Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Tinker's Creek Road Tavern

14000 Tinkers Creek Rd.
Walton Hills, OH 44146

by Ray Zinn

The last time I saw my good friend Beau, we had just finished a bottle of Black Velvet and no fewer than a half-dozen sundaes at East Coast Custard. It was around 3 a.m., the Witching Hour, and we were walking through the elm-lined streets of a quiet Northeast Ohio suburb when he asked me a question that, until this day, I'd failed to answer. I decided that a sandwich review was as fine a delivery system as any in this communications-addled world. 
When I wake up each morning, I stumble, bleary-eyed, into my office on the south side of the old brick bakery where I live in Cleveland. There, in the corner, I sit Zazen for 20 or 30 minutes. I hear my neighbors walking on the street below, and I hear dogs bark at the rising sun. I empty my mind. The whole point of sitting is to sit. There's nothing else to it!
Then, of course, I go about my day. Coffee in the French press, toothpaste on the toothbrush, the whole thing. I struggle to remain in the present moment (who doesn't?), but I take the mindset that I harvested on my zafu that morning and bring my mind back to the now. I commandeer my presence, best I can. When my thoughts wander, I picture a river; I watch the water (my thoughts) flow past me and I revel in the continuous, self-repeating nature of the moment. 
This is the sort of thing that has improved my outlook on life immeasurably. That's important in a city like Cleveland, where nincompoop leaders and rah-rah civil society will do everything possible to wear down the slightest inclination toward rational thought. The point is: We aren't separate from nature, from the universe, from the undulations of Cleveland. We are a subjective manifestation of the universe, experiencing itself anew with each passing stitch in eternity. (I tried explaining this during public comment at a Finance Committee meeting earlier this year, and I was promptly and forcibly removed from 601 Lakeside. The tapes of the meeting have been destroyed, according to the mayor's lackeys. And those in attendance were made to sign extensive NDAs before being granted egress to the Willard Park Garage. 
I meditated on the gentle crest of Mall B until dawn that night.)
There are problems in Cleveland, and, certainly, there are problems in the United States. Something foul is rippling through society, and I fear that it has more to do with how we communicate than any authoritarian political machinations. (Though beware the demagogue's calls to dismantle our public institutions!) My concern is that technological conveniences rather inconvenience our ability to think and speak clearly, to share ideas in a coherent manner, to empathize and to grow. We give our own minds short shrift with our digital yammering, and we end up rallying mindlessly around mere symbols. Endless points of reference. Memetic yearnings. 
The real revolution is in our head. We won't achieve much of anything out there until we can conquer the short-circuiting circus of the mind. Watch your breath flow in and out. Let the madness of this world drift down the river. Avoid all calls for party unity, avoid appeals to base instinct and tribalism, avoid God. 
What was the question that Beau asked me? 
Oh, I've quite forgotten at this point. We were far too busy embracing the moment—engaging the very zeal of life—for me to retrace our steps now. We had a grand old time, and that's the important thing. We're onto the next present moment, always.
The reuben at Tinker's Creek Tavern is fine, and the Swiss cheese is melted just so. It's a nearly perfect rendition of the classic sandwich, and maybe that's just it: I was looking for something more? Then, as I came to the last bite of 1,000 Island-slathered marble rye, bursting with a final morsel of corned beef, I realized that the sandwich had all but come and gone -- before I had a moment to enjoy it!
Immediately after lunch, I said good-bye to my colleagues; they traveled back to the office, and I wandered down to Tinkers Creek, which flows serenely along the restaurant's gorgeous patio. I found a long slab of shale, baking silently in the sun. Folding my knees in full lotus, I sat Zazen on the stone and brought myself back to the place I'd left my mind.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Belted Burgers

57A Frederick St 
Edinburgh EH2 1LH

by Beau Cadiyo

Perhaps once a month, I'll be in a thrift store in the UK, and there will be an elderly volunteer who is there to help the shop and also to be social and chat.  I always like talking to them because they're outgoing and don't possess the standard British reserve of not speaking to strangers; they're usually the opposite and, in Scotland, where people are friendlier generally, they can be downright friendly.  Usually the conversation begins with a throwaway comment from me, then progresses to me saying that I'm from America, and, before I leave, I get the standard, "Let me ask you something."  

