61. A Surprise For Dave!

Those days, after more than a year in San Francisco I began to feel like I stepped into suspended animation once again.  I concluded my life wasn’t moving forward.  True there’s always various options one could look into; these eluded me in that moment of my existence.

I found myself just hanging around and not doing much apart from work and roaming the city.

It was roughly a little more than a week after that first trip into the Los Angeles area when I realised this young man from the Fiji Islands was craving the warmer climate of southern California.  You’re surely not surprised are you?

By the end of the 2nd week I had given notice to my employer.  Leaving the hotel restaurant in good standings as well, I offered to stay with them till they replaced me.

Autumn was definitely in the air when I bought my one-way ticket on the Greyhound bus and headed down to Los Angeles.  I got off the bus at the Santa Monica station.  After a little searching I found myself a motel room for about $2.75 per night.  This was on Wilshire Boulevard in West Los Angeles, a nice place to be.

I would stay there for about a week.  Settling in the first thing for me to do was take a walk.  I returned to the room feeling relaxed.  Turning to the pages of my little notebook I refreshed myself on a couple of goals.

Before I left home my brother had suggested I carry this with me at all times as it would prove really useful.  “Write our home address in it just in case you suddenly feel like sending home a postcard,” he told me.  The first Palm Pilot right?  

One of the things on my to-do list was to try and find a treasured childhood friend, made through the mail.  Yes I’m talking pen pal here.  It sure would be nice to meet him face to face.

I inquired with someone as to the location of the address.  Go close to Overland and Pico someone said.  “This street you’re looking for will cross Pico Boulevard and then you’ll make a right turn.  From there it may be another mile or so,” another friendly face told me.

Someone else said to take a bus and go towards Rancho Park Golf Course.  I was directed east.  Well there was no shortage of people willing to give me directions.

Once I finally arrived in that neck of the woods I popped into a local business asking for continued directions, just to be sure you know.  One man in this little store told me, “If you’re walking it’ll be a ways.”  Well I was prepared to take the walk that might lead me to a childhood friend;  this was my only plan for the day.  

Eyeing me out of curiosity I think, he continued, “First there will be a golf course, don’t worry the street will give way into a residential area.”  A couple more directive words and I was set.  Thanking him I left his shop and began the longest part of my journey.  

And once I made that right turn I passed the golf course everyone seemed to mention.  The road started to slope a bit and then it went up again.  I began looking at the house numbers.

I had walked and walked but as I was taken in by the the layout of the neighborhood I didn’t really feel the distance.  

At last on my left hand side I came upon the address I’d been hoping to find.  It was a wonderful white painted, single story home.  So there it was, the actual home of my un-met friend, my pen pal of years past.  

I stood silently there for quite some time wondering what I should do now.  A hundred thoughts raced through my mind … what if?  What if it’s the wrong address?  What if the people inside think I’m a bad person and shriek in fear?  What if …?

I finally pressed the doorbell button.

It must’ve been nearly 3 minutes before I heard anything besides my own heartbeat and that was the click of the door.  Well that certainly was enough time for my nerves to be in more of a spin than they already were.  

A beautiful lady cautiously opened the front door and only slightly at that.  “Can I help you?” she said.  Stunned – I said nothing for a moment.  I wanted to say, ‘Mom.’  I was beginning to feel all too strange but I pushed myself to say something,  ‘I am looking for my friend.  This is the address I’ve got for him.’

“Who’s your friend, have you a name?” she asked me with the door still ajar.  I nervously replied, ‘Dave? David.’  Her eyes grew bigger yet she was listening to me in quiet thought I suspect.

I bravely continued to speak, ‘My name is Parma and I’ve come from the Fiji Islands and now to Los Angeles to meet him …’ and then my voice sort of trailed off.

She turned her head slightly towards the inside of the house and said in a louder voice “Honey! Dave, come here!”  Soon the door was opened a bit more and a young man was looking at me with the same wide-eyes (apparently he was recognizing me from the earlier photos I had sent to him in our communications).  

