Connections can reoccur in the most unexpected ways out here in the Southwest corner.
A week ago, I reconnected with the family of a Lebanon friend. To avoid commuters, I drove to downtown Los Angeles in the early evening Monday and stayed overnight at a hotel near the Los Angeles Superior Court. Tuesday morning, I was the first witness in a lawsuit that had languished for 14 years.
In August 2000, I gave a deposition for this suit, which lasted almost nine hours. Due to many factors, the suit was put on hold until last week. I went to court Tuesday to meet an obligation to my friend. What follows is my perception of the two day event.
Although I’ve attempted to describe the ride from San Diego to Los Angeles several times here, it remains beyond description. There are some beautiful vistas if one has the time to take them in while avoiding maniacs.
Camp Pendleton, in spite of new pre-fabricated training sites resembling Afghani villages, remains pristine with the hills to the east and the Pacific to the west. I spent numerous amphibious landing exercises off the beach there.
Del Mar, the home of Bing Crosby’s horse racing venue is idyllic. Encinitas is the quintessential beach town. When moving onto the toll road east in Orange County, I always try to picture Marlon Brando riding over the hills as he did in “One Eyed Jacks.”
But the 100-plus ride to Los Angeles from San Diego (depending on what area of L.A. one is headed) is mostly concrete and steel. It is never quiet. The drive to Nashville from Lebanon is like a Sunday afternoon picnic compared to the Southwest corner trek. It is high speed, traffic jam crawl and hysteria throughout every hour every day.
Completing the journey, arrival in downtown Los Angeles is bittersweet. There are majestic buildings from the earlier half of the last century mixed with modern architectural wonders of glass and steel soaring toward the heavens and casting shadows on the street people. That combination would work except for the working folks who have crept into the scene. Fast food franchises, used car lots, bail bond store fronts, and sleezy bars make downtown L.A. a place to avoid after sunset.
The beauty of elegant, art deco architecture now shares its past glory with the quintessential big city of today. The ocean breeze that used to brush this scene with refreshing coolness now is blocked out by steel and concrete. LA is gritty city life removed from the paradise it once was.
Tuesday, I awoke early as is my habit, showered and dressed, waiting to put on my tie until after the complimentary breakfast. I was the first in the dining area and left before anyone else arrived. Downtown Los Angeles starts later than this old Navy and tugboat guy.
I went to the courthouse and took the elevator to the 17th floor, courtroom 322. I was a half-hour early. There were three people sitting on the concrete seats in the lounge. I later realized they were jurors. I felt a bit out of place wearing a suit and tie until the attorneys began to gather as starting time neared. I unsuccessfully tried to determine which lawyer might be the junior attorney in charge of me. We had only talked on the phone. Then I received a call on my mobile phone. It was Jason Rose, my contact, standing around the corner about 10 feet away.
“I thought you were another attorney,” he apologized for passing greetings with me several times earlier, “You are very well dressed.” His senior partner came by and took me to a waiting room to meet Tajie, the wife of one of my closest friends, Earl Major.
The suit had begun because Earl had asked Tajie to go after the tobacco companies just before he died of lung cancer in 1997.
With only six months and two blocks separating us in Lebanon until Earl graduated from Castle Heights in 1961, he and I chose different routes but rejoined each other as Navy officers in Newport, R.I. in 1973. The close friendship continued until he died in Rosarita Beach, Mexico at an alternative cancer treatment facility.
Finally, it was time for me to meet my obligation in honoring Earl’s request.
Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, is now available through Author House, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Jim’s email is email@example.com.