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Chris Erskine: Chef’s Kiss to Descanso Gardens

Random thoughts about books, baseball and a game-changing new restaurant headed for Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge:

  • L.A. is America’s kitchen.
  • Great books are America’s salvation.
  • Newspapers are journalism’s slide trombones.
  • Celebrate a life of purpose with John Wooden commemorative stamps.
  • Will there ever be another Wooden?
  • Will there ever be another Caitlin Clark? Hope so.

“I do love a locker room. It smells like potential.” — Ted Lasso

  • Wildflowers are L.A.’s best free show.
  • Followed by the L.A. Times Festival of Books.
  • FYI, Francis Scott Key stole the melody for the “Star-Spangled Banner” from a British drinking song.
  • Trivia question: Name the song.
  • If you look like your passport photo, you’re probably too ill to travel.
  • If you look like your driver’s license, you shouldn’t be driving.
  • Props to Descanso Gardens for luring a new café by renowned chef Richard Mead, of Farmhouse at Roger’s Garden in Corona del Mar.
  • Admission to the gardens will not be required. Look for it later this year, or early next.
  • And the bar will be fashioned from Descanso’s fallen oaks.
  • Actor Mark Ruffalo seems like someone you might’ve known in high school.
  • The future is female.
  • Then again, so was the past.
This spring’s wildflowers are L.A.’s best free show.

“Most of all it is the women … who dominate all of American life.” — Albert Einstein

  • Half of life is luck.
  • The other half is rotten luck.

“They used to call it HBO, but that was too popular.” — Conan O’Brien on HBO’s name change to MAX

  • All movies should end 30 minutes sooner.
  • Most novels are too long by 30 percent.
  • Best L.A. dessert? The butter cake at Nick’s.
  • In fact, make it your entrée.
  • Trivia answer: “To Anacreon in Heaven” was the anthem-inspiring pub song.
  • Bonus points: Who was Anacreon?
  • Bonus answer: A rather lewd Greek poet/songwriter.
  • If you got that one, please go on “Jeopardy.”
  • The world’s two greatest designs: the martini glass and the ’65 Mustang.
  • Book of the month: The Bible.
  • Its best message: forgiveness.
  • Runner-up book of the month: “The Marriage Sabbatical” by Lian Dolan of Pasadena.
  • Movie of the month: Sorry, there are none. Again.
  • Remember when Hollywood made us laugh?
  • Pasadena’s roster of greats (some born there, some not): Jackie Robinson, Albert Einstein, Linus Pauling, Julia Child, Sally Field, Chase Utley, Bobby Riggs, Mike White, Octavia E. Butler, Lian Dolan.
  • And don’t forget Van Halen.
  • America’s next great president will be tech savvy but have a bass player’s soul.
  • Remember when The Doors played at Crescenta Valley High?
  • It was in 1967, and the performance was cut short by an equipment failure.
  • Meanwhile, my new single, “Don’t Cry for Me, Altadena,” drops next week.
  • Ever wonder what solar eclipses look like from the moon?
  • Try the lemon pasta at Hollywood’s Aster Hotel, a great rooftop stop for out-of-town guests.
  • Or, for a quick drink before the Pantages. Amazing views.

“The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” — Linus Pauling

Who says you can’t reinvent the wheel? Tesla did.
  • FYI, Pauling, a physicist, never graduated from high school, though he entered college at 15. He is the only scientist to win two unshared Nobel Prizes.
  • Trivia time II: Where did Pauling attend college?
  • Half of L.A. cars seem to be Teslas.
  • Who says you can’t reinvent the wheel?
  • Definition of a visionary: The kind of person you dread sitting next to on an airplane.
  • But we need more of them.
  • I’d be more excited about AI if I could just get my printer to work.
  • Serious question: Why did restaurants get so loud?
  • Next question: Why doesn’t Taylor’s Steakhouse in La Cañada Flintridge take reservations?
  • April birthdays: Kristen Stewart, 34; Rachel Maddow, 51; Paul Rudd, 55; Robert Downey Jr., 59; Ali MacGraw, 85.
  • And an early happy birthday to the classy and inspiring Rachel Robinson (Jackie’s widow), who turns 102 this summer.
  • Like most fans, I hate transfer portals. And NIL deals are bribes.
  • The NCAA right now is “as frail as foam on beer” (to borrow from writer Gary Snyder).
  • It needs a powerful commissioner/overlord.
  • How about Nick Saban?
  • Trivia answer II: Pauling attended Oregon State. Go Beavers!
  • Michigan is the new Stanford (from an athletics/academics standpoint).
  • The Rose Bowl is one of America’s three most iconic stadiums, along with Fenway and Wrigley.
  • A new restaurant, high in the Rose Bowl, could do very well.
  • Call it “The Press Box.”
  • Whiskey! Tango! Foxtrot! The Hollywood Bowl has closed lots B and C to facilitate mass transit.
  • Because that’s just what the Hollywood Bowl needs: less parking.
  • Look out, woodwinds. You’re next.
  • Dupar’s still makes the best flapjacks in L.A.
  • Musso & Frank Grill should add a burger.
  • Till then, L.A.’s best burger? The Galley in Santa Monica.
  • L.A.’s most underrated ride? The Ferris wheel on the pier.
  • Or PCH early Sunday morning.

“Living is like licking honey off a thorn.” — Louis Adamic

  • FYI, they serve that now at that new place in Brentwood ($48.50 plus tax).

Looking for a Mother’s or Father’s Day gift? Consider “Perfect Eloquence,” an ode to the great Vin Scully. Order from your favorite bookstore or on Amazon.

First published April 25-27 in Outlook Newspapers.

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