He said with a brightly lit face, “Mom!  This is my pen pal Parma!  We used to correspond when we were so much younger, remember?”  Instantly her face showed immediate relief and the door opened wide.  ‘I told you Dave, someday I will come and meet you.’  

I was practically rustled into the house with overwhelming affection.  Only once did his mother call me by my name because after that it was, oh honey this and honey that and on and on and lots of hugs too!  Imagine how the questions flew around in all directions that afternoon.

And when his dad came home, his surprise was worth a thousand dollars as well.  He had entered the living room simply expecting the normal evening when his eyes fell upon me.  “Who have we here?”  

I stood up right away and Dave taking the cue also rose and immediately introduced us. “Remember dad how I used to correspond with a kid in the Fiji Islands years ago?” Dave asked his father.  

Mr. Elson looked thoughtful for a few moments and then his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree, just like Dave’s had earlier.  He couldn’t believe it either.  This family truly welcomed me and yes, before dinner was even finished, I was asked to call them only mom and dad.

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Parma (that was a nickname Dave used with me and I absolutely cannot seem to remember how that came to be).

60. No Matter, I Love San Francisco

© Golden Gate -signedSomething changed inside of me but at the time I didn’t realise this.  I loved San Francisco and I continued to enjoy being there.  I made a point to walk the Golden Gate Bridge for leisure with a thousand thoughts racing through my mind like the choppy ocean below.  

One of those swirling emotions was in regards to Noori.  By now I had written to her a few letters.  Of course I could only mail them to my family home and trust that my sister or mother would be sure to give these to her.  But you know I never, not once received a reply.

Down the road a ways I heard many tales of what happened in her life since I left.  It’s really quite saddening because I couldn’t help as a lot of us do, to think, ‘what if?’  

It was around mid-summer when I changed jobs from the Italian restaurant and through the Union I moved uptown into a position in a very nice hotel.  There was a lovely American restaurant on the rooftop level, the 17th floor as memory serves and well, that was a good experience to have.

I left the Italian joint under very good circumstances.  They were all too happy to provide me with a letter of recommendation as well.  It had been a good relation; roughly 6 months of employment and all good memories.

Even though I am not able to recall the name of that beautiful hotel now, what I remember most about working way up there is how much I always enjoyed the view, oh the view!  

By now you should know how much I absolutely loved watching all the ships coming and going through the Bay.  And at night I would be mesmerised by the lights on the Bay Bridge.  What a treat as far as I was concerned.  Very nice.

Back to my new position.  The food in this establishment was top notch, spread out in a delectable buffet.  The selected dishes were of excellent quality and the clientele definitely had the wallet affording to pay for that phenomenal view.

I was quickly flowing with the hotel restaurant staff, customers and management and yes I’ll admit it, I was loved.  I made an hourly wage and kept my own tips and really good tips they were!  I stayed employed here about 4-5 months.

I still enjoyed the occasional ‘joyride’ on the cable cars, heading out to the turnaround point at Market & Powell Streets.  I loved helping turn the car and waiting for people to climb aboard for the traditional thing to do in San Francisco.

When some friends and I would head out to Fisherman’s Wharf, we were going not for the fish but for what we thought was the best pizza and ice cold beers.  Saturdays however were reserved for crab eats!

I’ve been living in the city for all of the seasons now and winter was once again setting in.  It would be cold earlier than later and I remember my friends and I walking around the city and always realising ‘suddenly’ that it was so cold!

We would pop into an inviting coffee shop, plug a nickel or three into the jukebox and enjoy a hot coffee or chocolate to the sounds of Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin, Elvis, Patsy Cline, Frank Sinatra, well you get the idea.

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58. Someone Is Really Watching Over Me

Keeping quiet wasn’t too difficult for a while longer because I was making a decent take-home wage between the two restaurants.  Eventually it would resurface, mainly in wondering what I could do about it.

