Lou’s Village is no longer in business, having closed its doors in 2006, but this restaurant down in San Jose will always remain in my memory, having been the setting for the first time that Gluten-Free Mama and I went out together, on January 16, 1981.
Considering this took place 36 years ago, come Monday, I remember it better than I remember most of yesterday, my short-term memory not being as robust as it once was. Besides, from what I remember of yesterday, it was all broom, mop and scissors, so my level of interest is not as keen as it is when it comes to the first time I ever sat across from the person, with whom I was destined to raise three sons.
I remember parking Old Paint advantageously pointed downhill because after our meal, I would have to push-start the old VW bus while GF Mama popped the clutch. She didn’t seem to hold it against me and the reality is that I could have crawled under it and strategically placed a screwdriver across two terminals on the solenoid, and prodded the old beast into life, but the rain discouraged that line of thought.
|Our first date was here.|
I remember the huge aquarium that ran alongside the bar, and how magical the lighting seemed to me, as I gazed across the table at a gal whose smile seemed just as magical. We talked about the Giants, we talked about San Jose State and we talked about AT&T, not Park, but Corporation, for whom GF Mama worked.
What I remember most though, was talking about Bell Springs Road. By 1981 I had been making $67.00 monthly payments on twenty acres, for six years, almost halfway through the thirteen total years I would make that payment.
$67.00 wouldn’t even come close to paying my internet bill these days, let alone a parcel of Paradise. We couldn’t know then what the future would bring, but one look in her eyes was all I needed to know that I’d like to be standing beside her, when we opened that package.
Ironically, I had not been up north to Mendocino County, up on our property, since a flurry of building had produced three cabins, on three different parcels, by three of my brothers. I was still speaking of the twenty acres as an investment, with no set plan on migrating north.
I was halfway through a master’s program in English, and nothing was in the works until I had accomplished that goal. Nonetheless, it was one thing to have twenty acres “somewhere up north” and make nominal monthly payments on it, and quite another to be talking about moving up north and into a tent.
Besides, until I met GF Mama, I had no reason to think about pulling up roots, anytime soon, and moving by myself up to a strange new land. That all changed when the two of us journeyed up to Bell Springs in February, and stayed for a weekend.
The reality that one could build a small home, and then add on to it as time and money allowed, had never occurred to me. Of course, prior to this point in time, I had never even driven a nail into a board that meant anything, in my entire life, let alone built a house.
There was such a prevalent sense of community up there, with one another helping out, from picking up the mail in town, to constructing ferrel cement tanks, two of which were being plastered that same weekend that GF Mama and I were visiting.
So yes, we put on our best concrete clothes and participated in plastering the already prepared cement slab, rebar and steel mesh conglomeration, that would be transformed into a ten thousand gallon water storage tank. Altogether over the years, we built four on various parcels, the 18,000 gallon tank at my brother Tom’s spot being by far the largest.
So as we sat and chatted across the table at Lou’s that night, my thinking started to shift from rafting lazily down the river, to hoisting the sail and directing my vessel in a northward direction. So much so, that only four months later, I packed up Old Paint, hugged GF Mama tightly, and headed up to the land the same day I got out of school.
For the next twelve weeks, I worked construction in Brooktrails, where I helped build a spec house from foundation through sealing it up for the approaching winter. My brothers and a neighbor did the finish work after I left for San Jose; again, one day I was up in Mendo County, putting on a roof, and the next, I was sitting in a classroom.
During that summer, GF Mama traveled seven times up to Bell Springs, to help me work on our own little cabin, and once, I went down to San Jose with one of my brothers, primarily to get engine parts for Old Paint, the first of several times I had to do serious engine work on the old hippie bus.
Air-cooled engines and dirt roads are a match made in Auto-Parts-House Heaven. I not only wrote the book, I published it, paying for it with engine rebuild kits from United Auto Stores.
Does it seem like 36 years? I don’t know. What’s 36 years here and there among friends? I do know that 36 minutes can seem an eternity, under certain conditions, so the fact that these 36 years have flown by might say something for how I view those fleeting moments.
The moments may have flown by and I may not remember all the particulars, but I do know that my life has been made complete by the love this gal has enveloped me with, and there is nothing a man can ask from life that surpasses that.