You Too

October 28, 2009

As I mentally check my list of firsts (first autumn, first Thanksgiving, first trip to Fresno….without my mom), it was impossible for me to ignore the significance of this past weekend. This was my first trip back to CA, and my first opportunity to be with any of my mom’s family since the memorial service last summer.

Last spring, my cousin Victoria had offered me a ticket to see U2 play at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. My mom’s situation was rapidly becoming very alarming around that time, and the concert wasn’t until October…but I agreed to go anyway – U2 is kind of an iconic band for my generation, and I figured that I might be needing something fun to look forward to….and as it turned out, the trip became a great opportunity to try and reconnect with my family (as well as to see an epic concert with my cousin).

When I arranged for the flight from Dallas to LA, I first asked my grandmother if I could spend the night before the concert at her house. She generously agreed, and I was happy to learn that as word of my visit spread, several relatives arranged to make time to come by and visit at my grandmother’s house as well: Irene made dinner for us all, and Lydia, her husband John, my cousin Josh, my grandmother and aunt Mague all came together for a great meal at my grandmother’s table.

The next day, Lydia and I took my grandmother to church at St. Benedicts in Montebello. This is the same church where my parents were married 41 years ago. Of course, I wasn’t present on that day, but as I stared at the marble steps at the altar where I’ve seen pictures of my mom and dad kneeling during the ceremony, I could not help but think of my mom as a young bride, and how my parents must have felt on that day, on those marble steps.

After church, we joined my uncle Joe and his family, at La Playa Baja…a Mexican restaurant that seems to ooze “Montebello nostalgia” for me. Even the “way-too-loud ranchera music” playing on the juke box.

Although I had been looking forward to this visit to LA, as I said, it was well-defined in my mind as another “first”. And as with any first-time experience, there was a sense of anxiety associated with walking into this realtime “time capsule” of my mother’s life:  Her home. Her mother. Her family. Her neighborhood. Her church.

The whole time I was there I could only imagine how hard it must be for my relatives, and especially my grandmother to see me, my mother’s son. This was their “first time” too.

After breakfast, we all returned to my grandmother’s house where we sat in her backyard – that same backyard that hosted my parent’s wedding reception, and admired my grandmother’s roses, sago palms and citrus trees. We all sat there enjoying the warm, Southern California morning together for quite some time.

 This was the day of the concert. Now, I can probably count on one hand the number of concerts that I have been to in my life, so I can’t establish a very reliable comparison for you. But the concert was HUGE! Buses shuttled people to the Rose Bowl from Old Town Pasadena for HOURS before the concert. Lines to get onto the shuttle, lines to get into the stadium, lines to buy a soft drink seemed endless.

But Victoria had everything planned. A hotel room at the Langham (formerly the Ritz Carlton Huntington) not far from the Rose Bowl, concert tickets, shuttle tickets….all we had to do was strategically navigate through the city of Pasadena which had essentially been hijacked by concert goers that day.

Once we found our seats, I realized that one of my mom’s favorite bands and singers would be opening for U2 – The Black Eyed Peas. It was hard to suppress the urge to call her and let her know that I was gonna see Fergie.

The concert was amazing. The structure of the stage was a like a spaceship….with a central tower held into place by four long spider legs that held huge banks of speakers. A cylinder of flat screens was at the core of the tower. The flat screens could be massed into a single cylinder at the base of the tower…or the screens could separate into a web descending all the way down to the stage. The stage itself was circular, with VIP seating all around it, and then there was a second ring-shaped stage that the band could access via bridges that extended over the VIP seating.


While I was not crazy about some of the newer stuff that U2 played, it was definitely worth all of the waiting in lines to hear some of the older stuff that I used to listen to in high school. The whole stadium seemed to have a religious experience during the guitar entrance for “I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For”….in fact, Bono didn’t have to sing much of the song at all – he let 100,000 fans sing it for him.

It was very interesting to sit in that crowd. U2 has been around for decades, and the crowd represented a huge diversity of people. One guy, who had to be my father’s age sat right in front of us smoking something that I am told smelled very similar to an illegal substance. But I hear that sorta thing happens a lot in California.

After the concert it was nice to retire to the down pillows and mattresses of the Langham. The next morning, Victoria and I went to breakfast near Old Town and then I drove her in my rental car back to her house before heading off to LAX for the return flight home.

The last time I had visited Victoria, she was living in an apartment in West Hollywood not far from Cedars Sinai where she works. But she recently moved up into the canyons, and although she had described the place to me several times, I could not quite picture it.

Her house sits deep in the canyons above Los Angeles, not far from Lancaster. Victoria and her roommate share the house and the property with several dogs and horses and they all seem very happy living in their very scenic landscape.


So my list of firsts was quite substantial this weekend. Though it kind of felt like my mom was with me all along the way. At least I hope she was – she would not have wanted to miss Fergie.



One Response to “You Too”

  1. Howard
    Thank you so much for your written words and rememberences.

    I am not sure why this has been a very difficult week for me. Maybe because I am coming down with laringitis and possibly a cold and I do not have Nurse Chole to tell me to stay home and get better before “I really get sick”. This is my “first” illness without her and it comes with some trepidation.

    Maybe its because Chole’s Saint’s Day is on Sunday. I am not sure what the day really signifies but it was always very important to Emma and Chole. Chole always looked forward to flowers that day sent from Montebello. She would also recall many memories of her maternal Grandmother Chole on that day. Many times we would just go to church and spend 5 minutes or so like Chole preferred with on one else in the church. I know I will make a trip to St Peters and lay some Calli Lillies and have a brief cry and recall some of the moments described by Howard.
    These “firsts” seem to come hard in Fresno as well.

    I hope I get better, by Saturday. I have a soccer match I want to attend. I understand Emma Rose is the best goalie on the team and she scored her team’s only goal last week. I would love to see Emma score her first goal with me on and with Sophia on the sidelines cheering her on. Isaac and Alicia can be there as well.
    I prefer some “firsts” over others.
    Love to all!

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