Hillside-The Saddest Place on Earth

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Hillside Cemetery, Los Angeles. December 29, 2013

The day after we learned of Jake’s death, we went to Hillside to make arrangements for his funeral. It is a place no one goes to willingly. It was December 29th. Today is March 29th. Exactly 27 months after his passing. We were in shock, in some ways we still are, and will never recover fully. The deceptively innocuous appearance of the comfortable waiting area belies the agony of what you go to this place to do. Only the box of tissues on the table gives a hint. Somehow we managed to get through the ordeal of choosing the spot, next to his  grandfather in the Garden of Rachel, and the details of the ‘ceremony’. Maybe that is a misnomer, but I can’t think of what else to call it. It’s freaking expensive, that little piece of ground. It even got us thinking about our own “final resting place” and we decided to buy the plot immediately next to him. Our family will be together once again, someday. Of course, that is not where Jake is, really.  Jake is wherever we are, wherever his friends are, wherever the people who love him and remember him are.

Two days later, on New Year’s Eve day, we laid our beloved, beautiful boy to rest. RIP Jakey Jake.

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These are photos of the barber shop in which Jake got his last haircut – Monday, December 16, 2013. T and I were visiting him in Palm Springs. We took him for the haircut and dinner. It was the last time we visited. I snapped these pictures while I waited for him. You can see him through the window in the upper left and lower right photos getting one of the worst haircuts ever. I could never make up my mind which of the pictures I should select, so I am including all of them. We had a lovely visit. He was living in his own apartment with a roommate, had a job prospect lined up at a local restaurant, seemed like he was doing well. Less than two weeks later, we got the dreadful news of his passing.

I think I like the large one in the upper left. It has all the elements. Empty chairs, inside and out waiting places, someone waiting, Jake, and a slightly skewed perspective. Little did I know that this is one of the last photographs I would take of my son. I have taken thousands of them throughout his life, but none as poignant. We returned home the next day. I would speak with him during the ensuing weeks, would text, but I would never see him again.

The Grind

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Grind Burger Bar, Palm Springs. September 2013

The stairs lead up to the Grind Burger Bar on Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. Jake had moved there at the beginning of the month and we would make the 2 hour drive out to visit him every week or so. Our visits included the obligatory dinner with full restaurant critique. Dining with the three of us was always an adventure, and woe betide to the chef who didn’t get our order exactly right. Burger medium instead of medium rare? Send it back. Fries lukewarm? Send them back. Pasta overcooked? Send it back. Why bother eating if the food isn’t what you want. Especially if you are paying for it. Jake was a professional chef and for a while worked in some of the very best restaurants in Venice. T and I both cook and we expect our restaurant experience to be at least as good or better than what we cook at home. It rarely is.

Our first foray to the Grind was okay. The burgers were pretty good, juicy, flavorful, and the garlic fries were delightful. Our second try wasn’t as successful. T’s burger was overcooked, the fries were cold; I can still hear Jake saying, “Send it back, Mom.” I hear him in my head any time we dine out and the food isn’t what we ordered or cooked properly. “Send it back, Dad.”  We had to send her burger back twice. If a restaurant that specializes in burgers can’t cook a flipping’ burger properly, they shouldn’t be in business. They’re goddamn professionals, supposedly. In fact that last time, we actually had the chef come out and promise to personally cook our food. It turned out okay, it was more like we were just tired of pointing out the failings. Needless to say, we never went back.