I was 19 and on a train for my first California trip. It would be one lovely summer to care for my cousin’s small son and fix breakfasts on weekdays. Evenings and weekends were mine to do as I pleased and I had use of their car if needed.
Whoopee! How could I refuse. It took 2 or 3 days of travel from Ohio. I don’t remember much of the railroad travel. I do remember my first meal in California however! I was picked up at the LA Union station and taken to my cousin’s house in San Fernando Valley. There I found a dining room table set with a tablecloth, cloth napkins, wine glasses, and candles. I had never seen that in a home before!
The food was even more amazing to me. She had made a salad which we ate first, then out came a prime rib, whole baked potatoes with sour cream and chives, tender crisp green beans, and wine. This was all new to me! I never experienced any of this at home and neither had my cousin before she moved here some 8 years before.
At home, we used tablecloths only when there was a really big event. And no occasion seemed good enough to warrant taking out the silver! Wine was the homemade Italian variety to which we kids could have a watered down version. Baked potatoes? Nope, we had cut potatoes roasted with olive oil and rosemary and all green vegetables were cooked to limp states. This was different!
I was a goner and I hadn’t been here for one full day yet! Then each week I experienced a different restaurant. Dinner in Los Angeles gives you many choices: Polynesian, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, French, Seafood, Mexican, Lawry’s Prime Rib, too many firsts to remember them all. Then the trips to Disneyland, the beaches and parties with my cousin-in-law’s nieces.
I saw Man of La Mancha with Jose Ferrer at the Ahmanson, Camelot at the Valley’s Theater in the Round with Robert Goulet and the LA Philharmonic at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. First we had an extremely elegant dinner in the Grand Ballroom on the 5th floor restaurant with more silver in the formal place setting than I’ve ever seen.
I watched my cousins closely to learn what to use when. I can still see that room in my mind’s eye: our table covered with glassware and silver next to huge high windows with gold drapes over sheer curtains, magnificent views of LA, waiters in tuxes, beautiful dishes, everyone dressed in elegant dresses, men in suits. The food was fine eating although I was so overwhelmed I don’t remember what we ate.
After dinner, we went down to the concert after passing those magnificent chandeliers, the marble, the mirrored staircases and all those elegantly dressed people. Back then, there were fur stoles and coats.
My fate was sealed by the end of summer. There was only one place for me to live after I graduated from college. That was California. I earned my airfare to fly my first flight ever back to Ohio, crying the whole way back. Fears about flying running rampant, my only regret should the plane crash, would be that I couldn’t come back to California again. At that point, I had had the most wonderful time of my life ever.
Has that ever happened to you? You visit some place and realize this is where you want to live? Where was that for you? What was that like for you?