sunday dispatch

The fact that I've become close with my best friend's aunt's husband is strange and wonderful enough on its own, I think. One of those unexpected connections in life that keep it interesting. But there's an extra bit of coincidence that kicks things up another notch on the Well isn't that something scale, and it's this: both Bill and Hannah worked where I live, in downtown Los Angeles, decades before I was even born. They frequented places I do now, in 2015.

Hannah worked for the telephone company, both in Los Angeles and further north. You can hear the pride in her voice when she talks about it. From the multiple transfers she was granted to follow Bill as he career took off, it sounds like she was a well-appreciated employee. They tease one another about it now. Oh give me a break, says Bill, grinning at me when she pretends to be overcome by household duties. You haven't worked in ages. Hannah fires back: Well that's because we kept moving around. I transferred as many darn times as I could! Bill, more softly, reflecting: Yeah, but you raised my boys. That's the best thing you did.

As a kid, Bill shined shoes in Pershing Square - one of Chaucer's daily destinations. He lived in Boyle Heights, and a trip to Clifton's Cafeteria - a place I've been many times - was considered a fancy meal on the town. My mother used to dress me up like little Lord Fauntleroy, oh boy. I told him Clifton's recently underwent a massive, multimillion dollar renovation and reopened as a night club; two of its five floors have bars now. The ground floor cafeteria is restored to its former glory, too; I ate there with Kerry and Ross not a month ago. One of these days he's going to have to come visit me so we can go for some meatloaf and jello. And cocktails upstairs afterward, naturally.

Tonight Bill asked if I knew the old Sears building in Boyle Heights. I do; it's a famous landmark seen easily from the freeway. Terence and I would always comment on it, on our way to Whittier Narrows. It's nine stories tall, comprises over one million square feet, and has an interesting history involving Oscar de la Hoya's childhood (facts I Googled on the drive to Whittier Narrows). The full name of the building is the Sears, Roebuck & Company Mail Order Building, a mouthful that calls to mind flipping through catalogs as child, laying on the floor in my dad's den. There was no greater thrill than a package from Sears, circa 1980, in my home in St. Joseph.

Well, Bill used to work there. Back from the service, a fresh-faced twenty something, he got a job filling the exact sort of orders our parents used to place, pre-internet. Clothing, toys, appliances. He told me about the chute that ran down from the top floor to the basement. About how workers would scurry around, wrapping up dolls and bicycles on one floor, toasters and tools on another, and send them down the chute for packaging and shipping. Some of them - including Bill - even wore roller skates to get around quicker. We'd go whizzing around, every once in a while you'd plow into someone, though... He laughs, remembering.

You can't hear these stories and not feel an instinctive longing for simpler, sweeter times. Then you remember that no time is ever really simple, or all that sweet. Still.

Anyway, that was my favorite story from today. There was another fantastic one, told over wine and cookies after dinner, involving a broken ankle and a cake pan...but I probably wouldn't get any more wine and cookies if I told it.

I can hear the rain starting up. We knew it was coming this week, and it'll probably be going strong until I leave Wednesday. It'll probably cancel the boat trip with Woody, and maybe also the full moon night hike he and his wife invited me to join them on. But I can't help loving it. I've taken more leaf-peeping photos and videos than I could ever want, and seen every inch of the lake I can get to on foot. Some quiet time in the house reading will be nice.

I almost forgot: tonight we're having Thanksgiving dinner. Yesterday morning when I heard Bill ask Kim to bring up a turkey from the downstairs freezer so he could brine it, my jaw hit the floor. I knew exactly what he was up to. Bill, I scolded. You didn't. Please say you didn't get a turkey for my sake. I stopped there, just thinking the rest to myself. Because you know I'm not going to have much of a Thanksgiving this year. You know Terence will be with his family and my usual Thanksgiving crew will be gone. That's when he and everyone started claiming they cook a turkeys all the time. Except this evening there'll also be stuffing and cranberries, and Woody's bringing a pumpkin pie. So I'm not buying a bit of it. Not one bit. These people can pretend their hearts aren't as big as they are, but I'm no fool.