Although Thomas Wolfe's 1940 novel posits that, "You Can't Go Home Again," there are a few exceptions to that rule. One of them is The Kettle. The restaurant at the corner of Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Highland Avenue is a profound symbol of my far-flung youth. It was the scene for my first dining-out experience without my parents, the first place I had a cup of coffee, and the scene of many evenings talking, laughing, and sharing dreams with friends. For years, my sisters and I had a tradition of going there to eat whenever one of us flew home into LAX. So it seemed the perfect place to go the other night with Jeff, who I had not seen for the better part of 30 years.
|Zucchini Parmesan: You can go home again - but you|
have to eat your veggies.
That being said, all was not roses in this new version of our acquaintance. Although we would express interest in renewing a romantic relationship, something would always happen between us, due to our bad tempers and writerly egos. We would stop talking for weeks or months. I would date other people; he would do whatever. And eventually, we'd smoke our peace pipe until the next big blow-up.
We also form a mutual admiration society. I am in total awe of what Jeff has done to shape a bona fide journalism career, something that I had aspired to since those days in Jolene Combs' Warwhoop production class at ECC. We can talk about the trials and tribulations of the writers' life. Although I didn't end up as a reporter, I still use everything that JC taught us in my work and in my blog now. Even when we weren't speaking to one another during one of our several fallings-out, he would still send me messages about my latest blog post or a piece that I had written for work. We joke about my being a public relations sellout, but neither of us really believes it.
My default appetizer order at The Kettle was always Zucchini Parmesan, a basket of piping hot zucchini logs sprinkled with parmesan cheese. Although it is usually served with ranch dressing as a dip, I discovered long ago that bleu cheese dressing tastes better, so I ask for that. The server always brings both. I've tasted fried zucchini at a number of other places, but nothing equals this fresh, hand-cut green version, dipped in batter and fried at a mouth-scalding temperature that I almost always fall prey to in my impatience to gobble them up.
|The best Boy for this Girl. Meet|
Jeff Mitchell, political commentator and
ranch dressing fan.
At this age, we can fall into reveries where we get lost in the past; there are other moments where the the future is the daydream; it can be a hazy intriguing jumble. I am experiencing a bit of both. Being with Jeff that night at the Kettle was like watching all the hopes and possibilities of our youth break through the rhythms - some of them comforting, some of them simply hewn of resignation - that we have grown used to in the present.
I now know that nothing worth having is absolutely perfect. No matter how you and a loved one eat your fried zucchini, it can still be the same irresistible dish for both of you. And that yes, you can go home again. It's just a lot better if you don't go alone.