All posts by Pastahead

What is The Muffia?

instagram postPeople seem confused about THE MUFFIA… again. It’s not a bunch of gay women, though gay women certainly have muffs and many like to read. It’s not a bunch of hot women who like to be photographed in various stages of undress, being poked and prodded with plastic toys and parts of other peoples’ anatomy. And it’s not the group of militant English women who go around reprimanding mothers on their poor parenting. NO. THE MUFFIA is a Los Angeles based book club and we have been calling ourselves THE MUFFIA for more years than the others who stake claim to the name.
At least one of us has had a woman on woman relationship (it didn’t last), most of us do have sex–some with toys–and most of us are mothers, though none of us would dream of telling another mother how to parent; not to her face anyway. In other words, the women of The “real” Muffia are women most other women can relate to. These are the women who stride, fall, talk, love, fail, eat, diet, drink* (a lot), give, take and live in the pages of THE MUFFIA SERIES of books. Come meet them: Madelyn, Jelicka, Quinn, Sarah, Kiki, Lauren, Paige, Rachel and Vicki. You’ll feel at home.

Kona Kona Chameleon


images In this Muff’s ongoing search for the perfect cocktail for any and every occasion, her quest brought her to Firefly, the ever-trendy chia pet of a restaurant/bar in Studio City, CA. Here we learn, and appreciate that not all tequila cocktails need to be Margaritas.

Here’s Firefly’s Kona Gold

  • 1 ½ oz tequila
  • ½ oz lime
  • ½ oz agave
  • ½ oz pineapple juice
  • Jalapeño slice
  • Pinch of cilantro

Pour ingredients into a shaker. Shake then strain over ice in a highball glass. Garnish with pineapple and jalapeno slice.

Perfect for a summer’s eve, or if you’re in LA, a sweltering 90 degree mid-October eve.

Why Cocktails?

  1. They’re  delicious.
  2. One won’t kill you.
  3. A little tiny bit of alcohol per day is good for you (unless you’re on meds)
  4. It’s fun to watch your bartender mix one especially for you.
  5. They’re more festive than wine or beer.

For these reasons and more, I’m seeing out the best cocktails in my world and in other peoples’ worlds to share. If you have a cocktail recipe or LA bar you love, I hope you’ll  include it in your comments73dd62efb18915548776ba77f697c07d

Book Club Survival Tips

Unknown

 

The Muffia survives as a book club after fifteen years for the following reasons ( in order of importance):

1. The Muffs take turns picking the books we read.

2. If a Muff hostess suggests “Remembrance of Things Passed,”  other Muffs aren’t allowed to get annoyed if they don’t want to read it.  The corollary to this is no Muff hostess gets annoyed if other Muffs don’t read her book choice.

3. No Muff gets too upset if members can’t come at the last minute. However, a  little upset is mandatory to show caring and empathy.

4. The Muff hostess always has a tasty cocktail offering for those Muffs who make it to book club.  (Note: This could be more important than #1)

5. A Muffia book club gathering always consists of equal parts “talking about the book” and “roundy-round” where important non-book talk occurs.

 

#16 – Spy Games

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Rather than wait for Jack–the guy who’d opened the door of the illegal business a couple of days before and my prospective employer– to call me, I decided to knock on the door again to press my case. Dressing in clothes that mimicked those of the laptop-toting employees, I headed out the front door but before I reached the sidewalk, Buddy intercepted me. He bolted out his own front door and stood between me and the Monster house. I suspected he must have a telescope pointed at my house too. Sure it was creepy but it was also sad. Didn’t he have anything better to do?

“Claudia emailed me,” he said.

“Oh?”

“Yeah. I wouldn’t go in there.”

“Why not? I might be able to get proof of the business, which is what that Phoenix person at Building & Safety keeps saying we need to shut it down.”

“It’s dangerous.”

“It’s not dangerous,” I said, getting an idea that, if acted upon, would be guaranteed to provide fireworks. “Come with me.” Then I thought better of it. “Actually don’t. You need to go back in your house and watch the camera feeds. Now.” I looked around. “I shouldn’t be seen talking to you. By the way, they know about the telescopes and the cameras and if they see me with you, they’re not going to hire me.”

“They’re not going to hire you anyway,” Buddy said.

“What makes you say that?”

Buddy jerked his head. “Look.”

Behind me, Jack was pulling up in one of the three identical white BMW M5s that belonged to the guys running things at the house. Maybe they got a deal. I waved but he didn’t wave back.

“Thanks a lot,” I said to Buddy, as insincerely as I could.

