Friday, June 19, 2015
LAX/HIV 2: Pasadena comfort Food
If memory fails me not too badly, the first restaurant to which Frank and I went together was Service Pharmacy, a drug store with a soda fountain in Jonesboro. We thought we were very sophisticated, ordering salads with that orange 'French' dressing. The salads came with fancy crackers, and cherry phosphates to wash them down cost only two cents. Also in Jonesboro we liked to order hot roast beef sandwiches at the art nouveau Greyhound station. By the time we could drive, Berry's Truck Stop had become our favourite. It had a slight b-movie tinge if one squinted just right. During the years that would follow, we both explored a much wider range of restaurants than had been available in Jonesboro, and Frank's range was much wider than mine. Prague and Paris trump Chicago and New York--at least on my budget. Frank's budget also was much larger than mine, at least for a while. He worked for I think Estee Lauder before starting his own business, buying and importing 'essenses' for cosmetics and such.
By my second trip to visit Frank, he was living with aids in a Woodland Hills apartment because he had been forced to sell his West Hollywood house for medical expense. The apartment complex did seem like something from 'Under the Yum-Yum Tree', one of the movies we saw at The Strand, a movie memorable to me because of Dean Jones' shower scene. On that visit we went on an adventure. I drove his Peugeot 504 to take him and his mother for what would be his last 'hike', in Topanga Canyon. We reminiscied about our earliest hikes, in the canyon of Christian Creek in Jonesboro. It was a short hike, Frank tiring quickly. But before we went back to the apartment, he wanted to take us to his favourite restaurant.
It was Beadle's Cafeteria in Pasadena, on old Route 66. The interior reminded me somewhat of Service Pharmacy in its salad days. Frank explained that after returning from buying trips to essentially exotic locales, he liked the comfort food of Beadle's. I am easily able to convince myself that he chose a hot roast beef sandwich. I'm pretty sure that Rena, his mother, and I chose fruit salads. He ate very little, and said he needed to go to the restroom. I offered to go with him, but he assured me he wasn't that tired yet. He was wearing a jaunty yellow sweater that might have been Dean Jones' in 1963, a classic that matched the decor of the cafeteria. The restroom was upstairs. Rena and I watched him slowly climb the staircase, involuntarily touching hands as we offered them to help him in his feebleness. But soon he returned, more jaunty than ever, with the sweater around his waist. He did not sit down, but asked whether I would mind paying the bill. He had soiled his pants. Back home in Woodland Hills, I helped him clean up and get into bed. He had been spending as much of the day as he could on the couch. That would be our last trip out together.
On subsequent visits, when I usually tried to cook something especially wonderful and edible at the apartment, he would insist that I take the Peugeot out and have a little time in the city. So I would pretend to be a Californian, driving out Sunset past UCLA, going faster in the curves by the university than really felt comfortable in the 504, to the beach in Santa Monica, then up to Malibu and across the Santa Monica Hills on the 23 back to Thousand Oaks. I would always remember a time when Frank and I were about eleven, and were riding our bikes around the corner of Matthews and Vine in Jonesboro, talking about how soon it would be and how wonderful it would be when we could drive.
In about 2005, I went back to Los Angeles and Pasadena, this time in a style-less Honda. Beadle's had closed. I was not tempted to drive the Honda fast past UCLA.