I am supposed to meet poet, educator Jim Moreno this Saturday morning September 17th 2016 for an early Interview and hot breakfast at the Big Kitchen in Golden Hills, 3030 Grape Street http://sandiegofreepress.org/2015/08/the-big-kitchen-in-golden-hill-progressive-san-diego/
Jim and I agreed on the restaurant because of fond memories and its current ambiance. I get there early, and call to check on Jim. His answering machine picks up. Hmmm. Not like him. I pull my jacket around my shoulders and wait outside. It is grey overcast San Diego near fall weather. It is a few minutes after 8:00AM.
Chill San Diego early morning air brings back thoughts of old friends and late Friday nights that always ended up at the Big Kitchen by 8:00AM. Sunglasses guarded weary eyes and covered our youthful irreverent walk of relative shame with a sense of cool. After all . . ."We were just dancing!" It's now 2016, so I wait quietly and take a selfie. Last night, I went to bed early to get enough sleep before the interview. Still wear shades in the early morning, though. Old habits. . .
After almost 15 minutes, I go into the Big Kitchen's side addition. Same old thick cranberry leather covered booths, small tables, comfortable chairs, wall decorations, and counter staff waiting with a smile. I almost cried, so many mornings here. Composing myself, I walk to the counter, ask the cashier if Judy is in yet, and look right. Wow, you could still see the kitchen staff from the counter, a well oiled staff prepping, cooking, washing dishes, checking orders. They seem like clones of former staff from decades past. They exude a family feeling. Since Judy won't be in for about a half hour, I go back outside to wait for Jim.
Jim Moreno is one of those poet/performer/friends with whom I try to keep in contact. He's been ill lately. After 15 minutes more. I call and text. Still no answer. Something has to have held him up. Later I learn that he indeed is ill again and woke up late. Very much NOT like him. No worries! He's a friend and I now know to check up on him more often.
Picking up and opening the thick hand drawn menu, I notice-- same menu with a few new items and prices a little higher. Why not? It's a few decades later. The PA system music Jefferson Airplane? Grateful dead? The Stones? rocks through early morning air. The waitress takes my order. I ask for my old favorite: two eggs scrambled, home fries, pancakes and two pieces of bacon.
Remembering how plump and full these buttermilk pancakes can be, I ask for toast and want both bacon and two sausages. She reminds me that the sausage is a patty and not a small link. I order one sausage patty. A counter patron and I talk about Judy. I tell him how she nurtured me and my running buddies(friends). He shares with me how Judy helped him learn to relax and enjoy life's moments a bit more. The waitress appears from the kitchen.
My food is here fast, overflowing with familiar aromas, especially the home fries: crusty, spicy, potato bliss! Minutes after my food arrives, Judy walks in with a big smile and even bigger heart, taking us all in at the booths or at the counter. Then she floats through and out the front door.
I am mid-meal when she appears from the kitchen and asks,"How about it huh? Motown or Grateful Dead. Which one?" We call out our choices and she disappears again. Motown croons our ears for about two minutes. Then the music changes to a boogie song. Judy emerges again smiling at me. "See, I remembered!"
We take several minutes to reminisce; I get a chance to tell her how much her kind acceptance of us loud, rowdy, half sober-wild-night club-party-till -we -drop disco post-adolescents helped us flow shakily, stubbornly, into young adulthood. We have interacted several times over these past decades and Judy has won much recognition and accolades since those early years.
Today, this Saturday morning September 17th 2016 when memory came flooding in like rushing wind, this time, like so many, I wanted to let her know how special she is.
My parents worked hard to get me to understand how necessary it is to have gratitude for those who God places in your life to help you see potential to become a better you. They shine, these rare gems and share a most precious light.
Thank you Judy!