Saturday, May 5, 2007

The Millionaire and the Indian - a classic Vixen tale

A quick note: I wrote this piece over fifteen years ago. Recently Bruce and I tried to explain this evening to someone... here's the true tale.

As originally published on

The Millionaire and the Indian

Why does a millionaire continue to work fifty-hour work weeks? This was the burning question my husband had for Rod, the young, good looking, executive he'd been working with for several years. Rod had decided to leave the company and Bruce, my husband, decided that this was the perfect time to invite Rod over for dinner to discuss the big question.

Once Rod was invited, we remembered that he had some food allergies and a few quirky dislikes. I had Bruce ask Rod to let us know his food guidelines and he shot back a quick answer: "No wheat, no dairy, no cold meats, eggs are okay".

"Okay, I can do this", I thought. It took a few days to shake off the fear and to realize that there was a lot left to serve. Vegetables, rice, hot meats and fish came to mind. I began working on a menu and sent Bruce back to ask Rod if he could handle spicy foods. Thank God the answer was yes! Bruce and I love spicy foods and I couldn't imagine how I was going to make the food shine without using some chile heat.

The menu came together as: Crudites with dilled white bean dip; Blackened red snapper; Parsleyed rice and berries with sabayon for dessert. I kept it simple but tasty. I didn't want a failure on my hands.

The day of the dinner arrived. I spent the afternoon slicing vegetables, cleaning berries, and making the spice mixture for the fish. Rod was due to arrive at 7:00pm.

At about 5:30 pm we received a phone call. It was Bruce's sister, Lenae. We hadn't heard from her in at least a year. This call was a very mixed blessing. At the time, she had a drug problem. Spending time with Lenae was stressful to say the least. "Don't you live in Culver City?", she asked. "Yes", Bruce replied. Lenae then proposed, "Let me come over and show you my Indian." Well, the conversation just deteriorated from there. We really had little choice but to have her over. We truly missed her, wanted to see how she was doing and were curious about this Indian thing. We let her know about Rod coming over and asked that she make it a very short visit. She complied.

About ten minutes later, true to her word, she arrived, with an Indian. His name was Russ, or Red Feather, or The Indian, whichever you prefer. He was dressed in black leather with silver studs from head to toe. He had at least one ring on each finger and about fifteen necklaces around his neck. He looked tough, but had a friendly smile. Lenae looked her old self, tired, run down, your typical speed freak. We sat and chatted for a while. This was in 1992, just after the riots in South Central Los Angeles. The Indian told stories of his looting exploits during the pandemonium. People just started handing him stuff, he assured us.

Time was running short. We reminded them of our previous commitment and began showing them to the door. Then our phone rang. It was Rod, he was downstairs waiting to be buzzed into our building.

We quickly said our good-byes. Bruce and I walked them down the hallway towards the entrance of the building. As we approached the door at the end of the hall, it opened and Rod walked toward us.

It was a tense and odd moment. Should we introduce the millionaire to the druggy sister and her Indian? We opted not to. They passed each other in the hallway with only a hint of amusement passing across Rod's face. Bruce and I didn't have time to digest this bizarre moment.

Back in the apartment things started off well. The appetizers were received with compliments. Bruce and Rod began to discuss the issue at hand. I began heating up the frying pan for the blackened fish.

I had made the recipe before. I made sure to turn the stove's exhaust fan on, open a few windows and to heat the pan until it was white hot. I carefully added the seasoned fish fillets.

The small apartment quickly filled with spicy, burning, smoke. The fire alarm began wailing. Bruce opened the door to the apartment to help create a cross breeze. I attacked the smoke alarm, tearing the batteries out as quickly as I could.

Rod began wheezing, then coughing. He quickly found his inhaler. Bruce led him to our tiny balcony where the air was clear. Rod sucked on his inhaler hungrily as he tried to clear his lungs.

There wasn't time for me to panic. I had to finish cooking the fish. I knew that the smoke would stop once the fish was out of the pan. I did what I could to quickly finish preparing the meal.

The smoke hazard was over in less than ten minutes. Bruce and Rod stayed outside for at least twenty. They came to the table as the last of the smoke was clearing from the apartment.

The rest of the evening went smoothly. The fish was perfectly cooked and had the distinctive red-hot taste of the blackened spices. The sabayon turned out rich and creamy. Rod could eat everything we served and was lavish with his praise for the food.

Rod did try to answer Bruce's question. It seems that some people are willing to work hard not just for money, but for the desire to succeed. Rod wouldn't speak for himself, only others he knew, who did exactly that. Whether for power, greed or in competition (with themselves or others), some people never cease to work tirelessly.

Hmm, like me in the kitchen, always striving to reach new heights? Perhaps.

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