My family and I don’t go out to eat often. We usually have one spot for celebrating special occasions. I remember we used to go to a Chinese restaurant in Pasadena but sometime when I was in high school, we found a new place. It was an Italian Steakhouse in Eagle Rock. The restaurant had an old school vibe. There were dark red semi-circular booths, a good sized bar as well as a tiny stage in the dining area where mostly jazz acts performed. A few weeks after finding Colombo’s, we heard an all Filipino band called the Blue Bird Harmony. They weren’t jazz but instead played amazing 1960s/70s covers. They sounded just like America and played covers from artists like Bread, the Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac. I loved it. My father would send us up with money for their tip jar and eventually, we hired that same band to perform at his birthday parties. But I am getting off track. My summer loving story isn’t about the band but about a man that worked there. He was a server where the music and mood seemed to be just right.
He hardly took care of my family when we came in but we would see him in passing. I had never really spoken to him but one night I spotted him off the clock in regular attire at the bar. His sideburns were just the beginning of his Danny Zuko vibe. I remember that night he wore a form-fitting Superman t-shirt that hugged his body and a pair of dark jeans that flattered his ass. Besides cigarettes, I learned he was a straight-edged, Bowie-loving, guitar playing babe. I had recently gone through a break-up and I wasn’t really looking to date but instead working on self improvement. I remember talking about new years resolutions one night at Colombo’s. After overhearing my recent efforts to learn how to play the guitar, he offered me his help. We exchanged numbers and he began to teach me at my community college in a small amphitheater. Despite attraction, we were platonic. It was strictly professional. One day he arrived without his car, explaining he would need to take the bus home. I insisted I give him a ride and told him he needed to fulfill his duties as a fellow shot-gun rider. This responsibility included creative control of the aux cord. I was curious to see what he would play. His for song selection was For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield, one of my favorites. Later Wicked Games by Chris Isaak. He hugged me extra long before we parted ways. The next time we had a session together, we decided to go for a smoothie. It was there in my car, we had our first kiss. I never planned on dating or falling the way I did, it just sorta happened.
He made me feel like a little kid in a candy shop. Time didn’t exist. Just smiles and being close to him. I remember I’d scribble cute notes on the receipts for him during my family dinners at Colombo’s. The rest of Eagle Rock became our playground. That summer before I left for university was one of the best of my life. Some nights we went out on adventures while others we just crashed in his LoveShack, listening to oldies together. That city is full of such beautiful memories with him. I don’t think I could ever look at it the same. I’m not upset about it though. In fact, to this day, I’ll hold to it that he gave me one of the greatest gifts any human could give. He gave me his undivided attention and unconditional affection. That summer lovin. Although we aren’t together anymore, I don’t cry because that summer is over, I smile because it happened.
Comics by Kim Casal