I am doing the A-Z challenge; today’s letter is G for Grand Avenue.
As grand as it sounds, Grand Avenue was actually just a block-long side street, approximately a mile down the main drag from San Jose State University, in downtown San Jose. I moved into the upstairs floor of this little duplex, in November of 1980. I had spent the previous year, living first in a big house on the south side of San Jose, with my sister Laura, sister-in-law, Charley, and Charley's two daughters, Katrina and Rochelle, and the previous month or so, in a house owned by my sister JT and her then-boyfriend, Ken.
I had never lived in an apartment or home by myself, but after more than a year of no dating or seeing anyone socially, I had decided that the time had arrived. I figured I would be better off living by myself, than living in a home with others, so with JT’s help, I started looking for a suitable apartment.
The place on Grand Avenue was perfect, with one bedroom, a bath, a living room and a kitchen. It was probably built in the thirties, or thereabouts, and it was a cozy little spot, with an upstairs balcony that ran across the front of the apartment, with room for about fifty or more plants in pots, all more than capable of surviving in the mild San Jose climate.
Looking down from the balcony on the next door neighbor’s back yard, I could see the most beautiful ornamental garden I had ever laid eyes upon, complete with night blooming jasmine, which filled the night air with the most exquisite scent imaginable. I always thought, should I be lucky enough to ever have a daughter, I would have liked to have named her Jasmine.
I had just spent my first Christmas of my life by myself, and was taking stock of my single lifestyle, when the sister of a guy at work, happened to drop him off out front of United Auto Stores one day, because there was some sort of transportation issue. When I asked him how he’d gotten to work, he said his sister had given him a ride.
“Joe?” I asked, “Is she good-looking?”
Looking at me as if I’d just asked the stupidest question in the world, Joe replied, “Hell, she’s my sister. How would I know?”
When Joe’s sister arrived back at United that afternoon, promptly at five, Joe was still out on a delivery run. When she walked into the store, and up to the counter, I asked her if I could be of any assistance. A woman, let alone a pretty little thing like this cutie, was a rare event in the Story Road complex, which housed an auto parts store. Men frequented this business, usually grease and grime-encrusted men, with short tempers and caustic comments.
“I’m here to pick up Joe,” she said, demurely, giving me such the fleeting, come-hither glance, while I tried to calm my pounding heart.
“Oh, you’re Joe’s sister,” I exclaimed, wondering to myself why Joe had been hesitant to tell me what a stunningly beautiful sister he had. I figured I was a good judge of these matters, and hastened to invite her back, behind the counter, where she could wait more comfortably for Joe.
“Why don’t you come back here, Joe’s sister, where you can wait? I’m off work, so I’ll just wait with you until Joe gets back. I’m Mark, by the way.
“Oh, I figured that out already.”
“Why’s that?” I asked, surprised.
“Because he’s always talking about you. Oh, by the way, I’m Ann, but everyone calls me Annie.” she replied, and we carried on our conversation, around the side counter where the dealer trade took place. Having gotten off at five, I could afford to relax and take in the view.
When Joe returned, Annie and he soon departed, but not before I had culled her phone number from her. I called her the next day, and asked her out to dinner at a local restaurant, and she accepted. The thing I remember most is telling Annie about the twenty acres I owned in Mendocino County, and how fascinated she was. The thing Annie would remember is the fact that after dinner, she had to pop the clutch on my '62 VW bus, while I pushed it.
The rest is history. We saw each other every day for a short period of time, long enough for her to locate an apartment of her own, and move out of her parents’ place, and then we began spending the majority of our time in that little duplex on Grand Avenue.
I was in the first year of masters work at San Jose State, and it was the most incredible time of my life. One of the first things Annie did for me, was to listen to a tale of woe I told her about receiving a B+ in an English class, when I was certain I had earned an A.
“What you need to do,” she had advised me, “is go back to Dr. Hagar, and tell him what you just told me.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because, that’s what you do when there is a mix-up with grades,” she explained, as if it were the most common thing in the world.
“You don’t understand. Dr. Hagar is not a warm and fuzzy kind of guy. He just isn’t the sort of professor who makes this kind of mistake.”
“Listen to me-just do it.”
And she was right. Dr. Hagar looked as though the earth had just moved when I told him why I was in his office. He produced his grade book immediately, and told me he was certain that the grade he had given me was correct.
“But,” he added, “I shall double-check.” Mumble, mumble, he ran his finger from left to right, checking each of the entries with a clearly restrained motion. “Well, there does seem to be some sort of mistake,” he concluded. “It seems you do deserve an A. I’ll notify the school office, and have them change their records, and send you a copy.”
And that was that. I was jubilant as I told Annie later what had transpired. “Let’s go out to celebrate,” she suggested.
And we’ve been doing that ever since, celebrating life together for more than thirty-two years. Annie was right. I just needed to do it, and all would be well.
Grand Avenue, I miss you. You were the start of it all, and with the fragrance of night-blooming jasmine in the air, you ushered in the best time of my life. I can’t go back to that magical time-nor do I wish to. I just need to continue to listen to Annie and all will be well.