I’ve been trying to write at least once a month, and by golly March snuck up on me thanks to February’s lack of a 29th and 30th! I scanned my memories and naturally, February makes me think of Valentine’s Day. Junwen and I don’t do anything huge for the day, but we do usually get each other cards and get dinner at All India Cafe, a restaurant just a few blocks away from our apartment. How did this tradition begin? Pretty randomly, but it’s become a meaningful place all because of the owners. (He may not be the owner, but I call him that because he is always there whenever we go, and seems in charge over everyone else.)
The first time we ate there was our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple. Junwen saw it nearby and suggested it…I believe I bused there straight from work. He gave me a single red rose along with a card, in which he wrote some beautiful love note as is his wont. The food was delicious. The wait staff were clearly interested in us, perhaps because we were a mixed couple, perhaps because they saw the rose and the card and thought it was sweet. We lingered for awhile before going home. After getting back, however, I realized I had forgotten my card at the restaurant! I called them to find out if they had it, and phew! they did! When I went back to retrieve it, they all broke out into big smiles. As they handed it to me, they told me they were glad I came back for it because it was such a precious gift. They must have read it…but my silly forgetfulness seems to have set up our relationship with these guys for years to come.
It didn’t seem to matter how much time passed before we returned to eat there, the owner always recognized us. He brought up the card again the first few times…I think it made him really respect and like Junwen. Later, another of the wait staff said I looked like Jodi Foster, and started calling me that from then on. It’s not the first time I’ve been told that, and I take the nick name on with a smile. 🙂
Now when we visit, you would think we were good friends with the owner. His face always lights up when we walk in, he takes Junwen’s hand to shake it, and looks after us personally. He has given us desserts or drinks on the house on several occasions. We even ran into him on the street once, and his face lit up then as well! I’m sure the fact that our faces lit up to see him helped. ^_^
These are the people and the things that make life precious. Living in a big city like Los Angeles, it can be hard to sense community or ownership in a neighborhood. It’s why Junwen and I really cherish places like All India Cafe…Businesses full of people who recognize you and build relationship with you. It makes a big city feel a little smaller. It makes you feel a little bit more that you have a place in your neighborhood. Won’t YOU be my neighbor?
How About You?
Can you relate? Do you enjoy feeling known by your local businesses? Have you developed relationships with any of the local employees (or customers)?