“I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye on what to do about these assholes,” he conceded. “But going in there was risky at best, not to mention a waste of time. I don’t think they would have hired you even if they hadn’t pulled up just now. Like you said, they know that we, meaning the neighbors, are trying to get rid of them. They’d be idiots if they thought you weren’t in on it.”

He had a point but I wanted to believe I’d charmed Jack into thinking I wanted a job more than I wanted them out. I did need a job, after all.

“Where’s that blog you were going to start?” Buddy asked.

“I guess I’ll go start it,” I said. “I’ll join the millions of other bloggers on the Internet hoping to find people who have nothing better to do than read blogs.”

“Yeah but you’re not blogging about warm and fuzzy feelings, like half of those people,” said Buddy. “Your blog will have a point to it. You’ll be righting wrongs and standing up for justice.”

I didn’t stand up for the warm and fuzzy bloggers as I probably should have. Some days, reading an uplifting blog post had saved me a bout of depression. That was the point.

#15 – The Three Kalindas

Unknown“I found a way into the house,” I said to Stephanie who was out walking her stuffed womb the next afternoon. Her pace was that of a turtle and she looked ready to pop.

“Serious?”

Claudia, sans Tom, walked up and joined us. “The monster house? How?”

“Get this—I just applied for a job,” I whispered, even though no one could have heard us unless Buddy was bugging the street in addition to setting up cameras and telescopes. “They say they’re doing marketing and I’m a writer. I should be able to write marketing copy…I think.”

“Didn’t they recognize you?” Claudia asked.

“That’s what’s insane. It didn’t seem to worry them because I said I knew all about the business and didn’t mind the cars.”

“So make us the complaining whiners?” said Stephanie.

“What’s the greater good here?” I said. “One of us needs to get inside and get evidence. You heard what the City said. Stuff online that can’t be verified some other way are considered useless for proving anything.”

“You went over there?” Claudia was incredulous.

“I just thought the neighborly thing to do would be to simply ask them, neighbor to neighbor, to leave, or at least to have the employees park down the street. Though if the city officials already came out to the house and business is still being conducted, they obviously don’t care what we think.”

“They won’t hire you,” said Claudia. “That’s not going to happen.”

I shrugged. “You might be right but now I have a text relationship going on with Jack—he’s the owner or manager or somebody. He’s the guy who opened the door when I went over there. I can ask him things…”

Claudia wasn’t buyin’ it.

“Meanwhile,” chirped Stephanie with a twinkle above her belly. “Troy discovered that the owners are three brothers and get this—they live in Kansas.”

“So that’s what the realtor meant when he told me the house had been sold to some brothers,” I said. “The brothers, however, had never moved in!”

“Scandalous,” said Claudia.

“Not really scandalous,” smiled Stephanie. “But now Troy’s digging into who those brothers are and what other kinds of businesses they might be into.”

“Can Tom and I help with that? I want to nail these suckers SO bad,” said Claudia. The attitude was way out of proportion with her diminutive put-together appearance.

“The more the merrier, right Steph?” I said.

“Sure. Troy is my very own Kalinda and I’m happy to share. He’s really good at finding stuff out; he just can’t tell me when this baby is going to appear. But all this has been a great distraction while we wait for him or her to show up.”

“We’re all kind of like Kalinda,” I said. “Though without her wardrobe and somebody writing our script. She knows what’s going to happen so we actually have to work harder.”

“Where’s Buddy?” asked Claudia. “You’d think he’d want to know all this.”

We all glanced over to Buddy’s house where I thought I could see the lens of his telescope through the drapes.

I sighed. “He has his methods and we have ours.”

#14 – A Knock at the Door

imagesThe car situation only seemed to get worse, if that was possible. Our little residential neighborhood, once the kind of place you could shoot a canon through and not hit anybody, was now overrun with bad driving, laptop carrying, dreary looking, droopy drawered youths and their vehicles. And no one who cared seemed to be doing anything to stop it.

The day after Buddy and I talked about the recent proof I’d found online, I marched up the big ugly cement steps with the imposing statuary of the monster house and knocked on the equally ugly front door. There was no fear involved; I just figured I’d go to the source. Whatever they were doing in there, I was reasonably certain it did not involve meth or the shipment of arms to rebel groups. Perhaps I could address the problem head on by simply asking the manager to have his or her employees park somewhere else or to carpool…. we didn’t care how they got to the house so long as we didn’t have to deal with the cars.

“Hi,” I said once the door opened. “I live next door.

“Hi,” said the attractive young man who had answered it, holding a can of Monster. He offered his hand. “I’m Jack.”

Of course; his drink matches his house.