I always know what's coming next.  

"I speak to a lot of Americans," they will say, "and I've never met one who likes Trump."  

It goes without saying that nobody here likes Trump, regardless of his self-delusion to the contrary.  I've heard Tories call him an "abomination" and a "disgrace," and more liberal people often just shudder rather than put their feelings into words.  More than anything, there's an assumption that I also hate him, and there's a deep sense of pity - shared pity, because while I'm an American and he's the president of America, he's a problem for the world to deal with, so we have to face it from a common front.  

There's the standard response: the people who do support Trump generally never leave the country, and probably don't even leave their own state.  They might not know much about Europe other than that it has been the site of a few wars over the years; they may not know where the UK is.  They probably don't have passports.  Thus, the reason no Brits would have ever met a Trump-supporting American is because Trump-supporting Americans generally live in a small, insulated bubble, secure in their idiocy and protected from anyone different than they are.  

Then I generally hear my interlocutor say, "I love America.  It's just a mystery to me..."  I have to respond: I do, too, and most of America also considers it a mystery.  

Trump is supposed to visit this weekend to play golf, although it's also supposed to be very rainy.  There will be protests, which I'll probably join, despite the warnings for Americans not to go into places where violence may be directed at them.  Seriously?  I suspect this is meant more to indicate to Trump supporters that the world is a dangerous place; anyone who has spent any time over here knows that there won't be violence directed at Americans unless Americans are being idiots first.  Anyone here knows that Americans are victims, too, and we're not going to turn on each other.  

Sigh.  I just wanted to get thoughts out, get back in the groove of writing.  

The burgers at Belted are good, but not great.  There are better ones in the city.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Holyrood Palace

