The next few days would hold more of the same activity, getting together with the many friends we still have in the Los Angeles area. Ron and I met up late morning on Wednesday and had an enjoyable nearly forty-mile bike ride down to the fountain at Malaga Cove. The day before I’d done a leisurely 25 mile ride retracing my former bike commute route up to UCLA, scoping what had and hadn’t changed in Westwood and on campus. I rode back to Ohio and then cut up through the VA to get to San Vicente, which I followed down to Ocean Avenue, turning south and riding all the way to Washington.
I stopped briefly in front of the apartment that Rendy spent part of his high school and college years in, his Mom’s place on Ocean Avenue (yes, another Ocean Avenue) near the canals in Venice, working my way back to Joanna’s Moms house. It was a good ride, not a hard workout type of venture, more a see the sights type of cruise.
Ron and I made good time down to the fountain and on the return stopped at Catalina Coffee for some caffeine and a bit of fuel. A nasty bit of headwind hampered our progress north but we eventually made it back to the start, finishing up a hard but very good day on the bikes. The plan for the evening was to meet long time friends, the Bickhams (Sheila and J.B.) and the Temkin’s (Jan and Evan). One set lives in Chino Hills and the other in San Clemente so we would meet at the Lazy Dog Café in Huntington Beach, about the same approximate distance between all of us.
When folks ask us about how we like Charlotte and if we think we will stay now that we have stopped working, assuming the draw of the west coast and Los Angeles to be strong enough to pull us back, I just mention the ninety minutes it took us to drive the thirty-nine miles down to the restaurant that evening. You stay on the 405 the whole way and it is five lanes wide including the car pool lane, which we qualified to drive in. Two years ago it took us two hours to drive the forty miles to Chino Hills. This is not a high quality of life.
After moving to Charlotte I realized that just about everything I needed in Los Angeles was also available to me there and I could now get to it in half the time with less hassle. We now see more live music in a year than we did in five in L.A. with easy access to the other things that make our lives go. Charlotte is a friendly town and we’ve found ourselves settled in with folks we now call friends, as many, if not more than we left behind in our old neighborhood. So for now, Charlotte will do just fine.
As always, dinner with this close group of friends was joyful, particularly given the medical maladies J.B. and Evan both faced last year. It’s moments like this that make you thankful for what you’ve accomplished and what you can still reasonably expect to do. Fate, and its handmaiden health, can dash even the best-laid plans. I’m going to keep doing while I can.
Lazy Dog has a diverse menu, but curiously five of the six of us ordered a Cobb Salad. During the meal Sheila asked that we consider that the annual gathering of the Cisco’s (J.B., Doug, Evan, Rendy, and myself) also include the wives this time. A challenge was put forward and accepted. Planning will have to take place. Teeth will be gnashed. Favors called in. It could go well or end up in disaster. Only time will tell what will transpire but I can safely say that with this group, regardless of the location it will be a memorable journey.
The drive back to the west side went quickly, as can happen in Los Angeles. When the freeways are open and uncongested, the distances you can cover and the places you can see are overwhelming. Too bad its only a few times a day. The next morning I prepared for a day of re-connecting, driving up to Westwood to park in the UCLA lot at the corner of Wilshire and Veteran. My first stop was a brief visit to the bike shop I frequented the most when living there, Helen’s Cycles. I said hello to Gilbert, who runs the service department, and is the only person left that I know after these many years.
I then walked through Westwood up into campus, a lifetime (twenty-five working at UCLA) of memories and associations tugging at the corners of my consciousness. I’d contacted a number of the folks I’d worked with, those that hadn’t retired like myself, and made a morning at ASUCLA, catching up my former boss and people that had reported to me. When I’d ridden through two days earlier on my bike, the memories were tinged with a nostalgic glow; this time around I viewed it all through the lens of my seven years away, the new life we’d developed in Charlotte and the many things I’d been able to accomplish there, all because we took a leap and moved across the country.
I ran out of time in the morning and had to quickly walk back down through the village to Palomino for lunch with Debra and Frieda. I’d known each since my return to ASUCLA in 1985, having supervised both, Debra the longest as one of those key individuals whose growth as an employee and our continuing friendship will remain one of the brightest spots in my life. Frieda recently retired as well and now is a successful entrepreneur, a much-appreciated cook at a local fraternity.
After lunch I bade them, and Westwood, farewell for now and returned to the house to wind down a bit before venturing up to Rancho Park to meet Heather and Ron for drinks at a new beer pub on Pico a little east of Overland, Steingarten. I arrived before the others and ordered a beer from their thoughtful selection of drafts, and soon thereafter Heather appeared. It was a beautiful Westside evening, mild temperatures prevailed and Heather suggested we take advantage of the conditions by sitting outside on the patio next to the fireplace.
Ron joined us not long after and we spent a couple of hours eating (they have a very good happy hour, their house made sausages available for five dollars or so), drinking, and staying warm near the fireplace. Ron’s girlfriend Linda joined us and it became a night like so many before with this group, laughter, reminiscing, and planning for future fun. I’m thinking it could be Death Valley at Thanksgiving as we’ve done many times in the past. Yet another trip to plan for. Life doesn’t get any better.
Catalina Coffee: http://www.catalinacoffee.com/
Lazy Dog Café: http://www.lazydogrestaurants.com/
Helen’s Cycles: http://helenscycles.com/