California, this is our story — Chapter 3

We had a short stop in Chicago, and we debated whether we should disembark.  The rules were that you had to take all your belongings with you.  There were friendly fellow passengers who (probably) would have watched our stuff, but there is that voice that booms over the loudspeaker at regular intervals “Keep all luggage within your view at all times:  Do not accept any luggage at any time from someone you do not know!” and so we decided to just stay put.  We were both kinda’ hungry.  The banana and bottle of water had long since been digested, and the airplane only serves beverages.  I usually get a tomato juice if I can, because they give you the whole can, but they don’t even give the token bag of pretzels or peanuts any more.  Nope!  Just something to drink, unless you want to buy something.  That is rather daunting, too:  $6.79 for a cold cut “breakfast” sandwich, and $10.00 for the cold cut sandwiches that they consider “dinner”  (those come with chips.)  However, though the selection would have been better inside the airport, the prices wouldn’t have been, and then there was the hassle of getting back on again.  We decided to stay put.

Once in the air again, we decided to buy and split a breakfast sandwich.  We were so hungry, it was good!  Dry, except for a slice of not quite ripe tomato, no mayo, no mustard, no nothing, but still wonderful to our hungry tummies.  We settled in and went to sleep after that, and before we knew it, we were landing in San Diego.  We were actually early, and until we got our luggage, Lena was at the curb, waiting for us.  She offered us her car, as she was going back to work for a few hours, but we decided that we wanted to go to her apartment, unpack, and maybe take a walk, acquaint ourselves with the sights and sounds of her neighborhood, and find some lunch. It was only 10:30am San Diego time when we landed, but it surely did feel like lunch time to us (it was 1:30 pm, our “back home” time.)  We did a quick perusal of the apartment (so cute, so efficient, so completely “Lena-ish!) set a few things out of the suitcase, and decided to go for that walk.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous!  We set out for the apartment and walked a considerable distance, down the street, up across the freeway, down again to another street, and found a subway.  We got a foot long turkey and cheese sub and again, it tasted so good!  We got something to drink that wasn’t water, then ducked into a nearby grocery/convenience/liquor store establishment to pick up a few things.  We picked up breakfast cereal, some eggs and a cake mix and a few things that would make it possible for us to be less of an imposition to Lena.  A cake mix???  Yepper!  There is something about baking something that makes a place feel homey and comfortable..  Lena lives alone, and every day comes home to an empty apartment  We decided that it would be nice for her to come home to a warm, live welcome that smelled wonderful.  The easiest way to do that is to bake a cake.  And so, back we came to her cozy apartment, and set about to find the stuff necessary to bake a cake.  We had bought most of the ingredients, but needed to find a cake pan, a mixing bowl, mixer, beaters  — and a bottle of oil. 

For those of you who don’t know Lena, she is a little person.  She has engineered everything in her kitchen so that she can reach most things without difficulty.  A friend of hers (who was also a little person) had a platform constructed that can be moved without too much difficulty.  It has two steps up to a good size top area and fits right up to the kitchen sink.  It makes it so that the person who is cooking, especially in an efficiency apartment, can pretty much cook, do dishes, and put things away without getting off the platform.  When he passed away, Lena fell heir to this handy device, and it is something that she uses almost all the time.  For regular size people, though, it is not the most convenient.  It is just a little disconcerting to find the kitchen sink at your knees, and your face somewhere plastered in front of the overhead cupboard door.  Lena is accustomed to the fact, too, that you need to get all of the necessary equipment out of the lower cupboards before you start anything, because once this platform is in place, you cannot really access the lower cupboard because it is too tight for the doors to open.  It did not take Daniel very long to decide that while we were in San Diego, we would do the reaching and stretching that needed doing.  He upended the platform and put it back against the far kitchen wall, providing us with two more shelves for storage and made it possible for us to forage about in the kitchen to our hearts’ content.  We found the stuff we needed — except for the oil.  I finally looked under the sink, and sure enough!  There was the oil.  Daniel decided it was time for a nap, and I got the cake into the oven.  Then I worked on a few things on my computer, getting the story down and got the frosting done for the cake.  When finished, it looked yummy, and I was pleased with how it turned out.

We had plans to go to The Fish Market for supper, and Lena came breezing in at the appointed time.  She was incredulous at the cake.

“How did you bake a cake?” she squealed.

“Oh, it was easy.  Just a cake mix!”

“Did you find everything that you needed?”

“Well, we bought most of the ingredients, but I couldn’t find the oil at first, but then I did, so we were fine!”

