Thursday, August 1, 2013

"A 'First Class Problem', But Still..."

In baseball, when a team has six quality starting pitchers and they can only fit five into their rotation, they call that a “First Class Problem”, meaning it’s a problem based not on insufficiency but on over-abundance.  You can never have too much pitching.  When you do, it’s a “First Class Problem.” 

I am fully aware that today’s story is the financial version of a “First Class Problem.”  The money is available, so it’s not “My God!  We’re in the Poor House!”  But for reasons, grounded more in temperament than in circumstance, it remains, nonetheless, an annoyance. 

My apologies if this rankles.  I am myself no fan of “My swimming pool turned green” or “My Business Manager lost me a bundle” stories.  Whining about affluence is hardly an endearing characteristic.  But you gotta write about happens to you.  How can you possibly write about what didn’t?  Oh yeah, fiction.  Well, I don’t do that.  Not due to morally superiority.  I just can’t get away with it.

“While marlin fishing in the Caribbean…”

“You don’t fish.”

“You got me.  I don’t.”

Okay, 187 words of groveling disclaimer. 

And now the story.

One Sunday midmorning, Dr. M, myself and our daughter Anna take a ride to Beverly Hills, to avail ourselves of a semi-annual sale at an upscale clothing store.  (At which, as is apparently inevitable, four of the five items I choose to purchase are not actually on sale.  There’s a reason stuff goes on sale.  Nobody wanted it.  Including – as reflected by eighty percent of my purchases – me.)

Our shopping completed, it is now time to decide about lunch.  A number of options are floated, none meeting with enormous enthusiasm.  Then Dr. M suggests the “Polo Lounge” at Beverly Hills Hotel. 

Anna immediately jumps at the idea, as she had recently lunched at the “Polo Lounge” with her co-workers (as a treat, not a habit) and had luxuriated in its “Old Hollywood” sensibility.  During that lunch, she had in fact spotted four bone fide celebrities:  Bob “Full House” Saget, Kelsey “Frasier” Grammer, Jason “Seinfeld” Alexander and David “a lot of stuff” Spade.  (Celebrity-hungry visitors take note.  Always happy to be of service.)

The last time I had visited the Beverly Hills Hotel was to attend a Larry Sanders Show “Wrap Party”, more than fifteen years earlier.  The encounter before that involved a couple’s “weekend getaway”, where we were escorted to the tiniest hotel room I had ever seen.  When I (uncharacteristically) complained about its minisculity, I was informed that Robert Kennedy had once stayed in that room.  To which I replied, “When?  When he was four?”  We were subsequently provided with a larger room. Located directly over the hotel’s rumbling laundry.

Now, back to the Present.

I knew we were in trouble when we were handed our menus, and I read, centered at the top of it, the dreaded descriptive:


I am no enthusiast of “The Brunch.”  “Brunch” involves a set price with – if it’s not a “Buffet Brunch” – a limited number of selections, though even a “Buffet Brunch” is not on my “Happy List”, because it obligates you to load up on food – often mismatched food such as lamb chops and blintzes – to offset the exorbitance of the “Brunch”, which, in the case of the Beverly Hills Hotel “Brunch” was – are you sitting down? –

Sixty-seven dollars per person.

Where do they come up with that price, I wonder?

“Sixty-five dollars.”

They’ll pay more.”

“Okay, sixty-seven.”

Believe me, if I had remembered it was Sunday, I’d have rapidly nipped this suggestion in the bud.  Sunday, traditionally in almost all L.A. fancy restaurants, is “Brunch Day.”

I study the menu, struggling to elevate my order to anything close to the value of inflated “Prix Fixe”, which is impossible, but I try.  I order the “Fruit Plate” appetizer, which I would normally order as a main course but I on this occasion order as a “starter.”  Why did I do that?

Sixty-seven dollars.

And for my Main Course?

I eschew the “Challah French Toast” which I would otherwise have snapped up. Why?

Sixty-seven dollars.  (For French toast?)

I pass on the “Grilled Chicken Paillard.”  Why?

Sixty-seven dollars.

And I select instead,

The ”Steak Frites.”

Which I would normally never have ordered – especially the “Frites” – but I did so that “Sunday Brunch” because…

Sixty-seven dollars.

And for dessert? 

I rarely eat dessert.  But I selected the “Peach Cobbler.”  Why?


“Sixty-seven dollars.” 

Thank you.

We actually requested one dessert for the three of us.  Despite the waiter’s almost tearful pleading we order individual desserts, because

“They’re included.”

The man desperately wanted us to get our money’s worth.  So I compromised.

“One ‘Peach Cobbler’”, I instructed.  “But put a dollar in it.”

The food, to be honest, was quite tasty, the outdoor ambiance delightful – an arboreal setting, no mosquitoes (For me, an outdoors with no mosquitoes is the meteorological equivalent of the seedless watermelon), and a lively but non-intrusive three-piece ensemble.  The experience overall was remarkably elegant.

And I did not enjoy a moment of it. 

We ate “Brunch”, we paid the bill – Dr. M handles all restaurant bills, so I do not blow my top seeing the prices – and we left.  Full of stomach, but (considerably) lighter of wallet.

And wouldn’t you know it? 

We did not catch sight of a single celebrity. 

(Except for a “Real Housewife Of Miami.”  But, I mean, give me a break!  Marilyn Monroe lived in that place.)

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