A beautiful, sunny Wednesday afternoon. The calm breeze pushing against the hair on my left arm as I drive up highway 280. My final destination is Napa, where my Mom & Brother await. While I usually utilize the faster, less visually pleasing 680 highway, today I’m taking the scenic route. Underneath me lies plush, light-grey leather with Cadillac emblems sown into the headrests. The ’91 Deville I’m driving is the same car my grandparents (Nonnie & Abuelo) used to pick up Scott & me from the airport nearly 2 decades ago. It drives as smooth now as it did then, gliding along the highway as I travel north. On the back seat rests Abuelo’s Coast Guard jacket from World War 2. Today, I will honor Grandpa, who served on the LST-18, a landing ship tanker which earned 7 battle stars during the war.
After the war was over, Abuelo returned home to San Francisco. The house he came home to was his mother’s, located at 512 21st Avenue in the Richmond District. I’d never been there before, but that’s all about to change. After picking up my friend (and extremely talented photographer) Hardy Wilson, we proceed to Abuelo’s old stomping grounds. Upon arriving at the house, I head up the front steps to ask whomever lives here for permission to take pictures in front. After ringing the doorbell, an elderly woman of Asian descent uses her hand to push aside the blinds. Talking through wood and glass, I ask if she can open the door using my cheesiest smile. Having none of it, she gives me a Dikembe Mutombo-esque finger wave, gesturing she wants no parts of any conversation. After a minute or so of pleading with her I retreat.
Having come this far, Hardy & I decide to set up the lights on the public sidewalk anyway. Over the next 10 minutes, Hardy snaps photos while I impersonate a model. Throughout the shoot, I imagined how Abuelo felt as he approached this house after serving in the war. The pride and relief must’ve been overwhelming, knowing he’d defended his country after watching the devastating Pearl Harbor attacks. He’d later joke that his mom didn’t even recognize him as he waited at the front door because of the tanned skin & slight build he returned home with. After completing our task, we returned to Hardy’s house.
I hopped back in the Caddy, set on continuing up to Napa. However, I was starving. So, as I drove towards the Golden Gate Bridge, I looked for a restaurant. Preferably, one I could imagine Abuelo enjoying. As I turned onto Clement Street, Ernesto’s Italian Restaurant caught my eye. While he was Spanish, Abuelo loved him some Italian food. I parked the Caddy in front, put $1.50 worth of quarters into the parking meter, and proceeded inside. I ordered the capellini with shrimp pomodoro and was very happy with my choice when it arrived. Not only did I have a plate full of delicious food, I had a basket of garlic bread as well.
Every so often the glass doors at the entrance would inch open from the wind and I imagined Nonnie and Abuelo filing into the dining area with all of their friends and family. Before I finished my meal I noticed the time in my parking meter was about to run out, so I exited the restaurant to deposit two more quarters. Apparently, the waiter thought I was leaving without paying because as I walked back towards the entrance he was hurrying out, before nonchalantly holding the door open for me. I finished my meal, hopped back in the Caddy & headed towards Napa.
The trip gave me time to reflect on how important it is to stop and think about those who’ve come before you, family or not. Many people have affected your life & helped mold you into the person you are today. Be grateful for such sacrifices & honor these difference makers by reaching out a helping hand to those you come in contact with. So often we hurry through life, taking the fastest route possible. Heads down, eyes unwavering, we focus solely on ourselves and what’s convenient. While it’s extremely important to pursue your goals and work towards them, try not to let work and the rat race consume you. Take the scenic route every so often, enjoy the simple pleasures of life, and most importantly, laugh along the way. After all, Victor Borge once said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” And I prefer my loved ones close-by.