My family and I don’t go out to eat a lot. We usually pick one place and make it our regular spot for celebrating special occasions. We used to go to a Chinese restaurant in Pasadena. I remember my first date & countless birthdays there. Sometime when I was in high school, we found a new place. It was an Italian Steakhouse in Eagle Rock: An old-school restaurant with red semi-circular booths, dim lighting, a good sized bar and a tiny stage in the dining area where jazz acts performed.
One night, a few weeks after finding Colombo’s, we heard an all Filipino band called the Blue Bird Harmony. They played amazing covers of 1960s and 1970s songs. When I closed my eyes, they sounded just like America. They sang covers from artists like Bread, the Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac. I loved it. I’m a sucker for oldies and being able to request songs made my family and I feel like we were at a private concert. 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.
My summer loving story isn’t about the band but about a man that worked there. He was a server that worked at the fateful location 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. At last, I got a good look at him. I had never really spoken to him, so one night, when I saw him in regular attire at the bar with another coworker, I approached him. He was something else. His 1950s jet-black greaser hair and sideburns were just the beginning of his Danny Zuko vibe.
Somehow it looked as though he was pulled out of a John Hughes movie. 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 sensation. I had recently gone through a break-up and I remember one night my family and I were talking about new years resolutions and trying new things. After overhearing my recent efforts to learn how to play the guitar and search for a teacher, he offered his help. He would come 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 that since his had issues he would need to take the bus home. I insisted I give him a ride and when he finally agreed, I told him he needed to fulfill his duties as a fellow shot-gun rider. This responsibility included creative control of the aux cord. He played For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield, which was one of my favorites. Later he played a song called 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 afterward. It was there in his car, at the highest parking lot of my community college that we had our first kiss. It was the beginning of what would become a year or so of courtship.
From then on, we were in a honeymoon phase. I’d scribble cute notes on the receipts for him during my family dinners at Colombo’s and slip them in his hand before we’d leave. Sometimes if I was lucky, he would walk me outside, and we would sneak a kiss. The rest was history. Eagle Rock became our playground. We went everywhere together.That summer before college was one of the best of my life.
Eagle Rock is a beautiful place to fall in love. It is timeless and the streets are lined with vintage shops and restaurants with great character. I enjoyed seeing life with him in glorious technicolor, listening to oldies tunes, making music, getting lost in the cosmos and of course dancing in the moonlight.
I didn’t know Eagle Rock the way I do now. Every corner of that city has a memory attached to it for me. 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 that summer. He gave me his unconditional love. It has helped me to become the person I am today and although we aren’t together anymore, I don’t cry because that summer is over, I smile because it happened.
Comics by Kim Casal