Edinburgh EH8 8DX

by Beau Cadiyo

Every year the Queen hosts a series of garden parties - three at Buckingham Palace in London, one at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh.  As you may have guessed, they are held in the gardens, it's invitation only, and everyone gets all dressed up.  It's a chance to see the royal family, if you're into that sort of thing, drink really amazing tea - like, perhaps the best I've had outside of Sri Lanka - and eat absolutely delicious cakes and cookies.  
We got an invitation this year, which was pretty exciting, considering we've been here eleven months, and it's the only one that the Queen does outside of London.  So we got dressed up, and went, and at one point when the queen was a few yards away, I turned to Frank and said, "Next time we get an invitation, we'll know what to do to get as close to her as possible."
Frank said, "There won't be a next time."
She was right.  It turns out that you get one invitation, and one invitation only.  Ever.  They keep lists and everything.  No re-dos.
I was going to keep any observations I had to myself.  I didn't want to give tips to anyone else, just in case if we went in some future year and everyone read this post they might know what our competitive strategy would be and then we'd be fighting to get a chance to be on the front lines.  But seeing as I won't ever get to go to another garden party, it doesn't matter; everyone may as well know exactly how to plan their day.  If you can finagle an invitation, that is.  Without further ado, here's my advice on how to get the most out of a Holyrood Palace Garden Party with Queen Elizabeth II.
  1. Get an invitation. Marry well.  I mean, I don't know what else to say.  I certainly wouldn't have gotten an invitation on my own merits.  So first, get a good spouse.  That's my first advice in anything, really.  
  2. Get there early.  The invitation tells you when the gates open; you should be there waiting, with your two forms of ID and your invitation in hand.  If you come late, you have absolutely no hope of getting close to any majesty whatsoever.  
  3. Dress fancy.  The invitation says morning coat or lounge suit for men, dress and hat for women; most guys ended up just wearing standard suits, and women were in summer dresses with hats or fascinators (although a few gauche damsels opted to go noticeably headpieceless).  I work for a tuxedo rental company, and my workmate David hooked me up with tails, a tophat, and as fancy a suit as I could ever imagine wearing.  I mean, I looked GOOD.  There were a few other men dressed up like me, but we were definitely the standouts, and we matched the men who walked around behind the queen, so we ended up blending in with the best-dressed, most prominent men at the whole event.  I try to remember that it is always good to set yourself a bit apart in your appearance, and that still holds true when you're in the presence of Royalty.
  4. Lanes.  Now that you look better than everyone, it's time to pay attention to location; lanes are perhaps the most important thing to understand.  Here's the deal: the Queen comes out of the palace, walks down some steps, and the Archers - not the radio show stars, but her bodyguards, all carrying bows - create "lanes" of people.  There are two lanes - one for the Queen, called the Queen's Lane, and one for whoever is accompanying her that day (Prince Phillip isn't doing official events anymore).  The lanes aren't fenced or anything; they are just organized by the Archers for the royals to walk down, greeting people and being seen.  When you arrive early, you'll be able to ask the Archers where the lanes are; then, you can place yourself at the edge of one.  And wait.  You'll wait for an hour or more, just standing there, as people mill about, or go off and explore the tea and biscuit tents, or try to meet someone who might be a suitable mate.  They will all wonder why you're just standing there, waiting, like something is going to happen.  You'll look terminally uncool.  Then, suddenly, everyone will GET IT and they will start crowding in behind you, and you'll have the last laugh, sort of like when all the cool kids in high school laugh at all the "losers," then at your twenty year reunion you can't make it because you're hanging out in Europe with entrepreneurs and rock stars and royalty.  Not you, I mean; "one."  Anyway.  If you're me, and you've been standing in place for an hour and suddenly everyone realizes that you were smart to place yourself on the line of the lane, two older women will stand behind you, passive-aggressively bumping you with their elbows and purses because they didn't get there as early as you, talking about how tall everyone is around them, saying how they want to get photos with the Queen.  They didn't get there early enough.  Their problems are not your problems.  If they assault you, it is not your fault, and you're allowed to get a bit of elbow room.  When they shriek into your ear like teenagers at a Justin Bieber concert because they can see the top of the Queen's pink hat, and they try to pull your shoulder down so that their iPhone video is at a better angle, ignore them and realize that suddenly you're as close as you can possibly be to the Queen without shaking her hand.
