Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dinner Shopping Beside Robert Blake

I procrastinated going out today until later afternoon. I was totally out of the herbs I use in my Hot/Cold Packs and needed to stock up again. I really didn't want to drive to the NoHo Arts District to The Herb Company store because it's starting to get hot again here in Cali. I finally got it together and left the house around 4:00 pm. Just as I expected, the price of lavender had jumped up quite a bit since my last purchase well over a year ago. I picked up three pounds of lavender flowers and three 1/4 pound bags of peppermint leaves and headed back home.

Mr. Sprocket (who normally does all the cooking in our house is recovering from surgery on his right arm and has been the patient from hell, his half dressed butt permanently cemented to the sofa these past two weeks) asked me to pick up something to eat on the way home. I wasn't really interested in his favorite meal, Thai food again, so I thought I would stop in at Gelson's in Sherman Oaks and get a turkey thigh from the carving station. Gelson's is an upscale grocery chain in Southern Cali. It's not as good as the Wegman's Mr. Sprocket took me to back in New Jersey, but it does have some nice features. One of them is they have a carving station where you can get freshly cooked tri-tip, turkey and prime rib at $20.00 a pound. Since we are Gatherers on the new GenoType Diet we are eating quite a bit more turkey these days.

When I entered the store I stopped off at the carving station and put in an order for a turkey thigh. The chef told me a new bird would be out in about five minutes, so I went off to roam the isles and shop for a few things.

Soon after I returned to the carving station, an elderly man was standing to my left and he had just placed an order for well over a pound of prime rib. The chef must have had this customer before because without saying anything, he not only sliced the beef, he cubed it for him. The chef did ask if he wanted the fat trimmed off, and when the man said, "No, give it all to me," I finally looked at his profile and realized who it was. I almost didn't recognize him because he wasn't wearing one of those exquisite suits he wore every day when he was on trial for the murder of Bonnie Lee Bakley.

I have followed criminal trials on TV for many years but the Robert Blake criminal trial was the first trial I attended and wrote about my observations. It's where I first met the tiny Beth Karas and Steve Mikulan, staff writer for the LA Weekly. (I also met Dominick Dunne at that trial for the first time and like a typical star-struck fan, I asked him to autograph one of his books for me.)

Blake was dressed in dark chocolate jeans, a nondescript belt and a fresh looking white t-shirt. His body looked almost anorexic he was so rail thin. He was wearing what appeared to be a straw cowboy hat the same color as his jeans, with some sort of filmy, deep burgundy wrapping around the bottom crown of the hat. As I tried to watch him inconspicuously out of the corner of my eye, as he was paying for his prim rib ($26.00) I noticed he added a piece of prepackaged garlic bread for the checker to ring up.

After I picked up my turkey thigh, I stopped by the bakery to get Mr. Sprocket his favorite cookies, walnut meringues. I then proceeded to the checkout register and told the clerk that I just saw Robert Blake. The cashier replied, "Oh yeah. He's a regular. He's in here all the time." And when she said that I was thinking, I'm in here all the time too and I never see him. And then I remembered that during his trial, he had rented (or purchased; I had never found out for sure) a condominium in Sherman Oaks to be closer to the courthouse. I wondered, did Blake sell that run down property he had in Studio City years ago and is now living just a stone's throw or two away from me?

I then told the cashier, "I attended about 90% of his criminal trial." She was quite surprised and asked me, "Oh? How was that?" "Well, he got off you know," I said. And she kinda laughed and asked again, "Yeah, but how was that?" There was so much I wanted to say, but I stopped myself from responding and just smiled back.

As I was driving home, I thought back to another day I had run into Blake. It was the day the verdicts were read in his case and Blake walked away a free man. Later that afternoon, I was waiting in line at Trader Joe's, and there the little guy was I saw at the defense table all those months, standing there in front of me with a short plump lady friend, buying some wine. He was obviously quite nervous and had trouble figuring out how to slide his credit card through the card reader machine. I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for future Blake sightings in and around Sherman Oaks.