a film history of juxtaposing characters to provide flashbacks effectively.

Sixth Question: Is the book self-published or through representation?

Actually, a little of both.  When I decided to self-publish, on the advice of an author friend who self-published her 19th book, realizing the industry had changed, I went to Amazon and their linked service called CreateSpace. There are other, perhaps better and certainly cheaper services, but this has worked well for me and the editor feature was a true lifesaver in bettering the quality of my book.  The lessons I learned would make writing a second book infinitely easier and publishing it much less expensive.  The distribution of self-published books is a challenge as to getting it available in bookstores and libraries, but it is not insurmountable.  I would be more than happy to provide dialogue on what I learned.

Seventh Question: How long did it take to get your first draft?

This was one of the more significant lessons I learned about writing.  I had heard several authors speak about writing habits: “Write every day at the same time.” ”Start with the end in mind.” “Don’t move on until you have that first sentence exactly the way you want it.” But for me writing developed into putting the chapter in my mind, noodling it until I felt I had a handle on the content, then researching what background was needed to flesh out the subject and then just writing what ended up being a stream of consciousness narrative approximately 3,000 words long. Completing the thirteen chapters took almost a year, but I didn’t write something every day.

Eighth Question: What would be a comparable book?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I haven’t seen a book that used either the format or the content of Harnessing a Heritage, but books of a more traditional, chronological format that I would like to be compared to would include Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself by Alan Alda and Open by Andre Agassi.  Both seem honest and were written with intent to inform in a humorous fashion.

Ninth Question: Who or What was your inspiration?

When I came up with the concept of a memoir based on a wall unit, I bounced the idea off a personal friend, mentioned above, who is a successful author, Rosalie Maggio.  Rosalie has written nineteen books now, with subjects as diverse as a glossary of politically correct words, Dictionary of Bias-Free Usage to a collaboration with her brothers and sisters, Pieces of Eight.  She encouraged me but offered the sagely advice, “If you want to actually sell a book, find a ‘How To’ hook.  People want to learn something from what they read.”  From that piece of news came my end-of-the-chapter tag of how one might use the information in the chapter to encourage one’s children or grandchildren to develop a sense of their own heritage.  Also, that gave me the idea for the book cover.

Tenth and Last Question:  What are some links to your book?

That’s easy.  Advanced reading on any of the chapters would be my finest recommendation.  Learn more about, books, photos, music, other cultures, art, museums, and more importantly, involve children in your search for knowledge in these fields.  I can’t imagine a better indication that my book accomplished what I hoped it would.

Well, I’ve completed my assignment and actually have had fun doing it.  I’ll forward this to five blogger/authors I know and hope they have as much fun next week as I did today.

Next post at will be on a practical application from my book: taking my grandsons to the LA Science Center to see Endeavor.  Please check me out.