Saturday, March 27, 2010

Park Avenue Cafe

The Park Avenue Cafe Is my favorite Restaurant on Balboa Island.

When I first moved here 20 years ago I had an interesting landlord, Mr. Kelly. Mr. Kelly was in his late 80s and would drive down to Balboa Island every Tuesday so he could go fishing with Jim Jennings on Wednesday and then return to Santa Monica on Thursday. Mr. Kelly and Jim both represented a lot of what Balboa Island was about in 'the good old days'.

When I first met Mr. Kelly he told me he just wanted a rent check once a month and a Christmas card. Not being one to let a relationship languish like that, we became great friends. And Mr. Kelly added taking me to the Park Avenue Cafe for lunch every Tuesday to his regular schedule. I loved the restaurant and the great 'home cooked' flavor of the food. We would have the same thing every week - me the Park Avenue Melt with no Onions and he the BLT.

Mr. Kelly was a lawyer and I could be one - so there was plenty of talk. It was then that I learned that sometimes older men lose the 'censuring ability' we have in gentile talk and say embarrassing things about sex and other topics - loudly - it made for interesting and unusual lunches to say the least.

After Mr. Kelly died I met Mike and we continued to go to the Park Avenue Cafe on a regular basis. I do not like to cook so sometimes we ate there almost every night. Mike loved the pot roast - just like mom used to make. In the summer he had to remember to make a reservation on Wednesday night so he could make sure it was still there when we got to the restaurant. Mike's other favorite was the Eggs Benedict on Saturday and Sunday morning. Me, I love everything - especially the Fish and Chips. We have friends from Vancouver who come and tell us how great that is, even though their part of the world has great fish and chips too.

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner - the Park Avenue is just a few houses down from me and the food is consistently good and nutritious. Probably because the owners, Bill and Denise Hardesty, eat there themselves every day. And normally there isn't a long wait - waiting isn't something I do well. It used to be on Monday nights we had the added bonus of seeing Dean Koontz and his dog Trixie there - but all things change and that hasn't happened lately that I know of.

Last night we went to the Park Avenue and had a fabulous dinner. Recently I told Bill I missed the 'chicken chardonnay' that he used to have and he called me on Thursday and said the cooks bought the grapes necessary to make it. In addition Mike's 'steak and lobster' special was on the menu. So off we went with my niece Myria who is a vegetarian and enjoyed a fabulous plate piled high with vegetables and rice and a great bottle of California red wine. Add the wonderful warm rolls and a great salad and we were all happy when we picked our cat Magic off the patio where he consistently loves to beg for food and walked the few steps to our house.

Thanks Bill and Denise and Kiley and Cindy and Christian everyone who takes care of us. Thank you Mr. Kelly for introducing me to "the Park" and to all my friends who congregate there. And a giant thanks to Bill and Denise for the Gift Certificate which made last night possible. Your timing could not have been better!!

Since their restaurant is my favorite we give gift certificates to the Park Avenue Cafe to our Island Flooring Clients as a "thank you". And last night we got a wonderful "Thank You" from Bill and Denise and Kim in return. You guys rock!!!!

I love Balboa Island - the people and the business owners and everything about it, and that is why I live here and why I have had so much fun with

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Balboa Island is Not Balboa Peninsula

I have owned and operated for approximately 15 years. Since my friend Summer Bress had to relinquish her ownership when she was pregnant with Nigel and Mathilda. I mentally thank her every day when I update the website and when I get an inquiry from someone who wants to know about Balboa Island.

The most common questions I get are "when do the boat rides open?"; "what time is the Ferris Wheel open?" "When does the Catalina Flyer leave for Catalina?" and how much are the rentals on Balboa Island on the Ocean Front. As you can see I spend a lot of time explaining the difference between Balboa Island and Balboa Peninsula.

Balboa Island is an Island in the middle of Newport Harbor. We are 90 percent residential with two small commercial areas. One is Marine Avenue and the other is Agate Avenue. Marine is really an extension of Jamboree Road. Jamboree crosses Pacific Coast Highway, goes down a hill, crosses the Balboa Island Bridge and voila - you are on Balboa Island's Marine Avenue. Two blocks of shops and restaurants. Everything from the Famous Sugar and Spice where you can get a Balboa Bar and Dad's Donuts where you can also find the same thing. There is an ongoing debate as to which location "invented" the Balboa Bar. (And I think there were contenders on the Balboa Peninsula at one time - which really mucks things up!) Included in the retail Mix are apparel shops like Persimmon Tree, Even Sisters and Alex's and CandlEssence my favorite candle store. All these and more can be found on under "What's on the Island".

Then there is Agate. We have our restaurant here - the Park Avenue Cafe, Agate 108 where cottage plates originated and Island Flooring/Island Style. There are plenty of services on Agate - a Spa, a dentist, a computer tech, a chiropractor and coming soon a facialist. Agate is also where the Ferry lines up to go to the Balboa Peninsula and the Fun Zone. The Peninsula is where the ocean, the pier, the Fun Zone, the boat rentals and the Catalina Flyer all reside. Along with other shops and restaurants.