In the meantime winter had passed and spring was in the air, mild as it was but that’s the city by the bay for you.  It was now April and much to my surprise Bill and Jack wanted to celebrate my 24th birthday there at the restaurant.

Wow!  They suggested I could call over a few friends if I wanted and we’d all make a good time of it.  How generous; perhaps it was a stroke of appreciation for helping their business to grow.  Either way it was very nice of them.

Now down the road a ways there was one particular man (let’s call him Sam) who came in a couple of times and he did seem to enjoy exchanging dialogue with me.  We spoke casually and he managed in conversation to get some information from me about my working conditions.  I thought absolutely nothing about it.

Sam started the first time we met by asking me a little about the history of the restaurant.  There was no yarn spinning here, I shared with him what I knew.  That was about the sum of it.

He then returned the next week.  Sam remembered my name and in greeting, he told me he had enjoyed the food last time and then from a friend he had heard about the ‘Jadoo’ stating it’s what brought him back in.

I took his order and then brought out his appetizer basket and a glass of  ‘Jadoo’ he was intrigued.  I told him I am the one who introduced it to the owners.  In the course of the evening in between servicing his table and the others in the dining room -I am the only server- we talked a little about me.

He enquired a little as to my personal history, what brought me here and how did I end up working in this little Indian restaurant.  When pressed for time believe it or not I can tell a piece of the story briefly enough!

Anyhow the chat led to how was I doing for pay; was it enough to live off of?  Sam didn’t seem to think it would be.  Here’s where it got sticky though I didn’t realise how sticky it would become.  

I told Sam straight up about our agreement, the one between Jack, Bill and myself.  Business certainly had picked up but the promised set wage had not yet begun.  ‘And to top it off, they are taking half of my tips every night,’ I plainly said to Sam.

His mouth fell open in surprise no doubt. “It’s one thing not paying you a set wage, you knowingly agreed to that but to actually take money from you?”  Sam was clearly upset. “No, no, this will never do!”  I felt a little comforted knowing that someone else beside me didn’t approve of it.

All of this discussion took place during a few rounds between tables of course.  Sam knew I was allowed a meal every shift and that’s alright but they, to not beat around the bush, were stealing from me.  He seemed as though he would make sure I didn’t stand for it any longer.  

“I say Blue, go to the Union and see what they have to say about this.”  I hadn’t told him I was already a member, see I never gave much thought about what the Union really meant for me.  And even after he mentioned this, I quietly listened to his opinion about the whole thing.

Over the next couple of days, still going in to work of course, I pondered the whole thing over.  At last I made the decision to go into the office.  First they asked me to show my Union member card which I had safely tucked into my wallet.  “Okay let’s get started!”  

I gave the initial summary of why I was there and shortly afterwards, I was taken into a back office.  There the full details surfaced based on the questions I was asked.

I was told not to speak of my visit to the Union to anyone and not to worry about anything.  “You did the right thing addressing the issue to us.  We’ll handle everything from here.”  a Union representative assured me.

He also told me that a field agent would be visiting the establishment to observe.  I of course wouldn’t know this person from Adam and that was just fine by me.

Confident that I did the right thing, I returned to my normal days and nights.  Also I was very glad and most grateful at least I had the other job where there was a steady, reliable wage and I did pretty darned good in my daily tips.  Another perk was I was fed both breakfast and lunch at the Italian joint.

Best as my memory has served me, it was about a week, maybe 10 days before a change was noticeable.  One evening as dinner was close to the end, some men came in and went back into the kitchen. The big and small of it?

Bill and Jack were told the restaurant was under investigation under the Labor Department and would be closed until further notice, pending such investigation and its findings.

They would wait till all the customers had left and the restaurant was closed immediately thereafter.  A sign was pasted up on the window facing the street, stating such but without personal embarrassing details.

This was my last night there too.  Honestly though I had felt just a little sad that it all had to go this way.   This is also the one night Bill and Jack didn’t help themselves to half of my night’s tips.  I was safely sent out into the night.

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