Self-help and spiritual experts warn us to not dwell in the past but I also adhere to the wise words of my favorite musician, Bob Marley, who sang “if you know your history, then you would know where you’re coming from.” So I believe there is a healthy balance somewhere between letting go of what once was and remaining mindful of whence we came. This was the reason I decided, while in Los Angeles this summer, to take my son on a tour of places that were of particular importance to me; places he had visited before but of which he had no recollection. He was old enough now to remember- and to understand why this part of my history is one of the most significant building blocks of my present.
As we drove through Koreatown I pointed out where some of my favorite restaurants used to stand, with many of the budget-friendly spots frequented back then by struggling students and artists such as myself now replaced with newer, trendier spots to match the changing of the neighborhood. One very important space, however, appeared unchanged: I showed him the $1 Chinese Food restaurant where my now-husband and I had our first date, both amused and perplexed in explaining that I’m still not quite sure how we feasted on massive plates of food for around five dollars. Total. For both of us.
We laughed while driving by my old apartment building- the one where I met that guy who’d been all around the world yet had remained so true to his Southern roots (yes, that guy from Memphis I married!) As we navigated the Koreatown streets my son asked lots of questions I was all-too-happy to answer while simultaneously feeling a heaviness of sorts come over me. I had missed Los Angeles more than I realized. Before I could get too caught up in my feelings, we exited Koreatown via Crenshaw Boulevard and hadn’t driven more than thirty seconds out when my heart began racing. Well, I’ll be…it was Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.
Before I could fall too far down the I-Miss-LA rabbit hole I was pulled back up by one of my favorite Memphis establishments. It’s one of the places I always take out-of-town guests, or recommend to those who ask where they absolutely must eat while in Memphis. In fact, it was just before I left for LA that someone asked my opinion of the “other” chicken restaurant new to Memphis and I boldly declared Gus’s the undisputed champ. Period.
Right beyond the borders of the area where my life forever changed, at the intersection of Pico and Crenshaw Boulevards, my past collided with my present. But each made room for the other, both understanding their importance to me. My days in LA will always be pivotal to my story because it is there where I fell in love with a man from Memphis. And my days in Memphis will always be crucial to my narrative because it is there where I fell in love with a city: its people and its culture, its kindness and generosity towards strangers like me who soon feel comfortable enough to begin saying “y’all.”
Call me cuckoo, Memphis, but thanks to my favorite fried bird I was reminded: wherever I go, there you are. And you are a place that will forever be embedded in my heart, no matter where in the world life may take me.
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