I am not familiar with too much on the Balboa Peninsula because, although it is only a Ferry ride away, the demographics are quite different. I jokingly call Balboa Island "Leisure World by the Sea" and the Balboa Peninsula is a much younger crowd and contains an area called the "war zone" where most of the resources of the Newport Beach Police Department are consumed.

As Newport Beach becomes more visible through tv, movies, newspapers and magazines I am sure the confusion between the two areas will go away. Right now I do spend a lot of time telling lost souls that, "No, the rides and the ocean are on the other side of the Ferry ride :)". You are actually ON Balboa Island right now - take a walk on the Boardwalk and enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Living on Agate has many benefits. On a regular basis we are visited by unusual cars Santas on Motorcycles, movie stars and car clubs of all types. Sunday was a beautiful day after a week of rain and the line was long. And in it there were a group of MGs. I love MGs. When I was in high school one of my friends had one and we used to run around in it and tear up the beach. These drivers were a bit older, but were having just as much fun.
Patti, my assistant, asked me why they were there sitting in the "forever line". I assumed that it was because it was a nice day and a fun place to park and talk with a bunch of like minded friends waiting to take the short hop over to the Peninsula. I did go out and ask though.
The couple I talked to was extremely friendly. The woman had a friend in high school who owned a 1952 MG just like the one her husband was driving. She and her friend used to come to the beach and cruise. I mentioned that it might be a "boy magnet" at that time. "Oh yes," she replied, "Especially if we opened the hood about 3" and said 'I don't know what is wrong - there is a strange noise!'" That really attracted a crowd of young men willing to help. I wish I had thought of that when I was a teenager!!
The MGs all belonged to the "Vintage MG Club" and were on a cruise to our Island across to the Peninsula, through Huntington and on to Sunset Beach. Just a nice, fun Sunday drive which they shared with us.

Just a reminder - the latest edition of the Island Breeze can be found at Wilma's, Hershey's, Island Flooring, and Barney's Barkery. We will be hand delivering it this week. And I apologize for the typos - my proof reader was sick and it definately shows. It is amazing how many times you can read your own writing and not see the errors of your ways.

Special apologies to Damon Burris and Mike McClure of Island Lights - they are ready to lighten your house for all your summer activities. I love the houses that have their white twinkling lights in the trees!!! Call them at 949.307.8613 and 949.903.9018.

The Island Breeze will be uploaded to WITHOUT the errors today.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Social Security

I am 63-1/2 years old. Recently I said to Mike I would be 65 in a year an a half. He replied, "I never thought I would be with a woman who was 65 years old. I actually never thought I would be 65." Who does. Who actually FEELS that old. I would love to hear any thoughts on that. Some mornings I get up and I feel 12. Some mornings 25. And then there are the mornings when everything is stiff and sore and I feel more like 85!

Speaking of 85. I was trying to explain who Anderson Cooper was to Mike last night and I 'googled' Gloria Vanderbilt, his mother. I had missed her recent book - "Obsession" - an erotic semi-autobiography. There was a picture of Gloria at 85 - I hope I look 1/10th as good as she does. What really gave me hope was the fact that she released a book at 84! I am working on mine - slowly. So maybe I will finish by 84!!

I have wandered again. Back to Social Security. Lately I have been reading a lot of articles about how the system is broken. How we need to buckle down and cut future benefits and tax the workers more or the system will fail.

No where in any of these articles did anyone mention the fact that if Social Security money had been set aside and "invested" - even in lowly savings accounts or Savings Bonds or Government Bonds - and not touched by our politicians for their pet projects - it would be fat and sassy and ready for us. We put in enough money. It would have grown. Even without the risky investment types that the Bush administration was touting for us INSTEAD of Social Security.

And why are the politicians still pushing for the much more risky model of investing ourselves. Because they have done such a horrendously terrible job of managing our money. The money could be there for us if they hadn't spent it - on other things - and on their own 'rock star' life styles.

In all of my life I have never seen the attitude that is pervasive in our country now. With Democrats and Republicans - with everyone I talk too. There is a disgust with our leaders and a feeling that they have nothing in common with us. They don't. We are just 'peasants' to them. You may have a lot of money, but you really have nothing without the power that is their drug.

As I say every day, "we need a new set of morons." People who care about this country and have no ax to grind or pet project to push. People who have no ties to the pharmaceutical industry or large corporations and banks and brokerage houses. I read about a new book I am going to read, "Where are the Customer's Yachts?" A Good Hard Look at Wall Street. (I am trying to get the Newport Beach Library to order this book) I am sure that will reinforce my opinion that "gambling" with my Social Security money in the hopes that it will make up for the politicians wasteful ways is a giant error.

