I have been getting rid of things the last two weeks like old newspapers, financial statements, pictures, magazines, clothes, and a host of other things so I can start the year fresh and organized. I have also been thinking about local restaurants, and people I will miss this coming year.
El Torito, Champagne Bakery, Coco’s and Marie Calendars left my life this past year. I missed them from the moment they closed and still do.
El Torito was a place you could make a reservation after a movie or go to after a long day of shopping. It was fun, reasonable, full of life, had great service people and of course those homemade tortillas.
Champagne Bakery was a wonderful place to pick up soup and a sandwich, get great holiday cookies and pastries and they knew your name. Many local people felt comfortable simply having lunch by themselves there because the place was so friendly and people always talked to each other there.
Coco’s was a special place to me because I met many friends there over the years, and it was a place where I was interviewed for two jobs and got them both. I got hired to teach a curriculum class at Cal State Fullerton and also met Roger Bloom there to be considered for this job writing for the Newport Beach Independent.
Marie Calendars was my favorite place for pie, coffee, salad bar, and friendly faces and service. I had been going there since 1972 when I first moved to Newport Beach, and it was the place that I met weekly with a support group from Mariner’s Church.
It was painful to see the bulldozers running over part of my life at both Coco’s and Marie’s. The places we eat and meet bring way more to our lives than food and drink. They very often become places that change our lives, shore up relationships, or make us feel better during a lonely moment.
The food business is changing in both Costa Mesa and Newport. I wonder where people will go who do not or cannot spend 100 or more dollars on a meal. Many high-end places, which require us to put on better clothes and bring our credit card instead of cash, are replacing the local places, which were gathering places after church, sports, family, and casual dining with friends.
Many new dining places require you to stand in line, order, and pay before being served. While that is fine for some eating needs like a quick lunch, I prefer and will always prefer to be waited on and greeted by a server. I gladly pay the extra money and look forward to tipping for friendly and timely service. I would rather have good conversation with a friend than be sitting alone texting back for forth with someone in a cold hip restaurant. So I bid goodbye to cheap therapy from a good friend over a hot meal and sometimes wise server lending their ideas to the discussion-taking place at the table.
The people I will miss this coming year taught me values, made me laugh, and brought music to my life.
I will miss two sheriffs’ in my life: Andy Griffith and Sheriff John. These were entertainers who brought shows into our lives daily and weekly that focused on the joy of life, and universal values we can all embrace. Andy Griffith was a silly show about life in a small town. Through his relationship with his son he taught right from wrong as life lessons evolved on a small television screen that made us laugh and relate, as they were simple daily problems that we all have faced with friends and family. His friendships with the townspeople had their very real and emotional times, and required a moral fix or compromise so often needed to keep us on track and close to one another.
Sheriff John taught me about safety and caring for other people every day at lunchtime as a young child. I still sing the song “put another candle on the birthday cake,” and can remember sitting in grandma’s living room eating my lunch and watching that show every day until I started Kindergarten. He was never mean, or sarcastic, always gently reinforcing the many things my parents and grandmother were teaching me. Where are those kinds of shows today?
Larry Hagman, star of Dallas, was the show I would love to watch after a long week of teaching on Friday night. This was the show we would discuss in the lunchroom at work and the one we all wanted to get home to after happy hour on the way home from work. There was no time shifting of TV or DVR during this time, you had to watch it weekly and on the night it was shown. Reality TV cannot come close to this kind of entertainment with fun and outrageous storylines, and great actors on the canvas.
I have four Whitney Houston CD’s and loved to sing her songs in the car on the way to work in the morning. She had an incredible voice and I attended her concerts. I am saddened that there will be no more new music from her and that her life ended in such a terrible way.
Lastly, we lost a caring, bright, in your face citizen last year who attended many council meetings, ran for council, and continued to bring you her voice on how our city needed to change. Her name was Dolores Otting. She lost her battle with cancer last February.
I met Dolores on the campaign trail; she was the first person to not only welcome me to the process, but taught me the essentials of campaigning. She introduced me to many fine citizens in this city and was a champion of democracy and fairness.
Dolores never gave up or quit her fight for better local government, nor did she ever give up her fight against cancer. Like so many fine citizens who have left us, she inspired people to become more involved, to care more, and to put their time and attention to things to help others grow and prosper.
May we all begin our lives next year with gratefulness for life and a strong resolve to make our individual and collective lives count for something good every single day on this earth.
You have to be the change you want to see in life.
That’s My Take
Dr. Gloria J. Alkire