“Hi, Jack. I’m here because I was wondering if anybody in the neighborhood has told you what’s been going on around here.”

“No,” said Jack, taking a slug of Monster.

It had seemed like a good idea when I’d decided to walk up and knock. Now, however, I felt like a fool. Of course he had to know we wanted him gone. I changed the subject in my mind, since I hadn’t yet mentioned it out loud.

“What all are you guys and gals doing in here?”

“Marketing,” said Jack.

Marketing?… That was one thing no one had thought of. I realized that marketing involved writing and writing is one thing I knew how to do. Here was an opportunity to get some paid work and do some espionage. I just had to get inside.

“Are you all still hiring? Because I’d like to apply,” I said.

He looked at me curiously. “The other reason I’m here is to tell you that there are some people in the neighborhood who are a bit upset…”

“You mean the big guy across the street?” said Jack taking another slug.

“Buddy, yes. I guess he is one of them.”

“I see him over there, staring and looking pissed off. I think he has a telescope pointed at us.”

“Anyway,” I continued. ” They’re really freaked out about all the cars in the street every day and some think your employees look like gang members. But there’s another group that’s less freaked. Like me. We think having you here makes the neighborhood safer.  And as far as I’m concerned, you’re quiet. And that’s more important.”

“Have you done Internet marketing before?” asked Jack.

“A little,” I lied. “But good marketing involves writing that grabs people. I’ve done that.” I told the truth.

He put his hand on the door, ready to close it. “Bring your resume by. Or email it.”

“At the Red Rhino email address?” I asked, inserting myself into the closing distance between door and jam.

His eyes narrowed. Probably shouldn’t have told him I knew. “I hear that’s the name of the company,” I said.

“Sure,” said Jack. Then the door closed, sending me home to compose a resume that would get me on the other side of it.

# 13 – Red Rhino

rhino_eraser“I haven’t been able to find out what FFF stands for but I think I’ve discovered more evidence of a business linked to the monstrosity,” I told Buddy a few days later.

Buddy had just accosted one of the employees (or video gamers if you believed the folks at Building and Safety), telling the black-clad, messenger bag carrying guy to park somewhere else. The guy cowered, got in his black Honda and drove further down the street. We could see him making his way back up the block but he’d crossed the street to avoid further confrontation with Buddy and his big stick. Who wouldn’t?

“What did you find?” he asked.

“There’s an ad on Craig’s List looking for developers.”

“Developers of what? Hopefully not housing, ‘cuz look at that thing. If they want clients to think they have good taste, they shouldn’t be operating out of that.”

“Software developers,” I said. “And there was another ad for copywriters.”

“So do they build websites? That would fit,” Buddy said. “I don’t really care. I just want them gone.”

“They could be building websites but I just took it to mean they’re doing something online. Maybe coming up with a new way to spam us. Or maybe all the employees are hackers, stealing our credit card information. The parent company is called Red Rhino and they’re based in Colorado.”

Buddy snarled. “If they’re responsible for killing rhinos, they not only need to be shut down, they need to be shot.”

“If they’re selling rhino horn to rich, misinformed assholes who  think it’s going to turn them into great lovers, we’ll take ’em all down. But I bet they’re just trying to capitalize on the strength of the animal by creating an Internet brand name.”

Buddy growled.

“Anyway, if it’s an Internet company, that would explain why it’s so difficult to prove what’s going on in there. It also explains why the employees are carrying messenger bags; they all have laptops.”

“Can you print out what you found?” Buddy asked. “You know, something that lists the address with the name Red Rhino?”

“Already did that but is it enough evidence to shut them down? We’ve already learned not to expect logic and reason from the boys at Building & Safety. Just when we think they can’t get any stupider, they do.”

Buddy sighed.

I smiled back at him. “But if they don’t shut them down this time, I’m going to start blogging about the whole thing. Maybe we can embarrass our elected and appointed officials into doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Another car pulled up, right in front of us and a 25 year-old young woman got out, messenger bag in tow.

“Park down the street,” said Buddy. “Your boss should have told you not to park in front of my house.”

The girl looked frightened, got back in her new red Juke and drove off.

“You’re very effective, Buddy. Maybe you should just scare them all into never coming back.”

A small smile formed on his lips. “Don’t think I haven’t thought of it.”

 

#12 – The Doofuses at Building and Safety

Unknown“What’s the point of having laws if they don’t enforce them?” I said to Claudia (sans Bob) and a new and very pregnant neighbor, Stephanie, the following day as I brought them up to speed on recent events. “Plus, if it’s the bureaucrats’ job to enforce the law and they’re not doing it, can we get them fired?”

