world domination and couch surfing tour starts next week

17 cities. Between October 17 and December 13. I'm ready. Headlong is more than ready.  AND, we've got tour t-shirts. I'll be giving one away at each reading to the person who asks the best question (based on my totally subjective mood at the moment).

Hugely looking forward to meeting new friends, connecting up with old friends, and finding pie diners and strange tourist spots. 

Most exciting part so far: in addition to bookstore, which I love visiting, I'm also looking to connect with colleges and high schools, to hear from students their take on the state of our society, their sense of what the fight for social change looks like. As part of that, I'll be visiting classes at Duke University and Medaille College this month at tour stops in Durham and Buffalo.



the perfect fish taco

My life has been a quest for the platonic ideal of the fish taco. I've tasted it twice (or made it so in memory): once with my pal Jeffrey Bell at Pescado near the Santa Monica pier, and, more recently at El Pelon Taqueria near Fenway Park before they switched their recipe and then abandoned the fish taco altogether.  And for the last few years, I've devoted my home test kitchen to creating my own version.

There are three keys to the ultimate fish taco: spicy sauteed fish (no breading) with a little crispness; a vinegar-based slaw to top the fish (the toughest part to get right); and the perfect cerveza accompaniment (for me, it's Pacifico). 

Well, people. I've done it. Two-plus years of experimentation and persistence have resulted in a Santa Monica-worthy fish taco. And enough people have asked for the recipe that I'm making it public. Like any good recipe, adjust to your tastes.


The Perfect Fish Taco (at last)

1 pound flaky white fish, such as mahi mahi or tilapia
1/4 cup canola oil
1 lime, juiced*
1 Tbsp ancho chili powder
1 jalapeño, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
8 corn tortillas

cabbage slaw:
1/4 head red cabbage, chopped
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar

* the lime gets juiced, not you (until after you make the tacos)

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Place fish in a medium-size dish. Whisk together the oil, lime juice, ancho, jalapeño, and cilantro and pour over the fish. Marinate for 15-20 min.

Remove the fish from the marinade, place onto a hot grill. Grill the fish for 4 minutes on the first side, then 2-3 on the other side. Let rest for 5 minutes then flake the fish with a fork.

Place tortillas on the grill and grill for 20 seconds.

Chop cabbage. Mix oil, vinegar, and sugar in a small bowl. Pour over cabbage.

Make tacos and smile. Supplement with your favorite Mexican beer.



unreliable narrator

"Every unreliable narrator is making the case 'you would have done the same thing if you were in my shoes.' " This from mystery writer Laura Lippman at a really good panel at Bouchercon, an annual crime fiction conference I attended for the first time this year.

I'm a big fan of unreliable narrators, because they're flawed and they're human and they're surprising. And to me, they're a good reminder that we are all – every one of us that has ever had a relationship or human interaction – an unreliable narrator at some time, in some context. We want something badly enough to lie about it. Or we deceive ourselves because confronting the truth is too painful. This vulnerability, out of which we all, inevitably, sometimes choose poorly, is what makes us human.

an icon of exuberant cheesiness

WORTHINGTON and Spot.jpg

For anyone who lived in Southern California for any length of time over the past half century, Cal Worthington was an inescapable pop culture icon. A fixture on late-night TV, Worthington was a used-car dealer who personified shameless promotion, and took glee in using any means whatever – once strapping himself to the wing of a plane – to draw customers to his empire of auto dealerships.

What I remember him for is the steady– and unexplained – appearances of a plethora of animals in his commercials, each referred to as "my dog, Spot." 

From the NYT obituary:  "The exuberant cheesiness of Mr. Worthington’s ads made him a folk hero, as much a part of California popular culture as Woodies with surfboards on the roof or Orange Julius stands. He was a frequent guest on 'The Tonight Show,' where Johnny Carson performed ad parodies. He appeared as himself in the 1973 Jack Lemmon film 'Save the Tiger' and was the model for the car salesman played by Ted Danson in the 1993 film 'Made in America.' He even infiltrated Thomas Pynchon’s novel 'Inherent Vice.'"

RIP Cal. And your dog, Spot.