What does this have to do with Balboa Island - these politicians are affecting the lives of everyone here on Balboa Island and everywhere. I hear, "I don't know what is going to happen in this country," every day from our residents. And these are the people who you would think were "rich" and didn't need Social Security or other government "aid". I know older residents who are collecting Social Security and unemployment just to survive.

I am still grateful - Sun and warm weather is coming this weekend - Daylight Savings time is Coming March 14!!! And I am still expecting the "March Miracle".

Saturday, March 6, 2010

ATT and Great Customer Service

All my myriad of followers must wonder what happened to me the past few days. I have had Internet problems. Big Problems. I Could not stay on the Internet. To me this is the ultimate frustration. Not just because of this blog - but my daily living, it seems, revolves around the Internet.

I wake up and read my Horoscope and my daily reading. I play a little Farmtown. I answer e-mails from and my six other e-mail addresses. A lot of times people want to know information about the Island. Does the Ferry run all the time - is it the only access? What is there to do? What time does the Fun Zone open (there is a lot of confusion regarding the difference between Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island). Lots of questions, lots of answers. Lots of fun. It is my answer to TV - I prefer interaction.

Every night my Internet was going down. Around 5 or 6pm after Tom Stanton my IT guy across the street had left for the night. So every night for weeks I got on the phone and called AT&T and talked to their technicians. And every night by the time I actually got a person on the line - the Internet was working again. It was quantum physics at work - if I paid attention to the net itself - after a certain period of time the dynamics changed and the net worked. Or, maybe there was a ghost in my DSL.

Now, I don't know if AT&T has a way of tracking my calls, but the level of competence of the technicians increased with each call. The first young man suggested I got to Wal Mart and buy and new modem. After that I got various suggestions including several that perhaps the lines get overloaded in our area around that time of night. Each technician tested my lines - in many ways - and found them in great condition. At least I got some answers in all this. I cannot imagine how many hours I have spent on this particular problem. I do wish AT&T would turn the volume down on their advertising on the "hold" function. I had to turn my cell phone down as low as it would go to keep from being blasted with the same drivel over and over and over and over again.

Last night I called twice. During the first call the Internet resurrected itself although I talked to a very nice young woman. During the second call I got "ED" - who tested and tested and then had me move disconnect wires and change things and we FINALLY determined that it was the router - not the modem. Not AT&T's problem. But Ed had a suggestion for me. Go to Best Buy and get a 2-Wire Router and he would call me back today and in 15 minutes I would be up and running again.

Now I would rather walk on hot coals than drive to the South Coast Plaza area where Best Buy is located. I prefer stores within golf cart range on the Island and hate traffic. I had a router I had purchased at for $20.00. A Belkin router. I took a chance and this crabby old lady spent 45 minutes with a patient young lady from India and we got the router up and running. There were a few finer points that Tom fixed today so that all the printers were working, but in general we did a great job. Now all is well in Internet Land - and Mom is happy again.

Mike kept telling me to ignore the problem and "just go on to something else when the Internet is down." I replied, "OK - as long as I can unplug your TV during that same period of time and see how that works for you." Ed thought that was pretty cruel.

The bottom line is. Great customer service can overcome a lot. A company is only as good as the people who interact with the customers. If I had stopped with the young man who told me to buy a new modem at Walmart - when it wasn't the problem - I would still have a negative image of AT&T. Instead I talked to several women and Ed - all of whom enjoyed really helping people. That is what customer service is all about. And I have a much better opinion of AT&T than I did a week ago.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Today I would like to share a letter that came to me through for publishing next month in The Island Breeze. My neighbor, and good friend, Debra Levin sent a copy of this testament to the character of the people who live on Balboa island. It is how I see them as well!!

A Heartfelt “Thank You” to my Balboa Island Neighbors

There are many reasons I love living on Balboa Island - the quaint charm, interesting architecture, wonderful weather, beautiful views and proximity to everywhere I need to go. But most wonderful of all are the people who live here and care about this community and its residents.

About 2 months ago, during some VERY windy weather, I was planning on going to the bank with some deposits and had put my checkbook and signed checks in my back pocket while finishing errands around the house. I live on South Bayfront, so this included moving the garbage cans in the back alley. I finally got ready to leave for the bank and my checkbook and signed deposits were gone. I looked everywhere unsuccessfully and had to start organizing to call companies to get checks cancelled and new ones issued.

To my amazement, I got a call from a neighbor I’d never met telling me he had found my checkbook around the corner and had dropped it in my mail slot. Soon thereafter, another neighbor I’d never met, stopped by with most of the paperwork I’d lost, which she had found in the street a block over from my house. And ,a little after that, a third neighbor I’d never met stopped by the house and dropped off the final missing signed check she’d found blocks away while walking her dog.

These people all went out of their way to do a real kindness to another resident that they didn’t even know. They are heroes in my book and the best example of why Balboa Island is the greatest place on earth to live.

I thank them all for being terrific neighbors and a shining example of the quality of people that make up the residents of this wonderful island.

Robert Levin

ThinkExist Dynamic daily quotation