  5. Be First.  If you're smart, you'll also put yourself toward the beginning of the Queen's Lane.  What happens is that she walks down the lane, slowly, meeting people - or, rather, having people presented to her.  All those people are pre-selected by the Palace for some reason or other; it's out of your control.  Place yourself between two of the Archers.  She will come by, people will be presented to her, and she'll chat; after a while, she will give a secret signal and an Archer will come get her and she'll move on.  When this happens...well, you can't really just follow her around, because there's a line of other people waiting along the lane, and you've already gotten as close to her as you could.  Now, you have time to explore.  We decided to go to the fully-stocked tea and biscuit tents; they were almost empty of people, all of whom were still trying to see the Queen in person, and I must have had thirty or forty little cookies, cakes, tarts, and amazing macarons, with special Garden Party tea.  After she'd made her way through the lanes and went into the special Royal Tea Tent, everyone rushed for refreshments, and then the tents were full and they ran out of macarons and, well, it wasn't as easy to get a really really good sugar high.  Don't be like them: be early in line, get out early, stuff yourself on the Queen's food.  
  6. Walk around.  Enjoy the surroundings.  Think.  There's something glorious about the whole thing; the pomp and ceremony and pageantry, the rules, and how much this tiny woman means to everyone.  At the same time, as an outsider, it is a bit bizarre.  I was standing next to a navigator on a nuclear submarine who had just gotten back to port; he'd been playing war games around the arctic, and his skill had won whatever competition they were having.  He was really, really cool, and really impressive, and I wondered why he wasn't the one being celebrated by all these people, but we were all waiting around for someone who had just been in the right womb at the right time.  It was like a mass psychosis; the only reason she was important was that everyone was waiting around to see her, literally waiting on her, and the only reason they were waiting on her was that she was important.  And I was part of that.  And as much as I hated to admit it, it was cool to see her.  The Queen.  And I broke my one-year-of-no-photographs rule to get a photo with her in the background.  
  7. Think of what you'll say if you meet her.  They tell you not to introduce topics of conversation, and yeah, I get that.  But I kind of wanted to follow Mike Birbiglia's lead and say something like, "Your majesty, my wife is pregnant, and if we have a baby, we're going to name it after you no matter what.  We're going to name it...Queen."  Oh man, the archers would have tackled me, but it would have been worth it.  
But would it have been worth it?  I mean, it goes back to the whole way that the event was structured.  I have been challenged, philosophically, recently; I no longer believe in things like fairness, for example.  Fairness is whatever the rules define as fair; whenever someone is engaged in some competitive pursuit and complains that something is "unfair", it simply means that they are losing, their opponent is playing within the rules, and they want some sort of change to the rules in order to make something fair.  Similarly, when someone says they have a "right" to something, it means that they actually don't have any "right" to it recognized by the law; they want more than they have, but don't actually have the ability to gain it.  
Here, I was struck by the fact that the Queen is famous, powerful, and wealthy purely by chance, which made me want to read Fooled by Randomness.  If, en masse, people had pulled their recognition of her - either by ignoring her iconic image, voting the monarchy out of the governmental structure, or overthrowing the economic system - then she would have lost everything.  We are only famous, powerful, or wealthy if others recognize us as so; if we were islands, we would be nothing.  So, then, the esteem of others - is that all that matters?  Is that completely random?  What can be done to increase it?  And isn't that a terrible foundation on which to build a life, the esteem of others?  Point me to something real, something you can eat, or throw, or hold; show me something of more substance than other peoples' opinions!  But what else do we have?  What else is there that we can look to in the world that isn't based on these opinions - ownership, for example?  Ownership is simply the recognition of others that we have rights; without that recognition, without their opinions, we have nothing - no ownership, no rights.  It's the system, the commonly agreed-upon system, that is everything.  
The tea was a special Twinings blend, and it was incredible.  But the sandwiches fell down a bit for me.  Sure, they were crust-less and cut into odd inch-wide fingers, which indicates some amount of extra, unnecessary work; sure, they had interesting flavors, like mint and cucumber.  But they were on standard corner-store bread - not anything more interesting, like sourdough - and...well, egg salad?  Really?  Cucumbers?  I know British food didn't have the best reputation fifty years ago, but now, we could have advanced.  It's the Queen's Garden Party, for crying out loud, not some low-level Duke's Garden Party.  I expected more.  
But perhaps that is royalty.  Impressive by reputation, but when you get up close, 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Red Bean

