In desperate times desperate people head here – an online journal of Apocalyptic-themed fiction and commentary.

Levels of Comfort

Copyright © 2004 by B. F. Price. All rights reserved.

Levels of Comfort

10:30 a.m., Tuesday. Returned Caparros.

     Parked the Lincoln in a secluded space in the parking structure, close to the Nordstrom entrance. There were few people about this early in the day, just the Senior Steppers taking their laps around the mall. Nordstrom wasn’t open yet, but the restroom off the promenade opened at nine, and I did need to freshen up.

It took a while to locate a bracelet to go with the Ralph Lauren suit I was wearing, still longer to find the receipt for the Caparros pumps. The box with my receipts and legal papers turned out to be underneath the suitcase, not in it, but even with the delay I still had a few minutes until Nordstrom opened. On impulse, I checked my schedule to see if I had any appointments for the day. Seeing none, I decided to spend the morning window shopping.

Entering Nordstrom, I paused at the cosmetics counter to test a new perfume sample, then tried a new shade of lipstick. Afterward I rode the escalator upstairs to ask the counter girl which chocolates were best for after dinner and which best for tea. I nibbled several, with a cup of tea graciously provided by the girl.

I returned to the first floor with the Caparros. The salesclerk asked if the account should be credited or would Madam prefer cash. No doubt he knew most women prefer to return such items for cash as a way of hiding money from their husbands. I told him Madam prefers cash. He didn’t notice that the receipt was a year old.

After leaving Nordstrom I decided to stop by Brentano’s to see if they had any new cookbooks. They were setting up a window display for the newly-released paperback edition of Jurassic Park IV, and had borrowed an exhibit of prehistoric fish embedded in stone from the Nature Company next door. Not in very good taste, in my opinion. I noticed a novel variation on wine sauce for chicken in one of the books and took a few minutes to jot down the recipe. Next, I stopped in a little gourmet coffee shop to discuss which of their coffees goes best with Homards Farcis a l’Estragon. The clerk gave me a few sample packets to try.

While browsing through Saks I ran into Margaux, who was returning a Swarovski pin, for cash. She invited me to a dinner party she’s having in two weeks. I noted it on my schedule. She mentioned she’d tried to phone me but couldn’t remember my new number. I told her that since I’d just moved I couldn’t remember it myself.

8:30 p.m., Thursday. Met with Jack and Cyn.

     Arrived at the parking structure in the basement of Jack’s office building at 11 and, since my appointment wasn’t until 11:30, had plenty of time to hunt up a restroom and freshen up. I remembered to ask his secretary to validate my parking.

The meeting with Jack and Cyn went well. I showed him my scrapbook filled with all my ideas for a restaurant, and he seemed impressed with the taste and quality of the décor I had selected, with the color schemes and menu ideas, with the photographs and fabric swatches and recipes.

Jack wanted to know if I’d given any thought to location and staff, and I told him that somewhere along the coast would be ideal, possibly Del Mar. There would be no problem getting staff, of course, once the opening is announced. Cyn brought up the point that all our friends would be lining up to dine at any restaurant I opened, and reminded Jack that my book on home entertainment would be coming out soon. The book’s success will be a fantastic advertisement for the restaurant providing, of course, the restaurant opens soon. Jack mentioned the high failure rate of restaurants and said he cannot advise me to convert my capital for such a risky invesment. I told him there was certainly no question of my doing that, since Robert had always emphasized the wisdom of having such ventures financed. I asked Jack if he could suggest some possible investors, and Cyn said of course they would invest. Jack suggested I put together a prospectus and he’d see what he could do.

Later, Cyn took me to lunch at Hedi’s. She said she thought Jack was sold on the idea, and I agreed. Cyn asked after the Johnstones and the Fords, but I told her I wasn’t into Palm Springs social life much anymore, since working on the restaurant took up so much of my time. Cyn said it was time I came out of exile now that things were settled between Robert and me. I told her she and Jack must come out for the weekend as soon as I get the restaurant established and can take some time off. Had the calamari appetizer and the smoked duck, always delicious.

After lunch I phoned Caroline. Cyn mentioned I’d be getting a call from her, as she’d decided to file papers and wanted the benefit of my experience. I wasn’t sure what I should tell her, since I don’t want to sound too pessimistic, not when I’m this close to success. In the end we discussed which attorneys were effective and which arbitrators were sympathetic. She seemed to have no idea what sort of property or money she would be receiving in settlement, and I did advise her to do a little investigating of Frank’s finances on her own before she and Frank separated, just to get a general idea of the marital assets. She replied that she thought it was wisest to hire the best and let them take care of the financial details. I let it go at that. I understand the importance of sound legal advice in normal circumstances, but attorneys have unrealistic expectations about what it takes for a woman to maintain her standing in the community.

