Thomas Wolfe said “You Can’t Go Home Again,” but I beg to differ.
A while back I wrote in Patch about a Sherman Oaks boy, Chef Michael Young, who returned to his roots and opened Ombra, a new restaurant in Studio City with delightfully delicious dishes.
Towns change. Our ‘hood changes all the time. The people change. Neighbors move out and new neighbors move in. Stores close and new ones open their doors, such as Breeze Munson’s,“hide & seek,” a darling shop on Ventura Place that I just discovered. It was such a lovely find, I don’t even remember what was there before. See, out with the old, in with the new isn’t always a bad thing.
If you’re returning to the Valley (or your own home town) after years of being away and your favorite burger joint is gone or the old bijou is now a Gap that doesn’t necessarily mean the soul of your town has left. It’s just different.
Let me explain.
While promoting my new political thriller, “Freeze Frame,” I was asked why I made my heroine from Bayside. Well, I grew up in Bayside, Queens, Long Island, New York on a pretty little tree-lined, dead-end street not unlike Milbank, my own street in Studio City. So, it was easy to look out my window and reminisce about my old ‘hood.
This is a story about two girls from Bayside. One is me. The other is my fictional creation.
P.S. 41 is where I learned to read and write and play punch ball… where I twirled a baton as I led our school band in the town’s Memorial Day Parade to Fort Totten and dropped water-filled balloons from the balcony of our local movie theater onto unsuspecting patrons sitting in the orchestra (I was kind of a mischievous child… high strung was a term often bantered about back then).
Bayside is where my Girl Scout troop marched down our town’s main street on the 4th of July (I did a lot of parade marching as a kid), and where I studied dance at Miss Mildred’s neighborhood ballet, tap and acrobatic school with twirling classes mixed in.
It’s where I took the Q13 bus to Middle School 158, and would walk the few miles back home, stopping at White Castle on the corner of Northern and Bell Blvds. (Bayside’s Laurel Canyon and Ventura) for burgers with friends.
Bayside is where my dad mowed the lawn in summer, burned leaves in the fall (before toxic fumes) and shoveled the driveway in winter, while mom sewed my dance costumes, made cookies and grilled Velveeta cheese sandwiches on Wonder bread. It’s where I learned to play tennis at the tennis club across the street from P.S. 41… and where I went sledding in Crocheron Park and ice skated on Golden Pond in the winter.
It was in Bayside’s Redeemer Lutheran Church (our family church) where much admired and beloved Pastor Walter Schwolert presided over the memorial for my father after he died suddenly at age forty-one that I first realized that my world would never right itself. I was no longer living in “Ozzie & Harriet” episodes.
But, life is a perplexing dichotomy, and a couple of years later I was a Bayside High School cheerleader, kicking, jumping and cart-wheeling myself into a frenzy, cheering for my team. And how could I forget Mrs. Cole, my English teacher, who encouraged me to become a writer.
In short, Bayside is where I became who I am even though, after high school, I left Bayside for college and never lived there again.
I’m a city girl now (first in Manhattan, now Studio City), but not too long ago I went back to Bayside to do my “roots” thing.
I walked the halls of Bayside High. I strolled my old neighborhood and saw that many of my neighbors’ big yards from my day now have houses on them. I meandered through Crocheron Park and went down to the Bay and Golden Pond.
And, of course, I walked Bell Blvd. So much had changed! The old movie theater where I spent so many happy hours and experienced my first “French” kiss is gone just like Ventura Blvd.’s old deco movie theater is now a Bookstar. Stores and restaurants that I loved as a child now live only in my memory. But, I almost cried when I saw that White Castle was still there. Of course I had to have one. OK, two. Hey, what’s a girl suppose to do…there are NO White Castles in L.A. I savored every bite.
Now here comes that explanation I promised you.
Bayside (or Studio City or your own home town) may have changed its façade, but even though it’s been many years since I lived there, the town’s heartbeat is still beating, kept alive by my childhood memories. Good and sad. That’s true of your home town, too.
So, when I put my fingers to the keyboard and wrote “Freeze Frame,” my Manhattan political thriller, I wanted “Lorna,” my young videographer heroine, to have those memories (well, not those memories, exactly… but she did go to a neighborhood dancing school and was a cheerleader in high school). I wanted Bayside to be the town she goes home to when the big city becomes too frightening and dangerous after she videotapes something that puts her life in jeopardy.
I hope you’ll get to know Lorna and her Bayside memories. And, I hope you'll click onto my Amazon site (link below) and scroll through the book's reviews - take a peek inside and read the prologue and lst chapter. Hopefully, you'll be hooked and buy the book! Two girls from Bayside – one real, one fictional. Check us out.
And always remember – you can go home again. Just don’t expect a parade.