ng Buồm Hoàn Kiếm Hà Vietnam, 94 Mã Mây, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi

By Beau Cadiyo

Back in 2000, I joined a cult.

It was a cult in the sense that later on, it was designated a cult by the US Attorney General or something; the founder was prosecuted for stealing money from the church he'd created.  They called themselves Christian, and the main idea was that all other Christian churches had strayed from the original meaning of the Bible.  In a very A. J. Jacobs way, they believed that everything in the Bible was meant to be taken literally, and they would strive do render unto the Government what was the Government's, and render unto God what was God's.  They couldn't own slaves, for example, without breaking the law, so they had to (temporarily) ignore those parts of the bible regulating slave treatment.  However, they could go out daily to try to convert people; they could grow their hair long, and not touch women who were on their periods, and avoid pork and wine.

The reason I joined was simple: I'd never really learned a lot about the Bible, and I figured the best teachers would be a bunch of people who believed in it completely.  Also, I was friends with one of their stars in the church, Frank Evans.  He was a New Zealand boy who joined the church after coming to university; his mother rejected the church, so he'd decided to have nothing to do with her or the rest of his family, such was his faith.  He was an otherwise nice guy.

I don't know what precipitated it, but I once asked him what New Zealand food was like.  "Oh," he said, "it's known all over the world!  New Zealand is experiencing a bit of a moment for its food."  At the same time, he explained, he didn't understand it, because the food was just about being "more" than everything else.  "They take a burger, right, and they add a bunch of stuff that isn't normally on a burger, like spaghetti, and pesto, and an egg, and Brie, and some spinach, and hot sauce, and they serve it to you, and it is supposed to be like some grand dish, but it's just a burger with a bunch of shit on it, mate," he said.  "If I want a burger, just give me a fucking burger!"  I don't know what the bible said about cursing.

I was reminded of him and that conversation upon eating at Red Bean.  I got the Red Bean Sandwich, with chicken breast, ham, lettuce, a tomato, mayonnaise, and cheese.  It sounded like a pretty straightforward sandwich.  When they brought it out, though, it was a monster: triple decker, with everything split in the middle by an extra piece of plain white bread.  The filling, meanwhile, was exactly what you might expect from that description; however, it was somehow all, together, bland, in a way that I wouldn't have expected from a Vietnamese sandwich.  I mean, a bahn mi is just incredible: the delicate interplay of so many different flavours and sensations, all in delicious bread.  Why couldn't this have been similarly intricate and balanced?  Why did it end up just being a whitebread sandwich?

The service was absolutely impeccable, though, and it didn't exactly break the bank.  My banana flower salad, and the chocolate mousse dessert, were both delicious, and they had Tiger beer and Johnnie Walker Red, so I was a happy camper in the end.  But if you're looking for a delicious sandwich in Hanoi, find a hut in the road with a charcoal fire, and pay the $2.50, and be happy.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Gordon's Wine Bar

47 Villiers St.
London, WC2N 6NE

By Beau Cadiyo

Not a long post.  Friends, the hamburgers at Gordon's Wine Bar are absolutely smashing; the default is medium, the toppings are all fresh, you get bacon without asking, and the bun was toasted perfectly.  The service is incredible.  The wine is delicious.  My God, what a jewel in London's crown.  

Monday, August 8, 2016


Guldgränd 8
104 65 Stockholm, Sweden

+46 8 517 353 07

by Beau Cadiyo

I was running through the Great Park when I suddenly missed Cleveland.  

This happens every few days or so; something triggers a memory, and suddenly I'm transported, almost in body, back to Northeast Ohio.  It has happened with all sorts of places that I don't remember having any special connection to, and, of the places I do hold in high regard, I often don't think of them at all.  In this case, it started with Luna bakery, at Cedar Fairmount.  For God's sake, I've literally stumbled into a Pierre Herme macaron store, and there's a La Duree at the end of my favorite arcade; the bakery around the corner from me has impeccable croissants, and I have a sourdough starter that makes perfectly thin, puffed pizza dough or baguettes, AND in addition, I think I've set foot in Luna exactly twice, yet I yearn to walk by and look in and see people enjoying coffee, reading a paper, loving life.  

I miss the intersection of Caves Road and Mayfield.  I've stopped there once, to park at the southeast corner and try to walk to a farmers market on the northwest corner.  There's a gas station on another corner, and a giant church on the fourth corner, surrounded by so much grass that I sometimes think it is so that angels, descending from heaven, have a landing pad.  There's also a hill going north, and every time I was coming up Caves road and turning left to get back to Cleveland, I always wondered what was up that hill, but I never drove up it, just to see.  South on Caves, there's a park, the Bessie Benner Metzenbaum Park, where, in the springtime, you can pull up giant clumps of ramps.  I guess that I like that park because I took my then-girlfriend, now wife, there on our second date to dig in the ground; we got married on our third date, so I suppose one might say it was successful.  