Stephanie wailed. “Oh, I hate hearing there’s a problem. I don’t think it’s good for the baby.” Stephanie was taking her belly out for a late third trimester walk. Like a lot of mothers she believed a negative thought could permanently damage her unborn child’s psyche.

“Theoretically we should,” said Claudia. “If the City of Los Angeles was a publicly traded stock, these fools would have been fired a long time ago. I mean, who’s looking out for shareholder value?”

“Whatever illegal business is being run out of that house is not helping our property values any,” I agreed. “It’s obvious to everyone that something wrong is going on in there but rather than deal with it, they claim they have no proof—as if people admitting they’re employees and all the cars isn’t enough. I mean, can’t they look up a license plate then cross reference it to bank accounts and see who issued the checks that get deposited on a regular basis? Don’t tell me in this age of Net footprints and facial recognition software, they can’t do that.”

“Buddy told me he’s going to start spying on them,” said Claudia. “He’s putting up cameras and has a microscope pointed at the house.”

“You mean a telescope?” I asked.

Claudia hesitated. “Yes, that’s what I meant. All this activity has me not thinking clearly.”

“Don’t worry,” said Stephanie. “I get things confused all the time. Do you notice how the employees all wear black and carry laptops? Do you suppose they work for the government?”

“No,” I said. “They’re too smart.”

“Well, I’m glad Buddy’s doing something,” said Claudia. “Somebody has to.”

There was that “somebody” again. What we needed was a dedicated investigative type who had nothing better to do than find the evidence the city claimed they didn’t have. Buddy could have been that guy but he had a screw loose.

“I think we’re going to more than pictures of people going in and out,” I said. “I mean we already have pictures.”

“You’re right,” said Claudia. “Unless we get some major proof or more likely a lot of major proof, those doofusses–doofi?– at Building and Safety will go on saying the people getting out of all these cars are playing video games inside that hideous house and do nothing.”

“Well,” I said, “I’m doing a little investigating of my own. Last night I Googled the address of the monstrosity and found a business with that address.”

“Really?” said Claudia. “What is it? Is it porn like we thought?”

Stephanie gasped. “Okay, I’ll see you guys later. I’m gonna get going. But I’ll mention all this to Troy. He might have some ideas.”

We waved goodbye and watched Stephanie waddle down the street. I was quite happy not to be expecting the arrival of a newborn, adorable as they can be. I had no energy for anything more than what I was already doing.

“I don’t know if it’s porn,” I said. “It’s called FFF Enterprises. My brain instantly went to the F-word but that’s just the way my brain works. It could be some kind of front.”

“A front for what?” asked Claudia.

“That’s what I still need to find out.”

#11 – Buddy Calls the City

Employees' cars
Employees’ cars

“Claudia said you told her somebody should call the city about the cars,” Buddy said the next day at Lily’s Library.

“Well I didn’t issue an edict or anything but I sort of think at this point, we–or somebody, should.”

“Done,” he said. “You know what they told me? ‘We have it covered.’” End air quotes.

“What does that mean?” I asked, sensing from Buddy’s demeanor, that he planned on milking the story dry.

“The guy said they came out and spoke with one of the owners and then he says, ‘Thanks for your call,’ and was going to hang up on me. He thought he was done.”

“But you weren’t,” I chided.

“I said to the guy, some bureaucratic maroon named Phoenix or something, ‘Okay you talked to the owner and what did he say? When are all the cars going to be gone?’”

“Did he give you an answer?” Buddy was not getting to the point quickly enough.

“This Phoenix guy tells me that the owner told him he’s just having friends over to play video games.”

“To play video games . . .?”

He put his hands up to stop me. “So I say to the guy, ‘They’re playing video games In the middle of the day, every day and you believed him? What about all the cars? There are, like, 40 cars parked on our street every day. What about the fact we’ve asked people going into the house what they’re doing and they say they’re having job interviews?’ Then this Phoenix or Xanax—no that’s the drug—whoever, says, ‘We don’t know those people are there for a job interview. We don’t know they’re not there to play video games. Do you have proof?’ All they could see were kids with laptops sitting around the big room (the one I always thought would be good for a tracking shot in a porn film) and it looked like they were playing video games. So he claims there’s nothing the city can do.”

“There’s nothing they can do? Use their eyes, why don’t they?” Bureaucrats…

“That’s what I told the guy. There’s no way the owners of all these cars are here to play video games,” said Buddy. “He didn’t care.”

“So, even though it’s their job to shut down illegal activity and we pay their salaries, they’ll do nothing for us?” I asked.

“Right.”

This was crap. And the collective “we” wouldn’t stand for it.