SATURDAY IN THE VALLEY

My daughter Heidi and I pal around on Saturdays. We get groceries and toilet articles, have a nice lunch, and sometimes visit a museum or go to a movie. I look forward to our excursions because they are so much fun, besides being useful. Heidi’s not just my daughter, but my best friend. We talk about everything from spiritual/metaphysical ideas, favorite TV shows, and politics to family news and our creative pursuits: She paints and I write. We have come to the same conclusion: we both love living in California in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. I moved to California from a childhood of travel; Heidi was born here and has since done quite a bit of traveling.

 

Heidi Giraud

Heidi Giraud at Hamburger Hamlet

Heidi does the driving on our weekly excursions, which is definitely a perk, except for her impatience with other drivers. She curses incompetent drivers (luckily, she doesn’t shout out the window), but it helps release all her frustrations from the week before. Most of the time we mutually notice what’s going on with all the folks out and about on a Saturday, especially on Ventura Boulevard, one of the main streets that traverses the valley, from Studio City to Calabasas. Yesterday, LA City decided trees along Ventura Bl. needed to be trimmed. There’s probably no day that’s perfectly suited for this interruption, so we Los Angelenos learn to navigate and be patient.

The Hamburger Hamlet Logo

After buying a purse (excuse me, a “Messenger Bag” for her subway commute from the Valley to Downtown L.A. where she works), we headed for our favorite dining spot – Hamburger Hamlet, where we’ve eaten for decades. The eatery began in LA in 1950, grew nationwide, and then dwindled to one, near the corner of Van Nuys and Ventura Boulevards, about a mile from our apartments. This summer it closed, but we never gave up on its revival. When it returned in fall, we became steady customers again. It’s a place of good energy; our favorite waiters came back and the food even improved. When Heidi walked in and after we’d been seated in a roomy booth, a sharp waiter friend zipped over. He has developed a habit of bringing her champagne right away, and he knows I like iced tea. At one point we usually converse with Matt, a very amusing and entertaining waiter who always has a tale to tell. He had once told us how he had served an older and quite overweight Marlon Brando. This time he remembered college fun—he and actor Paul Rudd had been in the same fraternity and hung around together some years ago.

Then it’s time for Target up on Sepulveda Bl. and perhaps chatting with the young makeup woman. Always impeccably made-up, she is a black-haired professional cosmetics person who spends her leisure time competing on a roller derby team. The team recently went to Alaska to compete.

 

Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s

Last on our Saturday list is Trader Joe’s, California’s most unusual grocery store that has now spread nationwide. We usually visit an older store on Hazeltine Avenue in Van Nuys. It’s always crowded but it remains an adventure. Now that it’s holiday season, each week carries new surprises from all over the world. One of my favorites is the German Lebkuchen (large ginger cookies with chocolate icing), but it won’t arrive until after Thanksgiving. Instead, they had Joe Joe’s chocolate covered peppermint cookies. If I want the best wine bargain, I buy the box of Australian white wine – about $12 and it lasts me a month. I’m not a gourmet!

One of the highlights of our sojourn at Trader Joe’s is the “crew” – a wonderful mix of employees with good senses of humor, who pay attention to great service and congeniality. There’s the pretty young woman studying acting when she isn’t working. Dark-haired and of Iranian culture, she wears her long hair in braids fairly often and I tease her about looking like Pocohantas. The three of us have so much fun chatting we block cart traffic in the narrow aisles. Two other favorites are a middle-aged Army veteran, tall and broad and with a terrific disposition (he speaks a little German from being stationed there), and a charming older woman who hails from the Philippines and always asks what movies we’ve seen lately. All these encounters require hugs.

I’m home before 7 p.m. and so another Saturday ends in the City of the Angels.

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