I miss the giant planters shaped like calla lilies that line Euclid Avenue downtown.  Yet, as much as I loved it, I don't really miss the Union Club - I would lovingly go back, but I don't yearn to stroll around the building and have every staff member greet me with, "Hello, Mr. Cadiyo."  But I miss the planters.  

I miss East Cleveland.  I miss driving on the back streets, dodging potholes, going five miles an hour and gazing into paint peeling, boarded-up, falling-down houses with debris and high grass and abandoned cars and stories lost forever.  I miss seeing teenagers yelling at each other on the sidewalks, laughing on stoops and porches; I miss seeing little girls with beads in their hair playing games in the summer heat, while little boys, pretending to be men, walking slowly with their hands in their pockets, world-weary brows furrowed against the sun.  

I miss all of the barbecue joints I never went in.  And I miss Freddie's, and R Ribs, which I went in too often.  

I miss the smell of the lake in August.  I remember a date I went on once, to Edgewater; it was the first date I went on in Cleveland.  The girl's great-grandfather had been one of the masons who sculpted the Guardians of Transportation, and she pointed each one out proudly, and the West Side Market, and then we went to the beach, which wasn't a beach to me because I am from California, and there was a riot in the parking lot, and two groups of kids, armed with sticks and farm implements, attacked each other half-heartedly, almost perfunctorily, and we walked around them and wondered aloud if we should call the police, but we didn't.  

I miss the dead ends of Lyndhurst - all small, impeccably maintained houses.  

I miss the Amish.  If you go to 8675 Parkman Mespo Road in Mesopotamia, and go down the driveway, there are parking spaces in front of the barn.  Ignore the first house; they don't sell anything.  In the second house, though, they have stacks and stacks of fresh eggs, all piled up and ready to sell.  The old man who lives there looks like a hobbit; the house smells like eight years of homelessness, so feel free to stand outside, where it smells like dog shit but is still preferable to the entryway.  The dog will bark, but he's too shy to come near you.  Wait while he goes downstairs to get four dozen eggs, then pay him, and rush to Giovanni's, get some bacon, go home, and have days and days of incredible breakfasts.  (I think my record was eight dozen.)  If you make friends with him, come harvest time, he'll sell you giant celery, and abnormally large carrots that you can pull out of the ground yourself, and he'll tell you how to cook them.  

I miss Costco rotisserie chicken skin.  I miss the parking lot at Costco, and those magic days when you can get the best pull-through spots.  

I miss turtles from East Coast Frozen Custard.  

I miss the intersection of I-90 and Route 2.  

I miss sailing from Chagrin Lagoons Yacht Club, dodging logs coming down the Chagrin river, and standing at the bow of a yacht, looking for a near-invisible mark in the distance, calling out to the captain, and seeing the inside of Frank Inman's nose as he stares up at the strips of ribbon flapping on the sail, his forearms straining on the sheets.  

I miss the lobby of the Key Tower.  What do they have there, a Starbucks?  A soda fountain?  But God, I'd love to walk through it again.  

I miss the statue of Lincoln.  I think I saw it three times.

I miss the folly of the government, the almost criminal folly.  The almost blatantly criminal folly, and the blind support of Cleveland's citizens, given so few reasonable alternatives.  I would gamble that the Cleveland City Government is the least effective, most terribly run government in America.  The single most eloquent argument for giving the Cuyahoga County Council complete power over Cleveland is housed at 601 Lakeside.  But I miss it.  I miss knowing that if I had a problem, I had the cell numbers of three councilmen on my phone.  I miss walking through the hallways and knowing that - just by being in the building - I'd increased the average IQ of the occupants by double digits.  I miss seeing the signs pointing opposite ways, one indicating the direction "Mayor" and the other indicating "Public Safety."  I miss the drinking fountains with their permanent "out of order" signs.  And I miss the guards, tired no matter the time, hassling people with the intensity of third-world customs agents looking for a bribe.  