The evening being warm and calm, I decided to dine alfresco at Harbor Island. I found a table overlooking the Bay, and watched the glow of the lights of Point Loma slowly diffuse as the mist rolled in. It reminded me of our third anniversary, when we took the company yacht to Catalina for the evening. I had packed Omelettes Froides au Crabe with a tossed salad, which was delicious with Robert’s favorite Alsatian. We stayed up half the night listening to Cole Porter and talking. Robert gave me a beautiful amber and diamond necklace, which he said brought out the flecks of gold in my eyes. I like to think our Amber was conceived that night, although the obstetrician insisted the timing wasn’t quite right.

The sea air has given me quite an appetite tonight. Even the cold smoked duck tasted delicious, as did the cheese and ham samples from that charming shop in Del Mar and the chocolates from Nordstrom. Decided to write this entry before driving back to La Jolla.

9:00 p.m., Friday. Dinner at Amber’s condo.

     Spent most of the day at the library downtown learning what a prospectus is and trying to understand how to write one. Took a few minutes to re-arrange the trunk, moving the blankets underneath the file box, then drove to Amber’s condo straight from the library. She insists on living in one of the newly-renovated downtown lofts, and Robert has always indulged her little whims. I’ve never felt truly safe staying there, despite the security, but with all the work I need to do to get the restaurant going, it’s more convenient than La Jolla. I just wish Amber wasn’t spending the weekend at the Palm Springs house–I feel a bit safer when I’m not alone here, and I still don’t think it’s strictly necessary to stay the entire weekend just for one event on Saturday night. But it wouldn’t be politic to insist.

Arrived early so I could shower before preparing dinner. After looking through Amber’s refrigerator I decided to make Mousse de Saumon Fumé and simple Salade Verte avec Sauce Vinaigrette. I opened a bottle of Viognier, then made out a list of groceries and other incidentals I would need for the weekend. After I phoned in the order, I called Margaux back to confirm dinner. She mentioned that the evening had been changed to a bon voyage party as she and Carl were going to Japan for six weeks. I told her I would be delighted to throw together the party for her, and asked if it would be all right if I stayed at their place while they were gone, since I was having mine decorated before moving in. She said that would be no problem.

The groceries arrived just a few minutes before Amber was due home. I signed for them and arranged for the porter to bring up my suitcase from the trunk, then began laying out the ingredients for dinner. I’d hoped we’d spend a few minutes relaxing and chatting over the Viognier before dinner, but Amber had picked up the galleys for my book from her college roommate Alexandra. She spent a few minutes showing me how to proof them and so on, and said Alexandra had enclosed an Express envelope since the mailing mix-up had pushed the project past deadline. I asked her why Alexandra hadn’t enclosed an advance, but she said Alexandra had already explained to me that any money would have to be made from the sales, minus the publishing costs. Amber asked me how I liked my new place and I replied, not much, the traffic and the noise kept waking me. She said she was looking forward to seeing it when the redecoration was finished.

10:00 p.m., Monday. Evening at home.

     It’s so comforting to be back in La Jolla after the long, hectic yet productive weekend I’ve had. Finished the galleys and dropped them in the mail. In her note Alexandra suggested I advertise the book in the La Jolla Light, so I included a note asking for a budget and itinerary for a publicity tour, listing a few shows where I’d like to appear and hotels where I’d like to stay. Alexandra is from a good family but naïve, I feel, and was unable to assert herself to obtain the contract I deserved for my effort. I do not intend to let her shortchange me on a publicity budget.

I made great progress on the prospectus, and phoned Cyn to let her know that Jack could expect it soon. Fortunately, I was easily able to come up with a budget for decoration, flowers, tableware, etc. Really, decorating a restaurant is no different than decorating a house, and I certainly have experience with that. I also got a lot of laundry done, aired out my pillows and blankets, and had the porter arrange for the Lincoln to be washed and serviced.

Unfortunately, my reunion with Amber hadn’t been as congenial as I had hoped. Robert had given her my maintenance check, saying it had been returned marked “Addressee Unknown.” I tried to tell her how difficult it is for a woman of my circumstances to alter her standard of living, but all she would say is that I need to scale down, that it’s not necessary to live on Mount Soledad, that I can be perfectly comfortable living in any of the Pacific Beach condos she found for me. She can’t understand that there’s more involved than mere comfort. I could never give up La Jolla, where I’ve lived for more than thirty years. I could never leave my friends, just surrender my social standing and the reputation I’ve achieved in this community, to start over in some tacky little condo, living among strangers and God-knows-who.

4:00 p.m., Tuesday. Lunch with Margaux.

     Parked the Lincoln in a secluded space in the parking structure, close to the Nordstrom entrance and packed the blankets and pillows away in the trunk. Nordstrom wasn’t open yet, but the restroom off the promenade opened at nine, and I did need to freshen up. I decided to change into something casual, my Guess? Jeans and a crisp, white Brooks Brothers shirt, accessorized with a David Yurman pin.

Margaux had suggested lunching at Porter’s, which was quiet and comfortable enough, to strategize the arrangements for her bon voyage party. Since I wasn’t meeting her until noon, I decided to spend the morning window shopping. I stepped into Nordstrom to test a new perfume sample, tried out a new shade of lipstick, then rode the escalator upstairs to sample some cheeses, with a cup of tea graciously provided by the girl.

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