Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday, September 24 - Day 26

I’m moving on from smoothies. Don’t get me wrong – I love them. And smoothies have been my almost daily salvation since Day 1, quenching thirst and sneaking protein into me when my stomach rebelled against more solid fare. As much as I have enjoyed and benefited from my friends’ fruity and substantial homemade concoctions and Jamba Juice, and managed my own versions (which Akemi does not like; no frozen bananas for her), I’m just glad to say that I’m feeling much more stable and solid, and am no longer dependent upon smoothies.

But before I leave the “month of smoothies” behind, I’d like to tell you about Weeder. Some of you may remember Weeder. “Weeder” wasn’t his real name; I’m told he got that nickname as a young man because even then he smoked like a chimney. Weeder was one of my mother’s oldest and best friends. My grandparents and his parents were friends from early Little Tokyo days. His parents came to Pasadena before the war and ran a florist shop called Lake Florist at 104 S. Lake. Behind the dilapidated store front was the family’s bungalow. Weeder did the good son thing, stayed with his parents to help run the shop instead of going off to college, and kept it going after they both passed away. He never married and led a life that was. . .ahh. . .uniquely his own.

My favorite childhood memories of Weeder were every Labor Day weekend, right before school started, he would show up at our house (always unannounced), carrying four big shopping bags, one for my three brothers and me, brimming with school supplies. And we’re talking the fun stuff : compasses, rulers, dictionaries, reference books, nifty pens, colored pencils. It was always a treat to discover what was in those bags. But Weeder would also show up at mysterious times throughout the year, leaving a floral arrangement and the best books on our doorstep. He also remembered every graduation and major accomplishment. At his funeral, many stood up and told the same story, how Weeder showed up at their door right before school started, bearing those same magical bags, showed up in the audience at their concerts or in the stands at their football games, left the generous envelope on their doorstep, too. I marveled at his devotion to so many of us children of his friends whom he adopted as his own, well into our adult years.

I really got to know Weeder when I came to Pasadena after graduating from law school. The condo I had then was on Del Mar, literally around the corner from his shop. He would often come over for dinner and it was easy for Bing or me to drop off food for him, especially during the crunch of the holidays, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day in particular being the killer for florists.

Every other word out of his mouth was a four-letter word. But Weeder taught me not to judge a book by its cover, because he was one of the most intelligent and intellectual individuals I have ever known. He quoted Shakespeare and Oliver Wendell Holmes, dissected foreign policy, and when I was practicing securities law, taught me a thing or two about market making. His wit was ascerbic, and he enjoyed it if someone would “take him on.” He could be, in a word, scary.

Of course Weeder was our family florist (family jeweler, family florist – you understand our loyalties run deep). So Weeder was in the thick of my wedding preparations. After all the wedding hullabaloo died down, Weeder said to me one day, “I never got you a wedding present. Tell me what you didn’t get that you still want.” After arguing with him that he didn’t need to get me a present and him saying he was going to get me a #@%$ present, so I might as tell him what I want, I finally said, “Okay, a blender. We didn’t get a blender, and we could use a blender.” A blender! That was not at all what he had in mind. A silver platter, another china setting. . .nothing so inexpensive and utilitarian as a blender. He did not want me remembering him for giving me a X&$%*@ blender. But I insisted that I really could use a blender, and a blender showed up at my doorstep not long after that.

So the first thing I made with that blender was a strawberry mousse recipe I saw in one of my cooking magazines from the Hyatt Regency in Waikiki, and I took it by the shop. He chuckled his famous Weeder chuckle when he was really amused, and he said, “Hey, what I really wanted was chocolate mousse.” “Strawberry mousse” became a running joke between the two of us until the end of his days (as in, “What the @(#* did you bring me this time. . .more strawberry mousse?”).

I cried when I saw a photo of his shop being demolished on the front page of the Pasadena Star News. It still pains me to see the CalNational Bank there instead. And one day the motor burnt out in that blender. Weeder, the shop, the blender, long gone.

Now I have a hefty, fancy blender/mini-food processor that works great. And I’ve used that spiffy blender a lot this month to make smoothies, each time thinking how about Weeder and how he didn’t want me remembering him for giving me a blender. He surely would have had some choice words to say about me having cancer, but he would have been here for me. I can’t think of a better way to remember him after all, someone who was always there for me and so many others.

P.S. Here's a rare photo of Weeder holding Akemi.

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