June 11 – 13
Our three nights in Los Angeles would follow a familiar pattern, visiting old haunts, seeing good friends, maybe a bike ride or two and best of all, an obligatory dinner at Paco’s. And that is pretty much how it went, a lot of it old news to those who follow this blog. With one exception that is, a slight detour on the way to Wildomar to connect with someone I’d not seen in at least forty years, a former neighbor Steve.
Growing up on Wade Street, two miles from Venice Beach, in the 50’s and 60’s was idyllic. On our block alone, there were around seven families with kids our age and Steve, living two houses down from ours with his sister Becky, was one of those. He is a year or two older and along with another older boy, Carl, ruled the neighborhood, playing a large role in the lives of my brother and I.
We parked in the lot of a small mall and as we prepared to enter the restaurant, a Country Kitchen, Steve and I spotted and immediately recognized each other. Ninety minutes later we’d covered forty years or more of experiences and left with the good intention of staying in touch. Personally, I’ll find it easy to do; old friends are worth the time and effort to keep close. Those dividends can’t be quantified like money but hold the same value to us as individuals.
For once traffic was merciful as we cruised into West Los Angeles and we pulled up, as usual, to stay with Ron at his place, near the Santa Monica airport and not far from our house down the hill (the family home, rented out these last ten years). We’d do Paco’s that night and then Joanna and I would get in a short bike ride in the next day, on the bike path along the beach turning around near the Hyperion Plant (L.A.’s waste processing facility).
Our stopping point coincided with a hang gliding launching point, one used mainly for training and we paused briefly to watch a man get set up and then take off, a short ride down the bluff to the sand below. On the way back to Ron’s we rode up to Rose Avenue, turned right and made a stop at the Jeni’s shop there for another cup of two flavors. This could get to be habit forming.
Later that day we’d head over to Heather’s apartment for dinner with her, a nice change from our customary routine of meeting at a restaurant. We’d met her through our bike club, Marina del Rey Cycle Club (MDRCC), when we lived in Los Angeles and have had many memorable moments with her, particularly the multiple Thanksgiving holidays we spent camping at Death Valley.
The next morning, we met her near Venice High School (our alma mater and Jessica’s) for a ride down the bike path. This one would be my longest since my knee injury, almost 29 miles, and it felt great to be out there, pushing the pace, feeling good for the first time in a long time. Normally we would have ridden down to Redondo Beach and hit a joint there we’d frequented over the years, Catalina Coffee but were informed they’d closed up shop, so instead swung off the path in Hermosa Beach to stop in at a new place to us, Java Man.
This was a cool place with a funky vibe and we enjoyed a sit and a chat outside in the bright sunshine of a beautiful Southern California morning near the beach. We rode back, and I felt great the whole time, bidding farewell to Heather at Venice Blvd and Albert Kinney. Later, after getting cleaned up I went out to run a few errands and to stop in for one more hit of L.A. Mexican food at another old standby, Campos Burritos in Santa Monica.
I ordered the one taco combo (taco, rice and beans) and soon found myself approaching nirvana as I demolished the beef taco fried in the shell, lard based refried beans and fluffy Spanish rice. I returned to the house and we killed time before heading back to Santa Monica and the Enterprise Fish Company to meet friends from my UCLA days.
We were there to celebrate the approaching retirement of Debra, who had reported to me for twenty years and ran the Student Government Accounting department, a function we both felt the greatest fondness for. Along with her were Irma, another of our accountants and longtime friend Irene, who’d worked with and for me supervising our maintenance and project management function and with whom I ridden and hiked many miles.
Irene and her husband Ric had hiked the Ludwig’s Way in Germany in 2002 with us while Joanna, her and I had backpacked the north rim of Yosemite together. And the countless biking miles make for memories not soon forgotten. Heather, Ron, and Linda would also join us, but the star of the evening was Debra.
Enterprise has a great Happy Hour, one we’ve taken advantage of a number of times and tonight would be no exception. It seemed like we consumed at least one of every appetizer (upon examining the bill, it appears we almost did) and multiple Mai Tai’s were demolished. It was a great way to finish up our time in Los Angeles and to salute someone who made my twenty-five-year run at UCLA one of the best experiences of my life.
We were a true team, each person’s strength’s offsetting the other’s weaknesses and together we provided UCLA’s students with the resources and services they needed to run their government, produce their activities and deliver community service to the region. None of us can go back in time, but if I could, I’d be back in my office working out a sticky problem with Debra knowing we’d get it right and best of all, share a laugh about it.
Country Kitchen: http://www.countrykitchenrestaurants.com/
Java Man: http://javamancoffeehouse.com/
Enterprise Fish Company: https://www.enterprisefishcosantamonica.com/