December 20 – January 7
The lead up to our trip to the west coast for the holidays would be convoluted; we’d end up changing our flights twice, incurring painful re-booking costs, all ultimately worthwhile as it gave us extra days with folks we like. The last change bumped up our departure to the Thursday before Christmas and flying into Los Angeles instead of San Diego to attend the wedding of a Kim, a longtime friend of Jessica’s and her betrothed, Kourosh.
The day before our flight, Jessica called me with some concern in her voice, asking if I had looked at our Airbnb reservation in Culver City to begin the next day? I thought I had but upon closer examination it became obvious that it had been made for one week following our arrival, a snafu caused by checking out availability, then exiting the program, then re-entering a few days later after confirming dates with all involved and not realizing that the dates had reset for the following week.
This could explain why there seemed to be so many fewer options for lodging than when I had first checked, the following week and weekend being the run up to New Year’s Eve. I quickly logged on, canceled the original reservation (with Airbnb, never ever pick the strict cancellation options) forfeiting only the service fee and with a new array of choices available, selected one much better than before, this time, the Quiet, Contemporary Garden Refuge, a two-bedroom house (the cancelled reservation had been a one-bedroom apartment) in Culver City for about the same amount of money.
This would be the first of a couple of occurrences that we would casually refer to as Christmas miracles, ones where luck intervened in our favor. We arrived at LAX, picked up a rental car at Hertz and drove to the house, pleasantly surprised at its location near the old Helms Bakery, its spacious layout, and unique décor. Jet lag hit us that evening and so crashed early instead of trying to get out to see people we know. This would be the story of the next couple of days for me, battling with fatigue because of the time zone change.
We had breakfast the next morning with our former Mar Vista neighbors, Marylin and Jason and caught up on happenings in our old neighborhood and within our respective families. Later in the afternoon, while Joanna went in search of a yoga session, I walked over to the Helms Bakery building to stop in at Father’s Office, one of the first of the craft beer bars in Los Angeles when they opened their original location on Montana in Santa Monica.
Helms Bakery was a long-established fixture in our community; their unique cream-colored vans making a pass through every neighborhood once a day. If you needed something that day, be it bread, pastry or a donut, you’d put a sign up in your front window and they would stop.
When you went out to get your selection, the driver would slide out one of the glass fronted wood drawers so you could view the donuts and nine times out of ten you’d buy one. Or Two.
Once or twice during my elementary school days we took a day trip to the bakery to view the operation, its giant mixing bowls and ovens to produce the goods, the assembly line where they were wrapped and made ready for the delivery trucks. At the end of the tour we’d get a goody and a paper pop-replica of the famous van. That would always be a good day.
So, I sat and drank a beer at the bar of Father’s Office, remembering the first real accounting job I got, in 1992 working for an insurance agency attached to Bill Murphy Buick which was located just a few blocks away, handling sales and all of the office bookkeeping.
I worked for Ed Girardin, who had been a long-time corporate officer at Helms before the bakery closed, taking up insurance to tide him over until he could retire, not likely to happen anytime soon as he and his wife spent money like he still pulled down a big salary at Helms. I’d leave after a couple of years to pursue my undergraduate degree full time and Ed would later get into trouble with the Insurance Commission, pocketing premiums instead of sending them along to the companies he supposedly issued policies for. A very sad story.
Joanna joined me right around my second beer and we sat in that warm glow one gets in anticipation of good times to come, Jessica and Kris due to arrive from Oakland later that day and our planned rendezvous with them at Paco’s for the style of Mexican food we crave.
We’d wash it down with pitchers of Cadillac Margarita’s, I’d get my favorite Paco’s Burrito (chili relleno, lettuce, and beans in a flour tortilla topped with cheese and a superb sauce), Jessica her usual Carne Asada and all would be right with the world, not a bad way to start our annual holiday west coast visit.
Quiet, Contemporary Garden Refuge: https://www.airbnb.com/trips/v1/cd64ad3f-7af8-436b-98b5-cc864775b137/ro/RESERVATION2_CHECKIN/HMBFKQK89P/g
Helms Bakery: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helms_Bakery
Father’s Office: https://fathersoffice.com/