Food Circus, Dad and Veterans Day

Whenever I was in trouble, or in need of a heart-to-heart discussion (need as defined by my father) it was known without saying it that said discussion would take place where all Important Discussions should take place and that would be Food Circus. Now, to the uninformed, this may conjure up images of people selecting their meal by pointing to whatever cage held whatever type of dinner. This is in fact incorrect. Nor is it an “End of Life” circus where performing animals are the main course. Food Circus was a collection of International Restaurants (think American International) that included German, Italian, Filipino (Anna Banana’s) and a Hof Brau (not the same as the German restaurant) and a gift shop that made transfer t-shirts that said cute things like “Kiss Me I’m Irish” or “Mom and Dad went to California and all I got was this stupid T-shirt” type of stuff. A florist, a gourmet grocery store, (Corti Brothers) a watch repair shop, a donut shop, awesome candy store (Snook’s Candies, now in Folsom, on Sutter Street). Last, but not least was Jumbo’s Coffee Shop.
Our family would go there after church on Sunday for donuts and coffee (orange juice for the little ones). When I was in my Rebel Without A Clue days, I worked with Dad on a business venture and we would take breaks at Food Circus (or Food Zoo as Big Brother #3 renamed it) because of course my dad smoked and back in the 1970’s you could smoke wherever you damn well pleased. So it was cup of coffee, 3 cigarettes, a refill cup, then 3-4 more smokes. Needless to say, Dad got 110% out of me those days. I was wired for sound and all he had to do was give me direction and turn me loose. That was the beginning of my love affair with cigarettes, coffee and going fast, in general. Food Circus is now The Marketplace at Arden Fair mall and has a very nice restaurant, movie theaters, a couple of chain-type restaurants and looks nothing like it did then. But I can just close my eyes and I can be there again, sitting across the table from my dad, listening to his day and comprehending about 10% of what he said and filling in the blanks by reading his face, his body language and listening to his tone. I can smell the strange yet familiar scent of all those restaurants, the burning coffee left on the warmer too long, the cigarette smoke blending with the men’s cologne and the ladies’ perfumes, vying for attention. That was where I received my education, the gifts that my father bestowed upon me, little pearls of wisdom lost on a teenager so certain her parents were irrelevant and knew nothing about Life as she knew it. I’m grateful every day that I grew out of that phase and spoke at great length with my father later in life. My father outlived Food Circus and we moved our talks to different places, but those days will always stay with me and I will treasure them for the gift they were.
My father served in the Air Force and I believe that his life wouldn’t be what it was without the life experience and education he received while serving. This Veterans Day I would like to give thanks to those who fought for us, before many of us were even born, so that we could enjoy simple yet profoundly precious moments like those I had with my father. Thank you is not enough; I don’t know if there is anything that words can say to express the depth of my gratitude, but words are all I have, so thank you. All of you.