Olive Bread, or What Will Your Friends Remember

olivebread1_550A few days ago, I went to the memorial service of a person I had never met.  He was a friend of Eric’s, an artist, specifically, a neon artist.  It was a beautiful service, not without its sadnesses, naturally.  Also, it was not without its laughs.  It was a short service, moderated by a long time friend, wrapped up with a piano medley of Yesterday, Hey Jude, and Bridge over Troubled Water.  All three of those songs were among my favorites when I was a dreamy eyed, vintage cardigan wearing misfit of a Kansas teenager, but I had not listened, really listened to them in awhile. 

When you attend the funeral or memorial of a person you never knew, you get a picture of them, completely accurate or not, from the stories that are told about the deceased.  I’ve thought about this man, and those stories, several times this week.  And I’m not saying that the story I am sharing is the one the most defines him, this artist, but it’s the story that I thought about most, the stickiest story.

A woman got up to share the story of her friendship with the man we were honoring.  She touched on what they had in common.  They were both neon artists, about the same age, he from Japan, she from China.  They lived near each other in Southern California.   She shared that Kunio was the person who introduced olive bread to her. We all laughed when she said it, that hungry laugh of funerals where, between tears, we can chuckle and breathe, remind ourselves that we are still living.  She had never had it before he served her some on a visit to his house.  And she loved it and she introduced it to her husband and he loved it too. And she said that, even before Kunio’s passing, she thought about him every time she ate olive bread, even more so in the months since his passing.

I sat there wondering what Kunio would have thought about that anecdote.  We live our lives trying to accomplish things, climb every mountain, make a difference, give it the old freshman try, be aggressive, make every moment count, and when we’re gone, we’re remembered for olive bread.  And not even for making it, just for liking it.  Well, for liking it and for sharing it.

Sharing a few slices of olive bread with a good friend on a sunny California afternoon. There’s so much more, there’s always so much more, but that’s really not such a bad way to be remembered, either.

Valley Girl

vgs1I watched the film Valley Girl today. It’s the first time I’ve watched it in its entirety in probably 25 years. It’s not a perfect movie, but I still love Elizabeth Daily as love starved Loryn and Colleen Camp and Frederic Forrest as Julie’s parents and my favorite, Joanne Baron as the teacher who gives perhaps the best monologue in film history as she presents West Valley’s Prom King and Queen. “I remember my prom. I wanted to be queen. I wasn’t.”

I can’t hear the music from Valley Girl without thinking about my own high school years, when the thought of shopping at Sherman Oaks Galleria or eating French fries at Dupar’s or cruising down Hollywood Boulevard in a convertible was a pipe dream. Do I live here because of this movie? If only I’d watched Footloose a few more times, I’d have never left home.

In high school, I had a friend who brought the California to Independence. I’ll call her Cindy. She’d attended part of grade school in Independence, but spent several years in San Diego. She moved back to Independence in the beginning of our sophomore year. She had short dark brown hair, but had a little rat tail that she braided. (It looked cooler than it sounds.) If I recall, as the year wore on the braid grew longer and at some point she dyed it maroon. We formed a friendship over our mutual love of “New Wave” music and she introduced me to her favorites like Depeche Mode, OMD, Bow Wow Wow and Yaz (she LOVED Yaz!). I had a tendency to quiz her about all things California. For the life of me, I couldn’t get it through my head that San Diego was over 2 hours from Hollywood. Do you know Molly Ringwald? Have you ever been to a Facts of Life taping?

Sometime in the winter of that year, February perhaps, Cindy told me in the hall that she was moving back to San Diego. I was heartbroken, and more than anything, I wanted to flee Independence and move to Hollywood with her (I REALLY didn’t get the geographical difference). She told me that someone was throwing her a going away party and then invited me. One important detail which makes me sound totally arrested development-y to even point out: Cindy was popular, I was not. Cindy went to fun parties every weekend, Kansas versions of the ones in Valley Girl. I stayed home and watched Dallas and Falcon Crest or Love Boat and Fantasy Island, depending on the night. I was a little apprehensive about going and I should have been. It was a wild party, several people were drinking (alcohol!) and it made me very nervous. Also, almost no one talked to me. Cindy talked to me a little as did a few others, but mostly I sat in a corner wondering why I came in the first place. I didn’t belong. Late in the evening, there was a commotion. A few guys started shoving each other. They were both drunk and unfortunately, they were also near me. One of the guys, if I remembered his name, I’d tell you, looked at me, and thinking I was someone else, punched me in the eye. When I came to, there were a handful of people around asking if I was okay. The rest of the evening was a blur, I think someone might have driven me home. I don’t remember if it was that night or the morning after when my parents found out about the attack. I wouldn’t have been able to not tell them because I ended up with a black eye that lasted for 2 or 3 weeks. Ah, high school. I actually never saw Cindy again. We wrote occasionally and she once sent me a rad mix tape.

And now here I sit on my Los Angeles couch in my Los Angeles apartment with my Los Angeles life. And when I watch the movies of my youth that called to me like a beacon, “What’s your dream? Everybody comes to Hollywood with a dream,” I think about the 15-year-old boy who dreamed of a life beyond the intersection of Penn and Main. And I’m glad I didn’t feel like I belonged at that party, because if I had, maybe I never would have left. Fer sure.