During spring break of 1966 (just before Jenny and I met), Jenny was invited to spend a week in Hawaii with a family friend. Miss Ina Clemenson (Clem for short) was an elderly and very wealthy parishioner/benefactor of the church. Jenny had accompanied her and shared accommodations at a hotel in Waikiki, Oahu.
In early December, 1967, we received an invitation from Jenny’s Dad to attend a dinner with Clem in Chinatown (a festive destination for dining and shopping) in Los Angeles. I had never met Clem but knew of her as a kindhearted spinster. The occasion was, “I want to meet the newlyweds.”
Chinatown was full of Pagoda-style buildings with lanterns and exotic Asian artifacts. There was a temple, art galleries and gift shops. It was an amazing cultural center, and we were enthralled with the experience.
From the first introduction I felt Clem sizing me up. Hopefully I would meet her expectations. I think she saw the love in our eyes and gave a blessing to our happiness.
I don’t remember all the details of the dinner, but I do remember the Chinese mustard sauce. I had ordered Jumbo Prawns with fried rice. A ramekin of yellow dipping sauce was at the top of the plate, and I slathered the first bite of prawns with it. The sensation of the hot mustard traveling through my sinus to an area behind my eyes and bouncing off the back of my head was a jolt. It took a full minute to recover from the shooting, burning pain. I’d never experienced anything so powerful. Drinking water didn’t help; it was as if I had a temporary concussion. After I recovered, Clem gave me a wink . . . I think she must have experienced it herself.
Clem was an avid baseball fan, and the Dodgers were her team. She had taken Jenny’s family to minor league games prior to the Dodgers’ arrival in LA from Brooklyn. I commented to her about my experiences attending Dodger games, and she recounted listening to the radio broadcasts of Vin Scully.
There was a short discussion of Vietnam; she was “Hawkish” on the war. Clem wanted it to be won quickly (this was the view of many at the time). We managed to steer clear of her political slant on the war and thanked her for the wonderful dinner before driving back to Orange County.
Next edition: Our First Christmas Tree