I didn’t get home till 10:30 last night because somewhere after the Camarillo grade, I felt that hot water in mouth which is the harbinger of puke (or so I thought, but J says that’s not what happens when he’s going to puke). I pulled off at Santa Clara, the big auto mall, and drove for what seemed an inordinately long time before finding anything open. Costco, Sport Chalet, Petco and a host of other closed box stores line that part of Oxnard before (if driving North), you hit Rose Avenue.
That part of Oxnard could be anywhere in America, box store heaven (Walmart, Target, JoAnn’s Fabrics etc.) except for the clement weather and ubiquitous palm trees. I couldn’t find a Starbucks or Coffee Bean off Santa Clara and finally parked in front of Teppan House. People were eating but they do not serve after 9PM. I wandered this empty lot (which J felt was less than safe) until finding the Olive Garden. I told him I was going to the Lobster Garden because there was a Red Lobster and in fact when I entered the Teppan House, wanting some tea and white rice, I thought it was Red Lobster, another restaurant down from the dealers.
I have never been to Olive Garden and it was very nice and the service extremely good. I sat at one of the bar tables and felt like Alice in Wonderland because the stools are poorly designed and either your knees are in your tits or your legs are dangling uncomfortably. I got some coffee and a bowl of minestrone. The menu said it was 100 calories, though its position that a bottle of wine is 650 calories rather than 600 and a 9 ounce quartino glass–how awesome is that?–230 calories seems off to me by 50 calories and thus I am not sure how reliable their calorie counts on the menu really are.
J said the salad is very good as are the bread sticks. My New Jersey “sister” goes there with her husband and son and they love the mozzarella sticks I think. I must say it looked perfectly adequate and everything seemed fresh. There are wines from 6.75 to 8.75 and my cheap Pinot Grigio once I got some soup and coffee in me and no longer felt like puking, was quite good. It was Italian, a Cavit I believe.
Minutes after I sit down, a darling family with a mother and father in their late 20s I would guess, with a white-haired grandma with a ponytail and absolutely adorable baby boy (15 months I soon learned) sat in the booth next to me in the bar area. He was eating Goldfish-my boyfriend’s son could live on these and J gets this gigantic box shaped like a milk carton at Costco–and just so cute you couldn’t stand it. He was blonde (sort of a dirty blonde) with green-blue eyes and this smile which truly lit up his face. He didn’t speak, not even that adorable gibberish babies often do before they begin to form words, but he danced and did “the thing with his eyes” and had more personality than a substantial majority of adults you meet in everyday life.
Seconds later, I hear the Mom say, “Tristan….” I said, “His name is Tristan?” I had already told them my boyfriend’s son, 8.5 years old, would be perfectly content to eat only Goldfish, Top Ramen, butter noodles, and Gushers. He likes “inside steak”–his name for steak not overcooked as his mother apparently cooks it, explaining his delight around 4 or 5 when the grandparents moved from Houston and he said, “This is inside steak!” He meant that the only edible part of his mother’s steak was the inside, slightly pink. To this day the family calls it inside steak and they had it last night but I wasn’t there. T is the cheapest child to feed. At Outback, the kids’ burger (which I get not to save money but calories and I sub the salad for the fries) is 5 bucks and he gets a Rootbeer. T isn’t big on soda or dessert though he does love Drumsticks and plain croissants, which J gets him on the way to school at Jeannine’s.
We ended up chatting a lot and when the parents left, I gather to smoke, as it would be weird for a mom and dad to go to the bathroom before the food came together. Only girls go to the bathroom together, in my experience. The grandma asked if I was feeling better. I was a bit pale and the server thinks, when I began to talk through possible causes of this nausea, I got sick from too much Powerade. I stopped at the Sepulveda and Moraga gas station for something to drink and ate no dinner (late sushi at Noma around 3PM), just this large bottle of the Fruit Punch variety.
I said I felt much better and it was such fun to see Tristan (their Tristan) and that I texted my boyfriend and upon learning the baby’s name was Tristan as well, he wrote back, “No WAY! Did you tell them about my Tristan?” The mom said that she knows a Tristan, 30, and I shared that J’s sister Jessica has a sous chef in Champagn-Urbana at her soon-to-be-open Big Grove Tavern also named Tristan but that it was not a common name when I was growing up. The grandma asked if the chef was Japanese because she thought I had said or meant “sushi chef,” when her daughter-in-law explained what a sous chef was.
She was a bit confused about where I lived, even without the New York or East Coast part of the story, and I reiterated that I live 10 or so days a month in LA with my parents, where I drive and hang with Dad, and that I spend the balance of the month in SB. She said, “God bless you” and told me her mother died at 80 , very recently, of ovarian cancer and that as much of a pain as it might be driving back and forth, I would be happy I had done it when he is gone. I said to her that I love living part-time in LA and that he’s not sick, just unable to drive or see well enough to read. I said that Mom had recently retired from a rigorous job and that now Dad has both his girls hanging around. For obvious reasons, I left the Hilma part out. Like everyone I meet, they were shocked at my advanced age (which I told them because they couldn’t understand why a woman who looked like me would have a father pushing 90) and the grandma said, “God bless you” a few more times and teared up, the grief from her mother’s death still very raw.
And she said, “You can’t get them back when they go to Jesus.” I smiled and said thank you and then Tristan threw up as he had gotten his hands on the lettuce in the salad just brought by the lovely server , there six years , with kids who love the breadsticks as well. I brought her an extra cloth napkin from an empty table and wished her a good night and said goodbye to Tristan, this bundle of personality and joy, and was so glad I nearly threw up and had to stop into the Olive Garden. We don’t have one in Santa Barbara and there would be no reason to go to an Olive Garden in LA, on top of which I have never seen them so they must either not be anywhere in WLA or else, somewhere by National or Overland or Venice which is only “West LA” in the sense it’s not the Valley. I forget where the technical borders of WLA are.
I find it sweet when people say they pray for Dad or me or whomever. Of course I’m an atheist but it’s always meant in a kind way and I had no need to explain to this lovely 60ish woman with no mother now my views on religion.
I ordered a 235 calorie mini-dessert of limoncello something or other. I will have that with some coffee and head to the gym in a little while. It’s a cloudy day and I’ll be good and put the sunblock from Tahoe on, some hardcore skier block. They were such a sweet family. The father worked at Red Lobster for awhile and had a very unpleasant incident with a manager whose details I didn’t catch but they were trading war stories. J and I go shooting in Oxnard and it’s a county as different from Los Angeles as Orange County but of course OC has very affluent areas and Ventura County is only affluent by the beach, that is, literally on the water. There are quite pleasant areas in Moorpark and Newbury Park. Thousand Oaks has some really expensive real estate which if in WLA or even good parts of the San Fernando Valley would cost double. But Oxnard is quite middle class and some parts are less than that.