My thanks to my fellow dorm mate John “Scrawny” Morrison, for shouting out “IT’S THE WEEKEND!!” at the top of his lungs in the hallway every time Friday afternoon arrived. Sometimes I would open my door and shout back, “Hey! It’s quiet hours!” jokingly. Weekends were nice, I still had assignments and studying to do, but at least there were no classes. Holiday breaks were enjoyable too, like one Thanksgiving break where I was invited to a meal by my good friends Leisa and Randy. I had never eaten so much turkey in my life.
Fall semester ‘81 was drawing to a close, and everyone was looking forward to the Christmas break. Now I faced another dilemma. The dorms would be closed over the holiday period, and of course it wasn’t viable to return home to Malaysia again. I shrugged, and faced the possibility that I would have to find alternative housing somewhere else. However, as luck would have it, I met another fellow dorm mate by the name of Richard Dyer earlier on during the Spring semester. Other people called him Rich, but he always preferred Rick, so I called him that. We struck up a friendship, and we used to have dinners together, as well as going to the Gallagher Theater for movies, stuff like that. It was nice to have some company, and pretty soon we became room mates. I don’t exactly remember how it came to pass, but I did confide in him about the possibility that I’d have to seek alternative accommodation during the Christmas period.
I guess he had been talking to his parents on the phone, and one fine day prior to the Christmas vacation he asked me, “Phil, how would you like to spend the holidays with me and my family?” Wow! Of course I was thrilled, but I said I hoped I wouldn’t be imposing on them. Rick replied, “Of course not.” So it was a done deal. Rick’s hometown was in Danville, California—not too far from San Francisco. We booked our flight tickets on United, and I was very excited—imagine, this would be my first visit to San Francisco! A different environment, with a different climate, and not forgetting of course, this would be a vacation. To top things off, Rick’s parents would be picking us up from the airport and taking us directly to Davies Symphony Hall for a performance of Handel’s Messiah by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra—awesome!
Well, as things turned out, we experienced the famous San Francisco fog first-hand—the captain of the United Airlines 747 announced that due to extremely foggy conditions in the Bay Area, we would have to be in a holding position above the city. What a bummer, we’d be late for the concert! We eventually touched down about 45 minutes behind schedule, it was a frustrating wait for our baggage, and Rick’s father was anxiously looking out for us. We said our hellos, and then zoomed off to Davies Symphony Hall. Arrived there, and had to wait for a suitable break before we could enter. This was a beautiful hall indeed (DSH opened in September 1980; it underwent another major renovation in the Summer of 1992) Never mind, at least I got to experience the Hallelujah Chorus first-hand, standing up, of course.
It was pretty late when the concert ended. Rick and I were both tired, don’t remember seeing anything much on the drive to Danville—I was practically asleep. Rick’s mom was on hand to greet us when we arrived, a room had been prepared for me, and I was so tired I fell asleep straight away.
Suffice to say that the rest of the vacation was fantastic—Rick’s family treated me like one of their own and took me to all the well-known spots in San Francisco. Places like the Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown (the largest in the world, it seems), Japantown, Nob Hill, Coit Tower, Union Square, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, Ghirardelli Square (wonderful chocolate!). I had a first taste of the tram system and BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) was smooth and efficient. The weather was cold and foggy, this was a nice change from Tucson. We went by car sometimes, at other times we just took BART into the city. I love San Francisco, it has a charm of its own.
And the food—in a word, awesome! Whether we were eating out or at home, there was an overabundance of food. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a picky eater, thank God. It was a real breakfast almost every day, with cereal, fruits, bacon, sausages, generous amounts of coffee—man this was the life! Since the Dyers had a spinet piano, I’d be tinkling on it whenever, and that made them smile. Rick was the eldest, he had two sisters, Suzanne and Sally, and a brother Bill, who was the youngest. They showed me around the neighborhood, and the family car was affectionately called Moby. I drove Moby for a bit too.
I also remember going to Stockton to visit Grandma and Grandpa (we stayed there for a day or two) and again, I was treated like one of the family. Rick’s grandpa was a farmer and so he showed me his land (tractors, buildings, and all) and what do you know, I had my first taste of actually handling a rifle and shotgun (I didn’t mention this to my parents). They had to occasionally get rid of birds like crows that liked to pick on the crops. That was the only time I had ever fired a weapon in my life!
I also cooked chicken curry for the family. I tried to make it as mild as I could, but still everyone had running noses after consuming it. Oh well. The run-up to Christmas was wonderful too, as I took part in buying Christmas presents for the whole family. It was a fantastic time and one that I’ll remember as long as I live. If any of the Dyers are reading this, I love you all!
Pretty soon it was time to head back to Arizona—Rick and I left with heavy hearts, but you need to say goodbye before you can say hello again. The whole family came to the airport, we hugged and kissed each other (I think I almost cried) Our flight was boarding, and before I knew it, we took off for Tucson. Back to the salt mines!