So I was in the middle of a fifteen mile run, missing all of these things and feeling sorry for myself.  But then I turned the corner onto the Long Walk.  

Twenty minutes later, I'd touched Windsor Castle and peed against an oak tree in the Queen's Deer Park, where she walks her corgis on the weekend, and thought to myself that sometimes, London isn't half bad.  

The burgers at Eken are also not half bad - in fact, they are probably the equal of the burgers at the Tremont Tap House, which, of course, is pretty damn good.  However, at approximately $30 a burger, they're stupidly expensive.  It's almost worth a flight back to Cleveland.  

Friday, April 15, 2016

In N Out

4865 Calle Real
Goleta, CA 93111
United States
+1 800-786-1000

by Beau Cadiyo

She was blonde, with Crossfit-shaped shoulders and a well-earned tan, and as she walked down the Hollywood Walk of Stars, her quads twitched under her Spandex shorts as if she might lunge at any rare steaks that came within her testosterone-fueled reach.  What really caught my eye, though, was the message scrawled across her shirt that summed up our time in Los Angeles:


As she strutted past me on the Hollywood Walk of Stars, I was reminded of another blonde I'd seen earlier that day.  I was sitting with my wife at a sidewalk cafe for breakfast, and in the pristine Beverly Hills street was a shiny new Mercedes.  After a few minutes, a platinum blonde woman came out of a doorway holding a cup of coffee; she was in her 50s, but looked as if she had been well sculpted to look much younger.  Something about her signalled that she hadn't worked herself to buy the car - she was being well taken care of.  I mused that, perhaps, it was all part of a plan she'd worked out when she was far younger to find someone to buy her nice things.  If that was the case, she'd grasped a basic truth early on in life: that if someone wanted to play that age-old game where wealthy men find hot young women and trade masculine money and status for feminine sexuality, such a person could probably do it in Los Angeles.  If that was the case, I wondered when she'd decided that that was the game she wanted to play.  If she had played such a game knowingly, who else was she playing with - or against?  And who else was playing that game, but didn't realise it?

It also reminded me of a theory I came up with when walking the streets of London with my friend, Frank Maul.  We walked down Savile Row, and were talking about the ways in which cities were centres of fashion, and I proposed that the reason urban dwellers care about fashion is because fashion is a sexual signal.  The sexual marketplace must be greater and more competitive in giant cities than it is in smaller ones, or towns, because there are more people competing for sexual attention.  Thus, anyone wishing to to play that game has to differentiate themselves however they can.  Fashion has to evolve more rapidly and in more extreme ways in these bigger playing fields.  Hot women everywhere are pretty much the same; however, their display of sexual availability or fitness in Topeka will be different than it would have been if they'd lived in Miami, or New York, because the game is different.

Seeing the message "EVERYTHING IS A COMPETITION" thus summarised the entire vibe of California for me.  While this Crossfitting Amazon may have meant the message to apply mostly to athletics, I thought that it was also true of everything else in Los Angeles - that every exercise session, every clothing choice, ever meal, every eyebrow pluck could add to one's reproductive potential - or destroy it when it mattered most.  If you weren't paying attention to those ramifications, you weren't playing hard enough.  There were plenty of people playing - and if you weren't conscious you were in a game, you were already losing.  The oppressive atmosphere I felt everywhere - walking through Hollywood, driving, lying in a tiny top-floor apartment in a building off the 101 - was the oppression of scrutiny, of women subconsciously judging my fitness for reproduction and men judging my level of threat.

Aware, of course, that I was on a honeymoon, and that I wasn't playing anymore, it was no big deal for me to throw caution to the wind and eat a Double Double at the In-N-Out in Goleta.  As always, it was stupendous.  My vegetarian wife even had a cheeseburger and said she loved it.  As I walked back to the car, her fingers entangled in mine, I didn't think about competing - I only thought about getting away from Los Angeles and seeing more of the beautiful state I used to call home.