Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Page 3

Los Angeles brought many "firsts" to our new lives:

Tom's first real job out of college--writing dBase documentation at Ashton-Tate
In-and-Out Burger
El Pollo Loco
Christmas on a beach 
Body builders on a beach
An apartment a block from the beach (where we moved after about five months) 
Authentic Mexican food
Surfing (just Tom--a neighbor named Louie taught him)
Jasmine and gardenias
Smog and water pollution
Movie premieres  
Irish pubs
The La Brea Tar Pits
Massive flea markets ("swap meets")
California pottery

And earthquakes.  On October 1, 1987, as Tom was driving me to work, our car (a used Mercury Marquis we picked up after our other car was totaled) started bumping all over the road.

"What's wrong with this thing?" he wondered as he started to pull over to the shoulder of the freeway. 

At that same moment, we heard on the radio that a 6.0 earthquake had just hit the Whittier area--right where we were driving.  

Being transplants, we had no concept of what an earthquake really meant, and we laughed at how silly we were--thinking it was our car.  I didn't really understand the dynamics of the force until later in the day when I was in the warehouse where I worked and an aftershock hit.  Feeling the floor and walls move around me scared me into a frenzy, and I flew off the loading dock and out of the building like a bullet.  Again, that night, another aftershock shook us out of our bed and apartment, wild eyed and panicked.  I remember my heart beating hard and fast the whole rest of that night.  

We felt many more earthquakes in our years in California, though none as big as the Whittier quake.  When they first start to rumble, you stop and wait to see if it's a "big one."  I guess you sort of get used to them, as I don't recall reacting much to any after that first one. 

I also saw my first unprocessed dead body in LA.  After Tom started his Ashton-Tate job, I was unexpectedly offered a job as an administrative assistant at USC.  My classes were at night, and as a full-time staff member of the University, I could take one class per term for free--a savings of more than $25K over the course of my degree.  So I plugged away at both the job and just one class per term until I earned my full master's degree, nearly debt free.  

At any rate, we still had only one car, so most days, I drove Tom to work, then headed up Figueroa Street to campus, through South Central LA (also known as "Watts"), an area rife with gangs.  (Given LA traffic, this whole morning route sometimes took up to 1.5 hours.)  I felt safe in my car, but one morning, I passed by an area marked by yellow tape just as the police pulled a blanket off a body lying on the ground.  A surreal scene I still remember to this day.  

I don't intend here to make LA seem like a dangerous or derelict city.  It was just so different from where we came--I'm not sure we could've found a more opposite place to land.  At the same time, it was full of original experiences, food, sights, music, and people.  From there, road trips took us to the Mohave Desert, beach towns north and south, Mexico, Mono Lake, Las Vegas, Disneyland, and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.  We met some wonderful friends and enjoyed birthday, New Year's, and Academy Awards parties with them.  We auditioned for a couple of game shows.  We saw a lot of concerts.  And we were even invited to spend a day surfing in Malibu at actor Jack Warden's house (Tom worked with his nephew).  I don't remember much about that day except that the other people at the house--friends of Tom's colleague--were pretty wasted.  

So yeah, LA was an adventure on all fronts.  While we never felt as though it would be a home to us, we were highly entertained by its experience, and we still laugh over the memories. 

1 comment:

  1. I think it's a great idea to write all this down -- for yourself, but also for your kids...
    To me, coming to the US for college was full of first in a very new and different world: I still remember my American friends laughing when I had no idea how to eat a hamburger!