“Oh, good!  You found my oil down in the cupboard where I hide it?”

“Down in the cupboard?  No, I found it under the sink.”

“Under the sink!!!  Oh, no!   Did you smell it?  That‘s old oil that I use in my candle burning thingies!”

“Well, no, I didn‘t smell it.  It looked okay, though.  I think I would have noticed if it smelled rancid.”

“Well, I can hardly  smell anything, but David (one of Lena’s good friends) brought it over and said that it was old and that it shouldn’t be used anymore for cooking, but I can use it for my candles.  So I put it under there to keep it separate from my other oil.  He is so finicky about oil getting old, and insists that I need to only use fresh.”

“I don’t know, Lena,” I said, going over to cut myself a corner of the cake to see if it was terrible, “I guess the proof is in the tasting, but it certainly smelled okay while it was baking.”  We all got ourselves a sample and agreed that it wasn’t too bad.  To my critical thinking, you could taste something was amiss, but it wasn’t enough to throw it away.  Daniel would eat it with his cereal all week, and Lena would get into it too.  When we left for home on Tuesday morning, there was one piece left.  Daniel admitted to me that he could taste something was amiss, but it wasn’t strong enough to discourage him. 

And then it was time to scramble for the car so we could get some supper before it was too late.  Lena knows the haunts of San Diego like the back of her hand, and she wanted to take us to the Fish House.  This is a nice restaurant that is by the water.  We had a great supper, and the prices were reasonable.  I had grilled chicken breast (Lena doesn’t make fun of me for ordering chicken like some people do —  You know who you are!) and Daniel got seafood. 

The restaurant is right beside a Naval Aircraft Carrier (USS Midway, circa WWII) that has been made into a Naval museum.  Around the outside of the museum are various sculptures and models that have historical significance.  Night had fallen when we left the museum, but the lights illuminated several of these displays.  The one that was most impressive was a bronze, life size replica of Bob Hope entertaining the troops in Viet Nam.  The soldiers stood around in various states of injury — some without a leg, on crutches, some with various body parts bandaged up, and other sad situations.  Bob Hope stood before them, and there was playing an actual recording of his presentation to the soldiers in Nam.  The darkness surrounding the display, with the lighting illuminating it made me feel deeply the ambiguity of the comedy and sadness.  It was impressive!  On the way out there is this HUGE (and I mean HUGE!) statue of the picture “V-J day in Times Square” of a Sailor kissing a nurse.  Wowser!  It stands 25 feet tall, and it was also illuminated by flood lights against the night sky.  Just plain impressive.  Daniel was interested in coming back to see the museum one of the days that we were there, but that wasn’t going to happen.  I think we both would have enjoyed it, but there were so many things to see and so little time, that we did run out of time.

And so, our first day in San Diego came to a close.  We poured ourselves into Lena’s little car, and drove home.  It was late, even by San Diego standards, and our poor East Coast bodies were feeling the time change as well as a long day of travel.  Sleep was so welcome, and plans were to go to Sea World the next morning.  Lena was going to work, dropping us off at Sea World on the way and picking us up on the way home. 

“Maybe we won’t want to stay all day,” I mused as we were discussing schedules.

“There is plenty to see,” said Lena.  “It’s difficult to take in all the shows they have listed on their brochure because they have them all strung together.”

I was still unconvinced — but when I heard that it cost over $70 a piece to just get in, I decided that there was no way that we were going to leave before we saw everything we could possibly see.

“You can call me when you are ready to come,“ said Lena, “and if it is early, I’ll just run over and get you.“

“Never mind,“ I said.  “You don’t need to worry about it.  At $73.00 a person, there’s no way I’m leaving until they throw us out.  We’re staying to closing!“  And so that was the plans.  On to bed we went and slept the night away.  I was so tired, I didn’t even hear when Daniel got up to go on a walk the next morning.  I slept long and hard, and before we knew it, it was time to head out for Sea World.

And that is a story for the next time . . .

4 Comments

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4 responses to “California, this is our story — Chapter 3

  1. Very interesting, eager to hear more!

  2. we ate at the restaurant too…….gorgeous as the sun goes down.

  3. Loved reading about your first day in San Diego.

  4. It’s just so sweet to me that you wanted to bake a cake for Lena.  You’re right – baking does make a place feel homey-er!  I kept trying to picture the stand that Lena uses – I’m nearly 6 feet tall, so it’s hard to imagine needing something like that!  Can’t wait to hear more stories about your trip!

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