Words with Strangers.

The girls were “scootering,” they said as they coasted on wheels to the park. I pushed Abe in the stroller closely behind them.   

An old man in a red hat rode by on a bicycle. “Great job, girls.” He told my scootering children.

I gave him a grin but my heart sank as I read the words across his cap: Make America Great Again.

They were empty words. And I didn’t believe him.

A night or two later, we took the kids to Grand Central Market in Los Angeles for dinner. It is like a large gourmet food court/farmers market with restaurants and food stands. There were a lot of people standing in lines, eating at bar tops and tables with their family and/or friends.

Mark stood in line for the best carnitas tacos from Tacos Tumbras a Tomas. The kids and I stood nearby at a lowered bar for handicapped customers. There was a man with dark curly hair sitting next to us at a table with his large dog in his lap. I felt anxious as I positioned the stroller and Abe came face to face with the dog. “Is your dog friendly?” I asked.

“Yes.” He said.

I gave Abe some rice cakes to keep him happy while we waited. I relaxed, no longer worrying over the dog attacking him or his snacks.

“I ordered to-go.” The man said, “You can have this table once my order is up.”

“Thank you.” I said. “Did you order from Sticky Rice?”

Sticky Rice was the restaurant directly in front of us. Mark mentioned it prior to our trip. I wanted to order something but didn’t know what to order.

“Yes.” He said.

“What did you order?” I asked.

“The first item. The Thai barbeque chicken.”

The Thai barbeque chicken included a papaya salad and sticky rice (I forget the proper name for the order).

I had Alana ask Mark, who was not too far from us and still in line for tacos, what he wanted from Sticky Rice. She returned and said he wanted the beef dish. I walked up to order it but they had sold out.

The man and his dog left. There were two chairs at the table. I let the kids sit while I continued to stand. Another woman stood close by awaiting her order from Sticky Rice. She wore a mustard colored sleeveless blouse. “What did you order?” I asked her.

“Thai barbeque chicken.” She said.

I walked back to the counter and ordered the Thai barbeque chicken and a coconut (Mia asked for the coconut to drink from).

Mark finally returned with the tacos. The tortillas were barely visible under the mountains of carnitas. We all ate them with pleasure. Even Abe enjoyed the carnitas. I gave him a plastic fork to eat with and Mark gasped every time Abe would raise the fork near his face.

Once we finished the tacos, our Thai chicken was delivered to our table along with the coconut. The girls drank from the coconut out of two straws. They loved the coconut water and said it was much better than any other kind they’ve tried.

Alana always jokes about Harmless Harvest (our favorite coconut water). She says they aren’t “harmless” because they harm coconuts.

The food from Sticky Rice was excellent. The chicken was flavorful and juicy. I loved the papaya salad; it had a pickled taste to it. And the sticky rice was sticky, as was the sauce that came with the dish – an orange sweet sticky sauce.

We then headed to the Tostaderia where they served ceviche on top of tostadas – a fried crunchy tortilla. As we arrived there was a customer arguing with the staff at the restaurant across the way. He cursed loudly and people in the area shifted their attention to the scene. Mark pushed the girls back. I grabbed them and pulled them off to the side along with Abe in the stroller. We were afraid a fight would ensue. Luckily, someone had notified security and they arrived to escort the man out of the area. But first, he had a server box up his food for him.

Mark ordered fish ceviche. The girls sat at the bar and we stood behind them. Mark held Abe and we all shared a delicious lime infused fish tostada.

We then headed to McConnell’s Ice Cream for dessert. We decided on two flavors: Earl Gray Tea and Shortbread Cookies and Eureka Lemon and Marionberries. Mark stood in line with Abe for the ice cream. The girls and I stood in front of a Jewish deli whose barstools were upside down on top of the bar. I took a moment to observe the environment: the bright lights and restaurant signs; all kinds of people coming and going; couples sitting and drinking together; and families sharing food.

Mark brought over two cups of ice cream and four spoons. We huddled together and ate the delicious ice cream. I was surprised the kids enjoyed the Earl Gray Tea as much as they did. It was my first choice. 

 

The street was dark when we left Grand Central Market. All the lights were off at Blue Bottle Coffee across the way. We were disappointed because we had planned to buy coffee there before heading home. We walked as a unit, closely together, on the unfamiliar road. A man walked down the sidewalk perpendicular to us. He shouted: “That’s a beautiful family, man!”

Mark said, “Thanks man.” Or something like that.

I smiled and looked at Mark. He turned to me and said, “See, now that was real.” 

Author: AshleyKagaoan

Ashley Kagaoan is a wife, mother, writer, & yogi. She resides in Southern California with her family. Ashley writes poetry and self-help messages. She is currently studying to become a certified health coach through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.