"Do you like to dance?" asked my Honduran lyft Driver, named Sunday. “Because if you like to dance, I know just the place. If you like reggae music or blues or any music I will just stop driving right now and take you. It’s called the light house cafe." I made a note "Look up lighthouse cafe" on my LA hot list. In between taking me through the perfect legal argument (“You have to use comedy first. And then no big words. You have to make them like you”)- by the end of the drive, my lyft driver/nursing student/about to be a medical attorney had left me with more than just a good story. I now had a destination to explore.
The lighthouse cafe was famous it turns out. It was used in the movie LaLaLand, and the Hermosa Beach pier housed Ryan Gosling and some beautiful (although not permanent) street lights. It was an institution. Photos online show live bands (different types every night of the week), actual people dancing together on the small dance floor. So I tried. After two days of no sleep, I admit I wasn’t at my most energetic. I got dressed. Made it to the lobby of the hotel, and called my husband. "I want to go out, “I said, "But I am too tired to move." "So don't go, you can always explore tomorrow." He’s a wise one. I called it an early night, but was up at 6 in the morning, ready to explore.
I took a lyft to Hermosa Beach that morning. Me and the locals at 7 am wandered up and down the historic pier. A woman from Michigan was staring far into the waves and showed me that there were dolphins and seals feeding, moving quickly through the water not from the pier. We stare for a long long time catching glimpses as they circle among the waves. She sold a huge home in Michigan to move to a one room apt in Hermosa Beach. She has never been happier.
Another local joins us. In between stories of his daily routine, “I never know when I will leave here, but until then I’ll go to the beach every day just in case one day I won’t be able to” he gives suggestions on places I have to visit in my few hours on the beach. “There's this place you have to go,” he says- “It’s called The Lighthouse Cafe. The booker is a 92 year old women, she’s only there on weekends. You have to check it out.” The second time in 2 days. I was intrigued. I spent the morning walking miles down Hermosa and Redondo Beach, feet in the surf, talking to family members- holding to phone close to the water “Can you hear the waves? ” Finally I arrived back on the Hermosa Beach strip for jazz brunch at the Lighthouse Café.
The music was going. And it was fierce. I sit at the bar to watch. Within minutes, she is there. Gloria. A tiny woman all in black with an “I <3 Jazz” vest. “Have you come here before?” she asks. “Here, take this. But don’t lose it. Keep it safe.” She pulls out a May calendar, each night filled with music from a different band. Her name and booking information is at the bottom. And then she pulls out a pen and quickly, like she has done it many many times before, writes her husband’s name in bold print, all caps, at the bottom of the page. “This is my husband” she told me “He booked this club for many years. Then he died, and now I do it.” And then she was gone. She moved around the room- talking to patrons, checking fliers and papers in her folder, stopping to whisper something to the musicians. Always in motion.
And me- I was just sitting there, admittedly a bit emotional. A 92 year old music club booker is a story of its own, and a good one at that. But this part. Writing her husband’s name on every flier. Telling people to save it, to not throw it away. The romance of keeping his story alive. Sitting alone in a town far far from home, surrounded by strangers but far from my own husband- imagining a love that had lasted so many decades, and to be able to see that love live on really moved me. I know it’s what I want for myself. I texted my husband to let him know I missed him. Then, all too quickly, it was time to leave.
I continued my walk down the beach, away from LA. Vegas bound. So close, yet so far. And more stories to tell.
If you want to read more about Gloria and Ozzie- they were featured in this story (and I’m sure many more)