Covina and West Covina, California: Where I first dropped the dishes.

Covina Orange

I know that one person’s nostlagia  can be another person’s mind-numbing boredom. Sometimes the  things from the past that most touch us, that most bring us to life, are things which no audience — not even an audience of one — is eager to hear about.

So some of us keep a lot of our memories to ourself.  Or we try.

Last week, I had the still shocking experience of learning that one of my graduate students here in NYC grew up in the same southern California suburb I did, and that her family owned the Five Lanterns Chinese Retaurant, in Covina, California, the place I had my first job in 1965.

It's a UPS store now.
It’s a UPS store now.

I was a bus boy in that wonderful Chinese Restaurant, one of only two Chinese Restaurants for miles around in a suburb that — to this day — I recall as one of the least diverse places I have ever seen or visited.

The result is that, in the last week,  I have been overwhelmed with memories  of two  towns, West Covina and Covina, California, from which I had supposedly escaped close to 40 years ago.

Today at the former site of The Five Lanterns Chinese Restaurant: My First Job, 1965, Covina, California
Today at the former site of The Five Lanterns Chinese Restaurant: My First Job, 1965, Covina, California

I may have more to say later: For now, all I am feeling is the flimsiness of concepts  like escaping,  “getting away from it all,” or starting over. They may be occasionally useful in the course of a lifetime, but it seems that I have rarely  been able to truly escape or get away from anything.

Memories, joys, and hurts travel. And travel well.

I dropped an enormous tray of dishes at that restaurant. On a busy weekend night.  And until last week, that tray was gone forever.

It’s back.

A Tike style mug from The Five Lanterns Chinese Restaurant. I broke quite a few of these one night in December, 1965.
A Tike style mug from The Five Lanterns Chinese Restaurant. I broke quite a few of these one night in December, 1965.