Long before, I lived in a walk-up, did brunch in the East Village & took the subway to work in Midtown, there was a place called suburbia. During my teen years, “Varsity Blues,” “She’s all that” & “Never been kissed” were the big films of the day. Culture was experienced through watching endless amounts of TV, everything from Dawson’s Creek to (re-runs of) the Real World: San Francisco took me away from the confines of my modest track home existence.
While Saturday nights, I’d go to Borders and spend countless hours browsing through the art, LQBT, poetry and travel section. My dad would then drive me to Starbucks, where we would talk and blast my music very loud while driving around my hometown. I spent my teenage years in Riverside, CA. Everyday, I’d daydream about living in New York, but little did I know, that charm was all around me.
Riverside could’ve fit perfectly into any John Hughes movies, whether it was Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink. There were the obvious signs of suburbia in my town. Teenagers would carpool from school to the local galleria. They window shopped at Nordstrom’s, ate at Hot dog on a stick and constantly talked about the world outside Riverside.
The houses were quite quaint, ranging from Victorian to Craftsman. There was the old fashioned Italian family restaurant, the Mexican diner and the gourmet sandwich shop, which welcomed everyone from the ladies who lunch & golf to the large families armed with mini-vans. In this town of strip malls and green grass, I met some of my best lifelong friends.
Growing up, an only child, I gravitated toward friends with big families. They always welcomed me as the son, they never had. My best gal pal growing was Elizabeth. She always invited me on outings with her family. The Densmores consisted of five girls. Everyone was lovely, perfectly dressed and well mannered. Going over to their house meant, that freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and watching indie films (on TV) was inevitable.
Elizabeth invited me over to her grandma’s tea party. Like many parties to come, I was the only boy. I was excited to meet Riverside’s ladies who lunch (secretly don’t we all want to be a lady, who lunches?). We arrived at her grandmother’s perfectly appointed home, which was in the upwardly mobile community of Victoria. She answered the door and welcomed us in.
I’d always been a coffee drinker, but decided to try out tea. It was delicious, actually. However, I was met with a food group, very foreign to me and quite frightful, the cucumber. For years, I couldn’t eat a cucumber. The texture didn’t agree with my palate.
Instead of passing up the beautifully presented miniature sandwich, I bravely took a bite. Since, it was thinly sliced and came with cream cheese inside, I didn’t mind much. As the tea party progressed, a sea of very glamorous women and equally glam daughters arrived.
Surprisingly, I had a couple more cucumber sandwiches. A vegetable, which scared the living daylights, became my friend. After eating half of the desserts at the tea party, I once again tried to conquer my food phobia.
Till this day, I don’t like cucumbers. It’s still the texture. I must say, thanks to the tea party, some food phobia was lost. I ate more foods, which I would typically not bravely eat.