Tuesday, April 01, 2008
I have now had two consecutive perfect parental visits. After Ma's bravura performance last month, Dad came in and knocked it out of the park. Pop said he wanted to eat tons of good food on this trip, and I think we accomplished that: Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, Vermont, Farfalla pizza, Thai food, Neptune's Net, Allegria, Grandma Baird's cheesy potatoes, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
On Wednesday, as we were about to begin our perfect drive up to Ventura County, an elderly lady with a flower in her hair knocked on the passenger's side window as we sat at the stop light at Hillhurst and Franklin. "Are you going straight?" she asked. I was about to inform the nosy frau that the gentleman sitting next to me was only my father when I realized she was referring to the direction of our travels. "Uh, yeah," I said. "Could you give me ride, at least up to Vermont?" she said.
I thought about it for about three seconds, which is all the time one needs to decide whether it's advisable to allow a strange woman into one's car in the middle of Los Angeles, when I said, "Hop on in!" She did, just as the light turned green. I asked her where she was going, and she said she was catching a bus in Hollywood, so I agreed to drive her up to Highland, since this is where we were heading anyway.
Now, I hold the opinion that if someone invites herself into my car, many of the normal rules of civil conversation fail to apply. So for five minutes I peppered this sweet woman with question after question about her life. Pop mostly looked out the window, quietly mortified at what his firstborn had wrought. Here's what I learned:
She was heading to an Armenian church near Universal Studios to see about selling some paintings either by her mother or once owned by her mother. She moved to New York from her native Lebanon in the mid-1960s and then to L.A. in the 1980s after her business was robbed. She has no one anymore, except for her church, her city, and her God. Every morning when she wakes up, she has a new perspective on life. There's nothing that she doesn't feel in her skin. When I told her that I let her into the car because she seemed trustworthy, she said it was evidence of a strong spiritual force inside of me. She wishes Dad were her dad; she misses her father very much. She has a strong handshake. She didn't steal anything out of the back of the car.
Dad and I are avid fans of synchronicity, so we had a good laugh when we heard Chris Webber was retiring. We were at the NBA draft on the day Orlando selected Webber and then immediately traded him to Golden State for Penny Hardaway. Fitting that the Gaines boys were together again when news of Timeout's departure from the game hit.
The rest of Pop's visit was anchored by the basketball tournament, which was largely disappointing save for that wonderful Davidson-Kansas game. We banged around Hollywood one day, helping his co-worker's son with a homework assignment, which had us taking pictures of a paper doll of the kid next to landmarks. Another day, we returned to the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, which we had visited two years ago but had to leave early because we had Dodgers tickets. If you've never been to the museum, you must go, and make yourself sit through the entire presentation on Geoffrey Sonnabend's Obliscence: Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter.
The last day was a first for the both of us: We attended Margaret June Hudson's baptism. Maggie performed like a champ among a group of about 10 babes on the first baptism held at the immense Our Lady of Angels Cathedral in downtown L.A.
Afterward, we partied down at the Hudson compound in Glendale, snacking on ham rolls, meat balls, cheesy potatoes, cake, and fruit salad, all lovingly prepared by Diane Baird (and don't forget the barbecue chicken served up by Red Stripe beer's newest fan, Bill Baird). After we said our goodbyes, Dad and I headed back to room 309 of the Best Western Hollywood Hills, where we finished the trip by eating peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and watching basketball highlights.