A Quick Opinion: A road trip to Los Angeles to see an old friend

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A Winters Express opinion column

By Charley Wallace
Publisher Emeritus

It has been a long time since I’ve spent a night in Lost Angeles, but I needed to see a friend in the U.S.C. Medical Center. Randy Fiser, the best man at our wedding — who by the way was probably the real best man at the wedding — needs a heart transplant. I don’t know a lot about the procedure, and I don’t think I want to know the odds of having a successful transplant. I only know of one other heart transplant, classmate Al Botts, who is alive and well in the house he grew up in Capell Valley, by Lake Berryessa.

In the past, if I heard that someone was having health issues I’d let some time pass and schedule a visit when I found the time. I’ve missed saying goodbye to a few people, so when Randy phoned to let me know that he was in the hospital waiting for a new heart, I checked with Sherri, and let him know we were on our way down. He said that he might be there for six months, or until he gets a new heart. I tried not to think about his options.

I worked for a family owned printing company at 9th and Main, downtown Los Angeles from 1974 through 1977, and lived in several locations around the city. It was always smoggy when I lived there, but now the air was clean and you could see the mountains. I didn’t drive into downtown from the medical center to check out my old building, but I could see a lot of new, giant skyscrapers from our hotel. When I commented on the number of new buildings, Sherri reminded me that it has been over 40 years since we lived there. Time does fly, doesn’t it?

We dropped off the dogs at our daughter’s home in Ripon and headed down Highway 99. You forget how many valley towns there are along the freeway. I don’t remember seeing so many palms trees in Bakersfield or the size of the city. Fresno has always been a big city, but there are valley towns of 10,000–20,000 people that I have never heard of, or don’t remember. Some look like Winters from the 1960s. They still have packing sheds and lots of trucking companies.

I had a reservation at a Best Western close to the hospital, and it turned out to be in China Town. It was only a 10 minute drive down North Main Street, Los Angeles to the hospital, another 10 minutes to find a route around a train that was blocking the entrance to the hospital and another 10 minutes to figure out how to download an app so that you could use the parking garage at the hospital, but that is life in Los Angeles.

We finally passed through a security check (showing our vaccination cards) and made our way to Randy’s room. He looked good and was in a good mood. I see him every other year, so I knew he had lost weight because of his heart condition, and he was born in a good mood. Randy was the center on Cal Poly’s football team and looked a lot like Barney Rubble, only just over 6-foot, 1-inch and 270 pounds. He laughed and told me he was surprised that he was looking forward to seeing me. He quickly turned his attention to Sherri and said he is always glad to she her.

He was sitting there with a bloody tube sticking out of his neck and tubes attached to a pole holding several bags of clear fluids hooked to his arm. There was another pole with a computer and more tubes hooked to various places on his body. He stood up and wheeled both poles over to show us where to sit. I noticed that he was shorter than the last time I saw him, thinking it must be slippers he was wearing. He said is now under six feet and weighs the same as he did when he was a junior in high school, 185.

He went on and on about the quality of the food compared to other hospitals he has been in lately. He ordered off a menu each day and the food did look good. He said he has to eat more than he wants, trying to keep his weight up. I told him that it is a bad day when he rates hospitals by their cafeterias and not their doctors.

We stopped by to see him the next day before we left town, and there was another train, sitting there, not moving. At least I knew the way around it, this time.

I didn’t wave goodbye to L.A. but sitting in a traffic jam didn’t make me miss the old place. I’m already planning on another visit, hopefully he will have a new heart by then.

Hug your friends, and have a good week.

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