On the day before his first day in the first grade, I took Joshie – and Leslie, my wife and his mom – to one of our favorite places in the vast realm of postmodern, polyrhythmic, multiethnic, dystopian urban suburban sprawl which is Los Angeles – Venice Beach.
We ate lunch, as we always do, at the Sidewalk Cafe, where you sit outside right on the boardwalk and watch the processional motions of the constant circus of humanity that parades by. And there was Alberta, who we saw here last month – and who I photographed previously – as in August, she was sitting alone, dressed all in pink and rose and drinking a Bloody Mary. My wife heard me exclaim, “Oh – there she is again! There’s Alberta…” And she reacted as if I had noticed some young babe…
And over I went to greet Alberta, who was very pleased to see me, and happy I remembered her. We spoke. She told me she was born on Catalina Island – which is a small island off of the L.A. coast where people go to vacation – to drink, eat, and hang out at the beach. I’ve never met anyone who was born there, which I told her, and she said she hasn’t either. She was there, she informed me, because her father was helping to build the Wrigley mansion – Wrigley of gum fame, of course – and there’s Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, back in my hometown.
She’s not Italian, she said – she’s Nordic – but married an Italian and took his name. She lived for years in a small town in Texas, where they named a street – Alberta Street – after her. She said it was because she was the only female draftsman during WWII. Now she lives in an apartment on Westminster in Venice, and comes daily – dressed to the nines – and the elevens – to sip her cocktails at the Sidewalk Cafe, and commune with friends and strangers alike. Of which I am now the former.
I told her I had many lovely photos of her and promised I would send some – which I will – and she kindly allowed me to take some more. For the first ones, she gave me the exact expression she had before – lofting her drink in a toasting gesture and smiling. But as I already had that photo, I snapped a few, and then came around to this angle – in front of this bookstore which borders the cafe – and asked her to turn towards me – which is more than I usually request, but i’m glad I did, as I got this upward look,
and this hopeful and warm smile.
– By P.S. Zollo, September 2006